With many Kiwis tuning into cricket this summer — either for fun on the beach, or as serious fans of the Black Caps and White Ferns — DairyNZ has done some thinking about what it takes to withstand the spinbowls, unpredictable pitches, or intemperate weather as a dairy farmer.
We analyse the skills for our New Zealand first XI of dairy farmers, who are all-rounders and high-scorers; farmers who care for their animals, the environment and their people; and run successful businesses.
Individually, our farmers work hard every day.
"First XI dairy farmers know effluent from their cows is a valuable source of nutrients for their pastures, but can be a big issue when it's not managed correctly."
As a sector we have a vision for the future that is sustainable, and continues to provide the natural, high-quality products this country is famous for the world over.
Dairy farmers are ambitious for their sector, and the role it can play in a prosperous, sustainable New Zealand. Here are the match skills that will get us there:
1. Caring for their land: Farmers know they look after their land for a relatively brief moment in time, and they want to leave it in a better state for future generations.
They look for what is sustainable for their land, considering areas best suited to other uses — such as low production areas that could be developed into wetlands for nutrient removal, for increased biodiversity, and aesthetics. They fence off and plant riparian areas to protect waterways, ensuring weeds are not left to run riot and smother and kill their plantings.
2. Caring for their people: Farmers value their staff and recognise their endeavours; they keep communication lines open with regular team meetings. Our farmers are building great workplaces that provide the whole package — decent wages, accommodation of a good standard, fair rosters. As more than one dairy farmer will tell you, 'happy staff mean happy cows'.
3. Caring for their cows: First XI farmers have skills for a cow-centric approach to farming. New Zealand has the longest living dairy cows in developed dairying countries, which shows our cows are healthy and we have well grown young replacement stock. Farmers that deliver the best animal welfare recruit like-minded people to ensure the best standards of care for the life of their animals.
4. Pasture management is a top priority: New Zealand is recognised worldwide for its pasture-rich dairy farming.
Cows' diets are predominantly grass and not just any old grass but grasses that have been bred to provide top nutrition, to grow in a variety of climates and soil conditions, and even to lower the nitrogen output in the cow's urine and excrement. For New Zealand dairy farmers, pasture is the priority and maximising its growth and utilisation in a sustainable way is a key to their success.
5. Digging the dirt: Without the good dirt farmers cannot grow the best pastures. Good farmers monitor soil health and fertility closely — they know this saves them time and money. They know efficient and precise management of nutrients will lead to yield increases, environmental benefits and cost savings.
6. Farm systems are profitable, replicable and simple: Key farm management decisions revolve around first making a profit — as the saying goes, you've got to be in the black to be green — and no matter what the production system is, the focus is on what is simple and easy to operate.
7. Effluent management: First XI dairy farmers know effluent from their cows is a valuable source of nutrients for their pastures, but can be a big environmental issue when it's not managed correctly.
They know their effluent infrastructure, and whether more storage will be needed and when, and when maintenance is due. They plan ahead to avoid mishaps. They also have plans in place for who is in charge at any time, and what is to be done in the event of a breakdown.
8. Water a top priority: Especially over the summer months when cows drink more during the hot weather. High-scoring farmers know how to manage water, measure its use, how to isolate taps when there are leaks, and reduce water use in the farm dairy to reduce effluent volumes.
9. Climate change: First XI farmers are committed to playing their part in the management and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on their farms.
Their actions to protect waterways — fencing and bridges to keep animals out of the water, and planting native species along the riparian margins — also help to mitigate emissions.
Modern science-based farming is the way to achieve a lower emissions future, and being match-fit means keeping informed as new technologies and tools emerge.
10. Longer-term goals: Like most business owners, dairy farmers have short and long terms goals, and seek the involvement of the best people in helping them to guide their businesses — eg. professionals like bankers and accountants to discuss farm performance and longer-term strategies.
11. Crucial to our economic and social fabric: New Zealand's dairy farmers help to grow vibrant and prosperous communities through community leadership and stronger connections, including urban-rural relationships.
They influence the delivery of infrastructure and services in rural areas that support regional economic and social wellbeing. Dairy provides over a quarter of our total export earnings and is a significant contributor to regional economies and employment.¦DairyNZ
More information about DairyNZ's sustainable strategy, visit dairytomorrow.co.nz