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Scientists Work Recognised

The work of a former AgResearch Ruakura scientist involved in developing a revolutionary milking machine and the 'unshortable' electric fence was recognised last night.

Dr Doug Phillips, now retired to Waihi Beach, received the North West Waikato Holden Lifetime Achievement Award during the region's Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards ceremony in Hamilton.

Born in Te Kuiti, Dr Phillips obtained a Masters degree in Physics before beginning his career at the Ruakura Research Centre in Hamilton in 1947. He retired in 1986, but during his nearly 40-year career his work was instrumental in increasing dairy farming efficiency and contributing millions of dollars to the New Zealand economy.

Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards North West Waikato Regional Committee Chair Robyn Clements says Dr Phillips developed methods for testing milking machines and standardising procedures, which until that time had no proven physical basis or rationale.

Robyn Clements says one of his key developments in this area was the multi-orifice airflow meter, which enabled accurate measurement of vacuum pump capacity and the air consumption of pulsators to optimise plant performance.

"The testing procedures that he developed, along with the new airflow meter were to become the standard methodology used world-wide for at least four decades."

Dr Murray Woolford, who was a colleague of his from 1970, told awards organisers that Dr Phillips designed a set of criteria for an ideal New Zealand milking machine.

"This was a machine designed for the needs of the New Zealand dairy herd and the prototype was demonstrated at the Ruakura farmers field day in 1954. It was subsequently manufactured in New Zealand and Australia and over a period of 25 years it is estimated that some 10,000 of these Ruakura Milking Machines were sold worldwide."

His work then diversified into aspects of milk harvesting and milking management and he was scientist-in-charge at the Ruakura Number One Dairy.

Robyn Clements says throughout his career, Dr Phillips pursued innovation and he is still a prolific inventor.

His development of the "unshortable" electric fence was his most successful invention, she says.

"This invention has made an enormous contribution to New Zealand dairying and also inspired the later development of the export agribusiness in electric fences.

"In terms of both improvements in grazing methods and export sales of the technology, Doug's pioneering innovative work in electric fencing has probably been worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the New Zealand dairy industry."

Being a physicist, Dr Phillips background gave him a completely different view of the agricultural research world and its problems.

In recent years he submitted a collection of his research papers to the University of Waikato and, following an examination of the knowledge contributed to science by these papers, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science.

The Holden Lifetime Achievement Award is a new initiative of the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards, which aim to recognise excellence in the dairy industry.

The award is open to anyone in or servicing the dairy sector and seeks to recognise contribution to the dairy industry both regionally and nationwide.

The Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards are being run in seven regions and have the support of Dexcel. Fonterra, Westpac, Holden New Zealand, Ravensdown, DTS, Livestock Improvement, Pioneer, RD1 and Fegan and Co sponsor the awards.

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