Rural round-up

17/06/2020

New contest celebrates agripreneurs – Richard Rennie:

GlobalHQ, publisher of Farmers Weekly and Dairy Farmer, is sponsoring B.linc Innovation’s inaugural awards celebrating innovation and technology in the primary sector.

The Celebrating Success Innovation Awards run by the Lincoln University’s Blinc Innovation centre have three sections.

They are for on-farm innovation, off-farm-consumer innovation and a creative innovation-future tech award for secondary school students.

Global HQ co-owner Dean Williamson said the primary sector has had to respond to covid-19 in numerous innovative and nimble ways to continue growing, harvesting and processing primary products. . . 

Te Puke’s golden promise: Harnessing the post-Covid potential of a furry little fruit – Josie Adams:

The Bay of Plenty is synonymous with kiwifruit. With a large contingent of new workers moving in this season from Covid-displaced industries, Josie Adams asked what life is like for those who’ve been there for years.

Under a very heavy tree in Tom French’s orchard waits a very heavy hedgehog. About a metre above the hog the tree has two branches grafted on; golden kiwifruit. This is one of only a few trees with fruit left; the rest have been picked, packed, and put in storage. This fruit is for the family, and for any roaming animal with enough patience. 

French has been in the kiwifruit business for 40 years, and hedging his bets on a 50/50 split between golden kiwifruit and traditional greens has helped him weather some of the industry’s storms.

First planted in the Bay of Plenty in the 1930s, by the 70s and 80s, kiwifruit – formerly known as Chinese gooseberries, and before that monkey peaches – were taking off. French estimates they were selling trays for up to $16. Then, there was a heart-stopping price drop: five competing export companies, combined with a slowdown in demand, meant those same trays were worth only $4. . . 

Fed Farmers boss welcomes environmentalists to Southland – Louisa Steyl:

Federated Farmers Southland president Geoffrey Young extended an olive branch to environmentalists by inviting them to see the improvements made to winter grazing conditions in the region.

Young invited Angus Robson, Geoff Reid and Matt Coffey to Southland at the weekend, on behalf of all farmers, after receiving an email from Robson raising concerns about practices on a particular farm.

The three visited the farm, along with two others, on Saturday, and Young said it proved to be a worthwhile day.

“It was quite a robust discussion,” Young said. . . 

Dairy just the job – Samantha Tennent:

A sharp rise in unemployment is on the horizon because of covid-19 but the dairy sector will offer some reprieve. 

DairyNZ is encouraging people to consider work on dairy farms in a new Go Dairy campaign that offers entry-level training to help the transition to farming.

While the Go Dairy career-changers campaign, supported by Federated Farmers, aims to create awareness of the job opportunities there is a big emphasis on ensuring new staff understand what is involved in farm life.

“We want a win-win situation for new dairy farming employees to be happy and fulfilled in their new lifestyle and jobs and for farm employers to have great talent working for them,” DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says. . . 

Bouncing forward :

The kids are back at school, we can once again spend time with small groups of friends and family, and takeaways can offer a night off cooking. Looking back, we dairy farmers were grateful to be essential workers during Covid-19 Levels 3 and 4, with kids able to roam around the farm and help us out!

With glorious Taranaki weather, and the mountain visible from the dining room window most days, our kids were very motivated to get their home learning tasks done by lunch so they could spend the afternoon outside. Riding their motorbikes around the farm improved their riding skills. Going for on-farm runs and bike rides or playing soccer and rugby on the front lawn kept them physically busy.

I took up running and joined the online fitness group ‘Strong Woman’. Now I take time most days to get in a run or a workout. I never felt I had time pre-Covid to focus on my fitness. . . 

Life attracts life’: the Irish farmers filling their fields with bees and butterflies – Ella McSweeney:

Michael Davoren shudders when he thinks of the 1990s. He’d been in charge of his 80-hectare farm in the Burren, Co Clare, since the 1970s, and the place was in his blood. The Davorens had worked these hills for 400 years.

But growing intensification fuelled by European subsidies meant that most farmers in this part of Ireland were having to decide between getting big or getting out. Hundreds were choosing the latter.

Davoren followed the advice to specialise and chase the beef markets. “The more animals I kept, the more money I got,” he says. “I put more cattle out, bought fertiliser, made silage. Slurry run-off was killing fish. But if I kept fewer animals I’d be penalised 10% of my subsidy.” . .

 


Rural Confidence Down but Business Intentions Robust

05/05/2009

Farmers’ concerns about  world commodity prices contributed to an increase in those expecting the agricultural economy to worsen in the next 12 months.

The latest quarterly Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey shows 33% of farmers expect the agricultural economy to deteriorate in the next year, up from 29% who had a gloomy outlook in November last year.

The number of farmers expecting stability dropped from 44% to 38% but there was a slight increase in those expecting an improvement, 27% compared with 26% in the previous survey.

Sheep and Beef farmers’ outlook had improved and dairy confidence had stabilised.

Rabobank general manager Rural New Zealand Ben Russell said . . . “Although dairy farmer confidence remains at subdued levels on a net basis, the over-riding message coming from dairy producers appears to be one of anticipated volatility.”

The survey was taken before last week’s announcement from Fonterra of a 10 cent increase in the forecast payout.

The last two on-line auctions for Fonterra’s globalDairyTrade have shown a slight improvement in price, the next one is scheduled for tonight.

Sheep and beef farmers were more confident with 74% expecting conditions to improve or stay the same compared with 70% in the previous survey and only 23% expecting a deterioration in the agricultural economy.

The improvement is attributed to a lower New Zealand dollar and decreased supply here and in competing markets

Uncertainty about commodity prices was the factor cited most by those who expect conditions to deteriorate and improve.

“It appears to be a case of a glass half full or glass half empty whent it comes to commodity prices, Mr Russell said. “Of those farmers expecting conditions to worsen, 47% nominated falling commodity prices as a concern. But for those anticipating the agricultural economy to improve, 44% cited rising commodity prices as a reason.”

Farmers were more optimistic about their own businesses than about the rural economy in general.

Of those surveyed, 34% expected their farm businesses to perform better in the next 12 months, while just 23% expected their own business performance to worsen.

The difference was most marked in sheep and beef and mixed farmers with 23% expecting the rural economy to worsen but only eight percent predicting things to get worse on their own farms.

Farmers’ investment intentions remained relatively robust, the survey showed, with more than half of those surveyed, (57%) indicating they would maintain the same level of investment in their farm enterprise, while 22% expected to increase investment.

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It may be crystal ball gazing but confidence is important because farmers who aren’t confident about their own businesses stop spending which impacts on the people who work for, contract to, supply and service them.


CPI up 1.6% dairy farm costs up 10% a hectare

15/07/2008

Consumers and producers are counting the costs associated with rising inflation.

The Consumer Price Index  went up 1.6% in the June quarter and pushed inflation up to 4% while dairy farm working costs  rose 10% a hectare in the past year.

Specialist dairy farm and business management company, Farmright, surveyed 50 farms which the company manages and found that between 2006-07 and 2007-08, feed rose 25%, fertiliser 24% and freight and cartage 37% per hectare.

Farmright manager Jim Lee said fertiliser costs had gone up further since the survey was done, and wage costs were also creeping up on dairy farmers.

Wage costs only rose 3% last year, but newly negotiated contracts indicated that figure would increase sharply this year because of greater demand and a shortage of workers.

The shortage of staff is critical and it’s not helped by immigration policy which requries herd managers to have a bachelor’s degree or five years relevant work experience if they are applying for residency.

“We know from contracts being negotiated for new and existing staff being rolled over that there have been some increases.”

The cost of production, which included feed, run-off costs and cost of management, but excluded depreciation on the Farmright-managed farms, rose from $2.91 per kg of milk solids (kg m/s) in 2006-07 to $3.61 per kg m/s in 2007-08.

Mr Lee said drought and cost increases had an impact. But he said some businesses were now operating at higher cost structures than they would be aware of.

He believed some farmers would be faced with costs of $6 per kg, made up of $4 per kg farm input costs and interest costs of $2 per kg.

“Cost control and financial discipline are more important now than ever before,” he said.

It is easy to let costs get away when the payout is high but not so easy to rein them in when the price falls.

However, one of the speaker’s at last year’s South Island Dairy event (SIDE) conference told how he’d gone into dairying when the milk payout was $5.30 and the next year it went down to $3.60 – but they made more that season than the previous one because they were much more disciplined about containing costs.


Tui Truth

08/07/2008

Yesterday’s drive through Southland provided a tale of two countries.

Radio news was telling us that New Zealand is in recession but our eyes were seeing another story. The wee towns we passed through were bustling, growing for the first time since the wool boom of the 1950s; and new houses are springing up everywhere.

A sign on the outskirts of Winton provided the explanation: No-one wants to be a dairy farmer. Yeah right.


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