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.  . .


Rural round-up

October 20, 2019

Is this the future of irrigation? – Luke Chivers:

Curbing water consumption and the leaching of nitrogen is no easy feat but a major research programme has devised an ingenious plan. Luke Chivers explains.

A six-year research programme on irrigation has ended with a big win for agriculture – the development of promising new sensor technology systems that give arable, vegetable and pastoral farmers the tools to use precision irrigation at sub-paddock scales. 

The systems work alongside existing irrigation scheduling technology, mapping and monitoring a field at sub-paddock scales and calculating exactly how much water is needed at the right time and place. It is a leading development for irrigation and field trials have proved to dramatically reduce water wastage, save users money and minimise farm runoff. . .

On-farm research helps water quality :

An innovative approach to improving environmental sustainability is proving its success in intercepting and treating storm water before it leaves the farm and trials indicate it could be a game-changer for water quality.

A four-year trial has looked at intercepting and treating storm water before it leaves the farm – stopping the phosphorus, sediment and E coli from washing off into Lake Rotorua

The detainment bund science project manager John Paterson says while there is an increasing spotlight on farmers and the impact farming has on waterways, this is a project developed and led by farmers. . .

 

The fourth industrial revolution in agriculture – Sebastiaan Nijhuis and Iris Herrmann:

For agribusinesses, implementing new technologies requires focusing on four critical capabilities.

Do all cows’ faces look the same to you? They don’t to systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Bovine facial recognition technology, developed through a strategic partnership between Cargill and an Irish technology company called Cainthus, equips barns and fields with smart cameras that can identify each cow in a herd in seconds based on facial features and hide patterns. Linked to machine learning software, the system determines whether a cow isn’t eating or drinking enough, or if she’s sick, and can alert the farmer via smartphone app. It can also look at the whole herd’s behavior to identify how best to distribute feed or schedule cows’ stints in a specific pen or in the field. Over time, the platform learns from what it sees and begins to automate more of the daily care for each animal. . . 

Profit improves in better year for Alliance: -Sally Rae:

Alliance Group shareholders can expect a “substantial” improvement in profit performance when the company announces its year ended September 30 financial results, chief executive David Surveyor says.

Speaking at a roadshow meeting in Oamaru this week, Mr Surveyor said it was also very pleasing to announce a profit distribution would be made to shareholders.

Last year, the company posted an operating profit of $8million, down from the previous year’s $20.2million, and did not make a distribution to shareholders.

Chairman Murray Taggart said the company had made “really good” progress again this year but there was “still plenty to do“. . .

Hogget lambing ‘taken a hit’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

The recent bad weather has meant farmers in southern areas and the Southland hill country have ”taken a hit” with hogget lambing, says consultant Deane Carson, of Agribusiness Consultants, Invercargill.

Mr Carson said with the recent wet and windy weather last week, farmers had ”high losses”.

”While farmers in Central Southland have a good lambing and are nearly finished, those who are hogget lambing are getting impacted at the moment.”

He said hill country farmers were also affected by the poor weather, which ”knocked them about a bit”, and they also have had high losses, particularly as their lambing season was later than in other areas. . .

 

 

America’s first urban ‘agrihodd’ feeds 2000.  Households for free -Lacy Cooke:

When you think of Detroit, ‘sustainable‘ and ‘agriculture‘ may not be the first two words that you think of. But a new urban agrihood debuted by The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) might change your mind. The three-acre development boasts a two-acre garden, a fruit orchard with 200 trees, and a sensory garden for kids.

If you need a refresher on the definition of agrihood, MUFI describes it as an alternative neighborhood growth model. An agrihood centers around urban agriculture, and MUFI offers fresh, local produce to around 2,000 households for free. . .


Rural round-up

October 3, 2019

Gas targets will divide society – Alan Williams:

Alliance believes its Dannevirke sheep meat plant’s small size will let it survive a big fall in eastern North Island livestock numbers because of a loss of farmland to forestry.

If a similar change in land use happens in Southland the farmer-owned co-operative could be more exposed because the bigger operators in a region are likely to be most affected, chairman Murray Taggart said.

Anecdotal evidence indicates the scale of land use change could mean the loss of half a meat plant in the eastern North Island, he told shareholders in North Canterbury.

The industry believes taking out half a million stock units would essentially close down the equivalent of one plant, he told Farmers Weekly. 

The transparency of the scale of forestry interests buying farmland appears greater in the eastern North Island than in other regions.

It is possible the full extent of the loss of productive farmland might not be picked up until the damage is done. . . 

GM safe and we need it: plant biologists – Associate Professor Richard Macknight, Dr Lynette Brownfield, Associate Professor Paul Dijkwel, Associate Professor Michael Clearwater, Professor Paula Jameson and Dr Nijat Imin:

 A group of scientists belonging to the New Zealand Society of Plant Biologists say it’s time to review GM laws. They say new techniques in gene-editing can help ensure a clean green future for New Zealand.

When genetic modification technologies were newly-developed, people were rightly concerned that this relatively untested technology might harbour risks to health and the environment. So in the year 2000, the NZ government established a Royal Commission into the use of GM. After widespread and careful consultation, the commissioners’ report recommended an approach that preserved opportunities and that NZ should “proceed carefully, minimising and managing risks”. Specifically, around crop plants, the commissioners suggested New Zealand postpone any decision until more information had been obtained and the technology had developed.

The Royal Commission was nearly 20 years ago, so where do things now stand around crop plants?  . . 

Controversial red meat research bucks vegan diet trend recommendations – Stephanie Bedo:

As more people turn to eating less meat, new and “controversial” research gives you reason to return to red meat.

While the vegan trend has taken off, a series of reviews has found there are very few health benefits to cutting your meat consumption.

Based on a series of five high-quality systematic reviews of the relationship between meat consumption and health, a panel of experts recommends that most people can continue to eat red and processed meat at their average current consumption levels. . . 

Miraka pioneers farm carbon report :

Māori-owned milk processor Miraka is now reporting carbon emissions for each of its 100-plus supplier farms.

The Taupo company claims this as a first for New Zealand.

The farm-specific reports give detailed understanding of each farm’s greenhouse gas emissions and compare results between farms.

Miraka’s general manager of milk supply, Grant Jackson, says many of its farmers know little about their carbon footprint. . . 

A toast to the future – what we’ve learned from 200 years of New Zealand wine – Sarah Templeton & Lisette Reymer:

A birthday is always a time for reflection; a time to consider all you’ve achieved and what goals you’d want to tackle in the future.

I imagine that’s no more relevant than at a cool 200th – maybe one day I’ll know, if modern medicine does its thing. 

But believe it or not, this year we’re celebrating the 200th birthday of the New Zealand wine industry, which outdates even the Treaty of Waitangi. 

Aussie Reverend Samuel Marsden recorded September 25, 1819 as the day he first planted a vine in Kerikeri. The birthday was celebrated last week with the replanting of a vine in the same spot outside the Stone Store, accompanied by a celebration dinner and of course, a lot of wine.  . . 

Dutch tractor protest sparks ‘worst rush hour’ – Anna Holligan:

Tractor-driving farmers taking to the streets to demand greater recognition have caused the worst ever Dutch morning rush hour on Tuesday, according to motoring organisation ANWB.

There were 1,136km (700 miles) of jams at the morning peak, it said.

Farmers reacted angrily to claims that they were largely responsible for a nitrogen oxide emissions problem.

A report has called for inefficient cattle farms to be shut down and some speed limits lowered to cut pollution.

Farming groups believe they are being victimised while the aviation industry is escaping scrutiny. . . 


Rural round-up

September 28, 2019

Sustainability sparks new role :

A 4400ha central Hawkes Bay dairy farming operation is taking sustainability so seriously it has created a senior role specifically to oversee its environmental planning.

The Waipukurau-based BEL Group operates nine dairy farms, milks 9440 cows and employs 70 fulltime staff and has appointed Robert Barry in a new position as its sustainability lead.

Barry’s brief is to look after 16 farm environmental plans and nine dairy effluent consents to work towards a more sustainable future. . . 

Alliance is aiming for the top – Alan Williams:

Alliance has signalled a more aggressive stance on moving up the value chain and a nationwide footprint, including possible North Island expansion.

The Southland-based, farmer-owned co-operative is now targeting a top one or two market share across all its processing species of lamb, beef and venison, chief executive David Surveyor says.

The caveat is that North Island expansion will be attempted only if it will add value to all existing shareholders, Surveyor told about 50 shareholder-suppliers at Rotherham in North Canterbury at the group’s first new season roadshow.

Alliance is the biggest lamb processor and strong in venison but is only fifth or sixth biggest in beef processing and will need a major North Island presence, from one beef plant now in Levin, to be a top-two operator.  . . 

Farm has traffic lights for pooh :

Otago dairy farmers Duncan and Anne-Marie Wells have traffic lights on their farm.

It’s nothing to do with congestion – at least not of the car variety. The Wells’ traffic lights are designed to deal with one of the biggest challenges facing many dairy farmers: effluent.

In the ongoing effort to improve water quality up and down the country, efficient effluent systems are needed to manage the risk of effluent reaching waterways. . . 

Farmers give thumbs up:

Fonterra’s new strategy and honesty are a hit with its dairy farmers despite the massive balance sheet losses and the lack of a dividend for the past 18 months.

Farmers and marketers have welcomed the scaled back and more realistic strategy with triple-bottom line reporting targets, chief among them sustainable earnings and a good return on capital.

Golden Bay Fonterra supplier and Federated Farmers national dairy vice-chairman Wayne Langford echoed many shareholders’ support for their co-operative’s plans to down-size and refocus on New Zealand milk supply while still smarting over the massive losses.

Southland farmer Don Moore, of McNab, had some unease about the ambition of the previous strategy but is more comfortable with the new version and its more modest goals. . . 

Fonterra strategy positive but light on detail – Jarden :

Dairy giant Fonterra Cooperative Group’s intent and direction is good but lacking in detail, says Jarden research analyst Arie Dekker.

Fonterra yesterday unveiled a new strategy that puts greater emphasis on extracting value rather than pursuing volume. Key elements include bringing the focus squarely back to New Zealand and a pull-back from its consumer brands.

“We are disappointed by the lack of detail accompanying Fonterra’s strategic reveal,” Dekker said in a note to clients . . 

 

Farmers make the case for pasture-raised animals with Pro-Pasture Fridays campaign :

When you think of a farm, do you imagine cattle grazing on rich, green pasture grass and chickens pecking around in the dirt, looking for bugs? Do you envision lambs bounding around on legs like springs and pigs rooting through the soil and rolling in cool, delicious mud?

The reality is that scenes like this are rare exceptions, not the norm. Animals are typically raised in crowded conditions in closed-in barns called CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). They’re fed a diet of “mash — a blend of cereal grains that can include corn, barley, sorghum or wheat,” according to

by Oregon writer Lynne Curry. Because of the crowded conditions in the CAFOs and the need to maximize growth, Curry writes that cattle “receive daily doses of additives that improve digestion and are injected with slow-release pellets of synthetic estrogen that can add up to 40 extra pounds.” . . 


Rural round-up

September 13, 2019

Hey government let’s K.I.S.S. – Rowena Duncum:

The Essential Freshwater Package has Rowena Duncum wishing the Government would stick to the Keep It Simple Stupid method.

Look, I usually steer clear of voicing political opinions, but to be honest, I’ve lost a lot of sleep this past week.

Here we are one week on from the big water policy announcement and I don’t see that abating anytime soon.

In the last seven days, we’ve heard a range of opinions. Some good, balanced and considered. Some in the extreme for opposing sides of the spectrum. . .

Big processors pursuing staged transition – Brent Melville:

Weaning New Zealand’s primary sector off fossil fuels could cost the industry and the agri-sector hundreds of millions of dollars.

Alliance Group, the country’s second-largest meat exporter and largest lamb processor, confirmed it would be ending the use of coal at all of its seven plants within 10 years and was at present examining other fuel options across its network.

It had budgeted capital expenditure of $60 million-$70 million for the transition, it told a select committee hearing on the Zero Carbon Bill in Dunedin yesterday.

David Surveyor, chief executive of Alliance Group, said energy requirements were sourced across a range of fuels. “Levin and Dannevirke operate on natural gas, Nelson utilises diesel, while Smithfield in Timaru, Pukeuri in Oamaru and Mataura and Lorneville in Southland use coal.” . . .

They’re fishing for the future – Neal Wallace:

The desire to remove the ticket-clipping middlemen is not confined to dairy and meat farmers wanting to get closer to their markets and earn higher prices. It is a path being followed by Bluff fisherman Nate Smith but, he tells Neal Wallace, he has another motive for supplying fish direct to customers.

Did I want to go fishing, Nate Smith asked from the wheelhouse of his boat Gravity. 

He was catching only enough blue cod to fill a small order and the at-times turbulent Foveaux Strait was flat, he added reassuringly.

That brief exchange revealed plenty about Smith and his business, Gravity Fishing. . . 

New life-members for North Otago A&P – Sally Brooker:

The North Otago A&P Association has two new life members.

At its recent annual meeting, the association acknowledged the years of service given by John Dodd and Murray Isbister.

Mr Dodd, who farms at Tapui, has been involved with the organisation since the late 1980s. He was its president in 2000 and nowadays is convener of the sheep section.

He said there were still people who were willing to go along to judge the sheep at each A&P show. They seemed to enjoy the camaraderie that went with the role, often meeting up with sheep farming colleagues from across the country who also did the rounds of the shows. . .

 

New Zealand Wood Industry – Zero Carbon – And We Can Prove It:

If New Zealand’s ambition is to be a zero carbon economy by 2050 then it must nurture its wood industry. Many industries claim to be driving towards lower emissions but none have the low carbon profile of the wood sector. The WPMA Chair, Brian Stanley, says; “no other major industry in New Zealand can deliver carbon sequestration, carbon storage and emissions reduction like the wood industry”. Mr Stanley adds, “….and the industry now has independent, third-party certification extending right from the forest to the marketplace to prove that our wood-based packaging and construction products do the right thing by the environment. Our customers in New Zealand and overseas expect no less”.

Last night in Rotorua, WPMA highlighted that both major international certification programmes for forestry: Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification and Forest Stewardship Council guarantee that wood products from New Zealand come from sustainably-managed forests. In addition to this, WPMA has just launched its Environmental Product Declarations for wood products.  . . 

New fungicide approved for use on cereal crops

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved an application to import a new fungicide, Vimoy Iblon, into New Zealand, for use on cereal crops.

The applicant, Bayer, intends to market the fungicide to farmers as a means of controlling a range of diseases including scald and net blotch in barley, leaf rust in barley and wheat, stripe rust in wheat and wheat-rye hybrid triticale, speckled leaf blotch in wheat and stem rust in ryegrass crops.

New Zealand is the first country to approve the use of a new active ingredient contained in Vimoy Iblon – isoflucypram. . . 


Rural round-up

August 21, 2019

Output record delights new manager – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group recently marked the 2019 season at its Mataura plant in Southland by breaking a beef processing record. Business and Rural Editor Sally Rae talks to plant manager Melonie Nagel about breaking records — and life in New Zealand.

When cattle beast number 150,216 went through the Mataura plant last week, a photograph was taken to record the occasion.

The vibe in the factory – having beaten the previous record by more than 8000 – was “wonderful”, plant manager Melonie Nagel said.

It was an opportunity for staff to gather and also recognition that without a team effort – involving both Mataura employees and the farmers supplying the stock – it never would have happened, Ms Nagel said. . .

Banks want farm billions back – Nigel Stirling:

Floating farm mortgage rates and some fixed rates fell after the Reserve Bank slashed the Official Cash Rate but not all farmers are benefiting.

The country’s largest rural lender, ANZ, said it will cut its agri variable base rate by 40 basis points from today and its fixed base rates by between 20 and 30 basis points.

Other banks also signalled cuts to rural lending rates after the Reserve Bank moved to head off a slowing economy by lopping 50 basis points off the benchmark interest rate to a record low 1%. . .

Farmers furious at Australian animal rights activists publishing addresses and location on map – Gerald Piddock:

Federated Farmers are furious that an Australian animal rights group have begun listing descriptions and addresses of Southland farms on a website map, claiming it could encourage illegal activity by activists on farms.

The map, created by activist group Aussie Farms lists 150-200 farms, both drystock and dairy across the Southland region.

National president Katie Milne said it was hugely worrying that it could be the start of a more extreme form of animal activism in New Zealand, which in Australia and Europe had seen people break into farms, releasing and stealing stock and chain themselves to farm machinery. . . 

Making a difference:

John Ladley will go down in history as the person who took a broken Doug Avery to that life-changing lucerne workshop where he first met Professor Derrick Moot.

Over the years, John has watched with interest – and immense satisfaction – as Doug has transformed his business and life, raised awareness of mental health issues in rural communities and written a best-selling book.

“It has made me very aware of the influence you can have on one person’s life.”

For John, helping others become the best version of themselves is what gets him out of bed in the morning and as B+LNZ’s South Island General Manager, John sums his job up in just three words – “it’s all about people.” . .

Dairy product prices for manufacturers up 8.7 percent :

Prices received by manufacturers of butter, cheese, and milk powder rose 8.7 percent in the June 2019 quarter compared with the March 2019 quarter, after falls in the previous two quarters, Stats NZ said today.

Dairy product manufacturers received higher prices for products such as butter, cheese, and milk powder in the June 2019 quarter. Together, output prices for this group of products increased 8.7 percent from the previous quarter, the biggest rise in over two years. Prices rose by 16 percent in the March 2017 quarter. . . 

Cultured lab meat may make climate change worse – Matt McGrath:

Growing meat in the laboratory may do more damage to the climate in the long run than meat from cattle, say scientists.

Researchers are looking for alternatives to traditional meat because farming animals is helping to drive up global temperatures.

However, meat grown in the lab may make matters worse in some circumstances.

Researchers say it depends on how the energy to make the lab meat is produced. . . 


Rural round-up

August 18, 2019

Alliance upgrading Timaru meat processing plant :

Meat processor Alliance Group is investing $1.2 million in its Smithfield plant in Timaru.

The co-operative is owned by approximately 4000 farmer shareholders and exports lamb, beef, venison and co-products to more than 65 countries.

Alliance Group chief executive David Surveyor said the upgrade of the Smithfield plant would include installing additional vacuum packaging, co-products processing technology and extending the secondary processing area at the South Canterbury plant.

Mr Surveyor said the changes would boost processing efficiency by up to 20 percent and help meet the needs of farmers in the South Island. . . 

Turning meat into money – Colin Williscroft:

The McFadzean name is well known to farmers looking for top-quality weaners but the family is now turning its attention to producing affordable yearling bulls based on top-of-the-line genetics, as Colin Williscroft discovered.

Johnie McFadzean is helping take a well-respected family business to the next level.

The son of Wairarapa farming stalwart John McFadzean, who has been achieving top prices at the Masterton weaner fair for about 40 years, Johnie wants to build on his father’s work that has attracted weaner prices that stack up well nationally, often the top in the country, illustrating a successful breeding programme.

The idea now is to use technology like intramuscular scanning to build on that impressive breeding history, making quality bulls that will improve the productivity of commercial herds at an affordable price.

 

‘If you read BBC headlines you would believe the IPCC supported a vegan diet – it did not’ – Martin Kennedy:

The BBC nationally need to take a real good look at themselves and start reporting the real facts in a balanced manner instead of misrepresenting views and reports, says In Your Field writer and NFU Scotland vice president Martin Kennedy. 

Some recent reporting is being done in a manner that not only undermines the integrity of what should be a highly thought of British organisation, but also has massive implications on an agricultural industry that has welfare standards and environmental credentials that are the envy of most across the world.

That is why NFU Scotland (NFUS) has written in the strongest terms to the BBC this week to complain about its poor reporting around the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last week. . . 

Potato mop-top virus response closes out :

A joint Biosecurity New Zealand and Potatoes New Zealand response to the crop disease potato mop-top virus (PMTV) is being closed out, with industry taking the lead on long-term management.

PMTV was confirmed in New Zealand in September 2018, initially concentrated in grower paddocks in Canterbury.

A national survey to determine the extent of the disease has now been completed and the virus has been confirmed throughout the country north to south, indicating that it has been in New Zealand for a long period of time.

“It became evident earlier into the response that this disease couldn’t be eradicated and that the best outcome for potato growers was for industry management long-term,” says Sam Leske, Biosecurity New Zealand’s acting director of readiness and response services. . . 

Celebrating 200 years of New Zealand wine:

September 25 2019 marks 200 years since the first planting of grapevines in New Zealand.

From the humble beginnings of a vine planted in Northland, the New Zealand wine industry has grown to become a $1.83 billion export earner, with an international reputation for premium, diverse and sustainable wines.

Reverend Samuel Marsden, Chaplain to New South Wales (1765-1838), records September 25 1819 as the day he planted a vine in the rich grounds of the Stone Store, Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. These pioneering vines were the very first to be planted into New Zealand soils, with New Zealand being one of very few countries in the world where the exact date of the planting of the first vines is known, making our story unique on the world stage. . .

LIC named top co-op :

LIC has been named as the Cooperative Business of the Year.

The co-op, which supplies genetics and world-leading agritech solutions to farmers across New Zealand and around the world, was praised for making a significant and positive impact within the co-operative community and returning benefits to its 10,300 Kiwi shareholders.

It received the award at Cooperative Business NZ annual awards in Wellington last night. NZ Co-ops chief executive Craig Presland said LIC exemplifies cooperative values and highlights the strengths of the enduring business model.


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