Rural round-up

October 18, 2019

Don’t blame the messenger:

It appears the only people surprised by plummeting levels of rural confidence are the Government and Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.

For months we have seen an endless stream of reports – from Rabobank, BNZ, ANZ, NZIER – all depicting a growing lack of confidence and concern in rural New Zealand.

Only last month, an open letter was written to the Government by an agricultural consultancy head, Chris Garland, outlining why farmer morale is at an all-time low. Garland, of Baker Ag, called for more consideration for the rural sector’s lot in the face of ever more onerous regulation. . . 

Marlborough’s Francis Maher vows to strengthen relationship between farmers and council – Chloe Ranford:

A Marlborough farmer returning to the council chamber after a tight vote says he hopes to strengthen the relationship between rural residents and the region’s decision-makers.

Francis Maher will once again represent the Wairau-Awatere ward after beating nearest rival Scott Adams by just 13 votes.

The seat was “too close to call” after Saturday’s preliminary count, but updated results on Sunday revealed Maher would join incumbents Gerald Hope and Cynthia Brooks in the rural ward. . . 

Moffat to lead Deer Industry team :

Innes Moffat has been appointed chief executive of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ). He has been with the organisation for 14 years.

DINZ chair Ian Walker says the DINZ board ran an external recruitment process that attracted some very strong candidates from both inside and outside the deer farming industry. After considering all applicants the board made the unanimous decision that Moffat was the best candidate for the job.

Moffat, who was born and raised on a South Otago sheep and cattle farm, joined DINZ in 2005 as venison marketing services manager. This followed several years with the former Meat and Wool New Zealand, including a four-year stint in Brussels as market manager continental Europe. More recently, he has been manager of the deer industry’s Primary Growth Partnership programme, Passion 2 Profit. . . 

Wagyu study stirs up academics :

An academic stoush is brewing over research from Liggins Institute indicating middle-aged men can confidently eat Wagyu beef three times a week without damaging their health.

The research was done as part of a high-value nutrition national science challenge led by AgResearch and co-funded by First Light Wagyu beef company. 

Its 50 participants were put on diets consisting of either 500g a week of Wagyu beef, conventional beef or soy protein spread over three portions a week for eight weeks. At the end of the trial all three groups had reduced their cholesterol. 

The outcome prompted study leader Professor David Cameron-Smith to conclude eating New Zealand grass-fed Wagyu with its high level of fat does not affect heart disease, including cholesterol and blood pressure levels. . . 

Is technology a threat to dairy? – Daniel Appleton:

The New Zealand dairy industry is facing major disruption from synthetic dairy, similar to the synthetic fibres that triggered the decline of the wool industry in the 1980s.

Technology companies are now making real dairy products, without cows. 

Their aim is to make real dairy products far cheaper than traditional farming can within the next 10 to 15 years.

The reason I’m talking about this is out of genuine concern. 

I’m concerned this very real risk to the dairy industry isn’t being shared and openly discussed with those who could be affected most – farmers and rural communities. . . 

From billies to bottles to unbreakables: milk through the decades – Rebecca Black:

Lois Puklowski remembers when milk was delivered by horse and cart, she used to watch in delight as the milkman ladled it into her billy.

It was the mid-1930s and Puklowski would join other children from her neighbourhood in Aramoho, Whanganui, excitedly awaiting the milk cart.

“He’d only stop a couple of places in the street and everyone used to queue up with their billies,” she says.

New Zealand has Australian cows to thank for its earliest milk production. Samuel Marsden brought the cows to New Zealand in the early 1800s. They were a gift from New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 30, 2019

Our farmers are better than ‘No. 8 wire’ thinkers – Julia Jones:

The much-used Kiwi phrase ‘No. 8-wire mentality’ has long been considered the way we do things in the farming world, but Head of Analytics at NZX Julia Jones is wondering if its value has now expired.

Yes, “No. 8-wire mentality” is cute, and it’s a little bit funny, but what I hear when people say it is: not asking for help, roughly stringing something together without a plan, a rip-shit-and-bust kind of attitude, a default solution and a broken piece of wire holding something together within inches of its life.

I just don’t see how this is something for us to strive towards for the future; we deserve better than being seen as No. 8-wire thinkers, because we are far more than that. . .

Let’s get behind our rural community – Kerre McIvor:

A couple of years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a column calling for there to be a Cockietober – a month to celebrate farmers and their invaluable contribution to the economy.

I felt, back in 2017, that farmers had got a rough ride during the election campaign, and that farmers were getting it in the neck unfairly. They were being blamed for the poor water quality in New Zealand despite the fact that city dwellers are letting literal and metaphorical crap flow into their harbours and rivers. They were being told how to manage their stock by people who’d never set foot on a farm. They were told they didn’t pay their workers enough, they were being told they were destroying the planet by providing milk and meat for consumers, they were told they mistreated their animals.

I thought things were bad two years ago. But it appears things have got much, much worse.

In an open letter to the nation, BakerAg, a rural business consultancy firm, has called for people to get in behind our rural community. Director Chris Garland says morale among the company’s farming clients is as low now as it was in the Rogernomics years of the late 80s and during the GFC. . . 

Jigsaw has four families in picture – Annette Scott:

Four families working together presents challenges but equally it’s provided disproportionate opportunities for the Guild clan on High Peak Station, farm operations manager Hamish Guild says. Annette Scott visited High Peak to learn how the pieces of the large farming puzzle have come together. 

High Peak Station is a spectacular 3780 hectare, high-country farm near the Rakaia Gorge in Canterbury.

The Guild family bought the traditional pastoral farming property in 1973, originally running just sheep and beef with deer added in the late 1970s.

It was a case of having to look at a new way of making the property viable.

“Dad (James) and his brother Colin took up farming High Peak, moving from their family cropping farm at Temuka (South Canterbury) when their father, my grandfather Alastair, decided High Peak was for us,” Hamish said. . .

Farmers ‘dead keen’ to improve water practices – council – Alexa Cook:

A group of farmers near Whakatāne are working with the regional council to try and improve water quality by changing the way they farm.

Agribusiness consultant Ailson Dewes has gathered about 15 dairy farmers on behalf of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to understand more about how their farming systems can impact water quality.

Ms Dewes said the group was facing the issue head-on.

“They are sitting around the table, they are exposing all their numbers in terms of the health of their business, their environmental footprint, the way they farm – and they’re saying ‘we realise the way we farmed in the past is not the way we can farm in the future’.

“They are dead keen to solve problems and find new ways to farm with a lower footprint.” . . 

From Canton to Kerikeri: the varied life of Joe Ngan :

Joe Ngan was born in 1932 in a small village near Guangzhou in southern China.

He’s now 87 and lives near his two kiwifruit orchards in Kerikeri, Northland.

But getting to his home of 40 years was a scary and long-winded affair.

When Joe was two, his mother died while giving birth to his sister, leaving Joe and elder brother Sun virtually as orphans. Their father was working in New Zealand. . . 

No four pounds of beef doesn’t equal a transit-Atlantic flight – Frank Mitloehner and Darren Hudsonnk:

A story in The New Yorker came out this week about Dr. Pat Brown, the founder of Impossible Foods. If readers scan the headline and subhead, they’ll get the gist of what author Tad Friend is trying to say: “Can a plant based burger help solve climate change? Eating meat creates huge environmental costs. Impossible Foods thinks it has a solution.”

That’s unfortunate. It might even be dangerous. In the article, Mr. Friend writes that Every four pounds of beef you eat contributes to as much global warming as flying from New York to London – the average American eats that much each month.

If only. . .


BakerAg open letter on water policy

September 13, 2019

Chris Garland, a director of BakerAG has penned an open letter to government:

The Prime Minister:   Jacinda Ardern

Minister for the Environment:   David Parker

Minister of Primary Industries:   Damien O’Connor

Minister of Health:   David Clark

Dear Ministers

BakerAg NZ Ltd has been providing business consultancy to the rural sector for over 35 years. Morale among our farming clients is now as low now as it was in the Rogernomics years of the late 80s and during the GFC. The difference in those earlier years, is that farmers still felt valued by the NZ public.

This government’s approach to environmental policy is undermining the mental health and well-being of the pastoral sector. Government has contributed strongly toward turning the NZ public against farming, which has had a severe impact on farmers’ self-esteem and on their ability to cope with a rapidly changing policy environment.

As examples, the Zero Carbon Bill and the National Freshwater Policy Statement are having a profound impact on the pastoral industry, which has compounded over a short period of time.

The terms of trade in the sheep and beef sector are some of the most buoyant seen for the last 20 years, yet there is a malaise among these farmers that emanates from a sense of worthlessness. The dairy industry is struggling to recover from a three-year downturn, it’s had the M. Bovis outbreak to deal with and is now seeing a withdrawal of support from the finance sector.

How does the government expect to achieve behaviour change from constituents who are dejected and feel alienated from society? Ministry of Health statistics confirm that mental health in the rural sector has deteriorated significantly over the last five years. The government must understand that its own actions are exacerbating this decline.

It’s a sad situation that some of the governments $1.9 B investment into NZ’s mental health will be needed to counter the impact that this government has had on farmers’ mental state. One of the leading initiatives of the Wellbeing Budget is to “Take Mental Health Seriously.” This Government’s actions are having a negative effect on the mental health of a large section of the community.

Farmers are not environmental vandals. They are a business sector that has found itself at the centre of a maelstrom of environmental concern. Most of these concerns around water quality and greenhouse gas emissions are legitimate. But farmers didn’t set out to deliberately degrade water quality or to produce GHGs. These are unintended consequences of their business activity, which until recent years, had been wholly endorsed by the nation. It took 150 years to get to this position. It will take more than five years to achieve environmental sustainability.

One of farmers’ greatest attributes is that they are problem solvers. Give them a problem and some tools, and they will find a way to fix that problem. It’s this ingenuity that has made NZ farming some of the most efficient in the world. The food they produce is regarded as being of the highest quality throughout the world.

Farmers now recognise that there is a problem with the environmental impact of their activities. They want to fix this. But they are not being given an opportunity to find their own solutions. Instead they have been subject to a relentless dialogue of rhetoric, regulation and rejection.

The farming community has not been recognised for the positive efforts that a great many land owners have gone to mitigate their environmental impact. The negative public view of the sector has been influenced by government dialogue. This is not the way to change behaviour or effect policy.

If this government is genuine about improving mental health and genuine about motivating farmers to address environmental issues in their industry, it should:

  • Give landowners credit for the progress that has already been achieved in environmental management (exemplified by Ballance Environmental Awards competition, the Ahuwhenua Trophy, QE II and Nga Whenua Rahui covenants, and Country Calendar subjects).
  • Acknowledge that there is an environmental conscience in the farming sector.
  • Provide balance in the accountability message: urban, industrial, domestic, pastoral.
  • Acknowledge that the pastoral sector makes a valuable contribution to the NZ economy.
  • Ask the sector how it believes environmental expectations should be met?
  • Give the sector an opportunity to develop and implement its own solutions.
  • Assist in developing tools and methodology.
  • Work with them.

CHRIS GARLAND

Director

On behalf of BakerAg NZ Ltd

www.bakerag.co.nz      

References to the ag-sag of the 80s is not hyperbole.

Our local, The Fort at Enfield, hosted a lunch to raise funds for prostate cancer on Wednesday

. Around 100 people were gathered and conversation kept coming back to how hard it was in the 80s and how much worse what’s being imposed on farming is now.

The changes of the 80s were tough, but necessary and based on economics.

The changes the government is threatening to impose on farming now are tougher and based on emotion not science.

Reports from consultation meetings are making matters worse. MfE has underestimated turnouts so venues are too small and those fronting them aren’t able to answer technical questions.

Comments like this from the Minister for Agriculture don’t help either.

Rather than blaming the messenger he should be listening to the message and trying to understand the very real concerns that farmers and those who service and supply them have.

P.S.

BakerAg produce the weekly AgLetter. You can subscribe to it here.

Jamie Mackay interviewed Chris Garland on The Country yesterday.


Rural round-up

August 10, 2019

New research shows negative impact of mass forestry planting on productive sheep and beef land:

Large scale conversion of sheep and beef farms to forestry as a result of the Zero Carbon Bill will have a significant negative impact on rural New Zealand, according to research released by Beef + Lamb New Zealand. 

An analysis of Wairoa, where 8,486 hectares of sheep and beef farmland has, or is in the process of being, converted to forestry, shows forestry provides fewer jobs in rural communities than sheep and beef farms.

Rural consultancy BakerAg was commissioned by B+LNZ to compare the economic and employment effects of the conversion of sheep and beef farms into forestry.

The report, Social-economic impacts of large scale afforestation on rural communities in the Wairoa District, found that if all the sheep and beef farms in Wairoa were converted to forestry, then Wairoa would see a net loss of nearly 700 local jobs (the equivalent of one in five jobs in Wairoa) and net $23.5 million less spent in the local economy when compared to blanket forestry (excluding harvest year). . . 

Fonterra’s financial wellbeing and global auction prices are among the dairy sector’s challenges – Point of Order:

It’s shaping   up as a  tough  season  for  New Zealand’s  dairy farmers,  who  once  proudly  wore  the  label  of  the  “backbone of the  NZ  economy” , earning  by far the  largest  share of the country’s  export income.

So  what  are  the  problems  confronting  the industry?

Uncertainty in markets, for starters.   Prices  at the latest  Global Dairy  Trade  auction this  week slid  downward for  the fifth  time in  six  auctions.

The  Chinese  economy is under pressure   as  Trump steps up  his tariff  war.  Brexit  is a  threat which  could disrupt  NZ’s  dairy trade to  both the UK and EU markets. . .

Big tick for farmers – Neal Wallace:

The red meat industry hopes to ramp up its Taste Pure Nature brand campaign on the back of the latest international climate change report.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is being welcomed by New Zealand farming leaders as an endorsement of our low impact systems and the importance of maintaining food production.

The IPCC says land on which we rely for food, water, energy, health and wellbeing is already under pressure and climate change will exacerbate that through desertification and land degradation potentially affecting food security.

The report’s advocacy of a balanced diet including animal protein sourced from resilient, sustainable, low greenhouse gas systems is an endorsement for NZ, Beef + Lamb chief insight officer Jeremy Baker says. . . 

FARMSTRONG: Maintaining fun is the secret:

Tangaroa Walker was the inaugural winner of the Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer Award in 2012 and has gone on to a successful career as a contract milker. Now he’s helping Farmstrong raise awareness of the importance of living well to farm well.

Tangaroa Walker remembers the moment he decided to go farming. 

“I was 11 years old and this guy drove up the driveway of our school in this flash car with his beautiful wife and hopped out.

“He was there to help set up a cross country course. I said ‘Hey man, what do you do?’ He said ‘I’m a farmer’. That was it. I ended up helping him out on his dairy farm when I was 13 and just cracked into it from there.”  . .

The secret to a carbon friendly environment may surprise you – Nicolette Hahn Niman:

I won’t keep you in suspense. The key to carbon-friendly diets lies just beneath your feet: the soil. We are so used to looking skyward when thinking about climate, this is a bit counter-intuitive.

An unlikely combination of building soils and practicing responsible grazing could help mitigate climate change. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Carbon in soils represents both a problem and an opportunity. On the one hand, soil’s degradation is truly alarming. According to the book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, at the current erosion rate the earth “would literally run out of topsoil in little more than a century.” And soil is the source of one-tenth of the earth’s human-caused carbon losses since 1850. . . 

Cow virtual fence trials encouraging: Pamu – Jono Edwards:

A company trialling virtual fencing for cows in Otago using electronic collars says tests show encouraging results.

Pamu Farms, which is the brand name for state-owned enterprise Landcorp Farming Ltd, earlier this year trialled “e-Shepherd” cattle collars at Waipori Station, which it owns.

It took 100 Angus steers equipped with solar-powered collars that show their location through GPS.

When the animals moved near digitally set forbidden zones they were dissuaded with a buzzing noise which gradually grew louder. . .

 

Left behind – Annie Gowen:

The feed chopper was the only machine Bob Krocak ever bought new, back when he was starting out as an ambitious young dairy farmer.

He used it to chop acres of alfalfa and corn to feed his herd of Holstein dairy cattle, which repaid him with some of the creamiest milk in Le Sueur County. The chopper and its fearsome blades lasted through four decades of cold winters, muddy springs and grueling harvests.

Now, on a chilly Saturday morning, Krocak, 64, was standing next to the chopper in the parking lot of Fahey Sales Auctioneers and Appraisers, trying to sell what he had always prized. The 128 Holsteins were already gone, sold last year when his family quit the dairy business after three unprofitable years. . .


Saturday’s smiles

June 16, 2018

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers.

Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore they would be incapable of fighting in the future.

This famous English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as ‘plucking the yew’ (or ‘pluck yew’).

Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and they began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, See, we can still pluck yew!

Since ‘pluck yew’ is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodental fricative ‘F’, and thus the words are often used in conjunction with the one‐finger‐salute.

It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as ‘giving the bird.’   And yew thought yew knew every plucking thing

Hat tip: BakerAg’s weekly AgLetter.


Rural round-up

August 16, 2017

Paying for water should be a consistent policy:

A consistent policy on water for everyone is required, says BusinessNZ.

An ad hoc policy on water charging would be prone to political manipulation, with regions, councils and businesses all lobbying for favourable royalty regimes, BusinessNZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope said.

“Business needs an agreed, consistent water policy that applies to all water users and where rights to use water are tradable, fairly apportioned and can be known in advance.

“It would not be helpful for business to have to operate and make investment decisions in an environment where the cost of water is determined on an ad hoc, changing basis. . . 

Unwanted, Unknown, Unnecessary – Labour’s New Water Tax on Auckland’s Rural Northwest:

The water tax recently proposed by Labour would deliver a sharp blow to the economy of Auckland’s rural northwest, says National’s candidate for Helensville, Chris Penk.

“It’s unwanted because farmers, horticulturalists and viticulturists provide a significant number of jobs in the region … and slapping them with a water tax would completely undermine this growth. And the inevitable price rises for consumers would hardly be welcome either.”

“It’s unknown because Labour aren’t saying what they’d actually charge. There’s almost no detail associated with the threatened tax, even on such key aspects as how much it’d be and where the money would go.” . . 

The realities of Mycoplasma bovis – Keith Woodford:

The recent outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis in South Canterbury has come as a shock to all dairy farmers. It is a disease that most New Zealand farmers had never heard of.

Regardless of whether or not the current outbreak can be contained, and the disease then eradicated, the ongoing risks from Mycoplasma bovis are going to have a big effect on the New Zealand dairy industry.

If the disease is contained and eradicated, then the industry and governmental authorities will need to work out better systems to prevent re-entry from overseas. And if the disease is not eradicated, then every farmer will have to implement new on-farm management strategies to minimise the effects. . . 

Slowing supply growth to impact NZ dairy supply chain – new industry report:

New Zealand dairy processors will struggle to fill existing and planned capacity in coming years as milk supply growth slows, leading to more cautious investment in capacity over the next five years, according to a new report from Rabobank.

The report Survive or Thrive – the Future of New Zealand Dairy 2017-2022 explains that capital expenditure in new processing assets stepped up between 2013 and 2015, but capacity construction has run ahead of recent milk supply growth and appears to factor in stronger milk supply growth than what Rabobank anticipates.

Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins says milk supply has stumbled over the past couple of production seasons and, while the 2017/18 season is likely to bring a spike in milk production of two to three per cent, Rabobank expects the brakes to be applied and milk production growth to slow to or below two per cent for the following four years. . . 

Synlait Milk says US approval for ‘grass-fed’ infant formula will take longer –  Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Synlait Milk, the NZX-listed milk processor, said regulatory approval for its ‘grass-fed’ infant formula in the US is taking longer than expected.

Rakaia-based Synlait is seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for its ‘grass-fed’ infant formula to be sold in the world’s largest economy ahead of a launch of the product with US partner Munchkin Inc. The companies said in a statement today that the FDA process, which had been expected to be completed this year, is now expected to take a further four to 12 months. The stringent process, known as a New Infant Formula Notification (NIFN), includes a range of trials, audits and documentation. . . 

New Zealand’s beef cattle herd continues to grow:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand says that during the past year, New Zealand’s beef cattle herd increased by 2.8 per cent – to 3.6 million head – while the decline in the sheep flock slowed sharply as sheep numbers recovered in key regions after drought and other challenges.

The annual stock number survey conducted by Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Economic Service highlights the continued growth in beef production, as farmers move towards livestock that are less labour-intensive and currently more profitable. . . 

Grad vets encouraged to apply for funding:

Associate Minister for Primary Industries Louise Upston is encouraging graduate vets working in rural areas to apply for funding through the Vet Bonding Scheme.

Since the Scheme was launched in 2009, 227 graduates vets have helped address the ongoing shortages of vets working with production animals in rural areas of New Zealand.

“The 2014 People Powered report told us that by 2025, we need 33,300 more workers with qualifications providing support services, such as veterinary services, to the primary industries,” says Ms Upston. . . .

Production and profit gains catalyst for joining programme:

The opportunity to look at their farm system and strive to make production and profit gains was what spurred Alfredton farmers, James and Kate McKay, to become involved in the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP).

RMPP is a seven year Primary Growth Partnership programme aimed at driving sustainable productivity improvements in the sheep and beef sector to deliver higher on-farm profitability.

Encouraged by their ANZCO livestock rep, Ed Wallace, James and Kate joined the programme in 2015 and have had the opportunity to look at some key aspects of their farming system. This has included sitting down with local BakerAg consultant, Richmond Beetham, who has helped the McKays look at their ultimate goal of mating a 50kg hogget. Increasing weaning weights and looking to diversify their forages has also been a goal for the McKays. . . 

Fonterra Dairy Duo Claim Awards at Top International Cheese Show:

Two Fonterra NZMP cheeses have scooped silver awards at the prestigious international Cheese Awards held recently at Nantwich, UK.

One of the most important events in the global cheese calendar, the International Cheese Awards attracted a record 5,685 entries in categories that ranged from traditional farmhouse to speciality Scandinavian. Cheeses from the smallest boutiques to the largest cheese brands in the world vied for top honours in the Awards, now in their 120th year of competition. . . 

Dairy farmers spend over $1b on the environment:

Federated Farmers and DairyNZ have conducted a survey on New Zealand dairy farmers’ environmental investments, revealing an estimated spend of over $1billion over the past five years.

Five percent of the nation’s dairy farmers responded to the survey and reported on the environmental initiatives they had invested in such as effluent management, stock exclusion, riparian planting, upgrading systems and investing in technology, retiring land and developing wetlands. 

“It is encouraging to see the significant investments farmers are putting into protecting and improving the environment,” says Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Dairy Chair. . . 

Criticism of farming gas emissions tells only half the story  – Paul Studholme:

It is imperative that political decisions on reacting to climate change are based on science, writes Waimate farmer Paul Studholme.

I write because of frustration with the sweeping generalisations and half-truths critical of the farming industry in this country that are presented by the mainstream media and environmental groups as facts.

One in particular, repeated frequently, is this: Farming produces more than half the greenhouse gases in New Zealand. This is only telling half the story or one side of the equation.

What is referred to here are the gases methane and carbon dioxide emitted by cattle and sheep. This is part of the carbon cycle. . .


%d bloggers like this: