Rural round-up

April 5, 2020

Meat workers fight battle in small towns – Tim Ritchie:

Meat processing workers are among the heroes in our community, writes Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie.

Right  now, millions of New Zealanders are in a lockdown, following the Government’s announcement last week that the country is in Alert Level 4.

However, the situation is quite different for the many people who work in jobs considered essential services — healthcare professionals, border agencies, media, public safety and local and national government.

But also playing a critical but less visible role are more than 25,000 Kiwis working in the red meat processing sector. That’s because the Government has recognised the importance of the food production sector and classified meat processing companies as an essential service. . . 

Staying connected in isolation – a farmers’ guide – Karen WIlliams:

Sticking in our own bubble has never been as important as it is now. With New Zealand currently at Alert Level 4, everyone except those providing essential services must stay at home and self-isolate. Some farmers may feel that this is a continuation of their business as usual, because sometimes it can be a couple of days before we see anyone else.      

Even though we must self-isolate, there are some steps that we can take to ensure that we are still virtually connected to the communities around us, be it all the farming families along the shingle road or just your immediate neighbours.   

There are numerous examples of video calling technologies out there which we can use to stay connected, including WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and FaceTime.  They’re pretty easy to use. WhatsApp and Facebook messenger can be downloaded from the iTunes store or through Google Play.    

About 15 years ago I set up a neighbourhood email contact list which includes about 60 residents contact details along our road. I did this because of a burglary that I thought neighbours should know about and also a desire to make sure our community of farmers and lifestyle block owners stayed connected. It’s worked well, with many social occasions having sprung out of the initiative, and more recently it enabled the kick-start of our Community Catchment Group. Little did I know however that this email network would form the basis of our community connections during a pandemic! . . .

Covid-19: Fruit industry facing hurdles with harvest due to restrictions – Andrew McRae:

The kiwifruit industry is fighting for survival as it tries to pick and pack the season’s crop while enforcing Covid-19 restrictions.

The apple industry is also predicting problems with at least 10 percent of the crop not likely to be picked.

The nationwide lockdown has come right in the middle of the harvest season.

Mark Hume from Hume Pak ‘n Cool in Katikati normally employs 400 to 500 people in his packing shed, and about 180 pickers – all focusing on kiwifruit.

With the two-metre distance rule in place, his cool store will need to reduce staff by half. . . 

Young farmer pumping out six times as many Delivery boxes as usual – Maddison Northcott,:

Bundling together six times as many boxes of vegetables as usual is helping keep one rural Canterbury farm in business, getting fresh produce to customers all over the region.

Dominique Schacherer, co-owner of the Spring Collective, a 16-hectare market garden in Leeston, said orders for their curated boxes had sky-rocketed, with bookings growing from 40 to 250 weekly boxes in a handful of days.

The collective opened three years ago with the goal of supplying sustainably grown produce to farmers’ markets, restaurants and supermarkets. . .

Working on the farm: your Covid-19 questions answered – Glen Scanlon:

As Covid-19 spreads around the world, it can be daunting keeping up with the information. For RNZ, our responsibility is to give you verified, up to the minute, trustworthy information to help you make decisions about your lives and your health. We’ll also be asking questions of officials and decision makers about how they’re responding to the virus. Our aim is to keep you informed.

They’re back to number one in the export earning stakes and remain critical to our food chain, so what can farmers get up to during the Covid-19 crisis?

Here are some of their questions:

I manage a small farm and at present the animals need water taken to them because the dams that supplied their troughs are dried up. We are also moving electric fencing every few days to give them pasture to graze on. Can I and my two regular part-time farm workers carry out this work? We have modified our work practices already and travel around the farm in separate vehicles and maintain distance between ourselves when out of the vehicles. . . 

 

Why doesn’t Britain value its farmers? – James Rebanks:

They say eight people in our little village have got this plague. It seems weird that it would have found its way here, to these isolated northern farming valleys, where the snow clings on to the high fells, and the woodsmoke rises from the scattered farmhouses.

I always imagined that the apocalypse would look a bit like the movie of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But this valley seems oblivious to the crisis — it is all daffodils, snowdrops, birdsong, and trees bursting into leaf.

My flock is down in the valley bottom. The first lamb of the year was born today and is now lying with its mother. I come in from the fields and the TV news is like something from a science-fiction movie — they are building giant makeshift hospitals in the city centers. People are dying in their hundreds every day. But not far from the farmhouse a duck has made a nest by our pond and has laid thirteen pale green eggs in the midst of a perfect downy circle. . . 


Rural round-up

April 3, 2020

COVID-19: Farming keeps the economy ticking – Nigel Malthus:

An analysis by two Christchurch economists has underlined the value of the farming sector to the country during the Level 4 COVID-19 lockdown.

David Dyason and Peter Fieger have produced an analysis of who is likely still to be working and who may not be, based on the Government’s definition of essential business (although the definition is changing as exemptions develop).

They say based on 2019 figures, approximately 123,800 people in Canterbury are employed in essential services, which represents 40.6% of all employment within the region.

This is almost identical to the national economy at 40.4%. . .

COVID-19: Misery on UK farms – Peter Burke:

Wake up, New Zealand: that’s the message from a New Zealander trying to manage a large dairy farm in the UK amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

A friend of the man who wishes to remain anonymous called Dairy News in a bid to make farmers in NZ aware of the situation in the UK which he describes as horrific.

The person whom we will call ‘Brian’ manages a large intensive dairy farm and has a staff of twelve says he’s not sure that farmers in NZ realise the problems they are about to face. . . 

Moving day guide is coming – Gerald Piddock:

Guidelines for sharemilkers and farm owners for the dairy sector’s Moving Day are being written.

Federated Farmers sharemilkers chairman Richard McIntyre is fielding numerous calls from sharemilkers asking him how Moving Day will work.

While much of the Government’s focus is on immediate issues, Moving Day is on its radar.

“We are going to be discussing it more and more over the coming weeks as it becomes clearer and clearer of what it might look like.” . .

Stock feed sells out in drought-hit Wairarapa – Marcus Anselm:

Demand for stock baleage has been high in Masterton as the Covid-19 virus compounds a tough summer for Wairarapa’s farmers.

Masterton District Council (MDC) workers are ploughing on through during the lockdown response to the worldwide pandemic.

Staff at the Homebush sewage treatment plant have been working on through the crisis, with enhanced health and safety measures, to meet demand.

Treated wastewater is used to water nearby land, with plants cropped and sold on as stock baleage. . .

 

Fonterra seeing demand spike for some products – Guyon Espiner:

A bright spot is emerging in the economic gloom with New Zealand’s largest company Fonterra saying it is in good financial heart and expects to remain so during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chief executive Miles Hurrell told RNZ that the global dairy giant, owned by its 10,000 farmers, was expecting the milk price to hold in the current range of $7-7.60 per kilogram of milk solids.

Fonterra was not expecting job losses or significant drops in revenue and was even seeing demand spike for a number of its products.

“Effectively what you’re seeing here in New Zealand play out with stockpiling of products in supermarkets – we’ve seen that play out across a number of our markets around the globe.” . .

Award-winning cheesemaker shares recipe for success:

The reputation of Whangārei’s Grinning Gecko Cheese Company continues to soar after picking up a massive 11 medals at this year’s New Zealand Cheese Competition. This adds to its highly impressive track record of international and national awards won every year during its seven years in business.

So, what is the secret of its success? “Mahi whānau and aroha sums it up pretty well,” revealed owner Catherine McNamara. A winning recipe, but one that will no doubt be tested by the effects of the nationwide lockdown.

In an industry that has traditionally been led by European countries, with heavily guarded hand-made processes and recipes passed down through generations, this small New Zealand business continues to prove it is formidable competition. The latest national awards come swiftly after Grinning Gecko’s now eight-medal-winning Camembert won a gold award at the International Cheese Awards last year. . .

 


Rural round-up

March 31, 2020

Resuscitating a virus-ravaged economy – the answer lies in the soil and the exports it generates – Point of Order:

Westpac is forecasting 200,000 jobs will be lost in NZ as a result of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.  Chief economist Dominick Stephens estimates economic activity during the four week lock-down would decline by a third, despite the government and the Reserve Bank having “done a lot to calm financial markets”.

Stephens said his feeling was that GDP in the three months to June would fall by more than 10%— “which is completely unprecedented in our lifetimes”.

The  Westpac  diagnosis  reinforces  the argument  advanced  by  Point of   Order   in  one of  its most intently  read  posts:  “After the lock-down the  economy’s  recovery  will be  dependent on dairy farmers and  their  milk”. . . 

Covid 19 coronavirus: It’s essential that agriculture does its bit – Chris Lewis:

To beat Covid-19 those working on the land must do their bit on-farm and off, writes Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis.

Just like our hard working medical and emergency services, communications and infrastructure teams, the next four weeks will see farmers and their supporting services continuing to work while most of the country is locked down.

Being away from the high populations of our urban centres is an advantage in a time when we need to limit people contact and for many, business on the farm will largely feel like usual.

But for all of us to beat this, those working on the land must do their bit on the farm and off. . . 

Protocols present harvest challenges – Richard Rennie:

As Covid-19 protocols for essential industry staff become clearer, the kiwifruit sector is facing some tough decisions on how realistic they will prove for this year’s harvest to be successful.

Growers have only one day to go for registration as an “essential business”, and all growers and contractors with over five staff will be required to be registered with Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). 

Businesses have until 5pm on Friday March 27 to be registered.

Doug Brown NZKGI chairman said he could not reiterate enough the importance of registering under Level 4 Covid-19 rules. . . 

 

Whanganui meat business Coastal Spring Lamb wins another food award – Laurel Stowell :

A second food award is a ray of sunshine amid a time of drought and pandemic for Turakina farmer Richard Redmayne.

He founded and, with farming partners, owns the Coastal Spring Lamb brand. Its lamb backstraps have won a gold medal in the Outstanding New Zealand Food Producers Awards, announced on March 24. Other gold winners in the category were beef and chicken products, and eggs.

The awards are judged 75 per cent on taste, 15 per cent on sustainability and 10 per cent on brand. Judges said the lamb backstraps were “a real class act”, with sustainability built in, consideration for animal welfare and care for the land. . . 

Raw milk rings alarm bells – Richard Rennie:

The increasingly popular and often controversial choice to drink raw milk has had alarm bells ringing among public health officials in recent years. Richard Rennie spoke to veterinarian and researcher Genevieve Davys about her work with Massey University disease experts on the link between raw milk and campylobacter.

Research has revealed children under 10 are most likely to contract campylobacter disease by drinking raw milk and account for 29% of the raw milk-related cases notified in the MidCentral Health district from 2012 to 2017.

The study collected data on all cases of campylobacter notified in that period. It then dug deeper into raw milk campylobacteriosis cases, comparing the demographics of them to other campylobacter cases where raw milk was not drunk.

Raw milk was linked to almost 8% of the notified cases.  . . 

New protocols to keep the shears clicking during the coronavirus emergency – Vernon Graham:

Shearers and shed hands should travel to work in separate vehicles, according to new wool harvesting protocols.

They should only travel together if the vehicle (eg, a bus) is big enough to allow the recommended 1.5 metres spacing between them.

The protocols have been developed in a collaboration between AWEX, WoolProducers Australia, Sheep Producers Australia, the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia and the WA Shearing Industry Association. . .

 


Rural round-up

March 30, 2020

Essentially we are struggling – Sarah Perriam:

It’s a nice feeling to be essential huh?

But, farming in New Zealand is facing the perfect storm of challenges, which makes it hard to provide that essential service.

This week in Sarah’s Country we talk to to Lochie Macgillivray from the Hawke’s Bay Rural Advisory Group who talks about the layers of mounting situations that the region’s farmers face from movement control with M bovis and the TB outbreak, water and feed storage issues and livestock returned from processors due to Covid-19 – all while being in drought.  . . 

Rural businesses carrying on – Annette Scott:

Being there for farmers is what Ruralco is about, chief executive Rob Sharkie says.

“And that means through all times where at all possible, the good and the not so good. 

“It’s about looking after our backyarders. That’s what we are set up to do.”

On the first day of the level three covid-19 Ruralco had 900 people through the doors.

“Nine hundred customers in one day is very busy but it wasn’t panic buying, it was the uncertainty. . . 

Covid-19: Farmer lobby’s strength on display :

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says COVID-19 has highlighted the strength of the farmer lobby. “

It shows the strength of Federated Farmers that we’re being looked to as the ‘go to’ source of advice and conduit of essential information to the agriculture sector during Covid-19,” she told Feds members in an email last night.

“We’ve found answers to pretty much every question our members have fired at us over the last week or two and it’s all summarised on our website and in the regular advisories we’ve emailed.” . . 

Food sector to continue as normal: Professor – Alice Scott:

It is business as usual for farmers around the country, despite Covid-19.

Emeritus Prof Frank Griffin says that as the nation scrambles to contain the virus, the food sector will continue as normal.

Prof Griffin has spent a career in animal health research.

He also has a strong interest in New Zealand’s food production systems and he is director of Agriculture at Otago (Ag@Otago), an initiative launched in 2016, involving more than 60 Otago researchers with active interests in agriculture. . . 

New associate director for Beef + Lamb board:

Wairarapa farmer Kate Wyeth has been appointed this year’s associate director on the Beef + Lamb New Zealand board.

Wyeth, who alongside her husband James, farms a 380ha sheep and beef farm in the Northern Wairarapa has a background in farm consultancy with BakerAg and is a facilitator on the Agri-Women’s Development Trust and chairperson on the Opaki School Board of Trustees.

She says she is excited by the opportunity to learn from and contribute to c’s governance team. . . 

Badge ‘just a tremendous honour’ – Toni Williams:

“It’s just a tremendous honour,” Women’s Institutes stalwart Jude Vaughan, the unsuspecting recipient of a WI Good Service Badge, said.

Mrs Vaughan was completely taken aback when presented with the award at the Mid Canterbury Federation of WI’s annual general meeting after a secret nomination of her peers at Lowcliffe WI.

“It just blows you away, it’s not for me, it’s for the organisation. The acknowledgement from your peers, that means so much,” she said.

In nominating Mrs Vaughan, members of Lowcliffe WI said: “She is very proactive member wanting to spread the WI word and fly our banner when possible. . . 


Rural round-up

March 28, 2020

After the lockdown, the economy’s recovery will be dependent on dairy farms and their milk – Point of Order:

The planet is  in a state of   flux,   economies are tumbling into  recession, no-one (not even Donald Trump) can predict  when the agony will  end.

Suddenly, the streets  are  empty:  life  as  we have  known  it is  now  very  different. The  nation  is  in   lockdown.

As  the  London  “Economist” put it:

“The struggle  to  save  lives  and the  economy  is  likely to present  agonising choices…As  that  sends economies  reeling, desperate  governments are trying to tide over  companies and  by handing out millions of  dollars in  aid and loan guarantees. Nobody can be sure how these rescues  will work”. . . 

Don’t stress weakening economy – Neal Wallace:

Economist Cameron Bagrie is joining a chorus of calls for the Government to delay introducing policy imposing new environmental rules and costs on a rapidly weakening economy.

Bagrie says Government borrowing as a percentage of gross domestic product has doubled from 20% to 40% in the last few weeks as it tries to protect jobs and businesses from the impact of measures to control the covid-19 virus pandemic.

He expects Government borrowing will increase further and warns now is not the time to introduce more costs on businesses in freshwater regulations and the new minimum wage, which applies from April 1.

“Farming has been unloved and beaten up by the Government for the last two or three years but the Government is going to need farmers for the next few years.” . . 

Virus adds to woes of North Canterbury farmers – David Hill:

The uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic is adding yet another headache for North Canterbury farmers.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cameron Henderson and North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Andy Munro say dry conditions, the ongoing effects of Mycoplasma bovis and coronavirus, and this week’s 5.1-magnitude earthquake near Culverden are creating uncertainty.

‘‘The effects of the virus seem to be changing day to day as we have seen with share markets and travel bans,’’ Mr Henderson said. . . 

Meat matters to sector stalwart – Colin Williscroft:

Tim Ritchie retires as Meat Industry Association chief executive on April 7 after a career in primary sector roles that began in the 1970s. Colin Williscroft reports.

THE meat industry has come a long way since Tim Ritchie got involved and a decision made on the far side of the world about then that has provided the biggest advantage to the sector here in the years since.

Though it might not have seemed like it at the time, in retrospect Britain joining the then European Economic Community in 1973 was the best thing that could have happened for New Zealand farmers. . . 

Leader learnt a lot in dairy industry – Yvonne O’Hara:

‘‘It was like being dropped into the mothership of emergency management.’’

That is how Katrina Thomas describes her involvement with the recent flood recovery effort in the South.

The Wreys Bush dairy farmer was Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) southern regional hub leader for Otago and Southland since 2016, and regional leader for Southland since 2012.

However, this year she decided she wanted to try other challenges. . . 

Wine industry faces worker accommodation woes during lockdown:

The wine industry is facing criticism for continuing harvest during the Covid-19 lockdown, and is facing problems with worker accommodation

The government says the grape and wine industry can continue to operate as an essential business, but strict conditions apply as the country moves to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Some Marlborough people have noticed the hundreds of workers travelling to work in vineyards all over the district, and have questioned whether this was safe in the current climate. . . 


Rural round-up

March 27, 2020

Farming must step up, sector heads say – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s lockdown over Covid-19 is an opportunity for the agricultural sector ‘‘to step up and remind our country how great we are’’, Farmlands chief executive Peter Reidie says.

The farm supplies co-operative has been identified as an essential service and will remain open, although customers have to call or email orders first, and a contactless collection process will then be arranged.

Yesterday, Mr Reidie said the world would still need to be fed and New Zealand was very well placed in terms of the quantity and quality of its produce .

‘‘Provided we can get things on boats … we should keep on keeping on. That’s got to be the ambition,’’ he said.

It was a reminder of the importance of landowners, farmers and orchardists. . . 

Kiwi Jack Raharuhi takes the crown in top Australasian award:

Jack Raharuhi from Pāmu Farms in Westport, and Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer of the Year 2016, has been crowned the 2020 Zanda McDonald Award winner.

Raharuhi, 27 years old, is the Buller Dairy Group Operations Manager for Pāmu, where he oversees 4 dairy farms and a machinery syndicate at Cape Foulwind, and Health and Safety leadership for 10 dairy farms. He is also Chair of the West Coast Focus Farm Trust, and heavily involved with training and mentoring staff as part of the West Coast 2IC Development Programme.

The annual Award, regarded as a prestigious badge of honour by the agribusiness industry, recognises and supports talented young individuals in the ag sector from Australia and New Zealand. It was launched in 2014 in memory of Australian beef industry leader Zanda McDonald, who died aged 41 after an accident at his Queensland property in 2013. . . 

Carrying on farming and consider grain options for stock feed:

Farmers can carry on doing what they do best – putting high quality food on people’s tables and earning export revenue – with confirmation direct from the Prime Minister that they are an ‘Essential Service’ that can continue operating under the Covid-19 lockdown from midnight Wednesday.

Services associated with the primary sector, including food processors, diagnostics, farm suppliers, freight and trucking can also go about their business, while taking all practical steps to limit people to people contact.

This confirmation they are vital to helping the nation survive the virus crisis will be a relief and reason for pride for many farmers and workers in those associated industries. But for some, there remains a pressing concern – the drought, and how to feed stock. . . 

Dairy Trainee of the Year spots all go to women :

Women won all three placings in the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year competition.

The awards were presented at the West Coast Events Centre in Shantytown on Tuesday last week.

Alexis Wells won the trainee section, Dallas Bradley was second and Stephanie Gray claimed third place.

Ms Wells (21) is a farm assistant on a 307ha, 670-cow Pamu Farms of New Zealand property in Reefton. She is studying level 4 husbandry and feeding with Primary ITO and said she was proud to have made it to the dairy awards finals three years in a row. Her goal is to the win the national title. . . 

Pandemic postpones DoC predator control – David Williams:

The Conservation Department will halt operations to kill bird-eating pests during the four-week national shutdown. David Williams reports

Pest control operations to protect rare and vulnerable native species are about to cease.

The Department of Conservation will halt all biodiversity work during the upcoming four-week national shutdown, director-general Lou Sanson confirms.

“We debated that seriously but when we heard the Prime Minister [on Monday], and we understood the seriousness of the lockdown, the number one focus for New Zealand is to stop people moving, and that means all our biodiversity work stops, our construction work stops. About the only things we’ll be doing is the operation of sewerage schemes, search and rescue, and fire.”

(DoC acts as the local council, providing utilities like drinking water and sewerage schemes, in places like Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.) . . 

Exports rise as dairy gains while logs and fish fall:

Total goods exports increased in the February 2020 month due to an increase in the value of dairy products, Stats NZ said today.

The total value of meat exports was little changed, but higher quantities were exported to the United States instead of China.

The increase in total good exports was despite falls in exports of logs and fish, particularly to China, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The value of total goods exports rose by $212 million (4.5 percent) from February 2019 to reach $4.9 billion in February 2020. . . 


Rural round-up

March 25, 2020

Farmers urged to continue producing food:

New Zealand farmers are being urged to carry on producing food while respecting coronavirus guidelines issued by the Government.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says farming is classified as an essential service, so is milk and meat processing.

Lewis says that meat and dairy companies will continue to operate as the country moves into the highest level of alert for coronavirus from midnight Wednesday. . . 

Coronavirus: Farmers’ mental health important says Katie Milne -:

Farmers may be used to isolation but they still need to take care of their mental health says Federated Farmers president Katie Milne.

As efforts to slow the Covid-19 outbreak escalate in New Zealand, people are being asked to stay home and keep their distance from others, while social gatherings and events have been also cancelled.

As a result, farmers may find themselves cut off from everyday rural events that afford them much-needed social interaction, such as rugby games and catch ups at the pub. . . 

Friendly solution to farm water issues – Richard Davison:

A farmer-led catchment monitoring group wants to expand its activities following a successful first year.

In 2014, the Pathway for the Pomahaka water quality improvement project was launched in West Otago, which led to the establishment of the Pomahaka Water Care Group.

Last February, the award-winning group launched the latest phase of its action plan, in the shape of a ‘‘Best Practice Team’’ of 12 volunteers, set up to provide ‘‘self-policing’’ of water quality compliance among the catchment’s about 600 farms.

Team co-ordinator Bryce McKenzie — who farms 700 cows on 320ha adjoining the Pomahaka River — said the concept had worked well during its inaugural year. . . 

Westland Milk unveils Covid-19 strategy:

Westland Milk Products says Covid-19 is causing “minimal disruption” to its supply chains, with the company working to meet rising demand from China.

The second-largest dairy enterprise in New Zealand says domestic demand for its product range is also remaining consistent.

To keep up with demand in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company this morning announced that it is issuing measures to keep staff well and the factory running. . . 

Research reveals fodder beet value – Annette Scott:

New research into fodder beet shows portion control is critical to ensure safe feeding to dairy cows.

Fodder beet is widely used on South Island dairy farms as a versatile, high-energy, high-yield crop that allows cows to put on body condition quickly, if transitioned correctly. 

“This makes it an attractive option for farmers but because of the high sugar content careful transitioning onto the crop is critical,” DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley said.

The Sustainable Use of Fodder Beet research project confirms the crop can be a key part of dairy farm systems. . . 

 

Butchers run off their feet – and it’s not expected to ease – Shan Goodwin:

As butchers report they are now mincing higher value cuts like rump to keep up with astronomical demand, marketing experts and psychologists suggest empty red meat supermarket shelves are likely to be around for months.

It’s not that Australia will run out of beef. Export and food service orders are already being diverted to retail cabinets.

Rather, the unfolding dynamics of consumer behaviour amid the virus crisis indicates the inclination to fill freezers won’t fade. . . 


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