Rural round-up

November 11, 2017

Young sheep and beef farmers lift their performance with small tweaks – Brittany Pickett:

For Matt and Joe McRae, getting their ewes to perform at a consistently high level is their number one goal.

The young Southland brothers – who farm their 575 hectare effective rolling hill country farm Eilean Donan in partnership – are aiming to have their ewes lambing more than 150 per cent every year and, more importantly, grow the lambs to maximise every kilogram produced per hectare.

“The lambing percentage is only one part of it, it’s the product out the gate that pays the bills,” Matt says. . . 

Let’s get the facts, not fiction, on M.bovis – Geoff Gwyn:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) wishes to set the record straight regarding the article titled ‘Imported semen fingered for M.bovis outbreak’ in Rural News October 24.

Read the article here

In the article, Chris Morley, DairyNZ biosecurity manager stated that, in his opinion, he would bet on semen as the most likely source of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak. Of course, Mr Morley is entitled to his opinion, but the fact of that matter is that MPI does not know how or when Mycoplasma bovis entered NZ, although significant efforts are being made to find out.

A full investigation is looking at six possible means of entry: live animals, imported semen, embryos, contaminated equipment, biological material (such as vaccines) and feed. While this is underway, we are not going to speculate on the origin of the disease in NZ. . .

Saltwater intrusion – Waimea Water:

What is saltwater intrusion

In the 2001 drought, saltwater intrusion occurred in the lower reaches of the Waimea River and was threatening to migrate further inland. In March Tasman District Council opened talks to consider options to protect the dry riverbed. Because the river had no flows, no river water was flushing the saltwater out and it was instead accumulating on the estuary. The Council discussed building a bund across the river and drilling monitoring bores to better monitor how the saltwater contamination was migrating inland, including to the urban supply bores. Ultimately, three urban supply wells were shut down over this period and two were decommissioned at the end of the drought.

Saltwater intrusion is a threat to coastal communities. Once saltwater has entered an underground freshwater system (aquifer) and contaminates it, it can cost much more to treat it for consumption or simply render the supply unusable. For people along the Waimea Plains who rely on bores for their water supply, saltwater intrusion is a real issue. . . 

Why blaming farmers doesn’t hold water – Vaughan Jones:

Water is being discussed across the country, but without solutions. Farmers are blamed, never townies, but look at this photo of polluted water entering the Waikato River just upstream of Fairfield Bridge, in September 2016. If a farmer did the same, they would be fined up to $50,000 and closed down until fixed. I’ve been told by a person that what looked like toilet paper was in some of it.

Environment Waikato told me in 1995 that Hamilton needed four sediment ponds. There are still none while thousands have been built on farms at high cost. This is another example showing that rules for farmers are stricter than for townies.

Waikato Regional Council has forced some farmers to build sediment ponds, but they are negatives because of high costs, and because fresh effluent is of more value and causes less polluting when spread fresh, not months later during which time much has been lost into the air, polluting it, and reduced its fertilising value. . . 

Bay of Islands P&I Show runs in the family:

Sam and Christine Ludbrook will be at the Bay of Islands Pastoral and Industrial Show at Waimate North this weekend, as they have been every year for decades. And they won’t be the only Ludbrooks there by any means.

The show was first staged, as an agricultural demonstration, at the Waimate North mission in 1842. It’s still going strong 175 years later, making it the oldest show of its kind in the country.

And Ludbrooks have been there from the start.

Sam’s grandfather was there in the early days, exhibiting stock, and his brother was on the committee. And while no one can be absolutely sure, it is almost certain that his great-grandfather, Samuel Blomfield Ludbrook, was there in 1842. . . 

Which NZ university has the best employment rates?

As we get older what we talk about with friends changes. This is because of the challenges faced and experiences shared. So when Megan Hands’ friends from her hometown started talking about the choices they had to make when they finished studying, she found she couldn’t join in.

After finishing school, Hands left home in the Manawatu and moved south because she wanted to study both environmental management and agriculture, and Lincoln University offered exactly what she was looking for. Fast forward to graduation and she found some of her contemporaries were having conversations completely outside what she had experienced.

Hands is now running her own farming sustainability company as an environmental consultant.

The experience of Hands and others in her year group are typical for Lincoln University graduates. In Ministry of Education statistics released recently, Lincoln University Bachelor’s Degree graduate employment rates are consistently the highest among New Zealand universities. A survey of graduates from the Lincoln class of 2016 found that 93 percent of those employed were in career-related positions. . . 

#My60acres: soybean harvest – Uptown farms:

#My60Acres is harvested again!  This was the second year Matt let me play a leading role in the management of a sixty acre field on our home farm, and my first soybean crop. 
 
I didn’t get to start the morning with him because my work schedule has been a little hectic, so I didn’t join until late afternoon.  But as soon as I got there, he slid over and let me take the wheel.
 
It might sound odd that he couldn’t wait a day or two for my schedule to be better, but soybean harvest is very time sensitive.  We have to wait long enough the plants are dry, but not too long. . . 

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Rural round-up

November 9, 2017

Kuriger ‘elated’ with biosecurity and rural communities roles – Christina Perisico:

Barbara Kuriger heads an electorate with no parking meters and one traffic light – but it gives her expertise for her new role in National’s opposition government.

The MP for Taranaki-King Country said she is elated with her new role as biosecurity and rural communities spokesperson.

Her whole electorate is made up of rural communities, she said. . . 

Butter – I can’t believe it’s not . . .cheaper – Joe Bennett:

 Have you seen the price of butter? We live in a land where dairy cows have multiplied like flies in summer, so as compensation for the ruined rivers you’d think we might at least get bargain butter. But no. The price of the stuff has doubled of late. It’s become a luxury.

One has to feel sorry for pensioners. Brought up to see butter as a staple, they can now barely afford it. It seems unfair. And it seems especially unfair when you know why the price has risen. But let’s begin at the beginning.

Butter is simple. At Hassocks County Primary School half a century ago Miss Turner handed out bottles of cream and told us to shake them till our arms ached. When we opened our bottles we found a blob of something pale and yellow. . . 

MPI considering Canterbury rabbit virus application – Alexa Cook:

Canterbury Regional Council has applied for a new strain of rabbit virus to be approved in New Zealand.

Farmers had been expecting the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Virus Disease strain known as K5 to be released earlier this year.

It would mean they would not have to rely on expensive poisons and control measures against rabbit pests.

But in March, Canterbury Regional Council said the introduction would be delayed by a year because it had to do more work to have the virus approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The ministry received the council’s application this week. It is open for consultation until 14 December. . . 

Blessed are the flexible because they shall not be bent out of shape:

Fluctuating milk prices over the past 10 years have led dairy farmers to revise operating structures and consider options outside traditional pathways.

DairyNZ economist Angie Fisher says roles in the dairy sector are more diverse than they once were which is helping farmers adapt to increasing volatility.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests there has been an increase in variations to the standard clauses in sharemilking agreements around the sharing of milk income. This is evidence of the market adapting to milk price volatility,” she says. . . 

Pre-schoolers pitch in for planting project:

Teaching the next generation about their natural environment is a big part of the philosophy of Kids Barn Childcare Centre in the Taranaki town of Hawera.

So when the opportunity to help local farmers, Adam and Josie Werder with a planting project came up the kids and staff at the preschool were delighted.

Kitted out with their gumboots, sunhats and a willingness to get their hands dirty, 25 four-year-olds from Kids Barn visited the farm to learn about, and help with, the planting of native flaxes. . . 

It’s time – new focus on safely managing hazardous substances:

On 1 December the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017 will come into force. The aim is to reduce both the immediate harm to people and longer-term illness caused by hazardous substances in the workplace.

It’s no small matter. A hazardous substance is any product or chemical that has explosive, flammable, oxidising, toxic or corrosive properties – and they’re everywhere. Around one in three New Zealand workplaces use, manufacture, handle or store them. This includes factories, farmers and growers, as well as printers, collision repairers, hairdressers and retailers. They are in commonly used products such as fuels and LPG, solvents, cleaning solutions and agrichemicals. . .

Fonterra continues to build UHT capacity:

Fonterra has today announced it is further expanding its Waitoa UHT site as the Co-operative works to keep ahead of growing demand for its products.

Five years ago the site was an empty paddock, now it produces more than 80,000 cartons of UHT milk and cream every hour for global markets – and it’s about to get even busier.

A new line will be up and running by the end of the year. This is the third new line to be installed in the last 12 months. . . 

 


Rural round-up

November 7, 2017

Crown cash vital to lagoon plan – Tim Fulton:

The Labour-led Government might need to keep backing Crown funding for irrigation to inject life into a vulnerable South Canterbury lagoon.

South Canterbury’s Hunter Downs irrigation scheme was in final-stage talks with farmers and Crown Irrigation Investments for funding linked to a rescue bid for Wainono Lagoon, near Waimate.

Environment Canterbury said using the Waitaki River to add clean, low-nutrient water to the lagoon was a key feature of the proposed 12,000ha Hunter Downs scheme.

ECan classed the coastal lake near Waimate as a nutrient red zone. . . 

Basic farming brings rewards – Annette Scott:

Nick France admits to being pretty stingy in his sheep and beef breeding operation as he sticks with old-fashioned philosophy of attention to detail at key times.

He told farmers at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand farming for profit day he runs his beef operation as cheaply as possible, aligning practice with the philosophy of having bulls that perform well under commercial conditions and produce well-grown, profitable offspring.

“What we do here is cheap and commercial. The cows are a tool. We use them for growing and managing pasture for our commercial sheep operation and selecting bulls for the stud,” France said. . . 

New SIL values thereby hangs a tail – Sally Rae:

A sheep breed developed in West Otago has become the first in the world to have breeding values calculated for tail length and bare skin on the tail.

Allan Richardson, from Avalon Genetics, has been breeding and recording low-input sheep that do not require docking since 2009.

He believes the new SIL (Sheep Improvement Ltd) breeding values will give commercial farmers new opportunities to reduce their cost of production, improve animal welfare and open new markets for their lamb. . . 

Farmlands directors elected – Sally Rae:

Former long-standing Alliance Group director Murray Donald has been elected to the Farmlands board.

Mr Donald, who farms at Winton, is a chartered fellow of the Institute of Directors, councillor and member of the audit and risk committee for the Southern Institute of Technology and a trustee and chairman of the audit and risk committee for the Agri-Women’s Development Trust.

Nine candidates contested the three  vacancies this year and Nikki Davies-Colley, from Northland, was  re-elected. . . 

Wobbly times ahead for wool industry – Andrew McRae:

New Zealand could face a shortage of shearers because they’re not being trained, an industry organisation says.

Wool Research Organisation chair Derrick Millton said young people were not as attracted to shearing as a career as they once were. He said there was no specific training organisation to promote shearing and woolhandling.

“The age of the shearers for a start off, they’re getting older and no new ones coming in… There are a lot of other jobs today that are more appealing than shearing. . . 

Connecting children with dairy:

DairyNZ’s education programme is now used in more than one third of primary schools and one quarter of secondary schools around New Zealand.

Thanks to farmer volunteers, 4500 children (plus teachers and parents) visited a dairy farm in the past year and more than 21,000 children have visited a farm since the Find a Farmer programme launched six years ago.

Science in schools

DairyNZ’s hands-on science kits have helped teachers bring learning alive in the classroom, and explore science through the context of dairying.

Each science kit is distributed to 200 teachers who have signed up for the resource, reaching about 6000 children. The kits provide all the tools a class needs to complete a science experiment, investigating a learning outcome within the context of dairy. The schools share their work on ourfarmvisit.co.nz. . . 


Rural round-up

November 6, 2017

Precision agriculture more than just boys and their toys – Gerald Piddock:

Precision agriculture is more than flashy expensive toys and tools

The uptake of this technology cannot be taken too lightly for New Zealand’s farming future as the industry looks at ways of being productive and profitable at a reduced environmental footprint.

The precision agriculture toolbox farmers have is enormous, ranging from measuring and mapping farmland, the precise use of fertiliser and water to livestock traceability using electronic identification tags. . . 

Mad about sheep – Country Life:

Now she’s here, Dayanne Almeida is on a mission to spread the word about sheep farming in New Zealand.

The Brazilian animal scientist was determined to find work on a New Zealand sheep farm so she sent 500 emails to farmers with her CV and references.

She received one job offer.

That was in 2009.

Now Dayanne is working for Wairere Rams in Wairarapa and, whenever she gets the chance, live-streams commentary and video footage about sheep farming activities to the 14-thousand people around the world who follow her Sheep Nutter Facebook page. . .

Image may contain: mountain, outdoor and nature

First-hand perspectives a decade of levy value:

This month marks a key milestone – 10 years since DairyNZ was formed to support dairy farmers and drive our sector forward.

Over the past decade, the dairy levy has been invested in a wide range of programmes, enabling DairyNZ and its partners to deliver the research, tools and advice farmers need to manage new challenges. Inside Dairy spoke to four farmers who have experienced the benefits of their levy investment directly.

Conall Buchanan

Paeroa dairy farmer Conall Buchanan represented farmers during the development of a 30-year marine spatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf.

Conall Buchanan can speak from a well-informed position about the benefits he’s received from DairyNZ’s commitment to more sustainable dairying. . . 

New Farm Environment Trust Chair looks forward to showcasing farming excellence:

Joanne van Polanen, the new Chair of the Trust which runs the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, says that the organisation is looking forward to working with the new Government to showcase the efforts that farmers and growers are making to balance the needs of the environment, animals, plants and people.

Mrs van Polanen was appointed the new Chair of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust at the Trust’s recent Annual Meeting. She had previously been Treasurer and Deputy Chair of the Trust.

Mrs van Polanen commented that “the Trust is uniquely placed to work across the primary sector to promote farming excellence with other farmers and growers. Increasingly, farmers and growers are reframing environmental issues as opportunities. We would like to see New Zealand’s farmers and growers recognised as global leaders in the stewardship of land and water”. . .

Investors turn to Israeli agritech as demand for food swells – Shoshanna Solomon:

Israeli agriculture technologies for farmers have attracted some seven percent of global investment in the first half of 2017, a new report shows.

Israeli agritech firms, whose technologies are used by farmers to improve the yield of crops and better monitor produce — called on-farm technologies — raised $80 million in the first half of the year, according to data released by Start-Up Nation Central, a nonprofit organization that connects companies and organizations to Israeli technology firms. . .


Rural round-up

November 4, 2017

Beef + Lamb pulls plug on the Glammies – Nicole Sharp:

For 10 years, farmers from throughout the country have entered their best of best in the Golden Lamb Awards, better known as the Glammies.

This year, looking to reinvest farmer levies in more crucial areas, Beef + Lamb New Zealand has pulled its funding from the event. Nicole Sharp reports.

After 10 years of celebrating farmers’ best-raised lamb, the Glammies are no more.

Since the event’s inception, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd (BLNZ) has partnered with Beef + Lamb New Zealand Inc to run the event, with BLNZ the predominant funder.

In the past six months, BLNZ has been consulting its farmers and reviewing its strategy and anticipated revenue stream through to 2022. . . 

Wool prices lift but long way to go – Simon Hartley:

The worst appears to be over for wool prices but prices are still very low and the industry is ”still not out of the woods yet”, ASB senior rural economist Nathan Penny says.

Prices for 39 micron wool, for example, had lifted 25% from the record low level set in July this year, he said. Despite the lift, 39 micron prices remained 28% below the 10-year average level, Mr Penny said in the latest ”Farmshed Economics” report.

Meanwhile, mid micron prices had been stable over recent months. Prices bottomed out earlier than coarse types towards the start of the year. . . 

 NZ King Salmon shares hit record on guidance uplift, sales growth -Tina Morrison:

New Zealand King Salmon Investments shares rose to a record after the fish farmer raised its 2018 earnings guidance, saying it expects to lift volumes while maintaining prices and improving production.

The stock climbed 3.5 percent to $2.35 and has soared 78 percent this year. They were sold in the initial public offering in September 2016 at $1.12 apiece. . . 

 – Keith Woodford:

[The article below was intended to be published some weeks back at The Conversation. The Conversation is the online portal, funded by Universities in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, where academics are encouraged to communicate and converse with non-academics. However, this particular article was blocked at the last minute by the Senior Editor(s) at The Conversation, having previously been approved within their editorial system. The Senior Editor(s) felt that the interests of associated commercial parties, who might benefit from dissemination of the article, were too great. A fuller story of that publishing saga will be posted shortly.
The content, formatting and supporting links are shown as originally agreed with The Conversation and reflect the prior input of one of their editors. This article can be freely republished, with or withut this foreword, but retaining the title as posted here, and with acknowledgements as to source [https://keithwoodford.wordpress.com].

Authors: Keith Woodford & Boyd Swinburn
Disclosures: See end of article

Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own insulin-producing cells, is on the rise globally.
Early evidence of an association between type 1 diabetes and a protein in cow milk, known as A1 beta-casein, was published in 2003. However, the notion that the statistically strong association could be causal has remained controversial.
As part of a seven-person team, we have reviewed the overall evidence that links A1 beta-casein to type 1 diabetes. Our research brings forward new ways of looking at that evidence. . . 

Sheep dairy better match for clean green image:

New Lincoln research points to sheep dairy better fulfilling the green credentials New Zealand uses to differentiate its produce in the global market than its cow counterparts.

Senior Lecturer in Agribusiness Management Dr Nic Lees co-authored the paper “Competitive advantage through responsible innovation in the New Zealand sheep dairy industry.”

It finds, rather than competing on cost the sheep dairy industry should promote sustainability and environmental benefits, and be innovative…

Website covers new ground for fertiliser spreaders:

A new website has been launched by the New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers Association (NZGFA). The site – www.nzgfa.co.nz – promotes best practice fertiliser spreading. It was recently unveiled alongside a new logo at the NZGFA 61st annual conference.

The new site provides industry news and advice for groundspreaders as well as information for farmers, growers and other fertiliser users on how to find a local groundspreader accredited to Spreadmark, the industry’s standard. There is also career advice for prospective groundspreaders, and a video that explains training as well as potential salary. . . 

Allied Farmers unsure about the year ahead with weak first-quarter livestock sales – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – Allied Farmers’ first-quarter livestock earnings fell, although the rural services firm says it’s too early to say whether it will recover by the end of the current half or the financial year.

Earnings in the three months ended Sept. 30 were below the same period a year earlier “largely due to the impact of the wetter spring weather, which has generally had the impact of reducing livestock sales in this quarter,” the Hawera-based company said in a statement. Allied Farmers had previously predicted “careful growth” in the livestock business, tempered with a flat outlook for the meat processing business as overseas prices remain low. . . 

Harry is a prince among bull calves:

Harry the Hereford-cross, a hungry four-month old bull calf weighing 214kg has beaten his rival hands down in a competition between two DairyNZ research and development farms to raise the heaviest IHC calf.

Harry looked good from the start, arriving early in the season and weighing 50kg at birth. He had the right bloodline to wear the crown. His Dad was a pure bred Hereford and his Mum was a Friesian so he was already set on a winning course, according to Scott Farm Manager Ben Fisher. . . 

“When you cross a beef bull with a Friesian or dairy cow you get what’s known as hybrid vigour,” Ben says. “He’s got very good genes.”


Rural round-up

November 2, 2017

Top farmers tackle the crunchy stuff and spell cash with a capital C – Pita Alexander:

Many years ago I can remember a farm survey with one of the questions being: “Do farm men feel they are above average drivers?”.

Unsurprisingly, 92 per cent replied definitely yes and from that point on I have always been careful about interpreting survey results. With that said, my suggested 30-odd point list as to what the top group do, think and say would be:

· They are almost invariably a couple with decision making being more or less equal, even on the crunchy issues.

· They listen well and dwell on a problem, but don’t necessarily act on it.

· Top farmers spell cash with a capital C, because for part of every year it can rule their cashflow and their life.

· They are well aware that historically low interest rates have camouflaged their financial results for the past 10 years. They don’t want to see any change, but they expect it sooner or later. . .

 

Farmers Fast Five – Nick Hamilton – Claire Inkson:

Farmers Fast Five : Where we ask a Farmer a quick five questions about farming, and what agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Omihi Farmer Nick Hamilton.

1. How long have you been farming?

I grew up on this farm and my family ancestors have farmed in this area since the very early days. My wife and I purchased our first block in 1999 but we were still working in town. We leased it out to Dad. We went into partnership with my parents in 2002 when we had our first child. Since then we have leased more land and more recently purchased another block. 

2. What sort of farming were you involved in?
I worked in rural finance after finishing at Lincoln and got to see all sorts of farming operations which was a great help in becoming the sheep and beef farmer I am today. I also spent nearly 5 years working for the New Zealand Merino Company and during that time I got to meet some very progressive farmers and analyse some future focused farming businesses that are making a positive contribution to agriculture and the environment. . . 

PGG Wrightson says earnings growth to stall in 2018, begins strategic review – Jonathan Underhill:

 (BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson said earnings growth will stall this year after a wet winter and spring and said it will embark on a strategic review following the appointment of new chief executive Ian Glasson.

Operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the coming year are expected to be in line with the $64.5 million reported for the year ended June 30, the Christchurch-based company said in a statement. Net profit would fall about 30 percent, mainly reflecting one-time gains from property sales in 2017 that won’t be repeated in the current financial year, it said. . . 

Flying venison sandwiches (Arby’s did it again!):

Venison sandwiches flew out of the doors of US fast-food chain Arby’s last weekend as punters queued to get a taste of the new menu item.

Last year’s ‘limited edition’ promotion of the New Zealand venison sandwich in five hunting states went really well. So well, in fact, that the world’s second largest sandwich restaurant chain decided to see if it could repeat the effect. It ran an extended ‘limited time’ promotion for the sandwich, at the start of the US hunting season on 21 October, across all of its 3228 US retail stores.

Mountain River Venison marketing director John Sadler created the successful item with Arby’s last year, working with Mountain River Processors and in-market partner Terra Pacific Marketing director Angus Cleland and wife Anna Marie Longo.

Sadler has been involved in organising sufficient supplies over the past few months to supply an average of 70 New Zealand farm-raised, grass-fed venison steaks per restaurant. That added up to 226,000 steaks or just over 45 tonnes of product. . . 

Farmtech Startups Serving Smallholder Farms – Emma Cosgrove:

According to the United Nations, agriculture and other “rural activities” are the main source of income for three-quarters of the world’s “extreme poor”. 

Every year for UN World Food Day (October 16) the UN Food and Agriculture Organization picks a theme within food and agriculture to bring awareness to on the day. For 2017 the organization is focusing on the challenges that forced migration brings to agriculture. 

“A large share of migrants come from rural areas where more than 75% of the world’s poor and food insecure depend on agriculture and natural resource-based livelihoods,” says the UN, underlining the inherent linkage between migrants and smallholder farms all over the world.  

According to the UN, migration forced either by conflict and political instability, or economic necessity can exacerbate existing problems in countries and cities that receive many migrants and stress local food systems and economies. 

“Creating conditions that allow rural people, especially youth, to stay at home when they feel it is safe to do so, and to have more resilient livelihoods, is a crucial component of any plan to tackle the migration challenge,” says the organization.  . . 


Govt business what not how

October 30, 2017

The Green Party is sticking to its plan to reduce dairy farming:

Prior to the election, the Green Party said it would pay more than $136 million for farmers to move to more sustainable practices and if it were in government it would invest in a Sustainable Farming Fund.

Green Party leader James Shaw said a priority would be putting together a package to help farmers make the transition from dairy farming.

He said the Greens wouldn’t be pushing for a cap on the number of cows.

But Mr Shaw said dairy farmers would need help to change.

“A lot of dairy farmers are still heavily in debt from the acquisition of the land and also the conversions and also it’s a pretty difficult time when the price of milk is still somewhat depressed.

“So you know the thing we’re going to be pushing hardest on is making sure that there is a package available for farmers to help them make that transition.”

Mr Shaw said dairy farmers needed to make the transition to more sustainable methods of farming.

Setting standards for water quality is the business of government.

Dictating how that is achieved is not.

It might be that dairying isn’t appropriate in some places. But other land uses aren’t necessarily any kinder to the environment and it could be that a change in management could make dairying a better option than any other form of farming.

Dairying has got a bad reputation, some of which might be justified. But some is based on historical practices no longer in use and some on alternative facts not supported by science.

Some of the latter comes from organisations with an anti-dairying agenda.

Jamie McFadden, a member of Federated Farmers North Canterbury executive, rightly asks is our freshwater fishery really in crisis?

Last year Fish & Game sought and received approval from the Department of Conservation (DoC) to place a winter fishing ban on all North Canterbury rivers below State Highway 1.

At the time, Fish & Game claimed the North Canterbury freshwater fishery was in crisis and it was because of farming.

Both DoC and the Rural Advocacy Network have requested the evidence supporting these claims. After 18 months no evidence has been forthcoming. DoC now realise they have been misled and have said they will not renew the fishing ban unless Fish & Game provide evidence.

Earlier this year I attended a public meeting in Rangiora organised by Fish and Game where the fishing ban was discussed. I presented our submission challenging the lack of evidence behind the fishing ban, particularly for the Hurunui and Waiau rivers. A show of hands was taken and the clear majority of the 70 attendees felt the ban should not apply to these rivers. Of those who fished the Hurunui and Waiau the majority thought these were healthy fisheries. . . 

Clearly there are a range of factors affecting our freshwater fishery and increasing fishing pressure, particularly near Christchurch, is one of them.

A local fishing guide has for several years been undertaking the annual trout spawning surveys in the Waimakariri River. This year he reported better numbers than have ever been seen and some superb stream improvements by many farmers – the future is bright.

In late autumn I checked the middle reaches of the Hurunui River catchment and photographed numerous shoals of 10-20 trout. In one pool alone I counted 65 good-sized healthy trout.

A balanced report on the state of our freshwater fishery would acknowledge there are some healthy fisheries, concerns with some other fisheries and a range of factors affecting both. It is disappointing that Fish & Game has made no attempt to correct their misinformation in the media.

Many farming families are Fish & Game licence holders and enjoy the recreational opportunities our rivers provide. Farmers want to know what they need to do to fix any water quality problems they are causing.

There are many examples of farmers actively engaging in improving water quality and undertaking stream enhancements. Farmers want to work with organisations like Fish & Game but the continual attacks on farmers undermine the ability to achieve this.

We would like to see Fish & Game publicly drop the anti-farming broad brush ‘dirty dairy’ campaign, correct their misinformation in the media and develop a more constructive approach to freshwater issues.

Farmers, and others, are working to improve water quality and this report from Seven Sharp showing definite improvements in Taranaki dairy country.

Meanwhile, science is making progress with pasture species:

Research is in progress but plantain-based pastures may be useful for reducing nitrate leaching while maintaining or increasing milksolids production.

The urine patch is the major source of nitrogen loss to the environment on dairy farms and different forages can be used to reduce nitrate leaching, either by lowering the nitrogen loading in urine patches or increasing the nitrogen uptake from the urine patch.

Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL)

Research in Canterbury and Waikato the FRNL programme has found that urine-N concentration of cows grazing plantain was 56% lower than those grazing perennial ryegrass/white clover pastures, and 33% lower for cows grazing 50/50 pasture-plantain.

Within FRNL, diverse pastures that include plantain were identified as a promising tool for reducing N leaching. Modelling estimated that, at commercial scale, N leaching could be reduced by 10 and 20% when the area of the farm sown in diverse pastures was 20 and 50%, respectively. This was because of lower total urinary N excretion and lower urinary N concentration (Beukes et al. 2014; Romera et al. 2016).

Sustainability balances economic, environmental and social concerns.

Dairying generally gets ticks for its economic and social contributions and farmers and industry bodies like DairyNZ, are making good progress to address environmental concerns .

DairyNZ acting chair Barry Harris said last season saw dairy export earnings reach $13.4 billion, which is on par with the five-year average, and illustrates how well farmers have responded to the low milk prices of previous seasons.

“I see the decade ahead of us to be transformational for our sector. Never before have we had a stronger mandate for the dairy sector to concentrate on productivity – to produce more from less, and to do so sustainably,” says Barry.

“We support initiatives that incentivise farmers to use the best environmental practices. While the 2010s have been about dairy positioning itself for the changes ahead, I see the 2020s as heavily focused on making those changes.

“New Zealand’s environmental reputation, the reputation that gives us an advantage on the global market, relies on us upholding and improving our sustainability.” . . 

Thanks to good science, herd numbers can decrease while production increases.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said in 2016/17 national cow numbers fell to 4.86 million from 5 million previously, with the average herd size dropping five cows to 414.

“Yet production per cow set a new record – increasing by 9kg per cow (381kg MS/cow).” . . 

 

The government and its partners needs to stick to the what, not the how.

Good progress is being made and it will continue to be made not by political dictates but by good practice based on sound research.


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