Rural round-up

September 6, 2014

All change this election -Andrew Hoggard :

This election hasn’t been the best advertisement for democracy.  I cannot recall when a Minister quit Cabinet during an election campaign but the actions of bloggers, hackers, emails and a political feeding frenzy, distract us from the real issues.

I’m pretty certain my Grandfather, who spent close on four years inside POW camps, would be spitting tacks if he were still around today and saw the impact a German playboy was having on our democracy.

After the election we could see political parties giving two fingers to the traditional baubles of office in favour of what’s called the cross-benches. What that means in practice is that the Opposition cannot afford to attack you while the government has to go cap and hand on every single policy.  It makes for electoral gridlock.  A tyranny of the minority.

I’d like to give this farce a wide berth but it impacts upon what farmers do. . .

World is a step closer to low-emission sheep – Jamie Morton:

The world is a step closer to a low-emission sheep, thanks to leading work by Kiwi and US researchers.

Methane belched from sheep and other ruminants, such as cows, accounts for around 28 per cent of global methane emissions from human-related activities.

The methane is produced in the rumen by microbes called methanogens and the work targeting these organisms is aimed at reducing methane emissions from ruminants.

New Zealand has the largest methane emission rate — six times the global average — and this primarily comes from enteric fermentation in ruminant livestock, with sheep the greatest single source. . . .

Move to save yarn business – Alan Williams:

Primary Wool Co-operative (PWC) group has confirmed its bid to save the last wool-spinning business in the southern hemisphere, Christchurch Yarns (NZ).

It has given itself less than a month to raise $3 million in equity to fund the purchase of the operating assets of Christchurch Yarns from the company’s receiver.

Directors and main shareholders Bay and Hamish de Lautour are putting in $150,000 between them to a new company, NZ Yarn, as a show of confidence to other potential investors. . . .

Taratahi Signs MOU with China:

On September 4 Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTD).

CRTDC sits under the Ministry of Science and Technology. They are committed to promoting technological progress for all aspects of rural development in China by maintaining close ties with relevant rural science and technology management authorities, research institutes and universities in China as well as other international organisations.

The MOU focuses on improving the cooperation between New Zealand and China in terms of agricultural policy research, technology training and livestock breeding and encourages cooperation and communication of the governments, universities and corporations of both countries, to improve global agricultural sustainable development. . .

 

Butter prices soar in the US:

Butter futures reached an all-time high in Chicago as Americans’ rising appetite for the fatty dairy spread and rising exports erode US inventories.

Domestic consumption is projected to rise 0.8 per cent to 788,000 metric tons in 2014, according to the US Department of Agriculture. That would be the second-highest ever in data going back to 1965. Shipments in the first six months of the year were up 42 per cent from 2013.

Demand is rising as milk production trailed analyst expectations, while fat content, used to make butter, is also dropping, according to Eric Meyer, the president of Chicago-based HighGround Dairy. . .

Nominations Have Closed for the 2014 Fonterra Elections:

Nominations for the 2014 Fonterra Elections closed at 12 noon today.

The candidates for the Fonterra Board of Directors’ Election will be announced on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 following the completion of the Candidate Assessment Panel (CAP) process.

The Returning Officer, Warwick Lampp, confirmed there will be no election for the Directors’ Remuneration Committee, as Shareholders Murray Holdaway and Philip Wilson have been elected unopposed.

Nominations were also called for candidates for the Shareholders’ Council in 22 wards. An election is required in four wards, as follows: . . .

 

Give other options a ‘WIRL’ – Wools of New Zealand:

Wool research behind the farm gate was important but needed to be attached to work already being undertaken in the wool industry, says Wools of New Zealand in its wool levy position paper released today.

The grower owned wool marketing and sales company says while it is important for all growers to have their say, they need to be “armed with the facts relating to costs, benefits and possible alternatives before they vote.”

While WNZ agrees there is a need for additional training and tech transfer both inside the farm gate and beyond, it believes these functions can be provided by existing agencies such as Tectra and AgITO while there were also other options to creating yet another structure in an already cluttered industry. . .

 


Alistair Polson dies aged 58

June 6, 2014

Agriculture envoy and former Federated Farmers president Alistair Polson has died.

“Alistair was a great farmer and a truly great New Zealander who has been taken from us way too soon,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Bo and their family. 

“Bo and Alistair formed the most amazing and loving partnership and while Alistair was called overseas as Special Agricultural Trade Envoy, she kept the farm and family running.

“Where do you start with someone who gave so unstintingly of himself?  It is telling that despite Bo and Alistair’s home being inundated by the 2004 floods they put community before self.

“Alistair has been an office holder at most levels of Federated Farmers of New Zealand, serving as Wanganui provincial president and later National President between 1999 and 2002.

“Alistair has also served as a director of both the Waitotara Meat Company, PPCS (now Silver Fern Farms) and the Agriculture Industry Training Organisation. He has also served on the New Zealand Veterinary Council and the then National Animal Welfare Advisory Board.

“With a strong environmental ethos Alistair chaired the NZ Landcare Trust for seven years and in 2012, he became chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust. 

“Chairing the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust was something I know Alistair was deeply proud of.  It assured him the next generation of farmers cared for the land every bit as much as he did.

“Alistair himself won the Grasslands Memorial Trust Award for sustained improvement of pastures and sheep breeds in Wanganui hill country.  He was a past Nuffield Scholar and would later chair the New Zealand Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust too.

“In 2004 he was appointed New Zealand Special Agricultural Trade Envoy by the Hon Phil Goff and continued in that role to 2013 under the Hon Tim Groser.

“In Argentina, for the World Farmers Organisation earlier this year, South American delegates mentioned Alistair’s name with reverence.  He was a noble man of true mana who gave his all for New Zealand.

“Alistair was a giant and his loss touches us all greatly,” Mr Wills concluded.

The Farm Environment Trust also pays tribute:

The New Zealand Farm Environment Trust has lost a truly inspirational leader.

Alistair Polson died on Thursday, June 5, following a short illness.

The well-known Wanganui farmer was a highly respected member of the farming community. He had extensive experience in business management and farming politics, serving as national president of Federated Farmers from 1999 to 2002. In 2004 he was appointed Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand, and in 2012 he was elected chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFE).

NZFE acting chairman Simon Saunders says Mr Polson will be greatly missed by the Trust and by the wider farming community and he extends his sincere sympathy to Bo Polson and their children, Nick, Guy and Sarah.

“They have shared Alistair with so many and the loss of such a wonderful husband and father will be devastating, their family plans and dreams for the future have been so sadly taken from them.”

“Alistair made a massive contribution to New Zealand agriculture and he was a passionate and inspirational advocate for New Zealand farming. The Trust and New Zealand agriculture in general have lost a valued leader and a great friend.”

Mr Polson took over the chairmanship of NZFE in October 2012.

Prior to joining the Trust he was a member of the judging panel for the National Winner award in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards. He was a key supporter of the concept that good environmental practice and profitable farming go hand in hand.

“Alistair jumped straight into the role of chairman and he led the organisation with considerable professionalism and a huge amount of enthusiasm,” Mr Saunders says.

“He quickly grasped what the Trust was all about and his proven leadership ability was a great asset for the Trust and the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Mr Saunders says Mr Polson had a huge amount of passion for agriculture and a warm and approachable personality.

“Alistair loved nothing more than to be able to discuss and promote all the great attributes of our agricultural industry”

Mr Polson’s achievements in agriculture were extensive. He was a former director or committee member of a number of rural-based organisations, including AgITO, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Veterinary Council of New Zealand and NZ Landcare Trust.

An agricultural science graduate from Massey University and a Nuffield Scholar, he also held company directorships with two major meat companies.

Mr Polson farmed in the Mangamahu Valley, near Wanganui.

“The wheel has turned completely since the days when the hero in the valley was the farmer who chopped down as much bush and scrub as possible. Now the heroes are the farmers who are retiring native bush, fencing waterways and planting trees for shade, shelter and erosion control.” – Alistair Polson.

Farming and New Zealand are the richer from his contributions and the poorer for his too-early death.


Rural round-up

August 29, 2013

In quite pursuit of the perfect lamb – Peter Watson:

Drive past Brent and Bernadette Hodgkinson’s farm in the Tadmor Valley and you would barely give it a second glance.

There is no flash house and garden and the property is far from immaculate.

But behind the modest appearance is a very smart, profitable business.

Not only were the Hodgkinsons finalists in the recent national sheep supplier of the year awards, they grow the meatiest lambs supplied to our largest co-operative, Alliance, by any farmer in the country. And they have been producing high-quality, high-yielding lambs year after year from a property where soil fertility is naturally poor and the climate can range from bitterly cold in winter to drought in summer. . .

Unsung hero recognised – Sally Rae:

Kevin Smith loves farming and he enjoys passing on his knowledge and skills to the younger generation.

Mr Smith, from Middlemarch, was recently named the AgITO Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year at the Beef and Lamb New Zealand sheep industry awards, beating fellow finalists Telford (a division of Lincoln University) and Waipaoa Station Farm Cadet Training Trust.

No-one was more delighted than the woman who nominated him, AgITO’s Rebecca Williamson-Kavanaugh, who was ”extremely excited” and very proud. . .

Employing migrant workers in the primary sector

With the rapid expansion of the primary sector, particularly in dairy farming, an international farm advisor specialising in labour management from the University of California, Professor Gregorio Billikopf, is visiting New Zealand to discuss labour changes and the increasing levels of migrant workers being employed.

In New Zealand for two weeks, Professor Gregorio Billikopf will have a number of speaking engagements, including addressing delegates at the Australasia Pacific Extension Network International Conference being held at Lincoln University from 26 to 28 August 2013, and a speaking engagement in Ashburton on Thursday 29 August. 

“Professor Gregorio Billikopf is an internationally recognised expert when it comes to migrant workers in the primary sector,” says Lincoln University’s Associate Professor in Employment Relations, Dr Rupert Tipples. . .

No more old tyres for silage stacks:

A THROW away remark – “there has to be a better way” – by Toni Johnson while helping her father place tyres on a silage stack cover, led to one of the best innovations at National Fieldays.

Aqua Anchors are either 14m or 16m long and 75mm or 65mm sections of lie-flat hoses hermetically sealed at both ends and filled with water. 

They lie over and around the edges of silage stacks to hold the cover in place and keep the crop from the elements. They replace traditional tyres. A patent is pending. . .

Nothing humble about the bumble:

Avocado growers are keen to hear the latest research findings on the use of bumblebees as pollinators, says AVOCO technical manager Colin Partridge, so they can plan to put the findings into practice and improve the consistency of harvests.

The topic will be addressed at the Australia-New Zealand avocado conference in Tauranga next month, and AVOCO, as principal sponsor of the conference and the largest grower group, appreciates the significance of the research.

“If avocado growers could soon be able to call in special reinforcements to pollinate their trees – the not-so-humble bumblebee – it will do a lot to stabilise the industry and could even help overcome the persistent boom/bust nature of the harvests,” says Mr Partridge. . .

Wairarapa Water Use Project Appoints Project Director:

The Wairarapa Water Use Project has appointed Michael Bassett-Foss to lead future investigations into what could be one of the largest economic and social development projects in the greater Wellington region.

Still in its early stage, the project aims to develop a multi-purpose water scheme to collect and store water then distribute it in the dry season for a variety of economic and community uses in an environmentally sustainable way.

Previously Mr Bassett-Foss has had regional development, investment and strategic roles in the private and public sectors in New Zealand, South America, Eastern Europe and South East Asia. . .


Rural round-up

July 11, 2012

Milk protein product to fight bad breath in China – Andrea Fox:

Hamilton biotechnology company Quantec has signed a deal that could open up a $2 million-a-year oral and throat-care market in China for its patented milk protein ingredient. 

    Quantec managing director Rod Claycomb  said Auckland-based NZ New Paradise had bought exclusive rights to the milk protein ingredient, patented as IDP, for use in oral-care and throat-care confectionery products made in New Zealand and exported to China. 

    NZ New Paradise’s first IDP-based product would be a mint to fight bad breath, launched under its Purel brand, he said. . .

Pipfruit industry has high hopes for moth-killing wasp – Peter Watson:

Pipfruit NZ is celebrating getting the go-ahead to release a small parasitoid wasp that it is confident will be effective in controlling codling moth, one of the most serious apple pests and a major threat to export markets. 

    The Environmental Protection Authority late last month approved Pipfruit NZ’s application to use the wasp, mastrus ridens, as a biological control for codling moth. 

    Pipfruit NZ chairman Ian Palmer said it was an exciting development. “Anything where we can have a natural and environmentally sound way of managing our pests has got to be good.” . . .

On a dairyfarm milk income minuse costs =$whatever is unacceptable – Pasture to Profit:

Too few dairy farmers budget and when the milk price is volatile (as it is now) it’s really important. If you don’t you might lose more than just your shirt. You can not & must not be financially dependent on the milk price.

Too many simply accept Milk Income Minus Costs = $ Whatever. Why? Why would you accept $Whatever? Dairy farmers need to concentrate on those factors that you do have control over within your farm gate. I would hope that in control pasture based dairy farmers aren’t too concerned about the milk price. After all you as an individual have little or no influence or control over milk price. What you do control is on farm spending & the efficiency of resource management & decisions related to spending. . .

Farming programme ‘brilliant’ – Sally Rae:

Owaka herd manager Shane Bichan is a firm believer in the    need to keep challenging yourself.    

Mr Bichan (28) started training with Agriculture ITO after returning to dairy farming.   

His eyes have since been opened to the opportunities in the agriculture industry after attending AgITO’s South Island Farming to Succeed programme sponsored by FIL New Zealand. . .

Yield grading system being used for venison – Sally Rae:

Meat-processing company Alliance Group is extending its    yield-grading system to include venison.   

The company has been involved with a deer progeny test, an      initiative for the deer industry, which was launched last      year and is based at Invermay in Mosgiel, and Whiterock  Station in the Rangitata Gorge. . .

Venison avoids buffeting – Tim Cronwshaw:

Deer farmers, who are savouring stable venison prices as other farming commodities drop, are looking for the economies of northern Europe to remain strong at the height of the export season. 

    Now is the time of year exporters are finalising their chilled contracts for the European game season, ranging from this month to Christmas depending on when venison is traditionally consumed in each country . 

    Last year, venison made high prices but Deer Industry New Zealand (Dinz) is unsure if the same level will be reached for the 2012-13 season. . .

More profit less gas:

The recent Government announcement of a deferment for agriculture entering the ETS will not only ease farming pocketbooks, but will also provide more time for research into ways to reduce just how much methane and nitrous oxide our ruminant export earners produce individually.

And while some publicly funded research has been looking at methods to change how the rumen works in the animal, some private research has focused on the pasture that goes in, and not just the gases coming out.

Indigo Ltd, who has produced Agrizest for orchardists since 2005, has turned its focus to pasture, and recently launched Biozest, a patented New Zealand spray for pasture which is already certified as an organic agricultural compound. . .


Rural round-up

July 4, 2012

Lifting Maori Business – Sheryl Brown:

Life works in mysterious ways according to Roku Mihinui, chair of Kapenga M Trust, the winner of the BNZ Maori Excellence in Farming Award for Dairy, 2012.

After accepting the Ahuwhenua Trophy on behalf of farm staff and the Trust’s 915 shareholders, Mihinui confessed the 998 cow dairy operation found themselves short of milk for cups of tea at their field day during the competition.

“My daughter was helping with the catering and she asked me where the milk was for cups of tea – we were right beside the milking shed and we had no bloody milk!” The dairy unit is hardly short of milk either – producing in excess of 370,000kg milksolids (MS) this season. Despite the milk mishap and a wet day to showcase the farm, the judges were impressed by the presentation of the property. The Trust beat other finalists Tauhara Moana Trust and Waewaetutuki 10, Wharepi Whanau Trust to take the coveted trophy. . .

Outram breeders win trophy for best carcus – Sally Rae:

Outram Limousin breeders Rob and Jean Johnstone have been awarded the Alan Dodd Trophy for the champion carcass in the annual Otago-Southland beef carcass competition.   

The competition, which attracted 32 entries, was held at the  Alliance Group’s Mataura plant with hoof judging by Mark Cuttance, from PGG Wrightson, and hook judging by Mervyn  Wilson, of the Alliance Group. . .

Animal Welfare Committee annual report:

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) issued its 2011 Annual Report today.

The development and review of codes of welfare was the main focus of NAWAC’s work in 2011. The Transport within New Zealand Code was issued during the year and the Committee finished deliberations on a review of the Meat Chickens Code and a new Goats Code.

The Transport Code covers all animals transported by land, sea or air within New Zealand. It provides clarity about who is responsible for the welfare of animals at all stages of transportation and gives direction about how this must be achieved.

Committee chairman, John Hellström, said the Code has been rapidly adopted by industry since its launch in September.

“It is gratifying to see this code, like the earlier dairy, sheep and beef and pig codes being widely adopted within industry guidelines.” . . .

The report is here.

Blackenbrook First South Island Winery to be Vegetarian Approved:

 Family owned and operated Blackenbrook Vineyard in Tasman, near Nelson is proud to be the first Vegetarian wine producer in the South Island approved by the New Zealand Vegetarian Society.

Blackenbrook’s white and Rosé wines will carry the Vegetarian Society Approved Trademark (see attached photo) which is run under strict licensing criteria from the UK Vegetarian Society. 

The first wines to be labelled with the distinctive logo will be bottled in early August and include Blackenbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Riesling 2012, Pinot Gris 2012 and Rosé 2012.  Next year Blackenbrook Gewürztraminer, Muscat and Chardonnay will be added to this list. . .

Owaka herd manager is Farming to Succeed:

Owaka herd manager, Shane Bichan, says his eyes have been opened to opportunities in the agriculture industry after attending AgITO’s South Island Farming to Succeed programme sponsored by FIL New Zealand.

“It was brilliant, it was an eye opener, I came home on such a buzz. I came away with a new mentor – course facilitator Grant Taylor is an amazing man.

“He talked about turning your blinkers off and seeing what else is out there – I would’ve been happy to listen to him each day even without the farms we visited. . .

Lucky Young Farmer member awarded trip of a lifetime:

AgriVenture New Zealand has teamed up with New Zealand Young Farmers this year to award an AgriVenture scholarship to one lucky NZYF member.

The scholarship is valued at $7000 and includes a fully paid six to twelve month AgriVenture programme to the recipient’s choice of destination country.

AgriVenture gives young people aged between 18 and 30 the opportunity to travel and work on a farm, in horticulture or home management in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Europe and Japan. . .


Where are the jobs?

February 29, 2012

The very restrained and moderate welfare reforms announced by the government have resulted in the obvious question: where are the jobs for the beneficiaries who could work and will now be expected to seek work?

One answer lies in occupations where there is a high proportion of immigrants, among which is dairying.

It is work which requires stamina and the ability to work long hours but the tasks required of basic dairy workers aren’t particularly difficult to master.

Most position offer on-farm accommodation. Workers also have the opportunity to study through AgITO, gain qualifications and promotion.

Yet people who advertise for dairy workers often end up with immigrants because they can’t find New Zealanders willing to do the job.

Last year our dairy farms had a distinctly international look with staff from Belgium, England, the USA, Ireland, Sweden and Nigeria.

More than 1,000 people from the Philipines  are working, or will be next season, on dairy farms in Southland.

It might not be easy for solo-parents to find child-care to enable them to work the hours required in dairying and some older people might not cope with the physical demands of the job.

But there are jobs there for younger people who aren’t primary caregivers with the will to work.


Rural round-up

February 20, 2012

Council and Transpower overstep mark with buffer zone proposal:

Federated Farmers is opposing the Western Bay of Plenty District Council’s moves to create buffer zones of up to 32 metres either side of electricity transmission lines.

“Federated Farmers strongly opposes the creation of these Electricity Transmission Buffer Zones, because they are solely designed to protect transmission line companies’ interests and circumnavigate individual easement agreements with landowners,” Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty provincial president John Scrimgeour says.

“Transpower says it wants these buffer zones to ensure safety and supply continuity. However, Federated Farmers feels the width of the zones is excessive, as is the level of proposed regulation around them.

“We believe the resulting raft of new rules for earthworks, buildings and subdivision within those zones would hamper landowners’ ability to farm, without meeting Transpower’s original goals. . .

Dairy farmers are better-off  with  industry competition:

All New Zealand dairy farmers are better off because Synlait Milk and other independent dairy companies exist, says Synlait Milk Chief Executive John Penno.

“While independent dairy companies make up a very small portion of the industry, the competitive pressure that Synlait Milk and others bring has brought about faster change within Fonterra than would have occurred had competition not emerged,” Penno said.

Competition between New Zealand dairy companies is not about the international markets. It is all about competition for farmer’s milk. Because of competition, Fonterra pays farmers more for their milk, which forces independent dairy companies to develop their businesses faster to keep one step ahead, says Penno. . .

Visit to top kiwi farm impresses Swedish delegation:

Members of a Swedish delegation will go home with positive views of New Zealand agriculture after visiting an award-winning farm in the Waikato

On February 9, delegates from the Swedish Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Agriculture were hosted by the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust on Gray and Marilyn Baldwin’s organic dairy farm near Putaruru.

The Baldwins and their sharemilkers, Hamish and Jane Putt, were Supreme winners of the 2009 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards. . .

Dairy debate is getting really interesting – Allan Barber:

My piece last week supporting the OIO decision on the Crafar farms deal provoked a lot of comment, most of it negative, but also, interestingly, it sparked a sometimes acrimonious debate between several respondents about the Israeli – Palestinian situation. Now that was something I didn’t expect, not considering myself to be remotely competent to cover that sort of global issue.

Since my piece appeared I have picked up some really interesting columns by Fran O’Sullivan in the NZ Herald and Rod Oram in the Sunday Star Times which took diametrically opposing views on the same topic, O’Sullivan in support and Oram totally against. . .

Hawke’s Bay shearers head to world champs:

Two Hawke’s Bay shearers will represent New Zealand at the world shearing championships, to be held during the Golden Shears in Masterton, later this month.

It is an upset for David Fagan who was the favourite heading into the final shear-off, the Southern Shears, in Gore at the weekend. . .

RD1 gets behind Dairy Women’s Network:

In an exclusive agreement, RD1 has committed to sponsoring the Dairy Women’s Network regional groups. The partnership is aimed at growing the reach and effectiveness of these groups over a three year period, helping to increase the success of women in dairying.

RD1 CEO Sarah Kennedy, now a leading woman in the dairy industry, sees some direct correlations between the two organisations.

“RD1 and the Dairy Women’s Network aspire to add value to dairy businesses. We also both have nationwide networks with a strong regional focus” says Kennedy. “The Dairy Women’s Network regional groups are not only the heart of that organisation, they are the grassroots of our industry, much like the RD1 store network. . .

Dairy Women’s Network partners with training leader AgITO:

Dairy Women’s Network has announced its partnership with one of New Zealand’s largest and most respected industry training organisations, AgITO. The partnership was formed in an effort to open up further education possibilities for New Zealand dairying women.

“We are very excited about this partnership,” said Kevin Bryant, Chief Executive for AgITO. “It gives us the opportunity to further support and help upskill women who are such an important group in making the daily business management decisions within the dairy industry.”

According to Mr Bryant, AgITO has a number of qualification options suitable for dairy women who are looking to further develop their careers or gain skills and knowledge in specific key areas from improving milk quality to business management and planning. . .


Rural round-up

July 17, 2011

Farming couple move south to live dream – Collette Devlin:

Hannes and Lyzanne Du Plessis travelled to New Zealand from South Africa eight years ago with their child, a suitcase and only $20 in a bank account.

Six weeks ago, they moved to Southland with their three children to contract milk on a dairy syndicate managed by MyFarm at Edendale.

“We had no idea our lives would go in this direction,” Mrs Du Plessis said. “We want our story to inspire others. You do not need a lot of money or experience, because the opportunities to live your dream are all here within the New Zealand dairy industry.” . . .

Self-shedding dorper sheep a growing breed – Collette Devlin:

The dorper sheep, a common sight in most parts of the country, was introduced to New Zealand by a Southland breeder, but it remains a rare breed in the region.

There are 45 registered breeders in New Zealand but only four of these are registered in Southland, the New Zealand Sheep Breeders Association reports. Two are in Gore, one in Balclutha and one in South Otago . . .

Problems facing new grain and seed head – Gerald Piddock:

Ian Mackenzie has taken up the chair of Federated Farmers Grain and Seed at a tumultuous time.

He comes into the role after a tough few years for grain farmers with a grain surplus keeping returns low for many of them . . .

June farm sales up year on year but median price per hectare at 7 year low says REINZ – Gareth Vaughan:

A total of 111 farms changed hands last month, 30 more than in June
last year, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand
(REINZ), with nearly half the sales coming in Canterbury, Otago and
Southland. However, REINZ says the median price per hectare is now at
its lowest level since July 2004.

The June sales included 13 dairy farms and 59 grazing properties and
compares with the 81 farms that changed hands in June 2010, 80 in June
2009, 216 in June 2008, 212 in June 2007 and 158 in June 2006. . .

Radicalsim from the far right – Tony Chaston:

Don Nicolsons foray into politics from a Federated Farmers background
is not new, as many well known politicans have started their political
career via this way.

Just how successful he will be only time will tell, but it is
interesting to note that Bruce Wills the new president has already
stated that his style will be less divisive. Is the political following
by farmers changing, and are they moving further to the right and away
from ther traditional National Party roots? . .

Nestle takes slice of Vital Foods:

A subsidiary of global food giant Nestle says it is taking a minority stake in Vital Foods, a New Zealand company that specialises in developing kiwifruit-based “functional foods” solutions for gastrointestinal conditions.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but Nestle Health Science said in a statement that it would take a seat on the board of Vital Foods “to help steer future product development as well as commercial strategy”. . .

It’s time for some friendly persuasion – Jon Morgan:

Bruce Wills has the creased features of an outdoorsman and the dirty fingernails of a farmer who just a few hours before was dagging lambs in the Hawke’s Bay hills. But seated in the Wellington head office of Federated Farmers he looks at home in a suit and tie.

He is a model of the modern farmer – university educated, highly numerate, literate, articulate and computerate, and an agricultural jack-of-all-trades, handy with hammer, fencing pliers, shearer’s handpiece, drenching gun and team of dogs.

Now he wants to add political lobbying to his skillset – the tramping of corridors, handshaking, backslapping, joshing, hard talk, soft persuasion and smiling through clenched teeth . . .

I’ve got farming in my blood –  Eleanor Ainge Roy:

Bruce Wills, the new head of Federated Farmers, talks about a childhood spent taming the wilderness, and the price he paid for returning to the family land.

When the Wills family moved onto Trellinoe Farm in the late 1950s, 45km north of Napier, the only accommodation was a tiny rabbiter’s cottage, stuck on the knob of a hill. There were no gardens, no fences, and no grass. Just acres and acres of blackberry scrub, wild pigs and goats.

After more than 50 years of hard yakka turning the land into an 1100ha sheep and cattle station, Bruce Wills says the family is still in the “breaking in” phase.

Wills, 50, is the new president of Federated Farmers, and spent his first week in the job travelling between Rotorua, Wellington, Trellinoe and Hamilton. It was a hectic mix of attending meetings, talking to the media – and sheep crutching on his farm.

Prime lambs return record sale prices – Sally Rae:

Record prices for prime lambs at southern stock sales are      giving farmers something to smile about after last year’s      shocking season when up to a million lambs died in freezing      conditions.   

A pen of about 20 Dorset Down ram lambs sold for $223.50 each      at a recent Charlton stock sale in Gore. The price was      believed to be a record for the saleyards, PGG Wrightson Gore      livestock manager Mark Cuttance said .  . .

Growth rates beefed up in simple herd home – Sally Rae:

When Mike Elliot could not get the growth rates he    desired through winter to finish beef cattle – despite feeding    as much as they wanted to eat – he looked for an alternative.   

With an 88ha farm in South Otago, although about 11ha of that  was in trees, it was a fairly small property and he needed to   farm intensively.

But he had a “phobia” about making mud and there were also      the increasing costs of planting crops and the amount of time      and effort to feed cattle on those crops . . .   

Support, direction required for rural sector – Dr Marion Johnson:

Sometimes I completely fail to understand New Zealand. As a     nation we trade on a clean green image yet encourage the  desecration of our resources at every turn.   

 We espouse a No 8 wire mentality; yet I wonder how many   citizens even know what No 8 wire is? We no longer support  innovation, unless it is within a prescribed field and then I      would debate the legitimacy of calling such developments innovation . . .   

Bee roads and wildflowers can help save bees in the UK – pasture farmers  are key players  – Pasture to Profit:

Do you know what a “Bee Road” is?
It’s a wild flower planting on farms to attract & protect Bees. I’ve started my own “Bee Road” sowing a wild flower strip of about 40metres x 10m along a roadside on a pasture based dairy farm.  https://www.cotswoldseeds.com/seedmix/wild-flowers-1 

It was sown this spring & is now in glorious techno colour. The bees &
insects love it but there have been some problems like the dry weather &
weed infestation. I am justly proud of my efforts but there are frustrations .  . .

Farmsafe and AgITO launch Quad Bike Farm Licence:

Farmsafe, in association with Agriculture ITO (AgITO), has launched the Quad Bike Farm
Licence.

“On average 35 farmers come off their quad bikes every day,” Grant Hadfield, FarmSafe national manager, says.

“FarmSafe and AgITO are committed to reducing accidents and changing attitudes through training on safe quad bike riding practices.”

The Quad Bike Farm Licence is gained through a practical on job training package that covers safe quad bike riding practices as well as teaching participants to effectively identify, minimise and isolate potential bike riding hazards and make safe riding decisions. . .


Where to with wool?

September 2, 2009

Merino has got it right.

By itself or with possum, now renamed paihamu, it is a premium product.

Crossbred wool can’t match that and has been losing ground to synthetics for years.

Too much of the world prefers tiles to carpet. Too many of the parts which do like their floors covered have found cheaper and/or harder wearing alternatives to wool.

Alternative uses have been tried. The stab proof, fire proof vest and insulation both have promise but have yet to make enough traction to improve the value of crossbred wool.

The fibre pushes the right buttons for the environmentally concerned times: it’s a natural product and it’s renewable.

But in spite of that prices are so low the return barely covers the costs of shearing.

Frustration over that is no doubt part of the reason behind the vote against paying levies on wool to Meat and Wool New Zealand.

The organisation may well become Meat New Zealand now it’s lost farmers’ funding for its wool related activities but the loss of half its name is the least of its worries.

Loss of funding for wool research means the budget for meat research will have to go further. Some studies, in genetics for instance, would have been funded from both the meat and wool levies.

Another valuable resource paid for by the wool levy was shearer training. It might be possible for some of the people who did that to set up a separate business and continue the service, but it will be more difficult than it was under M&W’s umbrella with AgITO funding.

Sheep returns made a much-needed recovery last season when the price paid by meat companies went up. A shortage of stock here and overseas is expected to keep this season’s price at a reasonable level but the industry can’t afford to stand still.

Research and education in both meat and wool are still needed. Meat and Wool still has a mandate, and funding, to undertake industry-good activities for meat, but who’s going to do the work for wool?


Farmers & CTU debate pay

September 3, 2008

Farmers and growers need long term strategies  for developing their own workforces to counter labour shortages, Councils of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly says.

Her comments follow reports that short-staffed dairy farmers were being exploited by southern farm workers demanding “ridiculous” wages.

Peter Macfarlane, director of dairy farm workers recruitment company Greener Horizons Workforce, said some southern farm workers with little experience were demanding up to $50,000 a year plus free accommodation from farmers struggling to attract staff.

This was about $15,000 a year more than would normally be paid, Mr Macfarlane told the Southland Times.

The farm workers, who industry sources said worked between 50 and 60 hours a week on average over a year, were attempting to cash in on the booming dairy industry and record dairy payouts.

I’m not sure that 50 and 60 hours average over a year is correct. Dairy staff work longer hours during the milking season but have much shorter days over winter and farms use relief milkers to take the pressure off fulltime workers.

“There are people out there exploiting the situation because of the staff shortage,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“They are asking to get paid way more than their skills and ability deserve.”

But Ms Kelly said the admission by Southland dairy farmers that they were paying New Zealanders $35,000 per year for 50 to 60 hour weeks was shameful, particularly at a time when they were pressuring the Government to relax immigration requirements.

I’ve already disputed the hours and she’s not taking into account the value of the accommodation which comes on top of wages and is worth at least another $10,000 a year.

Yesterday wine growers were also complaining about the cost of labour while harvesting record crops, she said.

“The dairy farmers are openly admitting that New Zealand workers are available but that they turn them away because they are expecting $50,000 per year – hardly great riches for the long hours and hard work expected of them.

“We are also concerned to hear that it is apparently easy for farmers to replace these workers by employing foreign workers simply to reduce wages.

“Our immigration policies exist to fill genuine skills shortages, not to replace New Zealanders seeking work and not to cut wages and conditions.”

There is a genuine skills shortage on dairy farms – unemployment is very low and it’s extremely difficult to find New Zealanders with the desire and ability to milk cows.

Ms Kelly said New Zealanders were paying huge prices for dairy products and farmers were making more money than ever.

“It is an irony that farmers are happy to accept market demand as an excuse for higher and higher costs to consumers but don’t accept it when it has the same impact on labour costs.”

Ms Kelly said it was time some of this money was committed to building a sustainable industry, including decent wages, training, prospects and conditions of work.

The market has pushed up the cost of all farm inputs including labour. We don’t object to paying people a fair wage. The objection is to paying people with no skills or experience far more then they’re worth – where else could someone without qualifications or experience start on $35,000 plus a house? We’re also mindful that the costs won’t drop when returns inevitably do.

There is good training for farm workers from AG ITO, to universities.  Those with ability and application have good prospects and, while their will always be bad exceptions, there isn’t generally a problem with conditions.

The problem is supply and expectations – too few people willing and able to do the job for a fair wage.


Immigration rules too strict for dairy workers

August 26, 2008

A change in the way Immigration New Zealand is interpreting policy  is hampering would-be employers trying to recruit overseas staff for dairy farms.

Immigration Placement Services manager Bruce Porteous, who is based in Manila, said as many as 500 workers have had their visa applications declined because they were not skilled enough.

Assistant herd manager and herd manager are on the INZ Immediate SKills Shortage list but the department has determined that an assistant herd manager needs the equivalent of a National Certificate in Agriculture Level 2, or two years’ work experience or both.

Five Rivers lower order sharemilker Scott Christensen said the rules were too strict. He had hoped to employ another Filipino as a dairy assistant this season but the person had had his visa application declined.

Mr Christensen said the man, who was a qualified veterinarian and worked in a zoo, was turned down by Immigration NZ because he did not have any practical dairy farm experience.

“We can take someone off the streets here and teach them to milk cows in five minutes,” he said. “If this man had milked 10 cows for the past two years then that’s all that would have been required.”

We’ve been having problems with INZ too because our herd manager wants to apply for residency but the rules require him to have a Bachelors degree or five years relevant work experience. He’s been working for us for 2 1/2 years and he’s worked his way up to herd manager, while completing AG ITO levels 2, 3 and 4. He’s had enough relevant experience and has the relevant qualifications for us but that’s not good enough for INZ.

 I sought advice from Federated Farmers which quite rightly works at the policy level rather than with individual cases. However, the bloke I spoke to said he’d had so many approaches from farmers struggling with INZ he could be working on the issue fulltime.

I don’t know who makes the decisions on what’s required but they obviously don’t listen to employers who are usually far more concerned about attitude than relevant experience.

People with good work ethics can easily be trained to milk cows and overseas experience is often so far removed from what happens here it can be a hindrance rather than a help.

I understand the need to ensure that immigrants aren’t taking jobs which could be done by New Zealanders. But there is a desperate shortage of good workers at all levels in the dairy industry and it’s being aggravated because INZ requirements are far stricter than those of the employers.


%d bloggers like this: