Saturday’s smiles


Paddy was in New York.

He was patiently waiting and watching the traffic cop on a busy street crossing. The cop stopped the flow of traffic and shouted,

‘Okay, pedestrians.’

He’d let the pedestrians cross then stop them and allow the traffic to pass.

He’d done this several times but Paddy still stood on the footpath.

After the cop had shouted, ‘Pedestrians!’ for the tenth time, Paddy went over to him and said, ‘Is it not about time ye let the

Catholics across?’

Hat Tip: the Ag-Letter from Baker & Associates. If you want a weekly update of managing and marketing information, and the odd joke, you can subscribe here.

FSU fails foreign investment 101


When I posted on Farming Systems Uruguay in August I was restrained in my criticism.

I didn’t say that we were so unimpressed by what we learned when we visited one of their farms that we sold our shares in the company as soon as we got home.

I didn’t say that the manager of the farm we visited, who is one of New Zealand’s top dairy farmers, wasn’t being left to manage. He had to answer to the company’s representative who visited once a week not just on strategy but on day to day farming practices.

I didn’t say that the manager had only had a two-week Spanish course when he arrived, been getting just one lesson a week since then and his wife and children weren’t getting any help with the language at all.

I didn’t say that the manager told us of visiting another FSU farm where he’d been concerned that the cows were hungry and asked why they weren’t in a paddock with more grass. He was told that was being saved for the directors’ visit.

I didn’t say that everything we saw contradicted the glowing picture being painted in New Zealand of the company, its farms and the opportunities in Uruguay.

I didn’t say that we could see there was money in the business for PGG Wrightson and anyone else who could clip the ticket but we couldn’t see what was in it for investors in FSU.

I didn’t say any of that on the earlier post because it’s more than two years since we were there and I thought things might have improved. Brian Gaynor’s column shows they haven’t.

Everything he writes supports what we saw and heard in Uruguay.

What works in business in one country doesn’t necessarily work in another. The sobering lessons from the experiences of several companies which ventured across the Tasman show that and at least they speak the same language there.

Uruguay is not just another country, it has a different climate, different language and different culture.

It’s on a similar latitude to northern New Zealand but on a continent which gets much hotter than we do. Pastures which last 10 years or more here will have to be replaced every two or three years there. That’s good for PGG Wrightson which has the rights to all the business on the farms and will sell the seed. But it’s not good for farm profits and FSU shareholders.

Spanish is probably one of the easier languages for English speakers to learn. With total immersion you should have a good grasp of the basics after three months and be reasonably fluent in a year. But Gaynor says the last New Zealand manager who had been in Uruguay for two and a half years never learned the language.

 It is the height of ignorance to live and work in another country without being able to converse with the locals. It’s also not good for business because you never get the full story if you have to rely on interpreters. But that the manager didn’t learn isn’t necessarily his fault. If his staff spoke English they would when talking to him and the demands of the farm would take precedence over Spanish classes.

But one of the first lessons of foreign investment 101 is that the people working on the ground must speak the local language. Ensuring its managers and their families learn Spanish should be one of FSU’s priorities.

Then there’s the culture. They do things differently in Latin America you can’t just pick up what works here, transplant it there and expect it to work as it does at home.

Adolf at No Minister is even less impressed than I am. He blames the directors. They are responsible for the decisions they made but I think they only see what the people in Uruguay want them to see and have no idea of what’s really going on.

PGW will make money by clipping the ticket on everything the farms buy but it’s going to be a long time before the farms make a profit and shareholders get a return on their investment.

There are wider concerns too. Crafar Farms has shown what happens when a business grows too quickly without good processes, systems and staff. If that happens here, the potential for problems half a world away are even greater.

New Zealand deserves its reputation for high standards of animal welfare and environmental practice. Our reputation is at risk  from companies which try to emulate what we do here in other countries and fail to do it properly.

Jane and the Dragon


I indenitifed with Jane from the first sentence:  Jane hated sewing.

However, there’s a lot more to the heroine of Jane and the Dragon written and illustrated by Martin Baynton than a dislike of practising her stitches.

She wants to be a knight but the only one who takes her seriously is the court jester.

There’s a moral to this story about following your dream and not being frightened to do the unexpected, but it’s not heavy handed. This is first and foremost a delightful tale which is beauitifully illustrated.

The inscription in the copy on our daughter’s book shelf shows it was given to her as a Christmas present when she was four. We enjoyed reading it to her, she enjoyed being read to and a few years later, read and re-read it herself.

Back then it was just a book. Jane has now been televised and has a website.

dairy 10004

Post 17 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

book month logo green

 Over at In A Strange Land Deborah posts on Down in the Forest by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Jenny Cooper.

Rob’s been reading Slinkly Malinki by Lynley Dodd.



Thursday’s post on the woman who called police to report the theft of her marijuana prompted Scrubone to post a list of alternative names for the drug.

One of the common ones is pot from which comes the expression pothead.

Would you also say this bloke who  taped his happy baccy to his forehead was potty?

Better buy flies


Air New Zealand is reducing its domestic airfares and allowing business travellers to change flights on the same day without cost.

It has always seemed silly that if a seat’s available on an earlier flight you can’t take it without paying a lot more. The change in policy will also enable passengers to take a later flight providing their is a spare seat.

Price reductions on regional routes will be up to 23%.

That’s very welcome. It can be more expensive to fly to and from regional airports within New Zealand than to cross the Tasman.

Another improvement will enable frequent flyers on regional services to drop off and pick up their own bags directly at the aircraft.

It’s frustrating to walk past your bag on a trolley, as you do when you get off a wee plane, then have to hang round the terminal for it to be brought in.

Frequent flyers will be issues with fast tags to identify their luggage but even so it could be a bit messy because if other passengers see some people picking up their own luggage they’ll want to do the same.

Feds don’t wear blue gumboots


Federated Farmers is sometimes referred to as the National Party in gumboots.

That has never been the case and nor should it be.

Feds is there to look after the best interests of its members and the organisation couldn’t do that if it was aligned in any way with a political party.

Any doubts over whether the organisation wears blue gumboots should have been dispelled by its actions this week.

The organisation put a very strong submission against the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme

“The ETS is world famous only in New Zealand. As the Wall Street Journal showed with several damning editorials, New Zealand is losing business credibility as investors increasingly look at us with incredulity,” says Don Nicolson, President of Federated Farmers. . .

“Federated Farmers made it clear to the Select Committee that the ETS should be repealed and replaced by non-punitive policy measures to transition New Zealand to a low-carbon economy.

Feds is equally vehement in its opposition to proposed increases to ACC levies which could result in a 70% increase in farmers’ levies.

“ACC’s bombshell will hurt farmers already struggling to make ends meet,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers ACC spokesperson.

. . . Instead of significantly increasing levies, it is time the Government made some tough decisions. I realise some of those decisions may be politically unpopular, but ACC must be brought under control. . . “

Feds would never protest as strongly if it was tied to National and it provides a more powerful voice for its members because of that.

This is apparently lost on some unions which continue to tie themselves to Labour. As Colin Espiner blogged:

But the conspiracy theory peddled by Labour and the EPMU (i.e. Labour) . . .

And Kiwiblog commented:

I can never work out if Labour is the political arm of the EPMU or if the EPMU is the industrial arm of Labour.

The benefits of independence are also lost to the Service & Food Workers Union. An email sent to Kiwiblog shows merger discussions between the SFWU and Public Service Association ended over differences on political allegiance:

The primary reason for doing so was the inability of both unions to reach sufficient agreement on the issue of political relationships and affiliations. Both unions have long standing and proud traditions on the issue of political relationships.

The SFWU has a long standing affiliation status with the Labour party, is this week signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party and has explored a formal relationship with the Maori Party. The PSA has an equally strong commitment to remaining non affiliated and independent of political parties.

I don’t recall the PSA strongly opposing Labour and its policies but it is free to do so. However, it would be impossible for either the EPMU or SFWU to counter a Labour in the way Federated Farmers does with National and any other parties whose policies are in conflict with the best interests of farmers.

Governments come and governments go. A lobby group which doesn’t commit itself to a party is better placed to deal with all parties whether they are in power or opposition. If it’s allied to a party the interests of  members will take second place to the group’s political allegiance.


October 17 in history


On October 17:

539 BC King Cyrus The Great of Persia marched into the city of Babylon, releasing the Jews from almost 70 years of exile and made the first Human Rights Declaration

1662 Charles II of England sold Dunkirk to France for 40,000 pounds.

1814 The London Beer Flood killed nine people.

1877 Chief Justice Sir James Prendergast declared the Treaty of Waitangi “worthless” and a “simple nullity”.

1888 Thomas Edison filed a patent for the Optical Phonograph (the first movie).

1907 – Guglielmo Marconi‘s company began the first commercial transatlantic wireless service between Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada and Clifden, Ireland.

1915 US playwright – Arthur Miller was born.


1918 US actress Rita Hayworth was born.

1930 US nutritionist Robert Atkins was born.

1942 US musician Gary Puckett was born.


1969 Ernie Els, South African golfer, was born.

Golfer Ernie Els at US Open.jpg

1979 – Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


2007 The Dalai Lama received the United States Congressional Gold Medal.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

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