Rural round-up

June 23, 2020

Sorting the manure from the facts on nitrogen – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Nitrogen is a basic requirement for the creation of soil organic matter.

It doesn’t matter whether the source of the nitrogen is synthetic fertiliser (such as urea or DAP), urine, legume fixation or animal manure – but it is required. Every tonne of carbon sequestered in the soil is associated with 80 to 100kg of nitrogen, as well as approximately 20kg phosphorus, 14kg of sulphur and smaller amounts of various other nutrients.

In many soils it is the addition of nitrogen fertiliser that has allowed more plants to grow and die, contributing more organic matter to the soil than was possible before the fertiliser was added.

This is assuming that moisture and other nutrients are not limiting for plant growth. . .

Naki sets native planting record :

Almost 600,000 native plants were distributed to farmers, last week, as part of Taranaki’s Riparian Management Programme.

This was a record number for the scheme that’s having a huge impact on the region’s water quality and landscape.

For 27 years, the Taranaki Regional Council has worked with farmers, developing individual riparian management plans to improve freshwater quality. Plans recommend fencing off waterways and native planting on riverbanks to keep stock out of streams and reduce overland run-off.

As part of the programme, landowners can buy native plants at cost through the council, ordering one to two years in advance so plants can be grown for them.  . .

NZ Apiculture Industry sees continued growth in production:

The Ministry for Primary Industries released its annual Apiculture Monitoring Programme Report for the 2018/19 season today, which confirms the New Zealand apiculture industry is still growing.

The number of registered hives increased 4% on the previous season to 918,026 in June last year while the number of registered beekeeping businesses also increased, up 8% to 9,282.

The report estimates the 2018-19 season produced an estimated 23,000 tonnes of honey, up by 3,000 tonnes (15%) on the previous year, driven by the increase in hive numbers. . . 

Constrained conditions for the rural sector:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 122 less farm sales (-32.1%) for the three months ended May 2020 than for the three months ended May 2019. Overall, there were 258 farm sales in the three months ended May 2020, compared to 251 farm sales for the three months ended April 2020 (+2.8%), and 380 farm sales for the three months ended May 2019. 1,132 farms were sold in the year to May 2020, 19.5% fewer than were sold in the year to May 2019, with 26.6% less Dairy farms, 27.8% less Grazing farms, 26.0% less Finishing farms and 1.2% less Arable farms sold over the same period.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to May 2020 was $23,221 compared to $22,244 recorded for three months ended May 2019 (+4.4%). The median price per hectare increased 2.5% compared to April 2020.

The REINZ All Farm Price Index fell 0.1% in the three months to May 2020 compared to the three months to April 2020.  . . 

Milk dispensers and glass bottles a hit with shoppers:

A nationwide plan to put fresh milk dispensers and reusable glass bottles into grocery stores kicks off today, following calls from shoppers for milk brands to ditch plastic bottles.

Lewis Road Creamery launched the initiative after receiving multiple requests from shoppers asking for a return to glass.

“The plastic problem really worries our customers,” says Lewis Road Creamery founder and CEO Peter Cullinane. “Two years ago we switched to 100% recycled plastic bottles but we’ve always wanted to do more, so this is another step in the right direction.” . . 

The name behind some of New Zealand’s best known pastures and forage crops is changing this spring:

Thirty-three years after it first teamed up with a family-owned seed business in the Netherlands, Barenbrug Agriseeds will be known as Barenbrug, effective 1 July.

Managing director Michael Hales says the Royal Barenbrug Group has been part of the NZ company since it was founded, providing unique access to plant genetics, science and knowledge.

“This collaboration has been a key part of our success in the NZ pastoral industry – we would not be where we are today without it.”

While the name on the distinctive yellow seed bags will be different as of this season, Michael says farmers can be reassured everything else remains unchanged: “Our people, products and strategy remain the same.” . . 


Quotes of the month

June 1, 2020

Our primary industries are the ones that have propped it [the economy] up. We can’t keep borrowing money. Money doesn’t come from out of thin air and if there are jobs there, let us work.

“Don’t give us job centres for queues of people lining up for jobs that aren’t there. We have these jobs sitting under our noses. – Tania Gibson

We need you to accept that there is a problem, see what the problem is, and fix the problem and make sure that the problem never happens again. – Dr Jan White

Vaccine shortages have dogged previous flu and measles campaigns, and doctors have called this year’s flu campaign a “complete debacle”.

It has become abundantly clear that despite the Government’s rejection of such an assertion, a debacle is exactly what it is.  Michael Morrah

The stakes are higher than any election since 1984 because a second-term Ardern Government will have a mandate and an appetite for the largest expansion of the state since Robert Muldoon’s Think Big schemes and endless tinkering beggared the country.  – Damien Grant

The public is putting an immense amount of trust in the Government as it circumvents the usual checks and balances to get us through this crisis. But trust is earned. It’s also key to maintaining social cohesion. – Jenée Tibshraeny

The calamitous way in which Parliament turned Inland Revenue into a small business lender , without a single MP realising they were doing so, is a sign that the time is well past for greater scrutiny to return.

The Government’s refusal to release the advice it used as the basis of its decision to place New Zealand into a highly restrictive lockdown is coming close to an abuse of the extraordinary trust the public has granted it.Hamish Rutherford

No policy decision is costless. Advocates of a longer extension expound the benefits of the approach they advocate; they often are less forthcoming on the costs. The costs of our lockdown could well be slower coming through than the corona virus itself, they are costs that we as the citizens will sooner or later have to bear. – Wyatt Creech

He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. Nate White

One of the worst effects of a lack of understanding of risk management is the precautionary principle. This is the belief that unless you have complete knowledge about the likelihood and impact of the risk, either you shouldn’t take any action at all (e.g. not allowing the trial of a new drug) or you should go all-out to prevent the risk eventuating (e.g. locking down the population in a pandemic). – Kiwiwit

We’ve elected politicians without enough prior life tests and career leadership experience  to exercise democratic control. Without authoritative experienced oversight, some official cultures will inevitably become immune to their own convenient cruelty. “Be kind” means nothing without the leadership diligence that makes it practical, everyday, and integrated among all the other demands of hard decision-making.  Stephen Franks

People talk a big game about moving away from eating meat, and no doubt tell researchers they are vegetarian when asked – but when they get home they are tucking into a big porterhouse. – Trent Thorne

We are very good at managing weeds and pests. Had the Department of Conservation taken it over I don’t know that the same standard of management would have been there to look after it. They don’t have the budget.

“And it would be devastating to watch it fill up with wildings and be overrun by rabbits again.

“They’re very complex places to run and if all of the high country farmers stopped farming it would be a huge burden on the taxpayer to actually manage that land.Andrew Simpson

A lot of farmers, particularly our young farmers, have found themselves in a very lonely place in the last five years.

“I like to think the understanding might shift as people get to understand where their food comes from.

“And it’s our interests to tell our story so that people do understand. We still grow food, and we love the land. The two can coexist. – Andrew Simpson

A human life, it will be said, is of incalculable value, and in some metaphysical sense this is so. Usually we do not value people’s lives in dollars and cents, and we would regard anyone who did so with horror or disgust. But at the same time, we know that in practice we do place a value on people’s lives. We would think it right to spend more on saving a child’s life at the age of 3 than to spend it on prolonging the life of a 95-year-old by five minutes. The relative values of human lives may not be calculable in any precise sense, but where choices have to be made and resources are scarce (as they always are), we make them.

Sacrificing life to maintain normal life may not therefore be a monstrous policy, though the question of how much life can be sacrificed for how much normality is very difficult to answer, because neither the quantity of life sacrificed nor the amount of normality preserved can be known, certainly not in advance, and perhaps not even in retrospect, for there are so many variables that might account for differences. Besides, the two—life lost and economic collapse—are incommensurable. – Theodore Dalrymple

The shackles should be discarded and ministers should be open to scrutiny. If they can’t be trusted to answer questions about their portfolios, they shouldn’t be ministers. – Derek Cheng

Fundamentally, this is a story of two governments and their differing response to the crisis. The Australian Government has committed to preserving jobs by keeping the economy going, no doubt aware that creating a job is so much harder than preserving one. On the other hand, the New Zealand Government chose instead to shut down the economy. As a result, I believe thousands of businesses will close or drastically shrink, and unemployment will grow significantly.

The initial focus by Governments in both countries was quite rightly the health and well-being of the citizens. Australia and New Zealand have achieved admirable results compared to many other countries, particularly the comparatively low number and rate of deaths from COVID-19. The number of deaths per 100,000 population in both countries is much the same. However, the big difference is that Australia will emerge with their economy virtually intact, while we have done serious damage to ours. There is significant business failure happening now in New Zealand that could have been avoided, and still can be in my opinion. –  Lee Short

I see a stark difference between the wealth creators and those untouched and shielded from the impact on the business world. They are not having their pay slashed and are not suffering unemployment or the threat of it. Business owners and employees provide the wealth that funds those in the public service. They take risks, many borrowing substantial sums, some making sacrifices for years. The result is companies that pay tax and employ staff who pay tax. These taxes keep those in public service in employment.Lee Short

Those of us whose adult lives have largely played out over the last four decades should be grateful that we have lived through the best of times, but we owe it to our children and grandchildren to give them at least the same opportunities that we have had to enjoy happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. How we handle the recovery from Covid-19 will determine whether we do so.Kiwiwit

There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.  A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is. Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. – Paul Henry

No opinion is worth expressing that is not also worth contradicting (except, perhaps, this one); nevertheless, clichés have their attraction. They are the teddy-bears of the mind, or, to change the metaphor slightly, the mental lifebuoys we cling to in times of stormy intellectual or political weather. They are the sovereign remedy for thought, which is always a rather painful activity. –  Theodore Dalrymple

 Is mastery of this kind of meaningless verbalisation, eloquently empty and passionately delivered, the key to political success? And if so what does it say of us, the citizens of democracies? – Theodore Dalrymple

As is quite often the case, hiding in the great mound of high-sounding bilge are quite nasty sentiments that would, if taken seriously (which thankfully they will not be), lead straight to a totalitarian society. . . It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. – Theodore Dalrymple

Except that people will remember the sectors that helped them get through – agriculture and horticulture. They might also remember that the air became cleaner during the pandemic, and that the rivers ran clear. The environmental impact of reduction in transport has been noticed globally. The clarity of waterways has featured on RNZ with commentators noting bird song and clear water… because building and roadworks had stopped. No mention was made of the fact that agriculture and horticulture continued, nor that there had been no reduction in animals. – Jacqueline Rowarth

I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness. Michael Woodhouse

How have we got to a stage where we think this is fine. Where we accept rules that say only 10 people are allowed at funerals but 100 people can go to a pub? Where families can’t get out of quarantine to say goodbye to dying family members and people in hospitals die without any loved ones holding their hands? – Heather du Plessis-Allan

You can’t spend your way back to surplus. You can’t tax your back to surplus (without decreasing economic growth). You need to grow your way back to surplus. So most important of all we need policies that will not just get us through the recession but lead to a strong growing economy for the decade that follows. – David Farrar

The budget was heavy in numbers. A few hundred million here, a few billion here – there were big spending initiatives for everything.

But it was light on demonstrating how these programmes will help repair the country. As KiwiBuild showed, good intentions plus government money do not automatically equate to success. But that lesson appears to have been forgotten and Budget 2020 is just KiwiBuild on steroids. – Oliver Hartwich

It’s easy to get lost in all of the big numbers today. The four-year projections of spending, the extra of billions in debt, the debt-to-GDP ratio.

We forget that each of those numbers, all of the numbers in fact, represents a bigger challenge. The burden we place on New Zealanders and the responsibility we have to them.

We forget that a decade of deficits and debt means fewer choices for our kids down the road.

The obligation we as Parliamentarians have to make sure the next generation is better off than we were. That they have more choices, more opportunities, and more ability to succeed in the world because we back them, not burden them with debt.Simon Bridges

Next time, with substantial administrative improvement and a whole lot more political honesty (surely an oxymoron if ever there was one!), there may be some justification in claiming the government’s responses and directives as a  “masterclass of communication” – but definitely not this time. – Henry Armstrong

Whether the virus is quelled or not, in four months’ time the wreckage of New Zealand’s economy will be visible from space. Last week, leaked documents showed the Ministry of Social Development is preparing for an extra 300,000 benefit applications in response to mass unemployment generated by the pandemic.

You don’t have to be a seer to guess that material concerns and a desire for economic and logistical competence will likely trump all other considerations — including abstract notions of “wellbeing” and admonitions to “be kind” — in choosing the next government.Graham Adams

You have had the five million locked up in Cindy’s Kindy with a daily political party broadcast with an incredibly compliant media who have been in her bubble. – Michelle Boag

Our Prime Minister is daily lauded for her leadership in times of crisis.  In the immediate glare of publicity, kindness and empathy are endearing qualities.  The cold reality is that those qualities will not pay the bills.  Gestures of 20% pay cuts are welcomed but 20% of a heck of a lot is no real sacrifice.  Real leadership involves more than optics and safeguarding political gains. It requires tough and hurtful decisions.Owen Jennings

If ‘helicopter’ cash and ‘shovel ready’ projects are the best you can come up with, think again.  If dressing up green initiatives and sneaking through climate change penalties are on the menu, forget it.  If asking us to pay new taxes is in the budget, pull it out again.  Our burden is already too heavy.  Focus on what might hold back private sector initiatives, frustrate investors, limit progress and delay the recovery.  Prune such fearlessly.  Waiting seven years for a consent to increase a water take when your city is running dry isn’t helping anything – the environment, the economy, thirsty businesses or my vegetable garden. –  Owen Jennings

I would like to change the way we treated our farmers and our primary industries for the last while. ‘They are the heroes of our economy and I think they are being treated as though they were the villains.  It is really important to show how valuable the agriculture and primary industries are to New Zealand. They are the basis of our economy, and valuing that is really important to me.  – Penny Simmonds 

I’m afraid it’s too late to put Ardern’s debt genie back in the bottle. I apologise on behalf of my generation and older that you and your kids will carry this debt for all of us. My advice to you is to do what this government should have done. Cut costs and minimise your liabilities. Spend only on the essentials and invest in assets that will produce a safe dividend. Perhaps most important of all, stay engaged in our democracy and encourage your friends to do the same. If COVID-19 has taught the world anything it is this: politicians need to be closely scrutinised at all times but especially in crises like these. – Heather Roy

Australia is currently co-optimising the wellbeing of the Covid outbreak and the wellbeing consequences of the economy better than New Zealand.  If we don’t martial the best possible team for both recovery and reform, we will exacerbate the slide against our greatest comparator and lose even more of our most precious asset, our people.That risks a younger generation not only inheriting greater debt, but also makes Aotearoa a less desirable place to live with substantially less wellbeing. Fraser Whineray

I trust the prime minister a lot more than her critics do. But I also believe that a lot of her cabinet ministers are incompetent, and others are highly unscrupulous, and that this government makes operational and policy blunders on a scale we haven’t seen in our last few decades of technocratic centrism (as I was writing this the news broke that the entire lockdown may have been illegal). And they’re currently making huge decisions based on incomplete information because there is no expert consensus or reliable data available. – Danyl Mclauchlan

So I think there’s value to disrespectful questions and politicised critiques, and even some of the contrarianism, even if a lot of it is misguided or in bad faith, or simply wrong. And I think we need a space for those critiques in our mainstream politics and media instead of shouting it down and leaving it to circulate on the shadowy fringes of the internet. Because the experts are not always right and the government is not always trustworthy. If contrarians warn about the danger to our freedom in this moment, and it makes us more vigilant and we remain free, does it mean the contrarians were wrong? – Danyl Mclauchlan

What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; The Dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; The Mum who coaches a touch rugby team; This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in – the economy in your community – your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.  This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand. Todd Muller

The problem with this government is they’ve two or three strong performers and 17 empty seats in CabinetTodd Muller

Poker machines are a de facto tax on the brain-dead. As a taxpayer I resent having to support no-hopers when in the case of these addictions, their problems are self-inflicted. – Bob Jones

A modern democracy, we should not forget, is a people of the government, by the government, and for the government.Theodore Dalrymple

What the “employed and unemployed workers” of 1935 would be scandalised by is being forced to support other people’s children whose father’s pay nothing. They would be outraged that someone who has committed a crime can come out of a prison and get immediate recourse to welfare – repeatedly! They would be angry that  entire isolated rural communities could turn their local economies on welfare. – Lindsay Mitchell

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects. Alfred

New Zealand’s economy is in strife. Without major change, our constitutional cousin is in decline. Its public finances are in tatters, its biggest export, tourism, has been obliterated — Air New Zealand announced 4000 job losses this week — and New Zealand police now can enter people’s homes without a warrant.Adam Creighton

In one year, New Zealand has blown 30 years of hard-fought ­fiscal rectitude. Its public debt will explode from the equivalent of 19 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 54 per cent by 2022, on the government’s own figures. – Adam Creighton

The Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who have not worked in the private sector, spruik the totems of modern left governments — renewable energy, trees, higher tax, equality — but without much to show for it. Plans for a billion trees and 100,000 houses have come close to almost naught, and a capital-gains tax was dumped. Labour made a song and dance about reducing child poverty too, but on six out of nine measures tracked by Statistics New Zealand it is unchanged or worse since 2017, including the share of children living in “material hardship”, which has risen to 13.4 per cent. – Adam Creighton

The real problem with the Ardern government is they have no idea whatsoever apart from how to throw money at things, – Roger Douglas

In any case, it wasn’t outsized compassion that drove the lockdown sledgehammer but the ­brutal reality of an underfunded health system. With about 140 intensive care unit beds and few ventilators — far fewer than Australia per capita — it was woefully underprepared. Ardern is more popular than ever, and by all accounts is a good person and a great communicator. But if a COVID-19 vaccine remains elusive, New Zealanders may come to question her wisdom as they fall further down the global pecking order. Without economic growth, there won’t be money for more ICU beds. – Adam Creighton

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects.  – Alfred

They’ll make excuses for her, that’s what left supporters and the media do to prop up failed politicians. It’s not about results, it’s about virtuous ideas and statements. The voters least affected – the latte sipping urbanites will keep supporting her, while the poorer people, whom she has vowed are the ones she’s trying to help, will suffer.Melanie

If you, as small business owners, give just one of your newly unemployed neighbours a job before Christmas, you will be the heroes of the economic crisis, the way that our nurses and doctors and all five million of us who stayed at home and washed our hands were the heroes of the health crisis, –  Todd Muller

National does not start by saying everything should be closed unless the Government says it can be open. Instead, our guiding principle is that everything should be open unless there is good reason for it to be closed.Todd Muller

Ethnic communities don’t want tokenism or special treatment; we simply want to be treated as equals and live in an inclusive society. We don’t wish to question or demonise anybody’s “whiteness”. We should all be able to celebrate who we are without fear or favour. – Gregory Fortuin

Muller is still an unknown quantity and has taken over National at the worst possible time for a prime ministerial aspirant. His best hope is that by the election on September 19, unemployment has rocketed, the cult of Winston has shattered, the economy has tanked and voters are starting to worry about how the country will ever pay the billions back.

Then voters might start to think empathy is all very well, but we need a leader capable of some hard- headed decisions that look beyond the lens of political correctness.Martin van Beynen

Don’t be fooled, Winston Peters declarations are not about principle. His game is political expediency. . . Will Winston Peters last the distance or are we seeing the tactic that’s been so successful in the past being reeled out for a third time? Peters shows yet again he will call the shots and for a party polling well below the 5 percent threshold he has nothing to lose. – Heather Roy

Months of monotony, with nothing to look forward to and nothing to distinguish one day from another, is an experience which fundamentally conflicts with most of the ways societies throughout history have found to give structure to the passage of time. Most religions recognise the importance of marking time: celebrating rites of passage, appointing seasons for feasting and fasting, getting together at set times to celebrate, pray, or mourn. As religious holidays die away, secular society invents its own alternatives.

Over the past few months, we’ve been stripped of all that. Those keeping Easter, Passover, Ramadan or other commemorations have had to do so at home and online, for many a very imperfect substitute, and non-believers have lost their rituals too: no birthday parties, no graduations, not even the weekly trip to a favourite coffee shop. We’ve been deprived of almost every conceivable form of public, shared experience — perhaps most painfully of all, with restrictions on funerals, the rituals of grieving. These are anchors, and without them we drift.Eleanor Parker

We’re all hypocrites. Outrage is selective. Personally I’m much more concerned with the fact we’re staring down mass unemployment and a generation-defining economic crisis than the fact Todd Muller has a Trump hat. – Jack Tame

In the face of soaring unemployment and plummeting house prices, middle voters may pause for thought. People who care passionately about inequality, over-tourism and climate change in the good times, tend to be less progressive when their personal economic circumstances are shaken.Andrea Vance


Rural round-up

May 14, 2020

COVID-19: Farming continues while pollution falls – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Dr Jacqueline Rowarth on how the agriculture and horticulture sectors are supporting New Zealand through the COVID-19 pandemic.

OPINION: New Zealanders have been urged to order food from outlets that don’t use Uber, and to be extremely careful using Tinder.

The first is because of expenditure (Uber apparently takes 35% of the bill). The second is because of COVID-19 and potential to transmit the virus. (NRL players have been forbidden to use the app and the difficulty of maintaining 2m distance must be acknowledged.)

It is probable that rural dwellers will find it easier to comply with these requests than those who live in urban districts. It is possible that rural dwellers have never used either of the two services. It is also possible that rural dwellers are wondering about how much money is evaporated on services that make it easier to spend more money on services.  . . 

Court grants farmers appeal extension :

The Environment Court has granted extra time to allow appeals on the Waikato Regional Council’s plan change 1.

Federated Farmers Waikato president Jacqui Hahn said individual farmers and growers have 70 working days from May 11 to file appeals.

Industry groups including Federated Farmers have a shorter deadline of 50 working days from April 28 to file their appeals. . . 

Water users frustrated as ORC torpedoes local decision-making:

As if there wasn’t already enough stress and economic hurdles facing the region, the Otago Regional Council has added to the uncertainty. 

The submission period closed on the ORC’s Proposed Plan Change 7 on water permits on Monday.  However, because Council notified the plan change, and then asked the government to call it in, there’ll be another whole round of submissions once the Environmental Protection Authority renotifies it, which is frustrating to impacted resource users.

Federated Farmers – like most, if not all, other rural representatives – has opposed PC7.  

“We said in our submission that it fails on tests of cost-effectiveness, fairness, adequate consultation, and consistency with existing policies,” Federated Farmers Otago President Simon Davies says. . .

Pride regained telling people we are farmers – Mike Cranstone:

It is great to be a farmer; it certainly has not been an easy autumn, but we are lucky to be still in charge of our businesses. And a farm is a perfect backyard for kids to be in throughout lockdown. Our consideration must go to those people with uncertain job prospects, and the many local small business owners who provide an invaluable service to the farming sector. I encourage farmers to think of what work, whether servicing or projects that we can bring forward to help these businesses get back on their feet.

This season was always shaping up to be memorable. In December it was shaping up to be one of the best, with good feed levels matched with an $8 floor to the lamb schedule, mid $7 and $6 for dairy and beef, respectively.

If we were feeling comfortable, the impact of Covid-19 and a lingering widespread drought put pay to that. For farmers, the drought is having a more immediate financial impact. There is plenty of uncertainty looking forward, with how the looming global recession will impact demand and prices for meat and dairy.

The drought has put significant pressure on farmers, with stock water being a real issue and now with low feed covers going into late autumn. Getting killing space for all stock classes has been difficult since December, with prime cattle being terribly slow. Farmers’ loyalty to their meat company has generally been well rewarded, but I am interested where that often-discussed meat industry overcapacity is hiding. It could be a long tough winter with low feed covers, please keep an eye on our fellow farmers’ welfare along with that of our animals. . . 

Feds wins time for Waikato farmers and growers:

The Environment Court’s decision to allow more time for the filing of appeals on Waikato Regional Council’s Plan Change 1 has Federated Farmers breathing a sigh of relief.

All three of the Federated Farmers provinces affected by this plan change are delighted and somewhat relieved with this decision.

Federated Farmers Waikato president Jacqui Hahn says this means individual farmers and growers have 70 working days from 11 May to file appeals. . . 

Covid-19 could revive single-use plastics – agribusiness head – Eric Frykberg:

The Covid-19 crisis could be a big setback to progress on eliminating plastics, a rural expert has warned.

Ian Proudfoot, global head of agribusiness for KPMG, told a webinar the desire for health and hygiene could easily trump environmental worries about plastics.

His comments follow a steady pushback against plastics overseas and in New Zealand, where it led to a ban on single use plastic bags in many parts of the economy with the aim of reducing pollution and reliance on fossil fuels, which are a raw ingredient for many plastics.

Proudfoot warned however that people could easily come to view plastic-packaged foodstuffs as clean and safe and could start to insist on it, leading to a revival in the use of plastics. . .


Rural round-up

March 14, 2020

Time for Trans-Tasman agritech co-operation? – Pam Tipa:

Should New Zealand and Australia be working more closely together in the agritech space to present a regional offer to the world?

Callaghan Innovation’s agritech group manager, Simon Yarrow certainly thinks so.

It could be similar to the way the Scandinavians have established a regional reputation in other fields. . . 

Bloody Good Boss workshops being run throughout New Zealand:

How to be a bloody good boss workshops are being run throughout New Zealand by the Dairy Women’s Network.

Delivered in conjunction with DairyNZ, PaySauce and Primary ITO, these four hour information workshops will cover the whole recruitment process.

The five employment pillars of skills needed on farm, recruitment, the interview process, contracts and orientation will be discussed in these sessions designed to support the Good Boss campaign that was launched last month in Wellington. . .

Turning rhetoric into reality – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Dr Jacqueline Rowarth analyses the points made at this year’s Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre workshop.

The Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre (FLRC) workshop held at Massey University each February starts the year with a hiss, roar, new research and the latest from overseas.

The three-day workshop is one of the places where scientists, researchers, rural professionals, farmers and national and local policy makers can engage in rigorous debate. . .

‘Bringing Brand New Zealand Home’ At AgriFood Week 2020:

New Zealand AgriFood Week is enlisting several international thought-leaders to address the Week’s 2020 theme, ‘bringing brand New Zealand home.’

The week-long series of events, workshops and forums across the Manawatū covers the intersection between agriculture, science, food and technology and runs from March 16 to 22.

Adding international perspective to some of New Zealand’s biggest agri-food challenges is Dr Jessica de Koning, a rural sociologist from Wageningen University speaking on strengthening rural communities in the face of regulatory and environmental challenges. . .

Straight Off The Tussock chapter 2 – Tim Fulton:

HARD LESSONS

The Okuku Range is a cluster of hills 900m-1100m high, rising from the northern limit of  the Canterbury Plains and treading north-westwards to meet the foothills of the Puketekari Range. Jack grew up in the Okuku Pass which runs between it. 

I used to walk down to the White Rock limeworks to talk to the people over there or the men on the station, but I suppose I was a lonely kid in a lot of ways. I’d sit on the tractor with our neighbour Harry Gudex – helping with the farmwork. Used to go there for mercy every now and again. I was a loner but I enjoyed the men – seemed to get on with them and they didn’t seem to worry too much what I did.

For six weeks each summer from 1932 to 1934, we went to a holiday house at Leithfield Beach. But it was an awful place, with no conveniences whatsoever – an outside loo, kerosene lamps and primus cooker. I was absolutely infuriated with this – couldn’t stand the salt water or the sea, and I was a permanent pest there… perennially in trouble. Whenever we were there I couldn’t get back to the shearing quick enough. I loved it in the shed – flat out with the men – cutting dags off wool, whatever I could find. . .

Kiwifruit hold golden glow:

With the new season’s SunGold kiwifruit licensing tender due to open next month, expectations are that orchardist interest in the 750ha area being made available will be at least as strong as last year.

Last year’s SunGold allocation of planting rights averaged $290,000 a hectare, with a number of orchardists missing out on their desired allocation simply due to over demand for the popular planting option.

Snow Williams, Bayleys specialist rural and kiwifruit agent based in Te Puke says he would not be surprised to see the licence values at least match or even exceed last year’s values. . .


Rural round-up

March 7, 2020

Farm confidence – already bruised by the effects of drought – becomes a victim of Covid-19 – Point of Order:

As the country’s  front-line export  sector,  NZ agriculture  is  bearing  the brunt of the global  trade slowdown.  ANZ Bank’s chief  economist  Sharon Zollner says  the  human and  economic damage from the  Covid-19 outbreak is taking a  heavy toll on sentiment in the agriculture  sector.

“Our  best  hope is that the  disruption proves  short-lived but there is not   question the export-oriented  sector is  reeling”.

Authorities   such  as  Keith Woodford  believe NZ, as well as most of the world,  will head into recession.  Woodford contends the key issue becomes rapid support for those who lose their employment.

He  sees  a  “considerable  risk” that the government and Reserve Bank will use the wrong macro tools. . .

The problem with vegans and climate change – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Veganism is a distraction from the major climate change issues of increase in population and lifestyle, including travel, writes Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.

Farmers cannot grow whatever food they like.

This is contrary to ongoing statements in the media, from, for instance the Vegan Society.

Quite apart from the legal restraints to do with type of crop and chemicals that can be used, there are temperature, rainfall, soil and topographical constraints. . .

Court to rule on M Bovis compo – Annette Scott:

The Mycoplasma bovis compensation battle has ramped up following a High Court ruling it is allowed to decide what farmers can be repaid for.

In October last year lawyer Grant Cameron sought a judicial review, on behalf of the van Leeuwen farming group, of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ compensation system.

The van Leeuwens, the first to have the cattle disease confirmed in New Zealand, claim they have been left $3million out of pocket. . . 

Future fails to make present – Neal Wallace:

The present has caught up with AgResearch’s Future Footprint plans which are now a thing of the past. It is now going it alone at Lincoln but collaborating with Massey University in Palmerston North and will keep its centres at Ruakura and Invermay. Neal Wallace reports.

AGRESEARCH has abandoned elements of its Future Footprint proposal begun eight years ago and will keep its four national campuses but expand two.

The original plan was to severely downsize its Invermay campus near Dunedin and Ruakura in Hamilton with the focus on centres at Lincoln and Palmerston North.

Acting chief executive Tony Hickmott says the plan now is to retain all four sites and construct new buildings at Palmerston North, which is under way, and Lincoln. . . 

Magic tonic needed to open wallets – Pam Tipa:

Rain is the magic tonic in the farming community, says Northland based AgFirst consultant Tafi Manjala.

But without it the sentiment going into the Northland Field Days from the farming community will likely to be “cautious”, he says.

“When it is raining and things are going well people are more buoyant and positive about the future,” Manjala told Rural News.

“They feel more confident about things, they can justify to themselves why they can have some discretionary expenditure at the field days. . . 

Agrifeeds invests in increased precision blending and storage:

Agrifeeds have started the new decade in a strong position, having invested significantly in new blending and storage facilities to help increase their nutritional offer to customers.

Following the opening late last year of two new storage facilities in New Plymouth and Marsden Point in Northland, two new blending operations have also been built in each location. . .


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”. . .

 


Rural round-up

October 23, 2019

No change to methane targets – Neal Wallace:

Methane reduction targets are to remain but the Environment Select Committee considering submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill is recommending greater safeguards for using forestry to offset emissions.

The committee recommends the proposed Climate Change Commission be given power to consider the form of greenhouse gas emission targets to ensure targets stay fit for purpose and to consider the impact of forestry offsets.

Another change will allow the commission to recommend changes to the 2050 targets if a significant change is likely to occur. . .

Fonterra’s milk price forecast will cheer farmers but govt has given ample cause for grumbling to persist – Point of Order:

At  last,  a  break in the  clouds for  NZ’s  dairy farmers :  Fonterra  suppliers  could be looking at a  sharp  lift in income,  as the co-op revises   its  forecast  range for the  milk price   to $6.55-$7.55 kg/MS.And  the signals  are   strong enough to underpin projections the  milk price  will rise to its  highest level  since  2014  when the price  hit $8.40.

This  may  diminish, if not completely  halt, the   grumbling in the cowsheds  at  Fonterra’s  dismal  performance  over the last  couple of  seasons, racking  up  losses and  cutting  its dividend.

Whether  it  will  eliminate  the  animosity towards the government,  which  is  proposing to penalise dairy farmers  over  methane emissions and through its freshwater  policy, is  less certain. . .

Digging deeper into soil’s black box – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Could soil organic matter be used for carbon credits?

Organic matter is the black box of the soil: it determines many factors in biological activities but predicting the outcomes of those biological activities is not easy.

With sand, silt and clay, organic matter affects soil structure, porosity, drainage and nutrient availability. It supports soil organisms by providing energy and nutrients for growth and reproduction.  . .

Vaccinations protect people, animals – Mark Ross:

As we struggle to fathom how we ended up in the throes of a measles outbreak again, we’re reminded of the importance of vaccinations to protect us from life-threatening diseases.

This is no less true for animals which can share diseases with people. Vaccination vastly improves the health of people and animals and is vital for continuing to meet the health challenges of growing populations. . .

Is technology a threat to dairy? – Danielle Appleton :

The New Zealand dairy industry is facing major disruption from synthetic dairy, similar to the synthetic fibres that triggered the decline of the wool industry in the 1980s.

Technology companies are now making real dairy products, without cows. 

Their aim is to make real dairy products far cheaper than traditional farming can within the next 10 to 15 years. . .

Dairy price prospects firm :

Prospects for a $7-plus farmgate milk price in 2020 have firmed with the lower New Zealand dollar value and a spring production peak that might not reach any great height.

ASB senior rural economist Nathan Penny believes the NZ dollar falling below US63c is worth up to 50c/kg to the milk price after the delay of the Fonterra currency hedging policy works through.

Fonterra was already forecasting $6.25-$7.25/kg ahead of any currency boost and ASB has pegged $7 before the possible currency upside, Penny said. . .

$2800 a jar: Hawke’s Bay company’s Manuka honey vintage now the most expensive in world :

One single windswept tree block has produced the most extraordinary and expensive Mānuka honey that the world has ever seen.

Ahuriri-based The True Honey Co is now selling its supplies of its 2017 Rare Harvest to luxury retailers such as Selfridges and Harrods in London.

The retailers are buying up to 10 of the 230 gram jars at a time to secure a supply with each jar selling for £1388 (NZD$2815) in the United Kingdom. . .

Why farmers  should avoid magic and opt for science -Phil Holmes and Ian McLean:

Unfortunately, and to its detriment, broadacre agriculture is not always an evidence-based industry at producer level.

Yes, there are areas where evidence drives what is done, but it is far from universal. Too much attention is placed on fads and searches for silver bullets.

By way of contrast, consider engineering. If it was not based on hard evidence, planes would fall out of the sky, buildings would collapse and bridges would cave in. It is the ultimate discipline in everyday life. . .

 


Rural round-up

October 7, 2019

Regenerative agriculture – context is everything – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Jacqueline Rowarth discusses the pros and cons of regenerative agriculture and finds that, in this case, one size does not fit all.

Regenerative agriculture is being promoted as the saviour for New Zealand.

The suggestion that it can produce the food that is needed without creating environmental impacts is perfect.

Add an income, and it is the goal for most farmers, whatever the label of their production system. . .

Who’s the last rural knight standing? – Craig Wiggins:

With the loss of our two elder statesman, Sir Brian Lochore and Sir Colin Meads, who had a direct connection to the land and were seen as legends by rural and urban people have left a big hole as far as rural ambassadors, leaders, mentors and boys’ own heroes.

This leads me to ask who is left as rural sirs and dames.

The only one who springs to mind who has made the world take notice in his sporting and professional life is Sir David Fagan. 

He is recognised for his achievements in shearing and his support of many things rural. A true knight or sir. However, is Sir David to be our last knight standing?

Rural New Zealand is in desperate need of mentors and outstanding people recognised for their abilities and human spirit to be showcased in our schools and inspire our youth, someone to rub shoulders with in life be it in a pub or walking down a street, in media commenting and carrying the mana earned across all facets of NZ culture. . . 

Fonterra factory built to make ‘secret recipe’ mozzarella sitting all but idle – Maria Slade:

As disappointed farmers deal with Fonterra’s poor performance it emerges a new multi-million dollar cheese plant is hardly being used. Business editor Maria Slade reports.

Fonterra once called it “the single largest foodservice investment in New Zealand’s dairy industry”.

Now its $240 million mozzarella cheese plant at Clandeboye near Temuka is sitting close to idle thanks to lack of demand.

The Clandeboye dairy factory’s third line making Fonterra’s “secret recipe” mozzarella was opened to much fanfare a year ago, with the co-operative claiming it was able to produce enough of the cheese to top half a billion pizzas a year. . .

18-year-old Austin Singh Purewal wins 2019 Young Vegetable Grower of the Year:

The youngest finalist of this year’s Young Grower of the Year competition, Austin Singh Purewal, beat the field to win this year’s Young Vegetable Grower of the Year.

At only 18, Austin has managed to achieve a lot in his horticulture career already. After winning the Pukekohe regional competition, Austin was looking forward to taking part in the finals.

“It’s almost like another job, to be honest,” says Austin. “It takes up a lot of your time if you are really dedicated to it.

“If you put a lot of effort in, you get lots out of it. From meeting new people to opening up my mind to opportunities within the industry, that’s what I wanted to get out of the competition. I didn’t necessarily want to win. I wanted to come out of it with more opportunities.” . .

LIC ascending into cloud for technology – Pam Tipa:

Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) is undergoing a digital transformation in the cloud, says chief executive Wayne McNee.

It is developing products and services for customers on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform.

The tailored cloud strategy will markedly shorten the time it takes to analyse the range of data from different sources across a farm. It will provide real time insights via its Minda application to help guide farmers’ decision making.  . .

 

Kenya set to rescind GMO ban -John Njiraini:

Genetically modified organism (GMO) crops and products soon will be allowed in Kenya, where a ban on the technology has been in place since 2012.

In a development that has ignited optimism among companies and organizations that front for the adoption of GM crops, Kenya has revealed intentions to lift the ban to allow the country to accrue the benefits of the technology. 

While Kenya has made significant progress on GMOs in terms of enacting watertight regulations and controlled research on crops such as Bt maize, Bt cotton, cassava, sorghum, and sweet potato, the ban has meant the country cannot progress to the commercialization stage. . . 


Rural round-up

September 19, 2019

New environmental laws will encourage stampede into forestry:

The governments’ new environmental proposals will further accentuate the move of good, productive farmland into forestry according to environmental lobby group 50 Shades of Green.

50 Shades of Green Chair, Andy Scott said the figures provided by the government were, at best, dishonest.

“The government is claiming the cost of fencing waterways will cost hill country sheep and beef farmers a few thousand dollars,” Andy Scott said. “This is plain wrong.

“One farmer on easy hill country tells me his cost will be nearer to $one million. He can’t afford it and is selling his farm for forestry. . . 

50 ways dairy farmers show their love for the land:

To mark the 50th anniversary of Conservation Week, DairyNZ brings you 50 ways dairy farmers are showing their love for their waterways, land and environment.

It’s fair to say that almost all dairy farmers care deeply for the natural world that surrounds them every day of their lives – and they are passionate about protecting and nurturing it for the generations to come.

For dairy farmers, the focus in the past few years has been on improving waterways, enhancing biodiversity, and controlling predators, both weed plants and animal pests, such as possums, rats and stoats.  They know some of their actions are also already helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and that there are further mitigations under development they will be implementing in the future.

The farmers around the country who are part of the Dairy Environment Leaders programme, set up six years ago to develop responsible dairying, are true kaitiaki. They not only roll up their sleeves on their land, but they are also inspiring other farmers. They are active in their communities, on boards and local committees and catchment groups, leading the way in achieving good outcomes for the environment and farming.  . .

Palmerston North TeenAg student lands coveted cadetship :

A determined Palmerston North student has achieved a long-held goal of landing a cadetship in the food and fibre sector.

Alex Argyle, 16, is one of only three people accepted for next year’s cadet intake at Pukemiro Station in Dannevirke.

Almost 50 people applied for the coveted two-year cadetships.

“I’m over the moon. I’m quite young for my year at school, so initially it came as a bit of a shock when I found out,” said Argyle. . . 

First four candidates for Fonterra elections :

Sitting Fonterra directors Donna Smit and Andy Macfarlane have been announced as two of the four independently assessed candidates for the 2019 Fonterra board elections.

The other two candidates are Philipp Haas and Cathy Quinn. As re-standing directors, Smit and Macfarlane automatically go through to the ballot: Haas and Quinn were recommended by the Independent Selection Panel after their assessment process.

There are two different ways that shareholders can stand for the board – as Independently assessed candidates or as non-assessed candidates. . . 

New directors to help push for smarter farming:

Agri-environment expert Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, farmer Nicola Hyslop and governance and e-commerce leader David Biland have joined Ravensdown’s board of directors it was announced at the co-operative’s 2019 annual meeting in Lincoln.

Shareholders of the co-operative hailing from Southern Waikato to Northland elected Jacqueline who is from Tirau.  Nicola, a Timaru sheep, beef and arable farmer, was elected director for the Canterbury area. Jacqueline replaces incumbent director Kate Alexander and Nicola replaces Tony Howey, who has retired from the board.

Auckland-based David Biland, who is currently director of management consultancy Hughland Limited, joins as an appointed director replacing Glen Inger who has been on the Board for 12 years.

Ravensdown chairman John Henderson said the new directors were exceptional additions to the Board and would help drive further success for the co-operative and its shareholders. . . 

What we can learn from the Visible Farmer project – Dr Jo Newton:

With over 104K views and 700 shares of their Season 1 Trailer, Visible Farmer – a short film series showcasing the largely untold stories of the role women play in food and fibre production – has made its presence felt on social media.

While any initiative seeking to empower, inspire and encourage women should be celebrated, there’s more to Visible Farmer.

Visible Farmer has already achieved what few projects have achieved in agriculture – a community united around and helping share a vision.

Gisela Kaufmann is the co-creator of Visible Farmer and says she has been utterly humbled and thankful for all the support. . . 


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