Farm veterinarians are struggling with the emerging animal health effects of long-term fodder beet use on dairy farms, says DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley.
But much needs doing to get more people thinking positively about dairying, especially when a handful of strongly opinionated people are driving an anti-dairying message.
DairyNZ and many other organisations are working to inform public opinion, but it’s a long game and there is no silver bullet.
We have a dedicated team managing the media and supporting our community engagement effort. You may have already chatted to them or met them at a local discussion group.
What are we doing?
Most importantly, we represent you and your positive work onfarm. Your stories, effort and passion will ultimately make the difference. When members of the public listen to you, read your story or visit your farm, it has a profound impact on how they view dairying.
And we’re here to support you to do that. We write and publish about a dozen columns each month, we pitch hundreds of positive dairy stories to mainstream media each year, and each day we counter misinformation and poor media imagery.
We’re building strong relationships with journalists nationwide to help them understand our dairy world better.
It doesn’t end in local newspapers or online news. In the coming months, we will begin work to generate positive coverage in other media, e,g, television and social media, to get dairy stories into places where traditionally they haven’t appeared: business, environment, technology and innovation pages; and home, lifestyle, travel and food magazines. We want the dairy story to focus on you and the great things you’re doing onfarm, in your communities and in the wider sector.
Media outlets have a tendency to home in on the negative and sensational, and this can cast dairying and farmers in a bad light. Small numbers of farmers don’t do the right thing and that lets us all down. Together, we need to stand up and say to those farmers ‘it’s not okay to treat animals poorly or to knowingly mismanage effluent’. There’s no place for these kinds of farmers in our sector.
Engaging with media, and therefore the public, is a big focus for us but it’s not the only one. DairyNZ’s curriculum-based education package is now taught in a third of primary schools and a quarter of secondary schools.
Meanwhile, 21,000 children have visited a dairy farm in the last six years and 36,000 children have completed our educational kit that explores science through the context of dairy.
Engaging with children in this way is powerful, helping to form a positive view of dairying into adulthood and often positively influencing parents and teachers along the way. To the farmers who open up their farms for school tours; thank you, this wouldn’t be possible without you.
In the new year, you’ll see a campaign launched by DairyNZ to promote dairying via a strong creative message in advertising, online and in print. It will reflect what we stand for in dairying.
We, and you, can’t do this job alone. What if we got other people, even those outside our sector, to say good things about you and dairying? It’s hugely effective when other people promote your great work and say ‘I think dairying is good for our country’.
DairyNZ will always promote dairying, but it’s unsurprising that some people come back at us with cynicism, saying ‘of course you would say that – you represent dairy’. It disappoints me because, as a research organisation, we have independently verified science and facts to back up everything we do. We’re not out to push a commercial product or service or to promote a personal agenda. That means it’s crucial for others to put their hands up, especially those independent of the dairy sector.
• Tim Mackle is chief executive of DairyNZ. This article was first published in Inside Dairy December 2017.