Rural round-up

October 20, 2019

Is this the future of irrigation? – Luke Chivers:

Curbing water consumption and the leaching of nitrogen is no easy feat but a major research programme has devised an ingenious plan. Luke Chivers explains.

A six-year research programme on irrigation has ended with a big win for agriculture – the development of promising new sensor technology systems that give arable, vegetable and pastoral farmers the tools to use precision irrigation at sub-paddock scales. 

The systems work alongside existing irrigation scheduling technology, mapping and monitoring a field at sub-paddock scales and calculating exactly how much water is needed at the right time and place. It is a leading development for irrigation and field trials have proved to dramatically reduce water wastage, save users money and minimise farm runoff. . .

On-farm research helps water quality :

An innovative approach to improving environmental sustainability is proving its success in intercepting and treating storm water before it leaves the farm and trials indicate it could be a game-changer for water quality.

A four-year trial has looked at intercepting and treating storm water before it leaves the farm – stopping the phosphorus, sediment and E coli from washing off into Lake Rotorua

The detainment bund science project manager John Paterson says while there is an increasing spotlight on farmers and the impact farming has on waterways, this is a project developed and led by farmers. . .

 

The fourth industrial revolution in agriculture – Sebastiaan Nijhuis and Iris Herrmann:

For agribusinesses, implementing new technologies requires focusing on four critical capabilities.

Do all cows’ faces look the same to you? They don’t to systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Bovine facial recognition technology, developed through a strategic partnership between Cargill and an Irish technology company called Cainthus, equips barns and fields with smart cameras that can identify each cow in a herd in seconds based on facial features and hide patterns. Linked to machine learning software, the system determines whether a cow isn’t eating or drinking enough, or if she’s sick, and can alert the farmer via smartphone app. It can also look at the whole herd’s behavior to identify how best to distribute feed or schedule cows’ stints in a specific pen or in the field. Over time, the platform learns from what it sees and begins to automate more of the daily care for each animal. . . 

Profit improves in better year for Alliance: -Sally Rae:

Alliance Group shareholders can expect a “substantial” improvement in profit performance when the company announces its year ended September 30 financial results, chief executive David Surveyor says.

Speaking at a roadshow meeting in Oamaru this week, Mr Surveyor said it was also very pleasing to announce a profit distribution would be made to shareholders.

Last year, the company posted an operating profit of $8million, down from the previous year’s $20.2million, and did not make a distribution to shareholders.

Chairman Murray Taggart said the company had made “really good” progress again this year but there was “still plenty to do“. . .

Hogget lambing ‘taken a hit’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

The recent bad weather has meant farmers in southern areas and the Southland hill country have ”taken a hit” with hogget lambing, says consultant Deane Carson, of Agribusiness Consultants, Invercargill.

Mr Carson said with the recent wet and windy weather last week, farmers had ”high losses”.

”While farmers in Central Southland have a good lambing and are nearly finished, those who are hogget lambing are getting impacted at the moment.”

He said hill country farmers were also affected by the poor weather, which ”knocked them about a bit”, and they also have had high losses, particularly as their lambing season was later than in other areas. . .

 

 

America’s first urban ‘agrihodd’ feeds 2000.  Households for free -Lacy Cooke:

When you think of Detroit, ‘sustainable‘ and ‘agriculture‘ may not be the first two words that you think of. But a new urban agrihood debuted by The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) might change your mind. The three-acre development boasts a two-acre garden, a fruit orchard with 200 trees, and a sensory garden for kids.

If you need a refresher on the definition of agrihood, MUFI describes it as an alternative neighborhood growth model. An agrihood centers around urban agriculture, and MUFI offers fresh, local produce to around 2,000 households for free. . .


Farmer’s Voice – Jack Jordan

October 20, 2019

On this month’s Farmers Voice Wiggy head’s up to Taumarunui to catch up with 6-time underarm wood chopping world champ Jack Jordan, and has a chat about his passion for farming, rugby and woodchopping.


Rural round-up

October 19, 2019

Act now on swine fever – Neal Wallace:

Dr Eric Neumann’s career takes him to animal disease hot spots throughout the world to advise officials and farmers on their response and to monitor severity and behaviour of disease outbreaks Neal Wallace talks to the epidemiologist.

The savagery of African swine fever was starkly illustrated to Kiwi epidemiologist Dr Eric Neumann when he visited a 1000-pig farm in Vietnam.

The fever’s presence had been confirmed in the housed piggery two weeks before his visit but by time he got there 600 animals had died and most of the survivors were sick. . .

Time to effect meaningful change – Dairyman:

Bashing Fonterra in the media is so prevalent it’s almost a national pastime; farmer shareholders keen to share that phone call they got from the chairman, commentators sticking the boot in at the behest of their dairy processor clients and any politician looking for some airtime will happily have a crack.

If the payout is low it’s due to the incompetence of directors and management, if the payout is high it’s because Fonterra is screwing the scrum and forcing their competitors to pay more for milk than it’s worth.

While there are legitimate criticisms to be levelled at the Co-op, and they’re not above scoring own goals in that department, it’s so easy that writing a column panning them is almost lazy. I make no secret that I’m a fan of Fonterra’s new direction; the honesty that is largely on display at shareholder meetings, the way they now engage with the government instead of the ‘Fortress Fonterra’ mentality of old and their willingness to show leadership and vision in areas that affect their farmers. . .

The NZ Government strategy to destroy the farming sector – Barbara McKenzie:

‘If sheep and beef farms convert to forestry on a nationwide scale at just half the rate that has occurred in Wairoa this last year, there will be no sheep and beef farms left by 2050’ (Neil Henderson, Gisborne farmer)

The agricultural sector is New Zealand’s largest industry, made up chiefly of  pastoral farming and horticulture.

The coalition government, however,  is implementing a strategy squarely aimed at replacing the farming sector with forestry.  The result will be depopulation of the countryside, the destruction of  our environment and our way of life, and sets us on the road to poverty. . . 

Leather exporters struggle in oversupplied market :

Leather exporters are grappling with record low prices for hides.

The agricultral insights group, AgriHQ, said strong beef production in Australia, Brazil and the US had meant that the cattle hide market was significantly oversupplied.

A senior analyst at AgriHQ, Mel Croad, said this oversupply, combined with the rise of much more convincing synthetic leather substitutes and a downturn in the manufacture of luxury leather goods meant global demand was very weak.

“In addition, the closure of some Chinese tanneries due to environmental concerns has narrowed down selling options for hides,” Ms Croad said. . .

 

Demand from farmers for SurePhos expected to exceed supply:

 Ballance Agri-Nutrients has produced a sustainable superphosphate product that is expected to displace traditional ‘Super’ fertiliser used by the majority of farmers – with clear environmental and productivity benefits.

SurePhosTM is expected to reduce phosphate losses by up to 75%, making a significant positive impact on the quality of waterways and, due to low water solubility, keeps nutrients in the soil system where they are available to plants.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chairman, David Peacocke, says SurePhosTM will be the choice of a new generation of farmers who have sustainability front-of-mind. . . 

I’m a farmer and a no-deal Brexit would put me out of business – Will Case:

Crashing out of the EU would not end uncertainty and would be a dark day for agriculture and food in Britain

Here in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside, the sun is out, our grass is growing and the sky is blue. Sheep are busily nibbling the pasture while cattle are basking in the summer warmth. These are perfect conditions for farming. The animals are content and the farmers are working hard.

Everything should be fine, but there is a big, dark cloud lurking on the horizon: the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. This is a threat to everything we do. The uncertainty around Brexit and the prospect of trade tariffs that would cripple our business is a real worry. The future direction of UK-produced food is simply unknown.

Will we be forced to adhere to ever higher standards, while our government allows food to be imported from countries where farmers adhere to welfare or other standards that would, rightly, be illegal on my farm? Will our politicians assure British farmers that they will avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit? . . 


Rural round-up

October 18, 2019

Don’t blame the messenger:

It appears the only people surprised by plummeting levels of rural confidence are the Government and Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.

For months we have seen an endless stream of reports – from Rabobank, BNZ, ANZ, NZIER – all depicting a growing lack of confidence and concern in rural New Zealand.

Only last month, an open letter was written to the Government by an agricultural consultancy head, Chris Garland, outlining why farmer morale is at an all-time low. Garland, of Baker Ag, called for more consideration for the rural sector’s lot in the face of ever more onerous regulation. . . 

Marlborough’s Francis Maher vows to strengthen relationship between farmers and council – Chloe Ranford:

A Marlborough farmer returning to the council chamber after a tight vote says he hopes to strengthen the relationship between rural residents and the region’s decision-makers.

Francis Maher will once again represent the Wairau-Awatere ward after beating nearest rival Scott Adams by just 13 votes.

The seat was “too close to call” after Saturday’s preliminary count, but updated results on Sunday revealed Maher would join incumbents Gerald Hope and Cynthia Brooks in the rural ward. . . 

Moffat to lead Deer Industry team :

Innes Moffat has been appointed chief executive of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ). He has been with the organisation for 14 years.

DINZ chair Ian Walker says the DINZ board ran an external recruitment process that attracted some very strong candidates from both inside and outside the deer farming industry. After considering all applicants the board made the unanimous decision that Moffat was the best candidate for the job.

Moffat, who was born and raised on a South Otago sheep and cattle farm, joined DINZ in 2005 as venison marketing services manager. This followed several years with the former Meat and Wool New Zealand, including a four-year stint in Brussels as market manager continental Europe. More recently, he has been manager of the deer industry’s Primary Growth Partnership programme, Passion 2 Profit. . . 

Wagyu study stirs up academics :

An academic stoush is brewing over research from Liggins Institute indicating middle-aged men can confidently eat Wagyu beef three times a week without damaging their health.

The research was done as part of a high-value nutrition national science challenge led by AgResearch and co-funded by First Light Wagyu beef company. 

Its 50 participants were put on diets consisting of either 500g a week of Wagyu beef, conventional beef or soy protein spread over three portions a week for eight weeks. At the end of the trial all three groups had reduced their cholesterol. 

The outcome prompted study leader Professor David Cameron-Smith to conclude eating New Zealand grass-fed Wagyu with its high level of fat does not affect heart disease, including cholesterol and blood pressure levels. . . 

Is technology a threat to dairy? – Daniel Appleton:

The New Zealand dairy industry is facing major disruption from synthetic dairy, similar to the synthetic fibres that triggered the decline of the wool industry in the 1980s.

Technology companies are now making real dairy products, without cows. 

Their aim is to make real dairy products far cheaper than traditional farming can within the next 10 to 15 years.

The reason I’m talking about this is out of genuine concern. 

I’m concerned this very real risk to the dairy industry isn’t being shared and openly discussed with those who could be affected most – farmers and rural communities. . . 

From billies to bottles to unbreakables: milk through the decades – Rebecca Black:

Lois Puklowski remembers when milk was delivered by horse and cart, she used to watch in delight as the milkman ladled it into her billy.

It was the mid-1930s and Puklowski would join other children from her neighbourhood in Aramoho, Whanganui, excitedly awaiting the milk cart.

“He’d only stop a couple of places in the street and everyone used to queue up with their billies,” she says.

New Zealand has Australian cows to thank for its earliest milk production. Samuel Marsden brought the cows to New Zealand in the early 1800s. They were a gift from New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 17, 2019

Celebrating Mt Dasher’s centenary – Sally Rae:

When the result of a ballot to determine ownership of the newly created Mt Dasher run was announced, it was a popular outcome.

The successful applicant among the returned servicemen was Robert (Roy) Mitchell, an accountant in Wright Stephenson and Co’s Oamaru branch whose left arm was amputated during World War 1.

“He was heartily congratulated when the result of the ballot was declared,” the Otago Daily Times reported in 1919.

Mt Dasher, just over 30km inland from Oamaru, came into being as a run in its own right when it was cut off the property known as The Dasher.

Both properties were then put up for ballot as two separate blocks for soldiers – 98 applications were received.  . . 

Farmer takes a stand over M Bovis – Annette Scott:

Graeme Kenny has been farming sheep and beef on his 320 hectare property at Geraldine for 30 years but the past 18 months have been with no income.

As a former livestock agent of more than 40 years buying and selling stock right across the South Island he knows the importance of keeping impeccable animal movement records.

That has been fortunate given he and his wife Denise are now grappling with the trauma of Mycoplasma bovis.

Worse still, Kenny says dealing with the incompetence, lack of transparency, communication and understanding from the Ministry for Primary Industries has created an absolute nightmare. . . 

New hopes amid ugly numbers – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra’s 2019 financial year results were a contrast between big, ugly numbers and attractive plans and predictions in its new corporate strategy.

Nothing was going to take away the shock of a $605 million loss on top of a $196m loss the previous financial year.

More than $800m of write-downs and impairments had been signalled six weeks in advance and the reported loss was towards the lower end of the forecast $590m-$675m loss range.

Dividends had been cancelled for the year and Fonterra’s directors have vowed never to borrow to pay dividends in the future as they effectively did in the first half of FY2018. . . 

Southern beef herd growing the fastest – Sally Rae:

Southern farmers have played a major role in boosting New Zealand’s beef cattle herd which increased 2.6% in the year ending June 30.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand yesterday released its annual stock number survey which estimated there were now 3.8million beef cattle and 27.4million sheep in New Zealand. The sheep flock was up 0.4%.

Otago and Southland were the fastest-growing regions in beef cattle, up by 12.9% and 12% respectively, as strong prices encouraged farmers to maintain or lift herd sizes, the report said.

New Zealand’s breeding ewe flock dropped 1.1% to 16.97million and most regions decreased, largely driven by strong prices for cull ewes. . . 

Countdown says customers moving to plant-based protein –

Countdown is reporting a surge in consumer demand for alternative proteins.

The supermarket chain, which has 180 stores in New Zealand, said sales of dairy-free milk had risen 14 percent in the past six months, while the number of sales of dairy-free cheese had grown by more than 300 percent.

It said in the last year, demand for plant-based vegan and vegetarian meal solutions had increased 36 percent. . .

Pest control advice from a small Canadian twin: get stuffed – Mirjam Guesgen:

A small Canadian town has the weirdest answer to its pest problem – a museum of stuffed and costumed animal dioramas that has become a cult tourist attraction.

Possums, stoats and rats are giving our native birds grief, and the New Zealand government has outlined an ambitious plan to get rid of them. All of them. That’s some 30 million possums and lord only knows how many rats and stoats.

Which begs the question: Once these animals have been trapped or poisoned out of existence, what will we do with their furry little bodies?

One option might be to make dioramas starring stuffed versions of these villains, like they have in the hamlet of Torrington in Canada. . .

Pot producer CannTrust to destroy $77M in plants, inventory -Shanti S Nair:

 Canadian cannabis producer CannTrust Holdings said Monday it would destroy about $12 million worth of plants and about $65 million worth of inventory as part of a plan to regain full regulatory compliance.

Health Canada canceled CannTrust’s license to produce and sell cannabis in September, months after it found the company was illegally cultivating pot.

The inventory to be destroyed will include product returned by patients, distributors, and retailers, the company said in a release Monday. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 16, 2019

Farmers backed by court – Jono Edwards:

The Environment Court has backed Lindis River farmers and water users with a potentially precedent-setting minimum-flow decision.

In a ruling released this week, Judge Jon Jackson set a minimum flow for the river of 550 litres per second and a primary allocation of 1640 litres per second, which are the limits proposed by the Lindis Catchment Group.

This will cancel the limits set by Otago Regional Council-appointed commissioners of a minimum flow of 900 litres per second and a primary allocation of 1200 litres per second.

The catchment group is hailing the decision, having long said the original limits would be devastating for farmers and the local economy.

Water users are awaiting the second proceeding from the court on the issue, which is an “application for a suite of water permits to take water from the river”. . . 

 

Water groups welcome Lindis ruling – Jono Edwards:

Central Otago water leaders hope the Otago Regional Council will back future minimum flows with evidence after an Environment Court decision in the Lindis River.

In a ruling released last week, Judge Jon Jackson set a minimum flow for the river of 550 litres per second and a primary allocation of 1640 litres per second, which are the limits proposed by the Lindis Catchment Group.

The decision could have implications for the setting of minimum flows in the Manuherikia, Arrow and Upper Cardrona rivers.

Manuherikia farmer and water leader Gary Kelliher, who is chairman of the Manuherikia subgroup of the Otago Water Resource Users Group, said water users all over Central Otago would be relieved “to see a sensible outcome has been found”. . . 

 

Cheap avocados: good for consumers but selling at a loss – Eric Frykberg:

Remember the bad old days of the $11 avocado? That was back in May.

The passage of the seasons has subsequently done wonderful things for deprived palates, which were forced to salivate in vain back then.

Vegeland in Christchurch has been advertising avocado at 39 cents each on Facebook.

In Waikato, a roadside stall went further, selling small avocados for $3 for a bag of ten.

However, the industry organisation, New Zealand Avocado, said these prices were unrealistic. . . 

NZ Dairy Industry Awards gives Taranaki sharemilkers confidence to expand

An award-winning South Taranaki couple has doubled the size of their dairy herd in less than four years.

Hollie Wham, 26, and Owen Clegg, 27, 50:50 sharemilk 400 cows across two properties at Manutahi, south of Hawera.

The couple bought their first 180-cow herd in 2016. Condensing the long calving spread was a priority. . . 

Nanotechnology solutions explored in agricultural sector :

Researchers from Lincoln University are investigating how to use nanotechnology in agriculture to increase productivity and reduce environmental impact.

Lincoln University Associate Professor in Animal Science Craig Bunt said his team was looking to develop a groundbreaking nano-coating which could be applied to fertiliser to control its rate of release into soil, and to seeds to control their timing of germination.

Dr Bunt said controlling the rate of release for fertiliser was important because release that was too rapid can result in excessive nitrogen being lost into soil and waterways, causing significant pollution and other negative environmental impacts. . . 

Time to be reasonable on convergence spend – James Porter:

This is going to be a difficult one, because I don’t think it is possible for us all to agree on what is a fair allocation of the promised ‘convergence’ money.

But, before we get started, can we at least agree the ground rules? Can we disagree without being disagreeable, can we listen to each other and assume the best and not the worst? Because tone matters – treating each other with civility and dignity matters.

We only have to look at the toxic state of UK politics to see what happens when the other path is taken and I – and I’m pretty sure most farmers, be they hill or lowland – want nothing to do with it.

My family has a foot in both camps, because although I farm on arable land, my heart is in the highlands. In 1976, my father bought a farm called Cashlie, near the top of Glen Lyon, that is where we spent our summer holidays growing up, fishing and swimming in the lochs and river, walking in the mountains, and helping with the gathering, marking, shearing and dipping. . .


Rural round-up

October 15, 2019

Liberated they sold the plough – Neal Wallace:

Mike Porter reckons he has re-educated himself how to farm in the last five years. Neal Wallace meets the South Canterbury arable farmer who is not afraid of change.

Mike Porter is a considered man.

His views and actions are more than opinions formed from spending too many hours behind the wheel of a tractor on his South Canterbury arable farm.

Porter has carefully considered and studied options to some of the big issues he faces on his 480ha arable and livestock farm at Lyalldale, which he runs with wife Lynne. . .

Stronger YFC, school links the goal – Yvonne O’Hara:

Otago-Southland territory manager Bridget (Biddy) Huddleston, of Alexandra, is keen to see closer ties between the New Zealand Young Farmers clubs, and schools.

”Nationally, we are going to increase our focus on Young Farmers clubs and the [school-based] TeenAg clubs,” she said.

”Moving forward, the challenge for us will be how we are going to structure that.”

She also wants to encourage a greater uptake of the organisation’s education ”Agrication” food production resources, which have been developed by NZYF and teachers, ticked off by NZQA and funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership for schools, which are designed to give pupils a greater awareness of food production. . .

Frost this spring has been ‘unrelenting’, say winegrowers – Maja Burry:

Winegrowers in some regions are reporting a turbulent start to the new grape growing season, with frost-fighting efforts already well up on last year.

ANZ rural economist Susan Kilsby said early varieties were budding which was causing some concern due to the recent cold snap.

“There certainly has been some concern around frost, certainly in the Wairarapa and Marlborough, so everyone’s been out fighting frost, [but] so far I’ve only heard of damage of small areas of some of the early season crops,” Ms Kilsby said. . . 

Held stock boost sheep numbers – Alan Williams:

South Island sheep numbers rose slightly in the latest June year but some of the gain was caused by higher numbers being carried over for processing between July and September.

In the North Island the sheep population was slightly lower on June 30 than a year earlier and also included plenty of carry-over trade lambs in the Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty due for processing, Beef + Lamb says its New Season Outlook.

Total sheep numbers were estimated at 27.4 million, with the North Island at 13.5m, down 92,000 or 0.7%. South Island numbers were 13.9m, up 1.4%. . .

Commission releases draft report on Fonterra’s milk price:

The Commerce Commission has today released its draft report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2018/19 dairy season.

The Commission is required to review Fonterra’s base milk price calculation at the end of each dairy season under the milk price monitoring regime in the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA).

The base milk price is the average price that Fonterra pays farmers for raw milk, which was calculated at $6.35 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2018/19 dairy season. The report does not cover the forecast 2019/20 price of $6.25-$7.25 that Fonterra announced in May.

Commission Deputy Chair Sue Begg said this year’s review of the 2018/19 base milk price revealed no new major areas of concern. . . 

Medicinal cannabis company Rua Bioscience seeks experienced grower – Esther Taunton:

A Kiwi company is on the hunt for a green-thumbed project manager, preferably with cannabis growing experience.

Gisborne-based Rua Bioscience was the first local company to secure a license to cultivate medicinal cannabis and is now looking for someone to help grow its budding operation.

Advertised online this week, the cultivation project manager would “play a key role in setting up stage two of our cultivation and growing activities”.  . . 

China is breeding massive pigs that weigh more than a grand piano -Kristin Houser:

Pork Problems

A devastating outbreak of African swine fever has destroyed an estimated half of China’s pig population over the past year or so.

That’s a huge deal given that China consumes more pork than any other nation, so China’s government responded by urging farmers to increase pig production — and some have taken that to mean they should breed the biggest pigs we’ve seen this side of “Okja,” according to a new Bloomberg story.

Making Weight

Bloomberg notes that some Chinese farmers have managed to increase the typical average weight of their pigs at slaughter from 110 kilograms (242 pounds) up to 140 kilograms (308 pounds).

In the province of Jilin, meanwhile, farmers are trying to raise the pigs “as big as possible,” farmer Zhao Hailin told Bloomberg, with the goal being an average weight of 175 to 200 kilograms (385 to 440 pounds) as opposed to the typical 125 kilograms (275 pounds). . .


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