LIC Annual Results 2020-21, Farmers Investing In High Value Genetics To Help Meet Sector’s Climate Goals
Livestock Improvement Corporation (NZX: LIC) announces its financial results for the year ending 31 May 2021, reporting increased revenue, profit and a strong balance sheet with no debt at year end.
The farmer-owned co-operative will return $17.8 million in dividend to shareholders, which equates to 12.51 cents per share. The fully imputed dividend represents a 14.4% gross yield based on the current share price of $1.21. The dividend will be distributed on 20 August.
“The LIC Board is proud to present another strong result to our farmer shareholders for the fourth consecutive year,” said Murray King, LIC Board Chair.
“This result is in line with our market guidance and a credit to our shareholders for their support of significant initiatives in the last five years to transform LIC into a modern, progressive co-op. These initiatives have delivered the benefits we said they would, including focussed investment in the business and a better return for our farmers.
“We’ve seen good growth across core business areas this year but particularly in our premium genetics range where young, genomically-selected bulls are used to fast track genetic gain and deliver more value on-farm through increased productivity and efficiency, including improved environmental efficiency.
“That value combined with a solid dividend makes this result a win-win for our farmers. It also means we can continue our work to invest in products, services and technology that drive long term and sustainable customer value.”
LIC’s premium genetics range accounted for almost half of the co-op’s total artificial breeding (AB) inseminations (41.3% or 1.79 of 4.3 million semen straws), more than double three years ago. This is predominantly from the Forward Pack and A2/A2 bull teams (1.6 million straws combined).
It also includes sexed semen, which experienced significant growth with triple the number of straws sold on the previous year (110,125 vs 33,804).
“This growth will have a significant impact on-farm this spring and deliver a huge amount of value to our farmers, with more high quality heifer replacements and fewer bobby calves. We’re expecting this to be even greater next year with sexed semen orders likely to almost double again,” King said.
Meanwhile, the number of traditionally daughter proven bulls used for AB continued to decline, now down 40% from three years ago (1.2M straws in 20-21 vs 2.02M in 17-18).
King said this shift reflects farmers’ growing confidence in LIC’s proprietary genomic work and a willingness to adopt new tools and solutions to help them meet sustainability goals.
“LIC exists to deliver superior genetics and technological innovation to help our shareholders sustainably farm a profitable animal. We have a fundamental role in helping New Zealand’s dairy farmers reduce their environmental footprint and we are committed to providing solutions to help them meet climate targets.
“We’ve invested heavily into genomics for our farmers because the DNA of our dairy herd can do a lot of the heavy lifting to help meet our sectors’ climate goals.
“World leading pastoral dairy genetics and genomics are a much more precise tool for farmers than the blunt instrument of reduced cow numbers. Farmers are adopting these tools now to get ahead of the curve.”
The co-op is continuing its work with NZAEL (subsidiary of DairyNZ) to include genomics in future animal evaluations to support the national breeding objective.
In other core business activity, herd testing was up 7.3% and animal health testing up 23.9% primarily for Johnes disease and milk pregnancy testing. International exports were also up 23% by value after some initial challenges getting product to market due to COVID-19.
The co-op invested $17.1 million in R&D, up 15.4% from the previous year (or up 11.5% including automation*), reaffirming its position as one of the biggest investors for the primary sector. LIC also spent $3.0 million to improve its MINDA LIVE herd management system, with 66 new features added based on farmer feedback.
King said the co-op also refined its business strategy earlier in the year to put value for farmer shareholders at its heart.
“We’ve listened to our shareholders. They want us to focus on doing what we’re good at and play to our strengths in pastoral dairy genetics and herd improvement. Our strategy is focussed on ensuring our farmers optimise value from their livestock and this result means we are strongly positioned to deliver on that.”
During the year, the co-op negotiated divestment of its automation* business to MSD Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA (NYSE:MRK) for NZ$38.1 million (NZX, 8.6.2021). The sale was completed on 11 June 2021 and net assets of $23.8 million have been recorded as held for sale on the balance sheet. The Board is considering options for the use of these funds.
King says recruitment of a new chief executive is a priority for the Board over the coming months, following Wayne McNee’s decision to step down at the end of November 2021 (NZX, 14.6.2021).
The co-op will also be firmly guided by its primary focus of delivering value for farmer shareholders and three commitments in its refined strategy, he said, with operational excellence, faster genetic improvement and software reliability and performance.
LIC expects Underlying Earnings* in 2021-22 to be in the range of $19-25 million, assuming no significant climate event or milk price change takes place between now and then, nor any major impacts from M. bovis or COVID-19.