More than $25 million will go towards innovation and sustainability in New Zealand's dairy industry.

The $25.68m programme, officially launched at the National Fieldays today by Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor, will drive improvements in the health and wellbeing of the national dairy herd and a step-change in sustainable milk production, say its backers.

The seven-year programme, called Resilient Dairy: Innovative Breeding for a Sustainable Future, is being led by farmer-owned herd improvement co-operative Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), with investment and support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and DairyNZ.

They say it will invest in new disease management technologies and advancements in genomic science to improve cow productivity, and produce better cows with improved health, wellbeing and environmental resilience.

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MPI's Director Investment Programmes, Steve Penno. Photo / Supplied
MPI's Director Investment Programmes, Steve Penno. Photo / Supplied

Over the life of the programme, LIC is investing $11.2m, MPI $10.3m and DairyNZ $4.2m.

"At the heart of the new programme is innovation that aims to deliver long-term economic, environmental and animal health benefits for New Zealand," said Steve Penno, MPI's director of investment programmes.

"For New Zealand to maintain its reputation as a world-leading producer of premium products, we need to further increase the value of our products in a way that improves sustainability," Penno said.

LIC chief scientist Richard Spelman. Photo / Supplied
LIC chief scientist Richard Spelman. Photo / Supplied

"MPI is investing in this new programme as it aims to deliver long-term gains in a number of areas, including sustainable production, milk quality, and animal wellbeing, while importantly reducing impacts on the environment."

LIC, the largest supplier of artificial breeding services to New Zealand's dairy farms, says it will leverage its existing capabilities in genomic science and diagnostics to develop innovative breeding tools and tests that support more sustainable milk production.

Richard Spelman, LIC's chief scientist, said: "This programme will strengthen our existing research and development work to keep our farmers and New Zealand leading the global pastoral dairy system."

Investment from DairyNZ will go into re-building its national evaluation system for dairy cattle to incorporate genomic information to facilitate faster rates of genetic gain.

DairyNZ's Strategic Investment Leader, Bruce Thorrold. Photo / Supplied
DairyNZ's Strategic Investment Leader, Bruce Thorrold. Photo / Supplied

"Resilient Dairy is our opportunity to get back in front of the world with genetic gain," said Bruce Thorrold, DairyNZ's strategic investment leader.

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"With new discoveries in genomic methods and data collection we are now in the position to jump ahead and incorporate genomic data into our animal evaluation system – enabling the whole sector to maximise genetic gain," Thorrold said.

Spelman said the programme would address calls for resilience and sustainability on dairy farms, now and into the future.

"Through the new Resilient Dairy: Innovative Breeding for a Sustainable Future programme, we're investing now to help futureproof our dairy industry and deliver long-term benefits for New Zealand."