Rural round-up

October 10, 2019

Green Rush: will pines really save the planet? – Kate Newton and Guyon Espiner:

Vast new pine forests are being hailed as a solution to New Zealand’s carbon emissions deficit – and promise a lucrative pay-day for investors. But farmers say they’re gutting rural communities, not all environmentalists see them as a silver bullet, and the profits are largely being reaped by foreign owners. 

Want to plant a pine tree? It’ll cost you a dollar. 38 cents for the seedling, a spiky, spindly finger; 55 cents for the labour to plant it; 8 cents for the cost of managing the labour.

John Rogan’s crew have planted about 350,000 of them so far. “Tree here, tree there – it’s like tossing little dollar coins on the ground,” he says. Concentrate on the variations in the grass and, like a magic-eye illustration, the seedlings flip into focus one after the other, every three metres, all the way to the grey horizon at the crest of the hill.

Rogan’s mostly teenage workers, skin burnished by wind and sun, tramp up and down hillsides, lugging 200 seedlings at a time in canvas buckets slung into harnesses. After 10 weeks of planting, their movements with spade, seedling and boot are sparse and sure: stab open a wedge of earth, jab a tree into the ground, stomp the hole closed. Stab, jab, stomp. The crew’s mascot Johnny, a beady-eyed little dog who looks like he was assembled from wispy oddments of wool, scampers behind on short legs. . .

Woman shares partner’s farm death story as lesson – Luke Kirkeby:

Harriet Bremner still struggles to talk about the death of her long-term partner.

But two and a half years on, the Canterbury primary school teacher and children’s author, whose partner James Hayman was killed in a baler in the Hakataramea Valley in 2017, is finding strength in using her grief to prevent other farm workers from putting themselves in harm’s way.

Bremner is working alongside WorkSafe New Zealand, travelling throughout New Zealand to share her story.

She recently stopped in at Putaruru College in the South Waikato where she spoke with a group of horticultural and agricultural students. Since 2013 there have been approximately 16 on-farm deaths in the Waikato alone. . . 

Doug Avery seeks to inspire Yorkshire farmers to adopt power of the positive – Ben Barnett:

Farmers have an “amazing opportunity” despite the challenges that lie ahead, as long as they forge a truly resilient mindset to embrace change, according to the author of a best-selling book about positive mental health.

New Zealand farmer Doug Avery, whose book The Resilient Farmer documents his own journey from debt-heaped depression to one of his country’s biggest agricultural success stories, wants to use his current UK tour to help smash the taboo that stops both farmers, and the wider public, from talking about poor mental health.

A farmer who is empowered by positive mental health can see through their worries and capitalise on opportunities, the 64-year-old told Country Week ahead of a public speaking appearance in Harrogate in 12 days’ time. . .

‘Gran’ shows us how it’s done – Jill Galloway:

It was hard for Suzanne Giesen when her husband John died.

She was just 32, had five children aged from 1 to 11 and had a farm to run. More than 50 years later she is still living and working on the farm.

“When John died, my father-in-law said I should go into town. I have never lived in town and I wanted to stay on the farm,” Suzanne Giesen told Rural News.

The Giesens had leased the farm for 10 years, with the right to buy. When John was around, they set about improving the property. “There was gorse in almost every paddock. I don’t think there was a stock proof fence on the place. The gorse was so thick you couldn’t walk through some paddocks.” . . 

Seeds are earning us big money  – Annette Scott:

Small seeds have yielded big gains for New Zealand’s multi-billion dollar agri-food sector.

The quiet achieving seed sector pumped almost $800 million into the NZ economy last year with pasture and vegetable seeds putting food on the table in more ways than one.

A new economic impact report shows NZ’s world class seed production is one of the country’s smallest primary industries but with a modest footprint it contributes much more to NZ’s bottom line than many realise, NZ Grain and Seed Trade Association general manager Thomas Chin said.

Business and Economic Research (BERL) reports the total output value of seeds grown in 2018 was $798m, adding $329m to NZ’s GDP. . . 

 

Biotech policy a step in the right direction, says Agcarm:

The peak association that represents New Zealand’s animal medicine and crop protection industries welcomes the National party’s new biotech policy.

Agcarm chief executive Mark Ross says that updating New Zealand’s biotechnology regulations to embrace the latest science will “allow life-saving medicines, benefit the environment, eradicate pests and boost food production”.

“New Zealand is being stalled from adopting the latest science due to archaic laws that halt innovation. . . 


Planted not buried

September 8, 2019


Rural round-up

August 21, 2019

Output record delights new manager – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group recently marked the 2019 season at its Mataura plant in Southland by breaking a beef processing record. Business and Rural Editor Sally Rae talks to plant manager Melonie Nagel about breaking records — and life in New Zealand.

When cattle beast number 150,216 went through the Mataura plant last week, a photograph was taken to record the occasion.

The vibe in the factory – having beaten the previous record by more than 8000 – was “wonderful”, plant manager Melonie Nagel said.

It was an opportunity for staff to gather and also recognition that without a team effort – involving both Mataura employees and the farmers supplying the stock – it never would have happened, Ms Nagel said. . .

Banks want farm billions back – Nigel Stirling:

Floating farm mortgage rates and some fixed rates fell after the Reserve Bank slashed the Official Cash Rate but not all farmers are benefiting.

The country’s largest rural lender, ANZ, said it will cut its agri variable base rate by 40 basis points from today and its fixed base rates by between 20 and 30 basis points.

Other banks also signalled cuts to rural lending rates after the Reserve Bank moved to head off a slowing economy by lopping 50 basis points off the benchmark interest rate to a record low 1%. . .

Farmers furious at Australian animal rights activists publishing addresses and location on map – Gerald Piddock:

Federated Farmers are furious that an Australian animal rights group have begun listing descriptions and addresses of Southland farms on a website map, claiming it could encourage illegal activity by activists on farms.

The map, created by activist group Aussie Farms lists 150-200 farms, both drystock and dairy across the Southland region.

National president Katie Milne said it was hugely worrying that it could be the start of a more extreme form of animal activism in New Zealand, which in Australia and Europe had seen people break into farms, releasing and stealing stock and chain themselves to farm machinery. . . 

Making a difference:

John Ladley will go down in history as the person who took a broken Doug Avery to that life-changing lucerne workshop where he first met Professor Derrick Moot.

Over the years, John has watched with interest – and immense satisfaction – as Doug has transformed his business and life, raised awareness of mental health issues in rural communities and written a best-selling book.

“It has made me very aware of the influence you can have on one person’s life.”

For John, helping others become the best version of themselves is what gets him out of bed in the morning and as B+LNZ’s South Island General Manager, John sums his job up in just three words – “it’s all about people.” . .

Dairy product prices for manufacturers up 8.7 percent :

Prices received by manufacturers of butter, cheese, and milk powder rose 8.7 percent in the June 2019 quarter compared with the March 2019 quarter, after falls in the previous two quarters, Stats NZ said today.

Dairy product manufacturers received higher prices for products such as butter, cheese, and milk powder in the June 2019 quarter. Together, output prices for this group of products increased 8.7 percent from the previous quarter, the biggest rise in over two years. Prices rose by 16 percent in the March 2017 quarter. . . 

Cultured lab meat may make climate change worse – Matt McGrath:

Growing meat in the laboratory may do more damage to the climate in the long run than meat from cattle, say scientists.

Researchers are looking for alternatives to traditional meat because farming animals is helping to drive up global temperatures.

However, meat grown in the lab may make matters worse in some circumstances.

Researchers say it depends on how the energy to make the lab meat is produced. . . 


Rural round-up

August 10, 2019

New research shows negative impact of mass forestry planting on productive sheep and beef land:

Large scale conversion of sheep and beef farms to forestry as a result of the Zero Carbon Bill will have a significant negative impact on rural New Zealand, according to research released by Beef + Lamb New Zealand. 

An analysis of Wairoa, where 8,486 hectares of sheep and beef farmland has, or is in the process of being, converted to forestry, shows forestry provides fewer jobs in rural communities than sheep and beef farms.

Rural consultancy BakerAg was commissioned by B+LNZ to compare the economic and employment effects of the conversion of sheep and beef farms into forestry.

The report, Social-economic impacts of large scale afforestation on rural communities in the Wairoa District, found that if all the sheep and beef farms in Wairoa were converted to forestry, then Wairoa would see a net loss of nearly 700 local jobs (the equivalent of one in five jobs in Wairoa) and net $23.5 million less spent in the local economy when compared to blanket forestry (excluding harvest year). . . 

Fonterra’s financial wellbeing and global auction prices are among the dairy sector’s challenges – Point of Order:

It’s shaping   up as a  tough  season  for  New Zealand’s  dairy farmers,  who  once  proudly  wore  the  label  of  the  “backbone of the  NZ  economy” , earning  by far the  largest  share of the country’s  export income.

So  what  are  the  problems  confronting  the industry?

Uncertainty in markets, for starters.   Prices  at the latest  Global Dairy  Trade  auction this  week slid  downward for  the fifth  time in  six  auctions.

The  Chinese  economy is under pressure   as  Trump steps up  his tariff  war.  Brexit  is a  threat which  could disrupt  NZ’s  dairy trade to  both the UK and EU markets. . .

Big tick for farmers – Neal Wallace:

The red meat industry hopes to ramp up its Taste Pure Nature brand campaign on the back of the latest international climate change report.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is being welcomed by New Zealand farming leaders as an endorsement of our low impact systems and the importance of maintaining food production.

The IPCC says land on which we rely for food, water, energy, health and wellbeing is already under pressure and climate change will exacerbate that through desertification and land degradation potentially affecting food security.

The report’s advocacy of a balanced diet including animal protein sourced from resilient, sustainable, low greenhouse gas systems is an endorsement for NZ, Beef + Lamb chief insight officer Jeremy Baker says. . . 

FARMSTRONG: Maintaining fun is the secret:

Tangaroa Walker was the inaugural winner of the Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer Award in 2012 and has gone on to a successful career as a contract milker. Now he’s helping Farmstrong raise awareness of the importance of living well to farm well.

Tangaroa Walker remembers the moment he decided to go farming. 

“I was 11 years old and this guy drove up the driveway of our school in this flash car with his beautiful wife and hopped out.

“He was there to help set up a cross country course. I said ‘Hey man, what do you do?’ He said ‘I’m a farmer’. That was it. I ended up helping him out on his dairy farm when I was 13 and just cracked into it from there.”  . .

The secret to a carbon friendly environment may surprise you – Nicolette Hahn Niman:

I won’t keep you in suspense. The key to carbon-friendly diets lies just beneath your feet: the soil. We are so used to looking skyward when thinking about climate, this is a bit counter-intuitive.

An unlikely combination of building soils and practicing responsible grazing could help mitigate climate change. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Carbon in soils represents both a problem and an opportunity. On the one hand, soil’s degradation is truly alarming. According to the book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, at the current erosion rate the earth “would literally run out of topsoil in little more than a century.” And soil is the source of one-tenth of the earth’s human-caused carbon losses since 1850. . . 

Cow virtual fence trials encouraging: Pamu – Jono Edwards:

A company trialling virtual fencing for cows in Otago using electronic collars says tests show encouraging results.

Pamu Farms, which is the brand name for state-owned enterprise Landcorp Farming Ltd, earlier this year trialled “e-Shepherd” cattle collars at Waipori Station, which it owns.

It took 100 Angus steers equipped with solar-powered collars that show their location through GPS.

When the animals moved near digitally set forbidden zones they were dissuaded with a buzzing noise which gradually grew louder. . .

 

Left behind – Annie Gowen:

The feed chopper was the only machine Bob Krocak ever bought new, back when he was starting out as an ambitious young dairy farmer.

He used it to chop acres of alfalfa and corn to feed his herd of Holstein dairy cattle, which repaid him with some of the creamiest milk in Le Sueur County. The chopper and its fearsome blades lasted through four decades of cold winters, muddy springs and grueling harvests.

Now, on a chilly Saturday morning, Krocak, 64, was standing next to the chopper in the parking lot of Fahey Sales Auctioneers and Appraisers, trying to sell what he had always prized. The 128 Holsteins were already gone, sold last year when his family quit the dairy business after three unprofitable years. . .


Rural round-up

June 17, 2018

Infected cattle bring opportunity for study – Sally Rae:

It will not be possible to control Mycoplasma bovis if an eradication attempt fails, given the present lack of understanding of the infection and the “gross inadequacy” of existing diagnostics, Emeritus Prof Frank Griffin says.

Otago-based Prof Griffin, whose career has focused on animal health research, described that as the “sad reality”.

He believed the Government’s decision to attempt eradication first was the correct one, even though it brought considerable public liability for taxpayer funding. . .

TB work will help fight M. Bovis:

Eradication of Mycoplasma bovis could be supported by the 25-year legacy of co-operation between OSPRI/TBfree and AgResearch in tracking and researching bovine tuberculosis.  Richard Rennie spoke to Dr Neil Wedlock, one of the country’s senior bTB researchers on what can be learned.

Collaboration between AgResearch scientists and disease control managers at OSPRI TBfree and its predecessor the Animal Health Board has led to important technical breakthroughs resulting in a drastic reduction in the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis in livestock.

Eradication of TB from the national herd by 2026 will be hailed as a disease control success story but there are some challenges to deal with before that happens. . . .

Trio share their travels through hills and valleys – Toni Williams:

You can’t go from mountain to the next mountain without going in the valley,” says farmer and author Doug Avery.

Mr Avery, along with Paul ”Pup” Chamberlain and Struan Duthie, was guest speaker at a Rural Support Mid Canterbury session at the Mt Somers Rugby Club rooms.

Rural Mid Cantabrians were encouraged to ”take a break” with the trio as they spoke of their life experiences – the ups and the downs.

From front-line policing during the 1981 Springbok tour, reaching rock bottom farming in drought-stricken Marlborough to cracking open emotions, they shared it all.

All three spoke of the importance of having a mentor, or a support network of people to help when times were tough. . .

Pure taste sours :

Meat companies have asked Beef + Lamb New Zealand not to launch the Taste Pure Nature origin brand in North America fearing it will confuse consumers and give competitors a free ride.

The Lamb Company, a partnership between the country’s three largest lamb exporters Alliance, Anzco and Silver Fern Farms, has spent 54 years jointly developing the North American market.

Its chairman Trevor Burt fears the origin brand will clash with its Spring Lamb brand. . .

Climate change discussion ‘direction of travel’ is positive – Feds:

The National Party’s five principles on which it will base emission reduction policies, including science-based and taking into account economic impact, are spot on, Federated Farmers says.

The Opposition’s support for a bi-partisan approach to establishing an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission was outlined by Leader Simon Bridges in a speech at Fieldays this morning.  National’s three other emission reduction criteria are technology driven, long-term incentives and global response.

“We’re delighted that the Coalition Government, and now National, have both signaled their recognition that there’s a good case for treating short-lived greenhouse gases (such as methane) and long-lived (carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) differently,” Katie says. . .

Different treatment of methane the right thing for global warming:

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) is pleased to see a differentiated approach, to treat methane differently to long-lived greenhouse gases, being given serious consideration in New Zealand’s climate change policy dialogue.

“Policy must be underpinned by robust science and be appropriate to the targeted outcome. If the outcome we want is climate stabilisation, then the science is telling us to treat long-lived gases differently to methane in policy frameworks” says DCANZ Executive Director Kimberly Crewther . . .

This generation of women not just farm wives anymore – Colleen Kottke:

For many generations, the heads of farm operations across America were likely to be men clad in overalls wearing a cap emblazoned with the logo of a local seed dealership or cooperative.

Back then, most women were viewed as homemakers who raised the children, kept the family fed and clothed, and were delegated as the indispensable “go-fer” who ran for spare parts, delivered meals out to the field and kept watch over sows during farrowing – all the while keeping hearth and home running efficiently

Although many of these duties were important to the success of the farm, they were often looked upon as secondary in nature. Today women are stepping into the forefront and playing more prominent roles on the farm and in careers in the agribusiness industry once dominated by their male counterparts. . .


Rural round-up

October 12, 2017

Better communication will bridge rural urban divide – Hayden Dillon:

The farming community needs to step up to help lessen the rift between city and country.

I believe the debates during the course of the recent election campaign oversimplified some issues that are core to the agri sector, such as water and soil quality. These have created divisions that are not helping New Zealand move forward.

As with many complex issues, the rush to simplify the discussions and debate has seen farming, in particular dairying, blamed for many of our environmental problems.

That’s simply not correct. . .

Appreciate world’s best office :

Stopping to appreciate the small things in life really helps people handle the big stuff. 

That was one of the messages coming through loud and clear from farmers involved in rural wellbeing initiative Farmstrong, project leader Gerard Vaughan said.

Over the last two years Vaughan and video maker Nigel Beckford have been busy interviewing Kiwi farmers about what they do to keep well and avoid burnout.

They’ve been sharing the best tips and advice in short video clips on the Farmstrong website – http://www.farmstrong.co.nz. . . 

It’s not smart to tough it out on your own:

It’s Mental Health Week and the theme is “Nature is Key – Unlock Your Wellbeing”.

The idea is to escaping stressful or ‘same old rut’ work and home environments to eat your lunch in a park or at the beach, to take the family for a weekend bush walk, etc.  It can lift spirits, put you back in touch with Nature, and get you thinking about your health, your priorities – and whether you may need to reach out for help or advice.

Federated Farmers President Katie Milne welcomes the focus on mental health and talking through issues and feelings with others.  “Our great outdoors can also be a wonderful tonic.”

But for rural folk, Mother Nature can also be a source of considerable stress.  Storms, floods, ailing livestock, droughts, etc., can ratchet up financial woes, relationship strains and the feeling ‘it’s all too much’.. . .

Mental health support needed for farmers – Alexa Cook:

A Waikato farmer is pushing for the government to provide better mental health support for the rural sector.

Research shows that the suicide rate in New Zealand’s rural sector is up to 50 percent higher than in urban areas.

Dairy farmer Richard Cookson has had his own struggle with mental health, and said while there is good crisis support for farmers, such as the Rural Support Trust, there isn’t enough for depression.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Mr Cookson said a good start would be free counselling to get farmers in the door, but the sector also needs quite specific help. . . 

Media accepts pseudoscience drivel unchallenged – Doug Edmeades:

 Damn it all. Someone is not listening and I am now forced to repeat myself. My last column ended thus:

“Without an independent principled fourth estate we may be drifting away from being a society in which our policies are based on evidence, rational thought and logic analysis and which encourages and embraces criticism. If we are not careful we could drift back to a time when humans believed in alchemy, witches and taniwha”.

In this last week, as if on cue, three media outlets coughed up three items of demonstrable drivel.

Exhibit 1: The NZ Farmers Weekly (October 2) gave their opinion page to Phyllis Tichinin in an article headlined, Urea cascade cause of problems. She attributes many animal health, soil and environmental problems to the overuse of urea. Opinion yes, evidence no. Her whole thesis fails the logical test of cause and effect. How can one thing – in this case urea – have so many unrelated effects? As one qualified reader expressed it to me: “I struggle to find one fact or one statement that isn’t a falsehood.” . . .

Is this synthetic food thing for real? – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Synthetic food is being talked about rather more than it is being eaten.

The balance might change in future as the technologies develop, but at the moment there is more hype and interest than hunger and intake.

The Impossible Burger seems to be the focus at the moment. The burger is made in the laboratory from wheat (grown in a field) and involves a ‘haem’ from legumes. The haem is pink (it is responsible for the colour in healthy, nitrogen-fixing clover root nodules) and so confers the burger with ‘bleeding’ properties. . . 

Farmers Fast Five: Doug Avery – Claire Inkson:

The Farmers Fast Five : Where we ask a farmer five quick questions about farming, and what agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Marlborough Proud Farmer Doug Avery whose Resilient Farmer platform aims to deliver powerful support to New Zealand farmers across the three pillars — financial, environmental and social. Through road shows and ongoing mentoring, he helps farmers to adopt new thinking and practices. Check out his best selling book The Resilient Farmer, and his website http://www.resilientfarmer.co.nz for more information .
How long have I been farming?

46 years but I am only involved in the directorship of the business now and financial control.
What sort of farming are you involved in?
We grow wool, meat, crops , dairy support and people. . .

Fieldays growth underlines primary sector importance:

The importance of the primary sector to the New Zealand economy is emphasised today by Fieldays’ 2017 Economic Impact Report.

A report prepared by the University of Waikato Management School’s Institute of Business Research, reveals that the biggest agricultural expo in the southern hemisphere, generated an estimated $238 million to New Zealand’s GDP, an increase of 24.7 per cent when compared to 2016.

Federated Farmers’ Board member Chris Lewis is particularly familiar with Fieldays and regards the event as a key indicator to how the country is faring. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 16, 2017

Young farming families able to buy Landcorp farms:

A National Government will help young families into their first farms by allowing young farmers to buy state owned farms after they’ve worked the land for five to ten years.

“The Government owns a large number of commercial farms through Landcorp, but there is no clear public good coming from Crown ownership and little financial return to taxpayers,” Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“We think that some of these farms are better off in the hands of hard working young farming families who are committed to modern farming and environmental best practice. . .

National to strengthen bio-security rules:

A re-elected National Government will strengthen biosecurity rules, toughen penalties for stock rustling and help exporters add value, National Party Primary Industries Spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“These policies will help grow and protect the primary sector sustainably, and support our goal of doubling the value of our exports to $64 billion by 2025,” Mr Guy says.

“We are proud to support the primary sector which is the powerhouse of New Zealand’s economy, helping us earn a living and pay for social services. . .

Adapting dryland farming to climate change:

Seven years of dry weather and relentless wind erosion in the early 2000s had devastated the Flaxbourne-Starborough landscape of South Marlborough, one of the country’s earliest farmed areas.

Doug Avery’s Grassmere farm Bonaveree was one of those affected. “Over-grazing during the long dry was harming the financial, environmental and emotional sustainability of the farm,” recalls Barbara Stuart, regional co-ordinator of the NZ Landcare Trust (NZLT). “People like Doug were stressed, heartbroken, even a bit ashamed about what was happening.” . . 

AFFCO’s first chilled shipment unloaded in China – Allan Barber:

AFFCO chairman Sam Lewis visited China last weekend to greet the first container of AFFCO chilled meat to arrive for distribution to eager food service and retail customers throughout Henan Province in east-central China. The arrival was marked by an official reception at Zhengzhou attended by the NZ Trade Commissioner Liam Corkery, MPI representatives Dave Samuels and Steve Sutton, and a Kangyuan executive. According to Lewis the speed of customs clearance for the consignment was a record for meat shipments, taking no more than three hours for the whole process.

The distributor, Kangyuan Food Company, has cool storage and frozen storage facilities and imports more than 10,000 tonnes of meat annually from New Zealand, Australia and South America to supplement its own domestic processing capacity of 600,000 sheep and 100,000 cattle. Kangyuan is also the largest distributor of Halal product in China. . .

Time to walk the talk – Allan Barber:

There are large operators, small suppliers, traders and third party agents and, in times of tight livestock supply, the lines between them start to get a bit blurred and the classifications move around, depending on who is making the judgement.

From a competitor’s perspective one company’s large supplier is a trader who is always presumed to earn a massive premium over schedule, far higher than loyal suppliers who don’t have the same bargaining power. Of course it’s invariably other companies that are the guilty parties when it comes to using third party agents, generally the stock firms. As always the truth isn’t quite so simple. . .

Irish dairy farmers fortunate that consumers drinking ‘real milk’ – Caroline Allen:

While Irish liquid milk producers have been protesting about the possibility of a milk price war, there is still an appreciation of milk as a healthy natural product in this country, Mary Shelman, former director of Harvard Business School’s agri business programme, told AgriLand.

Shelman who is the “absentee owner” of a 475ac farm in Kentucky, which is a cash grain operation divided between corn and soya beans, was in Dublin last week to deliver a number of addresses. She was at UCD’s Michael Smurfit School and also delivering lectures for Bord Bia’s talent programmes, including the Origin Green Ambassador programme. . . 

 


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