Challenge thrown down at farm launch

GERALD PIDDOCK
Last updated 12:30 19/08/2014
Andrew West, Vice-Chancellor of Lincoln University
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
EXPANSION: Lincoln University, according to vice-chancellor Andrew West, was expanding its farms to train and educate young people and assist farmers to farm more productively and profitably while maintaining their environmental integrity.

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Hot on the heels of the opening of its latest demonstration farm in Cambridge, Lincoln University has established a similar farm that will finish lambs and beef cattle.

The new farm is 10 kilometres north of Bulls in the Manawatu and will be run in partnership with local iwi Ngati Apa.

Further details would be announced soon, the university vice-chancellor, Dr Andrew West, said at the launch of the St Peter's School-Lincoln University demonstration dairy farm in Cambridge.

"This farm will be the platform for training young people on how to finish lambs and how to raise and finish beef cattle and how to produce arable crops," he said.

"It will be integrally linked to a steep hill country sheep breeding station."

It would target a feed conversion efficiency ratio of three to one for both lambs and cattle.

"Thereby comfortably outperforming dairying on a return on assets.

"This demonstration dairy farm here at St Peter's is going to have a real challenge on its hands," West said.

Lincoln was expanding its farms to train and educate young people and assist farmers to farm more productively and profitably while maintaining their environmental integrity, West said.

A partnership between St Peter's and the university was first mooted between West and a school board of trustees member John Fegan when the pair were watching their sons in a school football game.

So far, the two partners had established a governance committee for the farm, which will be chaired by the school board chairman David Heald.

It will also include St Peter's principal Stephen Robb, West, and local farmers Martin Bennett and Tim Montgomery.

Also on the committee are Fegan and business development manager Marc Scott, Lincoln University dairy production professor Dr Grant Edwards, soil science professor Dr Keith Cameron and the university's business development manger, Tony Moffat.

The two scientists were world leaders in their fields, West said.

Other voting members would be added to the committee as more sponsorship came on board. "The governance committee sets the scene for the farm, however, the real work is done by the farm management committee, which we are in the stages of forming," West said.

That committee will include the St Peter's board of trustees members and local farmer Cam Holmes, and Fegan, local farmers Doug Storey, Bennett and Montgomery, and Edwards and Cameron.

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The committee would also include technical representatives from the main sponsors.

"An early task of the farm management committee will be to recommend to the governance committee what type of dairy farm system this dairy farm should adopt," West said.

He expected that recommendation to be made in four to six weeks.

"It will be a crucial one," West said.

The farm was hailed as "world leading" by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

Guy officially opened the 183-hectare farm in front of a packed crowd.

"It's going to allow students in this school to understand the importance of the primary sector," he said.

"It's also going to be open for other schools to come and get involved and understand the opportunities in the primary sector."

The farm would also attract the youngest and brightest into the primary sector.

"They are going to be food scientists, they are going to be robotic engineers, they are going to be environmental planners.

"That's the opportunity we have in the exciting primary sector."

The aim of the farm is to introduce systems and practices that would see it placed in the top 3 per cent of farms in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty for profitability and environmental performance.

It would allow the students to see more than just a working dairy farm as it would attract expertise from Lincoln and the wider dairy industry, said Heald.

Fonterra chairman John Wilson said the farm was a fantastic venture.

The trials to be set up on it would be critical for the future environmental sustainability of the dairy industry, he said.

"Education and research is absolutely critical to maintaining our low cost milk and global relevance.

"Investments in a farm system such as this is going to be great for the prosperity of the Waikato region and as those ideas are taken out across the country, it's great for New Zealand as a whole."

- Waikato Times

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