2020: the year dairy joined the essential few

1 December 2020

Tim Mackle, DairyNZ chief executive

2020 was a year where dairy faced a range of challenges head-on, while capturing opportunities too. Stepping up as an essential service was a credit to farming but also a challenge, as we faced issues farming during a national lockdown.

Being an essential service for New Zealand is a nod to the value we provide our communities, and the world. Keeping everyone safe, while producing food and much-needed export income for New Zealand, was an experience I suspect few in farming will forget.

All our industry organisations, including DairyNZ, switched focus to support the issues farmers would face as a result – helping make sure Moving Day could go ahead, advocating for visa extensions for migrant workers, and information to ensure farmers complied with the new Covid-19 rules.

Covid-19 also prompted a campaign to highlight the opportunities of working in dairy.

In June, DairyNZ launched the GoDairy campaign, offering Kiwis who lost jobs due to Covid-19 the opportunity to move into a dairy career. This is a positive step toward bridging the staffing gap on farms by drawing newcomers into our sector, and received wide-reaching public exposure for our sector.

As we head into 2021, we plan to continue a range of work to ensure we have great workplaces and that dairy is attracting talent onto our farms.

Value of dairy
Covid-19 has also shone a light on the dairy sector in New Zealand.

Dairy is playing an increasing role as a source of income and employment, but showing the public the other great work we do helps increase understanding of dairy farming.

Our Vision is Clear campaign has been sharing stories of environmental change both on-farm and in our communities, with a growing number of Kiwis over the past two years. This included reaching over 400,000 people through The Vision is Clear website, and an average of over 500,000 on social media this month alone.

These stories, and all the work being done in the sector, is helping deliver some very positive shifts in the way the community perceives dairy.

Our most recent public perception survey found that 73 percent of people felt positively towards dairy farmers and 62 percent of all respondents felt positively towards the dairy sector (up from 58 percent a year ago). 

We know some of this stems from the greater recognition of dairy farming through Covid-19 disruption, but also from continued improvement in farm practices.

Sustainable farming
Being the most sustainable producers of milk offers our sector great opportunities.

Our future is bright. We are making tremendous strides in actions to reduce our farm footprint and, while we need to continue that, it’s important we acknowledge the progress we’ve already made.

We are investing in a wide range of research to help make it easier to develop practical on-farm solutions to reduce footprint, while increasing profitability.  

Some of this work includes trialling plantain to reduce farm nitrogen loss and a partnership in PgGRC which continues to seek technology to reduce methane output.

Policy also plays a big part too. This was highlighted through the new freshwater policy which many farmers and sector groups provided feedback to. DairyNZ alone developed a 240-page submission and submitted 27 technical papers to Government last year.

Some changes were made by Government and work continues in this space, liaising with government, partners and local councils.

Next year DairyNZ will continue to work positively and constructively with the Government, advocating on behalf of dairy farmers for outcomes that are pragmatic and fair. We want government to back our sector through policies which support us to deliver economically and environmentally.

For farmers, we know how important it is to make environmental improvements while running a profitable business, which is where our Step Change programme comes in. This project will help farmers increase profitability while making progress towards environmental goals and adapting to future requirements.

We have also made good progress towards the eradication of Mycoplasma bovis. As part of that, over 1000 farmers have used the free compensation service offered by DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand. DairyNZ will continue to be actively involved in the M. bovis programme, at both a governance level and on the ground with farmers.

As we look ahead to the rest of the season, DairyNZ will continue to work with you, and for you, to deliver a better future for all New Zealand dairy farmers.

Now with Christmas and New Year coming soon, I hope you and your team take the opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends, and recharge as we look ahead to 2021.

Ngā mihi nui,

Dr Tim Mackle

DairyNZ chief executive

Media inquiries:

Vanessa Feaver

Senior Media Manager

Phone 027 836 6295


Ali Tocker

Senior Media Specialist

Phone 027 364 7532


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