DairyNZ projects:

farmer-led, region-fed

6 December 2018


Check out a snapshot of three DairyNZ regional projects that are building a better dairy sector by bringing farmers together.

Northland – Extension 350

Extension 350 (E350), launched in 2016, has four groups (or clusters) in place, each containing 35 dairy farmers and three more being established. It’s supported by Ministry for Primary Industries, Northland Regional Council, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Northland Inc. The project recently won a sustainability development accolade at the 2018 Economic Development NZ Awards.

Dairying interest is led by ex-DairyNZ regional leader Chris Neill, and the project links in with DairyNZ’s regional plan  focus on economic growth for Northland. “We expect E350 to contribute more than $100 million into this region within the next 20 years,” says Chris. “We’re already seeing our farmers make extraordinary productivity, goal-setting and budgeting turnarounds within their businesses.”

Local clusters with five ‘target’ farmers achieve goals by focusing on profitability, sustainability and wellbeing. They work one-on-one with their mentor farmer, a consultant and with a DairyNZ consulting officer (CO). Each farmer is also connected with five ‘associate farmers’ to share their journey of change. A new feature is a simple wellbeing report allowing farmers to signal early when they need extra support.

DairyNZ development opportunities are another key element, says Chris. “One  of our target  farmers  described our ‘Mark and Measure’ course to me as ‘life-changing’.” Another Northland  farmer, Doug Phillips, describes E350 as “very supportive, for both us, the owners and our sharemilker.

We’ve identified key components that have enabled us to consolidate our objectives”.

Chris says farmer attitude change says it all. “In Year One, they sit there in the chair, arms folded, and look across the table at you. By Year Two, the arms are unfolded, they’re leaning on the table, listening and engaging. By Year Three, they’re waving their hands at you and saying ‘what else are we going to do to crank this thing up’.”

Taranaki – Dairy Trust Taranaki (DTT)

This Trust is made up of local dairy farmers (including members of NZ Young Farmers), rural professionals and representatives from DairyNZ, Fonterra, and local and regional councils. DTT operations manager Debbie McCallum says research has been going on in the Taranaki region for more than 40 years.

“We’re carrying on that tradition, talking directly to our  farmers and ensuring our research is science-based. DairyNZ is  also a leading organisation in the sector and its regional priorities for Taranaki align with our DTT research goals, supporting our region’s future farming business and the growth of its young people.”

The Trust has four research sites across Taranaki: DTT Gibson (previously the Taranaki Agricultural Research Station), Waimate West, Stratford and Kavanagh (leased from Fonterra).

“One larger trial is examining the environmental and economic effects of autumn versus spring calving,” says Debbie. “Another looks at a potential future after palm kernel expeller (PKE), while living within Fat Evaluation Index (FEI) guidelines. These studies are dealing with important local issues and their results also have wider national importance.”

Debbie says DTT is getting plenty of positive comments from farmers, including locals Andy and Lisa Tippet, who say: “With climate changes and weather patterns shifting from the norm in the Taranaki region, a trial done on autumn calving is relevant and could provide useful information for farmers.” Next, the Trust aims to focus on social and wellbeing aspects of farming families.

Canterbury/Southland – work skills project

DairyNZ’s Jane Muir is heading a new three-year project, Attracting and maintaining a skilled workforce  in  Canterbury and Southland. “Dairy farmers in the two regions have told us that labour shortages are a burning issue, partly due to low unemployment and urbanisation,” says Jane. “We hope to make a step change in attracting more people to dairy by focusing our initial efforts on these regions, rather than go out with a scattergun approach across the country. Then we can roll out this project’s success into other regions.”

The project aims to attract people at all levels (new workers and career-changers), upskill them and retain them. “That means increasing awareness of the opportunities, creating pathways into (and support within) the sector, and creating great workplaces. Not only for New Zealanders, but also our immigrant worker community too, as they fill important gaps in our workforce.”

DairyNZ’s ability to leverage off its partners will get everyone working together to join the dots. “Some of that is us working with farmers, and with our sector partners like the Dairy Women’s Network, Federated Farmers and NZ Young Farmers. We’ll also work with schools and universities and other sectors, and with government and local government organisations,” says Jane.

“The ultimate short-term goal is that farmers in Canterbury  and Southland gain resilience in farming because they can access the skills they need and create flow-on benefits from that. Plus  we hope to provide employees in our sector with meaningful, enjoyable jobs.”

DairyNZ’s Jane Muir (centre) meets with Greg Patchell, head of Immigration NZ at Waikato’s Innovation Park (second from right).

Media inquiries:

Lee Cowan
Senior Engagement & Communications Manager
021 930 836

Vanessa Feaver
Senior Communications & Media Specialist
027 836 6295

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