Sharing knowledge key to New Zealand tour success

From 18-24 February, 18 young farmers from South-west Victoria crossed the ditch to participate in a New Zealand study tour. Their goal was to learn more about key developments in the dairy industry over there, and how this may influence their farming practices at home – now and into the future.

The trip was a collaboration between the DemoDAIRY Foundation (DDF) and WestVic Dairy’s Young Dairy Network. It was a busy schedule for participants, with 13 industry events/farms visited during the five-day tour. Each visit was selected to highlight one or more of the three main focuses:


  • Environmental stewardship – adapting to changes in government legislation and consumer expectations.


  • Embracing technology – including Halter virtual fencing and app based effluent management.


  • Pasture utilisation – profitable milk production from home-grown feed.


WestVic Dairy’s Extension Advisor, Matt Wood, co-facilitated the tour. 


“It’s well-known that the New Zealand dairy industry has been impacted by changes to legislation around the use of nitrogen – every farm now has a maximum use of 190 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare, per year. But they also have a significant focus on all nutrients entering and leaving the property, and each farm has a Farm Environment Plan and an Animal Wellbeing Plan,” Matt said.


“It is likely that regulations here in Australia will get tighter in the future, so the participants gained valuable insight into how their New Zealand counterparts were adapting to these changes.”


Several of the farms visited are utilising Halter cow collars for virtual fencing, along with the more well-known health and heat detection features. This technology significantly reduces the hours spent droving cattle and setting up strip fences, along with improving pasture consumption – as it is very easy to allocate more or less as needed. 


Highlights of the tour included visiting Owl Farm, a demonstration farm at Cambridge. Owl Farm is leading the way in environmental sustainability, measuring carbon on farm and reducing emissions on a per kilogram of milk solids basis. 


Another highlight was visiting Pete Morgan, an early adopter of Halter. He is also a keen advocate for getting young people into dairy and supporting them in different pathways. It was also wonderful seeing a beautiful herd of Jerseys at Mary and Walter Rossum’s farm, which sits two metres below sea level. The cows produce an impressive 110 per cent of their body weight while stocked at over four cows per hectare.


Along with assisting with travel arrangements and bus hire, the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) hosted the group at its headquarters near Hamilton.


Seventy five percent of cows in New Zealand are bred to LIC genetics, with its compact, efficient Kiwi cross perfect for utilising pasture and fitting into an extensively seasonal calving system. With only five per cent of the country’s milk being consumed domestically, the vast majority of herds calve in late winter/early spring – ready to take advantage of the lush spring pasture.


Dixie Park Dairying’s Mary Faherty was one the tour participants who found the experience valuable. 


“It was a fantastic trip to be a part of. It highlighted the differences as well as the similarities our countries face producing milk,” Mary said. 


“The lack of grain being fed, lower yields per cow and the extensive use of once-a-day milking were quite different. However, increasing land prices due to competing industries, the difficulties of getting young people into the industry and the lack of good labour are very similar to at home.”


Mary added that the farmers visited were very knowledgeable and happy to share the details of their businesses. 


“This is all knowledge that I can take back to work, where I can share what I have learned. Thanks to DemoDAIRY and WestVic for making it possible,” she said. 


“I’d strongly advise young farmers to take the opportunity to attend similar trips in the future.” 

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