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.

   

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