21 November 1997

MILK EXPANSION IN A CLIMATE LIKE THE UK

NEW ZEALANDS north island has a superior climate for milk production than the UK but the south island, where expansion is now taking place, has a similar climate with snow in winter.

Paul Lassman, who owns a 160ha (400-acre) south island dairy farm and has leased a further 79ha (195 acres) to expand his 400-cow herd, told the New Zealand Dairy Board conference in Cheshire, that the UK had adapted to high milk prices by employing high cost systems since he left in 1976. But what if price deteriorates? he asked.

"A farmer already adapted to low cost production will thrive in the new environment, but those who arent will never catch up and will be competed out."

He believed that set stocking was too inflexible and that cows must be rotationally grazed in the UK. Cows needed access to grazing and with a good surface they could walk 3.5km (2.2 miles) a day without reducing yields.

Mains supplied electric fencing was essential to control grazing. Mr Lassman had 60 grass paddocks on his own farm in Southland, but as a minimum he suggested 25 was adequate. Each paddock needed a water supply sufficient for 10% of the herd to drink at once, and for troughs to refill quickly. He had invested in pipes and storage tanks to supply drinking water.

On UK farms with over 875mm (35in) of rain, you could grow more grass than on his farm, he claimed. That should provide enough grass to keep 100 February calving cows on 50ha (125 acres) with no concentrates or bought-in feed. &#42