Rural round-up

April 21, 2015

Sturgess.”I’ll help” – Neal Wallace:

Tom Sturgess, one of New Zealand’s richest men and largest farmers, is willing to be involved in making the red meat industry more profitable.

A career that includes running several diverse multi-billion-dollar companies including United States meat packing houses has given Sturgess some clear thoughts and ideas on how to revitalise the meat industry, even though some of those solutions could be considered unconventional.

Sturgess volunteered his help in an FWplus interview, saying he would happily be involved to find ways to improve sector profitability if he was wanted. . .

Shear warmth: former hairdresser’s dream become reality :From being a city hairdresser in New Plymouth making small talk with clients to living in the remote central North Island where the closest neighbour is eight kilometres down a winding, gravel road, Monique Neeson has been through a few changes.

You can also add to that the launch of a company selling woollen blankets that are, as she describes them, born, grown, woven and handmade in New Zealand.

Neeson laughs at her transformation.

“I can remember the first time I came to this farm, winding down the road for absolutely ages, and I told Tim, [now her husband], I’d never negotiate the road again.” . .

Don’t fight system farmers told – Alan Williams:

Farming within water quality limits is now a reality that all farmers will need to adapt to, Canterbury farmers have been told.

The process of setting quality limits and the farming changes required to meet them would be challenging and take time for everyone to get there, Environment Canterbury (ECAN) commissioner David Bedford told the Future of the Heartland farm forum at Conway Flats in North Canterbury today.

Some nutrient management tools had limitations and were still being developed and ECAN compliance activities would take that into account, he said in a speech on behalf of head commissioner Dame Margaret Bazley. . .

Farmers’ bank balances under severe pressure:

Industry body DairyNZ says bank balances for most dairy farmers will be heading south this winter and spring, producing some short-term but significant cashflow management challenges for farmers.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says 2015-16 will still probably end up being a breakeven year for most farmers but cashflow will be a major issue that could result in some increased term debt in the sector and less spending in the regions.

“Farmers are used to having seasonal cashflow that drops into the red but then pops back into the black at some stage during the summer period. However, our current forecasts indicate that many farmers won’t be in credit for the entire 12 months of next season unless costs are reduced, income is higher than predicted or some of their overdraft is put into their term debt.” . . .

24 ways to to survive next drought – Nadene Hall:

Ask a group of farmers with over 500 years’ experience between them how to manage a property before, during and after a drought, and you get a lot of practical tips and wisdom. AgResearch asked 20 South Canterbury farmers about their strategies for successfully managing their properties after a drought.

All the farmers had experienced severe droughts over the previous 20-30 years of farming. What worked best on an individual property depended on things like its climate and soil type, and what was being farmed, but the scientists concluded these are the key areas to look at: . .

Search on for cotton workers – Andrew Marshall:

AUSTRALIA’S rural skills shortage is not just a problem troubling individual farms or regional machinery businesses – the cotton industry fears the profitability of the entire cropping sector is eroding.

The combined impact of new farm technology growth and a shortage of rural recruits with skills ranging from information technology and accounting, to engineering and agronomy, is stressing broadacre agriculture’s efficiency and productivity.

Corporate farms and big agribusinesses are frequently resorting to ‘cherry picking’ the talent they need from other players or other sectors of the industry, even if it means taking agronomists and turning them into bankers.  . .


Rural round-up

April 14, 2015

That is indeed a beautiful sound – Gravedodger:

Since around 0645 we have had the sound of rain on the roof,  steady and after two hours, around 13mm.

Here in Akaroa we were not as desperate as many pockets  around North Canterbury, a friend from Cheviot next door to where we spent three years in the mid 60s, is saying it is so parched there is not even any green in gully floors where there is normally some hope of a lunch for a rabbit.

Another comment in Farmers Weekly said their bit of unirrigated country has moved from brown to white. . .

Uneven rules costly – Neal Wallace:

Steps to control agricultural nutrient discharge could add 10c a litre to the cost of producing milk and impose wide-ranging restrictions on land management.

But there is little uniformity in regional council rules.

Most of the county’s 16 regional authorities are still to complete their regional plans but early indications are that each council has its own approach.

Rabobank sustainable farm systems manager Blake Holgate has been following the development and release of environmental regulations and said even neighbouring regional councils such as Otago and Southland have differing rules, creating uncertainty for owners of multiple properties and unknown costs. . .

Heartland Forum shaping up as South Island farming event of the year:

A speakers’ lineup of the who’s who in the primary sector makes this month’s ‘The Future of Heartland Forum’ near Cheviot in North Canterbury, a must attend.

A farmer discussion in Cheviot late last year about the spread of Chilean Needlegrass has since grown into staging a premier forum on the future of agriculture industries in New Zealand.

The event will be held at Te Mania Angus Stud, Conway Flat, Friday, April 17.

Other than Government speakers, the lineup includes; Dame Margaret Bazley from Environment Canterbury, Winton Dalley the Hurunui Mayor, Peter Townsend the Chief Executive of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, Craige and Roz Mackenzie and Sam and Mark Zino, award winning farmers, Nicole Masters of the New Zealand Biological Farmers Association and Dr William Rolleston the National President of Federated Farmers New Zealand. . .

 Robotic milking can revive kids’ interest:

Robotic milking is coming of age in New Zealand and interest has surged in the last six months, DeLaval’s Grant Vickers says.

“I think it’s because a number of installations in New Zealand are working well,” he told Dairy News. “The perception of risk has probably lessened.”

The current inquiries, for robotics and barns, are from all sizes of farms and will result in installations in the North and South Island. 

Vickers spoke about robotic milking during a Dairy Women’s Network field trip to a 600-cow wintering barn as part of the organisation’s ‘Entering Tomorrow’s World’ conference. . .

What’s behind the longevity of Country Calendar? – Julian O’Brien:

Soon after I started producing Country Calendar, we had a minor crisis.

We thought we’d found a simple and elegant way to make new opening titles – but it quickly turned into a nightmare. 

We needed footage of people involved in typical rural activities, but to integrate the shots into our titles, they had to be shot against a neutral background – ideally a green-screen set up in a studio. 

Sheep in a studio? Achievable, but someone needs to be ready with a broom afterwards.

New Zealand’s top shearers in a studio? Impossible, if you want to keep the feel of a shearing competition – but we desperately wanted the shot.

As we pondered this, we had a crew shooting part of a story at the Taumarunui Shears – but there was no neutral background at the event to do a titles shot. . .

NZPork Annual Report 2014:

The NZPork Annual Report 2014, released today, reflects on the importance of the New Zealand consumer to the future of its business.

NZPork Chairman Ian Carter points out that it’s important to remember that our consumer is our neighbour and that we are touch with what consumers want and believe.

“We need to provoke interest in our product and our industry. We need to invoke confidence in our production standards and systems. And we need to evoke desire for our product,” said Ian Carter.

The report states the industry recognises that little is understood about pig farming in general amongst many New Zealanders, particularly the requirements of caring for its animals. In light of this, it is taking steps to be more transparent and advocate confidence to its consumers via its production systems and standards. . .

 Silage smells and what they mean – Ian Williams:

I grew up in town and one of my distinct memories of summer and autumn when we went to visit our farming friends was the smell of silage. 

As a kid, silage always seemed to stink and it is a smell which has been imprinted on my brain.

Now I work with the stuff. I even have a personalised number plate with the word SILAGE on it! Whenever I  introduce myself to people from town and they ask me what I do and I mention the word silage, they instantly screw up their noses and say something like “How can you work with that stuff, it stinks?” or they ask “Are you still married?” . .  .

How to install a ready-made food making business on your farm:

Making the transition from being a primary producer to processing and selling your own produce has become considerably cheaper, easier and less stressful thanks to an Anglo-French company that has created a new process that effectively builds a ‘barn inside a barn’.
Create-a-cabin has led a revolution in French farming by rapidly installing food-safe, highly flexible, and technically sophisticated food preparation rooms without the need for planning permission.
Across the Channel, Create-a-cabin’s custom-made, modular building shells have been erected quickly and cheaply for cheese-makers, poultry abattoirs, jam kitchens, meat packers, fish smokers and many more, allowing farmers to control at least one more link in the food production chain, as well as adding value to their product and thus  commanding a higher price. . .


Rural round-up

April 4, 2014

Fonterra Australia and Woolworths announce proposed new 10 year milk partnership for Victoria:

Fonterra Australia and Woolworths today announced that Fonterra Australia has been selected as the preferred supplier to process Woolworths Own Brand milk in Victoria for the next 10 years in a deal that is great for customers and farmers. The proposed long-term arrangement will give farmers certainty that will allow them to invest in their businesses with the confidence that they have a guaranteed buyer for their milk. Woolworths existing contracts were for a period of one year.

It also means that all Woolworths Own Brand milk sold in Victoria will be made and processed in Victoria, supporting local farmers and jobs in regional communities. . .

Farmers told to talk through differences – :

Environment Canterbury boss Dame Margaret Bazley says she is committed to working with farmers to resolve issues with the recently notified Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan.

“I think if you don’t get any other message from me, just know that we at ECan are absolutely committed to working with you to get a solution to these things,” she told high country farmers at a Federated Farmers field day in the Mackenzie Country.

She said the Government’s national policy statement for freshwater required all regional councils to set water quality limits and to have a process and timeframe to achieve that. . . .

Simpler Compliance needed – James Houghton:

Last week I was in the midst of New Zealand’s High Country, watching my son row in the Maadi Cup Regatta. As a Waikato dairy farmer in the midst of a drought, I drew some surprising parallels from the iconic landscape to Waikato’s usually lush pastures back home.

Driving through the vast barren landscape, with sleet coming at us horizontally, you cannot avoid the conclusion that the High Country farmers here in the South Island must be made of some hard stuff.  To farm down here is certainly not for the faint hearted, and requires big thinkers who can innovate the land into a viable business. Through the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998, High Country farmers have effectively lost the grazing rights to the top 60 percent of the Crown’s land to conservation, so the need for water has become a much more pressing issue. They need water to negotiate their farm through the loss in feed, another similarity we are also experiencing in the Waikato right now with our second drought in two years. . .

High Court rejects kiwifruit growers’ claim – Niko Kloeten:

Disgruntled kiwifruit growers have taken the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to court over the performance of a German company that owns Turners & Growers.

But a High Court judge has rejected their challenge to the OIO’s view that German company BayWa, which now owns 73 per cent of listed fruit and vegetable marketer Turners & Growers, had fulfilled its consent conditions.

The OIO, which is an arm of Land Information New Zealand, approved BayWa’s takeover of Turners & Growers in 2012. . .

Change aplenty on FarmIQ demonstration farm:

BEEF COWS are out, dairy grazers in and ewe condition a priority on the first FarmIQ demonstration farm to hold a field day this autumn.

“Historically a lot of emphasis went on fattening lambs,” Duncan Mackintosh of White Rock Mains told a field day audience of about 30 farmers and industry representatives late last month.

With hindsight, some of that was at the expense of ewe condition. Now, they routinely condition score the flock when yarded for other operations. . .

Body language can cause confusion – Anna Holland:

THERE SEEMS to be some confusion out there reading dog body language. 

 A couple of people who had watched a DVD about dog training remarked to me that the dogs looked scared of the trainer. I hadn’t seen it so couldn’t comment however I have since seen the DVD and I don’t think the dogs are scared.

Also, at my training days, I have had people remark that the dogs I am demonstrating with have their tails between their legs. It seems to concern the person more than the dog. Why?


Govt losing patience with CCC

June 13, 2013

Dame Margaret Bazley described the Christchurch City Council as incompetent, the government obviously has a lot of sympathy with her view:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the time has come for the Government to take urgent action to address the Christchurch City Council’s repeated inability to meet statutory timeframes for processing building consents.

This follows a letter dated 30 May from International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) to Christchurch City Council which gives the council till June 28 (16 days from today) to improve consenting processes or lose accreditation as a Building Consent Authority.

“This is to say the very least alarming and, in the circumstances of the massive rebuild we face in Christchurch, a crisis point,” Mr Brownlee says.

“For some time now we’ve had grave concerns about consenting processes at the Christchurch City Council.

“When I’ve asked for information about that in recent months I’ve been assured things were changing, and improving.

“Because of our concerns the Government has had the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (formerly the Department of Building and Housing) involved on a number of occasions since 10 February 2010 in trying to assist Christchurch City Council to improve and speed up their building consent processes.

“We have provided considerable support and advice, but still the council has failed to adequately address its systems, resources and improve the culture of its consenting staff.

“As a result Government Ministers of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and Building and Construction are now working on a contingency plan for implementation ahead of the IANZ deadline of June 28 for a decision to be made on whether Christchurch City Council maintains its Building Consent Authority accreditation.

“I note from the agenda of the council’s Planning Committee meeting on June 5 that in March and April the council was receiving an average of 35 building applications a day, a workload which led council officers to report: ‘we have seen backlogs develop across all process steps – from pre-processing initial data entry through processing and into typing. The sheer volume exceeds capacity and applicants are expressing a significant level of concern at this.’

“The council knew this workload was coming and hasn’t adequately addressed it. We can’t let that continue and will be discussing the Government’s approach with councillors soon,” Mr Brownlee says.

The council is facing an unprecedented work load but if it’s not coping it needs to get help.

The rebuild is a priority not just for the city and its people but for the rest of the country.

We need the South Island’s biggest city to be back to normal as quickly as possible.

The letter to the council is here.


CCC ‘incompetent’ – Bazley

June 8, 2013

Environment Canterbury head Dame Margaret Bazley says Christchurch City Council is a “totally incompetent organisation”.

. . . Documents obtained by The Press under the Official Information Act show the tension between the two councils over the delivery of transport infrastructure, particularly the city council’s delay in building a bus “superstop” at Northlands mall.

ECan chief executive Bill Bayfield wrote to his city council counterpart Tony Marryatt on December 10 last year saying it was “extremely disappointing” the superstop was not ready for a December 3 deadline.

The city council’s “inadequate provision of infrastructure” was undoing his staff’s work, Bayfield said.

A council staff member replied, accepting responsibility for the Northlands problems, saying: “Rather than offer excuses, I can confirm that the new infrastructure will be in place in Northlands by the end of February 2013.”

When this deadline was also missed, Dame Margaret weighed into the debate: “I have monitored the performance of the Christchurch City Council on the provision of these facilities… and have built up a picture of staff who tell lies, and of a totally incompetent organisation,” she wrote to Parker on April 16.

“Our staff have at all times worked collaboratively with your officers and have been given assurances that everything was in order, and progress was on track, when this was obviously not true.”

It was a “sad reflection on our supposed partnership” that even building a bus stop on time seemed beyond the city council, she said, and asked Parker to intervene. . .

Friends who are, or have been, trying to do business and rebuild homes in Christchurch tell stories of delays and frustrations which suggest that problems with the council aren’t restricted to this project.

The city has been devastated and faces a huge task in rebuilding.

The council plays a big part in ensuring the rebuild goes as smoothly as possible.

That requires people and systems designed to respond quickly and competently to minimise problems and maximise service.

The council needs a how can we help attitude backed by action for the good of the city and its people.

They and the country need the South Island’s biggest city rebuilt and back to its best as soon as possible.


ECan commissioners to stay

September 7, 2012

Local Body and Environment Ministers David Carter and Amy Adams have announced that commissioners will continue to govern Environment Canterbury after 2013:

A Bill to extend Commissioner governance until the 2016 local authority elections, with a ministerial review in 2014, will be tabled in Parliament today.

“The Commissioners, under the leadership of Dame Margaret Bazley, have proved highly effective in addressing urgent problems with water management in Canterbury and in rebuilding key stakeholder relationships,” Mr Carter said.

“Their strong governance through the earthquake response and rebuild planning has been excellent and it is vital that this work continues. The disruption caused by the earthquakes has made the Canterbury situation unique, and the focus must now be on ensuring the region can maximise its full economic potential as Christchurch rebuilds.

“In the interests of Canterbury’s progress, and to protect the gains the Commissioners have made, the Government has decided the best option is to continue with the current governance arrangement,” Mr Carter said. . .

Environment Minister Amy Adams says it is imperative that Canterbury’s freshwater resources continue to be managed and governed effectively.

“The Canterbury region has significant economic growth potential but also faces significant challenges. It is critical for New Zealand that the planning governance structure for Environment Canterbury is stable, effective and efficient,” Ms Adams said.

“To keep the freshwater management work on track, we intend to retain the limited appeal rights on decisions made by Environment Canterbury on plans and policy statements relating to freshwater management.”

The Ministers thanked the Commissioners for their efforts over the past two years.

“In the face of enormous challenges, the Commissioners have done a great job of managing Canterbury’s vital freshwater and natural resources. We look forward to further progress for Cantabrians and the continued growth of the region,” the Ministers said.

One measure of the change at the council since commissioners took over governance is processing consents.

ECan had the worst record for processing consents under the dysfunctional council, it is now one of the best.

Postponing elections for another three years is a big step but it’s justified by the size of the task facing ECan.

The earthquakes have given the council a lot more work and made it even more important that it works well.

 


Good call on ECan commissioners

April 22, 2010

Environment and Local Body Ministers Nick Smith and Rodney Hide have named the six commissioners tasked with overseeing Environment Canterbury and fixing the region’s pressing water issues.

Deputy to chair Dame Margaret Bazley is David Caygill, who has experience in local and central government, the legal profession and chairs several organisations including the Electricity Commission.

Biographies of the remaining commissioners, David Bedford, Donald Couch, Tom Lambie Professor Peter Skelton and Rex Williams are at the link above.

I am delighted that Tom Lambie is one of the commissioners. He is Lincoln University chancellor and an organic farmer who gained a lot of respect when he chaired Federated Farmers. He has personal experience of the importance of careful water management through his involvement with the Opuha Dam.

Replacing elected councillors isn’t ideal. But these appointees have a much better mix of skills and experience to deal with the crisis facing ECan and the region’s water than an election could have delivered.


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