Rural roundup

February 17, 2019

Hungry cities eat land :

As well as being urged to produce more from less while satisfying environmental critics farmers are also being squeezed by pressure for more land for housing and forestry. This week Farmers Weekly journalists Richard Rennie and Neal Wallace begin taking an in-depth look at how much land has been lost and how much more could still be lost as a billion trees are planted to create a low-carbon economy while another 100,000 homes are built.

As the Government grapples with building another 100,000 homes just to meet shortages, planners and producers are nervously watching continued population growth, much which will be in the country’s key farm produce regions.

Until 2016 New Zealand was losing just over 100,000 hectares a year of growing land, whether to urban development or the proliferation of lifestyle blocks increasing by 5800 a year. . .

Take 5 with Rob Barry  – Tristan Burn:

After an epic adventure around the world, Rob Barry returned to the Central Hawkes Bay four years ago and settled his new family. He is currently working as a Managers Assistant on a 1220 cow dairy farm.

The farm is part of BEL Group, a Family Corporate farming business Rob’s parents built up over the last 30 years. They have nine Dairy farms milking 9500 cows in total and seven dairy support farms (three owned, four leased). Since calving Rob has been block managing Ellingham and 400 cows.

1. In 5-10 words what is your farming philosophy?

Leave it better than you found it – Scouts motto. . .

Seasonal labour shortage in Hawkes Bay declared :

The Ministry of Social Development has declared a seasonal labour shortage across Hawke’s Bay.

Declaring a seasonal labour shortage allows visitor visa holders to apply for a variation of conditions, which will enable them to work on orchards and vineyards in the Hawke’s Bay.

The shortage is for a six-week period between 25 February and 5 April 2019, in response to discussions with pipfruit leaders, industry experts, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. . .

WorkSafe joins Young Farmer of the Year competition:

WorkSafe New Zealand has today announced a partnership with the FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition.

WorkSafe Chief Executive Nicole Rosie says the partnership will connect New Zealand’s future farming leaders with health and safety in an engaging setting, build rapport with rural communities and help create generational change. . .

Pāmu announces increased profit for half year:

Landcorp Farming Limited (known as Pāmu) has declared a net profit after tax of $29 million for the half year ended 31 December 2018. This compares to $21 million for the half year ended 31 December 2017.

Chief Executive Steven Carden said that the increased half year profit was a pleasing result, reflecting good weather conditions and good trade terms for the company’s main products.

“On an EBITDAR (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and revaluations) basis, which we use as a key measure of performance, the half year represented a loss of $3 million compared to a loss of $6 million in the prior period. The loss is largely due to the seasonality of Pāmu’s operations since the bulk of livestock revenue is earned in the second half of the year.” . .

Federated Farmers and Gallagher forge new business relationship :

Long-standing contributor to New Zealand agriculture Gallagher Ltd and Federated Farmers are joining forces to form a new business partnership.

Feds recognises Gallagher as a leader in its field, having more than 80 years’ experience as a leading technology company in the animal management, security and fuel systems industries. . .

Tropical fruit options bring exciting opportunities :

Bananas, so often associated with warm tropical climates on the equator may prove to be another cropping opportunity for enterprising horticulturalists from Northland to Gisborne.

New Zealanders have an appetite for the yellow fruit, chomping through a whopping 18kg per capita a year, about $140 million worth that puts this country at top of the global list for banana consumption. . . .


Rural round-up

February 15, 2019

Promising results from denitrification wall :

A world-first denitrification wall at Silverstream, North Canterbury designed to reduce high groundwater nitrate levels is working as anticipated.

The trial is led by the Institute of Environmental and Scientific Research (ESR).

So far the nitrate levels in groundwater have been reduced from 7.1mg/L to 0.5 mg/L by the wall at Silverstream Reserve. . . 

Thanks John, for the milk price – Sudesh Kissun:

Dairy farmers have former Fonterra chairman John Wilson to thank for the milk price they enjoy today, says Sir Henry van der Heyden.

In a eulogy at Wilson’s funeral in Hamilton early this month, van der Heyden told of Wilson’s relentless push for a fair and transparent milk price.

“His relentless questioning and his ability to process and retain vast amounts of information means we have a tremendous legacy from him in the milk price,” he said. . . 

Feds backs wool levy if there is a sound plan of action :

The Federated Farmers Meat & Wool Council has today voted to support a compulsory wool levy on producers – but only if the cross-industry Wool Working Group comes up with a clear, practicable and compelling blueprint for lifting wool’s profile and returns.

Delegates from the 24 Federated Farmers provinces meeting in Wellington agreed that unless a collaborative plan for wool research, development and marketing is formulated – and then widely backed – the death-knell for the crossbred wool industry in New Zealand would be sounded. . .

Are deer the new moa: Ecosystem re-wilding or a flight of fancy? – Nic Rawlence:

It’s the depths of winter and I’m squatting in the snow, surrounded by southern beech forest, using a pair of tweezers to pick up fresh steaming deer poo.

My wife Maria, and palaeoecologist Jamie Wood, from Landcare Research, are doubled over in laughter, having just given me the official job title of pooper scooper.

We’re helping Jamie collect deer poo as part of a project investigating whether introduced deer fill the same job vacancy as the extinct moa in what remains of our unique ecosystems – an ecological surrogate to re-wild New Zealand. . . 

You call that meat? Not so fast cattle ranchers say – Nathaniel Popper:

The cattle ranchers and farm bureaus of America are not going to give up their hold on the word meat without a fight.

In recent weeks, beef and farming industry groups have persuaded legislators in more than a dozen states to introduce laws that would make it illegal to use the word meat to describe burgers and sausages that are created from plant-based ingredients or are grown in labs. Just this week, new meat-labeling bills were introduced in Arizona and Arkansas.

These meat alternatives may look and taste and even bleed like meat, but cattle ranchers want to make sure that the new competition can’t use the meat label. . . 

Calling all young nurserymen and women :

We are delighted to announce the 2019 Young Achiever Award run by New Zealand Plant Producers is now open to receive entries.

The competition seeks to reward and recognise the best young nursery people in the country. The costs of running the competition and the prizes are generously supported by the HortiCentre Charitable Trust.

NZPPI chief executive Matthew Dolan says, “This is a fantastic opportunity for young people with careers in the primary sector to take the next steps in their careers and to compete with other nurserymen and women.” . .


Farmer confidence drops

February 9, 2019

Federated Farmers January Mid-Season Farm Confidence Survey shows farmers are gloomy about the general economic outlook and concerned about staff recruitment:

“The survey found the lowest level of confidence in the economy since July 2009, when we were just emerging from the Global Financial crisis,” Federated Farmers Vice-President and economics spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

“As with the wider business community, I think we’re seeing concern about the impact of global uncertainty and instability on our key export markets, with the likes of Brexit and US-China trade relations.”

We’re also seeing farmers wary about changes to water management, tax and employment law.

Just 5.1% of the farmer respondents expected general economic conditions would improve over the next 12 months, while 45.9% expected they would worsen. The level of pessimism is a fivefold increase on the July 2017 survey.

Continuing difficulty recruiting staff is another finding that stood out, with a net 40.1% of respondents finding it harder over the past six months to recruit skilled and motivated staff as opposed to easier, up 4.2 points on the July 2018 survey.

“While that might reflect seasonal factors, it’s also driven by the generally tight labour market and immigration restrictions,” Andrew said.

“Dairy and arable farmers have found staff recruitment particularly hard.

“This indicator has steadily worsened over the 10-year life of the survey and is at a record level of difficulty.”

Employment changes made late in the previous government’s term made recruitment and retention of immigrant workers harder and this government has done nothing to remedy that.

It was the 20th time the Federation had commissioned the twice-yearly survey and the 1,462 responses to agricultural market research company Research First was one of the biggest yet.

Just on 56% of respondents said they were currently making a profit, down from 62.3% in July 2018. Meanwhile 9.3% are making a loss, up from 7.8% and 32.4% are just breaking even, up from 27.8%.

The odd loss is expected in farming, but year after year just breaking even or mining equity is unsustainable.

“Meat and wool farmers continue to be the most positive about their current profitability, and their sentiment improved a little since July. But dairy’s worsened – no surprise given the fall in dairy commodity prices and farmgate milk price forecasts in the second half of 2018 – and arable’s also fell slightly,” Andrew said.

Looking out over the year ahead, nearly 30% of respondents expected farm profitability would worsen vs 18% who expected profit improvement – a 21.8% fall on July’s 10.4% net positive score.

“Optimism about future farm production has decreased over the past six months, particularly for dairy and arable farms. Dairy farms have seen the largest net negative change between July and January (-20.2%).

The upwards trend of the GlobalDairyTrade auctions this year gives hope, but it was coming off a low base and few are banking on a payout of more than $6 a kilo.

Other findings:

– Farmers overall expect their spending will increase slightly over the next 12 months, particularly meat and wool farmers.

– Farmers in most regions expected their debt levels to increase over the next year, with the North Island’s East Coast the exception.

– Continuing a finding of the last four surveys, regulation and compliance costs remain the greatest concern for farmers. Concerns about climate change policy and the ETS that became increasingly prevalent over the past three surveys has levelled out, and concern about the political situation has also decreased.

– For this survey drought did not register as a concern – most unusual for a January survey.

Drought might not have registered when the survey was done, but it will be now, especially in the Tasman District where fires are still raging.

Nelson farmers affected by this week’s fire are beginning to count their losses, while others in the region are preparing for the increasing possibility of severe drought.

Farmer Steve German, whose stock had to be put down because of the fire, said it was going to be a hard road replacing them.

Mr German had about 80 breeding ewes up Redwood Valley Road next to a forestry block when the wind changed direction on Tuesday and went down the valley.

He said the SPCA shot some of the sheep on site the next morning and then in the afternoon they went up with the fire and police and mustered everything out of there.

In total Mr German said he lost about 66 ewes.

“Pretty much the whole flock of Suffolk breeding ewes is gone,” Mr German said.

“I’ve been breeding them for 10 years… it was my premium breeding line of Suffolk ewes… [they were] a real nice flock of sheep… real shame to see them gone,” he said.

Most of the homes evacuated due to the blaze were lifestyle blocks with a mixture of animals, including sheep and cattle. . . 

Farmers whose stock survived will be concerned about feeding them if their pastures, crop, hay and silage have been destroyed by fire.


Rural round-up

February 8, 2019

Nelson fire: Water shortage, dry conditions worry farmers

Rural groups are rallying help for farmers, livestock and pets affected by the Nelson fires.

Federated Farmers of New Zealand provincial support person Jan Gillanders said big farms and lots of smaller lifestyle blocks had been affected.

“Farms are not just business units, families live on them,” she said.

“To see everything get ruined and damaged … sometimes you can’t get to your stock, the distress the farmers experience – over wondering where their stock are and what’s happening to the stock – is enormous.” . . 

Drones proving a muster time-saver – Alexia Johnston:

Dogs and their masters are going to new heights in their bid to be the best in the field.

The Lowburn Collie Club added a drone component to its recent dog trials, testing the skills of the musterer while using the airborne device, now commonly used in the high country.

Musterer Tony Buchanan was among those who attended the event, complete with a ute full of loyal dogs and a Phantom 4 Pro.

He said the device had come in handy over the past two years while mustering sheep and cattle.

”But, you still can’t do it without your dogs,” he said. . . 

Nitrogen to be focus at hub field day – Ken Muir:

Nitrogen (N) will be high on the agenda at the Southern Dairy Hub’s field day on February 20.

Hub business manager Guy Michaels said scientists will present a progress report on N leaching loss from the 2018 winter period, as well looking at feed quality with particular emphasis on N, including from the crop in winter 2018.

Other topics will include blood urea N results from winter feeding trial, soil mineral N results and crop N applications and a look at the autumn and winter plan, and how winter grazing would be implemented on farm, taking into account environmental considerations.

‘‘It’s good to be able to present some information and data from our farming systems, but we are still in the early stages of our research,’’ Mr Michaels said. ‘‘Farmers are impatient for results, which is a good thing, but it does put pressure on us.’’ . . 

More money needed for rural connectivity:

The announcement this week of more funding for rural connectivity is positive but it is just a drop in the required connectivity bucket, says Federated Farmers.

The Government’s pledge of an additional $21million towards the creation of “regional digital hubs” in rural areas is good to see, says Feds Telecommunications spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.

“But the investment really just highlights to us that rural business and communities deserve as much chance as their urban counterparts to flourish.” 

The regional digital hubs are a good idea, but the focus must remain on getting better connectivity to where people live and work, Andrew says. . . 

New Zealand apple and pear industry targets biosecurity:

New Zealand’s world leading apple and pear industry has gained a significant funding boost to help prepare and manage biosecurity threats, through the Government’s MPI Sustainable Farming Fund.

New Zealand Apples & Pears biosecurity manager Nicola Robertson said the $420,000 grant, announced this week, would make a huge difference for protecting the industry’s future.

“We are living with the risk of biosecurity threats every day, that could have devastating impacts for growers and across New Zealand. . . 

Watch the BOP’s best young fruit growers in action:

Eight of the Bay of Plenty’s best growers will showcase their horticultural expertise at the Te Puke A&P Show this weekend for 2019’s first Young Fruit Grower competition.

This year’s eight entrants for the Bay of Plenty are: . . 

Nominations open for Silver Fern Farms board directors:

Nominations are now open for one farmer-elected Board position on the Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Board.

Director Tony O’Boyle retires by rotation at the Company’s 2018 Annual Meeting.

Tony O’Boyle has advised he will seek re-election.

Nominations close on Monday 4 March 2019 at 12 noon. . . 

Neighbours rally around hospitalised WA farmer to harvest his crop for free – Ellie Honeybone:

Peter Carey is brought to tears when he recounts the generosity of his rural neighbours.

While the 70-year-old was being flown to hospital in a Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) plane, his friends were working together to ensure the harvest would still go ahead on his farm.

More than 20 locals put aside their own harvest plans to make sure Mr Carey had one less thing to worry about while he recovered from a serious car accident brought about through illness. . . 

 


Rural round-up

February 3, 2019

January ‘hottest month’ on record but farmers say growing season ‘extraordinary‘ – Matt Brown:

January in Marlborough has matched the record for the region’s hottest month since records began in 1932.

The month also smashed the record for days above 30C, with 10 sweltering days compared to the previous record of six in 1990.

But hotter days and cooler nights saw the month tie with January 2018 and February 1998 for the title of ‘hottest ever month’ in Marlborough with the mean temperature of 20.7 degrees Celsius, Plant and Food Research scientist Rob Agnew said. . .

 Up to 75 jobs from new North Waikato chicken hatchery – Gerald Piddock:

The opening of a multimillion dollar chicken hatchery in Waikato’s north has bought with it between 50 and 75 jobs and economic benefits to the entire region, say locals and iwi leaders.

Owned by American poultry giant Cobb Vantress, the $70 million hatchery in Rangiriri West, north of Huntly, currently employs 50 staff. That will expand to between 70-75 people once it is fully operational later this year.

For locals Stephen Pearce and Phillip Lorimer, employment at the hatchery was too good of an opportunity for locals to pass up. . . 

Rural sector scares off trainees :

Using Landcorp farms in a restructured vocational education training system for the primary industry is one option being considered by the Government.

Farming leaders have called on the Government to buy Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre’s Masterton campus from the liquidators to secure future vocational farm training, saying once gone it will be difficult and costly to replace.

“It is crucial that facility in Masterton remains available to agricultural training,” Federated Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland says. . .

Plantain research a game-changer for farmers :

Game-changing new research into how plantain crops can reduce nitrogen loss from dairy farms will put upper Manawatu farmers at the forefront of dairy science.

Dairy farmers in the Tararua catchment face reducing nitrogen loss from pastures by an average of 60% to meet the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council’s One Plan targets.

To achieve them farmers are adopting a range of on-farm changes and the region’s new plantain research could be a key component. . .

Farmers sick of being treated as rates ‘mugs’:

Farmers are out of patience with councils that treat them as cash cows, with a new Federated Farmers survey showing less than 4% believe they get good value for money from their rates.

“It’s local government election year and those chasing our votes can expect some very pointy questions on why average council rates in New Zealand jumped 79.7% between June 2007 and June 2017 when inflation (CPI) for the same period was only 23.1%,” Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says. . . 

Navajo shepherds cling to centuries-old tradition in a land where it refuses to rain – David Kelly:

More than a hundred rowdy sheep pressed up against the gates of the corral as Irene Bennalley drew near. Dogs yipped, rams snorted.

Just after 7:30 a.m., she flung open the pen and the woolly mob charged out in a cloud of dust. Well-trained dogs struggled to keep order as the flock moved across the bone-dry earth searching for stray bits of grass or leaves.

“Back! Back!” the 62-year-old Bennalley shouted at the stragglers separating from the flock — ripe pickings for coyotes or packs of wild dogs. . . 

Photos reveal Queensland cotton farms full of water while Darling River runs dry

These photos were taken by the Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick from a light plane over southern Queensland near Goondiwindi, on Wednesday.

They show rivers such as the Condamine relatively full, and storages on cotton farms holding thousands of megalitres of water.

Yet three hours away in north-west New South Wales, the Barwon and Darling rivers are a series of muddy pools. . . 


Rural round-up

February 1, 2019

Flavours of childhood – Rebecca Fox:

Growing up in Argentina with Italian family heritage, it is not surprising Pablo Tacchini became a chef. Having just become a Beef + Lamb ambassador chef, he tells Rebecca Fox it has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point.

Weekends were feast times in Pablo Tacchini’s childhood home in Argentina.

He would spend his mornings either in the kitchen making pasta with his grandmother or outside helping his father and grandfather barbecue.

”I grew up with that. Food is very important for me. It was an easy choice to see what I wanted to do.”

While he now lives and works thousands of kilometres from home, it is those flavours and experiences he seeks to replicate. . .

Federated Farmers on clean waterways survey: ‘Throwing rocks at farming all the time is just not helping’ – Eric Frykberg:

Federated Farmers has accused Fish & Game of using leading questions in a survey on clean waterways.

The agency commissioned a survey on public attitudes on protecting rivers and lakes from pollution.

The survey, by the research group Colmar Brunton, said 82 percent of respondents would support mandatory environmental standards for New Zealand’s waterways, enforced by local councils.

But Federated Farmers water spokesperson Chris Allen said the group asked leading questions. . .

$15m cherry project announced

Development of Central Otago’s cherry industry is set to continue with another multimillion-dollar venture announced this week.

Cherry investment firm Hortinvest is seeking expressions of interest from investors for a $15.5million orchard project on an 80ha site at Mt Pisa, near Cromwell.

It was the third cherry investment to be led by Hortinvest within the last two years in Central Otago and was to meet “an unprecedented global demand for premium cherries”, a Hortinvest statement said . . 

Recognising a dairy sector champion: Adrian van Bysterveldt:

The dairy sector is recognising the loss of one of its greatest champions, South Island-based Adrian van Bysterveldt.

Adrian was a passionate advocate and leader for pasture-based farm systems and his work helped shape and influence the direction of dairy farming, particularly in the South Island where he was a dedicated leader.

“Adrian was so passionate about all things dairy and really believed in pasture-based farm systems, he had an incredible enthusiasm for the sector and the people in it,” said Tim Mackle, DairyNZ chief executive. . . 

New way of applying fertiliser has potential to benefit the environment:

A new guide has been released which will assist farmers and the irrigation industry to adopt the use of fertigation – a new way of applying fertiliser which is likely to reduce nitrogen leaching and save labour on farms.

Fertigation allows irrigators to be used to apply liquid fertiliser or liquid soluble fertiliser in small quantities at the same time as water. In New Zealand, most fertiliser currently used is solid and applied through ground spreading or aerial top dressing.

Internationally, fertigation is increasingly being adopted as good environmental practice. . . 

Unmodified quad bikes unsuitable for mustering cattle – Kate Dowler:

UNMODIFIED quad bikes have been ruled unsuitable for mustering cattle, in a landmark recent Queensland court decision.

And farmers are being warned the ruling means they could be held liable over quad bike accidents.

The decision has prompted calls from the National Farmers’ Federation for the safety of the bikes to be improved by manufacturers and for riders to also be held more accountable for their own safety. . . 

 


Rural round-up

January 16, 2019

SIT plans takeover of Telford – Giordano Stolley:

The Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) will submit a proposal to Education Minister Chris Hipkins to take over operations of the troubled Telford agricultural training campus in Balclutha.

A statement from the Clutha District Council yesterday afternoon quoted SIT chairman Peter Heenan as saying that he was “encouraged by the support from all parties at the meeting for SIT to pull together a proposal for the minister’s consideration”.

Mr Heenan made the comments at a meeting at the district council offices.

While the statement provided no details of the the proposal, Clutha Southland National Party MP Hamish Walker, said: “They [SIT] are looking to take over operations at Telford.” . . 

Funding call for Telford training farm campus staff:

The Clutha community is trying to raise funds for staff at a financially troubled rural training campus, mayor Bryan Cadogan says.

Dozens of staff at Telford agricultural training campus near Balclutha are stuck without pay while their employer’s future is decided.

The Telford training farm in South Otago is part of the Taratahi Institute of Agriculture, which was placed in interim liquidation late last year.

More than 30 tutors and support staff at Telford had their wages suspended on Friday. . .

Synlait plant registration renewed – Sally Rae:

Synlait has successfully renewed the registration of its Dunsandel plant, allowing it to continue exporting canned infant formula to China.

The registration was issued by the General Administration of Customers of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC).

Synlait chief executive Leon Clement said GACC had strict criteria that overseas manufacturers must meet to maintain registration.

New pasture legume hard to fault – Jill Griffiths:

THE PERENNIAL forage legume tedera is on track for commercial release in 2019. Dr Daniel Real, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), said difficult seasonal conditions in Western Australia this year had provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the potential value of tedera.

“Rain at the end of February created a false break,” Daniel said. “All the annuals germinated but then died, and the dry autumn left nothing in the paddocks. The annuals were non-existent but the tedera was looking good.”

Tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var. albomarginata) is native to the Canary Islands and was brought to Australia in 2006 through research conducted under the auspices of the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre. . . . 

Deliberate food contamination needs harsher penalties:

A recent member’s bill which seeks to introduce harsher penalties and offences is good to see, but any action from it will have to be funded and resourced adequately to have any real impact, says Federated Farmers.

The bill is from National’s Nathan Guy and it comes in the wake of last year’s Australian strawberry needle scare which triggered copycat offences here and back over the ditch, says Feds Food Safety spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.

Thousands of strawberries had to be destroyed as needles started showing up in the fruit across stores. The needle scares crushed spirits and trust. . .

How one innovative company is using bees to protect crops from disease – Nicole Rasul:

Billed as an “elegant solution to a complex problem,” Bee Vectoring Technology, or BVT, is a Toronto-based startup that is using commercially reared bees to provide a targeted, natural disease management tool to a range of agricultural crops.

The bumblebee, one of nature’s hardest workers, is the star of the BVT method. Hives that contain trays of powdered Clonostachys rosea CR-7, which the company describes as “an organic strain of a natural occurring endophytic fungus… commonly found in a large diversity of plants and soils all around the world,” are placed near a fledgling field. . .

Cheaper to get your 5+ a day at the end of 2018:

Avocados and lettuces were much cheaper than the previous summer, but egg prices hit a record high in December 2018, Stats NZ said today.

“Overall, getting your five-plus (5+) a day servings of fruit and vegetables was cheaper in 2018,” consumer prices manager Geraldine Duoba said. Fruit prices were 3.8 percent lower in December 2018 than in December 2017, while vegetable prices were 7.5 percent lower.

“Bad weather in 2017 reduced the supply of many vegetables, pushing up their prices,” Ms Duoba said. “Growing conditions were mostly more favourable during 2018, boosting supply and lowering prices.” . .


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