13 Apr 2016

Sheep and beef farming needs same attention as dairy - symposium

6:13 pm on 13 April 2016

Sheep and beef need the same attention and money from government that dairy has had, says the chair of a hill country symposium

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Photo: 123rf.com

Today was the final day of the hill country symposium in Rotorua, which was the first scientific and technical gathering of the industry in more than 30 years.

The chair of the organising committee, Graham Kerr, said 18 percent of New Zealand was pastoral hill country, which equated to 5,000,000 hectares and about 6000 farms.

But Mr Kerr said ewe numbers had dropped by 50 percent over the past 25 years, as the flatter land was used for other types of farming.

He said the government needed to put more resources into hill country farming.

"It is a huge industry and it is very much forgotten in terms of funding out of Wellington, the dairy industry have done a fantastic job of increasing their profile with Wellington and having some great coordinated activities in terms of bringing the industry together with the farmers to have activities that the funding bureaus, the MBs, the MPIs can really see a pay off in investing in these sort of areas - the dairy industry have done it well. What I think what this symposium is about getting a really clear direction into the future and this is going to start that process hopefully."

Mr Kerr said hill country farming had many challenges.

"Balance sheets are good, but profit and loss statements are weak. The fundamentals of hill country, the land and infrastructure - we probably think is in a slow and steady state of decline, so things aren't good there. There is a lack of research and development and it's a difficult industry because of that. Also whether we've got the skilled people for the future is a challenge.

"It's not all bad, what is noticeable is the passion in the room, everyone is coming together and wanting hill country to succeed, they want to be profitable, but profitability is about having the lifestyle and taking on the legacy that their grandfathers and great-grandfathers have left them, and to be in a position where that farm is left in a good position for the next generation.

Mr Kerr said the symposium was narrowing its discussions into a position paper on what the future should look like and how to make hill country more profitable and resilient.