Rural round-up

November 30, 2015

Climate change: Call to recognise farmers’ efforts – Anders Crofoot:

The Paris climate change meeting represents an opportunity for the world to agree the terms for the next global effort to reduce emissions.

Negotiations have continued for a number of years and, with the Kyoto Protocol having effectively lapsed at the end of 2012, farmers are hopeful of an agreement which better recognises the services we provide civil society.

For better or worse, the Kyoto Protocol bundled biological emissions from food production together with fossil fuel emissions from industry, energy and transport. With agricultural emissions representing a relatively minor proportion of national emissions among most countries, the focus naturally remains on other sources. . . 

Season has contrasting impact on Silver Fern Farms and Alliance – Allan Barber:

The two biggest meat processors had contrasting experiences during the 2015 season to judge by their annual results and accompanying comments. There is no doubt Silver Fern Farms found life easier than Alliance, with respect to the year in question. SFF must also have heaved an enormous sigh of relief after its improvement from the previous three years.

The bare facts of the differing results are NPAT of $24.9 million and dramatically reduced debt for SFF and $4.6 million NPAT for Alliance accompanied by a marginal reduction in equity ratio. Alliance’s performance was slightly worse than 2014, disappointing as chairman Murray Taggart agreed, whereas SFF’s result was a massive improvement on the previous year. Neither result represented a satisfactory return on assets, but signs for the future are positive. . . 

Federated Farmers signs Land & Water Forum Report but with conditions attached:

Federated Farmers has today added its name to the signatories of the fourth report of the Land & Water Forum after receiving the conditional support of its National Council.

The National Council, meeting in Wellington over 26 and 27 November, comprises the presidents of Federated Farmers’ 24 provinces, its National Board and representatives of its seven industry groups.

“Federated Farmers has been deeply involved in and committed to the Land & Water Forum since its formation in 2009, playing an active role in the development of this and the previous three forum reports,” says Federated Farmers Water spokesperson Chris Allen. . . 

Farm gate milk price won’t recover until mid-2016 – Westland:

Westland Milk Products believes the farm gate milk price will not recover until the middle of next year because overseas buyers have already reacted to predictions of falling production and drought.

Chief executive Rod Quin said the brief upward spike in prices at the Global Dairy Trade auction six weeks ago was overseas buyers moving to secure supply.

Westland Milk Products, which has about 500 shareholders, held its AGM this week and Mr Quin said the payout forecast remained around $4.90 to the early five dollar mark, which was less than farmers needed to break even.

He said that was unlikely to change because it looked like there would be more pressure on prices in the next couple of months. . . 

Silver Fern Farms paid former CEO Keith Cooper more than $1.8M in 2015 – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Silver Fern Farms, New Zealand’s largest meat processor, paid former chief executive Keith Cooper more than $1.8 million last financial year, reflecting his long service with the company.

Cooper, who joined the cooperative in 1989 and was chief executive for eight years, was paid between $1.84 million and $1.85 million in the company’s 2015 financial year ended Sept. 30, Silver Fern Farms said in its annual report, where it is required to detail the number of employees that it paid $100,000 or more.

“The payments made to him reflect a combination of base salary for a period, a short-term incentive related to the prior year, a retention incentive that related to prior and future years, annual and long-service leave as well as a payment that reflected his significant contribution to the company over the prior 18 years, the most recent eight as chief executive,” the Dunedin-based company said. . . 


NZ Farming's photo.



Aberrant and abhorrent

November 30, 2015

Cows like all other mammals have to deliver a baby before they start lactating.

If animals are farmed to produce milk their offspring, be they calves, lambs or kids, are a by-product.

Dairy farms here usually keep most of their heifer calves to raise as replacements or for later sale.

Some might raise some bull calves for beef but most are sold to others to raise or sent for slaughter as bobby calves.

Normal practice is to treat all animals well and make the process from birth to death as fast and humane as possible for the calves.

The mistreatment of calves  shown on Sunday last night is not normal practice.

It is aberrant, abhorrent and appeared to be illegal.

No-one is trying to excuse it.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is investigating and DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and the New Zealand have condemned it:

Dairy industry bodies say they are appalled at the bobby care practices revealed in video footage recorded by animal rights group Farmwatch and released as part of a SAFE public campaign launched against dairy farming.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says cruel and illegal practices are in no way condoned or accepted by the industry as part of dairy farming.

“We are shocked and farmers are too,” he says. “We will be asking questions of everyone involved. Farmers don’t see what goes on when calves leave their farm and we need to be holding the transport operators and processing plants to account to ensure bad practices get stamped out of our industry.

“Our surveys show that 95 percent of farmers are compliant with all animal welfare codes and they take great care of their animals including calves. We obviously want to see that even higher because the dairy industry takes its animal welfare responsibilities seriously and we are committed to farming to high standards,” he says.

“There is a range of industry initiatives already in place and we will be boosting our actions with other groups to ensure the care of calves.”

Federated Farmers’ dairy section chair, Andrew Hoggard says “farmers have to farm within strict animal welfare rules and the vast majority care for their animals humanely and responsibly”.

He says the footage released by SAFE and Farmwatch includes some appalling behaviour, by a minority of farmers but also by transport companies and slaughterhouse workers. “This is something we and the industry will not tolerate.

“Federated Farmers strongly, and each season, reinforces to its members that the highest standards of animal welfare must apply when dealing with all calves. The federation will also put resources behind any industry initiatives to review the handling, transport and processing of bobby calves,” says Mr Hoggard. 

Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand executive director Kimberly Crewther says that compliance with the New Zealand codes of welfare is important to dairy companies.

“These codes are internationally recognised as robust.  Where there are breaches we fully support and expect Ministry for Primary Industries’ compliance action,” she says.

This abuse of animals is an indictment on the perpetrators, it should not be taken as a reflection on the whole industry in which most people in the production chain strive for, and achieve, high standards of practice with animal welfare a priority.


Fonterra says any mistreatment of animals is completely unacceptable to the company and its farmers:

Fonterra has seen the upsetting footage of bobby calves being ill treated provided by SAFE NZ, the subject of this week’s Sunday show on TVNZ.

Any mistreatment of animals is completely unacceptable to Fonterra and our farmers.

Immediate action

We’re taking immediate steps to deal with it alongside the rest of the New Zealand dairy industry:

  • We’ve requested a meeting with SAFE, and will let them know that we share their concern for the treatment of animals, and to seek further information from them on the footage
  • We’re in contact with representatives from the meat industry to discuss what we have seen in the footage to express to them our concerns around the treatment of bobby calves

Animal welfare is our priority

While bobby calves will always be part of the dairy industry, they must be treated with care and respect. Behaviour in this footage in no way represents the vast majority of New Zealand farmers who care about their animals.

As a Co-operative we take a hard line on animal welfare. We’re investigating this and will be taking strong action if any of our people were involved.

Five Freedoms

We work proactively with our farmers to embed best practice and uphold the Five Freedoms:

  • Freedom from hunger or thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour
  • Freedom from fear and distress through conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering

Responsible dairying

Fonterra is absolutely committed to responsible dairying. We work with our farmers to ensure they maintain the highest standards of animal welfare and they have a strong track record when it comes to on-farm animal welfare practices.

We audit farms annually and have strict controls in place in any instance where these Five Freedoms are not being observed.

Working together with the dairy industry

This includes working with industry representative bodies like Dairy NZ and MPI to support our farmers and ensure best practice is observed on-farm.

We want to let our customers and consumers know that we are taking action to ensure these practices do not happen on Fonterra farms and will be front-footing this issue with other primary industries.

No excuse for cruelty, deliberate discharge

August 5, 2015

Don’t click on this link if you’re going to be upset by details of ill treatment of animals:

. . .  Michael James Whitelock pleaded guilty in Greymouth District Court on Monday to 12 charges, including ill treatment of animals, unlawful possession of firearms and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

He was bailed to his home in Timaru until sentencing on October 7.

Whitelock was the dairy manager for a Landcorp farm near Westport from July 2012 until his suspension in September 2013. A Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) investigation began that month after a Landcorp manager arranged for a vet to examine the herd.  . .

There is no excuse for cruelty to animals.

People who can’t treat animals with the care and respect they deserve shouldn’t even contemplate working on a farm.

Nor is there any excuse for this:

A dairy farmer has been fined almost $73,000 for deliberately discharging effluent into his drains which then flowed into the Coromandel Peninsula’s Tairua River.

The 11 years of illegal discharges is “quite staggering”, the Waikato Regional Council says. . .

Accidents could happen on the best of farms. Deliberate discharges might still occur in third world countries but they should not happen here.


Rural round-up

July 19, 2015

Competition big issue for evolving Fonterra – Dene Mackenzie:

Numerous challenges exist for Fonterra in evolving from a commodity mindset and strong dairy industry competition across emerging markets is a key issue, Forsyth Barr broker Andrew Rooney said yesterday.

Fonterra was competing against larger, and perhaps more capable, companies.

”We are concerned the premium New Zealand image will be devalued as the co-op increases its international milk pool and as foreign investors become more heavily involved in New Zealand.” . . .

Farmer fined for cow deaths:

A South Waikato dairy farmer was sentenced in Rotorua District Court today (17 July) for neglect and ill-treatment of cows that became malnourished or starved to death in his care.

Tony Clayton, 54, of Atiamuri, was disqualified from owning or being the “person in charge” of animals for a period of two years. He also received 240 hours of community work, nine months of supervision and has to pay reparation costs of $3,100 plus additional court costs of $150 for both charges.

Mr Clayton had earlier pleaded guilty to charges failing to ensure the physical, health and behavioural needs (neglect) of animals in his care, and reckless ill-treatment of animals resulting in death. . .

Working Together on Sheep Breeding Initiative:

On the 26th of last month, the arrival of the sheep imported from New Zealand at the Mexican port of Mazatlán was met with health checks carried out by 22 officials from the National Service for Health, Safety and Food Quality (Senasica), from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA).

The Minister of Agriculture, Enrique Martínez y Martínez and the Governor of the State of Mexico, Eruviel Avila, handed over 35 thousand sheep to local producers. . .


Ag grads start on lawyers’ salaries – Ashley Walmsley:

TERTIARY agriculture students are entering jobs with starting salaries equivalent to lawyers.

The statement chimed in the already pricked ears of listeners at the 2015 National Horticulture Convention on the Gold Coast yesterday.

The statement’s creator, Professor Neal Menzies says ag graduates face a smorgasbord of options after they conquer the books.

The University of Queensland dean of agriculture was one of the early speakers yesterday at the Convention which brought together vegetable, apple and pear growers for the first time.  . .

Farmer dreams of shearing competition at the Commonwealth Games – Warwick Long:

A Victorian wool grower is leading a renewed charge to have shearing recognised as a sport.

Robert Harding, from Nhill, has the support of the Victorian Farmers Federation and intends to lobby the Australian Sports Commission for formal recognition.

He said the ultimate goal would be to have shearers vying for a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. . .

Nutrition is key:

Nutrition is key heading into calving season, with farmers reminded that not all products are created equal when it comes to rearing the future of their herds.

World-leading and progressive family-owned animal nutrition company, Fiber Fresh, believes animals’ futures are based on getting it right in the calf shed from day one by including quality fibre.

Managing director Michael Bell says by getting nutrition right at the very start, calves have the ability to develop to their full potential, maximising their production and profitability potential. . .





Rural round-up

July 3, 2015

More work urged on water quality – Neal Wallace:

A good start but still more to be done.

That is the conclusion of a stocktake by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on managing the quality of fresh water.

Dr Jan Wright praised the Government for implementing the National Policy Statement to improve fresh water management and regional councils for taking steps to improve water quality, but warned there was still much to be done. . . .

AGMARDT goes Green:

Rural businessman Richard Green of Canterbury has been appointed to the AGMARDT board.

AGMARDT is an independent not-for-profit trust that aims to foster and enable innovation and leadership within the agricultural, horticultural and forestry sectors of New Zealand.

 “We are very fortunate to have Richard join the AGMARDT board of trustees,” says chair Barry Brook. . .

Precision aerial spreading a reality:

Precision fixed wing aerial fertiliser application on hill country is now a reality, says nutrient cooperative Ballance Agri-Nutrients.

New technology in top dressing planes is set to resolve some of the challenges for farmers relying on aerial application, offering the ability to take precision up a gear.

SpreadSmart is a variable rate application system. This allows different amounts of fertiliser to be applied to different areas of the farm to boost productivity and protect waterways and sensitive areas. . .

Donkeys keep dogs on the hoof – Cara Jeffrey:

LIVESTOCK producers in southern NSW are ramping up their fight against wild dogs with baiting, trapping and donkeys all part of the arsenal.

Rob and Sally Bulle introduced donkeys to their Holbrook property “Ardrossan” two years ago to help combat wild dog attacks against their first-cross ewe flock – particularly at lambing time.

The donkeys – a mixture of jacks and jennys – have proven their worth and have remained a fixture on the property. . .

Feeding beats slow- release worm control:

A large anthelmintic trial investigating the efficacy of controlled-release capsules (CRC) and long-acting (LA) anthelmintics in pregnant ewes should ring alarm bells for sheep farmers. The study was initiated by the Whangaehu and Alfredton Farm Business Groups because of the widespread perception among farmers that use of these products will reliably return significant production benefits to both the ewe and her lambs. 

The perception held by farmers, and promoted by commercial interests, appeared to the group to be largely unsupported hence the reason for a widespread, repeated study to provide independent data on both the size and variability in the production response from treating ewes with a CRC pre-lambing. . .

Your first dog – Lloyd Smith:

When buying your first dog, first make sure the animal is going to be an asset not a liability. Sometimes young folk can be a dumping ground for old dogs past their use-by date. But a genuine dog with a few useful years left is a good option to get you started. These dogs are not always easy to source.

A dog’s useful working life is usually pretty much over by 10 years old. I would be hesitant about buying a dog of more than seven years old. Old dogs are pretty set in their ways and are limited in what you can change about them so expectations should not be high. . .

Two tales of one shipment

July 2, 2015

The Ministry of Primary Industries has one story:

The Ministry for Primary Industries has confirmed the 45,000 sheep and 3,200 cattle, exported to Mexico are now at a holding farm following their 15-day journey from Timaru.

A total of 191 sheep and one cow died – 0.42% and 0.03% respectively of the sheep and cattle in the shipment. This compares favourably with the average mortality of 0.71% in 40 Australian live sheep shipments last year.

MPI’s Director Animal and Animal Products, Matthew Stone, said the exact cause of the deaths is not yet known but, as a matter of course, MPI has required a detailed voyage report by mid-July from the exporter, which will include information from the veterinarian who travelled with the shipment.

“Nothing unexpected happened in terms of the animals’ health and welfare during the voyage,” said Mr Stone.

“The stockmen on board report the sheep had a 10% to 12% weight gain on the 15 day voyage.”

Mexican authorities oversaw the completion of the vessel’s disembarkation process. . .

And SAFE has another story:

192 lives lost on export shipment

Animal advocacy organisation SAFE is appalled that 191 sheep and one cow perished on board a controversial live export shipment to Mexico. The shipment of a reported 45,000 sheep and 3,200 cattle was the largest cargo of animals ever to leave New Zealand.

“192 animals have died and it begs the question, how many more will die on the next stage of their journey?” says SAFE’s executive director, Hans Kriek.

The sheep are being transported by truck for 1000 kilometres in 30-degree temperatures to a farm near Mexico City from where they will be distributed to smaller farms. It was reported that some sheep also died at the feedlots as they waited to board.

There are no reports yet on why the animals died, but it is known that on live export ships a number of animals die from illness or starvation. Some suffer from ‘inanition’ – not recognising the ship food of pellets as food as they were previously used to being on pasture.

When we were in Darwin at All Flex’s PPP conference a couple of weeks ago the preparation of animals for live shipments, which includes conditioning on the feed they will eat at sea, was explained.

Stock are monitored carefully and any not eating enough are culled before they embark and well before there is any danger of starvation.

I am certain that those caring for the sheep in New Zealand would take similar care for both animal welfare and financial reasons.

Although the shipment is purportedly for breeding purposes rather than for slaughter, which is illegal, SAFE says this latest shipment ignores the spirit of the ban on live export since the animals will still eventually be slaughtered in Mexico after they are no longer required for breeding, most likely in conditions that would be deemed cruel and illegal in this country. . .

 New Zealand’s meat works are world leading, I don’t know enough to comment on Mexico’s but the sheep and cattle would eventually be slaughtered had they stayed in New Zealand.

Apropos of dying at sea, another fact we learned in Darwin was that the death rate for people on cruise liners is as high as 2.5%.

Weight gain is also common among people on cruises though probably not as high as the 10-12% gain of the stock.

Rural round-up

June 13, 2015

 Farmer Wellness Big Breakfast – Nathan Guy

The title of my speech today is “Managing Through Tough Times”.

I came up with the idea of this function when I was out running about six weeks ago and felt the time was right for the Government to communicate two very important messages to our farming families and communities.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge that these are challenging times for many farmers and the wider rural community, particularly in the dairy sector, but that we expect much improved conditions in the longer term.

Secondly, I wanted to reinforce the message that if farmers are struggling, or have concerns about how things are going, you are not alone and help is out there.

We know there are plenty of challenges this year, as there always is with farming. . .

$500,000 boost to help rural mental health:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have announced a $500,000 funding boost to support mental health initiatives targeted at rural communities.

“Rural depression is a significant issue. The physical isolation as well as the uncertainties of being reliant on the land creates different pressures to those living in an urban setting,” says Dr Coleman.

“The Ministry of Health and Ministry for Primary Industries have each contributed $250,000 to the one off funding boost. . .

Federated Farmers Fielday Seminars: “The essence of farming: water, land, capability”:

Agribusiness expert, Jaqueline Rowarth, has told a Federated Farmers seminar at the Mystery Creek Fieldays this afternoon that investment is necessary for ensuring supplies of sufficient farm water, but meanwhile maintaining water quality.

She said this investment is only possible if primary produce meets the huge challenge of attracting good prices.

Professor Rowarth told the 50 odd people at the seminar New Zealand has both water quantity and quality, which farmers are capturing and using responsibly. . .


Greenhouse gas study tour winners announced:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced the two winners of the 2015 Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) – World Farmer Organisation Study Tour in Argentina later this year.

Doug Avery and Zach Mounsey have been selected as winners by a panel including Mr Guy and Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew after giving presentations at Fieldays this year.

“The purpose of this study tour is to increase global understanding and engagement on agricultural greenhouse gas research. These two winners will have an important role as ambassadors for New Zealand in sharing environmental management practices that support sustainable productivity. . .

Breeder confident of sheep’s safety:

A Canterbury sheep breeder with stock on board a major shipment to Mexico says she has been in touch with the destination farm and has no concerns about the animals’ safety.

Penni Loffhagen, who is one of the biggest Suffolk stud breeders in the country, has sold 15 young pedigree sheep to a Mexican farm for breeding.

Her ewes and rams are among 50,000 sheep now at sea on the way to Mexico. . .

They’re not ‘our’ sheep – Kiwiblog:

Newstalk ZB reports:

Labour wants assurances that tens of thousands of sheep and cattle being shipped to Mexico won’t be killed when they get there.

The shipment leaves Timaru today.

Leader Andrew Little told Newstalk ZB’s Rachel Smalley the regulations are clear – you can export live sheep for breeding purposes, you can’t for slaughter. . .

PGG Wrightson lifts annual earnings outlook for a second time, warns of weak farmer confidence – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson, the rural services firm controlled by China’s Agria Corp, lifted its annual earnings outlook as second-half trading comes in ahead of expectations, but warned weak farmer confidence may weigh on future sales.

The Christchurch-based company expects annual operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to be between $66 million and $69 million in the year ending June 30, above the February forecast for earnings between $62 million and $68 million. That in itself was an upgrade from previous guidance to beat last year’s earnings of $58.7 million. . .

New Zealand Avocados Achieve Record Sales Volume:

New Zealand’s largest ever avocado crop has been successfully harvested, packed and marketed with a massive 7 million trays sold during the 2014-15 season.

Jen Scoular, Chief Executive of NZ Avocado, today announced the new record volume which was 43 per cent higher than last season, and up from a previous industry high of 6.1 million trays sold in 2011-12 and a great industry return.

“Growth in the consumption of avocados in our key markets continues to be very impressive. . .

Best Young Butchers in the Region:

Two of New Zealand’s top young butchers have been named following the Alto Young Butcher & Competenz Butcher Apprentice of the Year Lower North Island regional final yesterday.

Havelock North local, Justin Hinchco from New World Havelock North took out the Alto Young Butcher category and Vernon Atutahi from New World Marton finished first place in the Competenz Butcher Apprentice category. . .


Body condition score to become a breeding trait:

Body condition score (BCS) is to be included as a new trait in Breeding Worth (BW) from February 2016.

Breeding Worth provides farmers with an economic measure of genetic merit (profit per five tonne of dry matter) and is calculated for all dairy cattle. During a National Breeding Objective Review in 2012, BCS (particularly late lactation BCS) was identified as an important trait with economic value to farmers. . .


Wool values ease:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s General Manager, Mr John Dawson reports that the North Island offering this week, made up predominantly of short coarse Second Shear wools compared to the more varied South Island longer selection last sale on 4th June, saw prices ease despite the weakening New Zealand dollar.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies came back by 1.95 percent with a 98 percent clearance of the 9,400 bales on offer. . .

NIWA’s Fieldays stand a winner:

NIWA’s Fieldays team is today basking in the glory of winning the Best Indoor Agribusiness Site awarded by the National Agricultural Fieldays organisation for the 2015 event.

Dr Mark Bojesen-Trepla, NIWA’s manager of marketing and industry engagement, said the win was a great endorsement for the team who had worked extremely hard to put together a space that would be eye-catching and relevant to farmers.

“We are delighted our efforts have been formally recognised but are also looking forward to meeting more farmers during the rest of Fieldays and showing them how we can help.” . . .




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