Word of the day


Desideratum –  something that is needed, desired or wanted.

Mercado de Liniers


One of the highlights of last September’s trip to Argentina was visiting Mercado de Liniers.

Seven fifteen is an early start when you’re on holiday, but the Buenos Aires cattle market opens for business at 7.30am.

We were picked up from our hotel by a driver and Maria, our guide who has made tours of the market her speciality.

Cattle arrive overnight from up to 500 kilometres away. They are checked by a vet and weighed by pen then walk seven blocks from the scales to the market which covers an area of 34 hectares.

It is criss-crossed by a series of raised walkways which enable buyers, brokers and visitors to get a good view of the stock below.

Our party included farmers and stock agents. They didn’t understand Spanish but recognised the nods, winks and other body language of the buyers which is universal.

They noted how quiet the cattle were and put this down to the fact they were worked with horses which needed little, if any, guidance from their riders.

The experienced New Zealand sale-goers were also very impressed by morning tea – large slabs of steak and chorizo, (spicy sausages) cooked on the asado, the wood-fired barbeque.

hp liniers

All cattle must be sold no later than the day after they arrive and on Fridays all stock must be sold because there’s no market at the weekends.

The day we were there 8,500 head of cattle went under the hammer. The most sold in the three years our guide had worked there was 31,000, well short of the market record for a day’s sale of 42,00o.

A bell ringing for about five minutes signals the start of an auction. Prices went from 8.5 to 10 pesos a kilo, liveweight. As each pen is sold cattle are taken by men on horse-back to be weighed – manually and electronically.  Both weights must agree because stock is sold by price per kilo.

Weights and prices are conveyed by fibre optic cable to a central computer and are available instantly on the market website so Liniers  sets the price around the country.

The broker gets 4% of the price and .04% of the price goes to the market which is jointly owned by 55 livestock broker agencies.

When stock is transported from the market the trucks are tracked by GPS as a security measure to ensure the driver doesn’t drop off any cattle en route.

The neighbourhood grew up on the back of the market which still supports 2,500 families.

Outside the market is a monument to a gaucho, the only one of dozens in the city which pays tribute to a worker.

Our guide, Maria, who speaks perfect English, has her own company Bespoke Tours.

Saturday smiles


I had a computer problem yesterday, so I called Eric, the 11 year-old next door, whose bedroom looks like Mission Control and asked  him to come over.

Eric clicked a couple of buttons and solved the problem.

As he was walking away, I called after him, ‘So, what was wrong?
He replied, ‘It was an ID ten T error.’

I didn’t want to appear stupid, but nonetheless inquired,

‘An ID ten T error?  What’s that? In case I need to fix it again.’

Eric grinned … ‘Haven’t you ever heard of an ID ten T error before?

‘No,’ I  replied.

‘Write it down,’ he said, ‘and I think you’ll figure it out.’

So I wrote down:


Healthy scepticism essential in media and policy formation


The media is supposed to present a range of opinions to give balance.

To do that reporters have to question what they’re told and they usually do that when they’re sufficiently informed and on-guard.

Anders Crofoot is concerned that the media’s guard seemingly slips when it comes to matters agricultural, where opinions, statements and belief systems face little critical challenge.

As a farming leader, I have often been called for comment when the story seemingly has already been written; all to provide it with “balance.”

At other times, marketing hype is taken as gospel by the media and even some politicians creating problems for farmers. This was rammed home to me by a senior Opposition MP.

After rounding on Federated Farmers over the “One Plan,” he was apparently asked by a member of the rural media where he had sourced his information from and the answer I was told was the Dominion Post. . .

He then gives the example of a Country Calendar story in which a farm consultant using a refractometer wasn’t questioned.

To be fair, Country Calendar isn’t the sort of programme where those featured have their practices debated, but the example raised a concern:

So why does this cause problems for farmers? At first glance it seems scientific; we have a tool with a long name and measurements being recorded. To a lay person, it is reasonable to think this approach is great and to demand to know why more farmers aren’t doing the same.

This is the problem because there was no evidence it worked.

If you produce fewer goods at a lower cost then it may be profitable on a pure percentage basis.

Yet if your overall profit declines it may not be such a good outcome; especially if you are early into your career and paying off the mortgage.

Farming is complex and is influenced by terrain, soil, rainfall, stocking mix and economics. One system does not suit all, but in putting it on a pedestal, the expectation spreads and can create unrealistic policy assumptions.

Influence on individual farmers is their business but when unsound or unrealistic assumptions influence policy it has far more serious consequences for farming in general.

Another 2012 example of what I mean came from the kiwifruit industry’s struggle with the PSA disease. A RadioNZ interview I heard had someone promoting their product with the claim Italy had overcome PSA thanks to it.

The problem is that Zespri has evaluated over 500 special products and none have produced a repeatable, reliable positive effect. While many ‘solutions’ taint the fruit, all the layperson hears in the marketing hype is a solution; they cannot understand why the industry isn’t adopting it to help itself out.

The software industry, in which I used to work, has a wonderful expression, “eating your own dogfood”. Do those who plug these products use them? Perhaps that doesn’t matter because the media, politicians and regulators hear these claims and has them asking why farmers aren’t using miracle solutions.

Everyone, except those who pay for them, forget that what counts are repeatable and concrete trial results each and every time.

This is why uncritical media coverage creates problems.

In the pursuit of a story, uncommon practices and hype are presented with equal weight giving the impression they are equally viable. Without qualification, this understandably has non-farmers asking why farmers don’t use them.

A range of opinions can provide balance but not all opinions are equal.

Marketing hype is perhaps the greater problem because it seeps into the heads of regulators and politicians looking for a solution.

For me, as a farmer, I do not wish to incur costs unless I know it will benefit our farm and the environment.

Just because it is printed doesn’t mean it is true.

Just because someone says it, doesn’t mean it is so.

Just because we see something doesn’t mean we should believe it.

Demand evidence before making decisions or publishing claims. This is why the media need to retain a healthy scepticism to claims, the same one it seems to show towards farmers.

Healthy scepticism is essential in good journalism and in the formation of good policy.

If it uses our brand it must meet our standards


New Zealand’s reputation for safe food is one of the reasons it is attractive to Chinese dairy companies wanting to build infant milk formula plants here.

Fran O’Sullivan writes that the  Chinese are eager to milk NZ brand and that does come with a risk:

At issue is whether the Government needs to take clear steps to ensure the Chinese companies do live up to the powerful New Zealand brand image and make abundantly sure that their infant formula products are kept free from contamination at all steps in the supply chain from the milk supply through to the factory then on to the supermarket shelves, and whether they also need to place clear strictures on just which companies can use the attributes of the New Zealand brand in China. . .

I am not opposed to foreign investment in processing in New Zealand for export. Nor am I opposed to New Zealand companies producing or processing in other countries.

But I am concerned about any risk that might pose to our brand.

New Zealand food is trusted for very good reasons – the way it is produced and the regulations which govern its production and processing.

That makes the New Zealand brand very powerful and it must be safe-guarded.

If food is produced here by a foreign company or somewhere else by a New Zealand one and uses our brand it must meet our standards.

Saturday soapbox


This soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation.

You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, to muse or amuse.

January 19 in history


1419 – Hundred Years’ War: Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England completing his reconquest of Normandy.

1511 – Mirandola surrendered to the French.

1520  – Sten Sture the Younger, the Regent of Sweden, was mortally wounded at the Battle of Bogesund.

1607 San Agustin Church in Manila, now the oldest church in the Philippines, was officially completed.

1736 James Watt, Scottish inventor, was born (d. 1819).

1764  John Wilkes was expelled from the British House of Commons for seditious libel.

1788  Second group of ships of the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay.

1795  Batavian Republic was proclaimed in the Netherlands. End of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.

1806 – The United Kingdom occupied the Cape of Good Hope.

1807  Robert E. Lee, American Confederate general, was born  (d. 1870).

1809 Edgar Allan Poe, American writer and poet, was born (d. 1849).

1817 An army of 5,423 soldiers, led by General José de San Martín, crossed the Andes from Argentina to liberate Chile and then Peru.

1829 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s Faust Part 1 premiered.

1839  Paul Cézanne, French painter, was born (d. 1906).

1839 The British East India Company captured Aden.

1840 Captain Charles Wilkes circumnavigated Antarctica, claiming what became known as Wilkes Land for the United States.

1845 Hone Heke cut down the British flag pole for the third time.

Hone Heke cuts down the British flagstaff -  again
1848 Matthew Webb, English swimmer/diver  first man to swim English Channel without artifical aids, was born (d. 1883).

1853 – Giuseppe Verdi‘s opera Il Trovatore premiered in Rome.

1883  The first electric lighting system employing overhead wires, built by Thomas Edison, began service at Roselle, New Jersey.

1893 Henrik Ibsen‘s play The Master Builder premiered in Berlin.

1899 – Anglo-Egyptian Sudan was formed.

1915  Georges Claude patented the neon discharge tube for use in advertising.

1915  German zeppelins bombed the cities of Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn killing more than 20, in the first major aerial bombardment of a civilian target.

1917 German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann sent the Zimmermann Telegram to Mexico, proposing a German-Mexican alliance against the United States.

1917 – Silvertown explosion: 73 killed and 400 injured in an explosion in a munitions plant in London.

1918 Finnish Civil War: The first serious battles between the Red Guards and the White Guard.

1923 Jean Stapleton, American actress, was born.

1935 Coopers Inc.  sold the world’s first briefs.

1935  Johnny O’Keefe, Australian singer, was born (d. 1978).

1937 Howard Hughes set a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds.

1939 Phil Everly, American musician, was born.

1942  Michael Crawford, British singer and actor, was born.

1943 Janis Joplin, American singer, was born (d. 1970).

1943  Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, was born.

1945  Soviet forces liberated the Łódź ghetto. Out more than 200,000 inhabitants in 1940, less than 900 had survived the Nazi occupation.

1946  Dolly Parton, American singer and actress, was born.

1946 General Douglas MacArthur established the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo to try Japanese war criminals.

1947 Rod Evans, British musician (Deep Purple), was born.

1951  Dewey Bunnell, American singer and songwriter (America), was born.

1953 68% of all television sets in the United States were tuned in to I Love Lucy to watch Lucy give birth to Desi Arnaz, Jr., American actor.

1966 Indira Gandhi was elected Prime Minister of India.

1967 – 19 men were killed in an explosion in the Strongman mine, at Rūnanga.

19 killed in Strongman mine explosion at Runanga

1972 – Princess Kalina of Bulgaria, was born.

1977 – Snow fell in Miami, Florida for the only time time in the history of the city.

1978  The last Volkswagen Beetle made in Germany left VW’s plant in Emden.

1981 United States and Iranian officials signed an agreement to release 52 American hostages after 14 months of captivity.

1983  Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie was arrested in Bolivia.

1983 – The Apple Lisa, the first commercial personal computer from Apple Inc. to have a graphical user interface and a computer mouse, was announced.

1996  The barge North Cape oil spill occurred as an engine fire forced the tugboat Scandia ashore on Moonstone Beach in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.

1997 Yasser Arafat returned to Hebron after more than 30 years and joined celebrations over the handover of the last Israeli-controlled West Bank city.

2006 – The New Horizons probe was launched by NASA on the first mission to Pluto.

2007– Armenian Journalist Hrant Dink was assassinated in front of his newspaper’s office by 17 year old Turkish ultranationalist Ogün Samast.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

%d bloggers like this: