Science when it suits again

March 11, 2020

The plan for a predator-free country lacks a vital tool:

New Zealand cannot save the kiwi, kererū and thousands of other endangered species without gene editing, say experts.

And attempting to do so without the technology is likely to cost the country “a significant proportion of our national budget”.

New Zealand’s biodiversity crisis has been addressed by a new national Predator Free 2050 plan. 

But a number of academics and researchers claim it wrongly rejects the “most promising” new technology in pest management – gene editing.

“Under current technology, achieving the Predator Free 2050 goals would not only be unlikely to succeed, but also extremely expensive, costing us a significant proportion of our national budget,” says University of Otago professor of philosophy and politics Lisa Ellis.

“Of all technologies on the horizon today, only gene editing offers the prospect of potentially affordable and effective eradication.” . .

Opposition to gene editing often comes from people who are also opposed to conventional tools like 1080.

It often comes from people who urge us to follow the science in other debates on conservation and the environment but this is example of science only when it suits their ideology, again.

There is no hope of being predator free in 30 years without using all the tools in the eradication toolbox and it is stupid to rule-out the one that is likely to cost less and impact more with less collateral damage.

 

 


Rural round-up

December 19, 2019

The good, the bad, and the ugly – 2019 in review:

As we approach another year’s end we again highlight our annual review of 2019 in the primary sector as seen by Rural News’ editorial team.

THE GOOD

Good messaging award: Dairy Women’s Network’s new chief executive Jules Benton for her clear, confident and articulate communication of the network’s aims and aspirations, but in a real and down-to-earth manner.

Celebrating success: A lot of excellent events and conferences this year with a focus on celebrating the success of old and young people. The Massey Ag students’ dinner is a great example of this where some very smart future leaders come to the fore. The same for the Ahuwhenua Awards where Maori agri success is also celebrated in style. Feds, HortNZ and the dairy industry and others all did their bit to show NZ that the ag sector is well placed for the future.  . .

Phosphate vital, industry says – Brent Melville:

With the recent spotlight on importation of phosphate sourced in the Western Sahara into New Zealand, Brent Melville takes a closer look at the phosphate issue and why we rely on it for our food production.

Blocking  the importation of phosphate into New Zealand could have a $10 billion knock-on effect into the country’s food production and export sector, the fertiliser industry says.

The industry, dominated by the farmer co-operative duopoly of Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients, said without access to phosphate rock, rural production would fall by “at least” 50%.

Phosphate rock is the key ingredient in the country’s production of superphosphate, used primarily as a nutrient by sheep and beef and dairy farmers to boost phosphorus and sulphur levels in the soil. . . 

Land champion: it’s hard to find time to retire – Annette Scott:

Federated Farmers high country champion Bob Douglas has contributed to the smooth running of South Island high country farming businesses for 25 years but next year his visits to the back of beyond will be as a tourist. He talked to Annette Scott about his high country office.

Endless dedication to Federated Farmers high country business will come to an end for Bob Douglas in the next few weeks.

By the end of January the South Canterbury Feds stalwart will be waking each morning to a new life.

“And it will be one that will now mean when I go to the high country it will be as a tourist,” Bob said. . . 

Migrant workers worth the effort :

Waikato farmer and Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says employing migrant workers isn’t always easy but is worth the investment.

Experience has shown me what works best. I could talk about this for hours but I will summarise some of the lessons here.

Employing migrants is not the cheap option for New Zealand dairy farmers. In fact, generally, it will cost you more but it is worth it in the long run.

Firstly, you might need some professional help dealing with Immigration NZ once you’ve found a migrant worker to employ. That will generally cost you $1600-$2000. Visa fees cost about $500 . . 

Routine border checks detect unwanted fruit disease:

Biosecurity New Zealand has suspended fresh melon imports from Queensland following a border detection of an unwanted fruit disease.

Biosecurity New Zealand detected cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) following routine border testing on Friday of a consignment of watermelons from Queensland Australia, says Peter Thomson, Biosecurity New Zealand’s plants and pathways director.

CGMMV does not pose a risk to human health. It affects cucurbit fruit, including watermelon, cucumber, honeydew melon, rock melon, scallopini, zucchini, and pumpkin. . . 

EPA’s Annual Report on aerial use of 1080 released:

The 2018 report on the aerial use of 1080 for pest control provides greater detail than previous years, giving more information on operations and research.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Annual Report on the aerial use of 1080 during 2018 shows a near halving of activity compared with the previous year, in terms of both the number of operations and total area treated.

There were 29 operations covering 441,000 hectares of land, compared with 50 operations across 877,000 hectares in 2017. This was due to the Department of Conservation (DOC) using less 1080, as there were no mast events in New Zealand’s forests. Heavy seed fall seasons (known as masts) drive rat populations up, threatening native species. . . 


Rural round-up

December 9, 2019

Rural rates chan pulls tighter – Richard Rennie:

The Federated Farmers rates report for the year has highlighted the continuing ability of council rates to outstrip other cost indices, with property owners experiencing a 170% increase over the past 20 years.

That rise has left standard cost indices for dead, even when compared to typically high-rising products like alcohol and tobacco, Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said.

Those two products rose 120% over the same period, with significant tax increases on them through that period.

Food prices increased 50% over the same period while transport costs went up 30%.

Farmers are desperate for a handbrake on rates rises but concerned councils appeared to be signalling further rises are likely. . . 

Minister failing to give farmers the facts:

Damian O’Conner has badly let down rural New Zealand by not requesting economic and social analysis on his Government’s freshwater proposals, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“Ministry for Primary Industries officials revealed today in Select Committee that they did not conduct any economic or social modelling prior to the release of the proposals, nor did the Agriculture Minister ask them to.

“It is Damien O’Connor’s responsibility to look out for rural communities and make sure the facts are laid out before hammering them with the most significant policy proposal farmers have faced in years. . . 

Massive high-tech pest control operation in Perth Valley declared a success – Lois Williams:

The company that carried out a massive pest control operation in South Westland’s Perth Valley this year is declaring it a success.

Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) supported by DOC blitzed the remote river catchment near Whataroa with 1080 pellets in two aerial drops, in April and July, following intensive pre-feeding with non-toxic pellets.

But it also set up a network of 700 traps for rats and possums, all connected by radio and satellite to rangers phones and laptops, along with 142 cameras to detect stoats.

The company’s aim is to rid the Perth Valley of all predators and keep them out – something that has never been achieved outside of fenced sanctuaries and islands. . . 

Dairy compliance on the up and up:

The Dairy industry and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have adopted the shared goal to achieve 100% compliance with all resource consents, and are almost 80% towards the goal, celebrated at this week’s Dairy Compliance Awards.

The Dairy Compliance Awards recognise Hawke’s Bay dairy farmers who consistently achieve full compliance with their resource consents.

This is the sixth year of the Dairy Awards, covering water takes, farm dairy effluent and air discharge consents. Over the years, overall compliance has improved from 71% in 2012-13 to 78% in 2018-19. . . 

Good sense sold up the river – Alan Moran:

Earlier this week some 3,000 irrigators and their supporters rallied in Canberra against government policy on Murray-Darling irrigation and management.  With the  cacophony of dozens of semi-trailers’ blaring horns, it was certainly noisy. Ominously for the National Party, their representatives were treated with considerable hostility, particular anger being directed at water Minister David Littleproud. Enduring the jeers, the Nationals would have been especially dismayed at the warm welcome for Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts.

The current drought has exacerbated a contrived water shortage that government policy has engineered in the Murray. Having set a cap on water extractions in 1999 — roughly a third of the average flow — the productive uses of this “working river” have been gradually reduced.  As a supplier of a vital agricultural input to a formerly barren area that grew to supply 40 per cent of the nation’s farm produce, the river has been de-rated.  At a cost of $13 billion, some 20 per cent of the flow has been diverted to “environmental” use. This has caused a five- to ten-fold increase in the price and forced thousands of farms out of business. . .

Winston Nutritional secures Chinese Government approval for infant formula production:

Winston Nutritional is one of only two New Zealand manufacturers in 2019 to secure approval from China to produce infant formula.

Winston Nutritional (17888) has achieved infant formula plant registration from the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC) for its Auckland-based blending and canning facility. It secured a general dairy registration in 2017.

Winston Nutritional (17888) has achieved infant formula plant registration from the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC) for its Auckland-based blending and canning facility. It secured a general dairy registration in 2017. . . 


Activists cost conservation nearly $11m

June 7, 2019

The Department of Conservation’s budget includes nearly  $11m to protect its staff from anti-1080 activists.

Last week’s Budget allocated $10.7m to DOC over four years, explicitly for security purposes.

Since the start of this year there have been 23 cases involving dangerous and illegal behaviour towards Department of Conservation staff.

DOC security manager Nic John said threats had moved from online and social media to physical attacks, threats to shoot down helicopters, vandalism, thefts and vehicles being tampered with.

“One was an incident where there was an axe presented and in that case that individual was convicted of assault and threats,” he said.

Mr John said three DOC staff had been assaulted this year, including one who was hit with a quad bike, but was fortunately okay.

“Very concerning for them though – you can imagine that they’re out, quite isolated, working by themselves often and to have somebody take that course of action against them, leaves them very, very vulnerable and often quite shaken,” she said.

The Budget funding allows for $4.1m for a permanent security team, $5m to improve health and safety systems and staffing levels, and $1.6m to improve physical security at DOC sites. . . 

Any protests which require this level of security cross the line from legitimate protest to crime.

These activists are not only endangering DoC staff, they are diverting money from conservation into crime fighting and they are disregarding the science on pest control.

Alternatives to 1080 like trapping and shooting can be and are used where possible. But there are huge swathes of bushland where neither are practical and the only weapon against the introduced species that prey on native flora and fauna is 1080.


Rural round-up

February 10, 2019

Collars corral cattle

Farm fences could be history as an Otago farm tests some cattle collars with a difference.

State-owned enterprise Landcorp owns two farms in the Waipori area, both of which have land bordering Lake Mahinerangi.

However, it faces the problem of fencing hundreds of kilometres to stop stock entering waterways.

As a potential solution, this week it started a two-month trial, run by AgResearch, to test virtual fencing technology. . . 

Dairy debt an outcome of wayward policy and land-banking – Keith Woodford:

In a recent article, I wrote that high debt levels within the dairy industry will constrain the industry transformation that needs to occur.  Subsequently, I have been exploring how the industry got itself such a debt-laden pickle. Here is what I found.

Despite the industry now being well into the third season of good milk prices, dairy-farm debt with banks has been showing no sign of decreasing. The latest figures for December 2018 show total dairy-farm bank debt of $41.6 billion (RBNZ S34 series). This compares to $41.0 billion a year earlier and $40.9 billion two years earlier.  This equates to around $22.00 per kg milksolids (fat plus protein). . . 

Farmer urges young people to take up career in fencing :

Isaac Johnston wants more young people to consider fencing as a career option.

Johnston, a member of the West Otago Young Farmers took out a national fencing competition in Christchurch, along with Luke Kane.

Kane, 30 (also a West Otago YF member), and Johnston, 25, won the PGG Wrightson Fencing Competition, which was held as part of the AGMARDT NZ Young Farmers Conference. . . 

The British obsession with food production vs obesity and climate may hurt their local producers and help NZ farmers. Saputo shakes things up. China infant formula market changes – Guy Traffod:

The Lancet continues to challenge the status quo around food production. This time in its recent report it says “unhealthy subsidies” in agriculture are costly and do enormous harm to developing country farmers and agriculture-based development policies.

Most New Zealand farmers would be happy to support this attitude. However the Irish have taken exception to the report particularly when it compares “big farming” to the tobacco industry and not only should it not receive subsidies, but it should be banned from being able to lobby and engaging with governments.

“Governments need to regain the power to act in the interests of people and the planet and global treaties help to achieve this. Vested commercial interests need to be excluded from the policy table, and civil society needs to have a stronger voice in policy-making,” it said. . . 

Kea and 1080 – nesting success demonstrated  – Kate Guthrie:

Not only do kea nest on the ground, but it takes about 4 months from egg-laying until kea chicks fledge. Four months is a long time to be sitting on the ground facing off the local stoats. Kea eggs, chicks and even adult incubating females are very vulnerable to predation.

Aerial application of 1080 can knock back the predators, but the timing needs to be right and the benefits to nesting kea must outweigh the known risks that some kea will eat the bait themselves.

So do more chicks survive to fledge? Department of Conservation Biodiversity Group researchers Joshua Kemp, Corey Mosen, Graeme Elliott and Christine Hunter investigate, in a paper recently published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology. . . 

LIC Half-Year Profit Rises On Improved Performance And New Product Innovations

www.halfyearinreview.lic.co.nz

Performance Highlights H1 FY18-19:

• $161 million total revenue, 5% up from $153 million in the same period last year.

• $409 million total assets, up from $371 million on the same period as last year.

• $59.3 million earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA)[1], up 3% on the same period last year. . . 


Science ignored in age of unreason

January 11, 2019

A couple of centuries since the Enlightenment when reason ought to rule, Dave Hansford says the denial agenda is  endangering the environment and economy:

The greatest threats to our native wildlife – and our rural economy – may yet be science denial and conspiracy belief.

Early in December, the Court of Appeal issued a final, frustrated rejection of the legal challenges of the Brook Valley Community Group (BVCG), ending a dismal and costly charade of junk science and delirious zealotry.

Or has it? . . 

Anti-1080 sentiment is now an indentured article of faith in the New Zealand conspiracy community, where facts hold no currency. There is no tool in the policy box to deal with wilful, determined ignorance, . . 

People might be entitled to their beliefs, but that confers no implicit right to be taken seriously.

It’s not just anti-1080 movement where junk science and delirious zealotry rule and facts hold no currency.

It’s sadly ironic that some of those so vehemently opposed to 1080 are as vehemently opposed to genetic modification even though it could hold the key to an alternative form of pest eradication.

But most opposition to genetic modification is based on emotion not facts, sentiment rather than science.

So too is a lot of the anti-farming rhetoric that is voiced by people who either don’t know, or won’t accept, the facts.

They are the ones who pat themselves on the backs for doing what they think is green but is only greenwash, blame all farmers for the poor performance of a few and give no credit at all to the majority who follow best environmental practices, based on science.


Some animals more equal

January 9, 2019

Forest and Bird  says the SPCA’s call for a ban on 1080 is naive:

Forest & Bird says the SPCA’s statement calling for 1080 to be banned shows a naïve failure to understand how nature works in the wild, and they will be seeking a meeting with the organisation to discuss its position.

Forest & Bird CE Kevin Hague says “The SPCA’s statement on the use of 1080 is seriously misinformed, and contains errors of both fact and logic.

Their position reflects their history of caring for domesticated animals such as cats and dogs, without understanding the needs of New Zealand’s native animals and ecosystems.

The SPCA is generally respected for its care of domestic and farm animals.  Extending its concern to pests which carry disease, and torture and kill native birds puts its reputation at risk.

It’s not hard to get public support for an organisation that promotes the wellbeing of cats, dogs, sheep and cattle. It would be very easy to lose support by giving rats, stoats and possums equal status with native birds.

“While the idea of stoats and rats peacefully coexisting with native birds sounds great, the reality is that an estimated 25 million native birds, eggs, and chicks are cruelly eaten alive by introduced predators every year in New Zealand.

“This is the terrible death that countless native animals across New Zealand suffer every night.

“The SPCA’s position on 1080 is a blow to their credibility. It’s sad to see them promoting flawed logic whose outcome is the extinction through being eaten alive of treasured animals like our kiwi, kereru, and kokako.

“Without scientific, ethical, and precision pest control, of which 1080 is a key tool, there is no way to protect our native animals from the overwhelming numbers of introduced predators. Giving up 1080 would lead to an ecocide of huge proportions in New Zealand, and the SPCA need to understand this is the outcome of their pest control position.”

The SPCA might think all animals are equal but when it comes to conservation, some are more equal than others.

Rats, stoats and possums are introduced species which carry diseases that can infect people, farm and domestic animals, and they are not endangered. They prey on native species which are.

No-one says 1080 is perfect but experts including the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, the Environmental Protection Authority and the Department of Conservation say it is the best option available to protect  native species when trapping and shooting aren’t possible.

Attempting to put pests on equal footing with endangered natives is not only denting the SPAC’s credibility, it’s costing it support.


Rural round-up

December 23, 2018

Farmers urged to focus on critical risks to avoid joining summer accident toll:

Summer is a busy time on the farm, but it’s also among the most hazardous periods for accidents.

Almost 550 farmers suffered injuries serious enough for them to take at least a week off work over the last summer (December 2017-February 2018) while there were three fatalities on farms.

Overall, trips, slips and falls, being hit or bitten by animals, hit by moving objects and incidents involving vehicles were the major causes of injuries, according to data from ACC. . . 

Russell forest possums ‘down 80 percent’ since 1080 drop – Lois Williams:

The recent 1080-poison drop on Northland’s Russell State Forest has been declared an outstanding success.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said results showed rats had been all but wiped out and possum numbers had dropped by 80 percent.

The aerial operation in September covered the Russell Forest north of Whangarei and Cape Brett in the Bay of Islands, and was the first since the mid-1990s. . .

Another assault on local democracy:

The Government should back off local government in the Hauraki Gulf and let the people decide their futures, says Federated Farmers Auckland.

The Government proposes to establish a Ministerial Advisory Committee to implement the Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan (aka Sea Change), clearly stepping on local government, says Federated Farmers Auckland provincial president Andrew Maclean.

“This move is just the latest assault on local democracy from central Government.” . . 

Project highlights nutrient loss challenges for farmers:

Work by farmers on a Hawke’s Bay project aiming to cut their nitrogen losses has provided valuable lessons and highlighted the challenges ahead.

The “Greening Tukituki” project that included two dairy farmers and two drystock farmers from the Tukituki catchment aimed to help them meet their nutrient loss obligations under the Hawkes Bay Regional Council (HBRC) plan change 6.

The project closes amid growing disquiet about the shortcomings in nutrient software system Overseer as a regulatory tool. . . 

Livestock farmers join the GIA biosecurity partnership:

Key players in the livestock farming sector have taken steps to protect their multi-billion-dollar export industries from pests and diseases by joining other primary sector organisations and Government in the biosecurity fight.

Industry organisations DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand consulted with their farmers over a year ago to join the Government Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response (GIA). The final step in the process is the signing of the GIA Deed. . . 

Lightwire announced as partner in rural broadband milestone:

Lightwire announced as partner in New Zealand’s rural broadband milestone

Trans-Tasman telecommunications company Lightwire is proud to be a new partner of Crown Infrastructure Partners’ (CIP) Rural Broadband Initiative Phase Two (RBI2), providing significant additional rural broadband coverage across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regions.

This phase of the Initiative will take coverage to 99.8% of New Zealand’s population, bringing innumerable benefits to Lightwire’s rural communities. . . 


$1m + to protect DoC staff

December 18, 2018

Funds that ought to be spent on conservation have to be used to protect Department of Conservation (DoC) staff:

The Department of Conservation has spent more than $1 million protecting its staff from threats and abuse from anti-1080 protesters but says that doesn’t reflect the full cost of what they’re dealing with.

Incidents over the past 18 months include threats to shoot down DOC helicopters and skin the faces off staff.

A letter was delivered to DOC’s New Plymouth office with a blue substance leaking out of it, and in the South Island a DOC worker’s details were published online, with comments about filling him with lead, and needing good snipers in New Zealand.

The Prime Minister, Conservation Minister and Agriculture Minister have all become targets.

Over the past two years DOC has spent around $780,000 on security for aerial 1080 drops.

During October and November it spent another $295,000 on a Co-ordinated Incident Management (CIM) plan in response to an increase in threats and abuse, which culminated in an anti-1080 hikoi to Parliament.

That CIM involved covering the costs for up to 30 DOC staff to monitor the situation.

DOC spokesperson Nic John said they had been working with police to manage the situation – that had resulted in four warnings, four arrests and one conviction so far.

“These figures don’t capture the true cost of security to the organisation. Other costs incurred locally have not been captured, as they are very hard to collate nationally.” . . 

The figures don’t take into account the human cost either.

I spent a few weeks in Dunedin this year and while walking the dog I was sitting I came across another dog walker.

When I introduced myself he asked me if I was related to someone with the same surname. When I said yes he explained how he knew her and only then mentioned he worked for DoC.

I asked if he’d had any problems with the anti-1080 zealots and he said he hadn’t but because of the threats he didn’t usually tell people who he worked for.

Forest and Bird’s chief executive Kevin Hague said it was infuriating DOC had had to shift money away from conservation.

“This is money that should have been available for the vital task of protecting our nature and to have it diverted, in order that DOC staff and contractors can be safe from these awful people, is just absolutely frustrating.”

He said the irrational behaviour of the anti-1080 protesters was highlighted last week when autopsy results revealed a weka, which was used during a protest, had likely been shot with a .22 rifle – despite claims it had died from 1080.

“These extremist anti-1080 protesters are just completely beyond reason, they don’t use actual evidence in anything they say and their arguments are immune to the rules of logic that most people would apply,” Mr Hague said. . . 

I don’t understand people who think the lives and wellbeing of people come second to their cause.

They won’t see the irony that diverting money to protect DoC staff from them takes it away from the work needed to protect the endangered species they purport to be fighting for.

They are zealots and their immunity to the rules of logic makes countering them both expensive and potentially dangerous.

 


Rural round-up

November 20, 2018

Has the time come for genetic modification?– Charlie Dreaver:

Trees with red trunks and apples that are red right the way through and flower all year round. Should we back or block the genetically changed plants New Zealand scientists are growing? Charlie Dreaver reports for Insight. 

Gene edited plants are just as safe as normal plants, according to one scientist. At a Plant and Food Research greenhouse in Auckland, one of the sections is filled with $300 apple trees, and Andy Allan, a professor of plant biology, is pointing out one of his favourite experiment, a tree with bright, fuchsia-coloured flowers.

“The particular red gene we’re testing is under a strong expression, so the roots are red, the trunk is red, the leaves are copper and the fruit goes on to look more like a plum, it’s so dark.” . . 

Hope for kiwi comeback from 1080 project targeting stoats – Jono Edwards:

The first western Fiordland 1080 project will start mid-next year in the hope of bringing the stoat-ridden area’s kiwi back from the brink.

As part of the Department of Conservation’s “Save Our Iconic Kiwi” initiative, the operation will target 50,000ha of rugged, inaccessible terrain at Shy Lake, between Wet Jacket Arm and Breaksea Sound.

Non-toxic baits to accustom rats to the bait are planned for late winter next year, followed by toxic baits in September and October. The stoats will then eat the poisoned rats. . .

Native vegetation on sheep and beef farms summary report:

A report from the University of Canterbury has revealed that 24 per cent of New Zealand’s native vegetation (approximately 2.8 million hectares) is estimated to be on sheep and beef farms. This is the largest amount of native vegetation present outside of public conservation land. 

The report has also uncovered that 17 per cent of all New Zealand’s native forest is estimated to be on sheep and beef farms and is likely playing a vital, but often unheralded role in supporting biodiversity.

B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor reflects that “This is a great acknowledgement for our farmers and the work they’re doing as stewards of the land. I hear sheep and beef farmers talking every day about what they’re doing on farm to support biodiversity and it’s great we have been able to develop evidence to back their passionate voices”. . .

Less effective killers cost more – Jacqueline Rowarth:

 Glyphosphate, commonly sold as Roundup, has been in the news again, this time because of a link to antibiotic resistance.

Canterbury University’s Professor Jack Heinemann has done some interesting work in the laboratory. He has also acknowledged agar plates in controlled conditions are a very long way from field use.

More research is required. Of course.

And scientists love having a reason to do more research.

It’s different in Russia – Keith Woodford:

This last week I have been working in Russia on issues of A1 and A2 beta-casein.  I am still there, but today is Sunday and together with my wife Annette, I am on a fast train from Moscow to St Petersburg.

It’s late autumn over here, but to a Kiwi lad it seems like the middle of winter. Until today, the weather has been fine and clear but with temperatures below freezing. Today the snow has arrived, and it will now be on the ground for at least the next four months.  There is not much sign of global warming over here!

Travelling by fast train at 250 km per hour, I am fascinated by the lungs of Russia. By that I mean the hundreds of kilometres of trees, largely pines, with just the occasional village.  Somewhere there must be some farm lands, but they sure aren’t in sight from the train. . . 

Signs mount that Fonterra will have to cut its payout forecast –  Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – The risks are mounting against Fonterra holding its current forecast milk payout and this week’s GlobalDairyTrade auction could be yet another nail in its coffin.

The auction results will be released early Wednesday, New Zealand time.

Fonterra’s current forecast is a rate of $6.25-to-$6.50 a kilogram of milk solids but Mark Lister, the head of wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners, says the trends in both dairy pricing and the renewed strength in the kiwi dollar could see the actual payout settle closer to $6.00 or $6.25. . . 

Fonterra too helpful to councils – Hugh Stringleman:

The ever-increasing compliance load on dairy farmers was forcibly questioned at the Fonterra annual meeting by Cambridge dairy farmer Judy Bryan.

She alleged Fonterra accepts and facilitates regional councils’ demands for environmental actions that load costs on farmers.

“We may be getting $6 something in milk price but look where a lot of that is going, on compliance. . .

Careful! You might miss New Zealand’s latest luxury lodge:

New Zealand’s newest luxury lodge epitomises discretion, from blending seamlessly into its secluded rural location to the luxe surroundings and discerning service of a high-calibre luxury destination.

Set to become New Zealand’s newest luxury destination, The Lindis which opened this month in a dramatic South Island high country valley, blends so perfectly with the surroundings that you’d be forgiven for missing it.

Try spotting The Lindis from the air and you’re liable to miss it thanks to outstanding architecture designed to blend with the stunning landscape surrounding the building’s resting place in the Ahuriri Valley. The valley lies in a stretch of South Island high country between Mount Cook and Wanaka and the lodge name associates with The Lindis Pass, a picturesque alpine roadway linking the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. . .


Rural round-up

October 4, 2018

NZ’s pig-headed rejection of GM is putting our agricultural future at risk – Andrew Allan:

Ignorance of the facts of genetic modification poses an economic risk to New Zealand, writes a professor of plant biology.

There is a new agricultural-based green revolution beginning around the world, and it’s a technique you’ve probably heard of before: gene editing. New types of rice, wheat, tomato, maize, soybean and other crops created through the CRISPR-Cas9 technology are already growing in fields in America and beyond. These enhanced products include wheat with a 30% increase in grain weight and tomatoes with a 5-fold increase in vitamin A levels. The issue however is that these crops rely on ‘directed’ changes to DNA, which we categorise as ‘genetic modification’ (GM) under NZ law. This is despite the fact that the changes made are exactly the same as that created by sunlight, and a lot less than that from traditional breeding. This categorisation makes it near-impossible for our country to join this green revolution. Worse still, the value we currently gain from our plant-based economy is under threat from far better crops being developed quickly around the world. . .

Sheep and beef farmers bullish about the future but watchful of challenging headwinds:

More than two thirds of sheep and beef farmers are positive about the future of the industry, according to research by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

Sixty-eight per cent of sheep and beef farmers surveyed in the August 2018 quarter are confident – the highest level since B+LNZ’s first launched the research in November 2010.

Sheep and beef farmers’ positive mood contrasts with gloomy headlines on business confidence elsewhere in the economy, as well as recent inaccurate claims made by the Productivity Commission about the “marginal” nature of the sector. . .

Using images to misinform – Alison Campbell:

The internet, while it can be a godsend if you need to find something out (gotta love google maps for directions), can also be a wretched hive of wrongness and misinformation.

That misinformation can take many forms, but when it comes to 1080 it’s clear that those opposed to NZ’s use of this chemical firmly believe that a picture is worth a thousand words. Any picture.

Thank goodness for the ‘reverse image search’ function in Google. For example, on the Facebook page for the group New Zealands not clean green, in amongst photos of animals that may or may not have been killed by 1080, we find several of animals that weren’t. For example: . .

More farmers turn to DNA parentage testing to improve productivity:

This spring, upwards of 250,000 calves from around the country will have their parentage confirmed by LIC’s DNA parentage service which operates from its laboratory in Hamilton. So far this year, the co-operative has had on average one new herd a day sign up to its DNA parentage service.

LIC’s General Manager of NZ Markets, Malcolm Ellis, says the increased demand reflects the industry’s new reality of “peak cow”. . .

Wrightson Seeds suitor DLF cites research capability, export growth –  Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Danish producer DLF Seeds says its research capability makes it a strong potential acquirer of PGG Wrightson’s grains and seeds business. The firm is seeking clearance from the Commerce Commission for the $421 million purchase announced in August. . .

Silver Fern Farms Announce Winners of Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships 2018:

Six inspirational young people from around New Zealand have been named as the Silver Fern Farms Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships recipients for 2018. Each winner received $5000 to further their careers in the red meat sector. Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says he is delighted to see the passion young New Zealanders have shown for the red meat industry through the applications submitted to the annual scholarship programme.

   

Rural round-up

September 22, 2018

Changes on the farm are improving water efficiency:

A water tax isn’t workable – but changes on the farm are improving water efficiency

IrrigationNZ says that introducing a nationwide water tax is not workable, and that allowing irrigators to continue to invest in more modern irrigation systems rather than taxing them will result in the biggest improvements in water use efficiency.

“A water tax has been considered in other countries internationally but in every case it has been abandoned. Other countries have found it too complex and expensive to design a fair water tax which can be easily implemented without resulting in adverse outcomes,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis. . .

1080 drop to go ahead after failed legal bid :

A conservation group has failed in its legal bid to stop a 1080 drop in the Hunua Ranges near Auckland.

The Friends of Sherwood Trust won a temporary injunction in the Environment Court halting the major pest control programme two weeks ago.

It argued that the drop breached the Resource Management Act which prohibits the dropping of substances in beds of lakes and rivers.

However today the court refused the Trust’s bid to further halt the drop.

“We are not persuaded that there is likely to be serious harm to the environment if the proposed application proceeds.” . .

Plans for huge tahr cull upset Otago hunters – Simon Hartley:

A sweeping cull of at least 17,500 Himalayan mountain tahr proposed by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, has outraged some recreational hunters in Otago.

Ms Sage’s sudden announcement of the high killing ratio may yet be challenged in court.

Killing of the tahr, which are related to goats and were introduced here in 1904, is to start within two weeks.

Ms Sage is proposing the Department of Conservation kill 10,000 animals in various areas in the Southern Alps over the next eight months because the animal’s estimated 35,000 population was “three times” that permitted by the long established Himalayan Tahr Control Plan. . .

Meat firms need more staff – Chris Tobin:

South Canterbury meat companies are so desperate for workers to start the new killing season they are recruiting overseas.

Immigration NZ has approved work visas for 24 migrant employees to work at Alliance Smithfield this season.

Figures released to The Courier by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) show Immigration NZ has also allowed Silver Fern Farms to employ 49 overseas workers in Canterbury, although the information did not specify what the break-down figures between the company’s two plants at Pareora and Belfast, Christchurch, were.

Work visas for 18 overseas workers for Anzco Foods at Ashburton have also been approved. . .

New Everyday FarmIQ pack targets mainstream dairy and livestock farmers.

A new range of software subscriptions from FarmIQ address the growing information needs of New Zealand dairy and livestock industry.

With a clear focus on the information needs of dairy and livestock farmers, the new packs will help mainstream New Zealand farmers run more productive and sustainable operations.

Darryn Pegram, FarmIQ Chief Executive Officer, said subscriptions start at $55 a month for the new “Everyday FarmIQ” software pack, delivering a broad suite of recording and reporting tools. . .

 ‘High-yield’ farming costs the environment less than previously thought – and could help spare habitats -“

New findings suggest that more intensive agriculture might be the “least bad” option for feeding the world while saving its species – provided use of such “land-efficient” systems prevents further conversion of wilderness to farmland.

Agriculture that appears to be more eco-friendly but uses more land may actually have greater environmental costs per unit of food than “high-yield” farming that uses less land, a new study has found.

There is mounting evidence that the best way to meet rising food demand while conserving biodiversity is to wring as much food as sustainably possible from the land we do farm, so that more natural habitats can be “spared the plough”. . . .


Fake news grows when gatekeepers go

September 18, 2018

Mainstream news outlets have gatekeepers.

They’re the people who decide what is real news and what is not.

They’re human and so not perfect.

They can let their bias colour decisions and, not knowing what they don’t know, let the wrong story through without at least some balance from the right one.

But they are still there to draft off deliberate and dangerous fake news.

Social media doesn’t have gatekeepers and without them fake news grows and spreads.

Lies, defamatory comments and accusations and false statements not only get published they go viral, infecting the world with untruths and fiction purporting to be facts.

In when anti-1080 activism grew  noisy and got uglyHayden Donnell  shows how it’s done:

. . .What caused the sudden escalation? Part of the answer can perhaps be traced back to October last year, when anti-1080 leaders held a think-tank near Nelson. There the lawyer Sue Grey gave a presentation on how to mainstream the movement. Grey has been a leading spokesperson in the medicinal cannabis movement, which has gained political traction and overwhelming public support in recent months, and she drew on her experience with that cause to outline a new anti-1080 strategy. Activists couldn’t rely on getting mainstream media coverage, she said. She proposed taking a different tack – co-opting stories about issues completely unrelated to 1080 to spread the anti-1080 message.

“You don’t have to wait for a story about 1080 to put a comment about 1080,” she said. “You know – here’s [a story on the fact] the prime minister’s in Vietnam – well put a comment ‘what’s the prime minister telling them about putting 1080 in our food?’. And you can actually sort of divert the whole story.

“There’s all sorts of things you can do to pick up on momentum and people are going ‘hang on, where’s all this 1080 stuff coming from’.” . . 

This sort of thread-jack happens on blogs too. An activist sees a post on x and uses it as an opportunity to write a comment that sides tracks with but what about y.

The tactics she outlined almost perfectly match a sea change in how anti-1080 activism is practised online, and particularly on Facebook.

I had my first encounter with the online anti-1080 movement last month after watching a live news video where Phil Twyford and Kris Faafoi glumly announced new rules governing wheel clamping. When I looked at the video’s comments section, almost no-one was interested in clamping. Nearly every comment was the same message, repeated over and over: Ban 1080.

I found out the comments had their roots in a single Facebook page: Operation Ban 1080. The 60,000-member group  was encouraging members to take advantage of Facebook’s easily evaded moderation tools to get their message heard on unrelated videos.

It was like Grey said in her seminar: they weren’t waiting for stories about 1080 to post a comment on 1080. They were diverting news stories on unrelated topics. They were being more noisy, and creating more trouble. . .

The dark side to that is familiar to anyone who’s watched fringe groups flourish on social media in recent years. Where Operation Ban 1080 would previously have had to go through gatekeepers to get their message heard – opening themselves up to scrutiny and countering opinion – on Facebook they were allowed to run wild. Emotive posts accusing 1080 of wholesale environmental destruction were actually rewarded by Facebook’s algorithm due to their high engagement. False posts or doctored photos showing native birds or deer “poisoned by 1080” went semi-viral. Lies could be posted without counterargument, and any objections were confined to other parts of the site.

“You get this snowballing crescendo of hysteria and conspiracy and science denial and hyperbole where, in order to keep on getting the likes on Facebook, each statement has to be more fantastical, more hyperbolic than the last,” said Dave Hansford, the author of Protecting Paradise: 1080 and the Fight to Save New Zealand’s Wildlife. “This is the whole fake news phenomenon. They used to be happy with simply misrepresenting studies or cherry-picking research or just denigrating scientists … but more recently that clown car has just like careered off this on-ramp to crazy town. People are no longer concerned with keeping even one fingertip still on a fact anymore. Now they’re happy to just make shit up.” . .

That nails it and deserves repeating:

This is the whole fake news phenomenon. They used to be happy with simply misrepresenting studies or cherry-picking research or just denigrating scientists … but more recently that clown car has just like careered off this on-ramp to crazy town. People are no longer concerned with keeping even one fingertip still on a fact anymore. . . 

In crazy town, facts don’t matter, conspiracy theories grow and emotion trumps science.

Facebook and Twitter are particularly good seed-beds for growing fake news making it too, too easy for its proponents to spill their venom from their echo chambers to infect a wide network.

They go too far on-line which encourages followers to go too far in real life, as the anti-1080 protesters did last week.

But what happened next showed the downside of that increasing radicalisation. Fake 1080 pellets were thrown onto the steps of parliament, prompting a debate between environment minister David Parker and anti-1080 protesters. Then dead birds were laid outside parliament. Though protesters originally claimed the animals were killed by 1080, tests later showed they appeared to have died from blunt force trauma. A police complaint was laid. Public tolerance for the anti-1080 protests quickly waned.

To Hansford, that shows how the same forces behind the rise of the anti-1080 movement also contain the DNA for its demise. While the increasingly radical online activism has won supporters to the cause, it also increases the chance of someone taking the violent online rhetoric literally and doing something so harmful it ensures the anti-1080 movement is booted out of the limelight and back into the fringe conspiracy dustbin, he said. “It could end in tragedy and if it keeps going there’s a good chance it’s going to. And on that day, public support for the anti-1080 movement evaporates.”

They have already gone too far:

Department of Conservation staff are facing a torrent of online threats and abuse following a recent spike in anti-1080 protests. . .

Last year they went even further, loosening wheel nuts on DoC cars and making threats to staff safety.

But still the lies travel further and faster than the truth without the gatekeepers to stop the infection.

In the face of that we have to vaccinate ourselves against the fake news virus with sceptisism and science, and follow Edgar Allan Poe’s advice to believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.

 


Ignorance kills

September 17, 2018

Animal rights activists in Germany killed four cows and left 40 more critically ill:

Idiot  animal rights activists KILLED four cows and left 40 others critically ill after releasing them into a feeding pen where the beasts “ate themselves to death”.

Suspects are believed to have trespassed onto an organic farm in Germany on Saturday night and released dozens of dairy cows and calves.

The cows then headed straight to the feeding pen where they ate up to 10kg of concentrated feed with catastrophic results.

They are normally fed a maximum of 2kg a day.

Anja Schiemann, the farm’s managing director, told the Berliner Zeitung: “Too much concentrate feed causes the digestive system in the rumen to be severely disturbed.

“The damage to the liver is just too much.” . . .

Ignorance kills.

A similar accusation could be made against anti 1080 activists. Without it native plants, birds and insects will die.

The ODT opines:

The case for 1080 use in New Zealand’s forests is overwhelming, no matter the fervent protests of the past two weeks.

Each independent investigation into its use has come to that conclusion. 

Yet, the Department of Conservation and its staff have had to put up with abuse and worse. Tampering with the wheel nuts on vehicles, as has been reported, is downright criminal and dangerous.

Blatant “fake news” and completely misleading photographs have been spread around the internet, news stories hijacked by activists, and 1080 drops disrupted.

There is, indeed,  no doubting the genuine feelings of the anti-1080 brigade, including the majority who act responsibly in their opposition. But they, like the irresponsible, are sadly and badly misguided.

Some of the fervour is understandable.  Dog owners are fearful of the awful death their charges might suffer should they eat carcasses of mammals killed by the poison.  Others are concerned about the deer by-kill, meaning fewer animals to hunt.

Much worse than these concerns, though, is the massacre by possums, stoats and rats. They lay waste forests of birds and chicks, turning them into silent graveyards and disrupting the ecosystem.

Trap instead of poison, say the 1080 opponents. Given the vastness, and ruggedness of New Zealand’s topography, this is totally  and absolutely impractical.

The 1080 kills birds instead of saving them, the opponents add. While it is true 1080 has killed birds as well as pests, birds and reptiles seem to have some tolerance. Doc’s threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki quotes a study where 600 kiwi were monitored by radio transmitters for a long time after 1080 was spread.  Not one died. Meanwhile, 19 of 20 kiwi eggs were eaten by predators in areas without pest control.

The 1080 kills so many pests it allows bird numbers to recover. . .

The strongest advocates of 1080 accept it’s not the perfect answer but it is better than any alternatives that are currently available.

Until there is something better, it is 1080 or death to a lot of native flora and fauna.


Birds bludgeoned

September 13, 2018

Native birds used in a protest against 1080 were bludgeoned to death:

The speaker of the house has laid a complaint with police after discovering native birds used in a 1080 protest were bludgeoned to death.

Protestors laid dead birds on the steps on parliament yesterday along with fake 1080 pellets.

Protestors claimed the birds were killed by 1080 poisoning.

However, Trevor Mallard says forensic experts say the birds were killed by blunt force trauma.

Even people who aren’t experts ought to be able to tell the difference between death by poisoning and death by blunt force.

Who did the bludgeoning and how did the protesters find the birds that had been bludgeoned?

Whatever the answers, and whoever did it, both killing birds this way and using them in a protest like this is seriously sick.


Rural round-up

April 14, 2018

The Polsons breed the best through artificial insemination at Mangamahu – Iain Hyndman:

The sheep industry is a constantly moving feast and Donald and Liz Polson have entered a joint venture with Focus Genetics in an attempt to stay ahead of the game.

The innovative Whanganui farmers joined with the 100 percent-owned Landcorp company to carry out an AI (artificial insemination) programme to improve the performance of their elite commercial Waipuna flock.

The composite breed was created from an original base using Romney, Finn and Texel stock on the Mangamahu hill country farm. . . 

Company faces up after swede  mix up – Nicole Sharp:

Compensation will be paid to farmers who are tied up in the PGG Wrightson swede mix up.

At the end of February, after the bulbs of swedes started appearing, the company learned 556 farmers were sold HT-S57 white-fleshed swedes after paying for a new seed variety, Hawkestone yellow-fleshed Cleancrop swede.

The HT-S57 swede had been discontinued last year.

At a public meeting in Gore last week, organised by Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker with support of industry bodies Federated Farmers, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and DairyNZ, PGG Wrightson seed and grain group general manager John McKenzie, PGG Wrightson Seeds New Zealand general manager David Green faced farmers. . .

Happiness comes before success – Pam Tipa:

The dairy industry has been successful, now it needs to be happy, says 2018 Dairy Woman of the Year Loshni Manikam.

And the former lawyer and human behaviour and leadership expert hopes a profile of the prestigious Dairy Womens Network national award will enable her to help get that conversation started.

The industry needs to shift from only one way of measuring success,” she told Dairy News.

“At the moment the one way of measuring success is financial success. Having that culture that measures our success purely on financial success or failure is a big contributor to the increasing rates of depression and suicide that we have. . .

Gore sheep farmers win Otago Ballance Farm Environemnt Awards:

A love of family, farming and the land has seen the successful succession of Waipahi sheep farm from Ross and Alexa Wallace to their son Logan… and also helped the family win the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Their win was announced at a dinner at the Lake Wanaka Centre, Wanaka, on Thursday night (April 13).

The judges said the Wallace family was a supportive, close family unit with clear vision, great goal setting and financial discipline. “They have incredible enthusiasm and a passion to learn – taking on ideas, good use of external advice and analysing data for the best outcomes. They have a strong environmental focus; land and environment plan, nutrient budgeting, wetland construction, retention of biodiversity and water quality emphasis, as well as an outstanding commitment to community and industry.” . . 

Time to stengthen up your balance sheet as farming economy looks to be cooling – Pita Alexander:

The bottom line in any farm business is that our net farm profit needs to be at least 50 per cent higher than personal drawings.

Anything less than this and over time we will end up knowing our bank manager’s cell phone number off by heart, which is a bad sign. It would be much better to curb our spending.

There are other worrying signs that should have us thinking hard of the consequences.

Personally, I don’t like the feel of the whole palm kernel issue. There is a real risk, I feel, with the amount involved in New Zealand farming and the certification process and in particular the potential impact on our border security. The problem really is that it may take several seasons to replace this feed gap with other options such as fodder beet, maize, management and working capital. It is our fault though for letting the issue develop to its present state. What is the biggest single risk for us and the government? It must be border security because we are so dependent on our exports. . .

Birds call out 1080 silent forest claim:

The use of 1080 for pest control is supported by a range of conservation and farming organisations, but opponents claim forests fall silent when the poison is dropped, saying this is evidence of harm to native bird communities.

To investigate, Roald Bomans used bioacoustics to listen to the sound of native bird species in the Aorangi Ranges in June and the Rimutakas in July.

Bomans, a Victoria University Masters student, set up recording units in the forests five weeks before and after the 1080 aerial drops.

In the Aorangi area, there was no increase in the periods the forest was silent, and in the Rimutakas there was more birdsong after the toxin drop than before. . .

Rookie title last thing on bullrider’s mind – Nicole Sharp:

Ask 23-year-old Matt Adams why he started bull riding.
”I’ve always been in to adrenaline sports,” is the reply.

But when he started bull riding last rodeo season, it was purely for the adrenaline and he never thought only two years down the track he would be crowned the 2017-18 New Zealand Rodeo Cowboy Association National Rookie Bull Riding champion.

Starting bull riding last season (2016-2017), it was a homecoming of sorts for Mr Adams, as he had wanted to compete for a few years. . .


Threats to DOC staff beyond appalling

December 6, 2017

The Department of Conservation is appalled at threats to its staff:

The Department of Conservation (DOC) confirms that it has asked New Zealand Police to investigate after receiving a second threatening letter from an anti-1080 protestor in Taranaki.

The aggressive letter intensifies threats against DOC staff and claims more sika deer will be released unless DOC stops its use of 1080 to control predators.

Appalled would be a mild reaction to these very serious threats.

It follows an anonymous letter in October which said sika deer were being released in Taranaki forests in retaliation for 1080 operations.

The Director General of Conservation, Lou Sanson says DOC will not be speculating on who wrote the letter or why, as it is now a matter for the police to investigate.

“However these threats to DOC staff are taken very seriously and will not be tolerated. I am appalled that someone would threaten our staff in this way as they are trying to go about their daily work to protect our native species and wildlife.”

“DOC is responsible for managing more than a third of New Zealand’s land area and it’s important our staff are able to get on with their job of protecting conservation areas without fear of being harmed or harrassed,” Mr Sanson says.

DOC has put measures in place to protect staff and contractors, including asking staff to be more vigilant as they go about their daily work.

Overall the level of 1080 protest has been relatively low this year and most have protested lawfully. “Apart from a few isolated cases, the feedback we get is that most New Zealanders strongly support DOC’s work to protect our native species and habitats and understand why we need to use 1080 as part of our war against predators,” Mr Sanson says.

1080 isn’t perfect but in some areas it’s not only the best, it’s the only way to kill introduced animals that prey on native birds, destroy bush and carry disease which can spread to farm animals and people.

Not everyone is convinced by the science and they are free to protest against 1080 lawfully.

Going beyond lawful protest to threats against public servants is beyond appalling.


Rural round-up

August 20, 2017

Taxing our water:

Figures released yesterday by Irrigation New Zealand included bad news for Otago when it comes to funding being taken in irrigation tax for “Clean Rivers”.

The figures show Otago will pay the second-highest amount of irrigation tax of $7.8 million when it has 8% of rivers said to be poor for swimming and just 3% of irrigated land.

Canterbury, as could be expected, will pay the most at $41 million. The region has 4% of rivers declared poor for swimming but 11% of irrigated land.

Labour has declared it will implement a royalty on the commercial consumption of water to assist with the cost of keeping New Zealand’s water clean. The royalty will be flexible to reflect the scarcity or abundance of water in different regions, the different quality of water and its use. Royalty levels will be set following consultation and the revenue will largely be returned to regional councils. . .

Award recognises work with SIL – Sally Rae:

Invermay scientist Dr Sheryl-Anne Newman has received national recognition for her work with Sheep Improvement Ltd.
Dr Newman received the Sir Arthur Ward Award, presented by the New Zealand Society of Animal Production.

It recognised the successful application of research or experience to an aspect of animal production in New Zealand.

She is only the second woman to receive the award. Dr Julie Everett-Hincks, also from Otago, received it last year for work she had done to improve lamb survival. . .

Growing virtual plants could help farmers boost their crops – Leslie Nemo:

What if farmers could grow sugarcane in a matter of seconds, not days or weeks? Scientists are doing just that. Of course, these crops are not sprouting from soil. Instead they flourish on a computer screen.

Digital plants like these are part of a new movement in agricultural science called “in silico,” where researchers design highly accurate, computer-simulated crops to help speed up selective breeding, in which plants are chosen and replanted to amplify their desirable traits. Scientists believe the future of farming is not just in fields, but in graphics, too. . .

Dispatch from New Zealand no. 4 lessons for the UK – Jonathan Baker:

New Zealand was easily the most challenging and energising place I’ve visited so far. Having thought about it, I think this is because many of the debates are similar, until they’re not. Meaning the cultural and geographic similarities create a sense of familiarity which means the inevitable differences really jarr. I certaintly spent more time gazing into the middle distance here than anywhere else I’ve visited. There is much more I could say about New Zealand but I’m currently in Korea and the detailed synthesis of my thoughts in NZ will have to wait.

In the meantime, here is a non-exhaustive and slightly long set of lessons for the UK:

  1.  Environmental regulation is inevitable
  2. Be nimble
  3. No subsidy, no problems
  4. Look to solve conflict, with collaboration and consensus
  5. Prepare for political ping-pong
  6. The need for new, improved industry – Government collaboration
  7. Using subsidies to compensate for policy change, can allow for more radical policy change
  8. There is trouble in (farming) paradise. . .

Kokako birdsong rings out in Kauri Coast forests:

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says there’s been a more than thousand percent increase in the number of kokako in Kauri Coast forests since 1990 due to the continued use of 1080 and trapping.

“An aerial 1080 drop in 1990 is credited with saving the kokako from local extinction and its continued use along with trapping has seen the population grow from a low of 5 pair in 1990 to 60 pair today, as well as 29 single kokako,” Ms Barry says. . . .

Continued Softening in Rural Real Estate Market:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of NZ (“REINZ”) shows there were 76 fewer farm sales (-16.2%) for the three months ended July 2017 than for the three months ended July 2016. Overall, there were 392 farm sales in the three months ended July 2017, compared to 459 farm sales for the three months ended June 2017 (-14.6%), and 468 farm sales for the three months ended July 2016. 1,739 farms were sold in the year to July 2017, 1.5% fewer than were sold in the year to July 2016, with 44% more finishing farms, 28% more dairy farms and 21% fewer grazing and 22% fewer arable farms sold over the same period. . . 

Farmer candidates sought for DairyNZ elections:

Candidate nominations opened this week for farmer-elected roles on the DairyNZ board and Directors Remuneration Committee.

This year two farmer positions on the Board of Directors are available, along with one position on the DairyNZ Directors Remuneration Committee. . .

Kiwis assured all Fresh avocados eaten in New Zealand are grown here:

 “All fresh avocados eaten in New Zealand are grown here,” says New Zealand Avocado CEO Jen Scoular, mitigating concerns that we import the fruit from Mexico. Criticism of Mexican growing practices was raised by an article published this week by the New Zealand Herald in the Lifestyle Section article headlined “Why you should stop eating avocados.”*

Scoular says the article has caused confusion and New Zealand Avocado had fielded some concerned calls from the public for clarification about the origins of the fruit in New Zealand. . .


Court case win for birds

August 5, 2017

Environment Minister Nick Smith says the High Court ruling confirming the legality of national pest control regulations is a significant win for the survival of New Zealand’s native birds:

“The science is clear that the only way birds like kiwi, kokako, kea and kaka will survive is to effectively control pests like stoats, rats and possums that have decimated their populations. We need to appreciate that 25 million native birds are killed each year by these predators, and get serious about controlling them,” Dr Smith says.

The High Court decision was in response to a legal challenge by the Brook Valley Community Group in Nelson to the pest control operation planned this winter by the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary, and to the legality of the national regulations introduced by Dr Smith as Environment Minister earlier this year.

“This is a huge win for the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Trust. They have toiled for 15 years, raising more than $5 million and spending thousands of hours volunteering to realise their vision of providing a safe haven for our native birds. It is a tribute to their determination and detailed work that the High Court has concluded their plan is consistent with the demanding requirements of the Resource Management Act for the protection of the environment and public health.

“This High Court decision is a significant win for conservation nationally. I acknowledge the support in the proceedings of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society and the advocacy for the national regulations by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. It confirms that New Zealanders can have a high degree of confidence in the safeguards on the use of poisons like 1080 and brodifacoum, and the evidence on which their use is based.

“My hope is that the Brook Valley Community Group, having had a fair hearing in the High Court and having put the Sanctuary Trust, taxpayers and the ratepayers of Nelson to considerable expense, will accept the decision and enable the pest control operation to proceed as planned.

“This issue fundamentally comes down to a choice between whether we want stoats, rats and possums or kiwi, kaka and tui in Nelson’s backyard. We need to back the Sanctuary Trust and its vision for this nationally significant haven for New Zealand’s iconic birds.”

Trapping and shooting pests can be effective in some places and all of us can help with that.

Where that’s impractical, it’s a choice between poisons like 1080 or allowing pests to eat native birds and, in the case of possums, destroy bush.

 


Rural round-up

April 6, 2017

Good trade news for red meat – let’s hope it happens quickly – Allan Barber:

The visit by Chinese Premier Li Kequiang has been very positive in several ways for New Zealand’s trade agreements, except for those people who are anti free trade or closer engagement with China (Winston Peters?). After the excitement about the announcement in April last year during the John Key led trade mission, progress on chilled red meat access to China and an upgraded FTA appeared to have gone onto the back burner, until now.

Progress was always going to be slower than the optimistic predictions, because nothing like this happens quickly without extensive discussions between officials about technical issues and, in the case of chilled meat, rewritten protocols and plant certification. Another issue to resolve was the need for marketing and distribution relationships to be established with particular emphasis on the cool chain. . . 

Dairy farmers committed to lowering environmental impact – Katrina Knowles:

Taranaki dairy farmers have planted native species along 5760 kilometres of waterways on their farms. This is the equivalent to a journey from Cape Reinga to Bluff, and back to the steps of Parliament in Wellington, with a few plants to spare.

Dairy farmers, not just in Taranaki, but also throughout the country, are committed to lowering the environmental impact of dairying, while protecting the valuable contribution they make to the economy.

Dairy farming is a major driver in the New Zealand economy, improving everyone’s lifestyle in this country. This is both directly and indirectly, and in rural and urban communities. . . 

Feedback big part of dairy awards – Sally Rae:

Entering the Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards was not about winning for Clydevale sharemilkers Russell and Tracy Bouma.

Rather, it was an opportunity to get feedback from judges to help them grow their business, Mr Bouma said.

The couple recently won the Sharefarmer of the Year title at the regional awards function in Invercargill, collecting $20,065 in prizes.

They sharemilk 762 cows on Andrew, Owen and Barbara Johnston’s 270ha farm and it was the fourth time they had entered the awards. They have been sharemilking since 2002.

Every time they had entered, they had been able to implement some of the feedback from the judges, Mrs Bouma (37) said. . . 

Protecting vulnerable native species with 1080 gets results:

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says successful breeding results for several of our most vulnerable native birds come as a result of using 1080 to kill predators.

“New results from a five-year study of South Island kākā nesting at Lake Paringa in South Westland show 30 times as many kākā chicks were produced and survived in the area after 1080 treatment to control stoats and possums compared to the area where no 1080 was used,” Ms Barry says.

“Put another way – 55% of kākā nests were successful up to a year after 1080 treatment but only 1.75% were successful where the compound was not used. 97% of adult kākā survived in 1080 treated areas.” . . 

Zespri reports strong interest in bidding round for Gold3 licenses – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Zespri International reported strong interest in a bidding round for 400 hectares of new Gold3 or SunGold variety kiwifruit licences and said its shares will resume trading on Friday.

The kiwifruit marketer said it received 938 bids of which 235 were successful, and will reap $98 million of revenue from the allocation, excluding GST. The average size of the successful bids was 1.7 hectares. The SunGold variety has proven popular as it is more resistant to the Pseudomonas syringae pv actinadiae bacteria, better known as PSA, which decimated the industry some six years ago. By the end of June 2012, more than 35 percent of New Zealand kiwifruit orchards were infected. SunGold, first commercialised in 2010, was key to the sector’s recovery. . . 

Ashburton dairy farmer takes the helm at Canterbury A&P:

Dairy farmer Peter Gilbert was elected as President of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association for 2017 at the Annual General Meeting held at Riccarton Park Racecourse on 29 March.

Based in Winchmore, near Ashburton, Mr Gilbert was confirmed as the President of the 155th Canterbury A&P Show in front of outgoing President Warrick James, the General Committee and Association Members.

Mr Gilbert said he was looking forward to his Presidential year after a long association with Canterbury A&P. . . 

Anmum Releases Its First Batch of QR Coded Cans in NZ:

Parents Can Trace Product Journey as Anmum Releases Its First Batch of QR Coded Cans in NZ

Consumers now have their first touch point with Fonterra’s traceability in New Zealand through QR codes on Fonterra’s paediatric range, Anmum.

The QR codes are part of a programme to track and trace ingredients and products electronically throughout Fonterra, from the raw milk source on farm right through to retailers who sell the product to consumers.

Unique for every Anmum can, the QR code connects consumers via a mobile phone app to a webpage with information which verifies the authenticity of the product and its batch number. Consumers can also scan the can at any stage after they have bought it and get up to date status information about their product. . . .

Positive outlook for forestry sector:

Associate Primary Industries Minister Louise Upston has welcomed new forecasts showing forestry export revenue set to rise further over the next two financial years.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ first quarterly update of its Situation Outlook for Primary Industries shows forestry export revenue is forecast to rise 5.8 per cent to $5.4 billion for the year ending June 2017, and a further 8.8 per cent to $5.9 billion in the year to June 2018.

“Rising log exports are behind this positive forecast, with a strong demand from China due to its expanding housing market. This, combined with low shipping costs, has driven harvesting to record levels,” Ms Upston says. . . 

Rabobank’s dairy analyst Emma Higgins on today’s GDT Event result:

The spread in pricing between fats and proteins are at record levels. AMF lifted 2.5% to USD 5,936/tonne (the highest average price for AMF in GDT history) and although butter lost ground by 1.6%, the average price at USD 4,751 is still the second highest average price in the history of butter offerings on GDT. Given low SMP pricing dynamics, coupled with lower global milk production, low fat stocks are underpinning outstanding fat prices.

Looking at the powder front, WMP prices lifted a modest 2.4% to USD 2,924 /tonne. Some price support has come from lower auction volumes this time around, with 20% less on offer overnight compared to the last auction. While SMP moved a fraction lower (-0.8%) to USD 1,913/tonne, a sizable 50% increase in SMP offer volumes makes the result overnight seem very positive indeed. . .

Farmers to see changes to farmhouse deductibility:

With farmers spending an increasing amount of time in the office, or at the kitchen table as the case is for many farmers across New Zealand, the changes to the deductibility of farmhouse expenses may come as a surprise. “With changes impacting farmers for the 2017/2018 financial year, it is important they take the time to find out how the changes could affect them,” Tony Marshall, Agribusiness Tax Specialist for Crowe Horwath points out.

Since the 1960s the IRD has allowed full-time farmers a deduction of 25% of farmhouse expenses without any evidentiary support. Inland Revenue Group Tax Counsel Graham Tubb says that this has allowed some farmers to claim deductions for private spending. . . 

Anchor Food Professionals Opens Sri Lanka’s First Dairy Innovation Kitchen:

Sri Lanka’s foodies are set to receive a delicious boost to their out-of-home dining experience, with Fonterra’s opening of the country’s first dairy innovation kitchen for the foodservice industry.

With increased urbanisation and more Sri Lankans eating out of home, Colombo, a city with more than two million people, is seeing new international hotel chains, restaurants, bakeries and other food outlets spring up around the city.

To cater to the growing interest in out-of-home dining, Fonterra’s foodservice business, Anchor Food Professionals, has opened an innovation kitchen in the city to trial new dairy products and work with chefs to develop new recipes and flavours that suit the tastes of Sri Lankan consumers. . . 

Carrfields seeds produce second world record grain crop:

 An Ashburton farmer’s record-breaking wheat crop is the second world record grain yield to be produced from Carrfields seeds in two years.

Eric Watson’s February 2017 harvest of 16.8 tonnes a hectare, grown from Carrfields’ winter wheat variety Oakley, has just made the Guinness World Records list for highest wheat yield.

It follows the world record for the highest yielding barley crop, set by Timaru growers Warren and Joy Darling in January 2015. The Darlings broke the previous 25-year-old record with a yield of 13.8 tonnes a hectare from Carrfields’ variety 776.

Carrfields’ Cereal Seed Product Manager, Phil Smith, said he was thrilled to see two world records set in Canterbury in a short space of time. . . 


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