If you were lucky enough to attend the 2014 SIDE conference in Invercargill recently, not only would you have heard some very interesting key note presentations and workshops but you may also have had a glimpse of DairyNZ’s new corporate look……………well not exactly. SIDE was held at Stadium Southland which is also home to the Velodrome. On the first evening a sponsor’s cycle race was arranged between the four main sponsors – DairyNZ, LIC, ASB and Rabobank. Impressive stuff from selected staff (complete with lycra) of these organisations, with some serious cycling skill on display with the ASB eventually edging out the competition to claim victory.
Aside from some healthy corporate competition, SIDE served up an interesting mixture of sessions covering most of the topics that are challenging dairy farming right now and into the medium term future. I was most interested in the workshop sessions that circle around the complex topic of nutrient management; Overseer, catchment zones in Canterbury, wintering systems and feeding regimes. All of these topics intersect and what is clear is that;
• A simple gross margin analysis isn’t sufficient,
• A dairy farm is a biological system, so if you change one thing there will be an effect in another part of the system – this has to be identified and accounted for in the analysis before the change is undertaken,
• Be clear that maximising production and maximising profit is not the same thing.
A good example is the debate on the pros and cons, and the impact, of housing cows for extended periods over autumn and winter. There will be another blog post dedicated to this topic on its own!
Another challenge is that the underpinning science is still happening – all the answers aren’t there yet so keeping abreast of new knowledge is important. If you are interested to read the proceedings of SIDE, these will be posted at www.side.org.nz.
But what is clear is that implementing best practice in areas where the science is well trodden has immediate benefits. Regen is committed to developing tools that support farmers to do this – managing effluent, managing nitrogen use and soon managing water use.