Thursday, July 7, 2022

Dewdney leaving LIC proud of achievements

Mark Dewdney won’t be milking cows twice a day, seven days a week when he leaves LIC at the end of May but will be working on his farm businesses.

He steps down from his six years as LIC chief executive on March 1, having overseen impressive gains in dairy genetics technology, wider farm management innovations, domestic and international sales, and profits.

LIC stopped all but essential spending during the worst of the global financial crisis in 2009 and provided easier terms for its dairy farmer customers. A good industry recovery meant 2010 trading was better than it had been in 2008 and it has kept improving since.

What Dewdney is most proud of is that during the crisis LIC never reduced its spending on research and development or innovation.

“We’re in a long-term game and the breeding decisions we make impact on the industry in a decade’s time. That bold, long-term investment has always been a stand-out at LIC,’’ he said.

Dewdney owns a 90ha dairy farm near Morrinsville, where more than 300 cows supply about 130,000kg MS/year to the Tatua dairy factory. A sharemilker runs the farm and Dewdney’s input has been a couple of hours a week here and there or four milkings a year.

He hopes the sharemilker will stay on, but he will spend more time working on the business day to day.

He also shares ownership of a 500-cow dairy farm in Gippsland, in Victoria, where his investment partner is a German agriculture fund.

Dewdney is keen to take on director roles in the wider agriculture sector and late last year became a supplier-director at the Tatua Co-operative Dairy.

Tatua is a big part of his life – his father ran the business for many years and the family lived in a factory house. He worked there himself and his wife’s family is also a long-term supplier.

LIC is the most successful dairy genetics and herd-testing business in the world, with the best research and the least level of government funding, he says.

There have been hiccups, including the Matrix bull progeny defect, which affected a number of dairy herds. LIC upset some farmers by not offering compensation, but Dewdney maintains this was the correct approach because the company could never guarantee against a random natural defect.

“Once it happened we managed it the best we could and have put tests in place so that this type of thing can’t happen again.’’

The issue had no influence on his decision to retire.

LIC also loaned money to Agria as part funding for its PGG Wrightson investment, in the hope this could lead to some involvement in the Wrightson AgriTech business. This hasn’t eventuated and the loan will be repaid, but Dewdney hopes in time New Zealand farmers will have an involvement in grass genetics, given its importance to the industry.

Chief operating officer David Hemara will become acting chief executive on March 1 while a full-time chief executive is sought. Dewdney will do some project work before leaving at the end of May.

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