By Dr Tim Mackle,
DairyNZ chief executive

Our Kiwi farmers are world leaders thanks to decades of expertise onfarm and because, frankly, Kiwi farmers are incredibly resilient and hard working. This has helped us gain the enviable position of being one of the world’s best producers of milk.

Our farmers have maintained this position as world-leader despite facing some confronting challenges in recent years, with regulatory change, inflation, weather challenges and staffing onfarm. Even through these tough times, we had some fantastic achievements while continuing to produce high-quality nutrition for customers around the world.

The resilience of our farmers led to dairy exports hitting new highs of $22 billion, resulting in our sector contributing about $50b to New Zealand’s economy. The year ahead will continue to be dynamic and challenging. We will continue working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Alongside farm systems support, DairyNZ is researching technologies to support farms to reduce emissions.

Off-the-shelf tech needs research in NZ conditions – our free-range system is too different to other countries. So, we turn to innovation – something we know well.

Getting policies right will also ensure our thriving farming sector continues – and, therefore, NZ thrives too.

DairyNZ will continue advocating for solutions that achieve the right outcomes for our farmers. This work will be backed by science, no matter the topic, from best-practice animal care in the Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare, water quality to climate change.

Back on farm, we know there are some immediate challenges front and centre for many. Profitability is challenged in the face of farm working expense increases of around $1 per kg of milksolids just last season alone.

While the milk price has been good for a few years, dairy’s debt repayment has tracked well – decreasing by $5.2b from 2018 to 2022 – which is great news.

No-one knows with absolute certainty where the milk price will land, but we know our best operators begin thinking about how they will manage a drop and cut costs, before they actually need to.

With these issues on the minds of many, DairyNZ is on a mission to better connect with dairy farmers. As part of that, DairyNZ is broadening the range of support and events we offer, to be relevant to the needs of our farmers.

This support is particularly geared at helping farmers manage the years ahead and the regulatory changes coming through. DairyNZ will also continue to roll out targeted initiatives this year, considering some of the key issues in our sector.

Our GoDairy campaign will continue, encouraging young Kiwis to consider a dairy career and connecting them to the latest dairy farm vacancies. This will help contribute to our workforce needs and attract more people onfarm.

We are also focusing on our public audience, through our latest campaign Here for the Long Game. This long-term initiative will look to continue growing trust and pride in dairy, sharing dairy farmers’ long-term commitment to a better future for NZ.

I feel excited to be sharing positive public stories about all the great work underway on farms, but I’m even more excited that DairyNZ will be upping the ante on working alongside our farmers in 2023.

We have had some tough moments in the past few years, but I’m proud of everything farmers and DairyNZ have achieved by working together.

My final thought would be that dairy – in my view – has a very positive future. We just need to work together on the challenges in the meantime.