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Celebrating an industry

Celebrating an industry

From the editor

2023 was a tough year to be in agriculture.

On-farm inflation, low commodity prices, high-interest rates, increasing regulation and the ongoing devastation of severe weather events have made it a challenging year to be a farmer.

That's why it's all the more important to find ways to celebrate our sector, and the reinstatement of National Lamb Day on February 15 is an excellent way to do this.

The team at Ag Proud and Beef +  Lamb New Zealand have partnered up to create a day that is so much more than throwing some lamb chops on the BBQ; it is a day to recognise how important the primary sector as a whole is to New Zealand, both economically and culturally.

The day SS Dunedin embarked on its journey from Dunedin to London on February 15, 1882, carrying New Zealand's first export shipment of frozen meat, is really the birth of the country's primary export sector.

It is a shining example of the innovative Number 8 wire ethos that has seen New Zealand farmers become some of the best in the world.

William Davidson, the general manager of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, organised the shipment.

He had been observing experimental attempts at frozen shipments and had the foresight to see the new technology as a game changer for Australasian agriculture.

A previous attempt shipping frozen meat from Australia to England had been attempted in 1876 on the Northam, but machinery failure of the cooling plant had meant the shipment was unsuccessful.

Another attempt had been made when beef was shipped from the United States to England.

While it wasn't entirely successful, results were encouraging enough for Davidson to see merit in persevering with the concept.

He oversaw the fitting out of the passenger ship SS Dunedin with a coal-powered Bell Coleman freezing plant.

Its maiden voyage as a meat transportation ship, while not entirely uneventful, arrived in London with only one spoiled carcass.

The voyage paved the way for the frozen meat shipment industry, opening up Northern Hemisphere markets to New Zealand meat and dairy.

The Dunedin made another nine voyages before disappearing on the Southern Ocean after leaving Oamaru in March 1890.

No trace of the ship was found, and it was assumed that the vessel had struck an iceberg and sunk.

Despite this sad ending, the legacy of that first voyage in 1882 is worth commemorating as symbolic of the contribution farming has made to New Zealand over the last 140 years.

Get behind National Lamb Day this year.

If you can't get to the Southern Field Days to the event's launch, flood social media on February 15 with your barbecue dinners and show how proud we are to be New Zealand farmers.

By Claire Inkson