Dairy downturn shifts Fieldays focus to window-shopping

Dairy downturn shifts Fieldays focus to window-shopping

The downturn in dairy farming hasn't affected attendance at Fieldays this year, but most farmers will only be window-shopping.

While 12,000 people are expected to visit Mystery Creek, it may not be the sales bonanza it has been in the past.

Hi-tech innovations are always a drawcard at Fieldays. One 3D camera electronically measures a cow's body condition, providing information a farmer then uses to manage its feed and long-term health -- like BMI for cows.

"If they're losing condition we can respond really quickly, give them more feed, or manage the cows in a way that we don't put them under stress," says Ron Mulder, DeLaval Farm Systems manager.

It can increase milk production considerably. Contract milker Paul Manion likes it, but not the $10,000 price tag.

"We wouldn't be purchasing it in the downturn but it is something we could use going forward," he says.

After two years of low milk prices, dairy farmers won't be the splurging on big tickets items.

"It's just really tough times in the industry at the moment so we're not looking to spend really any money, just come here for a day out and to see what's out there, look at the innovations," Mr Manion says.

Dairy farmers are spending a third less on farm maintenance and running repairs -- that's a reduction of around $20,000 per farm from two years ago.

Still, stall holders are confident they will be making sales.

"It's not all about dairy farmers," says Andy Sinclair, GM Hyundai general manager.

"Certainly that makes up a proportion that come here but the rest of agri-buisness is looking pretty positive."

Last year Fieldays added $396 million to New Zealand's economy.

Even though wallets are remaining firmly in pockets this year, just being there is enough to keep morale up.

"I think any event that gets you off the farm at the moment, provided you can get the work done, is a good thing," says DairyNZ's Tim Mackle.

"I think it's really important during these times that dairy farmers engage with each other and people too, because that helps people get through this tough time."

The Government agrees, and is to announce further funding for rural mental health services later this week.


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