Word of the day

October 9, 2012

Oikophobia –  fear of the familiar; the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours. ; a fear of houses, homes, or being stuck in a house.

Hat Tip: Something Should Go Here Maybe Later

Rural round-up

October 9, 2012

Rabobank Australia and New Zealand Agribusiness review October:

Key highlights:

• A warm end to spring is on the cards for most of Australia according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Climate models surveyed by the Bureau suggest sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean will maintain values around typical El Niño thresholds for the remainder of 2012.

• The US Federal Reserve announced the third stage of its quantitative easing program to help boost investment and spending in the economy. On a negative note, the World Trade Organisation downgraded its forecasts for growth in global trade in 2012 and 2013 by over one percentage point in response to slowing global economic activity.

• The New Zealand dollar has held firm over the course of the past month following the announcement of further liquidity measures in key global economies. The Australian dollar found some relief on the news of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision and softer external trade numbers and is currently trading around the USD1.025 level. . .

The full report is here.

A Successful Year for Agresearch:

On-farm pest control, new value-added products and improved environmental performance are three of the significant contributions made by AgResearch scientists to New Zealand’s agricultural economy over the past year, according to its 2012 annual report.

At the same time, the country’s largest scientific organisation has sought to realign itself more closely with its farmer, government, industry sector and other stakeholders, says Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson.

“There is still much to do and we have valued the willingness of our sector partners to engage with us,” he says. . .

If you stand for nothing; does that mean anything is acceptable….or not?

This is the dilemma for NZ Inc agriculture as AgResearch announces the recent success of ‘Daisy’ a cow genetically modified to produce milk with much less beta-lactoglobulin (BLG). This is a milk whey protein known to be allergenic to some people. See the NZ Herald version of the story here.

I’m not commenting on the clever science behind GM Daisy – essentially using two microRNAs and RNA interference to knock down the expression of BLG. AgResearch next want to normally breed from Daisy and see if the same non-BLG milk is produced by her daughters – a several year exercise. . .

Free database will open access to best tree information

Farmers looking for information about any aspect of planting and managing trees in the working landscape will soon be able to access a new online – and free – database listing the most useful and credible information resources available. This database will range from practical aspects of growing and harvesting trees for timber through to establishing riparian plantings and management information such as budgeting and forest ownership options.

As a vital first step the project organisers are looking for input from farmers, via a short online survey as to how they prefer to receive this type of information. This survey can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Trees_on_Farms. . .

Below-ground protection from new grass endophyte

A Canterbury pasture plant breeding company is set to release a major advance in the fight against a multi-million dollar farming problem, insect pests.

Cropmark Seeds Ltd has managed to endow its pasture varieties with an endophyte “GrubOUT® U2” that gives grass grasses greater persistence under insect attack, above and below ground.

“It’s perhaps the greatest advance in plant breeding in 20 years, and it will have a dramatic effect on our farming systems and production” said Cropmark Seeds Marketing Manager Garry Begley.

The key to this breakthrough is the phrase “below ground”.

Livestock Farm Winners Inspire Other Farmers to Enter 2013 Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Winning the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award in the 2012 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards was welcome recognition for Okahu farmers John and Lurline Blackwell and their son Peter.

But it wasn’t the main reason they entered.

“We weren’t looking for glory,” John says.

“We just wanted to support the competition and learn more about sustainability.”

The Blackwells farm a 345ha sheep and beef property, southeast of Dargaville. ‘Summer Hill Farm’ runs a small but highly productive sheep flock and finishes around 400 bulls a year. The farm also runs Wagyu-cross steers and heifers on contract. . .

Mind-bending video of a sheep with an upside down HEAD… and man who filmed it insists it was no fake – Alex Ward:

Look a bit closer and you will notice something very odd about this sheep.

Seemingly defying nature quite happily as it nibbles grass, it is indeed a sheep with an upside down head – but is it real?

The owner of the YouTube video of the weird animal insists it was no fake as the clip sparked the curiosity among thousands, becoming an internet hit with almost 50,000 views in five days. . .

(Hat tip CoNZervative)

Bloggers’ Addictions and expensive eating

October 9, 2012

Topics discussed on Critical Mass with Finlay MacDonald were:

Valerie Davies’ (and apologies because I think I said Davis not Davies) bloggers’ addictions.

And 15 of the world’s most expensive foods at Mental Floss.

I came over all Presbyterian reading this – if I had a stray $25,000 I couldn’t bring myself to spend it on dessert, not even the:

The Frrrozen Haute Chocolate ice cream sundae contains a blend of 28 cocoas, including 14 of the most expensive in the world. It is decorated with edible gold and served in a goblet lined with edible gold. As if all that weren’t enough, there is an 18 karat gold bracelet with 1 carat of diamonds in the bottom of the sundae, and the treat is served with a golden spoon decorated in white and chocolate diamonds, both of which go home with the diner.

Delicious no doubt but decadent too.

Even with the bracelet and spoon in the doggy bag I’d have many other priorities for that much money.


Starting-out wage to address youth unemployment

October 9, 2012

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has confirmed the introduction of a new starting-out wage.

It will help provide young people, whose employment prospects plummeted after the abolition of the youth minimum wage, with more opportunities to get into the workforce.

“The new starting-out wage will create demand for young people by giving employers a real incentive to take them on,” Ms Wilkinson says.

The Minimum Wage (Starting-out Wage) Amendment Bill provides for eligible 16- to 19-year-olds to be paid no less than 80 per cent of the minimum wage.

“The new starting-out wage will help some of our youngest and most inexperienced workers get a much-needed foot in the door, in what is currently a tight labour market.

“The starting-out wage was one of National’s 2011 campaign promises, and designed to provide 16- to 19-year-olds with the opportunity to earn money, gain skills and get the work experience they need.”

Three groups will be eligible unless they are training or supervising others:

  • 16- and 17-year-olds in their first six months of work with a new employer
  • 18- and 19-year-olds entering the workforce after more than six months on benefit
  • 16- to 19-year-old workers in a recognised industry training course involving at least 40 credits a year.

Those who are training or supervising other staff must be paid at least the adult minimum wage.

The starting-out wage will be simple for employers to implement, and will apply for a blanket six months after starting work with a new employer.

“The youth minimum wage was abolished in 2008 by Labour in a move that resulted in the loss of up to 9000 jobs,” Ms Wilkinson says. . .

Labour ignored the warnings that the abolition of the youth minimum wage would make it more difficult for young people to get work.

The steep increase in youth unemployment, proved those who made the warnings right and young people have paid the price for the misguided policy.

This initiative will address that, making the employment of young, unskilled workers less expensive and therefore offsetting some of the cost and risk of employing them.


Fonterra probiotic helps eczema sufferers

October 9, 2012

A probiotic developed from dairy cultures by Fonterra Nutrition has been shown to have significant long term benefits for children suffering from eczema.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001™ was shown in a previous trial to help reduce the occurrence of eczema symptoms in children by almost 50 per cent when they took the probiotic up to two years of age. Now, a follow-up study published in the respected international journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy  has shown that this reduction in symptoms continues through to four years old, even though the children stopped taking the probiotic at two years of age.

Fonterra Nutrition Senior Research Scientist Dr James Dekker said the results indicate that Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001™ may be able to modify the immune system early in a child’s development, to deliver long term benefits with no discernable side effects.
“Eczema affects millions of children worldwide, with around half the cases being diagnosed before one-year of age,” he said. 
“The long term benefits shown by Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001™ are extremely encouraging and are particularly relevant in New Zealand which has one of the highest incidence rates of eczema in the world,” said Dekker. . .
This is an exciting development for eczema sufferers and Fonterra.

Old system wrote beneficiaries off

October 9, 2012

Interesting statistics of the day from Eric Roy:

In 2004, 66% of people on Sickness Benefit and 45 % on Invalids Benefits were interested or very interested in looking for work.

Of 539,000 disabled people surveyed in 2006, more than 40% were working – 75% full time.

The current assessment system for people receiving Sickness or Invalids Benefit tells us a mere 6.5% are fit for part-time work. . .

It’s difficult to believe that so many people on Sickness and Invalids benefits were interested in working eight years ago but only 6.5% are fit for at least part-time work now.

Simply put, the old system has been writing these people off and ignoring the fact that work is important; socially, financially and therapeutically.

National wants a welfare system with services and attitudes that help people reach their potential and change their lives for the better.

The Opposition and their supporters who are criticising National’s welfare reforms are arguing against helping people help themselves.

Some people will never be able to support themselves but that is no reason to not encourage, and where necessary help, those who can to do so.



Helping those who help us

October 9, 2012

If the lives of the interpreters working with Kiwi troops in Afghanistan are at risk, we have a moral obligation to allow them, and their families, to settle in New Zealand.

Prime minister John Key says he’s sympathetic to 26 interpreters working with Kiwi troops in Afghanistan who claim their lives are in danger if they can’t resettle in New Zealand.

The interpreters with the New Zealand provincial reconstruction team in the Bamiyan province are seeking asylum in New Zealand, saying they and their families will be captured, tortured and killed by insurgent forces for helping the foreigners.

The New Zealand troops are due to withdrawal from the province in April.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman is preparing recommendations on their plight and will take a paper to Cabinet for approval.

Key today said the interpreters had a legitimate position to put to the government.

“They have worked for New Zealand with New Zealand’s best interests at heart and it is at least feasible that there is some risk to them if they remain in Afghanistan.’’

However, the government would need to test their claims, he said. . .

Life in Afghanistan is risky for anyone and it is a very real possibility that these interpreters and their families might be at greater risk because of their work with our troops.

If there is any doubt about the safety of the people who’ve helped our people they should be granted asylum and assisted to settle here.

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