Rural round-up

February 18, 2020

Working to nurture rural wellbeing – Sally Rae:

It’s been a tough time to be a farmer in the South.

But, as he helped man the Ag Proud New Zealand stand at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu last week, Mossburn dairy farmer Jason Herrick was still wearing a beaming smile.

Mr Herrick is heavily involved with the Ag Proud NZ initiative, set up last year to promote positive farming practices and raise awareness of rural people’s mental health. . . 

Solutions may have negative effect

Environmental solutions sought in New Zealand could have unintended global consequences, according to research presented at the Farmed Landscapes Research Centre workshop.

Ravensdown innovation and strategy general manager Mike Manning says there is debate over whether the environmental effects of food production should be calculated by hectare or by unit of food produced.

“If globally we want to continue to feed the world with the least impact environmentally then it is important to have the lowest footprint per unit of food and to maintain the investment in technology to reduce this footprint. To do otherwise simply has a worse global environmental outcome.”

In their research Manning, Jacqueline Rowarth and Ans Roberts looked at the production and environmental aspects of organic and conventional systems, taking into account economic aspects such as government subsidies. . . 

Big load to carry but couple pulls together – Sally Rae:

They say the couple that plays together, stays together.

In the case of Southland couple Brett and Lisa Heslip, their shared hobby is of the very noisy kind; they are enthusiasts of tractor pull, a phenomenally loud and curiously fascinating combination of sheer grunt and horsepower.

Tractor pull involves four different classes of tractor: standard, pre 85, sport and modified. Participants compete to see how far they can drag the Tractor Pull New Zealand weight transfer sled.

It was easy to find the tractor pull area at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu on Friday, as it just required following the noise. . . 

Farming fits the lifestyle – Ross Nolly:

Autumn calving is relatively new in Taranaki but one couple made the switch immediately when they bought their first farm. Ross Nolly reports

Switching to autumn calving wasn’t about making more money for Taranaki farmers Jaiden and Hannah Drought.

It was solely so they could enjoy long summer days with their children.

The couple who milk 360 cows on their 105ha effective farm at Riverlea near Kaponga say the pros of autumn calving far outweigh the downsides. . . 

Vineyard trialling native planting as herbicide alternative:

A commercial vineyard is investigating planting native plants and cover crops under vines as an alternative to spraying herbicides on the area.

Villa Maria Winery is running the trial with funding support from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

Villa Maria’s co-ordinator for the project, Raquel Kallas said conventional practice in New Zealand vineyards was to maintain a bare strip under the vines by applying herbicides, typically two or three times per season. . .

Getting smarter at growing grass – James Barbour:

Trewithen is a 288ha farm with 1,100 cows in New Plymouth, owned by the Faull Family from Waitara. In his third season, sharemilker James Barbour takes us through the farm’s approach to nutrient management.

The problem

We cover a large area, so paddock variability is an important issue for us. If we just apply a blanket rate without testing or targeting, the costs mount up very quickly because of the scale of the operation.

We’re milking all year around with various winter run-offs. We have an ambitious target of 600,000kg MS. Our focus is on growing more grass, taking care of the animals and becoming increasingly efficient. And we’ve managed to cut our stocking rate while increasing production. . . 

 


Caring more for cows than women

November 27, 2019

The government’s winter grazing taskforce has made 11 recommendations.

The report says some things should never happen, including animals giving birth on mud and avoidable deaths in adverse weather events.

Highlighted in the report is the fact that there is no agreed set of standards among farmers for good animal welfare practice, and what some consider good practice is still exposing animals to poor welfare.

But Dairy NZ strategy and investment leader Dr Jenny Jago said her organisation, Beef+Lamb NZ and Federated Farmers had talked with the taskforce about the objectives being more practical for outdoor pasture-based systems.

Some of the recommendations made under the premise of ‘always’ and ‘never’ to take place is unrealistic in our pasture-based system,” said Jago.

“The report states farmers should always provide animals with a soft dry surface to lie on, which in an outdoor system subject to weather conditions, is simply not achievable even with the very best management.  A ‘never’ standard would apply if there was a little bit of rain or a lot of rain, which makes it impractical.

“Many farmers follow good management practice which is particularly important in very wet weather or snow events where a ‘plan B’ ensures farmers keep stock off the crop for periods of inclement weather.”…

Good management should not be up for debate, the problem is marrying that with what’s practical.

Sorting that out will take time:

Southland dairy farmer Jon Pemberton co-founded the farmer advocacy group Ag-Proud this winter. The recent winter grazing campaign by environmentalists in his region and some of the stress it created among farmers sparked the group’s formation.

Mr Pemberton said there were some sensible expectations around farming practices outlined in the report, including making sure stock were slowly transitioned from grass onto crops, to ensure there were no health complications.

But he said he did have some concerns around the practicality of providing dry-bedding for livestock at night and worried about what any new regulations could mean when farmers faced adverse weather events.

“There will be a lot of guys scratching their heads thinking how are we going to work around this … so I just do hope we are allowed the time to work through this,” he said

While not questioning the need for some farmers to improve management, we can question government policy that requires higher standards for cows than women:

This refers to the closure of the Lumsden Maternity Centre which forces women to travel to Invercargill to deliver their babies.


Rural round-up

August 27, 2019

Has farming lost its ability to influence? – Lindy Nelson:

The Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s Lindy Nelson questions if real is the new fake and fake is the new real when it comes to media coverage of agriculture.

I’ve been thinking about influence lately and how as a sector we seem to be losing the ability to do this effectively with our fellow New Zealanders.

As hard as we try to tell our good stories, others speak louder about all that is wrong with how we produce grass-fed, free-to-range food.

So it was fascinating to listen to Frederic Leroy at the Red Meat Sector Conference recently present “Red meat – facing the challengers in the post-truth area. What’s real, what’s not“. . .

Ag Proud engages urban folk – Neal Wallace:

Southland farmers have formed a group to engage with their urban neighbours on what happens on farms and why.

Ag Proud member Jon Pemberton says stress among farmers from a recent winter grazing media campaign by activists was the catalyst for its formation. It launched last week by hosting a free barbecue in Invercargill to engage with city people.

It does not have an agenda other than to celebrate the rural sector and to share that pride and information about what farmers do and why.

The movement also hopes to highlight the issue of mental health among those in rural NZ. . . 

Government must provide leadership– Allan Barber:

In contrast to its positive social agenda to improve the average person’s lot by lifting the minimum wage, increasing teachers’ pay rates and attempting to increase home ownership, this government seems to have gone missing in action with respect to the farming sector. Apart from Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor’s rather lonely efforts as a cheerleader for agriculture, other government ministers only pop their heads above the parapet when there’s some good environmental news or forestry initiative to crow about, or a new, and scientifically flawed, methane reduction target to ask farmers to meet. 

Agriculture contributes about 80% of merchandise exports and employs 15% of the workforce which underlines how critical the sector is to the New Zealand economy. Yet to observe the government’s attitude, one would think agriculture’s contribution to the economy was relatively insignificant or easy to replace. When it comes to addressing climate change and formulating the Carbon Zero strategy, agricultural production, at least red meat and dairy, appears to be an inconvenience which must be discouraged so New Zealand can meet a set of unachievable targets. These targets are being negotiated against a backdrop of dire predictions about the catastrophic effect of global temperature and sea level increase which the world’s economies should have addressed 50 years ago to avoid disaster. . .

Cavalier announces strategic collaboration with NZ Merino Company –  Rebecca Howard:

Cavalier Corp announced a “collaboration” with the New Zealand Merino company as it looks to cash in on a growing consumer trend toward natural fibres and away from synthetics.

Yesterday its shares tumbled after it said it will write-down or impair the value of goodwill and various plant and equipment by as much as $9 million and was in discussions “with a respected industry participant regarding a collaboration that will build on Cavalier’s capabilities and make a transformative change into a design-led, wool focused company.”

Today it identified that company as New Zealand Merino. Chief executive Paul Alston told BusinessDesk that NZ Merino wasn’t buying a stake in Cavalier but would supply them with wool and use their expertise to help market and promote the benefits of wool. . . 

Woolless lamb ‘one of the ugliest lambs I’ve ever seen’:

A Rotorua farmer reckons he is the proud owner of the ugliest lamb he has ever seen.

Javier Browne said the “really shy” newborn was now a family pet.

One of a set of triplets – the lamb is woolless, basically bald – and a genetic rarity.

“When I first saw her I was shocked, didn’t really know, like ‘is that actually a sheep or what’,” Mr Browne said.

5 ways UK farmers are tackling climate change – David Brown:

Farmers are on the front line of climate change – vulnerable to changes in temperature and rainfall, as well as increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

They also face criticism , in particular over greenhouse gas emissions from the meat and dairy industry, with calls for a move to a more plant-based diet.

Agriculture is currently responsible for about 9% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from methane.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which represents 55,000 UK farmers, has set a target of net-zero emissions in British farming by 2040. . . .

Could the Biblical practice of gleaning cut food waste? – Rebecca Wearn:

It is a hot July day in Lancashire and a dozen people are gathering on a dusty farm track two miles outside the market town of Ormskirk. They are gleaners – volunteer harvesters picking what’s left in the ground.

It’s for a good cause: the unwanted kale from this farm will be donated to local food projects and charities. And it is good weather; the broad blue sky is softly streaked with cirrus clouds. Cabbage white butterflies flit between the chamomile blooms and bushy deep green brassica leaves.

Feedback Global is one of a handful of campaign groups organising gleans across Britain. It’s seen its efforts swell – more than doubling the days in the fields between 2014 and 2018, working with four times as many volunteers and harvesting more than a hundred tonnes of unwanted fruit and vegetables from farms – that would otherwise be left to rot. . .

 


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