Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Yield up 90%, now do it again

Sheep farmers in New Zealand have made an extraordinary achievement in increasing on-farm productivity 90% in the past 25 years, AbacusBio consultant Peter Fennessy says.

But they have to do it again.

Yield measured as kilogram meat per adult ewe had increased 2.5% a year over that time, he told the closing AgInnovation seminar at the Beef Expo in Feilding.

The increase was achieved through genetics and management, with only 15-20% more feed.

Farmers needed to keep going and in the next 15 years add another 40% to get the average weight from 23.5kg to 33kg, Fennessy said.

It was a daunting challenge but realistic with greater uptake of improved genetics.

He suggested increasing hogget mating and putting more ewes to terminal sires as ways of increasing ewe weight.

And lamb carcaseweight could be increased 21% through genetics and using terminal sires.

Fennessy suggested a range of practical and achievable aims. Farmers could not plan for climate and market volatility such as Psa, the European debt crisis or the drought, but they could prepare to deal with such events.

And they had to realise customers were closer to the farm businesses.

“Farm like they are watching us – they are,” he said.

That would have a sobering effect on the way farmers did things but was an important issue. In Australia animal rights activists were already using drones to monitor feedlots.

Fennessy predicted compliance would become more important and would come at a cost but farmers had an opportunity through things like electronic identification to turn cost into profit.

With the structure of farming businesses changing there might be reason to separate the land from business operations, he said.

Farmers had to involve the next generation and instil a passion for agriculture but needed to re-pitch the message and instead of using dull terms about farming get sexy and talk food.

Fennessy said food security and increasing demand for protein at a reasonable cost was a massive international issue, which could become a threat to stability.

And NZ farmers had to tell a better story about water as that became an issue.

With technology there was a need to shorten the time between innovation and uptake, he said.

“All I can say is the future will be both surprising and challenging.”

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