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Beefy Week for Northland

Beef farming is so big in Northland, it has its own special week in its honour. Beef Week is organised by the Northland branch of the Meat New Zealand Beef Council and involves various promotions, events and seminars during the first full week in May every year, says Beef Council founder Peter Packard.

Packard said on Thursday 225 farmers attended a seminar on 'Innovations in beef production now and in the future'. "The seminar covered subjects like managing parasitism, improving intensive grazing systems and other general areas like mob sizes and animal health and stress."

"We had some very interesting speakers, including Meat New Zealand chairman Jeff Grant who spoke about the upcoming referendum on meat and wool levies", Packard said

"I think it is excellent that we are being given the opportunity to communicate our thoughts (on the referendum draft proposal). I hope that farmers support the meetings around the country and put themselves in a position to make a good judgement, and then respond by voting in the referendum in July."

The Beef Council also marked Beef Week by releasing a new booklet, 'Profitable Beef Production', Packard said. "In the early comments I received about the book, farmers say it is timely and contained some good information. The book was a real industry effort: Obviously there was Meat New Zealand funding through the Beef Council, but industry partners Richmond, Ballance, Merial and the MAF Sustainable Farming fund also made significant financial contributions."

Meat New Zealand funds the Beef Council to meet the information and technology needs of farmers who depend upon beef production for their livelihoods.

"We have been running Beef Week up here for seven years, and this year's event was another great success", Packard said. "Northland is a very strong beef area and the Northland Beef Council provides good service to all interested farmers. Every year we get between 200-500 farmers involved at some stage during the week."

A 28-page newspaper supplement is also produced in association with Beef Week, to highlight the week's activities and various issues facing the beef industry, Packard said. "We produce 23,000 each year, it goes out to every rural household in Northland and we send around 900 personal cover letters to all those who have attended Beef Week in the past."

This year's Beef Week was tinged with some sadness however, as Packard is retiring from the Beef Council he founded in 1989. "I had been working as a beef specialist with MAF when the government of the day was opting out of its farm advisory responsibilities. I thought this left a huge vacuum of knowledge particularly in the beef industry."

"I felt that we badly needed a producer organisation run by producers. We held some beef field days throughout the country in 1989 and got 1000 farmers along which really proved that farmers were thirsting for knowledge," he said.

Fourteen years on, and with the continued success of Beef Week, past-chairman Packard believes it is a good time to go. "The Beef Council is going very well now, in fact former Meat New Zealand CEO Neil Taylor said last year that the Beef Council has become a flagship of Meat New Zealand. So it’s a good time for me to step down."

Farmers can get a copy of 'Profitable Beef Production' free by calling Meat New Zealand on 0800 647 000.

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