Palm kernel boosting New Zealand milk production?

Published 15 January 16

The drop in New Zealand (NZ) milk production in November was less than expected given the combined effect of strong culling, low milk prices and the El Niño. Although pasture growth during October and November was below seasonal norms, milk production fell by just 63m litres (2.1%) compared to the previous year.

However, it may be production has been supported by increased use of palm kernel extract (PKE), a by-product from the palm oil industry. NZ imports of PKE surpassed 220,000 tonnes in November, up 60% from October and 25% from November 2014.

While PKE offers dairy farmers an affordable feed supplement when grass is sparse, Fonterra has requested its farmers to limit its use of the product to 3kg/head/day. The NZ industry has been faced with pressure to reduce PKE use from the environmental lobby who claim it contributes to deforestation. However, the cooperative state the limit was implemented due to concerns that overuse may alter milk’s composition.