Dairy farmers are being urged to have their say in the Dairy NZ milksolids levy vote.
Forums will be undertaken throughout the country in April before the ballot closes in May.
The industry has experienced boom times and since its formation in 2007 Dairy NZ has grown into a large corporate body with 250 staff. Chief executive Tim Mackle earns more than $500,000, five staff command more than $200,000 and 36 were paid in excess of $100,000. Remuneration for the 12 directors was $487,000 last year.
Dairy NZ chairman John Luxton says farmers are getting good value for money. "Graduates coming out of Lincoln and Massey can get six-figure salaries within a couple of years in some of the farming businesses." Since the last levy vote in 2008 research and development had been a prime focus, he says. "We check the mood of our farmers from time to time and they say that is very important."
An average of $57/ha of annual farm profit due to genetic gain in animals had happened since 2008.
"These gains are delivered to farmers through breeding companies, supported by Dairy NZ investment in the national breeding objective and breeding worth."
The forage value index was launched last year and enabled farmers to access accurate information to ensure maximum genetic gain, he says. "It compares particular types of pasture in different areas of the country under different circumstances, so that is a work in progress."
Since the last levy vote in 2008, Dairy NZ-funded initiatives had helped farmers increase on-farm profit by 55 per cent to about $2000/ha. An extra 146,000 cows were in calf at six weeks in 2013 compared to 2010. That represented $110 million of extra farm profit every year. Dairy NZ consulting officers had held 1700 discussion groups in 2013 - double the number in 2010. At the last levy, 62 per cent of milksolids were voted.
Luxon says when the sheep farmers voted down their wool levy, research basically stopped.
"The industry is only too aware of those challenges, they have to be confronted and we have to up the game as an industry and I believe it has."
How much is the levy?
*There are two parts to the levy, the annual rate and the maximum rate.
*The annual rate is set each year by the board of Dairy NZ. The current rate is set at 3.6 cents/kg MS. It is intended the levy remains at 3.6 cents/kg MS until at least May 2016.
*Farmers will be consulted if there are proposed changes to the rate. The current maximum rate is 5 cents/kg MS.
*Ballot papers sent April 24. Voting closes May 31.