We’re opening up on water

November 23, 2017

These visits will show the good reality and help counter bad perceptions:

Federated Farmers says opening dairy farms to all New Zealanders is a brave gesture and an opportunity for farmers to debunk some myths around farmers’ environmental management.

Dairy co-operative Fonterra has this week announced its “open gates” imitative where selected farms from around the country will open exclusively for one day on December 10.

“This is a great idea and an opportunity for all kiwis rural and urban, to visit a farm and see at first-hand the environmental work farmers have done and are still undertaking,” says Federated Farmers Dairy Industry Chair Chris Lewis.

The Federation had already staged farm days in the provinces which was a similar concept and had been successful in building community engagement with farmers.

“Everyone is welcome and especially those people who have been less complimentary towards farmers. They can ground truth themselves and see what perception is versus actual reality.”

To visit a farm, you have to register on Fonterra’s website. There were 40 farms taking part and they all represented different aspects of environmental stewardship that has been completed or in progress.

If you wanted to know what a riparian strip is, how effluent management works or look at how farmers protect biodiversity this was your chance.

“There might be some scrutiny as to why these farms were selected. Well, they’ve been picked for a variety of reasons including logistics.

“For one, they need to meet criteria around car parking and health and safety. The reality is you can’t have dozens of people trooping across properties or paddocks, it will have an impact and so these selected farms are suited to handle that rate of activity,” says Chris.

The open day would also provide visitors with experience of on-farm biosecurity practices and what famers do daily to manage pests and other threats to animal care and the environment.

“Those who choose to take up the invitation to visit these farms will have a greater understanding of dairy farming in 2017 and its future. That’s the whole purpose, we want them to see that farmers are environmentally smart and committed to ongoing improvements.

“As a farmer, it’s our day to showcase our business and the pride we have in what we do.”

Chris recommends that other farmers should visit a selected farm in their area. Check out the environmental work being undertaken and perhaps get some ideas from the innovation on show.

“If you’re a Feds member, I encourage you to get involved and go along. Show support to your fellow farmer and make yourself available to answer questions.”

You can book a visit at Open Gates.

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Rural round-up

November 23, 2017

Prize Jersey herd set for the aucitoneer’s hammer – Brad Markham:

Ill-health has forced a gut-wrenching decision on Taranaki dairy farmer Malcolm Revell and his family.

They’re preparing to sell their purebred Jersey herd. Next April, Beledene Stud in Mangatoki will hold a complete dispersal sale.

It will be the end of an era.

Decades of breeding will go under the hammer. In a few heart-racing hours, their lifetime’s work will be sold.

It’s every farmer’s worst nightmare; no longer being able to do what they love. . . 

Hogget trial trying to add value to older lambs – Brittany Pickett:

Meat processors Alliance Group is trying to add value to hogget by marketing it as a premium product.

The co-operative, with headquarters in Invercargill, has been running a trial programme in the United Kingdom and in New Zealand aimed at the food service sector.

Alliance marketing manager premium products Wayne Cameron said the trial was part of the co-operative’s strategy to create a portfolio of brands with different flavour profiles.

Lambs are traditionally distinguished from mutton when their first adult teeth come through. However, it was an outdated way of determining the value of an animal’s meat, Cameron said. . . 

Farmers ‘fed up’ with environmental commotion:

Dairy farmers are facing mixed environmental advice coming from all quarters, and some of it is not terribly helpful, a sharemilker says.

Matamata farmer Matthew Zonderop said farmers know the impact their business can create.

He said most farmers were doing their level-best to improve their environmental footprint and mitigate situations that are arising.

“Yes, we understand [the issues] but we don’t need to be told how to farm in every situation now.” . . 

Fonterra launches charm offensive on water quality – Jamie Gray:

Fonterra has stepped up its efforts to improve water quality while launching a charm offensive and television campaign to showcase how farmers have upped their game.

The moves follow the emergence of water quality as a key issue at September’s general election, and a string a reports highlighting the degradation of water quality in New Zealand’s lakes, rivers and streams.

Miles Hurrell, chief operating officer of Fonterra Farm Source, said there was now greater focus on water quality by the public and he acknowledged the part that dairying had played in its decline. . . 

Arable farmers have fingers crossed after wet start to spring:

A healthy supply of grain with prices holding firm, has Arable farmers crossing their fingers after a damp start to spring.

The latest industry survey (AIMI), for the nation’s cereal growers, reveals a resurgence in feed barley with planting returning to regular, historical levels.

Federated Farmers Grains Vice Chair Brian Leadley, says signs are better for the industry as a whole after the previous two seasons which were indifferent. . . 

Aussie farm life captured to celebrate Ag Day – Kim Chappell:

From dawn and til dusk farmers are up working – regardless of what commodity they are involved in.

Be it milking the dairy cows as the sun rises, to heading to town for the local cattle sale later in the day, and finishing up in the back paddock checking on the cattle at sunset.

To celebrate National Agriculture Day, we bring you this gallery of some of the country’s farmers going about their normal days. . . 

Technology and consumers changing the agricultural industry – Hayley Skelly-Kennedy:

Industry 4.0 and the customer revolution are significantly changing the functions of the agriculture industry. 

Huge technological advances in recent years and an increasingly demanding consumer base has meant Australian agriculture has needed to embrace technology. 

Attendees at the Young Beef Producers Forum in Roma heard from Compass West owner Carmen Roberts about how agriculture has been driving the fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, and the impact of the latest customer revolution on agricultural businesses.  . . 

 


How many trees?

November 23, 2017

We visited a farm 10 years ago and listened in bemusement as the owner explained his plan to plant trees.

The land had been cleared of scrub and planted as pasture when the then-government was encouraging such development in the 1970s.

But in spite of the fertiliser poured onto it, sheep didn’t thrive on the pastures.

The farmer looked at other options and settled on trees.

We went back again last week and were no longer bemused. In the decade since we’d first visited, many hectares had been converted from pasture to forestry and trees were thriving where sheep wouldn’t.

There will be other properties where forestry with, or instead of, farming is a good option.

But the government’s pledge to plant a billion trees in 10 years seemed at best optimistic if not unrealistic.

It’s not surprising that the number has already halved:

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is already backtracking from his promise to plant a billion trees in 10 years, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“From his statements earlier today it appears he’s realised that the pledge of a billion new trees is entirely unachievable and now he’s attempting to back away from it,” Mr Bridges says.

“His problem is that the target is recorded unambiguously in both the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement and the Speech from the Throne on the new Government’s programme.

“Now he wants to count around 50 million trees that are already planted every year, about half of the billion he’s committed to over a decade. These are happening regardless of his slush fund or the kind of Government in power.

“So his first action is to cut his target in half. Not exactly impressive.

“He needs to immediately stop using his slogan of 1 billion trees to be planted because it’s completely untrue. He should also stand up in Parliament and correct the Speech.

“This backsliding is becoming a pattern for this Government. They want to count trees that are already being planted in their tree target and houses already being built in their housing target. It’s all very underwhelming.

“The reality for Mr Jones is that even planting 500 million trees over a decade, if that’s what the new marketing catch-cry will be, is unlikely.

“After all, the new Government has also committed to slashing the necessary immigration needed for our workforce and the nurseries will find it difficult to gear up for both private and public sector forestry expansion

“All he will do is displace existing private sector activity. The forestry industry should tell him he’s dreaming.”

Doubling current planting, whether it’s done by the private or public sector will require a lot of land, a lot of labour and a lot of seedlings.

The pledge will deliver a new bureaucracy but it will need a lot more than that to plant even half a billion more trees.

And the experience of the farm forester we visited shows that landowners are best to make decisions on what’s best for their land without political encouragement.

 


Rural round-up

November 22, 2017

A Kauri in the Forest – Michael Spaans:

Federated Farmers is extremely saddened to learn of the passing of DairyNZ chairman Michael Spaans.

Federated Farmers extends its condolences to the Spaan family at this difficult time.
Mr Spaans was renowned for his commitment and dedication to the dairy sector and held several key positions as a director at Fonterra and board member at DairyNZ between 2008 – 2015. . .

Taranaki young farmers take on NZ Dairy Industry Awards challenge:

Several NZ Young Farmers members look set to go head-to-head in Taranaki’s longest-running dairy awards programme.

James Holgate, 25, and Buddy Sharpe, 20, have entered the prestigious New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

They’ll both be vying to take out the title of 2018 Taranaki Dairy Manager of the Year.

James Holgate is in his second season as a herd manager on Tony and Lorraine Lash’s 350-cow dairy farm at Midhirst. . . 

Affected farmer criticises handling of cattle disease – Sally Brooker:

A dairy farmer whose herd is infected with Mycoplasma bovis feels let down by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Leo Bensegues revealed his situation at a packed public meeting in the Morven Community Hall last night.

About 200 people crammed into the venue for the sixth meeting hosted by the ministry since the bacterial cattle disease was  discovered  on farms near Waimate in July.

Mr Bensegues asked ministry officials if they would change their biosecurity protocols if he could show they were not working.

Technical liaison officer Victoria Barrell assured him they would. . . 

 

New Zealander nominated for top global wine role:

New Zealand Winegrowers welcomes the New Zealand government’s nomination of Dr John Barker as a candidate for the role of Director General of the International Organisation of Vine & Wine (OIV).

The OIV is the inter-governmental scientific and technical reference body for wine. Based in Paris, with 46 members accounting for more than 85% of global wine production and nearly 80% of world consumption, it is sometimes called the ‘UN of wine’.

“Dr Barker is an ideal candidate. He has deep understanding and expertise in the global vine and wine sector built on 20 years of experience,” said CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, Philip Gregan. . . 

A2 Milk revenue, profit pushes higher in first four months of FY18 – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk, which markets milk with a protein variant said to have health benefits, says both revenue and net profit jumped in the first four months of the current financial year as it continues to benefit from strong demand for its infant formula.

Revenue climbed 69 percent to $262.2 million in the four months ended Oct. 30 from the same four months a year earlier, while net profit more than doubled to $52.3 million, the company told shareholders at today’s annual meeting in Auckland. Group earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were $78.4 million, up 120.8 percent on the same four months a year earlier. . . 

Synlait Auckland officially opened, doubles infant formula packaging capacity:

Synlait Milk has opened its new Auckland site, which is home to its second state-of-the-art blending and consumer packaging facility.

Located in Mangere, the site was officially opened today by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff at a ceremony alongside all staff.

“We’re expecting customer demand for consumer packaged products to increase significantly in the near term,” said John Penno, Synlait’s Managing Director and CEO. . . 

New Zealand ag-tech increases farm revenue and consumer appeal:

One of the greatest costs to farmers tending an estimated one billion sheep globally is in lost productivity from parasites and ineffective drench programs. The result of a three year R&D project, funded by Sainsbury’s – the UK’s second largest supermarket chain – has demonstrated use of technology developed in New Zealand can save farmers in their supply chain alone around $19 million annually.

Dunedin based ag-tech company Techion Group’s combination of an internet connected device, data management system and connectivity to veterinary expertise delivers an effective means to manage parasites and drenching programs which affect the health and growth of animals. . . 

‘First Wolrd’ disputes can cause ‘third world’ dliemnas – Jennie Schmidt:

The majority of Americans know very little about genetically modified food. They’ll even tell you so: In a poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center last year, 63 percent rated their understanding of GMOs as “poor” or “fair.” Only 4 percent called it “excellent.”

That’s why Congress is investing $3 million in the Food and Drug Administration specifically to be used for an education campaign. Before the FDA spends the money, however, it’s asking the public for input: This month, it has held forums in Charlotte, N.C., and San Francisco. Online comments are open until November 17.

The skinflint in me worries about this expense: Does a government with a national debt of $20 trillion really need to use its limited resources this way?

The realist in me observes that the spending decision already has been made, so we might as well quit wondering about “whether” and start thinking about “how.” . . 

 


New strategic vision for dairy

November 22, 2017

The dairy industry has launched a new strategic vision:

The new strategic vision for the dairy sector will lead to a longer term conversation about what New Zealand’s future farm and food systems could look like, says DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle.

Today the dairy sector launched its new strategy ‘Dairy Tomorrow’, a joint sector-led initiative involving DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, DCANZ, and Dairy Women’s Network.

“We are proud of our achievements over the last decade,” says Dr Mackle. “It’s set us up to address the challenges and opportunities we now face as a result of the growth we’ve experienced over recent years.”

“Our shared vision is to improve lives with every drop of New Zealand milk, whether those are the lives of our dairy people, our communities or our consumers.

“We believe sustainable dairy farming has a critical role to play in New Zealand’s future prosperity and wellbeing- a future with a focus on farming within environmental limits while maintaining our profitability and success on the global market.”

The ‘Dairy Tomorrow’ strategy has six commitments and 22 corresponding goals. Dr Mackle says some goals have firm time frames in place while others are more aspirational.

“We want to begin straight away collaborating on strategies and actions toward achieving swimmable waterways and finding new opportunities to reduce or offset our greenhouse gas emissions. These actions will be ongoing priorities,” says Dr Mackle.

“At the same time we’ve put some deadlines in place for implementing new initiatives, including to develop cutting edge science and technology solutions and to implement a new framework for world leading on-farm animal care.”

Barry Harris, Acting Chair for DairyNZ, says the commitments and goals within the Strategy will help prepare the sector for the future. “Overall they reflect what is important to the farmers and stakeholders who contributed to the development of the Strategy.”

“We heard very clearly that farmers want options and solutions to help them farm sustainably. Maintaining our international competitiveness is essential, and leveraging new digital and other technologies will be essential to that,” says Mr Harris.

“We also want to ensure that New Zealand dairy remains a valued part of the diet. That requires us to be open and transparent about our performance. We know the demand for high quality dairy will always exist, so long as we can prove our production chain is sustainable.

“Another key theme is the importance of people to the sector. We need to focus on bringing talented people into the dairy sector, providing them with a great work environment, and helping them to develop their careers.

“We are already well on our way to being world leading due to our international competitiveness and the strong systems we have in place to ensure that our products are safe and of the highest quality.

“We want to ensure our sector is contributing to New Zealand- helping to make this country the best place to live, and for dairy to be a celebebrated part of  the National identity and the kiwi way of life.”

 You can read the strategy at Dairy Tomorrow.


Rural round-up

November 20, 2017

Out fishing while his cows milk – Mark Daniel:

Dairy farming was always a likely career path for Graham Barlow, of Fermanagh Farm, in the Piako district of Waikato.

The farm name gives a clue to the family heritage: a great-grandfather came to New Zealand from County Fermanagh in northwest Ireland many moons ago.

Milking 320 Jerseys calving in March (75%) and November (25%) on 90ha, Barlow went straight from schooling to dairy farming, soon realised he hated milking but was interested in all things technical; he describes himself as a techno-geek. . .

62 years and counting:

AI technician Don Shaw (79) has been surrounded by dairy cows his entire life, bringing many calves into the world.

Raised on an Ohaupo farm, Shaw is a fourth generation New Zealand dairy farmer. For the last 62 years he’s worked as an AI technician, inseminating about 250,000 cows.

Although now retired from a sales consultant role at CRV Ambreed, Shaw is still an AI technician, working October and November on four Waikato farms, inseminating cows. . . 

First and second wins for southern family in Mate & Wool cup – Pat Deavoll:

The Gibson family of Foulden Hill, Middlemarch earned a quinella when their cattle took out first and second places in the Meat & Wool Cup at the Canterbury A&P Show.

Yearling hereford bull Foulden Hill Mustang narrowly pipped its two-year-old santa gertrudis colleague to take the title. 

What’s more, Mustang had earlier won the Junior Meat & Wool Cup over a charolais heifer owned by the Fisher family of Banks Peninsula. . . 

Open Gates:

The whole country cares about what’s happening with our waterways, including us.

And we want to show you what we’re doing to protect them. Things like planting, fencing to keep cows out of the water and managing nitrogen. So, come and visit one of the 40 farms we’re opening.

Open Gates is a chance to talk first hand to farmers, walk around their farm and see what they’re doing to care for the environment and their animals. It’s also an opportunity to ask them about their farm management and future plans.  . . 

Gene discovery may halt world-wide wheat epidemic

University of California, Davis, researchers have identified a gene that enables resistance to a new devastating strain of stem rust, a fungal disease that is hampering wheat production throughout Africa and Asia and threatening food security worldwide.

The discovery by UC Davis wheat geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky and his team will help breeders more quickly develop varieties that can fend off the deadly pathogens and halt a worldwide wheat epidemic.

The findings were recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Wheat and stem rust have been in an evolutionary arms race for more than 10,000 years. . .

Collecting information from farm machinery ot gain insight – Johanna Legatt:

DON’T be thrown off by the odd-looking acronym and the complex-sounding jargon.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is really just a fancy way of talking about new technology that talks to each other with minimal human intervention.

“The concept is simply based around connected devices — they can be sensors, monitors or some sort of data-collecting device, that help perform an automatic action, such as closing a gate or recording the soil temperature,” explains General Manager of Research at the Australian Farm Institute Richard Heath.

“These devices then talk to other devices that help farmers make better decisions.” . . 

 


Birds and people pooh too

November 20, 2017

Water quality in Canterbury rivers is improving:

Recreational water quality sampling has found that, of the 52 monitored freshwater swimming sites, 12 have improved a grade, and four declined.

During swimming season (November to March), Environment Canterbury assesses the health risks from faecal contamination at popular swimming sites around the region.

“We test and grade popular places that people swim in Canterbury.  This year 12 sites have improved.  The year before, 10 sites improved and the year before that only five improved, so the trend is going in the right direction,” said Tim Davie, Chief Scientist.

“The improvement demonstrates the hard work of landowners to exclude stock and protect waterways by planting and fencing.  Reduced runoff from two dry summers has helped as well.” . . 

It’s good to see farmers getting credit for the work they’ve done to protect waterways.

Too often farm animals get all the blam but birds and people pooh too and now the blame for some of the problems is correctly being laid on birds:

. . . Hurunui District Mayor Winton Dalley said large numbers of birds near the Hurunui river were likely to be a major contributor to faecal contamination at the popular swimming spot by State Highway 7, which is the main route to Hamner Springs.

“There is no logic that it is farm related, but we do know there is considerable bird life in the river just upstream of the site,” he said.

But Mr Dalley said he was unsure what could be done to move them on.

“I don’t know what is feasible in terms of whether they can be moved to somewhere else…we will have to talk to bird experts, but we will first have to determine that is the cause,” he said.

Mr Davie said the regional council was continuing testing at the Hurunui site, but it did blame birds for the faecal contamination at Lake Hood’s main swimming beach.

“It’s fundamentally to do with birds and the lake circulation…there was a raft there and the birds sat on it…we had a lot of faecal contamination there,” said Mr Davie.

This isn’t the only place water pollution is caused by birds.

Water pollution isn’t the only problem birds cause.

Growing numbers of native birds is cause for celebration, but the news isn’t all good:

. . . they also warn of a downside if a rampant bird population comes to depend on agricultural crops for food because its natural habitat is too small.

Hawke’s Bay farmer and former president of Federated Farmers, Bruce Wills, has raised the problem.

Mr Wills is a green farmer, and chair of the environmental consultancy Motu.

He also helps eliminate predators on his farm as part of a local wildlife programme, Cape to City, of which he is on the board.

However, Mr Wills said bird restoration might one day be too successful.

“There’s no question, bird numbers have gone through the roof.

“I have never seen the sort of bird numbers that I am seeing now, and most of that is due to the success with predator eradication.”

Mr Wills said large numbers of birds could spread seeds to widespread locations, and there was another problem.

The Hawke’s Bay grows 70 percent of New Zealand’s apples and pears, he said.

“We are bringing the kākā and the kākāriki in from Cape Kidnappers and of course these two birds enjoy eating our apples and pears.

“I have had phone calls of concern from apple and pear growers saying this is great but potentially will have an adverse effect on a quickly growing Hawke’s Bay apple and pear industry.”

Mr Wills said he had no intention of abandoning his support of native birds, but said potential overpopulation was an issue that needed to be faced.

Alan Pollard, of New Zealand Apples and Pears, formerly Pipfruit New Zealand, agreed with him.

“There is certainly a risk because obviously apples are a crop that birds are attracted to, so we need to make sure we achieve good population growth but also protect the growing areas that we have.”

Bird life in New Zealand evolved over millions of years to step in with the bush cover that existed before human settlement.

When that bush cover declined, so did the bird population.

But intensive breeding and predator eradication means the bird population could grow faster than the bush that supports it. This could push the population out of synch with modern New Zealand ecology – which has masses of farmland. . . 

Back to water quality, 16 Auckland beaches are unswimmable and human waste is a big part of the problem:

Ecomatters Environment Trust’s Dan Ducker said this was unacceptable. 

The environmentalist said he’d seen day-trippers defecating at such lagoons.

“This happens especially in summer time when the public facilities are quite full, or at times are closed.”

“It’s complicated, but the major health risks to humans comes from humans.”

The lagoons at Piha and Bethells have been contaminated by faeces for years, he said.

Recent Auckland Council reports showed faulty septic tanks were part of the problem. Dog, birds, and livestock faeces have been found in the lagoons.

Waiheke Island’s Little Oneroa has had similar faeces issues.

But Ducker said human faeces at Piha, Karekare and Bethells lagoons “was the most dangerous aspect for humans”. . . 

Farmers, quite rightly, are no longer getting away with the practices which pollute waterways but councils continue to allow leeway for pollution for people and themselves.

Water contamination from people is common in developing countries. It shouldn’t be a problem in New Zealand and wouldn’t be if councils put the effort, and money, into better storm water and sewerage infrastructure.

 

 

 


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