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  • Farming is a way of life in New Zealand. Farms cover about half of the country’s land and are important to our economy. Agriculture has shaped who we are as a nation, but it has also had a big impact on the country’s natural landscape and environment.

    Rights: DairyNZ and The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato

    DairyNZ – finding practical solutions

    DairyNZ supports the farming sector by finding practical and sustainable on-farm solutions.

    Select here to view video transcript and copyright information.

    Teaching in a dairy sector context

    Agricultural science and the primary production sector provide rich contexts for students to develop practical, problem-solving, sustainable and future-focused approaches to learning. Students’ purposeful learning in the dairy sector involves a wide range of practical experiences with a diverse curriculum including economic, historical, social and cultural influences on primary production and the interrelationships of science, technology, society and the environment.

    Rights: DairyNZ

    Learning on the farm

    Learning on the farm creates opportunities for students to experience practical learning as well as reinforcing knowledge.

    Curriculum links

    The resources featured connect with both the agriculture and horticulture curriculum as well as Living World and Planet Earth and Beyond concepts. This context also provides an opportunity to explore te ao Māori concepts.

    Agriculture and horticulture concepts

    • Primary producers produce for a market
      Primary products are those that leave the farm gate. Milk, meat and potatoes are primary products. Cheese, milk powder and chips are not. Primary producers will gather and use feedback from consumers to manage production and on-farm processes to meet the requirements of consumers. Primary production focuses on the processes involved in growing the products.
    • Producers systematically manage life processes
      Primary producers work with live animals, plants and microorganisms. They manage the life processes of the live organisms in their care to ensure a marketable product is produced.
    • Production systems must be sustainable
      The production of primary products must be sustainable. The impacts on the environment must be minimised to ensure viability and add value to New Zealand’s reputation as clean and green. Sustainable management practices ensure production of primary products meets consumers requirements without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. Preventing, limiting, minimising or correcting environmental damage to water, air and soil as well as considering the interrelatedness of ecosystems is required to achieve sustainable management practices.
    • Producers must make a profit
      New Zealand is rich with resources to support a variety of primary produce. Primary producers are businesses, and commercial producers only produce products that return a profit. Any new products are carefully selected and a range of factors explored before committing to production.

    Science concepts

    • Living World
      Ruminant digestion and plantain forage research supports learning about the life processes of animals and plants including key structural features and functions. Other key Living World concepts are environmental suitability related to habitat/niche, adaptations and interdependence – how changes in one part of the environment affect other living organisms living there.
    • Planet Earth and Beyond
      Key Earth science concepts include Earth systems, interacting systems, nutrient cycling and the influences humans have on these systems.
    • Nature of Science
      Science builds on prior experiences, and the science process asks questions, finds evidence, explores models and investigates using standardised methodologies to develop explanations. Science knowledge is tentative and changes over time.
    From a te ao Māori perspective, we are all part of te taiao and have a responsibility to care for it. This perspective – that the land provides for the people and so the people must provide for the land – is in accord with the view of most farmers and primary producers, who see themselves as stewards of the land.

    Te ao Māori perspectives

    The dairy industry recognises the crucial role it plays in improving and protecting water quality and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. As stewards of the land, many farmers are working to protect, restore and enhance the environment. This is an approach that aligns with kaitiakitanga – guardianship and care for the environment. Other perspectives to consider are the roles of mātauranga Māori and whakapapa (interconnections).

    Interactive planning pathways

    Teachers can use Hub resources as starting points for context-based learning. The planning map below provides a gateway to collections of articles, multimedia, student activities and stories of New Zealand’s science research. By using a combination of these resources, teachers can combine conceptual understanding, capabilities development and assessment opportunities into relevant learning experiences.

    Dairy farming – planning pathways

    This interactive diagram provides a selection of pathways that allow for different approaches and starting points using resources about dairy farming and climate change in New Zealand. Select a label for further information.

    Resources to support learning

    The Hub has created a suite of resources exploring forage research in the dairy sector:

    Collating resources for reference and planning

    To sort and annotate these resources for later reference, log in and use the collections tool. A link to a sample collection is in the related content section at the end of this article.

    Related content

    Background information and short histories of dairy farming in Aotearoa New Zealand:

    The Hub features other DairyNZ research on robotic milking.

    Read about methane sources and what is being done to reduce them.

    Learn about other work to mitigate the impacts of farming on climate change in Breeding low-methane sheep.

    Explore the work of Leaft Foods in developing new plant-based protein for sustainable farming and food manufacture.

    Visit these topics pages to find curated resources:


    Our atmosphere and climate 2020 is a collection that contains notes explaining key science concepts and science capabilities and features resources to support learning about climate change in New Zealand.

    Moo to You is a collection that supports the House of Science Moo to You kit, which uses dairy as a context for learning about Living World, Planet Earth and Beyond and Material World concepts.

    Oneone – soils is a collection that supports pilot-ready Agricultural and Horticultural Science 1.3 Demonstrate understanding of how soil properties are managed in a primary production system. – but it is also useful for anyone interested in soils and primary production.

    Log in to make these collections part of your private collection, just click on the copy icon. You can then add additional content and notes and make other changes. Find out more on how easy the collections tool is to use.

    We also have these Pinterest collections:

    Useful link

    Visit TKI for more information about agricultural and horticultural science in New Zealand.

    The OECD commissioned the 2023 report Agency in the Anthropocene. This easy to read report, co-authored by Dr Chris Eames from the University of Waikato, explains the competencies youth need to address local and global challenges in this Anthropocene epoch of human influences on the planet.

    In 2023 the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) approved a new substance to be imported and/or manufactured in New Zealand. The substance will contain 10–25% 3-nitrooxypropanol (3-NOP) and will be used as a feed additive to reduce methane emissions in livestock.


    This resource has been produced with the support of DairyNZ.
    Rights: DairyNZ


    DairyNZ is the industry organisation that represents all New Zealand dairy farmers. DairyNZ supports farmers through investing in research, resource development, extension and advocacy to ensure sustainable dairy farming and food production.

      Published 15 April 2021 Referencing Hub articles
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