Fonterra’s decision to monitor palm kernel extract use on farms has left some farmers feeling blindsided.
From early next year, Fonterra will implement a test that shows how much palm kernel extract famers are using as feed, as well as voluntary guidelines to maintain New Zealand milk’s ‘grass-fed’ quality.
The move comes after statistics showed palm kernel extract imports increased to more than two million tonnes last year – approximately 30 per cent of the world’s supply.
Manawatu-Rangitikei dairy farmer Mat Hocken says grass growth has been minimal due to a cold, wet winter so he has had to rely on more palm kernel extract for feed.
“There was a bit of a feeling of being blindsinded by the news. And also not being given the information for why this is an issue now,” he said.
Fonterra Co-operative Affairs spokesman Will Hurrell said the testing will give the company an accurate understanding of how much of the extract is being used at each farm.
“New Zealand has a unique advantage with our grass-based farming system. It’s about protecting that for the long term,” he said.
Conservationists are also concerned about use of the extract by farmers as it is a by-product of palm oil extraction, a practice which destroys rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia where endangered animals live.
Several farmers told ONE News the timing of the move is disappointing as milk prices are low and recent seasons of poor grass growth has forced farmers to supplement feed.
Fonterra said it is too early to say whether the guidelines will be made mandatory.