A2 threat to NZ industry: consultant

14 Jun, 2017 09:44 AM
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Increasing demand for A2 milk is a threat to the Kiwi dairy industry, agribusiness expert Keith Woodford says. KIRK HARGREAVES
He said New Zealand farmers needed to start working towards converting their herds to 100% A2.
Increasing demand for A2 milk is a threat to the Kiwi dairy industry, agribusiness expert Keith Woodford says. KIRK HARGREAVES

Increasing demand for A2 milk is a threat to the New Zealand dairy industry, according to NZ agribusiness expert Keith Woodford.

The dairy industry is heading for a revolution and farmers should be taking action to future-proof their businesses now, the former Professor of Agri-Food Systems at Lincoln University said.

Growing international demand for A2 milk was a major threat to the industry, Prof Woodford told about 50 people at a Rural Business Network (RBN) meeting in Hawera.

A2 milk comes from cows that naturally produce milk with the A2 version of beta-casein, rather than the A1 version of the protein.

The A2 company claims A1 protein can impact the digestive system and has been linked to ailments including irritable bowel syndrome, eczema and diabetes.

About half of Taranaki's dairy cows produce A1 milk, Mr Woodford estimates.

Mr Woodford is the author of Devil in the Milk, a book on the A1 versus A2 debate.

He said New Zealand farmers needed to start working towards converting their herds to 100 per cent A2 animals.

"It's crazy that New Zealand farmers aren't changing their cows to A2 as soon as possible," he said.

"Some countries like the United States can move more quickly than we can and New Zealand needs to be doing something about it now - even if it is just using A2 semen."

"You should be using A2 semen and you should be rattling the can and telling LIC 'Give us a bull of the day, for each of the breeds, that is A2.'"

It could take years to convert a herd to pure A2 and by the time Fonterra triggered the move, it would be too late, Mr Woodford said.

"Once Fonterra give you the price signal, through standard breeding, it's going to take you 10 years to get there," he said.

"When it comes, it's going to be painful and it's going to be the lag that is the problem.

"You've got to get there in advance and the simplest way to do it is to say 'Well, I'm going to use Bull of the Day but I'm going to have a supply of straws in the freezer that are A2 for when there's not a suitable Bull of the Day'.

"If you want to speed things up further, you inseminate your 15-month animals with A2 and that's just a huge step forward."

Using sex-selected semen could speed the process up further.

In Canterbury, 65 farmers received a small premium for supplying pure A2 milk to Synlait for use in its a2 Platinum infant formula, Mr Woodford said.

The a2 Platinum infant formula was moving into the number one position in Australia, with a 30 per cent market share. Most of the remaining product was exported to China.

"A2 is on a roll. I'm working on the issue all around the world and I can tell you, it's going to hurt [New Zealand's dairy industry]," he said.

"We've got an opportunity - and it can still be an opportunity and not a risk - but New Zealand has to get on the road to converting its herds to A2."

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