75th Jubilee Technician Award acknowledges a lifetime of achievement

This week DPR Group head technician Malcolm Smith was awarded the 75th Jubilee Technician Award by the New Zealand Society of Animal Production. The purpose of the Award is to recognise an outstanding contribution by an individual technician to the facilitation of quality research in New Zealand animal production and/or the Society.

Many of you will know Malcolm from his time with the DPR Group, or at MAF/MAFTech/AgResearch as technician at Templeton, Winchmore and Lincoln previously. Malcolm’s citation provided for his nomination is provided in full below:

Citation for Mr Malcolm Smith: Background and contribution

Mr Malcolm Smith has been a technician working on New Zealand pastoral systems for over 50 years. That in itself is an honourable and worthy achievement. However, it is the excellence, and dedication to his work throughout career that sets his achievements apart. Malcolm started his career to assist Alastair Nicol at Lincoln College in 1972. This was Malcolm’s first job out of high school and Alastair was a relatively recent, inexperienced member of Professor Coop’s Animal Science Department. They both learned a lot on the job and during this time Malcolm studied for the New Zealand Certificate of Science at Christchurch Technical Institute and majored in Biology and Biochemistry. For the next four years Malcolm worked on beef trials both on the Research Farm and Ashley Dene. He was responsible for the day to day management of the experiments including nutritional trials on weaners that involved daily shifts compared with weekly. This also involved the winter nutrition of beef breeding cows fed a sole diet of barley straw. Perhaps the most fun they had was measuring the milk production of these beef cows. This work resulted in Malcolm’s first publication in NZSAP in 1976. This partnership ended in 1976 when Malcolm was head-hunted by Ken Geenty and Alastair Nicol headed off to Canada to pursue a PhD.

Malcolm left Lincoln College in 1976 to work at MAF/MAFTech/AgResearch as technician at Templeton, Winchmore and Lincoln until 2000. During this time he continued his work with beef cattle including managing a 300 cow herd as part of the Beef Breed Evaluation for the Genetics section of Ruakura. This was a big step-up for Malcolm. He became proficient at cow artificial insemination and pregnancy diagnosis during this period and continued work on beef weaners. His work then turned to sheep under the tutelage of Dr Geenty followed by Andy Bray. This included involvement with the first commercial sheep milking flock at Templeton, where he also designed an artificial rearing system for lambs from which he authored a paper for NZSAP in 1983.

His focus was then shifted to sheep genetics and he managed a flock of 1500 ewes in a selection trial, also for the Genetics section at Ruakura, during a period when wool was the focus of selection and breeding. He took the opportunity to complete his Wool classing certificate at Lincoln College during this period, which he gained with Distinction. In addition to the focus on wool, Malcolm was also responsible for managing flocks breeding for resistance to internal parasites and indoor feeding trials on staple length of wool which he presented to NZSAP – which was 1 of 9 papers he contributed to as a co-author for NZSAP up until 2000.

In 2001 Malcolm joined the Dryland Pastures Research Group at Lincoln University, led by Professor Derrick Moot. Over the next 20 years Malcolm has been solely responsible for the farmlet trials run by this group, and the supervision of field work undertaken by numerous post-graduate students. Malcolm used all of his previous experience to design, run and oversee the collection of all field data for the “MaxClover” grazing experiment run at Lincoln University for 10 years. He was responsible for all aspects of stock health, pasture and soil measurement and data collation. He meticulously kept track of live-weight gain, pasture growth rate and soil fertility work for the duration of that experiment – while at the same time ensuring 15 post graduate students had the data they required to complete dissertations and theses. Many of the students that Malcolm mentored through the grazing experiment were from overseas, had English as a second language and had little to no experience in managing livestock. Malcolm showed his unbounded empathy, diligence and patience as he guided each one through the processes required to collect accurate, defendable and ultimately publishable material. Furthermore Malcolm has also overseen training of hundreds of Pasture Agronomy students (PLSC321), and many visiting French interns for the last 20 years.

Collectively this work has contributed to the transformation of east coast dryland farming in New Zealand. During “MaxLucerne”. Malcolm took the initiative to examine the impact of grain supplementation on lamb live-weight. He also collected the measurements that have led to greater flexibility in lucerne grazing management advocated and now routinely used on farm. Malcolm was responsible for the management of set stocked and semi set stocked lucerne compared with rotational grazing at Ashley Dene, which ultimately led to earlier use of lucerne during lactation. The results of his farmlet work have transformed farms from Central Otago to Hawkes Bay. Other major field trials he has run include, SFF – Lees Valley, and the subsequent farmlets at Ashley Dene including the “MaxLucerne” and “MaxAnnuals” investigations. In all of these projects Malcolm has designed the farmlets, organized the fencing and lane ways for ease of stock movement, provided water to each paddock and maintained the pastures, animals and infrastructure as and when required. This has often meant weekend and holiday work are completed out of office hours, without hesitation.

Malcolm has also been central to the recently completed Hill Country Futures Programme. This latest research continued a central theme for Malcolm’s work which has involved maintaining intensive field research plots at Lincoln, including one field experiment with 276 plots, but also collecting data on-farms as part of the wider research engagement. Malcolm is the interface, able to skilfully liaise between farmer and scientist requirements. This was shown most recently at the 2022 NZGA/NZSAP joint symposium in Invercargill where data he collected from Inverary station was presented. He is now featured on a series of videos produced by B+LNZ on how to collect pasture growth rate data on-farm.

In short, Malcolm Smith has been, and is, an invaluable member of all of the research teams he has been involved with. He learned his trade in beef and sheep management at Lincoln College and MAF and honed those skills to be the consummate professional technician. His value is formerly acknowledged on over 20 papers as a co-author and numerous acknowledgements in other papers, However, perhaps the greatest accolade comes from the many post-grad students and visitors who he has supervised when they leave Lincoln. They continually comment on his patience, expertise, dedication and desire to “have a Malcolm Smith” on staff wherever they are employed throughout the world. Malcolm Smith continues to have an outstanding career as a technician in the livestock industries as he supervises the newly minted Regenerative Agriculture Dryland Farmlet at Lincoln University.

Malcolm Smith has made an enduring and exceptional contribution to the New Zealand livestock industry. He has contributed directly to NZSAP as an author, and long term member and to the wider industry through his support of the research teams he has worked in. We believe there would not be a more worthy recipient of the 75th Jubilee Technician Award.