Rural round-up

March 26, 2013

Station owner hunts hunters – Matthew Littlewood:

A South Canterbury high country farmer is offering a $20,000 reward for any information about suspected illegal helicopter-hunting activities on his property.

Donald Aubrey, of Ben McLeod Station in the headwaters of the Rangitata River, said the most recent incident occurred in the headwaters of the neighbouring Hewson River on March 22.

He said yesterday the reward would be “payable for any information that enables the prosecution and future prevention of those responsible”.

“Apart from the obvious intention to shoot wild game, pilots are typically unaware of the impact they have on sheep,” Mr Aubrey said. . .

NZ seen as agribusiness beacon – Sally Rae:

Damien McLoughlin has a simple message for New Zealand’s agricultural sector – it needs a pat on the back.

Prof McLoughlin, professor of marketing and associate dean at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, in Ireland, co-led the Queenstown Agribusiness Symposium last week.

The symposium, hosted by Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting and new ventures company AbacusBio Ltd, attracted about 50 people from throughout New Zealand. . .

Synlait stock to trade on unlisted platform:

Synlait Farms, the Canterbury dairy farmer whose owners tried unsuccessfully to raise funds for its milk processing associate in a 2009 IPO, is to have its stock quoted on the Unlisted platform starting tomorrow.

The company runs 12,970 cows on 13 farms in Canterbury.

The listing is to “provide options to enhance liquidity to shareholders”, founder Juliet Maclean says. “Synlait Farms is now well positioned to consider further expansion options.” . . .

Greater innovation needed – Gerald Piddock:

New Zealand could miss out on opportunities in the global market if it does not become a more effective innovator, Synlait Farms’ chief executive Juliet Maclean says.

Farmers were fantastic with coming up with ‘number 8 wire’ ideas. But she questioned if farmers were taking good ideas and applying them to their farm businesses to gain better outcomes.

“That’s what innovation is all about,” she said at a field day to celebrate the company winning the 2012 South Island Farmer of the Year.

The day was held at Synlait Farms’ Hororata property, Robindale Dairies. . .

Huge potential in tools – Gerald Piddock:

Precision agriculture is an industry that is still maturing, but has huge potential to benefit New Zealand agriculture, 2012 Nuffield scholar Michael Tayler says.

His report, New Technologies in Arable Farming, identified precision agriculture as a technology that would play a big part in New Zealand’s agricultural future.

Farmers were going to have to turn to new ways of fine tuning their crop management as they faced tighter environmental regulations, he said in his report.

Advances in precision agriculture would enable farmers to more accurately record placement of the fertilisers and pesticides creating more accountability and traceability. . .

Callaghan Innovation Co-Funding Enables Large Herd Trials For Kahne:

Kahne Animal Health (Kahne) today announced that Callaghan Innovation will co-fund a large-herd testing project for their world-first sensor-based wireless monitoring systems used to track health and fertility in cows.

Callaghan Innovation will provide $1 million towards testing the biotelemetry-based rumen and fertility monitoring devices which measure temperature, pH levels and identify oestrus indicators in cows. The devices track and transmit data to provide farmers with health alerts and reports to help with the early detection of health problems, effectiveness of nutrition management, disorders that could impact fertility, and accurate oestrus detection.

Kahne Chief Executive, Susanne Clay, said while there is a global market for the technology, the company has given priority to the local market to help Kiwi farmers solve livestock issues to drive efficiencies that impact their bottom lines. . .

Trust as much as science is at the heart of water management – Chris Arbuckle:

For many years now “Water User Groups” (WUG’s) have done a great job implementing community-based water management initiatives. And they have achieved this with the assistance of organizations such as the Landcare Trust, Crown Research Institutes, non-government agencies and regional councils. Projects on the Waituna Lagoon, Upper Taieri River and Aorere Catchment attest to this. They were formed because a community of people desired practical action to address concerns about environmental change. Usually a champion has encouraged a group of interested people to form around an issue to seek a solution. In the main this is all done voluntarily, for the well-being of the water resource and community, and by someone with great charisma to drive it through.

Of the three main recommendations in the Government’s “Freshwater Reform 2013 and beyond” [http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/water/freshwater-reform-2013/index.html] (national objectives framework; collaborative community planning (CCP); managing within quality and quantity limits using best industry practices); the collaborative planning bit clearly represents the biggest challenge. Without this working the other two recommendations lose their effectiveness. . . .

Thai Prime Minister Sees Fonterra’s Quality Processes First Hand:

Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday met with Fonterra Co-operative Group Chairman John Wilson for a tour of a South Auckland dairy farm and also visited the Co-operative’s Te Rapa manufacturing site.

The visit was an opportunity for Mr Wilson to further strengthen the company’s relationship with Thailand, where it is the number one supplier of dairy ingredients.

Mr Wilson said Fonterra was honoured to host Ms Shinawatra and provide her, and the Thai trade delegation with a deeper understanding of their business, and the New Zealand dairy industry. . .


Three seek Feds’ vice-presidency

June 22, 2011

Four men announced last week they are competing to replace retiring Federated Farmers’ president Don Nicolson and now three are vying for the vice-presidency:

“It is somewhat unprecedented to have four presidential nominations and now three for Vice-President,” says Conor English, Federated Farmers Chief Executive and Returning Officer.

“There is a considerable amount of interest in all elected positions. Given the Federation is a membership based organisation, this is a tangible demonstration of vitality and our strong democratic basis.

“It is believed to be the largest number of candidates seeking the two most senior elected offices in over 66 years of Federated Farmers modern history.

I hope that it is a demonstration of vitality because as I wrote last week this many people competing for the top jobs could also be a sign of division.

That wouldn’t be good for the Federation, its members and the wider rural sector who all need a united voice.

Presidential nominees are: Donald Aubrey of Ben McLeod Station, who is vice-president; Frank Brenmuhl of Christchurch, a former Federated Farmers dairy section chair; Lachlan McKenzie of Rotorua who is dairy spokesman; and Bruce Wills of Napier, current meat and fibre spokesman.

The three seeking the vice-presidency are Dr William Rolleston of Timaru, David Rose from Invercargill and Matamata’s Stewart Wadey.


Four candidates – sign of strength or division?

June 15, 2011

Four men are vying to become Federated Farmers’ president when Don Nicolson retires at the end of the month.

“This will be the first contested election for the position of President since the early 1990’s,” says Conor English, Federated Farmers Chief Executive and Returning Officer.

“It is believed to be the largest number of candidates seeking the office of President in Federated Farmers history.

When so many voluntary organisations are struggling for members and finding people willing to become office holders is increasingly difficult, this could be seen as a sign of the organisation’s strength.

But it could also be a sign of division in the Federation.

I hope it’s not the latter. Farmers and the wider rural community need a strong and united voice and that requires an organisation focussed on issues of concern to members not one side-tracked by internal manoeuvring.

The nominees are: Donald Aubrey of Ben McLeod Station, who is vice-president;  Frank Brenmuhl of Christchurch, a former Federated Farmers dairy section chair; Lachlan McKenzie of Rotorua who is dairy spokesman;  and Bruce Wills of Napier, current meat and fibre spokesman.


Canada Geese from protected to pest

March 19, 2011

Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson’s announcement that permits will no longer be required for the shooting of Canada Geese is a welcome one.

“As the population of Canada geese continues to increase so does their risk to aviation safety and the damage they inflict to pasture and crops,” Ms Wilkinson says.

“The current status where the geese populations are managed as a game bird is not working.

“Farmers have been getting increasingly frustrated with these birds fouling pasture and damaging crops.

“They also pose an aviation hazard due to their large size and this change will allow for the birds to be more effectively controlled where they pose a risk to aircraft safety.”

Ms Wilkinson says there are tens of thousands of Canada geese across the country and recreational hunting opportunities will remain.

“I expect Fish and Game to continue to work with landowners to assist with managing populations around the country.

“The geese are well established and on top of that farmers will have an incentive to provide hunting access to reduce their goose control costs.”

Fish and Game isn’t happy:

But Fish & Game is calling the decision an “own goal” for Federated Farmers, which lobbied for the change.

“The small group within Federated Farmers who lobbied the minister so hard on this issue will probably spin this as a win,” says chief executive Bryce Johnson.

“Ironically though, the minister’s decision will foist the considerable expense of goose control onto their membership and, indeed, all farmers if the expected push for ratepayer-funded regional councils to take responsibility for control happens.”

This just shows how little Fish & Game knows about farmers, many of whom are forced to fund the organisation through hunting and fishing licences.

Federated Farmers is pleased that Canada Geese have been removed from the protected species list and can now be regarded as the pest they are.

“Federated Farmers has long been campaigning for the Canada Goose to be declared a pest. It’s not native, it spoils the environment and is even an air traffic hazard,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers game and pest animal management spokesperson.

“Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson’s announcement was inevitable, the population was getting out of control. For example, South Island Canada Goose Management Plan in 1995 set a population limit of 20,350. In 2008 that figure was 35,000.

“We applaud her for having the courage to make this decision after five years of consideration and following extensive lobbying by Federated Farmers.

“The Canada Goose was introduced to New Zealand as a game bird and has provided many landowners with nothing but trouble. It puts huge pressure on the environment, damaging crops, spoiling waterways with excrement and outcompeting native birds for resources.

“It adds thousands of dollars to the costs of doing business in the South Island especially.

“This ruling finally allows farmers to defend themselves against Canada Geese.

Christchurch Airport also supports the change in the birds’ status:

Christchurch International Airport Ltd (CIAL) has come out in support of the change in protection status of Canada Geese.

“This bird is a hazard to aircraft,” said CIAL Chief Executive Jim Boult. “Canada Geese are large and cumbersome birds which can cause a great deal of damage if they collide with aircraft.”

Jim Boult pointed out that the Canada Geese population had steadily increased in Christchurch city over the last few years, which raised the risk of bird strike to aircraft. “We want to keep the population of Canada Geese to manageable levels, which will help keep the airspace as clear as possible.”

Fish and Game’s management of the species allowed the bird population to grow.

Airports, councils and farmers can now declare open season on the pest to make airspace safer and reduce the negative impacts the birds have on the environment through pollution of waterways, competition with native species and damage to crops.


Exclusive use can benefit environment

January 12, 2011

Federated Farmers makes a stand for landowners in saying that fishing rights shouldn’t trample property rights:

Federated Farmers will defend a fundamental principle of land ownership – the right to exclude access – even if some anglers may have to choose to pay for convenient access.

“Federated Farmers agrees that selling river fishing rights is against the law,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers game and pest animal management spokesperson.

“Yet all landowners have the right to exclude access to their land by people who are uninvited, whether you live in the town or the country.

Few people would expect to have open access to a section in town, it doesn’t make any difference in the country just because the property is bigger.

“What this boils down to is common courtesy and respect for the property of others.  I know many farmers who freely grant access for recreational hunting or fishing but it’s based on the common courtesy of asking permission first. 

“A farm may be open ground but its also private property like someone’s house in-town.  Importantly it’s also a working environment that may contain sensitive areas or hazards.  Taking rather than securing permission is not only illegal but may have unintended adverse consequences.

“Anglers need to respect the right of the landowner to grant or refuse access.  After all, if you’ve had your gates left open, fences damaged or discarded fishing line left behind, then you’re probably less inclined to say yes. . .

We have never had any problems with people who’ve asked permission to cross or property but we have had problems with those who don’t – including theft of fuel, illegal hunting and damage to a security camera.

Donald was responding to comments from anglers criticising landowners who grant exclusive access to fishing guides which was the subject of a post on Monday.

Over at Offsetting Behaviour, Eric Crampton points out there can be environmental benefits from exclusive access:

One of my favourite Kiwi enviropreneurs is Elm Wildlife Tours down in Dunedin. I always recommend that folks visiting the Department book in with them if heading that way. Elm partnered with a local farmer whose land had Yellow-Eyed Penguin habitat: Elm gets exclusive access for its tour groups and works to improve the habitat. Making the resource excludable encourages conservation.

Maintaining and enhancing natural resources takes money and this is an excellent way to control access, for the sake of the landowner and the penguins, and ensure the habitat is looked after.

Landowners are charging for access, not for fishing, although if the only way to the river is through a farm it’s a distinction which makes no difference. Those complaining about that ought to remember it’s not only private landowners who charge. DoC sells concessions to tourist operators who use  land under their control and they also sell the right to hunt on it.

We neighbour a DoC block and the easiest access is through our property. We’ve never charged anyone who’s asked to cross our land although that increases the need for maintenance on our tracks.

But charging by DoC is a sensible form of user pays – those who make money from others or enjoy hunting  on DoC  land pay for the privilege which helps offset the cost of maintenance and enhancement.


Tragic reinforcement of need for quad bike action

November 9, 2010

Less than a week after Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson launched a campaign aimed at reducing the toll from quad bike accidents on farms there’s been a tragic reinforcement of the need for it.

A young farmhand on a Landcorp farm in Buller died yesterday after being pinned under the four wheeler she’d been riding.

I doubt if there’s a farm with a quad which hasn’t been invovled in an accident of some sort.

We’ve had some near misses  – two of our staff have ended up in the irrigation dam – fortunately both times on top of the quad not underneath it;  several have come off when bikes went out of control and one worker broke a leg when she rolled the four wheeler.

RivettingKate Taylor also has a list of quad bike accidents.

The safety campaign will focus on four basic safety steps:

  • Wear a helmet
  • Ensure riders are trained/experienced
  • Don’t let children ride adult quad bikes (over 90cc)
  • Choose the right vehicle for the job – pay close attention to what your quad bike owner’s manual says about carrying passengers, and the maximum towing and carrying limits. 
  • Federated Farmers supports the campaign:

    “It’s been a while since we had a coordinated ATV safety programme like this and it’s most welcome,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers Vice-President and Chair of the Agricultural Health and Safety Council, who was represented at the launch, by Stew Wadey, Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president.

    “The lesson we’ve learnt is that safety education is not a one-off exercise, due to the natural turnover of farm workers.  It needs to be on-going just like it is with road safety.

    “Like with road safety we see it as education and training led.  Prosecution, the ultimate DoL sanction, is like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.  This is about preventing accidents occurring in the first place.

    “Federated Farmers, the Agricultural Health and Safety Council and FarmSafe are all fully behind the DoL on this and genuinely commend the Department for its efforts.

    “ATV’s have become the farmer’s ‘Swiss Army knife’, being horse, trail bike and light tractor all in one.  This multi-use nature of ATV’s can see them pushed beyond their design limits

    Everyone who rides a four wheeler needs to follow the basic safety steps promoted by the campaign to reduce the risk of another four wheel tragedy.

    Licences will be required for people who operate quads from next year, a move supported by FarmSafe chair Charlie Pedersen:

    Pedersen believed a licence offered farmers an affordable and simple means of ensuring they were employing staff at a certain standard of ATV ability.

    “It will probably cost around the same as a gun licence and last for around 10 years.

    “There will have to be evidence of some practical time done on a quad and the ATV Guidelines would be similar to a Road Code,” he said.

    The ATV licence would either be a requirement for new staff applying for a job or something employers contributed towards staff obtaining while in the job.

    “As an employer if I require them to have a licence then, as long as I provide a bike that is safe and a helmet to wear, I have done my utmost to meet health and safety regulations.”

    Requiring a licence will ensure people using quads are trained and may also help bring home the message about the need to take quad bike safety seriously.


    Why not farm weka?

    February 4, 2010

    When Central Otago farmer Gerry Eckhoff was an Act MP he suggested changing the law to allow kiwi farming.

    He pointed out that farmed animals don’t number among the endangered species;  and it would be better for the future survival rate of the birds and relieve the taxpayer of a cost if farmers looked after kiwi than leaving their fate to DOC and nature.

    The idea of farming another native species, the weka, has now been raised by Roger Beattie.

    Federated Farmers is supportive. Game spokesman Donald Aubrey said:

    It’s ironic that the Chatham Islands take a far more enlightened view to the consumption of weka and to the farming of trout.  Crazily, despite having one of the world’s most easily farmed and popular fish to consume, mainland New Zealand treats an introduced species as being more of a native than our native eels.

    “It’s time to unleash our entrepreneurs, represented by Mr Beattie. Domesticating some native species – aquatic or terrestrial – actually removes pressure off the wild populations.

    “I see Roger Beattie as being in the same mould as the likes of Sir Peter Jackson and Weta’s Richard Taylor.  Those two were told a big budget Hollywood film would never be filmed in New Zealand but have proved the naysayers wrong.

    “Roger Beattie is told can’t but he replies can and without any subsidies too.  Let’s face it, if the weka was instead a turkey, it would make us look like one for not trying,” Mr Aubrey concluded. 

    I agree.

    We need to stop being precious about native species, it will be better for the birds and the economy.

    Trout aren’t native to New Zealand and the arguments against farming them hold as little water as those against farming weka.

    Offsetting Behaviour  is unimpressed that vague unease enables the idea to be vetoed and Roarprawn gives a guide to how some native birds taste.


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