Dairying needs to 'connect'

Public perceptions of dairy farmers are probably better than farmers might think, but there is still room for improvement, DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says.

A panel discussion, entitled Perception is Your Reality, was held as part of the South Island Dairy Event in Dunedin.

Public perceptions were important and DairyNZ surveyed the New Zealand public twice a year and also held focus groups in the main urban centres. There was still "a fair amount of support out there for us", Dr Mackle said.

But farmers must "get things right" on the farm.

Effluent non-compliance had to continue to be driven down, animal welfare was key and nutrient budgets and plans needed to be done.

It was a collective responsibility, involving both farmers and industry, he said.

Neil Deans, from Fish and Game, said the dairy industry was crucial to New Zealand's future and everyone needed dairy to "get it right".

There were some very real concerns about the effects of intensification and best practice was something required of all farmers, he said.

Federated Farmers Otago president and South Otago dairy farmer Stephen Korteweg said farmers had to try to rekindle the urban-rural connection, which had become more distant, by inviting people on to their farms.

While a lot of progress had been made recently, the perception of farming still had quite a long way to go and farmers could all help with improving it.

All farmers had to "lift our game a notch", some more than others, Mr Korteweg said.

Central North Island sheep and beef farmer, tourist operator, bushman and conservationist Dan Steele told those farmers attending they were all conservationists.

Farmers were the biggest custodians of the land in New Zealand.

Conservation had to become mainstream and New Zealand must lead the world in it.

Every farmer in the country was part of the solution, he said.


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