Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dairy farmers produce ‘more from less’ in record year

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New Zealand dairy farmers have set a new record for milk production, producing 1.95 billion kilograms of milksolids (MS) for the 2020-21 season.
If cows are in good condition and receiving good nutrition during mating, supplementary feed may not be required as it is only one factor affecting reproduction.
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New Zealand dairy cows produced 1.95 billion kilograms of milksolids in the 2020-21 year – up 2.7% from the previous year.

New Zealand dairy farmers have set a new record for milk production, producing 1.95 billion kilograms of milksolids (MS) for the 2020-21 season.

The 2.7% lift in milksolids from the previous season was achieved from 4.9 million cows, a small 0.36% decrease from the 2019-20 year, according to the annual New Zealand Dairy Statistics report, released by DairyNZ and LIC.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says it is great to see a continuation of the ‘more milk from fewer cows’ trend because it shows a continuing focus on milking better cows and farming even more sustainably.

“Farmers are focused on developing more productive and efficient cows and farming systems, with a lighter environmental footprint. They want to retain our unique pasture-based farming system and remain world leading,” Mackle said.

Favourable weather conditions also contributed to good grass growth, while higher milk prices meant many farmers extended their milking season in 2020-21.

Per cow production also lifted from 385 to 397kg MS.

Herd numbers fell for the sixth year in a row, with 145 fewer than the previous season, totalling 11,034. The average herd size was 444, which was four cows higher than the previous season.

The percentage of cows mated to artificial breeding rose to 71.3% (up from 70.8% in 2019-20), and the number of cows herd tested is the highest on record (3.735 million cows, or 76.2%, of the national herd).

LIC acting chief executive David Hazlehurst says the greater uptake of herd improvement services demonstrates farmers’ intent and focus on producing the most sustainable and efficient animals.

“Mating season has always been an important time to get cows in-calf but now with a focus on cow quality over quantity, more farmers are investing in premium genetics to help ensure their next generation of replacements are more efficient than the last,” Hazlehurst said.

He says young, genomically-selected bulls and sexed semen, which generates female replacements from top cows, are examples of the high-impact tools farmers are adopting to increase the rate of genetic gain in their herds. 

“It’s really pleasing to see these stats provide farmers with reassurance that the tools they’re investing in to increase their herd’s production efficiency and reduce their farm’s environmental footprint are working. Increasing milksolids with a reduced cow population is an achievement the whole sector should be proud of,” he said.

Mackle says the report showed that despite a range of challenges such as the covid-19 pandemic and staff shortages, farmers are working hard to keep milk production flowing, benefitting the whole country.

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