Sheep and Beef Discussion Group Summary - November 2017

On Thursday the 16th November, a group of farmers and Vets met at Tainui Holdings farm at Whatawhata. We discussed the limiting factors affecting sheep and beef production in the next 5 to 10 years and tried to put an emphasis on what opportunities would come from any changes.

Farmers were extremely concerned about new disease entering their premises and not everyone had faith that New Zealand’s current approaches to managing biosecurity incursions were rigorous enough, should an outbreak of a major infectious disease occur.

Interestingly the farmers seemed to consider this more of a threat than the Vets. Instigating fairly strict quarantine procedures seemed to be widespread amongst those present, and there was an interest in seeking more information about the infectious diseases we already have present in New Zealand, but are not present on all farms e.g. BVD.

The other major concern of most farmers and Vets was staffing, and how we attract the next generation to both our professions. The reasons that both drystock farms and production animal practices struggle to recruit were:
• Perceived poor working conditions
• Relatively low wages
• No clear career pathway
• Lack of understanding of the role, from the “non-farming” population.
• The increasing urban-rural divide

As New Zealand’s population is now more than 85% urbanised, we concluded that we need better ways to attract the next generation from within the urban communities. Better education of all children in the basics of agriculture and the opportunity to visit farms were seen as key ways to improve knowledge of the next generation.

It was interesting to hear that most farmers managed to be positive about the change of government. Not too many had concerns over increasing legislation such as health and safety or healthy rivers, which shows that there has now been a level of acceptance of this change in agriculture.

On a global scale, everyone thought it was vital that New Zealand promotes its strengths better, and stops trying to compete in global commodity markets. It was strongly felt that we must advertise and promote our ‘clean and green” image, but we must also farm that way. A return to a true pasture based grazing system was seen as vital if we are to access the higher end ethical markets. It looks like Beef and Lamb New Zealand have got some work to do educating our youth and marketing our products in a sustainable way.

Date Added: Tuesday, 5th December 2017