Rural round-up

February 7, 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

December 28, 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

December 4, 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

October 29, 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

August 15, 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

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. . . 


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.


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