Rural round-up

November 14, 2018

Mackenzie Country and Waitaki: Balancing the extremes – Sally Rae:

Over the past two decades, the Mackenzie Basin and Waitaki Valley have undergone significant change.

The region has gone from a little known backwater to one of the highest profile battlegrounds over environmental protection and agricultural intensification, farmer Annabelle Subtil says.

The Omarama woman  addressed  delegates at the New Zealand Grassland Association’s 80th annual conference in Twizel last week. . . 

Farmers find irrigation can be controversial -Sally Rae:

For Glenn and Sarah Fastier, farming Simons Hill Station  on the eastern side of State Highway 8 between Tekapo and Twizel  is like living in a glasshouse.

The Mackenzie district was an area  many New Zealanders felt connected to and, when it came to land use, there were a lot of differing opinions as to what was appropriate, Mr Fastier said.

They farm next to Simons Pass Station, where a high-profile dairying operation is being established by  Dunedin businessman Murray Valentine,  attracting the ire of environmental activists.

“There’s definitely a different public perception on anything related to dairy. I don’t often think it’s justified. . . 

Guiney for the protest and McBride for the promise – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra shareholders have spoken loudly with the re-election of Leonie Guiney and election of soon-to-be-former Zespri chairman Peter McBride.

One director position is unfilled because incumbent Ashley Waugh, Maori farming leader Jamie Tuuta and multi-farm Canterbury candidate John Nicholls did not reach the required 50% approval of votes cast.

Waugh’s failure to reach the threshold is another aspect of the protest vote and the mood for change among farmer-shareholders after Fonterra’s worst year in financial results and setbacks. . . 

Details vague on proposed rewards scheme – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra will introduce a single on-farm assurance and recognition scheme including the existing milk quality, animal welfare and environmental requirements.

The scheme will begin next season, farmers at the annual meeting in Lichfield were told.

Chairman John Monaghan said the new scheme has not been named and Farm Source employees will interview farmers on the types of recognition and rewards it should contain.

“Once the commercial value is better understood we will decide whether to expand the programme to include financial incentives.”

A small minority of farmers who do not meet minimum standards will be subject to demerits, as is the case now. . . 

Profits up at Westland Milk pre-tax – Brendon McMahon:

Westland Milk Products yesterday posted a before-tax profit of $3.25million as it tries to claw its way to profitability.

Last year’s before-tax profit was just $29,000.

On releasing its annual report the West Coast farmer-owned co-operative acknowledged it was still not industry competitive and lacked “financial flexibility” due to high debt levels and the need for more working capital. . . 

Four Mycoplasma bovis myths busted:

Many farmers are going through a challenging time with the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak. But the Ministry for Primary Industries says their stress and anxiety is being compounded by some misinformation. Here the MPI dispels some of those myths:

Myth 1: Mycoplasma bovis has been in New Zealand since around 2004

All of the available research, as well as data collated during on-farm investigations, indicates that Mycoplasma bovis is likely to have arrived in New Zealand in late 2015 to early 2016. Although investigations are ongoing, two pieces of evidence give MPI confidence about that: . . 

Three young leaders up for major agribusiness award :

THREE young agriculturalists from Australia and New Zealand are through to the final for the prestigious 2019 Zanda McDonald Award. 

The award is widely recognised as a badge of honour in the agriculture industry, recognising future leaders and innovative young professionals from both sides of the Tasman.

The 2019 finalists are made up by two Australians and one New Zealander, who were described by judges as ‘diverse and equally impressive’.  . . 


Rural round-up

November 13, 2018

Rural health service gains outlined in plan – John Gibb:

Moves to create a “virtual campus” for rural health training would also  improve health services in New Zealand’s rural towns, including those in Otago, Dr Garry Nixon says.

Dr Nixon, who is University of Otago associate dean rural and works at Dunstan Hospital in Clyde, makes the point in an article on the national “virtual campus proposal”, recently published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

The article’s co-authors include colleagues at Auckland University and AUT. . . 

Dairy farm open day attracts hundreds – John Gibb:

Many more people flocked to an Outram dairy farm open day at the weekend than had visited last year, farmer Duncan Wells said yesterday.

Farmers Duncan and Anne-Marie Wells own Huntly Rd Dairies, which attracted about 140 visitors during a Fonterra Open Gates event last year.

But yesterday, attendance rose more than threefold and about 430 people visited during the latest dairy farm awareness-raising event, Mr Wells said. . . 

Six months as a taxi company owner, six months as an apple picker

Philmy Chite splits his years into two.

One half of the year he’s focuses on his taxi business in the Solomon Islands. The other half of the year he’s in Hawke’s Bay, picking apples.

Chite landed back in Hastings this week with a group of 16 others from the Solomon Islands as part of the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme.

It’s the sixth year in a row he’s done it, and he loves it. . . 

World-first NZ tech changing global agriculture landscape:

New Zealand agritech companies are creating world-first technology to help feed the world and lead the way in their industry, AgritechNZ chief executive Peter Wren-Hilton says.

Technology is making life easier, from eco-friendly cars to faster software and tech improvements are benefitting Kiwis in everyday life, he says.

“The same goes for agritech innovation such as crop protection and plant biotechnology which is improving the lives of farmers and consumers around New Zealand. . . 

From plastic to posts:

Anchor™ Light Proof™ milk bottles will soon be appearing on farms across New Zealand, but you won’t find them in the fridge.

Fonterra has teamed up with Kiwi-owned start up, Future Post™, to turn milk bottles and other soft plastics into fence posts for kiwi farms.

Fonterra Brands New Zealand’s (FBNZ) Sustainability and Environment Manager, Larisa Thathiah, says the posts are an innovative new way for farmers to improve their on-farm sustainability.

“This partnership provides farmers with an environmentally-friendly fencing option, made from the packaging of our farmers’ milk, which is pretty special,” says Larisa. . . 

Hemp seed food products now legal in New Zealand:

A small yet significant victory occurred on Tuesday as Government announced formal regulatory changes, which will mean that hemp seed products will be legal for sale and consumption as from 12 November 2018.

This change in legislation means that in addition to hemp seed oil (which has been legal since 2003) items such as de-hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder, hemp seed beverages and hemp seed snack bars will now all be able to be legally sold for human consumption in New Zealand. . . 

Champion sharemilkers’ dairy farm placed on the market:

A dairy farm owned by two former regional Sharemilker of the Year winners has been placed on the market for sale as part of a plan to diversify their rural business interests.

The 140.6-hectare farm located some 19 kilometres south-west of Opotiki in the Eastern Bay of Plenty is owned by 2001 Bay of Plenty Sharemilker of the Year title winners Dean and Sharyn Petersen. It is one of three dairy and diary-support farms the Petersen’s own in the region.

The property sustains milking of 320 cows on a De Laval system – averaging 119,620 kilogrammes of milk solids per season over the past four years, as well as producing a substantial maize silage tonnage annually for stock feed. . .


Rural round-up

November 12, 2018

Fonterra hopes for collaboration in review of regulating law – Jeremy Rees:

Fonterra has welcomed the review of the law which governs it and urged farmers and shareholders to work with the government to get it right.

At its annual meeting, Fonterra chairman John Monaghan told the 360 farmers in the audience that the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), which regulated the company was a complex piece of legislation but it was important to get any changes right.

“Let’s be clear. Fonterra’s performance, good or bad, is not driven by DIRA,” he said.

“But an updated DIRA can deliver our shared vision for the future of the New Zealand dairy industry.”

The government began in May a review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001 which sets the parameters for Fonterra, the co-operative dairy giant. . . 

Fonterra is under attack from all sides, and now from within, as it grapples with issues that date back to 2001. These restraints allow its competitors to pick away at its good bits. China holds a tariff lever over NZ policymakers – Guy Trafford:

A busy week for Fonterra with the appointment of the two new directors and one still to come. Later today comes the result of the asset review instigated after the poor results from last season.

One of the new directors, Leonie Guiney has made her position plain in September she was quoted saying she wants the company to shift its whole strategy away from investments, like Beingmate and China Farms, which she says are “beyond our capability”.

If Fonterra thought they may get an easier path in the future through a revamp of the DIRA, the indications coming out are any thing to go by they are going to be disappointed. In fact, some are suggesting that the goal posts have been moved further away with a 70% mark as the point which is more likely to trigger a freeing up of some of the constraints the Coop is required to operate under. . .

New directorate to run M bovis programme – Annette Scott:

The new Mycoplasma bovis Response Directorate will provide a more robust model for the ongoing response to the cattle disease.

The directorate has been established after the decision by the Government and industry to try to eradicate M bovis and in consultation with Ministry for Primary Industries staff.

MPI response and readiness director Geoff Gwyn has been appointed to lead the new body.

Gwyn has headed the M bovis response since the cattle disease was found in July 2017. . . .

Swarmstorm design to benefit beekeepers:

Hobby beekeepers could have an alternative product to recollect swarms and maintain bee reproduction rates thanks to the work of Massey University industrial design student Liam Brankin.

The 22 year-old has devised a prototype backpack he calls the Swarmstorm that uses a suction hose, similar to a household vacuum cleaner, to suck and capture bees into a cardboard container before they are transferred to hives to continue the reproduction and honey-producing process.

His design is part of the Exposure graduate exhibition of final year work by design, art, creative media and music students from the College of Creative Arts, which opens at the Wellington campus on Friday.  . . .

Commission authorises extending restrictions on infant formula marketing ;

The Commerce Commission has authorised members of the Infant Nutrition Council Limited to extend the advertising and marketing restrictions in their Code of Practice to cover infant formula products for children aged up to 12 months of age.

Currently, the restrictions only apply to infant formula products for children aged up to six months of age. The INC asked the Commission to authorise the extended advertising and marketing restrictions, as the extended restrictions may lessen competition. . .

Nursery industry congratulate Young Hort 2018 runner-up:

Runner up Young Horticulturalist of the year, Devin Westley, is an extraordinary young man with a huge passion for his work as a nurseryman and innovator in the industry.

His employer, Southern Woods Nursery and the NZ Plant Producers’ Industry are delighted with his placing in the New Zealand Young Horticulturalist 2018 competition.

Devin also took home awards for best practice, practical activities and best speech on the night at the award’s dinner in Auckland last night. . . 


Benefits of a bad lambing

November 12, 2018

When then-Awarua MP Eric Roy was first in parliament he was asked what it was like.

He replied, there are too many people up there who hadn’t had a bad lambing.

That was back in 1993.  There are even more without that experience now:

About 10% of national politicians have had agribusiness careers but increasingly members of Parliament are being drawn from careers in the public or Parliamentary services.

A study by Wellington public relations company Blackland PR found 11 of Parliament’s 121 MPs have experience working in the agricultural sector, nine of them from National, one from Labour and one from New Zealand First.

No Green Party MPs have worked in the rural sector.

The company’s director Mark Blackham said 23% of MPs had worked in business or commerce and 19% in central government.

A quarter of Labour MPs and 20% of those from National worked in the public service or in Parliament before being elected.

A third of all MPs had no definable career but an increasing number were heavily involved in activism or worked for non-government organisations, especially among the Green Party ranks, before entering Parliament.

Agriculture is the one career that differentiates party roots.

“Agriculture is the only major economic sector where experience differs between political parties,” he said. . . 

Fewer MPs with an agribusiness or wider rural background is partly a result of MMP. Electorates are bigger in area and fewer in number. One rural MP now services an area that would have had at least two under FPP and list MPs are almost all based in cities.

It is also partly a result of fewer people with any business backgrounds and wider life experience entering parliament and more people whose experience is limited to employment by local or central government and/or in activism.

It’s not only farmers who face bad lambings in a figurative sense. But parliament now has more people with less, if any, experience, employing other people; more who have not had to make decisions which impact on their own and other people’s livelihoods and fewer who have run anything where their own money was at risk.

Parliament is generally more representative when it comes to gender and ethnicity but less representative of people with work and life experience in which they’ve not only faced bad lambings, whether literally or figuratively,  but learned from and become better people as a result of them.

MPs are supposed to represent people and a parliament that is representative of the population ought to do that better.

But MPs are also in parliament to make laws and I’d have more confidence in laws made by people who’ve been through bad lambings – literal or figurative –  than those whose work experience has been confined to bureaucracy or activism.


Rural round-up

November 11, 2018

Sheepish by name not by nature – Andrew Stewart:

As a teenager Sophie Barnes decided she wanted to be a very good sheep farmer. Then she heard the best sheep farmers weren’t in her native Britain but on the other side of the world. Undaunted, she sold up, packed up and came to New Zealand. Andrew Stewart charts her journey.

Seventeen is a very young age to know exactly what you want to do with your life. But it was when Sophie Barnes discovered her love for sheep farming and realised it was going to be her lifelong passion.

The young girl from Nottingham was working on a British farm when she saw a ewe giving birth in an indoor barn at 3am.

Experiencing the birth and offering some help was an epiphany for Sophie and from that moment on there was only one thing she wanted to do – be the best sheep farmer possible. . .

 

Lack of rural health professionals will result in crisis – GPs :

Shortages of doctors and nurses in the regions are reaching crisis level, warn rural GPs. 

The Rural General Practice Network is backing calls for rural health schools to embed a wide range of health professionals inside rural communities.

Its chief executive Dalton Kelly said such programmes had proved successful in Canada and Australia – but New Zealand had been slow to act.

“Already a quarter of rural practices have vacancies that we are struggling to fill and it is harder and harder to attract medical professionals into rural communities,” he said. . .

Opportunity for Fonterra: smaller, more focused, more profitable, says FNZC – Pattrick Smellie:

Fonterra has a rare opportunity to shed assets that aren’t performing, write down others to attract investment partners, and become a company more focused on value than volume, says First NZ Capital.

Head of institutional research Arie Dekker says the new senior management, by dropping capital expenditure intentions in the year ahead to $650 million from $1.005 billion, have already given an important signal that they will “address one of the key hygiene factors necessary to make it a more investable proposition.”

“Fonterra Shareholders Fund needs to show greater respect in its use of what we continue to highlight is scarce access to capital,” Dekker said in a note to clients. “Farmers and investors have lost considerable wealth from poorly thought-out and executed investment outside the core business in recent years.” . . 

Happy medium needed in hops growth – Pam TIpa:

NZ Hops Ltd has at least quadrupled the value of its co-operative during the past 10 years.

Chief executive Doug Donelan says the Tasman-based 27-member producer co-op has grown from about $8 million to about $35m gross revenue.

But he says the co-op believes growth needs to be managed to ensure the significant increases in volumes that are coming on stream can be marketed. . .

Young Viticulturist wins Young Horticulturist of the Year 2018:

A huge congratulations to Annabel Bulk from Felton Road for becoming the Young Horticulturist of the Year 2018. Having won the Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year competition at the end of August, she went on to represent the viticultural sector in this tough and prestigious competition.

The competition was held over the 7th and 8th November, where Annabel competed against five other finalists from other horticultural sectors – Landscaping NZ, Horticulture NZ, NZ Plant Producers, NZ Flower Growers and NZ Amenity Horticulture. . .

Cattle quadruple the protein value of corn – Abby Bauer:

It takes approximately 1,400 pounds of corn to finish out a steer. Would we be better off feeding that corn to humans instead?

Associate Professor Tyron Wickersham and colleagues at Texas A&M University have done work to answer that very question. He shared this information during a media event coordinated by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

He explained that there is a subset of people who favor the adoption of a plant-based diet, believing it is a better option for optimizing the food supply and human health, protecting the environment, and maintaining social justice. Yet, humans in general prefer and demand livestock protein sources when they have the money to buy them. . . 


Rural round-up

November 10, 2018

Leonie Guiney election could usher in new direction at Fonterra– Gerard Hutching:

Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others.

Sometimes messy democracy delivers a result that sends an unmistakable message to the powers that be.

So in electing Leonie Guiney to the Fonterra board, dairy farmers have told their co-operative in no uncertain terms they have had enough of the status quo, and new thinking is needed in the wake of its $196 million loss – the first in its 17-year history.

Her election might not have happened if the board had got its way a few years ago when it was mulling over changes to the way directors were voted in. . . 

Labour-intensive task planting pumpkin field -Yvonne O’Hara:

Raewyn Officer, of Lake Roxburgh Village, intends to plant a 4.5ha block of land with about 30,000 grey pumpkin seeds, by hand, by herself, and she is happy to do so.

She works for Darryl Peirce, of Peirce Orchard (The Pumpkin Place), near Millers Flat, who has leased a 4.5ha paddock that lies between Ettrick and Millers Flat.

When Southern Rural Life spotted Ms Officer planting the seeds by hand on Saturday morning, Mr Peirce had already cultivated the soil and had laid one row of black plastic the length of the paddock, using an attachment on the back of his tractor.

He intended to do the same over the whole block, with each row 2.5m apart. . . 

Trade war means NZ picking sides – Hugh Stringleman:

A strategy is needed for New Zealand to avoid the worst effects of a new cold war between China and the United States, Rabobank Asia-Pacific strategist Michael Every says.

“The new cold war could be potentially earth-shattering for those countries which trade with both sides, forcing them declare allegiance or be told which side to support.”

The odds are strongly in favour of the US-China trade war escalating, Every said. . . 

Prickett takes on role at Pamu – Richard Rennie:

Freshwater campaigner Marnie Prickett has earned herself a seat at the table advising the country’s largest farming company on its environmental policies and direction. As a new member and chairwoman of Pamu’s Environmental Reference Group she intends to continue prodding the state-owned enterprise to greater levels of environmental responsibility, underpinned by a sense of excitement and urgency. She spoke to Richard Rennie.

Marnie Prickett was shoved into the glare of the contentious water quality debate two years ago when she headed the Choose Clean Water campaign. 

While not the first campaign pushing for better water quality around New Zealand it was notable for the way it pitched one heavyweight industry, tourism, against another, the pastoral farming sector.  . . 

Top dog trialist to pass on tips

One of the country’s top dog triallists is to hold a training class for owners of heading and huntaway dogs at the Ida Valley Station woolshed later this month.

Roger Tweed, of Waitahuna, will be providing tips, advice and suggestions during the workshop.

Hosted by the Omakau-Earnscleugh Collie Club, the class will be on November 18, from about 1pm.

Mr Tweed has been involved in the sport for many years. . . 

On the farm: Our guide to what’s happening in rural NZ:

What’s happening on farms and orchards around New Zealand? Each week Country Life reporters talk to people in rural areas across the country to find out.

Te Ika-a-Māui-North Island

Northland is a small tale of woe with no rain during the week, and limited moisture in the past three. Soils are drying out and the spring growth which normally continues into early November, hasn’t. Dargaville farmers are making some silage, but further north that’s not the case. Bull beef farmers are looking most glum they have in 20 years or so when it comes to prices too. . . 

Forget cattle, kangaroos are the future of farming – Christopher Cookson:

Recently, I was across the ditch in Australia for the first time in my life and as you do when you go to a new place, I decided to sample local foods. 

Looking around at meat in the supermarket, I was searching for something that would not drain my bank account and make it as dry as an Aussie farm.

Hiding away in a corner of the supermarket I found something you definitely don’t see in New Zealand: kangaroo meat. . . 


Rural round-up

November 9, 2018

Fonterra board gets controversial voice back – Sally Rae:

Fairlie farmer Leonie Guiney has returned to the Fonterra board, vowing to solve the co-operative’s ”reputational issues”.

Shareholders voted to elect Mrs Guiney and Zespri chairman Peter McBride to the board and they will take office at the close of today’s annual meeting at Fonterra’s Lichfield plant in the Waikato.

Sitting director Ashley Waugh, Maori Television chairman Jamie Tuuta, and John Nicholls were unsuccessful.

Mrs Guiney, who farms near Fairlie and is director of four dairy farming companies, served on the board from 2014 until last year. . . 

Fonterra Shareholders’ Council report questions value-add strategy – Gerard Hutching:

Fonterra has failed to deliver “meaningful returns” on shareholders’ capital since inception in 2001, a new Shareholders Council report says, which questions the value-add strategy.

The much vaunted value-add business has returned only 0.2 per cent a year more than ingredients or commodities, “significantly below the 1.3 per cent a year premium needed to justify the increased risk”.

“This is important because the value-add business units are now using an increasing share of Fonterra’s capital. For the first five years since inception – 2002-06 – the value-add business accounted for 36 per cent of Fonterra’s capital. This has increased to 50 per cent of Fonterra’s capital over the last five years.” . . 

Reducing sediment loss explored at field days – Ella Stokes:

Sediment mitigation was a hot topic at the field days hosted by the Pomahaka Water Care Group last week.

The farmer-led group has an overall target of improving water health – first on farm and also in the Pomahaka River.

Last week, there were three field days held in the West Otago area to explore solutions to reduce sediment loss, which is a major issue in the area.

Landcare Research environmental scientist and Pomahaka Water Care Group (PWCG) co-ordinator Craig Simpson said they had up to 70 people at one of the events. . . 

Youngsters keep old-timers happy – Neal Wallace:

Transforming a run-down farm into a high performance stock unit was satisfying for Ron Davis and Roger Chittock but their greatest pleasure came from seeing youngsters trained on it go on to successful farming careers.

Chittock has spent 37 years and Davis 29 years on the management board of the Salvation Army’s Jeff Farm, a 2630ha sheep, beef and deer property between Clinton and Gore in eastern Southland.

But overseeing the development of the 30,000 stock units farm was only part of their enjoyment.

Jeff Farm’s primary role is to train youth for agricultural careers and the two retiring board members say seeing young people grow and move into industry jobs was immensely satisfying. . . 

Goats ready to earn their keep – Neal Wallace:

Three years ago David Shaw questioned why he was still farming Cashmere goats.

This month garments made from fibre harvested from goats on his south Otago farm will be on sale in a new Untouched World retail store opening in Wanaka.

Potentially, the resurrected cashmere market could take several tonnes of fibre and he believes having about 25,000 Cashmere goats is achievable.

He has 1000 goats on his farm and has readily identified 5000 on other farms that could be crossed with Cashmere bucks. . . 

The apparel industry has rediscovered the wool from corriedale sheep – Heather Chalmers:

Demand from sportswear and fashion companies is sending the price of a previously written-off type of wool to record levels.

This has led the dual-purpose corriedale sheep breed to make a comeback, after many farmers chose to shift to more meat breeds.    

Corriedale wool is in the mid-micron range, coarser than most merino fibre, but far finer than crossbred wool that comprises most of the New Zealand clip. . . 

Five new Nuffield scholars named :

Five Nuffield scholarships have been awarded for 2019. They have gone to two dairy farmers, a sheep and beef farmer, an arable farmer and an analyst.

Ben Hancock was raised on his family’s Wairarapa hill country sheep and beef cattle farm. He now works in Wellington for Beef + Lamb New Zealand as a senior analyst, still near the farm he often returns to.

After working in research and conservation roles in NZ, the United States and Panama Hancock did a doctorate investigating ecosystem services. . . 

 


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