Rural round-up

April 24, 2019

Otago’s long rabbit war wages on – Jono Edwards:

They are fluffy, cute, and devastating to agriculture. Jono Edwards examines Otago’s rabbit problem and asks if there is any solution.

Otago’s problems with the long-eared grey/brown menace – the rabbit – began as early as the 1830s, when colonists brought them to New Zealand shores for food and sport.

They quickly realised their mistake as the pests spread and destroyed crops nationwide.

In the 1860s they became established between Invercargill and Riverton, and were devastating crops all over the south by the early 1880s. . .

Horticulture welcomes call for protection of versatile land:

An environmental report released last week further substantiates Horticulture New Zealand’s concerns about ongoing urban and lifestyle block expansion into prime growing land, and shows that urgent action is required to slow this down.

The Environment Aotearoa 2019 report, released by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ, shows that the growth of urban centres threatens the limited versatile land surrounding regional centres such as Auckland, Waikato, and Canterbury. . .

Handling psychological pressure key – Sally Rae:

Lance Burdett describes his job as helping people as much as he can.

A safety, wellness and resilience expert, Mr Burdett has worked with elite international tactical units across police, the military, emergency services, prisons and the FBI.

Now he focuses his time on helping people understand the pressures on their brains and how to handle them.

Rural Support Trusts are bringing Mr Burdett to the South, where he will be speaking in Oamaru on May 13, Balclutha on May 14, Gore on May 15 and 16, and Winton on May 16 . . 

Fonterra mulling Tip Top offers :

Fonterra has moved to the next stage of its plan to sell-off its Tip Top ice cream business.

A spokesperson for the co-operative said it received a number of offers from buyers last month and is now considering them.

Follow-up offers are due on 29 April. . .

N surplus shows performance:

Nitrogen leaching varies significantly depending on soil type and climate, which means it’s not a straightforward performance indicator. An alternative approach is to look at a farm’s nitrogen surplus.

It’s a goal of many farmers to improve sustainability, with a significant focus on N leaching in many regions. However, nitrogen (N) leaching varies significantly depending on soil type and climate, factors that cannot be changed (though irrigation can alleviate dry conditions, but also increase drainage).

Focusing on N surplus instead is an easier method of determining farm performance and gaining environmental benefits. Reducing N surplus can also save farmers money. . .

Applications now open for Silver Fern Farms Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships 2019:

Silver Fern Farms welcomes applications for the Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships for 2019. In its third year, the Plate to Pasture Scholarship programme will award six winners from across the country $5000 to assist with developing their careers and capabilities in the red meat sector.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says that supporting emerging talent in the red meat sector is vital to developing relationships that will strengthen the red meat sector.


Science when it suits

April 8, 2019

Anyone who dares to challenge the politically accepted view on climate change  is told to accept the science.

But  during Question Time last week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw, showed again he is prepared to accept only the science that suits:

. . . Todd Muller: Does he stand by his statement made on 4 March during an interview on Q+A that when it comes to the application of GE technology in New Zealand, he—and I quote—”will be led by the science on it.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Yes.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the former Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who said—and I quote—”I’ll go as far as to say that I cannot see a way that agriculture in New Zealand will be sustainable over the long run in the face of environmental change and consumer preferences without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the then Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who also said at the time—and I quote—”There is no way that we will get a reduction in methane production, and I can see no way that we will see an economic advantage for farmers as we shift to more plant-based foods, without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: When he said he would be—and I quote—”led by the science”, did he mean all science or just the science that fits his political narrative?

Hon JAMES SHAW: If the member looks at the previous supplementary questions, he’ll see that what Sir Peter Gluckman was saying is that he didn’t see any other ways than GE to achieve those outcomes. I do see other ways.

Todd Muller: What are the other ways of addressing agriculture emission reduction that he thinks the chief scientist has not captured in his assessment?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I can’t comment on what the former Chief Science Advisor included in his assessment, but if the member’s interested, I would advise him to read the report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group that the previous Government set up. It took a number of years looking at a range of options for how agricultural emissions could be reduced and found that, actually, with a high degree of confidence, agriculture would be able to reduce emissions by at least 10 percent by 2030, and found with a similarly high degree of confidence that it would be able to reduce it by at least 30 percent by 2050.

Todd Muller: A final supplementary: does he consider climate change to be a sufficiently serious global issue that all science and innovations, including GE, need to be considered, or does he just think it is a pick and choose menu?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, I think that policy makers always have options in front of them about what choices to make, but I certainly do believe that climate change is not just the greatest challenge of our time but, potentially, the greatest challenge of all time. . .

If he wants us to accept that climate change is such a challenge and take the need for action seriously, how can he shut the door on technology that could address at least some of the contributors?

Federated Farmers correctly points out his closed mind is unhelpful:

The Green Party’s apparent unwillingness to even have a discussion on the potential of genetic engineering to provide solutions to some of our most pressing environmental issues is extremely disappointing, Federated Farmers says.

“Terse answers from Climate Change Minister James Shaw to Parliamentary questions this week indicate the Greens find the GE topic too hot to handle. But discussions on pragmatic and science-based policies should not be held to ransom by merely trying to keep a vocal section of your political party’s membership happy,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

There have been plenty of media reports about a ryegrass developed by NZ AgResearch using gene editing. It can substantially reduce methane emissions from cattle which eat it. Under our current laws the grass cannot be grown in New Zealand, and field trials are having to take place in the United States. . . 

“Mr Shaw didn’t have to agree with Sir Peter Gluckman but we do hope he won’t be so quick to shut down discussion of GE’s potential in talks with groups such as Federated Farmers and others,” Andrew says.

“We’ve already had Green MP and Conservation Minister  tell Predator-free NZ not to pursue the option of GE technologies as an answer to eradication of possums, rats and other pests.

“Farmers are being called on to make deep cuts in emissions from their livestock. Just about the only way were going to be able to do that, without crippling the viability of many farms, are breakthrough technologies still being worked on.

“Federated Farmers’ position is that we should at least be open to the potential of GE, and we need to continue scientific and field research on its advantages and disadvantages, at the same time as having an open-minded and rational debate with all New Zealanders.”

James Shaw is playing to his political supporters and putting their opposition to GE, which is based far more on emotion than science, ahead of his ministerial responsibility.

In doing so he is denying New Zealanders tools which could reduce greenhouse gases and increase the pace of the journey towards a predator-free country, both of which ought to appeal to those of a green persuasion, but sadly not enough who are Greens.

It’s a pity they and the Minister, can’t, or won’t, accept the science that shows the very low risks and high potential benefits of GE.


Rural round-up

March 17, 2019

Water restrictions reduced in Nelson after ‘significant’ rainfall in dam catchment – Skara Bohny:

Nelson’s water restriction is back down  to stage two after “significant” rainfall into the dam catchment, and closed reserves are being reopened.

Nelson City Council (NCC) has peddled back from stage three restrictions to stage two after rainfall overnight raised the Maitai Dam levels by 930mm, or just under one metre.

Over the course of the drought, the dam level had dropped by four metres. . . 

GPS-enabled collars allow farmers to steer cows around the farm remotely – Sam Kilmister:

Growing up on a small dairy farm in Waikato exposed Craig Piggott to the problems farmers face.

Armed with an engineering degree and a year’s experience building satellites for Rocket Lab, Piggott, 24, is now solving them with his own agri-tech invention. 

His brainchild is a GPS-enabled collar powered by solar energy, named Halter, which was unveiled to farmers at the Central District Field Days at Manfeild, Feilding, on Thursday. . . 

Wagyu-style lamb group recruiting more farmers – Maja Burry:

A group breeding a premium Wagyu-style lamb is looking to recruit more farmers as it aims to scale up production.

Te Mana Lamb is bred in the New Zealand high country and costs about 50 percent more than normal lamb.

It is marketed as being to lamb what Wagyu is to beef, with a fine marbling of Omega-3 fats achieved through breeding and grazing on a specific type of chicory pasture.

The product is part of the Omega Lamb Project, a programme which started in 2015 and involves New Zealand’s largest sheepmeat exporter Alliance Group, the Ministry for Primary Industries and 35 farmers. . . 

Selecting deer for resistance – Ken Muir:

Selecting deer with natural resistance to internal parasites could be the next tool for deer farmers in their search for better growth rates and ways to reduce the use of drenches in their animals says Tikana Wapiti Stud owner Dave Lawrence.

Resistance levels were scored using a saliva test that measured the antibodies triggered when animals ingested internal parasites.

Dubbed CARLA (Carla), short for carbohydrate larval antigens, the test was developed by AgResearch scientists for the sheep industry, where Carla breeding values (BVs) are now a routine part of genetic selection.

The Carla test measured antibodies triggered when animals ingested internal parasites. The saliva test for the antibodies was now well-established. . .

Precision bee keeping launches in New Zealand:

Helping New Zealand’s commercial bee keepers get more out of their hives is the goal of a new start up that marries together the best of the tech world with solid, Kiwi knowhow.

Until now most of New Zealand’s 880,000 registered bee hives have produced honey without the bee keepers knowing for sure how the hive is operating until the day of harvest. They’ve been working in the blind, hoping and trusting that the hive is active and producing, but with no cost-effective way to check on the hive’s progress.

Typically the first opportunity a bee keeper has to see how a hive is performing is on the day of harvesting itself – something that usually involves helicopters, trucks and personnel. By then, it’s too costly to change the harvesting schedule if required.. . 

Stop the tractor man and tell her when you’re coming home – Uptown Farms:

She didn’t understand. And I didn’t get that she didn’t understand. When I came back to the farm, I was just continuing on what had been done for six generations in my family.

I didn’t know we were so different – the hours, the seasons, the lifestyle. Farming was completely normal to me.

For a long time, I missed just how not normal it was for her. I missed how hard it was. I’m not saying I’m perfect now, but going into our eleventh planting season, I can guarantee I’m better today than I was before. . . 


Rural round-up

March 4, 2019

EU makes a galling offer – Nigel Stirling:

The European Union is pressing New Zealand to drop the use of some cheese names in free-trade talks but is refusing to open its own dairy markets to increased competition in return.

Negotiators met for the third round of talks in Brussels last week. NZ’s lead negotiator Martin Harvey said the talks had made progress since being launched in July last year and the EU had already tabled an offer on agricultural market access.

“The EU has made us an offer but it is not satisfactory.” . . .

Milk price up but decisions loom – Neal Wallace:

Fonterra decided not to pay an interim dividend because of its debt reduction priorities and steps to improve its operational performance, chairman John Monaghan says.

Fonterra lifted its forecast farmgate milk price range 30c to $6.30-$6.60/kg MS on the back of improved demand from Asia, specifically China, and bad weather slowing production in Australia and Europe.

Countering that, geopolitical pressure in Latin America has made trading conditions difficult in some countries, chief executive Miles Hurrell said. . .

History made as Canterbury woman qualifies for for FMG Young Farmer of the Year final:

A North Canterbury shepherd has made history after qualifying for the prestigious FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.

Georgie Lindsay, 23, won the fiercely-contested Tasman regional final in Culverden last night, beating seven other contestants.

She’s the first woman from the sprawling region to make it through to the grand final in the contest’s 51-year history. . .

Chance to lower N leaching – Ken Muir:

Southern Dairy Hub business manager Guy Michaels said the key takeaway from last week’s field day at the Hub near Wallacetown was that there is a range opportunities for farmers to save money and reduce nitrate (N) leaching. ”While it is still early days for our research, our monitoring programme being carried out in association with AgResearch is starting to provide a picture of the differences in nitrate leaching in different situations,” he said. . . 

Enterprising family’s team work bears fruit – Sally Brooker:

Usually, it’s the kids who leave home. In the Watt family, it was the parents.

Julie and Justin Watt own Waitaki Orchards, just east of Kurow. Their eight children have become so involved in the business that they have stayed to run different aspects of it.

“Justin and I and the youngest are in Duntroon,” Mrs Watt said when the Oamaru Mail called in last month. “We were the first to leave home.” . . . 

The high school where learning to farm is a graduation requirement – Mary Ann Lieser:

A group of teens gathers quietly in the predawn darkness. Dressed in warm clothing, they meet before breakfast to help capture and pack broiler chickens to be taken to a slaughterhouse. They fed, watered, and watched the birds grow; now they prepare them for their final trip. Eventually, the birds will return as meat and be cooked for the teens to eat.

High school students at Olney Friends School, located on 350 acres near Barnesville, Ohio, witness the cycle of birth and death time and again during their four years on campus. Founded in 1837 to serve the children of Quaker families, Olney has always had a farm program and students have been involved in its operation to varying degrees. . .

 


Rural round-up

February 13, 2019

Two surveys, two different results on water quality  – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Media coverage of the Fish and Game Survey has eclipsed the results from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) released at the end of last year.

Both were done by Colmar Brunton. Both involved approximately 1000 people.

Fish and Game focussed on ‘Perceptions of the environment: what people think’ and had one results chart. MfE’s report was under the title of ‘Environmental Attitudes Baseline’ with 62 pages of results, analysis and reporting of further questions. . .

Milk miracle: New Zealand AgResearch scientists eye new baby booster – Jamie Morton:

Dr Mark McCann calls milk a miracle food.

And for good reason: over millions of years, it has evolved to cram all of the energy and nutrients we need in early life into one package.

“The sheer amount of growth that babies go through in the first 1000 days of life is astounding.”

McCann, a senior research scientist at AgResearch, said one important part of this period was how different organs and systems developed to boost our potential for good health over a lifetime. . . 

Let’s use real wool to make Kiwiana – Julie Geange:

When people from overseas think of New Zealand what do they think of?

The All Blacks, Flight of the Conchords and sheep. New Zealand produces the fourth largest export of sheep meat globally and has around 29 million sheep, although in the past this number has reached 60 million.

When close to four million international visitors come to our shores they look to buy things that will remind them of New Zealand. Visitors who find themselves in a tourist destination, like the Hawke’s Bay, are wanting to get something quintessential Kiwi to take home as a gift. They visit tourist shops and reach for pure white toy sheep decorated with cheeky grins. . .

Hotcompetitionatshearingwoolhandlingevents – RIchard Davison:

Aspiration met perspiration in Balclutha on Saturday, as the nation’s top shearers and woolhandlers battled it out for Otago honours.

Conditions for competitors at the Otago Shearing and Woolhandling Championships were at the challenging end of the spectrum in the town’s War Memorial Hall, as temperatures topped 28degC.

Demonstrating why he is world champion was Gisborne woolhandler Joel Henare, competing in his final South Island event before he retires later this year. . .

NZ’s bid to hold world avocado congress :

The avocado industry has thrown its hat into the ring to bring the Avocado World Congress to New Zealand for the first time in 2023.

The congress, which is held every four years, brings together 2000 people in the industry including growers, researchers and investors.

The New Zealand industry is worth $150 million and it forecast to grow to $1 billion by 2040. . .

Welsh farmer’s daffodils could help 250,000 Alzheimer’s sufferers :

Daffodils grown by a Welsh sheep farmer have been found to contain a higher-than-usual amount of galantamine, a compound known to slow Alzheimer’s disease.

Kevin Stephens’ flowers, grown in the Black Mountains in Wales, produce unusually high amounts of the disease-fighting compound.

His flowers could now be used to help 250,000 patients who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. . . 


Rural round-up

February 10, 2019

Collars corral cattle

Farm fences could be history as an Otago farm tests some cattle collars with a difference.

State-owned enterprise Landcorp owns two farms in the Waipori area, both of which have land bordering Lake Mahinerangi.

However, it faces the problem of fencing hundreds of kilometres to stop stock entering waterways.

As a potential solution, this week it started a two-month trial, run by AgResearch, to test virtual fencing technology. . . 

Dairy debt an outcome of wayward policy and land-banking – Keith Woodford:

In a recent article, I wrote that high debt levels within the dairy industry will constrain the industry transformation that needs to occur.  Subsequently, I have been exploring how the industry got itself such a debt-laden pickle. Here is what I found.

Despite the industry now being well into the third season of good milk prices, dairy-farm debt with banks has been showing no sign of decreasing. The latest figures for December 2018 show total dairy-farm bank debt of $41.6 billion (RBNZ S34 series). This compares to $41.0 billion a year earlier and $40.9 billion two years earlier.  This equates to around $22.00 per kg milksolids (fat plus protein). . . 

Farmer urges young people to take up career in fencing :

Isaac Johnston wants more young people to consider fencing as a career option.

Johnston, a member of the West Otago Young Farmers took out a national fencing competition in Christchurch, along with Luke Kane.

Kane, 30 (also a West Otago YF member), and Johnston, 25, won the PGG Wrightson Fencing Competition, which was held as part of the AGMARDT NZ Young Farmers Conference. . . 

The British obsession with food production vs obesity and climate may hurt their local producers and help NZ farmers. Saputo shakes things up. China infant formula market changes – Guy Traffod:

The Lancet continues to challenge the status quo around food production. This time in its recent report it says “unhealthy subsidies” in agriculture are costly and do enormous harm to developing country farmers and agriculture-based development policies.

Most New Zealand farmers would be happy to support this attitude. However the Irish have taken exception to the report particularly when it compares “big farming” to the tobacco industry and not only should it not receive subsidies, but it should be banned from being able to lobby and engaging with governments.

“Governments need to regain the power to act in the interests of people and the planet and global treaties help to achieve this. Vested commercial interests need to be excluded from the policy table, and civil society needs to have a stronger voice in policy-making,” it said. . . 

Kea and 1080 – nesting success demonstrated  – Kate Guthrie:

Not only do kea nest on the ground, but it takes about 4 months from egg-laying until kea chicks fledge. Four months is a long time to be sitting on the ground facing off the local stoats. Kea eggs, chicks and even adult incubating females are very vulnerable to predation.

Aerial application of 1080 can knock back the predators, but the timing needs to be right and the benefits to nesting kea must outweigh the known risks that some kea will eat the bait themselves.

So do more chicks survive to fledge? Department of Conservation Biodiversity Group researchers Joshua Kemp, Corey Mosen, Graeme Elliott and Christine Hunter investigate, in a paper recently published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology. . . 

LIC Half-Year Profit Rises On Improved Performance And New Product Innovations

www.halfyearinreview.lic.co.nz

Performance Highlights H1 FY18-19:

• $161 million total revenue, 5% up from $153 million in the same period last year.

• $409 million total assets, up from $371 million on the same period as last year.

• $59.3 million earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA)[1], up 3% on the same period last year. . . 


Rural round-up

January 25, 2019

UK agreement ensures status quo for exporters  – Sally Rae:

The signing of a veterinary agreement between the United Kingdom and New Zealand will provide reassurance to farmers and exporters, Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive Sam McIvor says.

Uncertainty has prevailed in the red meat sector since the Brexit vote in 2016. The UK accounted for $560million worth of the sector’s exports, dominated by sheepmeat which represented 85% of that total.

In a joint statement with Beef + Lamb, Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie said the signing of the agreement, together with recent advice from the UK about the acceptance of EU health certificates post-March 29, meant the sector was assured existing regulations would remain the same. . .

Elers’ life wrapped up in wool – Alan Williams:

 Tina Elers is working seven days a week but is still finding time to improve her fitness ahead of the World Shearing Championship in France later this year. She also found time to talk to Alan Williams about her busy life.

Thirty years into her wool-classing career Tina Elers is as busy as ever and very motivated.

When some might think it is time to slow down she’s working a seven-day week around Southland, weather permitting, and doing extra fitness work. . .

Milk production record possible – Sally Rae:

 Milk production is on track to set a record this season as the risk of drought derailing it continues to recede.

Earlier in the season, an increasing chance of an El Nino weather pattern this summer was raised and the expectation was the associated dry conditions could crimp production later in the season.

Yesterday, ASB senior rural economist Nathan Penny said relatively healthy soil moisture levels suggested production should “kick on” over the next few months. . .

Surplus research farm gets the chop– Annette Scott:

More than 70 years of agriculture history will go under the hammer when AgResearch sells its Mid Canterbury research farm next month.

Bought in 1946 to provide local research into the use of border-dyke irrigation with long-term fertiliser trials started in the 1950s, the Winchmore research farm has contributed to more than 500 science publications.

But AgResearch has called time on its 72 years. . .

Farmer living the dream on Ponui island :

Living on an island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf has its perks for sheep and beef farmer George Watson.

The 26-year-old works on one of three farms on Ponui Island, which lies southeast of Waiheke Island.

The picturesque island has rolling grass-covered hills, pockets of bush and sheltered bays with white sandy beaches.

Agria rep to step down as Wrightson chair by June 26 – Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson says current chair Joo Hai Lee will step down before June 28 but that the board will continue its governance review in the meantime.

Lee represents Wrightson’s former majority shareholder, Singapore-registered Agria, and took over as chair in early November after Agria principal Alan Lai abruptly resigned the day before the scheduled annual shareholders’ meeting.

Wrightson says in a statement that the board “will provide an update in the near future regarding the outcomes of the review and the chair’s appointment.” . . 

 


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