Rural round-up

02/12/2020

Talk is cheap:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered a ‘nice’ speech at last week’s Primary Industry Conference, organised and run by Federated Farmers.

Unfortunately, over the past term of government, the country has got used to the PM giving nice speeches, but not delivering much.

Housing, child poverty statistics and failing infrastructure are just three areas where Ardern talked a big game, but has delivered abysmally.

Let’s hope this stretch on the treasury benches is really her Government’s ‘term of delivery’. . . 

Low flow warning for La Niña summer :

For central and western parts of the lower South Island, a La Niña summer means drier conditions and a higher risk of drought.

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) is encouraging irrigators and other water users to be mindful of these conditions as New Zealand enters a La Niña summer, characterised by warmer and drier conditions than usual.

ORC general manager regulatory Richard Saunders said people need to be responsible about their water use.

“Dry weather means less water in rivers and races, so anyone taking water needs to be mindful of their consent conditions and responsibilities and to actively monitor how much water they are taking. . . 

Making the primary sector sexy – Peter Burke:

There is a need to re-orientate New Zealanders into working in the primary sector, according to the director general of the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Smith’s comments come as widespread concern is expressed, right across the agricultural sector – especially in horticulture, about the lack of people to harvest crops and work in various jobs.

He believes part of the problem is that the benefits of working in the primary sector haven’t been marketed as effectively as they could have been. Smith says while there are some tough-end jobs that don’t pay well, there are actually a huge number of highly-paid jobs in the sector and that will grow. . . 

Living Water – seven facts for seven years:In the seven years that Fonterra and the Department of Conservation (DOC) have been working together through Living Water, important advancements have been made to help regenerate New Zealand’s precious natural resources.

Launched in 2013, the 10-year partnership is focussed on finding game-changing and scalable solutions that will enable farming, freshwater and healthy ecosystems to thrive side-by-side.

What does that look like in practise? It means working alongside communities in five selected catchments to test different tools, approaches and ways of working that will help improve water quality and freshwater environments. . . 

Possum 1080 controls in Hawke’s Bay head to Māori land court:

The plaintiff in a court case – aiming block the use of 1080 to control possums blamed for the spread of Bovine tuberculosis in Hawke’s Bay – is denying science, the defence says.

Possums on the land, Tataraakina, have been blamed for the spread of Bovine tuberculosis into farms in the region.

Half of all New Zealand’s herds that have the disease are in this area.

Tataraakina is a 14,000-hectare block in inland Hawke’s Bay, near the highway between Napier and Taupō. . .. 

Grazing to improve soil health, producer profits – Kay Ledbetter:

Dr. Richard Teague might be considered a cowboy of a different kind. He’s not rounding up stray cattle, but rather wrangling the best management practices on ranches to help the cattle and their owners.

Teague, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research ecologist at Vernon, grew up on a farm and knows firsthand there are some unintended consequences from traditional long-standing agricultural practices that might not readily be seen.

“I’m an ecologist and know that for an adequately functioning ecosystem, you have to have good soil function,” Teague said. “Many things we do in industrial agriculture break down the function of soil. The ranchers and farmers we are working with have demonstrated how to increase productivity by improving soil health, manage for decreased inputs, improve the health of their cattle and increase profits.” . . 


Rural round-up

26/10/2020

GE bogged down by ambiguous rules – Richard Rennie:

Over a year after the Royal Society Te Aparangi report on genetic engineering called for an overhaul on regulations, New Zealand continues to lack a framework that can accommodate the rapidly advancing technology.

Dr David Penman, who was co-chair on the society’s investigating panel, told delegates at this year’s gene editing forum there was too much focus on the processes behind gene engineering (GE), rather than taking an outcome-based approach to what it could deliver.

“The regulation needs to be proportionate to the risk. For example, mutagenesis, using radiation to find gene mutations is not genetic engineering, but targeted gene editing is,” he said.

He says there also remained an enormous diversity of acts that scientists and researchers have to pick through when contemplating such technology.  . . 

Farmers must lead regen ag debate – Gerald Piddock:

New Zealand farmers risk having regenerative agriculture defined for them if they do not take ownership of the debate around its meaning.

Alpha Food Labs founder and co-chief executive Mike Lee says that could lead to an unfavourable definition forced on them and farmers losing control of the narrative.

Speaking at an NZX-Beef + Lamb NZ webinar on what regenerative agriculture meant for New Zealand, the US-based food strategist says the debate over what regenerative agriculture is must be a producer-led movement.

He says rather than thinking about the term, people should think about their mental framework around leaving the earth in a better way than when they got here. . . 

Tradie farmer living her dream – Cheyenne Nicholson:

A Waikato farmer is thriving on the challenge of a new dairying career alongside a successful lighting business. Cheyenne Nicholson reports.

OKOROIRE dairy farmer Laura Mitchell is all about tackling a challenge. And, growing a successful business during a pandemic is definitely that. Throw in a new career path in dairying and raising her three-year-old daughter Amber, and you could say Laura has her hands full.

The idea of being a farmer herself was never really on her radar despite always being drawn to the land and growing up on her parents dairy farm. At 16, she decided school wasn’t for her anymore and opted to leave and gain qualifications in a trade. . . 

Tales of the land girls shared at Maungati – Simon Edwards:

Among the crowd of more than 120 who travelled to Maungati, near Timaru, on Sunday to remember the World War II ‘land girls’ were two particularly special guests – Sadie Lietze (nee Stuart) and Daphne Attfield (nee Williams).

Now in their late 90s, the pair represented the last of the ranks of the New Zealand Women’s Land Service (WLS).  Like Joan Butland of Auckland, whose health didn’t permit her to make the trip south, they were among the more than 2,700 young women aged 17 to their early 20s – many of them from the cities – who in the 1940s kept farms and orchards going when men were called up to fight.  Their efforts were crucial in an era when New Zealand was still the offshore farm of Britain and locals as well as tens of thousands of American servicemen in the Pacific needed to be fed. . . 

Made with Care: Great cheese needs great milk:

With one and a half decades of experience in cheese making, Cathy Lang knows her stuff when it comes to cheese and is excited to be involved in NZ Trade and Enterprise’s international “Made with Care” campaign.

The campaign is designed to grow awareness, preference and demand for New Zealand food and beverage products by demonstrating the care we take when we produce them.

Now more than ever, amid a global health pandemic, consumers are looking for safe, nutritious and premium quality food and beverage that is ethically produced and tastes good too. New Zealand’s combination of exceptional natural resources and experienced food producers, like Cathy, sets us apart and perfectly positions us to meet the needs of consumers. . . 

Can cattle grazing be good for the environment? – Eric Tegethoff:

 The ancient plains of Montana once hosted herds of animals that grazed the land. Now, cattle and other domesticated animals do that work.

According to former environmental lawyer and author Nicolette Hahn Niman, the planet actually is grazed far less than it used to be. Her book “Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production” explores the benefits of raising cattle and the positive effects it can have on the land – when it’s done correctly.

“Rather than so much attention being paid to the negative impacts of cattle when they’re poorly managed,” she said, “we should be focusing on the tremendous benefits of well-managed grazing.”

Cattle ranching has been criticized by some as contributing to climate change. However, Hahn Niman said, well-managed grazing can improve soil health and even help sequester carbon dioxide. She said it also can help keep water in the soil. . . 


Rural round-up

12/08/2020

Leading by example – Gerald Piddock:

Being responsible to their land, animals, people and their community has earned a Hawke’s Bay couple the Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award. Gerald Piddock reports.

Being a responsible dairy farmer means more than just being industry role models to Nick and Nicky Dawson.

It involves working beyond the farm bubble in the wider community and nurturing the health of people, the environment and their animals.

“It’s all interconnected,” Nicky says. 

“It’s like a three-legged stool. You can’t have one without the other.” . . 

Time running out for ag contractors as spring approaches – Gerald Piddock:

October is looming as a crunch-month for agricultural contractors and dairy farmers as the scramble continues to find staff to drive machinery to plant summer feed crops and cut grass cut for silage.

Waikato Federated Farmers vice-president Ben Moore said there was huge concern that contractors would not have enough staff on the ground to meet demand from dairy farmers as border restrictions continue to prevent overseas farm machinery operators from entering the country to work this spring and summer.

The region was still recovering from last summer’s drought with feed reserves on many farms already low. 

Moore feared there could be a potential disaster if farmers are unable to get their summer supplementary feed supply organised and there was another very dry summer. . . 

Ag contractor training gearing up – Mark Daniel:

Agricultural contractors are warning about a severe shortage of skilled machinery operators for the upcoming harvest season.

The shortage is due to New Zealand’s closed borders, shutting out staff from overseas. In response, a number of training organisations are offering displaced local workers and jobseekers a basic grounding in the sector.

In the South Island, the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) is promoting its ‘An Introduction to Agricultural Contracting’ course – based at its Telford Campus, near Balclutha. This initiative was the result of SIT’s discussions with Rural Contractors NZ Ltd (RCNZ) and some key players in the contracting sector in Otago and Southland – who all wanted to do something positive to address the need for trained contracting staff. . .

Lake Hawea to host world ploughing championships

The world’s best exponents of the art of ploughing are coming to Lake Hawea, but not for quite a while.

An Upper Clutha group of ploughing enthusiasts announced on Saturday they had secured the 2028 world championships.

That means 60 of the best “ploughmen” from farming communities around world will load up their tractors and ploughs, ship them to New Zealand and carve out furrows across the flat paddocks south of the lake.

Organising committee chairman John Osborne said his committee had spent two years preparing Lake Hawea’s case for the event, “basically trying to prove to the New Zealand executive we have facilities up here to have all these world guys here”. . . 

Industry hunters step up for annual event  – Jared Morgan:

Ask hunters where exactly in Central Otago they shot their haul in the annual Manuherikia Boar, Buck and Stag Hunt and they are unlikely to tell you.

They want to protect their turf and believe the results speak for themselves.

Yesterday marked weigh-in day in the annual three-day fundraiser for the Alexandra Scout Group.

It was heartland rural New Zealand at its best if the atmosphere at the weigh-in and prize-giving was anything to go by. . . 

Matching beef yields and consumer expectations :

ENHANCING the red meat value chain through a greater understanding of efficient use of farm resources, better use of grazing mosaics, and the production of cattle that reach and exceed domestic and export ready standards is the aim of a new four-year partnership for the west.

The University of Western Australia and Meat & Livestock through the MLA Donor Company have joined forces to coordinate and drive an integrated research and practice change program for the West Australian beef Industry.

The partnership, BeefLinks, will provide better knowledge and a range of technologies to support the sustainability credentials of products and interconnectivity between producers, processors and consumers. . . 

 


Rural round-up

08/08/2020

Expect increased rates costs from new government freshwater laws:

The government’s new freshwater laws, signed off this week, have the potential to create significant unnecessary costs for ratepayers, farmers and entire communities, Federated Farmers says.

“We all want good water quality, that’s why farmers and growers have been spending time and money for decades doing all they can on-farm,” Feds water spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“Millions of trees, hundreds of miles of fencing, sediment management, nitrogen controls … all these things are improving rural water quality.”

While there is still a good deal of detail Federated Farmers is working through to get a better understanding of to communicate to its members, “we do have concerns around the wording of the National Policy Statement. . . 

Red meat exports record seven percent increase year on year :

New Zealand’s red meat sector exported $9.4 billion of sheepmeat, beef and co-products for the year ending June 2020, according to the latest analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector saw an increase of $639 million – or seven per cent – compared to the year ending June 2019.

China remained the largest market for the year ending June 2020, accounting for $3.7 billion of New Zealand’s red meat exports. This was an increase of 24 per cent on the previous June year – and was partly driven by China’s demand for red meat protein as a result of the impact of African Swine Fever. . . 

More hands needed for milk processing – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra has made a strong start to the dairy season and has more than 150 seasonal vacancies in its processing division spread throughout the country, director of manufacturing, Alan van der Nagel says.

The processing jobs at 30 manufacturing sites are among 770 current vacancies throughout Fonterra, including corporate roles, technicians, field staff and working in the Farm Source stores.

“We do gear up for the peak milk processing demand and we are looking for a wide range of skills and abilities,” van der Nagel said.

“We give the appropriate training and there are opportunities for re-skilling at a time when a lot of people are out of work.” . . 

HortNZ welcomes Govt’s recognition of the importance of  vegetable growing in NZ in freshwater decisions:

Horticulture New Zealand is welcoming recognition of the importance of vegetable growing in the Government’s new national direction on freshwater management.

‘HortNZ has worked with growers in Pukekohe and Horowhenua to demonstrate to central and local government that modern vegetable growing techniques dramatically reduce environmental impact,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

‘Over the past decade, vegetable growers across New Zealand have been taking practical steps to reduce environmental impact through precision irrigation and fertilizer application, sediment traps and buffer zones, retiring land, and riparian planting. . . 

NZ apple industry on track to become a billion dollar export business :

New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc (NZAPI), the representative industry body for the apple, pear and nashi industry, held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Hastings today, with members joining from around the country’s growing regions via Zoom.

With NZAPI’s financial year ending 31 March 2020, the published results were for the 2019 growing season and 2019/20 selling season, meaning that they reflect trading conditions pre- COVID-19.

Gross volume for the 2019/20 crop reached 566,200 metric tonnes (mT), similar to the previous year. The proportion of the crop that is exported rose 5 percent to 395,000 mT. . . 

Resilient Ravensdown responds with strong $69m profit – returning $68 million to farming:

After ensuring essential food-creating nutrients kept flowing during the pandemic, Ravensdown has recorded a profit from continuing operations and before tax, rebate and an earlier issue of bonus shares of $69 million (2019: $52m).

Returning a total of $68 million to its eligible farmer shareholders, the co-operative is confident in its financial strength and cautiously optimistic in the face of uncertainty around Covid-19 and emerging government policy.

“The resilience demonstrated was no accident, but deliberately built over five years of steadfast focus on fundamentals and performance. It meant that we could respond when shareholders needed us most and when New Zealand needed the agsector most,” said CEO Greg Campbell. . . 


Rural round-up

28/07/2020

Synthetics out in favour of natural fibres – Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

From lipstick to gum boots :

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

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

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

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

 

Wools NZ elects new chairman – Annette Scott:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

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

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

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

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

Welsh unions highlight farmers’ role in fighting climate change :

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

15/07/2020

Dairy challenges the world over – Hugh Stringleman:

Labour shortages and tougher environmental requirements are the concerns of dairy farmers worldwide, an NZX Derivatives webinar has highlighted.

Three industry leaders were asked to speak on the challenges and opportunities in their countries and on their farms.

Irish dairy farmer Patrick Fenton, Molanna Farm, County Limerick, said there is a looming labour shortage as farms amalgamate, now freed from the shackles of European Union dairy quotas.

“We do have opportunities to grow and there is more land available but labour and environmental regulations have to be reckoned with,” he said. . . 

Gas targets might move – Gerard Hutching:

The targets for reducing methane have been set but the message from the Government is they could be changed next year. Gerard Hutching reports.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw has conceded the 24-47% range for reducing methane by 2050 is unsatisfactory and has hinted it might change.

Primary sector groups such as the Meat Industry Association have argued the target, which will affect dairy farmers particularly, has been set too high and the reduction required is only 7%. 

Speaking to a webinar on a low-emissions future entitled Staying the Course, Shaw said the target will be looked at next year by the Climate Change Commission chaired by Rod Carr.  . .

Fonterra warning: Open Country, Miraka fear farmers locked in under new law – Andrea Fox:

New Zealand milk market giant Fonterra is about to get a legislative pass to throw its weight around even more, small dairy companies say.

Miraka and Open Country Dairy are concerned that amended dairy industry legislation is being rushed through that, in loosening the reins on Fonterra’s market power, could lead to milk supply drying up for new dairy processors or those wanting to set up in regions currently only served by Fonterra.

Their chief executives fear that a surprise clause introduced in the Dairy Industry Amendment Bill (No. 3) after lobbying by Fonterra will allow it to deny farmers a previous basic legislative right – to buy back into the big co-operative after exiting for whatever reason. . . 

Māori farming businesses flourish: ‘The world has to eat’ – Susan Edmunds:

Māori farming businesses are booming, and Covid-19 is unlikely to have taken off much of the shine.

Stats NZ data shows that profits for Māori authority farming businesses hit $97 million in 2018, almost double the year before. That is the most recent year for which the data is available.

The role of Māori authorities and their subsidiaries is to receive, manage, and/or administer assets held in common ownership by Māori.

More than 200, or around one-sixth, of Māori authorities are in agriculture. . . 

BVD stealing dairy herd profits:

While M. bovis and Covid-19 may be competing for farmers’ attention this winter, another equally infectious disease that has lurked in the background for years poses at least as big a threat to farm profitability and livestock health.

Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) is estimated to be costing the New Zealand dairy industry at least $150 million a year in animal health costs and lost production, yet experts agree with a focused campaign it could potentially be eliminated in a matter of months, not years.

Greg Chambers, Zoetis veterinary operations manager has been working closely with vets and farmers this year to help raise the profile and understanding of BVD. . . 

Trio team up to trial innovative hemp based food products:

Greenfern Industries has partnered with two other New Zealand companies to commercialise an innovative new hemp meat substitute and hemp snack products.

Greenfern Industries, Sustainable Foods, and the Riddet Institute (Massey University) are working together on the initiative that will see them develop the hemp-based food products and ingredients for both the New Zealand and export markets.

While Greenfern’s primary focus is medical cannabis and wellness products, co-director Dan Casey said it made sense to partner with other relevant industry leaders to utilise the products of Greenfern’s hemp crops.

“We have an abundance of high-quality hemp from which we obtain seed, cake and oil so we partnered with the Riddet Institute to work on background research and hemp product development. We’ve spent 12 months working with Riddet Institute on the product and, after several iterations, we’ve produced some very valuable shared IP.” . . 


Rural round-up

27/07/2018

Renewed calls for essential rural healthcare:

A petition calling on the Government to deliver for rural New Zealanders and provide essential healthcare for 600,000 rural New Zealanders has been tabled in Parliament by Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger.

“Rural New Zealanders remain frustrated with Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor’s failure to ensure vital health services are provided to rural New Zealand and are angry about the Government’s decision not to continue funding for the Rural Health Alliance. . .

’Best science since Rutherford split the atom’ – Sally Brooker:

New Zealand scientists are trialling genetically modified ryegrass they believe could revolutionise agriculture.

South Canterbury farmer, biotechnologist, and former Federated Farmers national president William Rolleston says it’s the best Kiwi science since Ernest Rutherford split the atom.

AgResearch has developed a ryegrass with high metabolisable energy (HME) that can grow up to 50% more quickly than conventional ryegrass, store more energy, be more drought-resistant, and produce up to 23% less methane. . .

Farmers keen to expand tech use – Toni Williams:

Electronic identification tags, scanning wands, weighing scales, farm business courses and drone use to check on animal welfare are all management tools used by Mt Somers deer farmers Duncan and Lorna Humm to improve, and add value, to their deer operation.

The young couple run a deer farm on a 43ha property, nestled near the foothills of the Southern Alps. Duncan isa fourth-generation farmer. The farm has been in his family since the mid-1960s, after his great grandparents moved from dairy farming near Kaikoura.

His parents, Christina and Bryan — now retired — ran sheep and cattle before diversifying a section of the property to deer in the 1990s. . . 

Making the leap from city to country:

Chloe Mackle was scared of the dark and anything that moved – but when she was challenged to try dairy farming, she decided to go for it.

Chloe Mackle After growing up in North Shore, Auckland, her first day on the job was a massive learning curve. “

All I knew was that my milk came in a bottle and my meat in a packet,” says Chloe. Now she is a farm manager and likes nothing better than working with cows and hanging out with her golden Labrador Nala . . .

Golden Shears on silver screen – Beckie Wilson:

Shearing a sheep is said to be one of the hardest jobs in the world, and that is what documentary director Jack Nicol hoped to prove in his new movie, She Shears.

Following the life of five female shearers gunning for glory at the Golden Shears, the portrayal of each woman is “quite delightful”, according to Masterton-based champion shearer Jills Angus Burney.

Angus Burney is one of the five whose story is told in the movie, produced by Miss Conception, which will be shown to the public for the first time next month at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

“Part of my role is the narrator, because I’m the old bag who retired,” she said. . .

Trade war chickens home to roost: Billions of pounds of meat fill US warehouses with nowhere to go:

More than 2.5 billion pounds of meat and poultry produced by US farmers have been stockpiled in cold-storage warehouses with the amount expected to grow further, according to the latest federal data.

Record production of beef, pork, poultry and turkey has become increasingly dependent on exports as US consumers cannot buy up the huge amount of meat. That would drive down prices for American consumers, restaurants and retailers. However, the recent import tariffs imposed by the country’s trade partners on the wide range of US goods, including agricultural produce, have slowed down sales of US meat and poultry abroad. . .


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