Rural round-up

August 25, 2019

Powering up well-beings could power up costs :

Federated Farmers is concerned the call on councils to “power up” the four well-beings re-introduced into local government legislation will pile on more costs for ratepayers.

“Councils up and down the country have lost the battle to keep rates increases in touch with inflation, and debt levels are soaring.  Many can’t keep up with the costs of activities and infrastructure maintenance/replacement that most residents would count as core – water, stormwater, flood protection, local roads, rubbish and recycling collection,” Feds President and local government spokesperson Katie Milne says.

“Yet Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has just exhorted councils to power up ways communities can realise their ambitions for social, economic, environmental and cultural priorities.”  . . 

Food giant Danone signs deal to grow Waikato sheep milk industry – Andrea Fox:

New Zealand’s emerging sheep dairy industry has graduated to the big league with the launch of a sheep milk toddler formula by global food giant Danone.

Nutricia Karicare toddler sheep milk powder will be 100 per cent New Zealand sheep milk from Maui Milk, which operates two farms on the western shores of Lake Taupo.

And Danone plans to launch a full sheep milk formula range next year under the Nutricia brand. . . 

‘Learn so much about yourself’ at dairy awards – Yvonne O’Hara:

One of Bridget Bell’s goals was to place in the top five of this year’s Southland Otago Dairy Industry awards.

She first entered the farm manager of the year section in 2018 and did not place, but she tried again this year and came second, which she was thrilled with.

Mrs Bell also won three merit awards: The Shand Thomson leadership award; the AWS legal employee engagement award and the Fonterra dairy management award.

”I really wanted the Fonterra award,” Mrs Bell said. . . 

Master farrier keeps his foot in the industry after 51 years – Gordon Findlater:

Brian Wilson (85) is a name anyone in the horse racing industry will recognise. The former farrier can still be found at Riccarton as the club’s plating inspector. On Saturday, August 10, race three in the Grand National Festival of Racing’s first event was named ‘Brian Wilson 51 years a farrier’ in his honour. Gordon Findlater catches up with him

Can you remember the first time you shoed a horse?

I would have been 14 or 15 on the West Coast and one of the guys that did have a horse was Jock Butterfield, who played for the Kiwis, and he wanted to put some shoes on this horse, so they gave me some tools and to this day I feel sorry for the horse. That was my first experience of shoeing a horse.

What was it like growing up on the West Coast back then?

I quite enjoyed it, but there wasn’t a great future. You worked in the forestry or the bush as we called it, or the mines. I came over here in 1951 and that’s when I really got involved in the horses. My brother was an apprentice jockey, so I thought, well, I’ll see how I go, but it wasn’t to be. . . 

IHC hopes for sheep farmers’ support:

This spring, IHC is launching its new Lamb Programme, urging sheep farmers to join with dairy farmers to support people with intellectual disabilities and their families in rural communities.

IHC’s Calf & Rural Scheme was hit hard last year by Mycoplasma bovis, losing half its usual income, in what was an incredibly difficult year for many dairy farmers.

IHC National Fundraising Manager Greg Millar is hoping farmers will now pledge a lamb or sheep to support children and adults with an intellectual disability in rural communities. . . 

The average US farm is $1.3 Million in debt, and now the worse farming crisis in modern history is upon us – Michael Snyder:

We haven’t seen anything like this since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Leading up to this year, farm incomes had been trending lower for most of the past decade, and meanwhile farm debt levels have been absolutely exploding.  So U.S. farmers were desperate for a really good year, but instead 2019 has been a total disaster.  As I have been carefully documenting, due to endless rain and catastrophic flooding millions of acres of prime farmland didn’t get planted at all this year, and the yields on tens of millions of other acres are expected to be way, way below normal.  As a result, we are facing the worst farming crisis in modern American history, and this comes at a time when U.S. farms are drowning in more debt than ever before.  In fact, the latest numbers that we have show that the average U.S. farm is 1.3 million dollars in debt

Debt-to-asset ratios are seeing the same squeeze, with more farms moving into a ratio exceeding 80%. Barrett notes each year since 2009 has seen an increase in the average amount of total debt among farmers, and 2017 was no exception. Average debt rose 10% to $1.3 million. The biggest increase was in long-term debt, such as land.

Farming in the 21st century has become an extraordinarily risky business, and countless U.S. farmers were already on the verge of going under even before we got to 2019.

Now that this year has been such a complete and utter disaster, many farms will not be able to operate once we get to 2020.

Minnesota farmers Liz and Bob Krocak were hoping for better days ahead as this year began, but things have been really tough and their debts have become overwhelming.  During a recent meeting with their creditors, Liz was so distraught that she literally burst into tears


Rural round-up

May 5, 2019

Sensible immigration will allow rural communities to flourish – Nick Hanson:

A big shakeup could be coming for New Zealand’s immigration policy.

Many of the proposed changes are sensible and will lead to a simplification of the immigration system, but there is also concern that while the system might be easier to understand, it will be harder, longer and more costly to employ workers from overseas.

Under the proposals, every employer who wishes to employ a migrant must become an accredited employer. In theory, this is good  migrants deserve to come to New Zealand to an employer who treats them well and complies with New Zealand employment law.  . . 

Fonterra could learn lessons in enterprise and growth from Australia’s Wesfarmers – Point of Order:

NZ  co-ops have been  getting  a  bad  media  rap   lately.  Take  Fonterra, for example.  Andrea Fox, one of the  country’s  best-informed journalists  specialising  in agriculture  issues,  started   a  new series in the  NZ  Herald  with the  headline:  “Fonterra: Disappointment and soured  dairy dreams”.

Noting   the dairy goliath had a silver-spoon  birth   nearly  18 years ago she  wrote:

“Today the  co-operative  is looking a bit like  the family’s overweight, lazy teenager  hogging the remote  on the biggest couch in the room And the  credit card bills are coming in”.

After Fonterra posted a historic first net loss of $196m, Fox  says  calls  are heating up  for  the company to be split up  and a  company, perhaps  listed, spun off it, open to outside capital  investment to  chase  high-value product  markets. One of the country’s investment  gurus, Brian Gaynor, says even major shareholders  are telling him it’s  time for  change. . . 

Uncertainty swirls over Mackenzie dairy plan – David Williams:

The legal battle over a large dairy farm planned for the Mackenzie Basin is heading to the High Court. David Williams reports.

The future of the Mackenzie Basin’s Simons Pass Station – a lightning rod for national environmental opposition – remains as unclear as a swirling effluent pond.

Dunedin businessman Murray Valentine has spent 16 years and millions of dollars gathering approvals, court settlements, and building infrastructure for a $100-million-plus dairy development at Simons Pass, near Lake Pukaki. Valentine told Newsroom last year he plans to irrigate 4500 hectares at the property – some of which is Crown lease land – and stock more than 15,000 animals, including 5500 cows. (The average herd size in New Zealand is 431 cows. The national herd is five million milking cows.)

As of late last year, 840 cows were being milked and Valentine says the development is about a quarter finished. . . 

Regional wrap:

Confident sheep and beef farmers are paying top money and have out-bid foresters for land on the North Island’s East Coast. In the South Island apple harvesting’s almost finished in the Nelson Motueka region.

Kaitaia, in Northland’s north, needs a good dose of rain – the five or six millimetres at the weekend didn’t help much.  Where there are wet spots in paddocks new grass is germinating well.

Around Pukekohe it’s been quiet in market gardens because of the school holidays and the working week being interrupted by statutory holidays. Many staff have taken time off. It’s been warmer this week than last and Monday’s 15mm of rainfall has been enough for most crops. . .

Bumper crop of Young Vegetable Growers:

Seven of New Zealand’s best and brightest will vie for the title of Young Vegetable Grower of the Year in a competition in Pukekohe next Friday, 10 May.

The victor will be crowned Young Vegetable Grower of the Year, and move on to the Young Grower national final, to be held in Tauranga in October. There, they will join the winners of the Bay of Plenty, Central Otago, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, and Gisborne regional fruit-grower events, to compete for the national title of Young Grower of the Year 2019.

Contestants will demonstrate their knowledge and skills around topics vital to the management of a successful horticulture business, including tractor proficiency, sales and marketing, and health and safety. The winner will be decided at an awards dinner on Friday night, where they will speak to an audience from throughout the industry about growing in a climate of change. . . 

Stuart Varney is proud to be a farmer the Fox business star sees a Chinese trade deal coming soon – Betsy Freese:

Stuart Varney has a top-rated market program on television, but he is happiest when he is working on his 1,100-acre tree farm in upstate New York. The host of Varney & Co., weekdays 9 a.m. to noon EDT on FOX Business, is in the midst of his first timber harvest this spring. Born and raised in the U.K., Varney, 70, helped Ted Turner launch CNN in 1980. He became an American citizen in 2015. I caught up with Varney to talk about agriculture, trade deals, and the media.

SF: Tell me about your farm.

SV: It’s lovely rolling hills and forests, a delightful piece of land. It reminds me of my native England. I bought it 18 years ago because I wanted a big piece of land within a reasonable drive of my home in New Jersey. In England, the idea of owning 1,000 acres, or even 100 acres, is out of the question unless you are a billionaire. But in America, you can do it. We found this property for a reasonable price. It was my piece of America. I fell in love with it. The idea of creating a tree farm came later. I didn’t know anything about logging and didn’t buy it for that purpose, but we hired a forester and he created a plan. Our first harvest is this year. We will harvest 1,088 trees. . . 


Rural round-up

March 28, 2019

Capital Gains Tax: What it means for farmers – Andrea Fox:

Status quo:

Farms are currently not subject to a capital gains tax (CGT) when they sell. However if someone buys a property that is not their home they are taxed on its sale if they keep it less than five years.

Farmers pay GST on all purchases and company tax of 28 per cent. If they use a trust structure, any profit is subject to 33 per cent tax.

What’s proposed:

The Tax Working Group (TWG) has recommended land be subject to a CGT.

The farm’s family home would be exempt but any home site area over 4500sqm would be subject to a CGT. Increases in livestock herd value would be subject to tax.

Environmental taxes on water uptake and discharge, and pollution. . . 

Developing climate change resilient crops ‘a race against time’:

Scientists trying to develop crops more resilient to climate change say they’re increasingly in a race against time.

Breeding plants with more resilient genes – such as, a greater tolerance of saltwater, resilience to drought, or greater yields – has been long touted as a saviour as climate change intensified.

Olivier Panaud, from the University of Perpignan, works mostly with rice crops, but has also been experimenting with crops in tropical areas like the Pacific. . . 

Cottage cheese is the new Greek yoghurt –  Robin Tricoles:

Cottage cheese faced a problem: After World War II, batches of the soft, lumpy dairy concoction developed a propensity to take on a rancid odor and a bitter taste. That changed in 1951, when dairy researchers identified the culprits, three bacterial miscreants that produced this “slimy curd defect.” To prevent the condition, researchers advised cheesemakers to keep these bacteria from entering their manufacturing facilities in the first place. Thus ended the scourge. . . * Hat tip: Inquiring Mind

T&G in apple robot first – Carl Collen:

New Zealand agricultural giant T&G Global has carried out what it has described as a ‘world first’, in using a robotic harvester for a commercial apple harvest.

According to the the fresh produce grower, packer, shipper and marketer, the move marks the culmination of four years of working with US-based technology partner Abundant Robotics, which T&G’s parent company BayWa AG invested in two years ago as part of its strategy to expand digitisation across its agribusiness, and reflects the company’s commitment to innovation-led growth.

T&G global chief operating officer Peter Landon-Lane said the company was delighted to have reached a significant milestone in the evolution of the global apple industry, and for T&G’s home operations in New Zealand to be at the forefront. . . 

First mainstream hemp products in Kiwi supermarkets:

The first mainstream food product containing hemp seed is on supermarket shelves today, launched by one of New Zealand’s leading bread manufacturers, Wairarapa-based Breadcraft under its new brand ‘Rebel Bakehouse’.

Hemp seed was regulated for food use in late 2018, and Rebel Bakehouse’s new hemp seed wraps are the first of a new generation of food that consumers can expect to see made using hemp. Rebel Bakehouse is also introducing cricket protein to Kiwis, with its new cricket flour wrap:

Why transitioning a farm from one generation to the next is trickier than ever – Beth Hoffman:

At the end of December 2005, Margie and Dan First were at the movies when Dan began to feel ill, really ill. His head pounded, then he vomited. A friend recommended they call an ambulance immediately. Dan was rushed to the hospital, where they learned that he had suffered a brain aneurysm.

The events of that day, traumatic as they were, were much more life-changing for the family than anyone in the First clan could have predicted. Like many people, Dan, a 60-year-old Michigan dairy farmer, had never really thought about his own demise. And while his 15-year-old son Josh had dreamed of taking over the family’s farm, the rough plan had been for him to go to college first before deciding if running the dairy was in his cards. Now, suddenly, things were different. . . 


Rural round-up

December 4, 2018

Superstar spotlights dairy efforts – Luke Chivers:

DairyNZ Environmental Leaders Forum chairwoman Tracy Brown has won a Sustainable Business Network award. She spoke to Luke Chivers about some of the challenges facing the rural sector.

Waikato dairy farmer Tracy Brown has been named a dairy sustainability champion for inspiring farmers to change on-farm practices, protect waterways, enhance biodiversity and lower their environmental footprints.

She was rewarded for her efforts by winning the Sustainability Superstar category at the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards.

The award marks a momentous occasion for New Zealand’s primary industries, Brown says. . . 

Town folks love a good farm story – Pam Tipa:

‘A good story’ was a key motivator for fourth-generation Helensville farmers Scott and Sue Narbey to open their farm to the public.

The couple opened their farm as part of Fonterra’s Open Gates 2018 day.

“We entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and when we started writing down all the good things we were doing we thought we were doing a pretty good job,” Scott told Dairy News.

“And we were sick of hearing all the bad things and how people perceive dairy farms. . . 

A hand up or corporate welfare? – Andrea Fox:

Westland Milk Products, approved for a taxpayer-funded Provincial Growth Fund loan branded “corporate welfare” by some critics, says it would have been happy for the commercial terms to be disclosed but Government officials ruled them confidential.

The Westland dairy exporter, which in its 2018 annual report discussing a capital restructure said it had “relatively high debt and limited financial flexibility”, is to get a $9.9 million interest-bearing, repayable loan towards a $22 million manufacturing plant project to produce higher-value goods.

The annual report noted Westland’s cash flow for the year was below expectations, its milk payout to farmers was not competitive and “obtaining new capital would make a significant difference to the co-operative”. . . 

People need to be told ‘what wool is about’ – Sally Rae:

Education is the key to lifting the state of the wool industry, industry leader Craig Smith says.

Mr Smith, general manager for Devold Wool Direct, is a member of the Wool Working Group, which has been working on how to create a more sustainable and profitable sector.

Made up of 20 wool producers, processors and other industry representatives, it has been charged with developing a pan-sector action plan.

Earlier this year, Mr Smith was  the first New Zealander to be appointed to the global executive committee of the International Wool Textile Organisation, and he is also heavily involved with Campaign for Wool. . . 

Hill country’s development risks and opportunities:

Sheep and beef farmers are increasingly finishing stock on hill country forage crops and pastures, with a resultant drop in erosion risk.

But some farmers had difficulty assessing the potential environmental impact and the financial return of hill country development, due to the unpredictability of sediment loss and the costs.

This was discovered by studies done as part of the Sustainable Hill Farming Tool project (SHiFT), says Paul Hulse, of Environment Canterbury (ECan).

The SHiFT project is to tell landowners the best ways to address these concerns, says Hulse . .

Smartphone cattle weighing technology set to expand – Lucy Kinbacher:

A HUNGARIAN developed smartphone accessory is helping producers weigh their cattle without the use of any scales or yard infrastructure. 

Known as Beefie, the new technology allows producers to calculate their cattle weights in less than half a minute by attaching an external device to an Android 5.1+ smartphone and capturing a range of photographs.

Livestock are analysed from two to six metres away, even whilst in motion or partially obscured, with more than 5000 tests on animals producing a 95 per cent accuracy rate.  . . 

 


Rural round-up

August 22, 2018

Co-op directors getting harder to find: Farmlands chairman – Andrea Fox:

Attracting directors for cooperatives is getting harder the fewer there are and the bigger they get, says Farmlands chairman Lachie Johnstone as the $2 billion revenue rural services business kicks off director elections.

Three seats are up for election as two long-serving directors step down and a third, Silver Fern Farms chairman and Clutha farmer Rob Hewett by rotation seeks another term.

Leaving the top table this year are Marlborough-based Joe Ferraby, who has been a director more than 20 years, including his time on farm services company CRT which merged with Farmlands in 2013, and Bay of Plenty dairy farmer and orchardist David Jensen. . .

 

Wool protein could boost digestive health – Esther Taunton:

Work to find new uses for wool has revealed the fibre could have digestive health benefits.

AgResearch scientists have found adding wool proteins to the diets of domestic cats improved their digestive health and could potentially do the same for people. 

“There is a lot of work going on to discover new uses of wool to support the sheep industry in New Zealand,” said Jolon Dyer, AgResearch’s science group leader for food and bio-based products.

“The research is telling us that sheep wool has many useful attributes and one of those now appears to be proteins derived from the wool that could be used as a dietary supplement to improve digestion and nutrition, and therefore overall health.”    . . .

Finding a better way to achieve our sustainability goals on farm:

Charlotte Rutherford, Fonterra’s General Manager of Sustainable Dairying is always looking for new ways to support the Co-op’s farmers in achieving their sustainability goals.

This month, Fonterra marks the one-year anniversary of TIAKI – our sustainable dairying programme that helps farmers make their operations more environmentally compliant. In doing so we will also celebrate more than 1,000 Fonterra farmers who now have a tailored improvement plan to help address environmental risks on-farm. Achieving this wasn’t easy and while a significant amount of progress was made pre-Tiaki it often felt like we were trying push a rock uphill. We knew there had to be a better way. . .

eShepherd creates a virtual fence – Nicola Bell:

FARMERS across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK will soon be using world-first virtual fencing technology.

The eShepherd technology by ­agritech start-up Agersens allows a farmer to create a virtual fence and remotely monitor, muster and move cattle, using a smart phone, tablet or computer.

Just like a traditional fence, a virtual fence is used to control the location of livestock and has huge potential for beef and dairy herds. . . 

Anti-meat message hurting poor countries – Shan Goodwin:

THE push to eat less meat in developed countries is posing threats to efforts to improve livestock production efficiency in poor countries, where there is no choice but to under-consume animal foods.

This message emerged from discussions among global livestock specialists at the Crawford Fund annual conference in Canberra this week around the need to reshape agriculture to address the increasingly competing needs of the hungry and the over-nourished and the finite resources of the environment.

Anti-livestock rhetoric missed some big points about the vital role of livestock in poorer countries, according to Dr Anna Okello, associate research program manager of livestock systems at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. . . 

Third of farmed fruit and veg deemed to ugly to sell:

More than a third of farmed fruit and vegetables never reaches supermarket shelves because it is misshapen or the wrong size, according to new research.

A University of Edinburgh study found more than 50 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables grown across Europe were discarded each year.

This was in part because they did not meet consumers’ expectations of how they should look.

The study was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. . .


Rural round-up

August 20, 2018

Big US beef index job for AbacusBio – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting company AbacusBio is rebuilding the selection indexes for the American Angus Association, the world’s largest beef cattle society.

AbacusBio partner Jason Archer, who has specialised in beef cattle throughout his career, was thrilled the company was chosen for the work.

The association has more than 25,000 members across the United States and Canada and the scale of the industry was “unbelievable”,  Dr Archer said.

In fact, the work that was being done by AbacusBio meant it affected billions of dollars’ worth of production.

Often, breed societies had selection indexes balancing all the traits that were being measured, and those indexes were both a selection tool and also became “a bit of a benchmark” when evaluating bulls, he said. . . 

Walk On history ‘pretty amazing Kiwi story’ – Sally Rae:

The establishment of Walk On is a “pretty amazing Kiwi story”, new chief executive Mark Davey says.

The  company, founded by young entrepreneur Lucas Smith, produces blister protection products using soft merino wool.

It has appointed Dr Davey as its first chief executive as part of an initiative to carry the momentum of Walk On’s initial domestic success into international markets.

Walk On had secured a national distribution deal with outdoor and adventure sports multi-channel retailer Torpedo 7 and was also available in 10 retail stores nationally, Dr Davey said. . . 

Milking it: NZ’s milk price: Who’s getting rich? Susan Edmunds:

New Zealand milk prices are “astoundingly high” – and we might have supermarkets to blame, one marketing expert says.

Bodo Lang, head of department at the University of Auckland Business School, said the price paid by New Zealanders stood out internationally.

“Particularly when considering that New Zealand is home to one of the world’s largest dairy companies, Fonterra. The problem, however, is not restricted to milk. Other dairy products too have, in comparison with other industrialised nations, exceptionally high prices.”

He said a litre of fresh milk in Germany was selling for the equivalent of $1.51, compared to $2.37 in New Zealand. . . 

Milking it: ‘Micro differences’ between brands. Why are some customers happy to pay a premium? – John Anthony:

Craig Prichard remembers when milk tasted very different from region to region.

“Milk in Taranaki where I grew up was different to the milk in Napier,” Prichard said.

The Massey associate professor, and sheep milk specialist, said things like climate, pasture and production methods used to greatly change the taste profile and characteristics of milk.

“That’s largely disappeared.” . . 

Rural land value a shrinking influence for a bank loan – Andrea Fox:

Banks’ rural credit decisions will increasingly depend on sustainable farming practices, not land value, says the country’s biggest rural lender ANZ Bank.

Commercial and agriculture managing director Mark Hiddleston said ANZ’s credit decisions have for some time been based more on farm performance than the traditional 65 per cent land-to-value ratio and that model looks likely to increase in use.

Also due for change he believes is the banking sector’s use of “a lot of averages”. . . 

Horizons proposes plan change that will get farms compliant – Laurel Stowell:

In an effort to get intensive farms legally consented, Horizons Regional Council is proposing to change numbers on the maximum nitrogen they can leach in its controversial One Plan table.

The matter was discussed at a strategy and policy committee meeting on August 14, and councillors agreed to a three-staged approach.

Last year the Environment Court told the council it must refuse consent to farmers unable to restrict nitrogen leaching to totals in the One Plan’s Table 14.2. The totals were taken from a version of Overseer, a computer system for estimating the amount of nitrogen leaching through soil. . . 

 

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Rural round-up

May 31, 2018

‘We’d better off if we had it’ – Sally Rae:

Southland farmer John Young reckons he would be in a better position if his cattle had Mycoplasma bovis.

With a contract for 1000 calves cancelled by Ngai Tahu Farming, he described himself as a ”by-product” of the disease saying there was no recognition for those in similar situations.

Left short of feed and likely to take a massive financial hit, he was perplexed by the iwi’s motivation as he felt he had done everything to mitigate any concerns.

”We’d be better off if we had it. We would know where we’re at [and could] set a plan and work around it. It would be acknowledged we had it, we’d be compensated. The way we are at the moment, we don’t know where we stand,” he said. . . 

Farmer provides positive advice on coping – Sally Rae:

Argentinian-born Leo Bensegues came to New Zealand with only $700 and the desire for a good life.

Fast forward 16 and a-half years and he has a wife, Maite, and a family and his own business, sharemilking at Morven in the Waimate district.

Last August, that good life was interrupted by confirmation there was Mycoplasma bovis in the couple’s herd.

Their 950 cows and 222 young stock were one of the first herds to be culled, although they had 200 heifers which had not been affected by the disease.

Yesterday, Mr Bensegues declined to talk about how he felt seeing those animals dispatched to slaughter, saying that was ”in the past” and they had to focus on the future.

They were starting over again and he had a message for other farmers affected by this week’s announcement of a massive cull of animals in a bid to eradicate the disease.

They had to work with the Ministry for Primary Industries, rather than against it, and they had to stay positive. . . 

‘Bovis cull will be devastating – Sally Rae:

The impact of the impending Mycoplasma bovis cattle cull on  milk and beef supply nationally will be much smaller than the “devastating” impact on affected farmers, Westpac senior economist Anne Boniface says.

In the bank’s latest Agri Update, Ms Boniface said New Zealand’s dairy herd was about 4.8 million, so the population to be culled accounted for about 0.5%, well within usual seasonal variation in the dairy herd.

While processing capacity might be stretched temporarily at a regional level, there should be ample capacity nationwide to process the additional cow cull. . .

 Business case for cattle disease plan kept secret from public – Andrea Fox:

The cost-benefit analysis behind the $886 million government-agriculture sector decision to try to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis is being kept secret from taxpayers picking up most of the bill.

A Herald request to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for a copy of the cost-benefit analysis is being treated by MPI as an Official Information Act request, which normally means waiting nearly a month for a response, with no guarantee of full disclosure.

When the Herald tried to clarify that the cost-benefit analysis was not being made public, and if so, who had access to it, the response from an MPI spokesman was: “This has been part of the decision-making process so the decision makers have had access to this information.” . .

Live deer capture: ‘a wonderful time to be alive and to stay alive’, says pioneer– Heather Chalmers:

Recalling the pioneering live deer capture days, veterans like Bryan Bassett-Smith get a gleam in their eyes.

In the 1970s the emphasis changed from killing deer as a feral pest to wanting to capture and keep deer alive for a fledging farming industry. Deer farming made live recovery more profitable than hunting; there were fortunes to be made and adventures to have.

These were the days before clipboards, hi-vis vests and health and safety regulations.

Bassett-Smith didn’t fly helicopters himself. “I was a guy that jumped out and used the tranquilliser gun.

READ MORE: Deer farmer recalls days of live capture derring-do

“It was a wonderful time to be alive and to stay alive” he says, referring to the casualties and fatalities from helicopter crashes. “Sadly, there were a few too many funerals,” he told deer industry conference delegates during a visit to Mesopotamia Station in the South Canterbury high country, a property actively involved in live deer recovery. . . 

Distribution deal for Mastatest– Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based veterinary diagnostics company Mastaplex has secured a national distribution partnership with AgriHealth for its bovine mastitis diagnostic products.

Company founder and inventor Olaf Bork said Mastatest  was an on-farm or veterinary clinic-based bovine mastitis test which generated results within 24 hours, enabling dairy farmers to select specific antibiotic treatments recommended by their veterinarian once target bacteria had been identified.

The early  growth-stage company, which is based at the University of Otago’s Centre for Innovation, was also negotiating with a European distributor and  seeking an alliance in the United States, he said. . . 

Rural health must be integral in health services review:

The New Zealand Rural General Practice Network today welcomed an announcement of a comprehensive review of health services in New Zealand.

The NZRGPN is the national network representing the staff of rural medical practices across New Zealand.

“A comprehensive review of the delivery of health and disability services is timely,” said NZRGPN Chief Executive Dalton Kelly. “This review must be comprehensive and wide-ranging, taking into account the full range of communities and health service providers across New Zealand. . .

Tough year hits Anzco profits – Alan Williams:

A difficult year in beef procurement and processing caused a big fall in profit for Anzco Foods.

Intense competition for stock and uneven livestock flows increased costs while consumer market prices were just steady, chief executive Peter Conley said.

Anzco’s pre-tax profit fell to just $1.8 million in the year ended December 31, from $17m a year earlier. Because the group’s international trade offices are required to pay tax in the countries they’re based in, overall group tax took up $1.7m of the earnings, leaving an after-tax operating profit of $100,000, down from $12m previously. . . 

How a routine day on the farm turned into a pig’s dinner – Joyce Wyllie:

Sometimes routine jobs on a routine day take a less routine turn.

With Jock away at dog trials, I walked to the kennels one evening to run and feed the remainder of his team left at home.

It’s a familiar routine of letting energetic dogs off for enthusiastic exercise, feeding pellets to pigs and shutting the team up with their tea.

It was drizzling as I opened the doors and let animated animals race off for time out and toilet. Pushing the feed shed door open to get pig tucker revealed a four-legged super surprise. . . 

Hounding the horehound weed:

Two moths may be imported to combat the horehound weed, which a recent survey estimates to cost New Zealand dryland farmers almost $7 million per year.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is considering an application from a collective of affected farmers – the Horehound Biocontrol Group – to introduce the horehound plume moth and horehound clearwing moth to attack this invasive weed, and is calling for public submissions. The application is supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ sustainable farming fund. . .


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