Rural round-up

August 4, 2020

Hyperbole flies over high country – David Williams:

The Government’s big shake-up of the high country has upset farmers and green groups. David Williams drills into the detail

Across Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown, at the sprawling Mt Nicholas Station, Kate Cocks and her family seem sheltered from the ill winds of Covid-19. 

Yes, the catamaran that used to bring tourists over for farm tours isn’t running, and the public road running through the almost 40,000-hectare station isn’t packed with tourists riding the Around the Mountains cycle trail. 

But Mt Nicholas still has certainty. It has long-lasting contracts with US-owned clothing company Icebreaker and Italian textiles company Reda for the wool from its 29,000 merino sheep, and also runs 2300 Hereford cattle.  . . 

Crossbred farmers feel financial pinch – Yvonne O’Hara:

Southern Rural Life reporter Yvonne O’Hara  looks at  issues affecting the shearing sector, particularly training and crossbred wool returns.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul does not make financial sense when shearing crossbred sheep.

Although the issue was not common at present, some crossbred farmers might be looking at cutting costs and asking their contractors to limit the supply of woolhandlers to their sheds, New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association president Mark Barrowcliffe said

More were likely to be considering that if the price they received for their wool did not improve and shearing, transport and associated costs were not recovered. . .

Tackling farming boots and all – Gerard Hutching:

A former international rugby player who once played for the All Blacks, decided to end his stellar career and hang his boots to return to his farming roots. Gerard Hutching reports.

For George Whitelock a decade-long professional rugby career had a myriad benefits: a secure income, world travel, paths to leadership and friendships forged with a cross-section of Kiwi society. 

But in terms of dairy farming, the pay-off has related to the way in which performance was measured on and off the sports field, and how that has translated into his new business.  

“What drives you when you’re a sportsman is that when you play every week, with technology you get all the improvements from watching video clips and varying your performance,” George said. 

“With farming I get great satisfaction every day knowing what’s going out the gate and I can judge myself and ask ‘what did I do well today or not so well’ – it’s so measurable. That challenge drives me, and it’s why I’m so passionate about dairying.”1 . . 

From koru to cows – Annette Scott:

Nikayla Knight’s career path has gone from the glamour of serving lattes in an airport lounge to milking cows on a Mid Canterbury dairy farm and she is stoked.

Knight was pursuing a hospitality career in the Koru Lounge at Dunedin airport when covid-19 struck. She effectively lost her job overnight.

“Given tourism shut down because of covid I was out of work. I wasn’t going to sit around and do nothing.

“I had three months out of work, no money coming in, no hope of returning to my job so I was looking for anything,” Knight said. . . 

UN removes anti-meat tweet:

The United Nations has removed a tweet following a global backlash from farmers.

The tweet, posted on July 26, stated “The meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the world’s biggest oil companies. Meat production contributes to the depletion of water resources & drives deforestation.”

The tweet was accused of being sympathetic to oil companies, whilst targeting the meat industry.

According to Australian website Farm Online, the Australian government felt particularly targeted by the tweet. . .

Agrichemical industry will take responsibility for environmental waste :

Agrichemical manufacturers back the government’s mandate to take environmental responsibility for their products at the end of their useful life.

Agcarm members support the government’s moves to place the onus on them to ensure that their products can be recycled or disposed of safely. The association’s chief executive Mark Ross says “our members have a long history of taking responsibility for their products. They do this by paying a levy on all products sold, so that they can be recycled or sustainably treated at the end of their useful life”.

The industry funds the rural recycling programme Agrecovery which offers farmers alternatives to the harmful disposal practices of burning, burying and stockpiling of waste. Agcarm is a founder and trustee of the programme, “demonstrating a long-standing commitment to better environmental outcomes,” says Ross. . .


Rural round-up

July 28, 2020

Synthetics out in favour of natural fibres – Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

From lipstick to gum boots :

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

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

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

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

 

Wools NZ elects new chairman – Annette Scott:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

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

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

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

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

Welsh unions highlight farmers’ role in fighting climate change :

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

July 26, 2020

Pork farmer predicts ‘massive’ productivity drop – Yvonne O’Hara:

Like many in the pork industry, North Otago pig farmer Ian Carter is dependent on experienced and skilled migrant workers to run his 318ha, 2000 pig, 700 cattle operation.

If farmers cannot access migrant workers with the needed skill sets and experience, including from the Philippines where there are large commercial pork operations, he predicts a “massive drop in productivity” within the industry.

As a result of Covid-19, workers who would ordinarily be arriving to work here on three-year visas had been unable to fly into the country.

Although the former New Zealand Pork chairman was pleased to see the recent visa extensions introduced by the Government, he did not think those changes would be enough to meet the needs of the industry. . .

M bovis eradication on track -Annette Scott:

The number of properties infected with Mycoplasma bovis has dropped to an all-time low, triggering a wave of confidence that the plan to eradicate the cattle disease from New Zealand is on-track.

Three years on since the disease was first confirmed in NZ, industry leaders are confident the world-first attempt to eradicate the disease is making positive gains towards eradication being within reach in the coming seven years.

As of July 22, the M bovis programme had just four confirmed active properties on its books.

Of these,  two are dairy and one beef in the North Island, with one beef property in Canterbury.  . . 

Smith downplays British farming fears – Nigel Stirling:

A former Trade Minister is hopeful he can play his part convincing Britain to open its farmers up to increased competition from New Zealand and other rival producers once it leaves the European Union.

Lockwood Smith credited his appointment to a new commission advising the British government on trade agreements and agriculture to his long experience as a farmer and former trade and agriculture minister, as well as his knowledge of the British farming and political scene as a recent High Commissioner to London.

“There is a realisation that (British) agriculture needs to move forward and this is an attempt to find a consensus on how best to do that,” Smith said. . . 

Can-do farm installs methane-run generator – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy effluent is being used to power an Isla Bank milking shed and mitigate methane emissions at the same time.

Dairy Green and Scandrett Rural owner and consultant John Scandrett has been overseeing a biogas conversion project at Glenarlea Farm, Isla Bank, since November 2016.

Glenarlea Farm, which is owned by the Fortuna Group and managed by Brendon and Lorelai Santos, milks about 900 cows at peak.

Bacteria convert effluent solids into biogas, of which methane and carbon dioxide are the main constituents.

The methane fuelled a converted diesel motor, which drove a generator to make electricity, Mr Scandrett said. . . 

Taranaki dairy farm doing twice the average milk production scoops national awards :

A Taranaki dairy farmer who has won a raft of production awards attributes his success to having well-grown young stock.

Stefan Buhler milks 260 Holstein Friesian cows on his 80-hectare coastal farm at Manaia near Hawera.

The herd produced 202,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in the 2019-20 season.

“It was a record season for us, despite the drought. We produced 2525 kgMS per hectare, which is quite incredible,” he said. . .

Report questions gender bias in succession planning – Mollie Tracey:

WHILE the agricultural industry has made great progress in advancing women in the workforce, little work has looked into shifting traditional patterns of patrilineal farm succession, which act as gender barriers for daughters growing up on farms.

That’s according to a new report by 2017 Nuffield scholar and Morawa farmer, Katrina Sasse, who investigated the position of daughter successors in United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark – a study that was motivated by her own keen interest as a daughter successor and desire to help women in Australia find a pathway back to the family farm. 

It’s an unfortunate fact that in rural communities some people continue to view daughter successors differently to sons and more needs to be done to empower young Women to remain in family farming operations. . . 


Rural round-up

July 24, 2020

That’s Northland’: floods follow droughts and tests farmers’ resolve – Brad Flahive:

While most of the floodwater in Northland has receded after the weekend’s deluge, the silt it left behind is a frustrating reminder of how vulnerable farmers are to the extremes of mother nature.

After months of near-crippling drought, more than 200mm of rain fell during two storms last weekend, and now the silt-laden paddocks can’t be used for pasture at this crucial time of year.

“The cows just won’t eat it, they just walk around in the mud and make a big mess,” said farmer Nick Bishop from his dairy farm, 10 kilometres east of Dargaville. . . 

Farm interactive learning platform – Yvonne O’Hara:

Chris and Desiree Giles, of Waimumu Downs, use their property as a giant interactive learning platform for children from the 16 eastern Southland schools.

“We are in the process of putting a classroom down on the farm. Getting the kids involved is a means of bringing in their parents and getting their buy-in,” Mr Giles said.

The couple, who have two children — Danielle (9) and Andrew (7) — have a 306ha dairy property (206ha effective), which was converted in 2014.

The family bought the original property six years ago and since then had almost doubled the acreage. . . 

Lowest number of of non-compliance’s in Taranaki since 2015 – Mike Watson:

Covid-19 and Taranaki residents’ growing environmental awareness have resulted in a record number of environmental incidents reported to the Taranaki Regional Council, but also a record low for the number of actual non-compliances.

During the past 12 months, 529 cases were reported – the highest figure for five years, the council’s consents and regulatory meeting was told on Tuesday.

But the number of non-compliances during the same monitoring period was 185 – the lowest in five years.

This was partly because of more consent holders following the rules but also because of reduced monitoring during the lockdown. . .

Group to set beef’s priorities – Annette Scott:

Grant Bunting never thought he would become so passionate about sustainability but says the sustainability challenge cannot be ignored if New Zealand producers want to improve their standing on the world stage. He talked to Annette Scott.

Grant Bunting has long had a genuine interest in farming systems and practices but new and evolving industry challenges have somewhat changed his outlook.

The inaugural chairman of the recently formed New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef said the growing importance the world puts on sustainability credentials across the supply chain has changed many a view.

“I have to admit I am quite traditional in my views but these sustainability challenges can’t be ignored.  . . 

Events celebrate rural communities :

Agritech industry transformation plan leader David Downs is returning to his roots as part of Pride in our Land events being held throughout the Manawatu-Wanganui Region.

Whanganui-born Downs, a general manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise who is head of the Government taskforce behind the agritech plan, is guest speaker at events in Raetihi and Whanganui next Thursday and Friday, July 30 and 31.

They are part of a wider series of get-togethers that began at Mokotuku’s Black Dog Pub on July 9 and wind up at Makoura Lodge at Apiti on August 15.

Whanganui Federated Farmers president Mike Cranstone says it has been a rough start to the year for landowners dealing with the adverse weather conditions and supply chain disruptions of the past six months. . . 

Farming is a great way of life – let’s make it a safe one – Jacqui Cannon:

There’s no doubt that farming, one of Australia’s most important industries, is also one of its most dangerous.

Big open spaces, big animals, big machinery, big workload.

In the past 18 months, more than 200 Australians have died in farming accidents, tearing apart families and communities – one in six are kids under five years old.

This goes beyond tragic; it’s horrifying. But the most horrifying aspect is that it’s so readily accepted by many as “just a part of life on the land“. . .

 


Rural round-up

July 19, 2020

Early mornings shear joy – Sally Rae:

It was shearing time on the Strachan family’s sheep and beef farm at Awamoko, in North Otago, and Sid was helping pen up when he was not busy shearing at his own stand.

He had been there since 7am and, by late morning, he reckoned his tally was about 8200 — which might have been a slight exaggeration, but there was no doubting his infectious enthusiasm and work ethic.

Sid might only be 6 years old but he has been interested in shearing from an even younger age and spends a full day in the woolshed whenever he can.

He had two very clear ambitions: to buy North Otago shearing contractor Phil Cleland’s business — “he said I can do it when I’m 13” — and to win the Golden Shears. . .

Wool revival coming – Annette Scott:

South Island farmer Kate Acland says the Government’s report on the wool industry is a chance for the sector to come together and realise its potential.

The Vision and Action for the wool sector put together by the Government-appointed wool industry Project Action Group suggests New Zealand is on the cusp of a natural fibre renaissance being led by more environmentally and socially conscious consumers. 

A new approach is needed to seize the opportunity and turn things around.

The report recommends the appointment of an executive officer and establishment of a wool sector governance group to oversee development of an investment case. . . 

A Fonterra of wool is necessary – Annette Scott:

The wool industry needs a real plan to be profitable and the Government’s vision and action report for wool has failed to deliver, according to some industry leaders.

While the report is a step in the right direction a concrete plan is needed to lift the industry from its doldrums, National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests chairman Craig Smith said.

“It’s a report that tells us what we know, the wool industry in general is in a really bad place.

“What needs to happen very quickly now is another report with a clearly defined strategy then we can put some structure around that strategy,” Smith said. . . 

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

Using New Zealand strong wool to produce biodegradable disposal nappies for a multi-billion dollar global market is gaining traction as a new avenue for farmers desperate to find new places to sell their product, with multinational companies showing interest in NZ technology.

As part of the recent launch of the strong wool sector’s plan for the future Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said Wellington-based company Woolchemy will get $80,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Woolchemy co-founder and chief executive Derelee Potroz-Smith says the money will pay for a commercial trial of technology that enables wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in consumer hygiene products, adding significant value to the raw material produced by NZ strong wool farmers. . . 

Still work to be done after diagnosis – Alice Scott:

Like many typical Otago blokes, Scott Clearwater (41) shrugged off his headaches, too busy on his Goodwood sheep and beef farm to see a doctor.

But as Covid-19 cases petered and the country went into Level 2, Mr Clearwater’s headaches got worse.

“He was writhing around on the floor one night and that’s when I said, ‘Enough’s enough, you need to get to a doctor’,” his wife, Joy Clearwater, said.

Since that May 29 GP visit, the family’s life has been turned upside down. . . 

Socially acceptable cows of the future could be within reach – Hannah Powe:

As animal health and husbandry becomes a hot topic in the agriculture industry, DairyBio research scientists have identified the traits needed to breed the socially acceptable cow of the future.

During the Genetics Australia 2020 Virtual Series, Agriculture Victoria principal research scientist and leader of DairyBio, Professor Jennie Pryce said there were five keys areas needed to breed the socially acceptable cow.

“They need to be resource efficient, have a low environmental footprint and low methane emissions, and traits consistent with high standards of animal welfare such as good health and fertility (polled and longevity),” Prof Pryce said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

July 11, 2020

Farmers paying on land lost to erosion – Mike Houlahan:

Farmers whose properties are alongside the Waitaki River are irate they are being charged rates on land which has been washed away.

Waimate farmer Gert van’t Klooster lost 4ha of farmland when Meridian Energy spilled water from its hydro-electric storage on the Waitaki in December.

While Mr van’t Klooster could accept that Meridian was operating within its consent, he said he found it much harder to pay Environment Canterbury rates on land which was no longer part of his property.

“I have a bill now from ECan on land which isn’t there. It doesn’t generate any income, and there are mortgages to pay on that land, too,” he said. . .

Slight dip in 2019-20 milk collection – Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra’s milk collection last season was slightly down as North Island farmers faced a crippling drought.

However, the 2.1% dip in North Island milk was offset by the South Island where full season collection was up 2.1%.

The cooperative’s total milk production in 2019-20 reached 1,517 million kgMS, down 0.4% on the previous season.

Full season collection for the North Island was 874.6 million kgMS and for the South Island, 642.5 million kgMS. . .

Couple’s flexible approach paying off  – Yvonne O’Hara:

Waimumu sheep and beef farmers Jason and Debbie Smith have a “take it as it comes” approach to farming and it is paying off — despite their operation being affected by Covid-19.

The couple have a 747ha property and this year are fattening 23,000 store lambs as well as running 200 beef cattle under Smith Farming 2018 Ltd, a move made as part of their succession planning.

That is in addition to the 7000 lambs they bred themselves. . .

Agritech has a plan – Tony Benny:

The New Zealand agritech sector is pushing ahead with ambitious plans to grow its exports with $11.4 million Budget funding and despite covid-19 disruption.

Though the launch of the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan in April had to be delayed work has continued behind the scenes to realise the Government’s desire to take NZ farming technology to the world.

“We’ve been talking to the Government pretty much every week over the past three months about the plan,” Agritech NZ executive director Peter Wren-Hilton says. . .

Grain deal gets over the line – Annette Scott:

The arable sector’s biosecurity partnership has been signed.

Five key members have joined forces to form Seed and Grain Readiness and Response to work with the Government to protect the industry from new weed, pest and disease incursions. 

Federated Farmers, the Foundation for Arable Research, the Flour Millers Association, the Grain and Seed Trade Association and United Wheat Growers spent years discussing signing the Government-Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response. . . 

Lockdown reading lessons from New Zealand – John Elliot:

One positive of lockdown is that it has given us the most valuable currency of all which is time,” Katie Piper.

For me, a member of the ‘vulnerable age group’, Covid-19 hasn’t been all bad.

I’ve dusted off the dumb-bells, watched some fabulous programmes on Sky TV and caught up with my reading. Many of the books have been in my possession for years unread.

Some I have read several times. Two of the more interesting came from New Zealand. Their titles, ‘The Intuitive Farmer’ and ‘The Resilient Farmer’ hint at their contents. . .


Rural round-up

July 9, 2020

Wool, trees, rules threaten sheep – Annette Scott:

Sheep farming is under serious threat from incentives to grow trees and more crops, retired Federated Farmers meat and wool chairman Miles Anderson says.

In his six years on the national executive, the past three as section chairman, Anderson said the biggest single frustration has been wool.

“We have got a product we have selectively bred for generations and generations, it ticks all the environmental boxes and many of us are dumping crutchings, bellies and pieces on-farm because it costs more to get them to the woolstore than you get for it – it’s ridiculous.

“If there was ever a time for the wool industry to get its act together and work collaboratively to improve the fortunes of everyone in the industry, now is the time. . . 

We don’t know how lucky we are – Gerald Piddock:

New Federated Farmers dairy chairman Wayne Langford says the next few years will be critical for the industry as it navigates freshwater reform, climate change and Mycoplasma bovis.

The Golden Bay dairy farmer takes over from Chris Lewis, having served as his vice-president for the past three years.

“I think with the state of the Government and potentially them doing another term, I think these are all going to start to come to a head. 

“They have made their intentions pretty clear on that so I think these next three years are pretty crucial in that, making sure our farming sector, where we are still profitable and where there are still vibrant communities and a bunch of young farmers still on the ground.” . .  

A shake-up for the land and her export billions – Tim Murphy:

The Government wants to accelerate improvements to production and sustainability on the land to greatly increase export earnings over the next decade. But big change will be needed, Tim Murphy reports.

A new package to grow our agriculture, food and fibre industries, improve the environment and stimulate jobs has a huge financial target and an even bigger set of challenges for farmers and growers.

The final report of the Primary Sector Council – Fit for a Better World – sets an ambitious agenda to ‘transform’ farm and forestry practices sustainably and in keeping with Te Taiao (the natural world) to address the climate crisis, while finding new $1 billion export products and saving and developing free trade for our products.

After a long period of consultation and research, the council’s vision for New Zealand’s primary industries is all encompassing: “We are committed to meeting the greatest challenge humanity faces: rapidly moving to a low carbon emissions society, restoring the health of our water, reversing the decline in biodiversity and, at the same time, feeding our people.” . . 

Grief over grain drain – David Anderson:

A whole generation of farmers don’t seem to know about the advantages of feeding NZ-grown grain to livestock, claims Jeremy Talbot.

Talbot is a South Canterbury arable farmer and long-time proponent of farmers using more NZ-grown grain to feed their livestock.

believes the current drought in many parts of the country, and the resulting shortage of hay and baleage, is an ideal time for the practice of grain feeding livestock to be highlighted. . . 

Government Sells Taxpayers Down The River:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is sceptical that 61% of taxpayer funding for waterway clean-up just happens to be focused on the Northland electorate.

Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke says: “The Government has announced that $162 million of taxpayers’ money will be spent on cleaning our waterways. There are 23 projects, but one will receive $100 million, 61% of the total allocation. It is also the only project set to run more than one year.”

“The Kaipara Moana Remediation programme is predicted to create 1,094 jobs over the six-year life of the project surrounding the Kaipara Harbour, most of which sits within the key electorate of Northland.  . . 

How bush fire management is saving the Carpentaria grasswren – Derek Barry:

Aerial fire management is helping save the Carpentaria grasswren in North West Queensland.

The project at Calton Hills at Gunpowder, north of Mount Isa has been running for three years replicating land management that used to be done for centuries before Europeans arrived and a new video produced by Southern Gulf NRM is showing how it is working.

Michael Blackman, a fire management consultant with Friendly Fire Ecological Consultants said the aerial burns was carried out in older age spinifex.

“This country here has a lot of large wildfires come through in 2011 and 2012 and the main reason for doing this project is to assist in the recovery of the Carpentaria grasswren which lives in the old age spinifex,” Mr Blackman said. . . 


Rural round-up

July 2, 2020

Contractors need staff pronto – Annette Scott:

Without skilled operators rural contractors risk having millions of dollars of essential agricultural machinery sitting idle this spring. 

After an urgent meeting with Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor, Rural Contractors is surveying members amid rising concern over the pending labour shortage.

Results so far reveal up to 1000 skilled machinery operators will be needed for the spring and summer.     

Many will need to be brought into NZ, Rural Contractors president David Kean said. . . 

Worker shortage worries pig farmers :

Pork producers are calling on the Government to urgently review its policies on skilled migrant workers as severe staff shortages hit. 

Pig farmers rely on experienced workers from overseas to meet a shortfall in staff with the necessary skills required to work with the country’s herd.

However, they are concerned skilled migrants already working on farms might not have their visas renewed or existing workers trying to return from overseas will be blocked, leaving many farmers with significant staffing shortages.

“The sector’s strong preference would be to have a pool of available skilled and unskilled New Zealand workers,” New Zealand Pork chief executive David Baines said.  . . 

Aerial top-dressing, deer among highlights of past century – Richard Davison:

In common with a record 70 families set to receive their Century Farm awards in Lawrence last month, the Mackies, of South Otago, were unable to share their story when Covid-19 intervened. Here they take the opportunity to do so, looking back over the Copland and Mackie families’ 100 years of farming the same land, with reporter Richard Davison.

Given the ups and downs of farming, it’s no mean feat to stay put on the same land for a century and more.

Every year, though, the Century Farms event in Lawrence marks a swag of families from across New Zealand achieving just that, and last month a record 70 families were due to pick up 100- and 150-year awards.

We all know what happened next, but many of those families’ stories still deserve to be told, helping paint a picture of the gambles, innovations, hard work and lighter-hearted moments of New Zealand farming down the years. . . 

Growing native plants creating legacy – Keri Waterworth:

The quality of water entering lakes, rivers and streams from farms in the Upper Clutha catchment is improving due to the thousands of natives planted around waterways on those farms. One of the nurseries supplying the plants is Wanaka’s Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust nursery. Kerrie Waterworth reports.

Nestled in the shelter of an extensive QE11 convenanted kanuka forest beside Lake Wanaka, the Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust nursery is at the end of an easy walk through the QEII Covenant Kanuka forest beside Lake Wanaka.

On the Tuesday afternoon I visited, it was one of the two nursery volunteer afternoons held each week during winter, and only the second since the nursery reopened following the Covid-19 lockdown/restriction periods. . . 

Wine worker launches petition to ease visa conditions as concerns grow for next harvest – Maia Hart:

A petition has been launched calling for the Government to ease temporary work visa conditions for international winery workers impacted by Covid-19.

The petition, started by Cait Guyette, is calling for the Government to allow grape harvest workers already in New Zealand to stay until vintage 2021.

Guyette, who is from the United States but had a permanent job at a winery in Marlborough, said she felt disheartened there had been no leniency to allow harvest workers to continue working in New Zealand’s wine industry. . . 

NSW buys outback station in state’s largest single property purchase for a national park – Saskia Mabin:

It’s the vast embodiment of outback beauty and heartbreak — a sweeping western NSW cattle station that is, by turns, arid no-man’s land and lush waterbird haven, home to ancient Indigenous artefacts, the ghostly trail of Burke and Wills and now the nation’s newest national park.

“It can be very good and then it can be vile,” said Bill O’Connor, 84, owner of Narriearra station, which has just become the largest block of private land bought for a national park in the state’s history.

With nearby Sturt National Park, Narriearra will create a conservation area of close to half a million hectares, or twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory.

The 153,415-hectare station sits in the north-west corner of the state, with the dog-proof fence of the NSW-Queensland border forming its northern boundary. . . 


Rural round-up

June 4, 2020

Market base is strong but . . .  Annette Scott:

Despite significant primary sector disruption from covid-19 and drought Beef + Lamb forecasts a positive outlook for sheep and beef exports this season. 

It’s mid-season update says beef, lamb and mutton farmgate prices will maintain their high levels.

That is supported by a strong start to the first half of the season and an expected weakening of the New Zealand dollar.

While the drought and covid-19 have both had impacts for farmers and meat processors the fundamentals look likely to remain strong for sheep meat and beef exports this year, Beef + Lamb chief economist Andrew Burtt said.  . . 

Govt’s N fertiliser cap ignores basic science – Doug Edmeades:

Dr Doug Edmeades takes a look at the problems with the Government’s nitrogen fertiliser caps.

The Government’s recent decision to cap N fertiliser inputs at 190 kg N/ha/yr is doomed to failure because it ignores the basic science.

When an animal urinates, it applies N at the rate of about 500 to 1000 kg N/ha.

This is too much for the pasture and soil to accommodate and hence results in a huge excess of soluble N in a localised spot of soil, which is then subject to leaching into waterways. . . 

Pioneer in deer industry, conservation dedicates award to supporters – Liz Chen:

A man who received a Queen’s Birthday honour for services to wildlife conservation and the deer industry says the award is shared with everyone who’s made a contribution.

Murray Powell, now 89, established the Hilldale Zoo and Wildlife Park in 1969, now the Hamilton Zoo, and together with his late wife put significant investment towards the zoo’s development over the years.

The zoo is now one of Hamilton’s leading attractions with more than 140,000 visitors a year.

It runs successful breeding programmes as well as conservation and research projects for both nationally and internationally endangered species. . .

Face masks featuring New Zealand wool filters under ‘huge demand’:

A superior face mask product developed by an innovative New Zealand company using New Zealand wool is now under extremely high demand globally.

Farmers contracted to Carrfields Primary Wool (CP Wool) are supplying specialist-breed New Zealand Astino wool to air filter producer Lanaco, which uses it as the key ingredient in a vast range of air filtration applications.

Lanaco’s protective face masks which feature its ‘Helix’ wool air filters have now received a huge surge in demand since the global Covid-19 outbreak began.

Nick Davenport, CEO of Lanaco, says the company only started making face masks last year following significant research and development work, and is now struggling to keep up with global demand for the product. . . 

Rural Weekly to cease operation – Andrea Davy:

MY FIRST day working for the Rural Weekly newspaper I called a grazier in the Northern Territory who left me shocked.

As the Rural Weekly is among the News Corp publications that will cease all operations by June 26, it’s an interaction I have been reflecting on.

Coming from a daily paper where one of the biggest challenges of the role was convincing people to share their story, I had my spiel ready to go; I was geared up to convince this humble, most likely shy, station manager that sharing her life story with the masses was a good idea.

People are often wary of journalists; they consider us a nosy and untrustworthy bunch. . .

FAO sets the record straight–86% of livestock feed is inedible by humans :

As the media frenzy caused by a ‘planetary health diet’ proposed in a new report from an EAT-Lancet commission this month continues, it is perhaps timely to recall that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has set the record straight regarding not just the level of greenhouse gases that livestock emit (see yesterday’s posting on this blog) but also incorrect information about how much food (crops eatable by humans) is consumed by livestock. It’s not a lot.

The EAT-Lancet report summarizes scientific evidence for a global food system transition towards healthy diets from sustainable agriculture. The report concludes that a global shift towards a diet made up of high quantities of fruits, vegetables and plant-based protein and low quantities of animal protein could catalyze the achievement of both the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change. . . 

Anne Mottet, an FAO livestock development officer specializing in natural resource use efficiency and climate change, usefully informs us of incorrect, if widespread, information and understanding about the so-called ‘food-feed competition’. . .


Rural round-up

May 30, 2020

Southland on the brink – Peter Burke:

Southland is teetering on the edge of a bad situation, according to DairyNZ’s lead consulting officer in the South Island, Tony Finch.

He says if they can’t get rid of cull cows soon and if the weather doesn’t play its part, current problems will get even worse.

Southland is facing a major feed shortage, but not because of the drought – because of too much rain. The problem is that farmers came out of a pretty hard winter and a very wet spring, which delayed any winter crops being put in the spring, says Finch. . .

Fonterra and Air NZ race emergency protein order to the US for Covid-19 patients – Andrea Fox:

Fonterra teams have scrambled to answer an emergency call from the US for a big supply of a specialised protein product for critically ill Covid-19 patients.

After racing to make the hydrolysate product at its specialist plant which was about to close down for the season, the big dairy company chartered an Air NZ 787 jet to fly the first batch – 24 metric tonnes – direct to Chicago to be used in a medical food formula for intubated Covid-19 patients.

The SoS from a long-time big American customer came as the only Fonterra processing site that makes the special whey protein hydrolysate, the Hautapu factory near Cambridge, was preparing to shut and most of its 220 staff either to take annual leave or start annual maintenance work. . . 

Scientists understand cattle not climate villains, but media still missing message – James Nason,:

FOR a long time emissions from cattle have been lumped in with emissions from other sources as the same destructive forces for the planet in the global climate change narrative.

However, through research overseen by scientists including Dr Frank Mitloehner (right) from the University of California Davis and Dr Myles Allen from Oxford University, scientific consensus is starting to build around the point that livestock-related greenhouse gases are distinctively different from greenhouse gases associated with other sectors of society (more on this below).

Dr Mitloehner, an internationally recognised air quality expert, explained to the Alltech One virtual conference on Friday night (Australian time) that the concept of accounting for methane according to its Global Warming Potential, as opposed to just its volume of CO2 equivalent, which showed that not all greenhouse gases are created equal, has now made it all the way to the International Panel on Climate Change. . . 

Deer sector ready for challenges – Annette Scott:

After several seasons of strong export returns New Zealand’s venison farmers are well positioned to overcome the severe trade disruptions of covid-19, Rabobank animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate says.

But the industry and venison marketers make no attempt to sugar-coat the difficult situation they are dealing with.

Holgate said venison producers have enjoyed a good run benefitting from healthy export sales into both established and new markets. 

“In the last five years we’ve seen significant export growth in the United States, partly due to increased demand for venison in pet food while we’ve also seen strong sales in long-standing European markets such as Germany and Belgium.”   . . 

Wool export contracts shaky – Nigel Stirling:

Foreign wool buyers are threatening to walk away from contracts with New Zealand exporters as they fight to survive the global coronavirus lockdown.

That was just one factor behind a savage 25% slump in crossbred wool prices at the first auction since the local lockdown ended at Napier on Thursday.

Exporter Masurel Fils managing director Peter Whiteman said many foreign buyers were being forced into desperate measures because of shut factories as well as a collapse in demand for the textiles they produced.

“We still sell a lot of wool to Europe and the UK for spinning to make carpets. Those customers are asking us for delays. . . 

NZ olive oil makes win big Kiwis encouraged to buy local:

Kiwis are being encouraged to support local and buy world-beating olive oil made by New Zealand growers, who have won seven Gold Medals at the 2020 New York International Olive Oil Competition.

Olive growers from Waiheke to Wairarapa and Kapiti and Nelson to Canterbury won top accolades at the competition, considered to be one of the most prestigious in the world. New Zealand punched above its weight, taking home its best ever results against 26 other countries.

Stephen Davies Howard, Owner of Loopline in the Wairarapa, won two golds, one each for his Picholene and Picual oils. He says if New Zealanders ever needed a reason to buy local, the time is now. . . 


Rural round-up

May 23, 2020

Covid-19: trusting business to work – Todd Muller:

National’s agriculture spokesman, Todd Muller on the role the Government needs to play for agriculture businesses.

As we continue to grapple with the repercussions of COVID-19, we must look at what’s working and use that as a template for other business sectors.

The kiwifruit industry has been a shining example of how it is possible to continue operating at a high capacity, while adjusting to the restrictions of COVID-19.

It has completely re-engineered its systems from harvesting the fruit, to picking the fruit, to packing the fruit and we’ve seen a bumper season with record amounts of NZ kiwifruit making their way across the world as a result.

This has also meant the industry has been able to keep 28,000 seasonal workers in employment, while recording no COVID-19 incidents. This is the sort of leadership that shows how we can keep people safe and keep the economy moving at the same time. . .

Burger run shows food folly – Annette Scott:

The plan for a food security policy is long overdue with the McDonalds lettuce shortage highlighting its need more than ever, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

It is a warning that should not be ignored.

“Vegetable shortages will become a more frequent occurrence unless we get serious about ensuring we have enough food to feed NZ. 

“Like a dog howling at the moon HortNZ has been on about the need for NZ to have a food security policy and plan.  . . 

Milk price impacts vary widely – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra has published a shiny set of third-quarter numbers to cushion the impact on farmer-shareholders of a $1/kg reduction in the mid-point of its milk price forecast for next season.

Ten days before the start of the new season it released a wide-ranging $5.40 to $6.90 opening forecast – representing the difference between despair and satisfaction for New Zealand farmers.

At the same time it shrank the range for this season, now $7.10 to $7.30, and showed the big blocks are in place for a solid outcome to a tumultuous year. . . 

Family sheep and beef farm takes top regional spot at Taranaki Farm Environment Awards:

A long-term commitment to environmental stewardship has earned Rukumoana Farms the top spot at Taranaki’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards, run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

The awards champion sustainable farming and growing through a programme which sees one Regional Supreme Winner selected from each of the 11 regions involved. As a Regional Supreme Winner, Rukumoana Farms is now in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy, with the winner of this national award to be announced at a later date.

Rukumoana Farms is run by the Brown family – Robert, Jane, Nick, Sophie, Will, Kate and Sam. Thiscohesive family unitissuccessfully driving this farm that has significantlygrownduring the 34 yearsthatRobertand Jane have been involved. . .

Fonterra provides performance and milk price updates:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced its third-quarter business update, narrowed the range for its 2019/2020 forecast Farmgate Milk Price, and announced an opening forecast Farmgate Milk Price range for the 2020/2021 season.

  • Total Group Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT): $1.1 billion, up from $378 million
  • Total Group normalised EBIT: $815 million, up from $514 million
  • Total Group normalised gross margin: $2.5 billion, up from $2.2 billion
  • Normalised Total Group operating expenses: $1,665 million, down $148 million from $1,813 million
  • Free cash flow: $698 million, up $1.4 billion
  • Net debt: $5.7 billion, down from $7.4 billion
  • Normalised Ingredients EBIT: $668 million, up from $615 million
  • Normalised Foodservice EBIT: $208 million, up from $135 million
  • Normalised Consumer EBIT: $187 million, up from $128 million
  • Full year forecast underlying earnings: 15-25 cents per share
  • 2019/20 forecast Farmgate Milk Price range: $7.10 – $7.30 per kgMS
  • Opening 2020/21 forecast Farmgate Milk Price range: $5.40 – $6.90 per kgMS
  • 2020/21 Advance Rate Schedule has been set off the mid-point of $6.15 per kgMS . .

Union boss doffs hat to meat companies – Peter Burke:

Meat processing companies have gained praise for the way they handled the challenges around COVID-19 from an unlikely source – the union.

National secretary of the Meat Workers Union, Daryl Carran, who recently took up the role, says all the meat companies have played the game by the rules very well. He told Rural News that if all the problems in the sector were handled in the way that COVID has been, it would be great.

Carran says currently between 75% and 80% of meat workers are on the job and those that aren’t working are either over 70 years of age, have underlying health issues or have personal family circumstances that make it safer for them – and others in the workforce – to remain in isolation

.

 


Rural round-up

May 20, 2020

Kiwi lamb in limelight – Annette Scott:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High paying environmental jobs not realistic:

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

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

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

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

Training our rural doctors – Ross Nolly:

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

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

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

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

The power of community – James Barron:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

May 18, 2020

Tears as convoy of trucks deliver donated bales to drought-stricken Hawke’s Bay farmers -Aroha Treacher:

More than 600 bales have been donated to drought-stricken farmers in the Hawke’s Bay as they struggle through one of the worst droughts the region has seen in decades. A convoy of trucks made the journey to Hawke’s Bay to drop off some much-needed relief.

“It’s so good to be here with this fantastic contribution of feed that’s come all the way to the Hawke’s Bay from farmers right throughout the Wairarapa,” says David Todd of the Rural Support Trust in Hawke’s Bay.

“There were tears we’ll say, and from big truckies. There was tears, so it’s quite a big deal,” says Poppy Renton of the Hawke’s Bay Drought Facebook page.

From here, the feed will be distributed out to needy farmers through the rural support trust. . . 

12 year-old photographer brings drought struggles home:

The Jowsey family are among many Hawke’s Bay farmers struggling with drought. The daily grind of feeding and watering stock on the parched paddocks is being documented on camera by the youngest in the family, 12-year-old Selby.

A rust-coloured paddock, a trail of sheep mid-trot, rolling grey hills and and a steely grey sky.

It catches your eye, this slightly tilted image of feeding out time on a drought-stricken farm in Hawke’s Bay.

Selby Jowsey, 12, says he’s tried to capture the moment. . .

Creativity in dealing with drought  –  Peter Burke:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand is taking some creative initiatives to help farmers deal with the drought gripping large parts of the country.

Promoting alternative stock feeds, staging webinars and arranging feed coordinators are just some of the initiatives.

BLNZ North Island regional manager Matt Ward told Rural News that farmers are not only concerned with the immediate problem of the drought, but how they will be in spring.

He says supplies of baleage are very limited and his team of extension officers have been working to get what feed is available to the farmers that need it most.

Budget misses the boat on water – Annette Scott:

The Budget is missed opportunity for water, Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Elizabeth Soal says.

While the covid-19 recovery fund has $3 billion set aside for infrastructure Soal is not confident water storage and reticulation will fit the Government’s bill.

“We were really excited about the opportunity unfolding for water as we face huge economic challenges.”

But the Budget failed to deliver.

“This is missed opportunity,” Soal said.  . . 

Benefit uncertain in tense times – Hugh Stringleman:

Kiwi beef producers might not benefit from a significantly reduced Australian cattle kill this year, AgriHQ analyst Mel Croad says.

“Too many other factors are working in world protein markets to be sure that Australia’s expected shortfall will flow on to greater demand for our beef exports,” she said.

A predicted 17% reduction in Australian beef exports in 2020 might help stabilise world prices rather than increase them for other supplying countries.

Australia is going to do what it would in a normal year, without covid-19, and that is rebuild its herd after widespread rain. . . 

ProductionWise® and OverseerFM can “talk”:

FAR’s ProductionWise® farm recording package is now able to interface directly with OverseerFM, a development which will make nutrient management reporting a lot faster and cheaper for most ProductionWise users.

FAR ProductionWise Manager, Melanie Bates, says that enabling the two systems to ‘talk to each other’ was always a goal, and although it’s taken a while, testing shows that the benefits will be huge.

“Formal discussions with Overseer about the project began in January 2019, and late last year, the ProductionWise technical team, headed by Chris Day from Flurosat, and the OverseerFM technical team started working together to plan out the integration process via computer ‘json’ files. Chris has developed a very simple and visual way to build up the json file from recorded data in PW into OverseerFM. In simple terms, you can extract your ProductionWise data to a file that can be imported into the OverseerFM platform, allowing you to create your year-end analysis easily.” . . 


Rural round-up

May 15, 2020

IrrigationNZ believes Budget 2020 missed opportunity for water investment to aid Covid recovery:

IrrigationNZ believes that strategic water storage in key regions could aid a post-Covid recovery which focuses on protecting jobs, creating new ones, achieving positive environmental outcomes, and contributing to climate change targets.

“But Budget 2020 has missed the opportunity for water storage to be part of the solution,” says IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal.

“IrrigationNZ understands the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19 but believes that strategic management of this essential resource remains important, and that a water strategy to guide spending would be beneficial,’’ Ms Soal says.

“We will continue to talk to the Government about how this can be done utilising the $20 billion unallocated funding, and the $3.2 billion infrastructure contingency fund.” . .

Workers not leaving quarters a problem – Sally Rae:

Farm workers refusing to leave their accommodation are causing headaches for farmers preparing for the start of the new dairy season.

A large number of dairy farming families, sharemilkers, contract milkers and employees move to new farms to begin new employment and milking contracts on June 1, known as Moving Day.

But Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said changes to tenancy law passed through the Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Amendment Act, which placed general restrictions on all landlords, had left some farmers without employee accommodation.

Mr Walker had been contacted by more than 10 farmers with issues about former employees not moving out of the accommodation provided for working on the farm. . .

’Together We Grow NZ’ initiative launched to celebrate Kiwi farmers :

Some of New Zealand’s leading women in agriculture have launched “Together we Grow NZ”, a new initiative with a goal to connect urban and rural communities.

“Together We Grow NZ” will showcase the importance of both communities working together by sharing stories, collaborating, and creating opportunities to highlight New Zealand’s farming background to the next generation.

The project was created by 15 women, who met while completing the Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s leadership and governance programme “Escalator”.

The group continued working together during the Covid-19 lockdown and saw an opportunity to bring to light some of the stories of Kiwi food producers. . . 

 

Groups set up to help the helpers – Annette Scott:

A red meat industry initiative to upskill rural professionals is focused on building capability to help enable a sustainable future for farming.

Launched in Canterbury as part of the Red Meat Profit Partnership Action Network Group, the initiative is bringing together small groups of rural professionals to work towards a shared focus and goals.

The group of 12 rural professionals has joined forces to develop their skills in helping farmers make positive changes.

RMPP group facilitator Richard Brown said the action group model lets young professionals achieve their goals as facilitators and experts. . .

Fonterra council future in the air:

Fonterra has asked its shareholders and sharemilkers to help determine the future of its 25-strong shareholders’ council, seven months after initiating a review of the council’s relevance and cost.

The dairy co-operative billed an initial farmer survey as the first stage of consultation to review the council’s role and functions and acknowledged that came only after criticism of the council’s performance by some farmers. 

The functions of the council, set up to act as a farmer-run watchdog for the co-operative, have not been amended since it was founded in 2001. . .

Helius secures major grant for $2.4m R&D project:

Helius Therapeutics has confirmed it’s the recipient of a substantial grant for its New Zealand-based cultivation, plant breeding and medicines research programme.

The $2.4 million research and development project has been approved for co-funding of up to 28% by New Zealand’s innovation agency, Callaghan Innovation. Supporting innovative and high-performing R&D businesses, the agency has committed to contributing up to nearly $600,000 (excluding GST) to Kiwi-owned Helius Therapeutics over the next three years.

Chief Science Officer at Helius, Dr Jim Polston, says Callaghan Innovation’s co-funding will help Helius advance unique cannabis genetics and develop safe, consistent, and high-quality, novel cannabis medications for clinical trials. . . 


Rural round-up

May 3, 2020

No room for a too-hard basket – Annette Scott:

The role of primary industries will be more acute than ever as the nation looks to future-proof its economy, International Network of Government Science Advice chairman Sir Peter Gluckman says.

With tourism in big trouble for the foreseeable future the role of the primary sector in food and fibre production will be critical for New Zealand’s future both short and long term.

How to get more value out of the agricultural sector and make it more efficient is the challenge ahead, Gluckman said. . . 

Food producers can do without the green shackles when they are driving the post-virus economic recovery – Point of Order:

What’s  to   celebrate in the  wake of   the crushing  blow  to   the  economy  delivered   by the Covid-19   pandemic?

Certainly it’s a relief    NZ  has emerged  less  scarred  than other  countries.  Whether the country absorbed   more   economic  pain  than  was necessary will be   debated fiercely.

As   ministers   begin  the  search  to  fill  the economic hole left  by the  collapse of the  tourist industry  and  by  permanent  damage – perhaps –  to sectors like international education,  PM  Jacinda  Ardern  says  she  wants “specific” and “ specially designed” initiatives for  different  industries. . . 

DairyNZ welcomes regional water storage announcement:

DairyNZ is welcoming the water storage initiatives for drought-stricken Northland and Hawke’s Bay but is urging the Government to consider a national strategy, says DairyNZ strategy and investment leader – responsible dairy, Dr David Burger.

“This announcement will be welcome news for farmers in the Northland and Hawke’s Bay regions who have really been doing it tough this summer with very little rain,” said Dr Burger.

“As a country there are huge opportunities for water storage to help increase reliability of water supply in times of drought, to enable land-use flexibility and farming within environmental limits, and to help regions like Northland unlock their full economic potential.” . .

Coronavirus: New rural magazine bucks trend of media closures amid COVID-19 – Angie Skerrett:

Uncertainty created from the COVID-19 pandemic has failed to dampen the launch of a new magazine which tells stories of rural New Zealand women.

Shepherdess is a new quarterly magazine which aims to “connect, empower and inspire”.

Magazine founder and editor, Manawatu’s Kristy McGregor, said the concept was based on the Australian magazine Graziher. . . 

$1m system to evaluate performance of dairy genetics:

A new $1 million project will develop a new information system to help shape the genetics powering New Zealand’s dairy sector.

The project, backed by funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), will be used to record and collate data on a range of important traits of dairy cows.

Each year physical and behavioural traits of 50,000 dairy cows are assessed by breed societies to help evaluate the performance of New Zealand’s top breeding bulls. . . 

Hunting is a legitimate, humane recreation says Outdoors Council:

A recent public opinion piece by World Animal Protection New Zealand condemning hunting has been roundly criticised by the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ.

“The slagging of duck hunting by WAPNZ is hypocritical, poorly based and not factual,” said CORANZ chairman Andi Cockroft.

In the World Animal Protection NZ press release campaign advisor Christine Rose described as “inexplicable that hunting and shooting is among the priorities agreed suitable for level 3 activities”. . .


Rural round-up

April 28, 2020

Farmers must bide their time – Annette Scott:

The probability of a global recession is growing along with the likelihood of reduced consumer spending in all red meat markets.

The covid-19 pandemic has shifted demand for red meat away from food service to eating at home, Beef + Lamb chief economist Andrew Burtt said.

Just how long that will take to reverse will depend on how long it takes people to be comfortable to eat out in restaurants again.

The key for New Zealand across the supply chain will be maintaining integrity, reliability and consistency. . .

Disaster plans made – Toni Williams:

Vicki and Hamish Mee are planning a ‘‘worst case scenario’’ for stock at their Mid Canterbury free-farm piggery.

The Mees run Le Mee Farms and also have a cropping operation.

Their planning follows restrictions during the lockdown period which stop independent butchers from opening, and make any sale of pork limited to supermarket stores, other processors or retailers which were open.

As imported pork was still allowed, the Mees were preparing themselves for a different future market post-lockdown. . .

Backing ‘best fibre in the world’ – Sally Rae:

Long-time wool advocate Craig Smith says his new role as chairman of the National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests is about “championing the cause of wool”.

The council is an association of organisations engaged in the production, testing, merchandising, processing, spinning and weaving of wool and allied fibres.

Mr Smith, who is general manager of Devold Wool Direct, was the first New Zealander to be appointed to the global executive committee of the International Wool Textile Organisation, and he has also been heavily involved with Campaign for Wool, a global project initiated by Prince Charles. . . 

Meat plants back to near normal – Neal Wallace:

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

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

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

That should allow throughput for sheep to rise from  50% to 90% of plant capacity and beef from 70% to 100%. . . .

Online auction takes off – Annette Scott:

A handshake still carries weight for livestock trading firm Peter Walsh and Associates but with covid-19 it has been forced to change tack.

The lockdown changed that handshake to a tap on a keyboard as the company held to its first Livebid online auction last week. 

“With no saleyard operation we had to find new ways of moving livestock so we said ‘let’s keep it on the farm’,” Peter Walsh said.

With a smart back office team and the latest technology the independent livestock broker came up with Livebid. . .

Full fields, empty fridges – Laura Reiley:

Farmers in the upper Midwest euthanize their baby pigs because the slaughterhouses are backing up or closing, while dairy owners in the region dump thousands of gallons of milk a day. In Salinas, Calif., rows of ripe iceberg, romaine and red-leaf lettuce shrivel in the spring sun, waiting to be plowed back into the earth.

Drone footage shows a 1.5-mile-long line of cars waiting their turn at a drive-through food bank in Miami. In Dallas, schools serve well north of 500,000 meals on each service day, cars rolling slowly past stations of ice chests and insulated bags as food service employees, volunteers and substitute teachers hand milk and meal packets through the windows.

Across the country, an unprecedented disconnect is emerging between where food is produced and the food banks and low-income neighborhoods that desperately need it. American farmers, ranchers, other food producers and poverty advocates have been asking the federal government to help overcome breakdowns in a food distribution system that have led to producers dumping food while Americans go hungry. . .


Rural round-up

April 21, 2020

Our greatest opportunity – Penny Clark-Hall:

After 10 or so years of a society dislocating itself, with the farming community being challenged to meet the evolving values of its urban counterparts, we have been given a gift. A chance to reconnect.

We’ve been bemoaning the fact that no one wants to listen to the good stories for years. Who would have thought it would take a global pandemic to give us a window to be able to have that voice again? It seems bad taste to be observing silver linings and opportunities whilst so many are suffering however, an opportunity to connect and support our country can only be a positive for everyone in my books. The primary sector’s social licence and our economy depends on it.  . .

Sector wants deal on reforms – Neal Wallace and Colin Williscroft:

Primary sector leaders have been in discussions with the Government to try to reach a consensus on freshwater reforms.

The 11-member Food and Fibre Leaders’ Forum, which represents the primary sector, is adopting a similar approach to last year’s accord on reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and for several months has had regular meetings with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and senior Cabinet ministers.

The Government’s Essential Freshwater reforms have been temporarily stalled by covid-19 with Environment Minister David Parker saying dealing with the crisis necessitates the reconsideration of priorities and timing. . .

Wanna job? We’ve got it – Annette Scott:

Primary industries face a serious staff recruitment pinch of grave concern to AgStaff director Matt Jones.

The impact of covid-19 is alredy starting to bite and with hundreds of vacancies on his books it’s only going to get worse over the next year, Jones said.

Through his employment businesses Jones recruits staff for jobs from farm and agricultural contracting and food processing to seasonal staff and quality assurance experts, many coming from around the globe to work in New Zealand.  . . 

Are pine trees killing kauri?

A new study suggests that kauri dieback disease may be connected to the lack of protective fungi in plantation pine forest soil.

Published in FEMS Microbiology Ecology, the study, by Bio-Protection Research Centre PhD candidate Alexa Byers and others, looked at the differences in the bacteria and fungi living in the soil of kauri forest and surrounding pine plantations in the Waipoua area. It found soil in the pine forest’s neighbouring kauri forests lacked several species of fungi and bacteria that protect plants, promote growth, and improve their health (for example Trichoderma and Pseudomonas).

“The loss of core microbiota from native soil microbial communities… surrounding remnant kauri fragments could be altering the forest’s ability to respond to pathogen invasion,” Ms Byers wrote. . . 

Energy farm to trial zero carbon solutions – Nigel Malthus:

Lincoln University has unveiled plans for what is expected to be a globally-unique Energy Demonstration Farm to help the primary sector meet its future zero-carbon obligations.

The farm is designed to be fossil fuel-free and feature solar and wind power, bio-fuel, and energy storage solutions while showcasing the range of technology available and how it can be applied, as well as providing data for research and innovation.

Project leaders Dr Wim de Koning and Dr Jeff Heyl say the farm would allow the University and their research partners to make mistakes, so farmers won’t have to.

Fury of British farmers as public sector caterers vow to cut meat served ins cools, hospitals, universities and care homes by 20 percent to improve diets and help environment – Jack Wright:

  • British farmers are furious at public sector caterers vowing to cut red meat servings in schools, hospitals, and care homes by 20 per cent
  • NFU board member Richard Findlay described move as ‘frankly ridiculous’
  • He called #20percentless a ‘misguided project’ that is ‘wholly inaccurate’
  • The aim is to cut greenhouse gases linked to livestock and boost public health
  • Hitting the target would remove nearly 20million lb of meat every year in the UK . . .

Rural round-up

April 6, 2020

Parker’s readiness to relax the RMA rules should be extended to freshwater constraints on farmers – Point of Order:

Environment  Minister   David  Parker  has directed  officials to find ways  to fast-track consents  for infrastructure and  development  projects. He says   his  goal  is to  help create a pipeline of projects  so that some can  start immediately once  Covid-19 restrictions  are  lifted “so people can get back into work as fast as possible”.

Parker sees the Covid-19 pandemic as a serious global crisis that will have a wide ranging and lasting impact on almost every part of  the economy for some time.

He recognises many New Zealanders have lost their jobs, or may do so in coming months, and many businesses are doing it hard. . .

Pork Industry leaders continue talks with government over surplus problem

Government officials and pork industry leaders have met again today via conference call to try and resolve concerns about a looming animal welfare crisis facing the sector.

As RNZ reported during the week, the pork industry has been getting increasingly worried about the growing number of surplus pigs on farms that cannot be sent to independent butchers. It has been urging the government to help.

Last night, the government decided butchers will be allowed to process pork, but only to supply supermarkets or retailers that are allowed to open.  . .

Milk tankers get clear run – Annette Scott:

The day of a milk tanker driver is different under covid-19 but without the traffic jams and roadworks it’s a lot easier.

Fonterra lower North Island depot manager Paul Phipps said being an essential service means milk is still being collected and processed and collection volumes are not wildly different to previous seasons.

That’s also considering this season’s challenges that have included a significant drought in the North and flooding in the South.

“Being an essential service means we are busy. We take our status as an essential service very seriously. . . 

New Zealand’s apple and pear harvest continues under strict rules:

Like many other horticulture sectors, the 2020 harvest of New Zealand’s apple, pear and nashi crop is well underway, with more than 14,000 workers harvesting around 600,000 tonnes of fruit destined for domestic and global consumers, and for processing.

The government has deemed the production and processing of food and beverages as an essential service, which means that the picking, packing and shipping of fruit can continue but with very strict protocols in place.

New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc chief executive Alan Pollard says that the industry understands and acknowledges the privileged position it is in, particularly when other businesses cannot operate.   

Straight Off The Tussock chapter 3 – Tim Fulton:

A continuation of a family story, as first told in 2005 – Straight off the Tussock

James Fulton, Jack’s grandfather, was a teacher on the Isle of Bute, half an hour by ferry from Glasgow. The island is only about eight by four miles wide but when he was headmaster there at Rothesay in about 1845, the school had around 1000 children, stuck out in the Firth of Clyde.

  In 1847, James was appointed director of Edinburgh’s historic Moray House, Scotland’s first teachers’ college and the first in the world to train women. A year later, the institution took a dramatic turn when it mounted a rebellion against the Church of Scotland. Moray House – now part of the University of Edinburgh – started in 1618 and it became a training college in 1813, when the Church of Scotland established a sessional school in the city. In 1835, that school became the Edinburgh Normal and Sessional School. In 1843, however, the disruption of the churches led to the foundation of The Free Church Normal and Sessional School nearby, while the Church of Scotland continued separately. In 1848, one year after James moved there, pupils and teachers of the Sessional School carried their desks down the Royal Mile to the new premises at Moray House. . . 

Food waste costs agriculture billions – Kim Chappell:

THIRTY ONE per cent of produce is being wasted before it even gets off farm – that’s lost income for farmers and lost product for supermarket shelves.

But the $1.1 billion to $2b wastage doesn’t have to be this way – there are gains that can be made to boost farmers’ returns per hectare which will in-turn boost the product hitting supermarkets and reduce waste.

In these times of high-demand as people panic-buy on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the solutions are already coming into play by necessity, in what is possibly the only silver lining to come out of the coronavirus pandemic, says Food Innovation Australia Limited special adviser Mark Barthel, one of the voices behind the Roadmap for reducing Australia’s food waste by half by 2030 . . 

 


Rural round-up

March 25, 2020

Farmers urged to continue producing food:

New Zealand farmers are being urged to carry on producing food while respecting coronavirus guidelines issued by the Government.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says farming is classified as an essential service, so is milk and meat processing.

Lewis says that meat and dairy companies will continue to operate as the country moves into the highest level of alert for coronavirus from midnight Wednesday. . . 

Coronavirus: Farmers’ mental health important says Katie Milne -:

Farmers may be used to isolation but they still need to take care of their mental health says Federated Farmers president Katie Milne.

As efforts to slow the Covid-19 outbreak escalate in New Zealand, people are being asked to stay home and keep their distance from others, while social gatherings and events have been also cancelled.

As a result, farmers may find themselves cut off from everyday rural events that afford them much-needed social interaction, such as rugby games and catch ups at the pub. . . 

Friendly solution to farm water issues – Richard Davison:

A farmer-led catchment monitoring group wants to expand its activities following a successful first year.

In 2014, the Pathway for the Pomahaka water quality improvement project was launched in West Otago, which led to the establishment of the Pomahaka Water Care Group.

Last February, the award-winning group launched the latest phase of its action plan, in the shape of a ‘‘Best Practice Team’’ of 12 volunteers, set up to provide ‘‘self-policing’’ of water quality compliance among the catchment’s about 600 farms.

Team co-ordinator Bryce McKenzie — who farms 700 cows on 320ha adjoining the Pomahaka River — said the concept had worked well during its inaugural year. . . 

Westland Milk unveils Covid-19 strategy:

Westland Milk Products says Covid-19 is causing “minimal disruption” to its supply chains, with the company working to meet rising demand from China.

The second-largest dairy enterprise in New Zealand says domestic demand for its product range is also remaining consistent.

To keep up with demand in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company this morning announced that it is issuing measures to keep staff well and the factory running. . . 

Research reveals fodder beet value – Annette Scott:

New research into fodder beet shows portion control is critical to ensure safe feeding to dairy cows.

Fodder beet is widely used on South Island dairy farms as a versatile, high-energy, high-yield crop that allows cows to put on body condition quickly, if transitioned correctly. 

“This makes it an attractive option for farmers but because of the high sugar content careful transitioning onto the crop is critical,” DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley said.

The Sustainable Use of Fodder Beet research project confirms the crop can be a key part of dairy farm systems. . . 

 

Butchers run off their feet – and it’s not expected to ease – Shan Goodwin:

As butchers report they are now mincing higher value cuts like rump to keep up with astronomical demand, marketing experts and psychologists suggest empty red meat supermarket shelves are likely to be around for months.

It’s not that Australia will run out of beef. Export and food service orders are already being diverted to retail cabinets.

Rather, the unfolding dynamics of consumer behaviour amid the virus crisis indicates the inclination to fill freezers won’t fade. . . 


Rural round-up

March 23, 2020

Livestock are providing answers – Neal Wallace:

Livestock farmers already have answers to many of the accusations being levelled by critics, they just need to package their responses better, Michigan State University scientist Jason Rowntree says.

He and other speakers at the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown said claims a world without ruminant livestock and diets free of red meat will reverse climate change are scientifically wrong.

Managed properly, livestock on pasture can enhance and improve the environment by increasing organic matter, microbial activity and biodiversity while sequestering carbon in the soil. . . 

Coronavirus: Farming likely to recover fastest from Covid-19, says economist – Bonnie Flaws:

Farming is likely to be the quickest to rebound from the fallout from coronavirus, says ASB rural economist Nathan Penny.

When crises hit, food demand remains and that would be no different this time, he said.

Farmers might not get paid as much but there would be demand for food, with the exception of luxury foods like seafood, prime steak and wine, he said. . . 

Coronavirus: Rural isolation a good thing in face of pandemic, farmers say – Catherine Groenestein:

Rural isolation is helping farmers feel somewhat safer than their urban counterparts in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of confirmed cases in New Zealand has risen to 20, it was announced today, and the Government is advising New Zealanders overseas to return as soon as possible.

North Taranaki farmer Katrina Knowles, who is North Island co-ordinator for the Rural Support initiative, said it was a good time to live rurally.

“We live in relative isolation anyway, we have the opportunity to carry on with our lives and our work and businesses,” she said. . . 

Canterbury has tonnes of feed – Annette Scott:

Ongoing North Island drought has created a serious feed shortage with many farmers looking further afield for supplies.

Arable Solutions director Simon Nitschke, of Marton, said despite the good harvest in the region there’s nothing left to buy on the spot market.

“What is around is under contract, sold. There’s nothing available.

“A lot of barley this season has gone malting and barley harvested for feed is taken up with no reserves looking likely coming into the maize harvest either with a lot chopped for silage due to poor grain quality.” . . 

 

Coronavirus and your workers – guidance for farm businesses – Julie Robinson:

Farms are not professional services firms where remote working may be an alternative to being physically present on site. Remote working does not get millions of daffodils picked, lambs delivered safely or the harvester moved from one field to the next. Farm managers need to be on hand, not at home or stranded in a hotel in lockdown.

That brings its own set of challenges during a period where self-isolation is the Government’s policy for dealing with a highly contagious virus, and where lockdowns are imposed at short notice across the globe, preventing people from travelling freely to their place of work.

The Q&A below describes some scenarios and gives some pointers about how to deal with them. . . 

A look into the future of UK agriculture – Tom Clarke:

It is March 20, 2040 exactly 20 years to the day since the Coronavirus pandemic forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson (remember him?) to acknowledge the Brexit transition period would have to be extended, says Cambridgeshire Fens farmer Tom Clarke. 

And thus it turned out that when it came down to it, what Brexit only ever really meant was… delay.

Our permanently stalled, semi-separation has left us more independent, it freed up our thinking, and the lack of security did make us sit up and sing for our suppers.

The two decades since the pandemic transformed the Commonwealth of Britain (the country formerly known as the UK) in ways that few predicted, and it is perhaps we farmers who have been at the front end of it, again in ways the previous generation could have hardly imagined. . . 


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