Friday, 19 June 2015

dairy resilience

I've been rude in the past about DairyNZ and I took some dragging along to Havelock the other night to one of their events. It was interesting though.

We started with a great overview of international markets from Nathan Penny. After that, we had John Roche's talks on resilience and transition cow diet, both of which were excellent.

The resilience part appealed to my inner economist, arguing for systems that use a moderate but flexible amount of bought-in feed, so you can flex from season to season, riding the markets. The farmer in me saw the cost of engaging with those external markets and was very happy that we are aiming for full self-supply of food. Markets can bite you.

John Roche was excellent on transition cow diet - Lynne and I learned a lot even though Rob (our new manager) knew all this already. We all came away impressed at how scientifically driven John was, and simultaneously distressed at how shitty DairyNZ's agronomy service can be.

There are two ways to think about dairy resilience. John Roche showed data suggesting that with today's technology riding the markets works ok. But his data also showed that we get worse at growing and using grass as we buy in more feed. So growing your own cow food could be a great alternative strategy, right?

Unfortunately, the agronomy department at DairyNZ is out to lunch, usually with product suppliers I reckon. Certainly they don't know anything at all about biological dairying. I've been doing the old legume - urea test on DairyNZ's website for a while and figured it'd be fun to add brix to the mix. Here are the results:
  • Urea           : more than 10 pages of hits
  • Legume       : 4 hits
  • Brix            : 1 hit at most
Does this look like the website of an open-minded farmer-funded research organisation? Not to me. Resilience comes from growing your own cow food in a sustainable way and farming the soil biology is as promising as any other future prospect.

Just don't expect any help from DairyNZ. If they're not lunching with the fert companies, they'll be off selling you herd homes.

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