Rural round-up

August 11, 2019

Fact check: Are our farm systems any better for the climate? – Esther Taunton:

Kiwi farmers love to claim their meat and dairy products come from farms with some of the smallest carbon footprints in the world. 

Unsurprisingly, they were quick to defend their systems after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Report on Climate Change and Land on Thursday.

Federated Farmers led the charge, saying it was concerned New Zealanders “simply don’t understand how much better we are at low-emissions farming than other countries“. . .

Kiwi farmers defend meat after report calls for more plant-based food – Rebecca Black:

We should be eating plenty of plants, South Taranaki dairy farmer Matthew Herbert says, but that doesn’t mean we should reduce our animal-based protein production.

A new IPCC report into climate change makes the recommendation that we alter our diets from being high in meat and dairy to include more plant-based food choices.

The report indicates that more efficient farming methods could dramatically increase food output while keeping emissions in check. . .

AbacusBio merges with plant breeder – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting firm AbacusBio has merged with a North Island-based plant breeding company.

Rotorua-based Gemnetics did similar work to AbacusBio but in plants, not animals, and it was a very complementary skill set, AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell said.

Plant and animal breeding methodologies were converging with the growth in genomics and big data tools and technologies.

The merger would allow the company – retaining the name AbacusBio for operations and Gemnetics for specific plant-breeding software – to offer clients access to leading-edge genetic and system services, software and data management products, she said. . .

Milking it: Tapping into coffee culture – Sally Rae:

Two young Dunedin entrepreneurs are tapping into the nation’s coffee culture.

Jo Mohan and Luka Licul have co-founded Spout Alternatives, with Nick Jackson, of Christchurch, to put milk into kegs and reduce the number of plastic milk containers used in cafes.

The trio are preparing to launch their permanent dispensing system, which is similar to the way beer is available on tap in bars. . .

Let people eat as much red meat as they want Norway’s health minister says :

Norway’s new head of health has criticised the ‘moral police’ and said people should be allowed to eat as much red meat as they want.

In her first days as the country’s new health minister, Sylvi Listhaug implied that Norwegians shouldn’t be told what to do when it comes to health.

The comments come as part of an interview with Ms Listhaug conducted by Norwegian broadcaster NRK. . .

Can the Prairie Generation save rural America? – Laurent Belsie :

Outside Unadilla, Hannah Esch walks into her cooler and pulls out packages of rib-eye, brisket, and hamburger. Over the past nine months her new company, Oak Barn Beef, sold out of meat four times and brought in $52,000 in sales. Over the next year, she expects to double those sales numbers.

That will be a milestone. It will also be when she finishes her last year of college.

Some 150 miles northwest, the Brugger twins, Matt and Joe, show off how they’re diversifying from traditional agriculture. They directly market the beef from the cows they raise and they grow hops for local microbreweries. But the most visible sign of their commitment to the rural Plains is the two-story farmhouse they’re renovating on the family homestead. . . 

 


Rural round-up

August 8, 2019

Meat industry concerned by education shake-up :

A shake-up of vocational education could be a backwards step for training in the meat industry, the sector’s leaders say.

Last week, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced seven key changes in store for on-the-job training and apprenticeships, which included the creation of a “mega-polytech”.

Up to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils would also be created to “replace and expand” Industry Training Organisations (ITOs). . . 

Consumer trust is key for future success of NZ food industry:

Consumer trust has never been more valuable to the New Zealand food industry and is set to play a key role in its future success, a visiting international agricultural expert has told the horticulture sector. Yet winning and sustaining this trust has also never been more complex.

Speaking at the New Zealand Horticulture conference in Hamilton last week, the Sydney-based general manager for RaboResearch Australia and New Zealand Tim Hunt said consumer trust was becoming an increasingly precious commodity for New Zealand food producers.

“New Zealand’s emerging markets, like China and South East Asia, place a high value on food safety and the process of food preparation, while more mature wealthy markets are willing to pay for sustainability, animal welfare, fairness and attractive provenance,” he said. . . 

‘No ordinary job’: Dairy farmers put in the hard yards over calving – Esther Taunton:

Most calves are born like Superman, with their front legs up over their heads, but sometimes even Superman needs a hand, Taranaki sharemilker Jody McCaig says.

McCaig and her husband, Charlie, farm at Te Kiri, inland from Opunake, and like dairy farmers around the country, they’re headed into another busy calving.

At the height of the season, up to 50 calves a day will be born on the 1000-cow, 320-hectare property. . . 

Stop pigeonholing farm systems– TIm Fulton:

Support for regenerative agriculture is building across New Zealand and Australia. As Crown-run Landcare Research seeks state funding to test the principles and practice Tim Fulton spoke to Australian soil science leader Professor John McLean for an assessment of the movement.

At home with a newborn in southeast Queensland Associate Professor John McLean recently read a an article on regenerative agriculture in the special Fieldays issue of Farmers Weekly.

Bennett is a principal research fellow at the university’s Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems and the immediate past president of Soil Science Australia. . .

New Zealand’s first carbon neutral milk plant – Nigel Malthus:

French global food company Danone says it will spend NZ$40 million on its Nutricia spray drying plant at Balclutha to achieve net carbon neutrality there by 2021.

NZ operations director Cyril Marniquet says it will make the Balclutha plant NZ’s first carbon neutral one of its kind.

A NZ$30m biomass boiler will reduce the plant’s CO2 emissions by 20,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent, the company says, of removing 60,000 cars from NZ’s roads. And a more efficient waste water treatment plant will meet Danone’s stringent global clean water standards.  . .

China confirms it is suspending agricultural product purchases in response to Trump’s new tariffs – Kate Rooney:

China confirmed reports that it was pulling out of U.S. agriculture as a weapon in the ongoing trade war.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said Chinese companies have stopped purchasing U.S. agricultural products in response to President Trump’s new 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods.

“This is a serious violation of the meeting between the heads of state of China and the United States,” the Minister of Commerce said in a statement Monday that was translated via Google. . . 


Rural round-up

July 21, 2019

Meeting the gas challenge – Tim Fulton:

New legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will hit farmers in the pocket. Tim Fulton reports.

Waikato farmer George Moss, who operates two dairy farms, believes running a small business can be just as difficult when meeting environmental targets as large scale farming.

Moss and wife Sharon operate two small dairy farms at Tokoroa in south Waikato. One is 72ha milking 180 Friesians and the other is 67ha milking 175 crossbreds. They also own an adjoining 40ha drystock block. . .

Fonterra co-op leader Miles Hurrell – we can turn this around – Jamie Gray:

Nearly a year into his job as chief executive of Fonterra, Miles Hurrell is a man on a very public mission.

Since late last year, the co-op has been pulling out all the stops to streamline itself, improve earnings and trim debt.

There has been no shortage of criticism and there’s a lot at stake. The livelihoods of about 10,000 farmer-shareholders depend on it, and Fonterra is New Zealand’s biggest exporter by far.

Stung by the co-op’s first-ever loss last year, Hurrell’s job is to turn around the supertanker that is Fonterra. . .

Berry farm gets government help to expand hydroponic operation – Esther Taunton:

A $2.37 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund will allow a Northland company to expand its hydroponic berry-growing operation, creating dozens of new jobs in the process. 

However, not everyone is happy about the arrangement, with the Taxpayers’ Union saying Maungatapere Berries should have got a bank loan.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced the partnership on Friday, saying it would allow the Whangarei-based business to add four hectares of berries to its existing operation. . .

Fingerprinting food :

AgResearch is finding new uses for a machine that uncovers the unique fingerprint of food.

The Crown agency’s lab at Lincoln is using a mass spectrometer to quickly analyse the interaction of genes and the environment.

In a sign of technology advances in the field, work that previously took over an hour can now be done in seconds on samples of meat, milk, plants and wine.

It will open up new opportunities for food science and industry, AgResearch senior research scientist Dr Alastair Ross, who leads the metabolomics platform, says. . .

Handpicked is judges’ top pick

Meat co-op Alliance Group’s Pure South Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef has won international honours in the World Steak Challenge for the second year running.

Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef, which combines selection for exceptional quality and marbling with extensive wet ageing, took out a gold medal for ribeye and a bronze medal for fillet at the event in Dublin, Ireland, on July 10.

The latest honours repeat the premium product’s success at last year’s contest, which helps benchmark the quality of beef production against global competitors. There were more than 300 entries from 25 countries in the competition. . . 

A 20% drop in methane emissions would cause global cooling, says expert – Lauren Dean:

A leading environmental professor has said farming can become completely ‘climate neutral’ if agricultural methane emissions are reduced by just 20 per cent over the next 30 years. . . 

Myles Allen, a professor from the University of Oxford, who has served on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claimed this kind of gentle reduction in methane emissions would be enough to fully compensate for the warming impact of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from agriculture.

Farmers have already been cutting methane emissions by 10 per cent every 30 years, through measures such as better slurry storage and application. . .

Ongoing stable methane emissions from cattle doesn’t change the climate – Alan Lauder:

Could it be that a lot of cattle producers world-wide are being unfairly blamed for progressing climate change because of the methane released by their cattle? Going one step further, in this contributed article Alan Lauder, long-time grazier and author of the book Carbon Grazing – The Missing Link,  suggests that the methane emissions of the Australian sheep and cattle industry are not changing the climate, because they have been stable since the 1970’s.

WE have to ask the question, is the current way of comparing methane and carbon dioxide, using the Global Warming Potential (GWP) approach, the best way to assess the outcome of the methane produced by ruminant animals like sheep and cattle?

I raise the point, keeping in mind that the debate is about “climate change”. We keep hearing the comment that we have to limit “change” to two degrees.

I am not suggesting that the science the IPCC and the world is relying on is wrong, but maybe it is worth having another look at how we are interpreting it in the area of ruminant animals. . .

 


Rural round-up

July 17, 2019

New Zealand’s future food for thought :

Dr Jocelyn Eason, General Manager of Science and Food Innovation at Plant & Food Research, believes the future is green. And probably crunchy. But most definitely packed with nutrients.

Eason, who manages 140 scientists in the Food Innovation Portfolio at Plant & Food Research, believes the future of food lies in plants – and that New Zealand has both the scientific capability and growing expertise to be globally competitive in a plant-based food market. That means optimising plant genetics, developing future growing systems and capturing an eco-premium for new food products.

“The goal for us is to add value at each step of our food value chain. What does the market want?” That, she says, means looking at the consumption of the consumers of the future: Teenagers (GenZ). . .

Living in fear of farmageddon – Brian Fallow:

Will Farmageddon flow from the Reserve Bank’s plans to require some seismic strengthening of banks’ balance sheets?

Some of the submissions it has received in its review of bank capital requirements make sobering reading, especially about the impact on the dairy sector.

So first, some numbers. Bank lending to the agricultural sector has climbed from $12 billion in 2000 to $63b now — two-thirds of it to the dairy sector. It works out at $8300 per cow. . .

Scientists confident well-bred cows won’t burp – Michelle Dickinson:

Meat and dairy are New Zealand’s biggest earners when it comes to exports, however, they are also our largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. As we try to balance our economy with our commitment to the Paris climate agreement new research out this week thinks the secret to reducing climate change could be through breeding less burpy cows.

Methane emissions from ruminants including sheep and cows account for about a third of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and are by far the largest single contributor. Although methane stays in the atmosphere for less time than carbon, as a gas it is much more effective at trapping heat – acting as a blanket over our planet and playing a significant role when it comes to climate change. . .

You can’t blame Westland’s farmers for selling out – Mike O’Donnell:

Lee Iacocca died last week. One of the original rock stars of the car industry, Iacocca is credited with being the father of the Ford Mustang in 1964, considered the most iconic muscle car in automotive history.

The Mustang become immortalised in books, songs and movies – including Bullitt and Gone in 60 Seconds.

After being dumped by Ford, 15 years later Iacocca was credited as the man who saved Chrysler from going under by securing a US$1.5 billion government loan and paying it back within three years. . .

Farmers willing to pay big money for the best working dogs – Esther Taunton:

Heading dog Jack wrote himself into the history books on Thursday when he sold for a record $10,000 at an auction in Canterbury.

While it was a price fit to make townie eyes water, New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Association president Pat Coogan said a good dog would be worth every dollar.

“The price farmers are willing to pay for a good dog has increased dramatically over the last 10 years,” he said. . .

FAST FIVE: Detroit Ririnui

Detroit Ririnui grew up in Welcome Bay in Tauranga where his family are in the kiwifruit industry but it wasn’t something he enjoyed very much. 

However, growing up in a rural environment instilled a love of the land so after a few years of working in the family business he made the decision to switch to dairying and says it was something he had always wanted to try.

He asked a relative if he knew of any dairy farm work and he told him he would give him a job in Invercargill. He made the move south where he is a farm hand on a 350-cow farm about a year ago and says he loves it.  . .


Rural round-up

July 15, 2019

Mystery chopper hangs over stock – Neal Wallace:

Southland farmers are feeling under siege by campaigns believed to be by animal welfare and environmental activists questioning intensive livestock wintering practices.

There have been multiple reports in recent weeks of a helicopter with a camera on the front hovering over stock being wintered on crops in various parts of the province.

Separately, Waikato businessman Angus Robson has confirmed he plans to travel to Southland as part of a campaign highlighting questionable wintering practices. . .

Bacteria key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from sheep – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand scientists have singled out the microbes responsible for producing methane in sheep, a discovery which could help reduce emissions from livestock.

Scientists from AgResearch and Otago University are part of a global team that has identified processes that control methane production in sheep and other ruminant animals like cattle and deer.

As well as identifying gut bacteria which produce hydrogen during digestion in sheep, the researchers discovered which organisms feed on that hydrogen in the production of methane.  . .

New NOIC chief executive – Sally Brooker:

Andrew Rodwell brings international leadership experience to his new job as chief executive of the North Otago Irrigation Company.

He has replaced Robyn Wells, who spent nearly nine years in the role.

Mr Rodwell has a BSc from Canterbury University and a finance diploma from Auckland University’s Graduate School of Business.

As New Zealand’s trade commissioner in Los Angeles he focused on food and agritech, then formed and led a United States subsidiary for Telecom New Zealand. . .

Beekeeper buzzing after honey medals – Richard Davison:

A South Otago beekeeper is enjoying a sweet buzz after flying high at the country’s top honey awards.

Allen McCaw, of Milburn Apiaries near Milton, received the Supreme Award at the ApiNZ National Honey Competition in Rotorua recently, after hauling in two golds, a silver and a bronze medal for his creamed honey entries.

Although he and wife Maria were now working towards retirement, he still enjoyed competing with the honey from his ”cottage” factory to the rear of the couple’s 6.5ha smallholding on State Highway 1, Mr McCaw (69) said. . .

Young Farmers posts big loss – Colin Williscroft:

A one-off gift let Young Farmers record a surplus for its latest financial year instead of a significant loss.

The organisation reported a profit of $4.61 million for the year ending September 30, 2018.

But that was because it was bequeathed a farm valued at $5.5m. 

Its trading results show losses of about $900,000 for the year though chief executive Lynda Coppersmith is confident the organisation is on the right track to ensure that won’t happen again. . .

Stratford shearer Gavin Mutch wins for Scotland at world championships – Mike Watson:

Stratford shearer Gavin Mutch returned to the podium at the world shearing championships in France.

The Scottish-born shearer combined with compatriot Calum Shaw to win the teams’ event at the championships in Le Dorat, western France, at the weekend.

​Mutch and Shaw finished ahead of Welsh pairing Alun Lloyd Jones and Richard Jones, and New Zealand’s Cam Ferguson and Rowland Smith, who were third. . .


Rural round-up

July 13, 2019

AFB spread prompts burning of hives – Laura Smith:

Watching bees burn would have to be one of the most difficult things a beekeeper could do – it is also an experience more Southland apiarists will have to face.

It is the consequence of the spread of destructive bee-killing disease American foulbrood (AFB).

Southland commercial beekeeper Geoff Scott said ignorance was a major contributor to the disease spreading.

”And we’re doing it – it’s us beekeepers doing it.” . .

Hinewai revival worth every cent – Tim Fulton:

Hinewai Reserve was once dismissed as a fantasy of fools and dreamers. 

Now, as the 1250ha native sanctuary on Banks Peninsula flourishes it has about $1m of carbon credits plus income from a walking track and public donations.

But Hugh Wilson’s neighbours let rip when his plans for Hinewai Reserve became clear. . .

Possum is scourge of farm and forest: – Nick Hancox:

Managing disease in farmed cattle and deer is one stream of the TBfree programme’s work. It underpins the value and reputation of the meat and milk New Zealand exports.

The other essential work the programme manages is possum control — taking and keeping numbers down at a level where disease can’t keep cycling in wildlife.

That possum control work has two big benefits for New Zealand: eradicating bovine TB to protect the primary sector while supporting the goals of the predator-free movement.
The TBfree programme managed by OSPRI aligns with programmes designed to protect and defend New Zealand’s biodiversity and environmental health, such as the Department of Conservation’s Battle for Our Birds and Predator Free 2050. . .

Ploughman straight on to Minnesota – Chris Tobin:

”You don’t go to the Olympic Games and wear someone else’s track shoes and you don’t go to a Formula race in someone else’s car.”

Champion ploughman Bob Mehrtens is explaining his approach to the upcoming world ploughing championships at Baudette, Minnesota.

After placing eighth in Germany last year and second in Kenya in the reversible section of the world championships, he is aiming for gold this time round in the United States. . .

Avocado prices plunge as new season starts – Esther Taunton:

Avocado fans, rejoice – you can now buy two for less than the cost of a flat white.

Supplies of the popular toast topping have surged and those who have struggled through the avo off-season can again feast on the fruit.

On Thursday avocados were were selling for $2.70 each or two for $5 at Countdown supermarkets around the country. . .

Boarding school allowances – rural families deserve better – Ann Thompson:

The cost of sending children to boarding school is placing a big burden on rural employees, and it’s well past time a change was made to make the boarding allowance system fairer, writes Federated Farmers policy adviser Ann Thompson.

Over the past few years Federated Farmers has made requests to both the National and Labour-led governments to increase the Access Barrier Boarding Allowance.

This allowance is provided for pupils who live so far away from school that boarding school is the only realistic option.

As at June 2019, the Access Barrier Boarding Allowance was $3200 per annum while the Multiple Barriers Boarding Allowance was $7500 (plus $500 for pastoral care). . .


Rural round-up

July 10, 2019

From vodka to high country – Sally Rae:

Geoff and Justine Ross are best known as entrepreneurs and founders of the hugely successful 42 Below vodka company. But they have traded city life for a rural adventure at Lake Hawea Station where they are using the skills gained in business to apply them to the rural sector. They speak to agribusiness reporter Sally Rae.

Geoff Ross was always going to be a farmer.

But the career path he took to farm ownership was not necessarily what he envisaged growing up on a deer and dairy farm in the North Island.

His wife Justine recalls how she wanted to marry a farmer; in fact, she thought she was marrying a farmer. It did not quite pan out like that. . .

Keeping the farm in the family – Luke Chivers:

Kairuru farmer Amanda Henderson says there’s a whole lot more to farming than picking a paddock and putting some animals in it. The fourth-generation sheep and beef farmer is dedicated to shifting the perception of New Zealand’s primary sector. She spoke to Luke Chivers.

When people think of agriculture, not all think of science, innovation and technology. 

But, thankfully, one South Islander is set on changing that.

“I believe education is critical in the agricultural sector,” 33-year-old Amanda Henderson says. . .

Farmers find perfect match in 100% grass-fed wagyu beef producer group – Sally Rae:

Southland farmers Mike and Kirsty Bodle are looking to create a point of difference – or X-factor – in their farming operation.

The couple moved south from the North Island 14 years ago and bought a drystock farm after deciding they liked the region.

After a few years, they bought a neighbouring property to convert to dairy but when the dairy market started experiencing volatility, they decided they needed to spread their risk to cover themselves during those times . .

Chewing out the vegetarian preachers – Steve Wyn-Harris:

I was a vegan myself once.

It was in India 40 years ago in a small village where it seemed everyone was vegan, going by the menus in the cafes.

But it was only for one day.

The next village appeared to eat meat and nothing else. . .

Kiwi healthcare company HoneyLab on the cusp of going global – Esther Taunton:

A decade after it was set up, healthcare company HoneyLab is on the cusp of going global, co-founder Dr Shaun Holt says.

A clinical study recently proved the company’s flagship kānuka honey jell, Honevo, is as effective in treating cold sores as well-known pharmaceuticals.

It was the second big win for the product, which has also been proven effective in treating rosacea, and growing international interest is keeping Holt busy. . .

Comedian Te Radar brings the light touch to agricultural events – Gerard Hutching:

After two decades on TV screens, the stage and the comedy circuit, beloved entertainer Te Radar has become the go-to jester for the agricultural crowd, and with good reason.

The funnyman has serious cred in rural circles; he grew up on a dairy farm in north Waikato, on the isthmus bordered by the Waikato River that juts into Lake Waikare. His father was a top elected official in Federated Farmers.

No stranger to the milking shed, he helped on the family farm until he was 20. But dairying held no long term attraction. . .


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