Rural round-up

15/10/2021

Investors see promising signs of recovery in infant formula sales in China – Point of Order:

After  a  rough  ride  since  Covid-19  struck, the New Zealand economy  is  in   better   shape   than might  have been  predicted  at the  onset  of the  pandemic.  Yet labour  shortages,  an energy crisis  in Europe  and  China, and  massive  inflationary  pressures suggest  that  the  passage  ahead   will  be  anything  but  smooth.

With  the  government abandoning  the  elimination  strategy  and  moving  towards  living  with  endemic  Covid, the  country  is adjusting  to  the  prospect  of  a  new  normal.  But  without  any  sign of  the  number of  cases  of the Delta  variant  diminishing, restrictions  may  persist  for  longer  than  might  have been  imagined  just  weeks  ago.

It’s  a  blow  to  industries  looking  to  inflows  of  workers  to ease  labour  shortages, particularly  in the  rural  regions,  which  last  season  sustained  the  economy  with  the  production of  commodities  that  were  in  relatively  tight  supply  in  world markets,  fetching excellent  returns. . .

Anchor Food Professionals reaches $3bn in annual revenue :

Anchor Food Professionals – Fonterra’s foodservice business – has defied Covid challenges to become a $3 billion annual revenue business.

Fonterra says the milestone was pleasing, despite restaurants around the world being affected by Covid-19.

Chief executive Miles Hurrell said the success was down to the the co-op’s strong connection to customers.

“Our people have worked hard to find new ways of working with customers and new product applications to suit the pandemic environment, and we can see this has been a success. . .

Kiwifruit growers take Gisborne District Council to High Court over land valuation method – Alice Angeloni:

Kiwifruit growers are taking Gisborne District Council to the High Court for including the licence to grow the gold variety in rating land valuations.

The national body representing growers, NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI), has brought a judicial review proceeding of the decision to the High Court, and is supporting a grower on Bushmere Road, who has lodged an objection to their property valuation before the Land Valuation Tribunal.

Gisborne was the first region to adjust land valuation methods to include the value of the gold kiwifruit growing licence, known as the G3 licence, on the rateable value of the property.

The move has resulted in a rates hike Gisborne growers called “absurd” and inequitable, with reports of rates tripling for some. . .

A farming mystery hits social media – Vincent Heeringa:

Regenerative farming: only one person knows what it means (and it’s not you), writes Vincent Heeringa, but it is vital that it becomes known and understood

A new report by Beef and Lamb NZ sheds fresh light on the role that regenerative farming could play in growing our primary sector exports. The news is encouraging. Conducted by US food researcher Alpha Food Labs, the report shows that ‘conscious consumers’ in Germany, the UK and the US have a strong appetite for sustainable foods – and are even hungrier for foods labelled regenerative.

“After learning about the benefits of regenerative agriculture, the proportion of consumers willing to pay 20 percent or more increased in the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as the proportion willing to pay substantially more (i.e. 30 percent more) at least for the United States and Germany.” . . .

New Zealand pork tackles common misconceptions about pork nutrition :

As World Iron Awareness Week comes to a close, New Zealand Pork is reminding Kiwis of the many benefits of enjoying New Zealand pork as part of a healthy balanced diet.

“There are several misconceptions about pork, so this campaign has been designed to bust a few myths and give consumers simple easy facts around some benefits of enjoying delicious New Zealand pork in their diet,” says New Zealand Pork’s nutrition advisor Julie North of Foodcom.

“Some people believe all pork is a fatty meat, thinking of a pork roast with a thick layer of crackling or a juicy pork belly. However, most cuts of pork are quite lean when the external fat (which is easy to remove) is cut off. By trimming off the outer layer of fat, New Zealand pork is quite a lean meat.” . . 


Rural round-up

07/10/2021

Planning for farming’s future – Samantha Tennent:

Environmental challenges could threaten the country’s food production and food security.

Protecting the billions of dollars New Zealand agriculture contributes to our economy depends on how we deal with the environmental challenges and the future risks of adapting to climate change. Around 83,000 jobs are hinged on agricultural production and related industries in NZ and approximately 14% of Kiwis live rurally.

At a recent webinar hosted by Massey University, Dr Lucy Burkitt, a senior research officer from the School of Agriculture and Environment, explored the future of farming. She explained how Massey research is informing how we might best manage the environment for a sustainable future.

“With climate change, parts of the country will get warmer and drier, other areas will get wetter and colder, and this will influence the types of crops we grow, pests and disease prevalence and the risk of nutrient loss from storms,” Burkitt says. . . 

A Filipino migrant believes his farming success is his destiny – Gerald Piddock:

A migrant from the Philippines who won the national Farm Manager of the Year title for 2021, nearly chucked it all in before landing his dream role.

Christopher Vila is a believer in destiny.

The Ōhaupō dairy farmer believes it helped him in his journey climbing the industry progression ladder to farm management, as well as meeting his wife Jonah.

It also played a hand in him winning the Farm Manager of the Year title at the New Zealand Dairy Awards. He believes this because it almost all never happened. . . 

Seasonal work during pandemic not easy for ni-Vanuatu – Johnny Blades:

Ni-Vanuatu workers coming to New Zealand for seasonal employment are enjoying the benefits of a one-way travel bubble, but their mission abroad comes with steep challenges.

Around 150 ni-Vanuatu landed in Christchurch on Monday for work in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme in New Zealand’s South Island. 

RSE work offers them a chance to earn money to help their families back home, while providing much needed labour for New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture sectors

Coming from a covid-free country, ni-Vanuatu workers are exempt from managed isolation and quarantine at New Zealand’s border, and instead isolate at their workplace. . . 

New Zealand well-placed to ride regenerative agriculture wave:

There is a significant opportunity for New Zealand to position itself to take advantage of the global regenerative agriculture trend, according to research commissioned by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW).

“Although still in its infancy, regenerative agriculture is gathering momentum and is set to become a significant trend in food internationally,” says Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ.

“Brands are beginning to follow the leads of farmers and growers in the support of regenerative agriculture, and while the concept has yet to properly take hold among consumers, this research reveals there is a bright future.

“Fortunately, we believe the majority of New Zealand’s sheep and beef farming practices naturally align with key pillars of regenerative products or production . . 

Mid-Northland farm offers exciting options:

Investors and farmers will find plenty of appeal in a mid-Northland property near the Pacific coast that can offer the best of farming returns and lifestyle opportunities only an hour from Auckland.

Located on Gibbons Road about 15 minutes south-west of Mangawhai coastal village, the 220ha property is currently milking 440 cows and is one of the last remaining dairy units in the Mangawhai district.

Last season the farm produced 126,000kg milksolids, with its best year managing 131,000kg from the property that features largely easier country throughout.

Bayleys salesperson Catherine Stewart says a savvy buyer would be able to find a range of opportunities within the property’s boundaries, including the opportunity to ramp up the farm’s dairy production, capitalising on its good infrastructure that includes a 30-bail rotary dairy shed. . . 

Rising machinery prices a major concern for rural contractors :

Rising machinery prices are rivalling bad weather and breakdowns when it comes to the main worries keeping agri-contractors awake at night, according to a survey.

Breakdowns and weather problems continue to be agri-contractors’ biggest challenge, but the rising cost of machinery is catching up, NFU Mutual research shows.

Contractors put the escalating cost of machinery as their second biggest worry (28.6%), as contracting margins remain tight amid rising prices for new and used farm machinery.

Difficulty employing trained workers was rated as the third most serious concern (21.4%). . . 


Rural round-up

02/10/2021

Carbon farming – what is the end goal? – Mike Firth:

Wairarapa farmer Mike Firth voices his concerns about the effects of carbon farming on sheep and beef land.

It’s a pretty sad day when you sit inside reading an article in a popular farming paper and it’s talking about carbon farming.

Who would have ever thought we could get paid for air?

I have never written about stuff like this before, but this is starting to piss me off. . . 

Leadership is needed as sheep and beef farming face fight – Anna Campbell:

In 1881, the first frozen shipment of red meat left New Zealand for the United Kingdom.

It’s hard to imagine the planning and risks involved in that shipment.

The Government’s New Zealand History website describes how the voyage was organised by William Davidson, who was the British-based manager of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company. The company sent Thomas Brydone to Britain to study refrigeration technology; he was then responsible for handling the ‘‘experiment’’ in New Zealand.

The passenger sailing ship Dunedin had a complete fit-out with a coal-powered Bell Coleman freezing plant. The first 5000 carcasses originated from the Totara Estate in Oamaru, where they were cooled and sent by rail to Port Chalmers, then frozen aboard Dunedin. When the shipment reached the tropics, the crew on board noticed the air wasn’t circulating properly, so Captain John Whitson crawled aboard to saw extra holes for air circulation, nearly freezing himself in the process. . . 

Forecast positive for farmers – Sally Rae:

Covid-19 uncertainty reinforces the need for stable and predictable domestic regulation, to avoid putting pressure on the red meat sector whose exports are critical to the economy, Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief economist Andrew Burtt says.

B+LNZ’s new season outlook, released yesterday, showed the forecast for global sheepmeat and beef demand was positive for the 2021-22 season, supported by solid market fundamentals, strong demand and tight supply.

It forecast average farm profit before tax to lift 9%, reflecting a 4% lift in gross farm revenue and increasing sheep revenue, including a modest lift in wool prices.

However, the forecast for a stronger New Zealand dollar would offset some of the buoyancy and limit increases in farmgate prices. . . 

Feds gives thumbs up for cross-border and jab efforts :

Federated Farmers is giving a shout out to government agencies handling the movement of essential workers across alert level boundaries, and to those DHBs and medical centres reaching out to rural people over COVID vaccinations.

“With Auckland now at Alert level 3 and access to takeaways resumed, there are still essential workers having to cross alert level boundaries south and north of Auckland. Many of them work in or with the primary industries – farmers, vets, stock transporters and food processors to name a few,” Feds national board member and employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“Quite rightly, essential workers are required to have proper documentation and it might all have been a big hassle.

“However, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, with the Ministry for Primary Industries, have made the process seamless and sensible. Hats off to them,” Chris said. . . 

New elected director in the western North Island:

Taranaki farmer and former Ravensdown employee, Mike Davey is the co-operative’s newest shareholder-elected director, announced at yesterday’s 2021 annual meeting

Mike Davey has been elected as Director for Area 5, which stretches from New Plymouth to Wellington City and includes southern parts of Ruapehu and Taupō. Mike is a cropping farmer, elected member of the Taranaki Regional Council and has over 40 years’ experience in the fertiliser business.

Ravensdown Chair John Henderson says Mike’s knowledge of the co-operative will be an asset as the co-operative and its shareholders navigate an evolving regulatory environment. . . 

Let’s give thanks to the ‘grassetarians’ – Tom Marland:

It is World Meat-Free Week.

This is a concept thought up by a group of well-meaning, but misinformed, inner-city environmentalists in order to “save the planet”.

A few people skipping a steak this week won’t have a huge impact on our meat protein production industries.

But we must be aware of the growing trend among many Australians and overseas consumers who are going “meat free”. . . 

 

 


Rural round-up

29/09/2021

Farmers grapple with ‘significant emotional stress’ and community pressure over forestry conversion sales – Bonnie Flaws:

A Wairarapa farmer Steve Thomson says selling his sheep and beef station to forestry three years ago was a difficult decision but he had struggled for two years to sell to other farmers.

Tensions around the issue of farms converting to forestry has been increasing because of the impact it could have on rural communities. But most see the problem as stemming from Government policy rather than greed, farmers say.

Real Estate Institute rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said there was no transparency about how much farm land was going to forestry because only the current land use is recorded at the time of the sale. . . 

Passion to serve rural New Zealand – Neal Wallace:

Wilson Mitchell is a young man on a mission. The University of Otago medical student is passionate about rural communities and the health and wellbeing of those who live there. He spoke to Neal Wallace.

Wilson Mitchell attributes the hours spent crutching and drenching sheep over weekends and school holidays for helping fuel his desire to work in rural health.

The satisfaction of an honest day’s physical toil is one reason for his infatuation but more so mixing with rural people and observing the dynamics of their communities.

He may just be 23 years old and five years through his studies, but Wilson’s commitment to rural health has already extended beyond good intentions. . . 

Daylight savings on the dairy farm: ‘The cows wonder why you’re an hour early’ – Bonnie Flaws:

Southland dairy farmer Bart Luton says his cows always notice something isn’t quite right when daylight savings hits.

“My cows will be wondering what I am doing in the paddock because I am an hour early or so. It takes them a couple of days to get used to it. They look around and think ‘you are too early’, and while you’re milking the cow flow will be a bit slower. They definitely need adjusting to it.”

Daylight saving time starts on Sunday when clocks will be turned forward one hour. Sunrise and sunset will be about an hour later than the day before and it will be lighter in the evening.

Canterbury farmer Alan Davie-Martin said cows were behavioural animals and knew when to gather at the gate. It usually took a few days for them to get used to the new timetable. . . 

Confident, not cocky: Uni student vows to run marathon in gumboots – Maia Hart:

A Marlborough teen who plans to run a marathon in her gumboots says the nerves are there, but she plans to “run it off”.

Emma Blom, who has moved to Christchurch to study at Lincoln University, is planning to run the Queenstown Marathon in November in her gumboots and overalls, to raise money for Outward Bound scholarships.

The scholarships would be aimed at people who work in the rural sector.

“I’m hoping to raise $10,000, so that four people can go on an 8-day discovery course,” Blom said.  . .

Deer industry to address emissions pricing – Annette Scott:

Deer farmers be warned, greenhouse gas (GHG) pricing is coming so get prepared, is the message from industry.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) is urging deer farmers to get up to speed with GHG pricing that will impact on the way they farm.

While Federated Farmers, Beef + Lamb NZ and DairyNZ are holding consultation meetings over the next two months, the deer industry as a sector will not be officially involved.

Deer Industry NZ chief executive Innes Moffat says despite standing alone it’s important industry’s voice is heard and is not drowned out by views of other industries. . . 

LeaderBrand’s ambitious construction plans forge ahead despite ongoing lockdown interruptions :

LeaderBrand’s construction plans on their ambitious eleven hectare undercover farming project is forging ahead despite the ongoing interruption from lockdowns over the past couple of years.

In October 2019, Kānoa, Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit, confirmed LeaderBrand was successful in securing a $15 million loan to help fund the construction of their undercover growing facility.

The project will accelerate crop growth all year round in a more sustainable manner, help to mitigate weather impacts, and create more consistent product which will secure more jobs across the year. The technology incorporated in the greenhouses is innovative and will revolutionise the way LeaderBrand will farm in the future. This includes significantly reducing fertiliser and water usage as well as protecting soil structure. . .

 


Rural round-up

27/09/2021

Access barrier for farmer mental health

A new initiative has been launched to improve access to counselling for farmers.

However, the founder of the charity behind it says accessibility is one of the main barriers for farmers seeking mental health assistance.

The Will to Live Charitable Trust’s ‘Rural- Change’ initiative will see farmers jump the sometimes eight-week queue to access three free private counselling sessions.

The initiative was launched in early September and Will to Live founder Elle Perriam told Rural News that they’d already had 15 farmers sign up. . . 

SWAG focused on the long game – Annette Scott:

The group tasked with lifting New Zealand’s strong wool sector out of the doldrums is on track to deliver.

With a 12-month contract and a $3.5 million dollar budget, the Strong Wool Action Group (SWAG) is working on leaving a legacy of a more connected and coordinated forward-looking, consumer-focused wool sector, embracing its place within the natural world.

The group is scheduled to sign-off at the end of this year and chair Rob Hewett is confident it is on track to deliver.

“We will make the grade, it’s a long game, but we are positioning sound opportunities to realise and commercialise several projects and who we are going to do this with,” Hewett said. . . 

Double-muscled sheep breed offers meaty gains -Country Life:

Beltex ram lambs are making farmers around the country lick their chops. Known for its heavy hindquarters and excellent kill weights, the breed is the sheep industry’s new kid on the butcher’s block.

A cross of Belgian and Texel sheep, the Beltex is used primarily for mating with ewes to produce lambs for meat.

Blair Gallagher and his son Hamish run New Zealand’s first Beltex stud at the family’s breeding and finishing property near Mount Somers.

Currently lambing’s in full swing on the scenic hill country farm. . . 

New Zealand red meat sector welcomes Chinese Taipei’s CPTPP membership application:

The Meat Industry Association (MIA) and Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) welcome Chinese Taipei’s formal application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Sam McIvor, chief executive of Beef + Lamb NZ said the CPTPP was founded with a vision for regional agreement that provided for the accession of new members. Chinese Taipei’s application demonstrates the value of the agreement and its relevance to economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Chinese Taipei has been a longstanding and valuable market for New Zealand red meat products. Trade with Chinese Taipei was worth over $314 million in 2020, with trade in beef products worth over $170 million alone. This means that trade has almost doubled since the signing of the Agreement between New Zealand and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu on Economic Cooperation (ANZTEC) in 2013.

“Like all other economies wishing to accede to the CPTPP, Chinese Taipei will need to demonstrate its commitment to the high standards contained in the CPTPP, and with a high-quality deal already in place with New Zealand, Chinese Taipei has demonstrated its commitment to trade liberalisation. . . 

Homegrown talent to tackle pesky pests :

Six of New Zealand’s young minds are setting out to revolutionise pest management, helping efforts to eradicate pests, possums, stoats and rats from New Zealand by 2050.

Supported by Predator Free 2050 Limited (PF2050 Ltd) and $2.4 million in Jobs for Nature funding, the post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers from University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, and University of Otago will be researching topics as diverse as genetics, biocontrol, audio lures, and social licence.

“Our work is certainly ambitious, but is a critical step to secure New Zealand’s biodiversity. Despite decades of valuable and dedicated conservation efforts, step-changes are needed to achieve our goals. And to achieve those step-changes, New Zealand needs new science talent to drive the cutting edge research needed,” says PF2050 Ltd science director Dan Tompkins.

Tompkins says the programme has garnered international attention with regards to whether its goal can be achieved. . .

The future of Fonterra in Australia – Marian Macdonald:

Australian milk might be some of the best in the world but, Fonterra Australia’s managing director says, it’s not New Zealand milk.

The result is that a chunk of the local business is being put up for sale, with strings attached.

In statements this morning, the giant NZ cooperative announced that it was placing “a greater focus on our New Zealand milk”.

Asked what that meant, Fonterra Australia managing director René Dedoncker said Fonterra had made clear choices around New Zealand milk and would be directing capital towards leveraging its provenance. . . 

 


Rural round-up

25/09/2021

Management thinking 100 years ahead

The couple behind one of New Zealand’s most sustainable farms are challenging other farmers to think three or four generations into the future when making decisions.

The call comes from Central Hawke’s Bay farmers Evan and Linda Potter. The couple are the Ballance Farm National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing, and current Gordon Stephenson Trophy holders – so they know a thing or two about the environment.

The Potters bought their 566 hectare hill country sheep, beef and deer farm – Waipapa Station – in 1997. They describe it as “a blank canvas” when they arrived at the gat with nothing more than fencing gear and a team of dogs. . . 

Eight finalists announced for prestigious Trans-Tasman agricultural award:

Judges of the Zanda McDonald Award, Australasia’s agricultural badge of honour, have announced eight finalists, and will crown not one but two winners for 2022 – one from each side of the Tasman.

Now in its eighth year, the prestigious award recognises future young leaders working in agriculture, and provides an impressive prize package centred around a tailored trans-Tasman mentoring programme. The eight talented finalists – four from Australia and four from New Zealand – have been selected for their passion for the industry, strong leadership skills, and the contributions they’re making in the primary sector.

The four New Zealand finalists are Adam Thompson, 35, director of Restore Native Plant Nursery, beef farmer and mortgage broker from Cambridge; Katie Vickers, 28, Head of Sustainability and Land Use for Farmlands, from Christchurch; Olivia Weatherburn, 33, National Extension Programme Manager for Beef + Lamb New Zealand, from Mossburn Southland; and Rhys Roberts, 34, CEO of market garden and farm operation Align Farms, from mid-Canterbury. . . 

Fonterra moves on strategy and structure – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra pulls up the wagons to defend its territory, but is also hoping to sortie out with new nutritional endeavours

Fonterra’s release of its 2020/21 annual report has occurred in association with an additional big dump of information laying out the proposed future for Fonterra.  In essence, Fonterra is confirming that it is going to be a New Zealand company owned by farmers, with the first priority being to maximise returns to farmers.

That position should in itself come as no surprise. Fonterra has been talking that language for three years as it has divested itself of various overseas assets. However, this is the first time that there is a more comprehensive laying out of the long-term strategy, including consequent policy decisions. There are multiple headliners. . . 

Feds gives thumbs up for cross-border and jab efforts:

Federated Farmers is giving a shout out to government agencies handling the movement of essential workers across alert level boundaries, and to those DHBs and medical centres reaching out to rural people over COVID vaccinations.

“With Auckland now at Alert level 3 and access to takeaways resumed, there are still essential workers having to cross alert level boundaries south and north of Auckland. Many of them work in or with the primary industries – farmers, vets, stock transporters and food processors to name a few,” Feds national board member and employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“Quite rightly, essential workers are required to have proper documentation and it might all have been a big hassle.

“However, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, with the Ministry for Primary Industries, have made the process seamless and sensible. Hats off to them,” Chris said. . . 

Surprise win for rural internet pioneer :

Taranaki wireless broadband pioneer Matt Harrison has been elected to the board of TUANZ, the influential tech users industry group.

As one of two new regional members of the board of 10, Harrison says his “somewhat surprising election” reflects the new importance TUANZ is placing on making sure rural New Zealanders are included in its goal of making New Zealand one of the top 10 digital countries worldwide by 2030.

The election has come as a surprise for Harrison, the managing director of Primo. He says he was up against 15 other strong candidates from the telco industry, almost all of whom were from large companies in the main centres. He says being a regional internet provider and an advocate for rural users may have swung the vote his way.

“This shows me that there is strong support from the whole industry for what we are doing at Primo in providing connections to rural people who would otherwise miss out on having a quality internet link.” . . 

Lab grown meat is supposed to be inevitable. The  science tells a different story – Joe Fassler:

Splashy headlines have long overshadowed inconvenient truths about biology and economics. Now, extensive new research suggests the industry may be on a billion-dollar crash course with reality.

Paul Wood didn’t buy it.

For years, the former pharmaceutical industry executive watched from the sidelines as biotech startups raked in venture capital, making bold pronouncements about the future of meat. He was fascinated by their central contention: the idea that one day, soon, humans will no longer need to raise livestock to enjoy animal protein. We’ll be able to grow meat in giant, stainless-steel bioreactors—and enough of it to feed the world. These advancements in technology, the pitch went, would fundamentally change the way human societies interact with the planet, making the care, slaughter, and processing of billions of farm animals the relic of a barbaric past.

It’s a digital-era narrative we’ve come to accept, even expect: Powerful new tools will allow companies to rethink everything, untethering us from systems we’d previously taken for granted. Countless news articles have suggested that a paradigm shift driven by cultured meat is inevitable, even imminent. But Wood wasn’t convinced. For him, the idea of growing animal protein was old news, no matter how science-fictional it sounded. Drug companies have used a similar process for decades, a fact Wood knew because he’d overseen that work himself. . .


Rural round-up

18/09/2021

Group gets go-ahead to buy Catlins station for forestry – Sally Rae:

Ingka Group — one of 12 different groups of companies that own Swedish furniture and homeware giant IKEA — has got the green light to buy a 5500ha sheep and beef station in the Catlins for forestry development.

Following recent approval by the Overseas Investment Office, an area of 330ha at Wisp Hill , in the Owaka Valley, would soon be planted with radiata pine seedlings

The long-term plan was to have a total of 3000ha — more than three million seedlings — planted in the next five years and the remaining 2200ha would ‘‘naturally regenerate into native bush’’, a statement from the company said.

Ingka Group owns about 248,000ha of forestry in the United States, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. Between September 2019 and August 2020, Ingka Group planted close to seven million seedlings. . . 

The yo-yoing fortunes of the darling of the stock market – The Detail:

It used to be the darling of the share market, racing from 75 cents before sales of its infant milk powder took off, peaking at more than $21 last year.

But the a2 Milk Company’s meteoric rise is now tumbling, struck by complications by Covid.

Today on The Detail Emile Donovan talks to Sam Dickie, a senior portfolio manager at Fisher Funds, to talk about the company’s roller coaster ride, and how one of its greatest strengths – its unusual distribution channel – has become its greatest weakness.

Between 2017 and 2020, a2 Milk’s share price rose more than 900 percent. But over the past 13 months it has fallen by nearly 75 percent. . . 

Unhappy farmers are missing an important point – policy changes are what customers want to see – Craig Hickman:

It is much easier to say no to new ideas and just accept the status quo than it is to embrace change. Change can be scary.

Fonterra changed, it became more honest and transparent in its communication with farmers, and completely transformed the way it deals with the Government. It became better at articulating what it wants from suppliers.

Plenty of farmers don’t like this change, this new collaborative approach, and four years on they are still muttering that the dairy co-op is cosying up to the enemy.

Slowly but surely, with the odd hiccup along the way, farmer advocacy groups like Beef & Lamb, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers have adopted the same approach and given the same reasoning; it’s much more fruitful to work collaboratively with whoever is in power than to shout impotently from the sidelines. . . 

Young Farmer of the Year winners on the wealth of opportunities in ag :

On August 22, 1969, Gary Frazer from Swannanoa was crowned the inaugural Young Farmer of the Year, the same year that the first Fieldays event was launched at Te Rapa Racecourse.

Over 50 years later, the competition still stands as a staple event in the rural calendar and an opportunity for rural youth to come together and showcase their skills, knowledge, and stamina. The current and past Young Farmer of the Year, Jake Jarman and James Robertson, are young agri professionals trailblazing through the primary sector in their respective fields.

Jake Jarman gained the title, 53rd Young Farmer of the Year In July. A couple months later, Jake says the excitement surrounding his win has settled now, and he’s getting back to his normal routine, working as a Relationship Associate at ANZ in Ashburton.

“It was definitely a rollercoaster afterwards with lots of celebratory messages, interviews, emails, and what not, so now things have settled down I’ve got my life back a bit!” . .

OFI to build Tokoroa dairy plant for desserts, beverages, baked goods :

An overseas food ingredients company is planning to build a dairy processing plant in Tokoroa in south Waikato.

Singapore-based Olam Foods International (OFI) said the plant would create 50 to 60 full time jobs when fully operational.

OFI expected the first stage of the new investment would be completed in the Spring of 2023. This would involve the construction of a spray dryer facility, capable of producing high-value dairy ingredient products.

OFI has dairy operations in Russia, Uruguay and Malaysia and also grows and sources cocoa, coffee, nuts and spices from other countries. . . 

Commission releases final report on its review of Fonterra’s base milk price :

The Commerce Commission has today released its final report on Fonterra’s calculation of the base milk price it will pay farmers in the 2020/21 dairy season.

The Commission found that Fonterra’s forecast price of $7.45 – $7.65 per kilogram of milk solids for the season is calculated in a way that is likely to be consistent with the requirements of the milk price monitoring regime under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA).

The key areas of the Commission’s focus in this year’s review were two components of the cost of capital (the asset beta and specific risk premium), the appropriateness of provisions for asset stranding, and the inclusion of instantised milk powder as a reference product in the calculation of the base milk price. . . 


Rural round-up

14/09/2021

What sounds good may not be – Jacqueline Rowarth:

 “The carbon market is based on the lack of delivery of an invisible substance to no one.”

This was investigative journalist Mark Schapiro’s description in a 2010 article in Harper’s Magazine, under the title of ‘Conning the climate’. The problem? The lack of ability to verify what was going on.

This, he explained, contrasts with traditional commodities, which must be delivered to someone in physical form. Schapiro avoided ‘the emperor has no clothes’ analogy but indicated that the people benefitting from the trading game were auditing companies who weren’t always employing appropriate people. He used the terms ‘flawed, inadequate, and overall failure to assign assessors with the proper technical skills’.

There are lessons in this for New Zealand. . . 

Industry withers in spring as strict lockdown rules bite:

The commercial flower industry is being left out in the cold in this latest lockdown. It’s an industry that can’t close its doors and get a wage subsidy to pay its staff. It’s a constant process of planting, toil and regeneration, National’s Horticulture spokesperson David Bennett says.

“Commercial growers are unable to send their products to market despite sales channels being open to other products. One grower told me they can buy ‘donuts and alcohol, but not flowers’.

“Horticulturists have been selfless and patient in complying with lockdowns like other New Zealanders. However, they do expect a fair playing field where they can undertake contactless delivery with consumers and other essential service retailers. . .

Latest lift in auction prices is an encouraging sign for the fortunes of dairy farmers – Point of Order:

The good  news   was  running  in  favour  of  New Zealand’s  meat  producers early this week.  Today it is running in  favour  of our  dairy  farmers.

The  first  Fonterra  global  dairy  trade  auction in  three weeks  had  the  most  bidders  in  a  year and  charted  prices  on   a  rising  trend,  confirming  the  firm  tone  at the  previous  event   was  not  a  one-off.

The global dairy trade price index posted its biggest increase since early March, when it jumped 15%.

The key WMP product rose 3.3%, SMP was up 7.3% and both butter and cheese each rose almost 4%. Prices rose 4% overall in USD terms, although they were only up 1.2% in NZD terms, held back by a firming currency. . . .

Council’s waste plan puts Manawatū food production at risk – Emma Hatton:

Landowners in Manawatū are anxious their plots will be swept up in plans for the country’s largest-ever wastewater to land treatment system.

Productive land is caught up in the Palmerston North City Council’s proposal to discharge treated wastewater onto between 760 and 2000 hectares, instead of primarily into the Manawatū River.

Peter Wells’ family has been on the land since 1884. He and his wife run a farm and a wedding business on it.

“We would likely be included in the 760, certainly in the 2000. . . 

MPI expecting small number of M bovis infections this spring – Maja Burry:

More cases of the cattle disease M bovis are expected this spring, with bulk tank milk testing last month picking up 61 farms requiring further investigation.

The government has been working to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis since 2018. As part of that work, so far 172,000 cattle from 268 farms have been culled and $209.4 million has been paid in compensation to affected farmers.

Figures from the Ministry for Primary Industries show at moment there are just two farms, both in Canterbury, actively infected with M bovis.

MPI’s director of the M bovis eradication programme Stuart Anderson said it wouldn’t be surprised to see a small number of new cases this spring. . .

Orphan lamb rearing with Kerry Harmer

Kerry Harmer and her husband Paul farm Castleridge Station in the Ashburton Gorge and were concerned about the economic loss associated with lamb wastage, as well as the animal welfare implications.

Determined to address the issue, the couple have set up a lamb-rearing system – which includes automatic feeders – that minimises lamb losses and generates a profit of $50/head (including labour costs).

Kerry was a popular presenter on Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Ladies’ Virtual Muster and joins Regional Associate Briar Huggett to discuss the Harmers’ journey and tips and tricks she has for other lamb rearers. . .

CSIRO, governments and industry put $150m into farm sector research – Kath Sullivan:

Increased exports, drought mitigation and new foods are at the centre of $150 million in research spending by governments and Australia’s farming industry.

It is hoped that the CSIRO-led research will help generate an additional $20 billion of value for Australia’s farm sector by the 2030.

CSIRO has committed an initial $79 million, with governments and industry kicking in $71 million, to fund the five-year research program, which will involve three key “missions”.

“We’ve decided to really focus our efforts on three big challenges that we think are existential for farming in Australia,” CSIRO agriculture and food deputy director Michael Robertson said. . . 


Word of the day

13/09/2021

 

 


Rural round-up

07/09/2021

B+LNZ remains unconvinced by low-slope map :

The Government’s new proposed low-slope map for stock exclusion is better than the original, however the map still won’t practically work on the ground, says Beef+Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

The Government is consulting on a revised map after the original mis-identified thousands of hectares of steep land across New Zealand as ‘low-slope’ and therefore requiring stock exclusion or fencing.

It is also consulting on a proposed certified freshwater farm planning approach. B+LNZ has released factsheets outlining key issues and guidance for farmers on both consultations and will be making submissions incorporating farmer feedback.

It will also be making a submission on the changes to the intensive winter grazing rules announced last week. . . 

NAIT  tackles lifestyles – Annette Scott:

Lifestylers have become a key focus for Ospri as it ups the efficiency of the national animal identification tracing (NAIT) programme.

Ospri head of traceability Kevin Forward says a lot of lifestyle properties now border farms and it’s important these property owners understand their responsibility when it comes to owning animals.

Real Estate New Zealand statistics show more than 7000 lifestyle properties change hands every year.

Whether you have a dozen animals or even just one, as person in charge of animals (PICA) there is a legal obligation to register with Nait and keep your account up-to-date if managing NAIT animals. . .

Careful paddock selection first step in winter forage crop programme :

Wintering practices have changed on Robert Young’s Southland farm over the past 10 years.

A continual process of fine-tuning the management of their winter forage crops to protect their soil and water resources is paying dividends, with less mud, reduced run-off and content livestock.

Robert and his family farm a 970ha rolling to steep sheep, beef and dairy support property near Gore.

Winter forage crops, namely fodder beet and swedes, are an important part of their farm system; both as part of their pasture renewal programme and to grow a bulk of quality feed for sheep and cattle over the depths of winter. . . 

AGL’s Nelson plant rolls out covid-19 vaccines :

Alliance Group Ltd’s Nelson plant is rolling out covid-19 vaccinations to staff and immediate family members within their “bubble”.

Sixty-nine workers and 10 of their family members received their first covid-19 vaccinations at the plant on Thursday in a joint initiative between Alliance and Te Piki Oranga Ltd, a local Māori healthcare provider. Approximately 40 employees at the plant have already been vaccinated.

Te Piki Oranga staff worked with the Nelson plant’s health and safety manager Sheryl Edwards to provide the immunisations at the plant. The second of the two vaccinations required will be provided at the plant in six weeks’ time.  . . 

FarmIQ appoints respected ago-leader as its new chairman:

FarmIQ is ‘bringing it all together’ with the announcement of Warren Parker as Chairman of its Board of Directors.

Warren brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in agricultural systems, farm management, and governance while also being experienced in working effectively with government.

His vision for FarmIQ in the next five years is founded on this experience and the increased market and compliance expectations placed on farmers, “It has all the ingredients and ambition necessary to become the national leading software choice for land managers in New Zealand and will have grown its presence internationally.”

FarmIQ can only achieve this by being a good partner, respectful collaborator and admired for its practicality but he says “there is a lot to do but I’m excited by the high caliber of their people and their enthusiasm to help farmers.” The power of a platform approach is other software providers can offer their tailored solutions while farmers need to enter data only once. This is well proven in the banking and other sectors, and there is no reason it cannot be just as successful in the rural sectors. . .

Beef giant Brazil halts China exports after confirming two mad cow disease cases – Nayara Figueiredo:

Brazil, the world’s largest beef exporter, has suspended beef exports to its No. 1 customer China after confirming two cases of “atypical” mad cow disease in two separate domestic meat plants, the agriculture ministry said on Saturday.

The suspension, which is part of an animal health pact agreed between China and Brazil and is designed to allow Beijing time to take stock of the problem, begins immediately, the ministry said in a statement. China will decide when to begin importing again, it added.

The suspension is a major blow for Brazilian farmers: China and Hong Kong buy more than half of Brazil’s beef exports.

The cases were identified in meat plants in the states of Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais, the ministry said. It said they were the fourth and fifth cases of “atypical” mad cow disease that have been detected in Brazil in 23 years. . . 


Rural round-up

29/08/2021

RTF frustrated by Govt’s ‘she’ll be right’ attitude – Annette Scott:

Road transport operators are frustrated over decision-makers holding up their business of moving essential freight and livestock.

Road Transport Forum (RTF) chief executive Nick Leggett says the “she’ll be right” message from the Government is not good enough.

He says the decision-makers appear to be gripped by timidity and that is not helping to move essential freight around the country.

A key concern is the insurance liability of trucks . . .

Chinese export clampdown threatens Kiwi businesses – Sam Sachdeva :

Exporters already dealing with strained supply lines and the downsides of lockdown face another threat – the suspension of export licences with China if the current Covid-19 outbreak makes its way into their workplace

Kiwi food exporters battling through lockdown have been warned a single positive Covid-19 case within their workforce could lead to Chinese authorities immediately suspending their export rights and forcing a recall of their products.

Sector figures say the advice from government officials has added to the stresses businesses face as they deal with strained supply lines and the public health requirements of operating at Level 4.

In a guidance note to export businesses this week, the Ministry of Primary Industries said it was aware of new import measures being applied by China, covering “all cold chain food products that are normally stored and transported under refrigeration, including vegetables and fruit”. . . 

US foodies drive TPN’s popularity up – Annette Scott:

Taste Pure Nature (TPN) is growing in the United States, as conscious foodies strive to understand where their meat comes from.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand global manager brand and red meat story Michael Wan says brand tracking in the US market shows there is increased awareness of the TPN NZ red meat brand and story.

TPN is a global brand platform designed to enhance the position of NZ grass-fed beef and lamb globally.

Awareness of NZ grass-fed beef and lamb and what makes it unique and special has increased by 17%, as more consumers understand the story behind the brand. . . 

A2 Milk facing 80 percent drop in net profit in year battered by Covid-19 disruption :

Specialty dairy company A2 Milk has had a major slump in full year profit caused by pandemic related disruptions to key markets.

A2 Milk’s net profit dropped by 79 percent as excess stock and a slide in sales of infant formula in the key Chinese market battered its earnings.

The company issued numerous earnings downgrades over the past 12 months as Covid-19 closed borders and put an end to the previously lucrative “backdoor” daegou sales channels, while a falling birth rate in China also reduced demand.

Key results for the year ended June vs year ago: . .

 

Forestry waste trial offers lifeline to Huntly power plant – Jonathan Milne:

Until this week, Genesis Energy had steadfastly refused to discuss any future beyond 2030 for the coal and gas-fired plant. That’s just changed.

To most New Zealanders, the twin stacks of the Huntly power station are a Kiwiana icon. But to the people of that community, the electricity generator is a family, and a future.

Yvonne Anscombe runs the town’s community patrol. Her neighbour works at the power station. Her friend’s husband worked there. And when the local Lions Club was fundraising to buy a new car for the community patrol this year, Genesis came to the party with a $10,000 donation.

“Genesis are part of our community,” Anscombe says. “It’s been a big employer over the years. We’re not stupid, we understand the climate issues. But we would be supportive of anything that kept the jobs in Huntly.” . . . 

End  quarantine bickering say ag leaders – Andrew Miller:

Stop the bickering over quarantine.

That’s the message to federal and state governments from farm sector leaders, desperate to get workers into the country.

They say quarantine is the main sticking point to the introduction of the new Australian Agriculture visa, which responds to workforce shortages in the agriculture sector.

“The elephant in the room is this continual bickering, or lack of co-ordination, between state premiers themselves and the federal government,” GrainGrowers chairman Brett Hosking said. . .

 

 


Rural round-up

28/08/2021

Feds: Be targeted, not revolutionary, about RMA change –  Simon Edwards:

Federated Farmers has called for “extreme caution” in repealing or re-writing the Resource Management Act.

Targeted and focused change, rather than wholesale replacement, would provide the ability to make changes to address problems with the RMA whilst minimising the disruption to 30 years’ of case law, to councils, resource users and communities, Feds said a submission to the Environment Select Committee.

An independent economic assessment of the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) warns of higher costs and more uncertainty.

Federated Farmers commissioned Douglas Birnie, Director of Enfocus to assess the economic implications of the NBA, the first of three new pieces of legislation planned to replace the RMA. His assessment is that the resource management approach proposed in the NBA risks: . . 

Pāmu reports a 29 million after tax profit:

A strong year for its dairy and forestry portfolios has seen the state owned farmer, Pāmu, report a $29 million after tax profit.

The company which owns about 200 farms said total revenue was $250 million – with the milk cheque accounting for half of all farm operating revenue.

Chief executive Steve Carden said the company was still hit with covid-19 disruptions such as lower prices for some red meat categories.

But as a diversified farming business, its capacity to offset any downsides in year on year returns with upsides across other aspects of its portfolio is growing. . . 

Food-derived opioids are a medical frontier – Keith Woodford:

In late 2020, I was invited to write a paper on food derived-opioids for the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, with a focus including effects on microbiota.  Eight months later and the paper has been written, then refereed by three scientists chosen by the journal, then modified in response to the referees’ critiques and now published. The paper draws on and integrates evidence from 125 prior-published papers. It is available online via a link at the end of this post.

The key messages are that food-derived opioids from A1 beta-casein and also from gluten are a medical frontier, with clear evidence that they affect the microbiota in our digestive system, but also linking within a complex system to the brain and multiple internal organs.

Fundamental to this system is the widespread presence of opioid receptors to which the food-derived opioids attach. These opioid receptors are present in the brain, intestines, pancreas, lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, adrenal glands and many other places.

The natural role of opioid receptors is as part of the internal messaging system between the gut, brain, internal organs and peripheral tissues. But when external opioids are consumed, either in the form of drugs or within food, then the internal messaging is disrupted. The body then reacts to this in multiple ways, including inflammation and autoimmune responses. . . 

Good Progress on intensive winter grazing rules:

The Government’s confirmation it is shelving the unworkable pugging and sowing date rules in its latest intensive winter grazing proposal is positive for farmers, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) says.

The controversial pugging and resowing date rules have been replaced with a practical management approach under the revised intensive winter grazing proposals, which have just been released for public consultation.

“We, and other industry groups, have for some time been calling on the Government to replace the pugging and sowing date rules with sensible and pragmatic alternatives,” says Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ.

“It is positive for farmers that we now have clarity on the proposed approach in this area, which aligns with the recommendations of the Southland Winter Grazing advisory group last December. . .

Mānuka honey sales in US and China drives profit for Comvita :

The listed honey producer Comvita is crediting strong growth in Mānuka sales to the US and China for helping drive a return to profit.

Reported net profit after tax was $9.5 million, compared to a loss of $9.7 million in the previous year.

Comvita said the 2021 financial year had been a crucial one for the company, as it looked to prove the businessess’ significant potential.

In 2020 the company completed a strategic review and chief executive David Banfield said the business had gone through significant change in order to arrive at this point. . . 

Non-urgent veterinary appointments on hold:

Non-urgent veterinary appointments on hold until COVID-19 levels reduce

While veterinarians are still providing care and treatment for animals during lockdown, it’s far from business as usual.

According to two of Aotearoa’s key veterinary organisations, the Veterinary Council of New Zealand (VCNZ) and the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA), COVID-19 restrictions have changed how animals, as well as people, receive healthcare.

“Under Alert Level 4 restrictions, veterinarians can only provide care that can’t be postponed,” according to the Council’s Veterinary Advisor Dr Seton Butler. “As a result, non-urgent healthcare, routine vaccinations and regular checks need to be postponed until the situation changes.” . . 

Enviromark diamond certification for Silver Fern Farms:

Enviromark diamond certification reflects Silver Fern Farms’ commitment to sustainability best practice

Silver Fern Farms has achieved Toitū enviromark diamond certification, the highest New Zealand-based environmental certification. This represents another important step in Silver Fern Farms’ commitment to playing a leadership role in driving sustainability in the red meat sector.

Enviromark diamond is recognised internationally as equivalent to ISO 14001 accreditation, and to achieve enviromark diamond certification New Zealand companies in fact need to exceed some ISO requirements.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer said achieving enviromark diamond is a massive endorsement for the company’s systems and the ways it is managing environmental impacts and risk. . . 

 


Wouldn’t listen, didn’t learn

23/08/2021

The excuse of no rule book for a pandemic held some water last year. It doesn’t now and we’re paying a very high price because of a government that wouldn’t listen and didn’t learn:

The first Level 4 lockdown hit big manufacturers hard. But when one came up with a plan to allow plants to stay open safely, the Government wouldn’t listen

Last year, after New Zealand came out of our first Covid-19 lockdown, Tony Clifford went to the Government with what he thought was a pretty good idea. An idea which might save manufacturers millions of dollars if we went back into Level 4.

Clifford, managing director of big forestry and wood products company Pan Pac, proposed a Covid certification system. 

Government would draw up a set of standards which a manufacturer had to meet to operate under Level 4 lockdown. Companies would be audited independently and if they passed, they could stay open through lockdown. Think of it like a Covid WoF for factories.

“I advocated for it strongly,” Clifford says. “But there was no appetite at all.”

Once New Zealand went back into Level 4 lockdown this week, Pan Pac had to shut down its whole operation.

Pan PAC isn’t alone. A whole lot of other businesses that could operate safely aren’t permitted to, yet a confectionary factory is regarded as essential.

I’ve got a whole mouth full of sweet teeth but I don’t think lollies are essential.

Clifford says he approached a range of government agencies with his accreditation plan, including the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

He also got in touch with ministers, including Forestry Minister Stuart Nash, who also has the economic and regional development portfolio.

“I said: ‘Why not prepare for the future?’ They basically told me there wouldn’t be another Level 4, so we didn’t need to worry.” . . .

If the government and its Ministries had worried and acted on the worrying some businesses which can operate safely would be able to now and we might not be at level 4 lockdown.

Catherine Beard, executive director of Manufacturing NZ and Export NZ says there are other companies like Pan Pac, which could gear up to operate safely in Level 4, but don’t get the chance because they aren’t deemed essential by Government.

“It costs them many millions per week to shut down, although often they have a highly controlled health and safety regime in place – registered to deal with chemicals, for example – and would even create a special worker bubble if they needed to,” Beard says.

“The cost of a shut-down for those companies is disproportionately high and they are working in environments they can control very precisely.”

The more often New Zealand companies are forced to shut down, the harder it is to remain credible in the international market, Beard says.

“Manufacturers often have export customers waiting, and particularly in this environment with a lot of shipping interruptions, if you miss a shipment it’s a big deal.

“New Zealand doesn’t want to look like a country that’s unreliable and expensive and give[s] our international customers a reason to drop us.” . . .

The lockdown restrictions have a flow on impact on the housing shortage:

Julien Leys, chief executive of the Building Industry Federation, is frustrated at the ramifications for the construction sector from the latest Level 4 plant closures.

Last week, before any thought of a lockdown, Leys went on RNZ’s Nine to Noon show and described the situation for the building industry as “as bad as it gets” in terms of shortages of construction timber and other building supplies.  . . 

That was before the new Covid outbreak. This week, the latest Covid outbreak has shut down logging operations, sawmills, cement factories and manufacturing operations, perhaps for three days, perhaps for a week, potentially for far longer.

‘As bad as it gets’ for home building just got a bit worse.

There are government exemptions which allow New Zealand Steel’s production facilities, Tiwai Point’s aluminium smelter and the Methanex methanol plant to stay open under Level 4 lockdown, Leys says. Why can’t exemptions be given to other production facilities that can operate safely.

“We need to consider what other materials we need to produce, for example structural timber,” he says.  . . 

Meanwhile, Fletcher Building is also left wondering why its Golden Bay Cement works can’t get a Level 4 exemption. The Government says exemptions to steel, aluminium and methanol are because the time and difficulty to turn the plants off and on again makes shutdown uneconomic.

But the same could be said for cement too. It takes three days to wind down production at Golden Bay and the same amount of time to get the lines up and running again.

Fletcher Building chief executive Ross Taylor says the company will need skeleton crews on site this week to turn the plant off, and would be keen to see some sort of exemption applied for his company too.  . . 

The arbitrary criteria of essential causes all sorts of anomalies. The criteria should be whether or not businesses can operate safely.

Meanwhile, Pan Pac will wait out this lockdown, hoping it doesn’t go on too long, Tony Clifford says. Then he will be back on the Government’s case about Covid accreditation. 

Maybe this time someone will listen.

They haven’t listened to horticulturists and greengrocers:

A Pukekohe vegetable grower says with independent fruit and vege stores unable to open his crops will be left in the ground to rot.

Under level 4 green grocers can provide contactless delivery but cannot open for customers.

Harry Das grows 100 hectares of potatoes, pumpkins, cauliflowers and lettuces for independent stores and restaurants.

He said if lockdown continues past this week he will lose around 60 to 70 percent of his lettuce crop.

“With the independent stores closing our orders will just drop off to almost nothing, the products will sit in the paddock and go to waste.

“We also supply processed lettuce to McDonald’s and with all their doors closed all our beautiful lettuce will be wasted.” . . 

Butchers are similarity frustrated:

More than a year on from the first Level 4 lockdown, the rules around essential groceries still seem murky. Butchers and fishmongers can’t open, but dairies can and people can get wine, chocolate and doughnuts delivered to the door.

While at Level 4 supermarkets can operate with shoppers in store buying meat and vegetables, those same customers cannot walk into a green grocer or butcher without breaking the law.

For those small, specialist businesses not set up for “click and collect” or delivery, this means trading ceased at midnight on Tuesday.

Two butchers said they had gone into survival mode. . . 

Greengrocers, butcher and bakeries operating a one-in-one-out system, or with phone orders they could package and leave at the shop door when customers arrived for pick-ups would be at least as safe as supermarkets where far more people shop at a time.

Then there’s the problem of what’s an essential item and what’s not for businesses like dairies:

Dairy and service station workers want to be supported like supermarkets, as other small business owners get to grips with what counts as an essential item for online delivery.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson on Wednesday said the rules for what non-food items counted as an essential item would become clearer as the lockdown went on, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) last night released a list to help in that process.

There is some ambiguity however – the guidelines note that businesses will be relied on to determine which products are essential. . .

If customers go in to a dairy to buy a bottle of milk, is the shop assistant going to tell them they can’t also buy a magazine? Is it any less safe to sell a magazine than milk?

This is an absolutely unacceptable level of control freakery that wouldn’t be necessary if the government had listened to businesses with plans to operate safely, had learned from mistakes made in earlier lockdowns and used safe rather than essential to determine which businesses can operate and which can’t.


Rural round-up

09/08/2021

GDT slump impacts forecasts – Hugh Stringleman:

Eight consecutive falls of the Global Dairy Trade (GDT) price index have all but wiped out the extraordinary 15% rise in the market at the beginning of March.

In the five months since, nine out of 10 fortnightly actions have been downward moves in the market and the GDT price index has dropped 13.2%.

In the first auction for August, whole milk powder (WMP) prices fell by 3.8% and have now fallen 19% since March.

The GDT index lost 1%, as the fall in WMP was balanced somewhat by butter increasing 3.8%, anhydrous milk fat (AMF) by 1.3% and skim milk powder (SMP) by 1.5%. . . 

Soil carbon context important – Jacqueline Rowarth:

It makes up approximately 58% of organic matter, which is the first of seven soil quality indicators in the New Zealand assessment. The prime position of organic matter is because of the attributes associated with it. It holds water and nutrients; soil organisms live in it and decompose it for energy (and nutrients) for their own growth and multiplication; the organisms and the organic matter aid soil structure which in turn assists aeration, infiltration and percolation of water.

A considerable amount of research has been done on building up soil carbon, and on what to avoid in order to prevent a decrease. Some of the results appear to be conflicting. Should we cultivate, strip till or notill to do our best for the environment? Should we flip soils? Can we actually sequester carbon in our soils as other countries are promising to do and so benefit from becoming part of the ETS?

The answer, as so often, is ‘it depends’ – on starting point, soil type, season, crop and all the other usual variables. Context is vital, but sometimes overlooked in enthusiasm for a technology.

The effect on soil carbon of conventional cultivation or conservation (reduced) tillage depends on the measurement depth. . . 

B+LNZ calls for carbon farm limits – Neal Wallace:

Competition from carbon farming is driving up land prices and pushing first-farm buyers out of the market, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

Chief executive Sam McIvor says a commissioned report compiled by BakerAg calculates carbon farmers bought an estimated 31,000ha in the four years since 2017, 34% of the 92,118ha of the sheep and beef farms purchased for conversion to forestry.

“One of the interesting aspects which is parallel with housing, is the fact that carbon farming is driving land prices up, which is putting farms out of reach of young people,” McIvor said.

While timber prices have boosted demand for land, the report attributes a significant reason to climate change policies making revenue from a combination of forestry production and carbon, or carbon-only, more attractive. . . 

Researcher finds chemical-free pest killer to save tomatoes –  Sally Murphy:

A PhD student who has come up with a solution to deal with a tomato plant pest is hoping more large scale greenhouses will try it to prove its success.

Emiliano Veronesi discussed his research at the Horticulture Conference in Hamilton this morning.

He set out trying to find a biological control solution to tomato potato psyllid or TPP which is a bug that can prevent fruit from forming on plants and reduce yields.

And he managed to find a predator for the bug, Engytatus nicotinae, which he has since tested in greenhouses at Lincoln University. . .

Pioneering new food in Southland – Country Life:

Expect to hear a lot more from New Zealand’s latest self-declared food bowl – Southland.

The southernmost province is aiming to put itself on the map nationally and internationally for premium food products.

Southland proudly produces dairy products, lamb, beef, fish, wild meat, oysters, honey, carrots, grain, potatoes, cabbages and swedes. An oat milk factory is in the planning.

The province has the most abundant food bowl in New Zealand, says Mary-Anne Webber, food and beverage manager at Southland’s regional development agency Great South. . . 

Growers may give up double shearing due to shearer drought – Mark Griggs and John Ellicott:

Leading players in the wool and sheep industry have expressed true alarm at the oncoming shearer shortage.

It’s believed no Kiwi shearers will arrive in Australia for the rest of the year due to concerns with local coronavirus outbreaks, a loss of 500 shearers, affecting crutching season.

Growers at a field day near Warren highlighted concerns, some saying it will force woolgrowers to shear only once a year. They’ve called on government and peak wool industry body Australian Wool Innovation to increase training and have trainees working in the wool stands now. . . 


Rural round-up

02/08/2021

Dairy farmers sell: ‘We didn’t feel proud to be farmers anymore’ – Carmen Hall:

”Staring down” a $700,000 barrel of compliance, regulation and other costs proved to be the last straw for Welcome Bay dairy farmer Andrew McLeod.

In May 2020, he sold up and walked away from dairying and a farm that had been in his family for more than 50 years.

He’s not alone.

Farming leaders say the ”family farm is struggling to survive” amid an ”avalanche of regulations” and syndicates motivated by ”money”. . .

Precious memories of daughter, grandson – Alice Scott:

In the wake of the report on the death of Dunback farmer Nadine Thomlinson and her son Angus, Alice Scott talks to Nadine’s mother, Ann Restieaux.

Even when Nadine Tomlinson was young, she relished the physical nature of farming. She was a down-to-earth Southern girl; shy as a youngster who came out of her shell when she went to boarding school.

Her mother, Ann Restieaux, recalled her and her sister drenching lambs for their dad, Alex, while still at primary school.

“Alex would just trickle the lambs up to them and they chipped away. Nadine loved it. She was full speed ahead, she set incredibly high standards for herself and as a mother she achieved so much in her day because she just got up earlier if she needed to.” . . 

Farmers feeding thousands of Kiwis through Meat the Need:

Through the Meat the Need charity, farmers have provided more than 408,783 meals from over 883 donations in just one year. Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) talks to co-founder Siobhan O’Malley to reflect on a successful year and what’s next for the charity.

Since its inception early last year, Meat the Need has provided over 408,783 meals from over 883 donations to vulnerable people. The charity is nationwide and works to supply foodbanks with much-needed meat which is donated by farmers and processed and packaged with the help of Silver Fern Farms.

The charity was founded by South Island based farmers, Siobhan O’Malley of Pukeko Pastures and Wayne Langford, also known as the YOLO farmer. Together they discovered that while there was a need for such as organisation, there was never anyone connecting willing farmers and community foodbank together to create a regular supply chain. . .

The wahine winemaker hunting for a sense of place – Charlotte Muru-Lanning:

With few Māori in the winemaking industry, and even fewer Māori women, Jannine Rickards is a rare breed. Charlotte Muru-Lanning visits her in Wairarapa.

An eye-catching bone hei matau adorns Jannine Rickard’s neck.

A fishhook symbolic of journeys that are interwoven into journeys, it’s been worn for the last 20 years, since her parents gifted it to her on her 21st birthday.

Those unexpected twists and turns that have unfurled along the way have coloured her own journey, which has brought her to where she is now, making wine in the Wairarapa.

There are just a handful of female Māori winemakers in the country, so, like her own small-batch wine, Rickards is something of a rare breed. . .

Testing efforts to keep family farm – Shawn McAvinue:

South Otago “primary school sweethearts” David and Ailsa Mackie have kept their farm in the family for more than 100 years.

The Mackie family run sheep, beef and deer on their 500ha farm Kuriwao Downs at Clinton, about 40km east of Gore.

Mrs Mackie (80) has never lived anywhere else. She was a girl when she met her future husband at Clinton School. He was a year older than her.

The couple raised five children on the farm — Brent, Copland, Jane, Rachel and Arthur. . . 

Craft and the love of learning kept this couple up late at night

Eric and Lois Muller have always loved timber and lace and the proof is in their home, which they completed themselves and which looks out on paddocks of tropical pasture. Here grows Santa Gertrudis/Hereford cross cattle, along the southern slopes of the Border Ranges at Rukenvale near Kyogle.

The interior glows with timber hues contrasted by velvet curtains backed by fine white lace and all up the presentation shows devotion to craft.

“As a kid I was self taught,” recalled 92 year Eric. “As a 12 year old I did woodwork one day a fortnight at the rural technology school at Boonah, Qld.

I went to lots of different schools in the depression. My father was a share farmer and worked wherever he could.” . . 


Rural round-up

05/07/2021

Southland MP Joseph Mooney invites Green Party co-leader James Shaw to Southland to meet Groundswell NZ – Rachael Kelly:

Farmer protest group Groundswell NZ said it would ‘’most definitely’’ meet with Green Party co-leader James Shaw if he accepted an invitation to visit Southland.

Southland MP Joseph Mooney wants to extend an invitation to Shaw to the province to meet with the group, who he says Shaw ‘’unfairly vilified in the media this week”.

A spokesperson from Shaws’ office said: ‘’Joseph Mooney is welcome to send an invitation to the Minister, and it will be considered alongside all the others we receive.’’

Shaw admitted for the first time this week that it was Groundswell he was referring to in an interview with Ngati Hine FM last month, when he referred to ‘’a group of pākehā farmers from down south’’ who were ‘’always pushing back against the idea that they should observe any kind of regulation about what they can do to protect the environment”. . . .

B+LNZ launched emissions calculator – Neal Wallace:

The sheep and beef industry have taken a significant step towards managing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission obligations, with the launch of an emissions calculator for farmers.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has released the free-to-use calculator, which takes information about a farm and stock numbers and applies science and data about average emissions at national, regional and farm system level to calculate on-farm emissions and sequestration.

It has been funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership and endorsed by the Meat Industry Association (MIA), AFFCO NZ, Alliance Group, ANZCO Foods, Blue Sky Meats, Greenlea Premier Meats, Ovation NZ, Progressive Meats, Silver Fern Farms, Taylor Preston, Te Kuiti Meats, Universal Beef Packers and Wilson Hellaby NZ.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the calculator has been independently assessed as meeting the requirements for calculating emissions under the He Waka Eke Noa programme and agreement with the Government. . . 

Fences fixed first as farmers count cost of flooding – Country Life:

Farmers in Mid-Canterbury say it could take months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up the mess on their farms following last month’s massive flooding.

It’s been an extremely challenging situation for neighbouring farmers Anne-Marie Allen and Chrissie Wright, who say they are still trying to get their heads around the scale of the damag of Anne-Marie and her husband Chris’s farm resemble a bombsite.

Their six-hectare water storage pond is destroyed, fences are buried, machinery has been damaged and logs, branches, rocks, gravel and up to a metre of silt have been dumped on the Ashburton Forks property. . .

M bovis eradication on track – Annette Scott:

The next few months will be busy for the Mycoplasma bovis programme as it winds closer to a successful nationwide eradication of the disease.

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor is confident the programme is on track to eradicate the disease from New Zealand in the next five years.

“The programme has been refined and improved, the science and practice on the ground has helped get us to where we are now, just a pocket of five infected properties,” O’Connor said.

But, he says, the next few months will be busy and crucial. . . 

Farmers helping Meat the Need charity via Silver Fern Farms – Linda Hall:

Mince — it must be the most versatile red meat you can buy.

Most people would be able to come up with a nutritious meal by just adding some flavour and vegetables. It goes a long way and it’s reasonably priced.

However, there are many people out there who still can’t afford to buy enough food to feed their family.

It’s not surprising that the need for food parcels is growing with the price of housing and accommodation skyrocketing — and there’s no end in sight. . .

Scottish pig sector ‘at risk’ due to unfair supply chain practice :

The future of the Scottish pig industry is at risk due to continued unfair supply chain practices, NFU Scotland has warned.

It has written to Pilgrim’s, the processing partner of Scotland’s largest abattoir in Brechin, to urge them to stop operating pricing practices that ‘threaten’ the sector.

Farmers had ‘serious concerns’ resulting from the ‘uncompetitive price’ paid by Pilgrim’s for pigs going to the Brechin abattoir.

“The price is uncompetitive compared to alternative market routes,” NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

30/06/2021

Farm know-how needed to improve M bovis programme – Neal Wallace:

Ben and Sarah Walling have experienced every possible emotion in their dealings with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) during three Mycoplasma bovis incidents on their Southland farm, but their overriding sentiment is to laugh.

“You’ve got to learn to laugh about it or it just eats you up,” Ben, a Five Rivers calf rearer and bull finisher, said.

Despite that, he has a daily reminder of his situation; an ongoing legal dispute involving “hundreds of thousands of dollars” compensation sought from MPI, which he attributes to a rigid and inflexible system that ignores the reality of farming.

The dispute relates to the impact of falling beef schedule prices and supply contracts being cancelled while his compensation claim was settled. . . 

MPI failed farmers – Sudesh Kissun:

Ashburton farmer Frank Peters, who was forced to cull stock twice in three years, says the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has failed farmers.

Peters, who milks 1,400 cows all year-round on the family farm told Rural News that a recent University of Otago study that found the Government’s response to the 2017 Mycoplasma bovis outbreak was poorly managed and inflicted significant and lasting trauma on farmers was on the mark.

The two-year study included extensive interviews with farmers impacted by M. bovis in Southland and Otago.

Peters told Rural News that he would expect similar anecdotes from farmers whose stock were ravaged by the disease. . . 

Resource Management proposal positive on consultation, flawed in content:

The government should be applauded for a proper consultation process on replacement RMA legislation but Federated Farmers has significant concerns about local democracy being stripped away.

Reacting to the release today of an ‘exposure’ draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act, Feds Vice-President and resource management spokesperson Karen Williams said it was pleasing this initial round of submissions and select committee inquiry would be followed by a second select committee process early next year.

“If the poor process around the production of the unworkable Essential Freshwater regulations has taught us anything, it is to carry out a thorough and genuine consultation process, as distinct from the secret and exclusive process that led to that mess.

“A two-step consultation process for this first phase of replacement resource management laws is welcome,” Karen said. . .

Polar blast hits South Island – Neal Wallace:

Farmers are taking in their stride the first cold polar blast of winter, which has dumped up to 100mm of snow in parts of the South Island and is making its way up the North Island.

Plenty of advanced warning and the fact it has arrived in the middle of winter means farmers have not been caught out, although the snow has caused some access problems in Otago.

The snow missed flood-hit parts of Mid and South Canterbury, although the region has not avoided the single-digit wind chill.

WeatherWatch lead forecaster Phil Duncan describes it as a classic, normal winter polar blast, but for some areas in the path of the storm it will be the first snowfall for a number of years. . . 

Putting a number of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions :

A total of ten tools and calculators can now be used by farmers and growers to get an understanding of their current agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

He Waka Eke Noa Programme Director Kelly Forster says the second set of tools and calculators has been assessed, following the first tranche earlier this year. Assessed tools now include: Foundation for Arable Research’s (FAR) ProductionWise, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s GHG calculator (available in July), and Toitū’s Farm emanage.

The full list and the industries they cover: . . .

 

Try the word sorry for size anti-meat academics told – Shan Goodwin:

RED meat’s overarching representative body has taken direct aim at academics espousing anti-meat rhetoric in a sign industry leaders are fighting back hard on unsubstantiated claims made in the name of promoting plant-based products.

The Red Meat Advisory Council has written to the vice-chancellor and principal of The University of Sydney, Professor Stephen Garton, demanding a public apology for a university-branded media alert on the new food labeling senate inquiry.

The inquiry is looking into the use of words like meat and beef on the packaging of plant-based products that do not contain any animal products. . .

 


Rural round-up

23/06/2021

Big break for Hawke’s Bay as Big Save buys farms, ups the ante in wool industry – Doug Laing:

Hawke’s Bay is set to play a major role in the revival of the New Zealand wool industry kick-started by wool-buying moves taken by Napier-based furnishing manufacturer and retailer Big Save Furniture.

Moving away from synthetics as much as possible, the company is paying farmers $4.50kg for strong wool in which Hawke’s Bay is the biggest regional producer in the World – more than double recent market lows which have seen farmers paying more for the shearing than they’re getting for the wool.

The property arm of the McMinn family operation has also bought four farms in Southern Hawke’s Bay in the last 12 months, about 3000 hectares of sheep and beef farming, under the Big Rural brand.

The crisis is highlighted by Campaign for Wool NZ Trust chairman Tom O’Sullivan, from Havelock North, the fourth generation of a Central Hawke’s Bay sheep-farming family, one of several people from Hawke’s Bay at the centre of moves to get the industry, and who says that at the height of the industry in the 1950s the farm could have been bought from “the one wool-cheque”. . . 

Stretching, balance helps improve health, wellbeing – Shawn McAvinue:

Physical therapist Hennie Pienaar opens his injury prevention workshops by asking meat industry staff if they want to live longer or die earlier.

Mr Pienaar began working for Alliance Group as its musculoskeletal injury prevention manager based in Invercargill about 15 months ago.

Alliance wanted to improve the ‘‘complete wellness’’ of its staff, improving their physical, mental and nutritional health, so they enjoyed their work, went home happy and maintained a healthy lifestyle, he said.

The meat processing industry had a ‘‘big struggle’’ to find staff so it was working to retain them. . . 

Southlanders pioneer real paneer making in New Zealand – Uma Ahmed:

Southlanders who found a niche in producing authentic paneer from raw milk are starting to expand their business.

Paneer is a type of acid-set cheese originating from the Indian subcontinent.

Southland couple Julie and Roger Guise, after chatting with Thiagarajan Rajoo at church, found out authentic paneer was not being made in New Zealand.

The bulk of paneer in New Zealand is made from powder or standardised milk, as opposed to being made with raw milk. . . 

Bremworth signs up to NZFAP:

Bremworth has signed up to the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP), signalling its support for and adoption of a national wool standard.

The NZFAP provides assurance to consumers about the integrity, traceability, biosecurity, environmental sustainability and animal health and welfare of NZ’s primary sector products.

Bremworth joins 20 other wool industry members to transition towards sourcing their wool from 6800 accredited sheep farms across NZ that meet the standards set by the NZFAP.

By signing up to NZFAP, Bremworth can prove its wool has met traceability, authentic origin and animal welfare standards. . . 

Farmer uses regenerative techniques to combat high nitrate levels – Conan Young:

A farmer in an area known as ground zero for high nitrate levels, is making fundamental changes to the way he farms in order to lessen his impact on water quality.

Levels in private drinking water bores in Mid-Canterbury were on average five to seven times higher than most towns and cities, and in some places exceeded the amount deemed safe by the World Health Organisation.

But a number of farmers were determined to do something about it.

David Birkett grows crops including wheat and vege seeds on 200 hectares near Leeston. . . 

Promising early results for Facial Eczema lab test:

Initial results from a pilot study investigating the potential for a laboratory test to determine Facial Eczema tolerance are positive, paving the way for more detailed investigation.

Dan Brier, B+LNZ’s General Manager Farming Excellence, says the ultimate aim of the study, which is being funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and conducted by AgResearch, is to produce a fully validated high through-put commercial test, which is readily available for breeders and commercial farmers.

“Initial results look promising with the establishment of a cell culture method, using sheep and cattle blood, to demonstrate sporidesmin (the toxin that causes Facial Eczema [FE]) toxicity. This indicates that animals could be tested for tolerance without needing to be exposed to the toxin.” . .


Intrusive, impractical and inhumane

23/06/2021

A University of Otago study shows MPI’s treatment of farmers whose herds were infected with Mycoplasma bovis was intrusive, impractical and inhumane:

A poorly managed government response to the 2017 Mycoplasma bovis outbreak inflicted significant and lasting trauma on farmers whose stock was culled, a University of Otago study has found.

Extensive interviews with affected farmers in Southland and Otago revealed the enduring emotional cost of a “badly planned and poorly executed process”, leaving farming families feeling isolated, bewildered, and powerless. Others in the rural community, such as local veterinarians, were left feeling their expertise was undervalued and their potential to positively contribute to the management of the outbreak disregarded.

Rural New Zealand is home to about 700,000 people, making it New Zealand’s second largest city, with farming contributing significantly to the economic wellbeing of rural communities and regions, and to the national economy. Nationally, an estimated 180,000 animals were culled on more than 250 farms, which were locked down under strict conditions, in a bid to eradicate the disease. Farmers were paid compensation for lost stock but this was often perceived as inadequate and onerous to secure.

The rational for compensation is that it encourages farmers to report suspected infections. Without compensation, or with poor management of it, the temptation to hide or kill infected animals would be too great for many. MPI’s guiding principle for this is that farmers should be left no better and no worse than they were before the disease struck, which is fair if that’s what happens in practice.

Measuring the human cost of this process was the focus of the Otago study, which was carried out by Dr Fiona Doolan-Noble, Dr Geoff Noller and Associate Professor Chrys Jaye, of the University of Otago’s Department of General Practice and Rural Health.

Study lead, Dr Doolan-Noble says that for her and Dr Noller it was heart wrenching listening to the accounts told by farmers in particular, but also the veterinarians and front-line workers. . . 

A dominant theme of the research was the intrusive, impractical and inhumane nature of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) eradication programme in which local knowledge, expertise and pragmatism were ignored in favour of inefficient bureaucratic processes which made no sense to farmers.

Intrusive, impractical and inhumane – that’s very strong criticism.

“Looking back, I can see I went through a series of emotional phases … The initial one was shock. Second phase I think was probably a panic … Third one was trying to think, ‘Jesus, this is very overwhelming.’ And then I got to [the] phase, ‘Okay, we’re stuck in this, how are we going to get out’?” one farmer told the research team.

Farmers described the damage to their sense of identity and the forced separation from typical farming practices and seasonal rhythms as they transitioned into an incursion management process overseen by an ill-prepared government agency.

An ill-prepared government agency sounds unfortunately familiar.

Once a Notice of Direction (NoD) was issued for a property, farming families effectively lost control of the running of their farm while remaining responsible for the welfare of their remaining stock.

“It says in the notice, in the NoD [biosecurity notice] that we are responsible for everything on the property. So, we’re responsible for the health and wellbeing of all the animals on the property, even though there’s people making decisions for us,” one farmer said.

This situation was compounded by poor communication, lack of clarity about animal testing regimes, delays in providing results, indecision regarding stock management, authoritarian and at times brutal decision-making concerning herd culls, and the ignoring of practical solutions to on-farm problems.

“Farming’s like a great big wheel … and they [MPI] cut a chunk of that wheel out and it collapses. Then it takes years to get that wheel back to that size again… It just breaks farmers down, losing control like that,” a farmer said.

One dairy farmer described how a slaughter team arrived early and started killing cows while he was still in the milking shed.

“So [MPI] decided to start killing them on the farm. And I said, ‘Look, that’s a bit rough’. But they said, ‘No, that’s what’s going to happen’. So, this truck arrives, from this pet food outfit…this guy pulls up and just shoots 10 of them, in the yard. Cuts their throats …I come [out] there, there was hysterics, there were staff crying. I just said to the guy, ‘You can’t do this. This is just heartless’.”

A family of beef farmers who experienced a total cull were impacted by slow MPI decision making, resulting in their farm over-wintering too many cattle during a very wet season: “…the animal welfare of the animals was not good at all…Because they were on very small pads in mud up to their haunches… we had two or three pass away on our pad because the conditions were so rough.”

Another farmer recounted how MPI officials insisted on following the mandated process of decontaminating a shed at a cost of $150,000 when he could have had it rebuilt for $70,000. On another farm a cleaning team was paid to sit at a table dipping individual screws into disinfectant and scrubbing them clean with a wire brush when the cost of brand new screws was negligible.

What on earth rationale was behind such stupidity?

One farmer said he had quit the land because of the impact of the elimination programme and further said he could not remember the birth of a child because of the stress at the time.

The study participants noted that farming was a 24/7 business but MPI officials were unavailable at weekends or over holiday periods. However, they didn’t necessarily blame MPI staff.

“In MPI, there’s a lot of people really, really trying. And they’re just getting caught up by red tape,” one farmer noted.

The researchers were guided by a stakeholder panel with farmer, veterinarian, local business, (human) health professional, rural organisation, agribusiness and MPI representation, and oversight was provided by a governance group comprising a Māori representative, a public health expert, an ethicist, a retired veterinarian and a farming consultant.

They noted another disease incursion was inevitable and that solutions need to be sought from within rural communities and then integrated into the relevant bureaucratic processes.

They propose:

  • The development of a regional interprofessional body to develop pragmatic approaches to future incursions
  • Genuine local engagement to seek solutions from the ground up
  • The formation of a nationwide ‘standing army’ of rural-based experts who can be called on to help shape the response to the next incursion

“One of MPI’s key principles in terms of biosecurity is fair restoration – ‘no better or worse’. We believe this should not just apply to the financial impact on farmers but should be applied to both the mental health of all involved, and also the social wellbeing of rural communities.”

Sally Rae reports on the heartless and devastating intrusion::

In the wake of a University of Otago study on the impact of the Mycoplasma bovisoutbreak on Southern families  – with a dominant theme of  the “intrusive, impractical and inhumane” nature of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ eradication programme – business and rural editor Sally Rae tells the story of a North Otago family caught up in it.

Rob Borst will never forget the scene that greeted him when he turned up at his North Otago dairy shed 15 minutes too late.
With Mycoplasma bovis declared on Mr Borst’s large-scale dairy farming operation in 2018, he had cows with mastitis – one of the symptoms of the disease – that the Ministry for Primary Industries ruled could not be sent to the meat works.

The cows were not unsound and Mr Borst felt they could still be killed at the works, but MPI decided they should be killed on-farm, despite his concerns.

Many of his staff had been with him a long time and had personal connections with the herd. Concerned about the effect on them, Mr Borst intended ensuring they were away when it happened.

He was supposed to meet a representative from a pet food business at the shed, but he turned up 15 minutes early and Mr Borst was out on the farm. He arrived to find 10 cows had been shot, their throats cut and his staff crying.

“I just said to the guy, ‘You can’t do this. This is just heartless’.

“There was hysteria. The rest of the cows got upset. The staff were beside themselves. And then we had to deal with the repercussions of the blocked up effluent systems because all the blood coagulated.

Farmers and their staff milk their cows twice a day.  Many are the results of years of careful breeding and they get to know them well. Having to cull them would be bad enough. Shooting them beside the rest of the herd while the staff watched was cruel and insensitive to the people and animals.

“I rang MPI and said, ‘Look no more, that’s got to stop’. He was told MPI had the option of bringing police in to enforce it.

“So I basically said, ‘… if you’re going to go down that track, there’ll be cameras there to show what’s going on here.’ And I finally got them to back off.”

That, Mr Borst, acknowledges was probably the lowest point in his dealings with the disease and MPI. It was also when he phoned then response head Geoff Gwyn and told him they would not continue with the cull.

He and his wife Sylvia then started to “finally get a bit of understanding”.

“He [Gwyn] brought down three other quite senior people in MPI. And it was my opportunity to … lay it out to them.

“They probably didn’t realise what it’s really like, down on the face. The coal face of dealing with this. These are guys that sit in Wellington, quite high up in MPI, and I made it as real as I could.”

One MPI staffer he felt was “quite arrogant about the situation” when sitting in their home.

“He didn’t even think he should be down here, talking or listening to a farmer.

If a few more people from Wellington got down on the farm they might understand the impact their policies and procedures have on real people and stock.

“I pointed out we were fighting for our whole livelihood, because farming is a career. I wanted to be a farmer when I was in primary school. I never faltered and I’ll be a farmer for the rest of my life.”

“The other thing [is] it’s our home. We live on the farm. It’s not like we turn off at five o’clock and jump in the car and head home. We live it, 24 hours a day and I don’t think they understood that. So we were fighting for our home as well.”

After that conversation, Mr Borst said the process got “a lot better and a lot clearer” and he felt there was much improved understanding and respect, from both sides, about finding a way forward. . . 

The Borsts found out their stock had the disease at the busiest time of the year.

“This was in the middle of calving, the busiest time of year, [I was ] probably overworked, quite stressed, then having to deal with that, it took a lot to take in for starters,” he said.

He went through various phases; initially shock, then panic – wondering how their business would survive – then trying to get an understanding of what was going on, because things were happening beyond his control, and finally, putting a date on when they would get to the end point and get back operating where they needed to be.

“Once I got to that phase, I think I probably became more pragmatic about things. I was more accepting of what needed to happen and then probably focused on trying to make things happen to get us to that point. But it was a difficult period to go through all those phases.”

They got their vet, Kevin Kearney, from Oamaru’s Veterinary Centre, on board. He attended many of the 30-odd meetings the Borsts had on farm with MPI. He was a “god-saver” and helped them to challenge MPI at times “because MPI were making some very poor decisions at that stage”.

During those early meetings, some of the people MPI had fronting them were “probably out of their depth” and he did not think there was clear enough direction from “higher up” about the process.

“I think they [MPI] were terribly poor at the beginning, shockingly poor actually to be fair … they were disorganised, they were ill-prepared and they were terrible at working with farmers.”

But Mr Borst acknowledged the ministry got much better very quickly. . . 

That fast improvement gives some reassurance that MPI learned from its mistakes.

“I look at it as something’s happened in my farming life and I hope I never have that experience again … I just look at it as just an experience and it was tough, but we got through it. We’re out the other side and we’re looking forward.”

As for MPI, he believed the ministry was a lot better for it – “not that you ever want to go through it again but, if we had another something terrible to go through, I think they are certainly much better prepared for it, going down the track.”

MPI plans to add to lessons learned from this experience:

The Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme has been through significant reviews and, with what has been learnt along the way, substantial improvements have been made, programme director Stuart Anderson says.

The aim was to lessen the impact on affected farmers “as much as we can, while we work to eradicate this disease”. . . 

“We know that the M. bovis eradication effort has been challenging for the farmers involved, and even when the process goes as intended and by the book, it is tough for those affected by movement restrictions and directions to cull their animals.

“We and our partners, Dairy NZ and Beef and Lamb NZ, are continuing to work hard to support the wellbeing and recovery of those impacted by M. bovis, including getting through the process and compensation claims paid as quickly as possible,” he said.

The eradication of the disease had been one of the most significant biosecurity challenges faced in New Zealand. Allowing it to spread would have resulted in an estimated $1.3 billion in lost productivity in the country’s “vital” cattle sectors in the first 10 years alone.

“It would have left farmers trying to manage the disease at significant cost and with major changes to the way we farm cattle in New Zealand required to manage the risk.

“This is why Government and industry are investing $870 million over 10 years to achieve eradication,” he said.

Eradication of Mycoplasma bovis had never been attempted before and building the programme from scratch had not been without substantial challenges.

The effect on farmers, their families and workers could not be underestimated – “it’s been tough, particularly so in the early years”.

A review being carried out now sought to assess what could be learnt from what was New Zealand’s largest biosecurity response to date, Mr Anderson said.

Three years on from the joint decision by the Government and the farming industry to attempt to eradicate the disease from New Zealand, the response was “well on track”.

Of the 267 properties confirmed with Mycoplasma bovis, as at June 17, 2021, there were only six active confirmed (currently infected) properties, many of which would be cleaned and cleared, on their way to back to farming as usual over the coming weeks.

“While eradicating M. bovis from New Zealand has been a massive challenge, we are tracking well to success and we are confident that working in partnership with industry and farmers on the ground, will see New Zealand farmers able to farm free from this disease in the future.”

The programme was run with a philosophy of continuous improvement and learning. . . 

MPI deserves credit for the eradication programme being well on the way to success and for learning from mistakes.

The risk of other diseases coming in is real and being better prepared for the next one is essential.

In an interview with Jamie Mackay on The Country yesterday, Sally Rae made the point that not being prepared for M. bovis was bad enough, being ill-prepared for something even more serious, like Foot and Mouth disease would be disastrous, not just for farmers and their stock but the whole economy.


Rural round-up

18/06/2021

Calls for MP acknowledgement of farmers :

The co-owner of a major farm machinery business wants more rural sector acknowledgement from MPs.

A record number of Labour MPs will be at Fieldays 2021.

Power Farming’s Brett Maber says farmers often get a bad rap – but they’ve had a good season, especially given the past year. . .

Feds applauds UK-Australia free trade deal:

News that Australia and the UK have signed a free trade agreement is a promising step forward in the fight against tariffs and protectionism, Federated Farmers says.

“It reinforces the international rules-based trading framework and is important for rural producers and global consumers,” Feds President Andrew Hoggard says.

The FTA is the first to be signed by the UK since it left the European Union. . .

Education resource highlights NZ dairy and red meat’s role in feeding global population:

A new climate change education resource has been released by New Zealand’s pastoral farming sector.

The resource, ‘The important role of New Zealand dairy and red meat in feeding a growing global population’, has been co-authored by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

It explores the complex relationship between environmental, economic, nutritional, social and global food security outcomes in New Zealand’s food system. Written in a straight-forward and science-based style, it will provide secondary school students, in particular, with balanced information.

As a producer of food for around 10 times its own population, New Zealand has a unique emissions profile and consequently has a unique challenge in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. . .

Utes big ticket items at Fieldays

Thousands of farmers flocked to the first day of Fieldays today, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest agricultural event.

Last year’s event was cancelled because of Covid-19, so expectations were high for the more than 1000 exhibitors who were back to put their wares on display.

The last time the event was held at Mystery Creek, near Kirikiriroa-Hamilton in 2019, it generated $500 million in sales for New Zealand businesses.

Some of the big ticket items are utes and, with the recent EV policy announcement, farmers are expecting to soon pay fees when they buy fossil fuel vehicles for their farms. . . 

Primary industries outlook predicts export rebound after 1.1% fall :

The food and fibre sector is expecting a 1.1 percent drop in export revenue due to covid related issues, but is expected to bounce back.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ outlook for primary industries (SOPI) report was released at Fieldays this morning.

Exports amounted to over $47 billion and the forecast for the year ending June 2022 was for exports to reach a record $49.1 billion – a 3.4 percent increase on the year just ending.

Sustained growth is forecast year on year, hitting a further record of $53.1 billion for the year to June 202-5. . . 

Vodafone and Farmside supporting rural New Zealanders with new connectivity options:

As Fieldays gets started, Vodafone is proud to offer rural Aotearoa new connectivity options including trialling a RBI2 Unlimited Broadband service for people who live in the second Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI2) area.

This comes as Vodafone ramps up network investments to expand its regional coverage footprint around Aotearoa, and as part of the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) to build more cell towers in rural New Zealand under the RBI2 program.

This three-month RBI2 Unlimited Broadband trial sees Farmside, Vodafone’s rural broadband specialist, offer unlimited wireless broadband* for $79.99 a month to households within the geographical RBI2 area, with the trial also open to wireless internet service providers (WISPs) as part of Vodafone’s wholesale agreements. . . 


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