A positive start

Southern Dairy Development Trust chairman Tony Miles (left), Southern Dairy Hub business manager Guy Michaels and farm manager Shane Griffin at the hub in Makarewa this week. Photo: Sanda Jukic

RESEARCH is set to ramp up as the Southern Dairy Hub (SDH) moves into its second season of operation.

“From a farmer’s point of view, it had been a positive first year, and the second season will be really exciting,” Southern Dairy Development Trust (SDDT) chairman Tony Miles said.

“[SDH] is never going to be the highest production farm in Southland, but it is going to be the best dairy research farm in Southland.”

The multimillion-dollar demonstration farm/research development facility was established last year by SDDT, with support from AgResearch and DairyNZ and southern farmers and businesses, to conduct comparative research in a commercial environment to support the southern dairy industry.

SDH business manager Guy Michaels said the first year in operation had been the bedding-in phase, setting the farm up for research.

Research results would take time to reach southern farmers so it was good to get into the first of the hub’s next three-year research phase. The early use of fodder beet in a farm system and options to reduce Nitrate leaching were two examples of current research under way, he said.

Last season the farm had been run as one farm system, but this season it would be run as four different farm systems with four herds, he said.

The ongoing challenge would be ensuring detailed processes were strictly followed for every aspect of each farm system to ensure we deliver the platform research required for sound results, Mr Michaels said.

“It was a typical conversion so we had all the usual teething issues as you would expect, especially with technology, but have had good support to sort them out.”

One issue involved introducing the cows to eating fodder beet, which was part of the trial work, he said, as two-thirds of the herd had been sourced from the North Island and had never eaten the wintering crop before.

The disease Mycoplasma bovis, which had infected numerous North and South Island farms, had impacted SDH’s operation.

Mr Michaels said a detailed biosecurity policy was in place before the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak because of the hub’s research requirements, but more detailed changes had been made as a result of the outbreak.

Farm fielddays and large extension events for example now required visitor vehicles to be parked off-site and visitors transported on to the farm to protect the hub and visitors when returning home, he said.

There had also been a change in management around using artificial insemination only for the milking herd to reduce the number of bulls being brought on to the farm, he said.

Mr Miles encouraged farmers and the general public to attend SDH’s field days. The next one is being held on October 16.

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