Stepping into a post-Covid world

2 June 2020

DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Jenny Jago

Helping farmers increase profit and reduce their footprint is the aim of DairyNZ’s Step Change project, writes strategy and investment leader Jenny Jago.

The world has changed quickly – and our dairy sector is in a fortunate position to be working and providing food and export revenue for New Zealand. Through this, we remain committed    to our Dairy Tomorrow strategy goal of striving for financially competitive businesses that take care of the environment, our animals and our people. This will hold us in good stead as we navigate through an uncertain time, ensuring we’re stronger and more resilient for the future, and enhancing our reputation for producing highly sustainable and nutritious food.

One of DairyNZ’s priority projects is ‘Step Change’, which we designed to help farmers achieve financial gains while making progress towards environmental goals, and be more able to adapt to pending regulations.

The overarching aim of Step Change, which commenced early last year, is to tackle three key areas: profitability, water quality and greenhouse gas emissions. Progress on these fronts will help ensure dairy farm businesses are fit for whatever else comes at   us in the future, from people/customers, the climate and world events.

Funded by the levy, Step Change will help farmers understand the key farm system interactions to consider in driving their business towards overall financial and environmental sustainability.

Many farmers are currently facing challenges resulting from droughts, floods and  Covid-19. Feed cost and  supply decisions, in relation to milk price and cow numbers, will be top of mind   for many farmers. Step Change sheds light on how these choices also have a wider impact on total farm business sustainability.

By making these decisions via a whole-of-system approach, we’ll not only secure short-term strength, but in the longer-term, confidence for the future.

Early in the project, we defined the levers a farmer can use to improve both financial and environmental performance, and their key indicators. The main tactics we’ve identified are:

  • making the most profitable use of your pasture
  • optimising feed eaten to reduce methane
  • reducing nitrate surplus and leaching
  • managing marginal land
  • reducing phosphorus, sediment and pathogen

Our next stage is to work with farmers and rural professionals on how these tactics can be implemented, and what other ways we can help farmers improve profit and reduce footprint. To achieve that, we’ve set up farmer groups and a rural professional group. What we learn from these groups will be passed on to other farmers, giving them tangible steps to take on-farm.

Get involved in Step Change

  • Visit to find out more about the project and where to look for opportunities on your farm.
  • Speak to your local consulting officer – see page 23 of this magazine for contact
  • Talk to other farmers about what you’re doing to increase profit and reduce

Media inquiries:

Vanessa Fever

Senior Media Manager

Phone 027 836 6295

Ali Tocker

Media Advisor

Phone 027 211 2159

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