Research shows NZ dairy the world’s most emissions-efficient

New research shows New Zealand dairy farmers have the world’s lowest carbon footprint – at half the emissions of other international producers.

A statement issued jointly by AgResearch and DairyNZ tells the story:

AgResearch analysis released today confirms New Zealand retains its outstanding position in low-emission dairy milk production, with an on-farm carbon footprint 46 percent less than the average of 18 countries studied.

Commissioned by DairyNZ, the study was independently produced by AgResearch and peer-reviewed by an international specialist in Ireland.

The research analysed 55 per cent of global milk production, including major milk producing countries.

New Zealand is the most efficient producer at 0.74 kg CO2e per kg FPCM (fat and protein corrected milk) – which is 46 per cent less than the average of the countries studied. The average is 1.37 kg CO2e per kg FPCM.

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Cows will be on the move on June 1 – but the language used to describe the occasion can raise hackles

Federated Farmers, the Ministry for Primary Industries, FMG Insurance and DairyNZ were all busy trying to work out how best to manage Gypsy Day, Rural News informed its readers a fortnight ago.

In a  report headed“COVID-19: Trying to sort out Gypsy Day”, the newspaper explained that this is the day, on June 1, when share milkers, contract milkers and staff traditionally move to new properties.

The chairman of Feds sharemilkers section, Richard McIntyre, was reported as saying Gypsy Day is complicated enough for the farmers involved, without the added problem of COVID-19.

According to Rural News: Continue reading

Barn dairy’s carbon footprint bigger than pasture-based

New research from Lincoln University PhD Researcher Hafiz Muhammad Abrar Ilyas estimates the carbon footprints (CO2) of our pastoral, or grass-based, and barn dairy systems based on their energy consumption.

The study was carried out on 50 conventional dairy farms in Canterbury- 43 pastoral and seven barn systems.

Hafiz said the difference between the two systems indicated that the barn system has an 18% higher carbon footprint than the pastoral system per hectare of farm area, and 11% higher footprint per tonne of milk solids.

Barn dairy systems have been a relatively recent introduction in New Zealand as a solution to animal welfare, soil structure damage and wider environmental challenges. Continue reading

MPI invites thoughts on dairy herd improvement regulatory regime

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) wants to hear from the dairy industry and people with an interest in how the dairy herd improvement regulatory regime can help to ensure that New Zealand’s dairy industry remains world leading.

The dairy herd improvement regulatory regime has not been comprehensively reviewed since it was established in 2001, says Emma Taylor, MPI’s director of agriculture, marine and plant policy.

“It’s important the dairy herd improvement regulatory regime reflects the changing needs of the dairy industry. It’s timely to look at how the regulatory settings can better support industry both now and into the future.

“Dairy herd improvement adds substantial value to New Zealand’s dairy industry, estimated at around $300 million each year.”

Farmers have been testing samples of milk from their dairy cattle and recording data to inform their herd management decisions for over a century. For industry to achieve optimal rates of genetic gain, it needs a comprehensive, accurate, and continuous supply of data to inform decisions on herd management and breeding.

“The regulatory regime contributes to the breeding of more productive dairy animals through herd testing, herd recording, animal evaluation and artificial breeding. It also has the potential to support better environmental and animal health outcomes,” says Emma Taylor.

“We want to hear from people about how the regulatory regime can more effectively support the performance of the dairy industry. We also want to hear from industry on the effects of changing technology and the future implications on the dairy herd improvement sector.”

The six-week consultation will run from October 1 to 5pm November 12.

Find out about the consultation and have your say HERE.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries 

Govt releases terms of reference for review of the dairy industry

The Government has released the terms of reference for a review of the 17-year-old Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001 (DIRA), which regulates Fonterra to protect the long-term interests of farmers, consumers and the wider economy. Sustainability issues are on the agenda.

The Ministry for Primary Industries will consult widely throughout the review, including surveys and formal consultation later in the year, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

“The review will allow us to take a strategic view of issues facing the dairy industry,” he said.

“In particular it will look at open entry and exit for farmers, the raw milk price setting process, contestability for milk, the risks and costs for the sector, and the incentives or disincentives for dairy to move to sustainable, higher-value production and processing.

“The whole dairy sector needs to look ahead to see what trends and potential disruptions are coming our way and get ahead of consumer trends.

“Only through a frank appraisal of the issues will we come to the right conclusions.”

Mr O’Connor in December announced the Government’s intention to review the DIRA as a matter of priority.

In February the legislation was rolled over to stop certain parts expiring.

“And today I release the terms of reference setting out the objectives, approach and timing of the review,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The dairy industry will be fully consulted throughout the review so that any issues can be given full consideration before any changes happen.

“I look forward to receiving feedback from farmers, dairy processors, consumers and the wider public in the upcoming consultation process.”

The terms of reference can be found HERE.

Source: Minister of Agriculture

Scientific research the key to balancing farm productivity and the environment

We can have economic growth and an improved environment, AgResearch chief executive TOM RICHARDSON argues in this article in NZ Farmer (see HERE)…

Chances are you have read about it in your newspapers, in your online news feeds, heard about it on radio or television, or discussed it with family or friends. Wherever you go, the issue of farming in New Zealand and its impact on the environment is a hot topic.

There has been a huge amount of debate from all quarters about what the real and measurable impact of farming practices are, who is to blame, what is being done to mitigate it, and what more can be done.

Recently a piece on TVNZ’s Sunday programme on dairy farming provoked a host of strong responses about the perception and realities of the dairy industry. A report released recently by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman on the state of New Zealand’s fresh waters provided important insights into the challenges that exist, while a newly published review by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) on New Zealand’s environmental performance has added to the debate about the pressures we face.

Agriculture remains the backbone of New Zealand’s economy, and there is still plenty of scope for growth in the value of the agricultural products that we sell to the world. In fact, New Zealand’s forecast economic growth over the coming decades hinges on growing the value of agricultural exports. And this must be done whilst enhancing the environments we farm in.

So we must confront these seemingly conflicting challenges if we – and future generations – are to enjoy the quality of life and opportunities afforded by economic prosperity, and the enjoyment of our natural environments which we hold so dear.

As the head of a science organisation which is focused on solving that conundrum I see our role in this being clear, and critically important. Science needs to lead the way by finding solutions to these seemingly intractable problems, and in partnership with central and local governments, agri-businesses, sector organisations, and farmers we need to ensure these solutions find their way into practice on New Zealand’s farms.

By investing in science now we are investing in the future of our economy and the enhancement of our environment that sets New Zealand, and our high value export products, apart from the pack.

We can’t create more land and we can’t continue the generations of focus on more inputs – such as animals, water and fertiliser – to drive more production. We must get smarter.

We can produce better pastures, better livestock, and better farm systems that will enable both profitable farming and enhanced environments. That is what drives our dedicated scientists to tackle big issues such as our agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and managing the nutrient losses from farms that can impact on soils and waterways.

A big part of this is scientists working alongside farmers to see what makes a real difference when it comes to environmental impacts.

As one example drawn from our work across the country, the work of AgResearch and our partners alongside South Canterbury farmers Bill and Shirley Wright has shown us how, over time (in this case almost 25 years), a farm can significantly reduce the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to grow its profitability and productivity. We have also learned from this working farm example what approaches can have an impact on the loss of nutrients on the farm without compromising the bottom line.

As we look further to the future, science is giving us insights into new options to solve this conundrum. With methane being the largest contributor to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, AgResearch scientists are leading the international effort to develop approaches to reduce methane emissions from livestock, through animal breeding, changing the composition of what the animals eat, and potentially a methane limiting vaccine that is currently in testing.

New Zealand’s agricultural exports are based on pastures, and here too new options are emerging from our laboratories.  AgResearch scientists have produced a ryegrass using new genetic technologies that laboratory trials suggest has a 50 per cent higher growth rate, and significantly higher energy content for growth of the animals eating it, with less nitrogen excreted that can make its way into rivers and streams and affect the water quality. Laboratory testing has also shown it to be more drought resistant, and the potential to reduce methane production in animals by 15-23 per cent.

This new generation ryegrass is now being field tested in the United States to determine if those observations hold true in the field. If they do, it is a potential game changer for New Zealand. Of course the debate around genetic modification would fill a whole column on its own – and I won’t attempt to go into that here – but this grass does give an insight into the possibilities that are coming from science here at AgResearch and around the world.

These are just a couple of examples, but the most exciting thing about science is that we are always coming across new possibilities that we can seize upon.  I am confident that with the right investment and commitment, we can solve New Zealand’s biggest conundrum and enjoy that quality of life we all seek.

 – Stuff

Researchers work on next-generation sanitisers to control bovine mastitis

Researchers from the Universities of Otago and Auckland have teamed up with Deosan, the manufacturer and supplier of a range of animal health products, to develop new sanitisers for mastitis management. The aim is to enhance New Zealand’s position as a global leader in milk quality by improving performance in mastitis prevention and guard against the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.

Mastitis, a bacterial infection of the udder, is the foremost production-limiting disease for dairying worldwide. It costs the New Zealand dairy industry more than $280 million a year in treatment and discarded milk.

The industry  relies largely on just two antimicrobial sanitisers to control mastitis, administered through teat sprays. Both formulations contain bioactive ingredients (chlorhexidine or iodine) that are also widely used for infection control in hospitals.

The mounting threat of antimicrobial resistance in clinical environments and lower acceptance of chemical residues in consumer products have prompted calls for the development of new types of products for use within the dairy industry.

Previous research by the team (supported by Agmardt) has uncovered a new class of molecules with  potent antimicrobial activity against mastitis-causing microorganisms. These have the potential to synergise with current treatments while being harmless to mammalian cells.

The study will use a combined microbiological and medicinal chemistry approach to advance these new anti-mastitis molecules and pave the way for  new teat care formulations.

Deosan chief executive Kip Bodle said this project provides an ideal opportunity for key stakeholders in the industry to collaborate to ensure we maintain our position as a global leader in producing quality milk.

“Our intention is to engage with government and industry leaders to ensure we are successful in commercialising products that could have global significance. Our more recent experience in the international arena strongly suggests that New Zealand innovation around milk quality resonates well with emerging dairy markets”

The Otago research team, led by Professor Greg Cook, Drs Michelle McConnell and Adam Heikal, are supported by the Auckland University team of Professor Margaret Brimble,