Rural round-up

03/08/2021

Dairy labour shortage: ‘I’m doing 16 hours a day minimum’ – Carmen Hall:

Fonterra dairy farmers are expected to pump $12 billion into the New Zealand economy including $1b to the Bay of Plenty, but the industry is still short of up to 4000 workers.

That means some farmers are working more than 16 hours a day as calving began, which is ”unsustainable” and is sparking fears for their wellbeing.

A joint survey by Dairy NZ and Federated Farmers this year, which received 1150 responses, showed 49 per cent of farms at the time were short-staffed while another 46 per cent of those vacancies went unfilled for more than three months.

Ōpōtiki dairy farmer Zac Brown said he was ”struggling big time to find skilled workers” and he still had a farm manager’s job up for grabs. . . 

Drowning in effluent – how a tired farmer was nearly a dead farmer

Owen Gullery grabbed a last lungful of air as his tractor cab filled with effluent, before desperately trying to kick out a window as it sank.

That moment in an effluent pond is one Gullery says he’ll never forget, and yet the kind of potentially fatal farm accident new figures from ACC show have reached a five-year-high.

In 2020, there were 22,796 farm-related injury claims accepted which came at a cost of $84 million. That is over 60 farmers getting injured every day.

ACC has spent more than $383 million on farm related injuries in the past five years, with the cost in 2020 the highest from this period. . . 

More farmer trainers needed – David Anderson:

There appears to be no shortage of school leavers wanting a career in the sheep beef and deer industry, but rather a lack of training farms.

That’s the view of the Growing Future Farmers (GFF) chair John Jackson. He says five open days – recently held by the trust in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, Te Kuiti and Taihape – saw 38, 46, 29, 28 and 21 students turn-up at each venue, respectively. Jackson says there are more GFF open days planned for the South Island in mid-August at Winton, Omarama, North Canterbury and Blenheim.

“However, at this stage less than 20% of these students will get an opportunity because we have not an adequate number of training farms on which to place these students,” Jackson told Rural News.

“Our problem is not the inability to attract potential staff to the industry, but an inability to train the numbers we require.” . .

Dairy companies and volunteers dig deep to help restore waterways and bat colony – Lawrence Gullery:

David Jack surveys the rolling country over Rosebrae​ Farms and points to where the 200 hectare property borders the Pūniu River.

“That’s our southern boundary where the river is, it’s important because it’s one of the tributaries to the Waipā River, which later on flows into the Waikato River.”

Over the river is the King Country, Jack points out.

“Witi Ihimaera wrote a great book about the land wars and how the women and children had to get across the Pūniu to get into the King Country, where the troops couldn’t follow. . . 

Lamb prices high but size of fall concerns – Annette Scott:

Strong advances in farmgate lamb prices have seen a phenomenal turnaround with the AgriHQ lamb indicator hitting $9.05 a kilogram this week in the North Island and $8.80/kg in the South Island but there’s concern going forward.

AgriHQ senior analyst Mel Croad says some early new season contracts indicate the schedule will drop below $8 in December.

She says pricing would typically strengthen further through to October with expectation that $9 or above will still be around in September but the drop from there on raises concern.

The latest contracts released from some processors look to settle at slightly above $7.50 pre-Christmas. . . 

MPI using delay techniques – David Anderson:

Bureaucratic obfuscation is being used to stall the provision information about the costs and achievements of the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) ‘Fit for a Better World’ strategy.

On June 16, Rural News sent MPI an Official Information Act (OIA) request seeking more information relating to Fit for a Better World. The request asked only five questions relating to meetings, minutes, costs and outcomes of the programme.

However, on July 14 – on the last day of the 20 working day timeframe when an OIA must be answered – MPI replied that it would not be able to answer within the mandated timeframe.

In a classic stalling move, which has become a common tactic used by government departments around OIA requests, MPI has extended the time it will provide any answers till, “no later than September 8, 2021”, which adds another 40 working days, makking it more than three times the mandated OIA response timeframe. . .

Latest Tasmanian irrigation scheme underway – Andrew Miller:

Tasmania’s latest irrigation scheme, on the Tamar River, is expected to cover about 200 properties, producing a diverse range of crops and livestock.

Tasmanian Irrigation has called for expressions of interest in the scheme and held public meetings, to explain how it will work.

Tamar Irrigation Scheme Irrigators Representative Council chair Ed Archer, Landfall Angus stud, said the diverse range of producers would present challenges.

“It’s really a unique scheme as there is such a variety of producers in this region, some broadacre grazing, right through to small, niche cottage type enterprises,” Mr Archer said. . .


Frank conversation on water

29/07/2020

Irrigation New Zealand is seeking a frank conversation about water:

Today Irrigation New Zealand released its 2020 Election Manifesto. IrrigationNZ represents most of the country’s large irrigation schemes and has 3500 members across 800,000 hectares of New Zealand contributing $5.4bn of GDP. The manifesto puts the following requests to the New Zealand Government:

A national water strategy that guides the future of water management and investment across Aotearoa New Zealand – and asks that IrrigationNZ be at the table to contribute to this.

A focus on water storage to ensure our communities are resilient to climate change and to assist with land-use change to meet sure carbon targets

The devastation droughts wrought on Hawkes Bay and Northland this year could have been minimised had water been harvested and stored when there was a surplus. Some of the damage inflicted on Northland by recent floods could have been offset, at least a little, had some of the rain been captured in dams.

More and better water storage would also have protected towns and cities from water shortages.

Policies that support irrigation and the environment, through monitoring, farm environment planning, innovation, and adaptation – and asks the government partner with IrrigationNZ to assist because of its ‘on the ground’ expertise.

A resolution to Māori rights and interests in freshwater – and offers support to iwi, hapū, and whānau groups about access to water and efficient, effective, environmentally sensitive irrigation development, where appropriate and beneficial.

An allocation framework that provides certainty and reliability of supply, whilst providing for multiple uses and benefits for economic, social, cultural, and environmental well-being. IrrigationNZ can assist agencies with this policy work through its expertise in managing complex changes to allocation frameworks in catchments with multiple stakeholders and water uses.

IrrigationNZ also states that it will support the sector and partner with Government, members and stakeholders to achieve the following:

  • develop a clear, recognised and unambiguous set of standards for irrigation
  • ensure efficient and effective water use that minimises adverse environmental effects
  • work to ensure widespread adoption of the irrigation standards
  • increase understanding of the benefits of irrigation.
  • support members in national and regional advocacy

IrrigationNZ is offering to share its knowledge, expertise, and data to support the above in relation to:

  • farm environment plans and the freshwater modules within them
  • Water storage solutions
  • Water allocation issues

“Freshwater use in New Zealand involves multiple aspects and is integral to life, IrrigationNZ wants to see this precious resource better managed through the development of a water strategy for Aotearoa,” says Elizabeth Soal, chief executive of IrrigationNZ.

“We are already seeing a focus on freshwater across various policy areas such as the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Fit for a Better World, Ministry for the Environment’s Essential Freshwater policy package and the Department of Internal Affairs three waters’ reform and establishment of the drinking water authority, Taumata Arowai.

“IrrigationNZ believes all these issues could be aligned with a water strategy to guide and lead decision-making and funding allocation at the central, regional, and local levels. This could be led by a bi-partisan, independent water commission.

“As part of this, we would also like to progress a frank conversation with the Government and stakeholders about water storage and irrigation development which does not shy away from both the benefits and the impacts.

“With primary industries the backbone of this country for the foreseeable future, and access to reliable water a critical part of enabling this, we must move forward and ensure the right investment and outcomes from best practice water management.”

North Otago has had very little rain for several months. When, as often happened before we had much irrigation, we would have been going into spring with little soil moisture and a lot of uncertainty about pasture and crop growth.

Thanks to several irrigation schemes, we know that irrigation will compensate for what nature hasn’t provided.

The economic and social benefits from that are immense and it also has environmental benefits by maintaining minimum flows in waterways and protecting soils from erosion.

If predictions of higher temperatures and more floods due to climate change are taken seriously, irrigation must be part of the mitigation plan.

Irrigation New Zealand’s 2020 Election Manifesto can be found here.


Rural round-up

17/07/2020

Government’s food and fibre reset lacks a core – Keith Woodford:

The Government’s new food and fibre reset document is PR aspirational fluff. The hard work remains to be done

On July 7 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern released the Government’s document “Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential”. The associated  press release  from the Beehive says that it provides a 10-year roadmap for the food and fibre industries’.

At the same function where this report was released, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor released a companion document from his Primary Sector Council of chosen industry leaders.  That document is also titled “Fit for a Better World” but lacks the title extension about ‘accelerating our economic potential’.   This second document is indeed a different document, singing from the same song-sheet, but with considerably different material. Very confusing indeed!

My focus here is on the Government’s version of the report because this is the one that has been signed off by Cabinet. Minsters in attendance at the release also included Stuart Nash and Shane Jones. . . 

Concerns for shearing as overseas workers can’t get in – Susan Murray:

New Zealand’s traditional shearing routines could be thrown into disarray this summer if overseas shearers can’t get into the country.

The New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association said, nationally, at least two million sheep are shorn by international shearers.

The vice president, Carolyn Clegg, said farmers may have to re-design their shearing plans to avoid animal welfare issues, and it could have business implications too.

She said some lambs may not get shorn, or ewes may just get crutched, rather than fully shorn.

Taste Pure Nature one year on – Allan Barber:

A little over a year since the launch of the Taste Pure Nature country of origin brand in California, Beef + Lamb’s GM Market Development, Nick Beeby, is thrilled with the evolution of the programme. At the start a small number of meat exporters were supportive of what Beeby concedes was initially seen as a B+LNZ initiative, but 15 months later success in targeting specific consumer groups and expansion of the scheme into China have brought increased industry commitment. TPN is now viewed positively as a sector-led strategy and the meat exporters have injected huge momentum and drive in support.

Original participants included Lamb Company shareholders, Alliance, ANZCO and Silver Fern Farms, and Atkins Ranch and First Light, two exporters which stood to benefit from the tightly targeted digital strategy directed at the Conscious Foodie consumer segment in California. The initial strategy was to raise awareness and increase the preference for New Zealand grass fed, naturally raised and anti-biotic free red meat, and importantly to point consumers to where they can buy it. These strategic objectives remain the same. . . 

Craggy Range Winery staff celebrate being among World’s Best Vineyards – Shannon Johnstone:

Craggy Range Winery staff celebrated with, well, a glass of lunchtime wine, as they found they were sitting at number 17 among the World’s Best Vineyards.

This year, the winery placed among some of the world’s most respected wineries such as France’s Mouton Rothschild & Château Margaux, Italy’s Antinori, the United States Opus One and Australia’s Penfold.

It is one of two New Zealand wineries to make the list alongside Rippon in Central Otago.

Craggy Range director Mary-Jeanne Peabody said they were “thrilled” to have been recognised. Last year they placed 11th. . . 

HoneyLab does licensing deal with US company:–  Andrew McRae:

Health product company HoneyLab is to sell seven of its products in North America through a licensing agreement with American company Taro Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.

The agreement covers the sale of its kanuka honey products for the treatment of cold-sores, rosacea and acne, a bee venom-based cosmetic range and a product for joint and muscle pain.

Taro will be able to make and sell these licenced products in the US, Canada and Israel and they will be on shelves in stores sometime in 2021. . .

ASB appoints Ben Speedy as Rural General Manager:

ASB is pleased to announce that Ben Speedy has been appointed to the bank’s leadership team in the role of general manager, Rural.

Speedy joins ASB from his previous role as New Zealand Country Manager for Core Logic International.

Speedy grew up on a farm and started his career with BNZ after graduating from Massey University with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Farm Management and Rural Valuation, and Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (Marketing).

As an Agribusiness Graduate he worked his way up to become Senior Agribusiness Manager in Hawke’s Bay. . . 


Rural round-up

09/07/2020

Wool, trees, rules threaten sheep – Annette Scott:

Sheep farming is under serious threat from incentives to grow trees and more crops, retired Federated Farmers meat and wool chairman Miles Anderson says.

In his six years on the national executive, the past three as section chairman, Anderson said the biggest single frustration has been wool.

“We have got a product we have selectively bred for generations and generations, it ticks all the environmental boxes and many of us are dumping crutchings, bellies and pieces on-farm because it costs more to get them to the woolstore than you get for it – it’s ridiculous.

“If there was ever a time for the wool industry to get its act together and work collaboratively to improve the fortunes of everyone in the industry, now is the time. . . 

We don’t know how lucky we are – Gerald Piddock:

New Federated Farmers dairy chairman Wayne Langford says the next few years will be critical for the industry as it navigates freshwater reform, climate change and Mycoplasma bovis.

The Golden Bay dairy farmer takes over from Chris Lewis, having served as his vice-president for the past three years.

“I think with the state of the Government and potentially them doing another term, I think these are all going to start to come to a head. 

“They have made their intentions pretty clear on that so I think these next three years are pretty crucial in that, making sure our farming sector, where we are still profitable and where there are still vibrant communities and a bunch of young farmers still on the ground.” . .  

A shake-up for the land and her export billions – Tim Murphy:

The Government wants to accelerate improvements to production and sustainability on the land to greatly increase export earnings over the next decade. But big change will be needed, Tim Murphy reports.

A new package to grow our agriculture, food and fibre industries, improve the environment and stimulate jobs has a huge financial target and an even bigger set of challenges for farmers and growers.

The final report of the Primary Sector Council – Fit for a Better World – sets an ambitious agenda to ‘transform’ farm and forestry practices sustainably and in keeping with Te Taiao (the natural world) to address the climate crisis, while finding new $1 billion export products and saving and developing free trade for our products.

After a long period of consultation and research, the council’s vision for New Zealand’s primary industries is all encompassing: “We are committed to meeting the greatest challenge humanity faces: rapidly moving to a low carbon emissions society, restoring the health of our water, reversing the decline in biodiversity and, at the same time, feeding our people.” . . 

Grief over grain drain – David Anderson:

A whole generation of farmers don’t seem to know about the advantages of feeding NZ-grown grain to livestock, claims Jeremy Talbot.

Talbot is a South Canterbury arable farmer and long-time proponent of farmers using more NZ-grown grain to feed their livestock.

believes the current drought in many parts of the country, and the resulting shortage of hay and baleage, is an ideal time for the practice of grain feeding livestock to be highlighted. . . 

Government Sells Taxpayers Down The River:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is sceptical that 61% of taxpayer funding for waterway clean-up just happens to be focused on the Northland electorate.

Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke says: “The Government has announced that $162 million of taxpayers’ money will be spent on cleaning our waterways. There are 23 projects, but one will receive $100 million, 61% of the total allocation. It is also the only project set to run more than one year.”

“The Kaipara Moana Remediation programme is predicted to create 1,094 jobs over the six-year life of the project surrounding the Kaipara Harbour, most of which sits within the key electorate of Northland.  . . 

How bush fire management is saving the Carpentaria grasswren – Derek Barry:

Aerial fire management is helping save the Carpentaria grasswren in North West Queensland.

The project at Calton Hills at Gunpowder, north of Mount Isa has been running for three years replicating land management that used to be done for centuries before Europeans arrived and a new video produced by Southern Gulf NRM is showing how it is working.

Michael Blackman, a fire management consultant with Friendly Fire Ecological Consultants said the aerial burns was carried out in older age spinifex.

“This country here has a lot of large wildfires come through in 2011 and 2012 and the main reason for doing this project is to assist in the recovery of the Carpentaria grasswren which lives in the old age spinifex,” Mr Blackman said. . . 


Rural round-up

08/07/2020

Let them eat wood – Dame Anne Salmond:

The farmers are right. As the price of carbon rises, the settings in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will make it more profitable to plant pine trees than to grow food (or native forests) in many parts of New Zealand.

On the East Coast, for instance, a landowner will be paid 10 times more by year 5 for planting pine trees instead of native forest, and farmland is going under pine trees in many places. With wool prices at historic lows, and rising carbon prices, this trend will only accelerate.

On highly erodible soils, the folly of planting shallow-rooted pine trees and clear-felling them every 25-30 years is obvious. Witness the tsunami of logs and sediment that have drowned streams, rivers, houses, fields, beaches and harbours in places like Tolaga Bay, Marahau, and many other parts of New Zealand.

With two-thirds of the forestry industry owned overseas, like the logs, the profits are exported, but the costs remain behind. Ravaged landscapes, wildling pines, roading networks wrecked by logging trucks, workers killed and injured in the forests. . . 

Farmer’s pitch to big biz: My land, your trees, planet’s gain –  Jo Lines-MacKenzie:

One farmer’s novel pitch to big firms to use her land for carbon offset tree planting is being touted as a win-win for both the business and agricultural sectors.

Federated Farmers says the idea could catch on and they could be the organisation to make it work.

The idea has been sparked by King Country farmer Dani Darke who posted a proposal on social media to offer up 10 hectares of her own land to plant native trees.

She pitched the idea to Air New Zealand, Genesis Energy, Contact Energy, Z Energy, and anyone else who wanted to participate. . . 

Strath Taieri the new food bowl of New Zealand – Sally Rae:

Strath Taieri is a traditional farming district, best known for sheep and beef cattle. But an irrigation proposal being mooted has the potential to see it diversify into other areas, including horticulture. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Strath Taieri — the new Food Bowl of Dunedin?

That’s what the Strath Taieri Irrigation Company (STIC) believes could happen if the Taieri Catchment Community Resilience Project wins approval.

It is a project that has been talked about for decades but which, in recent times, has gained momentum, with an application for funding made to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. Without reliable water, the future for the district would be bleak, STIC said.

And by bringing more irrigation water to the area and ensuring certainty of supply, there was potential for diversification of the traditional sheep and beef farming area into the likes of horticulture, as well as increasing productivity within existing farming operations. . . 

Direction of horticulture industry aligns with Fit for a Better World:

Horticulture New Zealand says the horticulture industry’s future focused strategies align well with what is proposed in Fit for a Better World

‘Horticulture is already well into the journey that has been identified and proposed in these reports, and this journey will continue,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil.

‘Immediately post lockdown, our entire industry – comprising more than 20 different fruit and vegetable product groups – got together with key government departments to develop and implement a strategy and work programme that will see horticulture spearhead New Zealand’s economic and social recovery from Covid.

‘We are encouraged to see that the proposal identifies a key opportunity to accelerate the horticulture industry’s development, which fits perfectly with our own work. . . 

Low-methane ‘elite’ sheep breeding project finds success – AgResearch scientist – Eric Frykberg:

Low methane appears to be a breedable trait that does not affect economic value in sheep, and could lead to a cumulative 1 percent reduction in emissions each year, farmers have been told.

AgResearch scientist Suzanne Rowe told a webinar organised by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Council that research into such animals had been going on for a decade.

Rowe said a study of 1000 sheep divided into high emitting and low emitting animals found these traits were passed on to successive generations.

“After three generations we have 11 percent less methane per kilogramme of feed eaten,” she said. . . 

Bingara producers turn to embryos to breed back out of drought – Lucy Kinbacher:

Bingara producer Rhonda King and her 86-year-old father Alf were steaming ahead with their Speckle Park herd when back-to-back droughts crippled their momentum.

In January they had made the decision to sell the final remnants of their 300-head herd at Doctors Creek when rain came not long after and saved them from the decision.

With cattle prices soaring to record levels Ms King opted to use her lifetime travel savings to purchase embryos rather than replacement livestock and is hoping to breed her way back into business.

Their herd currently consists of about 90 Speckle Park including cows, heifers and bulls with an additional 11 Angus recipients purchased from another stud. . . 


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