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Focus Farm for the West Coast dairy industry

5 July 2005

Focus Farm for the West Coast dairy industry

The grass is looking greener for the West Coast Focus Farm Trust (WCFFT), thanks to a $90,000 grant from The West Coast Development Trust. The grant, to be paid out over the next three years, will be put towards the operating costs for a ‘Focus Farm’ at Nelson Creek.

The Focus Farm will examine ways to improve dairy farm productivity under the region’s unique conditions – not only is it one of New Zealand’s most geographically isolated dairy industries, it also has to contend with very high rainfall and a more rugged landscape.

According to Matt O’Regan, chairman of the West Coast Focus Farm Trust, “The Focus Farm will look at ways of minimising working expenses while maximising productivity. Specifically, we’ll be examining how we can use feed and fertiliser more efficiently as this is where research shows the most significant gains can be made.

“Environmental factors are also a consideration for the Focus Farm and, as part of better fertiliser management, we’ll be monitoring and, where possible, minimising run-off.”

A similar farm system set up by Lincoln University managed to increase productivity per hectare by 19%, with only a 3% increase in expenses per hectare. A 2% net increase in per hectare incomes on the West Coast would equate to an additional $3million in income per annum for the region.

“One of our key objectives is to provide farmers with tools to benchmark themselves against,” says Matt. “West Coast dairy farmers have traditionally relied on information sourced from other regions. The Focus Farm will provide us with information that relevant to our region’s dairy industry.”

Frank Dooley, Chairman of The Development Trust, sees the Focus Farm as an important resource for the Coast. “Over 1000 farmers and farm workers are involved in the West Coast dairy industry, with another 230 people employed by Westland Milk Products. Any improvement in this industry’s performance is therefore going to have a positive effect on the whole region, which is why this initiative has attracted The Development Trust’s support.”

Formed in August 2004, the WCFFT is made up of farmers from six areas of the West Coast. While Landcorp owns the farm, WCFFT has overall management of its day to day running. The project also includes several other key organisations, including Westland Milk Products, Dexcel, South Island Dairy Development Centre and the Sustainable Farming Fund.

ENDS

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