This article first appeared in our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.
With five years of operation now under its belt, the Southern Dairy Hub is reflecting on some significant progress to date, and opportunities to further establish its place as the go-to source for dairy research in the south.
“We’ve certainly come a long way in those five years,” says hub general manager Louise Cook.
“A lot of the research that the scientists do here at the hub does take time, but we put the work in because it is important to build the knowledge and support local farmers to address big challenges like winter grazing and environmental regulation.”
Located near Invercargill, the Southern Dairy Hub was established in 2017 in response to the needs of local farmers who were keen for science and local research to help them make informed decisions on their farms and for their farm systems.
The hub’s 349ha facility is jointly funded by southern dairy farmers, AgResearch and DairyNZ.
“It’s thanks to the generosity of the community, sponsors and funders that it’s able to deliver the ground-breaking research that it does,” Cook says.
The hub operates as a working dairy farm while also conducting research trials, which makes it the largest farm of its type in New Zealand and one of the biggest internationally.
“The southern part of the country has unique climate and soil conditions and the research we do helps find solutions to address specific challenges within the context of long-term sustainable farm systems,” she says.
Hub research focuses on direct comparisons between four farmlet systems of about 200 cows each. The research trials the performance of different crops, feeding approaches and systems, focusing on the impacts on productivity and profitability.
“Many of these research trials have been going for several years and the results are compelling. The projects are wide-ranging and focused on achieving practical and tangible information that farmers can use to help them make decisions on their own dairy farms. We share the key results on our Facebook page each week, and people are able to track the results back on our website”.
Cook believes that for the research to be meaningful it has to be shared with farmers in a way that works for them.
“We try to get as many people as possible engaged in the work that is being done and with field days, community events and educational get-togethers at the hub, the local community and our farmers are at the centre of everything the hub does,” she says.
More: Find out more about the Southern Dairy Hub and its research by following it on Facebook or visiting southerndairyhub.co.nz