Rural round-up

November 1, 2013

Drone helps Southland farmers check on stock – Dave Goosselink:

A Southland farming family have employed a set of digital eyes to help keep track of their stock.

They’re using a remote-controlled drone fitted with cameras to fly over their large farm, counting sheep and looking out for problems.

There are over 4000 sheep and cattle on the Gardyne family’s farm, and it was 13-year-old Mark who suggested turning to technology.

“Dad and I were watching TV and we saw the drones in Afghanistan for the military purposes and we decided how we could use that in agriculture,” says Mark Gardyne. . . .

Allan Barber:

The announcement by Silver Fern Farms of the reopening of its Finegand, Balclutha, casings plant eight years after it closed is an interesting example of history repeating itself. Of particular interest are the reasons behind resuscitating an operation which nobody would ever have foreseen as likely.

The first part of the explanation is both simple and inexplicable: simple because China has stopped accepting any shipments of green runners (sheep and lamb intestines) which were processed into sausage casings, inexplicable because nobody seems to know why. The second component of the explanation is belief by SFF that it can amalgamate substantial volumes of green runners from its South Island plants and add value to them profitably in the new facility. . . .

Progress for irrigation in Otago and Rangitikei:

Federated Farmers congratulates the Government on their commitment to sustainable irrigation in New Zealand.

“The Government’s $850,000 investment into the Central Otago and Rangitkei projects, through their Irrigation Acceleration Fund, will go a long way to improving these provinces economically and socially. It also bodes well for getting it right from the beginning,” says Ian MacKenzie, Federated Farmers Water Spokesperson.

“The potential for these provinces to develop and profit from a more reliable irrigation source is huge – with only two percent of our rainfall used for irrigation right now. It also will play a major part in reaching the goal to double our exports by 2025. . .

Iconic lake benefits from weed control:

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson says great progress is being made to improve the health of Lake Wanaka through efforts to rid it of a noxious weed.

Lagarosiphon, also known as South African oxygen weed, chokes waterways, smothers native aquatic plant communities and it establishes quickly if left untreated.

Weed control at Lake Wanaka is carried out by a lagarosiphon management committee, led by Land Information New Zealand. . .

Stable wool pricing needed – Wools of New Zealand:

At an estimated average production cost of $4.50/kilo of greasy wool, cross bred wool growers have had only two years of profitable returns over the past decade, continuing a 30-year downward cycle.

Mark Shadbolt, chairman of Wools of New Zealand, says the numbers make for sober reading. “The industry’s primary concern has to be with price volatility. When there’s a price spike manufacturers switch away from wool, eroding demand and fuelling further volatility. Wools of New Zealand have developed a stable pricing model designed to stabilise prices for growers and customers alike, which over time will provide incremental growth in demand and ultimately returns at farm gate.”

Writing in the just released Wools of New Zealand annual report – the first since the company’s successful capital raise was completed in February this year – Mr Shadbolt notes that the company has developed two six month stable price contracts direct with customers. . .

New programme to unlock Northland’s primary industry potential:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has launched a new programme to help unlock the potential for primary industry growth in Northland today.

“This is the start of a wider programme by the Ministry for Primary Industries to work in partnership with regions to help them further develop industries like agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and aquaculture.

“We chose to start with Northland because it has significant potential, with a good climate and a vast tracts of land suitable for further development,” says Mr Guy.

MPI is already working with two Māori-owned farms in Northland. One involves the conversion of 270 hectares of Māori land to a dairy farm. The other involves providing technical support for a 2480 hectare dairy and beef farm to increase productivity, with the support of key partners including Landcorp, Dairy NZ and Te Tumu Paeroa. . .

Special Year as 2014 Dairy Awards Entries Open:

The 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are accepting entries in what is likely to be the most memorable awards competition to date.

National convenor Chris Keeping says the 2014 awards coincide with the 25th anniversary of the New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year competition – the country’s longest running dairy farming contest.

“We are taking some time to celebrate this achievement and are enjoying the trip down memory lane as we see where some of our past winners, entrants, judges and organisers are now. What has become apparent is the long lasting effect and impact their association with the contest has had on them and their dairy farming career.” . . .

Give it up for the dairy industry’s Oscars – Willy Leferink:

What do you call the dairy industry’s Oscars, Emmy’s or the Canon Media Awards all rolled into one? It’s the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

These awards are much more than a night for farmers to don a tux and hit the big smoke, although Auckland is where the finals are being held in 2014. Next year also happens to be the 25th Anniversary of the Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year competition. For those who don’t know much about sharemilking it is a unique New Zealand pathway into farming. There is lower order sharemilking which is the first rung on the ladder before progressing onto 50/50 sharemilking. There is also equity partnership, where a farmer manages the farm and draws a salary but also has an equity stake in the farm business. All three forms are businesses and mean people with little money but a great work ethic can make a great future for themselves and their family.

In order to recognise the best in our industry is why 25 years ago, Federated Farmers ran the very first Sharemilker of the Year competition in Stratford. . .

Award-Winning Amisfield Wine Company Ownership Returns to Its Roots:

Leading New Zealand businessman John Darby recently announced he has become the sole shareholder of multi award-winning Amisfield Wine Company.

Mr Darby, who was previously a majority shareholder, assumed full ownership following the buyout of other shareholders.

Founded in 1988 and originally known as Lake Hayes Wines, vines were first planted on 110 hectares of vineyards in Gibbston Valley in the early 1990s. . . .

New HALO reds show Hawke’s Bay’s class:

Hawke’s Bay’s classic red wine characteristics shine through in two Sacred Hill HALO premium red wines from the 2012 vintage, released this week.

Named after the distinctive halo in Sacred Hill’s logo, the HALO range has earned a reputation for handcrafted, richly textured wines and the Sacred Hill HALO Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2012 and HALO Syrah 2012 continue that tradition.

Chief winemaker Tony Bish says the wines are made from small parcel selections of fruit from Sacred Hill’s best vineyards. . .


Jobs go jobs come

October 31, 2013

Jobs go.

It’s hard for everyone involved but for all sorts of reasons businesses change and the number of people they employ does too,

Sometimes it’s because of the introduction of more automation or the introduction of new technology which improves productivity but reduces the need for so many staff.

Sometimes it’s because a business loses customers or fails completely.

Fortunately while jobs go they also come and there’s good news for the Clutha District with 40 new jobs for Finegand from new casings plant.

A new added value casing facility at Silver Fern Farms’ Finegand plant will see 40 new roles created in the Clutha region.

Silver Fern Farms’ Chief Executive Keith Cooper says the million dollar facility will take previously exported part-processed “green lamb runners” through to a processed sausage casing stage for export markets across the world.

“This development will create 40 new full time roles across our Balclutha – Finegand operations. It will create value from a product that will add to the profitability of our sheep meat business in the short-medium term,” Mr Cooper says.

Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan, who previously worked in a casing plant, says the move is good news for Balclutha’s Ready Steady Work programme.

“We have a Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs initiative for Clutha, which is aiming for zero unemployment for youth in the Clutha District. Silver Fern Farms have been a supporter of this programme from the start. These 40 new roles in our district will be a great help for our ambitions of realising this goal,” Mr Cadogan says.

Green casings will be brought to Finegand from four Silver Fern Farms’ plants across the country, making it one of the larger casing facilities in New Zealand Mr Cooper says.

“The plant will be operational year-round so our customers can have a reliable and high quality source of clean, salted casings.”

Previously the green runners had been exported in part-processed form to China for further processing.

Finegand previously had a casing facility which closed in 2005 due to the then demand for green runners. The new facility has a process which is forecast to use less than half of the water requirements of the previous system.

Forty new jobs is significant for a small town.

It’s good news for the people who will get jobs and the wider district.

This time next year one town or city in New Zealand will get a boost that will lead to more jobs when it becomes Chorus’s #gigatown.

New Zealand’s sharpest town, Oamaru, is doing it’s best to become the Southern Hemisphere’s first #gigatown – #gigatownoamaru.


SFF Meat Jobs Safe in the South

July 5, 2008

Plans for all-year round processing should safeguard jobs at Silver Fern Farms’ Finegand freezing works in Balclutha and Waitane near Gore.

SFF chief executive Keith Cooper said:

“This is a high-level strategic view to keep costs down, utilise plants better and attract employees by getting away from seasonal work to become a longer-term employer.”

Multi-species plants which operate all year round make sense because of ever-increasing compliance and maintenance costs, and difficulty sourcing seasonal labour.

There will be economic and social gains for the community too because fulltime employment brings more regular and secure income than seasonal jobs which can leave large numbers of people with low incomes and little work in the off-season.

A judge I interviewed for an alcohol awareness week years ago told me he thought there was a relationship between freezing works and alcohol problems because there were a lot of people on high incomes during the killing season but low incomes and too much free time in the off-season.


Sheep numbers down but prices may go up

May 17, 2008

The ODT reports that 120 meat workers at PPCS’s Burnside works have been called to a meeting on Monday. The expectation is they’ll be told that the venison processing will move to the Finegand plant in South Otago. This follows  last Monday’s news that the company’s Oringi works will close. 

 

In between the two announcements was another from Mataura Valley, a new dairy company, saying it plans to build a $90 million milk drying plant near Gore. Reactions were mixed with a warning that too many companies competing for markets could lead to prices being under cut as they have been in the sheep industry.

 

However, farmers facing the expense of converting to dairying will be tempted by the fact they don’t have to buy shares as they do with Fonterra; and the increase in cow numbers is expected to continue. Around 100 Southland sheep and beef farms converted to dairying for the new season and a similar number is predicted to convert for the 2008-09 season.

 

The scale of conversion has altered the South Island landscape. Visitors used to marvel at the number of sheep, but while driving from North Otago to Balfour a couple of weeks ago what struck me was how few sheep I saw. My impression was confirmed by yesterday’s release of 2007 stock numbers from the Stats Department which explain why meat works are closing and milk plants are opening.

 

Last year’s drought and numerous dairy conversions have led to a 3% drop in sheep numbers from 39.6 million in 2002 to 38.5 million last year. North Island sheep numbers dropped 5%: from 19.5 million in June 2006 to 18.5 million last year – just 100,000 more than in 2002.

 

The South Island still has more sheep than the North, but the numbers have decreased more too: there were 19.9 million last year, 6% fewer than 2002. The decline was steepest in Canterbury where they dropped 8% to 7.2 million and Southland down 5% to 5.7 million.

 

Beef numbers dropped 2% from 4.5 million to 4.4 million in the five years to June 2007. At the same time dairy cows increased 31% in the South Island, from 1 million to 1.3 million with a small increase of just 22,000 to 2.9 million in the North Island.

 

The drop in sheep numbers signals there may well be hard times ahead for meat workers and their communities as over capacity forces PP and possibly other companies to “right-size”. But there are encouraging signs for meat producers. We’re not the only country with a decline in sheep numbers. The drought has taken its toll on flocks across the Tasman too so the supply is down while the world demand for protein is growing. Beef prices are already at record highs in the USA; and the falling dollar will also help boost prices, not just for meat. Pelts and wool have been at rock bottom levels so even a small lift in returns from them will help farmers’ incomes too.

 

 


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