Dairy farmers committed to environmental
and animal care excellence
By Dr Tim Mackle, DairyNZ chief executive
11 September 2018
I grew up watching my parents take great pride as farmers in caring for their animals and the land on their South Island dairy farm, and I know most other farmers out there are doing the same.
I’ve heard countless stories of farmers getting into a career in dairy because they love animals and the outdoors. For most, dairy farming is so much more than a job. It’s a lifestyle and their home, and they want to look after it for the next generation.
But, like in any industry, there are always a few who detract from the good work others are doing. Unfortunately, they’re the ones who often make the headlines, and not the farmers doing a great job day in, day out.
I was reminded of this recently, when I saw TV footage of dairy cows on winter crop in Southland, standing in heavy mud.
I was disappointed, as I’m sure many others were, including farmers. Often, I find, the image in one bad news story is what sticks in people’s minds. But it’s important to step back and see it for what it is – the actions of a few individuals, not the majority.
Cows standing up to their bellies in mud is not a normal practice on dairy farms. Cows are grazed on crops in some parts of New Zealand over winter but there are a number of steps farmers follow to avoid excessive mud.
DairyNZ works closely with farmers to ensure animal welfare and the environment is at the heart of decisions made on dairy farms. DairyNZ makes available to all farmers, and those who support farmers, a wide range of information, support, resources and training opportunities.
Most farmers are constantly striving to do the best for their cows and the environment, and are always looking for ways to be more sustainable and ethical milk producers.
Vision for the future
As a dairy sector, we have a clear vision of where we are heading and we’re working on what we need to do to get there. That vision is outlined in our sector strategy, Dairy Tomorrow.
One of the six strategy commitments, the first one in fact, is to protect and nurture the environment for future generations. This includes working hard to find new ways to reduce our greenhouse gases and minimise our impact on waterways, among other goals.
When it comes to animal care, we want to be world-leading and are taking the steps we need to take to get there. I believe it’s something a lot of farmers are already achieving.
We continue to work closely with our sector partners, the Ministry for Primary Industries, regional councils, research organisations and others to help farmers continue to do the best by their animals and the environment. That is our role at DairyNZ – to help deliver a better future for our farmers and New Zealand.
At times when the actions of a few outweigh the majority, I believe it’s more important than ever for farmers to keep telling their story. I know many venture out of their comfort zone and take to social media or open their farm gates to show communities what really happens on farms.
Hidden away on many farms is the work dairy farmers are doing – ensuring their cows are well-fed and cared for, planting thousands of trees and fencing waterways to improve water quality.
I’m proud of the work farmers are doing to protect the environment and provide excellent animal care, and look forward to continuing the journey with them to be the best in the world.
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