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Date: 30/01/2018

Dairy farmers: Have you checked if you’re cool enough?

The clock is ticking for dairy farmers who need to upgrade their milk cooling systems before new rules come into effect next year.

June 1, 2018 is the deadline the Ministry for Primary Industries has set for all dairy farms to meet the new Code of Practice for the Design and Operation of Farm Dairies (NZCP1).

And with an estimated two-thirds of Kiwi dairy farmers needing to upgrade their cooling systems to comply to the new rules - experts are recommending quick action.

However with reports of widespread confusion and unnecessary $40,000 quotes, milk protection specialists are advising farmers to shop around before paying up.

Why are New Zealand’s milk cooling regulations changing?

Announced in December 2015, the new rules are to satisfy crucial export markets that New Zealand milk is not only of high quality, but also as safe as possible.

There is no denying New Zealand’s $13.6 billion dairy industry is worth protecting, and with notable safety scandals - including the 2013 infant formula scare - it is time everyone was safeguarded.

An MPI spokeswoman said the new rules are crucial to futureproof the industry, which thrives with our climate, soil quality and remote location ensuring biosecurity.

“New Zealand has a long history of producing high quality raw milk, which is amongst the best in the world,” she said.

“The rapid cooling of raw milk for further processing is one of the most important steps in ensuring that quality of milk from the animal is preserved and is of the highest possible quality when it’s delivered to the factory.”

Dairy farming has deep ties to the economical and social history of the country, with the first dairy processing factory established in 1875 and the first export shipment of a dairy product (butter) left Dunedin in 1882. 

As the industry has developed and diversified, the old rules just don’t cut it anymore - and it is time for an update.

“The New Zealand standard for milk cooling was designed to satisfy traditional herd sizes and milking practices and has been proven to be sufficient for the traditional range of dairy products manufactured,” said the MPI spokeswoman.

“However, as herd sizes have grown and farming systems have become more varied the standard milking times have become longer.

“The new milk cooling standards modify the current cooling requirements to better meet the demands of current dairy farming practices and ensure that New Zealand maintains its position as a producer of premium quality milk.”

What are the new milk cooling rules?

The new NZCP1 for the Design and Operation of Farm Dairies to form part of a Risk Management Programme state:

  • Milk must be cooled to 10ºC or below within four hours from the commencement of milking; and
  • Cooled to 6ºC  or below within six hours from the commencement of milking or two hours from the completion of milking (whichever occurs first).
  • Raw milk must also be held at or below 6ºC without freezing until collection or the next milking and must not exceed 10ºC during subsequent milkings.
  • In situations where there is continuous or extended milking (milking for six hours or longer) such as robotic milking systems, the milk must enter the bulk milk tank at 6°C or below. 

Farmers - do you comply with MPIs new milk cooling regulations?

Fonterra has been advising its farmers of the regulations, issuing temperature details on tanker dockets.

A spokeswoman for the dairy giant said these advisory-only dockets, called Temp 2018 Alerts, tell farmers if they need to asses their milk cooling systems.

“If farmers receive one of these alerts, we will suggest that they assess their cooling system so they are prepared for the new standards.

“These tanker collection results will only be an indication of their compliance to the new standards so even if they don’t receive a Temp 2018 Alert, we suggest they monitor their cooling efficiency.”

She recommended farmers seek advice from refrigeration and milking machine specialists, as well as electricians.

“Factors such as daily milk volume, peak flows, primary cooling water temperature, access to water and access to increased power requirements on each farm may determine if any changes are needed and the cost involved.

Dairy farmers advised to assess milk cooling systems now

“We recommend that farmers act earlier rather than later to assess their milk cooling system,” said the Fonterra spokeswoman.

“If they need to make changes, an early assessment will ensure they are less likely to face higher costs and longer waiting times for refrigeration suppliers and equipment as the compliance date draws nearer.”

DairyNZ regional leader, Wade Bell, echoed this sentiment.

“My advice to farmers who do not yet have a milk cooling system that ensures they will meet the new standards, is to make it a priority to get a full assessment of their current system so they have a clear understanding of any upgrades they’ll require – and then they should move to get the work done.

“The nearer the compliance date of June 1 next year comes, the busier refrigeration and machine technicians will be.”

In fact, there have already been warning of log-jams as supply increases.

Tru-Test’s Dairy Solutions Product Manager, Kyla Duke, said independent industry estimates suggest around a third of dairy farms need significant upgrades such as increased refrigeration capacity or pre-chilling to be compliant.

Another third needs relatively modest tweaks and the remainder already comply, said King.

“A last-minute rush makes almost certain there will not be enough product or resources in NZ to meet this high demand. Shortages in product have already been experienced in some areas.

“Get in touch with your local Tru-Test milk cooling specialist. They’re happy to come on farm and assess your current milk cooling system.”


Avoid confusion over milk cooling upgrades - it can be expensive

When it became evident the regulations were going to be introduced, dairying groups began offering advice to farmers.

Checking cooling systems - and upgrading where necessary - has been on the agenda since 2015.

Duke said it was unfortunately not all supplier have farmers’ best interests at heart.

Te Awamutu dairy farmer, Brian Chick, is one example.

Chick thought the new regulations were based on the milk temperature going into the vat, and so doubted his compliance.

He contacted his local supplier whose assessment indicated he needed to install one of two options, ranging in cost from $25,000 to $40,000.

Seeking another quote, Chick contacted Tru-Test whose assessment showed he was already compliant.

“It really pays to understand what the regulations actually require and talk to a number of suppliers,” he said

Duke said Chick was not alone and along with other examples has made Tru-Test realise there’s widespread confusion over what the new milk cooling regulations actually require.

Tru-Test New Zealand General Manager Verne Atmore said it was concerning to see such confusion.

“This confusion is resulting in some farmers spending unnecessarily or over spending to upgrade their milk cooling equipment.

“Given the current economic climate, it’s more important than ever farmers are only investing where they need to and in ways that will give them the best return.”

Milk cooling professionals explain the new regulations

Atmore said Tru-Test has sought technical clarification on the incoming regulations.

“The regulations are very outcome based,” he said. “Compliance is determined by the vat milk temperature at the end of the stated timeframes - not the temperature of milk going in.

“It’s also meeting the stated temperatures at the end of your milking cycle whether that’s single or blended.”

Farmers need to first ask themselves, “Am I milking under or over four hours?”

“For those under four, there are only two things you need to worry about; that your milk is down to 6°C within two hours of completing milking, and that your blended temperature is no more than 10°C during any additional milkings.

“For those milking for over four hours, it’s a little more complicated. You need to have your milk down to 10°C within four hours of the commencement of milking. It must then be down to 6°C within 6 hours.”

Snap chilling is only required in two instances; if milking longer than six hours or using a robotic milker.

“Otherwise, there are no specific rules on refrigeration type. As long as you’re meeting the temperatures for your milking timeframes, how you do it should be determined by what’s best for your business, budget and infrastructure.”

Tru-Test offers a full range of Milk Cooling and Tank solutions. These include ice bank, water and glycol pre-cooling options along with refrigeration units, new and secondhand vats,vat insulation wraps and vat monitoring.

“We can assess your compliance and then tailor a solution once your level of compliance has been determined.

“We’re also serious about on-farm support, operating a seven-day call centre, and providing a nationwide service to our customers.”

Gone is the one size fits all approach, said Atmore.

“Farmers have so many more cooling options now...with solutions that meet considerations like shed size, milking frequency and water use.As well as future proofing against further regulation changes and herd expansion.”

Not only that, but Tru Test’s models are designed with a farming business in mind.

“Along with an understanding of your future business plans, they can then talk through suggested solutions, if needed, to be compliant,” said Duke.

“Their goal is to get you to where you need and want to be, whether that’s meeting, beating or thrashing the new regulations.”

Aside from meeting the new regulation, modern cooling equipment could see you cut your power bill - and with about a third of a dairy farm’s power related to cooling systems, that could add up.


An industry worth protecting

With 95 per cent of the dairy products produced in New Zealand exported, the $13.6 billion industry is the country’s largest exporter and accounts for about a fifth of total exports. 

The dairy sector exports twice as much as the meat sector, almost four times as much as wood and wood products and nine times as much as the wine sector.

The industry employs over 40,000 workers and employment in the sector has grown twice as fast as total employment since 2000.

In regional New Zealand, which largely face economic challenges, dairy has created jobs at a faster rate than any other sector in 62 of the 67 territorial authorities.

Not only does dairy create more jobs in more places, but wages are higher than in the wider farming sector and well above all other forms of food product manufacturing.

Outside of the farming of dairy, the industry spends billions more dollars on fertilisers, equipment, environmental systems and machinery.

A recent report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research found that there is only growing demand for dairy products around the world, especially in developing countries.

However, the report also noted the dangers of protectionism and tariffs. If these are implemented globally, New Zealand’s economy could lose billions.

It is therefore vital our industry continues to adapt to the necessary standards and requirements of these overseas markets so our economy - and farmers - continue to benefit, remain competitive and relevant to maintain our stronghold.

Proven peace of mind

Hauraki Plains dairy farmers Graham and Vicki Brocklehurst were quick to act on the new rules. 

It was about peace of mind for them, said Graham.

“Fonterra had been issuing notes on their tickets saying, ‘In 2018 this would be a grade whatever’. I didn’t want to have dumped or graded milk”, he said.

“I also saw there was a risk to waiting in that every second farmer in New Zealand could then be wanting to get sorted at the same time.

“I wanted to get it out of the way, to have simplicity, and peace of mind. I also wanted to have it in for at least one summer to make sure it works through the hottest months.

“The solution required for our operation was smaller and cheaper than I thought and we’re not ever going to have to worry about our milk getting above 10°C at end of milking.”

His advice is simple.

“Get on with it as soon as you can so you can make sure you’re happy with it and know it’s working before June 1.”