Creating resilience in NZ’s dairy herd

Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor, LIC chief scientist Richard Spelman, MPI’s director investment programmes Steve Penno and DairyNZ’s strategic investment leader Bruce Thorrold at the programme’s launch at Fieldays.

A $25.68 million, seven-year innovation programme for New Zealand’s dairy industry will drive improvements in health and wellbeing of the nation’s dairy herd and provide a step-change in sustainable milk production, according to those who launched the initiative at Fieldays last month.

The programme, called ‘Resilient Dairy: Innovative Breeding for a Sustainable Future’ is being led by farmer-owned herd improvement co-operative Livestock Improvement Corporation, with investment and support from the Ministry for Primary Industries and DairyNZ.

It will invest in new disease management technologies and advancements in genomic science to improve cow productivity, and produce better cows with improved health, wellbeing and environmental resilience.

Launched at Fieldays by the Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor, the programme is being funded by LIC is investing $11.2m, MPI investing $10.3m and DairyNZ investing $4.2m.

MPI’s director investment programmes Steve Penno says at the heart of the new programme is innovation that aims to deliver long-term economic, environmental and animal health benefits for NZ.

“For NZ to maintain its reputation as a world-leading producer of premium products, we need to further increase the value of our products in a way that improves sustainability,” says Steve.

“MPI is investing in this new programme as it aims to deliver long-term gains in a number of areas, including sustainable production, milk quality, and animal wellbeing, while importantly reducing impacts on the environment.”

LIC, the largest supplier of artificial breeding services to NZ dairy farms, states it will leverage its existing capabilities in genomic science and diagnostics to develop innovative breeding tools and tests that support more sustainable milk production.

“We’re committed to providing farmers with the tools they need to improve their prosperity and productivity in a sustainable way, with animal health, wellbeing and the environment at the forefront,” says LIC’s chief scientist Richard Spelman.

“This programme will strengthen our existing research and development work to keep our farmers and NZ leading the global pastoral dairy system,” says Richard.

DairyNZ’s strategic investment leader Bruce Thorrold says investment from his industry body will go into re-building its national evaluation system for dairy cattle to incorporate genomic information to facilitate faster rates of genetic gain.

“Resilient Dairy is our opportunity to get back in front of the world with genetic gain,” says Bruce.

“With new discoveries in genomic methods and data collection we’re now in the position to jump ahead and incorporate genomic data into our animal evaluation system – enabling the whole sector to maximise genetic gain.”

Richard says this programme will address calls for resilience and sustainability on dairy farms, now and into the future.

“Through the new Resilient Dairy: Innovative Breeding for a Sustainable Future programme, we’re investing now, to help futureproof our dairy industry and deliver long-term benefits for NZ.”


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