Rural round-up

July 17, 2014

Shock treatment makes waves - Sally Rae:

It has been an electrifying experiment.

A research team at the University of Otago has been using short bursts of high-voltage electricity in a bid to improve the tenderness of red meat.

The research, in conjunction with Alliance Group and led by Dr Alaa El-din Bekhit, of the university’s food science department, has been cited as having the potential to open up new opportunities for lifting returns on lower-value carcass cuts. . . .

Landowners want history kept alive:

A Taranaki Maori landowner of an award-winning farm wants tribal descendants to know about the land’s history, not just its success.

Te Rua o te Moko farm near Hawera won this year’s Ahuwhenua Trophy recognising Maori excellence in farming.

The farm is made of four land blocks, one of which was confiscated by the Crown in 1863 and is being held in a land bank. It is due to be given back as part of the Ngaruahinerangi iwi Treaty of Waitangi settlement. . .

Landcorp’s huge dairy plans start to take shape -

Three new dairy farms that have been converted from forestry will begin milking for the first time in the new season as part of Landcorp’s large-scale dairy development near Taupo.

The state-owned enterprise has converted nine farms from forestry in partnership with landowner Wairakei Pastoral. In total, the nine dairy units encompassed 5300ha and milked 13,000 cows, chief executive Steven Carden said. Based on its current timetable, Landcorp hoped to have everything completed by 2020. To date, the project has cost $87 million.

“We have four this year, four the next year and four the year after. When the whole thing is finished we are looking at 24 farms and around about 30,000 cows across 25,700ha of land.”  . . .

Knock-on effects of less beer drinking – Sonita Chandar:

Fewer people are drinking beer and farmers are getting a hangover.

As beer consumption falls, breweries require less malt and malting companies need less barley from farmers.

The change in Kiwis’ drinking habits is being felt at the Marton malting factory of MaltEurop NZ.

Operations manager Tiago Cabral says some barley growers are likely to feel the effect more than others.

“We will need less barley and will have to contract less tonnage from our growers,” he says. . . .

2014 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards Finalists Announced:

The finalists have been announced for the third Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Sheep Industry Awards.

About 300 people are expected to attend the awards dinner – which recognise top-performing New Zealand sheep breeders – on 6 August in Napier.

Five industry-related awards will be presented. In addition to the Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year, Individual or Business Making a Significant Contribution to the New Zealand Sheep Industry and the Sheep Industry Innovation Award, two new awards have been added: the Sheep Industry Science Award, recognising a project, business or person undertaking science that is having a positive impact on farming now, and the Sheep Industry Supplier Award, which recognises a farmer supplier nominated by processors for consistently meeting company specifications and other key performance indicators. . .

CRV Ambreed appoints artificial insemination expert to Tasman, Marlborough area role:

Dairy farmer, breeder and artificial insemination expert Nigel Patterson has been appointed field consultant for the CRV Ambreed team, in which he will be managing the Nelson, Marlborough, Murchison area.

CRV Ambreed’s South Island sales and services manager Mark Duffy said the company was delighted to have someone with such a strong background in dairy join the team.

“Nigel has over 26 years’ experience in the dairy industry, including running his own pedigree Jersey herd, share milking, providing testing services and supporting farmers through artificial insemination (AI),” said Mr Duffy. . . .

New Zealand’s leading analytical testing laboratory celebrates 30 years:

In July 1984 a young Waikato scientist by the name of Roger Hill left a small soil testing laboratory in Cambridge to launch his own in Hamilton.

Roger and his wife Anne’s initial business intention, he says, was simply to “have a go” on their own.

Yet three decades later the company, well-known nationally and internationally as Hill Laboratories, is the largest privately owned testing laboratory in the whole of New Zealand. . .

Ballance signs up record shareholders:

A record number of farmers from around the country have secured shareholdings in Ballance Agri-Nutrients in time to receive a rebate on their fertiliser purchased from the farm nutrient co-operative in September this year.

Ballance’s rebate and dividend in the 2013 financial year averaged a record $65 per tonne.

Nearly 1000 farmers signed up to become shareholders for the 2014 financial year which ended on 31 May. . .

Reduce winter nitrogen loss – Bala Tikkisetty:

Winter is a time when farmers should take special care to protect both profits and the environment from the effects of increased nitrogen leaching at this time of year.

Applications of nitrogen fertilisers in winter are generally least effective for promoting grass growth.

That’s because slow growth of pasture and drainage from increased seasonal rainfall can result in nitrate leaching directly from fertiliser before plants can take it up. The nitrogen can then make its way to waterways where it can stimulate nuisance algal growth. . .


Rural round-up

June 16, 2014

Grassland dairying in Colombia – Keith Woodford:

This week I am writing from Bogota in Colombia, where I am leading a team of five Kiwis on an MFAT-funded dairy design project.  This is part of New Zealand’s ‘Agricultural Diplomacy’ program, which fits within New Zealand’s broader official development program.  It is also linked to developing links between New Zealand and Colombia, and the proposed development of a free trade agreement. New Zealand already sells electric fencing, seeds and other farm inputs here in Colombia. The project we are designing will run for an initial four to five years. . .

 NZ’s farming paradise disappoints import – Tony Benny:

When arable farmer Bill Davey moved to New Zealand from England 13 years ago he was told “the world’s your oyster, you can have what you want here”, but so much has changed in the intervening years that he’s now reliant on the dairy industry and is even considering milking cows himself.

“It’s turned out that we have been channelled into doing something that we’re not really comfortable with,” Davey says.

Disillusioned with subsidised farming in the United Kingdom, Davey, with wife Lynda and son Nick, arrived in Mid-Canterbury in 2001. . .

Big NZ farmer may milk sheep – Pam Graham:

Heads are turning at the prospect of one of New Zealand’s largest farmers milking sheep.

Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden chucked the idea in a speech in Hamilton on Thursday when the huge annual Fieldays agricultural show was being held down the road at Mystery Creek.

“Farming new products such as sheep milk are also being explored,” he said.

The idea is not new but it is being picked up by a very large farmer.

Landcorp is a state-owned enterprise which owns or leases 137 farms.

“We are one of New Zealand’s largest farming organisations,” Landcorp says.

Rick Powdrell, Federated Farmers’ meat and fibre vice-chairman thinks it could be a bold new chapter for New Zealand’s most numerous farmed animal. . .

How “big data” could shape farming  – James McShane:

THE Rabobank Global Young Farmers Master Class has been a phenomenal experience and that certainly came to a head yesterday when we ventured onto the hallowed ground of the Rabobank head office in Utrecht, Holland.

The glass tower extends 26 floors above city with modern curves giving the appearance of binoculars from the sky.

Yesterday we ventured into the conference centre to hear guest speakers talk to us about the future technologies in farming and life in general. . .

Foresters to Meet up in the Hawkes Bay:

Forestry professionals are gathering in ‘sunny Hawkes Bay’ early July to attend the NZ Institute of Forestry’s annual conference. “Tackling Challenges and Delivering Value”.

The conference focuses on a number of Hawkes Bay’s challenges says Committee Chair, Bob Pocknall however it will have a national perspective and examine ways to deliver value despite changing times. . . .

And thanks to West Coast AgFest  and their Facebook page:

Under 3 weeks till AgFest… Remember to wear your gumboots on Saturday July 5th and help smash the AgFest 2012 record!!!

Under 3 weeks till AgFest...  Remember to wear your gumboots on Saturday July 5th and help smash the AgFest 2012 record!!!


New course but still wrong owner

June 14, 2014

Landcorp CEO Steven Carden is charting a new course for the company:

In his keynote address at the Agricultural Communicator of the Year Awards last night in Hamilton, Mr Carden said that state owned enterprise Landcorp would be focusing on driving a lean commercial operation, benchmarked against the best farmers across the country

“First and foremost, Landcorp must strive to be the best performing large-scale farming business in the country. Second, we are growing our connections with our customers and their customers. That means working with other farmers who are interested in supplying to particular customers in markets around the world,” he said.

The company’s plans include growing its number of farming partnerships through being the preferred partner for iwi farming interests and other investors. Landcorp would be looking to use existing partnerships with iwi in the Far North and the Hauraki as models for the future.

Farming new products such as sheep milk are also being explored, as will greater use of technology to drive precision farming. Landcorp’s recent adoption of Farm IQ’s farm management system throughout its 137 farms will help the company drive a new level of precision around animal performance. It will also be a key tool in minimising its environmental impact.

Mr Carden said that Landcorp would draw from its own proud history of transforming agricultural land to transform New Zealand farming. He said that Landcorp has some incredible staff throughout the country and that his job is to tap into their passion for Landcorp to drive improvement in New Zealand farming.

“The whole company is full of energy to improve our performance by being safer, more efficient and more productive farmers. We want to demonstrate that profitable and environmentally responsible farming go hand in hand.

“We want all New Zealanders to see how good farming is for our country, and especially for young people to see farming as a career where they can be part of something vitally important to the future of New Zealand.

“Our goals are ambitious, and we won’t always get it right, but we’ll always front up and share with the industry and all New Zealanders the places we are finding success, as well as where we still need to do better,” he said. . . .

It’s difficult to argue with most of that.

But there I still ahve a major problem with Landcorp – tying up the billions of dollars the company is worth in farms is not the best use of public money.


Rural round-up

April 28, 2014

Onwards and upwards for millers - Sally Rae:

When Griffins Foods signed a contract to source flour from South Canterbury-based Farmers Mill, it was a leap of faith in a group of arable farmers.

At that stage, Farmers Mill did not have a mill, let alone the ability to supply a sample. Nor was there a track record in flour production.

”It’s a great story in the sense that Griffins bought into the idea without a mill and no product,” Farmers Mill chairman and South Canterbury farmer Murray Turley reflected.

He attributed the biscuit and snack food company’s confidence in the yet-to-be opened mill to the security of the raw material and knowing the source of it. . .

Recovery but still fragile:

RECENT RAIN IN Waikato and South Auckland has set farmers on the road to recovery from the drought but the situation remains fragile for some, a meeting of farming leaders and central and local Government officials has heard.

The teleconference attended by Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and other farming groups, the Rural Support Trust, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Waikato Regional Council was told there had been good rain in the two regions over the past week.

There was general agreement that the drought had been “broken” by the rain but rainfall totals still weren’t that much in some places, some pasture was still brown and that more rain was needed over coming weeks to ensure that recovery continued. . .

Fish & Game calls for public enquiry into the future of farming:

Fish & Game NZ is calling for a public enquiry “to examine the future of agriculture in New Zealand”.

Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson suggested the move in a presentation to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee today where he was invited to discuss the future of farming following the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s recent critical report on land use and nutrient pollution in waterways.

In his submission Mr Johnson explained the impact intensive agriculture is having on waterways.

“Two recent public polls confirm the wider public is clearly engaged in the issue now – and the overwhelming majority want the dairy sector to adopt a different way of operating in the future,” he says. . .

Dark horse takes the win in Aorangi:

James Davidson is the last Grand Finalist to be named in the ANZ Young Farmer Contest after earning top spot at the Aorangi Regional Final Monday 21 April in Fairlie.

Crowds packed the Mackenzie Showgrounds as the eight Young Farmers demonstrated their skills, strength and stamina in the practical challenges including constructing drafting gates, digger operation and carving a wood sculpture using a chainsaw. Later in the evening the Mackenzie Community Centre was abuzz for the evening show and quiz round.

It was Mr Davidson’s first attempt at the regional level and admitted he was quite shocked after winning what he says was a rather difficult competition. . .

Rural broadband initiative milestone –  Leeana Tamati :

The sight of Netta Wilton sitting in the middle of a paddock with a laptop would probably seem odd to passersby, but it was a common scene last year.

Mrs Wilton, who lives in Scotts Gap with her husband Karl and three children, had such slow broadband

she would need to sit in a paddock to get any kind of reliable speed to do her online banking.

Mrs Wilton and her household can now successfully watch videos, play games and do the banking online, thanks to the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).

The RBI is a partnership between Vodafone and the government aiming to upgrade 387 existing cell towers and build 154 new towers around the country in a bid to give rural residents access to fast broadband. . .

Faster scanner at Invermay :

A new CT scanner at Invermay will provide South Island sheep and deer farmers with faster and more accurate carcass measurements.

The scanner, which uses X-ray technology to create cross-sectional pictures of the body, has been provided by Innervision, a joint venture between Landcorp Farming Ltd and AgResearch.

It replaces an older scanner that has been in operation for 18 years. . . .

 

Get a taste for training:

Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre is holding a four day Taster course on the Wairarapa campus 28 April – 1 May.

The Taster programme is an opportunity for anyone thinking about getting involved in agricultural training to have a ‘taste’ of what Taratahi training and campus life is all about.   

Taster students will stay at the Wairarapa campus for four nights in student accommodation and enjoy three hearty meals a day.  The days are jam-packed with modules on quad bikes, chainsaws, fencing, stock movement and lots more.

During the four days Taster students will also discover all the study options available at Taratahi and most taster students get an idea early on if they are interested in specialising in sheep or dairy. . . .


Rural round-up

April 23, 2014

Happy Earth Day! If you see a farmer, say thanks for being an environmental steward not just today, but every day!

LIC sets course to $1b horizon:

FARMER CO-OP Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) is revamping its executive team and aiming to raise revenue 500% by 2025.

Directors and farmer shareholders have given chief executive Wayne McNee the go-ahead to trim executive numbers from 11 to 8. The post of chief operating officer is abolished and four new management positions are advertised. Several current executives may settle for non-executive roles or quit.

Staff learned this month of a strategy to earn $1 billion in revenues by 2025; the animal breeding and farm technology service provider earned $200m last year. . . .

Focus shift for Landcorp:

STATE-OWNED FARMER Landcorp is seeking to make subtle but significant changes to its strategic direction.

Outlining the changes to Rural News, chief executive Steven Carden said the SOE wants people to realise there is a direct correlation between a strong Landcorp and a strong New Zealand farming sector.

Directors and staff know about the proposed changes, due for further discussion during another strategy session at a board meeting in a few weeks.

Historically the organisation has been relatively inward looking, he says. Now he’d like to see Landcorp working more collaboratively with other partners and looking well beyond the farmgate and engaging with others. . . .

Why scientific method sorts weak from chaff - Doug Edmeades:

According to my dictionary an anecdote is “a short narrative of an incident of private life”. Anecdotes are frequently used to sell dubious products to unsuspecting farmers. Their use is rife among fertiliser products.

You will all have heard them. “The chap at the end of the road put on some of that stuff – my word his lambs looked good this year”. Or, “This guy sold me some humate, I chucked it on a bad paddock down the back – now there are earthworms everywhere”. And one that has always intrigued me comes from the south, “Joe put some of that seaweed liquid fertiliser on and now hundreds of seagulls follow his plough”.

The seductiveness of anecdotes is that they are derived from observation and only a fool would dare tell a farmer that his observations are BS .. .

Farm Manager Finalists Milking 5000 Cows:

The eleven 2014 New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year finalists are together managing 5200 cows producing more than two million kilograms of milksolids.

“These finalists represent a group of dairy farm employees that work extremely hard and put in long hours to harvest the country’s sought after fresh milk in the most cost effective, sustainable and efficient manner,” National Convenor Chris Keeping says.

“The finalists are also passionate about what they do and are keen to progress their dairy industry career.” . . .

Ten Farming Ambassadors Hailed In 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

The Ballance Farm Environment Awards have finished another successful year, with Supreme winners from 10 regions recognised for their outstanding contribution to agricultural sustainability.

David Natzke, General Manager of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, says the 2014 competition drew a “wonderful group of entrants” and the high standard made it a real challenge for judges to pick out the final Supreme winners.

“Attendance at all the regional award ceremonies was well up on previous years. This reflects a great recognition of the awards and how well they are managed and promoted in the regions.”

Taranaki was welcomed into the competition for 2014 and the announcement of the first Taranaki Supreme winner was another highlight, says Mr Natzke. . .

 

Rural Contractors NZ hits the road during May:

Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) will be updating its members on the latest changes in health and safety, transport and employment laws – as well as other topics – in a series of road shows being held around the country during May.

RCNZ chief executive Roger Parton says rural contractors need to get to grips with proposed changes to health and safety regulations following the recent introduction of the Health & Safety in Employment Reform Bill into Parliament.

“There are some really major changes planned which will most definitely affect rural contractors,” he explains.

“The penalties for getting it wrong, should someone suffer a bad accident at their workplace, are very severe.” . . .

Great turnout for last Regional Final:

Crowds gathered at the Mackenzie Showgrounds in Fairlie Monday 21 April for the final stop of the AgriKidsNZ and TeenAg competition series.

The Aorangi Regional Final saw Hinds Agris, Ella Yeatman, William Ward and Hayden Jefferson from Hinds School take home the top honour for the AgriKidsNZ competition and High Country Hillbillies, Holly Malcolm and Ella Sanderson from St Kevin’s School were first in the TeenAg event.

The competitions test skills, strength and stamina while introducing youth to the fun side of agriculture. Primary and high school students from all walks of life are welcome to join in. . .

Get Your Entries In For NZ’s First Gaia Awards:

Over recent months, the debate on water quality has reached boiling point with reports and commentary from prominent figures such as Dr Jan Wright Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Sir David Skegg President of the Royal Society of New Zealand and Dame Anne Salmond calling for a shift in farming practices.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of producers bucking a trend of declining water quality and profitability through a focus on soil health. The Association of Biological Farmers (ABF) are hosting NZ’s first Green Agriculture Innovation Awards (GAIA) this August in recognition of these timely innovations. Entries for the Awards are closing soon! ABF wants to congratulate and celebrate not only the farmers and growers but also consultants and bio-fertiliser companies that, at a mushrooming pace, are changing the face of food production in New Zealand. . . .


Rural round-up

April 16, 2014

“Awareness needed around psychology of hunting accidents”:

Wellington start-up, Hunter Safety Lab says there needs to be greater awareness around the subconscious psychological factors that can cause safety conscious, experienced hunters to mistakenly shoot another hunter.

The comment came in light of the death of a Southland hunter shot by another hunter over the weekend.

It is the hunting season’s second shooting accident to take place in the space of two weeks since it officially kicked off at the beginning of April. . .

No rain reprieve yet for drought-hit farms:

While farming areas in the South Island and the main centres receive rain, very little has fallen in areas affected by the upper North Island’s second consecutive autumnal drought.

“It is clearly a localised drought adverse event covering Waikato and parts of Auckland and Northland,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers adverse events spokesperson.

“I must add that we are also concerned about conditions in Manawatu-Rangitikei too.

“Having been through drought myself last year, I fully understand why farmers up north would dearly like to trade weather with us in the South Island. . . .

Kiwi environmental innovation receives international honours:

Contact Energy’s Wairākei bioreactor – a Kiwi innovation – has been awarded honours at the internationally recognised 2014 IWA Asia Pacific Regional Project Innovation Awards in Singapore. Jointly developed by Contact and Beca, the bioreactor is a unique, world-first solution to improve the quality of water that is discharged from the iconic Wairākei geothermal power station into the Waikato River.

“I’m immensely proud of our bioreactor,” says Contact Energy CEO, Dennis Barnes. “As a world-first it’s great to see this example of Kiwi ingenuity recognised at an international level.”

“To work with Contact Energy from the beginning, developing and testing innovative concepts through to the design and construction of the Wairākei bioreactor has been immensely rewarding for the Beca team”, says Beca CEO, Greg Lowe. “This is another great example of New Zealand talent delivering world class project outcomes.” . . .

Tough Ask to Separate Bright 2014 Sharemilker Finalists:

Choosing a winner in the 2014 New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year competition is a tough task for the judges, due to the varying backgrounds and positions of the finalists.

“It is a really interesting competition this year. A number of the finalists are relatively new to the dairy industry, having changed careers, and they also hold a variety of positions which highlights the many ways people can now progress in the industry,” national convenor Chris Keeping says.

“The greatest factor they have in common – apart from being ambitious dairy farmers – is the majority of this year’s finalists have Bachelor degrees. This demonstrates the industry is attracting talented people who are applying skills learned on the job or in other vocations to excel.” . . .

Rollout of faster broadband to remote East Cape schools complete:

All twelve rural schools in remote locations around Gisborne and Wairoa now have faster broadband, as a result of the Government’s broadband initiatives, Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams announced today.

Local communications company Gisborne Net has successfully completed the installation of point-to-point wireless broadband for the 12 schools, under a contract signed with the Government last year.

The 12 Gisborne and Wairoa schools are among 57 across New Zealand which will get faster broadband under the Remote Schools Broadband Initiative, because they are beyond the reach of cost-effective fibre deployment.

The schools will have access to broadband capable of peak speeds of at least 10 megabits per second (about four times faster than previous services). . . .

Sales Volumes Strong, With Prices Holding Steady in March Market:

Summary

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of NZ (“REINZ”) shows there were 94 more farm sales (+25.5%) for the three months ended March 2014 than for the three months ended March 2013. Overall, there were 472 farm sales in the three months to end of March 2014, compared to 534 farm sales for the three months ended February 2014 (-11.6%). 1,842 farms were sold in the year to March 2014, 28.5% more than were sold in the year to March 2013.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to March 2014 was $22,342 compared to $22,317 recorded for three months ended March 2013 (+0.1%). The median price per hectare fell 1.3% compared to February.  . . .

State of the art CT scanner to make quick work of animal yield measurements:

Sheep and Deer farmers in the South Island can now benefit from faster and more accurate carcass measurements, thanks to a new CT scanner in Mosgiel. The scanner, which uses X-Ray technology to create cross-sectional pictures of the body, is a valuable tool for determining meat yield in livestock.

The new CT scanner is being provided by INNERVISION, a joint venture between Landcorp Farming Ltd and AgResearch. It replaces an older scanner that had been in operation for eighteen years.

CT scanner scientist Neville Jopson said the new scanner was considerably faster than the old machine, scanning a whole carcass in around two minutes compared to as much as two hours previously. The ‘spiral scanning’ feature takes measurements over the entire carcass rather than single slice views at set points, providing a much better understanding of composition. . . .

Rabobank opens afresh in central Christchurch:

Continued strong growth in New Zealand has seen specialist agribusiness lender Rabobank relocate to state-of-the-art premises in the new ‘Rabobank Building’ in central Christchurch.

The Christchurch branch of the world’s leading specialist agribusiness bank and the third largest lender to rural New Zealand reopened on Monday 14 April at Level 2, 12 Papanui Rabobank northern south island regional manager David Clarke said the new premises catered for expanding staff numbers and would enable the branch to better service rural farmers and agribusinesses in the Canterbury region.

“We’ve almost doubled in staff numbers in the last decade so we’re excited to move to modern, newer premises with improved technology and more space, which will allow us to grow into the future,” he said. . . .

New Zealand’s First Masterclass for Home Winemakers?

Wine enthusiasts, as well as new and seasoned home winemakers, can learn the secrets of the profession from veteran vintner Justin Oliver.

Oliver is from Matakana’s famous Mt Tamahunga Vineyard and has over 20 years industry winemaking experience at wineries throughout New Zealand and in California. He is also Senior Cidermaker at Zeffer Cider and has distilled professionally. Oliver is in the throes of launching his own wine brand, Free Range Wine Co, specialising in premium wine on tap. 

The Syrah grapes that Mt Tamahunga make into $50 a bottle wine can also be pre-purchased from makewine.co.nz to be collected at the masterclass. The supply is very limited this year – and will be sold on a first in first served. Mt Tamahunga vineyard is one of oldest in the area. It was first planted by the Vuletic brothers for the famous Antipodean Farm wine label of the 1980′s. People may remember a 5-litre bottle of this Bordeaux-styled red selling for $5000 at auction. Those were the days! The Syrah vines were planted in 2004 by new owners, for the premium Mt Tamahunga wine label.  . .


Rural round-up

March 17, 2014

Wild bee loss bad for breed:

Beekeepers are being warned to check the genetic diversity of their stock following the first stage of a nationwide survey that shows significant in-breeding.

The Sustainable Farming Fund project, administered by University of Otago associate professor Peter Dearden, has studied bees from all over New Zealand.

The early results show New Zealand’s bee population was much more diverse than previously thought but that many beekeepers have serious issues with inbreeding. . .

Farm manager shares love of ‘wicked’ industry -

The 2014 Southland Otago Farm Manager of the Year, Jared Crawford, says he was ”shocked” when he heard his name announced during the New Zealand Dairy Industry awards regional final at the MLT Event Centre in Gore on Saturday.

He and wife Sara stood on the podium with the region’s Sharemilker Equity Farmer of the Year winners Steve Henderson and Tracy Heale, of Winton, and Dairy Trainee of the Year winner Josh Lavender, also of Winton. . .

Triallist just wants to get better – Sally Rae:

When Cody Pickles goes to the dog trials, he takes his Gin with him.

The young Otago shepherd also takes Dusty, another member of his eight-strong working dog team. Both dogs are heading dogs.

Mr Pickles (23), who is in his second season of ”having a go” at dog trialling, works at Waipori Station, a 12,000ha Landcorp Farming-owned property on the shores of Lake Mahinerangi. . . .

NZ supports Philippines farmers’ recovery from Typhoon:

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye today announced that New Zealand will provide $2.5 million to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to help farmers in the Philippines recover from Typhoon Haiyan.

“Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most devastating storms in recent history and it is estimated that almost 6 million workers’ livelihoods were destroyed, lost or disrupted,” Ms Kaye says.

“In the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan New Zealand made around $5 million available to support the emergency response and relief effort and the New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully indicated that we would consider further support aimed at helping the Philippines recover.

“New Zealand’s contribution will help to restore the livelihoods of 128,000 vulnerable households in rural areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan. . .

Wind-up for the Woolless Wiltshires of Winchmore:

The final act of a 13 year-long AgResearch sheep breeding project designing low-maintenance sheep will take place at the Tinwald General Saleyards on Wednesday 12 March.

​The research project led by AgResearch scientist Dr David Scobie into easy-care and shedding sheep has finished.  As the two flocks, totalling approximately 300 sheep, are now surplus to requirements on the Winchmore Research Farm, AgResearch is holding a dispersal sale.

In 1997, AgResearch predicted that the cost of growing wool would exceed the value of the wool grown in what was then a foreseeable future. 

“We had two challenges,” says Dr Scobie.

“To develop a wool-less sheep and also to develop a low maintenance sheep.”

The Wiltshire flock were selected for decreased fleece weight for a period of 11 years.  . .

Farmer-friendly sheep don’t need sheering –  Annabelle Tukia:

It is the end of an era for AgResearch, who have put their 300 scientifically-bred sheep under the hammer.

For the past 13 years scientists have been experimentally breeding two different types of sheep with some very unique features.

A small but enthusiastic crowd flocked to the Tinwald sale yards. On sale were no stock-standard ewes. For the past 13 years AgResearch has been breeding a line that would appeal to farmers and lifestylers for their low maintenance.

The first is a breed that sheds its own wool and requires no shearing and the second a composite breed that does not need its tail docked and has far less wool in areas that would normally create dags. . . .

Taranaki Dairy Awards Winners Back on National Stage:

Experience counts and for two of the major winners in the 2014 Taranaki Dairy Industry Awards they have that in spades.

Both 2014 Taranaki Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Charlie and Johanna McCaig, and 2014 Taranaki Farm Manager of the Year, Michael Shearer, have won regional dairy industry awards titles previously.

In 2011 the McCaigs placed second in the New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year competition, after winning the Taranaki regional title while in 2012 Mr Shearer placed third in the New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year competition after winning the West Coast Top of the South regional title. . .


Rural round-up

March 13, 2014

Will Lincoln survive? – Tony Chaston:

Lincoln University is awash in rumour as it undergoes a major restructure of it’s workforce in a bid to survive.

There are reports it is financially stretched.

Earthquake payments have yet to be assigned even though Canterbury University has received theirs and it was recently revealed Lincoln has lost its bid for major funding for its Centre of Research Excellence group.

Voluntary redundancies are being proposed and many long-term staff fear the next step will be forced redundancies.

Staff morale is said to be low and the discord between the academics and management is growing as the University searches for a new direction. . .

Succession a key focus of young farmers’ business management program in Year of the Family Farm:

With 2014 the International Year of the Family Farm, the pressing issue of farm succession will be a key focus of this year’s Rabobank Farm Managers Program.

The program – which is designed to strengthen the operational and strategic skills of tomorrow’s farm leaders – will cover succession planning for farm businesses, along with a range of topics including leadership, business planning and financial and economic management.

Applications are now open for the 2014 Farm Managers Program, which will be held in Victoria in June. . .

Pakeha farmer doing it for whanau:

A Pakeha farmer who manages two Maori-owned farms with his Maori whanau near Whakatane is encouraging other farmers to form partnerships with Maori Land Trusts.

Peter Livingston is the farm advisor for both the Putauaki Trust’s Himiona Farm and Ngati Awa Farm Limited’s Ngakauroa Farm.

The two farms are finalists in this year’s Ahuwhenua Awards celebrating Maori farming excellence. . .

Drones Could Revolutionize Agriculture, Farmers Say – Gosia Wozniacka:

Idaho farmer Robert Blair isn’t waiting around for federal aviation officials to work out rules for drones. He and a friend built their own, outfitting it with cameras and using it to monitor his 1,500 acres.

Under 10 pounds and 5 feet long nose to tail, the aircraft is the size of a turkey and Blair uses it to get a birds-eye view of his cows and fields of wheat, peas, barley and alfalfa.

“It’s a great tool to collect information to make better decisions, and we’re just scratching the surface of what it can do for farmers,” said Blair, who lives in Kendrick, Idaho, roughly 275 miles north of Boise.

While Americans are abuzz about Amazon’s plans to use self-guided drones to deliver packages, most future unmanned aircraft may operate far from the nation’s large population centers.

Experts point to agriculture as the most promising commercial market for drones because the technology is a perfect fit for large-scale farms and vast rural areas where privacy and safety issues are less of a concern. . . .

Investment opportunity in Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme;

Qualified Hawke’s Bay investors are being given the opportunity to express their interest in investing in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company Ltd (HBRIC Ltd) has released a Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM) calling for expressions of interest from qualified locals interested in a potential investment in the water storage scheme.

Interested parties are not being asked for money now. They have until the end of April to indicate their interest in the proposal, and will then be given detailed information on the investment opportunity via an Information Memorandum which will include modeled cashflows and further specific information that is currently commercially sensitive. The Information Memorandum is due for release in May 2014. . . .

NZ develops world-first solution to improve ATV use:

Trial underway at Landcorp with Blue Wing Honda and Blackhawk Tracking Systems

Blue Wing Honda have engaged Blackhawk Tracking Systems to develop a world-first solution to help improve ATV safety with a focus on driver behaviour and communication.

Called Farm Angel, the Blackhawk technology is being trialled by Landcorp Farming Ltd, which is committed to improving safety on farms. Landcorp will trial the equipment on around 60 ATV and Side by Side vehicles.

“This is a unique solution which will enable rider/driver behaviour to be monitored, modified and improved” says Blue Wing Honda General Manager Alan Petrie. “The aim is to save lives before they need to be saved, but should an accident unfortunately occur, Farm Angel will also assist in the recovery of seriously injured or trapped riders.

“We have been working with Blackhawk for some time to create the right system that not only helps the ATV rider get out of trouble quickly by sending an immediate automated alert to a first response Call Centre, but also improves on-farm communication while giving peace of mind to farmers, their employees and their families.” . . .

New Zealand wine Trust funds valuable research:

The Cresswell Jackson New Zealand Wine Trust has awarded its first research grant.

Under the broad objective of enhancing the success of the New Zealand wine industry, the Trust awarded the grant to scientist Dr Wendy Parr of Lincoln University. The study is in collaboration with Adelaide-based Phil Reedman MW, the University of Burgundy in France as well as London University and Oxford University in the UK.

The overall goal of the project is to provide sound, scientifically-based information concerning specific aspects of wine tasting and wine judging.

The study aims to investigate the influence of contextual variables on qualitative and quantitative aspects of sensory evaluations by testing whether wines are perceived as tasting ‘different’ under particular conditions. . .

Rockburn Wines Shine in China’s Biggest and Most Prestigious Wine and Spirits Competition:

Rockburn Wines has just been awarded an impressive four Double Gold CWSA Best Value medals at the China Wine and Spirits Awards Best Value 2014.

Double Gold Medals were handed out to Rockburn’s 2012 Pinot Noir, 2013 Pinot Gris, 2010 Chardonnay and 2013 Devil’s Staircase Pinot Gris in the blind tasting alongside the most famous brands in the world including 4,350 wines and spirits from 35 countries. The Rockburn 2009 Riesling also received a Gold Medal.

Having won a Double Gold for their 2009 Chardonnay in last year’s competition, Rockburn are once again honoured to add these latest accolades from a competition which is “the ultimate authority for wines and spirits in Hong Kong and China.” . . .


Rural round-up

February 28, 2014

It’s ‘Good Times’ following record dairy forecast:

While the dry summer is starting to bite in parts of Waikato and Northland, Fonterra has delivered excellent news for New Zealand by upping its 2013/14 forecast Farmgate Milk Price to a record $8.65 per kilogram of Milk Solids (kg/MS).

“You can say New Zealand is truly a land of milk and honey with the two being at record highs,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson, speaking from Federated Farmers Dairy Council in Wellington.

“I also think this will put a huge smile on Minister Guy’s face when he speaks to us later this morning.  If the forecast sticks this represents ‘good times’ for all Kiwis.

“In 2010, the NZIER said a $1 kg/MS rise in Fonterra’s payout makes every New Zealander nearly $300 better off.  Given this latest 35 cent kg/MS uplift, every New Zealander could be $100 better off as a result of what we do. . .

Forefront of farming’s great journey - Annette Scott:

Sarah Crofoot is a young woman with a clear vision, who is advocating passionately for farmers in the modern New Zealand economy. She talked to Annette Scott.

Sarah Crofoot grew up on a farm 45 minutes from New York City.

She treasures her rural upbringing and at just 23 she is clear on what she wants for her children and future generations.

“Because I grew up in New York it has made me appreciate how lucky we are in New Zealand, with the amazing opportunities we have in agriculture,” she said.  .  .

More than 5300 farmers to benefit from TB changes:

From 1 March 2014, more than 5300 herdowners across some 1.7 million hectares will benefit from reductions in both Movement Control Areas (MCA) and cattle and deer bovine tuberculosis (TB) tests.

Herds throughout parts of the Central North Island, Southern North Island and Northern South Island will no longer require pre-movement TB testing, but will continue to be tested annually.

Farmer and Wellington TBfree Committee Chairman Peter Gaskin no longer has to pre-movement test his cattle. He said the progress made by the TB control programme through movement restrictions and wild animal control has been particularly satisfying.

“It’s been very pleasing for farmers to be able to enjoy another on-farm benefit, resulting from the sustained pressure applied by TBfree New Zealand, as it implements the national TB control plan,” said Peter. . .

Growing Dynamic Leaders with Rural Women NZ:

Eleven women from around New Zealand arrive in Wellington today for the start of a three day leadership course co-ordinated by Rural Women NZ and sponsored by Landcorp.

The women – all Rural Women NZ members – are active in their communities and are now looking to grow their communications skills, enhance their networks, and learn more of the work of our organisation at a national level.

“The women will explore what makes an effective leader, how to influence others and the importance of networks both within the organisation and in the broader rural sector,” says Rural Women NZ national president, Wendy McGowan. . . .

ACC announces new forestry sector injury prevention initiative:

ACC announced today that work has begun developing a new injury prevention programme, aimed at encouraging safer practices in the forestry sector.

The ‘ACC Forestry Sector Injury Prevention Programme’ will be developed and implemented in collaboration with WorkSafe NZ, the NZ Forest Owners Association (FOA), the Forestry Industry Contractors Association (FICA) and the Council of Trade Unions (CTU).

ACC’s Head of Insurance Products and Injury Prevention, David Simpson, says “For the past eighteen months, the safety record of New Zealand’s forestry industry has lagged behind other New Zealand industries, as well as forestry sectors globally. Recent fatalities, eleven since January 2013, have highlighted ongoing safety concerns. . .

Online tool compares energy efficiency of dairy sheds across NZ:

Dairy farmers could save $42 million through electricity efficiency measures in the dairy shed, and now an online tool is available that gives individual farmers an idea of how well they are making use of the electricity they pay for.

EECA BUSINESS has launched the Dairy Farm Energy Efficiency tool, which compares a dairy farm’s electricity use to other dairy farms in New Zealand, and to best practice.

The average New Zealand dairy farm spends over $20,000 a year on electricity, but dairy sheds vary a lot in how efficiently they use their electricity, says Kirk Archibald, EECA projects and relationship manager.

“Some dairy farms are using three times as much electricity as others for the same milk-solids production.” . . .

Federated Farmers’ Executive an environmental leader:

Federated Farmers Meat and Fibre Executive member, Sandra Faulkner, along with her family business partners, husband Rob and brother and sister in laws, Bruce and Jo Graham, have won the Supreme Award at the East Coast Balance Farm Environment Awards last night, taking them through to the national finals on 24 June.

“We are incredibly proud of Sandra, who is both a national and provincial executive for Federated Farmers, and her business partners for taking out this award. This meat and fibre farm is as diverse as it is environmentally friendly,” says Peter Jex-Blake, Federated Farmers provincial president for Gisborne-Wairoa. . .


Pengxin posts operating loss on NZ farms

December 1, 2013

Pengxin Group which bought the Crafar farms last year reported an operating loss in their first year.

Pengxin New Zealand Farm Management reported an operating loss of $1 million in the year ended June 30 on revenue of $10.5 million, according to its first annual report to the Overseas Investment Office. The farming operation, managed by state-owned enterprise Landcorp, was hit by the drought within six weeks of Pengxin purchasing the land, sapping milk production and driving up costs to buy additional feed.

“The critical focus for Pengxin and Landcorp was to manage the welfare of all animals on the property, and protect the farming position for the subsequent season,” the report said. . .

Will the xenophobes who complain about profits from foreign-owned businesses go overseas be just as concerned that the loss has been sustained by foreigners?


The point of Landcorp

November 22, 2013

The poor return on assets which Landcorp produces each year raises the question of why the government is in the business of farming.

But there is a point to it as Bill English explained in answer to a question from Russel Norman:

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is actually selling bits of Landcorp all the time. The member may not be aware of it but the point of Landcorp was to preserve lands and survey farms for the purposes of Treaty settlements. As Treaty settlements are executed, the Government is involved in selling bunches of five, six farms. I know that offends the Greens deeply because they think the Government should own all the farms and then shut them down, but, actually, we want to get on with Treaty settlements. Landcorp is buying and leasing farms as well.

The ability to use Landcorp farms in Treaty settlements is a strong argument for the company to continue as an SOE in the short to medium term.

Once Treaty settlements are completed it will be difficult to justify Landcorp’s continued state ownership.

The best plan would be for the farms to be gradually sold and the management arm could probably be sold off separately.

However, National has no plans to sell the company and has made it quite clear that any sale of any share of an SOE would be announced well in advance to allow the public to take that into consideration when voting.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, what is true is that when the National Party sets out to execute a policy that is challenging for the public, we make it quite transparent what we are going to do if we are elected, and we give the voters the chance to cast their votes knowing that those policies have been proposed. I would invite that member to set out just as transparently, and in detail before the election, the impact of his climate change policy on household costs so that voters have the chance to look at that.

We’d all be better able to cast intelligent votes if all parties were clear about the costs of their policies long before we cast our votes.


Rural round-up

November 7, 2013

DairyNZ ramps up investment in environmental area:

DairyNZ is boosting dairy farmers’ investment in the environmental area by 61 percent in this financial year, from $6.7 million to $11 million as part of its efforts to meet its commitments under the new Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord and the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management.

DairyNZ Chief Executive, Tim Mackle, says the environmental portfolio is helping farmers boost profits while lowering their environmental impact, supporting farmer-led waterway improvement projects and investing in nutrient management research and resources. “It also supports our industry’s new dairy farming strategy and our objective to have proactive environmental stewardship.

“Biosecurity is also a big investment at $16 million but even this funding has environmental benefits as we are the largest non-government funder of the TBfree programme that focuses a lot on possum control with clear biodiversity benefits,” he says. . .

Landcorp focus will stay at home - Alan Williams:

Landcorp is getting approaches to develop and manage farms overseas but is busy enough in New Zealand.

The magnitude of its work in NZ and the opportunities ahead made expansion offshore unlikely, new chief executive Steven Carden said.

Three months into his posting at the State-owned farmer, he is working through a strategy review with the board, taking stock of where they are and the opportunities ahead. . .

Challenges to food industry for feeding the world:

Finding innovative ways to utilise waste, a greater focus on consumer driven research, and increased Government investment are just some of the challenges facing the food industry in New Zealand according to Lincoln University’s Professor of Food Science, Charles Brennan .

Professor Brennan was speaking as part of the Foods for Now and the Future Forum held at Lincoln University last week. The forum was arranged by the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science and the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology.

On the subject of wastage in food production and consumption he noted that some 50% of packaged salad greens and 40% of bread and cereals may be discarded in some countries around the world. However, utilising smarter production methods and taking a more innovative approach when it comes to wastage could mean up to one billion people could be fed worldwide. . .

Fonterra Strengthens Its Position in Australia:

Fonterra has today further strengthened its position in the Australian dairy industry by acquiring the assets of Tasmanian yoghurt business, Tamar Valley Dairy.

Under the agreement, Fonterra will acquire the processing equipment, the related services, and intellectual property and trademark for the Tamar Valley Dairy brand. The acquisition is effective towards the end of November (subject to completion of the sale), with the exact date to be confirmed.

“Fonterra is a long-standing partner of Tamar Valley Dairy, and has supported and worked closely with the administrators of the family-owned business during what has recently been a difficult period for the Tasmanian business and its founders,” said Judith Swales, Managing Director, Fonterra Australia. . .

Aussie cattle empire sale fails, amid land wrangle:

A second huge Australian cattle operation has had trouble selling, with the North Australian Pastoral Company being withdrawn from the market, amid tough industry conditions and a growing debate over land ownership.

North Australian Pastoral Company’s ruling Foster family has taken down the for sale sign after six months of marketing the 58,000-square kilometre (14.3m acre) property – an area nearly twice the size of Belgium and nearly as big as the US state of West Virginia – failed to attract an “acceptable proposal”.

Besides the Foster family’s 61% stake in Napco, a 34% stake held by London-listed plantations group MP Evans was also up for sale. . .

New Directors Appointed to Board of Aotearoa Fisheries Limited:

Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Trust) has appointed three new directors to the board of Aotearoa Fisheries Limited.

Mr Anthony Hannon, a merchant banker with extensive experience in tax consulting, private equity and asset management, and Ms Liz Ward (Ngāti Porou), a former Chief Executive of Deep Cove Fisheries and Wellington’s CentrePort, have been appointed for a term of three-years. Mr Alan Gourdie, an Auckland-based consultant with international management and marketing experience as a chief executive and director, has been appointed for a two-year term from 1 November. . .

Nominations in for Silver Fern Farms’ Director Elections:

Three nominations have been received for the two positions on the Silver Fern Farms’ Board of Directors.

Eoin Garden and David Shaw retire by rotation at the Company’s 2013 Annual Meeting which is to be held in Dunedin on 18 December 2013.

Eoin Garden has advised he will not be standing for re-election and will therefore retire at the Annual Meeting. David Shaw has advised that he will stand for re-election.

The candidates for election are:

Dan Jex-Blake
David Shaw
Richard Young . . .


Rural round-up

November 1, 2013

Drone helps Southland farmers check on stock – Dave Goosselink:

A Southland farming family have employed a set of digital eyes to help keep track of their stock.

They’re using a remote-controlled drone fitted with cameras to fly over their large farm, counting sheep and looking out for problems.

There are over 4000 sheep and cattle on the Gardyne family’s farm, and it was 13-year-old Mark who suggested turning to technology.

“Dad and I were watching TV and we saw the drones in Afghanistan for the military purposes and we decided how we could use that in agriculture,” says Mark Gardyne. . . .

Allan Barber:

The announcement by Silver Fern Farms of the reopening of its Finegand, Balclutha, casings plant eight years after it closed is an interesting example of history repeating itself. Of particular interest are the reasons behind resuscitating an operation which nobody would ever have foreseen as likely.

The first part of the explanation is both simple and inexplicable: simple because China has stopped accepting any shipments of green runners (sheep and lamb intestines) which were processed into sausage casings, inexplicable because nobody seems to know why. The second component of the explanation is belief by SFF that it can amalgamate substantial volumes of green runners from its South Island plants and add value to them profitably in the new facility. . . .

Progress for irrigation in Otago and Rangitikei:

Federated Farmers congratulates the Government on their commitment to sustainable irrigation in New Zealand.

“The Government’s $850,000 investment into the Central Otago and Rangitkei projects, through their Irrigation Acceleration Fund, will go a long way to improving these provinces economically and socially. It also bodes well for getting it right from the beginning,” says Ian MacKenzie, Federated Farmers Water Spokesperson.

“The potential for these provinces to develop and profit from a more reliable irrigation source is huge – with only two percent of our rainfall used for irrigation right now. It also will play a major part in reaching the goal to double our exports by 2025. . .

Iconic lake benefits from weed control:

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson says great progress is being made to improve the health of Lake Wanaka through efforts to rid it of a noxious weed.

Lagarosiphon, also known as South African oxygen weed, chokes waterways, smothers native aquatic plant communities and it establishes quickly if left untreated.

Weed control at Lake Wanaka is carried out by a lagarosiphon management committee, led by Land Information New Zealand. . .

Stable wool pricing needed – Wools of New Zealand:

At an estimated average production cost of $4.50/kilo of greasy wool, cross bred wool growers have had only two years of profitable returns over the past decade, continuing a 30-year downward cycle.

Mark Shadbolt, chairman of Wools of New Zealand, says the numbers make for sober reading. “The industry’s primary concern has to be with price volatility. When there’s a price spike manufacturers switch away from wool, eroding demand and fuelling further volatility. Wools of New Zealand have developed a stable pricing model designed to stabilise prices for growers and customers alike, which over time will provide incremental growth in demand and ultimately returns at farm gate.”

Writing in the just released Wools of New Zealand annual report – the first since the company’s successful capital raise was completed in February this year – Mr Shadbolt notes that the company has developed two six month stable price contracts direct with customers. . .

New programme to unlock Northland’s primary industry potential:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has launched a new programme to help unlock the potential for primary industry growth in Northland today.

“This is the start of a wider programme by the Ministry for Primary Industries to work in partnership with regions to help them further develop industries like agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and aquaculture.

“We chose to start with Northland because it has significant potential, with a good climate and a vast tracts of land suitable for further development,” says Mr Guy.

MPI is already working with two Māori-owned farms in Northland. One involves the conversion of 270 hectares of Māori land to a dairy farm. The other involves providing technical support for a 2480 hectare dairy and beef farm to increase productivity, with the support of key partners including Landcorp, Dairy NZ and Te Tumu Paeroa. . .

Special Year as 2014 Dairy Awards Entries Open:

The 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are accepting entries in what is likely to be the most memorable awards competition to date.

National convenor Chris Keeping says the 2014 awards coincide with the 25th anniversary of the New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year competition – the country’s longest running dairy farming contest.

“We are taking some time to celebrate this achievement and are enjoying the trip down memory lane as we see where some of our past winners, entrants, judges and organisers are now. What has become apparent is the long lasting effect and impact their association with the contest has had on them and their dairy farming career.” . . .

Give it up for the dairy industry’s Oscars – Willy Leferink:

What do you call the dairy industry’s Oscars, Emmy’s or the Canon Media Awards all rolled into one? It’s the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

These awards are much more than a night for farmers to don a tux and hit the big smoke, although Auckland is where the finals are being held in 2014. Next year also happens to be the 25th Anniversary of the Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year competition. For those who don’t know much about sharemilking it is a unique New Zealand pathway into farming. There is lower order sharemilking which is the first rung on the ladder before progressing onto 50/50 sharemilking. There is also equity partnership, where a farmer manages the farm and draws a salary but also has an equity stake in the farm business. All three forms are businesses and mean people with little money but a great work ethic can make a great future for themselves and their family.

In order to recognise the best in our industry is why 25 years ago, Federated Farmers ran the very first Sharemilker of the Year competition in Stratford. . .

Award-Winning Amisfield Wine Company Ownership Returns to Its Roots:

Leading New Zealand businessman John Darby recently announced he has become the sole shareholder of multi award-winning Amisfield Wine Company.

Mr Darby, who was previously a majority shareholder, assumed full ownership following the buyout of other shareholders.

Founded in 1988 and originally known as Lake Hayes Wines, vines were first planted on 110 hectares of vineyards in Gibbston Valley in the early 1990s. . . .

New HALO reds show Hawke’s Bay’s class:

Hawke’s Bay’s classic red wine characteristics shine through in two Sacred Hill HALO premium red wines from the 2012 vintage, released this week.

Named after the distinctive halo in Sacred Hill’s logo, the HALO range has earned a reputation for handcrafted, richly textured wines and the Sacred Hill HALO Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2012 and HALO Syrah 2012 continue that tradition.

Chief winemaker Tony Bish says the wines are made from small parcel selections of fruit from Sacred Hill’s best vineyards. . .


Another poor return from Landcorp

October 27, 2013

Landcorp’s full year results to June 2013 are very sorry reading.

The company made a net operating profit of $12, 959,000; a net loss after tax of $18,067,000 and paid a $5 million dividend.

It attributes the poor return to last year’s drought which hit milk production and livestock prices.

There would be few if any farms in the areas where Landcorp operates that didn’t have an equally tough year.

But none would have $1,694,900 in assets.

Landcorp has a very big asset with a very poor return.

Performance in recent years hasn’t been as bad as last season but even the best isn’t a good return on the asset:

landcorp

The company has a good reputation for staff training and genetics but neither require the state ownership of farms.

The one compelling argument for the continued ownership of the farms is as a land bank for treaty settlements.

But once they are concluded there is no need for the state to be in the business of farming.

Then the land should be sold, farm by farm, over time so as not to flood the market and depress prices.

The farm management expertise and genetics could be sold as separate companies.

That would provide far more money for research, training and other projects which would return more for the country such as irrigation infrastructure than will ever be available from Landcorp’s dividends.


Employing Kiwis first

August 27, 2013

Why do we need immigrant workers when there are so many New Zealanders unemployed?

One answer to that question is that sometimes immigrants are better than locals.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse broached the issue in a speech last week:

. . . I want to share with you my thoughts on the ‘Kiwis first’ policy in the context of migrant labour because there is debate about the number of overseas workers in our workforce and this raises a number of issues.

The broader context to that debate is simply this: the opposition often cries “Where are the jobs?” And they do so at a time when, for every Kiwi receiving an unemployment benefit there are between 3 and 4 foreign nationals working in New Zealand on various types of visas. So what many of those who ask “where are the jobs?” are really saying is “where are the jobs that are in exactly the place I want, doing the type of work I want, paying what I think I should earn and tolerating all of my shortcomings”.

And the employers who say that prospective kiwi employees are too hard to train, have bad attitudes and are generally unhappy with the quality of some of the New Zealanders they have been offered by Work and Income need to also reflect on their efforts. I appreciate that employers might not always get exactly what they want, and I acknowledge that for some young New Zealanders there are barriers to employment.

Four barriers spring to mind: education and skills, mobility, attitude and recreational drug and alcohol use. But they are barriers to overcome, not immoveable impediments. In the short term migrant labour will ease this problem, but I get the feeling that some employers and some industries have become overly reliant on this as a long-term salve.

In the future I expect industries that are successful in having an occupation added to a Skills in Demand list, or an employer granted an Approval in Principal to employ temporary migrant labour will, as a condition of the continuation of that status, be more energetic in working with Government to find a long term solution, and more diligent in demonstrating to me that they are doing all they can to ease their labour shortages domestically.

I won’t constrain a firm’s ability to grow in the short term, but I will be encouraging and expecting them to invest in New Zealanders by up skilling and training them so they have an opportunity to maximise their potential. . .

When were were applying to employ an immigrant the Immigration Department told us that WINZ had several people on their unemployed list who could work for us.

We went into WINZ to discuss the possibilities. This was a few years ago when unemployment was low. I said we could manage someone without experience but doubted there was anyone on WINZ’s books who would have that attitude we were looking for.

The consultant agreed with me and signed the immigration form saying there was no-one suitable on her books.

Unemployment is higher now so this shouldn’t be the case.

Unfortunately it sill is.

Some people don’t just want a job. As the Minister said, they want a job in a particular place, doing what they choose, paying what they think they’re worth and accepting of their shortcomings.

This isn’t just difficult for employers it makes work difficult, sometimes dangerous, for other employees.

However, while employers’ first responsibility is to their business, employees and customers, we can’t always expect to get exactly the employees we want.

We shouldn’t be expected to take on the unemployable but we can’t expect the government and other employers to do all the training and upskilling of those who, with a bit of time and effort, could be employable.

That said, maybe there’s a role for Landcorp in training agricultural workers:

Outgoing chief executive of the state owned farming enterprise, Landcorp, says it could play a greater role in industry good functions such as training and technology transfer.

But that would require the agreement of Landcorp’s sole shareholder, the Government. . . 

Chirs Kelly . . . says under the SOE Act, Landcorp is required to operate profitably. . . 

“I think if Landcorp can pass on some of its successes and help lift farming generally in New Zealand that will do a lot for the country itself ,so I see we do have a bit of an industry role as well, but it is a bit of a dichotomy with the SOE Act.”

There is such a thing as a social dividend and that would include training, for which Landcorp has a good reputation.

But there’s an awful lot of money tied up in the company which makes very low returns on capital.

Rather than making even less to fulfil a social role it would be better to sell the farms and invest at least some of the proceeds in education and training.


Tougher stance, fewer workers

August 14, 2013

A tougher stance on employees under the influence of drugs or alcohol is shrinking the rural labour pool.

Rural sector employers say they need to take a united stand against employing those who choose to work under the influence alcohol or drugs, putting safety and the business at risk.

However, the outcome of adopting such a stance has been to shrink their already limited labour pool, they say.

Employers across all sectors are becoming more vigilant about drug and alcohol testing in the workplace, as well as pre-employment testing, because they have a duty under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to provide a safe workplace. . .

People working under the influence of drugs or alcohol aren’t just a danger to themselves they can put other people vehicles, machinery and equipment at risk too.

Landcorp Farming Ltd national recruitment and training manager Al McCone said the state-owned enterprise had had a drug and alcohol policy in place since 2007.

Landcorp Farming Ltd, one of the country’s largest farmers, strictly enforced its alcohol policy and was looking to extend its drug policy, Mr McCone said.

Pre-employment drug testing was already mandatory and at present it was consulting staff about expanding its workplace testing to include random testing, he said.

Staff were required to take on many responsibilities on farm.

This included dealing with animals and machinery – a potentially ”hazardous” mix, he said.

”We need people in full control of their faculties.” . . .

But not everyone wants to be in control of their faculties.’

Drug use seemed to be a factor making it difficult for some people to get work, he said.

”As soon as they find out we have an entry drug test they will hang up [the phone].

”It’s reducing the population we can draw our workers from.” . . .

DairyNZ people team leader Jane Muir said she believed more farmers were carrying out pre-employment and on-farm drug testing. . . .

A united stand was ”the ideal”, and showed there was ”no place for drugs on farms”.

However, the shortage of labour meant it posed a ”challenge”.

Work on dairy farm involved working with other people and with a food product. Employees must be heedful of health and safety and have good skills, attitude and concentration, she said.

To attract and keep the best employees and keep drugs and alcohol out of the workplace employers had to build a reputation as an ”employer of choice”, provide ”great” working conditions and encourage staff to be involved in the business, Ms Muir said.

Contracts, systems, policies and procedures around drug-testing must be sound and adhered to by the employer, as well as the employee, she said.

”If you say you have random testing then you must carry out random testing.

”Be aware, even if someone tests positive, there is still a process that must be followed,” Ms Muir said.

Not following the process can put employers in the wrong, even when they’re right about staff trying to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The owner of a food processing business in a small town was sure one of his staff was using drugs and it was endangering him at work. He called the police who arrested and charged the worker but he was let off on a technicality.

He applied for a benefit and was told he’d have to have a stand-down period. He then took action against his former employer for wrongful dismissal, the employer lost and had to employ the man again.

The worker carried on taking drugs, endangering himself and putting the food he was processing at risk.

The employer was concerned about the bad example it set for other workers and the risks to his business and was about to sack the worker when he left.


Rural round-up

August 10, 2013

Fonterra Confirms No Health Risk with High School Project:

Fonterra today confirmed that there is no health risk to students at Palmerston North Girls’ High School who drank drinks that included whey protein concentrate (WPC80) from a batch subsequently subject to the recent precautionary recall.

Fonterra visited the school today to work with the principal and teachers as they informed students and parents about the whey protein concentrate provided to the school. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health have also been involved in supporting the school.

Fonterra Chief Technology Officer Dr Jeremy Hill said Fonterra established last night that a small portion of some potentially affected whey protein concentrate was provided to the school in February 2013. . .

Landcorp 2013 profit probably higher than forecast as it mitigates drought impact - Tina Morrison:

Landcorp Farming, New Zealand’s biggest farmer, says earnings may be a smidgen higher than first budgeted after initially thinking it may only breakeven this year when drought hit milk production and livestock price.

Net operating profit was probably $13 million in the year ended June 30, compared with its original budget of $12.7 million and down from $27 million the year earlier, state-owned Landcorp said in a statement

In January, the company, which operates 119 properties, cut its earnings expectations to between $6 million and $8 million and in March said it may only breakeven as the worst drought in 70 years crimped production and hit prices. . . .

New salmon farms get the go ahead:

New Zealand King Salmon got the go ahead yesterday for four new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds, when two appeals to the High Court were completely dismissed.

New Zealand King Salmon CEO Grant Rosewarne says he and his team are extremely relieved. He says “I am hugely proud of my team, and their absolute commitment through what has been an exhausting process. But we’re very excited and eager to get on with the business of producing the world’s best salmon”.

Once operational, the four new farms will create about 200 new jobs in the Top of the South, and benefits will start to flow through wages and additional work for local suppliers such as water taxis, engineering firms, transport companies and local shops. . .

Government welcomes King Salmon decision:

Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have welcomed the High Court’s decision to dismiss two appeals on the Board of Inquiry’s approval for New Zealand King Salmon to develop new marine farms in the Marlborough Sounds.

The decision of the Board of Inquiry, reached in February 2011, to approve four new salmon farming sites in the Marlborough Sounds was appealed by two parties and that appeal was heard at the High Court in Blenheim in May.

“The impacts of these new marine farms on the important recreation and conservation values of the Marlborough Sounds are small. This is about use of only six hectares of more than 100,000 hectares of water space in the Sounds,” Dr Smith says. . .

Sanford to miss forecast on lower skipjack tuna, toothfish and mussel harvest - Tina Morrison:

Sanford, New Zealand’s largest listed fishing company, said annual profit will fall short of its forecast after lower catches of skipjack tuna and toothfish and slow growth in its main Marlborough mussel growing area. The shares fell.

Profit will probably be $23 million to $25 million in the year ending Sept. 30, from $21 million last year, the Auckland-based company said in a statement. That’s less than Sanford forecast in May when it said second half profit would probably match the $14 million posted in the first half.

Sanford profits are being crimped as it faces high costs of operating its vessels while its catches fail to meet expectations in the Pacific skipjack tuna fishery and for toothfish in the remote South Georgia fishing zone. Slower growth in Marlborough mussels means those that are able to be harvested are generally smaller, resulting in lower revenue per kilogram and increased production costs. . .

Long haul to first consent for water scheme:

The company driving a large-scale irrigation and water storage scheme in North Canterbury hopes to have the initial stage operating in two or three years, now that it has got its first resource consent.

The $400 million scheme will take water mainly from the Hurunui River to irrigate up to 60,000 hectares of land on several hundred properties extending from north of the river to the coast. A series of dams will be built on a tributary of the Hurunui, the Waitohi, for water storage as well as hydro power.

Project manager Amanda Loeffen says it has been a long haul to get the first consent; initially the scheme wasn’t supported by everybody, and after a year and a half of discussions it has been completely redesigned. . .

Pins Colt Attracts Top Price at South Island Sale:

A striking colt by top-drawer stallion Pins has topped the New Zealand Bloodstock South Island Sale of Two-Year-Olds and Mixed Bloodstock, knocked down for $50,000.

Presented at Lot 29 from the draft of Phoenix Park, the colt is out of the 2005/06 New Zealand Bloodstock Southern Filly of the Year Series winner Ombre Rose and is bred on the Waikato Stud cross of Pins over O’Reilly that has proven successful in the past.

The hammer fell in favour of Joe Barnes of J & I Bloodstock Ltd, with the colt’s racing future likely to be in Hong Kong. . .


Rural round-up

July 7, 2013

Scientist’s ‘outstanding contribution’ recognised - Sally Rae:

AbacusBio managing director Neville Jopson has been recognised for his ”outstanding contribution” to animal production in New Zealand.

Dr Jopson was awarded the McMeekan Memorial Award at the New Zealand Society of Animal Production’s conference in Hamilton this week.

The award, presented annually, recognises an outstanding contribution to New Zealand animal production or the society in the past five years. . .

Red meat risks being bit player in economic revival:

One of the historical foundation stones of the New Zealand economy, the beef and lamb industry, is at risk of being an insignificant player in the country’s economic recovery, says the country’s biggest rural lender ANZ Bank.

“The soft commodity outlook is improving. The food and beverage sector is thriving. Businesses which develop NZ primary production into desirable products are the new stars of the economy. Among all this, beef and lamb – the red meat sector – is stuck in its ways and won’t benefit unless bold action is taken,” said Graham Turley, ANZ’s Managing Director Commercial & Agri.

He said the third annual Red Meat Sector Conference, which starts on Sunday, came at a critical moment in the industry’s history. . .

Landcorp and Massey University commit to Chinese partnership:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says a memorandum signed today between Landcorp Farming and Massey University and their Chinese counterparts will further strengthen the close ties between China and New Zealand in the agricultural sector.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Anhui Agricultural University, Anhui Anxin Husbandry Development Limited and Anhui Provincial Government Decision-Making Cultural Exchange Centre provides collaboration on sheep farming and pasture growth opportunities in Anhui province.

Landcorp will provide sheep farming expertise while Massey University will contribute technical consultancy services. . . .

Westland Milk Products Processes More Milk Despite Drought:

Westland Milk Products finished the 2012/13 season with a 5.3% increase in milk processed compared with the previous season, in spite of the impact of the drought on West Coast dairying.

This compares with a 2% drop in the total New Zealand milk production for 2012/13.

CEO Rod Quin says Westland, New Zealand’s second biggest dairy cooperative, processed nearly 670 million litres of milk, most of which is processed into various powder-based products for export.

“The production figure is a credit to the resilience of our shareholder/suppliers in what has been a tough season for many, and to staff who have initiated changes at the Hokitika factory to allow milk processing all year round without the traditional shut-down period.” . . .

Fitzgerald to step down from NZYF post – Annette Scott:

After 12 years as chief executive officer of New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF), Richard Fitzgerald had decided to call it a day.

Fitzgerald has told the NZYF board he will step down but expects to be with the organisation for a few months yet as he works through the process of finding his replacement, scheduled to be in place by mid-September, and the transition period. . . .

 


Why is the taxpayer taking this risk?

June 25, 2013

Landcorp estimates that the heavy South Island snow falls will cost it more than $70,000.

Chief executive Chris Kelly said most of that is to cover the extra cost of workers and equipment, including helicopters, needed to reach stock on its farms in the Lake Mahinerangi area, west of Dunedin, in particular its Waipori Station.

Snow falls of up to two metres deep also damaged guttering on farm buildings that will have to be replaced. . .

The company already had much bigger losses from the effects of the drought in the North island.

Why is the taxpayer facing that risk?

The only valid argument I’ve come across for keeping Landcorp is as a land bank for Treaty of Waitangi claims.

Once all of those have been settled any remaining farms should be sold off  in an orderly manner so as not to flood the market.

It’s possible the undoubted expertise the company has in farm management might have value as a business which could also be sold.


Rural round-up

May 27, 2013

Go farming, young Kiwis - Bruce Wills:

What is your perception of a farm worker? The response from those who do not know much about farming is possibly that they are low-skilled, low-waged and over-worked.

Federated Farmers, with Rabobank, have produced an annual remuneration survey for a number of years with the most recent released last month. The positive thing about social media is that it is easy to catch out those ‘swinging the lead’. The downside is that it anyone with a keyboard can take aim and fire a salvo.

The response to our 2013 survey, aside from one colourful Facebook post, has been that it is on the money, if you excuse a poorly chosen pun.

We are coming out of the shadows on farm worker remuneration to counter the “response” we sometimes get. It also comes after seeing hundreds of Aucklanders queuing for seven jobs at a factory to earn just over $15 an hour. . .

Integration lifts Maori farming:

A STRATEGY shift a few years ago to integrate the dairy and sheep and beef units with a flexible stocking policy provided a step change in performance for large-scale Maori-owned farm business, Te Uranga B2.

Now, its sheep and beef unit is one of three finalists in this year’s Ahuwhenua Trophy for excellence in Maori farming.

“The farming philosophy is around maximising pasture production, optimising feed conversion and then maximising productivity,” says Te Uranga B2 chairman Traci Houpapa. . .

Tech summit for primary industries:

For the first time in New Zealand, a mobile communications event is being run specifically for primary industries.

MobileTECH Summit 2013 runs in Wellington on August 7-8. A two-day programme bringing together this country’s leading communications specialists, technology providers and those working in the primary industries, has just been released. Details can be found on the event website, www.mobiletechevents.com. . .

Why export when you can milk it abroad? -  Simon Day:

Hundreds of plump cows line their concrete stalls like rows of dominoes at Fonterra’s Yutian 2 farm, 120 kilometres east of Beijing.

The cows push their heads through the steel bars of their confinements to eat imported alfalfa feed off the floor. Fans line the roof of the long barns, cooling the herd on a hot China day.

There is no grass in sight.

These are Kiwi cows, shipped to China or bred locally from New Zealand genetics. But this looks nothing like New Zealand farming. . .

Too late to avoid ‘dirty dairying’ taint – Aaron Leaman:

The directors of a Mangakino farming company fined $30,000 for breaches of the Resource Management Act have expressed their “shame” at being labelled dirty dairy farmers.

Fernaig Farms Ltd, owner of a 210-hectare block in McDonald Rd, Mangakino, was this week fined $30,037 and ordered to pay $132 costs after pleading guilty to two charges of unlawfully discharging animal effluent to land.

The prosecution, brought by Waikato Regional Council, related to offending on February 23 last year in which effluent was discharged from a holding pond and from an irrigator.

Council staff visited the property after an aerial flyover of dairy farms in the region. . .

Exploring alternatives to quad bikes -  James Houghton:

There has been a huge amount of discussion around quad bikes again, after LandCorp announced they are not using them on their new North Island farms and will be moving away from them on all other operations. Certainly, having 20 accidents involving their staff and quad bikes since December is a sobering statistic. Perhaps for large corporate farmers, with huge numbers of staff to think about, looking at other options is a sensible solution.

Just because LandCorp does something it doesn’t mean all farmers have to follow suit, but it is good to follow the discussion and know what the options are. Many farmers seem to be moving towards the “side by side” or farm utility vehicle options for getting about on their farms because they allow for passengers, carrying loads and do not require a helmet.

Within this category there are again many options. It is about looking at the needs you have on your farm, selecting the best tool for the job and making sure everyone using them is trained to operate that tool safely. . .


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