Swede test a first for NZ

The plight of Southern farmers last year has led to a first for New Zealand.

When 200 dairy cows died in Southland and South Otago and many more became ill, the cause - a naturally occurring compound in winter feed, swedes in particular, - could not be tested at any New Zealand commercial laboratories.

Now, commercial glucosinolate testing of plants is available in New Zealand, and that is good news for the dairy industry, Dairy NZ says.

Dairy NZ regional team leader for Southland-South Otago Richard Kyte said after hundreds of dairy cows died in the South after eating too much of the naturally occurring compound in the warm winter of 2014, to now have a commercial testing facility was an important step for the dairy industry.

''Dairy NZ pushed for this to be done,'' Mr Kyte said.

''One for an independent laboratory and a commercial laboratory, and to set up the testing so it could be used in the future.''

''It leaves it open for plant breeders to use it in their work.''

Last week, DairyNZ advised farmers not to feed herbicide-tolerant swedes in the spring.

Once the leafy material of the winter feed had matured, the stems, leaves and flowers of the plants were likely to have toxic levels of the glucosinolates.

Hamilton-based Hill Laboratories general manager of technology Dr Jonno Hill said the methodology the lab developed was one of a kind and world-class.

DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Bruce Thorrold said seed companies now had a commercial service to analyse their products and farmers could use the testing to monitor their crops.

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