Rural round-up

August 17, 2019

Gas measures bring cost cuts – Neal Wallace:

Winton dairy farmer Dean Alexander stumbled into the world of measuring carbon emissions.

Ironically, he had just spent more than $500,000 on resource consent and infrastructure to increase cow numbers when he realised the expansion meant an increase in his greenhouse gas emissions.

Alexander told the recent Dunedin meeting of the Ministry for the Environment’s Action and Agricultural Emissions public consultation he realised he needed to learn more about climate change.

From that research he concluded it is a real and looming threat, there is no silver bullet and farmers need to start reducing their emissions now.

“You need to do little things well and it is about starting now,” he says. . . 

Farmer who beat debt and depression on a mission to help :

A New Zealand farmer has told how he battled an eight-year drought and mental health issues to become one of the country’s top beef and sheep producers.

After years of spiralling debts and depression, Doug Avery turned his 2,400ha farm into one of New Zealand’s most successful farming enterprises.

It has been a long struggle, but he has since received widespread acclaim for his approach to farming, the environment and mental wellbeing. . . 

Book shares the shearers’ stories – Chris Tobin:

The success of an earlier book on drovers has prompted Timaru author Ruth Entwistle Low to write another, this time on shearers.

The Shearers: New Zealand Legends was launched in Timaru last week following on from her successful On the Hoof: The Untold Story of Drovers in New Zealand.

”It was a risk for my publishers taking on the drovers’ book,” she said.

”It’s a niche subject but the book sold well and was on the New Zealand best seller non-fiction lists for six weeks, which was pretty satisfying.”

That prompted the realisation that there was sufficient interest to warrant another similar book.

”When the dust settled on the first one, Penguin came back and said: ‘Do you want to write a book on shearers?’.” . . 

Minette Batters: Brexit has been “a face-slapping moment” for farming – Julian Baggini:

Minette Batters could not have chosen a more difficult time to become the first female president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU). “Things could go massively wrong and it could decimate the industry,” she tells me at the NFU’s London headquarters. “It could destroy lives and livelihoods and families, and that is in the back of my mind at all times.”

The threat comes from a chaotic Brexit, which she has been fighting from the moment of her election in February last year. Her warning is grave: “If the government does forget about agriculture, if they do flood us with cheap ingredients that would be illegal for us to produce here, it would make what happened to coal and steel look like a walk in the park.”

Batters says Brexit has been “a face-slapping moment” for farming. Along with the climate emergency, it has forced the industry to think hard about sustainable agriculture. . . 

Plant-based meat substitutes drive headlines, beef drives sales :

Meat and poultry consumption is expected to hit record highs this year.¹ However, the news about animal proteins’ popularity has been overshadowed by recent headlines generated by plant-based meat substitutes, with national foodservice distribution deals and IPOs garnering attention in both trade and mainstream media. It is important to look beyond the headlines to put these next-generation meat substitutes, as well as the claims made by the companies producing these products, in context with sales numbers and consumer perceptions, as well as environmental and nutritional facts. While some of the companies behind plant-based meat substitutes aim to replace animal proteins, in 2018 beef was the most valuable protein at retail.²

Sales data reveals that last year consumers purchased 14 billion pounds of beef compared with 700,000 pounds of beef substitutes in both retail and foodservice. That is, beef substitutes comprised half of a percent of the overall market in pounds.³  . . 

Cannasouth harvests 1st crop of medicinal research cannabis:

Cannasouth has harvested its first crop of medicinal research cannabis from its purpose-built growing facility in Hamilton.

Cannasouth founders Mark Lucas and Nic Foreman have been growing industrial hemp varieties outdoors since 2002. However, this harvest is significant because of the high THC (tetrahydrocannabidiol) and CBD (cannabidiol) content of the plants, which are grown indoors under tight security.

Until now, Cannasouth has been conducting its research using raw high-grade THC-rich cannabis flower from the Netherlands – imported under a special licence from the Ministry of Health. . . 


Rural round-up

July 14, 2019

Quiz local govt candidates on costs, services — Feds – Sudesh Kissun:

Hold your local council candidates to account on costs and services: and if you think the voice of farmers is not being heard, consider standing for election yourself.

That’s the underlying message to rural people in the Federated Farmers 2019 local body elections guide, Platform: Feds on Local Government, released at the Feds’ AGM in Wellington this week.

“The quality of local government in rural communities can mean the difference between dodgy roads and safer ones, and many thousands of dollars in rates,” Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says. . . 

Workshop helps tackle succession :

Taihape farmer Kerry Whale’s family hadn’t even talked about succession. 

“We had our heads in the sand really.”

“It’s a very complicated subject but now our family has a plan to build on and it’s opened communications among us about what the next 10 years will look like.”

What changed? . .

Huge effort for farmers recognised – Annette Scott:

South Canterbury cropping farmer Colin Hurst has been recognised for his immense contribution to the arable industry.

Hurst was crowned Arable Farmer of the Year at the Federated Farmers arable industry group 2019 awards in Wellington.

The South Canterbury Federated Farmers vice president has represented the federation at national, regional and branch level and contributed to the South Canterbury Rural Support Trust, the arable group’s herbage seed growers subsection, United Wheatgrowers and the Foundation for Arable Research. . .

Concentrating on black currants – Chris Tobin:

Pleasant Point vegetable and berryfruit grower Tony Howey is scaling back.

He and his wife Afsaneh Howey have sold and given up leases on 600ha of land on which they grew onions, carrots, potatoes, grain and seed, in order to concentrate on their blackcurrant business.

Mr Howey said he had hoped to find a young keen grower who might take over the operation but this did not happen.

”It was quite difficult; it’s hard to entice young ones now. There’s no-one around.” . . 

Forget about following the floundering fortunes of Fonterra – a2 Milk is the NZX’s fast-rising star – Point of Order:

New Zealand  eyes  have been so  focussed  this  week  on  an event  20,000kms distant   that they  might  not have  noticed here  at  home another  extraordinary  event, taking  place  on the  NZX.

The market capitalisation of a company  which listed   as recently  as  2012  on the local sharemarket soared  past the  $12bn  mark and is hard on the heels of  Meridian Energy,  which has the  highest   valuation  of  NZ-based companies on the NZX  at $12.3bn.

The  challenger is a2 Milk,  which sells a  specialised  type of  milk  with what  it claims are health benefits. . .

Fonterra declares war on waste :

Fonterra is planning a war on waste.

The co-op will stop sending solid waste to landfill by 2025 and will by then have 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging.

These are the right things to do and even more important as more consumers choose products that are environmentally friendly, says the co-op’s director of sustainability, Carolyn Mortland.  . . 

Being a girl won’t stop Courtney Hanns from becoming a livestock auctioneer – Olivia Calver:

YOU don’t see many women selling in yards but Courtney Hanns, 19, is one of a growing number taking up the gavel.

Courtney grew up in the Blue Mountains and from a young age set her sights on becoming a livestock agent.

“…since I was little girl, my Pop had a farm, and I always just wanted to be an agent because I loved what they do,” Courtney said.

However, first she had to convince some in the industry that she was up for the challenge. . .


Rural round-up

July 13, 2019

AFB spread prompts burning of hives – Laura Smith:

Watching bees burn would have to be one of the most difficult things a beekeeper could do – it is also an experience more Southland apiarists will have to face.

It is the consequence of the spread of destructive bee-killing disease American foulbrood (AFB).

Southland commercial beekeeper Geoff Scott said ignorance was a major contributor to the disease spreading.

”And we’re doing it – it’s us beekeepers doing it.” . .

Hinewai revival worth every cent – Tim Fulton:

Hinewai Reserve was once dismissed as a fantasy of fools and dreamers. 

Now, as the 1250ha native sanctuary on Banks Peninsula flourishes it has about $1m of carbon credits plus income from a walking track and public donations.

But Hugh Wilson’s neighbours let rip when his plans for Hinewai Reserve became clear. . .

Possum is scourge of farm and forest: – Nick Hancox:

Managing disease in farmed cattle and deer is one stream of the TBfree programme’s work. It underpins the value and reputation of the meat and milk New Zealand exports.

The other essential work the programme manages is possum control — taking and keeping numbers down at a level where disease can’t keep cycling in wildlife.

That possum control work has two big benefits for New Zealand: eradicating bovine TB to protect the primary sector while supporting the goals of the predator-free movement.
The TBfree programme managed by OSPRI aligns with programmes designed to protect and defend New Zealand’s biodiversity and environmental health, such as the Department of Conservation’s Battle for Our Birds and Predator Free 2050. . .

Ploughman straight on to Minnesota – Chris Tobin:

”You don’t go to the Olympic Games and wear someone else’s track shoes and you don’t go to a Formula race in someone else’s car.”

Champion ploughman Bob Mehrtens is explaining his approach to the upcoming world ploughing championships at Baudette, Minnesota.

After placing eighth in Germany last year and second in Kenya in the reversible section of the world championships, he is aiming for gold this time round in the United States. . .

Avocado prices plunge as new season starts – Esther Taunton:

Avocado fans, rejoice – you can now buy two for less than the cost of a flat white.

Supplies of the popular toast topping have surged and those who have struggled through the avo off-season can again feast on the fruit.

On Thursday avocados were were selling for $2.70 each or two for $5 at Countdown supermarkets around the country. . .

Boarding school allowances – rural families deserve better – Ann Thompson:

The cost of sending children to boarding school is placing a big burden on rural employees, and it’s well past time a change was made to make the boarding allowance system fairer, writes Federated Farmers policy adviser Ann Thompson.

Over the past few years Federated Farmers has made requests to both the National and Labour-led governments to increase the Access Barrier Boarding Allowance.

This allowance is provided for pupils who live so far away from school that boarding school is the only realistic option.

As at June 2019, the Access Barrier Boarding Allowance was $3200 per annum while the Multiple Barriers Boarding Allowance was $7500 (plus $500 for pastoral care). . .


Rural round-up

March 14, 2019

Lack of Kiwi workers a problem – Chris Tobin:

Young New Zealanders are still slow in coming forward to work in the dairy industry and it’s becoming a mounting problem, not just in dairy, but also in other sectors.

South Canterbury Federated Farmers dairy spokesman Ads Hendriks said he advertised a position in recent months and only one of the nine applicants was a New Zealander.

”Two were Filipinos already on a farm in New Zealand, two were Indians also on farms here and then there were four others from India.

”The one New Zealander had a CV which had three months on a job, followed by another three months and another three months. That’s the sort of choice you have as an employer.” . . 

Could Overseer be leading to troubled waters? –

Time is fast running out to iron out all the issues with Overseer, writes Federated Farmers North Otago Dairy Chair Jared Ross.

Key Otago Regional Council Water Plan nitrogen leaching rules take effect in April 2020 and your attention is needed immediately.

A recent meeting on the Otago water plan drew a sizeable crowd, who picked a number of gaping holes in the regulation as they tried to understand the real impact on their business beyond April 1, 2020.

Many of these shortcomings relate to the hard numbers based on Overseer contained with the Otago water plan. . . 

Three generations all judging – Sally Rae:

There was something a bit special going on in the equestrian judging at the Wanaka A&P Show.

Three generations of one family were officiating in the ring, led by family matriarch, the remarkable Catherine Bell (81), of Southland. Mrs Bell has had a lifetime involvement with horses and ponies and that interest has been passed on to her daughter Dawn Kennedy, who is in her 60s, and grand-daughter Georgina Bell (22).

All three were at Wanaka, kept busy with various judging duties.. . 

Time for Marlborough to discuss water storage

It is time once again, as the wider Marlborough community, to discuss water storage writes Federated Farmers Marlborough provincial president Phillip Neal.

Liquid gold or water as it is known in Marlborough is our lifeblood.

The Marlborough Environment Plan hearings have just finished after fifteen months. Water allocation was the last issue raised but I think the most important.

This included water allocation from all our rivers, especially our biggest river and aquifer, the Wairau. . . 

Motueka fruit exporter opens cutting edge apple packhouse – TIm O’Connell:

A major player in Motueka’s fruit industry says its new apple packhouse is as “good as it gets in the world” .

Golden Bay Fruit Packers’ new 25,000 square metre packing house has been officially opened on a 4.6 hectare site on Queen Victoria St.

More than 800 guests from the Motueka community and the company’s 200 Pasifika RSE workers attended the opening ceremony inside the new building on Tuesday. . .

Seeka purchases Aongatete Coolstores for $25m:

Seeka Limited today announced that is has agreed to purchase kiwifruit orcharding, packing and coolstore business and assets of Aongatete Coolstores Limited in the Bay of Plenty for $25m.

Seeka Chief Executive, Michael Franks said the acquisition was aligned to the company’s growth strategy and builds on Seeka’s kiwifruit foundation. “Aongatete’s kiwifruit packhouse and coolstore facility processes around 4.5m trays of green and gold fruit, providing Seeka additional market presence in a growth industry. The acquisition compliments our existing business with further infrastructure in a great growing location.” . . .

Dutch cows are about to walk on water: here’s how – Richard Martyn-Hemphill:

This spring in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, cows will walk on water.

Holy Cow?!

Not exactly: they’ll simply be the first offshore bovine residents aboard a maverick urban agtech project known as the Floating Farm.

Two vast steel mooring poles fasten a buoyant three-story structure of concrete, steel, and polycarbonates to the riverbed beneath Rotterdam’s Merwehaven Harbour.

If it is a bit surprising all those materials stay afloat, it will be even more so once it gets packed, over the next few months, with a hale and hearty herd of 40 Meuse-Rhine-Issel cows.  . . 


Rural round-up

September 22, 2018

Changes on the farm are improving water efficiency:

A water tax isn’t workable – but changes on the farm are improving water efficiency

IrrigationNZ says that introducing a nationwide water tax is not workable, and that allowing irrigators to continue to invest in more modern irrigation systems rather than taxing them will result in the biggest improvements in water use efficiency.

“A water tax has been considered in other countries internationally but in every case it has been abandoned. Other countries have found it too complex and expensive to design a fair water tax which can be easily implemented without resulting in adverse outcomes,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis. . .

1080 drop to go ahead after failed legal bid :

A conservation group has failed in its legal bid to stop a 1080 drop in the Hunua Ranges near Auckland.

The Friends of Sherwood Trust won a temporary injunction in the Environment Court halting the major pest control programme two weeks ago.

It argued that the drop breached the Resource Management Act which prohibits the dropping of substances in beds of lakes and rivers.

However today the court refused the Trust’s bid to further halt the drop.

“We are not persuaded that there is likely to be serious harm to the environment if the proposed application proceeds.” . .

Plans for huge tahr cull upset Otago hunters – Simon Hartley:

A sweeping cull of at least 17,500 Himalayan mountain tahr proposed by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, has outraged some recreational hunters in Otago.

Ms Sage’s sudden announcement of the high killing ratio may yet be challenged in court.

Killing of the tahr, which are related to goats and were introduced here in 1904, is to start within two weeks.

Ms Sage is proposing the Department of Conservation kill 10,000 animals in various areas in the Southern Alps over the next eight months because the animal’s estimated 35,000 population was “three times” that permitted by the long established Himalayan Tahr Control Plan. . .

Meat firms need more staff – Chris Tobin:

South Canterbury meat companies are so desperate for workers to start the new killing season they are recruiting overseas.

Immigration NZ has approved work visas for 24 migrant employees to work at Alliance Smithfield this season.

Figures released to The Courier by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) show Immigration NZ has also allowed Silver Fern Farms to employ 49 overseas workers in Canterbury, although the information did not specify what the break-down figures between the company’s two plants at Pareora and Belfast, Christchurch, were.

Work visas for 18 overseas workers for Anzco Foods at Ashburton have also been approved. . .

New Everyday FarmIQ pack targets mainstream dairy and livestock farmers.

A new range of software subscriptions from FarmIQ address the growing information needs of New Zealand dairy and livestock industry.

With a clear focus on the information needs of dairy and livestock farmers, the new packs will help mainstream New Zealand farmers run more productive and sustainable operations.

Darryn Pegram, FarmIQ Chief Executive Officer, said subscriptions start at $55 a month for the new “Everyday FarmIQ” software pack, delivering a broad suite of recording and reporting tools. . .

 ‘High-yield’ farming costs the environment less than previously thought – and could help spare habitats -“

New findings suggest that more intensive agriculture might be the “least bad” option for feeding the world while saving its species – provided use of such “land-efficient” systems prevents further conversion of wilderness to farmland.

Agriculture that appears to be more eco-friendly but uses more land may actually have greater environmental costs per unit of food than “high-yield” farming that uses less land, a new study has found.

There is mounting evidence that the best way to meet rising food demand while conserving biodiversity is to wring as much food as sustainably possible from the land we do farm, so that more natural habitats can be “spared the plough”. . . .


Rural round-up

September 21, 2018

2019 Zanda McDonald Award shortlist announced: 

Six young agriculture professionals from both sides of the Tasman have been announced for the prestigious badge of honour for the primary industry, the Zanda McDonald Award.

Now in its fifth year, the award recognises innovative young professionals in agriculture from across Australasia. Five Australians and one New Zealander have been selected as finalists for the 2019 award based on their passion for agriculture, strong leadership skills, and their vision for the primary industry.

The shortlist is made up by Australians Alice Mabin 32, owner of Alice Mabin Pty Ltd in Linthorpe Queensland, Harry Kelly, 26, Manager of Mooramook Pastoral Co. in Caramut Victoria, Luke Evans, 28, Station Manager of Cleveland Agriculture in Tennant Creek Northern Territory, Nick Boshammer, 30, Director of NBG Holdings Pty Ltd in Chinchilla Queensland, and Shannon Landmark, 27, Co-ordinator of the Northern Genomics Project of the University of Queensland. Kiwi Grant McNaughton, 34, Managing Director of McNaughton Farms in Oamaru, North Otago rounds off the six. . . 

Kiwi farmers take on growing South American super food – Catherine Groenestein:

Growing Taranaki’s first commercial crop of quinoa was challenge enough, but finding a combine harvester in a district devoted to dairying proved tougher.

Luckily for Hamish and Kate Dunlop of Hāwera, they found someone who owns the only suitable machine in the region living just down the road.

The couple’s journey into growing a crop native to South America on their sheep and beef farm began with a discussion about whether quinoa, a food the health-conscious family was already familiar with, would grow in South Taranaki, Kate said. . .

 The grass on the far side of the fence will look much greener for Fonterra farmers – Point of Order:

It  must have felt  like  salt being rubbed into  their  financial wounds   for Fonterra’s farmer-shareholders, when Synlait  Milk this week  reported  its  net profit  soared  89%  to  $74.6m.   Fonterra’s  mob   saw  their  co-op  notch  up  a  loss of  $196m, and  with prices  at GDT auctions trending down,  they may also have to accept a trim  to the forecast milk price.

Where  Fonterra  talks of   slimming its  portfolio,  Synlait  is still investing  in expansion.

In the latest year Synlait has been working on new and expanded plants in Dunsandel, Auckland and Pokeno as well as a research and development centre in Palmerston North. . .

Much more mozzarella – Chris Tobin:

Cutting-edge technology used in Fonterra’s new mozzarella line at its Clandeboye plant is the first of its kind in the world, and being kept under wraps.

”It’s the result of years of investment into R&D and hard work at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre,” Clandeboye cheese plant manager Chris Turner said.

”The work has been supported in part by the Primary Growth Partnership between the Government, Fonterra and Dairy NZ.

”Other than that we can’t tell you too much more. . .

Fonterra steers clear of consultants after paying millions to McKinseys – Nikki Mandow:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group will not use external consultants for its newly-announced everything-on-the-table asset review, the dairy processor says. This follows allegations it paid up to $100 million a year between 2015 and 2017 to global consultancy giant McKinsey as part of its “Velocity” cost-cutting and restructuring programme.

It also forked out millions of dollars in CEO and other staff bonuses as part of its Velocity Leadership Incentive scheme. . .

Balle and Coull to join Ballance Agri-Nutrients Board

Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ shareholders have chosen Dacey Balle and Duncan Coull from an unprecedented field of 19 candidates to join the Co-operative’s Board, representing the North Island.

Murray Taggart, who retired by rotation this year, was unopposed in the South Island Ward and re-elected to the Board – while the decisions of Gray Baldwin to not seek re-election and Donna Smit to step down in the North Island Ward, opened a rare opportunity to secure a governance role with a leading rural business. . .


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