Rural round-up

November 9, 2019

Why are farmers treated differently?:

For all the protestations of affection and respect, dairy farmers seem to be in a class of their own when it comes to the non-negotiability of their environmental responsibilities.

That was made very clear once again last week when the Ministry for Primary Industries announced that it would not be prosecuting anyone over the deaths of potentially hundreds of long-finned eels, which were removed from their habitat and dumped by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council workers. The dead and dying eels were discovered by a Napier resident, encased in tonnes of mud that had been dumped on the banks of the Moteo River in February. A video that went viral on Facebook prompted the MPI to investigate, and the council downed tools while it undertook its own review.

Eight months later the MPI said it had insufficient evidence to charge anyone. . .

Zero Carbon Bill a mixed bag for farmers:

DairyNZ Chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle is describing the Zero Carbon Bill as a ‘mixed bag’ for farmers, while urging all political parties to work together to find consensus on a pathway forward.

“The agricultural sector has engaged positively and constructively in this process over the past 18 months to help craft a piece of legislation that is both consistent with a 1.5-degree pathway and fair for farmers” Dr Mackle said.

“We support the key architecture in the Bill. This includes the establishment of an Independent Climate Change Commission, carbon budgeting and, in particular, a split gas approach that recognises methane is different to other greenhouse gasses”.

The key point of contention remains the methane reduction targets. . .

Farm moves cut gas and nitrates – Richard Rennie:

On-Farm solutions to lower nitrates and, by default, nitrous oxide gases are also a good way to ensure farming holds up to public scrutiny, farm environment consultant Alison Dewes says.

There is a strong social-licence angle in pursuing environmental efforts on water quality and greenhouse gases.

Farmers being seen to be making efforts across both areas will only aid farming’s continuing acceptability to society, regardless of the science dynamic.

“It really has to pass the front page test now,” Dewes said.  . . 

Family tradition reflected in win – Yvonne O’Hara:

Julie Skedgwell, (16), of Tuatapere, got a hug from her mum and a dinner out after becoming reserve champion in a national dairy judging competition in Hastings recently – despite being extremely nervous.

The James Hargest College pupil is a fourth generation Jersey stud breeder, with her own stud, the Mount Brook Stud.

Sister Alannah (17) also has her own Elms Lake Stud.

Julie and farm worker Lisa Bonenkamp (22) who works for Waikaka Genetics, near Gore, represented the New Zealand Royal Agricultural Society’s southern district at the New Zealand Royal A&P Show, hosted by the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society in Hastings on October 23 to 25. . .

Alex Malcolm: The 9-year-old on a mission to eradicate catfishLeah Tebbutt:

Pesky catfish have grown to record numbers in Rotorua lakes over the past two years but one 9-year-old is making a record number of catches.

Alex Malcolm has been hunting the whiskered fish since “the end of term one” and can tell you the exact number he has caught over the short space of time.

“556,” he said with a grin wider than a Cheshire Cat.

“I’m not giving it up anytime soon because it is something I can do in my own time. I like being out on the lake.” . .

“Plants good, meat bad” is too simplistic when tackling climate change – Hannah Thomas-Peter:

Last week I wrote about the environmental impact of the global meat and dairy industries. It made quite a few people cross, particularly British farmers, who felt unfairly maligned.

National Farmers’ Union Vice President Stuart Roberts asked if we could have a conversation about it all, and so that’s what we did. He made a series of illuminating points, and our exchange left me with a lot of questions about the nature of fairness and competition under the pressure of the climate crisis.

Mr Roberts started with a broad argument: “People have drawn this conclusion that meat is bad, plants are good, and therefore we should all stop eating meat. It over simplifies a tremendously complicated issue.” . . 


Rural round-up

August 17, 2019

Gas measures bring cost cuts – Neal Wallace:

Winton dairy farmer Dean Alexander stumbled into the world of measuring carbon emissions.

Ironically, he had just spent more than $500,000 on resource consent and infrastructure to increase cow numbers when he realised the expansion meant an increase in his greenhouse gas emissions.

Alexander told the recent Dunedin meeting of the Ministry for the Environment’s Action and Agricultural Emissions public consultation he realised he needed to learn more about climate change.

From that research he concluded it is a real and looming threat, there is no silver bullet and farmers need to start reducing their emissions now.

“You need to do little things well and it is about starting now,” he says. . . 

Farmer who beat debt and depression on a mission to help :

A New Zealand farmer has told how he battled an eight-year drought and mental health issues to become one of the country’s top beef and sheep producers.

After years of spiralling debts and depression, Doug Avery turned his 2,400ha farm into one of New Zealand’s most successful farming enterprises.

It has been a long struggle, but he has since received widespread acclaim for his approach to farming, the environment and mental wellbeing. . . 

Book shares the shearers’ stories – Chris Tobin:

The success of an earlier book on drovers has prompted Timaru author Ruth Entwistle Low to write another, this time on shearers.

The Shearers: New Zealand Legends was launched in Timaru last week following on from her successful On the Hoof: The Untold Story of Drovers in New Zealand.

”It was a risk for my publishers taking on the drovers’ book,” she said.

”It’s a niche subject but the book sold well and was on the New Zealand best seller non-fiction lists for six weeks, which was pretty satisfying.”

That prompted the realisation that there was sufficient interest to warrant another similar book.

”When the dust settled on the first one, Penguin came back and said: ‘Do you want to write a book on shearers?’.” . . 

Minette Batters: Brexit has been “a face-slapping moment” for farming – Julian Baggini:

Minette Batters could not have chosen a more difficult time to become the first female president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU). “Things could go massively wrong and it could decimate the industry,” she tells me at the NFU’s London headquarters. “It could destroy lives and livelihoods and families, and that is in the back of my mind at all times.”

The threat comes from a chaotic Brexit, which she has been fighting from the moment of her election in February last year. Her warning is grave: “If the government does forget about agriculture, if they do flood us with cheap ingredients that would be illegal for us to produce here, it would make what happened to coal and steel look like a walk in the park.”

Batters says Brexit has been “a face-slapping moment” for farming. Along with the climate emergency, it has forced the industry to think hard about sustainable agriculture. . . 

Plant-based meat substitutes drive headlines, beef drives sales :

Meat and poultry consumption is expected to hit record highs this year.¹ However, the news about animal proteins’ popularity has been overshadowed by recent headlines generated by plant-based meat substitutes, with national foodservice distribution deals and IPOs garnering attention in both trade and mainstream media. It is important to look beyond the headlines to put these next-generation meat substitutes, as well as the claims made by the companies producing these products, in context with sales numbers and consumer perceptions, as well as environmental and nutritional facts. While some of the companies behind plant-based meat substitutes aim to replace animal proteins, in 2018 beef was the most valuable protein at retail.²

Sales data reveals that last year consumers purchased 14 billion pounds of beef compared with 700,000 pounds of beef substitutes in both retail and foodservice. That is, beef substitutes comprised half of a percent of the overall market in pounds.³  . . 

Cannasouth harvests 1st crop of medicinal research cannabis:

Cannasouth has harvested its first crop of medicinal research cannabis from its purpose-built growing facility in Hamilton.

Cannasouth founders Mark Lucas and Nic Foreman have been growing industrial hemp varieties outdoors since 2002. However, this harvest is significant because of the high THC (tetrahydrocannabidiol) and CBD (cannabidiol) content of the plants, which are grown indoors under tight security.

Until now, Cannasouth has been conducting its research using raw high-grade THC-rich cannabis flower from the Netherlands – imported under a special licence from the Ministry of Health. . . 


Rural round-up

July 19, 2019

Warnings China won’t need logs forever :

There are warnings China won’t need New Zealand’s logs forever.

The profitability of the government’s billion trees programme is being called into question as the price of “A” grade logs falls from about 140 US dollars a tonne to 110.

CEO of forestry investor Red Stag Group Marty Verry told Heather du Plessis Allan if we’re only selling to China, eventually it won’t be worth it to chop down the trees.

“We are not the only country with a billion trees policy, and they are all targeting China. Its unrealistic to expect the demand will be there in 25 to 30 years time.” . . 

Burnout on road to success – Anne Lee:

Southland sharemilker Michael Prankerd had days when he was paralysed by fear and found himself suffering from burnout. He shared his story at SIDE and Anne Lee talked to him about how endurance running and widening the number of metrics he measures success by has helped turn that around. Photos: Megan Graham

On the outside sharemilker Michael Prankerd has always been a high achieving gogetter, ticking off progression milestones in a successful business.

But on the inside it was a different story – three years ago there was a whole different
monologue going on in his head. Michael was slowly sliding into a state where he couldn’t see joy in life and was becoming paralysed by fear and anxiety.

He was burning out. . .

Working smarter not harder :

When Jana Hocken first moved to a New Zealand dairy farm, she couldn’t believe the inefficiencies she saw.

Jana’s a business consultant who has spent her career stream-lining processes in manufacturing, defence, healthcare, rail, IT, mining and finance.

She worked for Toyota which developed what is known internationally as ‘lean manufacturing’ – systems to cut waste, cut costs and improve efficiency. . . 

MPI gives calf days go ahead – Riley Kennedy:

School calf days can go ahead this year, but with strict guidelines, the Primary Industries Ministry has decided.

“Calf club is part and parcel of rural life and I know people are looking forward to parading their pet animals from the farm,” Mycoplasma bovis eradication director Geoff Gwyn said in a letter to teachers and students.

“But because M bovis is now in New Zealand we’re asking everyone to be extra careful when our calves get close to other calves.” . .

No new coal boilers for Fonterra:

Fonterra is shaving eleven years off its coal target, as it announces a new commitment to reduce its reliance on coal.

This commitment is the latest in a series of targets the Co-operative has set as it looks to embed sustainability at the heart of everything it does.

These targets include: . .

How no deal Brexitwill devastate farming in UK – NFU president Minette Batter

HAVING spent the last two days at the Great Yorkshire Show and speaking to farmers from across the county, it’s impossible not to be impressed by their passion for their work – in an area renowned for its rolling countryside, superb food and plain speaking.

We’ve talked about everything from climate change to food waste, but of course Brexit has been a constant theme and it is abundantly clear that Britain’s rural areas are at a crossroads.

  • We know the farming industry will be most affected by Brexit, and we now face an array of possible outcomes that could result in either a thriving food and farming sector post-Brexit, or the decimation of Britain’s ability to feed itself. .

Would you like a hat with your tea?

English-born Jo Watson was so homesick for a a tea room she opened one in the middle of her home in rural Taranaki. There you’ll find crocheted blankets for knees, knitting needles to pick up, eight types of scones and crazy hats to wear.

Before Jo Watson opened her tearoom in the small Taranaki village of Urenui, she did plenty of market research – devouring as many cream teas as she could on a trip home to the UK.

Urenui is a half-hour drive north of New Plymouth and has a mix of baches and permanent homes and a strong farming base. . .


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