People might be surprised to learn how much dairy farmers are investing to protect the environment says a University of Waikato masters student.
Thomas Macdonald has been awarded a $17,000 New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays Sir Don Llewellyn Scholarship to assist his study into the cost of environmental compliance in the dairy industry.
Bridging the information gap
Mr Macdonald says the regulations regarding nutrient-management continue to increase, and he’s finding out what the different options are for farmers and how much they are costing. A key aim of his research is to bridge the information gap between regulators and farmer as well as the rural urban divide regarding the investment made in protecting the environment.
He has so far interviewed about a dozen farmers in the Waikato region to find out what specific compliance issues they have addressed and what their costs have been. “The costs are usually between $100,000 and $200,000, but several farmers have paid well over $500,000,” Mr Macdonald says.
Effective compliance investment
“This is the biggest issue for farmers going forward, and with more than 3,500 farmers in the Waikato and over 11,000 nationwide there is a huge amount of money being poured into compliance. Maximising the effectiveness of such compliance investment is the key aim of this research.”
Mr Macdonald, who comes off a farm, expects to complete his Master of Management Studies in the next year. He’ll have to fit study around a full-time job he’s just secured as a dairy business analyst for Landcorp, based in Taupo where he’ll be responsible for the financial and environmental analysis of Landcorp’s Tahi group farms.
Embryonic development in cattle
A second Fieldays scholarship of $5,000 has been awarded to biological sciences student Brooke Wilson. She is working with AgResearch’s Stem Cell research team investigating the expression of genes throughout the early stages of embryonic development in cattle.
“The results from this project will assist in improving our understanding of cattle reproduction and embryology, with the future goal of generating a truly embryonic stem cell line for livestock animals.”
National Agricultural Fieldays
The National Agricultural Fieldays scholarships are awarded each year to graduate students undertaking research at the University of Waikato with a specific focus on the agricultural sector.
Waikato University has a long-standing association with Fieldays – the university’s founding Vice-Chancellor Sir Don Llewellyn helped establish the event in the 1960s - and as the key tertiary institution in the Waikato region, the university has been a Strategic Partner of the NZ National Agricultural Fieldays for the past eight years.
Fieldays CEO Jon Calder he’s delighted to have two recipients of the scholarship. “Their work and research will make a real difference to New Zealand agriculture. Our founding purpose is to advance New Zealand agriculture. Thomas and Brooke will be fantastic ambassadors for Fieldays, the University and New Zealand.”
Mr Calder says the students’ work complements the 2014 Fieldays theme - Managing Resources for a Competitive Advantage. “Thomas’ research is addressing a current topical issue for our farmers while Brooke’s work will create new opportunity and possibilities for the future genetic lines of New Zealand’s cattle.”