Rural round-up

06/05/2021

Rabbits: ‘It’s as bad as it’s ever been’ – Melanie Reid:

Rabbits are once again over-running parts of New Zealand. This week, in a series of short videos, Newsroom Investigates lays out the remarkable impacts in the south.

Farmers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on rabbit control, with some employing full time shooters. But what if you control the rabbits at your place, and next door they don’t?

For Phillip Bunn, a third generation farmer on 149 hectares of Central Otago family land, there are a lot of things that make farming in the Queenstown Wakatipu Basin tough.

But dealing with rabbits is by far the hardest part. . .

Truckers at risk crossing Mt Ruapehu bridge with ‘severe’ defects – Phil Pennington:

A century-old wooden bridge full of holes that carries masses of the country’s potatoes and carrots is jeopardising truckers’ safety and farmers’ livelihoods.

But government funding changes make it less certain the local council can get the bridge, on a back road on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, replaced.

Between a 10th and one-fifth of the washed carrots and potatoes used in the North Island come across the one-lane timber Mangateitei rail overbridge near Ohakune.

There is no other public road out from the farms. . . 

Rein in rates and show some backbone over water rules, Feds urges ECan:

Federated Farmers is strongly urging Environment Canterbury to demonstrate financial discipline and stick with current water plans developed with the community, rather than cave in and start a $25 million exercise re-writing them.

Feds Mid-Canterbury President David Clark and fellow Ashburton farmer and national board member Chris Allen said the Federation’s Canterbury membership of around 3000 are outraged and hugely disappointed with the very large rates increases proposed.

Most farmers face bigger hikes than the overall average of 24.5% in the financial year starting July 1.

“No business has the luxury of unlimited income, especially farmers who as price takers cannot just increase their prices. ECan should be no different,” Clark told councillors at a hearing this morning. . . 

Log exports high prices create New Zealand trucking backlog – Maja Burry:

Strong export prices for logs are creating bottlenecks in the local supply chain, with forest owners reporting problems securing log truck drivers and in some cases, harvesting contractors.

Forest Owners Association’s president Phil Taylor said when log prices were high, smaller forest owners, including farmers, seized the opportunity to maximise returns.

“It’s a very good opportunity to realise their investments and for those farmers that have trees to provide them with a significant boost to their incomes.”

The shortage in log truck drivers was a developing concern and the association was keen to work with Te Uru Rākau New Zealand Forest Service to encourage more people into the industry, Taylor said. . .

Nadine Tunley is HortNZ’s new Chief Executive :

Nadine Tunley has been announced as Horticulture New Zealand’s new Chief Executive. 

‘We are very pleased to have been able to appoint a candidate of Nadine’s calibre, with her level of horticulture and wider food and fibre sector experience.  This was after an extensive recruitment process,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil. 

‘Nadine will lead HortNZ into new territory, as horticulture adapts to Covid and the operation of industry changes.  Over the next decade, climate adaption, freshwater quality improvements, and increased use of technology and automation will result in significant change to the way fruit and vegetables are grown in New Zealand. 

‘HortNZ’s role will be to help steer the industry through this change, advocating for growers to be given the time and support to adapt.  This is so our growers can remain viable during the transition, and do what they do best: feed New Zealand and the world healthy, good tasting and safe food. . . 

Rob Hewett appointed Silver Fern Farms co-op chair:

At the Co-operative’s Annual Meeting on 29 April, Richard Young announced that he was standing down as Co-operative Chair to facilitate transition to the next generation of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative leaders.

To bridge this transition period, the Co-operative Board has requested that Rob Hewett step back into the Co-operative Chair role that he relinquished two years ago, together with continuing in his role as Co-Chair of Silver Fern Farms Limited.

Mr Hewett said “Firstly I want to thank Richard for his significant contribution as Co-op Chair for the past two years. Over that time, he has led the development and establishment of a clear vision and purpose for the Co-operative, which ensures we continually work cohesively with our investment in Silver Fern Farms Limited, but also ensuring the voice of our farmer shareholders is heard. I also know he will continue to make a significant contribution for the balance of his current term. Over the next three years there will be significant managed transformation in our Board composition as several of our farmer elected directors come to the end of their maximum terms as allowed for in our Constitution – myself included. While the Constitution does allow for term extensions on a case by case basis for Directors who have reached their maximum term, it is the clear intention of the Co-operative board to manage succession proactively.” . . 


Rural round-up

01/05/2021

Canterbury irrigation scheme will hold farmers to account – Adam Burns:

Replacement consent for the Mayfield Hinds Valetta (MHV) irrigation scheme was granted after an independent commissioner released a decision last week.

The 10-year consent is subject to a series of conditions, including a 15 percent reduction in nitrogen losses by 2025 and 25 percent by 2030, auditing of farm environment plans, monitoring ground and surface water quality and remediation and response plans.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) can review the consent if improvements are unable to be achieved.

“This consent is granted on the basis that the significant adverse cumulative effects on the receiving environment will be reduced and there will be measurable environmental improvements within the consent term,” the hearing commissioner’s report states. . . 

Research into sheep farmers’ experiences – Annette Scott:

The call is out for New Zealand sheep farmers to help with a research project on the industry’s bioeconomic transition to sustainability.

Lincoln University Masters student Jemma Penelope is preparing to survey sheep farmers across all regions of NZ about their on-farm experiences and challenges as they strive for sustainability.

Penelope, currently undertaking her second Masters, is leading research projects that develop innovative solutions for the agri-food industry.

Having grown up and studied in Canterbury, Penelope then worked abroad in business management and conservation and environmental markets in several countries, including Australia, America and Canada, before realising a place for her back home. . . 

Sheep lead methane research – Richard Rennie:

A mob of low methane sheep are proving it is possible to produce less methane and grow a healthy, productive animal that farmers will want to put into their flock bloodlines in coming years.

For the past decade New Zealand scientists have largely flown below the radar with the work, but are enjoying world leading success in identifying high and low methane emitting sheep. 

The work means today researchers including AgResearch scientists, with the support of farmers through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium  have two flocks of sheep, one high and one low methane emitting, and have established a genomic profile over three breeding generations. 

These provide sheep breeders with useful and accurate data on what their animal’s “methane value” is, relative to its breeding value. . . 

Directors returned to Silver Fern Farms co-operative board:

Rob Hewett, Co-Chair of Silver Fern Farms Limited has been re-elected to the Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Limited’s Board of Directors. Gabrielle Thompson, who was a Board Appointed Director, has also been elected to the Co-operative Board by farmer shareholders.

The Board was delighted with the calibre and number of candidates that put themselves for election. Those that were unsuccessful were William Oliver, Simon Davies, Rob Kempthorne and Charles Douglas-Clifford. We thank them for their ongoing commitment to Silver Fern Farms.

The total weighted vote represents 50.59% of total shares, compared to the 62.68% turnout in the previous election in February 2018. . . 

 

Lawson’s Dry Hills wins at the 2021 Cawthorn- Marlborough Environment Awards:

Lawson’s Dry Hills was awarded winner of the wine industry category at the 2021 Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards, announced in Blenheim on Friday night.

In February, Lawson’s Dry Hills became a Toitu carbon zero certified organisation making the company the only New Zealand wine producer to be certified with both ISO14001 (Environmental Management) and ISO14064 (carbon zero).

The Awards judges praised Lawson’s Dry Hills for their commitment to reducing their environmental impact. Awards Coordinator and Judge, Bev Doole said, “These internationally recognised certifications reflect the culture at Lawson’s to improve and innovate across a wide range of areas, including recyclable and biodegradable packaging, generating solar power and storing water off the winery roof.” . . 

Central Otago’s oldest remaining stone packhouse on the market for sale:

The oldest standing stone packhouse in Central Otago, forming part of a sprawling lifestyle property, is on the market for sale.

Set in the heart of New Zealand’s original stone-fruit growing region, the 8.4-hectare property at 3196 Fruitlands-Roxburgh Road is offered for sale by Bayleys Cromwell for $1,560,000 plus GST (if any).

“The property, affectionately dubbed ‘Stonehouse Gardens’, offers a wonderful blend of home, income, lifestyle and priceless local history,” says Bayleys Cromwell salesperson Renee Anderson, who is marketing the property for sale with colleague Gary Kirk.

“Roxburgh and the Coal Creek area saw the start of stone-fruit cultivation during the 1860s gold rush, when the Tamblyn family first imported stone fruit trees from Australia,” Mr Kirk says. . . 

 


Rural round-up

03/01/2021

Biosecurity rules add up to $1200 a year to everyone’s shopping bill: Economist – Bonnie Flaws:

Kiwis pay twice as much for fresh chicken as consumers in the United Kingdom or United States would, and around three times as much as someone in Brazil – and it is probably due in part to this country’s biosecurity rules, one economist and supermarket expert says.

New Zealand’s strict biosecurity laws, which are particularly tough for poultry, add an estimated $600 to $1200 a year to the grocery bill of every person, Coriolis director Tim Morris said.

The UK was a good comparison for food prices, given its value added tax (VAT) of 20 per cent on food products, which is similar to GST.

A quick scan of UK supermarket websites show a large (1.9 kilogram) whole fresh chicken costs £3.90 (NZ$7.40) at Sainsbury’s and £3.75 at Aldi. US supermarket H.E.B sells the same for US$5.28 (NZ$7.50). . . 

Freshwater reforms and farmers: two sides of the same coin – Amber Allott:

Canterbury dairy farmer Chris Ford estimates he will have to get rid of around a hundred cows from his 980-strong herd.

But even worse, he fears he will have to make one of his farmworkers unemployed, driving them and their family out of their home.

All to meet the Government’s new freshwater reforms.

The national policy statement for freshwater management – designed to improve freshwater quality by controlling certain farm practices – came into force in September. . .

Lake goers told to keep it clean: ‘One poo can close the lake’ – Riley Kennedy:

Visitors to the Waitaki district are being told they risk losing access to the local lakes if they continue polluting the water.

The regional council Environment Canterbury, along side the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee, launched a campaign saying ‘one poo can close the lake’.

Committee chair Simon Cameron said it will be even more important that everyone does their bit to protect water quality this summer, as Covid-19 international travel restrictions are set to boost lake-side camping and tourism.

“We’ve heard that campgrounds are already fully-booked, so we know there will be a large number of people visiting and being active in and around our lakes. . .

NZ Veterans get a taste of farming at Taratahi :

Partnering with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), Universal College of Learning (UCOL) staff at Taratahi hosted New Zealand veterans on a week-long taster workshop.

Each day offered the veterans insights into what could be their next career option.

Simon Bailey, UCOL team leader – primary industires, says the group included veterans from the Navy, Army, and Air Force.

The veteran group started off at the training centre, where their first few days were filled with a range of farming activities – from milking cattle to fixing fences.

 

New trial’s charms come with caveat – Mark Price:

It has been years in the planning and millions of dollars in the making, but the cycle trail through the Cromwell Gorge is finally nearing completion.

Otago Daily Times chief photographer. Stephen Jaquiery and Wanaka reporter Mark Price took a look recently at what is shaping up to be New Zealand’s most spectacular cycle trail accessible to all.

Cyclists using the new Cromwell Gorge cycle trail will have to be careful not to get the wobbles.

They will be tempted to look up at the spectacular rock faces towering over the track – and risk a dip in Lake Dunstan. . .

United Nations using Aussie soil science to change the world – Jamieson Murphy:

The United Nations has cited the work of Australian scientists in an extensive report about the importance of healthy soils for agriculture and human civilization as a whole.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation compiled the findings of more than 300 researchers into a report, titled the State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity.

It found soil organisms play a crucial role in boosting food production, enhancing nutritious diets, preserving human health, remediating pollution and combating climate change. . .


That was then

07/12/2020

Cast your mind back a few years to when a National Minister sacked Environment Canterbury councilors and appointed a commissioner.

What was the response from the Opposition?

The Labour Party has complained to the United Nations over the continuing denial of democratic elections for Environment Canterbury (ECan) councillors.

“The National government took away the right of Canterbury people to elect councillors on ECan and in doing so denied them their democratic rights contrary to international agreements we are party to,” Labour MP for Port Hills Ruth Dyson says. . . 

Ms Dyson is no longer an MP which may be just as well because Labour is now now in government and look what is about to happen:

Nanaia Mahuta, the Minister of Local Government, has revealed she plans to appoint a Commission in response to governance problems at Tauranga City Council.

The deeply divided council has recently been slammed as being made up of “petty politicians” in “desperate need of progressive thinking”, by Tauranga’s outgoing mayor Tenby Powell. . . 

“I have been closely watching the conduct of the Council for a number of months. I have grown increasingly concerned at the governance issues, and the impact this has on Tauranga ratepayers and significant investment in the region,” she said. . . 

What’s the difference between National sacking ECan councillors and replacing them with a commissioner and Labour doing the same to Tauranga City Council?

That was then, this is now.

This isn’t the first time Labour has done what they criticised National for doing. Labour in opposition had a prolonged protest against the planned Trans Pacific partnership. In government they signed up to, albeit by a slightly different name.

There’s a lesson in this – Opposition MPs should be very careful in choosing which cars to bark at lest they find they catch them in government and have to do with them what they were so critical of their opponents doing when they were in the driver’s seat.


Rural round-up

11/07/2020

Farmers paying on land lost to erosion – Mike Houlahan:

Farmers whose properties are alongside the Waitaki River are irate they are being charged rates on land which has been washed away.

Waimate farmer Gert van’t Klooster lost 4ha of farmland when Meridian Energy spilled water from its hydro-electric storage on the Waitaki in December.

While Mr van’t Klooster could accept that Meridian was operating within its consent, he said he found it much harder to pay Environment Canterbury rates on land which was no longer part of his property.

“I have a bill now from ECan on land which isn’t there. It doesn’t generate any income, and there are mortgages to pay on that land, too,” he said. . .

Slight dip in 2019-20 milk collection – Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra’s milk collection last season was slightly down as North Island farmers faced a crippling drought.

However, the 2.1% dip in North Island milk was offset by the South Island where full season collection was up 2.1%.

The cooperative’s total milk production in 2019-20 reached 1,517 million kgMS, down 0.4% on the previous season.

Full season collection for the North Island was 874.6 million kgMS and for the South Island, 642.5 million kgMS. . .

Couple’s flexible approach paying off  – Yvonne O’Hara:

Waimumu sheep and beef farmers Jason and Debbie Smith have a “take it as it comes” approach to farming and it is paying off — despite their operation being affected by Covid-19.

The couple have a 747ha property and this year are fattening 23,000 store lambs as well as running 200 beef cattle under Smith Farming 2018 Ltd, a move made as part of their succession planning.

That is in addition to the 7000 lambs they bred themselves. . .

Agritech has a plan – Tony Benny:

The New Zealand agritech sector is pushing ahead with ambitious plans to grow its exports with $11.4 million Budget funding and despite covid-19 disruption.

Though the launch of the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan in April had to be delayed work has continued behind the scenes to realise the Government’s desire to take NZ farming technology to the world.

“We’ve been talking to the Government pretty much every week over the past three months about the plan,” Agritech NZ executive director Peter Wren-Hilton says. . .

Grain deal gets over the line – Annette Scott:

The arable sector’s biosecurity partnership has been signed.

Five key members have joined forces to form Seed and Grain Readiness and Response to work with the Government to protect the industry from new weed, pest and disease incursions. 

Federated Farmers, the Foundation for Arable Research, the Flour Millers Association, the Grain and Seed Trade Association and United Wheat Growers spent years discussing signing the Government-Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response. . . 

Lockdown reading lessons from New Zealand – John Elliot:

One positive of lockdown is that it has given us the most valuable currency of all which is time,” Katie Piper.

For me, a member of the ‘vulnerable age group’, Covid-19 hasn’t been all bad.

I’ve dusted off the dumb-bells, watched some fabulous programmes on Sky TV and caught up with my reading. Many of the books have been in my possession for years unread.

Some I have read several times. Two of the more interesting came from New Zealand. Their titles, ‘The Intuitive Farmer’ and ‘The Resilient Farmer’ hint at their contents. . .


Rural round-up

12/02/2020

New risks for dairy, meat products – Sally Rae:

The sun is setting on the “golden run” for New Zealand’s food exports.

While the global supply of dairy and meat products was expected to remain constrained, new global risks were now impacting demand, ANZ Research’s latest Agri Focus report said.

Lamb prices had dropped sharply in the past couple of months but were still at record levels for this time of the season.

A lift in slaughter numbers, weaker prices in certain markets and a slightly stronger New Zealand dollar were the main drivers in the reduction in farm-gate price, the report said. . . 

Dry conditions and fires making life hard for Rangitikei farmers :

Local farmers are struggling to re-home livestock with fires and dry conditions engulfing several hectares of land, Rangitikei’s mayor says.

A fire spanning around 80 hectares near Lake Alice was reported on Saturday, and contained today, but by Sunday evening fire-fighters wre still trying to put it out.

Two helicopters and nine fire trucks were at the scene today dampening hot spots and monitoring for any flare ups.

Fire and emergency says crews were able to contain the blaze faster thanks to help from the public. . . 

Flood-affected farmers urged to ask for help :

Authorities are concerned that some flood-affected farmers in Southland are not asking for help.

Emergency Management Southland (EMS) controller Bruce Halligan says this is despite a huge effort to talk to Southland farmers affected by last week’s flooding.

“We are concerned that some farmers who may have already been contacted, and said they were coping, will need help as they assess the damage to their properties and begin to realise the amount of work and resource required.”   . . 

Nelson’s prospects rise on new dam’s development – Tim Fulton:

Horticulture is set to grow in Nelson as the clock ticks down on a long-awaited dam in Lee Valley.

The Waimea Community Dam, due to be commissioned in February 2022, will release stored water from the headwaters of Lee River to the Waimea Plains. It’s set to be a boon for pipfruit, which already generates high returns from a scarce supply of flat land in the region.

Waimea Irrigators Ltd (WIL) chairman, Murray King, is one of just two dairy farmers in the planned irrigation zone.  . . 

Proposed Oceania pipeline draws irrigators’ ire – Daniel Birchfield:

A North Otago-based irrigators’ collective has slammed Oceania Dairy Ltd’s proposed pipeline project in a submission to Environment Canterbury against its construction.

Oceania Dairy, owned by Chinese dairy giant Yili group, lodged six consent applications with Environment Canterbury for the construction of a 7.5km pipeline that would allow it to discharge up to 10,000cum of treated wastewater into the sea per day.

Waitaki Irrigators Collective Ltd filed one of 117 submissions opposed to the project. Six submitters supported it, and three were neutral. . . 

Medigrowth NZ plan Central Otago medicinal cannabis business:

A Central Otago-based company is forging ahead with plans to develop a medicinal cannabis cultivation, research and manufacturing business in the heart of wine country.

Medigrowth New Zealand, based in Cromwell, plans to provide pure and safe New Zealand-grown cannabinoid medicines to a market that recent research shows is “crying out” for alternatives to existing pain medications.

Queenstown businessman Aaron Murphy has been joined by Medigrowth Australia directors Todd McClellan and Adam Guskich in the New Zealand venture. . . 


Rural round-up

22/11/2019

Jane Smith on what urban people really think about farmers:

Although the Government may be “factose intolerant” when it comes to farming, urban people are hungry for more information says Jane Smith.

The North Otago farmer told The Country’s Jamie Mackay that she had “some really robust conversations with urbanites” in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown recently.

“I’ve in effect sort of run my own referendum of what they really think about farmers and gosh, it’s been really insightful”. . .

Farmers fear significant losses – Toni Miller:

As farmers anxiously await the outcome of the Government’s Essential Freshwater plan, Ashburton farmer David Clark has outlined the significant losses it could have on his arable farm operation.

It includes crop income losses of 92%, sheep gross income losses of 62% and an expenditure decrease of 70%, affecting businesses, contractors and services in the district used by the farm.

He questioned how any government could suggest a plan that resulted in ”such economic vandalism”.

Mr Clark, attending a public meeting in Ashburton, organised by National Party opposition agricultural spokesman Todd Muller, said it was a comparative analysis based on a report done by Environment Canterbury’s head scientist Dr Tim Davie in 2017, using similar cutbacks for the Waihora Selwyn Zone. . .

Farmers fear loss of millions as slip repair wait continues – Aaron van Delden:

Waikura Valley farmers face missing out on millions in income during one of their most lucrative seasons of the year following a road slip three months ago.

Access to about 9000 hectares of some of the country’s most isolated productive land – about four hours’ drive north of Gisborne – was completely severed for several days when a slip came down on Waikura Road about 15km from the turnoff on State Highway 35.

The slip on 22 August left 36 valley residents from 13 households stranded in a part of the country that averages up to 3m of rain a year. . .

OAD milking brings environmental, financial benefits – Yvonne O’Hara:

Milking once a day year-round has both environmental and financial benefits, Dipton dairy farmer Jim Andrew says.

Mr Andrew and his wife Sandra bought and converted the Lumsden-Dipton highway property specifically for once-a-day milking full time, about 10 years ago.

He was born and bred on a Wairarapa sheep and beef farm before moving to Southland to become a rural manager for the Bank of New Zealand.

The Andrews then bought their own farm as part of a syndicate before buying the Dipton property. . .

Apple industry changes prompt some growers to get environmentally creative with plastic waste:

Significant growth and redevelopment in the apple industry has prompted some growers to get environmentally creative with the way they dispose of kilometres of plastic irrigation pipes.

New Zealand’s largest organic apple grower, Bostock New Zealand, pulled out 80 kilometres of irrigation pipes during winter and has teamed up with Aotearoa New Zealand Made to recycle it into black damp-proof film for the building Industry and black rubbish bags.

Bostock New Zealand Orchard waste coordinator Lisa Arnold said the initiative is a good way to give a new meaningful life to orchard waste. . .

Promising signs for drive for milling wheat self-sufficiency:

A big drop in the amount of unsold cereal grain since July, and continuing strong demand for milling wheat, are key features of the latest Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) survey.

It is estimated unsold stocks of cereal grain, summed over all six crops, reduced by 44% between 1 July and 10 October.  “That’s a good sign, even if deliveries hadn’t happened by the time of the October survey, that people have been meeting the market and getting product sold,” Federated Farmers Arable Vice-Chairperson Grains, Brian Leadley, said.

Total production from the 2019 harvest (wheat, barley and oats) was 799,900 tonnes, about 25,000t up on the 2018 harvest. . .


Rural round-up

07/02/2019

Drought bites crops in Tasman with little respite forecast for growers – Katy Jones:

Growers are battling to keep crops alive on the Waimea Plains as the drought continues to bite in Tasman district, with no sign of a significant break in the prolonged dry spell.

Irrigators this week saw the amount of water they were allowed to take from catchments on the plains cut by 50 per cent, as the Waimea River dropped to its lowest level for this time of year since the “Big Dry” in 2001.

High winds at the end of last month compounded growers’ woes, further drying out land already parched by a lack of rain and high temperatures. . . 

Court to decide official location of a riverbank – Eric Frykberg:

Where does the bed of a river end and adjacent farmland begin? That is not an easy question to answer, when dealing with braided rivers that often change course.

However, the Court of Appeal will now get the chance to decide the official location of a riverbank.

The problem began in 2017 when a farmer was prosecuted for doing earthworks in the bed of the Selwyn River, in mid Canterbury.

Although he pleaded guilty, the case gave rise to debate about how wide a braided river actually was.

The District Court sided with Environment Canterbury and ruled a river was as big as the area covered by the river’s waters at their fullest flow. . .

Ravensdown CEO agrees farmers have sometimes applied too much fertiliser – Gerard Hutching:

Fertiliser company Ravensdown says it is trying to persuade farmers to use less nitrogen and concedes that in the past too much has been applied “in some cases.”

However it has recently developed new products which result in less nitrogen being lost to the atmosphere or leaching into the soil where it ends up in waterways.

Greenpeace has demanded the Government ban chemical nitrogen because it claims it causes river pollution. It has created billboards accusing Ravensdown and its competitor Ballance Agri-Nutrients of polluting rivers. . . 

Group ignores fertiliser facts – Alan Emerson:

Driving out of Auckland I saw a huge billboard with the message: Ravensdown and Ballance pollute rivers.

How can that be, I thought, but then I noted the billboard was put there by Greenpeace and Greenpeace never lets the facts get in the way of its prejudices.

Starting at the top, the two fertiliser companies don’t pollute rivers, they sell fertilisers, so factually it is wrong.

According to my dictionary pollute means contaminate with poisonous or harmful substances or to make morally corrupt or to desecrate.

How, then, can Ravensdown and Ballance pollute? . . 

Change constant in 50-year career – Ken Muir:

When you have worked for more than 50 years in the rural sector, change is a constant and for Andrew Welsh, an agribusiness manager at Rabobank in Southland, this has included everything from the model of car he was supplied with to the way he communicates with co-workers and his clients.

Mr Welsh said farming was in his DNA.

”My great grandparents farmed in South Otago and Opotiki, and going further back than that our relatives had farmed in County Durham before coming out to Hawkes Bay.”

He started in the industry at the bottom, he said.

”When I started at Wright Stephenson’s in Gore in 1968 as an office junior, I was everybody’s general dogsbody.” . . 

 

Halter targets April launch date

Kiwi agritech start-up Halter expects to commercially launch its unique GPS-enabled cow collars in April.

“We have just finished setting up our production line in China and we have had our first collars off the line come back,” chief executive and founder Craig Piggott told the Young Farmers conference.

“We are targeting April as our commercial launch. It’s all happening very quickly.”

Auckland-based Halter has developed the collar, which allows cows to be guided around a farm using a smartphone app. . . 


Rural round-up

28/12/2018

Loss of agricultural training campuses ‘will leave massive hole’ – Piers Fuller:

Carrying $23 million in debt, Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre was forecast to continue hemorrhaging money.

The Wairarapa based organisation which has campuses all over New Zealand including Telford Farm Training Institute in South Otago, went into interim liquidation on Wednesday.

National Party agricultural spokesman Nathan Guy said the loss of Taratahi and Telford would leave a massive hole and he questioned why the Government couldn’t have done more to save it. . . 

Conservation order is rife with uncertainties – Rhea Dasent:

The Ngaruroro Water Conservation Order brings uncertainties that point to an untenable proposal, writes Federated Farmers Senior Policy Advisor Rhea Dasent.

Federated Farmers opposes the Ngaruroro Water Conservation Order because of the uncertainty it brings.

The order is uncertain in three ways: it dumps limits on the community with an accompanying regime to be worked out by someone else later; inconsistent units; and inconsistent timeframes. . . 

People are the cherry on top – Neal Wallace:

It soon became obvious the interview with Harry and Joan Roberts was near the pointy end of the stone fruit season.

The long-time Central Otago fruit growers were amicable and generous with their time to accommodate an early December interview but the season was obviously ramping up, evident by the succession of staff requiring a piece of their time with inquiries.

They were diverse requests: questions about labelling details for the first pick of new season cherries, confirmation of exactly which block of fruit tree needed spraying and there was a constant stream of young people, many foreign backpackers, looking for work. . .

Environment Canterbury happy to make changes to farm-management system– Paul Gorman:

Environment Canterbury (ECan) says it already knows about the pitfalls of Overseer, following a critical report on the farm-management system by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton.

It says it is prepared to make any changes that may be recommended as a result.

In his report earlier this month, Upton said the Overseer model needed to be more transparent if the public were to trust in it as a way of regulating pollution from farms. . . 

Breeder says goats need scale – Alan Williams:

Owen Booth has trophies and ribbons highlighting the quality of his Boer goat herd but says there’s one major drawback for the industry.

There’s just not enough of the breed in New Zealand to provide the scale to ensure good earnings for farmers producing them for their meat.

It’s hard to build markets and get dedicated processing space at meat plants, he says.

Of the 130,000 or so goats killed in NZ each year only 5% to 10% are Boer goats, a specialist meat breed introduced here from South Africa. . . 

US farmers fear lucrative Japanese exports will wither – Jacob M. Schlesinger:

After seeing exports to China tumble, U.S. farmers and ranchers are now bracing for more losses in their next-biggest Asian market: Japan.

On Dec. 30, Tokyo will begin cutting tariffs and easing quotas on products sold by some of American agriculture’s biggest competitors—including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Chile—as part of the new 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. . .


Rural round-up

04/12/2018

Superstar spotlights dairy efforts – Luke Chivers:

DairyNZ Environmental Leaders Forum chairwoman Tracy Brown has won a Sustainable Business Network award. She spoke to Luke Chivers about some of the challenges facing the rural sector.

Waikato dairy farmer Tracy Brown has been named a dairy sustainability champion for inspiring farmers to change on-farm practices, protect waterways, enhance biodiversity and lower their environmental footprints.

She was rewarded for her efforts by winning the Sustainability Superstar category at the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards.

The award marks a momentous occasion for New Zealand’s primary industries, Brown says. . . 

Town folks love a good farm story – Pam Tipa:

‘A good story’ was a key motivator for fourth-generation Helensville farmers Scott and Sue Narbey to open their farm to the public.

The couple opened their farm as part of Fonterra’s Open Gates 2018 day.

“We entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and when we started writing down all the good things we were doing we thought we were doing a pretty good job,” Scott told Dairy News.

“And we were sick of hearing all the bad things and how people perceive dairy farms. . . 

A hand up or corporate welfare? – Andrea Fox:

Westland Milk Products, approved for a taxpayer-funded Provincial Growth Fund loan branded “corporate welfare” by some critics, says it would have been happy for the commercial terms to be disclosed but Government officials ruled them confidential.

The Westland dairy exporter, which in its 2018 annual report discussing a capital restructure said it had “relatively high debt and limited financial flexibility”, is to get a $9.9 million interest-bearing, repayable loan towards a $22 million manufacturing plant project to produce higher-value goods.

The annual report noted Westland’s cash flow for the year was below expectations, its milk payout to farmers was not competitive and “obtaining new capital would make a significant difference to the co-operative”. . . 

People need to be told ‘what wool is about’ – Sally Rae:

Education is the key to lifting the state of the wool industry, industry leader Craig Smith says.

Mr Smith, general manager for Devold Wool Direct, is a member of the Wool Working Group, which has been working on how to create a more sustainable and profitable sector.

Made up of 20 wool producers, processors and other industry representatives, it has been charged with developing a pan-sector action plan.

Earlier this year, Mr Smith was  the first New Zealander to be appointed to the global executive committee of the International Wool Textile Organisation, and he is also heavily involved with Campaign for Wool. . . 

Hill country’s development risks and opportunities:

Sheep and beef farmers are increasingly finishing stock on hill country forage crops and pastures, with a resultant drop in erosion risk.

But some farmers had difficulty assessing the potential environmental impact and the financial return of hill country development, due to the unpredictability of sediment loss and the costs.

This was discovered by studies done as part of the Sustainable Hill Farming Tool project (SHiFT), says Paul Hulse, of Environment Canterbury (ECan).

The SHiFT project is to tell landowners the best ways to address these concerns, says Hulse . .

Smartphone cattle weighing technology set to expand – Lucy Kinbacher:

A HUNGARIAN developed smartphone accessory is helping producers weigh their cattle without the use of any scales or yard infrastructure. 

Known as Beefie, the new technology allows producers to calculate their cattle weights in less than half a minute by attaching an external device to an Android 5.1+ smartphone and capturing a range of photographs.

Livestock are analysed from two to six metres away, even whilst in motion or partially obscured, with more than 5000 tests on animals producing a 95 per cent accuracy rate.  . . 

 


Rural round-up

29/10/2018

Threat from wilding pines highlighted by Biosecurity NZ images – Hamish MacLean:

Images provided by Biosecurity New Zealand show the threat wilding pines present to New Zealand landscapes.

The images show the unchecked spread of pines at Mid Dome, Upper Tomogalak catchment, in Southland from 1998 to 2015.

On Thursday, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor told the New Zealand Wilding Conifer Group annual conference at Omarama the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme would now target 150,000ha in Canterbury, Otago, Southland, Marlborough and the Central North Island. . . 

Rural people need to start interacting again – April Mainland:

Rural New Zealand can get pretty isolated.

The land farmers work can get pretty intense – I mean who really enjoys sowing a hillside in gale force wind, or rescuing sheep from precarious positions in the pouring rain while avoiding certain tumbles with just one misjudged step?

It can all get a bit much – so to blow off steam and to help bring segments of the rural community together, I helped organise an outing with my team in a neighbouring province – this is something I’d like to see us roll out here in the Wairarapa. . . 

Award for Northland farmer project – Pam Tipa:

A Northland farmer-led extension programme which will eventually involve 245 dairy farmers across Northland has won a national award for economic development.

Extension 350 this month won an Economic Development NZ (EDNZ) Award for Sustainable Development.

The awards celebrate best practice in economic development activity throughout New Zealand. The Extension 350 project aims to lift profitability, environmental sustainability and wellbeing on Northland farms. . .

Training helps identify stressed farmers :

An Environment Canterbury advisor who trained to be a Good Yarn facilitator is now better able to help a farmer who is stressed or mentally ill.

She did the training in June in Wellington.

Sarah Heddell, an ECan land management and biodiversity advisor — and a sheep and beef farmer — says the Good Yarn farmer wellness workshops are aimed chiefly at the rural community and those who interact with them. .. 

It was a day for the dogs at the Hunterville Huntaway Festival – Carly Thomas:

It seemed like every man and his dog were at the Hunterville Huntaway Festival and this year the event carried a message of unity for farmers who might be struggling through tough times.

The iconic shepherds’ shemozzle in the Rangitīkei District ran for the 21st time and, as usual, proved a gruelling challenge, with high hills and gruesome obstacles for shepherds and their huntaway dogs.

Feilding’s Angus McKelvie was the first man in. It was the third time he has won the race with his dog Red and he said this year had been a tough one. “I’m pretty buggered, to be honest.” . . 

Grass-fed dairy cows produce milk with superior nutritional properties – new research – Claire Fox:

Grass-fed dairy cows produce ‘superior’ milk and dairy products, according to new research by Teagasc.

It’s estimated that only 10pc of global milk production originates from grazing based systems and Teagasc research has found that milk and dairy products produced from grass-fed cows have significantly greater concentrations of fat, protein, and other beneficial nutrients and are superior in appearance and flavour to milk products derived from cows fed indoors on a total mixed ration diet.

This research supports previous findings, he told the Teagasc organised ‘Grass-Fed Dairy Conference’ in Naas. . . 

Attempt to lure more women to the delights of catching trout – Nicholas Boyack:

Kathryn Vinten is on a one-woman mission to get more females trout fishing.

Like shooting deer or rabbits, angling is a Kiwi tradition but it one mostly enjoyed by men. 

The Petone resident recently began fishing the Hutt River for brown trout and was struck by how few women there were on the river. . . 

 


Rural round-up

15/08/2018

Appeal decision a win for irrigators but more work needs to be done:

An appeal to Environment Canterbury’s Plan Change 5 nutrient modelling rules has been resolved with a major win achieved for irrigators, says IrrigationNZ.

A Hearings Panel on the Plan Change proposed a new requirement that would have effectively required that all older spray irrigation systems in Canterbury be replaced with new ones by 2020. It was estimated that this change would cost irrigators $300 million.

All parties to the appeal agreed that an error in law had been made when the Hearing Panel introduced this as a new requirement because no submitter had asked for this change.

INZ carried out testing on 300 irrigation systems in Ashburton and Selwyn districts over two summers recently which found that older spray irrigation systems can achieve good levels of water efficiency if regular checking and maintenance is carried out

First M bovis case confirmed near Motueka in Tasman – Sara Meij:

The first case of M. Bovis has been confirmed in the Nelson region.

Biosecurity New Zealand said on Tuesday a property near Motueka, in the Tasman district, had tested positive for the bacterial cattle disease.

Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) said the affected property was a mixed sheep and beef farm.

The farm was identified through tracing animals from known infected farms and it was now under a Restricted Place Notice, which meant it was in “quarantine lockdown”, restricting the movement of animals and other “risk goods” on and off the farm. . .

At the grassroots: farmers contribute too – John Barrow:

I recently returned a little disappointed from the Local Government New Zealand conference in Christchurch.

From a dairy farmer’s perspective I was disappointed at the lack of recognition of the cost of farming and issues we are facing – all the emphasis was on urban.

The conference theme was We are Firmly Focused on the Future: Future Proofing for a Prosperous and Vibrant NZ. . .

Draft report on review of Fonterra’s 2017/18 base milk price calculation:

The Commerce Commission has today released its draft report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2017/18 dairy season.

The base milk price is the average price that Fonterra pays farmers for raw milk, which was set at $6.75 per kilogram of milk solids for the season just ended.

The report does not cover the forecast 2018/19 price of $7.00 that Fonterra announced in July.

The Commission is required to review Fonterra’s calculation at the end of each dairy season under the milk price monitoring regime in the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA). . .

Four does go into one – Sonita Chandar:

Teamwork is the secret to success for the Southland farm judged the best dairy business in the land. Sonita Chandar reports.

Despite three of the four partners living in the North Island the success of a Southland farming business can be attributed to exceptional teamwork and good clear lines of communication.

Each partner brings strengths to the table but no one is above the others. They are all equals, make decisions as a group and share in the spoils of their collective success.

MOBH Farm, an equity partnership made up of Kevin Hall, Tim Montgomerie, Jodie Heaps and Mark Turnwald, won two category awards as well as being named the supreme winner at the 2018 Dairy Business of the Year awards (DBOY). . .

Farmers rally around Cancer Society fundraiser at Feilding Hogget Fair – Paul Mitchell:

The rural community is banding together to get behind the Cancer Society, with personal connections running as deep as their pockets.

The annual Hogget Fair at the Feilding Stockyards on Wednesday is one of the biggest in New Zealand. For the second year running, farmers will donate sheep to help those who are doing it tough.

The money raised from selling the sheep will go directly to supporting Manawatū-Whanganui cancer patients. . .

Rare heifer triplets thriving on Taieri farm – Sally Rae:

Holy cow – it’s a girl. Or in the case of a heifer calving on a Taieri dairy farm last week, it was a gaggle of girls, handful of heifers.

The first-calver produced a very rare set of heifer triplets on the Miller family’s farm at Maungatua. Andrew Miller and his father Jim had never encountered triplet calves before.

Andrew was particularly amazed the Kiwi-cross calves had all survived and were now doing well in the calf shed. . .

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Rural round-up

04/05/2018

Irrigation not an environmental irritation – Jacqueline Rowarth:

 Irrigation can reduce soil erosion.

Of course, the irrigation has to be carefully managed and precision technologies are part of the management. However, there is no doubt that overcoming any drought period during warm temperatures allows increased pasture growth, which is associated with maintenance or an increase in organic matter, which in turn decreases the likelihood of erosion. 

Any increased income resulting from the harvesting of extra pasture or crop can be invested in more environmentally sound technologies. . .

Government-owned farmed tests positive for Mycoplasma bovis – Gerald Piddock:

Landcorp’s Rangesdale Station has been confirmed as testing positive for Mycoplasma bovis.

The sheep and beef property near Pahiatua in North Wairarapa was confirmed as having the cattle disease by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Landcorp (Pamu) spokesman Simon King confirmed the farm had tested positive for the disease and was working with MPI and local veterinary services and were currently culling the impacted herd.

“We had been in touch with neighbouring properties to advise them of the potential that the farm was infected last week, and we held a community meeting on Wednesday to update our neighbours on the situation and the actions Pāmu (Landcorp) is taking. . .

Gathering data on hill country potential, risks – Mark Adams:

Federated Farmers is backing a research project now underway to better understand hill country development practices.  

The end goal is to create a decision tool to aid farmers as they weigh up the benefits, costs and environmental risks of development of their hill country blocks.

Farmers from Canterbury and Manawatu have already shared their experiences on this topic during anonymous interviews conducted by research company UMR.  The next stage of the project, commissioned by Environment Canterbury and supported by Beef & Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers (South Canterbury), involves detailed telephone surveys of 150 farmers in the two provinces. . .

No significant drop in rabbits seen yet – Hamish MacLean:

Counts to establish whether the new strain of rabbit calicivirus has taken hold will begin next week, but Otago landowners expecting to see dramatic drops in rabbit numbers could be in for a wait.

When the impending release of 100 doses of a Korean strain of rabbit calicivirus was announced in March, the Otago Regional Council said the pest population could be cut by up to 40%.

Now farmers are saying they have seen no evidence of the impact of the virus.

Council environmental monitoring and operations director Scott MacLean said post-virus release night counts would begin next week but a potential 40% decrease in numbers of the pest would take time. . .

Eighty per cent of farmers aren’t employing technology to be productive in the 21st century – Pat Deavoll:

A red meat industry group discovered in 2011 that high performing sheep farmers earned more than twice as much for their red meat per hectare of land than lower performing ones,

Furthermore, they produced more than double the amount of lamb per hectare. Why? For many reasons, the group concluded.

Farmers in the lower echelons of productivity were notoriously poor at embracing technology. They also failed to integrate with management systems, failed to connect with their banks, processors and advisors, did not employ measurement and benchmarking strategies, and were terrible at budgeting. An estimated five per cent of sheep and beef farmers used an adequate budget, but 65 per cent didn’t bother with a budget at all. . . .

Agricultural sustainability in a water-challenged year – Roberto A. Peiretti:

I strive for excellence on my farm in Argentina—but this year, I’m delighted to be average.

As we bring in our corn and soybeans this month—remember, our seasons are reversed here in the southern hemisphere—we have no right to expect much of a harvest. This cropping season, our rainfall was far below regular levels. Our plants didn’t receive as much water as they need to flourish as well as they can.

Rather than suffering a catastrophe, however, we’re doing just fine: We’ll enjoy an ordinary harvest.

That’s because right now, our soil never has been healthier. We owe it all to a vision of sustainable farming that is astonishing in its simplicity even as it depends on agriculture’s latest technologies. . . .

 

It’s not #sauvblanc day without #nzwine:

On Friday 4 May New Zealand Winegrowers is ready to celebrate what is shaping up to be most successful International Sauvignon Blanc day yet, with an online digital campaign reaching over 50 million impressions via the hashtags #nzwine and #sauvblanc.

“This is on track to be the biggest social media campaign NZ wine has ever been involved in and it is fitting that it is around Sauvignon Blanc Day – New Zealand’s most exported wine varietal,” says Chris Yorke, Global Marketing Director at New Zealand Winegrowers. . . 


That was then . . .

18/04/2018

Remember how hard Labour and the Green Party campaigned against the then-National Government’s appointing commissioners to Environment Canterbury?

That was then, this is now:

National Party spokesperson for Greater Christchurch Regeneration has welcomed the decision by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to follow the previous National Governments’ approach to keep the current Environment Canterbury (ECan) board.

“Nanaia Mahuta is making a sensible decision to keep the current ECan Board and returning to a full democracy at the 2019 local body election, as the previous National Government had planned,” Ms Wagner says.

“Labour made plenty of noise about the lack of full democracy in Canterbury whilst in Opposition. Both present Ministers Eugenie Sage and Megan Woods led an aggressive campaign to have full elections immediately.

“Yet again, now that Labour is in Government it has abandoned its policy and is continuing with the plan started by National.

“Our long-term approach whilst in Government was designed to improve the standards at ECan. In 2009, the previous Government appointed commissioners to ECan following repeated poor performance by the council in achieving their regulatory requirements.

“Thanks to the hard work of the commissioners and the strong, sensible leadership of Dame Margaret Bazley and David Bedford, Canterbury now has one of the best performing regional councils in New Zealand.

“This has always been about making good decisions for Canterbury. The commissioners were put in to complete the water management plan for Canterbury which had languished under the leadership of the previous council.

“Nanaia Mahuta’s decision shows that the long-term plan started in 2009 has been effective. Half of the members on ECan were elected in 2016 and the plan had long been for the full council to be elected in 2019.”

ECan wasn’t working with elected councillors.

Commissioners have improved performance. Half the board are now elected members and as National planned, all members will be elected at the next local body elections next year.


Rural round-up

12/04/2018

Van Leeuwen owner awaits M.bovis compo, says MPI like a ‘slow machine’ –  Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Aad Van Leeuwen is still waiting for compensation from the Ministry for Primary Industries more than nine months after he reported the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis in his South Canterbury herds.

“There was an advance made a couple of months ago covering barely 20 percent of all the stock but the remaining more than 80 percent has not arrived yet and there are continuous questions coming (from MPI) that have all been answered,” the owner of Van Leeuwen Dairy Group told BusinessDesk. Compensation for the stock alone is around $3 million and doesn’t include anything else such as milk loss, he said. . . 

Farmer research highlights hill country risks and opportunities :

Farmers from Canterbury and Manawatu have shared their stories on their hill country development experiences with research company UMR through an anonymous survey, as part of a research project commissioned by Environment Canterbury, and supported by Beef & Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers (South Canterbury).

The in-depth interviews were undertaken to understand current hill country development practices, as Environment Canterbury considers approaches to help farmers determine whether and how to develop their hill country pastures.

Some sheep and beef farmers are improving hill country productivity by planting older hill country pastures with higher producing pasture species. This commonly involves one or more years in winter feed, and creates an increased risk of sediment losses during this period. . .

Gibbs family meet environmental challenges of coastal property – Esther Taunton:

Farming on the South Taranaki coast has its environmental challenges but the Gibbs family tackle them head on.

The regional winners of the 2018 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, Grant, Dinny and Leedom Gibbs of the Gibbs G Trust milk 435 cows on a 122-hectare farm five kilometres south of Manaia.

Steep cliffs form the southern boundary of the property, which is exposed to wind and “devastating” salt spray. . .

Government should commit to rural communities:

National is urging the Government to support the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) with ongoing funding, National Party associate spokesperson for Health Dr Shane Reti and National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King say.

“National recognises that rural communities in New Zealand have different needs and face special challenges, especially when it comes to accessing health services,” Dr Reti says.

“We support the RHAANZ’s request for ongoing operating funding outside their existing contracts to ensure that rural communities have access to the services that they need. . . 

NZ ahead of UK sheep genetics – Colin Ley:

New Zealand’s sheep genetics are way ahead of those in Britain, Scotland-based NZ agribusiness consultant Tim Byrne says.

As a senior consultant with Dunedin’s AbacusBio Byrne opened the company’s first European office in June last year to more effectively service British and European Union clients while also seeking to access new areas of agri-tech development in Europe.

While fully convinced that NZ sheep farmers hold a clear genetics advantage over their British counterparts he’s not so sure Kiwi producers are striking a sufficiently strong profile on environmental management issues. . . 

What does added value mean?:

Outsiders commentating on the New Zealand meat industry often confidently pronounce the sector needs to ‘add value’ to the products, but what exactly is added-value, who are you adding value for and who is getting the value? It depends who you talk to.

Meat is a nutritious, and most would say essential, base ingredient in a modern healthy diet – to be eaten in moderation – for end-users around the world.

To get maximum prices, the base material – the meat – needs to be consistently tender, juicy, sized and available all year round. Meeting those demands – producing healthy animals on pasture to precise specification – adds value for a red meat farmer, who earns more money for a premium product.

The consumer might say added-value is something that helps daily life, so increasing the speed of preparation, recipe choice, and portion control might all feature in the added-value mix they will pay more for. . . 


Rural round-up

27/03/2018

MPI cattle cull “the right thing” – Jono Edwards:

The  farming industry is viewing a Mycoplasma bovis cull of more than 22,000 cattle as a tragic necessity.

The Ministry for Primary Industries announced yesterday it would begin a cull of 22,332 cattle today on all infected sites after scientific testing and tracing confirmed the disease was not endemic.

It was working immediately with farmers to kill the stock on the 22 active infected properties which still contained cattle, it said.

The disease can cause pneumonia, abortions, lameness and mastitis and can result in the deaths of infected cows. . . 

Sheep goes for $8k at first NZ auction of Beltex ram lambs – Maja Burry:

About 300 people attended the first ever sale of Beltex ram lambs in New Zealand on Friday.

The Beltex, whose name combines Belgium and Texel, are a breed of muscle heavy sheep that have higher meat yield.

Beltex breeder Blair Gallagher said the interest around the inaugural sale, which was held at his mid-Canterbury farm was very positive.

On offer was 16 purebred Beltexes, 20 Beltex-Poll Dorsets, 18 Beltex-Suffolks and 10 Beltex Perendales. . .

Farmers given food for thought – Sally Rae:

Hakataramea Valley farmers have been given some food for thought with the suggestion they could market their products directly to consumers.

The idea was raised by Prof Keith Woodford during a field day at Waikora Station last week organised by the Hakataramea Sustainability Collective.

The collective, set up in 2016, comprises a group of farmers whose aim is to assist and encourage the protection and enhancement of the valley’s environment and promote profitable and sustainable farming practices for future generations. It has been working closely with the New Zealand Landcare Trust, Environment Canterbury, the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, local iwi and the Waimate District Council to ensure a collaborative and cohesive approach. . . 

Thermal imaging reveal Tekapo pests predator – Kathy Guthrie:

When Sam Staley went to the Defence Force’s Tekapo Military Training Area back in 1996 to run the Military Camp and Training Area for a three year stint, one of the tasks at the time was pest control. Today, 22 years later, he’s still there, and so are some of the rabbits, but after two decades of the comprehensive rabbit control operation which Sam initiated, the rabbits are nothing like the problem they used to be on the 19,000 hectare military site.

“The training area is unique,” Sam says. “It’s a very special bit of dirt! It’s probably the most intensively managed, non-grazed piece of high country land in Canterbury. It includes unique and nationally threatened plants and native fauna like alpine weta, rare butterflies and moths and many endangered vertebrates such as the Mackenzie Basin skink.” . . 

Robots are trying to pick strawberries. So far they’re not very good at it – Dan Charles:

Robots have taken over many of America’s factories. They can explore the depths of the ocean, and other planets. They can play ping-pong.

But can they pick a strawberry?

“You kind of learn, when you get into this — it’s really hard to match what humans can do,” says Bob Pitzer, an expert on robots and co-founder of a company called Harvest CROO Robotics. (CROO is an acronym. It stands for Computerized Robotic Optimized Obtainer.)

Any 4-year old can pick a strawberry, but machines, for all their artificial intelligence, can’t seem to figure it out. Pitzer says the hardest thing for them is just finding the fruit. The berries hide behind leaves in unpredictable places. . . 

Dairy farmers plea for help after Dean Foods ends milk contracts –  Sarah Gisriel:

Sixteen percent of the nation’s dairy farms are in Pennsylvania, but that industry is in crisis.

Two weeks ago, life changed for 26 farmers in Lebanon and Lancaster counties.

“I went to the mail, and in it was a certified letter from Dean Foods,” said Alisha Risser, the owner and operator of an 80-cow farm.

The letter told farmers that Dean Foods was ending its contract by June 1, due to a market surplus of milk.

“It’s the most difficult thing we’ve ever had to do in our lifetimes. To get that notice, and your world is absolutely rocked,” said Kirby Horst, of Lynncrest Holsteins. . . 


Birds and people pooh too

20/11/2017

Water quality in Canterbury rivers is improving:

Recreational water quality sampling has found that, of the 52 monitored freshwater swimming sites, 12 have improved a grade, and four declined.

During swimming season (November to March), Environment Canterbury assesses the health risks from faecal contamination at popular swimming sites around the region.

“We test and grade popular places that people swim in Canterbury.  This year 12 sites have improved.  The year before, 10 sites improved and the year before that only five improved, so the trend is going in the right direction,” said Tim Davie, Chief Scientist.

“The improvement demonstrates the hard work of landowners to exclude stock and protect waterways by planting and fencing.  Reduced runoff from two dry summers has helped as well.” . . 

It’s good to see farmers getting credit for the work they’ve done to protect waterways.

Too often farm animals get all the blam but birds and people pooh too and now the blame for some of the problems is correctly being laid on birds:

. . . Hurunui District Mayor Winton Dalley said large numbers of birds near the Hurunui river were likely to be a major contributor to faecal contamination at the popular swimming spot by State Highway 7, which is the main route to Hamner Springs.

“There is no logic that it is farm related, but we do know there is considerable bird life in the river just upstream of the site,” he said.

But Mr Dalley said he was unsure what could be done to move them on.

“I don’t know what is feasible in terms of whether they can be moved to somewhere else…we will have to talk to bird experts, but we will first have to determine that is the cause,” he said.

Mr Davie said the regional council was continuing testing at the Hurunui site, but it did blame birds for the faecal contamination at Lake Hood’s main swimming beach.

“It’s fundamentally to do with birds and the lake circulation…there was a raft there and the birds sat on it…we had a lot of faecal contamination there,” said Mr Davie.

This isn’t the only place water pollution is caused by birds.

Water pollution isn’t the only problem birds cause.

Growing numbers of native birds is cause for celebration, but the news isn’t all good:

. . . they also warn of a downside if a rampant bird population comes to depend on agricultural crops for food because its natural habitat is too small.

Hawke’s Bay farmer and former president of Federated Farmers, Bruce Wills, has raised the problem.

Mr Wills is a green farmer, and chair of the environmental consultancy Motu.

He also helps eliminate predators on his farm as part of a local wildlife programme, Cape to City, of which he is on the board.

However, Mr Wills said bird restoration might one day be too successful.

“There’s no question, bird numbers have gone through the roof.

“I have never seen the sort of bird numbers that I am seeing now, and most of that is due to the success with predator eradication.”

Mr Wills said large numbers of birds could spread seeds to widespread locations, and there was another problem.

The Hawke’s Bay grows 70 percent of New Zealand’s apples and pears, he said.

“We are bringing the kākā and the kākāriki in from Cape Kidnappers and of course these two birds enjoy eating our apples and pears.

“I have had phone calls of concern from apple and pear growers saying this is great but potentially will have an adverse effect on a quickly growing Hawke’s Bay apple and pear industry.”

Mr Wills said he had no intention of abandoning his support of native birds, but said potential overpopulation was an issue that needed to be faced.

Alan Pollard, of New Zealand Apples and Pears, formerly Pipfruit New Zealand, agreed with him.

“There is certainly a risk because obviously apples are a crop that birds are attracted to, so we need to make sure we achieve good population growth but also protect the growing areas that we have.”

Bird life in New Zealand evolved over millions of years to step in with the bush cover that existed before human settlement.

When that bush cover declined, so did the bird population.

But intensive breeding and predator eradication means the bird population could grow faster than the bush that supports it. This could push the population out of synch with modern New Zealand ecology – which has masses of farmland. . . 

Back to water quality, 16 Auckland beaches are unswimmable and human waste is a big part of the problem:

Ecomatters Environment Trust’s Dan Ducker said this was unacceptable. 

The environmentalist said he’d seen day-trippers defecating at such lagoons.

“This happens especially in summer time when the public facilities are quite full, or at times are closed.”

“It’s complicated, but the major health risks to humans comes from humans.”

The lagoons at Piha and Bethells have been contaminated by faeces for years, he said.

Recent Auckland Council reports showed faulty septic tanks were part of the problem. Dog, birds, and livestock faeces have been found in the lagoons.

Waiheke Island’s Little Oneroa has had similar faeces issues.

But Ducker said human faeces at Piha, Karekare and Bethells lagoons “was the most dangerous aspect for humans”. . . 

Farmers, quite rightly, are no longer getting away with the practices which pollute waterways but councils continue to allow leeway for pollution for people and themselves.

Water contamination from people is common in developing countries. It shouldn’t be a problem in New Zealand and wouldn’t be if councils put the effort, and money, into better storm water and sewerage infrastructure.

 

 

 


Rural round-up

07/11/2017

Crown cash vital to lagoon plan – Tim Fulton:

The Labour-led Government might need to keep backing Crown funding for irrigation to inject life into a vulnerable South Canterbury lagoon.

South Canterbury’s Hunter Downs irrigation scheme was in final-stage talks with farmers and Crown Irrigation Investments for funding linked to a rescue bid for Wainono Lagoon, near Waimate.

Environment Canterbury said using the Waitaki River to add clean, low-nutrient water to the lagoon was a key feature of the proposed 12,000ha Hunter Downs scheme.

ECan classed the coastal lake near Waimate as a nutrient red zone. . . 

Basic farming brings rewards – Annette Scott:

Nick France admits to being pretty stingy in his sheep and beef breeding operation as he sticks with old-fashioned philosophy of attention to detail at key times.

He told farmers at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand farming for profit day he runs his beef operation as cheaply as possible, aligning practice with the philosophy of having bulls that perform well under commercial conditions and produce well-grown, profitable offspring.

“What we do here is cheap and commercial. The cows are a tool. We use them for growing and managing pasture for our commercial sheep operation and selecting bulls for the stud,” France said. . . 

New SIL values thereby hangs a tail – Sally Rae:

A sheep breed developed in West Otago has become the first in the world to have breeding values calculated for tail length and bare skin on the tail.

Allan Richardson, from Avalon Genetics, has been breeding and recording low-input sheep that do not require docking since 2009.

He believes the new SIL (Sheep Improvement Ltd) breeding values will give commercial farmers new opportunities to reduce their cost of production, improve animal welfare and open new markets for their lamb. . . 

Farmlands directors elected – Sally Rae:

Former long-standing Alliance Group director Murray Donald has been elected to the Farmlands board.

Mr Donald, who farms at Winton, is a chartered fellow of the Institute of Directors, councillor and member of the audit and risk committee for the Southern Institute of Technology and a trustee and chairman of the audit and risk committee for the Agri-Women’s Development Trust.

Nine candidates contested the three  vacancies this year and Nikki Davies-Colley, from Northland, was  re-elected. . . 

Wobbly times ahead for wool industry – Andrew McRae:

New Zealand could face a shortage of shearers because they’re not being trained, an industry organisation says.

Wool Research Organisation chair Derrick Millton said young people were not as attracted to shearing as a career as they once were. He said there was no specific training organisation to promote shearing and woolhandling.

“The age of the shearers for a start off, they’re getting older and no new ones coming in… There are a lot of other jobs today that are more appealing than shearing. . . 

Connecting children with dairy:

DairyNZ’s education programme is now used in more than one third of primary schools and one quarter of secondary schools around New Zealand.

Thanks to farmer volunteers, 4500 children (plus teachers and parents) visited a dairy farm in the past year and more than 21,000 children have visited a farm since the Find a Farmer programme launched six years ago.

Science in schools

DairyNZ’s hands-on science kits have helped teachers bring learning alive in the classroom, and explore science through the context of dairying.

Each science kit is distributed to 200 teachers who have signed up for the resource, reaching about 6000 children. The kits provide all the tools a class needs to complete a science experiment, investigating a learning outcome within the context of dairy. The schools share their work on ourfarmvisit.co.nz. . . 


Rural round-up

25/09/2017

Demonstration dairy farm cuts nitrate leaching 30% and stays profitable – Tony Benny:

Lincoln University Dairy Farm is close to achieving a 30 per cent reduction in nitrate leaching, while maintaining its profitability. The farm’s managers tell Tony Benny how it was done.

​Like other farms in the Selwyn Waihora zone, one of 10 catchment zones under Environment Canterbury’s water management strategy, Lincoln University’s dairy farm faces new environmental limits, including reducing nitrate leaching 30 per cent by 2022.

By adopting the findings of small-scale research on a nearby farmlet, the farm has all but achieved that well before the deadline and is at the same time nearly matching the financial performance of high-profit farms against which it is benchmarked. . .

Alliance buyout targets Asia – Alan Williams:

Buying its southeast Asian marketing agent is part of a 10 to 15-year strategy to increase sales and the range of meat cuts into the region, Alliance chairman Murray Taggart says.

Goldkiwi Asia has represented the southern farmer-co-operative for more than 25 years, helping to build up customer bases in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and in Singapore where it is based.

The arrangement had worked very well but there was “no substitute for ownership and control” of the business, Taggart said. . .

Price direction depends on weather – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy prices remained steady in the latest Global Dairy Auction, adding to speculation that continued wet weather in New Zealand might give the market a lift.

Already it was possible that NZ seasonal supply might increase 1.5% rather than the 3% predicted earlier.

The direction of international market prices would depend very much on weather conditions over the next month in NZ, the world’s largest dairy products exporter. . .

Australia threatens to cash in on NZ’s mānuka honey marketing heroics – Gerard Hutching:

First they claimed the pavlova and Phar Lap as their own, now Australians are arguing they have the right to use the Māori word mānuka for the expensive honey.

This week they racheted the dispute up a notch by setting up the Australian Manuka Honey Association.

“We’re the only two countries that produce it and the whole world needs it [mānuka honey]. We can’t understand what our Kiwi friends are trying to do,” Australian Honey Bee Industry Council chairman Lindsay Bourke said. . . .

Finalists say now is the right time to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Don’t wait until you think you have the perfect farm to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, say 2017 Southland finalists Derek and Bronnie Chamberlain.

“It’s all about work in progress. Set yourselves some goals and go for it. There’s always something more you can do,” Bronnie says.

“The more eyes you have on your property, the more advice and suggestions the better.”  . . 

Mixed New Season Outlook:

 Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive says the new season, which starts on 1 October, is expected to be mixed across beef, lamb and venison.

“On beef, we are at an interesting point. Store stock markets appear over-heated given where we expect volumes and schedules to end up. Current finished cattle schedules reflect a shortage of supply, which is typical at this time of the year.  . .


Rural-round-up

20/09/2017

Concerned’ over water policy – Daniel Birchfield:

The Waitaki Irrigators Collective (WIC) believes Labour’s water policy could lead to a growing rural-urban divide and the loss of millions of dollars from the Waitaki and Waimate districts.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher has also let rip at the policy, claiming Waitaki irrigators could lose $25 million to $40 million if there is a change of government on September 23. . .

Embracing old and new:

A North Otago sheep farm uses a mixture of the old-fashioned and new-fangled at lambing time.

Creedmoor is a 50ha block of rolling land at Incholme, west of Oamaru. Owners Julian and Sharyn Price also lease a neighbouring 20ha.

The couple have become lamb whisperers, breeding composite ewes with quiet temperaments that are not fazed by their human handlers in their midst.

Flightiness has been culled out, along with dags.

The Prices call their flock Creedmoor Supersheep – a moniker endorsed by their records. Since 2006 they have exceeded a 200% lambing rate and last year 25% of their surplus lambs were killed at three months. . . 

Tasty bait balls used to poison wallabies:

Waimate’s wily pests are about to be tempted with lethal treats

Green balls flavoured with peanut butter are being placed on stakes in remote Mackenzie district hill country, where they are likely to appeal to the Bennett’s wallaby population. The third batch, following two deliveries of non-toxic balls about a week apart, will contain cyanide that produces a quick death after being eaten by the marsupials.

The project is part of Environment Canterbury’s biosecurity work to reduce pest numbers. . .

Chopping out a career in the mostly male world of butchery – Christina Persico:

Think of a butcher and you generally think of a man – but Kayla Scott thinks it’s a job for anyone.

The 21-year-old is an apprentice at the Kiwi Butcher Shop in New Plymouth, where she has worked on and off for five years.

“It’s quite a full on, energetic kind of job…There’s never a dull moment,” she says.

“It’s usually more challenging because you don’t want it to be labelled as a male’s job, because anyone can do it.

“It is quite tricky trying not to be like, ‘I’m in a male’s job’.” . . .

First crop at New Zealand School of Winegrowing picked and ready – Oliver Lewis:

The first crop of students have signed up to the New Zealand School of Winegrowing, which had its official launch in Blenheim on Wednesday night.

The school, the first of its kind in New Zealand, was set up by Marlborough Boys’ and Marlborough Girls’ colleges with assistance from the wine industry.

About 40 people attended the launch event, which Boys’ College assistant principal James Ryan described as an opportunity to promote the school. . .

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I’ve got mud in my blood.


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