August 16, 2011


Fonterra holds milk collection in New Zealand's South Island



As Fonterra assesses whether it is safe for its tankers to proceed with milk collection, the company temporarily halts milk collection in most of the snow-hit South Island, New Zealand.


Farmers were forced to get rid of thousands of litres of milk yesterday as Fonterra's collection tankers couldn't get through due to the severe weather.


Tankers remain parked up across the region thanks to the icy weather conditions, except at Clandeboye near Timaru, Edendale in Southland, and Takaka, where collections are being made within a 10-kilometre radius.


A Fonterra spokeswoman said executives would be meeting again at 10 am to decide whether milk pickups could begin.


Operations in the lower North Island were also disrupted, but not as badly as yesterday, she said.


About 1,700 of Fonterra's 10,500 dairy farms were forced to dump milk yesterday as the severe weather made it impossible for trucks to get through.


Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink, who farms near Ashburton, said it was the beginning of the dairy season and collections were ''all over the show'', so pickups could happen at any time during the day.


Contract farmer Sidney Stewart works on a dairy farm near Mt Hutt. There had been a couple of inches more snow in the area overnight but farmers were managing, he said.

He was forced to dump 1,200 litres of milk yesterday, much of which was fed to the calves.


Fonterra's sustainability teams were in contact with farms who need to dispose of milk, and were liaising with regional councils.


Some options for disposal include irrigating the milk to land when conditions improve and selling it to local pig farmers for feed, said the Fonterra spokesperson.


Contract farmer Sidney Stewart, who works on dairy farm near Mt Hutt, said it had 1000 litres of milk that wasn't picked up by Fonterra's collection tankers. Fonterra had advised it to feed the milk to calves.


While dealing with surplus milk was a problem, the farm was also having to manage calving. Workers were going out six times a day to bring in calves, said Stewart, who brought in 19 calves yesterday, four of whom had died in the harsh conditions.


Feed is likely to be scarce, so DairyNZ is organising supplementary feed for farms where cattle will have trouble finding grass.


Consulting officer Katrina Knowles wants to create a database of farmers with surplus supplement.


"Feed shortages could be an ongoing issue for high-altitude farmers who will have snow lying on the ground for a few days," she said.


She advised farmers to give their animals high-energy feed.


Once the snow melted, they should consider standing their cows off to protect pasture.


Fonterra was unable to say at this stage how many litres it had lost of the revenue costs of that or whether it would compensate farmers.

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