Rural round-up

15/05/2021

Why are we making life harder for farmers? – Mike Hosking:

The Fonterra capital changes announced last week have a story behind them.

It’s a complex business, and Andrew Kelleher explained them very well to us Friday, look it up if you missed it.

This is important because the farmer is gold to this country, Fonterra is our biggest business, and dairy and agriculture are saving us, given the other big game in town is closed.

Now, as Andrew put it, Fonterra have come to the conclusion they have reached peak milk. That doesn’t mean the world is over milk and dairy, because it isn’t. As the world grows, the middle class want good food, and that’s what we do.

So, Fonterra’s move means producing things in this country is getting harder. Between the rules and attitude of the government, making stuff is an uphill battle. . . 

The big dry: Drought hits farmers hard as winter looms – Kurt Bayer:

Up the brown hill where his grandfather lies, Stu Fraser’s epic view tells two stark tales.

Down on the flat of Amuri basin, the local irrigation scheme flaunts its lush rewards: emerald swathes of dairy land, crisscrossing the scenic North Canterbury landscape.

And down by the meandering Hurunui River, Fraser has some green strips too.

But up here on the steep hill country and rolling downs, where 5600 ewes scratch around and trot hopefully behind the red ATV, it’s a different story. . . 

Photographs spur journey from Argentina to Mid Canterbury farm – Toni Williams:

Maria Alvarez was drawn to New Zealand by photographs of a friend’s working holiday.

Those photographs started her on a journey from Argentina to working in the New Zealand dairy industry.

She arrived in New Zealand in 2013 and spent the first few years getting settled in.

“Everyday I get to see a sunrise. It’s beautiful,” she said last week from her home in Mid Canterbury. . . 

Sri Lankan dairy workers move up – Toni Williams:

Dairy farmers Dinuka and Nadeeka Gamage are living the dream.

They are passionate share farmers on a 245ha Dairy Holdings farm at Ealing, milking 980 cows, and are finalists in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, Share Farmer of the Year category.

They won the final of the Canterbury-North Otago region and will find out this weekend how they fared. The national finals are in Hamilton on Saturday.

Dinuka and Nadeeka love being their own bosses and working with animals in the outside environment. . . 

Collaboration key to meat assurance programmes – Colin Williscroft:

New Zealand sheep and beef farmers may be behind Ireland in their ability to measure farm-level carbon footprints but that is set to change, Beef + Lamb NZ general manager market development Nick Beeby says.

Beeby was responding to comments by Lincoln University agribusiness senior lecturer Dr Nic Lees who spent three months in Ireland looking at the Irish Origin Green programme, which claims to be the world’s first national level, third-party verified sustainability programme and brand for agriculture.

As part of the programme, farm-level carbon footprints and other sustainability measures have been available to Irish farmers since 2011.

Lees says in contrast, NZ is only beginning to implement a comprehensive farm-level carbon footprint measurement system. . . 

Safer farm equipment creates happy vets:

All good livestock farmers know the value of having a good relationships with their vets. And while vets expect to be on call to help with birthing issues, give vaccinations, or check any number of health concerns of farmers’ animals, a breach of safety could lead to vets fearing accepting such calls when they come in. Farmers should be aware, then, that if vets do not feel safe when administering their services, chances are, the farmers themselves may suffer in the long run as a result of high vet turnover or even possibly being sued for negligence.

It is imperative, therefore, to ensure the safety of all vets, along with all other farm workers, who attend to livestock. By ensuring high overall safety standards on farms, farmers are more likely to build robust relationships with those responsible for their animals’ wellbeing. Good relationships, in turn, could ensure higher profits due to trading in healthy stock, lower employee turnover, and the peace of mind that everyone on the farm – both people and animals – is happy and healthy. . . 


Rural round-up

10/05/2021

Fonterra boss Miles Hurrell says turning around the dairy giant has not been smooth sailing – Tina Morrison:

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell faced a daunting task when he was asked to take the helm of the country’s largest company in 2018, but he is getting the dairy giant in shape.

The co-operative owned by its 10,000 farmer suppliers and supporting some 20,000 employees was heading for its first annual loss since its creation in 2001 after a period of big expansion failed to deliver the promised profits and left it saddled with too much debt.

Hurrell, an 18-year veteran of Fonterra and head of the Farm Source unit that worked with farmers, talked with his wife and a few close friends who backed him to take on the challenge of what was looking like a tough couple of years.

“I was under no illusion at that point in time about what needed to be done,” he says. “Clearly we needed to go about doing things differently.” . . 

Living the good life after ‘bovis’– Sally Rae:

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for South Canterbury farmers Kelly and Morgan Campbell since their cattle were the first in New Zealand to be depopulated due to Mycoplasma bovis. But they have come out the other side with a new business venture. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

On a lifestyle block in rural South Canterbury, Kelly and Morgan Campbell are living the good life.

Residing in their dream home, surrounded by hundreds of happy hens, their seemingly idyllic existence belies the roller-coaster ride they have lived the past few years.

Morgan Campbell arguably summed it up best by saying: “it’s a crazy story … with lots of kinks and curves … along the way. Dead cows, IVF and chickens.” . . 

Sheep numbers plummet by 800,000 in a year – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s sheep numbers plummeted by almost a million in 2020, new data shows.

Figures from Stats NZ put the sheep population at 26 million for the year ended June 2020, a fall of 800,000 from the previous year and a far cry from the peak of 70 million sheep in 1982.

Stats NZ agricultural production statistics manager Ana Krpo said widespread drought conditions and feed shortages were a major factor in the 3 per cent fall.

“Hawke’s Bay had the largest decrease, with the total number of sheep falling by 12 per cent (346,000) from the previous year to a total of 2.5 million as at June 2020.” . . 

Too many customers, not enough grapes, Marlborough winemakers struggling to match demand – Hugo Cameron:

Key export markets are thirsty for Marlborough wine, but low grape yields mean that demand is outstripping supply.

Frost and cold weather early in the season led to smaller harvests from many vineyards in the area and the smaller crop could leave some wineries facing tough decisions on who they can supply over the next year, industry group Wine Marlborough says

Caythorpe Family Estate owner Simon Bishell said the grape yield was about 25 to 30 percent down on the normal volume.

The business had seen plenty of fresh interest, but supplying those new customers after a slim harvest was a challenge, Bishell said. . . 

100 years on the land – Shawn McAvinue:

The Frame family recently celebrated 100 years of farming Burnbank in Teviot Valley. Shawn McAvinue talks to Bill and Gwenda Frame about how four generations have transformed the land from an unfenced block covered in gorse and rabbits to a productive sheep and beef farm.

A blanket of snow covered the land when Bill Frame was born on the sheep and beef farm Burnbank in Teviot Valley, on New Year’s Day in 1932.

When the snow melted, rabbits covered the farm in Dumbarton, near Ettrick.

As the baby boy grew, so did the rabbit population, and a dream was born. . . 

Meet challenges head-on says Beef Achiever Tracey Hayes – Shan Goodwin:

IF there is piece of advice Tracey Hayes believes has the power to guarantee a prosperous future for every sector of Australia’s beef industry, it’s the idea of never shying from a challenge.

Don’t turn a blind eye to what’s difficult, regardless of how insurmountable it may appear. Instead focus on precisely that.

These were the words from Ms Hayes after she was named the 2021 Queensland Country Life Beef Achiever at Beef Australia in Rockhampton last week.

Ms Hayes is an agribusiness executive with a beef production background and a down-to-earth persona that has made her one of the most liked, and respected, identities in the cattle game. . . 


Rural round-up

08/05/2021

Sheep and beef farms are getting squeezed – Keith Woodford:

The sheep and beef industry is getting squeezed from all sides, yet export returns exceed $7 billion.

I decided recently that it was time to take a closer look at what is happening on sheep and beef farms. The underlying motive is that I have been giving thought as to what the sheep and beef industry, which contributes around $7 billion of export income each year, might look like in another ten or twenty years. But before getting too immersed in that future, I needed to make sure I understood the present and how we got to where we are now.

When I left school a very long time ago, I had in mind that I wanted to be a sheep farmer myself. As a school boy, I used to peruse the advertisements each weekend in Saturday’s newspaper and figure out what a farm for 1000 ewes plus young stock and a few beef cows would cost. The land cost was around 20,000 New Zealand pounds, with this converting subsequently in 1967 to around $40,000. The figure now is about 30 times that, perhaps more, before taking into account that 1000 ewes would no longer be anywhere near enough for a living. . . 

Two big announcements awaited from Fonterra – one deals with dairy payout, the other with the co-op’s capital structure – Point of Order:

So what  are  the  chances Fonterra’s  payout  to its farmer-suppliers  could  top  $8kg/MS the  soon-to-end  current  season?

That would give a  timely  boost  to  the  rural economy  and give  farmers  the kind  of  surge  in incomes  which  would encourage them  to  step up the  pace  of  adapting their dairy farming practices as  the  country  moves  to meet its  climate  change goals.

In March, Fonterra raised its forecast milk price for this season to between $7.30 and $7.90kg/MS with a mid-point of $7.60. That was up from $7.14 last season.

But now, after several  good  results  from the fortnightly GDT auctions, and indications from futures contract prices, the  speculation  is that the payout  could go  higher. . . 

Farms hidden economic vulnerability revealed – Jonathan Milne:

A new stress test reveals just how exposed our farmers are to labour shortages, drought or a downturn in commodity prices.

Milk prices are high and times seem good for dairy farmers – but the Reserve Bank warns half of dairy farms face debt restructuring if milk solid prices drop back below $5.50/kg.

Dairy is just one of the primary production sectors where pockets of high debt create real economic exposure – for farming families, provincial communities and the economy.

While still relatively small, banks’ lending to horticulture producers has maintained a solid growth rate, increasing 11 percent in the year to March. Banks should continue to monitor associated risks, including the sector’s vulnerability to labour shortages and severe weather events, the Reserve Bank says in its first Financial Stability Report this year. . . 

Should rabbits be on the LIM report – Jill Herron:

It’s a dream lifestyle in a dream location, but owning property in Central Otago often comes with an expanding family of unwanted guests. Should real estate agents be telling prospective buyers about the rabbit problem?

World famous for its breathtaking landscape, skifields, wineries and pristine lakes, Central Otago is also fast becoming notorious for its pest population.

And those buying into the lifestyle dream need to be aware of what they are taking on, according to long-time real estate agent, Edwin Lewis.

The fact the costly, destructive and incredibly persistent pests accompany most purchases is proving a rude shock to many newcomers throughout the region. . . 

Minaret Station PLUS an amazing West Coast wilderness experienceJane Jeffries :

Arriving at the Alpine Helicopters hanger in Queenstown, I was full of anticipation for our three days at Minaret Station. I’d read about this property and have always had an inkling to go. Now three nights for the price of two, thanks to Covid, we are on our way. This much talked about Minaret luxury lodge, set in a glacial valley in the Southern Alps, is seriously remote. We had to chopper over some of New Zealand’s most inaccessible, jagged terrain to get there.

The well-known Wallis family are at the heart of this working farm. They are acknowledged in the Central Otago community for their contribution to aviation, farming, deer exporting and tourism. Sir Tim Wallis was one of the great deer farming pioneers. As a young man, his love of the land, aviation and adventure lured him into the helicopter business. He pioneered live deer capture from helicopters which lead to a significant industry in New Zealand. His nick-name, ‘Hurricane Tim,’ was well-earned for his daring flying and would not be approved by OSHA today!

As the helicopter fleet grew to support the commercial and agriculture arm of the family business, they decided to diversify into tourism. They started offering scenic flights and heli-skiing in the South Island in the 1980s. Then, in 2010 they opening the doors to the Minaret Alpine Lodge. The family wanted to share the beauty of the 50,000-acre working farm, home to some 12,000 deer, 1,300 cattle, and 1,000 sheep. . . 

Ravensdown appoints national agronomy manager:

Ravensdown has appointed Will Waddell as its new National Agronomy Manager. Will’s responsibility will be enhancing the co-operative’s service in seeds, agrichemicals and agronomic advice.

The new role leads a nationwide team of nine specialist agronomists supported by a product management team of four and benefits from Ravensdown’s partnership with Cropmark Seeds.

“I look forward to supporting and leading our talented team of agronomists to bring practical and innovative farm systems solutions to our shareholders as we respond to environmental and social needs,” says Waddell.

General Manager Customer Relationships Bryan Inch congratulated Will Waddell on his appointment to the newly created position. . . 


Rural round-up

07/05/2021

Rabbits march on Queenstown –  Melanie Reid:

A new breed of rabbit has arrived on the scene in Central Otago: the ‘lifestyle rabbit’. With the growth in new multimillion dollar homes and subdivisions comes a headache for landowners.

Ihug co-founder Tim Wood now avoids some parts of his 10-acre rural Wakatipu idyll because it’s too depressing to see his plantings and landscaping trashed by rabbits yet again.

“It looks beautiful from a distance, but when you get up close, it’s an absolute ecological disaster. It’s out of control. We’re back at the late eighties and early nineties sort of stage of how bad it is.”

Recently planted natives collapse into the stream as rabbits undermine their root systems and some mornings up to 30 rabbits have their breakfast on the lawn as Wood eats his metres away in his kitchen. An attractive bank slowly turns into a swiss-cheese dustbowl and costly native trees get planted, ring-barked and eventually thrown on the compost heap. . . 

Fonterra starts consultation on capital structure:

Today Fonterra is starting a consultation process to seek farmer feedback on potential options to change its capital structure that could give farmers greater financial flexibility.

To allow its farmers to have open conversations and consider all options during consultation, the 
Co-operative is temporarily capping the size of the Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund (the Fund) by suspending shares in the Fonterra Shareholders’ Market (FSM) from being exchanged into units in the Fund.

This temporary cap will be effective once the current trading halt is lifted when the market opens tomorrow and will remain throughout the consultation process.

Chairman Peter McBride says the capital structure review seeks to ensure the sustainability of the 
Co-operative into the future. . . 

Scores attend Oamaru meeting to raise concerns over large scale forest farm – Sally Murphy:

More than 100 people showed up to a meeting in Oamaru last night to raise concerns about a large scale forest farm being developed in the area.

A 2500 hectare sheep and beef farm at the headwaters of the Kakanui River has been bought by New Zealand Carbon Farming.

The company establishes permanent forests to mitigate climate change through carbon credits.

Locals say the company already has one farm in the Waitaki region which is already showing adverse environmental affects. . . 

New study finds Taurua District could grow blueberries, hazelnuts, apples and feijoas:

A new study for alternative land uses in the Tararua District shows blueberries, hazelnuts, cider apples and feijoas could be successfully grown in the area.

The report commissioned by The Tararua District Council and done by AgFirst assessed the soil quality, climate and economics of each crop.

AgFirst horticulture consultant Leander Archer said it builds on another project done in the early 2000s which looked at what crops were best for the area.

“What we found is that all four crops could grow well in some areas of the Tararua, but conditions differed from area to area. . . 

Rural health professionals welcome Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network:

Members of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network (the Network) held up green cards in show of support for the proposal to form a collective organisation Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network on Saturday 1 May 2021.

During the Network’s AGM at the National Rural Health Conference in Taupō, the Network Board put forward the proposal to form Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network and to transition the Network’s functions and role to this new organisation over a 12-month period.

More members turned up for this AGM than ever before to show their support and have their say on the future of the Network, and the resolutions to form the collective organisation Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network were passed.

Network Chief Executive Dr Grant Davidson says that this is a significant step in the evolution of the Network. . . 

Research shows growth in tree stock sales:

Latest research by Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service shows seedling sales hit almost 92 million seedlings in 2020, 3 million more than the year before, says Acting Deputy Director-General Henry Weston.

The findings are an annual survey of tree stock sales from commercial forestry nurseries, called the Provisional Estimates of Tree Stock Sales and Forest Planting.

“The increase in seedling sales is positive, as it shows continued strong interest in tree planting.

“Tree planting is a vital tool in efforts to boost environmental gains, and help New Zealand to reach its economic potential, particularly our recovery from COVID-19,” says Mr Weston. . . 

Leasing provides appealing pathway to land stewardship:

Leasing the farm out rather than selling it is proving a new approach to the old challenges of succession, income generation, and farm business growth, providing a level of flexibility for parties on both sides of the leasing fence.

Bayleys Gisborne director and country salesperson Simon Bousfield says with an aging farmer population more landowners are rapidly approaching a point where they may be wishing to exit their property to enjoy retirement, and succession options aren’t available within the family.

However, they can find buyers are either limited in number, or limited by a lack of financial capital to meet the property’s market value.

“But it is also a case that this low interest rate environment is a double-edged sword. . . 


Rural round-up

06/05/2021

Rabbits: ‘It’s as bad as it’s ever been’ – Melanie Reid:

Rabbits are once again over-running parts of New Zealand. This week, in a series of short videos, Newsroom Investigates lays out the remarkable impacts in the south.

Farmers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on rabbit control, with some employing full time shooters. But what if you control the rabbits at your place, and next door they don’t?

For Phillip Bunn, a third generation farmer on 149 hectares of Central Otago family land, there are a lot of things that make farming in the Queenstown Wakatipu Basin tough.

But dealing with rabbits is by far the hardest part. . .

Truckers at risk crossing Mt Ruapehu bridge with ‘severe’ defects – Phil Pennington:

A century-old wooden bridge full of holes that carries masses of the country’s potatoes and carrots is jeopardising truckers’ safety and farmers’ livelihoods.

But government funding changes make it less certain the local council can get the bridge, on a back road on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, replaced.

Between a 10th and one-fifth of the washed carrots and potatoes used in the North Island come across the one-lane timber Mangateitei rail overbridge near Ohakune.

There is no other public road out from the farms. . . 

Rein in rates and show some backbone over water rules, Feds urges ECan:

Federated Farmers is strongly urging Environment Canterbury to demonstrate financial discipline and stick with current water plans developed with the community, rather than cave in and start a $25 million exercise re-writing them.

Feds Mid-Canterbury President David Clark and fellow Ashburton farmer and national board member Chris Allen said the Federation’s Canterbury membership of around 3000 are outraged and hugely disappointed with the very large rates increases proposed.

Most farmers face bigger hikes than the overall average of 24.5% in the financial year starting July 1.

“No business has the luxury of unlimited income, especially farmers who as price takers cannot just increase their prices. ECan should be no different,” Clark told councillors at a hearing this morning. . . 

Log exports high prices create New Zealand trucking backlog – Maja Burry:

Strong export prices for logs are creating bottlenecks in the local supply chain, with forest owners reporting problems securing log truck drivers and in some cases, harvesting contractors.

Forest Owners Association’s president Phil Taylor said when log prices were high, smaller forest owners, including farmers, seized the opportunity to maximise returns.

“It’s a very good opportunity to realise their investments and for those farmers that have trees to provide them with a significant boost to their incomes.”

The shortage in log truck drivers was a developing concern and the association was keen to work with Te Uru Rākau New Zealand Forest Service to encourage more people into the industry, Taylor said. . .

Nadine Tunley is HortNZ’s new Chief Executive :

Nadine Tunley has been announced as Horticulture New Zealand’s new Chief Executive. 

‘We are very pleased to have been able to appoint a candidate of Nadine’s calibre, with her level of horticulture and wider food and fibre sector experience.  This was after an extensive recruitment process,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil. 

‘Nadine will lead HortNZ into new territory, as horticulture adapts to Covid and the operation of industry changes.  Over the next decade, climate adaption, freshwater quality improvements, and increased use of technology and automation will result in significant change to the way fruit and vegetables are grown in New Zealand. 

‘HortNZ’s role will be to help steer the industry through this change, advocating for growers to be given the time and support to adapt.  This is so our growers can remain viable during the transition, and do what they do best: feed New Zealand and the world healthy, good tasting and safe food. . . 

Rob Hewett appointed Silver Fern Farms co-op chair:

At the Co-operative’s Annual Meeting on 29 April, Richard Young announced that he was standing down as Co-operative Chair to facilitate transition to the next generation of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative leaders.

To bridge this transition period, the Co-operative Board has requested that Rob Hewett step back into the Co-operative Chair role that he relinquished two years ago, together with continuing in his role as Co-Chair of Silver Fern Farms Limited.

Mr Hewett said “Firstly I want to thank Richard for his significant contribution as Co-op Chair for the past two years. Over that time, he has led the development and establishment of a clear vision and purpose for the Co-operative, which ensures we continually work cohesively with our investment in Silver Fern Farms Limited, but also ensuring the voice of our farmer shareholders is heard. I also know he will continue to make a significant contribution for the balance of his current term. Over the next three years there will be significant managed transformation in our Board composition as several of our farmer elected directors come to the end of their maximum terms as allowed for in our Constitution – myself included. While the Constitution does allow for term extensions on a case by case basis for Directors who have reached their maximum term, it is the clear intention of the Co-operative board to manage succession proactively.” . . 


Rural round-up

24/04/2021

Looking after the land ‘a passion’ – Shawn McAvine:

Looking after the land is a “passion” for Central Otago farmers Ben and Anna Gillespie.

The couple won the 2020 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards, and opened their farm gates in Omakau for a field day last week.

Mrs Gillespie, speaking to about 100 people on the day, said she and her husband were a “solid team”.

She did the “stock work and finances” and he did the “tractor work, irrigation and agronomy“. . .

The cost of getting soil fertility wrong:

Although many people on the planet are willing to pay more for New Zealand produce, productive land to grow that food and fibre is becoming unavailable here in our own backyard.

Both the current government and previous governments aimed to double export dollars from the primary sector.

In answer, ingenious farmers and growers have had to become more efficient with their inputs to do more with less land. The Ministry for the Environment’s report entitled Our Land shows export values of the primary sector doubled while available highly productive land halved between 2002 and 2019.

This was an impressive achievement, but not without impacts. Hitting the political ambition whilst reducing land use and environmental issues is going to require farmers to become even more efficient in the use of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. . .

Trans-Tasman competition expected to increase for dairy farms seeking workers – Maja Burry:

New Zealand dairy farmers are being urged to make staff retention a priority, with the trans-Tasman bubble expected to make the labour market even more competitive.

Both New Zealand and Australia’s primary industries are facing labour shortages, with border restrictions cutting off the normal flow of migrant workers.

A recent survey by the groups Federated Farmers and DairyNZ found almost half of the sector is understaffed, with a quarter of farmers unable to fill some roles for over six months.

The opening of the trans-Tasman bubble on Monday had resulted in some agricultural labour recruiters in Australia ramping up online advertising campaigns targeting New Zealanders – offering free airfares and good wages. . . 

A2 moves from a brand to a category – Keith Woodford:

Many more A2 milk and A2 infant formula brands are now emerging across the globe but market leader The a2 milk Company is struggling

A notable change has been occurring recently with A2 milk products now available from multiple manufacturers. That includes at least three brands of A2 infant formula available here in New Zealand. These offerings are the original a2 Platinum from The a2 Milk Company (ATM), plus relative newcomers Karicare A2 from Danone and Haven A2 linked to Zuru.

There are also now at least three A2 fresh-milk brands in New Zealand, these being Fonterra, Fresha Valley, and a strangely named “organic A3” product which, according to its owners, is also produced exclusively from A2 cows.

Internationally, there are multiple A2 brands of both A2 milk and A2 infant formula now available, particularly in Asia, to a lesser extent in the Americas, but with Europe still lagging. . . 

The harvest has passed but we are not saved – Tom Hunter:

So that’s it. The last of the maize has been chopped and dropped into bunkers, pits and stacks all across the Waikato.

I’ve finished my first, and likely my last season, on the harvesting teams. As always with such work it seems that time has run much faster than a start last September factually shows. About the only slow period was in January as the huge machines were prepped for the coming chore and eyes closely watched the growing maize to pick the right time for gathering.

This time of year has always been celebrated, so let’s start with Bruegel’s classic from 1565. . . 

‘A farmer with 50 cattle today will only be allowed to have 24 in 2030’ – Catherina Cunnane:

The Rural Independents have warned that the Climate Action Bill will “kill the economy while doing nothing to protect the environment”. 

They fear that “small farms will be in danger of disappearing and replaced by large corporate interests, while one-off rural housing will cease to exist”.

The group believe the bill will cause “immeasurable damage to Irish agriculture”, cause food security issues, lead to thousands of direct and indirect job losses across rural Ireland and create enormous and costly volumes of red tape. . . 


Rural round-up

07/04/2021

Horticulture collapse fears unless Pacific Island workers allowed in – Shawn McAvinue:

A group of Teviot Valley orchardists is calling for the Government to allow more Pacific Islanders to return to the region to fill a labour shortage before the horticulture industry “collapses”.

Darlings Fruit owner Stephen Darling, of Ettrick, said the apple harvest season runs from the end of February to mid May.

He had only about 60% of the 65 pickers and packhouse staff required for the season on his family’s about 90ha of orchard blocks in the valley.

Consequently, apples would rot on the ground this season, he said. . .

Plan change mooted to limit carbon farming – Ashley Smyth:

Attempts are being made by the Waitaki District Council to rein in carbon farming, following public concern over a recent farm sale.

A report presented at a council meeting on Tuesday, suggested a district plan change under the Resource Management Act.

This would allow the council to move independently of the tight timeframe set by the release of the draft district plan review.

It is expected some new areas of outstanding natural landscape, significant natural areas, geological sites and visual amenity landscapes will be included in the plan. . .

Native planting project hoped to protect Tolaga Bay from logging debris–  Maja Burry:

Every time heavy rains hits Uawa – Tolaga Bay, a sense of nervousness washes over the community that a fresh delivery of forestry slash could be brought down from the hillsides.

After years of discussions, it’s hoped a native planting project announced by the area’s largest forestry operation will help protect homes, waterways and coastlines.

Aratu Forests, one of New Zealand’s 10 largest freehold forest plantations, has announced a 90-year ‘right to plant’ land management agreement with sustainable land-use company, eLandNZ – with the backing of the Gisborne District Council.

The programme will see permanent native plantings established in parts of the 35,000 hectare estate which are unsuitable for timber plantation. . .

Horticulture industry can help New Zealand reduce emissions and grow the economy:

The horticulture industry is well placed to help New Zealand reduce its emissions while also enabling the economy to grow, Horticulture New Zealand says. 

‘Our fruit and vegetable growing industry is already environmentally responsible as well as being one of the most efficient in the world,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil. 

‘In our submission to the Climate Change Commission, we pointed out that horticulture is now producing more food from less land, using fewer inputs like fertiliser and water. 

‘Covid has seen demand for healthy food increase, across the world.  This increase puts horticulture in a win/win situation.  Land-use change to horticulture will reduce emissions from the agriculture sector, while the extra production will find ready markets, overseas and locally.’ . . .

Fonterra completes sale of two China farms:

Fonterra has today completed the sale of its two wholly owned China farming hubs in Ying and Yutian

As announced in October 2020, the sale of the farms to Inner Mongolia Youran Dairy Co., Ltd (Youran) was subject to anti-trust clearance and other regulatory approvals in China. These approvals have now been received.

The transaction proceeds comprise the original sale price of NZD $513 million plus NZD $39 million in settlement adjustments, giving cash proceeds of NZD $552 million*.

CEO Miles Hurrell says the completion of the sale is an important milestone for Fonterra following its strategic refresh. . .

Treating soil a little differently could help it store a lot of carbon – Natasha Geiling:

Climate change is a massive problem with the potential to completely reshape the world, both literally (with rising sea levels and melting glaciers) and figuratively (with the way we grow food, or the way that we handle allergies). And while the consequences caused by climate change could be huge, the solutions — transitioning to a completely fossil fuel-free economy, or geoengineering — can often seem equally daunting.

But what if something as simple as the dirt under your feet could help mitigate some of the worst of climate change? The Earth’s soils contain a lot of carbon, and helping to manage and restore them could be a key way to help tackle climate change, according to a recent study in Nature.

Soils are already huge stores of carbon, and improved management can make them even bigger

The study, published by a group of international scientists, suggests that using “soil-smart” techniques for soil management could sequester as much as four-fifths of the annual emissions released by the burning of fossils fuels. These techniques include planting crops with deep roots, which help keep soil intact and encourage the growth of microbial communities that help trap soil carbon, and using charcoal-based composts. The study also calls for a wider adoption of sustainable agriculture techniques — things like no-till farming, which involves growing crops from year to year without disturbing the soil and has been shown to potentially help soil retain carbon, and organic agriculture, which also has shown some promise in restoring and maintaining soil health. . .


Rural round-up

06/04/2021

Mayor calls on government to give MIQ spots to RSE workers

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan is calling on the government to offer some of the available MIQ spaces to foreign workers.

MIQ authorities are urging people to return to New Zealand to snap up a sudden glut of vacancies for April. There have not been as many vacancies since October.

In an open letter to ministers, Cadogan said Central Otago’s horticulture industry was desperate for workers and bringing in foreigners under the seasonal employment scheme would bring huge relief.

“I am sure I do not need to draw your attention to the labour shortage we have in Central Otago in our horticultural industry and the desperate need for increased numbers of RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme workers, but I do need to emphasise that things here are getting worse not better,” Cadogan’s letter said. . . 

Continued threat to NZ from severely impacted global supply chains:

  • As an open market economy, NZ is attractive to dumpers
  • Remedies available to local businesses and industries

Potatoes are not the only industry at risk from disrupted overseas businesses looking to dump cheap products in New Zealand, but the tools are there to ensure a level playing field for local businesses.

The longer the Covid-19 pandemic goes on across the world, the greater the risk to New Zealand markets from products imported and sold here at prices below the market price in their country of origin, according to a specialist advisor working with local interests on current anti-dumping cases.

Simon Crampton is assisting Potato New Zealand with its anti-dumping case and believes that other New Zealand industries and businesses are at risk of destabilisation from dumped products as the result of continuing turmoil in global supply chains, amongst other reasons. . . 

Fonterra to end coal use in factories by 2037 – Gerald Piddock:

Fonterra has backed the Climate Change Commission’s decarbonisation pathway to lower industrial emissions by pledging to replace its coal and natural gas to fuel its processing factories with wood biomass by 2037.

Its submission to the commission’s advice to the Government on how to achieve zero emissions by 2050 acknowledged the difficulties in meeting such a target, calling it “ambitious” and “challenging”.

It pointed out that the nature of New Zealand dairy farmers’ milk supply curve gave it an extremely narrow window in which it can undertake changes to its factories.

“Over a six to eight-week period, we go from collecting around four million litres of milk a day to around 82 million litres a day. All of our sites must be working close to full capacity to cope with this volume,” it said. . . 

Silver Fern Farms responds to dynamic global trading environment with strong performance:

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative has reported a net profit after tax of $32.4m for the 2020 financial year. Its investment, Silver Fern Farms Limited, reported a net profit after tax of $65.4m in the same period.

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Chairman Richard Young said the financial result achieved by the Co-operative and Silver Fern Farms Limited for the 2020 year is a strong result built off the skill and expertise of its people who navigated the company through a period of considerable uncertainty.

“The performance of the operating company in 2020 was truly commendable across a range of areas. Most important was how they put the health and welfare of their people first. In doing so they set a platform of trust and shared commitment from their staff to stand up as essential workers to service our regional communities, and to service our global consumers.” . . 

Awanui orchard offers step straight into market:

A large scale, well established avocado orchard in the Northland region offers the opportunity for an investor to enjoy immediate returns from the high value sector as demand continues to expand for the fruit.

Awanui orchard near Sweetwater represents 20 years of commitment from its original owner and founder, American-Kiwi Jerry Trussler.

Jerry’s far-sighted vision for the sector had him establish the 36-canopy hectare orchard at a time when the fledgling industry was distinguished by significantly smaller orchards. The entire land area comprises 79ha across an attractive, rolling block. . . .

California relocates mountain lions making a meal of endangered sheep :

Drastic steps taken to protect the Sierra Nevada’s 600 bighorn sheep after another charismatic species developed a taste for them

In order to save one endangered species, California scientists are having to relocate another iconic creature that is, regrettably, eating it.

The California department of fish and wildlife is in the process of moving mountain lions over 100 miles away from struggling populations of bighorn sheep, which are unique to the Sierra Nevada mountains. The herbivores were first listed as endangered in 1999, when their population was estimated at only 125 individuals, according to researchers.

“There’s no expectation that any of the lions we move are going to stay where we put it, regardless of age or sex,” acknowledged Danny Gammons, an environmental scientist for the sheep recovery program. “The goal is to get it away from bighorn sheep.” . . 


Rural round-up

01/04/2021

Dairy farmers warn of hidden costs of reducing climate gas emissions – Jonathan Milne:

The dairy industry says its already a world leader on the farm and is improving its factory processing, but worries about the impact of further emissions cut on its communities

Fonterra and Synlait are attempting to shift energy-intensive boilers and other industrial processes to renewables, but farmers are worried that one-in-three will go backwards financially.

Fonterra will publish its submission to the Climate Change Commission this morning. The cooperative, owned by 10,000 farming families, produces 20 per cent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions – the vast majority of those from farming.

New Zealand’s dairy farmers have already reduced their carbon footprints well beyond global benchmarks, and have been consistent in saying they need more R&D investment from Government and industry to make further emissions cuts. . . 

Driven by passion for all things rural – Toni Williams:

Mt Somers farmer and businesswoman Kate Acland is passionate about the rural sector.

She knows it is facing enormous change with environmental reforms set to affect farm businesses, but wants to be at the table as the sector works to address the challenges.

She is on the board of Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand,has past involvement with the Strong Wool Action Group and has just taken a place on the board of Beef + Lamb New Zealand as the northern South Island farmer-director.

“I’m hugely passionate about the sector and future of our family farming businesses.

“Beef and Lamb is a fantastic organisation and I feel very strongly that it has a key role to play in the successful future of those businesses.’’ . . 

Quarter of farmers to measure emissions by end of year – Marc Daalder:

The He Waka Eke Noa primary sector partnership with central government says it is on track for 25 percent of farmers to be measuring their emissions by the end of the year, Marc Daalder reports

As submissions closed on the Climate Change Commission’s historic draft advice on decarbonising New Zealand, the primary sector is hailing the accomplishment of a crucial milestone: Some 11,000 farmers are now measuring their greenhouse gas emissions.

He Waka Eke Noa: The Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership was set up in 2019 as an agreement between the primary sector and central government to move towards all farmers measuring their emissions by the end of 2022 and a price on agricultural emissions by 2025.

In order for farmers to pay for the emissions from their livestock and produce, they have to know how much they emit in the first place. Already, 11,000 farmers are able to measure their emissions, He Waka Eke Noa programme director Kelly Forster said, and a quarter of the country’s farmers will be doing so by the end of the year. . . 

Shearing stalwarts lauded – Simon Henderson:

Family tradition and fine wool came together at a meeting of the New Zealand Merino Shearing Society as four stalwarts were awarded life memberships during a ceremony at the Lodge Manuherikia Kilwinning in Alexandra on Sunday.

Life member and past-president Graeme Bell, of Alexandra, presented the awards alongside senior vice-president Lane McSkimming and junior vice-president Janet Smith to Greg Stuart, Don Moffat, Allan Paterson, and John Nelson.

Mr Nelson first came as a helper to shearing shows in the late 1960s.

He started competing in shows before becoming a committee member in 1983, a role he had continued to the present day, Mr Bell said. . . 

Leaft Foods announces $20m programme to tackle global plant protein market and signals potential to lower farm emissions:

The programme will develop technology that extracts edible protein from New Zealand grown green leafy crops. Leaft Foods seeks to produce high-quality protein ingredients for use in a range of food products across the rapidly growing global market for plant-based foods.

Leaft Foods’ innovation is the co-production of a low-emission animal feed, optimised for ruminant nutrition that could significantly reduce farm nitrogen losses. On-farm trials will demonstrate a viable pathway to adoption and commercial uptake for New Zealand farmers and credentialing the system’s economic and environmental benefits.

“We are building on New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted producer of high-quality protein. Our vision is to reduce the environmental impact of agricultural systems and to meet the increase in demand for plant proteins that align with consumer values,” says Maury Leyland Penno, Founder of Leaft Foods. . . 

Bill Gates’ farmland buying spree highlights investment appeal – Judith Evans:

With productivity expected to increase, arable land is attractive — and can help meet carbon-neutral targets.

The Horse Heaven Hills in Washington State are known for wines, wind farms and potatoes. And, recently, swaths of the area have been bought up by Bill Gates.

The Microsoft co-founder acquired 14,500 acres of the fertile land in 2018, helping to make him the largest private farmland owner in the US, with total holdings of almost 250,000 acres, according to disclosures in the US publication The Land Report this year.

Gates may operate at a vast scale, but he is not alone. Although the global farmland market is still highly fragmented — in the US, institutional ownership is estimated to account for just 2.2 per cent by the US Department of Agriculture — investment by financial institutions and wealthy individuals has surged since the financial crisis, in relative terms. . .

 


Rural round-up

24/03/2021

Govt ‘naivety’ cause of crisis – Peter Burke:

Johnny Appleseed is one of the largest apple growers in New Zealand; director Paul Paynter says the current worker shortage crisis in the sector can be sheeted home to Government naivety.

He says when Covid-19 first hit the country – with many people losing their jobs and overseas workers stopped from coming to NZ – the Government was quick to claim it would provide an opportunity for Kiwis to take up jobs in the ag and hort sectors. However, he says while there has been some uptake, the reality has fallen well short of the enthusiastic expectations.

“It was just naïve optimism on the part of Government,” Paynter told Rural News.

He says people are not coming to the Hawkes Bay to pick apples for a number of reasons, the major one being the lack of accommodation. Paynter says there is a housing crisis in the region.

Drinking (milk) to economic recovery – The Detail:

When the price of milk surged 15 percent on the global dairy market earlier this month, even the boss of Fonterra was shocked.

“It was extraordinary,” says Jarden’s head of dairy derivatives, Mike McIntyre. “I’ve been following these auctions now for the better part of 10 years and I’ve seen it previously, but only in the past where we’ve been constrained.”

That was 2013 when the whole country was in drought and very little milk was being produced.

This time, says McIntyre, it is being driven by China’s thirst for milk.

“Last year, the Chinese government came out and essentially issued a directive to the public to say, to ward off the ill effects of Covid they should be consuming more than a glass of milk a day.” . . 

Covid-19 vaccine: Concerns over future uptake in rural areas – Riley Kennedy;

The government is being encouraged to think outside the box when rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine into rural communities.

Earlier this month, the government announced its plan to deliver the vaccine to the wider public.

From May, priority populations will be able to get the vaccine and from July, the remainder of the population will be able to get it.

There have been concerns from some health professionals that the uptake among people living in rural New Zealand could be slow – given some have to travel a long way to see their GP and therefore don’t always bother. . . 

Investing in consumers’ trust – Neal Wallace:

Meat companies are using the Taste Pure Nature brand alongside their own brands as they target environmentally-conscious foodie consumers.

Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) market development manager Nick Beeby told the organisation’s annual meeting that this demographic cares where their food comes from and are heavily influenced by digital channels such as food websites and bloggers who focus on natural foods.

They are considered a significant opportunity for NZ red meat sales, and Beeby says during the covid-19 pandemic consumers were increasingly discerning with their purchases, which was underpinned by the message associated with the B+LNZ developed taste pure nature brand.

“Consumers chose meat products that are better tasting, nutritious and satisfy environmental concerns,” Beeby said. . . 

A platform for red meat’s story – Neal Wallace:

A new website selling the virtues of red meat and dispelling some of its myths is being launched.

An initiative of Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA), the Making Meat Better website will tell the sector’s story, and provide information and data, while reinforcing the merits of red meat.

The 150 people who attended the B+LNZ annual meeting in Invercargill this week were told the site will provide data and statistics about the red meat sector, sell the virtues of being grass-raised, its nutritional attributes, while also extolling the environmental stewardship of farmers.

Data on the site will provide a balance to some of the criticism about red meat and farming by providing information on farming’s carbon footprint, action being taken on climate change and provide infographic resources that can be used.  . . 

 

Showgirls, rural achievers shine the way for ag :

The bush has a wealth of young talent who are turning their fantastic ideas and aspirations into reality.

You only have to look at the pages in last week’s Land to find young people who are ready to act or are acting on their projects.

And they are motivated – either by issues that some members of older generations might not want to confront such as climate change – or value adding to the great contributions of previous generations.

They are doing this despite the enforced isolation of the last year from the pandemic. . . 


Rural round-up

06/03/2021

Fonterra milk price forecasts give a fillip to farmers and the regions – the co-op has become an NZX favourite, too – Point of Order:

Fonterra has  confirmed  what  most analysts  had  been predicting and lifted its 2020/21 forecast farmgate milk price range to  $7.30 – $7.90 kg/MS, up from  $6.90 – $7.50. This should  send a  further surge of  confidence  across  NZ’s  rural regions, hopefully in  a  wave  strong enough to encourage  farmers  to plan to  increase production  next  season.

As  a  result  of  the  higher  payout, the co-op  will be  pumping $11.5bn  into the  rural economy, well ahead of the $10bn predicted  last year. Although  farmer-suppliers  to Fonterra  are paid off   the mid-point  $7.60  of the new range, most analysts  believe the final payout will reach $7.90.

That  should  ensure a  handsome  return  for most  suppliers,  whose  cost  of  production averages  around $5.80-$6 kg/MS—and for the  highly  efficient, at below $4, an even   better one. . . 

Lessons from M. Bovis outbreak – Peter Burke:

The chair of a new committee set up to review the handling of Mycoplasma bovis outbreak says it isn’t a witch-hunt.

Massey University academic Nicola Shadbolt says the review is about learning from the past and helping us to be stronger for the future. She says it’s about finding out what happened and seeing what might need to be put in place if there a biosecurity outbreak of this nature in the future.

Shadbolt, a professor of farm and agribusiness, served as a Fonterra director for nine years and is currently chair of Plant and Food Research. . .

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier at risk of losing key community members – locals – Tess Brunton:

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier communities have been told that the government can’t save every business that’s struggling during the pandemic.

A week ago the two communities sent Tourism Minister Stuart Nash a $35 million wishlist of what they need to survive.

Yesterday he visited Franz Josef with Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor but didn’t make any promises.

Across Country Quad Bikes used to run four fully booked tours a day, closing for a few months over winter after a hectic summer. . .

Bees get a fighting chance – Neal Wallace:

University of Otago Researchers have made a discovery that may just give honeybees a fighting chance against the varroa mite. Neal Wallace reports.

Scientists have identified naturally occurring compounds which induces a cleaning response among some worker bees, killing juvenile varroa mites.

The University of Otago researchers are now looking at how to replicate the six relevant compounds they have discovered, and a way to deliver them to hives from which beekeepers can selectively breed bees that have this trait.

Emeritus Professor Alison Mercer of the university’s Department of Zoology says varroa mites reproduce in brood cells, but researchers have identified some worker bees can sense where the mites are using these compounds, then open those cells and pull out the contents, including the mite, killing it. . . 

Why aren’t farmers using more agritech on farm? – Phil Edmonds:

While internet connectivity may be viewed as a barrier to farmers adopting more agritech solutions, Phil Edmonds discovers there are many reasons for New Zealand’s low adoption rate, including technology not being developed with their needs in mind.

A fresh look is under way into understanding why agritech adoption in New Zealand has not escalated to the same extent that our primary sector exports have. A cursory glance at the unflattering data on uptake suggests farmers are content using tried and tested methods despite the increasing availability of ‘go faster’ solutions. However, ‘tried and tested’ will inevitably start to hold the industry back. The initial thinking on where to get the ball rolling faster is for agritech developers to focus on time-saving rather than insight solutions, and stop assuming farmers are inherent technophobes.

An analysis of the impact of agritech on the New Zealand economy published last year suggested that New Zealand is underperforming relative to its global peers. While food and fibre exports have grown substantially, the same can’t be said for agritech, which has netted a consistent (rather than accelerating) $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion over the past five years. . . 

Exclusion fence gives options for diversity at Bollon – Sally Gall:

A decision in the summer of 2017 to fully enclose their 36,420ha of country in the Bollon district has rewarded Scott and Alison Todd many times over.

The couple came to Brigalow Downs 90km south of Bollon in 2014, walking into one of the biggest droughts on record.

At that stage they were an all-cattle operation with rangeland goats running freely on the property, and with a good reserve of mulga and cattle selling very cheaply in the Barcaldine and Blackall districts, they began building cattle numbers.

As the drought went on, their mulga didn’t regenerate as well as expected, and with cattle agistment bills mounting, they decided to diversify. . .


Dairy delivers again

05/03/2021

Good news from Fonterra:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today lifted its 2020/21 forecast Farmgate Milk Price range to NZD $7.30 – $7.90 per kgMS, up from NZD $6.90 – $7.50 per kgMS.

The midpoint of the range, which farmers are paid off, has increased to NZD $7.60 per kgMS.

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell says the lift in the 2020/21 forecast Farmgate Milk Price range is a result of consistent strong demand for New Zealand dairy.

“We’ve seen Global Dairy Trade (GDT) prices continuing to increase since February when we last updated on our forecast Farmgate Milk Price and then this week there was the 15% increase in GDT prices.

“It’s very much a China demand led story but there is also good demand for New Zealand dairy across South East Asia and the Middle East.

“China’s strong economic recovery, following the initial impact of COVID-19, is flowing through to strong demand for dairy and we’ve seen this through sales during the Chinese New Year.

“China’s local milk supply is being used in fresh dairy products and they are looking to us to provide longer-life dairy products – in particular, whole milk powder which has a big influence on the forecast Farmgate Milk Price.

“Customers know we are continuing to get products to market, despite the challenges in the global supply chain and they are looking to us for this reliability. We’re also seeing customers want to buy more of our products than usual to help mitigate the risk of global supply chain delays.”

Hurrell says today’s lift in the Co-op’s forecast Farmgate Milk Price is good news for New Zealand farmers and the wellbeing of rural communities. It would see the Co-op contribute more than $11.5 billion to the New Zealand economy through milk price payments this year.

But before we get too excited:

Fonterra has decided to maintain its plus or minus 30 cent range on its forecast Farmgate Milk Price, reflecting the continued uncertainties in the global dairy market.

Hurrell says it is important that farmers recognise there are a number of downside risks to the mid-point of the range. For example, the EU and US are heading into their season and their milk supply will start increasing, the impacts of COVID-19 on key markets and market volatility.

“A $7.60 per kgMS forecast Farmgate Milk Price also increases our input costs putting further pressure on our earnings in the second half of the 2020/21 financial year. More details on our earnings will provided at our half year results on 17 March.”

 


Rural round-up

05/03/2021

Dairy price lift will give fillip to regional economies and fortify Fonterra’s confidence in pressing on with capital restructuring – Point of Order:

Our  dairy provinces  are  reverberating to  the  news that prices  soared  at the  latest Fonterra GDT auction. The prosperity  this  brings  to the regions  will  provide a  significant counterbalance  to the loss  of earning power  in the tourism sector because of the pandemic.

The average price at the auction climbed 15% to $US4,231 a tonne but,  more  importantly, the price for wholemilk  powder, which is  the  key to the payout  to farmers,rose an astonishing 21% to $US4,364 a tonne. Butter  was  up  sharply to $US5,826 a tonne, or 13.7%.

Overall, the increase compares with a 3% rise at the previous auction two weeks ago. . . 

Reducing cow numbers no silver bullet for emissions – Sudesh Kissun:

Reducing cow numbers isn’t the ‘silver bullet’ to lowering greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand, says Northland farmer and entrepreneur Tom Pow.

With the Government facing calls to slash cow numbers as part of its climate change action plan, Pow, the founder of HerdHomes, says a knee-jerk reaction to reduce cow numbers would be naïve.

He suggests looking at other options including reducing the number of hours cows spend in paddocks. “Balanced feed can lead to less greenhouse gasses (GHG) or effectively a smaller herd mis-managed could produce even more GHG,” he told Dairy News. . . 

Exciting board role for up and coming farmer – Peter Burke:

A 50/50 sharemilker at an award-winning Maori farming enterprise has been selected as one of two associate directors at DairyNZ for the coming year.

Carlos Delos Santo works for the Onuku Maori Lands Trust which runs a number of dairy farms near Rotorua as well as a sheep milking operation and other businesses. The other new associate director is Cameron Henderson who farms in Canterbury with his partner Sarah.

Delos Santo says he’s really excited to be selected for this role, as it allows him the chance to gain knowledge on what occurs at DairyNZ board meetings and contribute to important sector discussions. . .

Following his calling, not many downsides to farming – Toni Williams:

Mike Carr has had a calling to be a farmer since he was 8 years old; old enough to drive a tractor and help out on farm.

By the age of 25 he’d travelled overseas and had a mechanic’s qualification under his belt before returning to the family farm to work alongside his parents, Ian and Sue.

Then he took over.

He loves farming — and being outdoors.

“You’re your own boss. It’s great — you don’t answer to anyone else,” he said. . .

Shed consent application process could be improved – Shawn McAvinue:

A frustrated West Taieri farmer is calling for the Otago Regional Council to do better so he can achieve his dream of building a shed to keep his cattle warm and dry.

The council says it will seek ways to improve its service.

Fred Doherty, of Outram, said he had expected the process to get the consents required to build a wintering shed in the middle of his 90ha sheep and beef farm to be “simple and basic” but it had been “frustrating” and made considerably more expensive by red tape.

“It’s been a dream of mine to be able to put my stock inside for winter and to know that whatever nature throws at them, they are safe, warm and dry and your farm is getting looked after.” . . 

Could the next Emirates Team New Zealand boat be made entirely of hemp?:

With The America’s Cup due to start in a few days’ time, innovators from a very different sphere have been wondering how long it could be before New Zealand could be competing in a boat entirely built from hemp, with the crew eating high-energy, nutritious hemp-infused foods and wearing high-performance hemp kit?

Industrial hemp (iHemp) is from the same family as cannabis, but from different cultivars and without the psychoactive effects. Having historically fallen out of favour, it’s rapidly finding its place in the world again, due primarily to its environmental and health benefits.

Hemp has a wide range of uses driven by its unique characteristics. Hemp textiles are naturally anti-fungerial, antic static, antibacterial and antimicrobial and can stop 95% of the UV light. Used in construction materials, it is fire resistant, breathable and strong; one sixth of the weight of concrete and continues to sequester carbon throughout its life. .  .


Rural round-up

04/03/2021

Inexperienced farm machine operators ‘cause havoc’ – Bonnie Flaws:

Harvest is in full swing across the country, and while rural contractors have managed to get workers in the tractor driving seat, in many cases the work hasn’t been up to the necessary standard, industry commentators say.

Rural Contractors president David Kean said the organisation had done everything Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor had asked to fill the worker shortage left by border closures, but reports of inexperienced workers causing havoc were common.

“If you can imagine that you’ve got a guy on the tractor that doesn’t know how to work that tractor to its full potential, so he leaves it in the wrong gear and he over-revs it, which overheats the machine.

“There was an incident that cost a contractor $60,000 because something went through the bailer. There’s been quite a few issues like from what I’ve heard but contractors don’t want to speak out and run down the workers.” . . 

‘Pretty extraordinary’ – Fonterra on GDT results – Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra’s reliable supply chain and strong demand from China and South East Asia are helping drive dairy prices up, says co-op chief executive Miles Hurrell.

In an email to farmer suppliers, Hurrell described the overnight Global Dairy Trade (GDT) auction results as “pretty extraordinary”.

The GDT price index jumped 15% compared to the previous auction, its eight consecutive price rise. Whole milk powder prices, used by Fonterra to set its milk payout, rose a whopping 21% to US$4364/MT, a seven-year high. Hurrell says farmers would be keen to know what the latest result means for Fonterra’s farmgate milk price. . .

AgMatch grows wool range – Neal Wallace:

It’s niche and has strict specifications to be met, but a farmer collective buying and selling group is proving that consumers still love crossbred wool.

AgMatch is using member’s wool to make jerseys, socks, carpet and carpet underlay, which is then sold via the members and the AgMatch website, earning growers up to $40/kg net for the wool used.

The group’s newest venture is floor coverings, with suppliers recently taking delivery of 900 lineal metres of carpet manufactured in Australia, enough for more than 40 homes.

Most has already been sold for $300 a lineal metre. . .

Doing the unimaginable – Gerald Piddock:

Despite never having farmed, a Waikato couple who had successful careers in Australia, returned home to milk sheep on the family farm and have had to learn everything from scratch.

Imagine quitting your career to embark on a new profession that is the least likely and most unexpected thing one envisions themselves doing.

That’s exactly what Matthew and Katherine Spataro did when they ditched the city grind by shifting from Melbourne to the outskirts of Te Awamutu to milk sheep. . . 

Thousands enjoy terrier-ific day at show

From highland dancers to livestock competitions, the North Otago A&P Show in Oamaru had it all.

However, the most exciting event was the terrier race on Saturday when 20 or so specimens, of widely varying shapes and sizes, raced to catch a dead rabbit tethered to a four-wheeler.

Taking the win was Thomas, a speedy dog who won for the second year in a row.

His owner, Tomlyn Morrissey, of Southland, was happy to see his name on the cup again. Mrs Morrissey’s pooch was so fast the race had been restarted because he caught the rabbit before getting halfway to the finish. . .

Call goes out for kiwifruit pickers and packers:

The first kiwifruit will be picked off the vines this week and growers across the country anticipate needing around 23,000 workers for the harvest. The harvest runs through till June and is expected to produce even more than last year’s record of 157 million trays of Green and Gold.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI) Chief Executive Officer Nikki Johnson says ongoing COVID-19 overseas travel restrictions mean growers will be looking to offer job opportunities to even more New Zealanders to provide most of the workforce – meeting the shortfall of people on the RSE scheme from the Pacific islands and working holiday visa-holders.

As in previous years, NZKGI has been working for several months to prepare for the season opening and the significant labour requirements. . . 

Farmers apply to Defra to grow genome-edited wheat:

Researchers are preparing an application to the government to run a field trial of a new genome edited wheat, the first such trial to be carried out in Europe.

Scientists from Rothamsted Research have used genome editing to reduce a cancer-causing compound commonly found in toast.

Acrylamide forms during bread baking and is further increased when bread is toasted: the darker the toast, the more of this carcinogenic compound it contains.

Now the team have used genome editing to develop a type of wheat that is less likely to produce acrylamide when baked. . . 


GDT price index up 15%

03/03/2021

Dairy farmers – and indeed the country – woke to good news this morning: a 15% increase in the GlobalDairyTrade price index.

 

It’s late in the season and only one sale, but the trend gives confidence that Fonterra’s milk payout will be near the top end of the forecast.

 


Rural round-up

28/02/2021

Meat processing industry supports move away from coal, but concerned about livestock cuts:

New Zealand’s largest manufacturing industry is generally supportive of the Climate Change Commission’s draft report and its focus on reducing the use of fossil fuels but is concerned about the stated 15 per cent reduction in sheep, cattle and dairy numbers.

Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, says red meat processors and exporters are committed to reducing and eventually eliminating the use of coal, although achieving the commission’s 2037 target will be difficult.

“We do need a fair and just transition away from coal to ensure jobs and livelihoods are not put at risk.  However, our chief concern is any drop in livestock numbers may jeopardise the viability of some processing plants and jobs in rural communities.

“Meat processors rely on throughput of livestock to create efficiencies of scale and be profitable. The commission estimates that without major on-farm practice change and new technologies, a 15 per cent reduction in livestock numbers will be required to achieve the targets by 2030. This would have a serious impact on the ability of many processors to keep operating. . . 

Meat industry calls for Covid vaccine priority :

The meat processing and export industry wants its workforce to be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccinations.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said the industry was considered high-risk, due to the large numbers of people working closely together.

Countries such as Australia, the US and the UK have all had Covid-19 outbreaks at meat processing facilities.

“We saw a significant increase in the spread of Covid in that workforce, which led to the closure of plants,” Karapeeva said. . . 

Time for UK to ‘walk the talk’ – Todd Muller:

One of life’s commercial shibboleths is that one should be wary of going into business with close friends because emotion is always involved.

But shibboleths are meant to be broken – as we have proven with our dear friend Australia over 40 years. You can have remarkably close economic relations with mates, and it can work.

You have to have a unifying idea (in our cases, closer economic integration and freedom of movement) and the strength of relationship to say it like it is.

So, I believe it’s time to address the elephant in the trading room. The eye-watering gap between the UK’s rhetoric on free trade and its current approach to NZ.  . .

 

Fonterra details how farmers will be paid for sustainable, high value milk :

Fonterra has released the details of how it will pay farmers for producing sustainable, high quality milk as part of The Co-operative Difference framework.

From 1 June 2021, up to 10 cents of each farm’s milk payment will be determined by the farm’s sustainability credentials and milk quality.

“Fonterra farmers are already among the world’s best in these areas and we’re really proud of that. The Co-operative Difference payment is another way we can recognise farmers, while also supporting our strategy to grow the value of our New Zealand milk by responding to increasing demand around the world for sustainably produced dairy,” says Richard Allen, Group Director, Farm Source. . . 

Volume of wine on the rise :

The total volume of wine available for consumption in New Zealand rose in 2020, Stats NZ said today.

“The volume of wine available to the New Zealand market was up 4.3 percent in 2020, in contrast to falls in each of the previous two years,” international trade manager Alasdair Allen said.

“This year’s wine volume available to the domestic market is nearly 113 million litres, surpassing the previous high of 2017.”

The volume of wine made from grapes rose 4.9 percent to 94 million litres, following falls of 2.7 percent in 2019, and 2.6 percent in 2018. . . 

FarmIQ adds value to compliance:

The demands on farmers to become more compliant have grown significantly in only five short years, with expectations from the public, processors and government all requiring greater accountability for how resources of land, water and people are managed.

Regardless of what government is running New Zealand, it is more likely than not the regulations proposed or in place around water and land management are not going to change significantly. New Zealand’s need to stake its reputation as a food producer delivering high quality, sustainable products requires regulatory effort to deliver on that promise.

As the demands around compliance have grown, the ability to capture data that proves a farmer is compliant in areas of environmental management, health and safety and ultimately green-house gas emissions has never been greater. . . 

 


Rural round-up

27/02/2021

Study: Farmers help identify solutions to reduce farm footprint :

New DairyNZ research shows farmers can identify ways to increase efficiency and reduce environmental footprint – but there will be challenges for some.

The Greenhouse Gas Partnership Farms research project worked with farmers to identify and model how their farms might reduce both nitrogen loss and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Making these gains will be the first steps as farmers work towards the government’s 2030 climate change targets,” said DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Dr Bruce Thorrold.

For some farms, the research identified options that offered lower footprint and higher profit. For already highly efficient farms, footprint gains tended to come at a cost to profitability. . .

You can read more about the study here.

Fonterra narrows 2021 earnings guidance:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced it has lifted the bottom end of its 2021 forecast earnings guidance and narrowed the range to 25-35 cents per share, from 20-35 cents per share.

“That is why we have come out today with narrower forecast earnings range of 25-35 cents per share, which still reflects the usual uncertainties we face over the course of any given year.

“Despite the challenges and flow on effects of COVID-19, the team have remained committed and disciplined. There has been strong demand for the Co-op’s New Zealand milk and we’ve continued to get product to market.” . .

Dairy and meat drive large fall in exports:

The value of total goods exports fell 10 percent in January 2021 from January 2020, to $4.2 billion, led by falls in dairy and meat, Stats NZ said today.

“The fall in exports of $486 million was the largest year-on-year fall in exports since March of 2016,” international trade manager Alasdair Allen said.

The fall in exports was led by a drop in dairy products with milk powder, down $97 million, butter, down $62 million, and whey, down $31 million from January 2020.

“The drop in dairy exports was partly due to a fall in quantity for whey products to one of New Zealand’s top export trading markets, the United States. Exports of dairy were the largest fall for the US in January 2021, specifically exports of whey,” Mr Allen said. . .

Kiwifruit harvest taster day registrations open:

An initiative giving people an insight into working in the kiwifruit industry over harvest is about to kick off.

The initiative – led by New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI) and funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) – sets its sights on encouraging jobseekers to take up employment in the kiwifruit industry by providing a free harvest taster day for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. It follows NZKGI’s successful winter pruning and summer-work taster programmes in 2020.

NZKGI Education Co-ordinator Di Holloway says the kiwifruit industry needs a workforce of more than 23,000 people from March to July. . . 

NZ challenged to buck trend on climate conservatisml – Marc Daalder:

Lord Deben, chair of the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Committee, says New Zealand has a unique opportunity to lead the world on reducing emissions, Marc Daalder reports

New Zealand’s attempts to treat methane from cows differently from other greenhouse gases puts its international reputation on climate change at risk, but if it can jump that hurdle, the country has the opportunity to help lead the world on emissions reductions, the chairman of the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Committee tells Newsroom.

Lord Deben, formerly a longtime Conservative Party MP and agriculture minister with the given name John Gummer before being made Lord Deben in 2010, spoke to Newsroom as part of a “virtual visit” to New Zealand. He also addressed environment spokespeople from different parties in Parliament and spoke at the National Party’s summit for its environmental wing, the BlueGreens. . . 

WayBeyond offers agriculture industry alternative to Microsoft :

New Zealand Tech innovator WayBeyond is taking on Microsoft’s Power BI and Excel products to give growers an alternative solution for integrating all their business data into one digital platform.

“Historically the technology to manage your data was limited. Growers have gotten used to spreadsheets and other historical tools, however solutions now exist that are specifically created for agriculture and can address some of the biggest pain points – access to real time data and everything in one central view. This is what Data Studio now offers,” says Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Morgan.

“Being agriculture focused means we can have a relationship with our customers supporting them in a way these generic products can’t. We’re offering an easy-to-use option without the need to be a data analyst or spend countless hours pulling information together manually into a spreadsheet.” . .


Rural round-up

17/02/2021

Cows, coal and carbon – Elbow Deep:

I was once told by someone much smarter than me that the Green Party policy of today will be Labour Party policy in 10 years’ time. Even without that level of insight, nobody who has been paying attention to the political discourse for the past decade will be very surprised at the Climate Change Commission’s recent report, though there do seem to be large numbers of people shaking their heads in dazed bewilderment.

The Commission’s report largely reflects the findings and recommendations of the Royal Society’s 2016 one, Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy for New Zealand. That report was essentially ignored by the government of the day, but it is extremely unlikely the current government will treat the latest version in the same manner.

The report calls for, among other things, an immediate end to the construction of coal fired boilers, an end to the burning of coal for process heat by 2037 and a reduction in the national dairy, beef and sheep numbers of 15% each by 2030.

No matter how climate hesitant you might be or how little New Zealand has contributed to global warming since pre-industrial times, the Commission estimates that figure to be 0.0028 degrees C, the fact remains our share of global warming is 4 times greater than our share of the total population and 1.5 times greater than our share of landmass. . . 

Waterways benefit from farmer’s ‘dream’ :

A Southland dairy farmer has invested $200,000 over the last 10 years in planting and fencing around a river and creeks on his property – an outcome of a dream he had back in his native Zimbabwe.

Edwin Mabonga, who together with his wife Fungai milk 850 cows on a 270ha farm bordering the Aparima River at Otautau near Invercargill, used to spend time in Zimbabwe reading books about New Zealand.

“It was always a big goal of mine to come to New Zealand because I saw it as being the world benchmark for dairy farming,” he says. “We used to read books to learn as much as we could and eventually decided to move to find out what the big deal was.” . . .

Agribusiness icon helping to change dairying :

Project to reduce nitrate run-off from farms attracts critical corporate clout.

A key environmental project on lower North Island dairy farms has attracted renewed corporate backing – and a grandmother is helping bring it about.

Two of New Zealand’s biggest business players, Fonterra and Nestle, have joined a DairyNZ-led project in the Tararua district in which a blend of the herb plantain is being sown in pastures with the aim of both reducing nitrate run-off into waterways and lowering on-farm greenhouse gas emissions.

The two companies are bringing their muscle to the project by providing additional funding to enable the 50 farms taking part to increase the amount of plantain they grow. . . 

Lasers used as bird deterrent – Jared Morgan:

Using lasers to control birds might sound like science fiction but Ewing Stevens hopes the technology will save his grapes from the peckish pests.

At age 94, Mr Stevens believes he is New Zealand’s oldest vintner but his age is no barrier to being at the cutting edge of technology when it comes to managing his crop at Anthony James Vineyard near Alexandra.

This week three lasers were installed at his Hillview Rd vineyard to replace labour intensive and expensive bird netting.

Mr Stevens said the idea was born out of a conversation with Viticultura co-owner Timbo Deaker, whose Cromwell-based company manages Mr Stevens’ grapes through its vineyard management service, about three years ago. . . 

FMG Young Farmer of the Year Northern Regional Final postponed :

Following Auckland’s move to Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country to Alert Level 2, we have made the decision to postpone the Northern FMG Young Farmer of the Year Regional Final based on Government recommendations.

Given the uncertainty around the latest COVID-19 community cases, postponement of the event is the safest and most cautious option despite contingency plans we have in place to run events during an alert level two.

Like other businesses, organisations and events, we need to respond and do our part to limit the potential spread of this virus.

The safety of our competitors, staff, sponsors and spectators is our main priority. It is imperative that we protect our people and do not put anyone at risk. . .

 

Grange visit a flashback for ‘Birley girls’ – Shawn McAvinue:

A former Taieri farm girl got her dying wish to say goodbye to the homestead she was raised in.

Joan King (83) and her sister Patricia Snell (75) were young girls when their family moved on to The Grange farm in East Taieri.

Their parents, Percy and Rita Birley, managed the nearly 300ha sheep, beef and dairy farm.

The women, from Motueka and Auckland respectively, visited the homestead recently to celebrate Mrs King’s birthday. . .


And now for some good news

17/02/2021

The GlobalDairyTrade price index went up again in this morning’s auction.

This supports the expectation this season’s milk payout from Fonterra will be at or nearer the top of the projected range than the bottom.


Rural round-up

07/02/2021

Dismay at conversion to forestry – Sally Rae:

Among the steps the newly  formed Climate Change Commission laid out in its recently issued draft advice to hit ambitious greenhouse gas targets was more forestry. It recommended slashing livestock numbers by about 15% by 2030 and planting 380,000ha of new exotic forestry by 2035. In North Otago, the proposed conversion of a 2590ha sheep, beef and deer property to carbon forestry is creating waves as concerns are raised about environmental impacts and fears that forestry conversions are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as other land use changes.  Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

“I just think it’s an absolute injustice, it’s a crime to have that land put into trees.”

North Otago farmer Murray Simpson has farmed Balmoral, near Tokarahi, for 45 years. The property neighbours Hazeldean, a 2590ha sheep, beef and deer farm in the headwaters of the Kakanui River catchment which appears destined to be planted out in pine trees.

The property is in the throes of being sold to New Zealand Carbon Farming — the largest provider of carbon credits in Australasia. Not mincing his words, Mr Simpson fears the development will be “an absolute shambles”. . . .

Exotic plantations to have a ‘crucial role’ :

The Forest Owners Association says the Climate Change Commission has endorsed the “crucial role” exotic forestry will carry out in meeting New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emission targets in 2030 and 2050.

In a recent statement, president Phil Taylor said the 380,000ha of new exotic plantations the commission anticipates will need to be planted between now and 2035 will be the “support act” for the commission’s targets of massive reductions of the overall carbon dioxide emissions from industry and transport.

“This decarbonisation has to be the thrust of meeting New Zealand’s climate change mitigation obligations. Anything else is delaying solving the problem. Pines are great at buying time, but they don’t cut gross emissions themselves,” Mr Taylor said. . .

Kiwi research on infant milk powder colour goes global :

A Wintec science student Rehana Ponnal has had research published in the International Dairy Journal late last year, a big accomplishment for an undergraduate student.

Done while Rehana was on a work placement at Fonterra, the research tested the effectiveness of using a colorimeter to measure the colour of baby milk powder. Rehana worked on the research with a number of other scientists, and the journal entry, published in September last year, gives positive results of their findings.

As a result of the research, Fonterra is procuring a colorimeter to continue their testing.

“Colour is measured because it’s an important aspect of a product. It’s the first thing you perceive. If milk powder was brown for instance, you wouldn’t buy it,” she says. . . 

Red meat exports reached record highs in 2020 :

The New Zealand red meat sector exported $9.2 billion worth of products during 2020, an increase of 1% on the previous year, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Overall exports during the year reached historically high levels – and were 7% above 2018 exports ($8.6 billion) and 21% above 2017 ($7.6 billion).

“The results demonstrate that New Zealand’s red meat exports have remained stable despite the challenges of the global pandemic,” says MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva. “That is great news for the New Zealand economy and for farmers.

We have a diverse market portfolio and last year exported products to 111 countries around the world. . . 

Wairarapa peas harvested for first time in more than four years:

Wairarapa peas are being harvested for the first time in over four years.

ban was placed on growing peas in the region in 2016, after the discovery of pea weevil.

Production was allowed to resume last year after the Ministry for Primary Industries announced the insect pest had been successfully eradicated. . .

Silver Fern Farms pulling out of contract with Hawke’s Bay’s Graeme Lowe Tannery, union says – Thomas Airey:

The union for workers at Graeme Lowe Tannery says staff have been told a large contract with Silver Fern Farms will not be renewed.

The Hastings tannery is one of the biggest hide processing plants in the country and is owned by Lowe Corporation.

Lowe Corp has interests in other agri-business companies, property and farming around NZ.

The tannery’s exact number of employees is unknown but in 2020 Graeme Lowe Tannery Limited applied for 80 employees to be paid under the initial Covid-19 wage subsidy, then 90 employees in the wage subsidy extension. . . 


%d bloggers like this: