The new season for dairy operations starts around mid-August and ends in late May or early June with more caution this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fonterra general manager for operations at Clandeboye and Studholme Steve McKnight said with alert level two coinciding with the start of milk processing, safety plans are in place with precautions such as temperature testing on staff, only essential workers being permitted on site.
When two metre distancing is not possible, face masks, gloves and glasses are worn McKnight said.
“While we can’t predict what may happen with Covid-19 we are taking every precaution to safeguard our sites and the communities in which we operate.
“Specifically around level two, we’ve gone back to people who are aligned on specific shifts, so they are in a shift bubble.
“There are also a number of travel restrictions going on at the moment as well.”
About 19 million litres of milk a day is processed during peak milk processing from late September through to early December at Clandeboye and Darfield. Studholme is only a winter processing plant, he said.
“All the calves are out, and the cows are producing milk pretty flat out at this time.”
McKnight said Clandeboye was working at almost full capacity with the last dryer due to kick in early in September as incoming milk volumes increase.
Fonterra employs more than 1000 people in South Canterbury, and an extra 100 will be added during peak season, McKnight said.
“We are bringing some cover in at the moment. We’ve had one lot start this week, and for the next week we’ll have another lot of people starting.
“Most of the staff have had their holiday during winter months, and we have most of our team on deck now.”
The region’s other dairy giant, Glenavy-based Oceania Dairy expects to process about 1.2m litres of a day at its peak.
“Milk production season has started well with milk flow above budget due to the mild winter and good cow conditions at calving,” supply and environment manager Shane Lodge said.
Lodge said production and the shipping of products had not been affected and Covid-19 level two policies had been implemented.
Staff numbers, normally around 400, had increased as the construction of a new $30 million laboratory neared completion, he said.
“Staff utilisation on site is as per normal driven by milk flows and product mix decisions,” Lodge said.