Shoot the lot


Dear Lord Stern,

Re your suggestion that the whole world should go vegetarian to save the planet.

Why don’t you just shoot all the people?

It would be kinder than letting millions die of starvation which is what would happen if we took your idea seriously.

Yours sincerely



If you don’t like my suggestion you may be interested in:

Inquiring Mind where Adam Smith posts on how Coppenhagen could threaten NZ’s very future.

Farmgirllive who says it’s time to get serious about countering this silliness.

Liberty Scott who says Lord Stern loses the plot some more.

and Fairfacts Media who urges Go on have that extra steak.

Did you see the one about . . .


Ten Tiny Green MPs  at Opinionated Mummy. While you’re there you might also be interested in bolstering union membership oops I mean education.

Marching Girls at Quote Unquote.

92 and No 1 at Inquiring Mind where Adam Smith brings back Vera Lynn.

Moments of enculturation (10) at In A Strange Land (Arachnophobics should not go there).

We saw a real live island at Laughy Kate where kids say the darndest things.

Heart Hit  at Macdoctor who warns of the dangers of energy drinks.

Metaphors and unravelling  at Offsetting Behaviour which looks at the lack of cultural referents.

Top 10 cures for the blog squirms at Not PC – onw hat to do when you get bloggers’ block.

Capitalism needs to lift its game at Karl du Fresne.

Sexual Assaults where Kiwiblog finds some useful research fromt he Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

Worst excesses of welfare UK & NZ parallels at Lindsay Mitchell.

Labour rorting taxpayers too at Gotcha where Whaleoil looks at who’s renting what to whom.

And :

Welcome back from maternity leave to Farmgirl – mother and daughter both well.


Welcome to Sciblogs  NZ”s largest science network  ( Hat tip Open Parachute)

Young Farmer of the Year underway


When my farmer came second in the Young Farmer of the Year contest he won a motorbike.

Some 30 years later the prize pool is worth more but the seriousness with which the contestants take the contest hasn’t changed.

And with good reason because the contest tests their intellectual and physical skills, public speaking, farming and general knowledge, personality and sense of humour.

One of the strengths of the contest is the way it moves around the country and involves the community which hosts it. Another is that it gives a taste of the physical and intellectual skills which modern farmign requires.

The grand final started in Palmerston North yesterday and finishes tomorrow . Kate Taylor is there   but she’s not happy with TVNZ. Farmgirl has also posted on the contest.

Watering down the milk payout


The floating dollar usually insulates us from the extreme peaks and troughs of global commodity prices because when prices fall the dollar does too.

That’s not happening at the moment though, global milk prices have fallen and the dollar has strengthened and that’s one of the reasons Fonterra is forecasting a disappointing $4.55 a kilo of milk solids for the 09/10 season.

Fonterra Chairman, Henry van der Heyden, said a volatile currency and continued uncertainty in international dairy markets made forecasting extremely difficult and a constant challenge in the current environment.

“We were looking at a forecast over $5 when the Kiwi was at 50 cents but the rebound means we’re now working with a dollar that’s 10 cents higher. And, just this week – at a time when we’ve been seeing some tentative signs of recovery in the global dairy market – the US Government has announced export subsidies for their farmers, which is bad news for our farmers,” he said.

. . . Mr van der Heyden said: “We had expected dairy prices to be bouncing along the bottom at the moment, but the exchange rate has been a big negative. It has a huge influence on the Milk Price forecast when you go into the new season with a large chunk of your sales unhedged, which is always the case at this time of the year.”

“Our hedging policy is designed to take out the volatility and provide as much certainty for our farmers as possible. But as a rule of thumb a 1 cent movement in the exchange rate realised over a year has an impact of about +/- 10 cents per kgMS in the Milk Price, with everything else being equal.”

Federated Farmers Dairy section chair Lachlan McKenzie said the numbers were bleak.

“In the 2006/07 season, it was estimated it took $4.54 to produce one kilogram of milksolids before a farmer turned a single cent in profit.  There’s very little margin.

Input costs followed the payout price up since the 06/07 season and some have come back a bit in the last few months.

Interest rates are lower and so is the price of fuel; Ballance announced a fall in the price of its fertilser last week and Ravensdown followed with a similar announcement this week  so the three big costs on dairy farms have fallen.

However, wages and salaries shot up in the last few years as a steep increase in conversions led to a labour shortage. The shortage has eased but it is very unlikely that wages will have dropped. Employment contracts on dairy farms usually go from June 1 and most will already have been negotiated anyway.

Deutsche Bank thinks Fonterra is being pessimistic:

Fonterra Cooperative Group’s forecast payout for the 2010 season could be overly pessimistic because the kiwi dollar may retreat from a seven-month high, while the global economy slump may be past its worst, according to Deutsche Bank. . .

Deutsche Bank chief economist Darren Gibbs said dairy payouts had come down significantly from the NZ$7.60 peak last season, and that although the dairy cooperative would see weaker revenues, farms would also benefit from cheaper operating costs.

“It could be Fonterra under-promising and over-delivering,” Gibbs said. “The kiwi has extended a long way ahead of commodity prices” and any pull-back would give the dairy exporter more breathing space, he said.

Other commentators are saying the same thing.

Fonterra had to revise its forecast payment down twice this season so the company may be taking a very conservative view so that any change they make will be upwards.

But sensible farmers won’t be banking on that when the revise their budgets for the coming season.

Farmgirl notes its not the news the government would have wanted on the eve of the Budget and that retailers in agricultural servicing towns were already noticing a drop in spending.

Pigs in Muckraking – Updated & Updated again


When a television show gives only one side of a story, I wonder what the other side would say.

I don’t know enough to comment on the issues of pig farming which were raised in last night’s Sunday programme but Farmgirl is better informed and brings some balance to the story.

Good journalism requires balance. Sunday should have given the farmers an opportunity to give their side of the story and it would have helped to have a vet’s point of view too.

There are no excuses for mistreating animals and saying it happens elsewhere is no excuse for cruelty. But nothing is gained for animal welfare if the pork industry here is killed and replaced by meat from overseas where pig farming practices are no better and possibly even worse.


Minister of Agriculture David Carter has asked animal campaigners to reveal the location of the pig farm shown on Sunday.

“If SAFE has the welfare of these animals at heart, it needs to provide details of the property today so the authorities can the take appropriate action.  I have asked MAF to undertake an inspection as soon as we know the farm’s location,” Mr Carter said.

That is a very sensible response because MAF can’t do anything until they know where the property is.

It raises the question of why SAFE hasn’t already gone to the authorities and any further delay in doing so would suggest they care more about publicity for their campaign than the welfare of the pigs.

UPDATE 2: The Bull Pen has more with King hit on pig farming.

UPDATE 2: Keeping Stock posts on SAFE pork , highlighting a story from the NZ Herald which says SAFE is refusing to identify the farm.

When asked by if that was due to publicity, Mr Kriek said yes.

I’m not going to give you all the details of our strategy, which is a very sound one,” Mr Kriek said.

The organisation which is supposed to save animals from exploitation is exploiting animals by putting publicity before the pigs.

Did you see the one about . . .


Pirates are not all bad  at Anti-Dismal

Simon the Cyrenian (An Easter Song)  at Bowalley Road

A Tale of Two Cultures at Macdoctor

The view from a roofer’s recession  at The New Yorker (HatTip: Inquiring Mind)

Woman eats 51 of world’s hottest chilles in one sitting  at Farmgirl

Economists: more human than you think at the Visible Hand in Economics

The Art of borrowing  at Cactus Kate

All you wanted to know about the OIA but were afraid to ask  at goNZoFreakpwoer

Obsessing about weight in terms of not obsessing about weight  at 2bSophora

Le traison de clercs (and the journalists)  at Micky’s Muses

From the blogosphere to the air waves


Every now and then I get a phone call from RadioNZ asking for contacts for matters rural. Today’s call wasn’t a request for information, but an invitation to contribute to Jim Mora’s panel this afternoon.

If you want to put a voice to the blog, I’ll be on at 4.40ish.

As North Otago correspondent for The Farming  Show, I usually have a chat to Jamie McKay every couple of weeks, though this month a change in schedule meant my last spot was on March 11th  and the next one will be next Wednesday.

Farmgirl, Nadine Porter is another regular on The Farming Show. On Monday she spoke about farmers owning and running their own supermarkets, a topic she posted on here.

The Farming Show is broadcast nation wide  on the ZB network outside the main centres or Radio Sport. Today the cricket’s on Radio Sport and for some reason that means our local ZB station, Radio Waitaki, isn’t getting the Farming Show either.

I accept that cricket takes precedence over farming on Radio Sport (which gets negative feedback from listeners who are deprived of their sporting fix when the station switches to rural affairs from 12 – 1). But I don’t understand why the regional ZB stations lose the Farming Show too.

It reminds me of  being back in the bad old days when the state ran radio and scheduled programmes went off-air every time there was a race meeting.

Still, at least I’ll be able to get my farming-fix via the website later today.

Get in behind, Babe


Babe, the sheep herding pig became famous in the film based on the book by Dick King Smith.

Now she’s got a real life rival – Sue, a kune kune pig named after the hero in the Johnny Cash song A Boy Named Sue.

. . . he can shake hands by presenting his trotter on command, run through tunnels, navigate around cones, climb ramps and even complete a figure of eight. 

Owner Wendy Scudamore believes her talented porker could not only beat canine competitors in an agility contest, but even turn out to be a real-life Babe and learn how to herd sheep just like the pig in the hit movie. 

The Herefordshire pig started copying dogs when he worked out they were rewarded with treats when being trained.

 Wendy plans to enter Sue in the agility event at the Royal Welsh Show but even if he’s a prize winner he won’t be able to sire a dynasty of sheep herding pigs. An unfortunate mix up at the vets led to his castration.

HAT TIP: Farmgirl

How green can we grow?


When environmental concerns hit economic realities something’s got to give and if the conflict is between addressing hunger and staying in business now versus saving the planet for the future, cost and volume will be two of the deciding factors.

That’s why I don’t think Barney Foran  is on the right track when he says that if New Zealand farmers don’t lead the world in environmentally sustainable production we’ll be forced out of business.

He predicts that within a decade, meat will be marketed on its greenhouse gas emissions as well as water quality, biodiversity assets and cultural values. “Tomorrow’s meat enterprises will focus on product quality first, backed up by measured and low environmental impacts, austere production chains, avoidance of most chemicals and heavy metals and making farmed landscapes waterwise, biodiverse and beautiful.”

Food is already being marketed on greenhouse emissions. Last week I was shown packaging from French sausages. My French isn’t up to translating all the writing but it was obvious the little green box was showing the carbon emissions generated in production.

That will be a consideration for those who can pay to be choosey but not everyone can and even at the top end of the market price matters. Looking after the environment is important but if we don’t supply affordable food we’ll be out of business in much less than 20 years.

If that happened the world would be going hungry or else producers in other countries would fill the gap left as our production dropped and their production methods may well have a much larger environmental footprint than ours.

Commenting on  Foran’s view, Farmgirl asks if environmental concerns are a higher priority than food itself.

They shouldn’t be. Sustainability is supposed to be a three legged stool which gives equal value to environmental, economic and social concerns. If we concentrate on the environment at the expense of the other two factors the stool will fall over.

The issue also comes up at Mother Jones:

When most of us imagine what a sustainable food economy might look like, chances are we picture a variation on something that already exists—such as organic farming, or a network of local farms and farmers markets, or urban pea patches—only on a much larger scale. The future of food, in other words, will be built from ideas and models that are familiar, relatively simple, and easily distilled into a buying decision: Look for the right label, and you’re done.

But that’s not the reality. Many of the familiar models don’t work well on the scale required to feed billions of people. Or they focus too narrowly on one issue (salad greens that are organic but picked by exploited workers). Or they work only in limited circumstances. (A $4 heirloom tomato is hardly going to save the world.)

Responding to this, The Visible Hand in Economics  asks if organic farming is sustainable:

The key issue is:

  1. Organic farming uses a LOT more resources than normal farming;
  2. To call yourself organic and get that market recognition you need to be 100% organic;
  3. There is no market standard for recognising that a farmer is more sustainable or environmentally friendly than their rivals if they’re not organic.

I think that most consumers who buy organic are also the type of people who want to do the environmentally friendly thing. While organic farming may not be as polluting as farming with synthetic fertilizer it is much more resource intensive. So where’s the incentive for farmers to move towards less resource hungry AND more sustainable alternatives?

But there’s another question: when everything is taken into account is organic farming actually better for the environment?

The North Otago Sustainable Land Management Group was set up about 15 years ago and has done a lot of work, in conjunciton with the Otago Regional Council, to educate farmers in sustainable production and they’ve done a very good job. I don’t think any of the farms which follow the guidelines are organic but they use science-based practices  to maintain the health of the soil and waterways while producing meat, milk and crops which meet all the requirements for food health standards.

If they switched to organic farming the volume produced would fall, and it’s a moot point as to whether the quality would be any higher or if it would be any better for the environment.

Farmgirl joins blogosphere


Agricultural journalist and broadcaster Nadine Porter brings another rural woman’s voice to the blogospehre with Farmgirl.

Nadine is also a director in a mid-Canterbury cropping farm  and will be a regular guest on The Farming Show. Her first contribution was today and you can hear her here.

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