Rural round-up

August 11, 2019

Fact check: Are our farm systems any better for the climate? – Esther Taunton:

Kiwi farmers love to claim their meat and dairy products come from farms with some of the smallest carbon footprints in the world. 

Unsurprisingly, they were quick to defend their systems after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Report on Climate Change and Land on Thursday.

Federated Farmers led the charge, saying it was concerned New Zealanders “simply don’t understand how much better we are at low-emissions farming than other countries“. . .

Kiwi farmers defend meat after report calls for more plant-based food – Rebecca Black:

We should be eating plenty of plants, South Taranaki dairy farmer Matthew Herbert says, but that doesn’t mean we should reduce our animal-based protein production.

A new IPCC report into climate change makes the recommendation that we alter our diets from being high in meat and dairy to include more plant-based food choices.

The report indicates that more efficient farming methods could dramatically increase food output while keeping emissions in check. . .

AbacusBio merges with plant breeder – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting firm AbacusBio has merged with a North Island-based plant breeding company.

Rotorua-based Gemnetics did similar work to AbacusBio but in plants, not animals, and it was a very complementary skill set, AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell said.

Plant and animal breeding methodologies were converging with the growth in genomics and big data tools and technologies.

The merger would allow the company – retaining the name AbacusBio for operations and Gemnetics for specific plant-breeding software – to offer clients access to leading-edge genetic and system services, software and data management products, she said. . .

Milking it: Tapping into coffee culture – Sally Rae:

Two young Dunedin entrepreneurs are tapping into the nation’s coffee culture.

Jo Mohan and Luka Licul have co-founded Spout Alternatives, with Nick Jackson, of Christchurch, to put milk into kegs and reduce the number of plastic milk containers used in cafes.

The trio are preparing to launch their permanent dispensing system, which is similar to the way beer is available on tap in bars. . .

Let people eat as much red meat as they want Norway’s health minister says :

Norway’s new head of health has criticised the ‘moral police’ and said people should be allowed to eat as much red meat as they want.

In her first days as the country’s new health minister, Sylvi Listhaug implied that Norwegians shouldn’t be told what to do when it comes to health.

The comments come as part of an interview with Ms Listhaug conducted by Norwegian broadcaster NRK. . .

Can the Prairie Generation save rural America? – Laurent Belsie :

Outside Unadilla, Hannah Esch walks into her cooler and pulls out packages of rib-eye, brisket, and hamburger. Over the past nine months her new company, Oak Barn Beef, sold out of meat four times and brought in $52,000 in sales. Over the next year, she expects to double those sales numbers.

That will be a milestone. It will also be when she finishes her last year of college.

Some 150 miles northwest, the Brugger twins, Matt and Joe, show off how they’re diversifying from traditional agriculture. They directly market the beef from the cows they raise and they grow hops for local microbreweries. But the most visible sign of their commitment to the rural Plains is the two-story farmhouse they’re renovating on the family homestead. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 22, 2019

Farming to create fresh air – Luke Chivers:

When people think of farming, few think of carbon farming. But Canterbury farmers Warrick and CeCe James are using agriculture to feed people and fight climate change. Luke Chivers spoke to them on-farm.

Imagine carbon emissions and what springs to mind? 

Most people tend to think of power stations belching out clouds of carbon dioxide or queues of vehicles burning up fossil fuels as they crawl, bumper-to-bumper along congested urban roads. 

But in Canterbury’s picturesque Selwyn Gorge the owners of a forest of 18-year-old pine and Douglas fir trees are confident that at harvest age the trees will still be worth more alive than dead and will continue to be indefinitely. . .

Lower carbon food chain challenges – Richard Rennie:

A dive into the little-known field of energy return on investment for his Nuffield Scholarship was the extension of a long-held interest for Solis Norton of Otago. It measures energy flows through New Zealand’s primary food chains to see how we might move to zero emissions by 2050 while remaining a viable economy. He spoke to Richard Rennie.

Nuffield scholar Solis Norton acknowledges the area of energy return on investment (EROI) is not top of mind for many but his year’s study found the field holds important tools for one of this country’s most pressing demands – getting to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Mapping out the transition to carbon zero using economics is a good starting point but mapping our true energy use during the transition is critical too. This is what EROI does. Our path to carbon-zero economic prosperity will collapse if we run short of energy along the way.”  . . 

Mānuka honey regulatory definition throws industry into turmoil :

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) regulatory definition of mānuka honey has thrown the honey industry into turmoil and European authorities are beginning to notice there’s something wrong, a Northland honey expert says.

Dr John Craig, a veteran beekeeper and former professor of environmental studies, said the ministry’s challenged the industry to prove that its definition needs to change.

But he said the ministry’s own research has already done that. . .

High octane’ deer feeds examined at workshop – Yvonne O’Hara:

”High octane” feed was the subject at the Otago Advance Party regional workshop in Poolburn last week.

Deer farmers and industry representatives met at the Poolburn/Moa Creek Hall last Wednesday in a meeting organised by Abacusbio consultant Simon Glennie.

The Advance Party workshop was part of the deer industry’s Passion2Profit programme.

The group visited Poolburn deer farmer Cam Nicolson’s property to look at his deer, then returned to the hall to discuss how he could improve growth rates and profits by using ”high octane” forages. . .

 

Capturing the spirit of New Zealand by turning sheep’s milk into booze – Esther Taunton:

Like many off-the-wall ideas, Sam Brown’s came to him on a night out with friends.

The Kiwi entrepreneur and founder of The White Sheep Co was living in China when he realised New Zealand had no national drink.

“I was out with friends and we decided to have a drink for everybody’s country.

“We had a bit of tequila for a guy from Mexico, some vodka for a guy from Russia and even some brandy for a person from France,” he said. . .

Regional wrap:

Northland still has green grass everywhere, but there’s not much of it .. normally farms would be knee deep in kikuyu and it would be a challenge to manage it, but that’s not the case. It’s not a disaster but lots of dairy herds have been partially dried off.

Outstanding autumn weather has been the main feature this week for Franklin vege growers .. in fact for much of the North Island. . .


Rural round-up

March 31, 2019

We cannot take food supply for granted – Neal Wallace:

News the Government will protect elite soils is welcome but by no means signals the resolution of broader challenges facing land use and the productive sector.

Land Squeeze Dinkus 1As reported in Farmers Weekly’s Land Squeeze series, the Ministry for the Environment has started the process of preparing a national policy statement for high-value soils, which will be finalised after consultation later this year.

That protection is needed because urban sprawl and lifestyle blocks swallow up to 100,000 hectares a year including Auckland paving 10,500 hectares of high-quality soil in the last 35 years.

Domestic food demand will only increase as New Zealand’s population is expected to hit five million in 2020 and 5.5m in 2025 while demand will also rise from an ever-expanding global population. . . 

Spud family name’s on the packet – Tim Fulton:

James Bowan grows potatoes for a nationwide paddock-to-packet potato chip brand.  Nearly a decade after the business started he’s still happiest in the paddock. Tim Fulton reports.

The Bowan family farms more than 600ha at Orari in South Canterbury. Down the road at industrial Washdyke, in the slipstream of Timaru, the family also runs the Heartland chips processing plant.

Fallgate Farm includes 250-odd hectares of spuds, 320ha of combinable cereals,150ha of grass seed and a few other bits and pieces, especially seeds.

It adds up to a lot of business from farm to shop shelf but James isn’t bothered with the trappings of corporate hierarchy. . . 

Action groups following different paths – Sally Rae:

More than 900 farmers have signed up to the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) Action Network to help make their farming businesses more productive and profitable.

Each of the Action Groups involved chose a different pathway in the search for solutions to the challenges they faced.

Four action groups in the Milton and Lawrence districts had a lot in common, both in their origins and their goals.

They grew out of two large discussion groups of sheep and beef farmers running in these areas for several years before the RMPP programme kicked into action.

The common link between all four was Simon Glennie, a sheep, beef and deer farming consultant with AbacusBio. . . 

Fonterra’s new management team gives hope – Sudesh Kissun:

Waikato Federated Farmers president Andrew McGiven is happy to see Fonterra back in the black.

He hopes that changes heralded by the new management team signal the start of “some green shoots” for the co-op.

“As a Fonterra farmer I am happy to see that they have posted a net profit and I am happy with some of the rhetoric from board and management about the consolidation of the business,” he told Dairy News. . . 

Support for biosecurity levy:

A big majority of 1794 submissions received by DairyNZ on the biosecurity response levy were supportive.

Sixty-one percent of submissions from farmers backed DairyNZ managing the levy on their behalf and raising the maximum cap to 3.9 cents/kgMS. That totalled 1088 supportive submissions and 706 against.

“We appreciated the candid conversations and the opportunity to discuss not just the proposed levy, but also DairyNZ more widely,” DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel says in a letter to farmers. . . 

Win proves area’s wine can age well: manager:

Wild Earth Wines’ success at the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards earlier this month proves Central Otago wines can age gracefully, marketing and sales manager Elbert Jolink says.

The boutique winery in Cromwell won the Best Pinot Noir trophy of the show during the formal awards dinner in Auckland on March 9.

Mount Pisa winery Ata Mara won both a gold medal and the Red Badge Security Champion Riesling trophy for its Central Otago 2018 Riesling. . . 

 


Rural round-up

August 20, 2018

Big US beef index job for AbacusBio – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting company AbacusBio is rebuilding the selection indexes for the American Angus Association, the world’s largest beef cattle society.

AbacusBio partner Jason Archer, who has specialised in beef cattle throughout his career, was thrilled the company was chosen for the work.

The association has more than 25,000 members across the United States and Canada and the scale of the industry was “unbelievable”,  Dr Archer said.

In fact, the work that was being done by AbacusBio meant it affected billions of dollars’ worth of production.

Often, breed societies had selection indexes balancing all the traits that were being measured, and those indexes were both a selection tool and also became “a bit of a benchmark” when evaluating bulls, he said. . . 

Walk On history ‘pretty amazing Kiwi story’ – Sally Rae:

The establishment of Walk On is a “pretty amazing Kiwi story”, new chief executive Mark Davey says.

The  company, founded by young entrepreneur Lucas Smith, produces blister protection products using soft merino wool.

It has appointed Dr Davey as its first chief executive as part of an initiative to carry the momentum of Walk On’s initial domestic success into international markets.

Walk On had secured a national distribution deal with outdoor and adventure sports multi-channel retailer Torpedo 7 and was also available in 10 retail stores nationally, Dr Davey said. . . 

Milking it: NZ’s milk price: Who’s getting rich? Susan Edmunds:

New Zealand milk prices are “astoundingly high” – and we might have supermarkets to blame, one marketing expert says.

Bodo Lang, head of department at the University of Auckland Business School, said the price paid by New Zealanders stood out internationally.

“Particularly when considering that New Zealand is home to one of the world’s largest dairy companies, Fonterra. The problem, however, is not restricted to milk. Other dairy products too have, in comparison with other industrialised nations, exceptionally high prices.”

He said a litre of fresh milk in Germany was selling for the equivalent of $1.51, compared to $2.37 in New Zealand. . . 

Milking it: ‘Micro differences’ between brands. Why are some customers happy to pay a premium? – John Anthony:

Craig Prichard remembers when milk tasted very different from region to region.

“Milk in Taranaki where I grew up was different to the milk in Napier,” Prichard said.

The Massey associate professor, and sheep milk specialist, said things like climate, pasture and production methods used to greatly change the taste profile and characteristics of milk.

“That’s largely disappeared.” . . 

Rural land value a shrinking influence for a bank loan – Andrea Fox:

Banks’ rural credit decisions will increasingly depend on sustainable farming practices, not land value, says the country’s biggest rural lender ANZ Bank.

Commercial and agriculture managing director Mark Hiddleston said ANZ’s credit decisions have for some time been based more on farm performance than the traditional 65 per cent land-to-value ratio and that model looks likely to increase in use.

Also due for change he believes is the banking sector’s use of “a lot of averages”. . . 

Horizons proposes plan change that will get farms compliant – Laurel Stowell:

In an effort to get intensive farms legally consented, Horizons Regional Council is proposing to change numbers on the maximum nitrogen they can leach in its controversial One Plan table.

The matter was discussed at a strategy and policy committee meeting on August 14, and councillors agreed to a three-staged approach.

Last year the Environment Court told the council it must refuse consent to farmers unable to restrict nitrogen leaching to totals in the One Plan’s Table 14.2. The totals were taken from a version of Overseer, a computer system for estimating the amount of nitrogen leaching through soil. . . 

 

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Rural round-up

May 9, 2018

Natural Fibre Exchange aimed at providing greater efficiency :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Age not wearing this farmer – Peter Burke:

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

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

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

Looking into using drones differently – Mark Price:

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

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

The weeds would include gorse, broom and wilding pines.

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

Drought will bring more crop disease scientists warn:

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

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

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


Rural round-up

April 12, 2018

Van Leeuwen owner awaits M.bovis compo, says MPI like a ‘slow machine’ –  Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Aad Van Leeuwen is still waiting for compensation from the Ministry for Primary Industries more than nine months after he reported the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis in his South Canterbury herds.

“There was an advance made a couple of months ago covering barely 20 percent of all the stock but the remaining more than 80 percent has not arrived yet and there are continuous questions coming (from MPI) that have all been answered,” the owner of Van Leeuwen Dairy Group told BusinessDesk. Compensation for the stock alone is around $3 million and doesn’t include anything else such as milk loss, he said. . . 

Farmer research highlights hill country risks and opportunities :

Farmers from Canterbury and Manawatu have shared their stories on their hill country development experiences with research company UMR through an anonymous survey, as part of a research project commissioned by Environment Canterbury, and supported by Beef & Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers (South Canterbury).

The in-depth interviews were undertaken to understand current hill country development practices, as Environment Canterbury considers approaches to help farmers determine whether and how to develop their hill country pastures.

Some sheep and beef farmers are improving hill country productivity by planting older hill country pastures with higher producing pasture species. This commonly involves one or more years in winter feed, and creates an increased risk of sediment losses during this period. . .

Gibbs family meet environmental challenges of coastal property – Esther Taunton:

Farming on the South Taranaki coast has its environmental challenges but the Gibbs family tackle them head on.

The regional winners of the 2018 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, Grant, Dinny and Leedom Gibbs of the Gibbs G Trust milk 435 cows on a 122-hectare farm five kilometres south of Manaia.

Steep cliffs form the southern boundary of the property, which is exposed to wind and “devastating” salt spray. . .

Government should commit to rural communities:

National is urging the Government to support the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) with ongoing funding, National Party associate spokesperson for Health Dr Shane Reti and National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King say.

“National recognises that rural communities in New Zealand have different needs and face special challenges, especially when it comes to accessing health services,” Dr Reti says.

“We support the RHAANZ’s request for ongoing operating funding outside their existing contracts to ensure that rural communities have access to the services that they need. . . 

NZ ahead of UK sheep genetics – Colin Ley:

New Zealand’s sheep genetics are way ahead of those in Britain, Scotland-based NZ agribusiness consultant Tim Byrne says.

As a senior consultant with Dunedin’s AbacusBio Byrne opened the company’s first European office in June last year to more effectively service British and European Union clients while also seeking to access new areas of agri-tech development in Europe.

While fully convinced that NZ sheep farmers hold a clear genetics advantage over their British counterparts he’s not so sure Kiwi producers are striking a sufficiently strong profile on environmental management issues. . . 

What does added value mean?:

Outsiders commentating on the New Zealand meat industry often confidently pronounce the sector needs to ‘add value’ to the products, but what exactly is added-value, who are you adding value for and who is getting the value? It depends who you talk to.

Meat is a nutritious, and most would say essential, base ingredient in a modern healthy diet – to be eaten in moderation – for end-users around the world.

To get maximum prices, the base material – the meat – needs to be consistently tender, juicy, sized and available all year round. Meeting those demands – producing healthy animals on pasture to precise specification – adds value for a red meat farmer, who earns more money for a premium product.

The consumer might say added-value is something that helps daily life, so increasing the speed of preparation, recipe choice, and portion control might all feature in the added-value mix they will pay more for. . . 


Rural round-up

June 20, 2017

Eating quality combats imitations – Annette Scott:

Grow them fast and kill them young is the recipe for the best eating quality in red meat.

And with the threat from synthetic and plant-based meats a good eating experience was critical to underpin New Zealand’s grass-fed, ethically produced red meat story, AbacusBio consultant Jason Archer said.

Older animals had more connective tissue in their muscles, which made their meat tougher, so fast-finishing made for more tenderness, Archer told farmers at a Beef + Lamb NZ beef-focused field day. . .

Synlait revises 2016 / 2017 forecast milk price to reflect current market:

Synlait Milk (NZX: SML; ASX: SM1) is forecasting a total milk price of $6.29 kgMS for the 2016 / 2017 season, consisting of a forecast base milk price of $6.15 kgMS and $0.14 of premium payments.

An average premium payment of $0.14 kgMS will go to Synlait’s Canterbury milk suppliers creating value behind the farm gate with seasonal and Special Milk progammes such as a2 Milk™, Grass Fed™ and Lead With Pride™. . . 

Impressed by carpet launch – Sally Rae:

Trevor Peters admits he was a bit sceptical before he headed to New York for the launch of Carrfields Primary Wool’s Just Shorn range of wool carpets and rugs.

But once there, the Otago farmer was ”pretty impressed”.

A group of farmers attended the launch last month, along with New Zealand Trade Commissioner-Consul General Beatrice Faumuina.

Mr Peters and his family operate Peters Genetics, a large-scale farming operation in Otago, running about 32,000 ewes.

All action at Holstein-Friesian conference – Sally Rae:

Holstein-Friesian breeders from throughout New Zealand will converge on Central Otago this week.

The New Zealand Holstein-Friesian (HFNZ) Association is holding its conference in Cromwell, organised by the Otago branch of the organisation.

Holstein-Friesian cattle make up more than 45% of the national dairy herd and HFNZ has more than 750 members nationally, Otago branch chairwoman Judith Ray said.

The conference theme was High Octane: Gold, Wine and Speed, with various activities organised around that, and it was ”action-packed”.

Planning began about 18 months ago and organisers wanted to ”showcase” what the region had to offer, Mrs Ray said. . . 

More irrigation work approved – Annette Scott:

The $195 million Hunter Downs Water project has received the all clear to implement its proposed irrigation scheme in South Canterbury.

Environment Minister Nick Smith has granted Hunter Downs Water requiring authority status to develop and operate the Hunter Downs irrigation scheme, effectively giving it the green light to go.

The milestone decision gave it the authority to apply to the Timaru and Waimate District Councils and Environment Canterbury for the necessary designations to implement the scheme. . . 

Fieldays showcases the tech changing farming:

A technology tsunami is set to change the way New Zealand agricultural producers do business according to ANZ’s Rural Economist Con Williams.

At Fieldays this week to talk about his latest Agri Focus research into the digital tsunami hitting the primary industries, Mr Williams said the number of apps and innovations designed to help improve agricultural businesses has exploded in recent years.

“A technology tsunami is upon the primary sectors. From meeting consumer demands around how food is produced to adapting to changing regulatory requirements, technology is poised to play a much bigger role in farm management,” Mr Williams said. . . 

Strong interest in on-farm bull sale at Rangiwahia – Jemma Brakebush:

As the bull sale season picks up around the country, the first on-farm bull sale in more than a decade was held in the small farming community of Rangiwahia, this week.

Murray and Fiona Curtis set up Riverlee Stud four years ago and held their first sale on Wednesday, to allow sheep and beef farmers to buy the bulls direct through them. , , 

What’s brown and sticky? – Thomas Lumley:

Q: What’s brown and sticky?

A: A stick!

Q: What do you call a cow on a trampoline?

A: A milk shake!

Q: Where does chocolate milk come from?

A: Brown cows!

There’s a popular news story around claiming that 7% of Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

It’s not true. . . 

Wilderness Home in Fiordland National Park For Sale:

An idyllic waterfront holiday home in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, the ultimate wilderness playground, has been placed on the market for sale.

The property is one of only 25 privately-owned sections located within the majestic Fiordland National Park.

The traditional Kiwi bach is located in an area called Jamestown, which was founded in the 1870s on the shores of Lake McKerrow near the bottom of the South Island’s West Coast. . . 


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