The world-class Southern Dairy Hub has been formally opened today, marking a new era for dairy farming supported by research in the deep south.

About 200 dairy farmers and supporters gathered to celebrate the opening of the cutting-edge research and demonstration farm near Invercargill.

Dairy contributes $750 million to the Southland economy and makes up 20 percent of jobs in the region, according to a report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

Southland and South Otago farmers and businesses have invested $1.25 million in the hub through the Southern Dairy Development Trust, and principal shareholders DairyNZ and AgResearch have invested $5 million each.

Conversion of the 349-hectare property began in November last year and the hub is now in operation, and research underway.

Southern Dairy Hub chair Maurice Hardie says the opening is an important milestone for the region, and New Zealand.

“Carrying out research in the southern region’s climate and soil types will be invaluable. We’re excited that research is now underway to drive better farming practices, environmental initiatives and increased efficiency on farm.”

The first research trial is comparing the feed regimes of cows on fodder beet with those on kale.

Research to validate DairyNZ’s Forage Value Index (FVI), a ranking system for ryegrass cultivars, has also started. The study will compare the performance of high and low FVI ranked perennial ryegrass cultivars under realistic dairy farm management conditions. The pastures have been sown and measurements will begin in spring.

DairyNZ chief executive, Dr Tim Mackle, says Southland and Otago are very important regions for dairying.

“DairyNZ is investing in the Hub to help dairy farmers and communities identify the best options for profitable, competitive, and sustainable dairying. The future is all about fixing real challenges with real solutions, and that’s where the science at the Southern Dairy Hub is crucial.”

AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson says the Hub will be part of a network of high quality new science facilities across New Zealand that support the land-based industries. AgResearch is also investing in new joint facilities with partners in Lincoln and Palmerston North, while maintaining its important presence at its Invermay campus near Mosgiel.

“We looked at the map and saw a gap in our capability in the deep south, and the huge benefits that permanent, purpose-built research facilities in southern conditions could provide. Working alongside local farmers also makes good sense so that the scientists are doing research that is relevant to the local needs.”

“With the challenge of growing the value of New Zealand’s agricultural exports, while preserving and enhancing the environments we farm in, there has never been a greater need to invest in quality science. That’s what we will see here at the Southern Dairy Hub, and other new facilities.”

The next phase of development at the Hub is an agri-business centre to provide facilities for training, education, and farmer events, as well as office spaces. A sponsor is being sought.

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