Rural round-up

19/04/2021

Winter colony loss rates climb – Richard Rennie:

Beehive losses over winter have continued to show an insidious lift in numbers as the industry seeks out more answers on what is afflicting queen bee populations.

Latest survey data has found winter colony loss rates in New Zealand have lifted 10% on last year to afflict 11% of hives, in a continuing upward trend. The losses have crept upwards over the past few years with 2015 losses reported at 8%.

But Apiculture New Zealand Science and Research Focus Group chair Barry Foster says the rate remains comfortably below that of countries like the United States with a winter loss rate of 22%, and an international average loss rate across participating countries of 17%.

“It is hard to draw a real conclusion as to what the exact cause is, but the hard data is that it is largely due to problems with queen bees, along with varroa mite,” Foster said, . . 

B+LNZ seeks region-based slope maps – Neal Wallace:

Beef + Lamb NZ is calling on the Government to replace its low-slope stock exclusion map and stocking regulations with a region by region approach.

The map and associated stock exclusion rules were introduced last August as part of the Essential Freshwater regulations but have been deemed unworkable by farmers and farming groups.

Encouraged by the Government’s recognition that the intensive winter grazing rules needed modifying, B+LNZ is seeking the low-slope map to be replaced, saying it is inaccurate and unworkable, and stocking rules should be set regionally.

“Our position has been clear all along,” chief executive Sam McIvor said. . . 

Live export ban wrecks a growing industry – Mike Hosking:

Damien O’Connor has added another industry this Government has destroyed to its growing list.

Live animal exports are done.

While telling us it wouldn’t hurt our GDP, and despite admitting it’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars – he did concede there had been a bit of a “gold rush” of late.

That’s spin for “the industry is growing”. There is increasing demand for it, and in general I thought gold rushes were good. . .

Dairy farm trials app letting staff choose hours they want to work

A Mid-Canterbury dairy farm that is offering staff flexible work hours is seeing major benefits from the change.

Align Farms is trialling an app which lets staff to book in the hours they want to work.

Chief executive Rhys Roberts said a set number of people are needed for milking, but the app gives much more flexibility than a traditional roster where they are on deck from 4.30am until 5pm but only get paid for 10 hours because of meal breaks.

The new system allowed for a 9 hour paid workday in 9 hours. Freeing up 3 and a half hours. . . 

Business plan hatched to keep 320,000 hens in 139ha forest :

A South Waikato free-range egg company is setting up a new model of business – creating a forest for its hens to live in

The 139 hectare property will produce eggs under the Heyden Farms Free Range brand for egg producer and supplier Better Eggs Limited.

Developing over the next five years it will home 320,000 laying hens with eight laying sheds amongst 90,000 native and exotic trees.

Better Eggs chief executive Gareth van der Heyden said it was a whole new way of poultry farming in New Zealand that would enable the hens to live in a natural environment while producing eggs in a sustainable manner. . . 

In the Know – A New Mental Health Program for Farmers :

In the Know is a mental health literacy program developed at the Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) created specifically to educate the agricultural community. With support from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, several CMHA branches in rural and agricultural communities offer this training.

The four-hour mental health literacy workshop is designed to fit with farmers/producers limited availability owing to rigid daily schedules, distilling critical information and incorporating agricultural community culture. The workshop was developed in collaboration with stakeholder groups, including various agricultural sectors, mental health literacy trainers, government and representatives from social work, psychology, epidemiology, and education.

In the Know is meant for farmers, producers and persons with whom they have regular contact. This may include, but is not limited to, family members, peers and allies in the agricultural industry such as veterinarians, breeders, seed or feed salespeople, financial institutions, accountants or community members who have direct contact with farm owners/operators. . . 

 

 


Rural round-up

18/04/2021

New report warns that we’re building over our food basket – Alex Braae:

The 2021 Our Land report has raised serious warnings about our most productive food-growing land being turned over to housing. Alex Braae explains.

What’s all this then?

The environment ministry and Stats NZ have produced a new report called Our Land, which outlines exactly what New Zealand’s land is being used for, or how it is being left alone. Over and above the stats, it also shows the connections between land use, the economy, environmental outcomes, and even human wellbeing. 

What’s the big takeaway from the report?

A major fear that gets outlined in detail is about the spread of cities and residential areas into highly productive land – the sort that is vital for the growing of food. One point the report opens with is that our cities were mostly founded near this sort of top quality land, because that allowed enough food to be grown to sustain them.  . . 

O’Connor opts for a ban on exports of live beasts (rather than tighter regulations) to demonstrate our high animal-welfare standards – Point of Order:

Commodities are leading the global economic recovery. International demand for grains, dairy and forestry products is extremely strong – driven primarily by increased demand from China, ANZ Bank  economists say in their latest NZ Agri Focus.

Dairy markets shot up in March, driven by strong buying from China, among challenging conditions to deliver product to market. Since then prices have stabilised near current levels, encouragingly, despite more product being added to the GlobalDairyTrade sales channel.

The recent strength in global markets, combined with a slight softening in the NZ dollar. has been supportive of farmgate milk prices. . . 

Heriot saleyards closure sad but inevitable– Shawn McAvinue:

The Heriot saleyards closing after being a community meeting point for more than a century is sad but the writing was on the wall, a West Otago farmer says.

Farmer Graham Walker owns a 394ha sheep and beef farm in Park Hill and was the second generation of his family to sell stock at the saleyards, about 50km west of Lawrence.

The saleyards were a social place, which brought the community together.

However, the closure was inevitable, as fewer sales were being held as years passed, and as health and safety regulations had tightened. . . 

From dairy giant to tiny player: Miraka CEO Grant Watson – Laurilee McMichael:

It’s eight weeks in and Miraka’s new chief executive Grant Watson says that so far, it’s been a steep learning curve.

“Information overload,” he jokes. “Lots to learn, lots to soak up. It’s a big industry, that’s for sure, lots of moving parts.”

Happily though, dairy is not a new industry to Watson, who took up the Miraka role on February 3, replacing departing chief executive Richard Wyeth, who had been with the company for 11 years and who had taken it from being a plan with a greenfields building site to a respected player in the New Zealand dairy industry. Wyeth is now chief executive of Hokitika-based Westland Milk Products. . . 

Rural postie makes last run – Mary-Jo Tohill:

It is the end of the road for a South Otago postie — but in a good way.

After 18 years, David Fenton (67) has parked his rural post truck. He delivered his last parcel before Easter, and the new owners, Jane and Richard Whitmore took over the run early in April.

In almost two decades, Mr Fenton has covered about 846,000km. And while somewhat miffed not to have hit the million km mark — he would have got close had he kept going for a few more years — he was pleased with the decision to call time.

“I’ve been getting super for two years, so I’ve been double-dipping. Colleen [his wife] is retiring soon, and we’ve got to get out there and see more of New Zealand. There’s a whole lot more we want to see and go back to see, while we have the health to do it. . . 

Blue Peter drops anti-meat message after farmer’s beef with BBC – Ben Webster:

The BBC has dropped an anti-meat message to children from its Blue Peter green badge initiative after it drew a furious response from farmers.

The children’s programme offered the green badges, similar to the traditional blue ones, for youngsters who demonstrated they were “climate heroes” by making a pledge to “go meat-free”, switch off lights or stop using plastic bottles.

Gareth Wyn Jones, a father of three who runs a 2,000-acre farm in north Wales, last week condemned what he described as a “sweeping statement” that overlooked the lower environmental impact of grass-fed British beef and lamb. . . 


Rural round-up

15/03/2021

Office staff asked to help out in apple packhouses due to labour shortages  –

The corporate fruit and vegetable firm T&G Global is asking its office based staff to help out in apple packhouses.

This year all apple growing regions are facing severe labour shortages for both picking and packing the crop.

As a result T&G Global, originally known as Turners and Growers, is asking Hawke’s Bay staff to swap computer terminals for apple trays.

Its operations director Craig Betty said the firm was under real pressure to meet export schedules and needs 70 more people right now, so salaried staff and family members were being asked to help out. . . 

Covid-19 exposes global biosecurity systems as ‘fractured’ – expert – Riley Kennedy:

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a fractured global biosecurity system and a new approach is needed, a biosecurity expert says.

The paper by distinguished professor Philip Hulme from the government funded Bio-Protection Research Centre has been published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal BioScience.

Hulme said Covid-19 had shown there needed to be an approach to biosecurity that integrated threats to human, animal, plant and environmental health, recognising that disease or invasions in one sector often spilled over into the others.

He said the Covid Tracer app and the National Animal Indenification and Tracing (NAIT) system, were two examples of where lessons can be learnt and shared among different industries. . . 

Duck shooting season in doubt for many this year:

Many hunters and farmers will miss out on this year’s duck shooting season because the Police are failing to address a backlog of firearms licence applications, National’s Police spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“There are 10,000 applications waiting to be processed with 3000 of those just licence renewals.

“With opening weekend for duck shooting season fast approaching the Police should be adding more resources to help clear the backlog.

“Hunters missed out last year due to the Covid-19 restrictions. They’re understandably itching to get back out on the pond, but they may miss out again this year because of an administrative backlog. . . 

FarmIQ links to Lead with Pride :

For Darfield dairy farmer Dan Schat, the decision to supply Synlait and participate in the company’s Lead with Pride initiative has proven to be a good one three years into farm ownership.

The Schats enjoy the double premium of supplying A2 milk and being on the Lead with Pride initiative, both making the company payments worth the extra effort the initiative involves.

Lead with Pride encompasses the four pillars of supply to Synlait, recognising and rewarding best practice in environment, animal health-welfare, social responsibility and milk quality. . . 

Produce industry launches UN initiative in New Zealand to address hunger and increase wellbeing:

Aotearoa’s $6 billion fresh produce industry today rolls out a localised UN initiative, as it celebrates the launch of the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV).

The 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables to highlight the nutritional benefits of fresh produce.

The official launch this evening at Parliament will be hosted by the Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture, in partnership with United Fresh, New Zealand’s pan produce industry organisation, Horticulture New Zealand and Plant & Food Research.

The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables will showcase the government-funded Fruit & Vegetables in Schools (FIS) initiative which addresses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an exemplary programme with a case study presented by the international group AIAM5 in August last year. . . 

This California start up has a meat test it says can help prevent the next pandemic – Chloe Sorvino:

Food ID, a San Mateo, California-based startup, has raised $12 million in a Series B round that it says will help improve the safety and transparency of the U.S. meat supply.

The funding comes from S2G Ventures and will be used to commercialize the company’s rapid-result tests that can detect antibiotics in animals and a range of other adulterants, like heavy metals in seafood. Food ID says it has been working inside some industrial slaughterhouses for more than a year and that its tests are finding many of the meats being sold as “antibiotic-free” are not.

“There’s a feeling that consumers understand what they are buying and there’s authenticity,” says Food ID cofounder Bill Niman, the legendary grass-fed beef rancher in Northern California. “We know that’s not totally true, and when that becomes clear to the suppliers and to the brands that depend on antibiotics costing a premium to consumers, we’re gonna be very busy.”

Niman says he is offering the meat industry its first comprehensive testing platform and can provide more accuracy and transparency for consumers, who are increasingly looking for antibiotic-free meat, and paying on average $1 more per pound for it. . . 


Diplomacy 101

05/02/2021

The Taxpayers’ Union has come across a helpful and not at all patronising guide to Diplomacy 101 for our Australian friends:

A masterclass by Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister of Trade.

The enhanced free trade agreement with China has passed and I was ready to bask in the media adulation. This was quite the feather in my West Coast fishing hat given I had only been Minister of Trade for less than four months – most of that over the summer break.

I must confess to being later surprised and disappointed at the lack of media adulation, even from The Spinoff. Apparently, this deal had been worked on for years and was bound to happen. One of my young staffers (or possibly a new Labour MP, it’s hard to tell these days) suggested that “even Phil Twyford could have gotten this agreement through.”

Back home we would have thrown the troublemaker down a mine, back in the days we had mines on the West Coast. Today, he’d probably hit some camera drone stuck in a rockfall and I would get sued. I miss the old days.

Putting that slight setback behind, it was time to establish my legacy beyond just trade. I plan to be a player on the world stage. The starting point was obvious: Our closest neighbour and major trading partner, Australia. They are always open to constructive criticism from Kiwis.

International relations with China seemed like a safe place to start my global punditry. Neither Australia nor China are at all touchy about third parties commenting on their geo-political affairs.

After reading a copy of The Economist which had been sitting in my lobby for nearly four months, I decided against lecturing the Aussies. Under that brash exterior, they are sensitive and surprisingly fragile souls. So instead, I went with the educative approach.

My key messages were:

    • Do what New Zealand does, because we are better than Australia.
    • Be respectful to China like New Zealand is. Australia, by inference, is not.
    • Develop a mature relationship with China like New Zealand has. Australia, by inference, has not. I am not saying the Sino-Ocker relationship is immature, just that it is not mature.
    • My counterparts in Canberra should choose their words carefully because words matter in diplomacy. I think that I have graphically demonstrated that principle here.

My comments got a lot of media coverage which is obviously a good thing when most people do not know that you have been an MP for 26 years and a Minister of the Crown for nine years.

Once I actually read the media coverage, it was not as positive as I expected. In fact, it was not positive at all. I wanted headlines like “Magnanimous Minister helps struggling Trans-Tasman sibling”. Instead, I get “A trade minister goes on record going way off script.” That’s not very kind. Ingrates.

The media has overlooked my credentials in cross-border trade. I have brokered deals between Greymouth and New Plymouth, which counts as international commerce where I come from.

I heard that the Australian Trade Minister – you know, whatshisname – respects my view. Quite right, and I think this reflects my standing in the international pecking order. However, that same pesky staffer, who I would have fired if Andrew Little had not abolished all the laws allowing you to fire people, pointed out that “respects my view” in Australian Parliamentary slang is short for “bring it outside mate, if you think you are hard enough.”

Australian politics are odd. Still, at least Grant Robertson respects my view here. He told me himself at Cabinet the other day.

Bottom line: I antagonised both our major trading partners in one interview for no discernable reason.

Key thing is: Got my name in the paper!

 


Rural round-up

16/12/2020

Agriculture minister warned of impact of Covid-19 on industry’s future – Eric Frykberg:

Minister of agriculture Damien O’Connor has been has warned that the primary sector faces strong headwinds as the impact of Covid-19 lingers on into coming years.

In its traditional briefing to the incoming minister, the Ministry for Primary Industries said the global economy was forecast to decline by 4.4 percent this year.

Although agriculture withstood the impact of Covid-19 better than most sectors and enjoyed growth of 4.6 percent annually between 2010 and 2020, it would be exposed to weak demand from a nervous world economy, and some sectors were likely to struggle financially.

This problem would be especially severe as governments around the world eased back on fiscal and monetary stimulation, thereby reducing the buffer between ordinary businesses and general economic conditions. . . 

Government warned about potential spread of wilding pines – Eric Frykberg:

The government has been warned that without controls, wilding pines could cover one fifth of all New Zealand’s land area by 2035.

The warning came in a briefing to the incoming minister of biosecurity, Damien O’Connor.

These briefings come after every election and alert an incoming minister to the main problems that must be dealt with.

The briefing from Biosecurity New Zealand, which is part of MPI, said some progress had been made in dealing with wilding pines. . . 

1980s downturn recorded in book – Linda Clarke:

Mid Canterbury farmers today are among the most productive on the planet, but 35 years ago they were angry and bitter about government policies that were driving some from their land.

The rural downturn of the 1980s had a big impact on the district’s farmers and their families. The businesses of Ashburton suffered, too.

Emotional and hard decisions made then continue to have ramifications for some families today, says first-time author Alison Argyle, who has published a book about the downturn and its resulting grief, stress and challenges.

She spent nearly three years interviewing 40 farmers, workers, farm consultants, bankers, social workers and others and has woven their stories into a 130-page book called The Half Banana Years. . .

Strawberry prices squished as exports drop :

Strawberry prices fell 43 percent in November 2020 as COVID-19 border restrictions reduced exports, Stats NZ said today.

Soaring air freight costs since COVID-19 border closures has made exporting products much more expensive, and a shortage of international workers in the fruit picking industry has meant that growers can’t pick their fields fast enough, meaning that many berries are too ripe for exporting.

“With less exports there is more supply available for domestic consumption, causing lower prices,” consumer prices manager Katrina Dewbery said.

Strawberry prices were an average price of $3.45 per 250g punnet in November, down from $6.04 in October. . . 

Lamb numbers up, despite a challenging year for farmers – Bonnie Flaws:

Despite tough droughts and meat processing restrictions as a result of Covid-19, farmers have achieved a near record number of lambs this season.

For every 100 ewes, an average of 130 lambs were born compared with an average of 124 over the prior 10 years, Beef and Lamb New Zealand says.

Its Lamb Crop Outlook report for 2020, which forecasts the next year’s exports, showed the total number of lambs born this year was only slightly less than in spring 2019 when 131 lambs were born for every 100 ewes. . .

What does resilience really mean? – Lorraine Gordon:

Story brought to you by THE REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE ALLIANCE and FARMING TOGETHER PROGRAM.

In November 2019, off the back of the toughest drought in Australian history, my family farm at Ebor was ‘smashed’ by the Ebor fire at one end of the property and the East Cattai fire at the other end.

This took out approximately 20kms of boundary fence and $700,000 in infrastructure. These catastrophic fires completely devastated our landscape in a few hours.

Come March, we had just re-opened our farm tourism and function centre, when COVID-19 hit. This shut down our tourism business for much of the remaining year.

This is a familiar 2020 story for many Australians. It initiated a deep dive on my behalf into what makes people and landscapes truly resilient. . . 


How diverse?

04/11/2020

Jacinda Ardern’s new Cabinet is being celebrated for its diversity.

In that context diversity is referring to gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

When it comes to diversity of experience there’s a glaring omission – business ownership.

Damien O’Connor owned a tourism business.

An admittedly fast search for business ownership among the rest of Cabinet didn’t uncover anyone else who had run their own business and very little experience among Ministers of working for private businesses.

Does it matter?

It might be fairer to wait and judge them on their performance rather than their pasts. But I’d be a lot more confident of policy that reflects an understanding of private enterprise and the importance it will play in the recovery that Covid-19 has wrought on the economy if at least a few more of the Ministers had first-hand experience of owning or at least working in it.


Rural round-up

08/10/2020

Changes just don’t add up :

Farmer Jane Smith claims that farmers find comments from David Parker, Damien O’Connor and the Green Party’s James Shaw nauseating.

“This is our licence to operate with our global trading partners and will attract added-value premiums,” she says.

“This lacks any metric or rationale,” says Smith. “We are creating our own hurdles at a rate higher than any other primary producer in the world. For every dollar spent on food worldwide, the farmer receives on average, less than 10 cents.”

This is a topic of discussion Smith often has with offshore peers around the Global Farmer Roundtable.  . . 

Critic calls for major investigation into freshwater reforms :

Award-winning, environmentally-focused farmer Jane Smith wonders whether she’s farming in North Otago or North Korea.

She is calling for a full review into the process behind Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE) Fresh Water National Policy Statement – particularly around the recent legislation for winter grazing practices and land use categorised solely on slope.

“The public have been sold a sanitised version of the truth and are going to pay an unacceptable price for what I suggest is effectively an abuse of legislative power,” she told Rural News.

While Smith is opposed to the punitive regulations in their current form, it is the process that she is challenging – rather than the outcome itself. She says her time in a myriad of governance roles have shown the importance of transparency in procedure behind every decision.  . .

Fonterra sells farms in China to reduce debt get back to basics – Point of Order:

Dairy  giant  Fonterra  has  scooped in  $555 million by selling  its   China  farms  and is now aiming to unload   its yogurt business, a partnership with Nestle, located in Brazil, as  it  pursues  its  strategy of seeking  greater value, rather than volume,  in its  business.

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell   conceded  the  China  farm  business

“ … has  been a tough journey for us along the way, we had to take an impairment to that asset in 2019 and again in 2020 so certainly they haven’t been as operationally effective as we would have liked.  That said, we have made significant progress of late and that’s put us in a better position to sell these assets.”

Fonterra  is  expected    to  use   the proceeds to pay  down  debt  which under  Hurrell’s  watch  has  already been trimmed  in the past year  to $4.7bn  after  peaking at  $7.1bn.  . . 

Lift in sheepmeat exports to Europe and UK shows importance of retaining WTO tariff quota:

New Zealand sheepmeat exports rose 12 per cent by volume and five per cent by value in August compared to a year ago, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

A fall in sheepmeat exports to China (-13% by value) was offset by a significant increase in demand from the UK and Europe despite the uncertainty of the fast-approaching Brexit.

A total of 2,044 tonnes of sheepmeat was exported to the UK in August 2020, a 43 per cent increase on August 2019. Exports to the Netherlands rose by 80 per cent and to Germany by 30 per cent. France and Belgium also saw increases. . .

New Zealand’s first plant-based milk bottle lands on shelves:

Anchor has added to its Blue range, with a new 2L bottle made from sugarcane – which is a natural, renewable and sustainably sourced material

    • The new bottle is an example of sustainable packaging which research indicates is increasingly important to consumers.

Anchor is set to launch New Zealand’s first plant-based milk bottle which is 100% kerbside recyclable, and aligns with Fonterra’s commitment to have all packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Anchor Blue 2L in the new plant-based bottle will land on shelves across New Zealand’s North Island from October 13th. And while it’s still filled with the same fresh NZ dairy milk from Fonterra farmers – the bottle is made from sugarcane. . . 

Stahmann Farms plants close to 40,000 more pecan trees at Pallamallawa property near Moree – Sophie Harris:

Trawalla has well and truly cemented its place as the largest pecan nut farm in the southern hemisphere, with close to 40,000 more pecan trees planted at the Pallamallawa property in north west NSW over the past few weeks.

A total of 39,000 pecan trees have been planted on 195 hectares of Trawalla’s neighbouring property, Long Creek, over the past five weeks. 

This brings the total number of trees in the ground on Stahmann Farms’ Pallamallawa operation, including Trawalla, Red Bank and Loch Lomond, to 150,000. . . 


Rural round-up

01/09/2020

Primary sector keen to streamline rules with govt – Neal Wallace:

Primary sector groups shut out of the final development phases of the Government’s freshwater policy are urging politicians to work with them to make the regulations workable.

Since late May, sector groups have been excluded from the formation of the policy other than a three-day opportunity to respond to the final draft.

“We had limited opportunity as an industry to provide feedback during the final rule writing process,” Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) chair Andrew Morrison said.

Until then, industry groups were working effectively with the Government and were getting concessions. . . 

Government refuses to act on workers – David Anderson:

Agricultural contractors are still struggling to fill the huge hole of workers it needs, despite recruiting 300 locals to the industry.

Meanwhile, the Government is refusing to allow more operators from overseas into the country. Read: Locals only will not ‘cut the mustard’.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has dashed any hopes of this happening, saying there will not be any special accommodation made for overseas agriculture contractor workers.

“The door won’t be open in time for the new season,” he concedes. . .

From Boeing to baling: pilots fly to the rescue of heavy agriculture industry for upcoming harvest:

New Zealand pilots waiting for international aviation to restart will be able to use their aviation transport skills to help meet the urgent need for heavy agriculture machinery operators throughout the country.

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) Medical and Welfare Director, Andy Pender said that the Association had been working for several months with the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Rural Contractors’ Association, other government departments and training providers to match pilot expertise with the immediate needs of the agricultural sector.

“By matching skills and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) licences pilots already hold, we’ve found almost 200 opportunities for pilots to put their skills to use with land-based machinery and do their bit for New Zealand’s essential agriculture economy,” Andy Pender said. . . 

Innovation-led LIC launches ‘Ag-celerator’ investment fund:

Leading agritech and herd improvement cooperative LIC has launched a new fund to support innovations with the potential to positively impact New Zealand’s valuable dairy sector.

LIC has launched an early-stage investment fund, named the LIC AgCelerator™ Fund, for individuals and entities seeking to develop innovations that will deliver value to the dairy industry from generating higher yields, improving animal health, diagnostic tools and improved traceability to sustainability, advancements in breeding techniques and leveraging big data for improvements to farm management.

LIC Chief Executive, Wayne McNee says annual investment in upstream agritech companies grew 44% year-on-year from 2012 to 2018 and a further 1.3% from 2018-2019 highlighting both the opportunities and need for expansion. . .

Creating opportunities for New Zealanders with hemp:

The NZHIA are using “Innovation as a Service” to identify opportunities for industrial hemp in the food, fibre and processing sectors.

Hemp has long been known for its properties as a food, strong fibre, and an environmental super crop now, it could spell opportunity for New Zealand farmers.

As part of their agriculture super node strategy, Christchurch NZ, with the support of NZHIA (New Zealand Hemp Industries Association), Webtools Agritech, and Hemptastic, are hosting the “Hemp Ideation Challenge” from 5-18 September 2020. . .

Top End station hand Ricky Wilson spent 15 weeks in ultimate isolation on a remote cattle property – Jon Daly:

Ricky Wilson, 33, voluntarily spent almost four months on a remote cattle station without seeing another human and completely cut off from civilisation.

His bizarre and uniquely Territorian tale takes social isolation to the extreme, thanks to a can-do attitude and wanton disregard for personal safety.

“I don’t think many people could handle it,” Mr Wilson said.

“I’ve been metres from a crocodile, I’ve been metres from buffalo, I’ve been in a cyclone, and I’ve been metres from lightning hitting the ground.” . .


Rural round-up

19/07/2020

Early mornings shear joy – Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

Wool revival coming – Annette Scott:

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

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

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

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

A Fonterra of wool is necessary – Annette Scott:

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

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

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

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

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

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

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

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

Still work to be done after diagnosis – Alice Scott:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Rural round-up

03/07/2020

Rock bottom crossbred wool prices pose dilemma for farmers – Maja Burry:

Crossbred wool prices have plummeted to new record low levels in the wake of Covid-19, with some farmers receiving less than a dollar a kilogram for their wool.

Coarse wool makes up about 85 percent of New Zealand’s total wool clip, but prices have been low for years.

South Canterbury sheep farmer and former Federated Farmers meat and wool chair, Miles Anderson, said the problems facing the sector had been exacerbated further by the coronavirus.

Miles Anderson said at the moment returns to farmers didn’t even come close to covering the costs of shearing and in some cases, it wasn’t even worth sending the wool off farm. . . 

Environmental devastation at Tolaga Bay may take a century to recover, says councillor – Bonnie Flaws:

Forestry waste has again flooded the beaches of Tolaga Bay.

A video of a log-covered Tolaga Bay beach had been shared widely on social media on Tuesday.

A storm hit the district on Queen’s Birthday weekend 2018, washing over 40,000 cubic metres of wood onto beaches.

“We had 300 millimetres [of rain] up there over the weekend and a total new amount of wood has come down,” local farmer Henry Gaddum said. . . 

Hunting & Fishing New Zealand calls for genuine government consultation over tahr kill:

New Zealand’s largest outdoor recreation retailer, Hunting & Fishing New Zealand, today called on the Government to get back around the table and genuinely work with the hunting community to develop a pragmatic and long-term solution for the management of the South Island’s tahr population.

Hunting & Fishing New Zealand Chief Executive Darren Jacobs says it is extremely disappointing that a lack of consultation has once again required legal action, with the Tahr Foundation seeking an injunction this week in the High Court to stop a widespread cull due to start on 1 July.

“This is the second time in less than two years that hunting groups have had to take court action to stop plans for an extreme tahr cull and force the Government back around the table to talk with hunting groups, and other interested parties, to develop a collaborative approach to managing the tahr population,” says Jacobs. . . 

Anger at DoC’s ‘sham consultation’ over tahr slaughter plans:

The Tahr Foundation is condemning the Department of Conservation for what it describes as DOC’s “sham consultation” over plans to kill thousands of Himalayan tahr.

DOC’s kill operation is due to start today but the final version of its plan was only released just before midnight, minutes before it came into force. The plan confirms that DOC aims to exterminate tahr from national parks and kill thousands more through the Southern Alps.

The Tahr Foundation says that is outrageous and confirms that the already suspect consultation process was a farce.

Foundation spokesperson Willie Duley says DOC’s tactics are cynical. . . 

LIC strengthens partnership to support future farming leaders:

LIC has strengthened its support for growing the next generation of primary sector leaders with the signing of a three-year agreement with Rural Leaders which runs the highly-respected Nuffield Farming Scholarship and Kellogg Rural Leadership programmes.

Farmer owned co-operative LIC is committed to further enabling rural business professionals and farmers to flourish at a time when career opportunities on and around farms are strong says LIC Chief Executive Wayne McNee.

“We’re proud to have strengthened our partnership with Rural Leaders having previously had an association for five years,” he explains. “We’re excited to further cement our support for the future leaders our sector needs to retain and grow if we are to maintain global status as a world-class provider of agritech, food and products. We need leaders with passion and depth to navigate the challenges and opportunities being faced. Like Rural Leaders, LIC is focused on empowering people to grow and we’re delighted to be working with Rural Leaders to support more talented Kiwis to embark on forthcoming Nuffield and Kellogg programmes.” . . 

Overwhelming support to continuing seed levy:

Growers have overwhelmingly supported the continuation of the Non-Proprietary and Uncertified Herbage Seeds Levy order for another six years.

“In fact, from 82 percent in favour at the last levy vote in 2014, support shown during the vote last November had risen to 91 percent,” Federated Farmers Herbage Seedgrowers Subsection Chairperson Hugh Wigley says.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and the rest of Cabinet have approved continuation of the levy, and it will be gazetted this week.

“Grasses and clovers are vital to our sector but contracts for growing from proprietary seed are not always available and are more expensive. This levy safeguards supply of non-proprietary and uncertified seeds and provides different options to our farmers,” Hugh says. . .

 Wine industry, researchers and educators mark milestone with MOU:

Three institutions offering wine and viticulture courses have signed an agreement that will see them collaborate on research and student learning with the Marlborough Research Centre and Marlborough-based Bragato Research Institute.

The Memorandum of Understanding brings together tutors and students from Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawkes Bay, Otago Polytechnic, the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, whose Budge St campus also houses Bragato’s research winery, as well as the Marlborough Research Centre.

MRC Chief Executive Gerald Hope says the MOU is another milestone towards the development of the campus as the national centre for wine-making and viticulture, following on from the opening of the Bragato research winery in February. . .


Rural round-up

26/06/2020

Govt’s obsession with planting trees a big mistake – Mike Hosking:

am glad the forestation of this country at the expense of good, productive farmland finally appears to be getting the sort of attention it deserves. The trouble with a crisis, is it takes your eye off all sorts of balls, and  various issues would have had far greater scrutiny if we hadn’t had a virus to deal with.

Planting trees to allow us to meet our Paris accord deal is potentially a catastrophic mistake that is unfolding before our eyes.

Firstly, because our calling card to the world is not our climate credentials, it’s the food we sell. For that you need productive land. Under the Emission Trading Scheme changes, the price of carbon lifts. As it lifts, it becomes more attractive to buy land to plant trees.

Planting trees is easy, and people always take the easy path. And what makes this worse is many who invest in these trees have no intention of harvesting them. They’re simply there to clip the ticket. . . 

Majority of farmers find Fonterra Shareholders’ Council ineffective – survey – Eric Frykberg:

The main watchdog for dairy giant Fonterra has been told it has to lift its game.

The comments came in the first of a two-part inquiry into Fonterra Shareholders Council.

The council is supposed to monitor the company on behalf of its 10,000 farmer shareholders, but it has incurred a lot of criticism including comments from the Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor that it was “less a watchdog than a lapdog”.

The Shareholders Council commissisoned a review of itself last year, chaired by veteran public servant James Buwalda. . . 

Wool classer receives merit award – Yvonne O’Hara:

Wool has always been part of Anne-Marie Parcell’s life.

“I love it and not a day goes by when I am not staring at sheep or touching wool. If I am not spinning it, I am shearing or crutching or drafting. I never wear polar fleece,” the Bannockburn wool classer said.

And neither did the two lambs that turned up last week wearing wearing wool jackets.

Ms Parcell was delighted when she was given a merino merit award from the New Zealand Wool Classers Association recently, for the clip she classed at Northburn Station, near Cromwell. . .

Fonterra announces Peter McBride as chairman elect:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited (FCG) has announced that current Farmer Director, Peter McBride has been selected as the Co-operative’s Chairman-elect by his fellow Directors.

Under Fonterra’s constitution, its Chairman is selected by the Board from within its pool of seven elected Farmer Directors.

Mr McBride will replace current Fonterra Chairman, John Monaghan when he retires as a Director of the Co-op at its Annual Meeting this November. . .

Adept wool presser will never give up :

Here’s a riddle … If two shearers clip a total of 100 sheep, and one shears three more than the other — what is the tally for each? Turangi Morehu jokes that he has asked this riddle to many in the shearing fraternity over the years, including world champion Sir David Fagan “and I’m still waiting for his answer”, he quips.

Mr Morehu, known to most as Tu, “after one and before three”, is the ubiquitous and hard-working character floating between the gangs of Peter Lyons Shearing, keeping an eye on things for Mr Lyons and wife, Elsie.

Originally from Tuatahuna and spending his younger years in Rotorua, Mr Morehu has worked as a wool presser since he left school at the age of 13 . .

Kauri still waiting for dieback plan – Farrah Hancock:

A pest management plan for kauri dieback is missing in action. Farah Hancock reports.

Thirty months after it was announced, there’s still no National Pest Management Plan for kauri dieback.

In 2017, the Government said it was moving immediately to strengthen efforts to protect kauri trees. One of those efforts was creating a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP).

“An NPMP shows how serious we are about protecting kauri. It is by far the strongest piece of regulation available and will ensure mandatory hygiene practices, consistent regulations that apply nationally, stronger governance and access to funding,” said Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor when he announced the plan in December 2017. . .

Britain opens free trade negotiations with New Zealand – Liz Truss:

This week is the start of an exciting new chapter in the shared history of Britain and New Zealand.

Our two island nations are already close friends, bound tightly by cultural, economic and social ties that have stood the test of time.

Britain is the largest ex-pat community in New Zealand. We both share a language, a head of state and a system of common law. We also share a strong commitment to free and fair trade, and believe fundamentally in the rule of law and the power that democracy has to drive forward human progress. . .


Rural round-up

28/05/2020

Hauraki Plains farmers: ‘We just want some help‘ –  Maja Burry:

Farmers on the Hauraki Plains are banding together and holding socially-distanced shed meetings, as they fight the worst drought seen in the area in decades.

The Hauraki Plains, Coromandel Peninsula and eastern parts of South Auckland haven’t had had any meaningful rain in months. The dry conditions have become so dire in some parts of the Waikato region three district mayors have signed a letter to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, calling for more support.

Ngatea farmers Megan and Michael Webster run 300 dairy cows and 900 diary goats, but this season due to the dry conditions they’ve had to take a financial hit and dry their stock off about a month earlier than usual.

Michael Webster said it had been a very challenging time, with average rainfall well down. . . 

Coronavirus: Kiwis more positive about farming after Covid-19 lockdown – Esther Taunton:

Kiwis are beginning to see farmers in a new light after lockdown, research shows.

Figures from UMR Research show 63 per cent of New Zealanders hold a positive view of sheep and beef farming, an increase of 9 per cent compared to just eight months ago.

Support for dairy farmers has also jumped, rising from 51 per cent to 60 per cent.

Horticulture tops the list with a positive rating of 65 per cent, while ratings for fisheries have clicked over into majority positive territory at 53 per cent, up from 47 per cent. . .

Fish & Game council embraces Feds, ungags boss -David Williams:

Fish & Game is extending an olive branch to Federated Farmers, against the advice of its chief executive. David Williams reports

The national Fish & Game council continues to try and cleanse itself of a tough stance against agricultural pollution, demanding a softer line from staff on public statements as it takes tentative steps to work with lobby group Federated Farmers.

Such a step would be a huge departure for the public body, which is funded by licence fees. It’s an environmental powerhouse which has successfully advocated for a dozen water conservation orders, and is well-known for taking a hard stance on the damage done by dairying.

That stance, pushed by long-time chief executive Bryce Johnson, has continued under successor Martin Taylor, who started in late 2017, just after the last general election. (In one of his first statements, he flayed dairy giant Fonterra’s environmental record, caused by, he said, its “single-minded focus on increased production at all costs, aided and abetted by weak regional councils”.) . . 

Project to explore turning waste into hand sanitiser – Maia Hart:

Turning waste into hand sanitiser is the next project for a research winery based in Marlborough.

The Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) has awarded $84,700 in funding to Bragato Research Institute (BRI) for a pilot study exploring turning grape marc into hand sanitiser.

Grape marc is the stems and seeds leftover after pressing – which in Marlborough can total as much as 46,000 tonnes of waste per year.

The study would look to turn winery waste into ethanol. Any sanitiser made in the initial eight-month study would be bottled and donated to Marlborough health workers and first responders. . . 

Farmers feeling less pressure from banks Feds’ survey finds:

Farmers are feeling slightly more satisfied and less under pressure from their banks, the Federated Farmers May 2020 Banking Survey shows.

Responses to Research First from nearly 1,400 farmers found that the number feeling ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their bank lifted slightly from 68% to 69% in the past six months, and those feeling ‘under pressure’ dropped from 23% to 19%.

“Satisfaction had slipped as a trend since we started this twice-yearly survey in August 2015 and this is the first positive change since then,” Federated Farmers Vice-President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . . 

New Zealand horticulture industry rewarded by outstanding survey result :

A survey showing that New Zealanders rate horticulture more highly than any other part of the primary industry sector is rewarding for fruit and vegetable growers across the country. 

UMR research released today shows that horticulture continues to receive the highest positive rating of 65%.

HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman says he sees the result as a reward for the way fruit and vegetables are grown in New Zealand.

‘Our growers are some if not the best in the world.  Over the years, the New Zealand horticulture industry has invested heavily in meeting consumer demand for fresh, tasty and nutritious food that is grown, harvested and transported in environmentally sustainable and ways.  . . 


Rural round-up

18/04/2020

Northland drought: No feed, no water and coronavirus increases farmers’ stress – Denise Piper:

“Extreme” drought conditions in Northland are being called the worst for decades and have left farms with no stock food and with their water sources drying up.

In Northland, where little rain has fallen, more farmers are asking for help, said Julie Jonker, co-ordinator of Northland Rural Support Trust. 

“There is quite a lot of stress out there,” she said.

Many Northland farmers have already used all of their winter supplementary feed and alternatives, like palm kernel, are expensive and hard to source. . . 

Dairy farmers dry cows off early as tough winter nears :

Tight feed supplies and ongoing drought are forcing some dairy farmers across the country to dry off earlier than usual.

Fonterra Farm Source director Richard Allen estimates that about 13 percent of farmers have dried off by mid-April compared to 8 percent at the same time last season.

Last month, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor declared a large-scale adverse event in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams. The worst-hit region, Northland is still holding out for decent rainfall. . . 

Freshwater 2020 – working towards improved outcomes balancing the environment with community and economic needs:

IrrigationNZ commends the work that has gone into the Freshwater 2020 report released today, and recognises this data helps towards providing certainty of where we need to head.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal says, “Freshwater and related ecosystems are very complex, and as the report says, data gaps do remain. However, it is helpful for farmers to see where their improvements are working, and where further work is required.”

IrrigationNZ notes some positive trends emerging from the report for example: . . 

Puketoro Station — village in a bubble – Leigh McNeil:

Puketoro Station, inland from Tokomaru Bay, has been in lockdown for three weeks now under the Covid-19 rules, and it’s the same as every other farm in New Zealand — business as usual.

But what makes Puketoro slightly different from most farms is that there are 19 people in the station “bubble”.

So the McNeil Farming operation is a tiny village on its own, and in typical village fashion, the residents range in age from four months to Goldcard-holders.

The bulk of the shepherds are under 25 years old, so it’s been somewhat of a tough call for them to stay put for four weekends in a row. . . 

 

California farmer ploughs under lettuce after coronavirus shutters restaurant market – Mike Blake and Christopher Walljasper:

HOLTVILLE, Calif. (Reuters) – There should be tractors rumbling across Jack Vessey’s ranch, pulling wagons full of fresh-cut romaine lettuce to be packed and shipped to restaurants and grocery stores across the United States.

Instead, as the coronavirus outbreak upends the nation’s food distribution network, a tractor and plow destroyed rows and rows of green produce on Wednesday.

“You put your blood, sweat and tears into a crop,” said Vessey, president of Holtville, California-based Vessey and Company, Inc. “To just disc it into the ground: It’s painful.” . .

Digital initiative keeps Northland farmers connected during lockdown:

Northland farmers are embracing the digital age as they respond to the dual challenge of the Covid-19 lockdown and the region’s severe drought conditions.

Extension 350 (E350), Northland Inc’s award-winning farmer-led and farmer-focused programme, is driving a digital initiative, which includes pilot video interviews with farmers, called “What’s on your mind?”, accessible via the programme’s YouTube channel.

The interview format encourages the farmers to share their thoughts on issues impacting their businesses, what specifically prompted these thoughts, and the process they expect to follow in developing and implementing responses to protect or enhance their businesses. . .


Rural round-up

24/01/2020

Failure won’t be farmers’ fault – Arthur Tsitsiras:

Farmers, like any business people, always look to keep costs down and make a profit. 

Farming, however, is an industry with a unique set of variables. Droughts can severely affect crop and livestock growth, floods and storms damage crops and infrastructure, unexpected disease outbreaks and wavering demands in certain products can all have wide-ranging impacts completely out of farmers’ hands. 

In addition, farmers are now expected to be conscious about their environmental impact.  . . 

Primary Sector Council’s starry-eyed vision – Nigel Malthus:

Late last year, the Primary Sector Council (PSC) unveiled its vision for the future of New Zealand’s primary industries.

It centres on the Māori concept of Taiao, which emphasises respect for, and harmony with, the natural world.

The council was established by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor in April 2018 on a two-year mission to provide strategic advice on issues and to develop a sector-wide vision for the future. . . 

Here comes the sun . . . (flowers) – Sally Brooker:

One of North Otago’s favourite crops is making an impact again.

Sunflowers are maturing in paddocks on Thousand Acre Rd, between Oamaru and Kakanui, attracting photographers and adding a feel-good element to the landscape.

They are grown by the Mitchell and Webster families for their animal feeds company Topflite.

“You never get sick of them,” general manager Greg Webster said of the giant yellow flowers. . . 

Robot start-up Radius Robotics seeks to solve world’s soil depletion – Catherine Harris:

Farming by robot is no longer a fantasy, and it also could be a breakthrough for preserving our soil quality, a group of Kiwi entrepreneurs say.

Christchurch’s Radius Robotics is developing a wheel-based robotic system which would direct drill seeds with a minimal footprint, irrigate, weed and collect data.

Reducing the amount of land having to be tilled was one of its key aims, co-founder Henry Bersani said. . . 

Farmers encouraged to seek advice on farm succession planning – Sam Kilmister:

A series of workshops is designed to get farmers thinking about life after the farm.

Farm succession is a pressing topics among sheep and beef farmers, with more than 50 per cent of sheep and beef farms expected to change hands over the next decade.

The Red Meat Profit Partnership will hold a series of workshops educating Rangitīkei farmers on business transition and help them to navigate what can often be a difficult process. . . 

Fonterra leaves impression:

An internship at Fonterra proved to be just as valuable to Massey University science student Victoria-Jayne Reid as it was to the dairy co-operative with the development of a new testing regime.

The third-year science student spent her summer at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre across the road from Massey’s Manawatu campus helping to validate a new test for fat content in milk products that has proved to be robust and simple.

“The old reference method was highly laborious, it involved hazardous chemicals, manhandling and it took a long time,” Reid says. . . 


Rural round-up

09/12/2019

Rural rates chan pulls tighter – Richard Rennie:

The Federated Farmers rates report for the year has highlighted the continuing ability of council rates to outstrip other cost indices, with property owners experiencing a 170% increase over the past 20 years.

That rise has left standard cost indices for dead, even when compared to typically high-rising products like alcohol and tobacco, Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said.

Those two products rose 120% over the same period, with significant tax increases on them through that period.

Food prices increased 50% over the same period while transport costs went up 30%.

Farmers are desperate for a handbrake on rates rises but concerned councils appeared to be signalling further rises are likely. . . 

Minister failing to give farmers the facts:

Damian O’Conner has badly let down rural New Zealand by not requesting economic and social analysis on his Government’s freshwater proposals, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“Ministry for Primary Industries officials revealed today in Select Committee that they did not conduct any economic or social modelling prior to the release of the proposals, nor did the Agriculture Minister ask them to.

“It is Damien O’Connor’s responsibility to look out for rural communities and make sure the facts are laid out before hammering them with the most significant policy proposal farmers have faced in years. . . 

Massive high-tech pest control operation in Perth Valley declared a success – Lois Williams:

The company that carried out a massive pest control operation in South Westland’s Perth Valley this year is declaring it a success.

Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) supported by DOC blitzed the remote river catchment near Whataroa with 1080 pellets in two aerial drops, in April and July, following intensive pre-feeding with non-toxic pellets.

But it also set up a network of 700 traps for rats and possums, all connected by radio and satellite to rangers phones and laptops, along with 142 cameras to detect stoats.

The company’s aim is to rid the Perth Valley of all predators and keep them out – something that has never been achieved outside of fenced sanctuaries and islands. . . 

Dairy compliance on the up and up:

The Dairy industry and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have adopted the shared goal to achieve 100% compliance with all resource consents, and are almost 80% towards the goal, celebrated at this week’s Dairy Compliance Awards.

The Dairy Compliance Awards recognise Hawke’s Bay dairy farmers who consistently achieve full compliance with their resource consents.

This is the sixth year of the Dairy Awards, covering water takes, farm dairy effluent and air discharge consents. Over the years, overall compliance has improved from 71% in 2012-13 to 78% in 2018-19. . . 

Good sense sold up the river – Alan Moran:

Earlier this week some 3,000 irrigators and their supporters rallied in Canberra against government policy on Murray-Darling irrigation and management.  With the  cacophony of dozens of semi-trailers’ blaring horns, it was certainly noisy. Ominously for the National Party, their representatives were treated with considerable hostility, particular anger being directed at water Minister David Littleproud. Enduring the jeers, the Nationals would have been especially dismayed at the warm welcome for Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts.

The current drought has exacerbated a contrived water shortage that government policy has engineered in the Murray. Having set a cap on water extractions in 1999 — roughly a third of the average flow — the productive uses of this “working river” have been gradually reduced.  As a supplier of a vital agricultural input to a formerly barren area that grew to supply 40 per cent of the nation’s farm produce, the river has been de-rated.  At a cost of $13 billion, some 20 per cent of the flow has been diverted to “environmental” use. This has caused a five- to ten-fold increase in the price and forced thousands of farms out of business. . .

Winston Nutritional secures Chinese Government approval for infant formula production:

Winston Nutritional is one of only two New Zealand manufacturers in 2019 to secure approval from China to produce infant formula.

Winston Nutritional (17888) has achieved infant formula plant registration from the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC) for its Auckland-based blending and canning facility. It secured a general dairy registration in 2017.

Winston Nutritional (17888) has achieved infant formula plant registration from the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC) for its Auckland-based blending and canning facility. It secured a general dairy registration in 2017. . . 


Rural round-up

04/11/2019

$9 billion shock – Neal Wallace and Annette Scott:

Claims the Government’s essential freshwater proposals could cost the livestock industry over $9 billion a year are selective, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

That is the estimated cost of compliance and lower production of meeting proposed freshwater reforms, submissions from Beef + Lamb and DairyNZ say.

More than 12,000 submissions were made by last week’s deadline.

The reforms have been labelled by some farming bodies as unbalanced, unnecessarily harsh and unsustainable. . .

M bovis’ eradication initiatives vindicated – Sally Rae:

An independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG) believes achieving eradication of Mycoplasma bovis is still feasible.

The group’s latest report was released yesterday by the Ministry for Primary Industries in which it supported the changes the M. bovis programme had made over the past six months.

Given available data, achieving biological freedom from M. bovis was feasible provided the number of undetected infected herds was not large, infection had not established and spread within the non-dairy sector, and that the rate of transmission to new herds was reduced via continued shortening in the intervals from infection to application of movement controls, it said. . .

Faith, family and farming– Sonita Chandar:

Southland farmers are community and spiritual leaders in the Islamic community. They put their faith above everything and answered the call to help  after the Christchurch mosque shootings. They talk to Sonita Chandar about their experiences and farming.

On Friday March 15 Invercargill farmer and imam of the world’s southernmost mosque, Reza Abdul-Jabbar, was delivering his weekly sermon when a worshipper’s phone rang.

Until then it had been super quiet, as it usually is during the service.

He reminded the man it was a time for silence, not to take the call and continued. 

But other phones began ringing. . .

Fonterra’s dream run in India – Pam Tipa:

Fonterra three months ago launched its first consumer brand in India under the Fonterra Future Dairy joint venture.

The brand Dreamery has had a “fantastic reception”, says Judith Swales, chief operating officer, global consumer and foodservice.

Fonterra is working with joint venture partner Future Group which is present in 26 of 31 Indian states with over 2000 modern trade outlets and 5000 public distribution outlets. . .

Experts have their say on whether cherries justify their popularity – Mark Price:

Faced with all manner of economic worries — from Trump to freshwater policies — where might investors put their hard-won savings in the hope of a better than deposit rate return? Might cherries — the horticultural darling of the moment in Central Otago — be the answer? Mark Price sought out two opinions.

Ross and Sharon Kirk are cherry industry consultants trading as Hortinvest Ltd. They have the biggest netted orchard under management in Central Otago (close to 40ha), and are in the process of planting two 80ha, ‘‘fully-netted’’ development

Suitability for Central Otago

Q: What are the basic requirements for cherries to thrive?
A: Low rainfall over harvest, good winter chilling, reasonable soils (nutrient), adequate water, reasonable shelter from wind, and netting (to keep out birds).

Q: Which requirements does Central Otago meet?
A: All of the above, although the bird netting is expensive. . . .

Cute as buttons :

North Canterbury farmers Melissa and Hayden Cowan have a small flock of rare black-nosed Swiss Valais sheep.

Often referred to as the “cutest sheep in the world” this distinctive breed with black face and ears, curly forelocks and spotted knees and hocks originate in the mountains of the Valais area of Switzerland.

They imported their first embryos from the UK in 2018 and from the 32 embryos 18 live lambs were born so there’s no guarantee they’ll work. The embryos cost $2000 a pop so it’s a quite an investment. .


Rural round-up

02/11/2019

Ringing up in tears’ : Canterbury farmers doing it tough – Jo Moir:

Canterbury farmers say they’re at breaking point. A recent Ministry of Health report presented to MPs showed suicide was up 20 percent in rural areas compared to a drop of 10 percent in cities and towns.

Droughts, floods, earthquakes, farm debt, M bovis, looming water quality reforms and climate change legislation have Canterbury farmers feeling under the pump.

Ashburton farmer and Federated Farmers’ board member, Chris Allen, said nothing brought home just how many farmers were battling depression than a funeral. . .

Researchers did deeper in fight against climate change – Rebecca Black:

Researchers have found deep soil holds potential to off-set greenhouse gas emissions and improve production for farmers.

Dr Mike Beare and his colleagues at Plant and Food Research have been studying how soils differ in their potential to store carbon, and the risk for carbon loss.

Beare said many of New Zealand’s long-term pasture top soils are approaching saturation and don’t have the potential to store carbon near the surface.

Many continuous pasture soils in New Zealand are stratified, with carbon levels declining rapidly with depth. “Where there is much greater potential to store additional carbon is below the surface soil,” Beare said. . . .

Give farmers the tools and they will respond – Todd Muller:

The Government should let farmers focus on continuing to produce world class food, not trying to negotiate complex tax systems, writes National’s spokesman for Primary Industries, Todd Muller.

Last week the Government announced a broad agreement had been reached with the agriculture sector on how to approach the very complex challenge of reducing our emissions from sheep and cattle animals in New Zealand.

Unlike our CO2 emissions, which we’re all exposed to whether we’re a farmer or city dweller via the carbon price, natural emissions from belching and urinating cows and sheep currently sit outside a pricing regime. . .

Biosecurity business pledge signed by 50 companies:

A group of 50 New Zealand companies have signed a first-of-its-kind pledge to protect New Zealand from pests and diseases.

The Biosecurity Business Pledge – which includes some of New Zealand’s biggest businesses, including Fonterra, Auckland Airport, Goodman Fielder, Countdown and Mainfreight – was launched today by participating businesses and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor. . .

Feds urges going the extra mile with biosecurity pledge :

Businesses which sign up to the Biosecurity Pledge 2019 are underlining a commitment to go the extra mile to protect our environment and economy from diseases, pests and hazardous organisms. 

“It’s one thing to tick all the boxes in terms of meeting all the regulatory requirements.  That should by now be standard practice,” Federated Farmers biosecurity spokesperson Karen Williams says.

“The Pledge campaign, supported by Federated Farmers and 10 other farmer and grower organisations, is about businesses actively looking for ways to cut out potential risks to protect not just their own interests, but those of their peers, the wider community and our little slice of paradise at the bottom of the world. . .

 

Filipino farmer grows new life in New Zealand after rough beginning – Emma Dangerfield:

Bob Bolanos had a good life in the Philippines but political corruption prompted him to move his young family to New Zealand and start at the bottom again. Emma Dangerfield reports.

When a Philippines Government official offered Bob Bolanos a top electrical contract, he knew he had to leave.

The farmer was well connected, so he and his young family were well looked after, and he was regularly awarded good contracts because of who he knew. But it did not sit well.

Something about it made me sick to my stomach,” he says. “I didn’t want my children being brought up in that environment.” . .


Rural round-up

18/10/2019

Don’t blame the messenger:

It appears the only people surprised by plummeting levels of rural confidence are the Government and Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.

For months we have seen an endless stream of reports – from Rabobank, BNZ, ANZ, NZIER – all depicting a growing lack of confidence and concern in rural New Zealand.

Only last month, an open letter was written to the Government by an agricultural consultancy head, Chris Garland, outlining why farmer morale is at an all-time low. Garland, of Baker Ag, called for more consideration for the rural sector’s lot in the face of ever more onerous regulation. . . 

Marlborough’s Francis Maher vows to strengthen relationship between farmers and council – Chloe Ranford:

A Marlborough farmer returning to the council chamber after a tight vote says he hopes to strengthen the relationship between rural residents and the region’s decision-makers.

Francis Maher will once again represent the Wairau-Awatere ward after beating nearest rival Scott Adams by just 13 votes.

The seat was “too close to call” after Saturday’s preliminary count, but updated results on Sunday revealed Maher would join incumbents Gerald Hope and Cynthia Brooks in the rural ward. . . 

Moffat to lead Deer Industry team :

Innes Moffat has been appointed chief executive of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ). He has been with the organisation for 14 years.

DINZ chair Ian Walker says the DINZ board ran an external recruitment process that attracted some very strong candidates from both inside and outside the deer farming industry. After considering all applicants the board made the unanimous decision that Moffat was the best candidate for the job.

Moffat, who was born and raised on a South Otago sheep and cattle farm, joined DINZ in 2005 as venison marketing services manager. This followed several years with the former Meat and Wool New Zealand, including a four-year stint in Brussels as market manager continental Europe. More recently, he has been manager of the deer industry’s Primary Growth Partnership programme, Passion 2 Profit. . . 

Wagyu study stirs up academics :

An academic stoush is brewing over research from Liggins Institute indicating middle-aged men can confidently eat Wagyu beef three times a week without damaging their health.

The research was done as part of a high-value nutrition national science challenge led by AgResearch and co-funded by First Light Wagyu beef company. 

Its 50 participants were put on diets consisting of either 500g a week of Wagyu beef, conventional beef or soy protein spread over three portions a week for eight weeks. At the end of the trial all three groups had reduced their cholesterol. 

The outcome prompted study leader Professor David Cameron-Smith to conclude eating New Zealand grass-fed Wagyu with its high level of fat does not affect heart disease, including cholesterol and blood pressure levels. . . 

Is technology a threat to dairy? – Daniel Appleton:

The New Zealand dairy industry is facing major disruption from synthetic dairy, similar to the synthetic fibres that triggered the decline of the wool industry in the 1980s.

Technology companies are now making real dairy products, without cows. 

Their aim is to make real dairy products far cheaper than traditional farming can within the next 10 to 15 years.

The reason I’m talking about this is out of genuine concern. 

I’m concerned this very real risk to the dairy industry isn’t being shared and openly discussed with those who could be affected most – farmers and rural communities. . . 

From billies to bottles to unbreakables: milk through the decades – Rebecca Black:

Lois Puklowski remembers when milk was delivered by horse and cart, she used to watch in delight as the milkman ladled it into her billy.

It was the mid-1930s and Puklowski would join other children from her neighbourhood in Aramoho, Whanganui, excitedly awaiting the milk cart.

“He’d only stop a couple of places in the street and everyone used to queue up with their billies,” she says.

New Zealand has Australian cows to thank for its earliest milk production. Samuel Marsden brought the cows to New Zealand in the early 1800s. They were a gift from New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie. . . 

 


Rural round-up

04/10/2019

Sheepmeat and beef exports in 2019-20 both forecast to break $4 billion for the first time:

China’s demand for New Zealand’s beef, lamb and mutton is forecast to propel both sheepmeat and beef exports past the $4 billion mark for the first time.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) New Season Outlook 2019-20 report forecasts beef, lamb and mutton prices to lift from historically high levels, helped by continuing strong export demand and an expected weakening of the New Zealand dollar.

“We have forecast increases in farm-gate prices for beef, lamb and mutton in 2019-20, because small increases in in-market prices are expected to be further assisted by an easing of the New Zealand dollar,” says B+LNZ Chief Economist Andrew Burtt. . . 

Agriculture Minister O’Connor under fire at Gore meeting – Rachael Kelly:

The Minister of Agriculture refused to accept that the Government is affecting farmers’ balance sheets.

O’Connor fronted up to a Ministry for the Environment freshwater consultation meeting in Gore attended by about 400 farmers on Thursday.

He told farmers to “get over it” when he was questioned about farmers’ equity.

While he told the crowd the one thing the Government needed to front up to was how banks were treating farmers at the moment, it wasn’t long before a heckler said it was O’Connor’s Government that was driving the equity out of farmer’s balance sheets. . .

Farmers urged to have say on water – Yvonne O’Hara:

Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young can see why some farmers could become disheartened and consider giving up their farms if they continue to get hammered by new regulatory requirements and increasing compliance costs.

He has done the maths on the impact the Government’s proposed Essential Freshwater rules would likely have on his ability to earn a living from his 5400ha hill country sheep and beef Cattle Flat Station, near Balfour.

It runs about 15,000 stock units including 8000 breeding ewes and 550 cows, on mainly hill country. . . 

Celebrity chef Al Brown says city slickers are the ones ruining the environment – Teresa Ramsey:

City slickers need to clean up their own backyard before criticising farmers, top New Zealand chef Al Brown says.

Brown, who owns restaurants in Auckland and Wellington, slammed “urban keyboard warriors” in a Facebook post aimed at defending farmers.

During a weekend in rural Raglan, Brown said he was impressed by the “extraordinary beauty of the NZ countryside”.

“Farm after farm in beautiful condition…..we witnessed many new plantings of native trees, fenced off waterways and blocks of old established bush breaking up the pastural land and providing ample shade for the stock,” he said in the Facebook post. . . 

The Trans-Tasman honey wars :

Small jars of New Zealand Mānuka honey are about to go on sale in the UK for nearly $3000 each.

The ‘super’ honey is collected by helicopter from remote parts of the North Island where there are heavy concentrations of Mānuka trees.

The high price is driven by a limited supply. A thousand jars only will be available exclusively from Harrods. While most of New Zealand’s Mānuka honey does not command such an extravagant price there is strong and growing demand internationally. . . 

Nelson man takes Young Grower of the Year – Angie Skerrett:

A Nelson man with a strong family connection to horticulture in the region has been named as New Zealand Young Grower of the Year 2019.

Jono Sutton was announced as the winner at an awards dinner in Tauranga on Wednesday night.

As the regional Nelson finalist he was up against six other contestants from around New Zealand.

The finalists were tested on a range of practical tasks and theory during the week, culminating in the awards presentation. . . 

 

Sour milk: how are US dairy farmers coping? – Lindsay Campbell:

US farming has seen better days.

Matt Moreland has taken what little hope he had left in dairy farming and put it behind him.

Moreland, who comes from three generations of dairy farmers, thought that after graduating from college he would follow that path as well.

But with the decline of milk prices and uncertainty of the industry’s future, he says it didn’t take long for him to come up with other ways to pay the bills. . .

 


Rural round-up

10/09/2019

2050 deadline to improve freshwater in New Zealand – Rachael Kelly and Gerard Hutching:

A lobby group says some Southland farmers may abandon their land because of new water rules but the agriculture ministers says it’s a ridiculous statement to make.

Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker released a draft National Policy Statement and National Environment Standards: Freshwater, on Thursday.

They propose changes to farming practices and new rules for councils, aiming to stop the degradation of waterways and clean up rivers and lakes within a generation.

Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young says some of the rules nitrogen may be able to be met but the numbers around freshwater may just be a step too far and there is going to be a significant financial cost. . . 

Water policy is doomed to fail – Aan Emmerson:

I can’t see anyone in the provincial sector being remotely surprised at the draconian nature of Environment Minister David Parker’s policy announcement on water quality.

For a start, Parker told us in June there would be tighter regulation of the agricultural sector.

He also made the earth-shattering statement he would regulate what, in his view, were some of the riskier farming practices.

Last Thursday’s statement came in three parts, a diagram, a bland summary then the actual document, all 105 pages of it.

Climate change Bill concerns for SFF – Brent Melville:

Silver Fern Farms, the nation’s largest procurer and exporter of red meat, has tabled “significant concerns” related to the economic impacts of the Government’s proposed climate change response Bill.

In its submission to the environment select committee this morning, the company said while it supported the Bill’s ultimate temperature increase goals, it had concerns specific to methane reduction targets, the inability of farmers to offset the warming effects of biogenic methane and processor obligations for farm emissions.

Silver Fern Farms head of communications and sustainability Justin Courtney said the submission had largely been informed by discussion with more than 750 of the company’s 15,500 farmer suppliers across New Zealand. The zero carbon proposals as tabled were “top of the list of farmers’ concerns”, he said. . . 

The unpopular tree sucking carbon from our air – Eloise Gibson:

Pinus Radiata grows like a weed, which is why it’s so fast at sequestering carbon. But since many people prefer native trees, forestry scientists are proposing an unconventional solution to get the best of both worlds.

To measure how much carbon is in a tree, you first have to kill it.

You slice up the trunk, branches, twigs, leaves and roots and dry the dismembered tree parts in an oven. Then you weigh them.

“It takes a long time,” says Euan Mason, a professor at the University of Canterbury’s School of Forestry. “I did some in 2012 with two students, and in six weeks I think we did 25 trees.” . . 

New campaign promotes wool’s benefits – Brent Melville:

Recent experiments in Japan measured the efficiencies of using wool carpet versus a synthetic option in two identical houses.

The wool option resulted in electricity savings of between 8% to 13%, with additional savings of up to 12% for cooling under the same conditions.

It is one of the fast facts contained in an informative and highly stylised campaign, designed to educate international frontline carpet and other retailers on the benefits of strong wool.

The “back to basics” approach is the brain child of wool sales and marketing company Wools of New Zealand (WNZ), in the belief that frontline retailers are neglecting the natural benefits of the fibre in the rush to sell synthetic product.

The heart of the programme is a 12-part “wool benefits” marketing campaign, which the company says has resonated strongly with local and international customers alike. . . 

NSA celebrates ban on false advertising about wool:

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is pleased to see the response by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) banning some misleading advertising from PETA propagating the lie that wool is cruelly obtained from sheep.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: ‘NSA is pleased to hear this decision by ASA that exposes PETA’s advertising for what it is, grossly inaccurate jargon which is misleading the public as well as damaging farmers reputations and livelihoods. The simple undeniable fact is that removing wool from sheep is necessary for their health and welfare. It does not harm them, and it does not exploit them. Wool is a by-product of their existence.”

Following reports of cruelty during shearing last year (2018), NSA joined with several other industry bodies to create a clear set of guidelines for farmers and shearing contractors to follow to ensure they shear to the highest standard possible. . . 


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