Rural round-up

The dairy robots are coming – Keith Woodford:

Milking cows is far from exciting. People milk cows for money and not for fun. What if it could all be done by robots?

Well, those days have come. Already there are at least 16 New Zealand commercial dairy farms with robot milkers and the number is increasing rapidly. In Scandinavia and the Netherlands in particular, but also elsewhere in Northern Europe, there are now thousands of these robots. They are also coming to America.

Robots are coming to Europe and the US faster than to New Zealand because of differences between their farm systems and ours. On Northern Hemisphere farms, it is typically just a wander down the barn of 50 metres or so for the cow to meet up with a robot. In contrast, on nearly all of our farms the cows graze pastures and it can be a kilometre or more back to the milking shed. For efficiency, each robot needs a steady supply of cows throughout the day and night, and does not want a whole herd turning up at the same time. . .

Business idea that turns pest pines into high-quality essential oils a winner:

Taking an environmental problem and turning it into a commercial success has seen Queenstown social enterprise team Wilding & Co awarded with the ‘most innovative idea’, the first of three $1,000 milestone awards from Contact Energy, co-principal partner of Ākina Foundation’s six-month accelerator programme, Launchpad.

Over the last century wilding pines, native to North America, have taken over much of the South Island and their eradication has become a focus not only for the government, but also for local communities in the area.

Wilding & Co plays its part by clearing and controlling the spread of wilding pines in the Central Otago region, distilling them into high-quality essential oils and finished products marketed for their scent, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. They have also secured orders for many tonnes of bulk oil from international buyers. . .

Frost-fighting gloves earn prize for innovation:

A project to keep green fingers warm in cold Southern winters earned Otago’s Sarah Fenwick a placing in yesterday’s Young Horticulturist of the Year innovation awards and a $2,500 scholarship.

Ms Fenwick – who qualified for the competition by winning the New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) Young Amenity Horticulturist of the Year award earlier this year – took out second place in the AGMARDT Market Innovation section for ground-breaking glove inners made of titanium lined limestone neoprene. Northland’s Patrick Malley took out first prize for a project to make kiwifruit traceable to the orchard of origin.

Ms Fenwick, a horticulturist working on Dunedin’s green spaces for infrastructure company Delta, says her project is “an innovative approach to guard against the loss of finger sensitivity. . .

 Patrick Malley Takes Out 2014 Young Horticulturist of the Year Title:

Whangarei kiwifruit grower, Patrick Malley, has taken out his third consecutive victory this year by winning the ‘2014 Young Horticulturist of the Year’ title at a ceremony in Auckland last night.

Earlier this year Patrick won the 2014 Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower competition in Mount Maunganui, and went on to win the NZ Young Grower of the Year at the national competition in Christchurch.

In addition to winning the overall title last night, Patrick also took out The AGMARDT Market Innovation Project Award; The Fruitfed Supplies Leadership Award; and The Primary ITO Career Development Award. . .

 ASB Farmshed Economics Report: A case of if, not when, for higher interest rates:

• Interest rates to stay low for longer
• Uncertain times ahead for dairy
• Meat prices continue to shine

Interest rates are staying lower for longer according to the latest ASB Farmshed Economics Report.

“Farmers have been keeping a close eye on the financial markets. With the RBNZ signalling a long pause on OCR rises in the current low inflation environment, it’s looking like interest rates will be staying lower for longer,” says ASB Rural Economist Nathan Penny.

“We expect the OCR to hold at 3.5% until September 2015 and now predict it will peak at 4%.”

It’s been a long hard road for dairy but whole milk powder prices may have finally hit their bottom. . .

New Commitment programme for Wools of New Zealand:

Wools of New Zealand has rolled out an annual wool commitment programme for its growers which it believes is an industry first.

The STAPLE® programme is the latest initiative for the grower owned wool marketing and sales company following implementation of its successful Direct to Scour (D2S) model and more recently, its Stable Price Mechanism, a model aimed at minimising wool price volatility between growers and clients.

Wools of New Zealand Chief Executive Ross Townshend says “the aim of the programme is to provide certainty of supply to customers direct from growers, allowing planning and confidence of meeting contracts. It’s an important tool in reducing price volatility and improving sustained, predictable returns and commercial certainty to our shareholders’ and customers’ businesses.” . . .

Growing dairy heifers – a focus on what good looks like:

A Northland heifer-rearing focus farm is being established along with four others around the country as part of a DairyNZ-led initiative to provide graziers with the tools, knowledge and resources to grow dairy heifers more effectively.

An open day will be held at the Northland focus farm in Okaihau, owned by Alister and Lyn Candy, on November 26 from 10.30am to 2.00pm.

Both graziers and dairy farmers are encouraged to attend with key topics including target weights and feed planning, animal health issues, managing the grazier-dairy farmer relationship and setting calves up for the run-off. . .

Qualified veterinarian and animal health executive joins Simcro as CEO:

Dr Roger Wakelin has been appointed as the new CEO of animal health delivery systems company Simcro. From December 1, Dr Wakelin will assume responsibility for all of the day to day operations. Current CEO Will Rouse will assume the role of Executive Chairman, while continuing to be a director and significant shareholder.

Dr Wakelin’s experience has spanned both production and companion animals. He worked for more than a decade in production and companion animal veterinary practices in New Zealand, Ireland, UK and South Africa. He moved into the animal health pharmaceutical industry and held technical, market development, marketing and senior management positions with companies such as Pitman Moore, Bayer and more recently Merial USA. Rouse says that Simcro’s Board of Directors are pleased and excited about their latest appointment. . .

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