New Zealand's expertise is being used to find ways to boost profitability on Hok

New Zealand's expertise is being used to find ways to boost profitability on Hokkaido farms.

A New Zealand study into grass farming in the Hokkaido region to identify ways dairy farming in Japan can be more profitable will continue for two more years.

The study is sponsored by Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, Farmage Ltd and the New Zealand Government in partnership with Japanese farmers and with co-operation from the Hokkaido Government, and the Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives. 

Lead consultant Keith Betteridge said they have decided to go ahead with the implementation phase of the project because their research has shown there is significant potential to lift the profitability of grass farming in Hokkaido.

“There’s a great opportunity to make farms more profitable through better summer pasture management and changes such as making less silage more often, and increasing the cow to pasture ratio,” said Mr Betteridge.

Typically farmers in the Hokkaido region make silage twice a year focusing on quantity rather than quality.

The study has found that making silage three or four times per year can improve silage quality, providing cows with a cheap, nutritious feed for the winter months.

At the beginning of spring, the region’s grass quality is high – similar to that of New Zealand.  The study has shown, however, that a lot of it goes to waste as the cows can’t eat it quickly enough, either because there are not enough cows, or because they’re still being fed supplements.

Mr Betteridge said rather than this grass going to waste it should be eaten either by having more grazing animals or grazing the cows on a smaller area. Alternatively, surplus pasture should be made into high quality silage, even from grazing paddocks.

“Changing farming patterns will be a challenge for some farmers but hopefully we can help them see how making these adjustments can result in significant gains,” he said.

'Bright future for dairy sector'

Fonterra President North Asia Yasuhiro Saito said this programme is about helping the local dairy industry grow as well as building Fonterra’s presence in a significant market for the Co-operative.   

Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi said project results point to grass farming as an option for Hokkaido farmers looking to cut farm costs and increase profits. 

”The dairy sector is a critical part of the Hokkaido economy.  Although there are climatic differences between New Zealand and Japan, the results from the project indicate the potential for New Zealand pasture grazing expertise to assist Hokkaido dairy farmers to lower costs to increase profits.”

New Zealand Ambassador to Japan Mark Sinclair said the New Zealand Government is pleased that our dairy know-how is being applied to the Hokkaido environment. 

“Our prime ministers agreed to strengthen the partnership in food and agriculture between our countries.  This project is an important expression of that commitment and it’s pleasing to see New Zealand dairy expertise playing a role in ensuring the Hokkaido dairy sector has a bright future.”