Rural round-up

December 24, 2019

Pappinbarra dairy farming couple pours 4,000l of milk down the drain after NSW bushfires cut electricity: – Michael Cavanagh and Tim Fookes:

A dairy farming couple on the NSW mid-north coast have been forced to drain nearly 4,000 litres of milk after bushfires left their property without electricity for four days.

For Mary and Peter Reynolds, watching thousands of litres of milk being poured down the drain was heartbreaking as it has cost them thousands of dollars.

As the dairy farming couple watched as a series of fires approached their Pappinbarra property, near Port Macquarie, the electricity went off and remained off for four days. . .

Wool News: Wellington start up taking innovative new coarse wool concept to the world:

NZ coarse wool innovation on-track to disrupt 78 billion USD global hygiene market.

A Wellington-based start up company, founded by a mother and daughter with a multi generation background in farming, has found a new way to add value to coarse wool that could revive the sector and promises to create fresh revenue opportunities for New Zealand wool growers.

Derelee Potroz Smith is CEO and founder of Woolchemy, which she established in partnership with her mother Angela Potroz. Derelee, whose professional background is in engineering and whose family has farmed in Taranaki since 1876, says the company has developed patented technology to use wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in hygiene consumer products.

“Legislative and consumer pressure worldwide is bearing down on manufacturers to use sustainable resources and take responsibility for the full lifecycle of their products. Disposable personal hygiene products, which include nappies, feminine hygiene pads and incontinence pads, are hugely problematic in this respect. These products account for a global market valued at $US78 billion per annum. . . 

Green light for irrigation scheme :

North Canterbury’s Amuri Irrigation Company (AIC) is pressing ahead with plans for a new irrigation scheme for the Hawarden/Waikari area, following a positive response from potential users.

The company issued a product disclosure statement (PDS) last month for shares to fund a revised Hurunui Irrigation Scheme. The PDS closed on November 28 and AIC says it received sufficient interest to advance to the next stage of design and development.

The proposal is for a 2000ha to 3000ha piped irrigation scheme to supply farms near the North Canterbury towns of Hawarden and Waikari. It is a smaller alternative to a scheme proposed by AIC earlier in the year, which did not proceed due to insufficient support. . . 

An update on the Mycoplasma bovis Programme: –  Sam McIvor:

M. bovis is one of the greatest biosecurity challenges we have faced in New Zealand and 2019 has been a challenging year for the eradication effort, especially for our farmers who have been affected.

Over the past few months, we have seen improvements in the Programme and we and our partners, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and DairyNZ, remain committed to achieving eradication so that we can farm free from this disease.

It is important that we keep up this momentum in 2020 so that we catch and stop the disease quickly, and prevent as many farmers as we can from being affected. . . 

Marlborough author Tony Orman goes back down a country road – Sophie Trigger:

From an unhygienic farmer with an artificial leg to Rai Valley’s “livestock psychologist”,Tony Orman brings to life New Zealand’s country characters. 

Following the success of his 2018 book Down a Country Road, which sold out in six weeks, the Marlborough writer felt he had more stories to tell. 

This year’s sequel, Down a Country Road II was released last week, featuring “spillover” stories from the first book and more from Orman’s years working as journalist in the area.  . . 

Nowt But a Fleeting Thing: the reality of farming – Lindsay Poulton:

Our latest Guardian documentary, Nowt But a Fleeting Thing, has just launched: a father and son story about the challenges of farming and a changing world in the north of England. It’s a beautiful film directed by Dom Bush and made with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

We talked with Dom about his experiences making a film about a subject that is really close to his heart.

What was it like making a film about a subject and a community that you’re so close to?

I’m born and bred in the hills here in Cumbria so the story is really personal to me. I grew up on a smallholding in north Cumbria and we were surrounded by farms so I understood early on the intrinsic connection between people and animals.

I worked a little on farms as I got older so I saw what was going on behind the scenes to some extent. I knew there were solid reasons why people would choose to rear animals and work the land, but I could also see that life could be hard and livelihoods hung in the balance at times. Pride and purpose were mixed with some deep-set social and economic problems. . . 


One std for town, higher one for country

December 23, 2019

Farmers are angry over Te Papa’s portrayal of dairying:

Farmers have hit out at Te Papa over its use of fake farm stream water, calling the move “a disgrace” and accusing the national museum of having a biased agenda.

The outrage comes after National MP Todd Muller tweeted a picture of the bottle of dyed brown water, part of a display in the museum’s Te Taiao Nature exhibition.

The bottle features an image of a cow defecating in a waterway and indicates the water is from the Waikato. . .

Muller said the bottle and its contents were a “completely unrealistic” depiction of rural life and the work farmers were doing to improve and protect waterways.

“It’s a ridiculous, simplistic image. Dairy farmers have fenced almost all of the rivers and streams on their properties in the last decade and cows can’t get near them,” he said.

“Displays like this are part of the reason farmers are feeling so beaten up – everywhere they look, there’s the narrative that they’re destroying the environment.” . .

It wasn’t even a genuine sample:

DairyNZ said we’re not mad, we’re just disappointed:

It’s incredibly disappointing to see our national museum Te Papa reinforcing an overly simplistic anti-farming narrative that negatively impacts the public’s perception of New Zealand farmers and the dairy sector” DairyNZ Chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle says.

“The water in their display is not reflective of what your average farm stream in NZ would look like. If you don’t believe me, you just need to look at the countless videos and pictures farmers have posted to social media to correct the perception.

“Farmers were right in demanding to know when and where this water was taken from. Te Papa have since confessed that the water wasn’t actually from a farm at all but was made up in a back room using brown dye.

“It’s not just about the quality of the water in the bottle either” Dr Mackle added.

“The imagery on the bottle of a cow standing in water defecating is highly deceptive and entirely out of step with the reality of dairy farming in New Zealand today where we are proud to have fenced off 98.3% of waterways in recent years.

“Farmers who have done the right thing and voluntarily invested their time and their money to fence off waterways and plant riparian strips deserve better than this from their national museum.

“Dairy farmers have fenced over 24,744km of waterways.

Under the Sustainable Dairy Water Accord New Zealand dairy farmers have achieved some fantastic results: 98.3% of waterways have been fenced on dairy farms to keep cattle out, 100% of stock crossing points have bridges and culverts and 100% of farms have been assessed for effluent management practices.

“The situation is all the more disappointing because it was only last week that we hosted our 7th annual Dairy Environment Leaders Forum dinner at Te Papa to celebrate the great work dairy farmers have undertaken.

“We think it’s great that Te Papa have produced a display on NZ’s water quality to help educate young kiwis, but it’s a real shame they haven’t taken the opportunity to tell the full story. DairyNZ would be happy to work with them on a fair and accurate display in the future.

“As a popular tourist attraction that is frequented by thousands of young families and international tourists each year Te Papa should be enhancing the brand of NZ Inc. instead of detracting from it with false information” Dr Mackle concluded.

Te Papa needs to get up to date and tell the modern story of farmers doing good work to protect and enhance waterways instead of buying into the out-dated dirty dairying rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Wellington wastewater is entering the harbour:

Wellington’s wastewater leak has been reduced to one-tenth of its size, meaning a new year’s dip at Oriental Bay could be on the cards.

Workers have worked  through nights after a wastewater pipe collapsed at the corner of Wills St and Dixon St on Friday.

At its peak it sent up to 100 litres of wastewater per second into the harbour – roughly a swimming pool’s worth per day.

On Sunday, this had been reduced to 10 litres per second after much of the wastewater was diverted through a disused 1890 pipe beneath Willis St, Wellington Water chief executive Colin Crampton said. . . 

That was an accident, this is dirty business as usual:

There’s a little creek running through suburban Auckland, a decent stride wide and water shin deep, that moonlights as one of the country’s biggest drains.

Not so long ago, it was called Waititiko, ‘water of the periwinkles;’ now, it’s a regular conduit for raw human sewage, and a living illustration of the city’s complicated relationship with waste. . . 

It’s a long read and a shocking indictment on successive councils that have not invested in the necessary infrastructure to cope with a growing city and it waste water.

Is it any wonder farmers are angry.

Urban councils get away with this disgusting pollution but farmers could be, and have been, fined for spilling effluent that could, that is has the potential to or might, reach a waterway.

Matthew Herbert has worked out the cost to councils if they were treated as farmers are:

It’s one standard for towns and another much higher and more expensive one for the country.


Rural round-up

December 21, 2019

 Australian farmers receive sick letters telling them to ‘use a bullet on themselves – Karen Ruiz:

Farmers across NSW have become the targets of abusive letters urging them to ‘use a bullet’ on themselves if they ‘can’t handle’ the drought. 

Several residents in Dubbo, Walgett and Peak Hill in the state’s western region reported receiving the disturbing notes last month, police said.  

One of the letters, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, had been typed in a large font on white paper and is believed to have been hand delivered.   . . 

Profit shortfall from regenerative grazing spelt out – Shan Goodwin:

ANALYSIS has shown running a livestock operation under regenerative agriculture principles over a period of ten years sets profit back to the tune of $2.46m.

The work by prominent farm business consultants Holmes Sackett found farms not classified as RA systems generated operating returns of 4.22 per cent, compared to those who were classified RA returning only 1.66pc.

Holmes Sackett director John Francis said the analysis was not a criticism of the philosophy of RA but an analysis of the financial performance of these systems relative to other farm management practices. .

Farmers’ tips for staying well :

How do other farmers look after themselves and their teams? Check out the advice below, including some great ideas from Farmstrong.

Farmstrong’s top tips

Farmstrong is a nationwide, rural wellbeing initiative that helps farmers and their families cope with the ups and downs of farming. Here are some of its suggestions for keeping well.

    • Stay connected – Surround yourself with a network of people you can reach out to. It can be as simple as having a conversation in the pub or over the fence.
    • Keep active – Biking, walking, hunting, team sport – whatever appeals. It keeps you ‘farm fit’, boosts your mood and gets you off-farm.
    • Enjoy the small stuff – When you’re working, take a moment to stop and enjoy the view or the nature. Not a bad office, is it?
    • Eat well – Make sure you have enough fuel in the tank to keep your energy levels up.
    • Look after yourself, look after your team – People are the most important part of the dairy sector. . .

Sheep milk more easily digested than cow milk – study:

Sheep milk’s protein is more readily digested and its fats are more readily converted into energy compared to cow milk, a New Zealand study has shown. The milk’s unique composition could make it a good option for the very young and the elderly, sports nutrition, and people who are looking for alternatives to cow’s milk, researchers say.

Anecdotally, evidence from consumers already suggests that sheep milk may be better tolerated than cow milk by some people.

This is believed to be the first human study in the world to investigate how differences in the composition of New Zealand sheep milk affect ease of digestion, digestive comfort, and the body’s ability to make use of milk protein. . . 

Fonterra to streamline Chilean operations:

Fonterra has purchased the minority interest in Prolesur, held by Fundación Isabel Aninat (the Fundación), as the Co-op looks to streamline its operations in Chile.

The Fundación has sold its 13.6% shareholding for $29.3 million NZD, which takes Fonterra’s ownership of Prolesur from 86.2% to 99.9%.

Prolesur is a milk processor in southern Chile which sells most of its production to Soprole. Soprole is a leading consumer branded dairy company in Chile and is 99.9% owned by Fonterra. . . 

Strong start to dairy export season:

Dairy led the rise in goods exports in November 2019 as milk powder exports reached $1.1 billion, Stats NZ said today.

This is the highest value of milk powder exports for a November month since dairy exports peaked in 2013.

The value of dairy exports (milk powder, butter, and cheese) increased $348 million in November 2019. Dairy was the main contributor to total goods exports reaching $5.2 billion, up $371 million from the same month last year. . . 

Big effort to deliver sustainable premium for NZ food:

Much has been made about New Zealand’s status as “100% Pure” and how much, or how little, needs to be done to keep that claim valid.

While that debate rumbles on, the primary sector has been doing much to deliver on Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s promise to the United Nations in September 2019 that New Zealand will be “the most sustainable food producing country in the world.”

As overseas consumers have become increasingly sophisticated and demand to know where their food has been sourced from, all parts of the New Zealand primary sector have been working to ensure the “paddock to plate” story is more than just a story.  . . 


Rural round-up

December 18, 2019

Looking after yourself on the farm: Mairi Whittle:

An inspirational mentor and a tragedy have shaped Mairi Whittle’s health and safety focus on the family farm she runs on her own near Taihape.

There weren’t formal health and safety processes in place when Mairi and her brothers were growing up on the 607 Ha sheep and beef farm at Makatote – although she says her parents did instill a strong awareness about ‘no go’ areas.

After studying at Lincoln, Mairi worked in rural banking for five years before heading off for her OE, which included working as a rousie and shepherd in Scotland and as a jillaroo in outback Australia. . . .

Primary exports to reach $48bn in 2020 – MPI:

Primary sector exports are forecast to lift more than 3 percent, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries’ latest quarterly situation and outlook report.

The report, released yesterday, predicts primary industry exports will reach nearly $48 billion for the year to June 2020.

That would be a rise of more than 3 percent on the previous financial year and was an improvement from MPI’s October forecast, which predicted the value of exports would drop by 0.1 percent. . .

Laura Vincent deserves a nice juicy steak – Cactus Kate:

Some poor woman called Laura Vincent has gone to the hell that is tasting “fake meat” for us.

I cannot think of anything more ghastly than being force fed fake meat.  Some real meat is bad enough.  If I am going to put calories into my body these days then I am not going to waste it with anything that is not delicious.

There are predictions that this will be all that people will eat in 50 years time. It is another reason that I am opposed to extending ones life beyond an average span.

The sorts of people who think “fake meat” is great are against genetic modification for everything else.  Dutifully forgetting that they are shoving half a lab down their throats when tasting this muck.  They seems to want to reproduce the smell, taste and texture of meat when many say they dislike all those qualities of meat. . .

Stalwart stickler for tradition – almost – Daniel Birchfield:

It is perhaps no surprise that the woman who is one of the driving forces behind Waimate’s annual Strawberry Fare loves everything about the fruit the event celebrates.

Strawberry Fare organising committee chairwoman Joy McIvor, of Waimate, prefers her strawberries the traditional way — with “cream and some icing sugar”.

However, she also does not mind them dipped in chocolate.

Mrs McIvor, who has been on the committee for 18 years, the past 15 as chairwoman, had little time to sample the fruit on Saturday, as she was hard at work making sure the event, staged at Boland Park and Seddon Square, ran smoothly. . .

Primary Sector Council merges science with the metaphysical in vision to guide the food and fibre sector – Point of Order;

The Primary Sector Council’s vision for the country’s vital food and fibre sector (you can check it out here) promotes the government’s programme for blending science with the Maori belief system.

In a press statement, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor welcomed the “vision to unite the primary sector”, although he did not mention advice to unite science with matauranga Maori.

But on the vision website we learned: . . .

Once a day milking:

Once-a-day (OAD) milking is the practice of milking cows only once during a 24 hour period. This differs from the traditional twice-a-day (TAD) milking regime.

OAD milking can be used either strategically (long-term) as the overall farming system or tactically as a short-term response to adverse seasonal conditions.

Reasons to consider OAD milking

There are a number of reasons to consider OAD, the advantages of which will depend on the current farm system or layout e.g. long distances walked by cows. . .

Rural recycling rates soar, but more solutions needed:

Rural recycling has seen unprecedented gains, with rates soaring to 43 percent above last year’s figures. The programme responsible for these results supports government proposals to rethink plastics but says there is an urgent need for local recycling solutions to generate greater recycling rates for a wider selection of rural plastics.

If a wider variety of plastic can be recycled, less plastic waste will build up in rural areas and fewer harmful practices, such as burning and burying, will be deployed to dispose of it. This will benefit our environment and our wildlife. . .


Rural round-up

December 7, 2019

Action needed now:

Houston – or more correctly Wellington – we have a problem.

And that problem is a shortage of workers right across New Zealand’s primary sector.

The latest example is the apple sector (click here for the story), which is facing a potential $80 million loss in the coming season because of a looming labour shortage.

Apples and Pears NZ chief executive Alan Pollard told Rural News that the main reason for this is the Government’s decision not to allow the numbers of overseas workers required under the RSE (recognised seasonal employer) scheme to meet the needs.  . . 

Analysis of regenerative ag needed – Jacqueline Rowarth:

The groundswell supporting the restoring powers of regenerative agriculture is mostly based on examples from overseas.

The big question should be, do the examples stack up in New Zealand? If yes, no problem. If no, what might happen? Would there be any unintended consequences?

Answering these and similar questions is the goal of scientific research.

The foundation for advancing knowledge is laid by identifying the problem and then analysing what has gone before . . .

Setting up for the future:

Key changes made by Waikato dairy farmers Sam and Jacqui Owen have laid their on-farm groundwork for 2020 and beyond. They’re also focused on growing dairying’s next generation.

The Owens stepped up to 50:50 sharemilking in the 2014/15 season at Walton – then the milk price more than halved. That’s when Sam became chair for MP3, a DairyNZ-supported three-year project focusing on ‘profit, planet and people’, starting with 35 Matamata-Piako farms.

“I wanted to help others make their way through that price drop. MP3 also enabled us to grow our budgeting and financial skills to work out that doing that would be profitable for us. . .

Hail limits summer fruit supply – Riley Kennedy:

Some stonefruit will be in short supply this season after a severe hailstorm damaged Hawke’s Bay orchards in October.

The storm hit the region at the most vulnerable time for growers when the fruit was in early spring growth. 

SummerfruitNZ market support manager Richard Mills said the storm was very unusual for the time of year.

“An October hailstorm this bad had not been witnessed before by growers. . . 

Production of red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit is under way:

Zespri expects it will take two years before it can meet demand for its new red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit. 

The company has been trialling the fruit in New Zealand and Singapore, and chief executive Dan Matheson said it had sold well even when priced at 25 percent above green and gold varieties. 

“The response has been quite exciting. We’ve had incredible feedback from our consumers who have been buying the fruit at the supermarket shelf.

“In fact we’ve just had letters coming in from consumers both here in New Zealand and Singapore asking for more of that and ‘why it was only available on the shelf for such short period of time’.” . . 

Imported insect predator to help bees and willow trees to thrive – Eric Frykberg:

Beekeepers are keenly awaiting the arrival of a tiny insect from California which preys on the giant willow aphid.

They say it will help willow trees survive and provide essential food for bees.

Their response follows approval of the parasitoid insect Pauesia nigrovaria by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Scion entomologist Stephanie Sopow said the insect was an an effective control agent. . . 


Rural round-up

November 29, 2019

Rates performance nothing to raise a glass to, Feds says:

It’s pretty telling when your cost hikes outrun even those of booze and cigarettes.

Council rates and fees outstripped every other consumer price index cost group between 2000 and 2019, the Federated Farmers 2019 Rates Report shows.

“It’s pretty much expected that prices of alcohol and tobacco products shoot up, especially with regular government tax increases, and indeed they jumped 120% in the last two decades,” Feds President and local government spokesperson Katie Milne says.

“But local authorities left them for dead, hiking their costs more than 170% – more than three times the CPI for all cost groups in New Zealand.” . .

Plenty promulgating prejudiced assumptions about farmers – Anna Campbell:

Recently, I was called out for frightening ‘‘mum and dad farmers’’ when I wrote about the threat of cellular agriculture and alternate proteins to agricultural products.

I think anyone in business should be aware of threats and New Zealand farmers have a track record of adjusting to markets as they need to, so I’m OK with being called out, but I did feel uncomfortable with the term ‘‘mum and dad farmers’’. What does that mean?

The majority of farms, including those run by families, are multimillion-dollar enterprises with complex cash-flows — romantic as farming can look, producing food for export is no cottage industry.

OK Anna, don’t get caught up on semantics, but it was not long after that I read an ODT interview with the new Otago Regional Council chairwoman, Marian Hobbs (October 29), here is an excerpt from the article: ‘‘she had problems with the growing number of huge farms owned by large landowners and corporations farmed by others ‘‘I wonder if they have the same love for the land, but that may be a prejudice I have to sort out.’’

Yes, that prejudice does need to be sorted out. Implying corporate farmers won’t care for the environment is presumptuous.  . . 

NZ lamb industry unfazed as British supermarket Waitrose ends imports :

Plans for the British supermarket Waitrose to phase out the importation of New Zealand lamb are disappointing but do not spell trouble for the sector, the meat industry says.

Having previously sourced lamb from New Zealand during the UK’s winter months, Waitrose announced this week it will aim to complete the move to 100 percent British lamb in 2021.

A Waitrose spokesperson, Tor Harris, said it showed the company’s commitment to British farmers and to the future of agriculture inside Britain. . . 

Dairy farmers producing more milk from fewer cows, latest ‘cow census’ shows:

The latest New Zealand Dairy Statistics released today by DairyNZ and Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) reveal farmers’ focus on productivity and efficiency is paying off with milk production increasing despite cow numbers stabilising.

The 2018-19 cow census shows that total cow numbers have remained relatively stable, but the cows we do have are producing more milk than ever before.

New Zealand reached record milk production per herd and per cow this year, with dairy companies processing 21.2 billion litres of milk containing 1.88 billion kilograms of milk solids – both up 2.4% on the previous season. . .

Future proofing vegetable growing in Pukekohe:

More than 50 people are finding more about how to manage vegetable growing in Pukekohe in a changing regulatory environment, thanks to Horticulture New Zealand, Vegetables New Zealand, Potatoes New Zealand, Onions New Zealand and the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers’ Association.

‘Growers, their advisers, fertiliser companies, and Auckland Council attended our first workshop,’ says Horticulture New Zealand Sustainability and Extension Manager, Ailsa Robertson.

‘It’s great to get everyone in the same room as a step towards getting everyone on the same page.  Our thanks to Pukekohe Vegetable Growers’ Association Acting President, Kylie Faulkner for helping get the workshops off the ground. . . 

New members join Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Investment Advisory Panel:

Lucy Griffiths of Masterton and Anne-Marie Broughton of Whanganui have been appointed to the independent Investment Advisory Panel (IAP) for Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures).

With $40 million available each year from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), SFF Futures supports problem-solving and innovation in New Zealand’s food and fibre industries that will make a positive and lasting difference. It offers a single gateway to apply for investment, and provides grants of less than $100,000, right up to multi-million dollar, multi-year partnerships. . .


Caring more for cows than women

November 27, 2019

The government’s winter grazing taskforce has made 11 recommendations.

The report says some things should never happen, including animals giving birth on mud and avoidable deaths in adverse weather events.

Highlighted in the report is the fact that there is no agreed set of standards among farmers for good animal welfare practice, and what some consider good practice is still exposing animals to poor welfare.

But Dairy NZ strategy and investment leader Dr Jenny Jago said her organisation, Beef+Lamb NZ and Federated Farmers had talked with the taskforce about the objectives being more practical for outdoor pasture-based systems.

Some of the recommendations made under the premise of ‘always’ and ‘never’ to take place is unrealistic in our pasture-based system,” said Jago.

“The report states farmers should always provide animals with a soft dry surface to lie on, which in an outdoor system subject to weather conditions, is simply not achievable even with the very best management.  A ‘never’ standard would apply if there was a little bit of rain or a lot of rain, which makes it impractical.

“Many farmers follow good management practice which is particularly important in very wet weather or snow events where a ‘plan B’ ensures farmers keep stock off the crop for periods of inclement weather.”…

Good management should not be up for debate, the problem is marrying that with what’s practical.

Sorting that out will take time:

Southland dairy farmer Jon Pemberton co-founded the farmer advocacy group Ag-Proud this winter. The recent winter grazing campaign by environmentalists in his region and some of the stress it created among farmers sparked the group’s formation.

Mr Pemberton said there were some sensible expectations around farming practices outlined in the report, including making sure stock were slowly transitioned from grass onto crops, to ensure there were no health complications.

But he said he did have some concerns around the practicality of providing dry-bedding for livestock at night and worried about what any new regulations could mean when farmers faced adverse weather events.

“There will be a lot of guys scratching their heads thinking how are we going to work around this … so I just do hope we are allowed the time to work through this,” he said

While not questioning the need for some farmers to improve management, we can question government policy that requires higher standards for cows than women:

This refers to the closure of the Lumsden Maternity Centre which forces women to travel to Invercargill to deliver their babies.


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