2018 Review: What Happened in Dairy This Year?


2018 was a big year for dairy in New Zealand, and unfortunately it wasn’t all for the right reasons. Mycoplasma bovis was the biggest news of the year but encouraging reports recently give us optimism that it is beginning to come under control.

Investigations into waterway pollution linked to intensive farming continue and there’s been a change at the top of Fonterra. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as 2019 is looking to be a bounce back year for everyone involved. 

M. Bovis

Since it turned up on a South Canterbury farm back in July 2017, the spread of this disease has been at the forefront of farmers and the livestock industry as a whole.

We’ve previously reported on its biosecurity impact in another blog post, but now at around 18 months since the outbreak we’re beginning to see the other side of the bell curve as farmers and investigators working with the MPI are getting on top of numbers and culling infected herds.

Spierings out, Hurrell in

The (now former) head of Fonterra, Theo Spierings was replaced by Miles Hurrell, Fonterra’s former chief operating officer, with immediate effect on August 15. 

Spierings remained on to help transition Hurrell into the role until September 1, which also came at a time when former chairman John Wilson stepped down amidst a health scare in July.

It comes at a time when Fonterra acknowledge they overestimated their forecasts on the price of certain products that ultimately impacted the share price of milk and resulted in a sharp downturn compared to the initial half of the year.

And while the timing of both the chairman and CEO being replaced within months is unusual, we’re yet to find out what Spiering’s next move will be. However, it is certainly encouraging to stakeholders seeing the man formerly responsible for working directly with the cop-operative’s farmers becoming the cooperatives new head. 

Insuring our resources for the next generation

In 2017 it was brought to mainstream attention that effluent runoff may be linked to the increase in pollution around the rivers and waterways of communities across the country. And in August this year, images made public by Fish and Game New Zealand showed us that there are certain aspects of our practice that need to be addressed.

Nitrates from urine, fertiliser used to promote the growth of grazing crops and faecal matter containing E. coli can, and in some cases, do wash into the soil and nearby rivers. But where the responsibility of local councils to enforce maintaining required levels may not have been met, central government has promised funding to enforce the Resource Management Act.

It isn’t all doom and gloom, however, as 2019 is looking to trend upwards. We can expect the Government to push for more sustainable practices around water use, runoff and effluent management, but these are all areas we can improve on and when it comes to contributing towards a brighter future for dairy in New Zealand.