Rural round-up

May 4, 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. . . 

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That was then . . .

April 18, 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

April 12, 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

March 27, 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

November 20, 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

November 7, 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

September 25, 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.  . .


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