Rural round-up

January 8, 2018

They need to be able to have a life’: Mother’s plea after farmer son’s death – Kelly Dennett:

Last month Gail Harris spent a night with her sons watching movies, cooking dinner, and listening to them play video games while she dozed on the couch.

As her youngest, Colby Harris, left the Hamilton home for the Huntly farm he worked on, she said a sleepy goodbye. Opening her eyes shortly afterward she realised Colby was still there, watching her.

“I said, ‘Are you okay, Son?’ And he said, ‘Yup’.”

It was the last conversation they had. The only inkling of something amiss. . . 

Westland Milk – closing the gap on dairy’s big brother – Jamie Gray:

Hokitika-based Westland Milk fell behind its far larger competitor, Fonterra, in 2016. Under new chief executive Toni Brendish, the co-op is closing the gap.
Extreme volatility in world dairy markets has taken its toll on companies around the world, and Westland Milk has been no exception.

The co-op turned in a $17 million loss over 2016/17 and its payout — at $5.18 per kg of milksolids — was the lowest of all the Kiwi dairy companies. . . 

Farming for the next generation – Michael Grove:

The age of acceleration
For anyone wondering what the focus of this year’s Oxford Farming Conference might be, it was The Archers provided an answer just before Christmas.

Brian Aldridge asked his step-son, Adam, whether he might be attending the conference. Adam replied wearily. ‘I think I’ll give it a miss this year. It’s probably going to be all about Brexit. I get enough of that at home.’

I know how he feels.

I suspect everyone in this room knows how he feels.

And, of course, I’ll say something in a moment about the specific opportunities and challenges for agriculture on leaving the European Union. . .

Yes we have no bananas but monoculture wasn’t so easy to avoid – Steven Savage:

In 1923, Frank Silver and Irving Cohn published a song that became a major hit for the Billy Jones Orchestra, with the signature line “Yes, we have no bananas; we have no bananas today.” It turned out to be sadly prophetic as, in the 1950s, the banana trees that supplied the entire global banana export business were wiped out by a soil-borne fungal disease known as “Panama Wilt.”

The industry at that time was almost entirely based on a single banana cultivar called “Gros Michel” (meaning “Big Mike”), and it was susceptible to infection by a strain of fungus called Fusarium. Once the soil of a given plantation was contaminated with that strain, any Gros Michel tree grown there would soon die.

By good fortune, a different banana cultivar that was being grown in the South Seas was able to substitute for Gros Michel as a commercial line, and this new “Cavendish” cultivar became the new banana of international commerce, as it remains to this day. . .

Speech to the Oxford Farming Conference – Mark Lynas:

Five years ago, almost to this very day, I stood before you and offered an apology for my earlier anti-GMO activism. Today I want to do something different.

Whereas my 2013 speech was something of a declaration of war against my former colleagues in the anti-GMO scene, today I want to offer an olive branch, to map out the contours of a potential peace treaty.

For me it’s been a very intense five years. The 2013 speech really did change my life in ways I had never anticipated. I was accused of having been the global founder of the anti-GMO movement, and my stance was compared with being a rapist by one well known activist.

I don’t like to run away from a fight, so since then I’ve devoted myself pretty much full time to the GMO issue. I’ve been to numerous countries in Africa and Asia and met farmers, scientists, activists and others on both sides of this very contentious debate. . . 

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Rural round-up

December 26, 2017

‘Drag ‘n drop’ grazing now a reality – Nigel Malthus:

The idea of virtual fencing has been around for 20 years, but AgResearch believes its time has come and will soon start testing an Australian product.
Farm systems scientist Warren King, of AgResearch Ruakura, says it has been watching the technology for years and now believes the eShepherd product from Melbourne company Agersens is “the real deal”.

New Zealand’s Gallagher Group is a lead investor in Agersens, with marketing manager Mark Harris on the board. . .

Recent heat boost for lavender crops:

A South Canterbury lavender grower is experiencing an early start to the season.

Rob Martin, of Limestone Valley Estate, near Cave, said his crop of Pacific blue lavender was two weeks early this year, and his other varieties were following close behind.

He put the ”very early” start down to the year’s weather patterns, which were ”excellent” for lavender.

”[There was a] sudden heavy wet winter and spring and that immediately changed to hot weather,” he said. . .

Mozzarella plant on track for May start – Alexia Johnston:

Clandeboye’s $240million mozzarella plant is on target for commissioning in May.

AThe project, which is the third mozzarella plant for Fonterra’s Clandeboye site, is three-quarters complete and has already created 75 new jobs.

A further 25 employees will join the team in February.

Clandeboye operations manager Steve McKnight was among those watching progress.

”There’s a real buzz in the air on site as we have more people on site and the plant takes shape,” he said. . .

Decades of service:

The 2017 NZ Winegrower Personality of the Year goes to the NZSVO and its departing Executive Officer, Nick Sage and the recently announced life member, Rengasamy Balasubramaniam – better known as Bala.

There seems to be a common thread when you look at the retiring committee members of the NZSVO. All seem to have landed the job after being lured to an AGM by the offer of free wine. . .

I can’t wait for when we don’t have any possums – Andrew Austin:

The rabbits populating my neighbourhood seem to have begun breeding like, well, rabbits.

They are all around – on the roads, in the gardens, in the paddocks. They are a menace. As I am not a gun owner, I simply have to live with them.

The dogs give them (literally) a run for their money, so at least they don’t come too close to the house.

But even worse than rabbits are the possums. I drive along a one kilometre-long shared rural driveway to get to my house and every night I see at least one possum waddling along the road. Workmates and others tell me that I should aim for them and run them over. I have tried, but always seem to pull out at the last moment. . .

Gove tells Brits to be more patriotic about cheese buying habits

Brits who are worried about the price of their foreign produce going up after Brexit should be more patriotic about their choices, according to Michael Gove.

Mr Gove, who attended the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) on Wednesday (20 December), has criticised claims that the price of cheddar cheese will go up by 40 percent if Britain leaves the EU without a trade deal.

The Defra Secretary said Brits should instead focus their priority on British cheddar. He said that, in a WTO scenario, if cheese prices rise steeply then the British public should buy more British cheese. . .


Rural round-up

December 6, 2017

Wrapping bales a job for kings – Liam Hehir:

If I could do anything with my life, it would be this…

When you grow up on a small farm you find that weird affections stay with you for the rest of your life. For example, the whiff of silage is really comforting to me. Same with cows first thing in the morning and the relentless beat of the engine room in the shed. It’s weird.

Then there are things like the wonderful feeling that comes with walking home after the morning milking, the day still crisp and new. Getting in bone tired from a miserable day, kicking off your boots and overalls and drying off in front of the fire is another one. So is letting a bunch calves into a paddock for the first time since they were born — the sigh of which will never not make me smile.

But nothing ever made me happier than the prospect of wrapping baleage in the early summer. If there were some way I could do that for a job and support my family, I’d take it in a heartbeat. Not even joking. . . 

European Meat Sector issues dire warning about impact of hard Brexit – Allan Barber:

The European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV), the body that represents producers, consumers and distributors of meat, has commissioned a report entitled The EU Meat Industry in a hard Brexit scenario – CRISIS. The major finding of the report concludes the impact of a hard Brexit would be a catastrophic disaster for both UK and Europe because of the reversion to WTO tariff arrangements.

A hard Brexit would arise if there is no agreement between the UK and Europe on key issues – divorce bill, the Irish border, citizens’ rights, future trade relationship – by the end of March 2019 when the notice period expires. At this point, nearly 18 months since the referendum voted to leave the EU and eight months since the final exit date was triggered, but looking at it from the outside British negotiators had made no tangible progress at all until an announcement of an unspecified agreement on the exit cost late last week. . . 

“Knack’ required to work with deer – Yvonne O’Hara:

Logan Bain and Caleb Neilson are among the next generation of deer farmers.

Both work at Landcorp’s Thornicroft Station near Lake Mahinerangi and both are interested in deer and can imagine their futures linked to the industry in some way.

Mr Neilson (22) is the station’s deer manager, along with station manager Lindsay Cunningham.

Mr Bain (21) has just finished his last year at Lincoln University and was on his second day as shepherd at the station when Southern Rural Life talked to him.

Mr Neilson starting working with the station’s sheep and cattle before moving to the deer unit, which has about 2500 hinds plus fawns, and 100 stags.

He grew up on a sheep and beef farm in the Maniototo but had always liked deer. . . 

Farmers’ Satisfaction with Banks Remains Stable, Survey Shows:

The level of investment required in modern dairy farming is underlined in the latest Federated Farmers Banking Survey, with the size of mortgages and the number of dairy farms with overdrafts increasing.

Across dairy and non-dairy sectors, three quarters of the 480 farmers who responded to the survey said they felt under the same pressure from their banks as six months ago. Eight per cent said they felt under more pressure and just under 10 per cent were feeling less pressure. . . 

New podiTRAP a long time in the making – Kate Guthrie:

Inventing a new kind of trap can be a slow kind of process. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re on that journey until you’re well on your way. Take the podiTRAP for example. It’s probably still a year away from commercial release, but the podiTRAP may well be ‘the tool to use’ in the future.

“I never expected it to be where it is now,” says its inventor, Pouri Rakete-Stones. “It’s evolved into this big monster project!”

Pouri is an engineer by trade. He spent 10 years as a fitter/welder, doing research and development work on machinery, before getting involved with Hawkes Bay kiwi conservation and outdoor education organisation ECOED in 2010. . . 

Bugs as snacks among UF/IFAS experts’ predicted 2018 food trends – Brad Buck:

From eating bugs for protein to raising chickens in your backyard to eat their eggs, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences experts say some food trends grow in popularity over time. Here are the food trends for 2018, as predicted by some UF/IFAS faculty:

Are you bug-eyed for protein?

Insects are trending as a food source and are now being termed “micro-livestock,” said Rebecca Baldwin, a UF/IFAS associate professor of entomology. In fact, a chef who advocates for edible insects has attracted the attention of the Entomological Society of America and will speak to the group in Denver in November. . .


Rural round-up

December 5, 2017

Oil-infused lucerne chaff a winning feed – Sally Rae:

Difficulty finding quality lucerne chaff has led to a busy enterprise for Waianakarua couple Graeme and Henrietta Purvis.

The couple, who are well known on the rodeo circuit, recently added a New Zealand-first product to their business — chopped lucerne infused with cold-pressed rapeseed oil.

Now, whether it was a winning race-horse fuelled by their lucerne or a pet lamb being reared on it, they were equally delighted to hear success stories.The story began about 20 years ago when Mr Purvis had a sick horse and could only find poor quality chaff to feed it.

“I thought, I could do better than that”, he recalled. . . 

Some vineyards struggling to cope with dry weather – Adriana Weber:

Some vineyards are desperately trying to find enough workers to cope with the workload brought on by the dry spell.

An Otago grape grower and viticulturist, James Dicey, said the hot conditions had meant there had been a huge amount of early growth.

He said that had resulted in the vineyard quickly falling behind in the work normally done at this time of year.

Mr Dicey said the conditions were very rare for so early in the season.

“Relentlessly hot and relentlessly dry. Since the beginning of September, we have effectively, apart from one 20 millimetre rainfall, been bone dry,” he said. . . 

NZ farmer confidence remains at net positive levels overall:

New Zealand farmer confidence remains at net positive levels overall, but has dropped sharply from the record highs recorded in the previous two quarters, the latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey has shown.

While more farmers expect the rural economy to improve than those expecting it to worsen, the overall reading dropped sharply to a net confidence measure of +13 per cent from +38 per cent last survey.

The survey – completed last month – found the number of farmers expecting the rural economy to improve in the next 12 months had fallen to 29 per cent (down from 46 per cent last quarter), 49 per cent were expecting similar conditions (up from 42 per cent) and the number expecting the rural economy to worsen rose to 16 per cent (up from 8 per cent). . . 

Lynch family:

When it comes to running their dairy and livestock operation Kate and Gerard Lynch are less concerned with ensuring they have the most high tech gadgets and more concerned with getting the basics right, day in, day out.

It’s a commitment the couple share although Kate is the first to admit that some days it’s easier than others. “We’ve tried to instil across the business how important it is to do things well every day, on the days when you’re sloshing through mud in sleeting rain as well as on the nice, sunny days,” she said.

“Agriculture is the same as anywhere, if you are running your own business, every dollar counts so you can’t afford to just let things slide. Whether it’s paying attention to every cow to ensure they’re in peak health, clearing up the shed in the evening or ensuring machinery is serviced on time, the simple things make a big difference.” . . 

Public invited to Lincoln University Dairy Farm for Fonterra Open Gates Day:

The Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) its opening its gates, along with a number of others, on December 10 to show off its environmental management.

It is holding an Open Day as part of the Fonterra Open Gates Day which is highlighting how farmers, along with the rest of New Zealand, care about what is happening with our waterways and the environment. . . 

Fonterra open gate days a missed opportunity to mix with Greenpeace, Safe and other critics – Gerald Piddock:

Fonterra and their farmers deserve a pat on the back for organising the open gate days on farms taking place on December 10.

It’s a good initiative and will hopefully be well supported.

The only concern I have is the people who will go are either fellow farmers or those associated with the industry. That’s preaching to the converted.

They are not the people the industry needs to reach. . .

Like it or not Africa’s future lies in GM crops – Karen Batra:

Short-sighted opposition to biotechnology leaves farmers across the continent at the mercy of pests, disease and worse, writes Matt Ridley in The Times:

An even more dangerous foe than Robert Mugabe is stalking Africa. Early last year, a moth caterpillar called the fall armyworm, a native of the Americas, turned up in Nigeria. It has quickly spread across most of Africa. This is fairly terrifying news, threatening to undo some of the unprecedented improvements in African living standards of the past two decades. Many Africans depend on maize for food, and maize is the fall armyworm’s favorite diet.

Fortunately, there is a defense to hand. Bt maize, grown throughout the Americas for many years, is resistant to insects. The initials stand for a bacterium that produces a protein toxic to insects but not to people. Organic farmers have been using the bacterium as a pesticide for more than five decades, but it is expensive. Bt maize has the protein inside the plant, thanks to genetic engineers, who took a gene from the bacterium and put it in the plant. Bt maize has largely saved Brazil’s maize crop from fall armyworms. . . 


Rural round-up

December 3, 2017

Winner learned it all along the way – Nicole Sharp:

Debra Cruikshank is a woman on a mission, writes Nicole Sharp.

Winning the Supreme award at the Enterprising Rural Women Awards in Invercargill recently, Ms Cruikshank was overwhelmed.

The Tannacrieff Wines and DC Wines owner, as she puts it, sort of fell into winemaking.

From day one on her journey with her own business, she knew she had to create a niche market and she has done just that.

“Everything I’ve done, I’ve learned along the way.”

It is only a small business, so Ms Cruikshank puts her hand to everything and at busy times of the year turns into a bit of a superwoman.

Trying her hand with port, her most recent venture, she has had to teach herself a lot, she said. . .

Growers rapt about early fruit, weather – Tom Kitchin:

It’s looking like a bumper fruit season for Central Otago, and happy fruit producers may be in line to break some records.

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman and 45 South orchard CEO Tim Jones, of Cromwell, said everyone was talking about the record warm weather.

“We’re 10 to 14 days ahead of where we’d normally be. The only thing that would affect that right now would be substantial rain.

“It’s looking like a record crop for cherries.”

So far, his cherry orchard in Cromwell had plenty of people knocking on the door for work, he said, and that was fine, because he might need more workers than ever. . . 

Record lambing percentage for NZ sheep farmers:

A record lambing percentage underpins a lift in lamb numbers, according to Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Lamb Crop 2017 report.

Research by B+LNZ’s Economic Service estimates the number of lambs tailed in spring 2017 was 23.7 million head, up 1.9 per cent (436,000 head) on the previous spring.

The average ewe lambing percentage for 2017 was 127.2, up 4.4 percentage points on last year and up 6.4 percentage points on the 10-year average (2008-09 to 2017-18) of 120.8 per cent.

Overall, this means 127 lambs were born per hundred ewes compared with an average of 121 over the last 10 years. For spring 2017, a one percentage point change in the New Zealand ewe lambing percentage is equivalent to 178,000 lambs. . . 

Healthy velvet sales sought – Annette Scott:

The deer industry is embarking on a joint venture health project with one of South Korea’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

Deer Industry New Zealand had agreed to support Yuhan Corporation in its plan to develop and market a product with proven health benefits based on NZ deer velvet.

In a world first, Yuhan’s objective was to successfully develop, register and market a health food product containing scientifically validated components of NZ deer velvet.

Yuhan chief executive Jung Hee Lee and DINZ chief executive Dan Coup signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this month. . . 

New Zealand needs to pull ahead of world on agri-innovation – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand must pull ahead of the rest of the world in agri-food innovation in order to retain a competitive advantage, speakers told the Ministry for Primary Industry’s food and fibre innovation conference on Thursday.

“We need to be in a better position to respond to challenges like increased competition, potentially disruptive technologies such as synthetic alternatives and environmental and climatic impacts,” said Martyn Dunne, MPI’s director general. . . 

 


Fonterra forecast down, shares up

December 2, 2017

Fonterra has dropped its forecast payout after being ordered to pay Danone $183 million in compensation:

Fonterra Cooperative Group has cut its forecast for 2018 earnings per share after an arbitration tribunal in Singapore ruled it must pay 105 million euros ($183 million) to Danone in the wake of 2013’s whey protein recall.

The award for recall costs suffered by Danone comes after the French company launched arbitration proceedings in Singapore and a legal suit in the New Zealand High Court, estimating the cost of recalling the whey protein concentrate to be about 350 million euros. At the time, Fonterra said it expected any court action would show it wasn’t liable under the contract. The recall was recognised as a $14 million contingent liability in its accounts.

In 2013, Fonterra quarantined several batches of whey protein concentrate amid fears it was contaminated with a potentially dangerous form of the clostridium bacteria. The whey protein was ultimately cleared as a false alarm. Fonterra cut deals with seven of the eight customers affected.

“We are disappointed that the arbitration tribunal did not fully recognise the terms of our supply agreement with Danone, including the agreed limitations of liability, which was the basis on which we had agreed to do business,” Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said in a statement. Fonterra was “reviewing the tribunal’s findings closely, but recognised that there was likely to be limited options for challenging the decision of an international arbitration.”

Fonterra had assessed the potential financial implications of the decision and made “a prudent decision to revise its forecast earnings per share range for the 2017/18 financial year to 35 to 45 cents, down from 45 to 55 cents,” the company said. The decision wouldn’t impact the company’s forecast farmgate milk price, currently at $6.75 per kilogram of milk solids.

“Fonterra is in a strong financial position and is able to meet the recall costs,” Spierings said. As at July 31, Fonterra had $3.8 billion in undrawn lines of credit and $393 million of cash.

Earlier today, Danone said it “welcomes this arbitration decision as a guarantee that the lessons from the crisis will not be forgotten.” The arbitration “underscores the merit of its legal actions against Fonterra, including to champion the highest standards of food safety across the industry,” it said. Food companies and their suppliers “can only work together through a solid relationship based on trust, transparency, and accountability. Danone will continue to build that relationship with its suppliers across the world.” Danone’s New Zealand subsidiary Danone Nutricia ceased doing business with Fonterra in the wake of the dispute.

Fonterra had its shareholders’ fund units and listed bonds halted from trading today ahead of a media conference at 3pm in Auckland.

“While there was never any risk to the public, we have learned from this experience and as a result have made improvements to our escalation, product traceability and recall processes, and incident management systems,” Spierings said. “We operate in a fast-changing and complex industry, and will always prioritise food safety and quality in our commitment to be the world’s most trusted source of dairy nutrition.”

Since Danone ended its supply contract with Fonterra, it’s sourced product from Synlait Milk and other manufacturers and bought two Kiwi dairy processing companies, Sutton Group and Gardians, with the latter providing access to milk supply from 18 farms owned by Grant Paterson of Dunedin. 

While the forecast payout has dropped, Fonterra shares gained in price:

Fonterra Shareholders Fund units gained 0.6 percent to $6.40. . . 

The award for recall costs suffered by Danone comes after the French company launched arbitration proceedings in Singapore and a legal suit in the New Zealand High Court, estimating the cost of recalling the whey protein concentrate to be about 350 million euros. At the time, Fonterra said it expected any court action would show it wasn’t liable under the contract. The recall was recognised as a $14 million contingent liability in its accounts.

Fonterra had assessed the potential financial implications of the decision and made “a prudent decision to revise its forecast earnings per share range for the 2017/18 financial year to 35 to 45 cents, down from 45 to 55 cents,” the company said. The decision wouldn’t impact the company’s forecast farmgate milk price, currently at $6.75 per kilogram of milk solids.

“In the share price you’ve seen an element of relief, albeit on low volume” said Rickey Ward, NZ equity manager at JBWere. “There’s an issue that had been overhanging the company, which could be enormously material, which has been resolved, and it doesn’t appear there’s any desire to pursue recourse on this.”

“It’s full and final, it provides clarity and therefore investors can start to analyse or take a view of the company on fundamentals now, rather than this issue that’s been lurking in the background,” Ward said. “It could have been quite stressful for them if it had been at the upper end of what some people were suggesting. The company would have been capable of addressing it, but they would have had to find a way of addressing it which might not have pleased the unitholders in the shareholders’ fund.”

The market must have been expecting worse news.

Farmers have been anticipating a drop in the farmgate milk price in the wake of price falls in several successive GlobalDairyTrade auctions. However, it’s the earnings per share forecast which has been lowered, not the farmgate milk price.


Saluting Norman John Daysh

November 29, 2017

Who was Norman John Daysh?

I didn’t know until I read this – Kiwi innovator an inspiration to all farmers:

New Zealand farmers are saluting Norman John Daysh today – the godfather of the modern milking machine.

Mr Daysh is globally acknowledged for inventing a mechanism that effectively liberated dairy farmers from their milking stools.

His ingenuity is being celebrated at an anniversary event today at Hamilton to mark the commercial launch, 100 years ago.

Federated Farmers’ Dairy Industry Chair Chris Lewis says all kiwi farmers should feel a sense of pride and be inspired by Mr Daysh’s feat, which was the first notable disruption in the modern farming era.

“Cockies throughout the land should afford a smile today remembering Mr Daysh. He was truly ahead of his time-a true kiwi innovator. Apparently he started making milking machines from 18 years-old and was selling them to neighbouring families.

“His legacy has become part of farmer folklore. He had great compassion for his animals, and legend has it, he was the first milk machine designer to consider the effect on cows.

“The milkers back in the day would have appreciated him too, as the earliest milking machines were cumbersome, unreliable and actually painful to use.

“Mr Daysh had the foresight to go overseas to America to refine his prototype and gain globally acknowledged patents, this in itself was quite an undertaking for a humble kiwi farmer in 1913,” says Chris.

The DeLaval Milker was launched in 1917. A testament to its success and innovation was the fact none of the original 100 machines were returned.

You can listen to Kim HIll interview the inventor’s grandson, John Daysh here.

The milking machine didn’t just liberate farmers from their milking stools it enabled them to milk more cows which has provided massive economic, nutritional and social benefits to New Zealand and many other countries.

Recent conversion to dairying and intensification of farming has come at an environmental cost but the same ingenuity which led Daysh to develop his milking machines is being applied by scientists and farmers to repair the damage and ensure that dairy’s future environmental footprint is much smaller.


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