Rural round-up

March 27, 2020

Farming must step up, sector heads say – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s lockdown over Covid-19 is an opportunity for the agricultural sector ‘‘to step up and remind our country how great we are’’, Farmlands chief executive Peter Reidie says.

The farm supplies co-operative has been identified as an essential service and will remain open, although customers have to call or email orders first, and a contactless collection process will then be arranged.

Yesterday, Mr Reidie said the world would still need to be fed and New Zealand was very well placed in terms of the quantity and quality of its produce .

‘‘Provided we can get things on boats … we should keep on keeping on. That’s got to be the ambition,’’ he said.

It was a reminder of the importance of landowners, farmers and orchardists. . . 

Kiwi Jack Raharuhi takes the crown in top Australasian award:

Jack Raharuhi from Pāmu Farms in Westport, and Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer of the Year 2016, has been crowned the 2020 Zanda McDonald Award winner.

Raharuhi, 27 years old, is the Buller Dairy Group Operations Manager for Pāmu, where he oversees 4 dairy farms and a machinery syndicate at Cape Foulwind, and Health and Safety leadership for 10 dairy farms. He is also Chair of the West Coast Focus Farm Trust, and heavily involved with training and mentoring staff as part of the West Coast 2IC Development Programme.

The annual Award, regarded as a prestigious badge of honour by the agribusiness industry, recognises and supports talented young individuals in the ag sector from Australia and New Zealand. It was launched in 2014 in memory of Australian beef industry leader Zanda McDonald, who died aged 41 after an accident at his Queensland property in 2013. . . 

Carrying on farming and consider grain options for stock feed:

Farmers can carry on doing what they do best – putting high quality food on people’s tables and earning export revenue – with confirmation direct from the Prime Minister that they are an ‘Essential Service’ that can continue operating under the Covid-19 lockdown from midnight Wednesday.

Services associated with the primary sector, including food processors, diagnostics, farm suppliers, freight and trucking can also go about their business, while taking all practical steps to limit people to people contact.

This confirmation they are vital to helping the nation survive the virus crisis will be a relief and reason for pride for many farmers and workers in those associated industries. But for some, there remains a pressing concern – the drought, and how to feed stock. . . 

Dairy Trainee of the Year spots all go to women :

Women won all three placings in the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year competition.

The awards were presented at the West Coast Events Centre in Shantytown on Tuesday last week.

Alexis Wells won the trainee section, Dallas Bradley was second and Stephanie Gray claimed third place.

Ms Wells (21) is a farm assistant on a 307ha, 670-cow Pamu Farms of New Zealand property in Reefton. She is studying level 4 husbandry and feeding with Primary ITO and said she was proud to have made it to the dairy awards finals three years in a row. Her goal is to the win the national title. . . 

Pandemic postpones DoC predator control – David Williams:

The Conservation Department will halt operations to kill bird-eating pests during the four-week national shutdown. David Williams reports

Pest control operations to protect rare and vulnerable native species are about to cease.

The Department of Conservation will halt all biodiversity work during the upcoming four-week national shutdown, director-general Lou Sanson confirms.

“We debated that seriously but when we heard the Prime Minister [on Monday], and we understood the seriousness of the lockdown, the number one focus for New Zealand is to stop people moving, and that means all our biodiversity work stops, our construction work stops. About the only things we’ll be doing is the operation of sewerage schemes, search and rescue, and fire.”

(DoC acts as the local council, providing utilities like drinking water and sewerage schemes, in places like Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.) . . 

Exports rise as dairy gains while logs and fish fall:

Total goods exports increased in the February 2020 month due to an increase in the value of dairy products, Stats NZ said today.

The total value of meat exports was little changed, but higher quantities were exported to the United States instead of China.

The increase in total good exports was despite falls in exports of logs and fish, particularly to China, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The value of total goods exports rose by $212 million (4.5 percent) from February 2019 to reach $4.9 billion in February 2020. . . 


Science when it suits again

March 11, 2020

The plan for a predator-free country lacks a vital tool:

New Zealand cannot save the kiwi, kererū and thousands of other endangered species without gene editing, say experts.

And attempting to do so without the technology is likely to cost the country “a significant proportion of our national budget”.

New Zealand’s biodiversity crisis has been addressed by a new national Predator Free 2050 plan. 

But a number of academics and researchers claim it wrongly rejects the “most promising” new technology in pest management – gene editing.

“Under current technology, achieving the Predator Free 2050 goals would not only be unlikely to succeed, but also extremely expensive, costing us a significant proportion of our national budget,” says University of Otago professor of philosophy and politics Lisa Ellis.

“Of all technologies on the horizon today, only gene editing offers the prospect of potentially affordable and effective eradication.” . .

Opposition to gene editing often comes from people who are also opposed to conventional tools like 1080.

It often comes from people who urge us to follow the science in other debates on conservation and the environment but this is example of science only when it suits their ideology, again.

There is no hope of being predator free in 30 years without using all the tools in the eradication toolbox and it is stupid to rule-out the one that is likely to cost less and impact more with less collateral damage.

 

 


Rural round-up

February 27, 2020

Water will be currency of 21st century – Todd Muller:

Water is one of our nation’s critical strategic assets, perhaps second only behind our people. Therefore water storage is essential for ensuring we have a thriving primary sector for years to come, writes National’s Agriculture spokesman Todd Muller.

Water will be the currency of success in the next century.

In the 19th century it was coal, in the 20th century it was oil and in my view in the 21st century it is water.

We are a tradeable economy and water is a critical strategic asset in developing our commodities. The ability to store it will be a key infrastructural necessity if we are to leverage the value of water over the next few decades. . .

Wild rabbit enterprises shot down by red tape:

Federated Farmers is dismayed by reports that at least two businesses which process meat from wild rabbits are being strangled by compliance costs.

“It’s tough times on farms at the moment, with rising rabbit numbers in dry conditions.  With all the focus on predator-free and biodiversity, surely we should be working with and encouraging the commercial use of pest species, not making it harder for operators,” Feds Meat & Wool Chairperson Miles Anderson says.

Radio NZ has reported that the owner of a business supplying wild rabbits to high end restaurants, and for pet food, is spending up to 40 hours a week on paperwork, never mind growing MPI audit fees at $176 an hour.  As with another Canterbury-based processor, he told Radio NZ he was thinking of closing down. . .

Dairy returns too tiny for farmers – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers have many reasons for optimism though three out of four say the returns are not worth the effort, DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Bruce Thorrold says.

Many farmers are asking themselves why they still bother dairying and his task is to help clear the fog and rekindle motivation, he told the DairyNZ Northland farmers forum.

Farmers are worried about environmental, banking, farm value, alternative food, drought and disease pressures. . .

Weevil win – we knocked the bastard off – Karen WIlliams:

Hats off to you, Wairarapa.  In the words of another Kiwi who achieved a world-first, “we knocked the bastard off”.

Okay, eradicating the region’s pea weevil incursion isn’t as grand as Ed Hillary and Tensing Norgay climbing Everest but in terms of biosecurity, and protecting an industry that earns us $50 million in domestic sales and $84 million in exports, it is a big deal.  It’s also another bug we don’t have to spray for.

As far as we know, no other country has successfully combatted this pest after an incursion.

It’s taken a region-wide and government agency effort to get where we are – that’s growers/farmers, home gardeners, Federated Farmers, local councils, Greater Wellington, local MPs, MPI, Biosecurity NZ, the Foundation for Arable Research, Assure Quality…a big thank-you to you all for your perseverance, flexibility and understanding. . .

New app to help hunters track tahr during culling –

A long-term plan is being developed to control Himalayan tahr in the South Island.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said the large goat-like animals, introduced to New Zealand during the early days of European settlement, posed a threat to the country’s native alpine plants.

To combat the loss of native vegetation, DOC said it had been working with ecological experts to start a new monitoring system.

The long-term control plan is led by DOC and Ngāi Tahu. . . 

Beef bans based on ‘popular opinion, not facts’, Harper Adams says:

Harper Adams University has said it will never ban beef from its campus menus as it criticises other institutions for their ‘knee-jerk reactions’ to the climate crisis.

In recent years, and even more so in recent months, several UK universities have attracted significant media attention for voting motions to ban beef.

Earlier this month, thousands of students at Edinburgh University rejected proposals to ban the meat in all student union run outlets. . .

 


Water storage not just farming issue

February 25, 2020

Parts of Northland are facing the threat of water restrictions owing to the continuing drought:

The Northland Regional Council was poised to issue water shortage directions in 23 coastal communities.

Water and Waste Manager Ali McHugh said that meant water can only be used for “reasonable” household domestic needs and stock welfare needs.

“More than two dozen aquifers are nearing, or quickly heading toward, their lowest groundwater levels on record and this could cause problems for many of our small coastal communities,” she said.

“For those drawing water from bores in these areas, this means if they have not already, they may soon begin experiencing issues such as water becoming noticeably salty and other bore behaviour they have not encountered before.”

McHugh expected the small, shallow coastal groundwater systems will drop to significantly lower levels than would normally be seen during the next two to three months, bringing the real risk of saltwater, or saline, intrusion into freshwater systems.

“There is a real risk that there will be water that’s unsuitable for drinking – or even no water at all – as shallow bores become unable to pump water and deeper bores are impacted by saltwater moving inland,” she said.

If too much saltwater intrusion occurred, it could take many months for things to improve to a point where a bore water supply could be used again. . . 

Droughts are often portrayed as a farming issue but this shows it’s a problem for towns too.

Northland’s annual rainfall is about 1,000mms of rain in lower areas and 2,000mms at higher elevations.

That is plenty of rain but, like many other areas, it doesn’t always fall where it’s needed, when it’s needed.

However, some of the excess will feed lakes and rivers which gives the potential for storage when there’s more than enough to be used when there’s too little.

Those of a dark green persuasion think rivers should flow from the source to the sea as nature intended.

But storing water when there’s too much for use in droughts has environmental, economic and social benefits.

It helps maintain minimum flows to sustain water life, provides stock water, enables irrigation and keeps the taps flowing for industrial and domestic users.


Rural round-up

February 23, 2020

Virus bites into jobs – Neal Wallace:

More than 1000 logging contractors, a number industry leaders say could double, have been laid off in recent weeks as the economic impact of China’s battle to contain coronavirus begins to bite.

Meat companies and market analysts report increased activity at ports and distribution of perishable products such as food as business in parts of China returns to normal.

But disrupted shipping schedules are creating a fresh set of challenges for exporters. . .

Lim: real food is here to stay – Gerald Piddock:

Eating fads come and go but real food will never go out of fashion, chef Nadia Lim says.

Natural food, whether grown from the ground or captured from the sea or sky, will always have a place on the food plate, Lim told the DairyNZ Farmers Forum in Waikato.

The dietitian, author, Masterchef winner and My Food Bag founder said the trend to veganism and plant-based alternative meat and dairy will be temporary once consumers understood what is in these products. . .

Importance of healthy plants celebrated in Year of Plant Health:

Healthy plants’ contribution to New Zealand’s wellbeing and economic sustainability has been highlighted at the launch of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) at Parliament tonight.

“Healthy plants are the backbone of New Zealand’s wellbeing and make a significant contribution to our economy,” says Horticulture New Zealand (HortNZ) Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

“Horticulture, including viticulture, contributed approximately $9 billion to the New Zealand economy in 2019. . .

North Canterbury farming keep an eye on the dry:

The Hurunui Adverse Events Committee has been monitoring how farmers are going in the current dry weather, and to remind their communities of the wealth of experience and information available.

Famers in North Canterbury have plenty of drought experience and can take credit for being in reasonable shape as February brings weeks of hot, dry weather and high evapotranspiration.

“If we learned one thing in the 2014-2017 droughts, it was that you need to make decisions early on what you can control,” says Winton Dalley, Chair of the Hurunui Adverse Events Committee. “Its good practice to have plans and deadlines in place to destock, send stock out to graze, and buy in supplements while they are available at an affordable price. . .

Cows can help reverse global warming – Nigel Malthus:

Cows and pasture are not the villains in climate change, but could instead be our saviours, says Hawke’s Bay farmer, soil scientist and consultant Phyllis Tichinin.

An executive member of the Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group (ODPG) and on the organising committee of the group’s upcoming national conference, Tichinin says with regenerative farming methods, the grazing sector alone could make New Zealand carbon-negative.

“Cows are not bad. They’re actually a very important part of reversing global warming and CO2 levels quickly and productively.” . . 

New milk vat monitoring systems for Fonterra farmers:

Fonterra is beginning to install new milk vat monitoring systems over the next couple of years.

The aim is to support their farmers’ production of high-quality milk and make the co-op’s milk collection more efficient.

Richard Allen, group director of Farm Source, says the new milk vat monitoring systems are part of Fonterra’s commitment to help make farming easier.  . .


Govt tramples property rights

February 14, 2020

The government is trampling over West Coast farmers’ property rights:

West Coasters whose land has been newly classified as a significant wetland or natural area are unlikely to receive any compensation from the Government, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says.

After a Department of Conservation appeal to the Environment Court in 2012, the West Coast Regional Council was ordered to add a further 215 schedule 2 wetlands to its Soil and Water Plan.

Regional council chairman Allan Birchfield estimates about 5000ha of wetlands on private land are affected, with landowners required to pay for ecological assessments to see if the land qualifies for full protection under schedule 1.

“That’s effectively put the land into the DOC estate because the landowners will need DOC input – and approval as an affected party if they want to develop it. So the Crown is gaining land without paying for it, and that is theft,” he said.

“However, there is support through the sustainable land use package from budget 2019 to support landowners with fencing and riparian planting.”

Support for doing something they have no choice over is not compensation for loss of property rights.

Birchfield said that would be unacceptable to most landowners.

“It’s their land and they don’t want it fenced off. They either want it purchased or possibly a land swap. It’s not the Wild West here, where you just take land off people.”

DOC had plenty of land on the Coast, if it wanted control of the wetlands it should be a willing-seller, willing-buyer situation with no compulsion, he said.

“Those landowners lose the use of the land, but have to go on paying rates on it. DOC doesn’t pay any rates.

Farmers will not only have to pay rates, they’ll also be responsible for weed and pest control on what was their land and will be in name only.

“We’ve got little enough private land here anyway and they should keep their hands off the little we have, to make a living out of.”

The ecological benefits of wetlands are well understood but that doesn’t justify forcing farmers to retire land without compensating them.

This government doesn’t want forestry or mining on the Coast, it’s rejected a hydro generation plan and now it’s effectively taking land from farmers, leaving them with the costs of ownership and none of the benefits.

Property rights are one of the foundation stone of democracy.

Forcing farmers to retire land without compensating them tramples all over those rights.

 


Water, water . . .

February 12, 2020

We had around 70mms of rain last week – it was welcome for both the timing and amount.

For once North Otago has been blessed with enough but not too much, unlike Southland which was inundated and further north which is suffering from drought.

This photo, taken a week before the rain, shows the difference irrigation makes:

Without irrigation, all of the district would have looked like the hillside in the background, and had it not been for last week’s rain, we’d have been facing drought.

While nothing beats water from above, dry weather here doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to.

Before we had widespread irrigation the district lurched from one drought to the next, playing catch-up in the good years but never making progress.

Enough of the district now has irrigation which allows grass and crop growth in dry weather and gives opportunities for people on dry land to buy feed or grazing or to sell stock to those who have water.

It’s drought-proofed farms and created more jobs on farms and in town.

Many other districts aren’t so blessed.

Large areas of the country are now facing drought and don’t have the option to irrigate. But many places could if there was more water storage.

If predictions of dry weather caused by climate change prove to be right we should be investing in more dams to store water when there’s an excess to use when it’s dry.

It has economic, environmental and social benefits, not just for farms but for towns and cities which are facing water restrictions now as they wait for rain.


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