Rural round-up

November 8, 2016

Rural suicide levels at record low – Mitch McCann:

The number of New Zealand farmers taking their own lives is at the lowest point since provisional records began, according to the latest Ministry of Justice statistics.

Figures obtained by Newshub show in the year to June, 18 people who work in farming-related occupations committed suicide, compared with 27 in the previous year.

In fact, the latest numbers are the lowest since figures were first collated in 2007/08. . . 

Honour for oocyte identifier – Sally Rae:

If AgResearch scientist Jenny Juengel had to write a job description for her ideal job, she reckons she would come up with her current position.

Dr Juengel, recently named one of 19 new Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand, is principal scientist with the reproduction team, based at Invermay.

Living in Otago meant she was a long way from where she grew up on a dairy farm in Michigan in the United States. It was that upbringing which she attributed to whetting her interest in agricultural research, particularly reproductive research, as she became interested in why some cows failed to become pregnant. . . 

Irrigate only when necessary:

Canterbury irrigators are being reminded to only turn their irrigators on when necessary as on-going wet and relatively cold temperatures in many parts of the region reduce the requirement for early season irrigation.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis says overall he’s been excited by the number of irrigators that have ‘only just started up’ as it shows that more and more people must be recording rainfall, measuring soil moisture and paying attention to weather forecasts. “However, there’s still a handful of irrigators going on days when its obvious water application isn’t required – we need to get everyone scheduling their irrigation well.”

“Farmers need to record the sporadic rainfall we’ve been experiencing and monitor their soil moisture levels closely. Keeping a check on any predicted rainfall is also key. Not irrigating until you need to reduces operational costs and increases profitability.” . . 

Marton Young Farmers member secures spot in FMG Young Farmer of the Year regional final:

The race to represent Taranaki/Manawatu in New Zealand’s most prestigious primary industries competition has begun.

The first district contest and skills day for the 2017 FMG Young Farmer of the Year was held on Saturday near Stratford.

Twelve contestants were put through their paces by judges assessing their agricultural knowledge and practical skills.

They included Michael McCombs, Alana Booth, George Watson and James Beattie from Marton Young Farmers. . . 

BVD vaccination helps good heifers realise potential:

When you’re raising big, strong and healthy looking heifers to bring into the milking herd, it can be extremely frustrating when they fail to fire. That’s what was happening for northern Waikato farmer Verena Beckett and she was keen to find out what was holding the first calvers back.

Beckett runs a 400-cow dairy herd on her father’s 160-hectare property at Rotongaro, west of Huntly. But it was on her own adjacent 165-hectare farm, also running 400 Friesians, where the trouble was brewing.

Her replacements are raised as part of a grazing scheme run by Franklin Vets (Te Kauwhata) on a separate sheep and beef property northeast of Te Kauwhata. They were, according to veterinary technician Jess Kingsland, “monster” heifers in great condition. But the naturally mated animals were experiencing empty rates of 8–10 percent and calving was very spread out. . . 

Technology helping to make horticulture more attractive to young people:

Efforts by primary stakeholders, helped by the rising prevalence of technology in the horticultural sector, appear to be paying off as more and more young people enter the industry.

Initiatives such as the Young Horticulturist of the Year 2016 Competition – to be contested on Thursday this week – andT&G Pipfruit’s annual Young Fruit Growers recent competition, which attracted spectators from Hastings Girls High School, are helping to change perceptions and generate excitement about careers in one of New Zealand’s more profitable primary industries.

T&G is a major partner of the national Young Hort competition, but also runs the company’s internal competition for young orchard workers as a pathway to the pipfruit . . sector contest (whose winner goes on to the national contest for New Zealand’s best young horticulturist). . . .

Pot calling the cattle back

Why did the cows return to the marijuana paddock? It was the pot calling the cattle back.


Anti-farming bias won’t wait for facts

August 24, 2016

Contamination of Havelock North’s water supply is a serious health issue which has prompted the government to undertake an inquiry.

In announcing the draft terms of reference for it, Attorney General Christopher Finlayson said:

“It is important that New Zealanders have confidence in the quality of our drinking water, and the independent inquiry will ensure we have a clear understanding of what happened in Havelock North,” says Mr Finlayson.

“Cabinet has today agreed to initiate a Government inquiry which will report to me as Attorney General.

“The inquiry will look into how the Havelock North water supply became contaminated, how this was subsequently addressed and how local and central government agencies responded to the public health threat that occurred as a result of the contamination.

“The terms of reference are very wide and will include any lessons and improvements that can be made in the management of the water supply network in Havelock North and, more broadly, across New Zealand.”     

Cabinet will consider over the coming weeks who will lead the Government inquiry.

The inquiry will be undertaken under the Inquiries Act 2013. This will ensure it follows a clear statutory process and will have a range of powers such as the ability to call witnesses.

The need to wait for facts hasn’t stopped the usual anti-farming suspects rushing to blame farming in general and dairying in particular for the contamination and using it as an excuse to call for the end to irrigation development.

Federated Farmers’  Hawke’s Bay president Will Foley said while there was some livestock farming in the area it wasn’t intensive:

. . . Basically in terms of the area around Havelock North there just isn’t intensive livestock farming.

He said farmers were watching the situation but there had not been any discussions yet.

“Really we’re just waiting to see some more clear evidence as to how the contamination occurred. And then if it was something related to farming livestock, then we can react to it then and I guess change practises if that’s what it turns out to be.”

IrrigationNZ points out that a focus on science and proven solutions is needed in the response to the Havelock North water crisis.

“IrrigationNZ is very concerned, as is everyone else, about the situation in Havelock North. However, we are surprised by some of the accusations now being made around intensive livestock and irrigation, particularly as the area surrounding the water supply well is dominated by orchards, cropping and low intensity livestock.”

“Before jumping to conclusions we first must understand the facts. A thorough inquiry will establish how groundwater in the area has become contaminated but this will take time. In the short term we should be moving towards best practice when it comes to protecting public water supplies from contamination,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO.

Fact 1;

Pathogen contamination almost always results from a point source or a preferential flow scenario.

“The issue will likely be either a preferential flow scenario down the side of an old well case (particularly around older bore casings), a poorly constructed or sealed well head or backflow (contamination making its way directly into bores). Another scenario could be point source from the stock piling of manure. During periods of heavy downpour, contaminants can move through the soil and then there is a risk,” says Mr Curtis.

Fact 2;

Grazing livestock or irrigation are unlikely to be the cause.

“The Havelock North end of the Heretaunga plains is an area of low intensity livestock. Dominated by orchards and seasonal cropping, with sheep grazing in winter there is no dairy or intensive livestock,” says Andrew Curtis.

Livestock grazing is extremely unlikely to have caused this issue – the pathogens don’t make it through the soil, the soil acts as a filter – research work undertaken by ESR has previously shown this to be true.”

Solutions to prevent contamination of groundwater?

Proven solutions include good management practice at both the supply point and any nearby wells.

“Well head protection is essential for all bores and this needs to be better enforced for older bores. Additionally, we need to be looking at requiring back flow protection where applicable. INZ has produced guidelines for backflow prevention that are based on international best practice for agriculture. On top of this, the council needs to be managing nearby point sources where, if heavy rain occurs, leaching could result. Basically all wells near public water supplies should be properly protected.”

“A best practice approach to managing the threats to public water supplies needs to be implemented across New Zealand. There will always be risks from avian, ruminant and human sources so we need to be identifying all the contamination pathways. We need to let the experts get on with their jobs and not take cheap shots with un-informed accusations,” says Mr Curtis.

It’s understandable for the people of Havelock North to be upset about their water and everyone wants to know what caused the problem and what can be done to prevent it happening again in the area or anywhere else.

But that’s not an excuse for the usual suspects to use the issue for their own political agenda without waiting for the facts. In doing so they’re show their anti-farming bias.

We could forget about feeding people and earning the export income we need for a happy, healthy, well functioning country as those of a very dark green persuasion would have it.

We could produce a lot more food and seriously degrade the environment with no concern for the future, a path for which I haven’t heard anyone advocate.

Or we could use science to produce food sustainably which requires good environmental practices based on science.

If poor farming practices are degrading the water we can do something about it but let’s wait for the inquiry and base any required action on the facts.

 


Rural round-up

June 16, 2016

Meeting the market – Sally Rae:

A group of Silver Fern Farms supplier shareholders, led by chairman Rob Hewett, recently flew to China, visiting Shanghai, Inner Mongolia and Beijing. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae joined the group to learn more about opportunities, and challenges, in the country. 

Diverse and complex – that’s China.

It’s a country of extreme contrasts; travel from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to the inner city on the maglev train and reach a relatively sedate speed of just over 300kmh (it has a top speed of 430kmh).

City footpaths are swept by old-fashioned straw brooms, while latest model cars sweep past, somehow – albeit narrowly – avoiding the melee of ubiquitous scooters, bicycles and pedestrians. . . 

 

Chilled meat market to come – Sally Rae:

Chilled meat exports to China are likely to be “some time away yet”, Silver Fern Farms chairman Rob Hewett says.

In April, Prime Minister John Key announced New Zealand and China had agreed to protocols relating to chilled meat.

That was lauded as being set to add hundreds of millions of dollars in returns from red meat exports. . .

Dramatic improvement in water quality expected from aquifer project:

A project that provides fresh ways to improve water quality in New Zealand rivers opened to the public today.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis said “The Hinds/Hekeao Managed Aquifer Recharge project will take clean Rangitata River water and put this into the aquifer, helping solve current water quality issues as well as improving stream flows.

“The recharge project in combination with improving farm environmental performance, through nutrient limits and audited farm environment plans, will allow waterways in the zone to regenerate and thrive,” he said. . . 

 

Rural businesses target growth strategies;

Fieldays focus on helping rural businesses shift to the cloud

Despite the challenging effects of the dairy downturn, businesses in rural New Zealand remain focused on growth strategies, with strong investment intentions for the coming year according a new report on the sector released on the eve of Fieldays.

The latest MYOB Colmar Brunton Business Monitor survey of 210 businesses from across rural New Zealand highlighted that over half (57 per cent) acquired new machinery and equipment in the last year, a third (33 per cent) invested in technology and just under a quarter (23 per cent) spent money on employee training. . . 

A2 Milk lifts guidance for full-year sales, earnings as trading exceeds targets – Jonathan Underhill

 (BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk raised its guidance for full-year sales and earnings, saying trading is exceeding its targets and the milk marketing company is well placed to cope with changes to regulations for infant formula in China.

Revenue is forecast to be in a range of $350 million to $360 million in the year ending June 30, from a previous forecast of $335 million to $350 million. Operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation are projected to be $52 million to $54 million, up from the $45 million-to-$49 million range it gave with its first-half results in February. . . 

Wrightson lifts earnings forecast on strong retail, sees tough 2017 – Paul McBeth

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson raised its earnings guidance, saying its retail unit is likely to beat last year’s record result, although the rural services firm expects 2017 to be tough.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation are expected to be between $65 million and $68 million in the year ending June 30, up from a previous forecast for ebitda of $61 million to $67 million, the Christchurch-based company said in a statement. That’s still down from $69.6 million a year earlier due to the slump in dairy prices eroding farmers’ incomes. . . 


Irrigation greener option

May 25, 2016

Greenpeace is highly critical of the decision to provide funding for irrigation in Canterbury.

. . . Genevieve Toop, Greenpeace’s agriculture campaigner, said:

“The government is throwing away millions of dollars on this controversial industrial irrigation scheme which will pollute our precious rivers.

“Millions of tonnes of pollution ends up in our rivers already. And this will only get worse if government departments like MPI throw taxpayers’ money at irrigation schemes like Central Plains Water that expand the industrial dairy sector.

“Ecological farming is much better for our rivers, our land and our international reputation. It’s this that the government should be backing, not some failed industrial agriculture model which is polluting our rivers.” . . 

IrrigationNZ counters her arguments:

IrrigationNZ welcomes government funding of $7.85 million for Canterbury irrigation projects that will help lift the water quality of Lake Ellesmere and groundwater in the Hinds area.

The Central Plains Water scheme has been injected with $6.64m to help get its next stages through to construction, and $312,000 has been puttowards a pilot study for aquifer recharge in the Hinds area which aims to restore spring-fed stream flows and alongside address groundwater nitrate issues.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis said the Hinds recharge project was particularly exciting because it was the first time techniques commonly used overseas would be used to improve water quality.

“The trial – a first in New Zealand – will use clean Rangitata River water to soak into the aquifer in an area of high nitrate concentrations, diluting the nitrate, whilst also providing better reliability for groundwater takes, and stream flows”, said Curtis “

This alongside the move to Good Management Practice through Audited Farm Environment Plans will allow natural ecosystems to regenerate,” said Curtis. 

Pollution from intensive farming happened over time and it will take time to improve water quality but that’s not an argument to oppose irrigation when better management and independently audited farm environment plans will protect and enhance waterways.

The water will come from the Ashburton District Council’s unused stock water allocation via the Rangitata Diversion Race and Valetta Irrigation Scheme. Groundwater, surface water and climate monitoring will be built into computer models to distinguish the trial effects from other water influences.

“Managed aquifer recharge is used a lot in the United States to replenish aquifers, but is new to New Zealand. This trial is about replenishing aquifers and diluting nitrates. It could be a great tool going forward with excellent environmental outcomes. The success of the trial could lead to it being used in other catchments in New Zealand.”

The project is expected to bring many benefits to the Ashburton community including economic, environment and recreation, said Curtis.

IrrigationNZ also welcomed the announcement by Minister Guy that responsibility for the Government’s irrigation programmes will change in July when Crown Irrigation Investments Limited takes over grants for the development of regional irrigation schemes. This role was previously carried out by the MPI’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund that continues to be involved in supporting early stage strategic water studies and smaller irrigation scheme developments.

Curtis agrees it makes sense to link the Government’s irrigation investment agency more closely to developing schemes, they have much expertise and their help and advice is welcome in setting up the commercial side of community water storage projects as this is one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome. “In the past we have often commented that the two government organisations involved in irrigation should be joined at the hip so this makes much sense,” said Curtis.

Bigger irrigation schemes, particularly those with water storage, are better for the environment than individual farmers pumping underground water.

The bigger schemes use less power and replenish aquifers rather than taking from them.

Of course Greepeace would prefer no irrigation at all and is blind to the economic environmental and social benefits it brings.


Farmers back Ruataniwha

April 28, 2016

The success of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme (RWSS), always depended on farmers backing – and they have:

Irrigation New Zealand is delighted to see the Ruataniwha project is now in a position to proceed.

HBRIC today (Wednesday 27 April 2016) announced it has 196 Signed Water User Agreements, the numbers needed for the project to proceed. CEO of Irrigation New Zealand Andrew Curtis said: “This is good news for Central Hawke’s Bay as it will re-invigorate the shrinking communities of Waipukurau and Waipawa.

“This result shows farmer backing is strong for the project. This is not surprising given the Ruataniwha Plain’s current and future susceptibility to drought.

Mr Curtis said: “The mix of land-use is, as Irrigation New Zealand predicted, dominated by traditional mixed cropping, and sheep and beef finishing systems. This is what Central Hawke’s Bay has and will always do well. There is also some permanent horticulture in the mix, and given the boom in the orchard and wine industries currently it is very likely this area of opportunity will be expanded further in future.

“The land-use mix should alleviate any environmental concerns for the Tukituki River. This, when combined with the dam’s ability to release water to guarantee summer flows alongside mimicking natural flood events that cleanse it, means the Tukituki River is in a great position to maintain and improve upon it’s predominantly good water quality.

“Irrigation New Zealand is now looking forward to both the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Crown committing investments to this community dam project and the ‘land swap’ court issue being resolved in a timely manner.

Mr Curtis concluded: “No one disputes the Hawke’s Bay needs water storage. The local community has now demonstrated its support for the Ruataniwha project. It’s time for regional and national communities to do the same.”

Sadly some people do dispute Hawke’s Bay’s need for water storage including the Green Party which wants the dam dumped.

But at last farmers have confirmed their willingness to invest in the scheme that will drought-proof between 20,000 and 30,000 hectares of land with good potential for increased agriculture, horticulture and viticulture.

The climate and soils in the area will give farmers more  choice over what they grow with the water than those with irrigation in many other areas.

The scheme will bring environmental, economic and social benefits to the region and the country.


Rural round-up

April 5, 2016

Smith takes out NZ top shearing title:

Shearer Rowland Smith won top honours at the New Zealand Open Championship final in Te Kuiti over the weekend.

Mr Smith won by just 0.411 points, John Kirkpatrick came second and Gavin Mutch was third.

Joel Henare won the open woolhandling final, a month after scoring his fourth consecutive Golden Shears Open title.

Doug Laing from Shearing Sports New Zealand said it was a typically exciting final. . . 

IrrigationNZ congratulates Waihao Downs Irrigation:

The opening of Waihao Downs Irrigation Scheme reinforces that irrigation will continue to be a vital ingredient for the health of rural New Zealand, regardless of the fortunes of the dairy industry, says IrrigationNZ.

The $32million Waihao Downs project will be officially opened today  by IrrigationNZ Chairwoman Nicky Hyslop, coinciding with the first day of the industry body’s bi-ennial conference.

More than 400 people will converge on Waitaki District this week to view irrigation infrastructure, hear guest speakers from around the world speak on irrigation issues and attend technical workshops. The conference opens with a Farmer’s Trade Afternoon on Tuesday (3.30pm-5.30pm) where 52 exhibitors will showcase irrigation technology, services and products to farmers and the general public. . . 

IrrigationNZ and Feds ask for scientific integrity:

IrrigationNZ and Federated Farmers say greater scrutiny of claims irrigation causes increased ‘rumbly-gut’ is needed, as recent assertions by Alison Dewes are not scientifically sound.

The industry bodies have joined forces to ask for improved scientific integrity when making claims in the media as “the validity of the argument around increased pathogen losses resulting from irrigation or water storage are not sound,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

“Our understanding is pathogen contamination of a water supply generally occurs through a direct pathway – a point source contamination. Neither irrigation nor water storage create pathogen issues, except through natural means, the increased birdlife around a water storage lake for example. The main causes of pathogen contamination are poor water treatment from domestic discharges or inadequately protected well-heads. ” says Mr Curtis. . . 

Success Helps Southland/Otago Dairy Awards Winners Keep Goals on Track:

The major winners in the 2016 Southland/Otago Dairy Industry Awards, have adapted their business to remain on track to achieve their farming goals.

The couple were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year competition at the Southland/Otago Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held at the MLT Events Centre in Gore last night. The other big winners were Wayne Ashmore, who became the 2016 Southland/Otago Dairy Manager of the Year, and Chloe Mackle, the 2016 Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year. . . 

Conditions now right for recovery in global dairy prices, ASB economist Penny says – Fiona Rotherham

(BusinessDesk) – Global dairy prices will recover this year as growth in European production has now slowed, says ASB rural economist Nathan Penny.

His comments follow a Fitch Ratings report last week that forecast the modest supply response so far to low global dairy prices would prolong a recovery in prices beyond 2016.

Last month, when announcing Fonterra Cooperative Group’s half-year results, chairman John Wilson said the company and most of its global dairy peers were struggling to make predictions on the direction of global dairy prices but the imbalance in supply and demand could correct itself in the next six months. . . 

Changes to maximum allowable weight of greasy wool bales in industry code of practice:

The National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests Inc comprises associations and organisations involved in the domestic and international trading of greasy and scoured wool. The Council acts as the New Zealand member of the International Wool Textile Organisation, which represents the interests of the wool textile trade at the global level.

The National Council and its members are committed to providing a safe working environment throughout the wool industry. Increasing concerns relating to bales weighing over 200kg (which are estimated to cover approximately 6% of the national clip) have prompted the Council to address the issue. . . 

Farmers Are Awesome's photo.


Rural round-up

February 16, 2016

Surviving the dairy downturn – Keith Woodford:

In recent weeks the short term dairy outlook has turned from bad to awful. Fonterra’s recently revised milksolids price estimate of $4.15 for the current 1015/16 season has already been overtaken by events, and is once again looking decidedly optimistic.

I now see a figure of about $3.90 as being more likely, but still with plus or minus 40c around that. Even more important, no longer can we ignore the likelihood that dairy prices are going to stay low for at least the first half of the 2016/17 dairy season, and possibly for all of that season.

Most but not all of the farmers I have contact with are going to come through relatively unscathed. But that is not the case for those who have both high costs of production and high debt. We are now facing a situation which New Zealand farmers have not faced since the 1980s. . . 

Broker warns average dairy farmer may lose $140k this season – Edwin Mitson:

(BusinessDesk) – Financial broker OMF is warning the average New Zealand dairy farmer is likely to lose $140,760 this season, with next year looking just as grim.

In its monthly New Zealand dairy report OMF suggests there is a further risk that Fonterra Cooperative Group could lower payouts again, pointing to a potential milk price of $3.89 per kilogram of milk solids. Fonterra lowered prices on Jan. 28 to $4.15/kgMS. OMF estimates the current cost of production is $5.31/kgMS.

OMF said dairy farmers are likely to face a third season of weak prices, with many becoming increasingly reliant on credit lines and vulnerable to a shift in banks’ willingness to “extend and pretend” loans are going to be repaid. DairyNZ estimates 85 percent of dairy farmers will make a loss this season compared to 49 percent last season. . . 

Seafood exports reach $1.63 billion:

New Zealand seafood exports reached a record high of $1.63 billion last year, up over 6 per cent on 2014.

The growth was most pronounced in the final two months of the year, says Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst.

Up to the end of October export growth was tracking at about 3 per cent but increased demand in November and December pushed the growth to over 20 per cent for those two months and lifted total growth for the year to 6.6 per cent. . . 

Ex-deer farmers drawn back by strong returns:

Deer farmers who left the industry for brighter pastures in dairy are being drawn back by strong returns for venison and velvet, a south Canterbury deer farmer says.

Kris Orange farms 1600 weaner deer on 260 hectares in Geraldine, South Canterbury and 1000 hinds on a farm at Dunback, Otago.

He said venison prices were up more than $1 on last year’s returns, sitting at about $7.20kg, with expectations of strong growth in the next five to 10 years. . . 

Four finalists named for IrrigationNZ’s Innovation Award:

For the second time – IrrigationNZ has shortlisted four finalists for its ‘Innovation in Irrigation Award’ sponsored by Aqualinc – which will be presented at the organisation’s biennial conference in early April.

New technologies, products, practices or community collaborations that reflect innovation within the irrigation sector are the focus of the award, which is only presented every second year.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis says the external judging panel had struggled to keep the shortlist to the normal three, so four finalists have been chosen this year. . . 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand making global connections:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand teamed up with Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand Institute (LCBNZ) recently to host six chefs from China – winners of the global “Chef par Excellence” culinary competition.

The institute and Sealord New Zealand were the main sponsors and Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) was invited to arrange a day’s activity for the chefs.

B+LNZ General Manager Market Development Nick Beeby says the opportunity was too good to pass up, particularly given the group’s influential travel members. . . 

SealesWinslow mills receive quality stamp:

SealesWinslow has attained FeedSafeNZ accreditation across all of its mills, recognising the high quality of the animal feed products they make.

FeedSafeNZ is a quality stamp from the New Zealand Feed Manufacturers Association (NZFMA) for manufacturers and blenders, designed to enhance the quality assurance of stockfeed. . . 

Synlait Strengthens Senior Team to Drive Value Growth And Business Performance:

Three new senior management positions will add business development and process improvement capability to Synlait’s Senior Leadership Team.

Managing Director and CEO John Penno said the decision follows an assessment of business areas that require additional focus to ensure the company continues to deliver against its growth aspirations.

“Building our business development capability will significantly improve our ability to take advantage of emerging opportunities that will accelerate our growth,” said Mr Penno. . . 

 


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