Future-proofing at the fore

There was plenty of discussion about the future of dairying and a strong focus on levy-funded science at the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum events.

The science that farmers and rural professionals want to know more about was presented at our six Farmers’ Forum events in April and May. Event attendees were first to see these regionally relevant science snapshot videos presented by key scientists.

Follow-up questions were answered by DairyNZ scientists.

At some events, farmers were able to vote for their top picks of nine possible science snapshots, all of which are online at dairynz.co.nz/farmers-forum

Here are just some of the findings presented.

Improving lifetime productivity

DairyNZ senior scientist Claire Phyn spoke about some promising results from the Pillars of a New Dairy System research programme. This research is investigating new ways to improve cow health, fertility and longevity.

A key finding from the research is that feeding cows synthetic zeolite pre-calving significantly reduces milk fever risk by improving blood calcium concentrations at calving. There are also indications of positive effects on reproduction. Plans are underway to test this at a large scale.

Reducing nitrate leaching

DairyNZ senior scientist Ina Pinxterhuis  spoke  about the Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL) research

programme. This has been looking for practical and relatively easy options to help farmers reduce nitrate leaching by 20 percent through using pasture and crops.

The science has found that plantain and fodder beet can  reduce the nitrogen loads in urine patches – the main pathway   of nitrogen loss in grazed farm systems – by up to 50 percent. Catch crops also appear promising, reducing nitrate leaching by 20 to 40 percent. Some farmers involved in the programme have already shown this works on a farm scale and have managed to reduce nitrate leaching by 20 percent.

Fodder beet

DairyNZ senior scientists Dawn Dalley and Paul Edwards gave an update on the latest Southern Dairy Hub research into the cumulative effects of fodder beet on animal health.

That research has found that rising one-year-old heifers fed fodder beet over winter had a lower growth rate compared   to those fed kale. The beet-fed cows were also deficient in

phosphorous and calcium. Both herds were low in magnesium. Heifer calves born from cows wintered on beet were also lighter and smaller in stature than those from cows wintered on kale.

Powerful plantain

The latest plantain research shows this herb could be a game- changer in helping farmers reduce their environmental footprint.

DairyNZ principal scientist David Chapman presented findings from small-scale studies, which found plantain significantly reduced nitrate leaching compared to other pastures.

The next step is to test plantain’s potential to reduce nitrate leaching on a farm scale. We expect, by incorporating plantain into pasture, farmers could reduce nitrate leaching by 20 to 30 percent.

Plantain also looks a positive option to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Promising new ryegrass

An update was given on a new genetically modified high metabolisable energy (HME) ryegrass that could help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Tests have found accelerated growth compared to conventional ryegrass, but the biggest benefits are that it is expected to decrease methane emissions by up to 23 percentand reduce nitrate leaching.

AgResearch principal scientist Greg Bryan said HME ryegrass has almost seven percent fat, while conventional ryegrass has around 3.5 percent.

Field trials are currently underway in the United States.


Check out all the science snapshot videos at


Media inquiries:

Lee Cowan

Senior Engagement & Communications Manager

Phone 021 930 836


Vanessa Feaver

Senior Communications & Media Specialist

Phone 027 836 6295


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