Confidence bodes well for field days

Thousands are expected to attend the 2014 Southern Field Days at Waimumu, near Gore. Geoff Soper, of Ewan Allan Honda, says it is an event that keeps growing in the south.

Southern Field Days is the place to be.

That's according to 789 exhibitors who will showcase their wares at the South Island's largest rural expo - the Southern Field Days - which starts at Waimumu near Gore today and continues tomorrow and Friday.

Today, Geoff Soper, of Ewan Allan Honda, said the field days for his company meant 40,000 customers could come on to its site to view the products it sells, plus it gave the company the chance to see other dealerships doing their business. 

Schouten Machines managing director Marcel van Hazendonk said it was his second time exhibiting at the field days.

"You've got to be here. It's important for exhibitors because if you're not here you could be missing out on business," Mr van Hazendonk said.

Southern Field Days chairman Mark Dillon expected there would be a "mad rush" this morning as exhibitors completed their sites in readiness for the crowds. "As long as the weather stays like this it will be fantastic," he said.

About 180 small stallholders would be housed in the new $1.5 million events centre, which replaced two marquees and had been built to keep exhibitors safe and secure and out of the weather.

The remaining exhibitors would be spread over 20ha, with more allocated for the working demonstrations and the tractor pull, which is expected to draw the crowds.

Tractor pull organiser Jeremy Marshall said competitors could enter on the day.

"The event creates a lot of interest from farmers and contractors who like to compare their tractors. There's a fair bit of skiting involved."

A first for the field days will be a live robotic milking demonstration. Lely, TechniPharm and Cowhouse Construction, who have built a small-scale cow house, have joined forces to host the milking event which will see 10 cows milked by Lely Astronaut robots.

JJ sales rep Peter McKerchar was looking forward to the field days and seeing lots of people at his farm machinery site.

"The farming sector is pretty positive. We're looking forward to doing business," he said.

The field days will be held at Waimumu, 12km from Gore, and the gates will open to the public at 9am each day.

Massey University Cow House

This project was delivered to Massey University by

Cowhouse Ltd  (Design Consulting)

Lines in Design (Drawing)

Cowhouse construction Ltd (Construction)

TechniPharm Group   ( Fit out )

From Fairfax  NZ FARMER


Massey University's cows look happy in their huge new barn - but they're not there just for their own comfort.

The barn, at Massey University's No 4 dairy farm, is part of a research effort to reduce dairying's environmental footprint and to improve productivity.

The barn cost $1.4 million to build and houses more than 200 cows in stalls. The ends are open to allow feed to be brought in, and effluent is deposited in aisles which have automatic scrapers.

Project manager and agricultural research officer Christine Christensen said 200 cows go in the barn for part of the day. Currently, researchers are evaluating bedding uptake by the cows.

The cows aren't being housed fulltime, rather the research is exploring how the barn might best be used as a management tool to increase the amount of pasture grown and harvested by the cows, and reduce the environmental footprint by better timing the collected effluent being redistributed onto paddocks.

The building will partly house cows, particularly in winter and spring, to combat the wet soils and treading damage at that time of the year, and through the autumn months for reducing urine patch deposition and consequently nitrate leaching.

Dr Christensen said there were two herds of 200 cows each, one being partially housed with the other being managed using a standard feedpad system. The housed cows' effluent would be pumped out of the shed into a new pond being constructed alongside the barn.

"The effluent will be collected in winter, stored and then re-applied evenly in spring."

She said at the moment the cows were trialing beddings of sand, covered foam, and rubber to see which the cows felt most at home on.

Dr Christensen said the building was built to high animal welfare standards and was a state-of-the-art barn. "Sometimes cows will be in here for 24 hours a day. So it has to meet all the animal welfare considerations, and it does."

The research is part of Pastoral 21, a collaborative venture between DairyNZ, Fonterra, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Beef + Lamb NZ and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Its goal is to provide solutions for profitably increasing pastoral production while reducing farms' environmental footprint.

Dr Christensen said Massey University's No 4 dairy unit was a commercial farm, and an objective of the research was to recoup the money spent on the barn, through less treading on wet pasture with its loss of feed, combined with more even and carefully timed applications of effluent.




Reworking our dairy systems

KEITH WOODFORD    Last updated 05:00 02/02/2014


CAPITAL HUNGRY: For a shed that is suitable just for wintering dry cows, the overall additional capital requirement will be about $2000 per cow.

OPINION: Many farmers will resist it fiercely, housing our dairy herd in sheds is almost inevitable.

The New Zealand dairy industry has always prided itself as being different. Whereas most other countries developed their dairy industries based on the housing of cows for much or all of the year, the New Zealand industry has always been pasture-based. The cows harvest the grass themselves, the cost of production has been low, and the image was of "clean and green".

Alas, we now know the image of "clean and green" was never quite true. Although a huge amount has been done to clean up the industry, with fencing of waterways, nutrient budgets and meticulous management of effluent from the milking shed, there is a fundamental problem still to be tackled. This fundamental problem is the concentration of nitrogen in the urine patches which grazing cows leave behind.

The dominant belief among scientists is that when a cow urinates it deposits nitrogen in the urine patch at up to 1000 kg per hectare. Not all of my animal scientist colleagues are convinced about this specific number, but regardless of the exact amount, it is inevitable that there will be significant nitrogen leaching from urine patches deposited in autumn and winter.

It does not matter what is done in terms of reduced stocking rate or reduced fertiliser or different grasses. As long as the cows are grazing the paddocks in autumn and winter, then there is going to be significant loss of nitrogen into waterways and underground aquifers.

There are four possible strategies.

The first option is to do nothing. That would mean the leaching problem would get even worse. But that is not an option because New Zealand society will not allow it.

The second option is to allow no further expansion of the dairy industry. That, too, is not an option because even with no further industry growth there will be further build-up of nitrogen in the waterways and aquifers.

The third option is to force a major reduction in the dairy industry. That, too, is somewhat impractical, given that dairy exports - which in the current dairy season will be more than $15 billion - underpin our New Zealand economy.

The fourth option, and the only one that makes sense, is to get the cows off pasture from early April until the start of September. Off-paddock wintering systems can be either stand-off (non-roofed) pads or partly enclosed sheds.

Stand-off pads bring their own problems. There needs to be collection of all effluent and, without a roof over the pad, the effluent pond needs to be at least double the normal size. So in most cases, it means that there have to be roofed sheds.

The appropriate technologies are well understood in both Europe and the United States. Many European countries legislated decades ago to ensure that cows were held inside during winter, and that the effluent could only be taken back to the paddocks once the soils were drying-out in spring. We now have to adopt and adapt these same systems to work in the New Zealand environment.

For a shed that is suitable just for wintering dry cows, then the overall additional capital requirement will be about $2000 per cow. For a system set up to include milking cows, then the cost will be even higher as the cows need to be kept cleaner.

In broad terms, the total capital involved in a typical New Zealand dairy farming system now exceeds $60,000 per hectare. On a per cow basis, this is typically between $15,000 and something over $20,000 per cow. So the additional capital of a shed is significant.

Also, this shed capital, unlike land, depreciates over time, and so it can add significantly to the cost of production.    Page 1 of 2Reworking our dairy systems |    2/02/14 2:20 PM

Accordingly, it is not surprising that many dairy farmers are strongly opposed to the idea of having to house their cows. Nevertheless, there are now several hundred farms in New Zealand that already house the cows in winter. We are also starting to see farms where cows are housed throughout the year.

There are actually multiple benefits that can be achieved by housing of cows. In winter, the animals need less energy to maintain their body temperature, and in summer there is no heat stress in a well-designed system.

Cows no longer use energy trudging several kilometres each day to and from the dairy shed. This walking can also be a major source of lameness. Fonterra has found with its China-based farms that when New Zealand bred cows are shifted to an enclosed system, the total milk production per lactation from each cow more than doubles.

When everything is done correctly, housed cow systems are still compatible with a low cost of production per unit of output and a high return on capital. Indeed the 2013 winner of the New Zealand Dairy Business of the Year - for which I was one of the judges - was for a farm that housed the cows in winter. The key judging criteria were overall return on capital and environmental sustainability. So it can be done.

Nevertheless, this idea of housing cows in winter is going to be highly controversial. Many farmers will resist it fiercely.

The general public will also need to get used to the idea of cows being housed. Society will need to be convinced that animal welfare is being dealt with appropriately. In that regard, we can learn a lot from the Europeans.

In the long run, getting cows off the paddocks in the autumn and winter is the only way for New Zealand to go. It is the only way we can maintain both an image and a reality of ʻclean and green'. But it is going to be an interesting and very controversial journey. It goes against much that we have believed in for a long time.

Keith Woodford is Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University. His archived writings can be found at

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