As NZ Dairy Exporter counts down to its centenary in 2025, we look back at the issues of earlier decades. 50 Years Ago – March 1971.

British PM’s assurance to board chairman

While in Britain last month for quota negotiations, Mr F. L. Onion, CMG, Chairman of the Dairy Board, called on the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Edward Heath, at 10 Downing Street and in a half-hour of discussion again emphasised the vital importance to New Zealand of special arrangements for our dairy produce in the event of Britain’s entry to the EEC.

“Mr Heath repeated the assurance which he had given me and the New Zealand Government last year and said he and his Ministers are continuing to press the case as presented for favourable conditions for our dairy products,” Mr Onion said.

“It is likely to be July or August, or even later, before negotiations for British entry into the EEC will be concluded. This is a time of uncertainty for our pastoral industries and for New Zealand as a whole,” said Mr Onion.

“We must look at the facts realistically. Demand for our products in the United Kingdom is as strong as they have ever been, while the demand in other countries is increasingly steady.

“The so-called ‘butterberg’ of Europe has disappeared; so also has the former surplus of milk powder. The EEC has reduced its export subsidies on butter and milkfat several times in recent months, with the result that there is a general upward movement in world prices for these products.”

Change in demand for AB breeds

This is the first year in which more Friesian than Jersey semen appears to have been used in the Dairy Board’s AB service, according to the Senior Research Officer of the Board’s Farm Production Division, Mr P. Shannon.

He told the last meeting of the Herd Improvement Council it was estimated that Friesian accounted for 52 per cent, Jersey for 42 per cent and other breeds for 6 per cent of all semen used.

The Director of Farm Production, Mr J. W. Stichbury, suggested the Board should buy equal numbers of Jersey and Friesian bulls for its sire proving scheme until the pattern of use had settled down.

In the Board’s 1969-70 cow census the proportion of herds in which Jersey blood predominated was 73 per cent and in which Friesian blood dominated, 9 per cent. The proportion of herds which were predominantly Friesian-Jersey first cross was 3 per cent.

Farmchair thoughts – Difficulties

While the government is becoming concerned over the welfare of the farmer, the average man in the street is completely ignorant of the difficulties being faced by a large percentage of those on the land.

In spite of the alleged substandard conditions under which employees in some of our key industries have to work, other industries seem to have the utmost difficulty in persuading them to try a change of employment. This suggests that taking everything into account, these strike-plagued industries aren’t bad places to work in.

Farmers independently and collectively are trying to weather the present storm by increasing efficiency, lowering costs where possible (less employed labour, marginal levels of maintenance) by exploring and where the margin dictates a change, moving into other avenues of farming, and by diversification.

  • Thanks to the Hocken Library, Dunedin.