Rural round-up


Australian farmers facing tough times:

Australian farmers are doing it tough with food imports becoming cheaper because of the Australian dollar’s plunge against the greenback three years ago, just as the worst drought in living memory finally broke.

Although there’s a general election in September, Australian farmers say their plight continues to be ignored by both Government and opposition.

Hundreds of jobs have gone from the regions as food processing factories close – or they’ve slashed production, leaving growers with tonnes of rotting fruit. . .

How a 750 cow dairy farm could make $125,000 more by employing 2 extra staff – Milking on the Moove:

I’ve been using a 750 cow farm (Canterbury average) as an example. I have been saying that this farm should have 5 employees + the boss, instead of the usual 3 employees + the boss.

 2 extra staff @ $35,000 each = $70,000/year extra wages
But if this farmer could:

  • Increase fertility by 7% = extra $32,000
  • Decrease SCC in just 5% of cows = $30,000
  • Increase pasture quality by 10% for just 31 days = $63,000
Thats adds up to an extra $125,000
Subtract the $70,000 in additional wages = $55,000 better off. . .

Ponding effluent proves costly for Hinds company:

A farm company has been fined $25,000 after pleading guilty to breaching the Resource Management Act following problems with a travelling irrigator which resulted in severe effluent ponding on its Hinds dairy farm.

In convicting and fining Drumblade Farm Ltd and awarding costs of $2990.80, Judge PR Kellar described the offence as “comparatively serious offending.”

He noted that when an Environment Canterbury Compliance Officer made a routine monitoring visit to the property on April 17, 2012 he was informed that there had been an issue that morning with the travelling irrigator where a nozzle had come off. Inspection revealed severe liquid and solid effluent ponding on the land surface. . .

Greenlea turns 20 – Allan Barber:

Waikato based Greenlea Premier Meats turns twenty this month and considering that they have just spent twenty years in the meat industry they seem to be in remarkably good shape.

They are currently the Westpac Waikato business of the Year taking out both the large business and supreme winner categories and their two plants are basically full on both shifts all year round. This year they will process more than 200,000 cattle and in the past five years they have invested more than $45 million in their plants.

Owned by the Egan family, Greenlea is not one of the big four meat companies, but belongs instead to a group of smaller players who do not seem to share the view that the meat industry is ‘broken and dysfunctional’. Neither do they regard collaboration with farmers as an issue; in fact they get plenty of support and Greenlea’s Managing Director Tony Egan reckons this is due to mutual respect. “They see us doing our job well and give us their support. It’s as simple as that”. . .

Japanese ad gives boysenberry growers a boost:

There’s good news at last for Nelson’s boysenberry growers, with a Japanese health supplements company filming an ad campaign championing the fruit’s health properties.

John Gibb, head of Nelson-based processor and exporter Sujon, says researchers in Japan have identified boysenberries as being beneficial for eye-sight, as they contain good levels of a powerful antioxidant.

However, Mr Gibb says researchers aren’t divulging the exact science behind their health claims. . .

Free range farms – herding start-ups for collective growth – Peter Kett at sticK:

Scale, as anyone starting a business realises, is a key, if not the key to growth and success.

Even in IT-related commerce, achieving scale from a New Zealand base is pretty darn difficult.

Enter, drum-roll please, Free Range Farma startup helping startups start up and stay up.

It’s the brainchild of Linc Gasking and Josh Feast, and its goal is to help entrepreneurs grow 1,000 Kiwi startups. . .

Imagine the stink


Whanganui District Council has been battling a stench from its sewage treatment plant.

The solution on Friday was to pump raw sewage out to sea.

Imagine the stink if a dairy farmer did that.

I am not suggesting that dumping dairy effluent in the sea, or any other waterway, would be acceptable, just pointing out the double standard.

Farmers have been prosecuted for ponding of effluent which could enter a water way while councils get away with deliberately pumping raw sewage into rivers and the sea.

Doesn’t look like an accident


The best designed effluent systems aren’t immune from human errors and break-downs which can lead to accidental discharges in the wrong place.

That doesn’t make it right but it could be a mitigating factor if damage is done.

However, if the facts of this case as reported are true, it doesn’t look like an accident:

Lloyd disconnected an open pipe from a blocked irrigator and placed it under trees nearby, allowing the effluent to discharge for four days before the pipe was found by Environment Canterbury (ECan) staff.

Unfortunately this enables opponents of dairying to tar all farmers with the same dirty brush.

Fonterra’s Every Farm Every Year programme to tackle effluent


Fonterra has launched an initiative designed to substantially reduce non-compliance with regional council dairy effluent rules.

The nationwide rollout of the “every farm, every year” programme follows a pilot study carried out with Waikato farmers between March and July this year.

Fonterra is checking every farm’s dairy effluent system every year as part of their annual Farm Dairy Assessment. Systems found to be at risk of non-compliance will be referred to a Sustainable Dairy Specialist who will work with the farmer to develop a remedial plan for action and timeframe for implementation. Fonterra has doubled to 10 its Sustainable Dairying Specialist team to support shareholders in getting compliance right.

Tim Deane, General Manager, Milk Supply for Fonterra said “the programme is an important step towards bringing down the incidence of significant non-compliance with council effluent rules and forms part of an annual $5 million investment from Fonterra supporting sustainable dairying practices.

“That includes the advice and support given by our Area Managers, our advocacy programme in the policymaking area and specialist support systems like our Sustainable Dairying Specialists.”

He said Fonterra’s initiative had been welcomed by regional councils who were keen to partner with the co-operative to improve compliance performance. Improved results in regions like Canterbury and Auckland showed gains could be made when councils, DairyNZ, farmers and Fonterra worked constructively together.

Mr Deane said the Waikato pilot gave the opportunity to raise awareness for farmers and provide additional training for the assessors responsible for carrying out annual on farm checks. “It’s imperative that both farmers and assessors learn to recognise when an effluent system could be at risk of non-compliance.”

Fonterra Sustainable Dairy specialists visited over 350 farms in the Waikato between March and July on the back of referrals from the pilot programme, the regional council or requests from farmers for advice. In many cases they found that minor changes could be the difference between compliant or at-risk systems.

“Small details like the size of an effluent dispensing nozzle, the speed of an irrigator or good effluent system maintenance could make all the difference in being compliant or not.

“The advantage of doing our every farm, every year checks is we’re now finding and fixing potential issues before they can cause problems down the line and the proactive approach not only helps farmers avoid costly penalties but also helps keep the environment and our streams clean.”

The Waikato pilot also highlighted the need for sufficient effluent infrastructure and storage. Farms at risk of non-compliance were already working with a Sustainable Dairy Specialist for further support.

“This is exactly what we expected to see and the fact that there are farmers out there who need assistance is why we put the programme in place. The important thing is that we’re able to raise the levels of awareness and through education and specialist advice we’re looking to make effluent compliance a complete non issue for Fonterra’s suppliers. This is good for our farmers, good for us and good for the environment.”

Non-compliance with regional council regulations on the discharge of effluent are the council’s responsibility.

However, Fonterra recognises it has a part to play in safeguarding the dairy industry’s reputation and helping farmers comply with good environmental standards.

Cleaning up the effluent


One of the by products of turning grass in to protein is manure and when a lot of it is collected in one place, like a milking shed, the question of disposal arises.

Most dairy farmers follow the rules and do it as prescribed by regional councils in a manner which adds nutrients to the soil without polluting waterways.

A few either don’t know or don’t care and when councils discover breaches of consents they prosecute but in spite of this some farmers still aren’t doing all they can to improve their systems so Fonterra has come up with a carrot and stick approach to solving the problem.

The carrot comes in the form of advice fromt heir staff and the stick will be deductions from milk payouts.

The minority of farmers who deliberately, or through ignorance, breach discharge consents reflect badly on the whole industry so I”m pleased that Fonterra is taking this approach.

Alf Grumble  notes this isn’t good enough for the Greens and Fish & Game but rightly points out that compliance is a matter for councils and that Fonterra’s penalties aren’t a substitute for any legal action, they’ll be in addition to it.

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