Rural round-up

January 24, 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

December 9, 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

November 4, 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

November 2, 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

October 18, 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

October 4, 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

September 10, 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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