Honouring the humble sharemilker
OPINION: I have been simply amazed at the response I have received from my last column around the conditions dairy farmers must comply with here in New Zealand.
Positive responses have come from Perth, the USA, a tutor at a polytech here in New Zealand plus many in the street who stop to say how sensible my comments read.
I'm sure these messages reflect genuine concerns held by a wide range of our public, including our farming communities about their land use.
Today I want to touch on a very valuable aspect of dairying in New Zealand - our sharemilking industry/system, which I believe is the envy of the world.
Sharemilking is simply where a land owner contracts a person or persons to milk the cows and perform farm duties as and when required.
Sharemilking began many years ago with principally 29 per cent, 39 per cent and 50-50 contracts and with each of these agreements came different responsibilities.
Of course the ultimate aim for most sharemilkers is to purchase their own farm be it from family or others, so sharemilking is a perfect stepping stone to reach that goal of ownership.
Sharemilking has been around a long time in New Zealand beginning in the early 1900s and I would suggest that Federated Farmers' predecessor the "Farmer's Union" and many lawyers would have helped develop those early contracts.
Then during the mid-1930s there was a name change to Federated Farmers, which has a national body with national leadership. Then in all provinces they have their own organisation such as we do here in Taranaki under Taranaki Federated Farmers.
More recently Federated Farmers has produced model sharemilking agreements which have more variation such as contract milking, lower order contracts and 50/50.
Ultimately anyone can prepare an agreement themselves but like all agreements once signed it becomes you legal contract, or as I like to say, it becomes your Bible.
Since my last column I have continued to research the facts around our dairy industry so readers can be more informed and in particular about our sharemilkers as I feel little is known or heard of their importance to the industry. I have a saying "an informed person is a much better person than an uninformed person".
In Taranaki we have 1675 dairy herds with an average size of 291 milking cows. So in Taranaki we have 486,953 cows in milk which is produced off 172,168 hectares of land or for those not converted 413,203 acres.
We have 583 sharemilkers and 1092 farm owners as operators so as you can see approximately one third of our farms are managed by sharemilkers.
Please don't underestimate how huge this industry is and its worth to our province and the nation.
I'm sure you are not aware that on average our farmers spend $1308 per cow on farm working expenses which equates to almost $400,000 annually per farm.
This will blow some away but it does indicate the huge value our farming industry is to our business and retail sector here in Taranaki.
These statistics I am giving you are 2015-6 figures and can vary depending on the payout which, as we have experienced over the last few years, dropped to a low but is now on the improve .
Think of those early settlers that were receiving three pence a pound of butter fat and yet they survived.
I have some New Zealand Dairy statistics that may blow you away as well.
There are 11,918 milking herds in New Zealand with an average size of 419 cows, equalling just over five million cows, producing a staggering amount of two billion litres of milk a year, which is all processed and then 95 per cent is exported to help feed a hungry world of approximately 7 billion people.
Of the milking herds mentioned above, 3570 are managed by sharemilkers with 73 per cent of our dairy herds from the North Island and 27 per cent in the South Island.
Even though New Zealand is the largest exporter of dairy products in the world we are only the eighth largest producer of dairy products.
I would just like to end on how important it is to study the true facts that are relevant in any debate and in this case around dairying.
Our New Zealand farmers are as much true conservationists as anyone, as they treasure and preserve their land for their generation and future generations just as our forefathers did.