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.  . .


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. . .


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