Rural round-up

April 9, 2019

Intensive forestry creates ‘too many environmental risks’ – lawyer – Kate Gudsell:

The rules governing forestry are too light and need to be reviewed, environmental groups say.

The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry came into force in May last year but are about to be reviewed by the government.

The Environmental Defence Society and Forest and Bird decided to conduct joint analysis because of increasing public concern about the impacts of commercial forestry in light of events like Tologa Bay last year.

An estimated one million tonnes of logs and debris was left strewn on properties and roads on the East Coast during two bouts of heavy rainfall in June last year.

Farmers put the cost of the damage in the millions of dollars. . . 

Overseas Investment Office approves Craigmore $52m apple orchard investment – Gerard Hutching:

Foreign investors headed by New Zealand management have been given the green light by the Overseas Investment Office to buy two horticultural properties after being rebuffed last year over a bid to buy a kiwifruit and avocado orchard.

Craigmore Sustainables has received permission to buy 479 hectares of sensitive land inland of Waipukurau in Hawke’s Bay and 59 ha near Gisborne. They will invest $52 million to develop apple orchards on the properties. . . 

Mustering tradition continues – Sally Rae:

The likes of helicopters and, latterly, even drones, have replaced horses for mustering on many properties in New Zealand’s back country. But in remote South Westland, traditions remain alive and well, as agribusiness reporter Sally Rae reports. 

Mustering in the remote and beautiful Cascade Valley in South Westland can come with its challenges.

But for Haast-based farmers Maurice and Kathleen Nolan, those challenges were amplified as they prepared for today’s Haast calf sale.

The sale is a major calendar event for the Nolans, a name synonymous with South Westland since the family arrived at Jackson Bay, south of Haast, in 1876. . . 

DairyNZ Schools website launched:

DairyNZ has launched a new website for teachers, giving them free, curriculum-based learning resources to help children learn about dairy farming.

The new website, called DairyNZ Schools, is part of DairyNZ’s in-school education programme. The programme is designed to ensure New Zealand school children get the opportunity to learn about dairying.

Learning resources

The website has learning resources for teachers of children from Year 2 to Year 11. The resources are free to download and teachers can filter resources by year level or subject area. . .

Course closures make farming a tough industry to crack – Esther Taunton:

Young people looking for farm jobs are being hampered by dwindling training options but farmers can help fill the void, Federated Farmers says.

Taranaki teenager Braydon Langton said on Friday he had been turned down by dozens of potential farm employers because of inexperience.

He said it was frustrating to hear farmers repeatedly complaining about a worker shortage but being unwilling to invest time in eager young people.

Chris Lewis, Federated Farmers’ spokesman for tertiary and workplace skills and training, said he sympathised with Langton and other young people in his situation. . . 

Sales of Southland dairy farms down on past years

While there is still a good selection of dairy farms available in Southland, there have only been a limited number of sales in the province compared to previous years, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.

Despite this, the REINZ said in its March monthly sales data release that two sales in Southland of larger dairy units were significant in terms of total price involved and there was a good level of activity on finishing properties

In Otago, there was restrained activity in the drystock sector where prices eased 10% to 15%, with reports of capital constraints from banks making finance difficult to obtain and therefore harder to get transactions together. . . 


Fears for training of future farmers

February 7, 2019

The government is throwing millions at fee-free tertiary education but there’s no cash to spare for training future farmers:

Federated Farmers board member Chris Lewis said the liquidation of Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre a month ago was the latest sign that the government needed to overhaul certificate-level tertiary education for staff in the primary industries.

“This has been an issue for a long, long time. A lot of providers have come into the industry and set up training but a lot of them have left or have struggled and at the end of the day it comes back down to it’s not financially viable to run training for young farm staff because they don’t get enough funding from the government.”

Mr Lewis said there was a shortage of trained farm staff and some courses did not provide the skills that farmers needed in their workers.

Craig Musson from the National Trade Academy said few tertiary institutions were still offering certificates in skills for land-based industries and those that were, were struggling.

He said too few students were enrolling and government funding was inadequate for the costs involved.

“In our sector it’s not a classroom, white board and a teacher. You have to have tractors, motorbikes, quads. You’ve got to have fencing, you’ve got to have stock and with all that comes repairs and maintenance and replacement of equipment and a normal business doesn’t have those same costs,” he said.

Mr Musson said the government paid about $10,000 for each full-time agriculture student studying a certificate course and institutions received a further $3000 to $4000 in fees.

That was not enough given the small class sizes and high overheads for courses in farming skills and it was especially hard if students dropped out and could not be replaced, he said.

Mr Musson said more education providers would go out of business unless things improved.

“It’s obviously just getting more and more difficult for the providers that are left and eventually it becomes that it’s not financially viable to do the training any more,” he said.

“You only have to have a bad year as far as feed costs and then you’ve got fuel costs because we have to travel to farms to do the milkings, we have to do field visits and that’s a massive cost that most providers would not have either.”

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said changes would be made as part of wider reform of the vocational education and training system and the government was aware there was urgent need in the agriculture sector.

“We’re looking very closely at the agricultural sector given its importance to the New Zealand economy, the desperate need for more skilled labour in that area, but actually the problems facing agriculture are the same as problems facing many other industries around the country so we’re looking very closely at vocational education generally,” he said. . . 

Neal Wallace says a new training model is needed:

. . .By its very nature educating primary sector students is more expensive and intensive than other vocational courses.

It requires students to live on working farms, to be given a student-centric education – you can’t teach fencing on a blackboard – and it comes with high compliance and pastoral care costs. Taratahi had a ratio of one staff member to 10 students. 

But it appears to have finally succumbed to the millennial factor.

Fewer young people are choosing farming as a career, while numbers of potential students have shrunk because of successive years of low unemployment allowing those who would normally seek training to go directly in to work.

Telford and Taratahi have struggled to grow their rolls in recent years and are required to repay the Tertiary Education Commission $10 million for being funded for more students than were enrolled.

Not dismissing the obvious distress to students and staff, collapsing on the eve of Taratahi’s centenary adds to the misery.

But its centennial legacy, from what can best be described as an educational train wreck, is that Government and education officials can no longer ignore the essential issue of creating a sustainable sub-degree funding and administrative model for primary sector education.

Tina Nixon also notes two fundamental problems with the future success of primary sector vocational training:

The government: The present government [and those of the past] has never really understood the sector, the cost of training or really got to grips with the woeful performance of the Tertiary Education Commission [TEC], the body that decides what will be funded and how.

This became patently evident when I first became involved with Taratahi.

I suggested that it got into training beekeepers, which, as it turns out, has been lucrative.

The process for actually delivering beekeeping courses took months –  TEC should be geared up alongside NZQA to get ahead of industry demand but it doesn’t – they lag  at least a year, sometimes a lot longer.

TEC is without a doubt one of the most bureaucratic organisations I have ever interacted with, and I have worked with a few.

It has not served the country and its governments well. I applaud the current government for looking to overhaul the tertiary sector, but I condemn it for the short-sightedness about how best that overhaul is carried out.

If the TEC and its current administration survive the next year, then this government will have failed the sector.

The government’s decision not to fund Taratahi was based on advice from TEC —  behind closed doors with no chance for Taratahi to talk directly to the ministers involved.

So, Taratahi doesn’t even know what was presented – but the $30m touted by some as what was required for the organisation to continue  is wrong. What they needed was $5 million – pretty much the same amount it had repaid of the previous administration’s legacy debt. . . 

A request for just $5 million was turned down when the Provincial Growth Fund showers much more on far less worthy projects.

So what of the future?

If the community leaders consign all that has been learned and achieved by Taratahi in 2-1/2 years into the dustbin, then they will be condemned to creating yet another failure and snub some of the best educationists in the industry.

What we need  to see is Taratahi rise again in the next few months – underpinned by all the good systems and knowledge built up in the past two years, within a newly-framed tertiary education sector with the required funding levels. With all that in place, it will become an enduring engine room for primary sector talent development.

The primary sector can do some on-the-job training but that is no substitute for what can be done in dedicated training institutes like Taratahi and Telford if they are properly funded.

 


Rural round-up

January 14, 2019

The answer is in the soil – Annette Scott:

Regenerative agriculture flies in the face of conventional farming wisdom with soil management the key to profiting from nature, Canterbury cropping farmer Simon Osborne says. Annette Scottvisited him onfarm to learn what it’s about.

Farming for yield is not farming for profit, Simon Osborne, who is passionate about his stewardship of the land, says.

He has a clear focus on farming for profit from natural resources and biodiversity with the firm belief that a paradigm shift in agriculture can hugely boost farmer profits and crop diversity, curb pests and eliminate the need for tilling, pesticides and herbicides. . .

Report shows dairy’s role in economy – Hugh Stringleman:

The dairy industry has commissioned and released a valuable report on its scale and importance that should be widely used by dairy leaders, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says.

Facts and figures from the wide-ranging report by NZIER would be used for making submissions to local and national government.

“Dairy farmers know just how inter-dependent we are with local suppliers, tradespeople, and employees, and this report highlights that,” Lewis said. . . 

Fewer herds but more milk – Sudesh Kissun:

New Zealand’s dairy sector is evolving, with the latest data showing a shift to fewer herds and a greater focus on their performance.

According to the New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2017-18 report, published by DairyNZ and LIC, there were 11,590 dairy herds last season – 158 fewer than the previous season. This was the third year of decreasing herd numbers, but the average herd size increased by 17 cows to 431.

The total 2017-18 cow population was 4.99 million, an increase of 2.7% from the previous season but still below the peak population of at least 5.01m cows in the 2014-15 season. . .

Dairy expanison over as farmers look to other sectors – Gerald Piddock:

The days of endless dairy growth fuelled by farm sales appear to be over as farmers look to elsewhere instead of chasing the white gold.

Dairy expansion, whether it’s from land conversions or farmers buying existing farms appears to have slowed from the heady days of 2014’s dairy land price boom.

Instead, latest figures show an easing of land values and large numbers or properties remaining unsold throughout the spring and summer – traditionally the busiest period of the year for farm sales. . . 

Female ranchers are reclaiming the American west – Amy Chozick:

As men leave animal agriculture for less gritty work, more ranches are being led by women — with new ideas about technology, ecology and the land.

Hundreds of years before John Wayne and Gary Cooper gave us a Hollywood version of the American West, with men as the brute, weather-beaten stewards of the land, female ranchers roamed the frontier. They were the indigenous, Navajo, Cheyenne and other tribes, and Spanish-Mexican rancheras, who tended and tamed vast fields, traversed rugged landscapes with their dogs, hunted, and raised livestock. 

The descendants of European settlers brought with them ideas about the roles of men and women, and for decades, family farms and ranches were handed down to men. Now, as mechanization and technology transform the ranching industry, making the job of cowboy less about physical strength — though female ranchers have that in spades — and more about business, animal husbandry and the environment, women have reclaimed their connection to the land. . .

Big tomo in the ground attracts tourists – Benn Bathgate:

First came the tomo – then the tourists.

Speaking eight months after a huge tomo developed on the Tumunui South farm he manages outside Rotorua, manager Colin Tremain said he didn’t regret posting on social media about the huge hole, even though the reaction took him by surprise.

Shortly after posting photos of the sinkhole Tremain said the media arrived, then the scientists, then the locals, then the tourists. . .

 


Rural round-up

December 18, 2018

Government believes Mycoplasma bovis can be eradicated :

The Government is confident that the cattle disease M. bovis can be eradicated in New Zealand.

It would be a world first if successful.

“Based on all the evidence presented to us, we are confident that eradication is possible and that we are on track in what’s a world first but necessary action to preserve the value of our national herd and economic base, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said today . . 

Federated Farmers cautiously optimistic on M.bovis plan:

Federated Farmers is supportive of today’s government call that we may be able to achieve the biosecurity triumph of being the first country in the world to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis.

While there are farmers throughout the country still battling with the aftermath of the disease’s discovery, Feds believes we can all start to feel more confident about the outcome of the eradication.

“We are cautiously optimistic, and still have fingers and everything else crossed,” Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis says. . .

Climate research leads world:

A government research programme has positioned New Zealand as a world leader in research into mitigating greenhouse gases from agriculture and adapting to climate change, a recent independent review has found.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) research programme supports the generation of new climate change knowledge across NZ’s agriculture and forestry sectors.

The independent review found SLMACC has triggered new research and boosted NZ’s understanding of the potential impacts and implications of climate change for a range of primary industries, particularly pastoral farming systems and responding to drought. . .

Farming sustainably – Sonita Chandar:

Tiaki, the sustainable dairying programme launched by Fonterra last year, is ticking all the boxes for farmers.

The programme, which helps farmers farm in more sustainable ways, has been in place for a year. 

At its launch Fonterra set an initial target of having 1000 farm environment plans in place. 

The Dairy Tomorrow Strategy will see all farmers adopting a sustainable dairying plan by 2025

“When we committed to the programme we increased the number of sustainable dairy advisers we had in the field,” Fonterra sustainable dairying general manager Charlotte Rutherford said.

“However, demand has outstripped supply.  . . 

New NAIT compliance officers in the field:

A cohort of 27 new NAIT compliance officers are ready to hit the ground and start working with farmers after graduating from their training programme on Friday.

Animal Welfare and NAIT Compliance Manager, Gray Harrison, says the new officers are part of a stepped-up effort to educate farmers about their NAIT obligations, and enforce compliance with the scheme.

“The new officers will be located throughout the country helping farmers use NAIT consistently and taking action when non-compliance is detected. . . 

Ngāi Tahu backs out of Agria deal, takes stake in Wrightson:

Ngāi Tahu Capital has taken a direct stake in PGG Wrightson, ending a seven-year relationship with Singapore-domiciled Agria as the foreign investor’s grip on the rural services firm remains uncertain.

Last Friday, the investment arm of the South Island iwi ended an agreement that pooled its investment in Wrightson with Agria and Chinese agribusiness New Hope International. Ngāi Tahu Capital was a junior partner in the joint venture with a 7.24 percent stake. At the time, it touted the $15 million investment as diversifying its portfolio and building international relationships. . . 

Computational breeding: Can AI offer an alternative to genetically modified crops? – Greg Nichols:

Hi Fidelity Genetics (HFG), a company that uses sensors, data science, and statistical genetics to create non-genetically modified crops, just raised $8.5 million in a Series A. It’s a sign of the growing importance of data science in agriculture, and it may signal an alternative path to sustainable farming without the use of genetic modification.

The issue is a prickly one. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have been touted as saving the world by increasing food supply and maligned as a lever by which Big Ag constrains the market while doing untold damage to public health and delicate ecosystems. As the debate rages on, GMOs have come to dominate agriculture, accounting for more than 90 percent of the corn, soy, and cotton grown in the U.S., according to the USDA. . . 


Rural round-up

November 28, 2018

Sheep burping project given wheels – Sally Rae:

This is a tale of burping sheep.

Among the work AgResearch scientists have been doing to reduce methane emissions from agriculture is a project to breed sheep that naturally produce less methane – the gas released in the burps of ruminant livestock.

Having determined sheep could be bred for lower methane emissions, the project was now being rolled-out to farms, giving breeders the opportunity to measure and select sheep with lowered environmental impacts.

Scientists had been working on the prospect of low methane sheep for quite some time, AgResearch Invermay-based senior scientist Dr Suzanne Rowe said yesterday. . . 

Weather, labour stalls contractors – Ken Muir:

While the weather has meant a testing time for farmers and contractors in the south, labour issues continue to be a major constraint in keeping up with work on farms, Southland agricultural contractor Peter Corcoran says.

‘The weather has undoubtedly been better than last year and the recent variations we’ve had have caused some backlogs,” Mr Corcoran said.

”While this has been annoying, we are undoubtedly in much better shape than we were last year.”

At that stage, he said, contractors were sitting around with nothing to do, but at least this year things were off to an early start. . . 

 

Postharvest scientist honoured by NZIAHS:

Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Jeremy Burdon has been awarded a Fellowship of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science in recognition of his longstanding contributions to postharvest science that supports New Zealand’s fresh fruit industries, particularly kiwifruit and avocado.

Dr Burdon is a leading postharvest scientist well respected by industry and academic peers. Over a career spanning 30 years, he has consistently demonstrated outstanding skills in innovative thinking and scientific excellence in partnering science with business. He is especially noted for the science underpinning the successful commercialisation of new kiwifruit cultivars and his practical advice to packhouse and coolstore operators. . . 

Vertical farming has limits:

Vertical farming – where food is grown indoors in high stacks – will not replace traditional fruit and vegetable growing in New Zealand, but it may supplement it in future if technology makes it economically viable, research released today finds.

As part of her Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme, Horticulture New Zealand environmental policy advisor Rachel McClung has published a report, “Can vertical farming replace New Zealand’s productive land to deliver high quality fruits and vegetables in the future?”

“Growing towns and cities are reducing access to some of New Zealand’s most productive land for growing fruit and vegetables,” McClung says. “There is some complacency about this because of the misconception that fruit and vegetables can be grown ‘somewhere else’. But the combination of the right soils and climate is necessary.  . . 

When good sense takes control of the wheel:

 Today marks a big win for on farm safety and biosecurity, says Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis. In the Government’s announcement of its Employment Relations Bill today, a change Federated Farmers advocated for appears to be included.

The Bill allows union representatives the right to access worksites where union members are covered by or bargaining for a collective agreement, but requires consent from employers in all other circumstances. . . 

Glyphosate and TIME magazine: writer employed by advocacy group a dubious choice – Grant Jacobs:

TIME magazine has a story on DeWayne ‘Lee’ Johnston who took Monsanto to court claiming RoundUp caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.[1] The story has obvious appeal, but is crying out for balance and it’s provenance is, to be kind, awkward. I’d love to read his account of his experiences since the trial — but from a source I can trust. I’m dubious that a writer employed by an advocacy organisation can be sensibly used as a journalist.

A reply

responded on TIME’s Facebook page, . . 

Tulips from Balfour – Blair Drysdale:

Quite often when farmers share their frustrations about the weather in conversation with others, we’re accused of just being a “whinging farmer”. But for farmers and horticulturalists alike among others, it dictates our day-to-day operations, our state of mind and the bottom line result at the end of the financial year.

And this year just like all before it, has had its perils and is no exception. A dull winter with little sun and few frosts, has continued on well into spring with plenty of precipitation, a combination of a lack of equinox winds and little sunshine to dry the soil out, has made it very frustrating trying to get spring barley in the ground here. . . 

On the farm – what’s happening in rural New Zealand:

What’s happening on farms and orchards around New Zealand? Each week Country Life reporters talk to people in rural areas across the country to find out.

Northland warmed up as the week progressed. It has had a drop or two of rain – 30 to 40mm in the west, less in the east. That has nudged along sluggish grass growth, which has given farmers the confidence to buy cattle. Two-year-old steers have been fetching between $1200 and $1500 and yearlings $650 to $1000. Female cattle have not been doing so well. Prices are down for younger cattle by 8 to12 percent compared with last year. . . 


Rural round-up

November 27, 2018

Only two left for new Fonterra vote – Hugh Stringleman:

John Nicholls of Canterbury and Jamie Tuuta of Taranaki and Wellington will contest the rerun of the Fonterra director election to fill the one remaining vacancy.

One-term director Ashley Waugh has decided not to run again though he came within a whisker of being re-elected in the first round of voting.

Fonterra Shareholders’ Council chairman Duncan Coull sent an email to all farmer-shareholders explaining the rerun process and the council’s reasons for not opening it up to new candidates.

The rerun was necessary because only two of five candidates for three seats received the required 50% approval of farmers, Peter McBride at 80% and Leonie Guiney at 63%.

Waugh got 49%, Nicholls 44% and Tuuta 40%. . . 

Dairy-farm price per hectare plunges – Sally Rae:

Farm sales across the country for the year to October were down more than 10%, while dairy farm  per-hectare prices have pulled back almost 30% during the past year.

In Otago and Southland, there was strong activity in finishing, grazing and arable properties, but dairy farm purchases in both provinces were affected, with restricted supply of capital.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said for the three months to October there were 263 sales, just two more than a year ago.

Across the country for the year to October 1475 farms were sold, a 10.5% decline on the same period last year. Dairy farm sales were down 7.7%, grazing farms fell 5.6%, finishing was down 13.2% and there were 22.5% fewer arable farms. . . 

Genetic changes will allow merino sheep come down from the mountains – Heather Chalmers:

Synonymous with the South Island high country, merino sheep may be farmed more widely as farmers are lured by high fine wool prices and genetic improvements. 

Merino woolgrower Bill Sutherland, of Benmore Station near Omarama, said it was boom times for the New Zealand merino industry. 

“In a time when strong wool prices are at a historical low, the prices for merino wool have rarely been better,” he told the New Zealand Grassland Association conference in Twizel.  . . 

New boss hears farmers:

Farmers delivered a stern message to new director-general of primary industries Ray Smith at a meeting in Ashburton on Wednesday – they want to be top of his list.

He attended the meeting, facilitated by Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers in response to desperate calls for help from local farmers affected by the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovi, off his own bat.

Farming leaders from across the country including national dairy chairman Chris Lewis and meat and wool chairman Miles Anderson also attended the closed session.

“This meeting was organised so these national leaders could hear from affected farmers and get their stories straight from the horse’s mouth,” Mid Canterbury dairy chairman Chris Ford said. . . 

Interest in competition suggests promising future for agriculture – Sally Rae:

McKenzie Smith grasps every opportunity to learn new skills.

Mckenzie (17), a year 13 pupil at Southland Girls’ High School, is chairwoman of the school’s TeenAg club.

TeenAg — which comes under the umbrella of New Zealand Young Farmers — is aimed  at introducing and promoting a positive picture of agriculture and agricultural careers to pupils from an early age. The club has organised an AgriKidsNZ competition at Southland Girls’ High School on Thursday, for years 7-8 pupils, and team numbers have more than doubled from last year. . . 

Jersey cows eat differently – Abby Bauer:

Each dairy cattle breed has its perks and its quirks, and Jerseys are no exception. On our Hoard’s Dairyman Farm, we certainly notice differences in personality and behavior between our Jerseys and Guernseys.

These breed differences are what led the American Jersey Cattle Association and National All Jersey Inc. to partner with university and industry experts to create a webinar series focused on the Jersey breed. One of their webinar topics was feeding the lactating cow, and the presenters were Bill Weiss and Maurice Eastridge from The Ohio State University.

The pair of professors pointed out that much of the research in the field of nutrition has been done on Holsteins. While many of these recommendations can fit other breeds, there are a few ways that Jerseys are unique. . .

 


Ice cream week

November 19, 2018

The weather might not be co-operating but regardless of the rain, hail and snow it’s Ice Cream Week.

Here at Federated Farmers we are generally always ready to roll when it comes to celebrating ice cream.

Why? Because it is delicious, ice cream is a job creator, and it is one of the foods accessible to every New Zealander, no matter their socio-economic background, says Federated Farmers dairy chairperson Chris Lewis.

Today marks the start of the New Zealand Ice Cream Manufacturers Association’s inaugural New Zealand Ice Cream Week, from November 19 to November 25.

New Zealand ice cream is delicious and is known for its quality internationally.

Earlier this year music icon Cher declared that New Zealand ice cream was the best the world had to offer – later she was challenged to eat some Australian ice cream by an Australian breakfast television show, but she stuck to her guns and reckons “New Zealand is the best”.

Ice cream has always been a topic of discussion for notable people.

A Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision article states that in 1958 New Zealand radio legend Aunt Daisy in her work proclaimed ice cream to not be fattening because it contained no starch. “It’s a good food.”

Federated Farmers wishes the manufacturers an excellent week, Chris says.

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