Rural round-up

August 9, 2018

Long-serving dairy scientist Harjinder Singh gains international recognition – George Heagney:

After 30 years of research in the dairy industry, a distinguished service award was well deserved for Harjinder​ Singh.

The Massey University distinguished professor has won a lot of awards for his work, but last month became the first New Zealander to win the American Dairy Science Association distinguished service award at Knoxville in the United States.

The gong, which Singh joked was a lifetime achievement award, was for outstanding contribution to dairy science and work improving the industry. 

Singh, 60, is a food scientist and major figure in the development of dairy science research, having started working at Massey in 1989. . .

TDC hopes Provincial Growth Fund will plug $18m hole in Waimea dam plan – Cherie Sivignon:

Tasman District Council has applied to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund to plug an $18 million hole in funding for the proposed Waimea dam, undaunted by an apparent exclusion for water and irrigation projects.

A guide to the fund called Powering Up Aotearoa-New Zealand’s Regions is available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

On page 5 of that guide under the headline “Fund exclusions”, it says: The following are not eligible for PGF [the Provincial Growth Fund] as they are funded by other means:
* Housing (unless it is a core part of a broader project and would not otherwise be required)
* Water and large-scale irrigation
* Social infrastructure (such as hospitals and schools) . .

Four does go into one – Sonita Chandar:

Teamwork is the secret to success for the Southland farm judged the best dairy business in the land. Sonita Chandar reports.

Despite three of the four partners living in the North Island the success of a Southland farming business can be attributed to exceptional teamwork and good clear lines of communication.

Each partner brings strengths to the table but no one is above the others. They are all equals, make decisions as a group and share in the spoils of their collective success. . .

Tradition lives on – Sonita Chandar:

The threat of Mycoplasma bovis might ruin an annual tradition that is a firm favourite on the agricultural calendar.

Calf club days around the country are being put on hold or cancelled because of fears of spreading the disease, which has seen cattle banned from some A&P Shows.

However, a group of Waikato farmers has come up with a failsafe idea that carries zero risks and allows children to enter calf clubs and compete against others without having to leave the farm.

On a Facebook page farmers suggested running an online club. . .

Sniffing out a new industry – Nigel Malthus:

At up to $250 retail for a well-shaped 80-90g black perigord truffle, growing the gourmet delicacy has its obvious rewards.

But it is also a high-risk business, says Amuri Truffiere’s Gavin Hulley. The truffiere is based on a 2ha hillside plot overlooking the North Canterbury township of Waikari.

Run as a joint venture with the landowner and another investor, it was planted out in 1997 as one of the first truffle farms in New Zealand. . .

A2 Milk shares rated both ‘outperform’ and ‘sell’ as views on outlook diverge – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Views on the outlook for The a2 Milk Company, the best performing stock on the S&P/NZX 50 Index last year, are widely divergent with one broking house this week reinstating an ‘outperform’ rating based on its potential for future global growth, while another downgraded it to ‘sell’ saying excess product is starting to build in Australia.

A2 Milk, which markets milk with a protein variant said to have health benefits, has had a meteoric rise in recent times, cracking a major milestone in February when it became the largest listed company in New Zealand by value, as its infant formula in China and liquid milk in Australia surged in popularity. At today’s price it is valued as the fourth-largest New Zealand listed company although opinions on its future are mixed. . . 

Fonterra and Future Consumer Limited JV to provide high value dairy nutrition in India:

Fonterra has announced a joint venture partnership with one of India’s largest consumer companies, Future Consumer Ltd, to produce a range of consumer and foodservice dairy products that will help meet the growing demand for high-quality dairy nutrition in India.

Lukas Paravicini, Fonterra’s Chief Operating Officer Global Consumer and Foodservice, said the partnership, under the name Fonterra Future Dairy Partners, will enable Fonterra to establish a presence in India. . . 

New Zealand’s newest farmer-owned foor company challenges  Virgin Australia to bet on an underdog:

Farmer-owned food company, Hinterland Foods, has launched an online appeal for support to have its meat products served on Virgin Australia flights.

It follows an invitation by the airline to the country’s meat companies, in response to rival Air New Zealand’s plant-based Impossible Burger, which has caused a stir in local rural communities.

To help rally support, Hinterland’s Taihape-based team produced a short video to better acquaint ‘the Aussies’ with rural New Zealand life and make a case for why the company’s products should be chosen.  . .

DryNZ, a boutique freshly dried food ingredients business clinches major international export order:

DryNZ, a start-up wholesale freshly dried fruit and vegetable business has won a major international export order, supplying dried fruit for an international company based in Europe.

DryNZ Managing Director Anne Gibson says the deal is a major coup for the Waiuku based business, situated adjacent to the Pukekohe food-bowl supplying apple, peach, blackcurrant, kiwifruit and lemon dried food pieces. . . 

Farmer Tim says ENOUGH IS ENOUGH to farmer suicides #ILiveBecauseYouFarm – The Bullvine:

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I need your help. Five times in the last week I’ve received messages about farmers taking their lives. It is getting way too close to home for me now. Last week agriculture lost an amazing soldier. Her passion and compassion for all things farming was contagious. Anyone who had the privilege to meet her instantly became inspired to be a better person. I do not want to needlessly lose another friend, farmer, neighbour or agvocate. We need to do something.

So many people suffer silently and I know that we can’t help them all but sometime even a small gesture can have a huge impact on someone’s life. . .


Rural round-up

July 21, 2018

Crop biotech 3.0: a farmer’s perspective – Craige Mackenzie:

Here in New Zealand, we did not participate in the GE Gene Revolution. Farmers like me see an advantage in making sure that we do not miss the next one. 

You’ve seen the statistics. Farmers around the world have planted and harvested billions of acres of genetically engineered crops. Not long ago, we used to talk about GMOs and conventional crops as if they belonged in different categories. Increasingly—and especially in North and South America—GMOs are the new conventional. They’ve become an ordinary part of agriculture. 

Some nations, of course have resisted the use of GMOs, starting with members of the European Union. New Zealand has taken its own wait-and-see approach, turning it into a sort of permanent delay. The science on GMOs safety to human health and our environment may be settled but my country has wanted to preserve its clean-green image in food production, in the belief that this gives us a competitive advantage as we market ourselves to the world.  . . 

Eradicating cattle disease M. bovis in New Zealand may be costly, even impossible, but we must try – Riachard Laven:

In May this year, the New Zealand government decided that it would attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease that affects cattle.

A phased eradication means that an additional 126,000 livestock will need to be culled, at an estimated cost of NZ$886 million.

Here’s what we know, what we don’t know and what’s at stake.

How do we know this is a new incursion?

M. bovis causes mastitis and arthritis in adult cattle and pneumonia in calves. It is found around the world, but New Zealand was one of the last disease-free countriesuntil the detection of infected cows on a dairy farm in July 2017.  . .

Career path judged correctly – Sally Rae:

Brooke Flett never intended a career in farming.

But now, settled on the family dairy farm at Scotts Gap in Southland, it was “working out all right”.

“Most of the time, I love it,” she laughed.

Miss Flett (26), who is chairwoman of Thornbury Young Farmers Club, was recently named Young Farmers national stock-judging champion.

She grew up on the farm and boarded at Southland Girls’ High School before studying at Victoria University for a bachelor of arts in education.

But it “never really clicked” and she did not pursue a career in that area. .

Farm sales and prices ease on year June but horticulture farms shine –  Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Farm sales fell 7 percent on the year in the three months to June and the median price per hectare was down 16.3 percent although horticulture farm prices continued to push higher, according to the Real Estate Institute.

Overall, 427 farms were sold in the three months ended June 30 from 459 farms in the same period a year earlier. Some 1,480 farms were sold in the year to June, down 17 percent on the year. . .

Software to keep containment’s out:

Fertiliser co-op Ballance will commercially launch a new farm environment planning tool, MitAgator, by spring.

Developed by Ballance and AgResearch, MitAgator measures the loss of four main farm contaminants — nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and E. coli.

New Zealand-wide trials are pointing to a launch by late September. . .

Deer velvet looking good in Asia

Long-term prospects for NZ velvet in the major Asian markets are looking positive says Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) Asia manager Rhys Griffiths.

“There has been an explosion in consumer demand for consumer-ready velvet-based products in Korea. Ten years ago this product category didn’t even exist,” he says.

“In the past six months, 23 new velvet-based healthy food products have been launched in Korea; the majority of them using NZ velvet. . .

Importers snap up cheap U.S. soybeans as China stops buying – Karl Plume:

China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans, threatened for weeks and enacted Friday, have driven down prices and triggered a wave of bargain shopping by importers in other countries stocking up on cheap U.S. supplies, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.

Chinese buyers have so far this year accounted for just 17 percent of all advanced purchases of the fall U.S. soybean harvest – down from an average of 60 percent over the past decade, the analysis found. They are instead loading up on Brazilian soybeans, which now sell at a premium of up to $1.50 a bushel as U.S. soybean futures have fallen 17 percent over six weeks to about $8.50, their lowest level in nearly a decade. . .

The rise of soil carbon cowboys – Peter Byck:

Ranching is a rare occupation. Rarer still are the ranchers pioneering new ways to graze cattle, transforming their ranches and farms into vibrant ecosystems, producing black ink for their bank accounts and giving their incredibly robust animals a great life (with the exception of one bad day).

These new grazing methods have many names — mob grazing, managed intensive grazing, holistic management. Our group of scientists and ranchers call it Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) Grazing.  . .


GM could be greener

July 2, 2018

Outgoing Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says it’s time to reignite the debate on genetic modification.

Speaking on TVNZ 1’s Q+A this morning, Sir Peter told Corin Dann that debate needed to be more constructive and less polarising than it had been in the past.

“The science is as settled as it will be; that is, it’s safe, that there are no significant ecological or health concerns associated with the use of advanced genetic technologies. That does not mean that society automatically will accept them. And what we need is a conversation which we’ve not had in a long time, and it needs to be, I think, more constructive and less polarised than in the past,” he said.

“We’re facing issues of biosecurity; we’re facing issues of predators and the desire to be predator-free; we’re facing the fact that our farming system needs to change because of the environmental impact of the greenhouse gas emissions, the water quality issues, etcetera. We are, fundamentally, a biologically-based economy.

“Now, the science is pretty secure, and science can never be absolute. And everything about life is about rational decisions with some degree of uncertainty. But the uncertainty here is minimal to nil, very, very low. I think it’s a conversation we need to have.” . . 

Anyone who thinks New Zealand is GM free is dreaming.

While GM is tightly controlled here, there is nothing to stop food with GM ingredients being imported and  imported corn and soy products are just two which are likely to have GM components.

Jo Goodhew said in her valedictory statement:

. . .  it is high time New Zealanders woke up to the importance of genetically modified organisms to our future in the fields of health, plant, and animal genetics, and, through that, environmental protection. Gene editing can help us cure cancers, eradicate wilding pines as well as four-legged pests, develop grasses that assist us to reduce methane emissions, and so much more. The debate has to be less about fear of the unknown, and more about safe and proven science. . . 

GM has been around for decades with no evidence of harm to human health or the environment.

GM has the potential to improve human and animal health; food production, reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and provide safer alternatives for disease, weed and pest control than conventional products.

GM could be a greener solution to many problems if, to paraphrase Jo, the debate moved from fear of the unknown to safe and proven science.


Science when it suits

June 18, 2018

The government has been quick to act on the advice of its chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman over meth testing in state houses. 

Wouldn’t it be good if a similar respect for science was shown for other policy?

Had they done so we wouldn’t be facing a ban on off-shore exploration for oil and gas.

If they did so, we could be confident they’d agree with National’s principles for a bipartisan approach to climate change:

  • taking a pragmatic, science-based approach,
  • utilising innovation and technology,
  • getting the incentives right to drive long-term change rather than short-term shocks
  • acting as part of a global response, and
  • considering the wider impacts on the economy, jobs and incomes

If they did so, we could have confidence that they making policy changes for the good of the country and the people and not blindly following political ideology.

It would be good but it’s very unlikely when we’ve got a government that accepts science only when it suits.


Nutrient loss isn’t simple

May 10, 2018

Targeting cows is easy but nutrient loss isn’t simple and converting from dairy to horticulture could make water quality worse.


Rural round-up

May 9, 2018

Natural Fibre Exchange aimed at providing greater efficiency :

In a significant step forward for the wool sector, industry participants have come together to develop and launch an independent online trading platform.

Modelled on the Global Dairy Trade Events (GDT) platform, the Natural Fibre Exchange (NFX) is scheduled to go live with its first trading event on 22 May 2018.

NFX Ltd shareholders Wools of New Zealand Ltd (WNZ) and Alliance Group have teamed with CRA International (CRA), an acknowledged leader in online trading platforms. CRA, which also designed and manages the GDT platform, has developed and will manage the NFX platform. . . 

Short and long-lived gases need separate regulatory baskets – Keith Woodford:

A key issue for New Zealand is how to meet the Paris commitments for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Fundamental to any analysis is the different attributes of long-lived and short-lived gases.  In particular, how should methane be accounted for, and how should it be brought into any emission trading scheme?

Back in 2016, current Commissioner of the Environment Simon Upton raised the importance of placing short-lived gases in a different regulatory ‘basket’ from long-lived gases. Remarkably, our rural leaders appear to have failed to pick up on the importance of this issue.  

More than any other country in the world, NZ’s gross emissions are influenced by methane-producing ruminant animals. No other developed country has a comparable emission profile, with the arguable exception of Uruguay. . . 

Cheaper lab meat to put pressure on farmers by vying with mince and other red meat cuts – Jill Galloway:

New Zealand farmers are in danger of becoming redundant as synthetic meat took consumers away from red meat, says a strategic science expert.

Dr Anna Campbell, managing director of agribusiness consulting company AbacusBio, said synthetic meats would get cheaper and global consumers would choose them because of their light environmental impact and zero animal treatment.

Campbell was a key speaker talking to about 180 farmers and agribusiness people at the AgInnovation conference in Palmerston North on Wednesday.

“At the moment, synthetic meat-makers take some cells, some blood and other things, spin it around, and get mince.  It’s mince for hamburger patties that is spat out. It is expensive at the moment, but the companies will scale it up and make it cheap.”  . . 

Age not wearing this farmer – Peter Burke:

Moyra Bramley was born in 1933, the year Sir Apirana Ngata and Lord Bledisloe inaugurated the Ahuwhenua Trophy to recognise excellence in Maori farming — now Ms Bramley has at least a 50/50 chance of winning that trophy.

Bramley is in the running for her role as chairwoman of the Onuku Maori Lands Trust, one of two finalists in the competition. 

Onuku’s entry in the competition is its 72ha Boundary Road dairy unit is near Lake Rotomahana, 30km south of Rotorua. It is one of four farms run by the trust.  . . 

Looking into using drones differently – Mark Price:

Wanaka beekeeper Daniel Schweizer is investigating a use for drones that is yet to catch on in New Zealand.

He can see potential for “spray drones” that target weeds in difficult-to-get-to places in the high country.

The weeds would include gorse, broom and wilding pines.

“The only options at the moment are a helicopter and a man with a knapsack, and one is $20 an hour and one is $2000 an hour,” he said. . . 

Drought will bring more crop disease scientists warn:

New Zealand’s land-based primary industries need to get ready for more, and more serious, crop disease as climate change causes more and longer droughts, according to new research.

In the journal Australasian Plant Pathology, the authors say that climate change is expected to bring more droughts in many parts of New Zealand, and more droughts are “likely to increase the severity of a wide range of diseases affecting the plant-based productive sectors”.

Scientists from the Bio-Protection Research Centre, Scion, Lincoln University, AUT University, Landcare Research, and the University of Auckland analysed the potential impact of climate-change-induced drought on several commercial plants and their diseases. . . 


Govt sowing seeds for another ag-sag?

May 7, 2018

Let’s start with something we can agree on: we all want clean waterways.

Where opinion diverges is on how that is to be achieved.

The government thinks part of the solution is in reducing cow numbers:

Environment Minister David Parker told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme that in some parts of New Zealand cow numbers may have to be cut.

‘Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.’

It’s not just a cow issue and it’s not just nitrogen and phosphorus as this chart from the Agricultural Research Centre shows:

As I have said many times before, the major contributor to problems in the Kakanui River isn’t farming it’s  seagulls.

Back to Q&A, just like with the government’s decision to end oil and gas exploration, it has no idea about the economic impact of reducing cow numbers:

CORIN This is a massive signal. This is like your oil and gas. This is you saying to the farming sector, ‘You cannot continue with some of your practices in dairying, and we will force you to have less cows.’ What work have you done to look at what the economic impact of that would be? Because we know if there’s a drought, for example, and milk production goes down a couple of percent, it takes off a percent off GDP.

DAVID Mm. Well, I think the Landcorp example is illustrative that it’s not the end of the world for dairying.

The Landcorp example is not a good one because the company’s return on capital is abysmal and it’s propensity for making losses couldn’t be sustained by private businesses.

CORIN Have you done the work that shows what the economic impact for some, particularly dairying regions, would be?

DAVID We haven’t done an analysis of what the economic effects would be. But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise. Can I go back to what I was saying that I think one of the answers to this in south Canterbury, for example, lies in land use change towards more cropping, more horticulture, which are high-value land uses. . . 

It’s not just difficult to model, it’s ignoring the reality that land, climate and soils that suit dairying don’t necessarily suit horticulture.

Jacqueline Rowarth pointed out nearly two years ago, a reduction in cow numbers would have unexpected consequences:

Replacing dairy with horticulture might have some economic merit, but land suitability has to be considered, as does the supporting infrastructure and inputs.

The point about any land-based activity is that it suits the topography and climate, which interact with the parent material to create the soil. Farmers and growers understand the nature of the interaction, and then manage the deficiencies – fertilisers, irrigation, shelters, for instance.

They also consider the infrastructure, processors and markets. Land that can be used economically and environmentally sustainably for horticulture has mostly been converted already.

There are also detrimental environmental impacts to be considered. Research on the Canterbury Plains reported in the media last year indicated that dairy conversions involving fertiliser and irrigation, actually increased organic matter.

The reverse is also true. And when organic matter breaks down, nitrogen is released as is carbon dioxide.

Massey University’s professor Tony Parsons has examined the land-use challenge with funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Research Centre (NZAGRC). He has calculated that at a given N input, dairy produces two to three times as much food, similar or less methane and less than half the amount of nitrogen loss.

He has also shown the use of supplements improves efficiencies. Combined with strategic use of shelters and feed pads, nitrogen losses can be reduced. . . 

A lot of work has been, and continues to be, done into improved practices which reduce dairying’s environmental impact

Keith Woodford says that we need a rational debate about water:

In recent years, the debates about water rights and water pollution in New Zealand have become increasingly torrid. Most New Zealanders have fixed views on the topic and are confident their views are correct. Human nature then leads to so-called facts being organised to buttress those fixed views.

There is a term for this phenomenon called ‘noble cause corruption’.    The problem is that ‘we’ have the ‘noble cause’ and ‘they’ have the ‘corruption’. And so, within this framework, the water debate has been characterised by huge superficiality, rhetoric and shouting. The opportunities for shared learning and accommodation have been minimal. . . 

Radical environmentalists and anti-farming groups have done a very good job with the superficiality, rhetoric and shoutingWhat we need now is science and the recognition that problems decades in the making will take time to solve and that improving water quality isn’t as simple as reducing cow numbers.

Currently, there is great confusion between issues of water quantity and water quality.  Dirty dairying has become the catch phrase.  At a public level, distinguishing between nitrogen leaching, phosphorus runoff, bacterial loadings and sediment does not occur.  There is also very poor understanding as to the constraints to cash crop and horticulture production in the absence of irrigation.

The rural community also has to accept that change is necessary. . . 

The rural community, and farmers in particular have generally not only accepted that change is necessary but have poured money into making changes which enhance and protect waterways.

They are aware, as the government and many others don’t appear to be, that water quality isn’t just about the environment, it also has a direct impact on the economy.

It is remarkable how huge swathes of the big-city populations have lost sight of the dependence New Zealand has on its natural resource-based industries. They do not appreciate that destruction of agriculture is incompatible with poverty elimination. . . .

Dairying has revived communities that were dying, creating jobs on farms and in businesses which service and supply them. Schools which were in danger of closing have had their rolls boosted, sports clubs which were in decline have been revived.

It has also provided a huge boost to the national economy, as the biggest or second biggest export earner and a major contributor to the annual tax-take.

The regional slush fund will be no compensation for the destruction of businesses and the people who depend on them. The fund itself will be in danger if the tax take and export income are severely reduced by attacks on farms and farmers.

The Lange-Douglas policies created the ag-sag of the 80s.

Few would argue with the necessity for change and what that government did but this government ought to have learned from the damage done by how they did it.

Farmers aren’t arguing against the need for clean water.

We’re just very worried that the government is sowing the seeds for another ag-sag.

They, and too many other people, don’t understand the economic and social cost of forcing fast changes, especially where they’re not backed by science.


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