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Farmer capabilities: what’s next for New Zealand dairy farmers.

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Executive Summary

T he New Zealand dairy industry is constantly evolving with changing practices, expectations from beyond the farm gate increasingly affecting farm practices, and consumer demands shifting – both in terms of product quality and the method of production. These issues are particularly noteworthy when looking at the Golden Bay population where this study is based, given its diverse population and views.

With increasing complexity and an increase in expected social and environmental responsibility leading to increased compliance that effects many aspects of the way we farm, from the feed used, farm inputs and human resource management to animal welfare, health and safety, and the environment.

These changing demands require farmers to continuously develop their farming capabilities to remain profitable. Many farmers are not fully aware of these changing expectations with a common view that it is just a “fad” and external parties cannot influence of farm procedures. This is not the case and the sooner this is realised; the sooner farmers can begin to upskill themselves in relevant areas they are deficient.

This report covers the issue by surveying a population of farmers in the North-West South Island to ascertain what they perceive to be the biggest issues dairy farming and whether they have the skills to overcome these challenges.

The results of the survey and literature review show Market Volatility and the increasing Social License to Farm are the principal challenges to both the dairy industry as a whole and farmers individual agribusinesses. The skills required to overcome these issues are possessed in varying degrees amongst the farming population.

Discussion is held surrounding the variation of skill competencies between generations and genders, and the importance of building farmer networks as this is seen by farmers as the most important source of new information and skills.

The importance of education and industry training will become more significant to success in the future, with the increasing complexity of dairy farming in New Zealand. At present there are promising trends for both degree level completion and industry training participation.

Farmer Capabilities: What’s Next For New Zealand Dairy Farmers? – Alice Reilly