Rural round-up

August 4, 2020

Hyperbole flies over high country – David Williams:

The Government’s big shake-up of the high country has upset farmers and green groups. David Williams drills into the detail

Across Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown, at the sprawling Mt Nicholas Station, Kate Cocks and her family seem sheltered from the ill winds of Covid-19. 

Yes, the catamaran that used to bring tourists over for farm tours isn’t running, and the public road running through the almost 40,000-hectare station isn’t packed with tourists riding the Around the Mountains cycle trail. 

But Mt Nicholas still has certainty. It has long-lasting contracts with US-owned clothing company Icebreaker and Italian textiles company Reda for the wool from its 29,000 merino sheep, and also runs 2300 Hereford cattle.  . . 

Crossbred farmers feel financial pinch – Yvonne O’Hara:

Southern Rural Life reporter Yvonne O’Hara  looks at  issues affecting the shearing sector, particularly training and crossbred wool returns.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul does not make financial sense when shearing crossbred sheep.

Although the issue was not common at present, some crossbred farmers might be looking at cutting costs and asking their contractors to limit the supply of woolhandlers to their sheds, New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association president Mark Barrowcliffe said

More were likely to be considering that if the price they received for their wool did not improve and shearing, transport and associated costs were not recovered. . .

Tackling farming boots and all – Gerard Hutching:

A former international rugby player who once played for the All Blacks, decided to end his stellar career and hang his boots to return to his farming roots. Gerard Hutching reports.

For George Whitelock a decade-long professional rugby career had a myriad benefits: a secure income, world travel, paths to leadership and friendships forged with a cross-section of Kiwi society. 

But in terms of dairy farming, the pay-off has related to the way in which performance was measured on and off the sports field, and how that has translated into his new business.  

“What drives you when you’re a sportsman is that when you play every week, with technology you get all the improvements from watching video clips and varying your performance,” George said. 

“With farming I get great satisfaction every day knowing what’s going out the gate and I can judge myself and ask ‘what did I do well today or not so well’ – it’s so measurable. That challenge drives me, and it’s why I’m so passionate about dairying.”1 . . 

From koru to cows – Annette Scott:

Nikayla Knight’s career path has gone from the glamour of serving lattes in an airport lounge to milking cows on a Mid Canterbury dairy farm and she is stoked.

Knight was pursuing a hospitality career in the Koru Lounge at Dunedin airport when covid-19 struck. She effectively lost her job overnight.

“Given tourism shut down because of covid I was out of work. I wasn’t going to sit around and do nothing.

“I had three months out of work, no money coming in, no hope of returning to my job so I was looking for anything,” Knight said. . . 

UN removes anti-meat tweet:

The United Nations has removed a tweet following a global backlash from farmers.

The tweet, posted on July 26, stated “The meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the world’s biggest oil companies. Meat production contributes to the depletion of water resources & drives deforestation.”

The tweet was accused of being sympathetic to oil companies, whilst targeting the meat industry.

According to Australian website Farm Online, the Australian government felt particularly targeted by the tweet. . .

Agrichemical industry will take responsibility for environmental waste :

Agrichemical manufacturers back the government’s mandate to take environmental responsibility for their products at the end of their useful life.

Agcarm members support the government’s moves to place the onus on them to ensure that their products can be recycled or disposed of safely. The association’s chief executive Mark Ross says “our members have a long history of taking responsibility for their products. They do this by paying a levy on all products sold, so that they can be recycled or sustainably treated at the end of their useful life”.

The industry funds the rural recycling programme Agrecovery which offers farmers alternatives to the harmful disposal practices of burning, burying and stockpiling of waste. Agcarm is a founder and trustee of the programme, “demonstrating a long-standing commitment to better environmental outcomes,” says Ross. . .


Rural round-up

August 3, 2020

Rural women survived, thrived – Kerrie Waterworth:

Poverty,  isolation, bone-chilling winters, as well as the loss of jobs, partners and family homes were some of the hardships rural women experienced and had to overcome in their daily lives in the Upper Clutha. Kerrie Waterworth reports.

Sally Battson moved from Auckland to Makarora, a town at the head of Lake Wanaka on the Haast Highway between Wanaka and the West Coast, to marry the co-owner of Wilkin jet-boats in the 1980s.

Back then, the sealed road began and ended at Dinner Creek on Lake Hawea.

“People used to say to me ‘Don’t you get lonely?’ but you can get lonely anywhere. The thing I used to say about Makarora was it was on the way to everywhere.” . . 

Water tool for farmers wins  – Sally Rae:

Dunedin tech company Tussock Innovation has received the Digital Innovation Award at this year’s virtual National Fieldays.

Covid 19 restrictions meant the event — which generated $549million in sales revenue for New Zealand businesses and injected $249million into the country’s GDP last year — was held online.

For many in the agri-business sector, the event is the biggest sales opportunity of the year and, for Tussock Innovation, it provided a tool to meet customers, gain product validation information and expand brand recognition, chief executive Jesse Teat said.

The company won the award with its Waterwatch product, which it had spent the past six months “honing” with the support of Palmerston North-based Sprout agri-tech accelerator . . 

Big career change working out well – George Clark:

Simon Kennedy sought a drastic lifestyle change.

After a 25-year history driving stock trucks around the country, and with his son getting ready to fly the coop, he felt a call to the farm.

For the last 12 months, the 45-year-old has been the sole shepherd on the 3500ha Ben Ohau Station at Twizel.

“I came with an open mind and two dogs. Increasing my team up to four dogs, I [now] do 95% of the stock work and love the challenge this property gives me every day . .

Made of clay and full of history:

Restoring two cob cottages in South Canterbury has become a labour of love for a retired Christchurch couple with lots of energy and a passion for the area.

Early settlers in at Burkes Pass made the cob walls of the cottages from clay, animal manure and chopped snow tussock.

Jane and Graham Bachelor bought their first cottage at an auction at the local hotel in 1984. 

It was originally built by a shepherd, James Keefe, in 1876 and in a sorry state of repair when they acquired it, Jane says.

“We bought the cottage at a time when the exterior cladding and windows were disintegrating in front of our eyes.” . . 

Equity partnership pathway to farm ownership:

The New Zealand primary sector faces a dilemma over funding for future expansion which has prompted Bayleys rural real estate to take the initiative on helping to solve it. An upcoming seminar aims to introduce young farmers who are keen to get a piece of their own property to investors who have the capital to help back them.

Bayleys Country has organised a farm equity partnership seminar in Havelock North on August 12 and already have over 100 registered attendees.

Bayleys national director rural Duncan Ross said that bank sourced farm finance has become increasingly difficult for farmers and investors to secure after a relatively easy period for credit from the early 2000s to 2010. . .

New president of Agcarm:

The industry association for crop protection and animal health manufacturers and distributors has appointed Gavin Kerr, Country Manager for agrichemical company Nufarm, as its president at the Agcarm annual meeting on July 23.

Kerr says that “it’s a privilege to work in agriculture and a role I don’t take for granted”.

He would like to see one important change implemented well before the end of his three-year term.

“Farmers and growers need and deserve access to the best and latest products. But New Zealand is missing out on new, more effective treatments due to delays that discourage investment in introducing these technologies. . . 

Livestock management companies for sale provide fertile opportunities for new owners:

Two livestock birth-management firms enabling New Zealand farmers to be among the most productive primary producers in the world has been placed on the market for sale.

Cattle pregnancy testing company Ultra-Scan was established in 1994 to examine the fertility rate of pregnant cows. Ultra-Scan now has 20 franchises throughout New Zealand – with 14 in the North Island and six in the South Island. The majority of the company’s North Island franchise operations are located in the Greater Waikato and King Country districts.

While initially founded to deliver cow gestation scanning services, Ultra-Scan’s service offering has subsequently gone on to include similar pregnancy tests for sheep, deer and goats, as well as the de-horning of young calves aged between four days and 10 weeks of age – in a Ministry for Primary Industry-approved practice known as ‘disbudding’ on calves – as well as DNA sampling, electronic calf tagging for identification, and teat removal. . . 


Rural round-up

August 2, 2020

Country’s backbone performs:

New Zealand’s primary sector has added steel to the country’s economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recently released report.

Economic and research firm NZIER latest Insight report – released last week – says the livestock, forestry and horticulture sector have performed well over the lockdown period and as the Covid-19 crisis has continued overseas.

“Our land-based industries have proven themselves to be exceptionally resilient, particularly when it comes to trade” says Chris Nixon, NZIER principal economist and lead author of the report.

Farmstrong: fill the fountain not the drain – Trish Rankin:

Juggling farm work and family responsibilities is a challenge many rural women face.

Taranaki sharemilker and 2019 Dairy Woman of the Year winner Trish Rankin and her husband Glen run a 460-cow sharemilking operation near Manaia. 

Life’s plenty busy for the couple, they’re also raising four kids aged 15, 13, 9 and 7.

“I generally work about four days a week on-farm over the season just to give people days off but obviously in calving and higher-intensity times I’m full-time on-farm.  . . 

From cockpit to farm :

When COVID-19 ground his eight-year career as a pilot for Air New Zealand to a sudden halt, Henry Lambert decided to turn it into an opportunity for a complete change – to farming.

His story has been featured as a positive example of COVID career pivots on the six o’clock news, but the father-of-two is no stranger to dairy. He grew up around his grandfather’s and uncles’ dairy farms and while he was flying planes, a career on the land had always been in the back of his mind. So, when the pandemic started to hit the aviation industry, it seemed like the perfect time to change gears.

The dairy industry’s crying out for skilled workers, so Henry hoped by creating a CV and posting it on the Farm Source website, he’d get to give farming a crack.

“I always thought I’d like to have a go one day, so when I was presented with this unique opportunity, it seemed like a good fit.”. . .

Time for sector to find united voice – Allan Barber:

Several organisations with an interest in the future of our agricultural sector have come out with strategies or visions for what needs to be done to find New Zealand’s place in the sun. One such report produced by the Primary Sector Council has been sponsored, one could say hijacked, by the government, and converted by MPI into a set of financial and environmental targets. Another is the result of independent research and consultation. Ideally either the government will engage with the primary sector to agree the best policy settings the industry believes necessary to meet these ambitious targets, rather than insisting on following the plan it commissioned to meet its own priorities.

The coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming Election have to some extent provided a distraction from the pace of environmental change, but nobody should be under any illusion – this will undoubtedly accelerate when a new government is in power which at the moment looks like a Labour/Greens coalition without the NZ First handbrake being needed to govern. There is a small window for the primary sector to argue for its preferred future direction. . . 

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

Using New Zealand strong wool to produce biodegradable disposal nappies for a multi-billion dollar global market is gaining traction as a new avenue for farmers desperate to find new places to sell their product, with multinational companies showing interest in NZ technology.

As part of the recent launch of the strong wool sector’s plan for the future Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said Wellington-based company Woolchemy will get $80,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Woolchemy co-founder and chief executive Derelee Potroz-Smith says the money will pay for a commercial trial of technology that enables wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in consumer hygiene products, adding significant value to the raw material produced by NZ strong wool farmers. . . 

New crops offer opportunities :

Six ‘star’ crops – soy, hemp, chickpeas, oats, buckwheat and quinoa – could represent new opportunities for New Zealand farmers.

According to the Specialty Grains & Pulses Report produced by an Our Land and Water National Science Challenge research programme, Next Generation Systems, locally grown grains and pulses like soy, chickpeas and quinoa are being explored by local researchers and growers. In the report, researchers looked at the opportunities presented by new and different plant crops in the grain and pulses families. From a long list of 22 possible grains and pulses, the research team narrowed their focus down to six ‘star’ crops they think have the most potential for New Zealand farmers. These are soy, hemp, chickpeas, oats, buckwheat and quinoa. 


Rural round-up

August 1, 2020

A ticking time bomb – Sudesh Kissun:

Our dairy industry risks been exposed to a ‘ticking time bomb’ of unethical players unlawfully passing off New Zealand-made and packed milk powder products in China as supplements for babies.

A Kiwi entrepreneur has warned Rural News that the issue could easily become another food safety headache for the NZ dairy industry in the lucrative Chinese market.

Jane Li, a China dairy market consultant who operates retail stores in China, says formulated milk powders with added whey protein concentrate, lactoferrin and colostrum are being repacked by some Chinese-owned companies here and sold as supplements for infants and toddlers in the China market. . . 

MPI says it will act:

MPI says it takes the claims made by Jane Li seriously and where it has evidence that exporters are not meeting their requirements, it will take action.

Li says New Zealand’s dairy industry risks being exposed to a ‘ticking time bomb’ of unethical players unlawfully passing off New Zealand-made and packed milk powder products in China as supplements for babies. 

“We take complaints against New Zealand businesses very seriously,” a MPI spokesperson told Rural News.

He says that the safety and wellbeing of the public is central to the rules and requirements New Zealand has in place to ensure food and beverages are safe and suitable. 

Expecting flight attendants to become dairy workers is unfair:

An Auckland academic and innovation advisor at Tech Futures Lab Richard Rowley is not surprised that former Air New Zealand flight attendants don’t want to become dairy hands or social workers, describing such change as too confrontational, not to mention unfair.

“The slow start to fill 1000 vacant dairy farm jobs, and the fact that employers in several sectors are struggling to fill vacancies isn’t because everybody’s happy to be on welfare,” says Rowley. “It comes down to the fact that what we do is tied to who we are, and for some, the leap of faith is just too great.

“Our education system has largely not produced adaptable people. The people who struggled at school will be the same people who are challenged by changing careers because it was drummed into them that they are not good learners.”

Rowley says that when it comes to shifting career, self-esteem and confidence play a huge part. As a result, most people will see only obstacles, including age, experience, and physical ability. . . 

Seeds sown for strong elderflower future –  George Clark:

If you think a trip overseas could inspire a future career, you may be right.

Just ask Addmore owner Kate Addis.

The seeds for her Geraldine-based elderflower business were planted in 2002 after a stint abroad in Dorset, England, where she had been travelling.

Her elderflowers were grown locally and the beverages bottled in North Canterbury. . . 

Right tree right place, the solution to New Zealand’s afforestation question:

With discussion growing around NZ’s afforestation targets and farm conversions to forestry, like many groups, the New Zealand Forest and Wood Sector Forum is advocating for the right tree in right place for the right purpose as the obvious solution.

The farm vs forest debate is not a new one, but has certainly been more heated in recent months, with industry commentary from both sectors.

As with many groups, the New Zealand Forest and Wood Sector Forum is advocating for a unified approach, with the right trees, in the right places, for the right purposes as the answer.

This means taking a measured approach to the question of land use. Rather than buying a title and saying it will be solely for one use or another, we need to examine the land under the title, and decide what the best use is for each piece of land. In other words, some hill country farmers would benefit from having some of their land under forest, while some forest land could be better used for food production. . . 

Continued growth for the mighty avocado industry :

The New Zealand avocado industry has finalised the 2019-20 season results. The 2019-20 avocado season saw avocado export volumes up to 3.8m 5.5kg trays, an increase of 26% on the previous season. Asian markets including Thailand, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan received 35% more volume, meeting the industry’s objective to grow volume to the Asian markets.

Industry returns for the 2019-20 season are $154m, and increase on the previous year of $10m. The New Zealand market sold a record 2.7m trays worth over $50m demonstrating kiwis growing love of the wonderfully healthy avocado. For the first time in a number of years there was no break in avocado supply, as growers held on to one crop while the new crop matured on the trees. This also avoided the spike in pricing that often accompanies the lower supply but increasing demand.

Investment into new plantings continued in 2019 with over 120 new avocado properties registered between May 2019 to May 2020. New Zealand Avocado Growers’ Association Inc. Chair Tony Ponder says New Zealand’s avocado industry is in a position of growth and development. . . 


Rural round-up

July 31, 2020

Lessees can be forced to cull tahr – Neal Wallace:

High-Country pastoral lessees could be drawn into the contentious tahr cull issue with plans for a population survey on Crown pastoral lease land later this year.

Federated Farmers high-country committee past chairman Simon Williamson believes lease terms will force some landowners to cull tahr.

The Conservation Department has begun a major cull in Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks but operations director Dr Ben Reddiex says it is not eradication.

“The vast majority of commercial hunting takes place on Crown pastoral lease and private land. . . 

Cotter passionate about supporting farmers in need – Janette Gellatly:

Passionate about the rural sector and people’s welfare, Southland Rural Support Trust chairwoman Cathie Cotter says the best aspect of her role is being there for farmers.

‘‘Our role is to talk to farmers who are having some kind of stress and . . .to connect them with the right people to make a positive difference.’’

These could include various agencies, such as mental wellness providers, financial institutions and other rural stakeholders such as DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand. ‘‘We are here to support all farmers [whether it be aquaculture or on the land] in Southland.’’ As part of its holistic approach, the trustees were also volunteers. Most have been through challenging times themselves, so could relate and understand when others were having difficulties, Mrs Cotter said.

It was about farmers helping farmers. . . 

Pilot kickstarts shearing training – Colin Williscroft:

Almost $2 million will be spent developing and delivering sustainable and integrated training for shearing and wool handling.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says $1.86m from the Provincial Growth Fund will be invested over two years to establish a pilot for the Shearing Training Model programme.

It will use micro-credentialing, earn-as-you-learn training to upskill 150 new and 120 existing shearers.

It will target school leavers, unemployed and underemployed people, career changers and those already in the industry who want to learn new skills. . . 

Mataura Valley Milk – the zombie dairy company – Brent Melville:

When it started production outside Gore in late 2018, Mataura Valley Milk was greeted with huge excitement by the Southland community, government ministers and dairy farmers alike.

The growth of infant nutritional product sales into China offered the prospect of an export bonanza.

While the growth of New Zealand-sourced dairy formula exports into China lived up to hype – growing by almost a third last year to 120,000 tonnes and generating $1.7 billion in export receipts – Mataura Valley itself was moving in the wrong direction.

It is, after all, a competitive market with well established distribution channels, dominated by Fonterra, Synlait, Danone and GMP Dairy; so growing pains were expected. . . 

Fieldays Online: 2020 Innovation Awards winners announced :

Forward-thinking Kiwis have been celebrated with the annual Fieldays Innovation Awards, with the winners announced today.

Innovation has been at the heart of Fieldays since its inception over 50 years ago, say organisers.

“It is the very reason Fieldays exists and why Fieldays Online was launched. Innovation is not easy, it requires courage and a willingness to take on risk, yet it is also fundamental to the overall sustainability of any business or industry. It is necessary if we wish to solve today’s problems and prepare the ground for solving tomorrow’s.” . . 

A farmer perspective in the boardroom – Stuart Wright:

Deputy chair of Ravensdown, Stuart Wright on why farmers should throw their hat in the ring and join board rooms.

OPINION: The phrase ‘gumboot directors’ came about in the 1970s when co-operatives like Ravensdown were created.

Originally intended as a jibe from the corporate business world, it became a badge of honour as farmer shareholders put their hand up to influence the businesses they own.

These days, New Zealand’s agri co-operatives are multi-million-dollar operations, with complex business models and risk profiles. And the governance of such organisations has never been more important. . . 


Rural round-up

July 30, 2020

Fonterra wins right to refuse suppliers – Esther Taunton:

A long-awaited law change means Fonterra could refuse to accept milk from controversial dairy conversions like the Simons Pass development in the Mackenzie Basin.

Changes to the 20-year-old Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (Dira) passed unanimously through Parliament on Friday.

The new rules allow Fonterra to reject milk from new dairy farm conversions and extend its rights to refuse milk from farmers who don’t meet its standards.

The amendments also remove the requirement for the co-op to supply milk to competitors to help them get established and allow it to refuse re-entry to farmers who have switched processors. . . 

Recruitment campaign won’t turn ‘flight attendants into dairy workers’ – Brent Melville:

Pivoting unemployed New Zealanders into the agriculture and primary sector won’t turn former Air New Zealand flight attendants into dairy workers or remove the need for specialist skills across the processing sector, according to a change consultant.

The comments come as the Ministry for Primary Industries rolls out a $4.5 million recruitment campaign aiming to fill a 10,000-job hole across the agricultural and primary sectors left by New Zealand’s extended border closures through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The website and marketing campaign, ‘opportunity grows here’, was developed by ad agency Clemenger BBDO and the four-year project is being funded through a $19.3m allocation under this year’s budget. . . 

Future of New Zealand’s farming should be female – Nicky Hyslop:

 At first glance, farming might appear to be a way of life that is as old as the hills. But when you look closer, it is clear that farming is a modern profession – and one that is certainly not stuck in the mud.

Modern farming practices are increasingly challenging any parochial view that some Kiwis have about the industry.

Gone are the days of simply mucking in and hoping for the best. Farming today involves new technologies and harnessing big data to drive decision-making. And coupling these innovations with an increased emphasis on animal welfare, soil nutrition and environmental stewardship.

Farming has always been competitive. Understanding crop rotation, grazing, nutrient profiles of soil and transport logistics are just some of the factors that farmers have to get right in order to be successful. . . 

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

Alliance Group is to spend $3.2million on a further upgrade at its Lorneville plant, near Invercargill, to help improve operational efficiency.

The plant’s engine room two, which provides key refrigeration for four cold stores, some blast freezers and several product chillers will receive upgraded safety features, equipment and building structure.

The programme would improve the company’s ability to control the refrigeration system remotely and provide a platform for further investment, Alliance said in a statement. . . 

$7.9m for SFF dividend, patronage :

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative has declared a dividend and patronage reward for shareholders totalling $7.9 million.

The decision followed receipt of a cash dividend of $12.4 million to the co-operative from Silver Fern Farms Ltd, which is jointly owned by Silver Fern Farms Co-operative and China’s Shanghai Maling.

That dividend was generated from Silver Fern Farms Ltd’s 2019 financial year for which it reported a net profit after tax of $70.7 million in April this year.

At the time, the dividend was deferred at the request of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative and Shanghai Maling until the outlook for the global trading environment became clearer. .  .

 

Five farmers revitalise soil health while remaining profitable:

Scottish farmers are getting their heads together on one of the most fundamental concerns – how to revitalise soil health to achieve more sustainable farming and profit.

The Soil Regenerative Group has been created to explore which techniques, treatments, crops and rotations best establish resilient soils and how to integrate these into profits.

From growing linseed to broadcasting seed on the day of harvest, grazing sheep on oilseed rape to direct drilling, each farmer is experimenting differently and is at varied stages of adopting “regenerative”, or conservation, farming. . . 


Rural round-up

July 29, 2020

New farmer training programme being rolled out– Sally Rae:

Wanted — farmers to inspire the next generation of farmers to perform at their best.

That is what Growing Future Farmers (GFF), a training programme for young people interested in entering the sheep, beef and deer industry is looking for — providing a career pathway for farmers of the future.

A pilot programme has been held the Gisborne and Wairarapa regions and it will be rolled out to six regions next year, including two in the South Island.

The aim was to have 10 farmer trainers in each area.

Gisborne farmers Dan and Tam Jex-Blake spoke at information evenings in Winton and Kurow last week, outlining the programme to potential farmer trainers. . .

Ag contractors frustrated – David Anderson:

Agricultural contractors are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of skilled workers available.

The frustration comes amid growing concerns for the industry and farm production in the face of a critical shortage of skilled machinery operators.

Industry body Rural Contractors NZ (RCNZ) is calling on the Government to allow overseas-based operators back into New Zealand to help alleviate the growing problem.

The end of a golden career :

Russell Lowe has spent almost 50 years selecting, observing, propagating and tasting kiwifruit at Plant and Food Research in Te Puke. Earlier this year Russell was recognised for his role in developing Zespri’s SunGold kiwifruit.

Forty-eight years ago, research scientist Russell Lowe moved to Te Puke to work at the DSIR’s new research orchard.

There was not a crop in the ground and Russell’s first job was to bang in posts so kiwifruit could be planted.

Now there are more than 40 hectares of fruit planted for research, greenhouses, eight coolstores, purpose-built labs, a packhouse and an office block on site. . . 

Pork surplus crisis averted by measures- Sally Rae:

It could have been an unmitigated disaster for the pork industry.

Covid-19 Alert Level 4 and 3 restrictions earlier this year meant independent butchers were not allowed to open fully for retail customers.

That meant a surplus of up to 5000 pigs on New Zealand farms every week and a looming animal welfare issue, the worst-case scenario being the euthanasing of pigs on-farm.

However, such a crisis was averted through various solutions, including an innovative food bank initiative. . . 

Feds applauds carpet maker’s wool focus:

Federated Farmers congratulates the leadership shown by New Zealand carpet maker Cavalier Corporation in announcing last week it will to return to its roots as a wool and natural fibres-only business.

Cavalier said in February that profit margins selling synthetic carpets were getting thinner but sales of its wool carpets were steadily rising.

“Choosing to concentrate on New Zealand-produced natural wool, with its superior durability, warmth, sound-dampening and fire-retardant qualities is a smart decision for any company,” Federated Farmers Meat and Wool Chairperson William Beetham says. . . 

Aroma NZ buys leading NZ flower supplier:

New Zealand’s biggest green-lipped mussel health food company has bought one of the country’s largest flower growing companies.

Aroma NZ has successfully purchased Moffatt’s Flowers, which has been growing roses and other flowers in their Christchurch glasshouses since 1949.

As one of the largest rose growers and flower wholesalers in New Zealand, Moffatt’s grows 35 varieties of roses in a network of more than 20,000 square metres of climate-controlled glasshouses. This results in an annual output of more than three million rose stems, along with other flowers.

Aroma NZ director Ben Winters says they have been looking to diversify into different industry sectors. .  .


Frank conversation on water

July 29, 2020

Irrigation New Zealand is seeking a frank conversation about water:

Today Irrigation New Zealand released its 2020 Election Manifesto. IrrigationNZ represents most of the country’s large irrigation schemes and has 3500 members across 800,000 hectares of New Zealand contributing $5.4bn of GDP. The manifesto puts the following requests to the New Zealand Government:

A national water strategy that guides the future of water management and investment across Aotearoa New Zealand – and asks that IrrigationNZ be at the table to contribute to this.

A focus on water storage to ensure our communities are resilient to climate change and to assist with land-use change to meet sure carbon targets

The devastation droughts wrought on Hawkes Bay and Northland this year could have been minimised had water been harvested and stored when there was a surplus. Some of the damage inflicted on Northland by recent floods could have been offset, at least a little, had some of the rain been captured in dams.

More and better water storage would also have protected towns and cities from water shortages.

Policies that support irrigation and the environment, through monitoring, farm environment planning, innovation, and adaptation – and asks the government partner with IrrigationNZ to assist because of its ‘on the ground’ expertise.

A resolution to Māori rights and interests in freshwater – and offers support to iwi, hapū, and whānau groups about access to water and efficient, effective, environmentally sensitive irrigation development, where appropriate and beneficial.

An allocation framework that provides certainty and reliability of supply, whilst providing for multiple uses and benefits for economic, social, cultural, and environmental well-being. IrrigationNZ can assist agencies with this policy work through its expertise in managing complex changes to allocation frameworks in catchments with multiple stakeholders and water uses.

IrrigationNZ also states that it will support the sector and partner with Government, members and stakeholders to achieve the following:

  • develop a clear, recognised and unambiguous set of standards for irrigation
  • ensure efficient and effective water use that minimises adverse environmental effects
  • work to ensure widespread adoption of the irrigation standards
  • increase understanding of the benefits of irrigation.
  • support members in national and regional advocacy

IrrigationNZ is offering to share its knowledge, expertise, and data to support the above in relation to:

  • farm environment plans and the freshwater modules within them
  • Water storage solutions
  • Water allocation issues

“Freshwater use in New Zealand involves multiple aspects and is integral to life, IrrigationNZ wants to see this precious resource better managed through the development of a water strategy for Aotearoa,” says Elizabeth Soal, chief executive of IrrigationNZ.

“We are already seeing a focus on freshwater across various policy areas such as the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Fit for a Better World, Ministry for the Environment’s Essential Freshwater policy package and the Department of Internal Affairs three waters’ reform and establishment of the drinking water authority, Taumata Arowai.

“IrrigationNZ believes all these issues could be aligned with a water strategy to guide and lead decision-making and funding allocation at the central, regional, and local levels. This could be led by a bi-partisan, independent water commission.

“As part of this, we would also like to progress a frank conversation with the Government and stakeholders about water storage and irrigation development which does not shy away from both the benefits and the impacts.

“With primary industries the backbone of this country for the foreseeable future, and access to reliable water a critical part of enabling this, we must move forward and ensure the right investment and outcomes from best practice water management.”

North Otago has had very little rain for several months. When, as often happened before we had much irrigation, we would have been going into spring with little soil moisture and a lot of uncertainty about pasture and crop growth.

Thanks to several irrigation schemes, we know that irrigation will compensate for what nature hasn’t provided.

The economic and social benefits from that are immense and it also has environmental benefits by maintaining minimum flows in waterways and protecting soils from erosion.

If predictions of higher temperatures and more floods due to climate change are taken seriously, irrigation must be part of the mitigation plan.

Irrigation New Zealand’s 2020 Election Manifesto can be found here.


Rural round-up

July 28, 2020

Synthetics out in favour of natural fibres – Sally Rae:

Carpet-maker Cavalier is ditching synthetics in favour of wool and other natural fibres, citing “negative impacts on people’s health and the planet”.

The listed company yesterday unveiled a new transformational strategy, saying it would transition away from the manufacture and supply of synthetic fibre carpets over the next 12 months and existing synthetic stocks would be sold down.

In its strategy, the company said the long-term dangers posed by plastics were becoming clear. Plastic was a global problem and manufacturers needed to be part of the solution.

The impact that plastics had on human health was not yet fully understood, but early studies suggested that microplastics entering the body were a potential threat. The average Kiwi home with synthetic carpet was similar to having 22,000 plastic bags on the floor, by weight, it said. . . 

From lipstick to gum boots :

City girl becomes ‘Gumboot Girl’ and helps introduce sustainable practices on Northland dairy farm.

For years Jo Wood worked as a beauty therapist in Auckland. She was, in her words, “a city slicker”.

But then she “fell into” another job, one about as far removed from the glamour of make-up, manicures and pedicures as it’s possible to get.

Working in gumboots and a singlet, these days she walks the pastures of a 350ha dairy farm located on the coast between the Northland towns of Wellsford and Warkworth – and is known to one and all by her alter ego ‘Gumboot Girl‘. . .

 

Wools NZ elects new chairman – Annette Scott:

Former Beef and Lamb New Zealand chairman James Parson has been elected chairman of Wools NZ to lead the organisation in a new direction post covid-19.

The recognised industry leader, well known for his past chairmanship of Beef and Lamb NZ and the NZ Meat Board, Parsons was initially elected to the board by growers at the organisation’s annual meeting in November.    

The grower-owned strong wool marketing and export company has now embarked on a new era post covid-19 to re-orientate its strategic direction.

Parsons, a Northland sheep and beef farmer believes he well understands the industry challenges from a grassroots perspective. . . 

What’s next for the wool industry? – Annette Scott:

Step one of the wool industry’s Vision and Action report has connected the stakeholders now Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor says the next step must lead to real purpose.

“It’s absolutely crucial the next step is real purpose, this report will most certainly not be sitting gathering dust,” O’Connor said.

“The project action group (PAG) has rounded up the situation, connected with industry players and provided some real guidance for the next step.

“With the absence of major initiatives from the industry I have to be responsible to put something up.”  . . 

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

Alliance Group is to spend $3.2million on a further upgrade at its Lorneville plant, near Invercargill, to help improve operational efficiency.

The plant’s engine room two, which provides key refrigeration for four cold stores, some blast freezers and several product chillers will receive upgraded safety features, equipment and building structure.

The programme would improve the company’s ability to control the refrigeration system remotely and provide a platform for further investment, Alliance said in a statement.

It would also give an opportunity to have more control points and sensors, improve the ability to provide automation control and result in ‘‘significant’’ savings through energy efficiency. . . 

Welsh unions highlight farmers’ role in fighting climate change :

Wales’ two farming unions have highlighted the vital role of agriculture in helping the UK to address the threat of climate change.

NFU Cymru and the Farmers’ Union of Wales held a virtual meeting with the UK’s High-Level Climate Action Champion, Nigel Topping, who was appointed by the prime minister in January.

In addition to wider discussions around climate change, the roundtable event provided a platform to discuss the ‘Race to Zero’ campaign.

The international campaign aims to strive for a healthy, resilient zero carbon recovery, which was launched on World Environment Day and will run up to COP26 . . .


Rural round-up

July 27, 2020

Pandemic fall-out weighs heavily on farmer confidence:

Spurred by COVID-19 repercussions, farmer confidence in economic conditions has slumped to the lowest level since 2009, the Federated Farmers July Farm Confidence Survey shows.

Responses from 1,725 farmers saw a net 28.6% of them rate current economic conditions as bad, a 53-point drop on the January survey when a net 24.6% considered them to be good.

“It’s pretty grim looking forward as well,” Feds President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

A net 58.7% of the farmers who responded expect general economic conditions to worsen over the next 12 months, a 17-point reduction on our survey six months ago when a net 41.5% expected them to worsen. . .

Let’s see how the milk flows – and to whom – after DIRA changes are included in a deluge of new laws – Point of Order:

Latest from the Beehive

While the news media have been preoccupied with matters such as the resignation of a National MP and sacking of a Labour minister in recent days, Parliament has been getting on with legislating.  It has passed a tanker-load of bills, since we last posted a Beehive Bulletin, including legislation that government the economically vital dairy industry and Fonterra’s role in it.

The Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Bill amends legislation passed almost 20 years ago to enable the creation of Fonterra and promote the efficient operation of dairy markets in New Zealand.

But the dairy sector has changed considerably since 2001 and the amendments made to “this very aged legislation” ensure this regulatory regime puts the sector in the best possible position in a post-COVID world, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said. . .

Farmers farming for today, thinking about tomorrow – Hugh Collins:

Environmental care and protection is a topic never far from the forefront of public and media discourse.

And more often than not the farming sector finds itself in the firing line over carbon emissions and pollution.

Yet Paul Edwards believes the vast majority of farmers have always been good custodians of the land.

“They are doing their best to look after their environmental footprint on the land and to make it sustainable for future generations,” he said. . . 

Warm dry conditions help shape up kūmara: – Carol Stiles:

Cooks will have to peel fewer gnarly kūmara this year thanks to a very unusual growing season.

Country Life producer Carol Stiles was in the kūmara capital recently and called in to see Andre de Bruin,  who has been growing kūmara around Dargaville for 25 years.

This season has been one out of the box for kūmara growers like Andre de Bruin.

It has resulted in an “absolutely stunning” crop, largely due to the heat and the big dry in the North.

He says the season has been one of the most interesting kūmara growers have ever had – from the extraordinary drought to the lessons of the Covid lockdown.

“The drought early on was very stressful,” he says. . . 

Support for flood-affected farmers:

Heavy rain affecting parts of Northland over the weekend is another blow to farmers recovering from the recent drought.

To support farmer decision-making as they deal with silt-damaged pastures, hungry stock and damaged infrastructure, Beef + lamb New Zealand has put together flood-specific management resources.

These include a list of immediate priorities and action plans, how to deal with silt, health and safety and guidelines for volunteers working on farm post-flood.

Veronica Gillett, Extension Manager for Northern North Island says recent rainfall in Northland has been powerful and destructive. . .

Implementing a holistic grazing plan  –  Annelie Coleman:

Sandy Speedy is regarded as one of the pioneers of holistic beef cattle production in South Africa. Annelie Coleman visited him and his daughter, Jennifer, on their cattle ranch between Vryburg and Kuruman to learn more about their ‘wagon wheel’ grazing system.

The Speedy family’s journey towards holistic grazing management started in the 1960s. At the time, the likes of botanist John Acocks, and red meat producer, Len Howell, were championing the counter-intuitive claim that grazing in South Africa was deteriorating because of overgrazing and under-stocking.

“Farmer’s Weekly at the time was filled with correspondence debating the validity, or otherwise, of the claim,” recalls Sandy Speedy.

It was at this time that Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) grassland specialist, Allan Savory, entered the discussion, and gave it new impetus with his concept of holistic grazing management. . . 


Rural round-up

July 26, 2020

Pork farmer predicts ‘massive’ productivity drop – Yvonne O’Hara:

Like many in the pork industry, North Otago pig farmer Ian Carter is dependent on experienced and skilled migrant workers to run his 318ha, 2000 pig, 700 cattle operation.

If farmers cannot access migrant workers with the needed skill sets and experience, including from the Philippines where there are large commercial pork operations, he predicts a “massive drop in productivity” within the industry.

As a result of Covid-19, workers who would ordinarily be arriving to work here on three-year visas had been unable to fly into the country.

Although the former New Zealand Pork chairman was pleased to see the recent visa extensions introduced by the Government, he did not think those changes would be enough to meet the needs of the industry. . .

M bovis eradication on track -Annette Scott:

The number of properties infected with Mycoplasma bovis has dropped to an all-time low, triggering a wave of confidence that the plan to eradicate the cattle disease from New Zealand is on-track.

Three years on since the disease was first confirmed in NZ, industry leaders are confident the world-first attempt to eradicate the disease is making positive gains towards eradication being within reach in the coming seven years.

As of July 22, the M bovis programme had just four confirmed active properties on its books.

Of these,  two are dairy and one beef in the North Island, with one beef property in Canterbury.  . . 

Smith downplays British farming fears – Nigel Stirling:

A former Trade Minister is hopeful he can play his part convincing Britain to open its farmers up to increased competition from New Zealand and other rival producers once it leaves the European Union.

Lockwood Smith credited his appointment to a new commission advising the British government on trade agreements and agriculture to his long experience as a farmer and former trade and agriculture minister, as well as his knowledge of the British farming and political scene as a recent High Commissioner to London.

“There is a realisation that (British) agriculture needs to move forward and this is an attempt to find a consensus on how best to do that,” Smith said. . . 

Can-do farm installs methane-run generator – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy effluent is being used to power an Isla Bank milking shed and mitigate methane emissions at the same time.

Dairy Green and Scandrett Rural owner and consultant John Scandrett has been overseeing a biogas conversion project at Glenarlea Farm, Isla Bank, since November 2016.

Glenarlea Farm, which is owned by the Fortuna Group and managed by Brendon and Lorelai Santos, milks about 900 cows at peak.

Bacteria convert effluent solids into biogas, of which methane and carbon dioxide are the main constituents.

The methane fuelled a converted diesel motor, which drove a generator to make electricity, Mr Scandrett said. . . 

Taranaki dairy farm doing twice the average milk production scoops national awards :

A Taranaki dairy farmer who has won a raft of production awards attributes his success to having well-grown young stock.

Stefan Buhler milks 260 Holstein Friesian cows on his 80-hectare coastal farm at Manaia near Hawera.

The herd produced 202,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in the 2019-20 season.

“It was a record season for us, despite the drought. We produced 2525 kgMS per hectare, which is quite incredible,” he said. . .

Report questions gender bias in succession planning – Mollie Tracey:

WHILE the agricultural industry has made great progress in advancing women in the workforce, little work has looked into shifting traditional patterns of patrilineal farm succession, which act as gender barriers for daughters growing up on farms.

That’s according to a new report by 2017 Nuffield scholar and Morawa farmer, Katrina Sasse, who investigated the position of daughter successors in United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark – a study that was motivated by her own keen interest as a daughter successor and desire to help women in Australia find a pathway back to the family farm. 

It’s an unfortunate fact that in rural communities some people continue to view daughter successors differently to sons and more needs to be done to empower young Women to remain in family farming operations. . . 


Rural round-up

July 25, 2020

Irrigation NZ restructures in response to sector’s needs:

Irrigation New Zealand is restructuring to put renewed focus on solving the tension between the fundamental need for irrigation in a post-COVID New Zealand, and the sector’s increasingly restricted licence to operate.

In addition, the loss of IrrigationNZ’s flagship conference due to lockdown meant the organisation experienced significant financial loss creating reason to review, reset and refocus.

As such, the Board of IrrigationNZ has restructured the organisation to reflect a new two-pronged approach to focus on advocacy at a national level, as well as deliver value ‘on the ground’ in the regions. The following changes have been made: . .

Rain fails to wash away problems – Colin Williscroft:

The drought might have been broken across most of Hawke’s Bay but many farmers are still dealing with its effects.

Jacqui Anderson, who with husband Wayne has farms at Waipukurau in Central Hawke’s Bay and Maraekakaho, west of Hastings, says the extended drought followed by plenty of rain over the past month has affected each property differently.

They couple have farmed at Waipukurau for 20 years, mainly trading bulls, and put plans in place early. They did a feed budget last year knowing the number of bulls they were likely to carry over winter so bought balage when it wasn’t too hard to get. . . 

From drought to deluge, farmer loses 30 hectares of grass – Amy WIlliams:

A Northland swamp farmer has lost hectares of grass to flooding just months after a drought dried up pastures.

Evan Smeath has farmed a dairy herd on his 190 hectare farm at the top end of the Hikurangi Swamp just north of Whangārei for 42 years.

“This was some of the most intense rainfall I’ve seen in all the time we’ve been here but they’re not the biggest floods,” Smeath said.

“This one came so quick, so fast, it’s done a bit of damage to the fencing and drains. . .

Māori tech business creates app to streamline job matching for seasonal workers – Bonnie Flaws:

A new app that connects seasonal workers with horticultural employers promises to streamline the hiring process.

It was notoriously difficult for horticulture businesses to find and keep skilled staff, Jobloads founder Candice Pardy said.

As a persimmon orchard owner who has struggled to find workers when needed, Pardy said she knew first-hand the frustration of employers. . . 

Want bacon but really prefer to eat lamb? Here’s the product for you – Bonnie Flaws:

Have you ever sat down to breakfast and thought: “I wish this bacon was really made of lamb?”

Auckland butcher Nadine Bates is stocking an unusual product on offer at her shop – lamb bacon. She says it’s a “mind-teasing” alternative to the traditional stuff.

And while you might think of bacon as something that solely comes from pigs, Bates says in fact it can be made from any meat. It’s the curing process that makes something bacon, not the fact that it’s pork, she says. . .

Cutting edge tech removing need for inspectors in meat plants – Shan Goodwin:

Beef and sheep meat processors are well down the road to removing the need for inspectors to come on-site to conduct audits, thanks to cutting-edge augmented reality smart glasses technology.

Australian immersive technology solution company Bondi Labs has been working for several years on wearable, artificial intelligence enabled hands-free technology that would allow for the remote seeing and assisting of tasks and operations within a meat processing facility in real-time.

The initial catalyst for the work was addressing supply chain transparency and quality assurance non-compliance issues in real time globally to build greater trust and confidence in those supply chains. . .


Rural round-up

July 24, 2020

That’s Northland’: floods follow droughts and tests farmers’ resolve – Brad Flahive:

While most of the floodwater in Northland has receded after the weekend’s deluge, the silt it left behind is a frustrating reminder of how vulnerable farmers are to the extremes of mother nature.

After months of near-crippling drought, more than 200mm of rain fell during two storms last weekend, and now the silt-laden paddocks can’t be used for pasture at this crucial time of year.

“The cows just won’t eat it, they just walk around in the mud and make a big mess,” said farmer Nick Bishop from his dairy farm, 10 kilometres east of Dargaville. . . 

Farm interactive learning platform – Yvonne O’Hara:

Chris and Desiree Giles, of Waimumu Downs, use their property as a giant interactive learning platform for children from the 16 eastern Southland schools.

“We are in the process of putting a classroom down on the farm. Getting the kids involved is a means of bringing in their parents and getting their buy-in,” Mr Giles said.

The couple, who have two children — Danielle (9) and Andrew (7) — have a 306ha dairy property (206ha effective), which was converted in 2014.

The family bought the original property six years ago and since then had almost doubled the acreage. . . 

Lowest number of of non-compliance’s in Taranaki since 2015 – Mike Watson:

Covid-19 and Taranaki residents’ growing environmental awareness have resulted in a record number of environmental incidents reported to the Taranaki Regional Council, but also a record low for the number of actual non-compliances.

During the past 12 months, 529 cases were reported – the highest figure for five years, the council’s consents and regulatory meeting was told on Tuesday.

But the number of non-compliances during the same monitoring period was 185 – the lowest in five years.

This was partly because of more consent holders following the rules but also because of reduced monitoring during the lockdown. . .

Group to set beef’s priorities – Annette Scott:

Grant Bunting never thought he would become so passionate about sustainability but says the sustainability challenge cannot be ignored if New Zealand producers want to improve their standing on the world stage. He talked to Annette Scott.

Grant Bunting has long had a genuine interest in farming systems and practices but new and evolving industry challenges have somewhat changed his outlook.

The inaugural chairman of the recently formed New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef said the growing importance the world puts on sustainability credentials across the supply chain has changed many a view.

“I have to admit I am quite traditional in my views but these sustainability challenges can’t be ignored.  . . 

Events celebrate rural communities :

Agritech industry transformation plan leader David Downs is returning to his roots as part of Pride in our Land events being held throughout the Manawatu-Wanganui Region.

Whanganui-born Downs, a general manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise who is head of the Government taskforce behind the agritech plan, is guest speaker at events in Raetihi and Whanganui next Thursday and Friday, July 30 and 31.

They are part of a wider series of get-togethers that began at Mokotuku’s Black Dog Pub on July 9 and wind up at Makoura Lodge at Apiti on August 15.

Whanganui Federated Farmers president Mike Cranstone says it has been a rough start to the year for landowners dealing with the adverse weather conditions and supply chain disruptions of the past six months. . . 

Farming is a great way of life – let’s make it a safe one – Jacqui Cannon:

There’s no doubt that farming, one of Australia’s most important industries, is also one of its most dangerous.

Big open spaces, big animals, big machinery, big workload.

In the past 18 months, more than 200 Australians have died in farming accidents, tearing apart families and communities – one in six are kids under five years old.

This goes beyond tragic; it’s horrifying. But the most horrifying aspect is that it’s so readily accepted by many as “just a part of life on the land“. . .

 


Rural round-up

July 23, 2020

Synthetic products ‘kick int he guts’ – Alice Scott:

When it comes to supporting the New Zealand wool industry, East Otago sheep and beef farmer Georgie McGregor reckons there needs to be a new hashtag started for synthetic apparel: #senditback.

“The big farm retailers not only stock synthetic clothing and hats but they also run these promotions and send what is essentially a plastic bush shirt to us for buying a certain product in bulk.

“It’s one thing to stock this cheap synthetic product, but to give it away to farmers who are out there every day trying to make part of their living out of wool, well it’s a kick in the guts really.

“I just think we should all start sending back this plastic stuff they give us and make it their problem. If we don’t say anything, nothing will change,” she said. . . 

No place for Tom, Dick or Harry :

Migrants are a critical and valued part of dairying in New Zealand, filling skills shortages on farms when there aren’t enough local workers available.

The sector currently has about 4000 migrants on work visas (18% of total sector employees) and another 1500 on resident visas (mostly employees but some employers).

The NZ Government, like other governments around the world, is facing a growing unemployment queue thanks to Covid-19. They are under pressure to employ locals. But it isn’t as simple.

All those out-of-work Queenstown baristas are hardly likely to give up and move sticks to the Waikato, don an apron and start milking cows.

Cost control the biggest influence for farmers in latest survey – Gerald Piddock:

DairyNZ’s latest economic survey reveals that cost control continues to be a key driver for New Zealand dairy farmers as the industry faces ongoing challenges in both production and profitability.

The survey for the 2018-2019 year showed that operating profit per hectare for owner-operators was $2154. This is down on the previous year’s total of $2238, but above the average for the previous decade of $1696, DairyNZ principal economist Dr Graeme Doole said.

 Dr Doole says that volatility will remain a significant challenge for farmers to manage.

Feed continues to be a farmers largest expenditure area at 28.5% of total expenditure. It has been farmers’ expenses category since 2007-2008. . . 

Five southern farmers grade-free for 10 years – Yvonne O’Hara:

Five Fonterra suppliers have earned blocks of cheese and plaques as recognition for being grade free for 10 years or more, for the past season.

Thirty-four suppliers nationwide earned the plaque, five of whom are in Otago and Southland.

In addition to the Weir family, of Inch Clutha, there are the Chalmers family of Kaitangata, the Morrisons, of Kaitangata, the Rutter/Hannah families, of Kaka Point, and the Cricketts of Otautau. . . 

Bees to help elephants and tribes thrive in Africa: a powerful new partnership to help save the wild:

Comvita, New Zealand’s largest producer of UMF Mānuka honey, has today announced a new multi-year partnership with wildlife charity Saving the Wild, which will see the two organisations work together on global projects to help protect ‘nature in need’.

As the major Sponsorship Partner of Saving the Wild, Comvita will be acting upon its founding values, with the mission to connect people to nature at the heart of the partnership.

Established in 1974, Comvita and came to life in a counter-culture movement built on respect for nature and humankind. Saving the Wild was founded in 2014 by Jamie Joseph, with a mission to protect endangered African wildlife and ultimately the priceless biodiversity of the planet. . . 

Livestock birth-management companies for sale provide fertile opportunities for new owners:

Two livestock birth-management firms enabling New Zealand farmers to be among the most productive primary producers in the world has been placed on the market for sale.

Cattle pregnancy testing company Ultra-Scan was established in 1994 to examine the fertility rate of pregnant cows. Ultra-Scan now has 20 franchises throughout New Zealand – with 14 in the North Island and six in the South Island. The majority of the company’s North Island franchise operations are located in the Greater Waikato and King Country districts.

While initially founded to deliver cow gestation scanning services, Ultra-Scan’s service offering has subsequently gone on to include similar pregnancy tests for sheep, deer and goats, as well as the de-horning of young calves aged between four days and 10 weeks of age – in a Ministry for Primary Industry-approved practice known as ‘disbudding’ on calves – as well as DNA sampling, electronic calf tagging for identification, and teat removal. . . 


Rural round-up

July 22, 2020

Alternative labour sources needed – David Anderson:

Industries that depend on migrant labour – like many in NZ’s primary sector – will need to find alternatives, according to a new report.

The need for alternatives is one of the key findings of the latest report on the agribusiness sector by KPMG in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2020 KPMG Agribusiness Agenda says that there is a stigma attached to a career in the production and processing of food and fibre products.

“The jobs are seen as being low skilled, low paid roles which are done by those for which there are no other employment options,” the report says.

“While such perceptions are a million miles away from the truth, they have made it difficult for organisations to recruit the labour force they need, even in countries with significant levels of unemployment.” . . 

Desperate lobbying for the status quo – Elbow Deep:

You could be forgiven for thinking the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) reforms were a done deal; a cross-party panel of MPs had unanimously recommended a raft of sweeping changes that addressed issues that have been plaguing the industry for years, and they did so with a refreshing display of clarity, common sense and unity.

After eight years with no changes, a period during which independent processors have been given a leg up at the expense of New Zealand dairy farmers, the Select Committee decided that DIRA had achieved its goal of fostering competition in the dairy industry and it was time for all processors to stand on their own merits.

Having failed to convince the Select Committee to maintain the status quo with their formal submissions, the independent processors are now publicly lobbying to keep the uneven playing field tilted in their favour. They have arranged a last minute meeting with the Minister of Agriculture in an attempt to stop the legislation being passed before the election so they can have another go at arguing for the retention of DIRA’s open entry provisions. . . 

Forest owners to fund clean up of debris, logs at Tolaga Bay :

The Forest Owners Association has apologised and said the industry is committed to cleaning the beach and owners will pay for it, not ratepayers.

The beach in Uawa is strewn with logs and debris from forestry operations up in the hills.

The slash washed onto the beach over the weekend after a metre of rain fell in 24 hours.

Forest Owners Association president Phil Taylor said: “On behalf of the forest industry … I unreservedly apologise to the community for the debris on the beach. They acknowledge it is unacceptable. I can assure the community on the East Coast that the forest industry is committed to cleaning the beach up in conjunction with GDC (Gisborne District Council) … that planning is underway.” . . 

Hope high for wool’s future :

The latest wool working group report brings some hope for reform, innovation and, most importantly, boosted returns for a sector that has languished for almost a generation of farmers as the smallest part of their income stream.

Released this month, the vision and action plan developed by the Wool Industry Project Action Group contains three key recommendations to kickstart the strong wool sector as a sustainable economic fibre base once again.

These include developing a market focused investment case and road map for a strong wool sector, establishing the capability the sector needs to become “match fit” for future opportunities and establishing better co-ordination and governance capability. . . 

Trusts to get extra help – Peter Burke:

MPI says it’s looking at increasing its support to Rural Support Trusts and other rural advisory groups.

Director general of the Ministry for Primary Industries, Ray Smith, says it seems like the country is moving from one set of issues to another, which are all challenging to farmers.

He cites the droughts in the North Island and the feed shortage in the South Island – along with M. bovis and the damage from earthquakes.

“It feels like the expectations on those Trusts are growing and we are trying to increase our investment in them to help the local people,” he told Rural News. . . 

Rural data usage continues to soar as new tech drivers efficient farms and sustainable communities:

Rural broadband specialists, Farmside, have reported a massive 34% average year-on-year data usage increase in Aotearoa’s rural communities since 2017 as new technologies drive efficiency, productivity and sustainability in the sector. The internet provider, powered by Vodafone New Zealand, is a Gold Partner of the first Fieldays Online launched last week, showcasing three of the latest innovations driving smarter, and more connected, farms.

The Farmside and Vodafone site set up for Fieldays Online features: water quality monitoring system RiverWatch that analyses real-time data on the health of New Zealand’s waterways; smart traps run on Vodafone’s narrowband IoT (nb-IoT) network keep the bird sanctuary at Punakaiki predator-free; and a Wide Area Network (WAN) that securely connects all Pāmu New Zealand’s farms with its corporate offices.

Farmside CEO Jason Sharp says it is innovations such as these that has seen the demand for rural connectivity grow relentlessly over the last few years. . . 


Rural round-up

July 21, 2020

Coronavirus leads to uncertainty for slinkskin industry – Rachael Kelly:

Southland farmers may have to dispose of dead stock on their own farms this spring as the Covid-19 pandemic takes a toll on the slinkskin industry.

Usually dead stock is picked up by slinkskin companies, which process the skins for export, but Southland’s two processors were yet to decide whether they would collect dead lambs this spring.

And while company has implemented a charge for dead calf and cow collection, another has put their calf collection on hold.

Trevor Newton, of Newton Slinkskins at Mataura, said he had made the decision to put the calf collection on hold this season, and a decision on whether the company would collect dead lambs would be made ‘’in due course.’’ . . 

Mataura Valley Milk needs more money to stay afloat – Bonnie Flaws:

Southland milk company Mataura Valley Milk will require additional funding to stay afloat, after reporting a net loss of $47 million in the financial year ending December 2019.

The company, which earlier this year had been eyed up by a2 milk as a potential investment target, reported a projected funding deficit of $26 million by December 2020.

Financial statements were filed with Companies Office on July 14.

Shareholder China Animal Husbandry Group would provide financial support by helping to pay debts as well as offering possible cash injections and shareholder loans. The latter would not require principal or interest repayments if it would cause the company to default on debts. . . 

Rain in Bay helps but a long way to go – Peter Burke:

A Hawke’s Bay farm consultant is pleasantly surprised by what has happened in the region over the past few weeks, with rain falling in most places.

Lochie MacGillivray, who works for AgFirst and is also the chairperson of the Rural Advisory Group set up to help manage the drought recovery, says there has been an improvement in conditions. He says Hawkes Bay has had mild weather and soft rain, and the pasture response has been phenomenal.

“Typically, at this time of the year, farmers might think of having 9kg of dry matter growth, but right now they are getting between 12 and 14kg of dry matter,”

MacGillivray told Rural News. He says farmers will still have to conserve feed for their animals, but the good weather has enabled pastures to recover and shortened the time between now and the end of winter. . . 

Putting the fun back in farming – Andrew Hoggard:

 Federated Farmers’ new president Andrew Hoggard says farmers need more fun and less admin.

I have been involved with Federated Farmers leadership for 17 years now, starting out as the Young Farmers rep, then moving into the provincial Vice-Dairy role once I became an old fart at 31.

Now I have only three years left – or less if I really suck at my new job as national president.

Since taking on the role three weeks ago I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to what I would like to see achieved in my term

It’s certainly not lost on me the responsibilities that go with this privileged position within New Zealand’s agricultural scene. . . 

Keeping the lustre alive – Sally Round:

Despite the dire prices for wool, a couple in Kapiti are continuing a 130-year family tradition breeding sheep for their lustrous fleece.

Country Life producer Sally Round dropped in.

Ravenswood has a long history breeding the hardy English Leicester whose long curly wool has been likened to Bob Marley’s dreadlocks.

Its genetics contributed to the New Zealand Halfbred and Corriedale so it’s been a big player in the development of the country’s sheep industry.

Ravenswood is New Zealand’s oldest English Leicester stud, according to Fiona and John Robinson, who are continuing the family tradition and finding a niche market for their flock’s lustrous wool. . . 

Wandering steer Boris back after 13 years in the Canterbury wilderness :

A “crazy big” Angus steer who has wandered the mountainous Hurunui back country for nearly 13 years has returned home.

He turned up last week with a couple of Angus cows, and happily headed back to an easier life on the homestead paddocks of the 7000-hectare Island Hills Station, north-west of Culverden.

Station owner Dan Shand and his wife, Mandy, reckon the steer is at least 13 years old, and has been nicknamed Boris.

Boris still has the tag in his ear put there when he was weaned, but Dan says he will need his binoculars to read it, at least until the new arrival settles in with the bulls. . .


Rural round-up

July 20, 2020

New apple ‘Dazzles’ Chinese consumers :

New Zealand’s largest organic apple producer says it cannot keep up with the Chinese demand for New Zealand’s newest apple, Dazzle.

Bostock New Zealand owner John Bostock says Dazzle is the best apple he has ever grown organically in his 30 years of growing organic apples.

“Without any doubt, I believe this is the best apple since the worldwide domination of New Zealand Royal Gala. It looks and tastes amazing, it’s bright red and sweet and it also yields and packs well.”

It’s the first year the company has had commercial volumes of organic Dazzle apples available for Chinese retailers.   . .

Nats hit the rural hustings – Mark Daniel:

National’s Waikato team of David Bennett and Tim van der Molen have been spreading the party word at a series of farmer meetings around the region.

Bennett, now the party’s agriculture spokesman, following Todd Muller’s recent move to leader, focused on the issues likely to affect agriculture. He claimed National’s ag polices aimed to drive momentum.

Starting out by commending the current Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bennett raised the question of how New Zealand will pay its bills in the future. He intimidated that the current Labour/NZ First coalition’s policies were reactionary, rather than visionary.

With all the major political parties agreeing that sustainable agriculture, horticulture and viticulture will be vital in a post-Covid future, Bennett suggested that the current drive for sustainability needs to be addressed.  . .

Honey business finds sweet spot – Colin Williscroft:

When James Annabell’s budding rugby career wasn’t quite going the way he hoped the former Taranaki Bulls hooker put his drive into honey, which has led to the development of a multimillion dollar business, as Colin Williscroft reports.

James Annabell was back in Taranaki on a break from playing rugby in Hong Kong when the chance that changed his life came along.

He’d already tried a law degree in Wellington and played rugby for Taranaki from 2006 to 2008.

But there was no regional contract on offer the following year so he went to Hong Kong and Germany to continue with rugby. . . 

Adventure, experience affords view of pig picture – George Clark:

From his travels and experience in pig farming, Ian Jackson knew he was going to breed pigs in the open air.

A Scot by birth, he was brought up on a pig and poultry farm in the UK. Uninterested in poultry, he specialised in pigs at Usk Agricultural College.

After working in the UK pig industry, he was eager to see the world and set off on an adventure with a tent on his back, wandering across Europe and then to Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Jackson met Kiwi wife Linda 21 years ago this month. She had never lived on a farm and did not know anything about pigs. . . 

Food service finds new pathway – Hugh Stringleman:

A refreshed strategy for its food service business is being introduced by Fonterra to counter the disruption caused by covid-19 to eating out in restaurants and hotels.

Food service revenue is bouncing back, especially in the number one market of China, but positioning has changed, Asia and the Pacific chief executive Judith Swales told a webinar for Fonterra shareholders.

Covid-19 has accelerated trends already apparent in the market like more home cooking, outsourcing in food preparation, more home delivery and investment in digital and contactless technologies. . .

Planting trees to fight climate change ‘ not best strategy’ :

Mass tree planting to mitigate climate change is ‘not always the best strategy’ – with some experimental sites failing to increase carbon stocks, researchers say.

Four locations in Scotland where birch trees were planted onto heather moorland was analysed as part of a new study involving UK scientists.

They found that, over decades, there was no net increase in ecosystem carbon storage.

The team found that any increase to carbon storage in tree biomass was offset by a loss of carbon stored in the soil. . . 


Getting rid of handbrake

July 20, 2020

The announcement of National’s $31 billion infrastructure package by Judith Collins included an important enabler:

. . .Now, for the elephant in the room – the Resource Management Act.

I’m going to say what you’re thinking: How can we possibly deliver all these projects – or even any of them – with the RMA standing so firmly in our way? You’re right to think that. The RMA is New Zealand’s biggest barrier to future development.

Aucklanders, and all New Zealanders, are sick of:

· The diabolical processes and never-ending but insincere consultation.

· The endless cost and delays the RMA gifts to seemingly every development.

· Good projects falling-over in Court.

It has to stop.

Previous Governments have made the mistake of tinkering around the edges with amendment after amendment. It’s all been well-intentioned but it hasn’t worked. Eighteen RMA Amendment Bills have been passed since the RMA was first legislated in 1991. As a result, the RMA is now an 800-page beast, decipherable only by an ever-growing industry of lawyers and consultants.

That’s why I am making a very firm commitment that the National Government I lead will repeal the RMA altogether. It won’t be “reformed” – it will go.

We will replace it with two new pieces of law: an Environment Standards Act, setting our environmental bottom lines; and an Urban Planning and Development Act, giving clarity and consistency. We will begin this work in our first 100 days. We will introduce new legislation by the end of next year.

That process, though, is too slow for the projects I have announced today – and those we will announce in the next few weeks. The RMA fast-track legislation passed in response to Covid-19 provides a useful interim framework. The current Government has restricted its reach to a handful of pet projects. In and of itself, that is a stunning indictment of how the RMA has failed us.

National will make far more extensive use of the fast-track Act. New Zealand is facing an extraordinary jobs and economic crisis; and it demands a proportional response. We simply cannot let the RMA stand in the way of urgently needed infrastructure development. In Auckland and right around the country, we will work with local government to try to make existing RMA procedures more efficient.

But I want to tell you all right now, we will legislate for our projects if necessary. We will be respectful of local government and local stakeholders, most particularly mana whenua, and the likes of NZTA and the Infrastructure Commission.

But if we are chosen to form a Government this September, we will regard ourselves as having a democratic mandate to proceed with the projects I have announced today.

And that is what we shall do. . . 

The RMA was well intended but the main beneficiaries from it are bureaucrats, consultants and lawyers.

It is a handbrake on progress and the government has accepted this with its RMA fast-track legislation.

If the Act isn’t fit for purpose now, it isn’t fit for purpose at all.

It’s a handbrake on progress that can’t be fixed by tinkering.

Amendments and attempted reforms have added to its problems.

Repeal and replacement with fit for purpose legislation that will safeguard the environment without the delays,  high costs and handbrake on progress that the RMA imposes is the solution.

 

 


Rural round-up

July 19, 2020

Early mornings shear joy – Sally Rae:

It was shearing time on the Strachan family’s sheep and beef farm at Awamoko, in North Otago, and Sid was helping pen up when he was not busy shearing at his own stand.

He had been there since 7am and, by late morning, he reckoned his tally was about 8200 — which might have been a slight exaggeration, but there was no doubting his infectious enthusiasm and work ethic.

Sid might only be 6 years old but he has been interested in shearing from an even younger age and spends a full day in the woolshed whenever he can.

He had two very clear ambitions: to buy North Otago shearing contractor Phil Cleland’s business — “he said I can do it when I’m 13” — and to win the Golden Shears. . .

Wool revival coming – Annette Scott:

South Island farmer Kate Acland says the Government’s report on the wool industry is a chance for the sector to come together and realise its potential.

The Vision and Action for the wool sector put together by the Government-appointed wool industry Project Action Group suggests New Zealand is on the cusp of a natural fibre renaissance being led by more environmentally and socially conscious consumers. 

A new approach is needed to seize the opportunity and turn things around.

The report recommends the appointment of an executive officer and establishment of a wool sector governance group to oversee development of an investment case. . . 

A Fonterra of wool is necessary – Annette Scott:

The wool industry needs a real plan to be profitable and the Government’s vision and action report for wool has failed to deliver, according to some industry leaders.

While the report is a step in the right direction a concrete plan is needed to lift the industry from its doldrums, National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests chairman Craig Smith said.

“It’s a report that tells us what we know, the wool industry in general is in a really bad place.

“What needs to happen very quickly now is another report with a clearly defined strategy then we can put some structure around that strategy,” Smith said. . . 

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

Using New Zealand strong wool to produce biodegradable disposal nappies for a multi-billion dollar global market is gaining traction as a new avenue for farmers desperate to find new places to sell their product, with multinational companies showing interest in NZ technology.

As part of the recent launch of the strong wool sector’s plan for the future Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said Wellington-based company Woolchemy will get $80,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Woolchemy co-founder and chief executive Derelee Potroz-Smith says the money will pay for a commercial trial of technology that enables wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in consumer hygiene products, adding significant value to the raw material produced by NZ strong wool farmers. . . 

Still work to be done after diagnosis – Alice Scott:

Like many typical Otago blokes, Scott Clearwater (41) shrugged off his headaches, too busy on his Goodwood sheep and beef farm to see a doctor.

But as Covid-19 cases petered and the country went into Level 2, Mr Clearwater’s headaches got worse.

“He was writhing around on the floor one night and that’s when I said, ‘Enough’s enough, you need to get to a doctor’,” his wife, Joy Clearwater, said.

Since that May 29 GP visit, the family’s life has been turned upside down. . . 

Socially acceptable cows of the future could be within reach – Hannah Powe:

As animal health and husbandry becomes a hot topic in the agriculture industry, DairyBio research scientists have identified the traits needed to breed the socially acceptable cow of the future.

During the Genetics Australia 2020 Virtual Series, Agriculture Victoria principal research scientist and leader of DairyBio, Professor Jennie Pryce said there were five keys areas needed to breed the socially acceptable cow.

“They need to be resource efficient, have a low environmental footprint and low methane emissions, and traits consistent with high standards of animal welfare such as good health and fertility (polled and longevity),” Prof Pryce said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

July 18, 2020

Harvesters fear for industry as temporary workers’ visa expiration looms – Nona Pelletier:

The horticulture industry warns it may have to cut back on the harvest, if the government does not move quickly to head-off a critical labour shortage in spring.

The hospitality, pork, shearing, dairy and agricultural services industries were also concerned about labour shortages, with thousands of working holiday visas expected to expire on or before 25 September.

More of concern was the skilled temporary workers who were unable to re-enter the country.

The minister of immigration promised the horticultural industry that it would be able to recruit up to 14,400 registered seasonal workers from Pacific Islands later this year. . . 

Rural mental health service inundated by women hoping ‘farm speak’ will save men – Pip Courtney and Margot Kelly:

Mothers, wives and sisters have overwhelmed a suicide prevention service with stories of loss and grief after it featured on ABC Landline.

The founder, plant scientist Mary O’Brien, said women left behind after a son, brother, or husband took their own lives, also needed support but often slipped through the cracks.

Ms O’Brien said country women had contacted her to share their stories and thank her for encouraging rural men to ask for help when they were mentally ‘bogged’.

“Many had lost sons and several had lost a father and a brother, or a brother and a husband,” Ms O’Brien said. . . 

Stoat breakthrough could be the key to eradication:

In a country with few living native predators, stoats are the kings of the forest.

Despite appearances, these mustelids are brutal creatures: carnivores who can kill animals many times their size, from rabbits and hares to possums, birds, and even freshwater crayfish.

In many environments in New Zealand, they are the top predator.

As such, they’re a big threat to many of our native species, and the eradication of stoats is a key point in New Zealand’s ambitious goal to be predator-free by 2050.

At the moment, we rely largely on chemical drops and organised trapping missions to get rid of them – but a scientific breakthrough may have changed that. . . 

‘Jaw-droppingly beautiful’: Wanaka winery makes top 50 list

A list of the world’s 50 best vineyards for wine tourism has named a Central Otago and Hawke’s Bay estate as being among the best.

And those two Kiwi vineyards rank in the top 20 in the world in the list out today.

The global list of wine tourism destinations named Argentina’s Zuccardi Valle de Uco in the top spot for the second year running.

Bodega Garzón in Uruguay was second for a consecutive year and Domäne Wachau in Austria jumped 16 places to claim third spot this year.

But Central Otago’s Rippon, on the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Rd, placed 13th and was also named the best vineyard in Australasia. . . 

Congratulations to Annabel Angland – Corteva Central Otago Young Viticulturist of the Year 2020:

Annabel Angland from Peregrine became the Corteva Central Otago Young Viticulturist of the Year 2020 on 16 July following the competition held at Otago Polytechnic Central Campus in Bannockburn.

Congratulations also goes to Liam Burgess from Viticultura who came second and Jordan Moores from Felton Road who came third.

There were eight contestants competing in total. The other five contestants were Katrina Jackson from Chard Farm, Hannah van Velthoven from Prophets Rock, Daniel Brewster from Akarua, Annabel Wylie from Rippon and Theresa Woessner from Domaine Thomson.

“It was one of the closest competitions, we’ve ever seen” said Nick Paulin, the Regional Organiser, and all judges commented on the high calibre of the contestants. . .

 

 

Burger King’s “breathe the farts of change” not passing the sniff test– Dr Frank Mitloehner:

Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, hold the methane?

new communication campaign from Burger King is promising beef that comes from cows that are 33 percent less gassy on average, allowing the international fast-food chain’s consumers to have it their way without guilt.

Burger King, which is part of Restaurant Brands International, has been adding lemongrass to cows’ diets in an attempt to cut down on cattle’s methane emissions. Given the greenhouse gas’ role in global warming, it’s a big deal. If nothing else, decreasing methane would buy us time to try and get a handle on carbon dioxide emissions, the No. 1 elephant in the room – and in the atmosphere.

According to Burger King, cattle that consume the modified diet produce up to one-third less methane than cows that eat a more traditional diet. “ … We found that by adding 100 grams of dried lemongrass leaves to the cows’ daily feed, we were able to see a reduction of up to 33% on average of methane emissions during the period the diet was fed (the last three-to-four months of the cow’s life in the case of our research),” the website states.

It’s a noble pursuit, and such results would definitely be welcome, but has Burger King jumped the gun? . . 

 


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