Kiwi farmers’ steadfast approach to business has set the bar high, but there’s always room for improvement – which is why herd improvement co-operative LIC is focused on being ready for the next challenge.
LIC has played an important role in New Zealand Dairy farming since 1909, when a group of farmers in Dalefield, Carterton got together with the Ministry of Agriculture and started measuring levels of milkfat in their cows.
“We have never wavered from our core commitment to our co-operative owners: to generate more efficient and more profitable dairy cows to drive our industry forward,” LIC chief executive David Chin says.
The technology that now sits behind that endeavour is truly mind-boggling: robotics and sophisticated analysers in the Herd Testing laboratory, machines that can sex-sort semen, and a state-of-the-art DNA analysis laboratory that allows full genome sequencing.
“All of this culminates in successfully breeding more than 75 per cent of the national herd annually and doubling the rate of genetic gain in the last five years,” Chin says. “And the next generation of co-operative members is just as important to LIC as the next generation of elite cows.
“We are proud sponsors of the Dairy Industry Awards and long-term supporters of Calf Club, which is such an institution in rural New Zealand and a great way for kids to learn the basics of animal husbandry.”
Chin says LIC is working to deliver several initiatives to help improve animal efficiency and reduce environmental footprint, with more tools to be added to the toolbox over time.
“The most exciting of these initiatives is breeding cows that produce less methane,” he says. “Thanks to funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, we are working with CRV on a world-leading methane research programme investigating the link between methane emissions from bulls and their genetics.
“If this genetic link is confirmed, Kiwi dairy farmers will ultimately be able to breed more ‘climate-friendly cows’ that produce less methane.”
LIC is also leading the seven-year ‘Resilient Dairy’ research programme, which seeks to enhance the health and wellbeing of the national dairy herd and drive a step-change in sustainable milk production, via new disease management technologies and advancements in genomic science to produce better cows with improved health, wellbeing and environmental resilience.
“Herd improvement is at our core; it always has been, and always will be,” Chin says. “Every dairy farmer in New Zealand should expect to be milking the best dairy cows in the world, and LIC’s commitment to our cooperative members is to produce the world’s best pasture-based genetics and herd improvement services to make sure that stays a reality.
“Change is inevitable, but growth and innovation is intentional. The thing that gives New Zealand its competitive edge is its ability to respond to that change in a positive way, and to find the opportunity in the change to grow and innovate. That is what makes us the world’s best pasture-based farmers.
“LIC will never stop looking for that next one per cent improvement, because we know that all these one per cent improvements add up and that’s what keeps our primary sector profitable and vibrant.”