Rural round-up

August 9, 2020

Difficult but the right call – Sudesh Kissun:

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the joint decision three years ago to eradicate Mycoplamsa bovis was a difficult call. However, Mackle says the 10-year eradication plan, while difficult, was the best option for farmers and the economy. He made the comments to mark three years since the bacterial disease was first detected in New Zealand. The discovery shocked the industry and triggered one of New Zealand’s largest ever biosecurity responses.  . .

Farmers missing out on newer technology – Mark Ross:

Ineffective regulation is leading to farmers and growers missing out on products that will increase their productivity and be safer to use.

The Government launched a bold plan to boost primary sector export earnings by $44 billion over the next decade, while protecting the environment and growing jobs.

The plan, launched last month, involves a 10-year roadmap to unlock greater value for a sector vital to New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As the Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor pointed out, there is huge potential in the roadmap, but it can only be achieved through a close government partnership with industry and Māori. . . 

Lamb weight not demand driving price – Annette Scott:

South Island lamb supply is tight but while seasonal procurement pressure may be enough to see marginal price lifts in some regions, weak export markets are keeping a cap on prices.

Alliance Group key account manager Murray Behrent said while procurement pressure may appear to be at fever pitch around the saleyards, the difference in pricing is the weight of the lambs.

Agents around Canterbury saleyards are reporting strong demand is driving prime lamb values with top prices at Temuka and Coalgate this week, fetching $194 and $198 respectively. . . 

Council exploring water storage sites – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is actively investigating freshwater storage sites to carry excess winter water through to dry periods in summer.

It’s part of a four-pronged regional water security programme, supported by the Provincial Growth Fund, which includes a region-wide freshwater assessment, a 3D aquifer mapping project, and exploring viable locations for small-scale community storage schemes in the Central Hawke’s Bay (Tukituki River) and Heretaunga (Ngaruroro River) catchments.

Council acting manager regional water security Tom Skerman says the regional water assessment is analysing water supply and demand across the region to 2050. . . .

Tarras no stranger to the sly land-buyer transaction – Mark Price:

Before international airports became the talk of Tarras, farming was the district’s main preoccupation. In all its guises, farming has stamped its mark on the district and its people over 162 years. Mark Price takes a look at what has happened to Tarras in the days since its potential for farming was first realised.

Christchurch International Airport Ltd caught plenty of flak for the way it bought up land at Tarras for an airport.

Its agents, while making offers to landowners, did not disclose who they were working for, or why the land was wanted.

The airport’s chief executive, Malcolm Johns, was the man who orchestrated the purchase of 750ha for an airport, at a cost of $45 million.

He saw the potential, acted swiftly and quietly and came up last month, holding the deeds to the various farming properties. . . 

Broadacre farmers have their own fire experience – Mal Peters:

Reinforcing farmers’ perceptions the Rural Fire Service is a Sydney-centric bureaucracy, northern NSW broadacre farmers are scratching their heads at the declaration of a bushfire danger period on August 1.

Grass burns poorly in winter, so most of us are waiting for warmer weather.

We can get a permit to burn, but that only adds to our daily mountain of red tape.

Given recent megafires you’d think the RFS would make it easier to conduct controlled burns. . . 


Rural round-up

August 2, 2020

Country’s backbone performs:

New Zealand’s primary sector has added steel to the country’s economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recently released report.

Economic and research firm NZIER latest Insight report – released last week – says the livestock, forestry and horticulture sector have performed well over the lockdown period and as the Covid-19 crisis has continued overseas.

“Our land-based industries have proven themselves to be exceptionally resilient, particularly when it comes to trade” says Chris Nixon, NZIER principal economist and lead author of the report.

Farmstrong: fill the fountain not the drain – Trish Rankin:

Juggling farm work and family responsibilities is a challenge many rural women face.

Taranaki sharemilker and 2019 Dairy Woman of the Year winner Trish Rankin and her husband Glen run a 460-cow sharemilking operation near Manaia. 

Life’s plenty busy for the couple, they’re also raising four kids aged 15, 13, 9 and 7.

“I generally work about four days a week on-farm over the season just to give people days off but obviously in calving and higher-intensity times I’m full-time on-farm.  . . 

From cockpit to farm :

When COVID-19 ground his eight-year career as a pilot for Air New Zealand to a sudden halt, Henry Lambert decided to turn it into an opportunity for a complete change – to farming.

His story has been featured as a positive example of COVID career pivots on the six o’clock news, but the father-of-two is no stranger to dairy. He grew up around his grandfather’s and uncles’ dairy farms and while he was flying planes, a career on the land had always been in the back of his mind. So, when the pandemic started to hit the aviation industry, it seemed like the perfect time to change gears.

The dairy industry’s crying out for skilled workers, so Henry hoped by creating a CV and posting it on the Farm Source website, he’d get to give farming a crack.

“I always thought I’d like to have a go one day, so when I was presented with this unique opportunity, it seemed like a good fit.”. . .

Time for sector to find united voice – Allan Barber:

Several organisations with an interest in the future of our agricultural sector have come out with strategies or visions for what needs to be done to find New Zealand’s place in the sun. One such report produced by the Primary Sector Council has been sponsored, one could say hijacked, by the government, and converted by MPI into a set of financial and environmental targets. Another is the result of independent research and consultation. Ideally either the government will engage with the primary sector to agree the best policy settings the industry believes necessary to meet these ambitious targets, rather than insisting on following the plan it commissioned to meet its own priorities.

The coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming Election have to some extent provided a distraction from the pace of environmental change, but nobody should be under any illusion – this will undoubtedly accelerate when a new government is in power which at the moment looks like a Labour/Greens coalition without the NZ First handbrake being needed to govern. There is a small window for the primary sector to argue for its preferred future direction. . . 

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

Using New Zealand strong wool to produce biodegradable disposal nappies for a multi-billion dollar global market is gaining traction as a new avenue for farmers desperate to find new places to sell their product, with multinational companies showing interest in NZ technology.

As part of the recent launch of the strong wool sector’s plan for the future Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said Wellington-based company Woolchemy will get $80,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Woolchemy co-founder and chief executive Derelee Potroz-Smith says the money will pay for a commercial trial of technology that enables wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in consumer hygiene products, adding significant value to the raw material produced by NZ strong wool farmers. . . 

New crops offer opportunities :

Six ‘star’ crops – soy, hemp, chickpeas, oats, buckwheat and quinoa – could represent new opportunities for New Zealand farmers.

According to the Specialty Grains & Pulses Report produced by an Our Land and Water National Science Challenge research programme, Next Generation Systems, locally grown grains and pulses like soy, chickpeas and quinoa are being explored by local researchers and growers. In the report, researchers looked at the opportunities presented by new and different plant crops in the grain and pulses families. From a long list of 22 possible grains and pulses, the research team narrowed their focus down to six ‘star’ crops they think have the most potential for New Zealand farmers. These are soy, hemp, chickpeas, oats, buckwheat and quinoa. 


Rural round-up

July 25, 2020

Irrigation NZ restructures in response to sector’s needs:

Irrigation New Zealand is restructuring to put renewed focus on solving the tension between the fundamental need for irrigation in a post-COVID New Zealand, and the sector’s increasingly restricted licence to operate.

In addition, the loss of IrrigationNZ’s flagship conference due to lockdown meant the organisation experienced significant financial loss creating reason to review, reset and refocus.

As such, the Board of IrrigationNZ has restructured the organisation to reflect a new two-pronged approach to focus on advocacy at a national level, as well as deliver value ‘on the ground’ in the regions. The following changes have been made: . .

Rain fails to wash away problems – Colin Williscroft:

The drought might have been broken across most of Hawke’s Bay but many farmers are still dealing with its effects.

Jacqui Anderson, who with husband Wayne has farms at Waipukurau in Central Hawke’s Bay and Maraekakaho, west of Hastings, says the extended drought followed by plenty of rain over the past month has affected each property differently.

They couple have farmed at Waipukurau for 20 years, mainly trading bulls, and put plans in place early. They did a feed budget last year knowing the number of bulls they were likely to carry over winter so bought balage when it wasn’t too hard to get. . . 

From drought to deluge, farmer loses 30 hectares of grass – Amy WIlliams:

A Northland swamp farmer has lost hectares of grass to flooding just months after a drought dried up pastures.

Evan Smeath has farmed a dairy herd on his 190 hectare farm at the top end of the Hikurangi Swamp just north of Whangārei for 42 years.

“This was some of the most intense rainfall I’ve seen in all the time we’ve been here but they’re not the biggest floods,” Smeath said.

“This one came so quick, so fast, it’s done a bit of damage to the fencing and drains. . .

Māori tech business creates app to streamline job matching for seasonal workers – Bonnie Flaws:

A new app that connects seasonal workers with horticultural employers promises to streamline the hiring process.

It was notoriously difficult for horticulture businesses to find and keep skilled staff, Jobloads founder Candice Pardy said.

As a persimmon orchard owner who has struggled to find workers when needed, Pardy said she knew first-hand the frustration of employers. . . 

Want bacon but really prefer to eat lamb? Here’s the product for you – Bonnie Flaws:

Have you ever sat down to breakfast and thought: “I wish this bacon was really made of lamb?”

Auckland butcher Nadine Bates is stocking an unusual product on offer at her shop – lamb bacon. She says it’s a “mind-teasing” alternative to the traditional stuff.

And while you might think of bacon as something that solely comes from pigs, Bates says in fact it can be made from any meat. It’s the curing process that makes something bacon, not the fact that it’s pork, she says. . .

Cutting edge tech removing need for inspectors in meat plants – Shan Goodwin:

Beef and sheep meat processors are well down the road to removing the need for inspectors to come on-site to conduct audits, thanks to cutting-edge augmented reality smart glasses technology.

Australian immersive technology solution company Bondi Labs has been working for several years on wearable, artificial intelligence enabled hands-free technology that would allow for the remote seeing and assisting of tasks and operations within a meat processing facility in real-time.

The initial catalyst for the work was addressing supply chain transparency and quality assurance non-compliance issues in real time globally to build greater trust and confidence in those supply chains. . .


Rural round-up

July 20, 2020

New apple ‘Dazzles’ Chinese consumers :

New Zealand’s largest organic apple producer says it cannot keep up with the Chinese demand for New Zealand’s newest apple, Dazzle.

Bostock New Zealand owner John Bostock says Dazzle is the best apple he has ever grown organically in his 30 years of growing organic apples.

“Without any doubt, I believe this is the best apple since the worldwide domination of New Zealand Royal Gala. It looks and tastes amazing, it’s bright red and sweet and it also yields and packs well.”

It’s the first year the company has had commercial volumes of organic Dazzle apples available for Chinese retailers.   . .

Nats hit the rural hustings – Mark Daniel:

National’s Waikato team of David Bennett and Tim van der Molen have been spreading the party word at a series of farmer meetings around the region.

Bennett, now the party’s agriculture spokesman, following Todd Muller’s recent move to leader, focused on the issues likely to affect agriculture. He claimed National’s ag polices aimed to drive momentum.

Starting out by commending the current Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bennett raised the question of how New Zealand will pay its bills in the future. He intimidated that the current Labour/NZ First coalition’s policies were reactionary, rather than visionary.

With all the major political parties agreeing that sustainable agriculture, horticulture and viticulture will be vital in a post-Covid future, Bennett suggested that the current drive for sustainability needs to be addressed.  . .

Honey business finds sweet spot – Colin Williscroft:

When James Annabell’s budding rugby career wasn’t quite going the way he hoped the former Taranaki Bulls hooker put his drive into honey, which has led to the development of a multimillion dollar business, as Colin Williscroft reports.

James Annabell was back in Taranaki on a break from playing rugby in Hong Kong when the chance that changed his life came along.

He’d already tried a law degree in Wellington and played rugby for Taranaki from 2006 to 2008.

But there was no regional contract on offer the following year so he went to Hong Kong and Germany to continue with rugby. . . 

Adventure, experience affords view of pig picture – George Clark:

From his travels and experience in pig farming, Ian Jackson knew he was going to breed pigs in the open air.

A Scot by birth, he was brought up on a pig and poultry farm in the UK. Uninterested in poultry, he specialised in pigs at Usk Agricultural College.

After working in the UK pig industry, he was eager to see the world and set off on an adventure with a tent on his back, wandering across Europe and then to Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Jackson met Kiwi wife Linda 21 years ago this month. She had never lived on a farm and did not know anything about pigs. . . 

Food service finds new pathway – Hugh Stringleman:

A refreshed strategy for its food service business is being introduced by Fonterra to counter the disruption caused by covid-19 to eating out in restaurants and hotels.

Food service revenue is bouncing back, especially in the number one market of China, but positioning has changed, Asia and the Pacific chief executive Judith Swales told a webinar for Fonterra shareholders.

Covid-19 has accelerated trends already apparent in the market like more home cooking, outsourcing in food preparation, more home delivery and investment in digital and contactless technologies. . .

Planting trees to fight climate change ‘ not best strategy’ :

Mass tree planting to mitigate climate change is ‘not always the best strategy’ – with some experimental sites failing to increase carbon stocks, researchers say.

Four locations in Scotland where birch trees were planted onto heather moorland was analysed as part of a new study involving UK scientists.

They found that, over decades, there was no net increase in ecosystem carbon storage.

The team found that any increase to carbon storage in tree biomass was offset by a loss of carbon stored in the soil. . . 


Rural round-up

July 19, 2020

Early mornings shear joy – Sally Rae:

It was shearing time on the Strachan family’s sheep and beef farm at Awamoko, in North Otago, and Sid was helping pen up when he was not busy shearing at his own stand.

He had been there since 7am and, by late morning, he reckoned his tally was about 8200 — which might have been a slight exaggeration, but there was no doubting his infectious enthusiasm and work ethic.

Sid might only be 6 years old but he has been interested in shearing from an even younger age and spends a full day in the woolshed whenever he can.

He had two very clear ambitions: to buy North Otago shearing contractor Phil Cleland’s business — “he said I can do it when I’m 13” — and to win the Golden Shears. . .

Wool revival coming – Annette Scott:

South Island farmer Kate Acland says the Government’s report on the wool industry is a chance for the sector to come together and realise its potential.

The Vision and Action for the wool sector put together by the Government-appointed wool industry Project Action Group suggests New Zealand is on the cusp of a natural fibre renaissance being led by more environmentally and socially conscious consumers. 

A new approach is needed to seize the opportunity and turn things around.

The report recommends the appointment of an executive officer and establishment of a wool sector governance group to oversee development of an investment case. . . 

A Fonterra of wool is necessary – Annette Scott:

The wool industry needs a real plan to be profitable and the Government’s vision and action report for wool has failed to deliver, according to some industry leaders.

While the report is a step in the right direction a concrete plan is needed to lift the industry from its doldrums, National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests chairman Craig Smith said.

“It’s a report that tells us what we know, the wool industry in general is in a really bad place.

“What needs to happen very quickly now is another report with a clearly defined strategy then we can put some structure around that strategy,” Smith said. . . 

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

Using New Zealand strong wool to produce biodegradable disposal nappies for a multi-billion dollar global market is gaining traction as a new avenue for farmers desperate to find new places to sell their product, with multinational companies showing interest in NZ technology.

As part of the recent launch of the strong wool sector’s plan for the future Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said Wellington-based company Woolchemy will get $80,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Woolchemy co-founder and chief executive Derelee Potroz-Smith says the money will pay for a commercial trial of technology that enables wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in consumer hygiene products, adding significant value to the raw material produced by NZ strong wool farmers. . . 

Still work to be done after diagnosis – Alice Scott:

Like many typical Otago blokes, Scott Clearwater (41) shrugged off his headaches, too busy on his Goodwood sheep and beef farm to see a doctor.

But as Covid-19 cases petered and the country went into Level 2, Mr Clearwater’s headaches got worse.

“He was writhing around on the floor one night and that’s when I said, ‘Enough’s enough, you need to get to a doctor’,” his wife, Joy Clearwater, said.

Since that May 29 GP visit, the family’s life has been turned upside down. . . 

Socially acceptable cows of the future could be within reach – Hannah Powe:

As animal health and husbandry becomes a hot topic in the agriculture industry, DairyBio research scientists have identified the traits needed to breed the socially acceptable cow of the future.

During the Genetics Australia 2020 Virtual Series, Agriculture Victoria principal research scientist and leader of DairyBio, Professor Jennie Pryce said there were five keys areas needed to breed the socially acceptable cow.

“They need to be resource efficient, have a low environmental footprint and low methane emissions, and traits consistent with high standards of animal welfare such as good health and fertility (polled and longevity),” Prof Pryce said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

June 22, 2020

Agriculture Minister is missing in (in)action while climate change warriors harry NZ’s dairy industry – Point of Order:

The  world stands  on  the  brink of a  food crisis worse  than  any seen  in the last  50 years, the  UN has  warned  as  it  urged  governments to  act swiftly to avoid  disaster.

So what  is the  Ardern  government  doing about  it?   Shouldn’t   it  be working  to  ramp  up  food production?  After  all,  NZ   prides  itself  on being  among  the world’s  leaders  in producing  high-quality  food.

Instead,  Climate  Change  Minister  James  Shaw is celebrating  being  “ ambitious” in tackling  what he calls the climate crisis with,  he   says, . . 

Carbon farming ‘a waste of land’ driving rural residents away – farmers – Lisette Reymer:

There are warnings that New Zealand’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2050 is destroying rural communities.

Productive sheep and beef east coast farmland is being blanketed in pine trees that may never be harvested in a mission called ‘carbon farming’, where trees are grown for carbon credits, not for sale.

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) makes carbon farming a financial windfall for landowners – often making it more lucrative than farming stock or milling the trees for export.

And east coasters fear an impending forestry boom will turn more of its communities into ghost towns. . .

Rural women missing out on vital pregnancy ultrasounds – Conor Whitten:

Maternity care is supposed to be free and available to every woman – but that isn’t the case. 

Senior doctors have told Newshub Nation that funding for maternity care is broken and pregnant women are missing out on ultrasound scans – and Health Minister David Clark has known about it for at least two years.

Lack of access to healthcare for pregnant women can see them miss out on crucial scans, including some that should be offered to every pregnant woman. Going without can have tragic consequences, as Kaitaia midwife Shelley Tweedie told Newshub Nation. 

“The worst outcome you could look at is having a foetal demise, a baby dying. That would be the worst outcome that could happen from a lack of access to ultrasound services. It is absolutely devastating. Nobody would want to go through that.” . . 

Action, not old news, needed now – Neal Wallace:

There is plenty the Rural General Practice Network likes about the just released review of health services. 

Now it wants to see action to address the issues.

The Health and Disability System Review said the inequitable access by rural communities to health care is unacceptable, Network chief executive Grant Davidson said.

Rural health in New Zealand is at breaking point. . . 

Art raising money and awareness – Colin Williscroft:

A painting created in support of farmers’ mental health will raise funds for the Rural Support Trust and reduce the stigma of depression.

Taranaki artist Paul Rangiwahia wrote and produced Top Six Inches in a collaboration with Taranaki Rural Support Trust chairman and national council member Mike Green. 

Green says art is a great way to break down the stigma of mental health while helping people talk about what they are experiencing and feeling.

“Two things which make depression much more likely are having long-term sources of stress and an insecure future,” he says. . .

Working in cheese a world-first for TIA student :

In a world first, a PhD student at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is developing predictive tools to influence food safety management decisions for the soft cheese, paneer.

Paneer is a fresh, unaged, soft cheese that is particularly popular in South Asia, but is made and sold around the world.

In Australia, there are currently eight major brands producing paneer, across NSW, Victoria and northern Tasmania.

Not a lot is known about how pathogens behave in paneer and this information is important for refining food safety regulations. . . 

 


Rural round-up

June 18, 2020

Farmers must drive change – Colin Williscroft:

Catchment groups offer farmers the chance to take the lead in freshwater quality enhancement while maintaining profits. 

In the process they encourage thriving farming communities, presenters told a Beef + Lamb eforum.

Rangitikei Rivers Catchment Collective chairman Roger Dalrymple said community catchment groups let farmers make change from the bottom up rather than having it forced on them from the top down, which has often been the approach.

Farmers in catchment groups can help lift knowledge and education and have more control of pressure to make environmental improvements while ensuring their businesses remain sound. . . 

Tough road ahead for wool – Sally Rae:

The costs incurred in shearing crossbred sheep are starting to seriously impede the profitability of sheep farming, ANZ’s latest Agri Focus report says.

Strong wool prices were at the lowest level recorded this decade while shearing costs accelerated, a trend that would only continue. Returns were “absolutely dismal” and that situation was unlikely to improve significantly until existing stocks had cleared, the report said.

Wool had built up throughout the pipeline with in-market stocks elevated, local wool stores full and product starting to pile up in wool sheds.

End-user demand for coarse wool remained tied to carpet production. Wool carpets were generally still expensive relative to synthetic carpet which would make selling wool products even more challenging as global economic conditions imploded. . . 

Too important for lazy labels – Mike Manning:

The espoused benefits of regenerative agriculture have captured headlines recently. Proponents argue climate, soil health, waterways and food nutrition can all be improved by taking a regenerative approach. 

That’s quite a list for a cure-all.

Before we throw the export-dollar-generating baby out with the conventional-farming bathwater it pays to probe beneath the buzzword. Where did the concept come from and what is actually meant by the word regenerative?

The concept of regenerative agriculture originated from justifiable concerns about how continuous arable cropping can degrade soils, an example of which occurred in North American wheat and cornfields. The notorious dust bowls of the 1930s were the result of soil problems such as loss of organic matter, compaction, reduced water-holding capacity and diminishing fertility. . . 

New sheep breed key to organic success for Southland family :

Imagine a breed of sheep that requires no dagging, shearing, vaccinations or dipping. It is highly fertile, lives a reproductive life of 15 years or more and puts all of its energy into producing meat.

It has been a 30-year labour of love for Tim and Helen Gow and their family at Mangapiri Downs organic stud farm and this year they are busy selling more than 100 Shire stud rams.

The Gow family established their Wiltshire flock in 1987 after seeing them in England a couple of years earlier.

“Wiltshire horned are believed to have descended from the Persian hair meat sheep brought to Britain by the Romans as the first British meat sheep,” he said. . . 

Reproductive results: Bay of Plenty farm almost halves its empty rate:

A focus on cow condition helped Jessica Willis almost halve the empty rate on a dairy farm she managed for four years.

The 31-year-old ran a 48-hectare farm, milking 150 Holstein Friesians at Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty until May 2020.

The flat property was below sea level and got extremely wet during the winter and spring.

“It was a constant juggling act to ensure cows didn’t pug paddocks and damage pasture when it was wet,” said Willis. . . 

Farming for the future – Virginia Tapscott:

In a eucalyptus forest east of Monto in central Queensland, fat, glossy cattle have retreated to the shade to escape the midday sun. The sun in northern Australia stings even in the cooler months. Flicking flies with their tails, the animals seem completely oblivious to the vital role they have played in the transformation of Goondicum Station. They have enabled Rob and Nadia Campbell to capitalise on the dawn of an unconventional agricultural trade — natural capital.

Not only is the private sector paying them for their bushland and the carbon it captures, but the bank manager is on board too. National Australia Bank has recognised the value of environmental improvements that began at Goondicum in the 1960s, cutting interest rates on parts of the station under conservation. The grazing systems developed by successive generations of the Campbell family have allowed large areas of native vegetation to regenerate and encouraged native wildlife populations to increase. . . 


Rural round-up

June 9, 2020

Book puts farming at centre of NZ’s story :

Brian Easton says his new book could not ignore farming’s contribution to the history of NZ.

William Soltau Davidson is not usually considered one of New Zealand’s great 19th century heroes. He came to New Zealand in 1865 as a 19-year-old farm cadet at the Levels in South Canterbury. By the age of 32 he was general manager of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, which held some 3,000,000 acres in the South Island, in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, some of which Davidson sold off to small holders.

In 1882 he supervised the loading of the first exports of frozen meat at Port Chalmers and welcomed the Dunedin when it reached London. That Davidson does not appear more prominently in our general histories reflects their neglect of the central role of farming.

It is a strange omission, probably the result of the urban base of the writers, the tendency to imitate foreign histories with their focus on industrialisation and their lack of interest in the economy. . . 

Farmer is game for a challenge – Colin Williscroft:

Two-time women’s Rugby World Cup winner Bex Mahoney is these days putting her energy into running a Tararua farming business with her husband Luke but she’s also breaking new ground on the rugby field. There are synergies between the two, as Colin Williscroft reports.

Bex Mahoney likes to challenge herself to have a go at different things because that gives her an edge.

Is a simple philosophy but one that has paid off for the Pahiatua farmer. 

Only the fourth New Zealander to have played 50 first class games of rugby and gone on to referee 50 first class games, both men’s and women’s, the mother of two young girls spends much of her time getting her hands dirty on-farm while also exploring new farming opportunities online and on the phone.  . . 

Farmstrong hits 5th birthday:

Rural wellbeing initiative Farmstrong is celebrating its fifth birthday.

More than 18,000 Kiwi farmers and growers have engaged in the last year alone. 

Farmstrong helps farmers and their families cope with the ups and downs of farming by sharing things farmers can do to look after themselves and the people in their business.

It offers practical tools and resources through its website, workshops and community events, inviting farmers to find out what works for them and lock it in. Farmers using good techniques to stay mentally and physically fit and healthy are regularly featured in stories in Farmers Weekly.  . . 

Queens Birthday honours: cattle breeder Bruce McKenzie:

Bruce McKenzie is proud of his Queen’s Birthday Honour, even though rumour has it, he thought it was a joke at first.

The Wairarapa beef breeder was awarded Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to the cattle industry.

“It’s a great honour to receive this. I think agriculture is going to be a part of the future in New Zealand and I feel very proud to have this honour” he told The Country’s Jamie Mackay. . .

Research finds sheep eyes are the window to their stressed out souls :

Kiwi researchers have found the temperature of a sheep’s eye is linked to the animal’s level of stress.

Thermal imaging technology is being used by AgResearch scientists to gain greater insights into how livestock experience stress, and how that knowledge can help enhance animal welfare.

Research in which the technology is focused on sheep has been published today in the PLOS ONE scientific journal, entitled “Evaluation of infrared thermography as a non-invasive method of measuring the autonomic nervous response in sheep“. . . 

Partners in agritech innovation – Niall Casey:

While it may sound like a cliché to say that Ireland and New Zealand both punch above their weights, it’s clear from the figures that it’s true.

Ireland, a country of less than 5 million people produces enough food to feed over 50 million people, while NZ’s agri-food is known across the world for its food – with its dairy farming passing $15b in export earnings annually.

Both countries are united by their shared commitment to quality, traceability and the highest standards in production and safety.


Rural round-up

May 24, 2020

Farmers feel the love – Neal Wallace:

With the demise of New Zealand’s $41 billion tourism industry because of covid-19 the primary sector will carry an even greater economic burden. Not only will it fund the lion’s share of health, education and social welfare but also service the $200 billion the Government plans to borrow. This week we start the series, Growing Our Recovery, which looks at what obstacles and opportunities the sector faces as it leads NZ out of economic recession.

Renewed trust in the primary sector is being shown by the Government and its officials as they see changing economic fortunes around the globe, sector leaders say.

“We are picking up an awareness amongst Government that the stakes have all of a sudden got very high, not that they weren’t high before, but the stakes now are doubly high and they’re very much aware of that,” DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said. . . 

Farmers aim to feed the need – Colin Williscroft:

An AgriHQ initiative started earlier this year is playing a key role providing options for farmers wanting to buy supplementary stock feed while donated balage and hay continue to be trucked into Hawke’s Bay.

In February AgriHQ saw a growing demand for supplementary feed from farmers relying on various avenues to supply their needs.

To connect buyers with sellers it set up the AgriHQ Feed Noticeboard to let sellers listing what they have got, its cost, their location and contact details.

Commercial leader Steph Holloway says the online noticeboard proved popular popular from the start with it not uncommon for feed to be listed one day then gone the next. . . 

Motivated young farmer making rapid gains in sector – Yvonne O’Hara:

Josh Cochrane is passionate about cows and enthusiastic about working in the dairy sector.

At 22, Mr Cochrane has wanted to be a dairy farmer for as long as he can remember.

He is in his first season as a 2IC for contract milkers Ben Franklin and Chelsea Saywell, on Roddy MacInnes’ 140ha property at Ryal Bush, milking 520 cows.

However, next season he moves to a 600-cow property in Oamaru as a contract milker.

He entered this year’s Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year competition and placed third.

His family were on a dairy farm near Rotorua and moved to Southland in 2007, when he was 10. . . 

Zero bobby calves for South Canterbury farming couple :

The versatility of Holstein Friesians is being credited with allowing a young South Canterbury couple to produce zero bobby calves.

Ryan and Billie Moffat milk 460 cows at Waimate. Production on the 145-hectare irrigated property was 262,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in 2018-19.

The couple bought the farm off Ryan’s parents Mike and Chris Moffat last year, after buying their herd four years’ earlier.

“Our business doesn’t produce any bobby calves,” said Billie. . .

Farm ownership long term goal – Yvonne O’Hara:

Jakeb Lawson has been working in the dairy industry since he was about 13 and likes it so much, he wants to eventually own his own farm.

Mr Lawson (19) is a farm assistant for sharemilker Matt McKenzie, on a 300ha property owned by Eoin and Jayne McKenzie, at Woodlands.

They milk 650 cows and the expected production this year is 360,000 kg of milk solids.

‘‘I got the opportunity to do some work for my brother-in-law when I was about 13 or 14 and I really enjoyed it,’’ Mr Lawson said. . . 

Farmers still need ‘up to 40,000’ workers to help pick crop :

Farmers still need up to 40,000 workers to help bring the harvest in this summer despite an ‘overwhelming’ response to hiring campaigns.

Defra launched the initiative ‘Pick for Britain’ last month to bring workers and employers together as the impact of Covid-19 leaves a diminished workforce.

From pickers and packers, to plant husbandry and tractor or forklift drivers, there are a wide range of roles available for furloughed employees. . . 


Rural round-up

May 17, 2020

Forest Owners brace for avalanche of clipboards in government measure:

The Forest Owners Association says the industry anticipates an unacceptable and pointless bureaucratic cost to all parts of the forest industry, if the Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Bill becomes law.

The bill was introduced into Parliament last night and will go to the Environment Select Committee early next month.

The Forest Owners Association President, Phil Taylor, says the first details forest growers saw of the scheme was when it was introduced last night.

“The government speakers in its first reading debate seem to think that giving a certificate to someone who buys and sells logs, is going to lead to more logs being processed in New Zealand and not exported.” . . .

Agriculture a difficult issue in US – Uk trade negotiations; what a surprise – Point of Order:

London’s Financial Times reports on a struggle within Britain’s cabinet on how much to cut farm tariffs in any US-UK trade deal.  It’s not the most edifying reporting – and the economics are even more questionable.

Of course, there’s always artificiality in the briefing of intra-government squabbles.  Political slogans predominate and reporters struggle to present the real views of ministers who can be incapable of understanding, let alone articulating, the underlying economic arguments.  But here the gap between presentation and reality is truly remarkable.

Britain’s international trade secretary is negotiating with the US government on a post-Brexit trade agreement and apparently wants to offer tariff cuts on food imported from the US.  These are reported as ‘concessions’. . .

In it for the long haul – Colin Williscroft:

The Absolom family farm has the next generation in mind. They want their Hawke’s Bay property to be with their family in at least 100 years so take a long-term approach to everything they do. Colin Williscroft reports.

Brothers Daniel, Jeremy and Ben are the fifth generation of the Absolom family to farm at Rissington where their family has been working the land northwest of Napier since the late 1880s.

During that time they’ve developed a proud history in the area but are not content to leave it at that, keeping a close eye on the future, seeking out and adopting the latest technology and science to put them in front of challenges facing farmers at the grassroots and the industry as a whole. . .

Duck-shooters await season’s starting gun – Molly Houseman:

It will be game on for duck-shooting next weekend.

Hunters across the South breathed a “sigh of relief” over the decision to begin a delayed 2020 bird game season on May 23, following the move into Level 2 on Thursday.

“Game bird hunting is a national tradition and many families see opening day as more sacred than Christmas,” Otago Fish & Game officer Nigel Pacey said.

The Level 2 announcement meant access to hunting grounds and mai mais by air, road or boat travel would be allowed.

Staying overnight would also be allowed as long as people “play it safe”. . . 

Busy Southland woman dairy finalist

Jessica Goodwright leads a busy life. Mrs Goodwright and her husband, Lyall, who have three children, farm at Drummond in Southland in a 50-50 sharemilking and equity partnership with another dairy farm in the region.

She is the Dairy Women’s Network regional leader for Central Southland and manages to find time to study for a diploma in agribusiness management through Primary ITO and is now on her final paper.

Her grassroots dairy farming leadership efforts earned her becoming a finalist in the Dairy Women’s Network’s new DWN regional leader of the year. . . 

Covid 19 coronavirus: Poppy Renton’s Hawke’s Bay Drought rural Facebook page a ‘lifesaver’

Nineteen-year old Poppy Renton says the lockdown has impacted farmers on a number of fronts. The Maraekakaho-based founder of the now acclaimed Facebook page Hawke’s Bay Drought tells Mark Story the initiative has helped to galvanise a hurting farming community.

What was the spark for the Facebook page?
I wanted to create a space where farmers could have support, provide advice, communicate and share their stories with one another. I also wanted to make New Zealanders aware of what farming conditions are like in Hawke’s Bay at the moment and how dire the situation actually is. I wanted to make farmers aware that, even though we were in lockdown, they aren’t alone. It might not be in person, but there’s someone going through the same thing just down the road.

How’s the uptake so far?
When I made the page I thought only a few people would join and had no idea how fast it would grow. I hoped for 500 people, but that happened on day two, with 882 reached.
I did not expect it to get to 3500 in 11 days.  . . 


Rural round-up

May 12, 2020

Accidental farmer now a winner–  Gerald Piddock :

Dairy farmer Ash-Leigh Campbell has come a long way in a short time and now wants to encourage young people into the dairy sector and do what she can locally while travel restrictions limit what she can do with the $20,000 prize she took home as the Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year.

Ash-leigh Campbell didn’t set out to have a career in dairying.

Instead, she stumbled into the industry, starting out relief milking for a local farmer to earn extra cash for her first car while still at high school in Canterbury.

She was an accidental dairy farmer, she says.

Ten years on the 29-year-old has had a meteoritic rise, capped off by being the youngest person to become Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year at the Dairy Women’s Network Awards. . .

Rural fok rally round – Colin Williscroft:

Rural communities are banding together to help Hawke’s Bay farmers dealing with drought and a feed shortage.

Wairarapa farmers Daniel and Sophie Hansen are gathering feed in their region to send to their northern neighbours.

They hoope if farmers there have a bale or two of hay or balage they can do without then, despite it being a small amount individually, combined it could provide a real lifeline to Hawke’s Bay farmers.

Initially, the Hansens aimed to get every farmer on their road to either give or sell one or two bales to make a unit load but the idea has grown. . . 

Red meat exports pass $1b – Sally Rae:

Exports of New Zealand red meat and co-products in March passed the $1billion mark, a first for monthly exports.

Analysis by the Meat Industry Association showed total exports reached $1.1billion, an increase of 12% on March 2019.

While overall exports to China in March were down 9% on the corresponding month last year, due to Covid-19, exports to all other major markets increased, a statement from MIA said.

Sheepmeat export volumes were up 4% and value up 13% compared with last March. And while sheepmeat exports to China were down 11% by volume compared with last March, they still recovered significantly from February, doubling to nearly 25,000 tonnes. . . 

Keytone Dairy a secret Kiwi success – Rebecca Howard:

Keytone Dairy may not be listed on the NZX but it’s one to watch as it inks new orders and ramps up production.

The ASX-listed stock took a tumble on global panic hitting 20.5 Australian cents on March 19.

Since then it’s more than doubled to 43 cents as investors buy into its growth story that Covid-19 triggered “significant” global demand for its products. Appetite for its formulated milk powders is four times greater than before the crisis, it said.

The company was incorporated in September 2017 to buy and run New Zealand’s Keytone Enterprises. It wrapped the deal up in July 2018 and listed on the Australian stock exchange at the same time, choosing Australia because of its proximity to a larger pool of funds. . .

Current grower meeting challenges – George Clark:

Hamish McFarlane is a third-generation blackcurrant grower with a farm 10 minutes north of Temuka.

He grows the superfood, with a mix of cattle and the odd vegetable, for Barkers of Geraldine.

Covid-19 Alert Level 4 allowed business to continue for the McFarlane family but there were challenges.

‘‘We were pretty uncertain what the future was going to hold for us. Once we went into lockdown we were unsure with what government levels immediately meant,’’ he said. . . 

View form the Paddock: don’t fall for plant-based meat hype – Trent Thorne:

In 1787, Catherine the Great toured the recently annexed Crimean Peninsula with her conquering Commander-in-chief, Grigory Potemkin.

In an effort to thoroughly impress the Tsarina with the work he had done in the south of Russia (which for many years had been a desolate area ravaged by constant warfare) following the annexation, Potemkin constructed pasteboard facades of fake village.

As a result of his artifice, the term ‘Potemkin village’ is now used to refer to an impressive show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition.

You may well ask what does modern Russian history and the COVID-19 pandemic have in common? . . 


Rural round-up

May 4, 2020

An apple harvest no-one will ever forget – Nikki Mandow:

Apple growers have filled our fruit bowls and bolstered our export coffers, while harvesting a bumper crop and maintaining strict social distancing for their workforce. It’s been a nightmare.

Simon Easton sounds relaxed. The fourth-generation apple farmer grows 61 hectares of fruit outside Motueka with his brother. They are nearly at the end of this year’s harvest – a week more picking, a month more packing and they’re done.

Easy as. Not.

On a scale of one to 10, Easton reckons his stress levels this season have been up around 9.8. Particularly at the beginning of the pandemic. . .

Coronavirus: Alliance Group adapts to changing global markets -Louisa Steyl:

The rural sector is tipped to help Southland’s economy pull through the coronavirus lockdown. What does that mean for the Alliance Group? Louisa Steyl reports.

Being agile and responding to markets’ rapid changes both domestically and on a global scale will help some companies come through the downturn in the economy.

The Alliance Group, with processing plants in Dannevirke, Levin, Nelson, Oamaru, Timaru and its two Southland-based plants Lorneville and Mataura, has been affected during the lockdown.   . . 

 

Fish and Game review change to refocus:

The recently announced review into Fish and Game needs to ensure the organisation’s focus returns to working in the best interests of anglers and hunters, National’s Conservation spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.

“Over recent years there has been tension between Fish and Game and farming groups that has contributed to a rural-urban divide.

“Many prized fishing and hunting spots are on privately owned farmland and there is a lot of goodwill between individual farmers and recreational hunters and anglers in negotiating access. . . 

Kiwis left scratching their heads as butter turns white – Esther Taunton:

Something’s happening to our butter.

Usually a deep yellow, it’s been getting progressively lighter and even farmers are puzzled by its now barely off-white hue.

In a recent tweet, Golden Bay dairy farmer Wayne Langford pointed out the change, comparing a block of Anchor butter to his “tan free legs.” . .

Act now, plan ahead – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay farmers struggling through extended drought and increasing feed shortages are being told to act now and plan for winter.

It’s a message farmers in other parts of the country should heed as well, with feed shortages likely to be wide-ranging. 

The southern half of Hawke’s Bay is entering its seventh month of below-normal rainfall and there is no sign of the drought breaking. . .

Learning from Covid: How biosecurity lessons in Asia will help Australia :

As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, a consortium of Australian and New Zealand veterinary scientists has been established to train a new generation of ‘animal disease detectives’ in 11 countries across Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

“A year after African swine fever wiped out more than a quarter of the global pig population and with more than 200,000 people dead from COVID-19, equipping veterinarians with the tools for disease outbreak investigation and surveillance has never been more important,” said program leader Associate Professor Navneet Dhand from the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science and Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity. . .


Rural round-up

April 21, 2020

Our greatest opportunity – Penny Clark-Hall:

After 10 or so years of a society dislocating itself, with the farming community being challenged to meet the evolving values of its urban counterparts, we have been given a gift. A chance to reconnect.

We’ve been bemoaning the fact that no one wants to listen to the good stories for years. Who would have thought it would take a global pandemic to give us a window to be able to have that voice again? It seems bad taste to be observing silver linings and opportunities whilst so many are suffering however, an opportunity to connect and support our country can only be a positive for everyone in my books. The primary sector’s social licence and our economy depends on it.  . .

Sector wants deal on reforms – Neal Wallace and Colin Williscroft:

Primary sector leaders have been in discussions with the Government to try to reach a consensus on freshwater reforms.

The 11-member Food and Fibre Leaders’ Forum, which represents the primary sector, is adopting a similar approach to last year’s accord on reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and for several months has had regular meetings with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and senior Cabinet ministers.

The Government’s Essential Freshwater reforms have been temporarily stalled by covid-19 with Environment Minister David Parker saying dealing with the crisis necessitates the reconsideration of priorities and timing. . .

Wanna job? We’ve got it – Annette Scott:

Primary industries face a serious staff recruitment pinch of grave concern to AgStaff director Matt Jones.

The impact of covid-19 is alredy starting to bite and with hundreds of vacancies on his books it’s only going to get worse over the next year, Jones said.

Through his employment businesses Jones recruits staff for jobs from farm and agricultural contracting and food processing to seasonal staff and quality assurance experts, many coming from around the globe to work in New Zealand.  . . 

Are pine trees killing kauri?

A new study suggests that kauri dieback disease may be connected to the lack of protective fungi in plantation pine forest soil.

Published in FEMS Microbiology Ecology, the study, by Bio-Protection Research Centre PhD candidate Alexa Byers and others, looked at the differences in the bacteria and fungi living in the soil of kauri forest and surrounding pine plantations in the Waipoua area. It found soil in the pine forest’s neighbouring kauri forests lacked several species of fungi and bacteria that protect plants, promote growth, and improve their health (for example Trichoderma and Pseudomonas).

“The loss of core microbiota from native soil microbial communities… surrounding remnant kauri fragments could be altering the forest’s ability to respond to pathogen invasion,” Ms Byers wrote. . . 

Energy farm to trial zero carbon solutions – Nigel Malthus:

Lincoln University has unveiled plans for what is expected to be a globally-unique Energy Demonstration Farm to help the primary sector meet its future zero-carbon obligations.

The farm is designed to be fossil fuel-free and feature solar and wind power, bio-fuel, and energy storage solutions while showcasing the range of technology available and how it can be applied, as well as providing data for research and innovation.

Project leaders Dr Wim de Koning and Dr Jeff Heyl say the farm would allow the University and their research partners to make mistakes, so farmers won’t have to.

Fury of British farmers as public sector caterers vow to cut meat served ins cools, hospitals, universities and care homes by 20 percent to improve diets and help environment – Jack Wright:

  • British farmers are furious at public sector caterers vowing to cut red meat servings in schools, hospitals, and care homes by 20 per cent
  • NFU board member Richard Findlay described move as ‘frankly ridiculous’
  • He called #20percentless a ‘misguided project’ that is ‘wholly inaccurate’
  • The aim is to cut greenhouse gases linked to livestock and boost public health
  • Hitting the target would remove nearly 20million lb of meat every year in the UK . . .

Rural round-up

April 20, 2020

Hope for less restrictions:

The wool industry hopes for some lifting of COVID-19 restrictions limiting shearing and crutching to animal welfare reasons only.

“The shearing and crutching that is happening is taking place in the sheds where the contractors are helping to introduce social distancinghttps://www.stuff.co.nz/national/121104102/coronavirus-will-the-duckshooting-season-go-ahead? protocols,” says Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairman Miles Anderson.

“The staff are all 2m away from each other and that sort of thing. So, the shearing and crutching that is happening on farm is taking a bit longer.

“Any wool that has been shorn in the last several weeks is being stored on farm.” . . 

Coronavirus: Overseas farmers forced to dump milk during Covid-19 lockdown – Esther Taunton:

Overseas dairy farmers are pouring millions of litres of milk down the drain every day but it is business as usual for their Kiwi counterparts.

With pubs, cafes and restaurants closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, farmers in Britain are dumping up to 5 million litres a week, the Financial Times reported.

In the United States, up to 14 million litres of milk is going down the drain each day, according to the Dairy Farmers of America co-operative. . .

Coronavirus: Will the duck-shooting season go ahead? – Kirsty Lawrence:

The duck-shooting season is due to start in two weeks, but there are still big questions about whether it will even be possible 

The Covid-19 website initially said no to hunting under level three, but then changed to say they are re-looking at this and would provide an update soon.

The New Zealand Fish & Game Council held an online meeting on Friday to discuss an options paper about the ways forward, a spokesperson said. 

“We appreciate that everyone wants some certainty around what we know is a national tradition. . .

Dairy’s corona headache – Rabobank:

The outbreak of COVID-19 is weighing on global market sentiment and the 2020 outlook.

The underlying assumption is that many of the disruptions in China will normalize by the end of Q2 2020.

Rabobank believes there has been a shift in the global market fundamentals. A material reduction in China’s 1H 2020 import requirements looms over the global market balance. Chinese dairy import volume is forecast to fall 19% in 2020.  . .

Farmer’s Voice: success is in the bloodline – Craig Wiggins:

Since the 1960’s the Blackwell’s have farmed on Mangaotea Station, taking pride in the high-quality cattle they produce. These days Rob, Jaqueline and Zarrah farm three separate cattle studs on the property, with an obvious family rivalry pushing them to breed the best they possibly can.

 

 

 

Adapt quickly – Colin Williscroft:

Traceable, trusted and safe food will be more important than ever before in post-lockdown society but consumer behaviour has changed and New Zealand food producers must adapt quickly, KPMG agribusiness global head Ian Proudfoot says.

An understanding of food’s importance in peoples’ lives is greater today than it has been in decades, probably since the 1940s, he told an AgriTech webinar.

“We’ve always assumed food will be there but now there is an awareness we could face food insecurity.

“Now we recognise food supply is not certain. Food availability will no longer be taken for granted.” . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 1, 2020

Hope from the high country – Philip Todhunter:

Covid-19? It’s like opening your front door and finding two metres of snow on the ground just after you’d put all your new fencing in.

The fences have been wrecked. You look at the damage, you shake your head, and then you get on with managing your way through it.

In the back of your mind, you know that spring will come, the tonnes of snow will melt, and the grass will grow again.

Farmers are an optimistic bunch. We’re used to things going in cycles: weather patterns, commodity prices, market demand … but we also know that sometimes the wheel doesn’t turn the whole way round, sometimes the change is permanent. . . 

Coronavirus: can the economy recover – Andrea Vance and Iain McGregor:

The economic ride down is likely to be sharp and steep. But when consumers eventually emerge from lockdown, what will the recovery look like? Andrea Vance and Iain McGregor investigate.

Weighing sheep in a yard in the brown foothills of North Canterbury’s Hundalee Hills, Ben Ensor is an unlikely soldier on the frontline of New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As the country prepared to shut down, to stop the spread of coronavirus, the sheep and beef farmer was separating merino stock under the shadow of rustic woolshed. Hooves beat up clouds of dust, as his farm dog herded them into a race.

With 6000 sheep, and around 500 cattle, Ensor can’t close down. Like nurses, doctors, pharmacists and supermarket staff, farming and cropping have been deemed “essential“. . .

Kiwifruit taste test goes south :

Kiwifruit growers will not be paid for their fruit’s taste profile this season after the country’s only testing facility dropped the test.

Eurofins Bay of Plenty is the country’s only testing facility for the drymatter component of kiwifruit, which gives growers and Zespri a direct indication of the fruit’s taste profile.  

The lab now tests only for residues in fruit, leaving post-harvest processors grappling with how to evaluate fruit quality. . .

Keep calm, carry on – Colin Williscroft:

The Government is well aware of farming’s importance and is doing everything it can to ensure the primary sector continues to operate as close to normal as possible, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

“Farming has been the backbone of New Zealand and that will that continue long into the future,” O’Connor says.

Cabinet understands the role farming plays in the economy, along with the need to maintain farming systems subject to seasonal and biological cycles, including the lifecycle of animals and grass growth, restrictions other businesses around the country are not subject to. . .

Meat industry in better shape today to cope with downturn – Allan Barber:

When I started to trawl through possible topics to write about this week, I had the bright idea it might be worth asking meat processors what contingency plans they have in place in case an employee, more particularly one on the processing floor, tests positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus. So far my research suggests it’s not yet an issue that has received a great deal of consideration by many companies, although it’s certainly on their radar.

In an update to farmers, Silver Fern Farms states its position as “The reality is that an outbreak, or the understandable precautionary response of our people, is likely to see an impact on our processing capacity in coming weeks. It is realistic to expect that with a workforce of 7000 we will at least have precautionary isolation within our workforce. We have processes in place to ensure that, should this occur, it can be managed. We are working on the various contingent options and will keep you updated should there be any disruption to processing.” . . 

Coronavirus: George Eustice applauds farmers as ‘hidden heroes’ :

Defra Secretary George Eustice has labelled farmers ‘hidden heroes’ for keeping food on the nation’s plates during the Covid-19 crisis.

In an open letter to the food and farming industry, Mr Eustice paid tribute to ‘all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed.’

The statement described farmers’ response so far as ‘extraordinary’ and thanked those involved in food production on behalf of the country.

“In the face of what is perhaps the greatest health challenge this country has faced in our lifetime, I want to pay tribute to all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed,” he said. . .  

 


Rural round-up

March 28, 2020

After the lockdown, the economy’s recovery will be dependent on dairy farms and their milk – Point of Order:

The planet is  in a state of   flux,   economies are tumbling into  recession, no-one (not even Donald Trump) can predict  when the agony will  end.

Suddenly, the streets  are  empty:  life  as  we have  known  it is  now  very  different. The  nation  is  in   lockdown.

As  the  London  “Economist” put it:

“The struggle  to  save  lives  and the  economy  is  likely to present  agonising choices…As  that  sends economies  reeling, desperate  governments are trying to tide over  companies and  by handing out millions of  dollars in  aid and loan guarantees. Nobody can be sure how these rescues  will work”. . . 

Don’t stress weakening economy – Neal Wallace:

Economist Cameron Bagrie is joining a chorus of calls for the Government to delay introducing policy imposing new environmental rules and costs on a rapidly weakening economy.

Bagrie says Government borrowing as a percentage of gross domestic product has doubled from 20% to 40% in the last few weeks as it tries to protect jobs and businesses from the impact of measures to control the covid-19 virus pandemic.

He expects Government borrowing will increase further and warns now is not the time to introduce more costs on businesses in freshwater regulations and the new minimum wage, which applies from April 1.

“Farming has been unloved and beaten up by the Government for the last two or three years but the Government is going to need farmers for the next few years.” . . 

Virus adds to woes of North Canterbury farmers – David Hill:

The uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic is adding yet another headache for North Canterbury farmers.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cameron Henderson and North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Andy Munro say dry conditions, the ongoing effects of Mycoplasma bovis and coronavirus, and this week’s 5.1-magnitude earthquake near Culverden are creating uncertainty.

‘‘The effects of the virus seem to be changing day to day as we have seen with share markets and travel bans,’’ Mr Henderson said. . . 

Meat matters to sector stalwart – Colin Williscroft:

Tim Ritchie retires as Meat Industry Association chief executive on April 7 after a career in primary sector roles that began in the 1970s. Colin Williscroft reports.

THE meat industry has come a long way since Tim Ritchie got involved and a decision made on the far side of the world about then that has provided the biggest advantage to the sector here in the years since.

Though it might not have seemed like it at the time, in retrospect Britain joining the then European Economic Community in 1973 was the best thing that could have happened for New Zealand farmers. . . 

Leader learnt a lot in dairy industry – Yvonne O’Hara:

‘‘It was like being dropped into the mothership of emergency management.’’

That is how Katrina Thomas describes her involvement with the recent flood recovery effort in the South.

The Wreys Bush dairy farmer was Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) southern regional hub leader for Otago and Southland since 2016, and regional leader for Southland since 2012.

However, this year she decided she wanted to try other challenges. . . 

Wine industry faces worker accommodation woes during lockdown:

The wine industry is facing criticism for continuing harvest during the Covid-19 lockdown, and is facing problems with worker accommodation

The government says the grape and wine industry can continue to operate as an essential business, but strict conditions apply as the country moves to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Some Marlborough people have noticed the hundreds of workers travelling to work in vineyards all over the district, and have questioned whether this was safe in the current climate. . . 


Rural round-up

March 26, 2020

COVID-19: Support rural businesses – Rural Women NZ – Pam Tipa:

We need to make sure that our rural businesses are well supported, says Fiona Gower, Rural Women NZ national president.

“With the lack of tourists coming through we need to ensure the small businesses can survive because without them we don’t have a community,” she told Rural News last week.

“Once they are gone it is really hard to get them back.

She says digital communication will also play an important part in the coronavirus response.  . . 

Rural businesses band together – Colin Williscroft:

Rural businesses Farmlands, PGG Wrightson and FarmSource have pledged to work together during the covid-19 response.

In an open letter, the companies’ chief executives said they will harness their collective supply chain to maintain productivity.

“It is time for us all to do what we can to try and continue to support you through these challenging times,” the letter says.

“We are working closely together to ensure that all farmers and growers across New Zealand have the necessary products and supplies to keep your businesses operating.  . . 

Rules driving farmers out – Sudesh Kissun:

New farming rules around sustainability are driving elderly farmers out of the dairy industry, says agri-economist Phil Journeaux.

He says over the past three years, there’s been an increase in farmers, in their 60s and 70s, looking at other options. Journeaux, AgFirst Waikato, spoke at a Smaller Milk and Supply Herds (SMASH) seminar in Te Aroha last week.

Attended by about 50 farmers, the event went ahead despite the coronavirus outbreak. . . 

Maize volume okay but feed still tight – Richard Rennie:

The maize silage supply has shaped up better than might have been expected despite one of the driest summers on record stifling production.

Bill Webb of Bill Webb Feed Solutions near Te Puke said crops on lower, wetter country have performed better this year than last season when heavy rain washed out many crops on the same land.

“But on the higher, drier country the yields have proved to be quite variable. Average block yields would still be 22 tonnes a hectare but there are some on that lower country that would be up to 26t.”  . . 

2020 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards medals winners announced:

In a world that’s a little topsy-turvy it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to celebrate great New Zealand produce with the announcement of 2020 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards medal winners.

Twenty-five judges and eight stewards worked in panels to assess a record 225 food and drink entries at AUT School of Hospitality & Tourism on Saturday 7 March 2020. Following the judges’ assessment of aroma, appearance, taste, texture and quality which accounted for 75% of marks, products were assessed for sustainability and brand story. Shoppers will recognise outstanding food and drink as they proudly wear Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards gold, silver and bronze medals—a guarantee of product quality. . . 

Maori orchardists capitalise on global demand for organic produce – Bonnie Flaws:

Māori orchardist Otama Marere has embraced organic kiwifruit production, converting a total of 7 hectares of its 45 hectare block into organic SunGold kiwifruit, with further conversions being considered.

The trust that manages the land has also held educational days on the land for other Maori kiwifruit growers interested in organic production, says orchard manager Homman Tapsell.

The land, near Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty is a former Māori settlement on the banks of the Kaituna river, with the name coming from a nearby pa site that was occupied by Rangiiwaho and his whanau. Trust members are the descendants of Rangiiwaho, he said. . . 


Rural round-up

March 21, 2020

Coronavirus: Fonterra, New Zealand is counting on you now like never before – Andrea Fox:

Fonterra chairman John Monaghan in his opening remarks about this week’s strong half-year result said against the backdrop of coronavirus turmoil, the big dairy company’s news “may sound somewhat trivial”.

We knew what he meant, but he couldn’t have been more wrong.

The financial performance of New Zealand’s biggest company and the world’s fourth-largest dairy company assumes towering new importance because of that turmoil.

Dairying was an economic sword for New Zealand against the GFC. . . 

New Zealand’s food supply needs protecting:

The animal medicines and crop protection lobby group Agcarm applauds the government’s efforts to protect the health of New Zealanders in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, buts asks that support is extended to the farming community for maintaining essential food supplies.

Agcarm chief executive says “our rural communities are needed more than ever to ensure that this health crisis doesn’t turn into a hunger crisis”. Food production must be prioritised as an essential part of the COVID-19 response.

“We must maintain the uninterrupted movement of animal medicine and crop protection products, seeds and feed so that our farmers can keep healthy livestock and maintain an abundant supply of meat, fruits, vegetables and grains.” . . 

Still in business – Annette Scott:

Rural people are urged to band together in keeping safe as they ride the tough times of the coronavirus pandemic.

Social resilience is key and if everyone works together “we will get through this,” the Mental Health Foundation says.

Agriculture is still in business and likely to lead the bounce back, ASB rural economist Nathan Penny says.

“Farming is likely to be the quickest to rebound from the fallout from coronavirus. . . 

Drought starting to bite hard – Colin Williscroft:

Drought shouts organised by North Island rural support trusts have been put on hold by restrictions on gatherings.

Rural Support Trust chairman Neil Bateup says the social events bringing farmers together to deal with the drought and take their minds off some of its problems are no longer an option as the focus goes on keeping farmers and trust staff safe from covid-19.

It does not affect the trust’s other services.

“We’re absolutely determined to continue with the one-on-one support and advice to farmers.

“That will not be interrupted but we’re putting some protocols in place to keep everyone safe.” . . 

Dairy farm sales low but recovering – Maja Burry:

New figures from the Real Estate Institute show dairy farm sales remain slow, with only one dairy farm changing hands in Canterbury in the last nine months.

Data released yesterday shows 1253 farms were sold in the year to February 2020, 14.8 percent fewer than were sold in the year to February 2019, with 37 percent less dairy farms, 10 percent less grazing farms, 27.9 percent less finishing farms and 9.9 percent less arable farms sold over the same period.

The institute’s rural spokesperson Brian Peacocke said the data reflected a rural industry under pressure in terms of volumes and values, particularly the dairy sector. . . 

Synlait Milk’s first half profit drops 30 percent :

Synlait Milk has reported a 30 percent fall in its first half profit as its costs rose despite higher revenue.

The dairy company’s net profit for the six month ended January was $26.2 million, compared with $37.3 million the year before.

Revenue rose 19 percent, but its depreciation and financing costs offset that as the company expanded for future growth. . .


Rural round-up

March 16, 2020

Rural people show their support – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay farmer Mark Warren has posted a call for help on social media in an attempt to let other farmers who are finding life tough know that it’s okay to ask for help.

Warren, who owns Waipari Station in Central Hawke’s Bay, says after a sleepless few hours of the 2am churn and trying to be sensible and realise that his Ts and Ps (temperatures and pressures) are in the red zone, he realised he needed help.

“Although I keep hoping to be back to 12 volts, after a weekend wading through waste-deep mud and pulling lambs out of dams I realise my volt meter is struggling to stay in the safe zone. . .

It was all done on a handshake – Neal Wallace:

Stud breeding has enabled the Robertson family from Southland to settle family members onto farms. But Neal Wallace discovers that is only part of the formula for successful farm succession. Being a tight knit, focused and strong family unit also helps.

It might be dismissed as a cliche but the adage that an apple never falls far from the tree is applicable to the Robertson family from Southland.

The Robertsons farm Duncraigen Farm at Mimihau near Wyndham and the cornerstone of their business are stud Hereford cattle, Romney and Dorset Down stud sheep and various crosses of those breeds. . .

 Attracting more ag students – Peter Burke:

The numbers of students taking up agricultural degrees at Massey University is not really increasing, according to Professor Peter Kemp – head of the School of Agriculture and Environment at Massey.

He says there are isolated areas such as animal science that have gone up. However, in horticulture and general agriculture the numbers are lower than they were a few years ago.

Kemp says this is despite the industry, at the same time, having more jobs. He says it’s really hard to unpack the reasons for this. . . 

Blade shear champ looks to 2022 – George Clark:

South Canterbury world champion blade shearer Allan Oldfield is training strategically in an attempt to retain his title at the next shearing and woolhandling world championships in Scotland in 2022.

Mr Oldfield, who is a finalist in the rural sportsman of the year category in this year’s Rural Games, started competing when he was 16 years old in New Zealand’s intermediate blade shearing grade . .

Business is blooming – Toni Williams’s:

Turley Farms Chertsey, in the heart of Mid Canterbury, is among a growing number of farms turning to sunflowers as a rotation crop to use between plantings.

Sunflowers are good for high oleic sunflower oil, which is high in oleic (monounsaturated) acid (at least 80%), and good as a frying oil. It also has a good shelf life and is used in infant formula.

The farm group, which has properties scattered throughout Canterbury, has planted more than 40ha of sunflowers at the Chertsey site. There are 62,000 sunflower plants per hectare. . .

Aussie flock hits 116 year low – Sudesh Kissun:

Prolonged dry conditions in rural Australia are taking a toll on its national sheep flock.

The latest forecast from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) says sheep numbers will fall 3.5% this year.

According to MLA’s 2020 Sheep Industry Projection, stock numbers have been dropping due to drought in key sheep producing regions. . .


Rural round-up

February 24, 2020

Dairy farmers must increase risk – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers have to learn to take more risk because staying put is no longer risk-free, independent Cameron Bagrie says.

The pace of change will accelerate not slow and farmers face three to five more years of this grumpy growth, which stems from rising costs and more regulations, he told a DairyNZ farmers forum.

“Stop being so polite and drive the key changes in the things that you can control.” . .

Net zero goal needs new tech – Colin Williscroft:

Agriculture and land use systems will have to be transformed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, Scottish academic Professor Bob Rees says.

While all sectors of the economy will have to play their part cutting emissions, the likely consequences for agriculture are stark, the keynote speaker at the Farmed Landscapes Research Centre workshop said.

Rees, an agriculture and climate change expert at Scotland Rural College, said emissions from the sector urgently need to be reduced but costs and inertia are significant barriers. . .

Cavalcades bosses keep coming back – Sally Rae:

When Chris Bayne and Sandra Cain drive around the Otago hinterland, they know what lies behind the hills.

For they have been there, among the tussocks, during their combined involvement of more than 50 years with the Otago Goldfields Cavalcade.

The two trail bosses are preparing to head off on this year’s event, which will see hundreds of riders, wagoners, walkers and cyclists arrive in Patearoa next Saturday.

Mrs Bayne’s light wagon and riding trail will meet today at Ardgour, near Tarras, while Mrs Cain’s walking trail will start on Wednesday from Ida Valley Station. . .

Winemaking need not drain reservoirs– Mark Price:

Robin Dicey cannot quite turn water into wine, but he is turning grapes into wine without water. The Bannockburn wine industry pioneer tells reporter Mark Price about his recent vino experiments.

Imagine  growing grape vines in Central Otago without pumping millions of litres of water to them through millions of metres of plastic pipe.

Without an irrigation system, surely they would wither and die in the heat of a Central summer.

Retired Bannockburn wine industry pioneer Robin Dicey is not so sure they would, and has begun an experiment to test that theory. . .

New regional leader award:

A new Regional Leader of the Year Award has been established by Dairy Women’s Network.

Chief executive Jules Benton says more than 70 volunteer regional leaders provide an important point of contact for farmers and play key role in their communities through to organising, hosting and promoting regional events.

They are the face of the network while also in some cases are running million dollar businesses. . .

Farmer confidence plummets amid Brexit and bad weather:

Continued weather conditions and Brexit uncertainty has led to a significant drop in farmer confidence, new figures suggest.

Political unpredictability surrounding the terms of the UK’s post-transition period and the recent flooding is taking its toll on industry confidence.

Results from the latest NFU survey of farmers across the UK shows that short-term (one year) confidence has reduced further from last year, dropping 11 points, to its 3rd lowest level since the survey began in 2010. . .


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