Rural round-up

August 14, 2020

The ugly side of forestry clearly exposed for all to see – John Jackson:

I was horrified at the results of a weather event in the East Coast of the North Island on July 18. Forestry – the catch-cry of the current Government for all pastoral ills and the excesses of our modern lifestyles – stood out like an old man caught with pants down.

In this case, obese, ugly and exposed in all areas, which when clothed is touted as a saviour.

The hillsides where pines had been harvested, recently disturbed and long since naked of pasture, had let hundreds of tonnes of topsoil into the creeks below and onwards in a watery slurry out into the Pacific. Those areas where the slash and logs were contained mid river, turned into massive, festering, ugly boils on the landscape – often against bridges, culverts or anything that impeded their progress seaward.

Out around Tolaga Bay, and up the east coast, the carnage was truly gut wrenching.

New venture to train women in agriculture – Annette Scott:

Southern girl Laura Douglas is bubbling with passion and enthusiasm as she heads up an exciting new venture aimed at giving women a leg up into New Zealand’s agricultural industry. She shares her story with Annette Scott.

Laura Douglas grew up on a deer and sheep farm in Southland.

She always loved farming but admits she ignored her gut passion growing up and pursued a career in the corporate world. . . 

Opportunities for New Zealand goat milk products: what are they and how can we win? – Tim Fulton:

A report released recently by The Nutrition Bureau’s Jan Hales, who engaged me to help with the preparation of the material for the project team.

We are pleased to advise that the report “Opportunities for New Zealand Goat Milk Products: what are they and how can we win?” is now available to New Zealand businesses through our website https://sheepandgoatmilk.nz/resources/

This report follows a 14-month Provincial Growth funded project that looked at the opportunities for developing New Zealand’s sheep and goat milk industries to a scale that could bring significant economic benefit to our regional communities.

It includes information on the estimated size, growth and profit potential of consumer ready products sold in five export markets, and the processing infrastructure and farm supply requirements to meet forecast demand, as well as recommendations on how New Zealand can win. . . 

Vegetable prices continue to grow:

Courgettes and cucumbers reached record-high prices in July 2020, rising more than 30 percent in the month, as Queensland imports continued to be banned, Stats NZ said today.

Fruit and vegetable prices were up 9.8 percent in July 2020.

Courgette prices rose 38 percent to a weighted average price of $29.60 per kilo, up from a previous record high of $21.42 per kilo in June. Some reports showed courgettes prices reaching up to $38.99 per kilo (see Would you pay $39 a kilo for zucchini?).

Imports of fresh courgettes, cucumbers, and other cucurbit from Queensland have been banned this year because of a plant virus. . .

LIC wins ‘Choice’ award for being a top employer:

New Zealand’s leading agri-tech and herd improvement cooperative has today been named as a 2020 Employer of Choice through a survey conducted by HRD New Zealand.

The latest accolade from HRD (Human Resources Director) comes six months after LIC won both the Organisational Change/Development and Best Wellness Programme Awards at the 2020 NZ HR awards in February beating out Coca Cola and Xero in the latter category for the wellness programme title.

Now the cooperative, which employers over 750 full-time staff and nearly 2,000 seasonal staff across New Zealand, has become the only agriculture entity to win an Employer of Choice Award from HRD which focuses on analysis of the HR profession across not only New Zealand but also Australia, Canada, America and Asia. . . 

Lanaco founder advises on mask wear and care and says not all masks are made the same:

In response to Government Covid-19 announcement last night and following its launch at Parliament last week, NZ mask filter manufacturer Lanaco’s CEO Nick Davenport is available to demonstrate and discuss mask availability, wear and care.Lanaco supplies filters to more than 30 mask producers in New Zealand.

Lanaco started making Helix filters to specific accredited standards over five years ago, using a high-tech application of NZ wool, for other people to use to make masks and other respiratory devices.

In the past four months, Lanaco has developed formulations for masks to AS/NZS 1716 P2 (NZ’s national gold standard) and N95 (The USA gold standard) and makes masks to these formulations.

In order to sell them to these standards, the devices must be independently tested, and the manufacturing plant audited. The latter process takes months and is a very stringent process. . . 


Rural round-up

August 13, 2020

Workforce gap will hobble spring/summer production – Feds:

Tens of millions of dollars’ worth of farm production and the jobs of other workers are at risk if the government continues to dither on allowing a limited number of skilled agricultural machinery operators into New Zealand.

“Federated Farmers has been working with Rural Contractors NZ on this issue for several months,” Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.
“It has almost gone past critical now because we’re on the cusp of Spring activity and we need to get these seasonal workers on flights and into quarantine for two weeks.”

Exemptions have been allowed for workers laying synthetic tracks for horse racing, for the movie industry, and others. . . 

‘High $20/hour’ jobs available, but where are the workers? – Esther Taunton:

Southland’s Waipounamu Contracting is in dire need of people to drive its tractors and heavy machinery.

Human resources manager Emily Hawker said the company usually employed 15 to 20 workers from the United Kingdom and Ireland for the busy harvest period from November to March.

But with the borders closed to all but the most essential workers due to coronavirus, Waipounamu is scrambling to find Kiwis to fill the roles.

In a normal year, the business has room for two or three inexperienced employees but this year there could be up to 15 inexperienced operators, a “recipe for disaster”, Hawker said. . . 

Can strong wool find a new El Dorado? – Keith Woodford:

There are opportunities for strong wool based on quality and sustainability but it needs action plus applied R&D rather than more reports

There was a time when strong wool was used widely for garments. That included woollen underwear, woollen shirts, woollen jerseys and woollen jackets.  Apart from the fine wool produced by Merino sheep, those markets have largely been swept aside by synthetics.

There was also a time when carpets were predominantly of the woollen type. Then some lower cost but inferior synthetic carpets came along. And then some superior synthetic but still lower cost carpets came along. As with garments, the strong wool carpets have been largely swept aside. Strong wool carpets do still exist, but they are now a niche. . . 

Holding out for a better future – George Clark:

Timaru’s last large-scale wool merchant still holds hope for a strong future.

Terry Mulcahy, who died in 2013, started Mulcahy Wool and Skins in 1948.

His son, Barry, took over the business in 1985 and has remained in the wool industry ever since.

The company handles slightly more than 7500 bales a year, ranging from coarse crossbred to fine merino.

Mr Mulcahy has seen it all, from the height of the wool boom to this month’s market lows. . . 

From uncertainty to business owner – George Clark:

It is a yarn borne out of Covid-19.

With the tourism industry facing economic uncertainty, Canadian expat Kate Jones believed it was the right time for financial diversification.

At the beginning of June, Ms Jones was working a reduced and subsidised 20 hours a week for Mt Cook tourism company Alpine Guides while continuing plans for life on a Mackenzie lifestyle block.

Bought last year, the 4ha property just outside Twizel would become home to herself and Kiwi partner Chris Mackie. . . 

Another bumper year ahead?  – Sudesh Kissun:

Avocado growers are looking forward to another bumper year despite the global economic uncertainty.

NZ Avocado says the 2020-21 season crop is “looking very good on the trees”, with an expected 10-15% increase in volumes.

Last season, avocado growers received $154 million for their crop, a $10m increase over the previous season.

Exports rose 26% to 3.8m 5.5kg trays. Asian markets including Thailand, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan received 35% more volume, meeting the industry’s objective to grow volume to the region. . .

 


Rural round-up

August 12, 2020

Leading by example – Gerald Piddock:

Being responsible to their land, animals, people and their community has earned a Hawke’s Bay couple the Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award. Gerald Piddock reports.

Being a responsible dairy farmer means more than just being industry role models to Nick and Nicky Dawson.

It involves working beyond the farm bubble in the wider community and nurturing the health of people, the environment and their animals.

“It’s all interconnected,” Nicky says. 

“It’s like a three-legged stool. You can’t have one without the other.” . . 

Time running out for ag contractors as spring approaches – Gerald Piddock:

October is looming as a crunch-month for agricultural contractors and dairy farmers as the scramble continues to find staff to drive machinery to plant summer feed crops and cut grass cut for silage.

Waikato Federated Farmers vice-president Ben Moore said there was huge concern that contractors would not have enough staff on the ground to meet demand from dairy farmers as border restrictions continue to prevent overseas farm machinery operators from entering the country to work this spring and summer.

The region was still recovering from last summer’s drought with feed reserves on many farms already low. 

Moore feared there could be a potential disaster if farmers are unable to get their summer supplementary feed supply organised and there was another very dry summer. . . 

Ag contractor training gearing up – Mark Daniel:

Agricultural contractors are warning about a severe shortage of skilled machinery operators for the upcoming harvest season.

The shortage is due to New Zealand’s closed borders, shutting out staff from overseas. In response, a number of training organisations are offering displaced local workers and jobseekers a basic grounding in the sector.

In the South Island, the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) is promoting its ‘An Introduction to Agricultural Contracting’ course – based at its Telford Campus, near Balclutha. This initiative was the result of SIT’s discussions with Rural Contractors NZ Ltd (RCNZ) and some key players in the contracting sector in Otago and Southland – who all wanted to do something positive to address the need for trained contracting staff. . .

Lake Hawea to host world ploughing championships

The world’s best exponents of the art of ploughing are coming to Lake Hawea, but not for quite a while.

An Upper Clutha group of ploughing enthusiasts announced on Saturday they had secured the 2028 world championships.

That means 60 of the best “ploughmen” from farming communities around world will load up their tractors and ploughs, ship them to New Zealand and carve out furrows across the flat paddocks south of the lake.

Organising committee chairman John Osborne said his committee had spent two years preparing Lake Hawea’s case for the event, “basically trying to prove to the New Zealand executive we have facilities up here to have all these world guys here”. . . 

Industry hunters step up for annual event  – Jared Morgan:

Ask hunters where exactly in Central Otago they shot their haul in the annual Manuherikia Boar, Buck and Stag Hunt and they are unlikely to tell you.

They want to protect their turf and believe the results speak for themselves.

Yesterday marked weigh-in day in the annual three-day fundraiser for the Alexandra Scout Group.

It was heartland rural New Zealand at its best if the atmosphere at the weigh-in and prize-giving was anything to go by. . . 

Matching beef yields and consumer expectations :

ENHANCING the red meat value chain through a greater understanding of efficient use of farm resources, better use of grazing mosaics, and the production of cattle that reach and exceed domestic and export ready standards is the aim of a new four-year partnership for the west.

The University of Western Australia and Meat & Livestock through the MLA Donor Company have joined forces to coordinate and drive an integrated research and practice change program for the West Australian beef Industry.

The partnership, BeefLinks, will provide better knowledge and a range of technologies to support the sustainability credentials of products and interconnectivity between producers, processors and consumers. . . 

 


Rural round-up

August 11, 2020

Dry July puts Marlborough farmers at risk of spring drought – Sophie Trigger:

Marlborough farmers are relying on “significant” spring rain to avoid drought, figures show.

Last month’s weather data from the Marlborough Research Centre showed the region had recorded just 26 per cent of the long term July average, with 16.8mm.

Total rainfall in from January to July had been 220.2mm, or 59 per cent of the long term average. This made 2020 the fifth driest year on record so far, in the 91 years of data available. . . 

Carpet company links with NZ Merino:

Cavalier Bremworth has entered into a partnership with the New Zealand Merino Company to launch long-term forward contracts with its ZQ wool certification grower community.

In a statement, it said the partnership would deliver $5million value direct to New Zealand strong-wool growers over the next three years as Cavalier Bremworth moved away from synthetic products in favour of wool and natural fibres.

“Partnerships like this are so important for New Zealand’s economic recovery, adding value in generating local employment with transparency and gives confidence and reward to the growth of the New Zealand strong wool sector.

“It’s great to see local brands like Cavalier shifting the dial and walking the talk in helping counter climate change and carbon emissions with more regenerative fibres,” NZM chief executive John Brakenridge said. . . 

Muster’ brings in the younger generation – Sally Rae:

Georgia Urquhart had a couple of sleepless nights prior to the Nextgen Muster.

Miss Urquhart (24) was a driving force behind the initiative which aimed to get more young people involved in — and learning about — the merino industry.

Initially, she feared no-one would turn up or there might only be five, so she was thrilled when 68 attended the first day at Benmore Station, near Omarama, and about 40 the second at Simons Hill Station, in the Mackenzie district — “way more” than she expected.

Miss Urquhart grew up on Grays Hills Station in the Mackenzie, which includes a merino stud that she has become increasingly involved with over the last several years. . . 

New Zealand’s lesser known honeys to get a boost in international markets:

New Zealand’s apiculture industry has embarked on a collective story-telling drive to educate ‘conscious foodie’ consumers offshore about its diverse range of native honey varieties.

Apiculture New Zealand has joined forces with New Zealand Story to create a suite of compelling promotional material about lesser known honey varieties.

Karin Kos, Chief Executive of Apiculture New Zealand says although mānuka honey continues to yield strong export prices and has provided a ‘halo effect’ for other New Zealand honeys, the shrinking margins for non-mānuka styles mean producers are now competing in a commoditised market. . . 

Permission granted for new potato protector:

A new herbicide that controls potato weeds, like black nightshade, has been approved for use in New Zealand, subject to conditions.

Boxer Gold contains the active ingredient prosulfocarb, which is new to New Zealand, but already approved in the European Union, Australia, and Japan.

Benefits identified in the application process for this product include reduced resistance in weeds, leading to bigger potato crops, and more product choice for farmers. . . 

AACo rolls out the Wagyu flavour wheel :

THE unique flavour, texture and aroma of Australia’s famous Wagyu beef can now be marketed using a world-first flavour profile.

Developed by The University of Queensland in partnership with the Australian Agricultural Company, the new flavour wheel is designed to provide product descriptors and to differentiate the different Wagyu cuts and marbling grades.

Sensory and flavour expert Dr Heather Smyth said flavour wheels were commonly used by the wine, seafood, coffee, beer and cocoa industries to describe flavour and sensory properties . . 


Rural round-up

August 10, 2020

No long term business without animal welfare: farmers – Bonnie Flaws:

Farm or Harm: In this series we look at the rules, expectations and attitudes guiding the New Zealand primary sector’s treatment of animals.

Animal welfare should be the priority if farmers want to build a successful business, say a leading dairy farming couple.

A number of cases of mistreatment of animals have put the spotlight of some farmers and industry practices.

But for award-winning Taranaki sharemilkers Simon and Natasha Wilkes animal welfare simply makes good business sense. . . 

From pasture to pastoral care – Mary-Jo Tohill:

If you’d asked South Otago pastor Alex McLaughlin back in his Canterbury farming days if he was interested in becoming a minister, he’d have said, “Never, it’s just not me.”

The religious conviction was always there; he started running Sunday school at the age of 17 but never envisaged it becoming a fulltime role. Yet, now 62, here he is.

“Being a pastor in a rural community requires being able to roll with whatever comes your way and there is no real way to prepare for the wide variety of tasks that are expected of you.”

He is also pastor at Silver Fern Farms’ Finegand plant and the Southern Institute of Technology’s Telford campus near Balclutha.  . . 

No working dogs but lots of kiwi on Okaihau dairy farm – Kate Guthrie:

Jane and Roger Hutchings haven’t had a dog on Lodore Farm, their 450-hectare Northland property, in over 20 years – but they do have a lot of North Island brown kiwi.

“We estimate we have at least 50 pairs of North Island Brown kiwi,” Jane says. “We do the kiwi call census every year in two different areas of the farm. I’ve sat in the same spot for the last 8 years and Roger has another area he has counted in the last few years.”

This gives the Hutchings an idea of how many birds they have in certain areas. Calls identify male or female birds, a compass bearing and distance apart. The good news is counts are going up meaning young birds are surviving.

Jane’s call-count spot is a mixture of pasture and regenerating bush while Roger counts kiwi calls from an area of mature bush. . . 

Southland cleared of M.bovis cattle disease – Louisa Steyl:

It was considered the origin of New Zealand’s Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in 2017, but today, Southland is infection free.

Ministry of Primary Industries regional recovery manager Richard McPhail praised the farming community for their co-operation as he shared the news on Friday that there are no longer any active properties, or properties under a Notice of Direction, in Southland.

“There’s been a lot of heavy lifting done to get to this point,” he said.

But there was still work to be done, McPhail said. “There’s an expectation that more infection will be found, [albeit] not necessarily in our area.” . .

Arable farmers pleased with 2020 harvest yields:

Final harvest data for wheat, barley and oats (milling/malting and feed) in 2020 show yields were up 17% overall across the six crops.

The July AIMI (Arable Industry Marketing Initiative) Survey report shows these results were from a reduced number of hectares planted (down 6%), with the net result being a 10% increase in total tonnage compared to last season.

“For context, keep in mind when making the comparison that 2019’s results were below average,” Federated Farmers Vice-Chairperson Grains, Brian Leadley, said.

“Nevertheless, we have those reported strong yields and even a new world record.  While the 17.398 tonnes/hectare of Kerrin wheat harvested on Eric Watson’s Ashburton farm is testament to great management, it’s also a reflection of a pretty good growing season.” . . 

Spat hatchery business in the wings for eastern Bay of Plenty:

Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and Aotearoa Mussel Limited have joined forces to build a land-based mussel spat hatchery in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, to enhance New Zealand’s growing aquaculture industry.

Te Whānau-ā-Apanui will invest $1.2million in a research and development programme with support from Callaghan Innovation. The programme is scheduled to commence in early September 2020.

Rikirangi Gage, CEO of Te Rūnanga o Te Whānau has assumed a sponsorship role in the project. He said that “the hatchery concept is a perfect fit with a burgeoning mussel industry in New Zealand, particularly within the Eastern Bay of Plenty”. . . 


Hands up for Rangitata

August 10, 2020

Megan Hands has been selected as National’s candidate for Rangitata.

National’s new Rangitata candidate would like to see more mothers in Parliament and thinks her ‘’strong background’’ in rural and environmental management will help in her campaign for the seat. . . 

Hands has spent her professional career in agricultural and resource management consultancy working with farmers, growers and small business.

“With a strong primary sector base, Rangitata is well-placed to help lead a post-Covid economic recovery.

“The people of Rangitata are extremely hard-working and right now they are worried about the future, whether they will have a job and how they will support their family.’’ . . 

Megan has a strong party background as an active Young Nat and member of the Blue Greens. She has also been active in Young Farmers, including twice reaching the regional finals of the Young Farmer of the Year contest.

Her experience working with farmers to improve environmental performance will be invaluable.

She will bring strong science-based, practical environment credentials to the caucus and will be a strong advocate for her electorate.

Her name will be a gift for campaigning – Hands up, helping Hands . . .


Rural round-up

August 9, 2020

Difficult but the right call – Sudesh Kissun:

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the joint decision three years ago to eradicate Mycoplamsa bovis was a difficult call. However, Mackle says the 10-year eradication plan, while difficult, was the best option for farmers and the economy. He made the comments to mark three years since the bacterial disease was first detected in New Zealand. The discovery shocked the industry and triggered one of New Zealand’s largest ever biosecurity responses.  . .

Farmers missing out on newer technology – Mark Ross:

Ineffective regulation is leading to farmers and growers missing out on products that will increase their productivity and be safer to use.

The Government launched a bold plan to boost primary sector export earnings by $44 billion over the next decade, while protecting the environment and growing jobs.

The plan, launched last month, involves a 10-year roadmap to unlock greater value for a sector vital to New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As the Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor pointed out, there is huge potential in the roadmap, but it can only be achieved through a close government partnership with industry and Māori. . . 

Lamb weight not demand driving price – Annette Scott:

South Island lamb supply is tight but while seasonal procurement pressure may be enough to see marginal price lifts in some regions, weak export markets are keeping a cap on prices.

Alliance Group key account manager Murray Behrent said while procurement pressure may appear to be at fever pitch around the saleyards, the difference in pricing is the weight of the lambs.

Agents around Canterbury saleyards are reporting strong demand is driving prime lamb values with top prices at Temuka and Coalgate this week, fetching $194 and $198 respectively. . . 

Council exploring water storage sites – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is actively investigating freshwater storage sites to carry excess winter water through to dry periods in summer.

It’s part of a four-pronged regional water security programme, supported by the Provincial Growth Fund, which includes a region-wide freshwater assessment, a 3D aquifer mapping project, and exploring viable locations for small-scale community storage schemes in the Central Hawke’s Bay (Tukituki River) and Heretaunga (Ngaruroro River) catchments.

Council acting manager regional water security Tom Skerman says the regional water assessment is analysing water supply and demand across the region to 2050. . . .

Tarras no stranger to the sly land-buyer transaction – Mark Price:

Before international airports became the talk of Tarras, farming was the district’s main preoccupation. In all its guises, farming has stamped its mark on the district and its people over 162 years. Mark Price takes a look at what has happened to Tarras in the days since its potential for farming was first realised.

Christchurch International Airport Ltd caught plenty of flak for the way it bought up land at Tarras for an airport.

Its agents, while making offers to landowners, did not disclose who they were working for, or why the land was wanted.

The airport’s chief executive, Malcolm Johns, was the man who orchestrated the purchase of 750ha for an airport, at a cost of $45 million.

He saw the potential, acted swiftly and quietly and came up last month, holding the deeds to the various farming properties. . . 

Broadacre farmers have their own fire experience – Mal Peters:

Reinforcing farmers’ perceptions the Rural Fire Service is a Sydney-centric bureaucracy, northern NSW broadacre farmers are scratching their heads at the declaration of a bushfire danger period on August 1.

Grass burns poorly in winter, so most of us are waiting for warmer weather.

We can get a permit to burn, but that only adds to our daily mountain of red tape.

Given recent megafires you’d think the RFS would make it easier to conduct controlled burns. . . 


Rural round-up

August 8, 2020

Expect increased rates costs from new government freshwater laws:

The government’s new freshwater laws, signed off this week, have the potential to create significant unnecessary costs for ratepayers, farmers and entire communities, Federated Farmers says.

“We all want good water quality, that’s why farmers and growers have been spending time and money for decades doing all they can on-farm,” Feds water spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“Millions of trees, hundreds of miles of fencing, sediment management, nitrogen controls … all these things are improving rural water quality.”

While there is still a good deal of detail Federated Farmers is working through to get a better understanding of to communicate to its members, “we do have concerns around the wording of the National Policy Statement. . . 

Red meat exports record seven percent increase year on year :

New Zealand’s red meat sector exported $9.4 billion of sheepmeat, beef and co-products for the year ending June 2020, according to the latest analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector saw an increase of $639 million – or seven per cent – compared to the year ending June 2019.

China remained the largest market for the year ending June 2020, accounting for $3.7 billion of New Zealand’s red meat exports. This was an increase of 24 per cent on the previous June year – and was partly driven by China’s demand for red meat protein as a result of the impact of African Swine Fever. . . 

More hands needed for milk processing – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra has made a strong start to the dairy season and has more than 150 seasonal vacancies in its processing division spread throughout the country, director of manufacturing, Alan van der Nagel says.

The processing jobs at 30 manufacturing sites are among 770 current vacancies throughout Fonterra, including corporate roles, technicians, field staff and working in the Farm Source stores.

“We do gear up for the peak milk processing demand and we are looking for a wide range of skills and abilities,” van der Nagel said.

“We give the appropriate training and there are opportunities for re-skilling at a time when a lot of people are out of work.” . . 

HortNZ welcomes Govt’s recognition of the importance of  vegetable growing in NZ in freshwater decisions:

Horticulture New Zealand is welcoming recognition of the importance of vegetable growing in the Government’s new national direction on freshwater management.

‘HortNZ has worked with growers in Pukekohe and Horowhenua to demonstrate to central and local government that modern vegetable growing techniques dramatically reduce environmental impact,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

‘Over the past decade, vegetable growers across New Zealand have been taking practical steps to reduce environmental impact through precision irrigation and fertilizer application, sediment traps and buffer zones, retiring land, and riparian planting. . . 

NZ apple industry on track to become a billion dollar export business :

New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc (NZAPI), the representative industry body for the apple, pear and nashi industry, held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Hastings today, with members joining from around the country’s growing regions via Zoom.

With NZAPI’s financial year ending 31 March 2020, the published results were for the 2019 growing season and 2019/20 selling season, meaning that they reflect trading conditions pre- COVID-19.

Gross volume for the 2019/20 crop reached 566,200 metric tonnes (mT), similar to the previous year. The proportion of the crop that is exported rose 5 percent to 395,000 mT. . . 

Resilient Ravensdown responds with strong $69m profit – returning $68 million to farming:

After ensuring essential food-creating nutrients kept flowing during the pandemic, Ravensdown has recorded a profit from continuing operations and before tax, rebate and an earlier issue of bonus shares of $69 million (2019: $52m).

Returning a total of $68 million to its eligible farmer shareholders, the co-operative is confident in its financial strength and cautiously optimistic in the face of uncertainty around Covid-19 and emerging government policy.

“The resilience demonstrated was no accident, but deliberately built over five years of steadfast focus on fundamentals and performance. It meant that we could respond when shareholders needed us most and when New Zealand needed the agsector most,” said CEO Greg Campbell. . . 


Rural round-up

August 7, 2020

A farmer’s tale: 25 years of highs and lows – Rowena Duncan:

Rowena Duncum gives voice to the high and lows, hard work, love and dedication of all farmers through the story of one farmer, Bruce Eade, as he celebrates 25 years on his farm.

I recently had the honour of being the first guest speaker on new agriculturally focused online platform “Herd it”. After waffling on about my life’s “achievements” (current runner-up, women’s world gumboot throwing, thank-you-very-much!) and my role with The Country, I fielded a question around how farmers can effectively communicate with urban dwellers.

This is something I get asked often, and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but something that always resonates with me is when farmers open up and showcase their lives, their achievements and when things don’t go quite so well. It makes it real. It makes it relatable.

Those in the industry can learn from it, or it could be inspirational for someone interested in agriculture. But most of all, they’re speaking directly to urban New Zealand, with no “media spin” on things. And that’s the best voice there is. . . 

Rug pulled from under trophy hunt operations – Yvonne O’Hara:

Leithen Valley Hunts owner Rachel Stewart has had no clients and no income since New Zealand’s borders were closed.

Her family has had the hunting operation for about 30 years and in a normal year she employs seven staff and provides accommodation for 70 to 100 clients in Wanaka and the Leithen Valley, near Heriot, who come to shoot red and wapiti deer, tahr, chamois and fallow bucks on guided trips.

Clients are mostly American, with some Europeans and a few Australians.

“It was heart-wrenching to let our staff go, as we are a tight team. . . 

Making the most of NZ opportunity – Yvonne O’Hara:

Carol Booth spent an eight-month working holiday on dairy farms in West Otago six years ago.

Two weeks after returning home to Scotland, she knew she wanted to come back.

“I knew then what I wanted to do. There are just so many opportunities here,” Ms Booth said.

About the same time, Matthew Haugh, a dairy farmer near Heriot, offered her a job, so she jumped at the opportunity and moved back to New Zealand permanently.

Five years later, she is in her first year managing the 290ha Cottesbrook Farm for Mr Haugh. . . 

Farmers stocking dams with trout the latest diversification for Buxton Trout & Salmon after coronavirus hits tourism – Marian Macdonald:

First, rising water temperatures cut production in half, now, as the coronavirus slices 80 per cent off his income, land-based farmers are helping to keep a Yarra Valley fish farmer afloat.

Mitch MacRae has had to deal with everything nature can throw at a farmer, and perhaps a little bit more, because his pernickety stock simply die if the water temperature gets above about 24 degrees.

Buxton Trout & Salmon, which lays claim to being Australia’s first commercial trout farm, sits astride the Acheron River near Marysville.

The chilly water fed by Lake Mountain and the Yarra Ranges makes it, the Snowy Mountains and Tasmania, among the few places in Australia that suit rainbow trout year-round. . . 

Technology helps Southland farmer’s replacement heifers hit weight targets :

Investing in weigh scales is helping Southland dairy farmers Julia and Stewart Eden grow bigger heifers which produce more milk.

The couple milk 275 Holstein Friesian cows, which are run as a split-calving herd, at Balfour near Gore.

In 2013, they bought a Te Pari cattle crush fitted with digital scales, enabling them to regularly weigh their replacement heifers.

“Our young stock is weighed and drenched every three weeks from about seven weeks of age,” said Julia. . . 

Congratulations to Lacey Agate from Bellbird Spring:

After a tough day in the vineyards Lacey Agate from Bellbird Spring became the Corteva North Young Viticulturist of the Year 2020 on 31st July following the competition held at Greystone in Waipara.

Congratulations also goes to Will Bowman from Black Estate who was Runner Up.

There were four contestants competing in total, the other two being Brigitte Allan from Pyramid Valley and Lucas Percy from Pegasus Bay, who gave it their all, making it a great competition.

The Young Vits were tested on all aspects of vineyard management, including trellising, pruning, machinery, pests & diseases and budgeting. There was also an interview. Fruitfed Supplies laid on a very welcome BBQ at lunchtime which was then followed by the quiz round and the BioStart Hortisports. . . 


Rural round-up

August 6, 2020

No tears over RMA overhaul – Peter Burke:

News that the controversial Resource Management Act (RMA) is to get a complete overhaul has been welcomed by many primary sector organisations.

Last week, Environment Minister David Parker released a report by a panel headed by retired Appeal Court Judge Tony Randerson which proposes that the Act, which has been in operation for thirty years, should be scrapped and replaced by two new laws – a Natural Built Environment Act and a Strategic Planning Act.

Its recommendations include a proposal for each region in the country to put forward a combined development plan, consolidating the myriad of local council plans that currently exist.

At present there are about 100 policy statements and plans put up by local authorities and under the new proposal there would be just 14 combined regional and district plans. . . 

United front over UN’s call to eat less beef – Annette Scott:

New Zealand is right behind the global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef taking a stand on the United Nations call to eat less beef.

The UN has published claims that the meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the world’s biggest oil companies.

The Global Roundtable is taking a stand on this and is raising its concerns directly with the UN.

The NZ Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (NZRSB) is right behind condemning the UN campaign and its accusations of the impact of the meat industry on the environment.  . . 

Farm changes help environment:

Fifty dairy farms in Canterbury’s Selwyn and Hinds catchments are taking part in a five-year DairyNZ project influencing change on hundreds of farms in the region.

One of the partner farmers, Tony Dodunski, operates close to a lake considered one of New Zealand’s most important wetland habitats and has, just two years into the project, made great gains in reducing nitrogen loss.

Dodunski owns Beaumaris Dairies, a 219ha farm near Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, and has cut his nitrogen loss from 32kg per hectare to 17kg per hectare: “Our plan requires us to achieve a 30 per cent reduction by 2022, so we are already well over that,” he says.

His property – low-lying and with more than 10km of drains feeding into an 11km wetland at its lowest point – borders a Department of Conservation (DOC) reserve near Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere. . . 

Wetland aims for water quality rise:

Fifteen years ago, South Taranaki dairy farmers Donna and Philip Cram began their environmental journey by wanting to stop finding cows stuck when walking through streams on their property.

Now the couple’s passion for sustainable farming practices, improving environmental and water quality, and a predator-free district, has seen them aiming to set up a catchment group in the Oeo Catchment.

Donna has had national and regional roles in DairyNZ’s Dairy Environment Leaders – and they’ve galvanised their farming and school communities. . . 

Cheesed off by cheap imports – Sudesh Kissun:

NZ cheesemakers are banking on anti-dumping legislation to bolster their battle against cheaper imported cheeses.

Simon Berry, managing director of Whitestone Cheese and spokesperson for New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association on EU tariffs and trade, says up to 25% of retail cheeses are imported – mostly subsidised European cheeses.

With imported cheeses often selling for around half the price of local ones New Zealand producers are struggling.

Berry says Kiwi cheese producers can’t compete with cheap European product flooding into the market and wants an anti-dumping duty to be placed on some imported speciality cheeses. . .

How one woman fell in love with dairy farming:

When Daisy Higgs first moved to New Zealand from England more than 15 years ago she never thought she’d end up falling in love with farming.

But now the 25-year-old says she can’t imagine another way of life, and she’s encouraging other Kiwis to give it a go too.

After developing a love of animals while growing up with her family on a lifestyle block in Taranaki, Higgs decided to major in animal science at Massey University.

However, when she realised there were more jobs in the agriculture sector she shifted her focus, finishing her studies with a major in agriculture and a minor in animal science. . . 

Red meat is not the enemy – Aaron E. Carroll:

There are people in this country eating too much red meat. They should cut back. There are people eating too many carbs. They should cut back on those. There are also people eating too much fat, and the same advice applies to them, too.

What’s getting harder to justify, though, is a focus on any one nutrient as a culprit for everyone.

I’ve written Upshot articles on how the strong warnings against salt and cholesterol are not well supported by evidence. But it’s possible that no food has been attacked as widely or as loudly in the past few decades as red meat.

As with other bad guys in the food wars, the warnings against red meat are louder and more forceful than they need to be. . . 


Rural round-up

August 5, 2020

All well and good – Sam Owen:

Waikato dairy farmer Sam Owen has learned from experience about the importance of looking after his mental health. Sam shares his story and his tips for maintaining wellbeing.

An overwhelming sense of joy or happiness doesn’t sound like depression or anxiety, but to me this is one of my triggers. That’s because I know it will usually be followed by an impending sense of ‘the only way is down from here’.

My wife Jacqui and I are 50:50 sharemilkers. We live on-farm with our kids Abbie (13) and Rhys (11). We’re milking 260 cows on 70ha (effective), on the W and T van de Pas farm at Eureka, just east of Hamilton.

I’m a DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leader (DEL), and a board member for the Port Waikato School Camp. I’m very focused on getting young people into the sector. Jacqui is also a qualified lawyer who contributes time to the Rural Support Trust. Both of us are passionate ambassadors for mental health and wellbeing. . .

‘Blown away’ by response to wool petition – Sally Rae:

South Otago sheep and beef farmer Amy Blaikie has been “absolutely blown away” by the response to her wool petition.

In June, Mrs Blaikie launched a petition calling on the House of Representatives to ensure all publicly funded buildings and KiwiBuild homes were built or refurbished with New Zealand wool carpet and insulation.

Tomorrow, Mrs Blaikie, her husband Victor and their children are due to head to Wellington, where she has asked New Zealand First list MP and Lawrence farmer Mark Patterson to present the petition, which has been signed by more than 14,000 people.

She said she was not only overwhelmed by the number of signatures but also by the phone calls and communication she had received. . . 

Is regenerative agriculture the real deal – Keith Woodford:

Regenerative agriculture is in vogue as a concept but what does it really mean?

I often get asked my opinion about regenerative agriculture.  My standard rejoinder is to ask what does the questioner mean by ‘regenerative agriculture’? That typically gets a response that it is somewhat of a mystery to them, but it is a term they keep hearing, and supposedly it is the way we need to act to save the planet.  My next rejoinder is that I too am struggling to know what it means.

Then some two weeks ago I was asked to join a focus group for a research project looking into what regenerative agriculture means specifically in the New Zealand context. The project has considerable backing, including from the Government-funded ‘Our Land & Water National Science Challenge’.

I was unable to participate in the focus group on account of another commitment. But it did make me think it was time for me to do my own research and find out what the term actually stood for. . . 

Application for prestigious agricultural award open:

Being mentored by some of the greatest leaders in the Australasian agriculture industry might sound appealing, but how about travelling by private jet as part of the experience? This very opportunity will be available to one young Kiwi or Aussie again next year, when they take out the 2021 Zanda McDonald Award.

The search is once again on for talented young individuals across Australia and New Zealand, with registrations opening for the annual award today.

Now in its seventh year, the award recognises those who are passionate about agriculture, wanting to make a difference in their sector, and looking to take their career to the next level. There’s an impressive prize package up for grabs, that will put the winner in the passenger seat with some of the biggest and best agriculture operators across both countries, through the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP) network. . .

A love letter to the mighty Mataura River :

Dougal Rillstone’s new book, Upstream in the Mataura details his 70-year fascination for the Mataura River from his childhood in Gore through until the present day. 

Rillstone said he became fascinated by the river when he was still a child and at that time it was a place of recreation for swimming and picnicking.

He said one particular incident is imprinted in his memory.

“A memory of swimming in the river, a place we called the bend just on the north side of Gore, on a flat calm pool into the evening, sun dropping and my father was swimming near me because I couldn’t really swim properly, but I was in the river up to my shoulders and trout started to rise all around us and I was totally mesmerised by it – it’s what I later came to realise is called the ‘mad Mataura rise’.” . . 

 

Farm biosecurity a good BVD insurance:

Biosecurity is high on most New Zealanders’ minds this year, thanks largely to Covid-19 and the need to keep it firmly on the country’s border edges to avoid it spreading throughout the community. For New Zealand farmers there is another disease that does not affect humans which can, also with good biosecurity, be avoided.

Estimates are about 80% of this country’s dairy and beef herds have been exposed to Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD). Over the past decade as more herds have cleared it, they have again become susceptible, or “naïve”. This leaves them with no resistance to a disease that can account for a variety of undiagnosed ailments.

Greg Chambers, Zoetis veterinary operations manager says comprehensive control of BVD relies upon three key planks in any farm campaign – testing/culling, vaccination, and biosecurity. . . 

Ballance’s financial results are a positive sign for New Zealand primary sector:

New Zealand is looking to, and counting on, the primary sector to underpin our economy. The sector provides opportunities for thousands of kiwis every day.

Owned by 19,000 farming families, Ballance Agri-Nutrients is well positioned to support the sector to drive the prosperity of NZ with a strong balance sheet and another year of consistent farmer and grower rebates. Leading into 2021, the Ballance team continues their unrelenting focus on nutrient leadership and leading by science.

“I want to acknowledge all the individuals that come together to form the Ballance team, we are fortunate to have an extremely talented and passionate group focused on delivering value for our shareholders, customers and all kiwis,” says Ballance Chairman, David Peacocke. . . 


Rural round-up

August 4, 2020

Hyperbole flies over high country – David Williams:

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

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

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

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

Crossbred farmers feel financial pinch – Yvonne O’Hara:

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

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

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

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

Tackling farming boots and all – Gerard Hutching:

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

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

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

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

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

From koru to cows – Annette Scott:

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

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

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

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

UN removes anti-meat tweet:

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

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

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

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

Agrichemical industry will take responsibility for environmental waste :

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

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

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


Rural round-up

August 3, 2020

Rural women survived, thrived – Kerrie Waterworth:

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

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

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

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

Water tool for farmers wins  – Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

Big career change working out well – George Clark:

Simon Kennedy sought a drastic lifestyle change.

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

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

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

Made of clay and full of history:

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

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

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

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

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

Equity partnership pathway to farm ownership:

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

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

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

New president of Agcarm:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

August 2, 2020

Country’s backbone performs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From cockpit to farm :

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

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

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

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

Time for sector to find united voice – Allan Barber:

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

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

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

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

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

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

New crops offer opportunities :

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

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


Rural round-up

August 1, 2020

A ticking time bomb – Sudesh Kissun:

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

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

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

MPI says it will act:

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

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

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

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

Expecting flight attendants to become dairy workers is unfair:

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

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

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

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

Seeds sown for strong elderflower future –  George Clark:

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

Just ask Addmore owner Kate Addis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued growth for the mighty avocado industry :

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

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

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


Rural round-up

July 31, 2020

Lessees can be forced to cull tahr – Neal Wallace:

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

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

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

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

Cotter passionate about supporting farmers in need – Janette Gellatly:

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

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

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

It was about farmers helping farmers. . . 

Pilot kickstarts shearing training – Colin Williscroft:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fieldays Online: 2020 Innovation Awards winners announced :

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

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

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

A farmer perspective in the boardroom – Stuart Wright:

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

July 30, 2020

Fonterra wins right to refuse suppliers – Esther Taunton:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

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

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

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

$7.9m for SFF dividend, patronage :

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

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

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

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

 

Five farmers revitalise soil health while remaining profitable:

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

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

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


Rural round-up

July 29, 2020

New farmer training programme being rolled out– Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

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

Ag contractors frustrated – David Anderson:

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

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

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

The end of a golden career :

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

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

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

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

Pork surplus crisis averted by measures- Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

Feds applauds carpet maker’s wool focus:

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

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

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

Aroma NZ buys leading NZ flower supplier:

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

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

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

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


Frank conversation on water

July 29, 2020

Irrigation New Zealand is seeking a frank conversation about water:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

July 28, 2020

Synthetics out in favour of natural fibres – Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

From lipstick to gum boots :

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

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

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

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

 

Wools NZ elects new chairman – Annette Scott:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

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

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

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

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

Welsh unions highlight farmers’ role in fighting climate change :

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

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

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

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


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