Rural round-up

January 24, 2014

Promise of plenty – Nigel Stirling:

This year has the potential to be a vintage one for breaking down barriers to New Zealand’s agricultural trade with the rest of the world.

But don’t break out the champagne just yet.

It is a fine line between success and failure in trade negotiations, which have a habit of falling at the last hurdle. . .

Dam directors keep the faith – Tim Fulton:

The 6.2 magnitude earthquake near Eketahuna had Tim Fulton asking what quakes mean for dams like Ruataniwha in Hawke’s Bay.

The Ruataniwha dam will be strong enough to withstand a large earthquake, project manager Graeme Hansen says.

The planning team had done quake investigations to death, he said.

The Mohaka fault goes through the water-storage scheme’s proposed reservoir area.

“It’s certainly been a bone of contention, or should I say a topic of conversation, around building a water-storage structure on or near a major fault,” Hansen said. . .

Dairying boost tipped for economy – Christopher Adams:

Economists say a combination of rising international dairy prices and favourable farming conditions bode well for New Zealand’s economic growth, which is already expected to outpace most other developed nations this year.

Dairy product prices in Tuesday night’s GlobalDairyTrade auction rose 1.4 per cent from the last sale on January 8, led by surging prices for butter and cheese. Those two products have posed problems for Fonterra as their prices lagged behind whole milk powder.

The average winning price was US$5025 ($6040) a tonne from US$4953 a tonne at the last auction. About 41,024 tonnes of product was sold, down from 46,418 two weeks ago, for about US$206.1 million. . .

Manuka authentication project:

An organisation representing most of the country’s manuka honey producers says it’s got the backing of a major overseas customer for a project authenticating the highly-prized honey.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has begun working on a new guideline for New Zealand’s most valuable honey, after concerns were raised in some overseas markets about false claims and labelling for manuka, which commands top prices for its anti-bacterial and healing qualities.

Meanwhile, the Unique Manuka Factor or Honey Association is collecting samples from around the country to establish a chemical profile of manuka. . .

Looking forward to 2014 – Kirsten Bryant;

There’s been plenty to keep us occupied on the farm over January, so it’s been very much a case of head down. But, out the corner of my eye, I optimistically note that we’ve had great grass growth and improved stock performance.

Year to date, my impression is that, while we don’t have the certainty of price that dairy farmers enjoy, sheep and beef farmers are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. It’s amazing the effect available feed and forecast rain have on the soul and, consequently, our outlooks. It feels good.

This week, I had the privilege of listening to the inspirational Kevin Biggar – one half of TVNZ’s First Crossings’ duo. Kevin was speaking about his journey from self-admitted couch potato, to Trans-Atlantic rower and South Pole adventurer. . .

Rabbits threatens our gin and tonic: Wild animals are overgrazing on juniper berries:

Wild rabbits are threatening the traditional British gin and tonic by over-grazing on juniper berries – a key ingredient of the drink.

The animals have eaten so many plants that experts fear the juniper could be wiped out in parts of the country.

Now a gin manufacturer has donated £1,000 to Steyning Downland Scheme, a charity working to save the ancient plant which is also under threat from disease.

It will use the money from No.3 London Dry Gin to put up fences around the few remaining junipers near Lancing, West Sussex.

It is hoped the barriers will keep the rabbits out and protect the juniper, which gives gin its distinctive bitter taste. . .


Rural round-up

January 7, 2013

Rabbit rise may bring 1080 response – Gerald Piddock:

Environment Canterbury’s annual count shows that rabbit numbers are on the rise in the Mackenzie Basin and Omarama.

The regional council monitors rabbit trends every year and the latest draft analysis showed a noticeable increase of rabbits in the Mackenzie Basin, eastern Mackenzie around Haldon Rd and in Omarama.

ECan’s biosecurity team leader, Brent Glentworth, expected there would be some large 1080 operations this summer, particularly on the eastern side of the Mackenzie, as land owners battle to keep rabbit numbers down. . .

UK biofuels influence NZ wheats:

European, notably UK, breeding programmes, growers at PGW’s agronomy group field day last week heard.

 Europe is normally a regular exporter of wheat, but three massive biofuel plants have created an extra 2mt of demand for wheat, preferably high starch soft milling types that maximise ethanol yield, Limagrain’s UK director of sales and New Zealand coordinator, Alastair Moore (pictured), explained.

“We’re seeing quite a drive to the soft wheat end and a lot of the new varieties recommended [in the UK] were in that category.” . .

Insecticide removal would hit crops hard – Gerald Piddock:

Seed and cereal farmers face a major risk to their productivity and profitability from the removal of organophosphate insecticides from the market.

Current control practices used by farmers, particularly during crop establishment rely heavily on organophosphates which are currently the subject of a review and re-regulation by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Organophosphate insecticides are used by farmers to control grass grub, one of the country’s most destructive plant pests. . .

Van der Heyden works till end:

OUTGOING FONTERRA chairman Henry van der Heyden will be using the next five months as a director to help execute the co-op’s strategy refresh.

Van der Heyden is defending his decision to stay on the board after relinquishing the chairmanship to John Wilson. He says the decision has been taken in the interest of the co-op. Some shareholders have questioned the decision.
Van der Heyden says he has always done what is right for Fonterra. . .

Kirkwood takes vote for council – Gerald Piddock:

Oamaru dairy farmer Greg Kirkwood is the new Fonterra Shareholders councillor for ward 32 in Southern Canterbury.

Mr Kirkwood was elected to the council ahead of Geraldine dairy farmer Ad Hendriks.

He takes over from Desiree Reid, who retired from the position by rotation.

Mr Kirkwood said he put his name forward for the Shareholders Council because he wanted to get involved more in the co-operative.

Raw milk health risks under review:

Since the 1950s, New Zealand’s commercial milk supply has been pasteurised – treated with heat to kill bacteria – and most of us have swallowed the official position, that untreated milk is potentially dangerous to drink.

But there’s a growing trend of consumers wanting their food in a natural state, and that includes milk. They say raw milk is not only safe, it’s better for you, and a major study is underway to see if they’re right.

Most of us buy our milk pasteurised and from a dairy or supermarket fridge. But for mums like Angela Jones that’s changing. She’s one of thousands of townies making a regular trek to a trusted farmer to buy raw milk at the farm gate. . .


Rabbits galore

January 24, 2010

My father used to tell us of hillsides moving with rabbits on Ashridge in the Hakataramea Valley where he worked in the late 1930s.

A concerted eradication programme, helped by the establishment of Rabbit Boards got the pests under control.

Numbers increased again until the 1990s when someone – illegally – introduced rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD).

The rabbit population dropped but it’s on the rise again.

It’s not unusual to see several rabbits in a very short distance on the road at night. In spite of regular shoots and the efforts of Pepper, the dog, we often see them on the farm and our lawn.

RCD comes in waves and it must be ebbing now. But even at its peak it needs to be complemented by traditional methods of culling – poisoning and/or shooting.

Unfortunately when farm budgets are strained pest destruction may not be a priority for everyone and rabbits don’t stop at the boundaries of farms which don’t do their bit.

We’re not getting back to the moving hillsides my father witnessed but when we came down Mt Iron a couple of weeks ago we counted more than 30 rabbits on a sunny face about the size of a couple of netball courts.

When numbers are getting that bad on the edge of town they’re even worse in the country.

Is it time to consider reinstating pest destruction boards?


For carnivores only

July 7, 2009

One of things my farmer likes to do when we’re in other places is check out the prices, cuts, quality and variety of meat.

At Barcelona’s Mercat de la Boqueria we found lamb legs  for 8.90 euros a kilo which is about $NZ20.

 

barcelona 3

These are the equivelent of our alpha grade lambs.

They are killed on weaning either because there isn’t enough feed to sustain ewes and lambs over summer or because the ewes are primarily for milking not meat.

This makes the meat sweeter than we’re used to.

There were also rabbits:

barcelona 4

I couldn’t bring myself to take a photo of the tripe, but did capture this:

barcelona 5

That’s sheep’s heads on the right and beside them are bulls’ testicles.


15,495 pests potted in Easter Bunny hunt

April 13, 2009

Central Otago has 15, 495 fewer pests after the 18th annual Easter bunny hunt.

Shooters potted 14,799 rabbbits as well as hares, stoats, ferrets, goats, possums, turkeys and a few feral cats.

Organised by the Alexandra Lions Club, the annual hunt has been responsible for culling almost 200,000 rabbits from Central Otago since its inception in 1991.

Local scouts also benefitted, being commissioned by the Lions to pick up all the dead rabbits and dispose of them in a purpose-dug pit.

  Rabbit tallies

Kills from the past 10 hunts:

•2009: 14,799 (39 teams)
•2008: 15,542 (35 teams)
•2007: 16,121 (31 teams)
•2006: 12,494 (35 teams)
•2005: 20,201 (43 teams)
•2004: 11,546 (33 teams)
•2003: 9148 (27 teams)
•2002: 7513 (18 teams)
•2001: 3694 (17 teams)
•2000: 4324 (20 teams)

Record
•1997: 23,949 (44 teams)

The high numbers of rabbits killed in the last few years indicates that the population is rising again as resistance to RCD (rabbit calicivirus disease)  grows.

We’ve noticed rabbit numbers in North Otago increasing and in spite of regular shooting the number of young shurbs in the garden which are repeatedly nibbled indicates we’re not making much headway against them.

It’s not nearly as bad as it was in the 1930s when my father recalled there were so many rabbits it looked like hillsides were moving, but it’s a growing problem and I’ve got some sympathy with arguments for the reinstatement of rabbit boards.

Rabbits don’t respect boundaries so individual property owners’ pest control is only as good as that of their neighbours.

Reinstating boards would mean the that the effort, and money, most put into pest destruction isn’t sabotaged by the few who do little or nothing to eradicate pests on their properties.


Where have all the flowers gone?

February 14, 2009

Not wanting to let accuracy get in the way of a headline with a musical allusion, I’ve asked the wrong question.

This isn’t a case of where have all the flowers gone, but why haven’t they come?

I planted the sweet pea seedlings at the end of November and they’re usually covered in blooms by early January, but here we are half way through February and there’s only a few flowers.

febrero1

The seedlings did have a bit of a difficult start thanks to the rabbits, but they recovered once I covered them in bird netting. I removed the netting once they were established and the rabbits have left them alone, though it looks like they’re still nibbling the lobelia edging.

We’ve been away often, but I’ve neglected sweet peas in dry years in the past and they haven’t sulked so I don’t think lack of water is to blame.

Normally if I keep picking them they give me blooms well into May, but some of the plants are already beginning to look a wee bit past it before they’ve even started flowering.

So what have I done wrong and what should I do to ensure next year’s sweet peas bloom in profusion as they normally do?


If only . . .

December 29, 2008

. . .  Noah had left the rabbits behind because there is at least one large family in my garden, in spite of the presence of Pepper a Labrador/sheep dog cross with a penchant for chasing small, furry creatures.

I wouldn’t mind so much if they liked weeds but they’re more partial to flowers and are particularly fond of sweet peas.

noah


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