Rural round-up

February 19, 2020

‘Game could soon be over for some farmers ‘ – Nigel Malthus:

Proposed new environmental rules for the Waimakariri District will drive some farmers off their land, say farmers and their support groups.

The district is facing new rules under the proposed Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan (CLWRP), which calls for staged cuts to Nitrogen losses over coming decades – up to 90% reductions in some specified zones.

One dairy farmer in the most-affected “purple zone” near Oxford said he had a consultant run the figures for his farm and it showed that at 30% reduction he might as well “give the keys to the bank” and walk away. . .

Headlines don’t match the research – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Diet-shaming appears to be the new trend and virtue-signaling by ‘celebrities’ is rife.

They’re doing it for their children. Only the cynical would wonder whether their on-line profile needed a boost.

The claim is that animal protein damages the environment more than plant protein, so we should be eating the latter rather than the former. Whether this is true or not very much depends upon which production systems are being compared and the basis for the calculations.

The latest report hitting the headlines is from the University of Otago. It attempts to make dietary recommendations for the New Zealand context, but states overtly that UK data were used. Further, the base for the dietary calculations was 2,130 kilocalories. It wasn’t protein to provide essential amino acids. . .

Dairy and diamonds are forever – Amos Palfeyrman:

One day in the mid to late 2000s I stumbled upon a National Geographic article describing Lab Grown Diamonds and how they would lead to the inevitable demise of the diamond mining industry. 

I couldn’t help but agree with the author.

Why scour the Earth for shiny objects when science now offers an alternative, diamonds grown in labs. These gems weren’t synthetic substitutes. They were optically, chemically and physically identical to their Earth-mined counterparts. 

Though I was a long way from facing the choice between lab grown and mined diamond I’d decided that when the time came I’d be proposing to my future wife with a broker’s receipt for shares or perhaps a digger. Both seemed of much more use than a shiny rock.  . . 

Synlait pegs back growth – Hugh Stringleman:

Synlait has downgraded its earnings guidance for the current financial year by about 15%, saying it would now fall within a range of $70 million to $85m.

The previous guidance was for a 10% increase on last year’s $82m, chief executive Leon Clement said.

He blamed reduced sales expectations in the key China infant base powder market, much more volatile lactoferrin prices, and slower growth in consumer-packaged infant formula sales. . .

Feds delighted to be part of successful eradication effort:

A Wairarapa community-wide effort, backed by government, has achieved what is thought to be a biosecurity world first.

The complete eradication of the pea weevil from the Wairarapa required a four-year ban on the growing of peas, not just for commercial growers, but for all gardeners.

Federated Farmers has been involved in helping growers work through the processes around the biosecurity response and eradication since the beginning of the response, back in 2016.

“The pea industry is worth $130 million to New Zealand. Wairarapa growers and farmers were initially aghast at talk of a ban on growing, for years,” Federated Farmers arable chair, and Wairarapa grower, Karen Williams says. . .

After 139 years, Masterton A&P Show may end – Piers Fuller:

Sweeping changes and nominal entrance fees may not be enough to keep Masterton’s 139-year-old A&P Show from coming to an end.

A disappointing turnout to this year’s event at Solway Showgrounds on Saturday have organisers questioning the feasibility of running the annual show.

“It’s obvious the way things are heading that we simply can’t afford to carry on,” Masterton A&P Association president Peter McWilliam said. The organisation was in good health, but the agricultural showcase was unsustainable. . .


Rural round-up

February 18, 2020

Working to nurture rural wellbeing – Sally Rae:

It’s been a tough time to be a farmer in the South.

But, as he helped man the Ag Proud New Zealand stand at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu last week, Mossburn dairy farmer Jason Herrick was still wearing a beaming smile.

Mr Herrick is heavily involved with the Ag Proud NZ initiative, set up last year to promote positive farming practices and raise awareness of rural people’s mental health. . . 

Solutions may have negative effect

Environmental solutions sought in New Zealand could have unintended global consequences, according to research presented at the Farmed Landscapes Research Centre workshop.

Ravensdown innovation and strategy general manager Mike Manning says there is debate over whether the environmental effects of food production should be calculated by hectare or by unit of food produced.

“If globally we want to continue to feed the world with the least impact environmentally then it is important to have the lowest footprint per unit of food and to maintain the investment in technology to reduce this footprint. To do otherwise simply has a worse global environmental outcome.”

In their research Manning, Jacqueline Rowarth and Ans Roberts looked at the production and environmental aspects of organic and conventional systems, taking into account economic aspects such as government subsidies. . . 

Big load to carry but couple pulls together – Sally Rae:

They say the couple that plays together, stays together.

In the case of Southland couple Brett and Lisa Heslip, their shared hobby is of the very noisy kind; they are enthusiasts of tractor pull, a phenomenally loud and curiously fascinating combination of sheer grunt and horsepower.

Tractor pull involves four different classes of tractor: standard, pre 85, sport and modified. Participants compete to see how far they can drag the Tractor Pull New Zealand weight transfer sled.

It was easy to find the tractor pull area at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu on Friday, as it just required following the noise. . . 

Farming fits the lifestyle – Ross Nolly:

Autumn calving is relatively new in Taranaki but one couple made the switch immediately when they bought their first farm. Ross Nolly reports

Switching to autumn calving wasn’t about making more money for Taranaki farmers Jaiden and Hannah Drought.

It was solely so they could enjoy long summer days with their children.

The couple who milk 360 cows on their 105ha effective farm at Riverlea near Kaponga say the pros of autumn calving far outweigh the downsides. . . 

Vineyard trialling native planting as herbicide alternative:

A commercial vineyard is investigating planting native plants and cover crops under vines as an alternative to spraying herbicides on the area.

Villa Maria Winery is running the trial with funding support from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

Villa Maria’s co-ordinator for the project, Raquel Kallas said conventional practice in New Zealand vineyards was to maintain a bare strip under the vines by applying herbicides, typically two or three times per season. . .

Getting smarter at growing grass – James Barbour:

Trewithen is a 288ha farm with 1,100 cows in New Plymouth, owned by the Faull Family from Waitara. In his third season, sharemilker James Barbour takes us through the farm’s approach to nutrient management.

The problem

We cover a large area, so paddock variability is an important issue for us. If we just apply a blanket rate without testing or targeting, the costs mount up very quickly because of the scale of the operation.

We’re milking all year around with various winter run-offs. We have an ambitious target of 600,000kg MS. Our focus is on growing more grass, taking care of the animals and becoming increasingly efficient. And we’ve managed to cut our stocking rate while increasing production. . . 

 


Rural round-up

February 11, 2020

All that’s missing is the workforce :

Mid-Canterbury farmer Ryan Esler enjoys an enviable lifestyle – working in the scenic foothills beneath Mt Hutt, jet boating on the Rakaia River, and fishing for fresh salmon.

But it’s becoming harder to attract young people to a career in farming and he believes the industry has a perception problem which needs to be addressed.

“If you start looking at petri dish meat, you’d think farming is doomed but there’s a lot of scope for a lot of different directions.

“When you look at the marketing of wool and merino, the range of products being made now is absolutely incredible. . .

Dry hits hard – Colin Williscroft:

As dry starts to ratchet up the pressure on farmers Central Hawke’s Bay farmer John Waldin has been lucky enough to get some of his stock away to the works but there’s still more that needs to go.

Waldin was pleased to get a call confirming he will be able to send 240 lamb to the works.

Though he’s experienced conditions just as dry as now on his Ashley Clinton property Waldin can’t remember a time when he’s seen such a shortage of grass.

He normally aims to kill lambs at a carcase weight of 18kg-plus but a couple of weeks ago he decided there was not enough feed so drafted at 15kg-plus, with anything lighter likely to be worth more as stores. . . 

Is grass-only still feasible in New Zealand farming? – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Nobody, least of all farmers, wants animals to be hungry – but is grass-only best? Dr Jacqueline Rowarth investigates.

Drought is affecting the country. Holiday makers have been able to enjoy warm temperatures and sunny barbecues, but towns and cities are already on restrictions for watering gardens and washing cars, particularly in the north and east of the North Island.

The situation for farmers is different – it is animals and crops that are the focus.

Farmers in some areas have access to irrigation, but most don’t, and they are increasingly worried about when rain might come. . .

Aussies get a taste of Kiwi – Tony Leggett:

Two enterprising young Australian rural professionals received an amazing insight into New Zealand agriculture during a two-week whistle-stop tour of the country last November.

The pair were joint winners of the 2019 Zanda McDonald Award which is presented annually by the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP), a group of 150 larger scale and influential farm owners and agribusiness professionals from both sides of the Tasman.

The award is open to anyone under 35 and winners receive $2000 in prize money plus a flying trip around properties and agribusinesses on both sides of the Tasman, hosted by members of the PPP group. . . 

 

U.S. dairy subsidies equal 73 percent of producer returns, says new report :

Comparing government support for Canadian versus American dairy farmers is not a simple black and white process. While Canada’s dairy sector operates under a regulated supply management system, the U.S. government’s support for its dairy farmers is less direct.

Support, in its various forms, equaled 73 percent of U.S. dairy farmers’ market returns in 2015, according to a report published by a Canadian trade consulting firm on Thursday.

The 588-page study by Grey, Clark, Shih and Associates — commissioned by Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) — says the American government contributed around $22.2 billion in direct and indirect subsidies to the dairy sector in 2015. . . 

2019 GB potato crop fifth lowest on record :

Total potato production in Great Britain for the 2019 crop has been estimated to be the fifth lowest on record, according to latest figures.

AHDB estimates the figure to be 5.10Mt, which is an increase of 182Kt from last season, but 7% below the five-year average (2014-2018, 5.49Mt).

While total GB production is 4 percent more than last season, it still comes in at the fifth lowest on record.

The 2019 estimated average net yield is 45.6t/ha, up 3.9t/ha from last season and 2% below the five year average (2014-2018, 46.6t/ha). . . 

 


Rural round-up

January 28, 2020

Farmers face ‘catastrophic’ costs in coming years, despite all sectors performing well – Bonnie Flaws:

Farmer morale is low, despite record highs for commodity prices last year, farmers say.

Lamb, beef, forestry and fruit all saw record prices in 2019, and 2020 got off to a good start with milk prices up 2.8 per cent.

But the sheer amount of challenges “coming down the line”, from regulation like the zero carbon bill and freshwater management policies, to restricted lending from banks has resulted in low farmer confidence and morale, Canterbury dairy farmer Jessie Chan-Dorman said.

“Yes, it’s a really good milk price, but most of us will be paying down debt and consolidating. There won’t be the growth we’ve seen in previous years.” . . 

Drought conditions on the horizon with pockets of extremely dry weather in Waikato – Sharnae Hope:

The country’s biggest dairy region is facing the first signs of a “green drought” after a spell of limited rain for the last couple of weeks.

With summer weather finally in full force temperatures are expected to rise and soil moisture levels plummet throughout Waikato and Northland, NIWA say.

While much of the region still has green paddocks, Northern Waikato and Coromandel/Peninsula have entered very dry to extremely dry conditions.

Waikato Federated Farmers president Andrew McGiven said it’s not unusual for this time of year, but if it continues into late February farmers will be concerned. . . 

Hailes a meat man to the bone – Neal Wallace:

Danny Hailes has had plenty of variety in his 27-year career with Alliance but it now reaches a new level with his elevation to livestock and shareholder services manager. He talks to Neal Wallace.

WHEN Danny Hailes looks back over his meat industry career he quotes one statistic he says reveals much about the capability of New Zealand sheep and beef farmers.

In 2004 Hailes managed the company’s newly bought and renovated Dannevirke plant where the average weight of lambs processed that season was 15.5kg.

Seven years later in his last year managing the Pukeuri plant north of Oamaru the average weight of lambs processed was over 18kg. . . 

2020 the year of ‘New-Gen’ ag – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Could 2020 be the year of New Zealand ‘generative agriculture’? 

A new thought for the New Year – New Zealand ‘generative agriculture’… or New-gen, for short.

New-gen captures New Zealand’s approach to the soil-plant-animal-environment continuum that makes up agriculture: animals have been moved in herds or flocks around the farm or station, enabling them to graze the pasture at its optimum quantity and quality and return dung and urine to the soil in situ. Earthworms have been introduced to enhance organic matter incorporation into the soil and water has been applied in some areas to overcome drought. The result is that organic matter has been maintained or increased.

Efficiencies developed over the past 100 years have been based on science, informed by research, and honed by farmers. . . 

Rabobank climbs rural loans ladder – Nigel Stirling:

Rabobank has leapfrogged ASB to become the country’s third largest rural lender in yet another sign the Australian banks are backing off lending to farmers.

The Dutch bank had $10.7b on loan to farmers at the end of September, behind ANZ with $17.4b and the BNZ with $14.1b, official figures show.

ASB, which is culling jobs at its rural lending division as it sets itself for a slow-down in lending growth, slipped to fourth place with $10.6b of rural loans. Westpac rounded out the top five with loans of $8.6b.

The switch in rankings follows a strong period of lending growth for Rabobank at the same time as three of the four Australian-owned banks throttled back their lending to the sector. . . 

Veganism may not save the world but healthier animals could – Jeff Simmons:

At this month’s Golden Globes, the meal got almost as much attention as the movies with award-winner Joaquin Phoenix and other celebrities touting veganism as a path to saving the planet. The event’s meatless menu created a lot of buzz and critics gave the effort mixed reviews.

I’m a big proponent of reducing our impact on the environment and I applaud people who want to be part of real change. We face big challenges and it will take all of us working together. If there’s one thing I can absolutely agree with Joaquin on, it’s that we should be talking about animals and their impact on our world. But his storyline is missing the bigger picture. Let’s make sure the facts don’t hit the cutting room floor.  . . 

 


Rural round-up

January 5, 2020

A proud advocate for agribusiness – Sally Rae:

AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell is the 2019 Otago Daily Times Business Leader of the Year. She talks to business editor Sally Rae about her passion for her work and Otago.

Growing a business might sound very glamorous, but the reality, says AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell, is a little like the seesaw analogy she uses to describe the oft-quoted work-life balance.

There was a fine line between managing the existing business and pushing to grow; growth was expensive and there was generally continual reinvestment, while there was also the need to look at and assess opportunities while “keeping the money coming in as well”. . . 

Spotlighting the New Zealand story – Jacqueline Rowarth:

The rebellion against synthetic protein systems could well provide a massive demand for New Zealand meat and milk, writes Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.

In 2017 US-based think tank RethinkX predicted that by 2030 self-driving electric cars will dominate our roads, with 95 per cent of US passenger miles occurring in on-demand autonomous EVs owned by companies.

This year RethinkX reported that within a mere 10 years livestock industries will be replaced by synthetic systems that create higher quality and cheaper protein than the animal-derived products they replace. 

Both reports have a lot of assumptions and extrapolations underpinning the bold statements. . .

 

Why Macquarie is looking to pump billions into farms – Clancy Yeates:

It’s 35 degrees, the flies are out in force and five enormous, high-tech machines are working their way through a golden wheat field in southern NSW.

Combine harvesters, 12-metre-wide tractor-like contraptions, motor over a 400-hectare paddock that was once a family-owned farm, harvesting wheat that could be used in bread, noodles or biscuits.

With gusts of wind getting stronger, farmers watching on say it won’t be long until the harvest is shut down for the day, because the risk of sparking a fire is too high.

It is not the sort of environment you would generally associate with the slick world of investment banking. . . 

Urban teachers learn about rural sector

Urban teachers turned out in full force to learn more about the Primary Sector at the Auckland Teachers’ Day Out in November last year.

Held in Pukekohe, the tour visited an award winning sustainable dairy farm, a sheep milking farm, one of the country’s biggest vegetable growers and Norwood Machinery.

Fifty three secondary school teachers took part in the event, coming from between Northland and south of the Waikato.

Te Awamutu College food and fabric technology teacher Pauline Smith said she wanted to learn where the food came from that she taught her students about. . . 

Presenter forging new life in country – Adam Burns:

After more than a decade working as a roving reporter and television presenter, Matt Chisholm has returned to his roots and with his family in tow has relocated to rural Central Otago for a new life. Alexandra reporter Adam Burns spoke to him about the reasons for the move and how he has found the region upon his arrival.

If you are wanting to escape the New Zealand’s largest city, you could do worse than the Central Otago countryside.

Reporter and television presenter Matt Chisholm is living the dream, having made a permanent move with his family to the deep South.

Although he was initially hesitant about such a big move, the 43-year-old says it was a long-time dream he and his wife Ellen (35) had had to move to the region. . . 

The science of sleep:

Falling asleep faster may now be easier than you think, and whilst it doesn’t involve actually counting sheep, it does involve wearing wool.

Scientific studies have tested the sleep of both older and younger adults and found that wool helps keep the body in the “thermal comfort zone” most conducive to restful sleep.

When wearing Merino wool, older adults are falling asleep at least 10 minutes faster than when wearing other fibres, and younger adults are getting at least four minutes extra sleep in wool, than if wearing other fibres. . .


Rural round-up

December 7, 2019

Action needed now:

Houston – or more correctly Wellington – we have a problem.

And that problem is a shortage of workers right across New Zealand’s primary sector.

The latest example is the apple sector (click here for the story), which is facing a potential $80 million loss in the coming season because of a looming labour shortage.

Apples and Pears NZ chief executive Alan Pollard told Rural News that the main reason for this is the Government’s decision not to allow the numbers of overseas workers required under the RSE (recognised seasonal employer) scheme to meet the needs.  . . 

Analysis of regenerative ag needed – Jacqueline Rowarth:

The groundswell supporting the restoring powers of regenerative agriculture is mostly based on examples from overseas.

The big question should be, do the examples stack up in New Zealand? If yes, no problem. If no, what might happen? Would there be any unintended consequences?

Answering these and similar questions is the goal of scientific research.

The foundation for advancing knowledge is laid by identifying the problem and then analysing what has gone before . . .

Setting up for the future:

Key changes made by Waikato dairy farmers Sam and Jacqui Owen have laid their on-farm groundwork for 2020 and beyond. They’re also focused on growing dairying’s next generation.

The Owens stepped up to 50:50 sharemilking in the 2014/15 season at Walton – then the milk price more than halved. That’s when Sam became chair for MP3, a DairyNZ-supported three-year project focusing on ‘profit, planet and people’, starting with 35 Matamata-Piako farms.

“I wanted to help others make their way through that price drop. MP3 also enabled us to grow our budgeting and financial skills to work out that doing that would be profitable for us. . .

Hail limits summer fruit supply – Riley Kennedy:

Some stonefruit will be in short supply this season after a severe hailstorm damaged Hawke’s Bay orchards in October.

The storm hit the region at the most vulnerable time for growers when the fruit was in early spring growth. 

SummerfruitNZ market support manager Richard Mills said the storm was very unusual for the time of year.

“An October hailstorm this bad had not been witnessed before by growers. . . 

Production of red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit is under way:

Zespri expects it will take two years before it can meet demand for its new red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit. 

The company has been trialling the fruit in New Zealand and Singapore, and chief executive Dan Matheson said it had sold well even when priced at 25 percent above green and gold varieties. 

“The response has been quite exciting. We’ve had incredible feedback from our consumers who have been buying the fruit at the supermarket shelf.

“In fact we’ve just had letters coming in from consumers both here in New Zealand and Singapore asking for more of that and ‘why it was only available on the shelf for such short period of time’.” . . 

Imported insect predator to help bees and willow trees to thrive – Eric Frykberg:

Beekeepers are keenly awaiting the arrival of a tiny insect from California which preys on the giant willow aphid.

They say it will help willow trees survive and provide essential food for bees.

Their response follows approval of the parasitoid insect Pauesia nigrovaria by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Scion entomologist Stephanie Sopow said the insect was an an effective control agent. . . 


Rural round-up

November 6, 2019

Hort strong but uneasy – survey – Pam Tipa:

Positive sentiment still prevails across horticulture, but Government policies are weighing on the minds of growers.

So says Hayden Higgins, Rabobank horticulture senior analyst. He was commenting on results of Rabobank’s early September confidence survey of 59 horticulturalists (see sidebar for details).

The results saw only minor shifts, some up and some down, in results pertaining to their own businesses. . . 

Farmers need empowerment – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Reducing stock numbers and increasing legislation is not the way to empower farmers – or attract newcomers to the sector, writes Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.

People hearing the media coverage of farmers under stress can be forgiven for wondering why the farmers are so worried.

After all, they have been told repeatedly that they can reduce their environmental impact by reducing stock numbers, and that doing so will increase farm profitability as well. . . 

Directors Donna Smit, Andy Macfarlane returned to Fonterra board :

Fonterra directors Donna Smit and Andy Macfarlane have been returned to the co-op’s board after retiring by rotation.

Shareholders Scott Montgomerie and Ellen Bartlett were elected unopposed to the directors’ remuneration committee and Ian Brown was elected unopposed as the Fonterra farmer custodian trustee, Fonterra said.

All successful candidates will take office at the close of Fonterra’s annual meeting in Invercargill on Thursday. . . 

 

Meat processor still shut down –  Sally Brooker:

Oamaru Meats is still working through the problems that forced it to shut down in September.

The company, owned by China’s BX Foods, stopped all processing after access for its beef to China was suspended.

Director Richard Thorp said about 140 staff were stood down while managers worked with New Zealand and Chinese authorities to regain the lost access.

A Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman said the suspension was not related to food safety issues and applied “only to Oamaru Meats and not to exports from any other New Zealand meat establishments”. . . 

Naked and afraid: breeding for shedding sheep – Nicola Dennis:

I have written before about how much we love our shedding sheep. We love our Wiltshires from a distance because they never really need any hands-on work. Wiltshires don’t need shearing, dagging or tailing.

Our Wiltshires were “bred up” from minimally shepherded Perendales by the previous occupants of our land. They stag leap over fences at the very sight of us. Because of this, we have also discovered that we can forgo drenching and almost all other forms of handling. From my window, I can see the ewes roaming over the hills in the distance with troupes of energetic lambs bouncing behind them. That is about as close as I will get until it is time to draft the lambs for their big OE. . . 

Livestock farmers feel ‘under siege’ amid climate change and vegan debates – Chris Hill:

Livestock farmers feel “under siege” from a barrage of negativity over climate change, agricultural emissions, healthy diets and veganism – and they urged a more balanced discussion about more sustainable meat production.

In recent months, the under-fire industry has been highlighted as a key component of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, sparking discussions on the global impact of farm animals on the environment, and debates about whether meat-free diets could be part of the solution to global warming.

It added to the ethical arguments of a vocal vegan movement, endorsed by influential celebrities like Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, who recently sparked controversy by saying adopting a vegan diet is the “only way to truly save our planet”. . .

 


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