Rural round-up

August 26, 2020

Wonderful wool, our ‘supermaterial’, is at a crossroads – adapt or disappear – Piers Fuller:

Once a stalwart of our economy, the wool sector faces some tough decisions to ensure its survival. Piers Fuller reports.

For those lanolin-soaked old shearers who remember the glory days of the New Zealand wool industry, the collapse of our strong wonder fibre is something of a disaster.

For many modern economists, the writing is on the wall and it is time to face reality and produce something the world wants.

Unfortunately, what the world has wanted in recent decades has been cheap, petroleum-based synthetics. . . 

We are loved again – Nick Loughnan:

In our time of farming, Faith and I have known the ups and downs of affairs – not those that involve other people’s hearts. We’ve been together for 45 years. No, these affairs at their peak were about being needed and valued to the point of privilege, just because of what we do. We’re farmers.

At the start of our career, we certainly belonged to a privileged bunch. Deciding we wanted to own our own farm, but with neither of us having chosen parents who already had one, we had to start from scratch. Yet there were great incentives for us in our early 20s to get the breaks.

Governments had, for decades through different schemes, been developing extensive tracts of marginal land, subdividing these into smaller ‘economic’ units, complete with new dwellings, sheds, yards and fences, and then balloting them off. . . 

Growing demand for antibiotic-free meat – Annette Scott:

A sudden surge in orders for antibiotic-free meat has processors on the hop as they struggle to meet market demand.

Alliance general manager livestock and shareholder services Danny Hailes said the co-operative is desperately seeking farmers to join its Raised Without Antibiotics (RWA) programme.

He said while global markets are generally subdued, there is growing demand for antibiotic-free meat.

“We have one customer, (in) North America, where demand is just growing as customers become increasingly conscious of what they are eating,” he said. . . 

A hiss not a roar

The Covid-19 lockdown has kept international hunters at home and meant a very lean season for their NZ guides, as Annabelle Latz reports.

The stags were roaring, yet not a hunter was to be seen.

Owing to Covid-19 lockdown rules there were no trophy hunters gathering from around New Zealand or abroad to enjoy the roar this year.

Instead, hunting guides were left with empty appointment books, hunters stayed home, and stags remained untouched.

John Royle of Canterbury Tahr Hunter Guide NZ has been guiding for more than 12 years and this was the first time ever he’s been ground to a halt during the roar, his most lucrative season with full appointment books. He has lost potentially three months’ business. . .

Coculture brings environmental and economic benefits

 Research scientists say law changes are required before lucrative new species, which also bring environmental benefits, can be harvested from existing marine farms.

A paper from Niwa’s Jeanie Stenton-Dozey and Jeffrey Ren, Cawthron’s Leo Zamora and independent researcher Philip Heath appears in the latest NZ Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research.

It looks at opportunities for Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture (IMTA) – also known as coculture. You may also have heard the term polyfarming which was the title for an MFA- supported Smart+Connected Aquaculture forum in Havelock in 2017.

The forum was held to encourage pathways to new added-value products and diversify production into other high value species. . . 

A true picture of our rural lifestyle – Joyce Campbell:

Keeping my big mouth shut is never easy for me, but over the past year I’ve managed not to tell too many folk that we’ve been filming with a team from the BBC for series four of This Farming Life.

It wasn’t a decision that any of us took lightly but I wanted to take the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the consumers of the food we produce and share the stories of the rural communities we live in.

A slot on BBC2 at prime time, to a UK-wide audience, was worth me taking the time and effort to engage with the wider public.

I’m not going to lie – I was extremely nervous on Tuesday night as the opening titles rolled, but two Rock Rose gin and tonics helped to settle the gut-churning emotions. . . 

 


Rural round-up

August 22, 2020

Are all proteins created equal? The difference between plant and animal proteins – Tim Newman:

New research into food proteins means meat and dairy should continue to play a key role in New Zealand’s farming future, a Massey University scientist says.

Distinguished Professor Paul Moughan spoke on the subject of world food security at the Nelson Federated Farmers’ 75th anniversary celebrations recently.

Moughan is one of the principal investigators at the Riddet Institute, a food science research organisation which was awarded Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) status by the Government in 2007.

In his presentation, Moughan outlined the projected rise in demand for world food production over the next 50 years, and the opportunity for New Zealand to meet that need. . .

Successful formula for calf rearer – Yvonne O’Hara:

Lynne Johnston has been calf rearing for about 18 years, and loves it.

Mrs Johnston and husband Glenn have progressed from lower order and 50-50 sharemilking in Riversdale to farm owners at Clarendon, near Waihola, six years ago.

They own 200ha, run 560 cows and have a milk solid target of 235,000kg of milk solids.

“We started rearing 120 replacements each year. However, as we moved through 50-50 sharemilking we reared a lot more to grow our herd. . . 

Skills group ‘unashamedly parochial’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

The new interim Southland Regional Skills Leadership Group (SRSLG) is “unashamedly parochial in outlook”, co-chairman Paul Marshall says.

“We have a very clear focus on what is best for Southland.

“Our role is to provide advice about the labour market and we have been given assurances that our advice will be heard by employment minister Willie Jackson.”

The interim SRSLG is one of 15 groups throughout the country established to address current and future disruptions in regional labour markets because of Covid-19 . .

Alliance distributes $5m to shareholders :

Red meat cooperative Alliance Group will be paying $5 million to some of its farmer shareholders.

The quarterly payments have been made to Alliance’s Platinum and Gold shareholders who supply 100% of their livestock to the company.

Farmers are paid an additional 10c/kg for each lamb, 6c/kg for a sheep, 8.5c/kg for cattle and 10c/kg for deer. The payments cover the period April-June 2020. . . 

A2 Milk reports $385m profit for full year :

Specialty dairy company A2 Milk has posted a record profit, driven by booming sales of infant formula because of the Covid-19 virus.

The company reported an annual profit of $385.8 million compared with $287.7m last year, as revenue rose by a third and it held margins at target levels, which it had signalled to the market in April.

“We estimate that Covid-19 had a modest positive impact on revenue and earnings for the year. Additionally, our business was favourably impacted by foreign exchange movements,” the company said in a statement.

A2 Milk makes dairy products from milk without the A-1 protein, which is held to be easier to digest and absorb for some people. . . 

Passion for rural health – Jamie Brown:

Two young future doctors, passionate about improving rural health, have been awarded The Land Rural Medical Scholarship for 2020.

The winners are second year medical students Simon Whelan, University of Notre Dame at Sydney, and Laura Beaumont, Western Sydney University.

Both have country connections, with Mr Whelan off a fourth generation rice growing property near Griffith and Ms Beaumont fromthe Hunter Valley town of Paterson.

The scholarship’s administrator, Alicia Hargreaves of the Gundagai based Rural Doctors Association of NSW, said it was fabulous to see the enthusiasm, and the quality of the applicants. . .


Rural round-up

August 9, 2020

Difficult but the right call – Sudesh Kissun:

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the joint decision three years ago to eradicate Mycoplamsa bovis was a difficult call. However, Mackle says the 10-year eradication plan, while difficult, was the best option for farmers and the economy. He made the comments to mark three years since the bacterial disease was first detected in New Zealand. The discovery shocked the industry and triggered one of New Zealand’s largest ever biosecurity responses.  . .

Farmers missing out on newer technology – Mark Ross:

Ineffective regulation is leading to farmers and growers missing out on products that will increase their productivity and be safer to use.

The Government launched a bold plan to boost primary sector export earnings by $44 billion over the next decade, while protecting the environment and growing jobs.

The plan, launched last month, involves a 10-year roadmap to unlock greater value for a sector vital to New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As the Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor pointed out, there is huge potential in the roadmap, but it can only be achieved through a close government partnership with industry and Māori. . . 

Lamb weight not demand driving price – Annette Scott:

South Island lamb supply is tight but while seasonal procurement pressure may be enough to see marginal price lifts in some regions, weak export markets are keeping a cap on prices.

Alliance Group key account manager Murray Behrent said while procurement pressure may appear to be at fever pitch around the saleyards, the difference in pricing is the weight of the lambs.

Agents around Canterbury saleyards are reporting strong demand is driving prime lamb values with top prices at Temuka and Coalgate this week, fetching $194 and $198 respectively. . . 

Council exploring water storage sites – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is actively investigating freshwater storage sites to carry excess winter water through to dry periods in summer.

It’s part of a four-pronged regional water security programme, supported by the Provincial Growth Fund, which includes a region-wide freshwater assessment, a 3D aquifer mapping project, and exploring viable locations for small-scale community storage schemes in the Central Hawke’s Bay (Tukituki River) and Heretaunga (Ngaruroro River) catchments.

Council acting manager regional water security Tom Skerman says the regional water assessment is analysing water supply and demand across the region to 2050. . . .

Tarras no stranger to the sly land-buyer transaction – Mark Price:

Before international airports became the talk of Tarras, farming was the district’s main preoccupation. In all its guises, farming has stamped its mark on the district and its people over 162 years. Mark Price takes a look at what has happened to Tarras in the days since its potential for farming was first realised.

Christchurch International Airport Ltd caught plenty of flak for the way it bought up land at Tarras for an airport.

Its agents, while making offers to landowners, did not disclose who they were working for, or why the land was wanted.

The airport’s chief executive, Malcolm Johns, was the man who orchestrated the purchase of 750ha for an airport, at a cost of $45 million.

He saw the potential, acted swiftly and quietly and came up last month, holding the deeds to the various farming properties. . . 

Broadacre farmers have their own fire experience – Mal Peters:

Reinforcing farmers’ perceptions the Rural Fire Service is a Sydney-centric bureaucracy, northern NSW broadacre farmers are scratching their heads at the declaration of a bushfire danger period on August 1.

Grass burns poorly in winter, so most of us are waiting for warmer weather.

We can get a permit to burn, but that only adds to our daily mountain of red tape.

Given recent megafires you’d think the RFS would make it easier to conduct controlled burns. . . 


Rural round-up

July 30, 2020

Fonterra wins right to refuse suppliers – Esther Taunton:

A long-awaited law change means Fonterra could refuse to accept milk from controversial dairy conversions like the Simons Pass development in the Mackenzie Basin.

Changes to the 20-year-old Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (Dira) passed unanimously through Parliament on Friday.

The new rules allow Fonterra to reject milk from new dairy farm conversions and extend its rights to refuse milk from farmers who don’t meet its standards.

The amendments also remove the requirement for the co-op to supply milk to competitors to help them get established and allow it to refuse re-entry to farmers who have switched processors. . . 

Recruitment campaign won’t turn ‘flight attendants into dairy workers’ – Brent Melville:

Pivoting unemployed New Zealanders into the agriculture and primary sector won’t turn former Air New Zealand flight attendants into dairy workers or remove the need for specialist skills across the processing sector, according to a change consultant.

The comments come as the Ministry for Primary Industries rolls out a $4.5 million recruitment campaign aiming to fill a 10,000-job hole across the agricultural and primary sectors left by New Zealand’s extended border closures through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The website and marketing campaign, ‘opportunity grows here’, was developed by ad agency Clemenger BBDO and the four-year project is being funded through a $19.3m allocation under this year’s budget. . . 

Future of New Zealand’s farming should be female – Nicky Hyslop:

 At first glance, farming might appear to be a way of life that is as old as the hills. But when you look closer, it is clear that farming is a modern profession – and one that is certainly not stuck in the mud.

Modern farming practices are increasingly challenging any parochial view that some Kiwis have about the industry.

Gone are the days of simply mucking in and hoping for the best. Farming today involves new technologies and harnessing big data to drive decision-making. And coupling these innovations with an increased emphasis on animal welfare, soil nutrition and environmental stewardship.

Farming has always been competitive. Understanding crop rotation, grazing, nutrient profiles of soil and transport logistics are just some of the factors that farmers have to get right in order to be successful. . . 

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

Alliance Group is to spend $3.2million on a further upgrade at its Lorneville plant, near Invercargill, to help improve operational efficiency.

The plant’s engine room two, which provides key refrigeration for four cold stores, some blast freezers and several product chillers will receive upgraded safety features, equipment and building structure.

The programme would improve the company’s ability to control the refrigeration system remotely and provide a platform for further investment, Alliance said in a statement. . . 

$7.9m for SFF dividend, patronage :

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative has declared a dividend and patronage reward for shareholders totalling $7.9 million.

The decision followed receipt of a cash dividend of $12.4 million to the co-operative from Silver Fern Farms Ltd, which is jointly owned by Silver Fern Farms Co-operative and China’s Shanghai Maling.

That dividend was generated from Silver Fern Farms Ltd’s 2019 financial year for which it reported a net profit after tax of $70.7 million in April this year.

At the time, the dividend was deferred at the request of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative and Shanghai Maling until the outlook for the global trading environment became clearer. .  .

 

Five farmers revitalise soil health while remaining profitable:

Scottish farmers are getting their heads together on one of the most fundamental concerns – how to revitalise soil health to achieve more sustainable farming and profit.

The Soil Regenerative Group has been created to explore which techniques, treatments, crops and rotations best establish resilient soils and how to integrate these into profits.

From growing linseed to broadcasting seed on the day of harvest, grazing sheep on oilseed rape to direct drilling, each farmer is experimenting differently and is at varied stages of adopting “regenerative”, or conservation, farming. . . 


Rural round-up

July 28, 2020

Synthetics out in favour of natural fibres – Sally Rae:

Carpet-maker Cavalier is ditching synthetics in favour of wool and other natural fibres, citing “negative impacts on people’s health and the planet”.

The listed company yesterday unveiled a new transformational strategy, saying it would transition away from the manufacture and supply of synthetic fibre carpets over the next 12 months and existing synthetic stocks would be sold down.

In its strategy, the company said the long-term dangers posed by plastics were becoming clear. Plastic was a global problem and manufacturers needed to be part of the solution.

The impact that plastics had on human health was not yet fully understood, but early studies suggested that microplastics entering the body were a potential threat. The average Kiwi home with synthetic carpet was similar to having 22,000 plastic bags on the floor, by weight, it said. . . 

From lipstick to gum boots :

City girl becomes ‘Gumboot Girl’ and helps introduce sustainable practices on Northland dairy farm.

For years Jo Wood worked as a beauty therapist in Auckland. She was, in her words, “a city slicker”.

But then she “fell into” another job, one about as far removed from the glamour of make-up, manicures and pedicures as it’s possible to get.

Working in gumboots and a singlet, these days she walks the pastures of a 350ha dairy farm located on the coast between the Northland towns of Wellsford and Warkworth – and is known to one and all by her alter ego ‘Gumboot Girl‘. . .

 

Wools NZ elects new chairman – Annette Scott:

Former Beef and Lamb New Zealand chairman James Parson has been elected chairman of Wools NZ to lead the organisation in a new direction post covid-19.

The recognised industry leader, well known for his past chairmanship of Beef and Lamb NZ and the NZ Meat Board, Parsons was initially elected to the board by growers at the organisation’s annual meeting in November.    

The grower-owned strong wool marketing and export company has now embarked on a new era post covid-19 to re-orientate its strategic direction.

Parsons, a Northland sheep and beef farmer believes he well understands the industry challenges from a grassroots perspective. . . 

What’s next for the wool industry? – Annette Scott:

Step one of the wool industry’s Vision and Action report has connected the stakeholders now Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor says the next step must lead to real purpose.

“It’s absolutely crucial the next step is real purpose, this report will most certainly not be sitting gathering dust,” O’Connor said.

“The project action group (PAG) has rounded up the situation, connected with industry players and provided some real guidance for the next step.

“With the absence of major initiatives from the industry I have to be responsible to put something up.”  . . 

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

Alliance Group is to spend $3.2million on a further upgrade at its Lorneville plant, near Invercargill, to help improve operational efficiency.

The plant’s engine room two, which provides key refrigeration for four cold stores, some blast freezers and several product chillers will receive upgraded safety features, equipment and building structure.

The programme would improve the company’s ability to control the refrigeration system remotely and provide a platform for further investment, Alliance said in a statement.

It would also give an opportunity to have more control points and sensors, improve the ability to provide automation control and result in ‘‘significant’’ savings through energy efficiency. . . 

Welsh unions highlight farmers’ role in fighting climate change :

Wales’ two farming unions have highlighted the vital role of agriculture in helping the UK to address the threat of climate change.

NFU Cymru and the Farmers’ Union of Wales held a virtual meeting with the UK’s High-Level Climate Action Champion, Nigel Topping, who was appointed by the prime minister in January.

In addition to wider discussions around climate change, the roundtable event provided a platform to discuss the ‘Race to Zero’ campaign.

The international campaign aims to strive for a healthy, resilient zero carbon recovery, which was launched on World Environment Day and will run up to COP26 . . .


Rural round-up

May 20, 2020

Kiwi lamb in limelight – Annette Scott:

Changing consumer demand in China has opened an opportunity for New Zealand lamb to take centre stage.

In a move to encourage online sales of NZ lamb in China, Beef + Lamb and Alliance have joined forces to launch a digital campaign aimed at leveraging the new consumer behaviour.  

The e-campaign is focused on driving online red meat sales as Chinese consumers seek out healthier food options in the wake of covid-19.   

“Alliance and B+LNZ are co-investing in the initiative to drive the awareness of NZ’s healthy and natural grass-fed lamb but ultimately to drive sales,” B+LNZ market development general manager Nick Beeby said. . . 

Wallaby curse – Farmer refuses to be caught on the hop – Sally Brooker:

Wallabies have been marketed as a cute local attraction in Waimate, but farmers curse the day they crossed the Ditch.

The problems began soon after Bennett’s wallabies from Tasmania were taken to The Hunters Hills in the Waimate District in 1874 for recreational hunting.

Their population boom led to damaged farm pasture, crops and fencing, and native bush and forestry plantings.

A 2017 Ministry for Primary Industries report predicted the cost to the economy of not controlling wallabies in the South Island could be $67million within 10 years.

Anecdotal reports say the numbers are increasing again in the Waimate area. Many farmers are upset about it, but few would go on the record.

Walter Cameron had no such qualms. He has been dealing with wallabies at his family’s 3900ha Wainui Station, near Hakataramea, for most of his life and knows how to keep them in check.  . . 

High paying environmental jobs not realistic:

The Government’s $1.1 billion idea of redeploying people into environmental jobs is great in concept but difficult to turn into reality, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.

“It’s a struggle to get Kiwis to take well-paying jobs in the horticulture or farming sector, so convincing people to become rat-catchers and possum-trackers in the numbers the Government is hoping for will be an enormous challenge.

“It’s all very well allocating the funding, but there’s no detail on how the job numbers will be achieved and this Government has a poor track record of delivering on their big policies.

“The $1.1 billion for 11,000 jobs means they’ve allocated $100,000 per job. There is no detail about how much of this is going to workers on the ground doing the environmental work and how much of this is going to added bureaucracy in Wellington offices. . . 

Training our rural doctors – Ross Nolly:

Attracting general practitioners to work in small rural areas has been challenging at times, which has led people to delay seeking medical care. Ross Nolly caught up with one Taranaki rural GP who says there are a lot of benefits to working in small communities.

In recent years finding doctors willing to work in rural general practices and rural hospitals has been difficult.

The Rural Hospital Medicine Training Programme is a subset of the Royal New Zealand GP College. It’s a relatively new programme and its aim is to give doctors an experience of rural hospital medicine. 

The programme has been operating at Hawera Hospital in South Taranaki for three years and shares some elements with general practice with many doctors practising rural GP and rural hospital medicine simultaneously. . . 

The power of community – James Barron:

Chairman of Fonterra Shareholders Council, James Barron on Fonterra, COVID-19, and the importance of community.

He waka eke noa – we’re all in this together. It’s a phrase that seems to be coming up a lot lately, and it reminds me how powerful community can be.

For wider New Zealand, the challenges brought about by COVID-19 have been significant.

But they have also presented some unexpected opportunities – to rediscover community spirit, spend quality time with our families, and do what’s best for the greater good. . . 

Tree planting is not a simple solution – Karen D. Ho and Pedro H. S. Brancalion:

A plethora of articles suggest that tree planting can overcome a host of environmental problems, including climate change, water shortages, and the sixth mass extinction (13). Business leaders and politicians have jumped on the tree-planting bandwagon, and numerous nonprofit organizations and governments worldwide have started initiatives to plant billions or even trillions of trees for a host of social, ecological, and aesthetic reasons. Well-planned tree-planting projects are an important component of global efforts to improve ecological and human well-being. But tree planting becomes problematic when it is promoted as a simple, silver bullet solution and overshadows other actions that have greater potential for addressing the drivers of specific environmental problems, such as taking bold and rapid steps to reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. . . 


Rural round-up

May 4, 2020

An apple harvest no-one will ever forget – Nikki Mandow:

Apple growers have filled our fruit bowls and bolstered our export coffers, while harvesting a bumper crop and maintaining strict social distancing for their workforce. It’s been a nightmare.

Simon Easton sounds relaxed. The fourth-generation apple farmer grows 61 hectares of fruit outside Motueka with his brother. They are nearly at the end of this year’s harvest – a week more picking, a month more packing and they’re done.

Easy as. Not.

On a scale of one to 10, Easton reckons his stress levels this season have been up around 9.8. Particularly at the beginning of the pandemic. . .

Coronavirus: Alliance Group adapts to changing global markets -Louisa Steyl:

The rural sector is tipped to help Southland’s economy pull through the coronavirus lockdown. What does that mean for the Alliance Group? Louisa Steyl reports.

Being agile and responding to markets’ rapid changes both domestically and on a global scale will help some companies come through the downturn in the economy.

The Alliance Group, with processing plants in Dannevirke, Levin, Nelson, Oamaru, Timaru and its two Southland-based plants Lorneville and Mataura, has been affected during the lockdown.   . . 

 

Fish and Game review change to refocus:

The recently announced review into Fish and Game needs to ensure the organisation’s focus returns to working in the best interests of anglers and hunters, National’s Conservation spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.

“Over recent years there has been tension between Fish and Game and farming groups that has contributed to a rural-urban divide.

“Many prized fishing and hunting spots are on privately owned farmland and there is a lot of goodwill between individual farmers and recreational hunters and anglers in negotiating access. . . 

Kiwis left scratching their heads as butter turns white – Esther Taunton:

Something’s happening to our butter.

Usually a deep yellow, it’s been getting progressively lighter and even farmers are puzzled by its now barely off-white hue.

In a recent tweet, Golden Bay dairy farmer Wayne Langford pointed out the change, comparing a block of Anchor butter to his “tan free legs.” . .

Act now, plan ahead – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay farmers struggling through extended drought and increasing feed shortages are being told to act now and plan for winter.

It’s a message farmers in other parts of the country should heed as well, with feed shortages likely to be wide-ranging. 

The southern half of Hawke’s Bay is entering its seventh month of below-normal rainfall and there is no sign of the drought breaking. . .

Learning from Covid: How biosecurity lessons in Asia will help Australia :

As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, a consortium of Australian and New Zealand veterinary scientists has been established to train a new generation of ‘animal disease detectives’ in 11 countries across Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

“A year after African swine fever wiped out more than a quarter of the global pig population and with more than 200,000 people dead from COVID-19, equipping veterinarians with the tools for disease outbreak investigation and surveillance has never been more important,” said program leader Associate Professor Navneet Dhand from the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science and Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity. . .


Rural round-up

May 2, 2020

Ongoing drought is bleeding us dry – Rhea Dasent:

We are living through exceptional times, and the drought of 2020 is one of the exceptions – and not in a good way.

Businesses affected by the coronavirus lockdown understand how farmers feel about the drought.

Being unable to trade due to external influences puts you not just on the back foot, but several feet behind, for the rest of the year or even longer.

Tourism businesses rely on a good summer with lots of customers in order to have the income to get through the low winter season. Farmers have good and bad seasons too, and hope that it all evens out.

But the lockdown and this drought have taken the usual seasonal ups and downs to a whole new level. . . 

Overseas markets holding up – Allan Barber:

In a recent conversation, Alliance CEO David Surveyor described world red meat markets by comparing them to traffic lights. Contrary to the evidence earlier in the year, when buyers stopped buying because of Chinese New Year closely followed by the Covid-19 shutdown, China has emerged as the brightest light with the traffic lights firmly set on green. The composition of Chinese orders has changed since the virus outbreak with retail and online sales growing considerably, while there are signs of hot pot outlets starting to reopen.

Silver Fern Farms’ Simon Limmer agrees with this assessment, although he cautions against assuming there won’t be a risk of a market reversal at some point. For the time being China is a saviour, in spite of meat exporters’ wish not to put too many eggs in the same basket. This is not a time to pick and choose though. The rest of Asia is also quite strong with demand for grass fed beef holding up well in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and South East Asia. . .

Changing patterns in food supply must be addressed – Anna Campbell:

I have been reading and listening to reports and podcasts on the impact of Covid-19 on food supply and buying patterns.

It is interesting to note that most of these trends were identified as trends before Covid-19, but the pandemic has massively shifted the dial in terms of the pace of change. We are likely to see many of these shifts sustained in the Covid-19 recovery and beyond.

1. In the United States, Covid-19 has increased the dominance of the large food players such as Walmart and Amazon (which owns Whole Foods). Small grocery chains and independents, before Covid-19, made up 40% of the grocery sector — this is rapidly shrinking. Workers within the large chains are negotiating higher pay and, in general, profit margins on grocery products are decreasing. This will make it harder for small players to compete, especially without the benefits of robotics and artificial intelligence systems. . . 

Four Dairy Women’s Network Regional Leader finalists:

Grassroots dairy farming leadership efforts from throughout New Zealand are represented by the four finalists in the Dairy Women’s Network new DWN Regional Leader of the Year award.

The finalists are spread from the north of the North Island where Sue Skelton is farming south west of Whangarei near Waiotira to Jessica Goodwright who is sharemilking in Drummond in Central Southland.

Mid-Canterbury farmer and personal development coach Tania Burrows and North Canterbury contract milker Rebecca Green are the other two finalists that represent over 70 volunteer Dairy Women’s Network Regional Leaders spread throughout the country. . .

High yields in difficult season a credit to NZ’s arable farmers:

Yields for the 2020 harvest are up 16 percent across the board when compared to 2019, the latest Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) survey shows.

Particularly encouraging was the fact fewer hectares were planted in total this season compared to last (98,090 ha vs 104,000) yet tonnes harvested were substantially up (873,080 vs 796,700), Federated Farmers Vice-Chairperson Grains, Brian Leadley, said.

“This is in despite of a severe early season hailstorm, flooding in some regions and some pretty variable weather.  It just highlights that our arable farmers are world class,” Brian said. . .

Muttonbird hunters expect prices to go up as season cut short by lockdown – Te Aniwa Hurihanganui:

Eager muttonbird hunters are hoping to get a flight out to the Tītī / Muttonbird Islands as soon possible, with alert level 3 now opening a small window of opportunity to gather the delicious tītī before the season is over.

Muttonbirds are in hot demand every year, but with alert level 4 putting the season on hold, hunters now have just two weeks before the birds leave the island in early May.

Tony McColgan from Invercargill usually collects up to 2000 birds a year; he thought the season was over when the lockdown began. . . 

Investing in cows grows wealth in dairy – Samantha Townsend:

It might have taken the Nicholsons 30 years to put their name on the mortgage but it was an investment well worth the wait for the next generation.

Megan and Geoff Nicholson started their dairy journey as lease farmers in 1989 having moved back to her home town of Taree from the United Kingdom where they met.

Geoff was from a beef, sheep and cropping farm but neither of us had particular dairy experience but we decided to give it go and loved it ,” Mrs Nicholson said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 24, 2020

Now we know what is important – Craig Wiggins:

What will become important is what has always been important.

Last month I wrote about all the things we could do coming up in the rural calendar and within five days the whole world changed and we were heading into lockdown.

There are no two ways about it, the world has changed and we might never again see the likes of what was deemed important before the covid-19 pandemic.

What seemed to be important in the world we were part of was the ideological lifestyles of the rich and famous or those who found themselves in a position of governance and what their opinions meant.  . . 

Meat plants back to near normal – Neal Wallace:

Meat processing throughput could be back at close to maximum on Tuesday when the country’s covid-19 response level drops to level three.

Final protocols are still to be confirmed but level three restrictions should enable meat processing to be close to full production, helping address the backlog of stock waiting to be killed, which has blown out to six weeks, Alliance livestock and shareholder services general manager Danny Hailes says.

At level three social distancing between workers drops from 2m, to 1m. . .

Pesticide usage in New Zealand well below compliance safety guidance:

A survey released today confirms that the Kiwi diet is safe and that any pesticide residues on food are extremely low, far below recommended safety levels.

The Ministry for Primary Industries released results of the Food Residues Survey Programme which tests for residues in plant-based foods. The survey collected 591 fruit and vegetable samples over two years and shows compliance of greater than 99.9%. The survey tests residues from commonly used agrichemicals: insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

“These results are unsurprising,” says Agcarm chief executive, Mark Ross. “Agcarm members work hard to satisfy the stringent requirements set by regulators. They also work with food chain partners to achieve the lowest possible residues in food.” . . .

Survey of rural decision makers 2019 survey out now:

The results of the fourth biennial Survey of Rural Decision Makers, run by scientists at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, have now been released.

More than 3700 people responded to the survey during spring 2019. Respondents include both lifestyle and commercial farmers, foresters, and growers from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

A core set of questions remained similar to previous waves of the survey, to allow researchers to identify trends over time. In addition, new questions were added to reflect emerging issues in the primary sector such as farm-level biosecurity and climate change. . .

A2 Milk sales boost as consumers stock up

Speciality dairy company a2 Milk is getting a windfall boost to sales from the Covid-19 virus.

The company, which mostly sells infant formula, said revenue for the three months to 31 March was higher than expected with strong growth across all key regions, as households stocked up with its products notably in China and Australia.

“This primarily reflected the impact of changes in consumer purchase behaviour arising from the Covid-19 situation and included an increase in pantry stocking of our products particularly via online and reseller channels,” chief executive Geoffrey Babidge said. . .

Remote workers look to crash through grass ceiling – Gregor Heard:

RURAL leaders are hopeful the readjustments to work patterns caused by COVID-19 could lead to more senior level employment and business opportunities in country Australia.

The mainstream business community is now adapting to working from home and using video conferencing for communication, a system already widely used by those based in rural and regional areas to combat issues with isolation.

“In many ways in this current environment those of us that have worked remotely before have a bit of an advantage,” said Wool Producers Australia chief executive Jo Hall, who has split her time between her home at Crookwell, in NSW’s Southern Tablelands, and Wool Producers’ head office in Canberra over the past nine years. . .

 

 


Rural round-up

April 22, 2020

Meating needs of hungry Kiwis:

Two farmers have stepped up to help the growing number of families affected by food poverty.

Meat the Need is a new charity set up by Siobhan O’Malley and Wayne Langford to provide a way for farmers to give livestock to food banks and city missions.

The livestock is processed by Silver Fern Farms where it is turned it into mince and distributed to charity groups.

O’Malley said it is not quite right that farmers can feed millions of people overseas but there are still people hungry in New Zealand.  . .

Fonterra chairman’s milk price caution – Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra farmers are being told to brace for a lower farm gate milk price next season.

In an email to farmer shareholders last night, Fonterra chairman John Monaghan pointed out that milk production in key markets around the world is up.

This could affect global supply/demand balance that supported “solid” milk price this season.

Fonterra is forecasting a milk price range of $7 to $7.60/kgMS this season. It will announce the opening forecast for the 2020-21 season late May. . . 

Essential food processors take massive wage subsidies – Brent Melville:

Primary food processors deemed essential under government’s lockdown restrictions, have received wage subsidies totalling about $90 million.

The Ministry of Social Development’s online tool, developed to promote transparency of payments under the scheme, shows that the two major meat companies account for a combined $77.7 million.

Silver Fern Farms and Alliance Group have been paid subsidies of $43.3 million and $34.4 million respectively to supplement wages for a combined 11,000 workers. . .

NZ Food processing sector’s key role in NZ’s post Covid-19 recovery :

NZ’s processed food sector is well placed to support New Zealand’s economic and social recovery from the global COVID-19 crisis, according to the head of food science and innovation hub, FoodHQ.

FoodHQ CEO, Dr Abby Thompson says under Level 4 there has been unprecedented examples of collaboration and innovation in the NZ food industry, in order to overcome the obstacles of lockdown at home and abroad.

“The level of activity and enthusiasm that companies, scientists and entrepreneurs have applied to the problem of processing and supplying food has been outstanding.” . .

Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards champions named:

At a time when kiwis are rediscovering home cookery, the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards is delighted to announce its 2020 Champions – the best of the country’s locally grown and made food and drink products.

Organic farmers, Bostock Brothers, were named Supreme Champion for theirOrganic Whole Chicken. Hawke’s Bay brothers Ben and George Bostock have their chickens roam free on their parents former apple orchard. They pride themselves on letting their chickens grow naturally, feeding them home-grown organic maize and giving them longer, happier lives. As well as how they grow their chooks it’s what they don’t do which adds to flavour. Bostock’s chicken is free of chemicals and antibiotics and when it comes to processing their product does not receive chlorine baths. The judges raved about the product saying, ‘Outstanding flavour, succulent and delicious.’ .  .

Dairy farmers to cast milk solids levy vote:

Dairy farmers are encouraged to have their say in the milksolids levy vote 2020, which is now open for voting. It is a one-in-six year vote for industry good organisation, DairyNZ.

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel said the milksolids levy funds industry good activities through DairyNZ which delivers dairy sector research, development, advocacy and expertise.

“The milksolids levy has been part of New Zealand dairy farming for 17 years. Its roots are in funding work that enables farmers to continue thriving in an ever-changing world. With the challenges of COVID-19, the changing nature of farming has never been more real,” said Mr van der Poel. . .

Blue chip East Coast station placed on the market for sale:

The rare opportunity to purchase an iconic, high-performing East Coast station is drawing strong interest from farmers and investors throughout New Zealand.

Mangaheia Station near Tolaga Bay is on the market for the first time in many years, offering a unique opportunity for buyers to tap into on-going strong returns anticipated from the red meat market in a prime winter growing location.

Simon Bousfield, Bayleys Gisborne agent says Mangaheia’s uniqueness is due as much to its scale as to the strong level of investment the property has enjoyed in recent years. . . 


Rural round-up

April 7, 2020

Queues for meat plant space grow :

Meat companies Silver Fern Farms and Alliance report a dramatic lift in livestock numbers waiting to be processed as their plants are down to half capacity under covid-19 rules.

In a note to its suppliers Silver Fern Farms said queue times at its 14 plants have extended exponentially as suppliers book early to avoid congestion and because of colder weather and diminished feed.

Suppliers might be waiting three to six weeks for space, depending on stock class and region. 

An Alliance update to its co-operative members estimates several weeks’ backlog, with processing down to about 30% for beef. . . 

Famously scenic Arcadia Station sold

A Queenstown farmer has bought a scenic rural property near Glenorchy, famous as a setting for TV commercials and films like The Lord of the Rings, for an undisclosed price.

The 257ha Arcadia Station, bordered by Diamond Lake, Mount Aspiring National Park and Dart River and the Paradise property, has been farmed for 60 years by Jim Veint (83), who in turn bought it off his father, Lloyd.

Mr Veint will continue assisting with the farming operation and help recruit and train a new farm manager. . . 

Beware of false prophets – The Veteran:

There have been calls for ‘value added’ to be the driver for our export industry as long as I can remember.    Much of that directed at the timber industry.   All well in theory.   Reality trumps (bad word) theory most times.

So let’s look at timber.   Some would argue the export of raw timber (logs) should be discouraged/banned in favor of the processed product.   That this would lead to an increased number of jobs in the industry particularly now with the economy predicted to contract. . . 

Support set up for farmers facing feed shortages :

Farming groups have set up advice and support for farmers facing shortages of stock feed as they head into winter.

The Ministry for Primary Industries worked with the groups on the initiative which includes a feed budgeting service and farm systems advice.

Federated Farmers said drought, the cancellation of traditional stock sale forums and reduced processing capacity at meat works meant many farmers were carrying more stock than they anticipated going into winter.

This was putting a huge strain on already stretched feed resources and farmer morale. . . 

No spilt milk during lockdown – Molly Houseman:

Last Friday looked “bleak” for Holy Cow.

The family dairy farm in Reynoldstown, near Port Chalmers in Dunedin, lost about 70% of its customers as restaurants and cafes closed for the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown, and no longer needed their usual milk orders.

Owner Merrall MacNeille was left wondering: “What am I going to do with all this milk?”

However, business quickly took an unexpected turn. . . 

Rural Ambassador program brought a storm of opportunities – James Cleaver:

Is there anything better than hearing rain on the roof?

Or the smell that rolls in 10 minutes before a thunderstorm?

We all love rain for obvious reasons and let’s hope this small break gets bigger in the next few months.

Rain equals opportunity and options. It’s the tangent to allow things to grow to their full potential. . . 

 


Rural round-up

February 10, 2020

New troubles  hide real problem – Anette Scott:

Climate and market uncertainty impacted heavily on the Temuka adult ewe fair with prices plummeting by up to $60 a head.

With 14,000 ewes advertised and running on the back of the record prices set at the two-tooth and ewe lamb fair the previous week the annual adult ewe fair looked set to be a cracker last Wednesday.

But a lot happened in a week – coronavirus was declared a global emergency, the drought conditions in Canterbury and northern South Island were exacerbated by extreme temperatures soaring into the mid 30s and meat schedules took a dive.

As a result about 4000 ewes were late withdrawals by vendors anticipating a slump in the market so just 9300, a third of them capital stock lines being sold because of changing land use, turned up.  . . 

Gloss comes off a good season:

The gloss is quickly fading on what was shaping to be an exceptional season for farmers.

Export prices are still high by historic standards but a perfect storm of unfavourable weather and coronavirus measures in China are putting pressure on export and store prices.

Drought-like conditions in the North Island and wet in the south of the South Island combined with falling export prices have seen store prices collapse.

AgriHQ analyst Nicola Dennis says export lamb prices are likely to slip a further 20c/kg this week as exporters manage the impact of coronavirus. . .

Keith Neylon – well served by a touch of madness – Michael Fallow:

Keith Neylon detects in himself a touch of madness. There doesn’t appear to be much of a queue forming to disagree with him.

But it does seem to have served him well, this Southlander with a startling record advancing sunrise industries.

If anything it might even have inoculated him against at least some of the more maddening obstacles he has struck.

From the wild aviation days of deer recovery, stints in shellfish and salmon industries, large scale farming and most recently the sheep milk industry through Blue River Dairy, Neylon has penned a ripsnorting autobiography A Touch of Madness that’s part testament to the excitements of striving to develop this country’s resources. . . 

Alliance Nelson plant prioritises livestock from dry Nelson-Tasman region – Cherie Sivignon:

Livestock from the Nelson-Tasman region is being prioritised at Alliance Group’s Nelson meat plant as some farmers reduce their animal numbers amid a run of hot, dry weather.

Alliance Group livestock and shareholder services general manager Danny Hailes said the Nelson plant was busy as farmers “look to de-stock as a result of the dry conditions”.

“We are prioritising processing livestock from the region so we can meet the needs of local farmers,” Hailes said. “As a co-operative, we need to be there for our farmers.” . . . 

NFUS president calls tree planting initiatives a ‘distraction’ :

The president of NFU Scotland has criticised tree planting initiatives as part of a measure to curb climate change, calling it a ‘distraction’.

Speaking at the union’s annual conference in Glasgow on Thursday (6 February), Andrew McCornick said there is ‘no single solution’ to the climate crisis.

Looking specifically at tree planting initiatives, he highlighted that they could ‘displace the potential to grow food crops’. . . 

New York farmers are struggling to sell their onions. U.S. lawmakers want a trade investigation – Lisa Held:

In the fertile “black dirt” region of New York’s Hudson Valley, once home to the storied onion king and his Ye Jolly Onion Inn, farmers have been celebrating the annual onion harvest with their communities for generations. But in December, as farmers were being offered a price that was equal to what they received in 1990, the unsold yellow and red bulbs were piling up and the mood was more desperation than jubilation.

“We went from $28 for a 50-pound bag down to $12 within a couple of weeks,” said Chris Pawelski, a fourth-generation onion farmer in Orange County who has been chronicling his struggles on Twitter since September. This is less than the cost of production, but farmers have been forced to sell at that low price, as buyers are suddenly hard to find.

“I can’t sleep at night,” Pawelski said. “I’ve got 60 days. After that they’ll start to sprout, and I’ve got to dump them.” . . 


Rural round-up

January 28, 2020

Farmers face ‘catastrophic’ costs in coming years, despite all sectors performing well – Bonnie Flaws:

Farmer morale is low, despite record highs for commodity prices last year, farmers say.

Lamb, beef, forestry and fruit all saw record prices in 2019, and 2020 got off to a good start with milk prices up 2.8 per cent.

But the sheer amount of challenges “coming down the line”, from regulation like the zero carbon bill and freshwater management policies, to restricted lending from banks has resulted in low farmer confidence and morale, Canterbury dairy farmer Jessie Chan-Dorman said.

“Yes, it’s a really good milk price, but most of us will be paying down debt and consolidating. There won’t be the growth we’ve seen in previous years.” . . 

Drought conditions on the horizon with pockets of extremely dry weather in Waikato – Sharnae Hope:

The country’s biggest dairy region is facing the first signs of a “green drought” after a spell of limited rain for the last couple of weeks.

With summer weather finally in full force temperatures are expected to rise and soil moisture levels plummet throughout Waikato and Northland, NIWA say.

While much of the region still has green paddocks, Northern Waikato and Coromandel/Peninsula have entered very dry to extremely dry conditions.

Waikato Federated Farmers president Andrew McGiven said it’s not unusual for this time of year, but if it continues into late February farmers will be concerned. . . 

Hailes a meat man to the bone – Neal Wallace:

Danny Hailes has had plenty of variety in his 27-year career with Alliance but it now reaches a new level with his elevation to livestock and shareholder services manager. He talks to Neal Wallace.

WHEN Danny Hailes looks back over his meat industry career he quotes one statistic he says reveals much about the capability of New Zealand sheep and beef farmers.

In 2004 Hailes managed the company’s newly bought and renovated Dannevirke plant where the average weight of lambs processed that season was 15.5kg.

Seven years later in his last year managing the Pukeuri plant north of Oamaru the average weight of lambs processed was over 18kg. . . 

2020 the year of ‘New-Gen’ ag – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Could 2020 be the year of New Zealand ‘generative agriculture’? 

A new thought for the New Year – New Zealand ‘generative agriculture’… or New-gen, for short.

New-gen captures New Zealand’s approach to the soil-plant-animal-environment continuum that makes up agriculture: animals have been moved in herds or flocks around the farm or station, enabling them to graze the pasture at its optimum quantity and quality and return dung and urine to the soil in situ. Earthworms have been introduced to enhance organic matter incorporation into the soil and water has been applied in some areas to overcome drought. The result is that organic matter has been maintained or increased.

Efficiencies developed over the past 100 years have been based on science, informed by research, and honed by farmers. . . 

Rabobank climbs rural loans ladder – Nigel Stirling:

Rabobank has leapfrogged ASB to become the country’s third largest rural lender in yet another sign the Australian banks are backing off lending to farmers.

The Dutch bank had $10.7b on loan to farmers at the end of September, behind ANZ with $17.4b and the BNZ with $14.1b, official figures show.

ASB, which is culling jobs at its rural lending division as it sets itself for a slow-down in lending growth, slipped to fourth place with $10.6b of rural loans. Westpac rounded out the top five with loans of $8.6b.

The switch in rankings follows a strong period of lending growth for Rabobank at the same time as three of the four Australian-owned banks throttled back their lending to the sector. . . 

Veganism may not save the world but healthier animals could – Jeff Simmons:

At this month’s Golden Globes, the meal got almost as much attention as the movies with award-winner Joaquin Phoenix and other celebrities touting veganism as a path to saving the planet. The event’s meatless menu created a lot of buzz and critics gave the effort mixed reviews.

I’m a big proponent of reducing our impact on the environment and I applaud people who want to be part of real change. We face big challenges and it will take all of us working together. If there’s one thing I can absolutely agree with Joaquin on, it’s that we should be talking about animals and their impact on our world. But his storyline is missing the bigger picture. Let’s make sure the facts don’t hit the cutting room floor.  . . 

 


Rural round-up

January 21, 2020

Meat prices squeeze domestic suppliers – Neal Wallace:

A correction in global meat prices has prompted Alliance to scale back its minimum price contracts while sustained high values have forced the closure of a Dunedin meat small goods manufacturer.

Lamb volumes accepted for Alliance’s minimum price contracts have been scaled back because they were oversubscribed and international meat prices have eased, livestock and shareholder services manager Danny Hailes says.

Global demand for protein, primarily driven by China, which has lost half its pig population to African swine fever, is pushing up prices but there was a significant correction over Christmas.

Alliance’s minimum price lamb contract is set at $8.10/kg. Last week the South Island schedule was about $7.70/kg, AgriHQ analysts said. . . 

Happy to be involved with marketing bid – Sally Rae:

When it comes to the future of farming, Omarama farmer Trent Spittle believes it will be the end users of products who will decide what happens on farm.

So when approached by outdoor equipment and clothing retailer Kathmandu to be involved with a marketing campaign for its new merino range, showing the entire process from on the farm through to garment manufacturing, he was happy to oblige.

Mr Spittle manages Quailburn Downs, a 2600ha sheep and beef property near Omarama’s Clay Cliffs landmark. . .

Group aims to boost sheep milk – Annette Scott:

Most people in the South Island associate the iconic high country sheep with meat and wool but that is changing as enterprising pioneers establish sheep-milking operations. Founding member of the Canterbury Dairy Sheep Association David Waghorn talked to Annette Scott.     

Sheep milker David Waghorn is confident the Canterbury Dairy Sheep Association will drive opportunities for local sheep milking farmers.

Canterbury has fallen behind the North Island in developing a sheep dairy industry, missing out on investment in infrastructure and research funding, he says.

The association, set up in September, is charged with changing that. .. 

The case for protective planting :

 Catastrophic Australian bushfires are hardly the result of a single cause.

Those who argue this shouldn’t be seen as an up-close-and-personal face of climate change are delusional. Scientific predictions that the climatic fixings for more extreme bushfires – more intense drought, higher temperatures, stronger winds – have shown up as predicted and on cue.

That said, those who point instead to political issues bedevilling the management of the risk are hardly raising a red herring.

The incoherence of the decision making between federal, state and shire authorities has been horridly exposed in terms of the allocation, and marshalling, of resources. . . 

Family and successful farming career built in Gore – Sally Rae:

“Like all good stories, it began with a boy.”

When Jess Moore moved from Melbourne to Gore, she had no knowledge of farming, nor did she even know where the town was. Fast forward a decade or so and she is proud to be a Southland dairy farmer.

After almost nine years of marriage and three children, Mrs Moore and her husband Don have now bought their own farm northeast of Gore, having made progress through the industry.

Mrs Moore particularly loved how willing people in the industry were to share their knowledge and experiences.

They were a young couple, not from a farming background, and had taken all opportunities available and immersed themselves “in as much dairy as we could”. . . 

Freshwater management unit for Hokitika – Lois Williams:

People who care about their local rivers and the way the water is used might want to show up for meetings in Hokitika and Harihari this week.

The West Coast Regional Council is about to launch the Hokitika Freshwater Management Unit (FMU) and it needs volunteers from all sectors of the community to be on it.

The Hokitika FMU is the third to be set up on the coast, after the establishment of Grey/Mawhera and Karamea groups, and it takes in the area from the Taramakau River to the Waiau (Franz Josef).

FMU’s are part of the government’s strategy to stop the degradation of rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands around the country. . . 


Rural round-up

December 31, 2019

Land Champion: helping girls gain confidence – Neal Wallace:

Laura Douglas has successfully slayed her demons and is now using everyday farming skills to help teenage girls confront theirs.

Depression four years ago thrust the 32-year-old Southlander into some dark places, places unimaginable today given her boundless energy, endless positivity and zest for life and people.

Douglas addressed her depression by taking small steps, getting out and doing things such as volunteering at a horse refuge and celebrating small achievements. . .

Alliance aiming for ‘greater value’ as part of evolution – Brent Melville:

Southland-based  farmer co-operative Alliance Group wants to capture “greater value” from its products as part of its evolution to a food and solutions business, chairman Murray Taggart says.

Last month, Alliance Group announced a profit of $20.7million before distributions and tax, on revenue of $1.7billion.

It has now paid $9million to its supplying shareholders.

Mr Taggart said it was the best trading result since 2010.

“While this year’s result enabled us to reward shareholders with a profit distribution, we recognise the need to lift the profitability further. . . 

Land Champion: Many string in Jones’ bow – Annette Scott:

From humble beginnings 19 years ago Matt and Tracey Jones now do business worldwide to help Canterbury farmers staff their farms and have launched a world class learning environment in rural Mid Canterbury to provide elite education to strengthen New Zealand primary industries. Annette Scott caught up with the agribusiness entrepreneurs.

Mid Canterbury couple Matt and Tracey Jones’ agricultural staffing businesses is going world-wide recruiting and training people to work across all sectors of New Zealand’s primary industries.

Starting out as Mid Canterbury Casual Employment Services in 2001 their recruitment and training business has evolved and expanded to meet agriculture’s increasing needs. . .

$42.55m in I billion trees project funding:

Figures released by Te Uru Rakau (Forestry New Zealand) this week show 228 grant applications were received for funding under the Government’s One Billion Trees Programme this year, a total of $42.55million being allocated across 42 projects.

Te Uru Rakau acting deputy director-general Sam Keenan said $22.2million of that had been approved across 10,758.4 hectares of new planting.

“To date approximately 17,056,165 trees comprised of 9,785,067 native and 7,271,098 exotic trees have been funded.” . . 

Ngāi Tahu hopes to raise funds for undaria management by selling the seaweed – Louisa Steyl:

It’s a frigid morning off the coast of Dunedin when a wetsuit-clad diver rises to the surface clutching a slimy prize.

The trophy is a seaweed known as undaria pinnatifida – a pest native to Japan and Korea – and physically cutting it out is the only way to control it. 

On board the Polaris 2, a research vessel stationed just a few metres away, members of Ngāi Tahu is processing and packing the seaweed for research.

Its trying to determine the possible uses of undaria in the hopes that harvesting it could pay for control efforts.  . . 

 

Planning to feed? Try the calculator app to help come with complex decisions :

Livestock producers are now planning for difficult conditions through summer and autumn, going into winter.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services have advised producers to use available tools and tactics to develop feasible solutions for worst case to best case scenarios.

DPI sheep development officer, Geoff Casburn, said the free Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app is available from the Apple App Store and Google Play to help calculate feed requirements, costs and budgets and develop cost effective feeding strategies. . . 

 


Rural round-up

December 20, 2019

Manager no stranger to plant reality – Sally Rae:

As Alliance Group holds its annual meeting in Palmerston North today, business and rural editor Sally Rae speaks to its new general manager, livestock and shareholder services, Danny Hailes about his long and varied tenure with the co-operative.

Danny Hailes always gets a little anxious around the summer holidays.

His anxiety is understandable, for it was a Sunday morning in January 2006 when he was in Wanaka to watch his son play tennis, and got a phone call to say there was a fire at Alliance Group’s Pukeuri plant which he managed.

Quickly driving back, Mr Hailes could smell smoke in his car as he hit Peebles on the lower Waitaki Plains. . . 

Pāmu revises full year financial forecast:

Pāmu has revised its full year EBITDAR (Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Revaluations) forecast to between $73 million and $78 million. This compares to the previous forecast of $61 million.

Chief Executive Steve Carden said the increased forecast was pleasing and demonstrated both a lift in milk and meat prices, plus a strong focus on productivity improvement on farm and securing premiums for its products.

“The improved milk price principally reflects the revision in Fonterra’s forecast milk payment to $7.00 – $7.60 per kg of milk solids, while the strong beef and sheep prices are being driven by strong global demand for protein, particularly from China. . .

Pair travelling country on Kaimanawa horses – Laura Smith:

It is an ambition of many to travel the length of the country, but wild horse is not typically the transport of choice.

In 2018, during the annual muster of Kaimanawa horses near Taupo, Jess Mullins and Bijmin Swart took on three wild horses.

The muster occurs to maintain good health within the population and protects fragile ecosystems that are unique to the Moawhango Ecological Zone.

Unfortunately, not long after they took him on, one of the three horses died of illness. . . 

Measles epidemic taking toll on Samoan seasonal workers

The measles epidemic has been “taxing” on Pacific workers in New Zealand’s horticultural industry, a co-ordinator with the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) says.

Jerf van Beek said many Samoan RSE workers had been affected by the impact of the epidemic on their families back home.

“Funerals are a very important part in the Samoan culture and we know it’s very expensive,” Mr van Beek said.

“We as an industry really want to support our RSE workers who are being affected by it, that they are able to come to New Zealand, earn the money and actually take it back again, under a very taxing situation.” . . 

Matakana Island joins the medical cannabis industry:

 Local whānau on one of New Zealand’s most intriguing islands have just received a licence* to grow medicinal cannabis. Grown outside in the Matakana Island sunshine, Mahana Island Therapies will be one of the only legal and naturally grown cannabis products of its kind in the world.

Matakana is a narrow, 28 kilometre-long sandbar at the head of the Tauranga harbour in the Bay of Plenty. Renowned for its unique geology, history and ecology, the island’s primary industries are forestry, dairy farming, kiwifruit and other horticultural activities. Famed for its stunning surf beach, the island is home to about 200 permanent residents. . . 

Survey reveals what kiwis eat on Christmas Day:

Lamb was voted as the meat of choice for Kiwis this Christmas as part of the Classic Kiwi Christmas Census 2019, followed in a very tight second by ham.

The poll – which was conducted by Retail Meat New Zealand in conjunction with Beef + Lamb New Zealand – of over 1,300 Kiwis covering a range of Christmas traditions, saw lamb as the go-to meat of choice with 34% of respondents. Ham was only two votes behind in second with 33% and beef came third with 13%. This represents a significant change in meat choice, with last year’s survey returning a strong mandate for ham which secured 37% of the vote versus 30% for lamb in the 2018 survey.  . . 


Rural round-up

December 1, 2019

Hocken wins Rabobank Emerging Leader award:

Manawatu dairy farmer Mat Hocken is the winner of the Rabobank Emerging Leader Award for 2019.

Hocken is director and owner of family business Grassmere Dairy, a 1000-cow dairy operation on the banks of the Oroua River in the Manawatu.

He becomes the first Kiwi to win the award since its introduction in 2013. The awards ceremony was held in Auckland last night. . . 

New Zealand arable farmers face unfair competition from imported grain – Gerard Hutching:

Arable farmers have appealed to their dairy farmer colleagues to buy their grain rather than importing it from overseas.

Federated Farmers arable spokeswoman Karen Williams complained about the lack of a level playing field over grain sales.

She was commenting on the Feds’ latest banking survey showing 30 per cent of the arable farmers surveyed felt under pressure and they also had the lowest percentage feeling very satisfied or satisfied (60 per cent). . . 

Boomer year for OAD farmers – Peter Burke:

A leading once a day (OAD) farmer says her farm is set to have a record year thanks to a combination of favourable circumstances – especially the weather.

Christine Finnigan who farms near Rongotea, Manawatu says the warm winter has seen good pasture growth into spring and her 220 Kiwi cross cows are in good condition.

She says the original target for this season was 78,000kgMS, but says if conditions stay favourable the record of 82,500kgMS could be reached. . .

Alliance pays out $15.2m:

Alliance Group says it has paid farmer shareholders a further $1.67 million in loyalty payments.

This brings the total bonuses it has distributed for the season to $15.2m.

The latest quarterly payments were made to the co-operative’s ‘platinum’ and ‘gold’ shareholders who supply 100% of their livestock to Alliance. The latest payments cover the July to September period. . . 

Last of Zespri’s 2019 New Zealand kiwifruit crop heading to markets:

The last of New Zealand’s successful 2019 kiwifruit crop has been shipped, with four containers of Zespri Green leaving Tauranga for North Asia, unloading in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Around 70 tonnes of the Bay of Plenty-grown kiwifruit was loaded onto the APL Denver this week which is expected to reach the first port in 15 days.

Blair Hamill, Zespri’s Chief Global Supply Officer, says 147 million trays of kiwifruit were shipped offshore this season to more than 50 countries, with record numbers of consumers creating unprecedented levels of demand.

“Our premium Zespri SunGold and Green Kiwifruit are more popular than ever, and over the course of the season we’ve moved 44 full charter shiploads and 17,160 containers, or more than 500,000 tonnes in total, to our markets,” Mr Hamill says. . . 

Women in Scottish farming ‘downplayed’ and ‘unseen’

A ‘fundamental cultural change’ is needed to ensure that women in the Scottish farming industry are valued more, a new report has revealed.

Women’s contribution to the sector can be ‘undervalued, downplayed, or simply unseen’, it explained.

The findings are included in a Women in Agriculture Taskforce report which was commissioned by the Scottish government. Taskforce co-chair Joyce Campbell said the the report has shone light into the ‘very dark corners of Scottish agriculture.’ . .

 


Rural round-up

November 24, 2019

Canterbury farmers fearing as much as an 80 percent crop loss from hailstorm – Kaysha Brownlie:

Canterbury farmers are scrambling to salvage what was spared from hail the size of eggs which pummelled Canterbury this week.

Some of them are fearing as much as an 80 percent crop loss after two severe storms battered the region.

Insurers said they’ve received hundreds of claims after the egg-sized hail and driving rain caused extensive damage. . . .

Fowl under fire for pollution – Neal Wallace:

Southland dairy farmers have become more compliant with their resource consent conditions with the rate of significant non-compliance last year falling from 1.9% to 1.8%.

In the 2018-19 year council staff inspected 783 dairy effluent discharge consents either on-site or by air and found 634 fully compliant, 139 graded as low risk or moderately non-compliant and 10, or 1.8%, as significantly non-compliant.

The previous year 922 sites were inspected, some more than twice, and 17, or 1.9%, were found to be significantly non-compliant.

The council’s regulatory committee chairman Neville Cook said the improvement shows farmers are aware of their responsibilities and are doing something about it. . . .

Landcorp subsidiary sued for hundreds of thousands by Australian sheep farmers – Gerard Hutching:

An Australian farming couple is suing Landcorp subsidiary Focus Genetics for hundreds of thousands of dollars because they cannot access their sheep genetics data.

The Wellington High Court recently conducted an urgent hearing over whether Damien and Kirsten Croser, fourth generation farmers from South Australia, could access some of the data for this season’s mating.

The urgent hearing is separate to an application to sue Focus Genetics. Originally the Crosers said they would sue for $1.9 million, but their claim has been reduced to an undisclosed sum. . .

Profitable year leaves Alliance in strong position – Brent Melville:

Alliance group has doubled profits to $20.7 million and will pay its farmer shareholders a $9 million fillip for the year to September.

The country’s largest processor and exporter of sheep and lamb products, yesterday reported turnover of $1.7 billion, largely on the back of record demand and prices from China.

Alliance chairman Murray Taggart, said the increase in profit was pleasing and reflected the co-operative’s drive to maximise operational efficiency and focus on capturing greater market value. .

 

 

Wool stains could stop processing  – Alan WIlliams:

Dye-stained wool unsuitable for scouring could be problem for years because of the high volume being stored, New Zealand Woolscouring chief executive Nigel Hales says.

“We’d only be guessing how much wool there is out there but feedback from field reps is that every motorbike they see has a can of spray on it.”

The dye stains in wool cannot be scoured out and a lot of wool is now not being scoured at all though Hales said the amount is not material given the overall volumes. . .

How Dean Foods’ bankruptcy is a ‘warning sign’ to the milk industry – Lillianna Byington:

Wrestling with debt and struggling to adjust to consumer demands, ​America’s largest dairy producer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week.

Analysts told Food Dive this news didn’t come as a shock. A number of factors led to Dean Foods’ decline, including dropping fluid milk consumption, rising competition from private label and milk alternatives, and a complex company history with M&A gone wrong and financial missteps from which it never quite recovered. 

These factors culminated in a decline in revenues that led to the company’s bankruptcy filing​ after several CEOs failed to achieve the task of turning around the troubled business. Experts and analysts say what happened to Dean can serve as a cautionary tale to other businesses in the space.

 


Rural round-up

November 23, 2019

Take us with you – Rural News editorial:

According to a newly released Rabobank report, New Zealand farm businesses need to get ready for the full cost of environmental policies coming down the track as they make future investment decisions.

The report says with the country’s agricultural sector facing increasingly tougher environmental constraints, its decisions on investment and land use will need to take account of how these constraints impact on their farming businesses.

Rabobank says that despite the significant investments made by many New Zealand farmers over the past decade to improve performance of their farming operations, the increasingly tougher environmental reforms relating to water quality and climate change will progressively require farmers to account for a greater range of environmental impacts resulting from their farming operations. . .

Making it okay to ask for help – David Anderson:

Meat processing company Alliance has started an employee support programme aimed at getting colleagues to look after each other and keep an eye out for possible mental health issues.

Its ‘Mates at the Gate’ programme encourages staff to ask for support at an early stage and also educates employees on the signs their colleagues might be depressed or distressed.

The programme, which is specifically tailored to Alliance’s workforce, was launched across the company’s processing plants and corporate offices in November 2018.  . . 

Call for NZ and Scotland to join forces – David Hill:

A Scottish farmer and cattle judge would like to see New Zealand and Scotland work together to promote meat.

John Scott, who judged the all-breeds beef cattle competition at last week’s New Zealand Agricultural Show, has just completed an eight-year stint on the Quality Meat Scotland board, the equivalent of Beef and Lamb New Zealand.

”We’ve got some huge challenges with Brexit and the anti-red meat lobby,” Mr Scott said.

”It’s a world market now and I would like to see Scotland having closer ties with New Zealand.

”We need to increase consumption of meat around the world and the seasons are different between our countries, so we don’t need to be competitive. We have a lot of similarities and we can work together.” . . 

A day out at Fonterra’s PR farm – Alex Braae:

Were Fonterra’s Open Gates events a shallow PR stunt, or was there something deeper going on? Alex Braae went to Mangatawhiri to find out.

Walking into the Fonterra Open Gates event in Mangatawhiri, the first animals to see weren’t actually dairy cows. 

In an enclosure just next to the welcome tent, there were three beautifully clean and fluffy sheep. Their faces were sharp and alert, like the healthy energetic dogs that herd them. A throng of kids hung around them, reaching out to touch the exotic creatures.  . . 

Strong returns forecast from Zespri’s record European harvest:

Zespri’s European kiwifruit harvest is again expected to deliver strong returns for growers in Italy and France, along with another great tasting crop for consumers around the world to enjoy.

Sheila McCann-Morrison, Zespri’s Chief International Production Officer, says that with the Northern Hemisphere harvest well underway, Zespri is expecting to harvest around 19 million trays or almost 70 tonnes of kiwifruit from orchards throughout Italy, France and Greece. . . 

It’s forestry that must change not farmers – Rowan Reid :

AS a young forest scientist, I chose to work in the farming landscape in Australia. Despite the slogans of our conservation groups, the environmental frontline was not occurring at the forest blockade; it was at the farm gate. In just 200 years of white settlement, we had cleared the native forests off more than 60 per cent of the continent to create family farms. That’s about 15 times the area of the entire UK. The result was the greatest extinction of native animals and plants seen in modern times, massive land degradation problems, the release of millions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, and mounting animal welfare issues due to heat and cold stress in farm stock.

Seeing that forestry – even the act of harvesting trees for timber – had a role to play in repairing the environmental damage and helping develop resilient family farms, I set my goal to make forestry attractive to the farming community. But rather than just promote what my peers saw as ‘good forestry practices’, I could see that it was forestry, rather than the farmers, that had to change. In 1987, I purchased a small degraded farm and set about planting trees for both conservation and profit. . . 


Rural round-up

October 28, 2019

‘We have not suddenly woken up’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

For dairy farmer Peter Dobbie, learning about what affects his farm’s environment and how to remedy or improve it has been a continually evolving journey that has taken almost three decades.

”We have not suddenly woken up and realised we need to do this or that,” he said.

He has been farming since 1991, and was a financial consultant before that.

By 2001 he had moved to dairying in partnership with his brother William. . .

Helping farmers make green dough – Tim Fulton:

A team of agricultural innovators wants to help farmers take clever ideas to market across at least 100,000ha of mixed Kiwi farmland. Tim Fultonreports.

The self-described social enterprise-plus, Leftfield Innovation, is helping farmers explore alternative land uses and contracts.

Funding the enterprise mostly from trust grants, processing companies, farmers and science funds the co-founders Nick Pyke and Susan Goodfellow and four colleagues are exploring commercial opportunities for farmers to convert low-yield farmland to grow high-yield crops. . . .

Gas calculator gets support – Samantha Tennent:

With data scientists and software developers at their disposal Jo Kerslake and Mark Teviotdale from AbacusBio are keen to help farmers understand their on-farm emissions.

When Kerslake heard the call for projects from the Rural Innovation Lab she applied without a clear picture of what an end product could look like.

“We were a little unsure about what farmers wanted to know,” she said. . .

New Zealand’s wallaby problem tough to tackle, fears hunters spreading them – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s wallaby problem could become a full-blown plague unless efforts to control them are ramped up and ‘shortsighted’ hunters start playing by the rules.

Forest and Bird says the pests could spread to cover a third of the country unless the Government steps in to fund a beefed-up control programme.

Central North Island regional manager Rebecca Stirnemann said wallabies were like giant rabbits, eating their way through native bush, damaging tussock grasslands and devouring pasture and young pine trees. . .

Record cattle kill at Pukeuri :

The Pukeuri meat works near Oamaru processed a record number of cattle in the past season.

The Alliance Group announced the achievement for its North Otago plant on Wednesday, saying more than 71,000 cattle were handled there in the beef season that finished on September 30.

The record was the result of hard work and commitment from staff and from farmers who supported the co-operative, chief executive David Surveyor said. . . .

Potential shake-up of GE restrictions – Pam Tipa:

Current restrictions on genetic modification regulation in New Zealand could be reviewed if National were to form the next government.

The party says it will be ready to go out and consult on a proposed review of the legislation and our current regulations if elected.

National leader Simon Bridges says if NZ is serious about tackling climate change that will require biotech answers.  . .


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