A PROPERTY at Makarewa will be the home for a new research and development dairying centre. The Southern Dairy Hub (SDH) confirmed agreement had been reached on buying a 349ha farm at Makarewa, 15km north of Invercargill.
It would be converted to dairying this season to supply Fonterra, SDH chairman Maurice Hardie said on Tuesday. The SDH had been looking for a suitable property within 30 minutes of the Invercargill Airport and Mr Hardie said it was “a bit of relief” to finally have the hub confirmed.
“We have been working three and a half years to get to this point and now we need to get on and make it happen over the next eight or nine months.”
Mr Hardie said the next step was to determine who the various contractors would be for construction, with conversion set to begin at the beginning of next month.
The hub will have four comparative herds of about 200 cows each as well as buildings for research, demonstrations, education and farmer meetings.
“The first group of 200 [cows] will be a strictly commercial operation, while the other three [groups] will be involved in an experimental regime, whether it be feed or management style,” Mr Hardie said.
This is the first time in New Zealand a commercial operation, a demonstration farm and a research facility will operate from one site.
The project is being funded by AgResearch and DairyNZ, which have committed $5 million each, and about $1.25m from the Southern Dairy Development Trust.
“The hub is a tool for the future – a way for us to experiment and then [pass that on] to the farmers in the region,” Mr Hardie said.
Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie welcomed the announcement of the hub, saying it was recognition of the importance of dairying in Southland.
“This new farm will enable local dairy farming issues to be researched on southern soils in southern conditions.”
It was “yet another example of Southland’s can-do attitude and will ensure the sector continually has access to the latest science and innovation”, she said.
– Jonathan Dine