Home' NZ Dairy Farmer : July 2011 Contents 36 The Dairyman JULY 2011
PRIME Minister John Key officiated as LIC celebrated the 50-
year anniversary of its Sire Proving Scheme at Fieldays last
Minister of Agriculture David Carter was also in attendance along
with the man who started it all back in 1961.
In his welcome, chairman Stuart Bay paid special tribute to 83-
year-old Dr Patrick Shannon at the celebration as the "billion dollar
man" and "godfather of herd improvement," who oversaw the intro-
duction of the Sire Proving Scheme and is still working at the co-
operative's Hamilton base two days a week.
"As we launch the celebration of 50 years of Sire Proving in the
New Zealand dairy industry, he's a very key figure.
"Without a shadow of doubt, the scheme is the largest, the most
complex, and the most efficient breeding scheme in the world gener-
ating more than 16 billion dollars to the national economy since it
was introduced." Mr Bay said.
Before the Sire Proving Scheme, farmers had no accurate way of
assessing the fertility or genetic merit of the bulls they were using.
The scheme provided reassurance, with bulls whose ability to sire
fertile productive cows was proven on commercial dairy farms
around the country.
"Prior to Pat's employment in the 1940s New Zealand had 1.8 mil-
lion cows, less than half of the number we have today. And to get
those cows in calf, to breed replacements, it required 60,000 bulls to
service those cows.
"So along comes Pat, with a world-first breakthrough, designing a
scheme that we're honouring today because without it we would have
been driving blind."
Since 1961, the scheme has generated ever-increasing rates of
genetic gain in the national herd, and an economic contribution to the
dairy industry of around $300 million per year, or $16 billion since
the scheme began.
"The resulting transformation to this industry and the country has
been extraordinary and cows over that time have more than tripled
milksolids production," Mr Bay said.
Mr Key spoke about the need to be at the leading edge of produc-
tivity gain if NZ is to compete in the world stage.
"If you wander around the Fieldays what you get is a really upbeat
mood, and that's understandable because every sector of agriculture
is making money.
"The sector is booming along and that's despite the fact you've got
the exchange rate which is really high against the US (dollar)."
But there will always be fluctuations, he said, whether it's com-
modity prices, demand from year-to-year, China's issues with infla-
tion rates or the exchange rate.
"The important point is New Zealand can't survive those changes
unless it keeps looking at its productivity, it keeps improving, and it
keeps adding value. And that is ultimately what LIC is doing and
that's what this technology is doing.
"I want to salute what you're doing. It's really, really important
because we are working as hard as we can to get you access into
world markets," Mr Key said.
The graduates from LIC's Sire Proving Scheme enter the elite team
of artificial breeding bulls, known as Premier Sires, and are responsi-
ble for four out of five dairy cows grazing on New Zealand dairy
Mr Bay said these bulls are the major driver of the dairy industry,
delivering the genetic gain that represents over 60 per cent of on farm
productivity improvement annually.
The event was attended by a large contingent of farmer sharehold-
ers many of whom either were, or are, members of the Sire Proving
Mr Bay said the scheme is a great endorsement for the co-opera-
tive spirit of farmers working together, Mr Bay said.
"It is a partnership between LIC and a relatively small number of
dedicated farmers who over the years have materially advanced the
profitability of all kiwi dairy farmers.
"We salute them, and the 50-year milestone," he said.
'Billion dollar' Sire Proving Scheme celebrated at Fieldays
(left) with PM
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