Rural round-up

April 14, 2014

Challenge of creating a strong red meat sector – Allan Barber:

I am obviously not alone in trying to work out ways of creating a strong red meat sector with profits being shared equitably between the participants. But it is an elusive model which nobody has yet succeeded in identifying. It makes me wonder if it is an impossible dream, but there are a number of determined dreamers who are still intent on finding the solution.

Recently I have had an exchange of emails, not always amicable, with John McCarthy, chairman of MIE, who is committed to achieving consensus among farmers about a future industry structure which will get away from the price taker model.

He takes me to task, quite legitimately, for seeing things from the companies’ perspective which, he says, focuses on making a profit for shareholders. But this doesn’t satisfy farmers’ objectives of being sustainably profitable which is the only way a strong red meat sector will emerge. He agrees the top farmers are performing satisfactorily, but in his view these only comprise 20-25% of farmers. . .

Wool industry picks up dropped stitches - Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s wool industry is ”a wee bit broken” , Wools of New Zealand chief executive Ross Townshend says.

At an autumn roadshow in Waikouaiti, Mr Townshend spoke of his observations since starting the job in August last year.

Sixty years ago, 85% of sheep farmers’ revenue was from wool and 15% was from meat, and now it was the complete opposite. . .

Linking youth and the land – Sally Rae:

Annika Korsten is on a mission to expose disengaged Dunedin youth to rural work opportunities.

Ms Korsten, a recipient of a $100,000 World of Difference grant from the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation, is establishing a programme, on behalf of the Malcam Charitable Trust, to develop opportunities for young people aged 18 to 24 to transition to work or further rural training.

Describing herself as passionate about people, place and food and the inter-relationship between the three, she said she enjoyed facilitating networks and connecting people. . .

 

The costs of GMO labelling -Foodie Farmer:

There has been much discussion over whether or not the labeling of “GMO” foods would add to the cost of food production or not. This was one of the supporting arguments for GMO labeling at the legislative hearing at the Maryland House of Delegates Committee on Health and Government Operations during which Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Michael Hansen of the Center for Food Safety, both insisted that labeling costs would be minor at best.

So does Mother Jones

So does The Grist

Wow, do these scientists and journalists have any understanding of the food supply chain from farm gate to grocery shelf?
Apparently not, nor does anyone else who thinks that “GMO” labeling won’t increase the cost of food.
Here is my pictorial analysis of the food supply chain from my farm gate: . . .

 

What is Your Dairy farm Profit?  – Pasture to Profit:

What is dairy farm profit? Is profit a dirty word? Too few New Zealand dairy farmers know their profit? Discussion groups rarely discuss or compare profit. Few farmers financially benchmark. Why do farmers and consultants continue to use profit per hectare to compare farms?

PROFIT = GROSS FARM REVENUE – FARM OPERATING EXPENSES + NON-CASH Adjustments. Non-Cash Adjustments include changes in feed & livestock inventory, inclusion of Family labour & Management and depreciation. See NZDairybase   Why do so few NZ dairy farmers know what their profit is? Profit per hectare is not enough, although every farmer should calculate Profit/hectare.  . . .


Rural round up

December 29, 2013

Wool rice product developed:

A Wellington company which has developed a new upholstery fabric blended from wool and rice straw is expecting to start commercial production next year.

The Formary, a textile design and development company, is proposing to use 70% New Zealand mid-micron wool and 30% rice straw in the fabric, which will be manufactured in China.

The Formary co-founder Bernadette Casey said manufacturing of commercial samples would start in China early next year, with full production by mid-year. . .

Indo Minister steps up rhetoric on live cattle:

The Indonesian agriculture minister Suswano has stepped up his anti-Australia rhetoric, calling for cut backs on the importation of live cattle from Australia due to the ongoing spying rift between the two neighbours.

The Minister has called on the cattle industry to cease imports of cattle from Australia and to give preference to local suppliers. He said the appeal was related to Australia’s snooping on Indonesia.

“Basically it is business-to-business, (and is) the right of businesspeople to chose where they source their meat supplies. However, when the government shows a certain political stance, it would be good if the businesspeople adapt to it,” he said. . .

Donating kidneys to protect the landscape – Erin Hutchinson:

Manawatu farmer Dave Stewart reckons the agricultural landscape needs a lot more kidneys.

Dave uses the term to describe the numerous small native-bush blocks he has planted in the small, incised gullies that criss-cross the family’s property.

Those organs across the flat to occasionally rolling territory intercept nutrients carried in paddock run-off before they enter waterways. Dave calls them nutrient-interceptor beds.

Dave and wife Jan are the fourth generation of Stewarts to farm the 600ha property at Hiwinui, a short distance from Palmerston North. . .

Year in review – April - Rebecca Harper:

Fonterra’s strong balance sheet was used to bring forward the advance payment schedule for its milk supply pool and improve cashflow for drought-affected dairy farmers. The co-op declared a net profit increase of 33% on the first half of 2011-12 to $459 million in the six months to January 31 after an 8% increase in sales volume. The milk payout forecast was lifted 30c to $5.80/kg milksolids.

The Meat Industry Excellence Group (MIE) continued to hold farmer meetings around the country to gauge support for its push for red meat industry consolidation. Meat companies said they were working together on a plan to rationalise the processing industry and the two big co-ops said they were willing to work with MIE. Tradable slaughter rights were suggested as one solution to industry woes as the impetus for change gathered momentum.

MIE elected a national executive with Richard Young as chairman. . .

And from the Nutters Club:

>:) kindest, Boris


Rural round-up

November 6, 2013

Fonterra 2.0 – Willy Leferink:

There has been more than a little soul searching by Fonterra’s Board. For all the bad press it gets slammed with locally, I can say from the World Dairy Summit in Japan that Fonterra is not just respected; it is admired by many and even feared by some across the world.

With its independent report on the non-botulism scare, Fonterra’s Board dropped a very big hint that things are going to be different going forward in deeds more than words. Given former act leader Rodney Hide admitted in print this year that “politicians leak all the time,” it must have come as a shock to the media that such a critical and sensitive report was kept tight right up until 2pm last Wednesday.

I didn’t have an advance copy just a general heads up so I raced to the internet at the same time as everybody else. There was no leak and nor was it timed to clash with some other event; Honesty 1 v. Spin Doctors 0. Even the media conference was webcast live for anyone to watch anywhere on earth. I don’t want to sound like a commercial here, but wait, there’s more. Critical parts of the report were translated into key languages so I guess Fonterra’s Board did not want there to be any ambiguity.

Yet the words of Jack Hodder, who chaired Fonterra’s independent board inquiry, sticks in my mind – the biggest thing that needs to change within Fonterra is cultural. . .

 Farmers urged to vote in historic meat co-op elections:

Given strong moves to restructure New Zealand’s red meat sector, Federated Farmers is describing the director elections for Silver Fern Farms and Alliance Group as historic.

“If you want empowerment in your farming business then as shareholders you need to vote,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre Chairperson, newly returned from a World Farmers’ Organisation event in Zambia.

“Set against a backdrop of what could be up to three million fewer lambs and declining stock numbers, future generations of farmers will ask current shareholders how they voted. . . .

New sentencing options for polluters not needed, says minister:

The Government has rejected a suggestion that more flexible sentencing options for judges are needed to help the fight against agricultural polluters

In a speech to the Environmental Compliance Conference this week, Environment Court judge Craig Thompson says more imaginative sentencing options could lead to better outcomes for both the environment and farmers.

Judge Thompson suggests that judges should have the power to shut down the worst offenders altogether.

He says those farmers or farm companies place a huge burden on the enforcement and prosecution resources of councils that are unfortunate enough to have them as ratepayers. . .

Fonterra and Tatua paths might cross in Australian tangle:

Cross-ownership and joint ventures could see two New Zealand rivals working together depending on the outcome of wrangling for ownership of an Australian dairy company.

Dairy companies throughout the world often own a stake in competitors or operate joint ventures, an Australian analyst Jon Hauser of XCheque says.

“There’s a whole range of commercial joint ventures and ownership structures between private companies and private companies, and private companies and co-operatives,” Hauser said. . .

Fleeced: 160 sheep stolen from field near village of Wool – Adam Withnall:

Dorset police are appealing for witnesses after 160 sheep were stolen from a field near the village of Wool.

The rustlers are thought to have had to use a large lorry to move the animals, which were all marked and electronically tagged.

Police said the incident took place between 8am on Saturday 2 November and 2.30pm on Monday, at the field which lies next to the A352 between Wool and the nearby village of East Stoke. . .

 

Gigatown competiton could benefit a rural town:

Farmers see the benefits for their rural town if it were to win Chorus’s year-long competition to bring the fastest broadband speed to one New Zealand town

FWPlus followers tweeted that it could have both indirect and direct benefits for farmers.

“Fantastic urban internet will help rural communities indirectly by helping their towns thrive,” @AaronJMeikle tweeted

The one-gigabit per second broadband speeds – up to 100 times faster than most cities around the globe – would act as a magnet and attract businesses to relocate to that town, he tweeted.

Another direct benefit, he tweeted, was that it would provide services that fitted farmers’ time constraints.

This is why I’m supporting #gigatownoamaru


Rural round-up

July 25, 2013

Korean visit to address fears about trade direction - Marie

Prime Minister John Key heads for South Korea on Thursday for an official visit warning that New Zealand’s fifth biggest trading partner will slip down the rankings without a free trade agreement.

War commemorations will be a central feature of the visit, with 30 New Zealand veterans joining Key’s entourage to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. 

Key said outside those events, the priority was to make progress on reaching an FTA. . .

Farmer Confidence Rebounds, New Survey Finds:

Federated Farmers’ New-Season Farm Confidence Survey, undertaken at the start of the 2013/14 season, has shown a major turnaround in farmer confidence.  This result is in keeping with other recent farm and business confidence surveys.

“Farmers are showing a lot more optimism in both the wider economy and individual farm prospects,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“You could say farmers are in recovery mode but this bounce back comes off a low base.  There is still a large gap in the sentiment of dairy farmers when compared to the other farming sectors.

“Six months ago, farmers were fairly negative about the wider economy and were very pessimistic about their own profitability.   This was particularly the case for sheep and beef farmers. In contrast, dairy farmers were feeling more optimistic than they had been at this point last year [July 2012], thanks mainly to better dairy commodity prices and growing conditions. . .

Alliance lamb in Oliver’s Russian eatery - Alan Williams:

Alliance Group lamb from New Zealand will be on the menu at the new Jamie Oliver restaurant due to open in Russian city St Petersburg.

The contract was a good boost to the business Alliance had built with Russian food service companies and restaurants over the past 12 years, marketing general manager Murray Brown said.

It highlighted the growing status of the group’s Pure South brand as a leading red-meat export, he said. . .

Eliminating wool’s dirty secret:

With New Zealand’s main-shear approaching, Federated Farmers and the NZ Shearing Contractors Association are backing moves to cut the woolshed contamination of wool. If successful, it could boost farmgate returns by a couple of million dollars each year.

“When you are dealing with a $700 million export, cutting wool contamination translates into a big opportunity for fibre farmers,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre spokesperson.

“As a farmer, the easiest way for us to increase our returns is to focus on what we can control. Woolshed contamination is a perfect example of this. . .

Head in a bucket – he does that every morning – Mad Bush Farm:

 He’s old, muddy, grumpy and he wasn’t making it any secret he wasn’t going to be sharing his breakfast with Ranger and the other little horses. As for me well the black eye has at last waned to a faded reminder of Muphy’s visit last week to the farm. The cows and naughty little Tempest, are finding out the hard way that an electrified wire is now on the road fence. We’ve had a few fine days, it’s still a bog hole here. My complaints are going unheeded by Mr Winter. He won’t be leaving until the end of August – darn. I’m going back to the mud now to complain some more or mayube I’ll just go and have a coffee instead

Talking of horses I found this beautiful tribute to the Arabian horse done with clips from the Black Stallion and other films. . .

Jousting for poll position – Milk Maid Marian:

Scuffles broke out right across the paddock as the weak winter sun lit the stage for a bovine pugilism festival. The cows were feeling magnificent and, unable to contain their energy, were ready to take on all comers.

The kids and I love watching the cows “do butter-heads” and the cows seem to love it, too. For every pair or trio engaged in warfare, there will be a group of curious onlookers and one scuffle seems to inspire more outbreaks.

Does butter-heads have a serious purpose though? Yes, it does. The herd has a very structured pecking order. Cows come into the dairy in roughly the same order every milking and the smallest and most timid are inevitably last. Mess them up by splitting the herd into seemingly random groups for a large-scale vet procedure like preg testing and you can expect trouble. . .


NZ presents new prince with wool

July 23, 2013

New Zealand’s gift to the baby prince is made from fine wool:

Prime Minister John Key today congratulated Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, on the birth of their first child, a boy.

“This is wonderful news for Prince William and Catherine,” says Mr Key.

“The birth of a child is a time of great joy and excitement, and I know they will make excellent parents.”

Mr Key also extended his congratulations to The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, and The Queen and Prince Phillip, on the arrival of the newest member of the Royal Family.

. . . New Zealand’s official gift to the Royal couple is a hand-spun, hand-knitted fine lace shawl, similar to the one that New Zealand gave when Prince William was born. The intricate shawl has been designed by Margaret Stove, who was also responsible for Prince William’s shawl. Cynthia Read spun the wool and knitted the shawl. . .

Photo of Cynthia Read and shawl, Photo credit Sacha Kahaki.

 

 

. . . As well as the shawl, and with the blessing of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, an invitation was sent to knitters around the country to knit baby singlets to give to new parents at local maternity and neonatal units on the couple’s behalf. . .

That’s a lovely way to honour the birth and help babies who will be in greater need of gifts than the new prince.


Rural round-up

July 22, 2013

‘Real people’ contact informs policy - Sally Rae:

Representing the farming community has been a ”privilege” for Matt Harcombe.

Mr Harcombe is leaving Federated Farmers, after 12 years working for the rural lobby organisation, to join the Ministry for Primary Industries in a Dunedin-based policy role.

The main highlights of his time with Federated Farmers had been the relationships established with farmers and working closely with the organisation’s provincial presidents and national board, he said. . .

Rise of the machines – robotics meet farming – Dr William Rolleston:

In the very near future ‘drones’ could well take the place of workers in forestry and a host of different industries.  It may be a case of not wishing too hard for what the CTU wants because an obvious solution to “carnage,” as CTU President Helen Kelly graphically described forestry, is to completely remove the person from the risk equation.  No person, no accident.

The CTU has demanded to know how forestry will stop the “carnage” and we know agriculture is also in the CTU’s crosshairs.  In 2010, the Forest Owners Association was one of the first to enter into a Primary Growth Partnership with the Government.  This has flown under the CTU and media radar but the PGP’s vision is “no worker on the slope, no hand on the chainsaw”.

The outcome will likely be drone logging machines reflecting an increasing use of robotics on-farm and in our farm system. . . 

Fleeces ‘absolutely fabulous actually’ – Sally Rae:

Ask Marnie Kelly what she likes about Matakanui Station’s fine-wool fleeces and the answer is simple – ”they’re absolutely fabulous, actually”.

Mrs Kelly is the general manager of Central Otago-based Touch Yarns, which produces mostly hand-dyed wool yarns which are exported to Europe and the United States, as well as sold in shops throughout New Zealand and Australia, online and through a retail shop in Clyde. . .

MIE seeking farmer registrations – Sally Rae:

Meat Industry Excellence is seeking registrations from farmers to ensure they are up to date with what the organisation is doing in its bid to drive reform in the meat industry.

While the group had been ”a bit slow off the eight-ball” communicating with farmers, a website had now been launched, chairman Richard Young, of Tapanui, said.

Farmers were encouraged to register on www.mienz.com and also provide details on their farming operations, including what meat companies they supplied. . .

Maori farmers launch a new network – Murray Robertson:

A GROUND -breaking new collaborative initiative to develop Maori farming in Tairawhiti sprang out of the major Maori agri-business hui in Gisborne on Thursday.

More than 160 people attended the day-long event at Shed 3 at the Gisborne port and heard a range of impressive presentations.

The word “collaboration” was the common theme and a challenge was issued to Maori agri-business leaders to work together to capture more value for their owners. . .

Milder flavours in latest olive harvest -

Customers of Nelson olive oils can expect milder, better balanced products from this year’s harvest, say growers.

After a tough, wet growing season last year, which made it difficult to produce top oils, the long, dry summer has been much kinder, although rain before and during picking caused some disruption.

The region’s biggest grower, Roger Armstrong, of Tasman Bay Olives, is pressing about two-thirds of a record crop of about 280 tonnes – 40 tonnes more than in 2011 – and he’s happy with what he’s seen. . .

Hemp growers ready for success – Sandie Finnie:

Waikato couple Dave and Anne Jordan are prepared for a cropping venture which slots into the new “greenwave” of products in demand around the world.

For the last four years the Jordans have trialled growing industrial hemp and are now building up their seed stocks so they can do large plantings.

Meanwhile they sell hemp oil for skin care and related products at their local farmers’ market and can barely keep up with demand. . . .


More wool woes

July 21, 2013

Canterbury Woolspinners’ proposal for 50 redundancies in Dannevirke is sad news for the staff and the town.

It is also concerning for wool producers.

Carpet isn’t the floor covering of choice in many countries and even where it is there are synthetic alternatives which are often cheaper.

There’s an opportunity to tap into the green market  going begging.

If only the strong wool industry could follow merino’s example and sell itself as the natural, renewable, flame retardant material it is.

Jon Morgan reminds those of us who grow it that we should be setting a good example by using it in our homes and clothing.

. . . I’m not throwing off my winter woollies just yet.

And they are wool. The blankets on my bed, the rugs on my floor, the clothes on my back (and front). I couldn’t look sheep farmers in the eye if they weren’t.

But a surprising number of sheep farmers are not wearing wool. Quite often their outer clothing is made from a synthetic fibre.

Which makes me wonder about their carpets . . .

If we don’t use the wonderful fibre we grow we have only ourselves to blame if other people don’t either.


And the bride wore wool

June 30, 2013

When we grow it we should use it but we don’t all go as far as wearing it to our own weddings:

And the bride wore white – long, curly white strands of wool.

Louise Fairburn, who is an award-winning sheep breeder, decided to get married in a fleece from her own flock.

She designed the gown and took wool from her favourite rare Lincoln Longwool, Olivia.

And she extended the theme to the rest of her big day, putting her groom Ian, 42, in a waistcoat made from wool.

Mrs Fairburn even carried a Bo Peep-style crook and the ring bearer’s cushion was made from a fleece.

Guests were given chocolate sheep-shaped favours and even dined on lamb dishes by celebrity chef Rachel Green. . .

What do you think of this wonderful wedding dress? It was handmade out of fleece from her own flock - isn't it special? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1205007/Shepherdess-bride-marries-stunning-dress-wool-flock.html

More photos and details on how the dress was made can be found by clicking the link above.


Perfect storm shows sheepmeat challenges

June 5, 2013

A report from Rabobank shows the challenges facing the sheep industry:

The New Zealand sheepmeat industry has been riding a ‘rollercoaster of returns’ in recent years, according to agribusiness banking specialist, Rabobank. A perfect storm of high supply, strong local currency and weak consumer demand has reduced returns and some key challenges must be addressed in order to secure a prosperous future for the sector.

In its recently released report ‘Sheepmeat – riding the rollercoaster of returns’ reviewing the sheepmeat sectors in New Zealand and Australia, Rabobank says in order to capitalise as conditions improve in established export markets, the sector will need to retain sufficient scale and market presence relative to competing meats.

Rabobank CEO New Zealand Ben Russell says the industry has experienced extreme volatility in returns throughout the value chain, and that is likely to continue with an expected supply shortfall looming in the coming season.

“The New Zealand sheep flock has been declining in size for many years with the drought and lower prices last season likely to see that trend continue next year,” he said.

“The shrinking flock has created structural over-capacity that will need to be addressed, however there are risks and practical challenges in achieving this that need to be carefully considered by processing companies.

“Ultimately the path to greater industry prosperity and growth is creating more value for consumers and a more efficient supply chain, including on-farm, procurement, processing and marketing.”

Better returns for sheep farmers depend not just on better prices for meat, it requires better returns for by-products including wool.

New Zealand’s sheep industry started to produce wool. The introduction of refrigeration enabled meat to be exported too but wool was still an important part of sheep farmers’ incomes.

Two or three seasons ago strong wool prices were reasonable but they’re fallen away again and that is one of the reasons sheep farmers’ incomes have slumped.

Notwithstanding the challenges facing the sheepmeat industry, Mr Russell says Rabobank remains enthusiastic about the long-term potential for the sector in New Zealand, and working alongside its clients throughout the supply chain to capitalise on future opportunities.

Report author, Rabobank animal proteins analyst Matt Costello says that, given the sector’s exposure to and reliance on export markets, and the fact that sheepmeat is a higher valued product, the sheepmeat industry is dependent on the economic environment and consumers in these markets.

“Market demand for sheepmeat has been subdued as a result of higher prices and fragile economies, especially in Europe, whereas Asia and the Middle East have emerged as stronger markets and should be cultivated,” he says.

“With an improving outlook in some of the lucrative sheepmeat export markets and with the optimism surrounding the potential of developing markets such as China – New Media Release June 3, 2013 2
Zealand and Australia will be the only countries positioned to supply consumers around the world.

“It is increasingly important that the sheepmeat sector retains significant scale and market presence in comparison to competing meats to remain viable and capitalise on the longer-term growth opportunities.”

Part of the problem in New Zealand isn’t competition from other meats in export markets, it’s competition for land from dairying.

Dairy returns are better and improving which has pushed up farm prices. Growing demand for milk can support the increase in prices, volatile returns for sheepmeat can’t.

The big ‘dip’

The Rabobank report finds that the variation in returns for sheepmeat producers and exporters over the past few years has been significant, with “unprecedented” volatility.

Mr Costello says there is a lack of confidence among producers across the sheepmeat industries in both countries.

“The extreme high and low points over the past few years have not helped anyone, only serving to add to frustration and disillusionment,” he says.

“In simple terms, historically tight supply from both New Zealand and Australia underpinned the initial surge in livestock prices during 2010 and 2011, and the ensuing weak prices through 2012 and 2013 have been driven by higher short-term production due to the extremely dry conditions across both countries.”

While tighter supply in 2013/14 will assist to firm pricing over the coming year, a more sustainable market recovery will need to be driven by improved consumer demand and ultimately a more buoyant global economy.

Sheepmeat isn’t a traditional food in many parts of the world but the demand for protein from developing countries might help that.

Emerging markets

Globally, rising prices have been met by stubborn consumers in the major sheepmeat export markets of the EU, UK and the US. The emergence of developing markets throughout Asia and the Middle East has helped to offset the declines in volumes and, to a lesser extent, returns from the traditional export markets.

Not only is weak consumer demand impacting returns for the industry currently, but a persistently high exchange rate has also been challenging both countries.

Even with a slight fall in recent weeks, the prolonged high dollar in both New Zealand and Australia has been pressuring competitiveness in the global market, resulting in substitution and weaker export demand for sheepmeat, the Rabobank report says.
China, the report says, is a good example of the emerging market demand for sheepmeat.

Mr Costello says China became the largest single sheepmeat export market for New Zealand in 2012, surpassing the UK for the first time ever. Furthermore, China is now Australia’s largest sheepmeat export destination. Media Release June 3, 2013 3
“The emergence of China has seen a much greater utilisation of the whole carcass as demand has grown for items that were once rendered or offloaded at a discount and sheepmeat demand is expected to grow as affluence continues to increase,” Mr Costello says.

Utilisation of the whole carcass helps returns.

If only we could persuade the Chinese to embrace wool as well . . .


Wool wonderful for rebuild

February 7, 2013

The closure of Oamaru’s woollen mill is due to several factors, among which is the decline in demand for wool carpets.

Why it is so difficult to sell a product which is natural, renewable, sustainable and grown on free-range animals in a world which is increasingly demanding such things is beyond me.

But the Christchurch rebuild could provide an opportunity to put wool to the fore on floors again.

With over two million square metres of floorcoverings needed for the Christchurch rebuild, Federated Farmers believes strong wool should be given a leading role.

“If the Christchurch rebuild does not bring woollen floor coverings to the fore, then how can we expect the rest of the world to do the same?” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fire Chairperson.

“Late last year, we asked the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) what demand it projected for floorcoverings. The answer is a staggering two million square metres.

“That is enough to line every square centimetre of a country the size of Monaco.

“According to CERA, some 200,000m2 of floorcoverings are needed each quarter for the Christchurch rebuild. This demand exists right now and will last through to the third quarter of 2014, when demand will start to reduce.

“Farmers are not looking for a hand out but a fair go for wool that is grown and processed here. If you want to help your fellow Kiwi on the farm or working in wool processing, then specifying wool for the home or office is the way to go.

“It is a lot better environmentally than putting oil-based carpets down.

“We also asked CERA if it had any forecasts for insulation demand in the Christchurch rebuild, split by synthetic, glass fibre and natural fibre.

“Sadly, there does not seem to be and that makes me wonder if wool insulation is being overlooked.

“It is here that we need the Ministry for Primary Industries to work within government to get wool fully into the rebuild; both as a floor covering and as an insulation product.

“If there are blockages then Federated Farmers wants to know so we can help unblock them.

“Out of the tragedy of these earthquakes we have an opportunity to show just how versatile natural fibres like wool can be. Being a Cantabrian, I know Christchurch will become one of the most dynamic and progressive cities on earth.

“That is why we are so keen to get Kiwi wool well inside it,” Mrs Maxwell concluded.

More than two million square metres of floorcoverings  would use a lot of wool.

There’s an opportunity here that must be pursued because, as Mrs Maxwell says, if we don’t use wool we can hardly expect the rest of the world to.


His Royal Woolliness

November 10, 2012

Federated Farmers reckon wool is getting its mojo back:

Federated Farmers is convinced wool is on the cusp of a renaissance, that will kick off Monday in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales

“Since the Shear Brilliance event takes place at the Cloud in Auckland, you can say our industry has a silver lining,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson

“It is significant that the Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre Council has resolved to publicly support the Campaign for Wool, of which, HRH The Prince of Wales is Patron.

“Natural fibres, like wool, are the most sustainable things we can put into our homes and businesses, or on ourselves for that matter. The global wool industry has been on the back foot and as farmers, we realise the need for us to get on the front foot. . .

The Shear Brilliance takes place Monday, 12 November at the Cloud in Auckland.

It will see a spectacular display of wool innovation, showcasing the properties of wool to over 200 invited guests including a large contingent of architects and major business influencers to spread the message about wool. . .

Wool is a natural, renewable product which, at least in New Zealand, is grown by free range free range stock.

That ought to tick so many feel-good boxes it should be selling itself untroubled by competition from synthetic alternatives.

Unfortunately too much of the world has yet to realise its benefits but with Prince Charles as His Royal Woolliness championing  it, wool might really be about to reclaim its mojo.


Wool carpets grow greener

August 17, 2012

Wool is the quintessential green product – natural, renewable, breathable, fire resistant and – at least in New Zealand – grown on free-range sheep.

The fire-resistance makes wool carpets popular in aeroplanes.

Even without that, the other factors ought to appeal to consumers with a green conscience and a New Zealand company has developed something to make wool carpets tick another environmental box:

Carpet manufacturer Cavalier Bremworth has unveiled a world-first carpet backing product it hopes will secure its environmental footing in the market.

It will reduce around 1200 tonnes of waste from landfills each year because it’s made by recycling your old carpet – but only if it’s made from wool. 

It looks like regular old carpet, but replacing the usual jute backing with a recycled wool product has taken two years of development, so Cavalier Bremworth is quite excited.

“Jute is an imported product and it has variable supply and cost,” says Desiree Keown, Cavalier Bremworth marketing manager. “We’ve now secured a product made entirely in New Zealand using New Zealand labour, made entirely from New Zealand recycled carpet so it’s a perfect story.”

It is estimated Kiwis dump 5000 tonnes of carpet in landfills each year. Synthetic carpet takes 50 years to break down – even pure wool takes a year.

But Cavalier Bremworth will slash that waste by a quarter. It plans to recycle 1200 tonnes of old wool carpet, turning it into new carpet backing.

Natural, renewable, breathable, fire resistant,  grown on free-range sheep, using recycled material that reduces waste – how hard can it be to sell that?

 


Rural round-up

October 22, 2011

Contamination claims rubbished - Richard Rennie:

Taranaki farmers and their regional council are demanding critics of an oil and gas drilling method show more science to prove claims about damage to their environment.

“Fracking” or deep rock fracturing for extraction of hydrocarbons in under scrutiny in Taranaki following claims by an environmental group the practice is responsible for ground water contamination, water table loss and even earthquakes . . .

Interested in more than rugby - Jackie Harrigan:

Scoping out opportunities in the New Zealand dairy industry was fitted in around rugby fixtures by a handful of Argentinian farmers in the Manawatu for the Argentina vs Georgia pool match.

Taking the opportunity to network with Kiwi agricultural businesses, the Argentinian farmers were hosted by the NZ Agribusiness Roadshow and shown facets of Kiwi pastoral farming which fitted their individual interests.

One Argentinean who visited was Miguel Rohrer, a beef and cropping farmer who grows soybean, corn, rice, peanuts and beans alongside dairy units running 1200 Holstein cows. Cows are generally run at lower stocking rates than New Zealand at around 1.5cows/ha and fed mainly on alfalfa with grain supplements to produce around 26l/cow/day . . .

Lamb docking a community affair – Jill Galloway:

There used to be 70 million sheep in New Zealand. Now there are around 32 million overwintered each year. So, fewer lambs to dock?

Maybe, but it is still a big job on sheep and beef farms.

Jacquetta Ward is just one of the many farmers docking. And she has nearby farmers, mates and people from the district helping her.

Today, they plan to dock 1200 lambs. A goodly number. But some stations dock 6000 a day. They may have 60,000 lambs to get through . . .

Lorraine hangs up the apron – Jill Galloway:

It is the cafe you can wear your working clothes into, and your gumboots.

The Feilding Saleyards Cafe is synonymous with good mugs of tea, great pies and gravy with chips, and the highly sought-after lamb shanks.

Lorraine Pretious left last Friday after 30 years preparing and serving meals to stock agents, truck drivers and farmers . . .

Women get to grips with using guns – Jill Galloway:

Women In Farming is a non-competitive group, and its members wanted to learn about guns and have a go at shooting on a range.

They get a thorough safety lesson from Marton Smallbore Rifle Club member and mountain safety instructor Peter Lissington. He takes people for their firearms licences, so he knows all about guns, the law and safety.

“I want people to know all about firearms, and feel confident about using them,” he says.

Twelve Women in Farming members find out more about rifles, what types there are and how to safely store and use them . . .

Faster internet offers potential for big gains:

Dairy farmer co-operative Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) believes that not enough attention has been given to how the Government’s rural broadband initiative will affect farmers.

Infrastructure for faster broadband to rural areas, including those in Southland, will be invested over the next six years, at a cost of $285 million.

LIC general manager of farm systems Rob Ford said people had heard about how high-speed broadband in rural areas would help schools and hospitals, but not about the connection between farming, the internet, productivity and profit.

Free website helps global sharing – Collette Devlin:

A former Southland researcher has developed an easy-to-use, free website specifically for farmers.

Gary Hutchinson, originally from Taranaki, was the project manager for Topoclimate South, a successful three-year soil and microclimate mapping programme that finished in October 2001, after mapping 830,000 hectares of Southland’s farmlands . . .

Angus burger demand boosts Southland beef sales - Collette Devlin:

Southern angus beef farms are being boosted by the popularity of McDonald’s angus burgers in the region.

Taramoa angus beef breeder David Marshall said the high sales of angus burgers at the fast-food restaurant has had a direct influence on the market, which has led to a record sales of Southland angus beef and it looked as if they were set to rise further.

Mr Marshall’s family have been breeding angus since the 1940s and his herd can be traced back to the 1860s when the first angus cattle arrived in New Zealand.

The only show in town – Shelley Bridgeman:

A & P Shows – with their prize-winning heifers, farm machinery, highland dancing, wood-chopping, sheep dog trials and carnival atmosphere – are as Kiwi as No. 8 wire and gumboots.

Last season I attended eleven, from as far north as Whangarei right down to Hawke’s Bay . . .

Focus farm is the real thing - Sue O’Dowd:

DairyNZ’s focus farm in Taranaki is being promoted as a real-life farm with challenges ordinary farmers can understand.

The first field day, with a focus on mating, attracted more than 80 people.

Chris and Kathy Prankerd’s Tariki farm was chosen earlier this year as the focus farm after 20 farmers expressed interest in the project . . .

Beef lull then bonanza tipped:

Rabobank is picking United States beef prices to soar to record highs later next year.

But first, the bank says in a new report, New Zealand will have to weather a supply “bulge”.

Escalating exchange rates, global economic uncertainty and climate risks are short-term obstacles for global beef markets, but the longer outlook remains positive, report co-author Rebecca Redmond says.

Breaking lactose down in fresh milk – Collette Devlin:

Diary giant Fonterra is now producing a lactose-free fresh milk, which means it is now in direct competition with a small Southland organic dairy company.

Early last month, Retro Organics released the first lactose-free fresh milk and yoghurt in New Zealand, which company owner Robin Greer said was the solution to a growing need.

Until now, an Australian company, Liddells, dominated the lactose-free milk market here . . .

Druming upsupport for drum use:

Avoiding accidents with agrichemicals is high on the agenda with a new drum recovery programme launched by Agrecovery Rural Recycling.  

The Agrecovery Drum programme offers farmers and growers around the country free on property collection for plastic or steel drums from 61 – 1000L in size. Drums must be empty and triple rinsed . . .

Paediatrict product move at Westland:

WESTLAND SUPPLIERS can look forward to their processor moving more of their milk up the value chain from next season. The Hokitika-based cooperative last week announced a multi-million dollar investment in a state-of-the-art paediatric nutritional product plant.  

“It’s principally about adding more value,” chief executive Rod Quin told Rural News . . .

Havard reports good return form NZ forest investments - Pam Graham:

Harvard Management, the manager of Harvard University’s US$32 billion endowment, made an 18.8 percent annual return on its natural resource portfolio, which includes majority ownership of the cutting rights to the Kaingaroa forest.

Harvard, the oldest and most richly endowed university in the US, has put 10 percent of its portfolio into natural resources, which it says is mostly timberland, and agricultural and other resource-bearing properties on five continents . . .

Ballance dinners demonstrate path to profitability:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients has pulled together a raft of experts to present at its Business Development Dinner series over the next few months.

Ballance Sales and Marketing General Manager Graeme Smith says the business development dinners are held every year as part of the co-operative’s programme to provide more information and tools to farmers.

“We want to be able to seed new ideas and new ways of thinking with our customers as part of our commitment to help them farm more profitability and more sustainably,” Mr Smith says . . .

Claim wool is losing ground to nylon carpets:

A textile industry representative says resurrecting the fortunes of strong wool is going to take more than the wool sector has come up with so far.

Carpet makers say there has been a significant drop in carpet sales, which have been blamed on unsettled world economic conditions and the rapid rise in wool prices over the past year . . .


Wool levy funds 7 entrepreneurial projects

July 12, 2011

Seven entrepreneurial projects using wool will share half a million dollars from Beef + Lamb NZ.

The cash comes from a contestable fund set up to share out the remaining wool levies, with the money going to businesses demonstrating the greatest potential to pump money back into the wool industry – and ultimately, into farmers’ pockets.

Some of the projects aim to do this by achieving savings through the development of tools and systems for improved efficiency and consistency. Others are focused on increasing demand for wool through research and the creation of new products and niche markets.

The successful applicants were chosen by an advisory panel from 28 bids by farmer groups, wool industry service providers and manufacturers.

B+LNZ Chief Operating Officer, Cros Spooner says it was exciting to review all 28 projects. “It shows there is some genuine passion and talent with companies involved in the New Zealand wool industry.”

“We believe each of the seven projects we’ve funded has a very real chance of delivering value back to New Zealand farmers, which is great news.”

To ensure the Wool Levy Fund distribution improves returns for wool growers, applicants were required to show their commitment to investing time, money and resources in the success of the project. Each of the successful projects will be matched 50:50 with funding from the applicant group.

  • Eastbourne-based Potroz-Smith Technologies Ltd is researching the production
    of an environmentally friendly, super absorbent wool-based material for use in
    personal hygiene and wound-care products that will be natural, non-toxic and
    biodegradable.
  • NZ Wool Services International will focus on developing practical tools to
    avoid underweight bales, which currently cost the industry an estimated
    $4million a year. The company is based in Christchurch.
  • Wellington company and sustainable textile inventor The Formary is looking
    at blending New Zealand strong wool and a waste material to develop a range of
    commercial and domestic interior products.
  • Wool Partners International and Banks Peninsula Wool Growers Group are
    working together to develop a truly sustainable carpet using natural processes
    and materials, including low pesticide, ethically-produced, traceable New
    Zealand wool.
  • Invercargill’s Alliance Group plans to incorporate wool production into its
    Hoofprint software package (developed in conjunction with Dunedin-based
    AbacusBio to measure on-farm carbon footprints). The company will work with NZ
    wool producers and marketers to gain extra market value for Hoofprint-accredited
    wool products.
  • Wool’s eco-friendly properties are the basis for a project by Matamata
    manufacturer Wool Equities, which will carry out market research, design and
    produce samples, and establish markets for high value bed blankets for premium
    international markets.
  • The New Zealand Shearing Contractors’ Association will use the funding to
    establish a quality assurance programme, underpinning recent work to ensure
    accredited shearing operators provide consistent product descriptions and
    demonstrate socially sound and sustainable business practices.

RadioNZ has a story on one of the recipients. Protroz-Smith Technologies is developing a super absorbent wool-based material called NatraZorb, to be used in disposable nappies, personal hygiene and wound care products .


Would a Wool-X prize inspire winning idea?

January 30, 2011

I’m not a fan of the Sunday Star Times but one good thing it does do is provide space for a column by Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson.

That allows him to communicate with an audience which probably doesn’t read or listen to rural media and to promote good ideas like this week’s (which isn’t online).

It starts:

Imagine if we had a new green export that could generate more than $600 million a year – $100m more than The Hobbit’s economic contribution. Imagine if that export was 100% pure and derived from natural, renewable sources. That product exists – wool.

If ever there was a time to sell a product with those credentials it is now.

Maybe it’s also time for a “Wool-X prize” modelled on the X-Prize Foundation “making the impossible, possible”.

The word prize is key – Virgin Galactic is now in commercial evolution after Burt Rutan spent $25m to win a $10m prize to create a cheap and reusable space vehicle. Could a Wool-X prize similarly inspire enthusiasts in shed and the world’s biggest universities? If we retained the intellectual property, it could unlock new mass market products and industries.

Even if we didn’t retain the intellectual property it would help wool get to – and pass – the $2.8 billion industry it ought to be when adjusted for inflation.

Falling supply and rising demand are taking wool prices back to peaks last seen more than 20 years ago.

A Wool-X prize could inspire a winning idea, then imagine where prices could go if innovative new uses made high demand the norm.


Wool part of the solution to falling sheep numbers

November 26, 2010

Beef + Lamb New Zealand ‘s announcement that the lamb drop was more than 10% down on last year’s wasn’t unexpected.

A cold, wet spring took its toll, not only in Southland and South Otago where it snowed in late September, but in the North Island too.

The Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Economic Service’s annual Lamb Crop Survey released today shows the number of lambs tailed was 25.11million head – 2. 8 million less than last spring – and the largest between – season percentage decrease seen in 21 years.

B+LNZ Economic Service Director, Rob Davison says both islands were affected by the cold and wet weather patterns that saw heavy snow fall to sea level in Southland during late September.

“North Island lamb numbers were back 9.5 per cent, while South Island numbers were back by 10.4 per cent.  Any regions where lambing was in full swing in late September were affected.

“Overall, the ewe lambing percentage across the country was 109.6 per cent. That’s 11.9 percentage points lower than last season’s 121.5 per cent – the lowest percentage we’ve seen since the spring of 1995.  While scanning results indicated lambing would be back slightly, it was the prolonged, cold wet weather during spring that was ultimately responsible.”

Lambs from hoggets were up 6.2 per cent on last season – this was partly because hoggets generally lamb later in spring and so largely avoided the adverse weather.  Hogget lambs this spring made up 4.0 per cent of the total lamb crop.

However, Mr Davison says continuing cooler weather, a lack of sunshine and consequent low pasture growth rates mean across the country, lambs are an average of two or three weeks behind where they would normally be at this time.  As a result, early drafts are down in both numbers and average weights.

 This will lead to a decrease in exports, although not by the same percentage.

“We estimate lambs for export will fall 1.4 million (-6.8%) on last season, to 19.5 million.  The reason for the lesser decline than the 2.8 million fall in the lamb crop, is that we predict fewer replacement lambs will be retained this season compared with last season’s high retention.  This season the trade-off will be to keep fewer replacements to generate cash flow.

“With fewer lambs to finish, average weights are expected to be up 1 per cent on last year to 17.8 kg which would make this the highest on record.  The prediction is that farmers will draft as many lambs as possible early to take advantage of the new season lamb schedule prices, then hold off until later in the season, opting to produce heavier weights to maximise per head prices – while at the same time hoping for a decrease in the New Zealand dollar by later in the season.

“Last season’s mid-November lambs were realising $5 to $5.20 per kilogram. This season, we’re ahead of those levels, around $6.10 to $6.30 per kilogram.”

Mr Davison says an active store market has already appeared, driven partly by fewer lamb numbers, but also concerns that the current La Nina weather pattern could deliver a dry summer across the country.

Farmers, and their financiers, will welcome the improved prices but the decreased numbers of lambs will put more pressure on the meat companies which were already regarded as having too much killing capacity.

However, falling numbers provide an insecure foundation  for higher prices. A stronger base requires better prices not just for meat but for wool and other by-products as well.

Wool Partners Co-operative  is offering an opportunity to for better returns from fibre, but it requires 50% of the wool clip to get under way. If it doesn’t get enough support the first realistic opporunity in years for improved returns from wool will be lost and that will be a blow to not only the wool industry but the meat industry too.

The full Lamb Crop 2010 survey is here.


Wool + waste = winner

October 15, 2010

Wool Partners International  will be supplying wool for WoJo – a furnishing fabric developed for Starbucks.

The Wellington based design team The Formary created WoJoTM for Starbucks by combining LaneveTM wool, with its sustainable, ethical and traceable qualities, with jute from recycled coffee sacks, to form the new furnishing fabric.

The fabric uses 70% strong and mid fibre wool and the jute is recycled from Starbucks’ coffee sacks.

Mixing wool with waste has to be a winner – a natural product meets waste reduction.

 Federated Farmers meat and fibre spokesman Bruce Wills is excited about the venture:

“It’s an inspiring twist on the adage of something new and something old.

“While the initial focus of WoJo is upholstering Starbucks’ 8,000 stores outside of the United States, The Formary has really created a whole new ecologically friendly fabric.

“With the manufacturing partnership with Yorkshire-based Camira, we have a genuine opportunity to get wool back into people’s minds for their homes, offices, schools and even public transport.   Not just here but right around the globe.

“It’s easy to overlook the nearly $600 million that wool generates each year for New Zealand.  Yet we feel the potential is more than five times that sum, if, and that’s the key word, we can spark wool’s renaissance. 

“The Formary’s commitment to wool shows it is possible and we believe New Zealand Trade and Enterprise can see the vast potential that wool has. 

“It’s this kind of joined-up approach to market and product development with the exporters, that will make consumers take that all-important second look at wool. . . “

Wool should tick all the boxes for consumers who want a natural, renewable product and WoJo is a wonderful example of what can be done with it.

More good news followed this announcement - a continuing world shortage of wool is having a positive impact on the price.

Although meat companies often get blamed for the depressed state of the sheep industry, meat prices haven’t been bad. It’s low prices for wool and other by-products which have kept returns low.

Big losses in the southern snow storms and restocking will keep the supply of lambs low this season which will also help prices.


Wool wins WOW

September 25, 2010

This year’s wonderful World of Wearable Arts has proved yet again that Merino is a winner:

A pair of Indian designers wooed by Wellington’s world-class costume extravaganza have taken the top award at the Montana World of WearableArt.

First-time entrants Yogesh Chaudhary and Manas Barve won the Montana Supreme Award, the American Express Open Section and $30,000 worth of prizes at last night’s awards ceremony for their innovative garment Loops.

Made entirely of merino wool felt, Loops was created with laser-cutting and seamless knitting – no thread or glue was used in its construction. Its interlaced panels cover the model’s whole body.

WOW is a spectacular celebration of creativity and this year’s winner is a wonderful illustration of the versatility of merino.

It’s not the first time wool has won the top award. In 2007 Rattle Your Dags by  Paula Coulthard & Ursula Dixon won the main prize.


Training cheaper without Meat & Wool

July 1, 2010

Meat and Wool New Zealand is no more. From today farmer levies fund only meat and the industry good organisation is now Beef and Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

One of the major concerns about losing the levy from wool was training for shearers and wool handlers. However, the ODT reports that training fees have been agreed which could cost farmers as little as a cent a sheep.

Woolhandlers and shearing contractors are hailing the agreement, which will see Tectra set new training course fees to take account of the absence of wool levy funding, which will also ensure the industry can continue to leverage some taxpayer funding for training.

New Zealand Shearing Contractors’ Association president Barry Pullin said how each contractor implemented the new regime was up to them, but it reflected the fact other industries expected their staff to contribute towards training costs.

Those costs would be as little as 1c a sheep, substantially less than the 21c a sheep wool growers paid as part of their wool levy to Meat and Wool New Zealand.

“What’s wrong with that? If we can do it for 1c a head when previously under the name of wool harvesting it cost 21c a sheep, it’s got to be better,” Mr Pullin said.

With wool prices in the doldrums still, a reduction in the cost of training the people who shear and handle it will be very welcome.


Why not wool?

April 19, 2010

Why not wool for carpets, insulation and furnishings? I asked in today’s Paddock Talk column in the ODT.

It’s not online, but this is: retailers floored by lack of promotion.

Talk to the co-owners of a United States flooring retailer about wool and it becomes clear why crossbred wool has struggled to connect with carpet buyers.

Kaddy Carpenter Ward and her sister, Jane Rinaca, say until very recently there had been no promotional or advertising material to support the sales of woollen carpets in the United States – the world’s largest carpet market.

Compare that with nylon carpet, and Mrs Rinaca said that since manufacturers had solved issues such as weave and lustre, the product had been supported to the point where it was promoted as being sustainable because used carpets were being recycled.

That’s what we’re up against.

Wool isn’t going to sell when it’s up against such tough competition and consumers don’t understand its qualities – or even how it’s harvested:

Mrs Rinaca said many people in the US still believed sheep were killed to produce wool, a misconception they put to rest when they shore a sheep on a Hawkes Bay farm.

Wool ticks all the boxes for people seeking natural, renewable, sustainable products – it also passes the touch test:

“Nylon has been made to look like wool, but they will never make it feel like wool,” Mrs Carpenter Ward said.

With all that going for it wool ought to be selling itself  but of course it won’t if people don’t know about it.


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