Rural round-up

September 14, 2018

Fonterra loss could be opportunity for change – Andrew McRrae:

Dairy farmers are hoping the massive financial hit taken by Fonterra will be used as an opportunity to reset the business for the future.

The dairy cooperative delivered a net loss of $196 million for the year ended July, after being hit by compensation payouts and investment write downs.

Revenue rose 6 percent to $20.4 billion.

Orini farmer Allan Crouch said even though a loss had been signalled, it was still very disappointing, especially compared to the $734m profit the year before. . .

Fonterra ponders Beingmate future as part of strategic review – Nikki Mandow:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra is looking at whether it should get rid of its disastrous Beingmate investment as part of an ‘everything up for grabs’ strategic review.

Speaking as the company announced the first full-year loss in its 18-year history, chairman John Monaghan said the company was doing a “full stocktake and portfolio review looking at all our major investments, assets and joint ventures to see how they are performing and where they fit with our strategy”. Beingmate was a key investment under the spotlight. . .

Co-op must do better:

The Chairman of Fonterra’s Shareholders’ Council Duncan Coull has said he is extremely disappointed with the Co-op’s 2018 Annual Results.

“There’s no denying that our farmers are unhappy with current performance, and this year’s results,” he said.

“The underlying result and its impact on earnings, dividend and carrying value is totally unacceptable and one that our farming families will not want to see repeated. Moving forward, it is imperative that our business builds confidence through achievable targets and at levels that support a higher carrying value of our farmers’ investment. . .

A thoroughly modern-day forward-thinking farmer – Pat Deavoll:

If ever there was the epitome of a thoroughly modern-day Kiwi farmer, the new Federated Farmers South Canterbury president would be it.

Jason Grant does it all. He owns and manages two dairy operations and a 1000 hectare dry stock farm, is a director of an irrigation company, an active member of two river catchment groups, a husband to Anna and father to Ruby (11), Oscar (12) and Wills (13), and of course, in his Federated Farmers role, an advocate for the local farming fraternity.

That he has a lot on his plate is an understatement. He says his life is “pretty full.” . . .

Farmers deserve recognition for their hard milk slog – Lyn Webster:

We are living in fantasy land where many people seem to think money grows on trees.

Well, it bloody well doesn’t!

Warning: I am grumpy because I have just lost my job due to impeding farm sale – more on that later.

About 25 per cent of New Zealand’s overseas revenue is generated by dairy farming, which is done by about 36,000 people.  That’s not many people to bring in a huge chunk of the country’s income.  

When the payout drops, which can happen overnight, it can affect your dairy farming business very badly very quickly.  Milk prices are volatile, sensitive to international demand and currency changes. Farmers put their seasonal plans in place, including stock numbers and a budget – if the milk price plummets, you pretty well have to suck it up because you haven’t got much wiggle room. . .

Funds run dry for beekeeper working to eliminate deadly parasite – Maja Burry:

A West Coast beekeeper says his bees are resistant to the varroa mite but that decades worth of work may be lost unless he can urgently pull together enough money to keep his business running.

Varroa mites infest bee hives, feeding on larvae and an infected hive usually dies within three or four years.

Westport beekeeper Gary Jeffery said he wanted to eliminate the parasite by distributing mite-resistant queen bees that he has bred around New Zealand. . .

Fonterra changes vindicated– Hugh Stringleman:

The calibre of new directors and nominees for the Fonterra board vindicates the governance changes and the downsizing of the board and outweighs the initial loss of experience, departing director Nicola Shadbolt says.

Her decision not to seek a fourth three-year term is in accordance with the guideline of nine years as the optimum and 12 years as the maximum.

The three candidates for vacancies around the board table announced last Monday are one-term sitting director Ashley Waugh along with Jamie Tuuta and Peter McBride. . .

Deer market doing well – Ashleigh Martin:

The deer market is achieving well at the moment, New Zealand Deer Farmers Association chairman John Somerville says.

“Venison prices are the best they’ve ever been and the velvet has been really stable for six or more years with some really good pricing.

“We’re hoping for slow steady growth of the deer market


Rural round-up

August 11, 2018

Our farmed meat is a green food – Neal Wallace:

Exporters are not shy in promoting New Zealand red meat as grass-fed and free-range but recent studies by Oxford and Otago Universities have lumped our system in with feedlots to claim the industry is environmentally degrading and unsustainable. Neal Wallace investigates the true environmental impact of grass-fed beef.

Work to differentiate the environmental footprint of New Zealand’s pasture-based red meat sector from feedlot systems that have a far greater impact has begun.

Beef + Lamb NZ chief insight officer Jeremy Baker said NZ grass-fed, free-range beef has been included in international studies that claim beef production is a major contributor to climate change. . . 

Fonterra fund units drop to 3-year low as investors grow dark on capital structure – Paul McBeth:

Aug. 10 (BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund units, which gives outside investors exposure to Fonterra Cooperative Group, fell to a three-year low after the latest dividend downgrade added to scepticism about the efficacy of the cooperative’s structure.

The units dropped 2.7 percent to $4.97, adding to a 20 percent slide so far this year, and fell as low as $4.95, a level not seen since September 2015 when Fonterra was hit by a slump in global dairy prices and offered interest-free loans to its farmer shareholders to tide . . 

Fonterra announcement disappointing, definitive plan of action required:

Duncan Coull, Chairman of the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council, has expressed his absolute disappointment with today’s Board decision to reduce the 2017/18 forecast Farmgate Milk Price by five cents to $6.70 per kg/MS in order to support the balance sheet, and the decision to retain more of the Co-op’s earnings which will likely see no further dividend payment to Shareholders over the 10 cents distributed earlier in the year.

Mr Coull: “I can understand the Board’s rationale and that it is prudent to protect the balance sheet, but the fact that we find ourselves in this situation is unacceptable. . .

Fonterra’s credit rating safe but Shareholders’ Council labels payout cut ‘unacceptable‘ – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – S&P Global Ratings said there is no immediate impact on its rating on Fonterra Cooperative Group from the group’s lower farmgate milk price and dividend guidance for the year ended July 31, issued this morning.

However, the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council expressed deep disappointment, saying “the fact that we find ourselves in this situation is unacceptable” and took the unusual step of questioning the cooperative’s value creation record at a time when a new chief executive is being sought and the chairmanship has unexpectedly changed. . . 

Three Rivers catchment group catch up in Southland – Nicole Sharp:

Southland farmers are leading the way in environmental practices and 17 catchment groups are now established in the region. With six more in the wings, and half the region covered, reporter Nicole Sharp looks into some of the achievements to date.

When a group of farmers put their minds to it, anything is possible.

That is how the catchment group idea started in 2013, when some farmers in the Balfour area formed a group. . . 

Canterbury woman Ash-Leigh Campbell elected new chair of NZ Young Farmers Board:

A woman is at the helm of the NZ Young Farmers Board for the first time in 12 years.

Ash-Leigh Campbell was elected chair of the eight-member board yesterday, replacing Jason Te Brake.

The 27-year-old is a technical farm manager with Ngāi Tahu and helps oversee the management of eight dairy farms.

“I feel extremely privileged to be elected chair. I’m really looking forward to the role,” said Ash-Leigh. . .

Cereal yields down but growers remain positive:

Total hectares sown in wheat and barley this season is predicted to decrease by around 8%, but growers are positive about future prospects, Federated Farmers Arable Chairperson Karen Williams says.

Results from the Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) July 1 Cereal Survey are out and confirm average yields are down compared to last season. Milling and feed wheat yields were down 12%, malting barley down 9%, feed barley down 10%, milling oats down 17% and feed oats down 6%.

“This is no surprise and reflects variable growing conditions (hot, dry, wet, cold) throughout the key crop establishment periods in late spring and early summer,” Karen says. . . 

Major international agritech announcement expected for NZ

In less than a fortnight, more than 30 New Zealand agritech leaders will make history in Silicon Valley.

They will be part of the international 2018 Silicon Valley agritech immersion programme and Conference, involving Silicon Valley Forum, Tauranga’s Wharf42, Agritech New Zealand, Callaghan Innovation, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

Agritech New Zealand executive director Peter Wren-Hilton says the four-year-old Silicon Valley agritech connection will have a significant and long-term impact on New Zealand’s emerging agritech sector. . . 

Kerrygold butter is being taken to court over ‘false’ grass-fed cows claim – Katie Grant:

Customer can’t believe it’s not butter made from exclusively grass-fed cows

The company behind Kerrygold butter is facing legal action for advertising its products as being made from the milk of grass-fed cows.

A US customer has taken umbrage with the butter maker, hitting it with a class action lawsuit claiming that Kerrygold has “misled” consumers, leaving them “unable to exercise their right to choose grass-fed products”.

Kerrygold cow diet Kerrygold cows are fed grass, but not exclusively – they also eat various grains such as soy and corn at certain times of the year, according to Dyami Myers-Taylor, the customer in question. . .


Rural round-up

May 26, 2018

Waikato farmer reveals his farm first in the region to get Mycoplasma bovis cattle disease – Gerald Piddock:

Henk Smit has come forward as the Waikato dairy farmer whose herd has tested positive for Mycoplasma bovis.

Smit walked up to the stage and put his hand up during a meeting attended by close to 600 farmers at the Sir Don Rowlands Centre near Cambridge.

He outlined how the cattle disease arrived on his farm and his frustrations with dealing with the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Smit has farming interests in three properties around Waikato including the dairy farm that tested positive for M bovis. . .

Good clearance at online sale – Alan Williams:

About 96% of the wool offered in the first Natural Fibre Exchange (NFX) online auction was sold.

Indications are the sale was in line with the improving tone in wool prices at the latest open-cry auctions.

Six sellers provided lots for sale and a good cross-section of New Zealand’s major wool buyers were bidding online for the 1525 bales offered on May 22, Wools of NZ chief executive Rosstan Mazey said. . .

Performing as a co-op should – Neal Wallace:

Fonterra gets a pass mark from industry observers for its performance as a co-operatively-owned business.

But they warn it cannot rest on its laurels given challenges connecting with 10,500 owners and plans for further investment in added-value and consumer products.

Fonterra Shareholder’s Council chairman Duncan Coull said Fonterra has performed as a co-operative should. It is owned and democratically controlled by members, it serves its members, returns surpluses to members and strives to operate profitably. . .

Fonterra approach farmes to switch from WMP – Brendon McMahon:

Fonterra has again approached Westland Milk Products suppliers to switch loyalties with the promise of better returns.

The West Coast Federated Farmers annual general meeting in Greymouth this week heard that Westland suppliers from Inchbonnie and Rotomanu in the south and Springs Junction in the north, were being courted by the country’s largest dairy co-operative, which has a massive milk powder factory at Darfield.

Fonterra scouts were on the West Coast several years ago, but at that time few local farmers were tempted. . . 

STRESS removes headache for hill country farmers:

Taranaki farmer Roger Pearce is confident he’s hit a good formula allowing him to make a successful living in the eastern Taranaki hillcountry without bringing nature’s wrath on himself.

…or indeed a wrath on the communities and farms all the way down to the sea.

He’s tapped into the South Taranaki and Regional Erosion Support Scheme (STRESS) to allow him to reap more of the potential of his 2000ha Waitōtara Valley property – while ensuring its soil does not erode into waterways where it degrades water quality and heightens the risk of downstream flooding. . .

Australian milk production up 3.5%

Australian milk production to the end of April is up 3.5 per cent on the same time last year, according to the latest figures from Dairy Australia.

The figures reveal April production was up 4.5 per cent compared with last year, with increases in all states except Queensland.

Tasmania led the growth with production up 19.6 per cent for April, followed by South Australia, where production was up 8.6 per cent. . .


Dairy following failed example of meat industry

March 14, 2018

Have we reached peak dairy factory?

The number of dairy factories sprouting in Waikato has got to the stage that farmers are concerned the industry has reached a tipping point.

They fear further growth could lead to overcapacity – too many milk processing sites – and dairying will follow the path of the meat industry, which over the past decade has been plagued by plant closures and job losses. . .

Fonterra Shareholder’s Council chairman and Waikato farmer Duncan Coull​ says it is becoming a national issue for the industry. It is bigger than Fonterra and an industry-wide discussion is needed to find a way to save it from itself.

“Do farmers really want to reach that tipping point because once that tipping point is reached, there is no turning back. We need to start asking ourselves the question as farmers what we want the industry to look like going forward.

“If farmers continue to allow capacity to be built and continued to supply that capacity, be very careful what we wish for, we are another red meat sector waiting to happen and we are another Australian dairy industry waiting to happen.” . . 

Farmers like some competition but it the meat industry found out at great cost – in money and human terms – that it is possible to have too much competition.

Synlait chief executive John Penno​ says the dairy industry is already at overcapacity and the vast bulk of the processing technology built in recent years has been large-scale milk powder plants producing dairy commodities.

“There’s no question in my mind that overcapacity across the industry exists. But the real question is, is it the right capacity? What is the total capacity is the wrong question.”

Synlait does not operate in that market and builds plants focusing on high-end, value-added products. . ..

Farmers are free to choose which company they supply.

A new one might look attractive, especially if it doesn’t require suppliers to buy shares.

But the lesson from the meat industry is that more competition isn’t always better for farmers or the industry.


Rural round-up

September 19, 2017

Guiney misses out on selection – Hugh Stringleman:

One long-serving director and two newcomers are the preferred candidates for three Fonterra board seats this year leaving sitting board member Leonie Guiney out in the cold.

They were former Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman and nine-year director John Monaghan, of Wairarapa, former Deer Industry New Zealand chairman and farm consultant Andy Macfarlane of Mid-Canterbury and PWC partner and National Fieldays Society board member Brent Goldsack, of Waikato.

The three were named as independent nomination process candidates for three vacancies among seven farmer-director seats on the Fonterra board. . .

Palmerston North farmer Peter Bills owns more machines than most – Samantha Tennent:

Not many contractors or services agents come through the gate of Te Rata Farm at Linton, owned by Peter and Kim Bills. The Bills try to be as self-sufficient as possible across their business.

The Bills run a pretty taut ship, keeping costs down by doing all their own cultivation, mowing and bailing. They admit they own more gear than the average 260-cow farm; almost the only piece of equipment they don’t have is a harvester.

“It keeps costs down for us but more importantly we aren’t relying on a contractor to get the work done. . .

Weather hits somber pea growers – Annette Scott:

There’s been no compensation for Wairarapa pea growers heading into their second season of a two-year pea moratorium.

And on top of wet weather that meant they could not get crops in the ground put farmers in a pretty sombre mood, Wairarapa cropping farmer Karen Williams said.

Williams, the 2017 Biosecurity Farmer of the Year, was an integral part of the grower group working alongside farmers and the Ministry for Primary Industries in the pea weevil response. . .

Restrictions lifted on feijoas in Taranaki after being cleared of myrtle rust threat – Gerald Piddock:

Feijoa lovers can breathe a sigh of relief after ministry officials put the plant in the low risk category for infection from myrtle rust.

Growers will also be relieved after the Ministry for Primary Industries lifted restrictions for moving feijoa plants in and out of Taranaki after it concluded there was little risk of them spreading myrtle rust.

Since myrtle rust was found in New Zealand earlier this year, there had not been a single feijoa plant found with the infection, the New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated said in a statement. . .

From milk to medicine with DFE Pharma – a farmer’s journey from Taranaki to Europe:

Under the mountain in Kapuni, Taranaki, our farmers’ milk is being made into something pretty remarkable.

Our Kapuni site focuses on producing pharmaceutical lactose, a key ingredient in inhalers helping people around the world manage their asthma.

The lactose we make at Kapuni is the most pure lactose you can make in the world. And in short, gets the medicine in powder inhalers to where it’s needed – the lungs. . . 


Rural round-up

September 8, 2017

 Auckland-based designer re-invents lamb docking tool named national winner of James Dyson Award:

A re-designed lamb docking or tailing iron has won the New Zealand leg of the prestigious James Dyson Award for design engineers.

Many sheep farmers can experience repetitive strain injuries from using traditional tools during the seasonal process of removing lambs’ tails, commonly known as docking. And it’s not just the farmers who have been suffering; fluctuations in blade temperatures can cause considerable pain for the lambs, often leading to ineffective cauterisation and stock mortality.

Auckland-based industrial designer Nicole Austin has helped solve these problems by inventing Moray, an innovative hand-tool designed to help improve usability, performance and stock wellbeing. . . 

“Black gold’: vanilla prices reach record highs – Alexa Cook:

A global shortage of vanilla has sent prices sky high, and the cost of vanilla is now more than double previous record prices. 

The last peak was in 2003 when it reached $US300 per kg, and it is now sitting about $US700 per kg.

Vanilla is a tricky product to grow: the flowers only open once a year and have to be hand pollinated within four hours of opening.

Heilala Vanilla chief executive and co-founder Jennifer Boggiss said vanilla, as a commodity, went through cycles, and at the moment it had record high pricing and short supply. . . 

Great Short and Great Day Walks announced:

Some of New Zealand’s finest tracks are set to become part of a new network of Great Short and Great Day walks, Tourism Minister Paula Bennett and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry have announced.

“We’re bringing new facilities and a new, higher profile to some of the best walking experiences New Zealand has to offer as part of Budget 2017’s $76m investment in DOC’s infrastructure,” Mrs Bennett says.

The Great Day and Great Short Walks, developed by DOC in partnership with Tourism New Zealand, are an expansion of the highly successful Great Walks brand aimed at promoting more of the fantastic walking experiences available across the country. . . 

Nominations for Fonterra Shareholders’ Council And Directors’ Remuneration Committee Open Today;

Nominations opened today for the 2017 Fonterra Shareholders’ Council and Directors’ Remuneration Committee Elections.

Following last year’s Governance and Representation Review undertaken by Fonterra, the Shareholders’ Council has given effect to the recommendation voted on by shareholders in late 2016 that: “Over the next 12 months, the number of Shareholders’ Council wards is reviewed to establish how they can be reduced within the range that is permitted under the current Constitution.” . . 

Substantial dairy farm and runoff block placed on the market for sale:

A substantial dairy farm and associated run-off block in South Canterbury – including approximately 1,100 cows plus young stock – has been placed on the market for sale as a going concern.

The properties are located under the rain shadow of the Hunter Hills and feature a 501.944 hectare dairy platform located at 3150 Back Line Road at Kohika plus a 119.9636 hectare self-contained run-off located at 316 Campbell Forrest Road, which is only four kilometres from the dairy platform on a quiet country road. . . 


Rural round-up

September 22, 2016

The P epidemic has reached Waikato farms – Chris Lewis:

Federated Farmers runs an 0800 helpline for members, which is a popular way our members get value out of their subscriptions. Increasingly we are getting member calls around drugs and alcohol and advice on how to address this growing issue.

We’ve previously provided advice to farmers who have had multiple houses contaminated with P and even advice to a farmer for an entire workforce that tested positive for drugs. Some of the common questions being asked include: If I don’t have a drug and alcohol policy, how do I go about testing my staff? And, am I insured for my houses and business?

So what are our rights as employers? Should you turn a blind eye so your cows get milked? It is time to directly answer some of the questions, and for you to get answers from experts who work in this field. . . 

SFF ‘unleashed’ by assent – Dene Mackenzie:

Silver Fern Farms would be a ”company unleashed” now approval for Shanghai Maling to buy 50% of the Dunedin meat processor had been confirmed, SFF chairman Rob Hewett said yesterday.

After months of debate and some opposition from dissenting shareholders, Shanghai Maling received approval yesterday to inject $261million into SFF and take a 50% share.

The decision was never in doubt, although the Overseas Investment Office process was a ”black box”, Mr Hewett said in an interview. . . 

Govt defends Wairarapa water grant:

A Wairarapa irrigation system which didn’t stack up economically still got taxpayer cash from the Ministry for Primary Industries, says a damning study commissioned by Fish & Game.

But MPI is standing by its decision and says the report is flawed.

Fish & Game has released an independent analysis of the Wairarapa Water scheme’s successful application for $821,500 from MPI’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund for stage 2 of the scheme, which aims to irrigate 30,000ha.

The 2014 application was based on a long run farmgate milk price of $7.07 per kg of milksolids, which was questionable, and that 55 percent of the irrigated land would quickly be converted to dairy, says author Peter Fraser, of Ropere Consulting. . . 

Strong 2015/16 Profit Result for Fonterra, Encouraging Milk Price Signals Ahead for Fonterra Farmers

Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Duncan Coull, said Fonterra’s recording of its highest ever EBIT, which resulted in Fonterra Farmers receiving a 60% increase on the earning per share received last season, was a positive result in an otherwise challenging environment.

Mr Coull: “The final payout of $4.30 for a fully shared-up Farmer is reflective of the very tough season we have endured.

“However, it is encouraging to see that Fonterra, assisted by the low Milk Price environment, has further driven volume into value and captured efficiency gains which have cumulated into a strong dividend while also serving to strengthen our Co-operative’s balance sheet. . .

Self-resetting rat traps 20 times better than standard traps -study:

Self-resetting rat traps are 20 times more effective at killing the pests than standard traps, a new study has shown.

The project – conducted by Bay of Plenty Polytechnic student Chantal Lillas – compared the amount of rats killed by self-resetting traps over a 10-day period last month, compared to the single-action traps more commonly used.

The self resetting traps were developed by the company Goodnature in collaboration with the Department to Conservation, and could reset up to 24 times before it needed to be reloaded. . . 

Zespri Board announces succession planning for new CEO:

The Board of Directors of Zespri will start a search process next year to select a new Chief Executive Officer. The succession is being planned with a view to having the new CEO in place by the beginning of 2018.

The current CEO Lain Jager, who was appointed Zespri CEO in December 2008, will remain in the role until the new CEO starts.

Zespri Chairman Peter McBride says the Board is balancing continuity and renewal in the leadership of the organisation. “The Zespri Board has set out a process for succession at an optimal time. The timeframe helps to ensure continuity through this transition, which is important given Zespri’s critical role in the value chain for kiwifruit growers and customers globally.” . . 

NZ Merino lifts annual profit 19%, meets growth targets – Tina Morrison:

Sept. 21 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand Merino Co, a wool marketer that aims to develop higher-value markets for sheep products, posted a 19 percent lift in annual profit and said its business has doubled in value over the past three years.

Profit rose to $2.7 million in the year ended June 30, from $2.3 million a year earlier, according to the Christchurch-based company’s 2016 annual report. Revenue rose 4.9 percent to $114.7 million, while cost of sales gained 5.7 percent to $104 million. It will pay its more than 500 growers a total dividend of $1.36 million, up from $1.1 million the previous year and in line with its policy of returning 50 percent of profit to shareholders. . . 

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Don’t complain about a farmer with your mouth full.


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