Once-a-day stigma a ‘thing of the past’

Times have changed and the stigma surrounding once-a-day milking is a thing of the past,

Tony Finch, Dairy NZ.

By Anne Hardie

Quarter of a century ago, getting finance from the bank when you milked the cows just once-a-day was a battle. DairyNZ’s South Island leader Tony Finch remembers being on the banking side of one of those discussions back then, when finance focused on total milksolids and OAD milking wasn’t yet an accepted practice.

Times have changed and the stigma surrounding OAD is a thing of the past, he told the OAD Milking Conference in Nelson. Instead, it now ticks the boxes for the environment, staffing, public perception and business profitability.

“The system fits nicely with what people want to see,” he said. “The bottom line didn’t change and (was) sometimes lifted. My argument is: why would you spend more time doing your stuff if you could do it in a different way and do it easier for the same result?”

While it ticks the boxes, he said it was part of a wider industry that still has a way to go to understand its consumers instead of focusing on how much milk goes in the vat each day.

Overseas customers want ethical, reliable production of nutritious milk and New Zealand’s point of difference is having the lowest unit cost of production in pasture.

“That pasture first mentality needs to stay. It’s not pasture only – it’s pasture first. It’s around how we grow and harvest it and as much as possible because it is our lowest unit cost of production. It’s our point of difference on a world scale.”

However, the industry needs to tell its story better because NZ’s dairy farmers are the most sustainable in the world and he said they need to get that message out to the public and their consumers.

Finch said the industry needed to sit back and reflect on how far it had come, because it had delivered the largest voluntary investment in the environment – in excess of $1 billion – and farmers shouldn’t lose sight of that achievement.

“We are environmentalists at its peak.”

Many dairy farmers have been feeling down and out; “kicked in the guts”, but they needed to feel proud about who they were and what they produced. That has led to DairyNZ’s campaign, Rise and Shine, which is aimed at encouraging pride within dairy farmers of their achievements.

It’s also about telling the NZ dairy story better for farmers wellbeing as well as getting that story to the public and consumers overseas.

Farmers in Aotearoa are the world’s leading efficiency producers of milk in a carbon footprint – the best at it in the world – and he said they should be proud of it.

They lead the world in animal care, with animals roaming outdoors, produce good ethical milk and are the highest producer of value nutrition while having the lowest footprint that comes with that. And they deliver $20 billion into the NZ economy.

“We’re very good at what we do. We are innovators like you can’t believe. We’re efficient in what we do and we can’t lose track that our people matter.

The wellbeing aspect of our farmers is being challenged more so now than ever before and we need to feel proud of what we do.”