As the borders open up again, LIC has hosted an influx of visitors in New Zealand. Hosting trips to New Zealand is a significant way LIC supports our international farmers. This way they can to see how LIC produces elite pasture-based genetics and experience New Zealand dairy farming first-hand. The end of 2022 saw a farmer tour group from Australia and one from Brazil, and some of our international staff to New Zealand shores. Here are their stories.
Brazilian farmer tour group
Eduardo Dedonati talks about his time on the Brazilian farmer tour.
“A journey to explore New Zealand has been in my mind since childhood. Having this opportunity to talk to people from other countries, different cultures, and different thoughts was incredible. Planning to travel to NZ took longer than the gestation of a cow. The pandemic arrived months before our first departure date and certainly changed the entire travel experience.
The visit to Joyce and Garry Voogt’s farm showed me the real essence of a New Zealand dairy farm. The practical and efficient organisation of activities speeds up the work, giving the farmer more free time. For a Brazilian to hear the phrase “this year we earn more by producing less milk” is like a light in the dark and changed my whole perspective. Not always every dollar invested will return another dollar.
Visiting LIC was also a great experience. Until that time for me LIC was just a bull catalogue, and a straw of semen, that is, the very end of the process. The detail that I didn’t imagine is how strict the quality control processes are for the bulls.
Among the farmers that stood out for me is Enda Hawe of Emerald Pastures. Seeing his enthusiasm for farming was very motivational. I learned that problems are just steps along the way and that what matters is being happy in what you are doing.
The organisation of the entire trip was very intense and fruitful. It was possible to have a broad view of what it means to produce milk in New Zealand. The combination of visits, lectures and tours of the main tourist attractions in the country helped me to see a little bit of everything. During the 20 days I was there, New Zealand and its people made me feel practically at home. The experiences I had during this short period of time will be carried in my thoughts for the rest of my life.”
LIC Ireland genetics development manager in NZ
David Power, genetics development manager for LIC Ireland, recently spent three months in New Zealand. During this time he worked closely with LIC’s sire selection team throughout their busy bull-buying period. The objective was to bring important insights back to farmers in Ireland and LIC’s Irish bull breeding programme.
“I began my first week going through the background and logistics of LIC’s European stud, based in Awahuri, Manawatu. This involved a visit to Awahuri, five hours south of LIC’s head office in Hamilton. Here I spent time going through the strict EU regulations, meeting the farm staff, and watching the whole process through to straw production.
After this, I joined the sire selection team for 8 weeks. Firstly I spent time out on-farm viewing contract mating first calvers for TOP (traits other than production) inspections. Namely visiting the Tironui herd, breeders of Superman and Montage, and the Maharee herd, breeder of Maharee AZ Orsim.
Following this, we received the genomic bull file containing 1600 bull calves. We then whittled the list down to 235 bull calves – 100 Holstein Friesian, 45 Jersey and 90 KiwiCross® bulls.
Then it was time to hit the road with the team for dam and bull calf inspections, ensuring all bull calves made the grade from a physical perspective and learning how to TOP inspect bull dams. During this time, I probably travelled the length and breadth of both islands.
So, what are my takeaways from my time in NZ?
The Jersey breed in my opinion has never been in such a strong position in New Zealand. The majority of cows have excellent capacity, strong udder ligaments and production. A large number of Jersey bulls entered the Premier SiresTM team these last two years.
With potential cow numbers dropping in both Ireland and New Zealand, there is a general acceptance that more will be asked of the cow to maintain production. And none more so than the Holstein Friesian. During my time in New Zealand, it was evident that work within the Friesian breed is focussing on achieving production capacity goals while maintaining fertility.
KiwiCross® bulls seem to be going from strength to strength. From Premonition hitting the Jersey-like 6% fat to Flash-Gordon pushing production over 100kg milk solids. Additionally, with some excellent genomic bulls coming through, such as Hackers Advantage and Julian Tu-Meke, it’s assuring to see the KiwiCross® sector is in a strong place going forward.”
Australian farmer tour group
LIC was delighted to host 14 Australian dairy farmers for a five-day tour. With an action-packed few days, the group visited various dairy farms in the Waikato / Bay of Plenty, plus even had the opportunity to view a recently converted sheep milking farm and a kiwifruit orchard.
“We saw some excellent herds of cows doing solid production with limited inputs,” said Mike Rose, LIC Australia’s Country Manager.
An important aspect of the tour was to provide some great insights into how research and advancements in technology are having a positive impact on the industry. The group was impressed by the technology farmers are adopting. For example, the Halter system of virtual fencing. The system trains cows to understand and respond to sound and vibration cues from the collar. Then the cows can recognise and remain within the virtual fences.
With the future of agriculture continuing to change, the tour also highlighted the regulation and environmental challenges that farmers are facing. The group visited LIC’s Chudleigh Farm to review a joint research venture with CRV, funded by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC). The research programme measures methane emissions from the burps of Sire Proving Scheme bulls, to provide farmers the ability to breed lower methane-emitting cows in the future.
A visit to LIC’s Head Office at Newstead allowed the chance to view the bull collection facilities, learn about the strict quarantine protocols and understand the research that goes on there.
Overall feedback from the group was around how much they learned from the tour, how it was a great opportunity to access and visit operations first-hand, and to ask questions relevant to their farming operations back home. The group was also very impressed with the scale of the National Fieldays agricultural event and how everything dairy-related was all at one event.
Dominic Conheady, who was part of the tour, stated, “LIC took us to some sharp operations, all with an eye on the future. There’s plenty to learn in New Zealand.”
These trips are a great opportunity to network with other progressive people in the dairy industry. At the same time, you can see dairying from different perspectives and learn new things that could help you improve the dairy farming businesses of your own or the farmers you work with.
Contact the LIC rep in your region if you are interested in learning more about farm tours.