Rural round-up

April 10, 2020

Fonterra is on the front foot in the safety business, making ethanol for keeping our hands clean – Point of Order:

A   report  on  the  NZ Farmer  segment  of   Stuff  caught  the eye of  Point of  Order.  It  led  off  with a  quote   from respected  economist  Cameron  Bagrie.

“Thank God for farmers….They’ve felt beaten up over the past couple of years, well, thank God agriculture is still the backbone of NZ.The story of the farming sector at the moment is looking relatively good compared to what we are seeing across a lot of the other sectors.Yes, we are seeing pressure on commodity prices, but the bottom line is the world has got to eat.“

It’s a   theme  which  Point of  Order  has  canvassed in  several   posts  over the past  fortnight as the  coronavirus  pandemic has  devastated  other  key sectors of the economy,  including  tourism and hospitality.

On  March  26 the contention was:  . . 

Is the Mycoplasma bovis eradication campaign on track? – Keith Woodford:

New Zealand’s Mycoplasma bovis eradication campaign has now been running for almost three years, with no decline in the number of farms newly detected as being infected. Can the disease be stamped out?

It is now more than five months since I last wrote about Mycoplasma bovis in late October 2019. Since then, another 44 farms have gone positive, bringing the total to 245 farms since the disease was discovered in July 2017. All of these farms have been required to slaughter their herds. There are 31 farms where that process is still ongoing.

During this latest five-month period, farms infected with Mycoplasma bovis have been identified at the average rate of two per week. This is slightly higher than the overall average rate of 1.75 farms confirmed per week since the disease was first discovered in July 2017. . .

Meat industry performing well under level 4 – Allan Barber:

Processing is under severe constraints during the lockdown, although, as an essential service, meat companies are working hard to feed New Zealanders and service key export markets. In a newsletter to staff and suppliers, AFFCO states that processing restrictions on maintaining a minimum distance between employees means sheepmeat capacity is running at 50% of normal and beef capacity is close to 65%. This of course comes at the peak of the season, exacerbated by drought in several regions, particularly the top half of the North Island.

Because meat companies aren’t entitled to government wage subsidies, they have set up schemes to look after employees whose earnings would be adversely affected, either by an inability to work for reasons of age or dependants or the reduced volume throughput. In AFFCO’s case, employees are paid their full production bonus based on numbers processed before the Level 4 lockdown, while those unable to work receive a company funded support package of $585 gross per week for an initial four week period. . .

Pandemic kills off Israel agritech move :

The Covid-19 crisis has killed off a planned expansion of New Zealand agritech into Israel.

Farmer-owned co-operative, Livestock Improvement Corporation, had planned to buy a 50 percent stake in an Israeli company, Afimilk. 

The deal would have cost $US70 million, and was supported by the LIC board.

But when the matter was put to LIC shareholders, 70.30 percent of shares voted against the proposal, 27.56 percent voted for the proposal and 2.14 percent abstained. . . 

Livestock sales open on Trade Me:

Trade Me has announced today that livestock sales and livestock feed sales will be permitted while New Zealand is at COVID-19 alert level 4 after concerns were raised about animal welfare during lockdown.

Head of Marketplace Lisa Stewart said Trade Me had worked with both Federated Farmers and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to understand this issue. “With typical public livestock sales closed due to the lockdown, farmers are restricted in how they sell their livestock at this busy time of year. . .

The naked farmer is ‘living the dream’ – Sally Rae:

It was a cheeky idea.

Archie Kennedy was drenching sheep on the first day of lockdown when he whipped off his clothes and suggested his wife, Lucy, take a photograph.

He posted it on Facebook and the response was so overwhelming that he decided to do a naked farmer post every day of the four-week lockdown.

Whether mustering on horseback or putting the rams out, routine rural tasks have been documented in his birthday suit. . .

Risk is constant, but agriculture is in the box seat – Daniel Pedersen:

CONTINUED positive sentiment for farmland, widespread rain and agriculture’s natural agility to supply people’s needs is spurring confidence across the state, says Rural Bank NSW regional manager for agribusiness Tony Williams.

“We’re off to a fantastic start to the season,” he said.

“Properties are still changing hands,” he said, adding that while social distancing had changed the way properties were inspected, the coronavirus outbreak certainly hadn’t stalled investment. . .


Rural round-up

March 23, 2020

Livestock are providing answers – Neal Wallace:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canterbury has tonnes of feed – Annette Scott:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

March 19, 2020

Global merino conference in Otago: president says industry better than ever – Sally Rae:

World Federation of Merino Breeders president Will Roberts reckons he has never seen the merino industry has never been so good as it is now.

Mr Roberts and his wife Nada have been in Otago attending the Merino Excellence 2020 Congress, and Mr Roberts also judged at the Wanaka A&P Show.

The couple farm a 13,000ha sheep and cattle property in Queensland, originally bought by Mr Roberts’ family in 1906. The Victoria Downs merino stud was established in 1911. . .

Turning personal challenge into positive life-changing journey:

Dairy farm manager Chelsea Smith from the King Country has turned a personal challenge that blindsided her into a positive life changing journey.

“That’s when I went to the farm owners and just said, look, as much as I love farming and the farm, I’m unable to do another season just due to personal reasons.”

Keen to retain Chelsea the farm owners came back to her with different options and after some time off travelling overseas she returned to take up a role overseeing four farming operations near Otorohanga in the Central North Island. . .

Cattle breeders focus on quality – Neal Wallace:

British Hereford breeders are cautiously optimistic the hardy breed will help them through any post-Brexit regulatory uncertainty.

United Kingdom Hereford Cattle Society president Mark Roberts says with the UK in the throes of leaving the European Union future subsidies to farmers being considered by the government are likely to be linked to environmental issues and not production.

They will primarily be targeted at arable or land that can be cultivated and not land in permanent pasture. . .

Fonterra reports its interim result :

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced its 2020 Interim Results, which show the Co-operative’s financial performance has improved with increased underlying earnings and reduced debt.

Interim Results Summary
  • Total group normalised Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT): $584 million, up from $312 million
  • Total group EBIT: $806 million, up from $312 million
  • Normalised Net Profit After Tax: $293 million, up from $72 million
  • Reported Net Profit After Tax: $501 million, up from $72 million
  • Free cash flow: $369 million, up from $(782) million
  • Net debt: $5.8 billion, down from $7.4 billion. . 

Farmer’s Voice: excerpting Kiwi ingenuity:

Taranaki dairy farmer Kane Brisco has always had a passion for keeping fit and healthy and understood the positive effects it can have both physically and mentally.

Driven by this passion, Kane set up and outdoor training class where he endeavors to inspire the rural community about the importance of exercise in a rural lifestyle. 

Four years has given rise to many topics down on the farm – Joyce Wyllie:

“I am willing to open myself again and add another commitment to the list of ‘what I do with my spare time!’.” The last sentence of the first column I wrote way back on February 20, 2016 and amazingly here I am mid-March 2020 pondering column number 100.

Woohoo… beginning four years ago I never considered that a century of two-weekly typing with single-finger tappings would roll around. Often I’m asked how it came about that a farming ex-veterinarian with nil journalistic experience contributes regular compositions to the paper.

I confess that one day after re-reading yet more articles previously printed in recent farming mags, I sent a hasty email to the Nelson Mail editor offering my cheeky opinion that something fresh in the rural pages would be good. Her response was a positive “We would be delighted to be able to run a fortnightly column from a rural woman on our Primary Focus page each alternate Tuesday” . . .

 


Rural round-up

March 7, 2020

Farm confidence – already bruised by the effects of drought – becomes a victim of Covid-19 – Point of Order:

As the country’s  front-line export  sector,  NZ agriculture  is  bearing  the brunt of the global  trade slowdown.  ANZ Bank’s chief  economist  Sharon Zollner says  the  human and  economic damage from the  Covid-19 outbreak is taking a  heavy toll on sentiment in the agriculture  sector.

“Our  best  hope is that the  disruption proves  short-lived but there is not   question the export-oriented  sector is  reeling”.

Authorities   such  as  Keith Woodford  believe NZ, as well as most of the world,  will head into recession.  Woodford contends the key issue becomes rapid support for those who lose their employment.

He  sees  a  “considerable  risk” that the government and Reserve Bank will use the wrong macro tools. . .

The problem with vegans and climate change – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Veganism is a distraction from the major climate change issues of increase in population and lifestyle, including travel, writes Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.

Farmers cannot grow whatever food they like.

This is contrary to ongoing statements in the media, from, for instance the Vegan Society.

Quite apart from the legal restraints to do with type of crop and chemicals that can be used, there are temperature, rainfall, soil and topographical constraints. . .

Court to rule on M Bovis compo – Annette Scott:

The Mycoplasma bovis compensation battle has ramped up following a High Court ruling it is allowed to decide what farmers can be repaid for.

In October last year lawyer Grant Cameron sought a judicial review, on behalf of the van Leeuwen farming group, of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ compensation system.

The van Leeuwens, the first to have the cattle disease confirmed in New Zealand, claim they have been left $3million out of pocket. . . 

Future fails to make present – Neal Wallace:

The present has caught up with AgResearch’s Future Footprint plans which are now a thing of the past. It is now going it alone at Lincoln but collaborating with Massey University in Palmerston North and will keep its centres at Ruakura and Invermay. Neal Wallace reports.

AGRESEARCH has abandoned elements of its Future Footprint proposal begun eight years ago and will keep its four national campuses but expand two.

The original plan was to severely downsize its Invermay campus near Dunedin and Ruakura in Hamilton with the focus on centres at Lincoln and Palmerston North.

Acting chief executive Tony Hickmott says the plan now is to retain all four sites and construct new buildings at Palmerston North, which is under way, and Lincoln. . . 

Magic tonic needed to open wallets – Pam Tipa:

Rain is the magic tonic in the farming community, says Northland based AgFirst consultant Tafi Manjala.

But without it the sentiment going into the Northland Field Days from the farming community will likely to be “cautious”, he says.

“When it is raining and things are going well people are more buoyant and positive about the future,” Manjala told Rural News.

“They feel more confident about things, they can justify to themselves why they can have some discretionary expenditure at the field days. . . 

Agrifeeds invests in increased precision blending and storage:

Agrifeeds have started the new decade in a strong position, having invested significantly in new blending and storage facilities to help increase their nutritional offer to customers.

Following the opening late last year of two new storage facilities in New Plymouth and Marsden Point in Northland, two new blending operations have also been built in each location. . .


Rural round-up

February 17, 2020

Farmers fear new water rules could push them under – Phillips Tolley:

New Zealanders value freshwater – so much so that four out of five people say it is their biggest environmental worry. The government’s plans for new rules and regulations to halt declining water quality are in the final stages of development, but some farmers fear that unless there are changes to those proposals, they will have to give up farming. For Insight, Philippa Tolley investigates

William Beetham’s attachment to the land he farms in the Wairarapa stretches back six generations. His family settled there in the 1850s and is regarded as one of New Zealand’s farming dynasties. At one stage, the original 30-plus room Brancepeth station was the largest in the district. Beetham lives on a nearby farm and runs a beef and sheep business over the two properties. This is hilly land – baked dry and brown in the summer, but cold and wet in the winter. It is sandstone country, with easily eroded hillsides stretching down to a river – the Wainuiora – that runs along the valley. The family has been planting trees for years to keep the land from slipping. . .

In pictures: farmers show the magnitude of North Island drought:

The drought currently affecting New Zealand’s North Island is having devastating effects on farmers — and has already dramatically changed the country’s landscape.

New Zealand’s lush greenery has now turned into the driest of browns as the North Island’s thirst for rain continues.

Auckland is about to set a new record for its longest dry spell and forecasters have already warned the upper north is headed for “permanent wilting point”.

The New Zealand Drought Index showed severe meteorological drought is widespread across Northland, Auckland, and northern Waikato. . .

Slow China market challenge for OML – Jacob McSweeny:

Just one month after resuming production following a compliance problem, Oamaru Meats Ltd (OML) is now hindered by ‘‘congestion’’ slowing products getting into China in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The meat processor shut down on September 13 after its access to the Chinese beef markets was suspended.

Some 160 seasonal workers were laid off temporarily because of the suspension, which came from a mistake involving beef fat packaging . .

Farmers’ cash backs wool co-op – Annette Scott:

Primary Wool Co-operative shareholders have backed their organisation by providing strong support for its future. 

A bright future for the organisation and the New Zealand wool industry is a step closer, uplifted by the strong support of shareholders in a recent capital raising, chairwoman Janette Osborne said.

That enabled the co-operative to file an improved balance sheet as it emerges from a year of reflection and consolidation on a positive footing. . .

Bananas go with milk up north – Hugh Stringleman:

Bananas have a lot going for them as a fruitful and remedial crop in northern regions of the country, Tropical Fruit Growers of New Zealand chairman Hugh Rose says.

A plantation owner, consultant and stem seller, Rose says the economics of banana growing compare very favourably with most other land uses.

At 1500 stems a hectare, two bunches of fruit a stem each year, at least 10 hands a bunch and $5 retail a hand in local growers’ markets, the returns are attractive. . .

Whistling up some sales while waiting – Sally Rae:

It was Gerard Middleton’s penchant for chewing through his dog whistles that led to his wife, Carleigh, launching a business.

Mr Middleton, a sheep and beef farmer from The Key, near Te Anau, was going through a whistle a week, while his wife quipped he “should just train his dogs better”.

As the cost of his chewing habit mounted up, the Middletons started buying dog whistles through Boulder Bluff, a company in the United States.

They were thicker and of better quality, she said, and Mr Middleton managed to get about six months out of them. . .

Cropping It’s not over yet It’s not over yet 1 day, 22 hours ago – leaders remind public drought recovery a long-term process – Gregor Heard:

FARM leaders in the Murray Darling Basin have a strong message for the 90 per cent of Australians who reside within 100km of the coast – the drought is far from over.

Those living along the east coast, having been swamped by repeated deluges of rain that have replenished dams, could be forgiven for thinking the worst is over, but on the other side of the ranges authorities warn follow-up rain is critical. . .

 


Rural round-up

February 16, 2020

COVID-19 is a black swan – Keith Woodford:

COVID-19 is the black swan event that no-one saw coming. There is no precedent and so historical models tell us very little as to either the global health implications or the global economic implications. Much of the commentary we are reading is both facile and fallacious, often tailored to fit prior perspectives, and in other cases based on fundamental ignorance.

My own take on events is that the global outcomes are going to be major and that COVID-19 is going to be with us as a global black swan throughout all of this year. Export-focused agri-food will be less affected than most sectors.

For those not familiar with the term ‘black swan’, it is a random event, unable to be given a risk probability in advance, that changes many things. The associated hypothesis is that most of the mega-events that truly change the world are black swans. . .

Blips give trade hiccups – Annette Scott:

Food producers were in a strong position with high expectations of improved global growth heading into 2020 but unexpected disruption has put paid to that, ANZ agribusiness economist Susan Kilsby says.

In a keynote address at the Blinc Innovation 2020 Agri Outlook workshop at Lincoln Kilsby cited coronavirus and its impact on China as the biggest disrupter.

“In 2020 so far we have had missiles in the Middle East, drought, fire, flooding, Trump acquitted of impeachment, Brexit happened and the coronavirus outbreak. . . 

Value in our shared values – Sarah Perriam:

Whose values really matter the most? The food producers’ because they intimately understand the science and challenges the most and should be trusted. Or the consumers who, without the producer, wouldn’t have a business? But then what if we actually share the same values?

This week in Sarah’s Country we hear from Kate Acland, co-owner of Mt Somers Station and a diverse range of value-added products shares her views on the importance of centring our businesses around values.

Sarah Perriam, the host of Sarah’s Country, is this week joined by guest co-host Elizabeth Soal who is the chief executive of Irrigation New Zealand. . . 

Growers want a fair deal – Sudesh Kissun:

It’s been a busy 12 months for Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association (PVGA) first female president Kylie Faulkner.

Since taking over the reins at PVGA, Faulkner has been involved with two key pieces of legislation proposed by the Government: national policy statements on highly productive land and water. Land and water are the backbone of PGVA’s 230 growers and their operations.

They are no minnows when it comes to food production; a recent Deloitte report says while Pukekohe accounts for just 3.8% of the country’s land under fruit and vegetable production, it contributes to 26% of the nation’s value of production of vegetables, and a lesser proportion of fruit. . .

The Garden of Eatin:

Ross Nolly is looking forward to writing ‘maggot farmer’ on forms asking for his occupation.

The former butcher, now writer and photographer, has a small lifestyle block in Taranaki where he tries to live as self-sufficiently as possible.

He hunts for meat, has a food forest, grows his own vegetables, keeps ducks and chickens and farms maggots to feed them. . .

Getting the balance right – Colin Miller:

Many sunsets ago, I learnt from one of the older father figures in my life the ageless truth that, “Balance is the key to life”.

Six simple words easily put together; quick and easy to read, but so much harder to live! I well remember thinking at the time; ‘Huh … whatever is that all about?’ I didn’t get it at all back then. If it sounds a little patronising for you at the moment, then how about this old adage from yesteryear – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

Yep, balance is the key to life; these six simple words are surely packed with wisdom we humans need to hear. I have seen too many examples of exactly this gone wrong; and sometimes up close and personal with good friends and family. The end results have at times been tragic. . .


Rural round-up

February 14, 2020

Kiwis import dodgy diets – Richard Rennie:

While New Zealand’s ability to export enough food to feed 40 million people is a rarely challenged source of national pride, research questions whether enough is being done to properly feed the five million at home. Richard Rennie spoke to Elaine Rush, emeritus professor of Auckland University of Technology’s health and nutrition department about the disparity between high quality food exports and the ailing diets of the local population.

Elaine Rush’s paper on New Zealand food exports and imports in relation to dietary guidelines is grounded in her growing concern over this country’s poor eating habits, something the number crunching in her work confirmed.

“It seems when I was growing up in the 50s in South Auckland butter was two shillings a pound, everyone had a veggie garden, diets were simpler but adequate and the level of malnourishment we see as obesity today, it just was not there.” . . 

Building great workplaces aim of Dairy Women’s workshops:

Helping build great workplaces for New Zealand’s most talented workforce is the aim of workshops being run throughout New Zealand by the Dairy Women’s Network.

“We are proud to deliver these interactive Supporting you and your team to thrive workshops aimed at understanding how valuable it is that dairy farmers, their teams and their communities can flourish in a positive, supportive environment,” Dairy Women’s Network CEO Jules Benton said.

“Having great workplaces and talented people is fundamental to the success of any business, so these workshops will focus on understanding why a culture of wellbeing is important, getting familiar with your own values and what really motivates you, understand the well-being bank account model and being aware of how to optimise team performance.” . . 

Former Nelson dairy farm hopping into a new life :

A 175HA dairy farm in Kohatu, Tapawera, 52km west of Nelson, sold in October 2018 for conversion to a hop garden, is another example of change in land use driving sales of rural property.

Joe Blakiston of PGG Wrightson Real Estate, Marlborough marketed the property, which was purchased by primary production investor MyFarm. He says the farm’s owner first approached PGG Wrightson in April to market the property.

“They were aware of developments around hops and knew the farm was suited to growing them, though were in no hurry to sell.  Because the hop industry hasn’t many big players we discreetly marketed it to reach each one,” Blakiston said. .

Kiwi’s deserve better pork; Kiwi farmers need better support:

Kiwi consumers will be left confused, and Kiwi pork farmers will continue to fight for space alongside imported pork if the Country of Origin labelling rules go ahead as proposed.

The Government is currently consulting on the Consumer Information Standards (Origin of Food) Regulations 2019 – following new laws passed in late 2018 which demanded clarity for consumers purchasing products like bacon and ham. Under the proposed application of the law, sausages are left out, and labelling requirements could still be used by manufacturers to confuse consumers. . .

Haast grazing licence granted, but with tight conditions:

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has approved an application to continue grazing an area of the Haast River, provided strict conditions are met.

The application from John B Cowan is to graze 736 hectares of public conservation land along the Haast River, located between the Roaring Billy and the confluence of the Landsborough River.

DOC’s Deputy Director General Partnerships, Dr Kay Booth, who made the decision, says the grazing licence has been approved subject to a number of special conditions to manage the impact of cattle on vegetation and the environment. . .

Dog sleuths sniff out crop disease hitting citrus trees– Christina Larson:

Dog detectives might be able to help save ailing citrus groves, research published Monday suggests.

Scientists trained dogs to sniff out a crop disease called citrus greening that has hit orange, lemon and grapefruit orchards in Florida, California and Texas. The dogs can detect it weeks to years before it shows up on tree leaves and roots, the researchers report.

“This technology is thousands of years old – the dog’s nose,” said Timothy Gottwald, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a co-author of the study. “We’ve just trained dogs to hunt new prey: the bacteria that causes a very damaging crop disease.” . .


%d bloggers like this: