Rural round-up

July 13, 2019

AFB spread prompts burning of hives – Laura Smith:

Watching bees burn would have to be one of the most difficult things a beekeeper could do – it is also an experience more Southland apiarists will have to face.

It is the consequence of the spread of destructive bee-killing disease American foulbrood (AFB).

Southland commercial beekeeper Geoff Scott said ignorance was a major contributor to the disease spreading.

”And we’re doing it – it’s us beekeepers doing it.” . .

Hinewai revival worth every cent – Tim Fulton:

Hinewai Reserve was once dismissed as a fantasy of fools and dreamers. 

Now, as the 1250ha native sanctuary on Banks Peninsula flourishes it has about $1m of carbon credits plus income from a walking track and public donations.

But Hugh Wilson’s neighbours let rip when his plans for Hinewai Reserve became clear. . .

Possum is scourge of farm and forest: – Nick Hancox:

Managing disease in farmed cattle and deer is one stream of the TBfree programme’s work. It underpins the value and reputation of the meat and milk New Zealand exports.

The other essential work the programme manages is possum control — taking and keeping numbers down at a level where disease can’t keep cycling in wildlife.

That possum control work has two big benefits for New Zealand: eradicating bovine TB to protect the primary sector while supporting the goals of the predator-free movement.
The TBfree programme managed by OSPRI aligns with programmes designed to protect and defend New Zealand’s biodiversity and environmental health, such as the Department of Conservation’s Battle for Our Birds and Predator Free 2050. . .

Ploughman straight on to Minnesota – Chris Tobin:

”You don’t go to the Olympic Games and wear someone else’s track shoes and you don’t go to a Formula race in someone else’s car.”

Champion ploughman Bob Mehrtens is explaining his approach to the upcoming world ploughing championships at Baudette, Minnesota.

After placing eighth in Germany last year and second in Kenya in the reversible section of the world championships, he is aiming for gold this time round in the United States. . .

Avocado prices plunge as new season starts – Esther Taunton:

Avocado fans, rejoice – you can now buy two for less than the cost of a flat white.

Supplies of the popular toast topping have surged and those who have struggled through the avo off-season can again feast on the fruit.

On Thursday avocados were were selling for $2.70 each or two for $5 at Countdown supermarkets around the country. . .

Boarding school allowances – rural families deserve better – Ann Thompson:

The cost of sending children to boarding school is placing a big burden on rural employees, and it’s well past time a change was made to make the boarding allowance system fairer, writes Federated Farmers policy adviser Ann Thompson.

Over the past few years Federated Farmers has made requests to both the National and Labour-led governments to increase the Access Barrier Boarding Allowance.

This allowance is provided for pupils who live so far away from school that boarding school is the only realistic option.

As at June 2019, the Access Barrier Boarding Allowance was $3200 per annum while the Multiple Barriers Boarding Allowance was $7500 (plus $500 for pastoral care). . .


Rural round-up

July 4, 2019

FARMSTRONG: Sticking to the game plan:

The link between mental skills and performance is well-established in sport. Now those ideas are gaining traction in farming. Recent finalists in the Young Farmer of the Year competition have received sports psychology training to cope with pressure. Farmstrong caught up with three to see how it helped.

The Young Farmer of Year competition is one of the flagship events on the rural calendar.

By grand final week more than 300 contestants have been whittled down to just a handful. Over several days they compete over a range of practical and technical tasks, an HR challenge, a speech and a fast-paced quiz of agricultural and general knowledge questions. . . .

Farmers honour vet who found Mycoplasma Bovis in NZ :

A vet whose determination led to the identification of the cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis in New Zealand has been recognised for her contribution to the farming sector.

More than 300 people attended the Primary Industries Summit gala dinner in Wellington last night, where Ōamaru vet Merlyn Hay received the Outstanding Contribution to the Primary Industries Award.

The audience heard Dr Hay was not satisfied she had found the root cause of the unusual and distressing symptoms she had observed in cows and calves on a South Canterbury property and left no stone unturned until the cause was diagnosed. . .

Forestry hurts rural communities – Tracey Collis:

He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata. Our communities are going through change and it seems like it is happening so fast we may not feel the full impact until it has already happened.

Change is good but only if there are clear outcomes sought for all involved.

The rapid expansion of forestry throughout the Tararua is causing much angst and stress for our communities and it concerns me to watch our people genuinely hurting in so many ways.

This is hurt at a local level, far removed from Government politicians and policymakers, and there are few levers to pull as we see our local democracy eroded by central government aspirations. . . .

Demand drives need for finishers – Colin WIlliscroft:

A 30% increase in demand for First Light Wagyu beef has led the Hawke’s Bay company to look for more farmers to finish its cattle.

It will have 25,000 Wagyu-cross weaners available for farmers to buy this spring, an increase of 5000, so it’s looking for 20 to 30 extra farmers.

General manager Wagyu Matt Crowther said those farmers will benefit from a short, transparent supply chain and income stability. . .

 

Representing NZ beef on the world stage – Brent Melville:

Jess Cairns is fizzing about where New Zealand beef is going.

Having just spent six days in Brazil at the International Beef Alliance (IBA) the 24-year-old Southlander is back working as a stock manager at Coalbrook Farm, a 500ha sheep and beef operation just outside Gore.

And while she loves her job, she reckons the trip to Brazil will be a tough one to beat, describing it as ”hands down the best thing I’ve ever done in my professional life.”

That’s saying a lot. Ms Cairns started with Coalbrook as a shepherd a little over a year ago, on the strength of a bachelor of agricultural science with first class honours. . . .

Apocalypse Cow – Michael Reddell:

That was the title of Wellington economist Peter Fraser’s talk at Victoria University last Friday lunchtime on why Fonterra has failed (it is apparently also a term in use in various bits of popular culture, all of which had passed me by until a few moments ago –  and a Google search).    Peter is a former public servant –  we did some work together, the last time Fonterra risks were in focus, a decade ago –  who now operates as a consultant to various participants in the dairy industry (not Fonterra).   He has a great stock of one-liners, and listening to him reminds me of listening to Gareth Morgan when, whatever value one got from purchasing his firm’s economic forecasts, the bonus was the entertainment value of his presentation.       The style perhaps won’t appeal to everyone, but the substance of his talk poses some very serious questions and challenges.

The bulk of Peter’s diagnosis has already appeared in the mainstream media, in a substantial Herald  op-ed a few weeks ago and then in a Stuff article yesterday.  And Peter was kind enough to send me a copy of his presentation, with permission to quote from it. . .

Birds at risk of local extinction – Elena McPhee:

Native birds in beech forests in Otago could face local extinction in some valleys without aerial control, the Department of Conservation says.

Mast years occur every two to four years, when trees produce high amounts of seed that drop to the ground.

This is the biggest beech mast in four decades, and populations of rats, mice and stoats are expected to increase due to the abundance of food.

Doc operations lead Colin Bishop said there was variability across Otago sites, but Doc was still projecting rodent numbers to reach levels requiring aerial predator control. . .

Aust producers gain insight into Argentina’s feedlot challenge – Mark Phelps:

AUSTRALIAN beef producers gained an invaluable insight into the South American feedlot sector during a visit to the Conecar Feedlot in Argentina’s famed Panpas region.

The 10,000 head showcase feedlot is located at Carcara in the Santa Fe Province, about 350km north west of Buenos Aires. The yard was visited during the recent Alltech Lienert beef tour to Argentina.

Conecar is predominantly a custom feed yard servicing 12 customers who supply beef into both domestic and export markets. Any spare capacity in the facility is usually taken up by the owners of the yard, who also operate a premix and stockfeed plant supplying other feedlot operators. . . 

Farmland management changes can boost carbon sequestration rates – J. Merritt Melancon:

Well-maintained pastures prevent erosion, protect water and, as it turns out, can restore the soil’s organic matter much more quickly than previously thought, according to a team of researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of Florida.

Soil contains the largest terrestrial reservoir of carbon. Tilling fields every year to plant crops releases carbon into the atmosphere. It’s been known for a long time that transitioning cropland to pastureland where livestock grazes replenishes the soil’s carbon, but their study showed that the process can be much more rapid than scientists previously thought.

“What is really striking is just how fast these farms gain soil organic matter,” said Aaron Thompson, associate professor of environmental soil chemistry and senior author on the study. . .


Activists cost conservation nearly $11m

June 7, 2019

The Department of Conservation’s budget includes nearly  $11m to protect its staff from anti-1080 activists.

Last week’s Budget allocated $10.7m to DOC over four years, explicitly for security purposes.

Since the start of this year there have been 23 cases involving dangerous and illegal behaviour towards Department of Conservation staff.

DOC security manager Nic John said threats had moved from online and social media to physical attacks, threats to shoot down helicopters, vandalism, thefts and vehicles being tampered with.

“One was an incident where there was an axe presented and in that case that individual was convicted of assault and threats,” he said.

Mr John said three DOC staff had been assaulted this year, including one who was hit with a quad bike, but was fortunately okay.

“Very concerning for them though – you can imagine that they’re out, quite isolated, working by themselves often and to have somebody take that course of action against them, leaves them very, very vulnerable and often quite shaken,” she said.

The Budget funding allows for $4.1m for a permanent security team, $5m to improve health and safety systems and staffing levels, and $1.6m to improve physical security at DOC sites. . . 

Any protests which require this level of security cross the line from legitimate protest to crime.

These activists are not only endangering DoC staff, they are diverting money from conservation into crime fighting and they are disregarding the science on pest control.

Alternatives to 1080 like trapping and shooting can be and are used where possible. But there are huge swathes of bushland where neither are practical and the only weapon against the introduced species that prey on native flora and fauna is 1080.


Rural round-up

May 11, 2019

Forget the avengers, farmers are the real heroes – Nigel Malthus:

Farmers are the world’s real superheroes, says Rabobank executive Marc Oostdijk.

Launching Rabobank’s recent FoodX programme, which aims to introduce high school students to career paths in the food industry, Oostdijk says world population is expected to reach 9 or 10 billion by 2050.

“That’s massive, and to grow food and fibres for them is a massive challenge.” . . 

Mental health help ‘there if you ask’ – farmer who faced Mycoplasma bovis cull for months:

A Southland farmer whose farm suffered through a cull because of Mycoplasma bovis says emotional support is available for those who need it – especially farmers, who might be scared to ask for help. 

It comes as two senior rural support workers, hired to help farmers cope with losing their stock, quit over what they say has been a poor response by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

Southland farmer Ben Walling told First Up he was forced to cull 1700 calves after his farm became infected. . .

Health bus nearly ready to roll – Yvonne O’Hara:

The new Women’s Health Bus (Te Waka Wahine Hauora) is expected to arrive in the Otago and Southland region next month, service co-founder Dr Helen Paterson, of Dunedin, says.

The non-profit mobile health service has been in the planning stages for about two years, but last year obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Paterson and Junction Health practice co-owner and practice nurse Alice van Zijl, of Cromwell, ordered the purpose-built vehicle from a specialist Whangaparaoa building firm.

Dr Paterson said the health bus would provide women’s health services, including cervical screening and contraception, to women in Otago and Southland’s rural and isolated communities. . .

Frame & Macey: Two-basket approach no free ride for farmers – Dave Frame & Adrian Macey:

A two-basket approach to climate policy is perfectly sensible and would be anything but a free ride to farmers. Recent assertions to the contrary by Jim Salinger and Raymond Desjardins suggest they may have misunderstood both the recent climate science and the policy logic that has led both the Productivity Commission and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to recommend two-basket approaches.

The first and simplest point to note is that the world has actually used a multi-basket approach to climate policy before. The Montreal Protocol worked pretty well – on some estimates it was more successful at lowering greenhouse gas emissions than the Kyoto Protocol. Montreal was based on a multi-basket approach. There’s nothing inherently better about a one-basket approach to policy, and the reverse is probably true if the residence times of different pollutants span a large range. . .

In a remote South Island valley, birdsong returns – David Williams:

Twenty-one years of intensive pest control in the Landsborough Valley is paying off. David Williams reports.

Colin O’Donnell ambles towards the edge of silver beech forest near the Landsborough River, drawn by the high-pitched, repetitive call of a mohua. It’s a call the Department of Conservation ecologist has been following for more than 30 years.

Ford Flat, overlooked by the Solution Range of mountains, is a common place to wait for the river to recede. In sections of the forest above there’s an ominous ripple of red – signs of a coming mast seeding. Swirling sandflies are ever-present and insistent.

“While it’s there I might just cheat,” O’Donnell says of the chattering mohua, producing from his pocket a portable speaker loaded with bird calls. “It might not work but we’ll give it a go.” . .

Special occasion for fans of hunt – Sally Rae:

He might be ”just a little” over 80 but evergreen Central Otago Hunt master Glynne Smith is showing no signs of slowing down.

Yesterday, Mr Smith was galloping across farmland near Moa Creek, in the Ida Valley, filling the position he has held for the past 30 years.

As master, he was ultimately responsible for the running of the hunt day, and yesterday’s was particularly special for him.

It was the first hunt in Central Otago Hunt’s 30th anniversary programme, which includes four hunts, the South Island hound show and several social functions. . .


Rural round-up

April 20, 2019

Better data will help us do a better job – Federated Farmers:

The Environment Aotearoa 2019 report released today will help all New Zealanders, not just farmers, identify the priorities for action.

But we can only manage what we have information on, Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“Our message during the last central government election campaign, when various candidates and commentators were putting the boot into farmers for environmental impacts, was that all Kiwis were in this together. This new report underlines exactly that. . .

Irrigation sector committed to continuing to improve environmental practices:

IrrigationNZ says the recent Environment Aotearoa report highlights the need for farmers and growers to continue work underway to: improve practices on-farm and upskill farmers; invest in cutting edge technology; and implement Farm Environmental Plans to change the way water is used for production.

“In partnership with national and regional government, it’s essential we continue to research, trial and adopt new practices and technology,” says Ms Soal.

“It is critical that we recognise that water is a precious resource which is essential for primary production and regional resilience in the face of climate change and that we use it in a way that is environmentally responsible,” says IrigationNZ Elizabeth Soal. . .

Dairy committed to a better environment:

DairyNZ says today’s Environment Aotearoa 2019 report gives honest insight into New Zealand’s environment and where the opportunities lie for the dairy sector, particularly for water quality, biodiversity and climate change.

Strategic leader for DairyNZ’s environmental portfolio, Dr David Burger, said while the report shows the dairy sector has work to do, there is no doubt farmers are working hard to look after the environment – with significant work already undertaken over the last 10 years to improve environmental practices across New Zealand. . .

Living affects the environment – Neal Wallace:

Our way of life is putting the environment under pressure.

A report produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand with evidence and trends of what is happening to the environment highlights nine key issues.

It is based on a comparison with previous reports, analysis of more than 60 indicators and new methods.

It found native plants, animals and ecosystems are under threat, changes to land vegetation are degrading soil and water, farming is polluting our waterways and water use affects freshwater ecosystems.

Urban centres create environmental pollution with urban sprawl occupying the best soils and destroying native biodiversity, it said. . .

Water tax decision allows environmental improvements to be targeted:

IrrigationNZ says the government’s decision not to introduce a water tax in the near future is good news for all New Zealanders.

“The Tax Working Group proposed a nationwide tax on all water use including for hydroelectricity, household, business and agricultural use. That would have resulted in higher power and food prices for households and businesses and higher rates bills for everyone,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal. . .

Wrightson gets OIO approval to sell seeds unit, still mulling size of return – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson has cleared the final hurdle to sell its seeds division to DLF Seeds for $434 million after securing Overseas Investment Office approval, but still hasn’t figured out how much to return to shareholders.

Now the OIO has signed off on the transaction, the rural services company anticipates the deal to settle either this month or May. . .

Whio ducks make a comeback after predator programme :

A nationally vulnerable duck species is making a comeback following a programme to curb predators in Fiordland.

About 64 breeding whio have been found during surveying of a security site for the blue ducks.

Department of Conservation Senior Ranger Andrew Smart said extended trapping efforts and predator control enabled the whio to make a strong comeback. . .


How much does Minister know?

February 19, 2019

Conservation Minister Eugene Sage has ruled out genetic modification in the fight against pests:

 Predator Free 2050 aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators by 2050, and has a number of government agencies involved in the plan including the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

But Predator Free 2050 is forbidden from carrying out any research which could lead to the use of genetic modification or gene editing, a letter written by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage shows.

The letter of direction to Predator Free 2050 obtained by lobby group Life Sciences Network said its primary tasks were to invest in breakthrough scientific research, but not to research into genetically modified organisms and technologies or gene editing, and to raise funds for co-investment by other (non-government) parties, in landscape scale projects and breakthrough science, excluding any science involving genetic modification.

“Gene technologies are problematic and untested and have significant risks.” . . 

This directive counters officials’ views that GE could be an alternative to 1080:

“It could be efficient and much more cost-effective method of pest control than conventional approaches.

“For potential application to replace knockdown tools such as aerial 1080, they would be most effective for short generation pests such as rodents, and less effective for longer generation pests such as stoats and possums, due to their requirement to spread over generations.” . . 

The minister’s refusal to permit sciencetific exploration is rank stupidity.

It’s also hypocritical coming from a member of the party that exhorts everyone to accept the science on climate change.

But how much does the minister know about the science when the strongest opponents of GM food know the least and think they know the most?

The most extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least about science but believe they know the most, researchers have found.

The findings from public surveys in the US, France and Germany suggest that rather than being a barrier to the possession of strongly held views, ignorance of the matter at hand might better be described as a fuel.

“This is part and parcel of the psychology of extremism,” said Philip Fernbach, a researcher at the University of Colorado and co-author of the 2017 book The Knowledge Illusion. “To maintain these strong counter-scientific consensus views, you kind of have to have a lack of knowledge.” . . 

Is the minister’s decision based on a lack of knowledge or just politics and emotion trumping science?

Whichever it is, a minister should not be shutting the door on scientific exploration.


Seeking a saxy song

January 22, 2019

Could a saxy song save the Kākāpō?

Since 2016, Meridian Energy have been the National Partner of the Department of Conservation’s Kākāpō Recovery Programme (KRP) in their efforts to revive this critically endangered native parrot, but what most people don’t know is that there are only 147 left.

As a 100% renewable energy generator, Meridian is incredibly focused on taking care of New Zealand’s natural environment and the precious species that inhabit it, including supporting the recovery effort through science, technology and state-of-the-art Smart Eggs that help the incubation process.

Michael Healy, Meridian’s Chief Marketing Officer, says, “The trouble is, these are only good once breeding kicks off. Meridian decided some creativity might be needed to give these treasured native parrots with troublesome breeding a helping hand. And by hand, we mean saxophone”.

So, Meridian has put a call out to New Zealand (and beyond – Kenny G, we’re looking at you) to find a talented saxophonist to help save a species with what is widely recognised as the smoothest, most romantic instrument out there.

We’re aware the science behind saxophones and kakapo breeding is as yet untested. But with only 147 of these amazing birds left, at Meridian we’ll try anything,” says Healy.

The winning saxophonist, whether they’re a gifted local or the legend Kenny G himself, will professionally record a song for the kākāpō that will be available for download on the Meridian Energy website and handed over to the Kākāpō Rangers.

The response to the campaign to date has been great, and we’ve received some great entries from keen sax players all over the country. We’re still hoping that to attract the main man himself, Kenny G, but we’ve also got some great local talent who can help these precious birds out.”

“Most importantly though, we’re really aiming to make sure everyone is aware of the fact there are so few of these birds left – so it’s a privilege to be helping raise more awareness of the plight of the kākāpō”, says Healy.

You can read more here.


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