Rural round-up

January 18, 2018

Mycoplasma bovis is unlikely to go away – Keith Woodford:

It now seems likely that Mycoplasma bovis is in New Zealand to stay. Just like the rest of the world, we must learn how to live with it. We do not yet have to give up totally on hopes of eradication, but eradication is looking more and more unlikely.

The control program has suffered from incorrect information and poor communication, and there is much to be learned from that. These information flaws have affected farmer and public attitudes. In some cases, this has created additional and unnecessary stress, and unfair criticism of individuals.

However, the probability is that these flaws have not affected the success or failure of the eradication program. The chances are that Mycoplasma bovis has been here for some years, in which case eradication was always going to be impossible. . .

Plants dying as drought threatens vegetable and fruit supplies to shoppers – Pat Deavoll:

Droughts are threatening the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables on shopping shelves and storing water in dams would rectify this, says Horticulture New Zealand.

“Relying on water to fall from the sky simply isn’t enough,” said HortNZ chief executive Mike Chapman. “HortNZ believes we should be more proactive in capturing and storing that water to ensure sustainability of supply during times of drought.”

Chapman said the dry conditions of early summer were putting fruit and vegetable growers under pressure to the point where some of them were having to make decisions about which plants and trees they would plant or harvest. . . 

Kiwi-born Nasa scientist for CSST – Pam Jones:

An award-winning Nasa scientist has been appointed director of research for the Centre for Space Science Technology (CSST).

The appointment of Delwyn Moller was announced yesterday.

Dr Moller was born and raised in the Waikato, studied at the University of Auckland and went on to design and implement technology for Nasa space missions. She will be moving to Central Otago from Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

CSST chief executive Steve Cotter said Dr Moller’s contribution would be invaluable to CSST and to New Zealand as a whole. . . 

Ask a farmer, we don’t hate you – Pete Fitzherbert:

It must be so easy for the average New Zealander to just start again at the end of one year and begin another – make some resolutions, forget about them within the week, and then if you are feeling a little overweight just go down to the food court at the local mall and problem solved, because compared to the fatty at the smorgasbord you are an athlete!

It’s fair to say it is not as easy for your average farmer. Our seasons roll over without ever having a definitive start or finish.

So, what kind of New Year resolutions or hopes could we have? The best we can do sometimes is hope for the best, plan for the worst and the rest of the time play it as it lays.

Maybe we could hope the next year brings the chance to take off a couple of those public holidays.

Maybe hope for a totally average year in every way, or hope that we can farm, just farm, to the best the season presents us with without the public scrutiny that has begun to develop around agriculture.

Could you imagine a return to a world where the only people that gave dairy farmers grief were sheep farmers and bank managers? . . 

Fonterra partners with Alibaba’s Hema Fresh to launch fresh milk product into China:

Fonterra has launched a new fresh milk product in China in partnership with Hema Fresh, Alibaba’s innovative new retail concept which combines traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping with a digital experience.

The new Daily Fresh milk range is now available in Hema’s 14 stores in Shanghai and Suzhou in 750mL bottles, sourced directly from Fonterra’s farm hub in Hebei province. The product boasts unique product labels to match each day of the week in order to emphasise freshness, with stock being replenished overnight ready for each new day.

Initial volumes are currently around three metric tonnes daily, with plans to scale-up over time and expand with the retailer as it rapidly grows its footprint of stores across China. . . 

A blast from the Haast – NZ’s most isolated town – Sarah Harris:

Of the 240 people who call Haast home there’s one policeman, 13 students at the only school, one electrician who is trying to retire and no plumber. If one comes to town residents chase him down the road.

There’s also no doctor – one comes once a fortnight. If there’s a medicial emergency a helicopter can land on the school field.

A drive to the closest supermarket is two hours away and the nearest hospital in Greymouth is a four-hour drive or 90 minute flight. . . 

Can we keep our country shows alive? – Alex Druce:

IT’s been nearly two years since Wingham last held a country show and organisers are determined to get it right.

“We had to go back to the drawing board, and we’ve got some pretty exciting new things,” says press officer Elaine Turner. 

“For starters, there’s the piggy races. And the demolition derby is going to be on again too . Everyone loves that.” . . 

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Water storage is the green answer to food shortages

January 18, 2018

HorticultureNZ says drought is threatening food supply:

Water is vital for plants and trees to grow and New Zealand needs to better mitigate droughts that threaten our domestic supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

“The dry conditions we have seen through early summer are putting fruit and vegetable growers under pressure to the point where some are having to make decisions about which plants and trees they may not be able to plant or harvest, and which may need to be left to die as scarce water supply is used to keep other plants alive,” Chapman says.

“No water means plants die and as a result, fresh fruit and vegetables are unavailable and prices go up because demand is higher than supply.

“Relying on water to fall from the sky simply isn’t enough. HortNZ believes we should be more proactive in capturing and storing that water to ensure sustainability of supply during times of drought.

“The best way to ensure adequate water supply to irrigate fruit and vegetable plants is to store water in dams. Dams also benefit streams and rivers by reducing flood risk and keeping flows up during dry periods, which protects aquatic life.

“There are benefits to every New Zealander from having a reliable water supply. But there are inconsistent policies across central and local government when it comes to water, land use, preparing for climate change goals, and community needs. We believe these should be looked at holistically.

“On the one hand the government wants a  Zero Carbon Act and to plant one billion more trees, but on the other hand, local authorities are increasingly putting pressure on water supplies, limiting water access for irrigation to grow food. There needs to be a wider national approach to these issues and support and recognition for regions that are addressing them as communities.

“For example, Horticulture New Zealand supports the Waimea Dam in the Tasman District and the proposal for it to be a joint venture with the territorial authorities. This is because there are broad community benefits from the dam in an area that is growing in population, and therefore, has a greater need for water supply for people as well as plants.

“The benefits of the dam include water for food security and primary production, security of water supply for urban water users, improved ecosystem health of the Waimea River, recreational benefits, regional economy benefits, business development and expansion, and more jobs.

“The Waimea Dam is the answer to everyone’s water needs in the district.”

Horticulture New Zealand’s submission on the Waimea Dam proposal for governance and funding can be found here

The emotive anti-farming green lobby paints irrigation as bad for the environment but it can be, and often is, good.

Irrigation is like precision rainfall – applied where and when it’s needed.

Storing excess water in times of flood and high river flows to use when there’s not enough rain ticks the economic, environmental and social boxes.

It ensures minimum flows can be maintained to protect water life, it allows plant growth to protect soil from erosion, it provides secure jobs and enables food to be grown during droughts.

Without irrigation farmers and horticulturists are at the mercy of the weather. When it’s dry they produce less food and as the supply drops the price increases which hits the poorest hardest.

There’s irony that many of those opposed to irrigation which enables the growth of fruit and vegetables are often the ones making the most noise about growing obesity.

More irrigation enables the production of food including fruit and vegetables which ought to form the basis of every-day diets. Without irrigation these foods become more expensive leaving the poor no choice but to purchase cheaper, less nutritious and more energy-dense food.

The anti-farming lobby must remove their blinkers and open their minds to the fact that water storage is the green answer to the problems of food shortages, poor diets and soil and water degradation.

 


Rural round-up

January 17, 2018

Sunflower fundraiser set to raise funds for struggling farmers – Deena Coster:

Selling a flower which is synonymous with sunshine is helping give hope to struggling farmers.

In mid-November, Taranaki farmer Will Fleming planted about 500 sunflower seeds around the outside of one of his paddocks, and by next week the distinctive flowers will be on sale.

The money raised from selling off the sunflowers will go directly to the Taranaki Rural Support Trust (TRST). . . 

Pacific leader honoured for work in dairy industry and Manawatū community – Paul Mitchell:

Palatasa Havea​ is still trying to get his head around what it means to be a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

The Palmerston North man received the honour for a life-time of work in dairy industry research and his selfless dedication to the Pacific community in the New Year Honours List.

Havea was surprised and humbled by the appointment. But he wasn’t that familiar with the Royal Honours system, what responsibilities came with it, or that he’d done enough to deserve the recognition.

As a senior research scientist at Fonterra his work has resulted in a new manufacturing process for whey protein products and several patents for the company. . . 

Farmers are off to a good 2018 start in spite of unusual weather this summer – Bill Wright:

The year has got off to a good start and the rain on the roof as I sit and write this is music to my ears – as it will be for all but arable farmers trying to harvest crops and parents trying to keep children entertained.

It has been an unusual season, with what seems to be rapid swings between wet and dry, but the fodder beet, kale and maize crops on our farm are all looking great. The maize is a relatively new inclusion in our system and is proving valuable as cattle feed over the late summer.

All our finishing cattle were gone before Christmas, and we are getting lambs away at good weights. . .

South Canterbury farmer’s cricket pitch reports hit it out of the park – Al Williams:

Glenavy has produced an unlikely social media star who is bowling them over with his infectious sense of humour.

From the tiny South Canterbury town on the banks of the Waitaki River, Ross ‘Rous’ McCulloch Glenavy Cricket Club captain, Glenavy Volunteer Fire Brigade member, Rural Bachelor of the Year finalist, sheep farmer and online larrikin is attracting clicks with his classic Kiwi humour.

McCulloch, with the help of his cricket team-mate, opening batsman, camera operator, dairy farmer and fellow fire brigade member Jackson Henshaw, files weekly “pitch reports” to the club’s Facebook page – all tongue-in-cheek – but their efforts on and offline are paying dividends for their community.   . . 

2018 Dairy Industry Award activity heats up as entrants prepare for judging:

While many people have had a rest from the stresses of work over the Christmas and New Year break, the reality can be different for farmers.

Summer is a busy time in the farming calendar, and General Manager of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Chris Keeping says it is just as important for farmers to take a break as any other person.

“Farming is a 24/7 commitment, and it is vital that farmers find time to rest and relax with family and friends,” she said. . . 

Station rebuild from the ground up – Jamie Brown:

Marango Station, bordering gorge country adjacent to Guy Fawkes River east of Ebor, has undergone a facelift of massive proportions.

When three investors bought the 3800 hectare freehold and lease hold holding two years ago they put a young cattleman Mick Kelsall in position of manager. This 33 year old’s boundless energy has helped drive substantial change.

He credits his family and grandfather Jim, ‘Kahona’ Hernani and other properties, as his first mentor and these days leans on Dorrigo agent Tim Bayliss for constant feedback. . . 

Engender moves to commercialisation of genetic dairy technology, targets US market – Tina Morrison:

 (BusinessDesk) – Engender Technologies, the agricultural technology company spun out of Auckland University, is moving to scale up its sex-selection product for the dairy industry to full commercialisation in the next 18 months and is targeting the US$2 billion dairy artificial insemination industry.

Co-founded by the University of Auckland and seed investment company Pacific Channel in 2011, Engender has secured option-to-license agreements for its technology with three of the world’s largest artificial insemination companies, has successfully concluded laboratory trials and is preparing for scaling commercialization, the Auckland-based company said in a statement. In August, the company’s first key patent was allowed in the US and its patent attorneys have confidence that it will be granted in its other key markets, it said. . . 


Gut instinct guides business

January 17, 2018

Two Lincoln University researchers have been researching the role intuition plays in farmers’ decisions and how it can be improved.

Dr Peter Nuthall and Dr Kevin Old, from the Department of Land Management and Systems, have had their analysis of farmers’ intuitive decision making published in the international rural research journal Rural Studies*.

Data was gathered from over 700 farmers.

“Farmer intuition has never been analysed to this extent before,” Dr Nuthall said.

Research has shown farmers make the majority of decisions using their intuition. They do not formally analyse each decision, but use their mental powers to decide on what action to take.

Using intuition, or gut instinct, might be unusual for academics but it isn’t peculiar to farmers, especially those brought up in the business who learned by watching and working with their parents.

“Sometimes the decision is instantaneous, but in others a range of thought levels are brought to bear before acting. Good decision intuition is not a mysterious process,” Dr Nuthall said.

“Profit and other assessments show some farmers are good intuitive decision makers, others not so good.”

Farmers with little experience, whether they have good potential intuition or not, find it difficult to make good decisions.

The handicap of inexperience won’t just be the preserve of farmers either.

I don’t know any successful business people who haven’t made mistakes. They’re more likely when they’re inexperienced and if those mistakes aren’t learning experiences.

What’s differentiates the successful from those less so, is the willingness to trust their gut, make decisions, act on them and learn from any mistakes so they don’t repeat them.

Dr Nuthall said the intuition process often uses what is called ‘pattern matching’, where the brain uses experience to match up past events with the current decision problem.

“The farmer’s intuition then comes up with what the brain believes to be the correct action.”

However, intuition is more than just pattern matching, he said.

“Intuition develops with a farmer’s thought process, self-criticism and review.”

The new research showed how farmers can improve their intuition.

“Obviously the farmers’ technical farming knowledge is important as a forerunner. But equally is the attention to carefully observing the state of the farm and the relevant markets,” Dr Nuthall said.

“Observations must be accurate and cover all the issues important to any decision. And the farmer must be good at anticipating the path ahead — looking ahead skills are critical in assessing alternative actions to solve any decision problem. These all tend to be inbuilt skills”

He said these skills can be improved with attention and practice.

“A farmer should analyse all past decisions and take on board any lessons on offer. Discussing past actions with colleagues and family helps improve mind held patterns and produce good solutions.”

I’m not disputing this reasoning but I think a lot of the analysis is unconscious.

Good farmers live and breathe their businesses, observing and thinking about what they see. They read about farming, go to field days and discussion groups and learn from their own experiences and from others.

Farming is a particularly risky business with many variables which are out of farmers’ control.

Those who succeed use their brains but, like other business people, they are also guided by gut instinct.

 

 


Rural round-up

January 16, 2018

Women’s shearing record set in ‘epic’ sporting feat:

A nine-hour slog to set a new world shearing record is being described as an ‘epic sporting feat’.

Kerri-Jo Te Huia sheared 452 ewes in a Wairarapa woolshed yesterday to set a record that no-one has held before: that for the women’s nine-hour strongwool ewe category.

Champion shearer Jills Angus Burney watched Ms Te Huia make history and said she did an amazing job. . . 

Growers’ dilemma: Killing a crop to survive the dry:

After a drought-inducing start to summer, fruit and vegetable growers are pleading for more dams to avoid having to kill off their own crops.

Much of the country has been facing water restrictions after the early dry season, with even the usually rain-soaked West Coast having declared drought conditions.

Canterbury went weeks without rain in November and December, and Wellington was forced to use reserve water two months earlier than usual.

Otago settlement Glenorchy was the latest affected with Queenstown Lakes District Council announcing restrictions this morning, asking residents to switch off all irrigation and automatic watering systems. . .

What does the future hold for NZ”s largest farm? – Alexa Cook:

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is calling for public opinion about how New Zealand’s largest farm, Molesworth Station, should be managed.

The 180,000ha cattle station is owned by the government farmer Landcorp, which has a farming lease and grazing licence for the land.

A management plan for Molesworth was approved in 2013 with the intention of moving it from its traditional focus on farming to include more recreation and conservation activities.

The farming lease expires in two years, and Federated Farmers high country spokesperson Simon Williamson said it was crucial it remained a working station.

“It’s very important for that type of land that someone is maintaining it for the pests and weeds … and the public access side of it, if people get in trouble.” . . 

Close your farm borders to unwanted invaders – Katie Milne:

Here are some New Year resolutions for all of us who work the land: Treat your farm as a biosecurity fortress, with its defences tightened to shut out pest and disease threats.

Confirmation this week that the bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is present on a farm in the Ashburton area – bringing the number of infected properties around the nation to 14 – is the latest wake-up call.  All farms are at risk when it comes to pests and diseases.  Regarding Mycoplasma bovis, movement of infected animals is the main risk followed by animal to animal contact and transmission through milk and semen, but the disease can also be transferred directly on equipment such calving and AI equipment.

MPI staff work hard to knock out biosecurity threats at our airports and ports but they’re just the first line of defence.  You’re the fullback.  You need a game plan to repel weeds, bacteria and other harmful substances that would hurt your livelihood.

Now for those resolutions. . . 

Feds’ Hoggard urges farmers to pay backpackers regular rates – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard says farmers should pay backpackers market rates if they want to keep a handy pool of casual labour and avoid volunteer workers.

The Employment Relations Authority ruled an organic farm near Christchurch breached worker rights by paying them $120 a week plus providing food and lodging irrespective of the hours worked, and claiming they were volunteers after a Labour Inspectorate investigation. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said in a statement that thousands of people had been exploited at the farm, working up to 40 hours a week and often as hired out labour at a profit for Robinwood Farms director and shareholder Julia Osselton. . . 

Canada’s Public Sector Pension Board gets OIO approval to buy $17.7M dairy farm and block – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board, or PSP Investments, got a green light to buy a medium-sized dairy farm and a neighbouring dairy support block in Canterbury for $17.7 million just ahead of tougher requirements on land sales to foreign buyers.

Ramsay Dairy Farm, which is indirectly owned by PSP Investments, was granted consent to buy 335.2 hectares of land and 77.2 hectares of land in Hororata, Canterbury by the Overseas Investment Office.

According to the OIO, the properties will be amalgamated to create a larger dairy farm. “The applicant proposes to convert some of the dairy support land to create a larger milking platform, and to support increasing the total number of cows by approximately 400 cows,” it said in a summary of the decision.. . .

Butter prices drop almost 5 percent in December:

Butter, chocolate bars, and wholemeal bread prices all fell in December, Stats NZ said today. Tomatoes and nectarines were also cheaper, but avocado prices remain almost twice as expensive as they were a year ago.

After four successive monthly rises, butter prices dropped 4.9 percent in December 2017 to an average of $5.46 for the cheapest available 500g block. This compared with the previous month when they hit a record high of $5.74. Butter prices had been falling at international dairy auctions since October. . . 

MPI aims to wrap up PGP review by end of April – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – The government’s review of the Primary Growth Partnership is underway, with the first phase due to be wrapped up by late January and the second by the end of April, with one programme partner providing feedback and ideas to date.

The research and development programme was launched in 2010 and, to date, government and industry have invested some $759 million in 22 programmes, with 16 still underway. In late November Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, who was critical of the programme while in opposition, called for a review, stating the new government needs to prioritise spending. . .

2018 Set To Be A Year Of Growth For Taratahi:

Taratahi’s efforts to attract new students has paid off with solid enrolments for 2018.

Taratahi upped its marketing and as a result, the definite enrolments for 2018 are looking great, says chief Executive Arthur Graves.

Arthur says the institutions taster courses have attracted large numbers of students.

“Taratahi and the wider primary industry have been promoting the job rich agricultural environments and extensive career pathways on offer and those campaigns are now yielding some great results. . . 


Rural round-up

January 15, 2018

Cattle categories removed from A&P show –  David Loughrey:

This year’s Otago-Taieri A&P Show will be without cattle categories, as shows across the South take precautions against Mycoplasma bovis.

Kelly Allison said the decision not to have cattle at the January 27 show was made last week in  light of the spread of the bacterial infection, to guard against its transmission.

Mr Allison is on the Otago-Taieri A&P Show committee and on the executive of the Royal Agricultural Society of New Zealand.

“I think it’s a very small chance that a cow would transfer it to another cow,” he said. . . 

A radical rethink of NZ’s largest farm is on the table – Emily Heyward & Paula Hulburt:

New Zealand’s largest farm or massive public park? You decide.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is open to a radical rethink of the historic Molesworth Station, the rolling high-country farm linking Marlborough to North Canterbury.

The farming lease at the 180,000-hectare cattle ranch – about the size of Stewart Island – expires in 2020, and the public could help shape its future. . . 

Third generation dairy farmers turn to hemp – Alexander Robertson:

Forget about white gold and our massive dairy industry, green gold could be the new king of the crop.

As the hemp industry opens up in New Zealand, a Rangitikei family is giving hemp a shot as they try get off the herd and diversify their dairy farm in hemp and pumpkin for the first year.

The Welch family have farmed the same land for more than 90 years over three generations.

However, for this family there’s many sides to the dairy industry with ethical challenges. . . 

Blueberry season over earlier than usual in warmer weather – Jill Galloway:

The blueberry season has come and gone early in Manawatū because of warm weather.

Co-owner of Blueacres​ in Pohangina Valley, Gloria Hall said they usually had a season which lasted through January.

But she said every year was different, and last year the wet winter and spring, followed by a dry December brought the berries on early. . . 

Why you need a good merino base layer – Ross Collicutt:

When I was young, we went skiing regularly. We could afford to go skiing, but didn’t have the greatest gear. We’d go with school, with parents, with anyone that was going to the hill. Skiing was great fun, but we’d be shivering by the end of the day.

Getting so cold your lips are blue is fine when you can just grab a hot chocolate in the lodge to warm up. Out snowshoeing in the winter or on a long backpacking trip, getting too cold could have more serious consequences.

Base layers are the most important part of your outdoor clothing system. Yes, it sounds nerdy, but that system is made up of three layers: the outer shell for rain and snow protection, the middle insulation layer, and the-all important base layer on the inside. A merino wool base layer is the best. Here’s why. . . 


How much will Molesworth cost?

January 15, 2018

The Department of Conservation is consulting on the Molesworth Station management plan.

Molesworth is an iconic high-country station. It is owned by the public of New Zealand and managed by DOC on your behalf.

The Station became a recreation reserve in 2005. It has many values, including heritage, conservation, cultural and recreation.

Managing Molesworth

Molesworth is currently managed as a working high-country station through a farming lease and grazing licence to Landcorp. The farming lease expires in 2020.

A management plan for Molesworth was approved in 2013. Its intention was to transition Molesworth from its traditional focus on farming to include more recreation and conservation activities.

The plan puts restrictions on public access in order to meet farming requirements. It may be necessary to manage recreational activity to protect conservation goals for natural, cultural and historic reasons, and to protect the recreational experience of other users.

DOC sees potential in working collaboratively with others on landscape-scale restoration in Molesworth. It is a biodiversity hotspot for a wide range of dryland animal and plant species. It also faces challenges from pests and significant weed problems such as wilding conifers. . . 

We were on Molesworth a few years ago and horrified by the spread of wilding pines. The spread of hieracium was also a visible problem.

DOC wants people’s thoughts on

  • how Molesworth is currently managed
  • how you think the range of values on Molesworth should be managed into the future
  • future opportunities or improvements to the way Molesworth is managed.

You’ll find the survey here.

Molesworth’s values include heritage, conservation, cultural and recreation.

Farming fits with heritage, conservation and cultural values and doesn’t have to exclude recreation. It also generates income, although that doesn’t mean it makes a profit for either Landcorp which leases the property, or DOC.

Profit, or loss, is something which isn’t addressed in the survey. What will implementing the plan for Molesworth cost and who will pay for it?

Recreation and conservation values are important but how much income, if any, will they generate?

Grazing helps curb weeds and farm staff can help control rabbits, possums and other pests which threaten native flora and fauna as part of their daily work.

If conservation and recreation replace farming, there won’t be an automatic return to nature as it was before the settlers came. Introduced weeds and pests will flourish with no stock and farm workers to control them.

The tussock has been disappearing from the top of the Lindis Pass since DOC took over the management land after the farm released it under tenure review. That is because hieracium is flourishing as fertility drops and no stock graze it before seed heads form. Without a comprehensive, and expensive, weed control plan, Molesworth will face a similar issue with introduced weeds.

Another potential problem is an increase in the risk of fire with growth uncontrolled by stock and more recreational visitors.

Molesworth is considered an iconic high country station.

Farming doesn’t have to be inconsistent with recreation and conservation.

Furthermore it could generate income to offset some of the costs, lessen the fire danger and contribute more to weed and pest control.

 


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