Rural round-up

June 20, 2019

Resilient farmer moves on to new fields:

Doug Avery, author of The Resilient Farmer, has launched a new workshop to help farmers improve their mental health and their businesses.

Avery is changing direction in his life, hitting the third age with a new venture.

Over two decades, Avery took his family farm – Bonavaree, near Lake Grassmere in southern Marlborough – from a 206ha struggle to a 2600ha multi-million venture thanks to “God’s own plant” lucerne. . . 

Fully automated milking several decades away – Dairy NZ – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Industry body Dairy NZ sees fully automated milking as a major opportunity to lift on-farm productivity, but doesn’t expect it to be commonplace for several decades.

About 44 percent of the country’s dairy herd are milked in more efficient rotary dairy sheds, despite the style accounting for just over a quarter of the nation’s sheds. About 72 percent of the country’s dairy sheds are the less efficient herringbone style.

In its submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the impact of technology on the future of work, Dairy NZ said rotary dairy sheds have the highest uptake of automation, with 77 percent using automated technology. However, out of New Zealand’s 12,000 or so dairy farmers, there are just 25 fully robotic dairy sheds. . .

More sheep with facial eczema amid prolonged Autumn conditions:

Prolonged, mild weather in Autumn appears to have caused high rates of facial eczema in sheep in some parts of the North Island.

The disease is caused by toxin in a fungus that grows in grass. The toxin affects cattle, sheep, goats and deer and can result in liver and skin damage and weight loss, which can stop animals from falling pregnant and in some cases result in death.

It is estimated that production losses caused by the disease are around $200 million annually in New Zealand. . .

Awards call for biosecurity champions:

Entries are now open for the 2019 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards. These Awards recognise and celebrate outstanding contributions to protecting our country against pests and diseases.

The Awards acknowledge people and organisations across New Zealand who are contributing to biosecurity – in our communities, businesses, iwi and hapū, government, in the bush, our oceans and waterways, and in our backyards.

“Some New Zealander’s don’t understand that the work they’re doing is part of our biosecurity system – from trapping, to pest and disease management in our forests, rivers and oceans, these are all biosecurity actions,” Roger Smith, Head of Biosecurity New Zealand said. . .

Primary ITO gains fresh recognition:

Primary ITO has received the Minister of Education’s seal of approval to continue its work as an industry training organisation.

Under the Industry Training and Apprenticeships Act, ITOs apply for “recognition” every five years, undergoing a thorough check by central agencies and requiring them to seek indications of support from relevant sectors.

“It is great news that the Minister has approved Primary ITO’s ongoing coverage of our agriculture, horticulture, processing and services sectors,” says Primary ITO chief executive Linda Sissons. . . .

Pastoral sector poised to cope with gas limits:

As the government’s rules on managing green-house gases becomes clearer, New Zealand’s pastoral sector is well positioned to handle the changes that the rules will bring to it.

Announced in early May, the Zero Carbon Bill aims to differentiate between carbon dioxide release and methane losses from livestock, and has set separate targets for each.

Farmers are required to reduce methane losses from livestock by 10% by 2030 and 24-47% by 2050, while the economy’s entire carbon dioxide emissions have to drop to zero by 2050. . .

Land O’Lakes CEO: Farmers are in crisis—and America isn’t paying attention – Beth Ford:

Imagine, if you can, a computer virus that cut the productivity of AppleGoogle, and Facebook in half. Or try to imagine Wall Street’s investment bankers seeing a season’s worth of deals washed away. Such calamities would dominate our nation’s news and drive swift political action. Yet that is precisely what America’s farmers face right now. And, as a country, we aren’t paying nearly enough attention.

Farmers are generally too proud and humble to speak out, but the truth is we are living through an extremely difficult period of market turmoil and natural disasters. Due largely to sustained low commodity prices, average farm income in 2017 was $43,000, while the median farm income for 2018 was negative$1,500. In 2018, Chapter 12 bankruptcies in the farm states across the Midwest that are responsible for nearly half of all sales of U.S farm products rose to the highest level in a decade. . . 


Rural round-up

April 8, 2019

View From the Paddock: No tolerating ag bullies – Brigig Price:

It seems 2019 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. In terms of risk, agriculture has been continually challenged and even the best performers are not exempt.

Fires, floods, targeted legislation, biosecurity threats, trespass, theft and personal attack are at the forefront of many producers’ minds.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but it should not translate into harm and distress caused to others. . .

Skills needed ambassador says :

Cameron Russell is living proof that the sheep industry has a lot to offer young people with the right attitude and a willingness to succeed.

At 26 years of age, he is married with a child and working as stock manager on Southland’s Diamond Peak Station.

Mr Russell has worked as a shepherd and then block manager on two high-profile properties where he has honed his practical skills and knowledge. . .

 

Gumboots on to monitor farm freshwater health – Yvonne O’Hara:

About a dozen people braved the cold and rain to stand in a creek to look its health, at Waitahuna last Wednesday.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand southern South Island extension manager Olivia Ross hosted three workshops last week, including two at Dipton and Waikaka.

Between 15 and 20 attended the first two.

”There is quite a high level of interest,” she said. . .

Taranaki teen desperate to get a foot in the farming door – Esther Taunton:

Braydon Langton just wants someone to give him a go.

The 16-year-old has been trying to get a sheep and beef farming job since leaving school a year ago but said despite a shortage of workers, farmers were unwilling to take a chance on a young person.

“I’ve probably asked about 20 or 30 people but as soon as they hear that I haven’t got two years experience or my own dogs, they don’t want to hear any more,” he said. . . 

‘Outstanding’ apple season blighted by a lack of workers willing to pick them – Skara Bohny:

The continuing trend of worryingly low numbers of fruit-pickers is marring an otherwise stellar apple season in Nelson Tasman.

The Lynch family orchard behind Fashion Food and the “world’s prettiest apples” had an “unprecedented” season, even with an extended drought and two wild-fire related evacuations.

Orchard manager Dan Lynch said his main concern was having enough workers for the entire harvest.  . . 

New agreement to protect citrus industry:

Biosecurity New Zealand and Citrus New Zealand have reached an agreement on how to prepare for and respond to future biosecurity threats.

Both parties signed a Sector Operational Agreement for Readiness and Response today (3 April) under the Government-Industry Agreement (GIA) partnership. They have committed to undertake a joint three-year programme of work to better protect the citrus industry from biosecurity threats.

“The GIA partnership enables us to work alongside industry to better understand the risks, and how we might deal with them if they reach our shores,” says Roger Smith, Head of Biosecurity NZ. . .

On the farm: What’s happening on farms and orchards around NZ:

In the past week Northland has had a good dollop of rain – between 60 and 80 millimetres in the east and less in the west. There is no length to the pasture but it is green. The kill schedule for prime beef has taken a sharp turn up-wards.

Around Pukekohe the heaviest rainfall for many weeks fell on Monday when 30 to 40 mm was recorded. The rain has given a significant boost to needy crops and the conversion of brown grass paddocks to green has been rapid. Our grower contact says the increase in the minimum wage rate will have a big effect on growers’ costs that will be difficult to recover in the market place and he believes it could be the tipping point for some producers to exit the industry. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 4, 2019

Beef and lamb campaign chases conscious foodies – Alan Williams:

Up to 16 million conscious foodies in California are the target of a major new beef and lamb marketing project.

The aim is to make New Zealand top-of-mind for a group passionate about the idea of grass-fed red meat and wanting to know where it comes from.

After months of research Taste Pure Nature was launched in California on March 20 and straight away there were 151 automatic pick-ups on the multi-media release, providing potentially millions of potential impressions among individual consumers, Beef + Lamb NZ market development general manager Nick Beeby said. . . 

‘Devastated’ Northland mānuka honey producers seek chemical markers definition review from MPI – Lois Williams:

The legal definition of mānuka honey could change, if new evidence shows the chemical makeup of the honey is different in Northland, MPI says.

Far North honey producers say the Ministry of Primary Industries’ regulatory definition, published a year ago, excludes up to 50 percent of their honey, based on just one chemical marker – even in areas where the bees have nothing but mānuka to feed on.

About 80 beekeepers and honey producers from Auckland to Kaitaia turned out to challenge MPI scientists at a hui yesterday at Ōtiria marae, near Kaikohe.

They believe the definition established to protect New Zealand’s mānuka brand overseas fails to take into account regional variations in the chemical makeup of the honey. . . 

Diversified and innovative Whangarei orchard wins Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

A Whangarei family growing raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and green and gold kiwifruit have won the Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Malley family of Patrick and his wife Rebecca and their children Austin, 4, and Eloise, 1, and Patrick’s parents Dermott and Linzi own and operate their diversified horticulture business, Maungatapere Berries, just outside Whangarei.

Raspberries are the biggest berry crop, processed through a packhouse on the orchard, and sold domestically under their own Maungatapere Berries brand along with blackberries, and blueberries under the Eureka brand. Kiwifruit canopy extends over 16.25ha, including 3.36ha of Gold 3 under cover, to target high-taste, high-production, early season fruit. . . 

Diversity and tolerance – now is the time –  Karen Williams:

Federated Farmers arable sector chairwoman Karen Williams says it is time for bold leadership.

With the traumatic events in Christchurch front of mind it has been hard to focus on topics worthy of commentary when so many of our daily tribulations seem comparatively insignificant.

This atrocity is beyond belief.

It has severely affected the Christchurch community, stunned and saddened New Zealand and sent shock waves around the globe. 

Is there something we can take out of this that will at least in some small way add value to a grieving country?

I believe there is. . . 

Australian snail farmer struggling to keep up with demand

Snails, ants and even fried cockroaches are increasingly popping up on Australian menus, as people seek more environmentally friendly meat.

However, with extreme weather and increased popularity, Australian snail farmers are struggling to meet demand.

Claudia Ait-Touati is a not-for-profit snail farmer in Coonalpyn, about 150 km south-east of Adelaide. . . 

Another pea weevil free year needed in the Wairarapa:

The current Biosecurity New Zealand ban on pea growing in the Wairarapa is knocking down the pea weevil population, but another pea weevil free year is needed to be confident of eradication.

The pest was first discovered in the Wairarapa in 2016 and has been subject to an eradication programme since then.

“Our trapping programme did not find any pea weevils in the 2018 surveillance, which is a promising result after the discovery of just 15 the previous season, says Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Dr Cath Duthie. . . 

Kiwifruit orchard with growth potential for sale:

One of closest commercial kiwifruit orchards to Auckland’s urban boundary – with potential to treble its production capacity – been placed on the market for sale.

Known as MacLachlan Orchard, the 12.2-hectare property at 90 Mullins Road in Ardmore is planted on flat land, and is forecast to produce some 42,000 trays of fruit in the current season.

The orchard’s 3.3 canopy hectares of productive land comprises some 2.29-canopy hectares of the Hayward green kiwifruit variety and 1.07 canopy hectares of the G3 gold kiwifruit strain picked off vines which were grafted some six years ago. . . 


Rural round-up

April 3, 2019

Westland Co-operative Dairy demise is self-inflicted – Keith Woodford:

The approaching demise of Westland Co-operative Dairy (trading as Westland Milk Products) has come as a surprise to many people.  It should not have done so.  At the very least, either a partial sale or major joint venture has been inevitable for some years. Survival as a co-operative is now impossible.

Most of the people I talk to think the sale to Chinese company Yili is a very bad idea. West Coasters do not like it. Even Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor is of that opinion. And if a sale really is necessary, then the common perspective seems to be that it should be a local company.

In response, I say ‘dream on’. . . 

Taratahi owes creditors $31 million – Neal Wallace:

Employees will get what they are owed but nearly 1200 unsecured creditors will have to wait to see if they will be paid any of the $15.8 million they are owed following December’s collapse of the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre.

An interim report by liquidators Grant Thornton says the sale of livestock will cover preferential creditors, employees, who are owed $2m, and Inland Revenue, owed $655,000, but there is no indication on the fate of other creditors.

Taratahi’s 518ha Mangarata farm is being readied for sale, over which Westpac has a secured mortgage, along stock, plant and shares. . . 

Crop work went like clockwork – Alan Williams:

Cropping demonstrations across cultivation, drilling, harvesting, balage and silage proceeded without a hitch at the South Island Agricultural Field Days at Kirwee in Canterbury.

Twelve or so hectares can sound like a lot of land area but with several different crops being grown on adjacent strips and some machinery being 10 metres wide there’s not a lot of margin for error.

It helps that each crop and activity is worked at separate times but there’s still a lot of planning and a lot of people to organise. . . 

Forestry sales at record high – reports – Eric Frykberg:

New evidence is emerging of a booming forestry sector.

It follows last month’s report from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) showing 2018 forestry sales at a record high.

Since then, the Seattle based think tank Wood Resource Quarterly has highlighted New Zealand’s role in growing imports of logs by China.

Wood Resource Quarterly said the Chinese took a total of 40 million cubic metres of lumber through their ports last year.

That was over a third more than just three years earlier. . .

Cushing family’s H&G to buy 2.2% Wrightson stake from Agria – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – The Cushing family’s H&G vehicle has agreed to buy a 2.2 percent stake in rural services firm PGG Wrightson from Agria Corp. for $8.3 million.

H&G has agreed to pay 49 cents a share for 17 million Wrightson shares, matching Friday’s closing price. Agria owns 351.6 million shares, or 46.6 percent of the rural services firm, having divested a 7.2 percent holding in December when Ngāi Tahu Capital withdrew from a seven-year pooling arrangement with Agria and Chinese agribusiness New Hope International. . . 

Record number of beekeepers have their say in latest check:

Almost a half of the country’s registered beekeepers have taken part in an annual survey to understand bee health, losses and beekeeping practice.

More than 3,600 beekeepers completed the 2018 Colony Loss Survey, which was carried out on behalf of Biosecurity New Zealand by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

“The numbers of beekeepers participating in the self-reporting survey represents 47 per cent of New Zealand’s registered beekeepers and 42 per cent of registered colonies,” says Biosecurity New Zealand’s biosecurity surveillance and incursion (aquatic and environment health) manager, Dr Michael Taylor. . . 

Miscanthus – a carbon negative crop:

Most annually harvested crops require a lot of activity to get them established, grown and harvested. They need cultivation of the soil, weed control, planting, fertiliser, harvesting, sometimes waste disposal, packing and loading on a truck. Most of them need all that every year. In many cases, there is further cultivation, planting and cutting of a cover crop during the off season as well. Again, every year!

Miscanthus on the other hand needs cultivation, planting and weed control – once in at least 15 years – perhaps 25 years – plus harvesting and loading on a truck every year from year 2 onwards. There is also no waste to be disposed of with Miscanthus. There is no need to cultivate the soil again, no need for ongoing weed control, no need to replant, no need for fertiliser in most cases.  . . 


Rural round-up

March 26, 2019

Last calves go under the hammer – Sally Rae:

It was dubbed The Last Hurrah.

Rural folk from throughout the Catlins and further afield gathered on Thursday for the last-ever Owaka calf sale.

As the stories and nostalgia flowed – many commenting on how long it could take in years gone by to get home from the sale – there was also a touch of sadness.

PGG Wrightson, which owns and operates the saleyards, is moving the sale from next year to a special sale day at the Balclutha saleyards. . .

Pilot ‘trees and carbon’ workshop proves popular – Sally Brooker:

A pilot project helping farmers make the most of the One Billion Trees Fund has generated a lot of interest.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand ran a series of workshops in the central South Island this month called ”Farms, Trees and Carbon”.

Experts from Wairarapa forestry and marginal land use advisory and management company Woodnet presented an overview of global warming and New Zealand’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.

Then they discussed possibilities for plantings on attendees’ land. . . 

‘Serious pest’ affecting avocado trees discovered in Auckland

An avocado tree-loving beetle, regarded as a serious pest overseas, has been discovered in Auckland.

The wood-boring granulate ambrosia beetle has been detected in four Auckland areas since late February, according to Biosecurity New Zealand.

The beetle is known to feed on a wide range of broadleaf trees, including horticultural species such as avocado, and can spread fungal diseases. . . 

Primary sector attitudes give lessons for life – Bryan Gibson:

It has been a challenging week or so in New Zealand as we all try to make sense of the events in Christchurch on March 15. We’ve all been doing some soul-searching, wondering about the foundations of our society and how it will recover from this tragedy.

As an island nation at the bottom of the world many of us might have thought we were isolated from the hatred that we see in much of the world at the moment.

But we’d be wrong to think that. Our nation was formed through conflict and to this day we often express our fear of others through anger. It might help for rural communities and primary producers to reflect on our make-up. People of all nationalities work the land, grow the crops, pick the fruit and milk the cows. There’s only four million of us here but we produce enough to feed many more people so we’ve had to form partnerships with other nations to sell our great food internationally. . . 

Dairy dramas – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers face a strange mix of uncertainties when contemplating with satisfaction the likelihood of a fourth consecutive season of $6-plus milk prices.

While extreme volatility in dairy product prices has calmed down and New Zealand farmers now receive as good as others in Europe and the United States, their institutions have developed cracks.

There might be no better time to rebuild the foundation, beginning with the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act, part 2019.

Last week Fonterra’s leaders promised for the third or fourth time since the embarrassment of their first financial loss in 2018 a fundamental strategy review. . . 

NZ Champion of Cheese Medals Announced:

NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2019 has awarded 223 medals to locally-made cheese, proving the quality of New Zealand speciality cheese continues to improve.

Organised by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association, the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards has been run since 2003. The Bronze, Silver and Gold Medal winners have been announced today, with the Gold Medal winners vying for one of 26 cheese trophies, which will be announced in Hamilton in May. All the New Zealand Champion of Cheese medal winners are on the NZSCA website https://nzsca.org.nz/winners/. . .

Hawke’s Bay dairy farm opportunity on market:

A top-end Patoka dairy farm with consents in place to increase its output by 30 percent for at least the next 10-years has been placed on the market for sale. With Hawke’s Bay’s land values around half of some other districts, the returns from this property would likely be stronger than anywhere else.

Raumati Dairy some 41-kilometres north-west of Napier is a 458-hectare property milking a herd of between 730 – 750 cows, but with consent from Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to stock up to 1000 cows through to 2028. It ticks all the environmental boxes too with riparian areas fenced off. A 60 bail rotary, 600 cow feed pad and all the bells and whistles make this a must view. . . 


Rural round-up

March 15, 2019

Farmers feeling nervous in regulatory environment – Sally Rae:

A high level of nervousness is apparent in the rural sector around the regulatory environment farmers are facing, Alliance Group chairman Murray Taggart says.

Both Mr Taggart and chief executive David Surveyor were at the Wanaka A&P Show last week, meeting farmers.

With strong commodity prices – apart from strong wool – and low interest rates, normally farmers would be quite positive, but they were not seeing that, Mr Taggart said. . . 

No land insurance means farmer pays in the aftermath of Nelson bush fire – Carly Gooch:

In the aftermath of the Pigeon Valley fires, one farmer’s land has been left a mess due to fire breaks covering the pasture – so who’s going to pay for the clean up?

Pauline Marshall was one of the first residents evacuated from her Teapot Valley home, along with her son, Simon Marshall. They were unable to return to their properties for 17 days, with the exception of getting access a few hours a day, at best. 

The Marshalls were “extremely grateful” to the fire crews for saving their homes, but after those unsettling times, now the Marshalls are facing the unknown cost of rehabilitating the pasture before winter hits.  . . 

Future Angus leader learns from conference – Ken Muir:

reminder that farming is not just about profit was one of the important takeaways for Rockley Angus stud farmer Katherine McCallum after she attended the GenAngus Future Leaders programme in Sydney in February.

”The programme is designed to support the younger Angus breeders in Australia and New Zealand to grow their business and develop the skills to become future industry leaders”, Mrs McCallum said.

”It was an honour to be chosen from among the New Zealand applicants.” . . 

Fonterra making a move to environmentally friendly fuel option

–  Angie Skerrett:

A new diesel biofuel made from an agricultural by-product is helping power Fonterra’s milk tanker fleet, and it’s hoped more transport operators will follow suit.

Z Energy has built New Zealand’s first commercial scale bio-diesel plant, using a process which turns an unwanted tallow product, usually exported to make soap and candles, to make the high quality diesel. . .

Red-fleshed kiwifruit to be tested in NZ – Maja Burry:

A red fleshed kiwifruit variety is being tested on New Zealanders.

As part of a sales trial, the kiwifruit marketer and exporter Zespri will release 30,000 trays of Zespri Red to both national supermarket chains and selected retailers over the next five weeks.

The company said it wanted to know what consumers and retailers thought about the shelf-life, taste and colouring of the kiwifruit before it decided whether to move to full commercialisation. . . 

130,000 bees go under the microscope :

Sampling has been completed for the largest and most detailed study of honey bee health ever undertaken in New Zealand.

More than 60 beekeepers have participated in Biosecurity New Zealand’s Bee Pathogen Programme.

Biosecurity New Zealand senior scientist, Dr Richard Hall, says the research will provide a wealth of valuable information to the beekeeping industry. . .

Air New Zealand, Contact Energy, Genesis Energy and Z Energy join forces in carbon afforestation partnership:

Air New Zealand, Contact Energy, Genesis Energy and Z Energy have today announced the formation of Dryland Carbon LLP (Drylandcarbon), a limited liability partnership that will see the four companies invest in the establishment of a geographically diversified forest portfolio to sequester carbon.

Drylandcarbon will target the purchase and licensing of marginal land suited to afforestation to establish a forest portfolio predominantly comprising permanent forests, with some production forests. The primary objective is to produce a stable supply of forestry-generated NZU carbon credits, but the initiative will also expand New Zealand’s national forest estate. These credits will support the partners to meet their annual requirements under the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme. . . 


Biosecurity upgrade needed

March 4, 2019

A fourth Queensland fruit fly has been found in Auckland but Biosecurity NZ says it is not established here.

Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Catherine Duthie said there was no evidence to suggest an established Queensland fruit fly population had been found.

“The proximity of these three detections in Northcote as well as the timing would indicate they are possibly from the same source,” Dr Duthie said.

“We have investigated several hundred kilos of fruit collected in the area. “We dissected this looking for eggs and larvae, and we have found no evidence of a population to date.” . . .

Fruit flies might be small but the impact on our horticulture should they infest orchards would be huge.

So what’s to be done? Federated Farmers’ president Katie Milne has a good suggestion – copying the Australian example of a compulsory video on incoming flights:

The safety video depicts people trying to use everyday excuses to get past Australian border officials with fish, wooden objects, plants and other material hidden in their luggage.

“This video is an example of what is needed at every New Zealand point of entry,” Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne says.

Their new mandatory passenger announcement is engaging, vibrant and available in written and audio formats in 14 languages.

It is a legal requirement under Australian law for the video to be shown. . .  

If you look around when the announcement on biosecurity is made before planes from overseas start their descent, you’ll see few people are concentrating. It’s not always easy to hear what’s being said, even for native speakers of English let alone those for whom it’s a second language or don’t understand it at all.

A video clearly giving the message about what can and can’t be brought in, and why, would be much better than the current spoken announcement.

Our borders are vulnerable which puts agriculture and horticulture at risk.

An engaging video would be a useful tool for the biosecurity tool box.


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