Rural round-up

November 30, 2019

Good sheep meat prices will last – Annette Scott:

Despite global trade wars, Brexit and the impact of African swine fever the trade fundamentals for New Zealand’s sheep meat sector remain among the strongest in living memory.

Spring lambs at $9 a kilogram and record high mutton prices are not a flash in the pan, Beef + Lamb chief economist Andrew Burtt and senior insight analyst Ben Hancock say. 

And the fundamentals leading to record highs in the sheep industry look set to continue for at least the next three years.  . . 

Fonterra claims sustainability progress

It is not easy being green when you are not profitable, Fonterra leaders say in the co-op’s third annual Sustainability Report.

The past financial year was tough and one of significant challenges and fundamental change in the culture and strategy of the co-operative.

“Given the tough year we had it would’ve been easy to push sustainability to one side, whereas we have in fact continued to make progress,” chief executive Miles Hurrell said.

“We have underlined our commitment to the importance of sustainability and firmed up plans to do more on climate change, coal, waste and sustainable packaging.” . . 

New wool partnership ‘one of the biggest’ in New Zealand history – Angie Skerrett:

A new partnership between a Canterbury-based wool company and one of the world’s largest apparel and footwear companies is estimated to be worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and VF Corporation have formalised a framework that will grow the market for ZQ certified merino wool.

ZQ natural fibre is the world’s leading ethical wool with growers having to adhere to the requirements set out in the ZQ Grower Standard. . .

US redwood sequoia company wins approval to buy more NZ land – Eric Frykberg:

A US company wanting to grow giant redwood trees here to sell the lumber back home has won the right to buy another 4000ha in New Zealand.

Tough restrictions on cutting down Redwood, or Sequoia, in the US means people cannot get enough of it to use as a building material.

The wood is especially popular for things like decking and outdoor furniture, as it is admired as both attractive and robust.

To meet the need, the Soper Wheeler Company of California set up the New Zealand Redwood Company in Taupō in 2001.

New Zealand’s moist climate allows higher growth rates for Sequoia than in California. . . 

New tool for farmers to measure their GHG :

Options for farmers have now broadened when it comes to managing their greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint on-farm.

The recent inclusion of urease-coated urea fertilisers as an option in the nutrient budgeting tool OverseerFM means farmers will now be able to demonstrate the benefits of its use in reducing farm emissions.

Urease-inhibited urea fertiliser, such as Ravensdown’s N-Protect, has dual benefits. It decreases volatilisation losses, therefore increasing agronomic efficiency by retaining more nitrogen (N) in the root zone. . . 

Dairy Environment Leaders trade gumboots for suits:

The DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leaders are hosting their 7th Annual farmer-led forum in Wellington from 2 – 4 December with a firm focus on supporting communities and embracing change, says DEL Chairwoman Tracy Brown.

“There is a lot of change currently facing our sector with issues like reducing emissions and improving water quality front of mind for both farmers and the general public” Mrs Brown said.

“Our Dairy Environment Leaders are rising to the challenge and leading from the front as they engage with supporters, critics and other farmers. . . 


Rural round-up

November 13, 2019

Banking pressures and Fonterra position prompt low dairy farm sales – Sam Kilmister:

Dairy farm sales are plummeting towards record lows as the sector faces uncertainty and a financial squeeze.

Banking pressures and the financial position of dairy giant Fonterra have been cited as the main factors for another drop in farm sales, which are down 6.7 per cent over the past 12 months. 

Despite an 8 per cent increase in the three months to September, the number of farms sold continues to drop as farmers come to grips with compliance laws, freshwater proposals and frugal banks. . . 

Meet the huntaway – the dog New Zealand calls its own – Jendy Harper:

Hamish Scannell doesn’t have a favourite dog. The Mt White Station shepherd says it “depends on the day”.

He’s certain about one thing, he couldn’t do his job without them. Like most New Zealand shepherds, Scannell and his dogs are a package deal. He owns a mix of heading and huntaway dogs.

Heading dogs are typically border collies, a breed of Scottish origin. The huntaway though, is uniquely New Zealand, acknowledged by the national Kennel Club as being the country’s only indigenous dog breed. . . 

Tree protest this week:

The protest group ‘50 Shades of Green’ is organising a march on Parliament this week to try and stop good farmland being covered in pine trees.

Asked why we they are marching, organisers say the answer is simple.

“Farmers love the land. Many farms have been nurtured for generations to feed not only New Zealand but 40 million people internationally as well.

“We’re now seeing that land gone forever, often to overseas based aristocrats and carbon investors.” . . 

Native planting tailored for better survival – Sally Rae:

Fonterra has announced a partnership between Farm Source and ecological consultancy Wildlands to reduce the cost of on-farm native planting.

Speaking at the dairy co-operative’s annual meeting in Invercargill last week, chairman John Monaghan said Fonterra understood the significant uncertainty and frustration farmers felt when it came to the likes of climate change and freshwater.

The co-operative was putting more energy and resources into developing on-farm tools, research and solutions to help farmers continue to run healthy and sustainable businesses. . . 

Bringing bacon home in south – Sally Rae:

American-born veterinarian and epidemiologist Dr Eric Neumann has made his home in the South while continuing to work around the globe. He speaks to rural editor Sally Rae.

He’s an international expert in pigs who has ended up living in Otago.

Dr Eric Neumann has an impressive list of credentials, having been involved in livestock production, aid and development projects, infectious disease management and research, controlled experimental trials, international project management and collaboration, government-sector biosecurity policy development, and one-health training around the world.

He is an adjunct associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Massey University, and also holds positions as adjunct research associate professor at the University of Otago, Centre for International Public Health, and as affiliate Associate Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology, Iowa State University. . . 

Cowboy’s last frontier: Rancher is a rare breed in O.C. raising cattle in the traditional way – Brooke E. Seipel:

From head to toe, Frank Fitzpatrick looks the part.

With a large, black cowboy hat tilted over his forehead, the 68-year-old cattle rancher casually propped a cowboy boot – fitted with spurs – on a post of a corral with about 20 bulls inside.

“I decided on my 8th birthday I wanted to be a cowboy, and I haven’t changed my mind since,” he said, looking at the herd of red Barzona cattle.

Fitzpatrick tends almost 600 head of cattle between ranches in Indio and Trabuco Canyon – the latter just miles from his home in Silverado, the same home he moved into on his 4th birthday. He attended Orange High School, where he joined the Future Farmers of America. By his senior year he had about 20 bulls. . . 


Rural round-up

November 12, 2019

‘Huge gaps” in environmental data – Colin Williscroft:

Shortcomings in New Zealand’s environmental reporting system undermine rules designed to protect the environment, a new report says.

A review of the reporting system Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton identifies huge gaps in data and knowledge and calls for concerted action to improve the system.

He says the data gaps, along with inconsistent data collection and analysis, make it hard to construct a clear national picture of the state of the environment – and whether it is getting better or worse. . . 

Fonterra confident of making progress – Sally Rae:

While there are more big strategic decisions ahead for Fonterra this year, chairman John Monaghan is “very confident” in the progress the co-operative is making.

Addressing yesterday’s annual meeting, Mr Monaghan said the 2019 financial year was a year of significant challenges and change within the co-operative, as it continued to fundamentally change its culture and strategy.

It was another tough year of significant change for farmers which included the Government’s policy announcements on climate change and freshwater, the effect the Reserve Bank’s proposal to tighten capital reserve rules had on banks’ willingness to lend, and the response to Mycoplasma bovis.

Fonterra’s decision not to pay a dividend and significantly impair a number of assets was a surprise to many farmer shareholders. . . 

Underpass creates safer stock route – Alice Scott:

In 1930, Jim MacDonald’s father was one of many stock drovers on what is now State Highway 87 to take sheep through from Waipori to the Waipiata saleyards; he would pick up different station mobs on horseback with a couple of heading dogs.

These days the MacDonald family require three staff, high-visibility vests for people and dogs and flashing hazard lights on the top of their utes, and that is just to get the stock across the road.

This year Mr MacDonald said the time had come to install a stock underpass as it was no longer safe to cross stock over State Highway 87.

“We’ve had a few dogs go under the wheel of a vehicle and the logistics have just become very difficult. The road just seems to get busier and busier. . . 

Seized fruit tree cutting imports stoush: Nursery owners meet with MPI – Eric Frykberg:

Nursery owners are meeting officials of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in Wellington to try to resolve a continuing stand off over seized cuttings of new varieties of fruit trees.

They have said the Ministry overstated the case when it said progress was being made to resolve the matter, and many claims were still outstanding.

The problem began 16 months ago with the dramatic seizure of 48,000 fruit tree cuttings by officials from MPI. . . 

Horticulture New Zealand welcomes conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations:

Horticulture New Zealand has welcomed the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, saying trade agreements are critical to the ongoing success of export industries like horticulture. 

‘Last year, New Zealand exported more than $3.6 billion to 128 different export markets,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘This year, that figure is expected to grow by a further 3.8 percent.  Such high levels of growth can only be achieved if export trading conditions are supportive, and barriers to entry are reduced constantly.’  . . 

Successful conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations welcomed by Onions New Zealand:

Onions New Zealand welcomes the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, saying trade agreements like these underpin the success of the New Zealand onion sector.

‘The RCEP covers trade among New Zealand and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries, except India.  That is, half the world’s population,’ says Onions New Zealand Chief Executive, James Kuperus.

‘Without reduced tariffs and clear trading arrangements, it is extremely difficult to export from the bottom of the world to larger economies like Asia and Australia. 

‘Agreements like these mean more onions can be exported with the higher returns going directly back into regional New Zealand communities. . . 


Rural round-up

November 11, 2019

Farmers back Fonterra mostly – Neal Wallace:

The prevailing mood might have been optimism among Fonterra shareholders at the annual meeting but a residual bitterness lingered, evidenced by two calls for chairman John Monaghan’s resignation.

About 200 shareholders attended the meeting in Invercargill on Thursday at which shareholders Jan-Maarten Kingma and Peter Moynihan both called for Monaghan’s head, saying there needs to be accountability for the decisions leading to Fonterra’s poor financial performance.

After the meeting Monaghan said he was not surprised by the resignation calls or the contrasting mood of the meeting, which reflected the broad church that is the co-operative. . . 

Learning from experience – Colin Williscroft:

Working the land is a challenging business at the best of times and for Central Hawke’s Bay farmers Ben and Libby Tosswill it’s important to focus on what they can change and try not to loose too much sleep over what they can’t, as Colin Williscroft found.

Ben and Libby Tosswill have been farming at Birch Hill Station for about 10 years, having returned to New Zealand from London where they worked in corporate finance and banking.

Trading the bright lights of the big city for the open landscape of Hawke’s Bay hill country has been a big change but the couple relish the lifestyle it’s provided them and their three boys – Fletcher, 8, Alex, 6, and Jack, 2. . .

Fit bits for cows? Tracking collars aim to reveal bovine personalities – Maja Burry and Simon Rogers:

It’s hoped new research looking at the different grazing personalities of Hereford cows will help high country farmers better use their land.

Lincoln University PHD candidate Cristian Moreno is using GPS tracking collars to monitor the differences in how some cows in the same herd graze and to establish which genetic and environmental factors influence their behaviour.

Mr Moreno said while he was still in the early stages of analysing the five million GPS data points that he had collected, he’d already found some cows would tend to walk about 2km in a day, while others would more than double that. . . 

New chairwoman in charge at trust – Toni Williams:

Jane Riach has taken over the helm on the board of Kanuka Mid Canterbury Regeneration Trust, helping to balance biodiversity, predator control and planting for purpose in the district.

Mrs Riach, who was approached to take on the chairwoman’s role, is equipped with organisational skills to help keep trust members on track and moving in the right direction.

She says the trust team was full of people already passionate about the work they were doing and had an abundance of energy and enthusiasm.

She, and husband Hamish, who is chief executive officer at Ashburton District Council, have been in town for just over a year, and Mrs Riach is already an active member in the Ashburton community. . . 

Meet Steve the seaweed man

As a horse-riding musterer on the wild Wairarapa coast, Steve Matthews used to watch deer gathering on the beach to feast on seaweed thrown up by the rough seas.

On retirement, he was inspired to start his own small business foraging and selling the stuff. Demand is huge but he plans to stay small-scale unless new regulations put him out of business.

Steve was brought up in Titahi Bay and has lived on rugged Wairarapa coast most of his life, shepherding and later managing a couple of farms.

“I was always on the beach as a kid… I love the sea.” . . 

Farmers helped to come up with carbon reduction plans – Conan Young:

Moving dairy cows indoors could be part of the answer to bringing down emissions on farms.

Farmers faced having five years to come up with their own tool to price and pay for the carbon and methane coming off their properties or being forced by the government to join the Emissions Trading Scheme.

For the first time since the ETS was introduced over a decade ago, there was a very real prospect of farmers being charged for their climate change inducing emissions. . 


Rural round-up

November 8, 2019

Muller: Labour wants ag gone – Annette Scott:

The Government does not see agribusiness as part of the future of New Zealand’s economy, National Party agriculture spokesman Todd Muller says.

And the freshwater reforms are potentially damaging to the rural community, he told about 200 people at a meeting in Ashburton.

He is wary of new rules without factoring in the potential economic impact.

“You can only get sustainable, enduring outcomes if farmers can see a way they can farm to their limits.

“Economic, social and environmental implications are all perspectives that need to be in communications.

“That’s why we are pushing back very hard and will do if we are in government after September next year.”   . . 

Fonterra wants change to water rules – Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra wants the Government to remove suggested maximum required levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in streams.

In its submission on the Government’s Action of Healthy Waterways proposal, Fonterra says it “strongly opposes” some of the maximum required levels for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP).

Farm Source Group director Richard Allen says the discussion document does not contain sufficient economic analysis to justify the proposed bottom line values.

Fonterra believes that in-stream bottom lines should only be used where there is a direct link to the outcomes sought. . .

‘Some mud needs to be thrown’ – farmer at Fonterra AGM :

Fonterra shareholders are frustrated and want accountability after turbulent times for the country’s biggest enterprise.

About 200 farmers gathered in Invercargill for the dairy giant’s annual general meeting.

The co-op recently posted a $605 million loss for the last financial year, and didn’t pay dividends to shareholders.

Farmer shareholders acknowledged that today was going to be tough for Fonterra’s leaders during an Q and A session. . .

Breeders boost eating quality – Neal Wallace:

Breeders are responding to customers’ desires and positioning the sheep farmers for the day when processors start grading meat for its eating qualities. Neal Wallace reports.

Meat processors don’t recognise eating quality yet but a group of ram breeders is preparing for when they do.

Andrew Tripp from Nithdale Station in Southland is involved in the South Island genomic calibration project, which uses DNA testing to let breeders predict terminal sire rams likely to produce offspring with meat that has superior qualities of tenderness and juiciness.

Other partners in the project include Beef + Lamb Genetics, Pamu, AgResearch, Focus Genetics, Kelso, the Premier Suftex group, the Southern Suffolk group and Beltex NZ. . . 

A blaze of yellow – Nigel Malthus:

Several thousand hectares of South Island farmland is a blaze of yellow as the annual rapeseed crop welcomes the spring.

Cropping farmer Warren Darling is one whose display regularly wows the public, since his farm straddles State Highway One just south of Timaru. His 120ha of rape is at “peak flower” and he expects to harvest at the end of January.

Darling has been growing the crop for about 12 years, along with wheat and barley.

He is now also trying sunflowers, beans and industrial hemp, in an effort to find compatible crops to move to a four-year rotation. . .

Busy music career gathers speed – Alice Scott:

Farmer’s wife, teacher, mother of twin boys, fledgling musician and all while recovering from brain surgery … it’s fair to say Casey Evans hasn’t been taking things easy over the last few years.

Casey moved to husband Rhys’ family farm near Owaka just under three years ago and things have been moving rapidly since, as her country music career begins to gain momentum and she is about to set off on a Somewhere Back Road music tour, raising funds to produce her first solo album.

It is just over a year since Casey underwent surgery to extend the size of her skull and release the pressure on her cerebellum and brain stem tissue which was pushing against the hole at base of her skull. For years Casey said she has experienced chronic fatigue and headaches which she attributed to “a few too many” horse falls. Being pregnant with twins, the symptoms compounded and Casey blacked out.

“It was then they did a scan and diagnosed the problem.” . . 

EcoScapes: Stunning views, mental massages and the country’s coolest cinema – Brook Sabin:

I’ve come up with a great concept: the mental massage.

Let me explain. It’s a crazy time to be a human: we’re bombarded with so much information, we’re expected to do more than ever, and we’re all feeling, well, a little bit tired. 

So, you’ll like this next bit: it’s time for a mental massage. I’m talking about a little holiday that slows the heartbeat. That relaxes the muscles. That gives your brain a break. 

And, boy, I think I’ve found it. 

It’s a luxury pod in the mountains, where you can sit back in bed and stare at the Southern Alps. And with the flick of a button, the room transforms into the country’s coolest cinema – all to enjoy with just one other person. . . 


Rural round-up

November 4, 2019

$9 billion shock – Neal Wallace and Annette Scott:

Claims the Government’s essential freshwater proposals could cost the livestock industry over $9 billion a year are selective, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

That is the estimated cost of compliance and lower production of meeting proposed freshwater reforms, submissions from Beef + Lamb and DairyNZ say.

More than 12,000 submissions were made by last week’s deadline.

The reforms have been labelled by some farming bodies as unbalanced, unnecessarily harsh and unsustainable. . .

M bovis’ eradication initiatives vindicated – Sally Rae:

An independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG) believes achieving eradication of Mycoplasma bovis is still feasible.

The group’s latest report was released yesterday by the Ministry for Primary Industries in which it supported the changes the M. bovis programme had made over the past six months.

Given available data, achieving biological freedom from M. bovis was feasible provided the number of undetected infected herds was not large, infection had not established and spread within the non-dairy sector, and that the rate of transmission to new herds was reduced via continued shortening in the intervals from infection to application of movement controls, it said. . .

Faith, family and farming– Sonita Chandar:

Southland farmers are community and spiritual leaders in the Islamic community. They put their faith above everything and answered the call to help  after the Christchurch mosque shootings. They talk to Sonita Chandar about their experiences and farming.

On Friday March 15 Invercargill farmer and imam of the world’s southernmost mosque, Reza Abdul-Jabbar, was delivering his weekly sermon when a worshipper’s phone rang.

Until then it had been super quiet, as it usually is during the service.

He reminded the man it was a time for silence, not to take the call and continued. 

But other phones began ringing. . .

Fonterra’s dream run in India – Pam Tipa:

Fonterra three months ago launched its first consumer brand in India under the Fonterra Future Dairy joint venture.

The brand Dreamery has had a “fantastic reception”, says Judith Swales, chief operating officer, global consumer and foodservice.

Fonterra is working with joint venture partner Future Group which is present in 26 of 31 Indian states with over 2000 modern trade outlets and 5000 public distribution outlets. . .

Experts have their say on whether cherries justify their popularity – Mark Price:

Faced with all manner of economic worries — from Trump to freshwater policies — where might investors put their hard-won savings in the hope of a better than deposit rate return? Might cherries — the horticultural darling of the moment in Central Otago — be the answer? Mark Price sought out two opinions.

Ross and Sharon Kirk are cherry industry consultants trading as Hortinvest Ltd. They have the biggest netted orchard under management in Central Otago (close to 40ha), and are in the process of planting two 80ha, ‘‘fully-netted’’ development

Suitability for Central Otago

Q: What are the basic requirements for cherries to thrive?
A: Low rainfall over harvest, good winter chilling, reasonable soils (nutrient), adequate water, reasonable shelter from wind, and netting (to keep out birds).

Q: Which requirements does Central Otago meet?
A: All of the above, although the bird netting is expensive. . . .

Cute as buttons :

North Canterbury farmers Melissa and Hayden Cowan have a small flock of rare black-nosed Swiss Valais sheep.

Often referred to as the “cutest sheep in the world” this distinctive breed with black face and ears, curly forelocks and spotted knees and hocks originate in the mountains of the Valais area of Switzerland.

They imported their first embryos from the UK in 2018 and from the 32 embryos 18 live lambs were born so there’s no guarantee they’ll work. The embryos cost $2000 a pop so it’s a quite an investment. .


Rural round-up

October 23, 2019

No change to methane targets – Neal Wallace:

Methane reduction targets are to remain but the Environment Select Committee considering submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill is recommending greater safeguards for using forestry to offset emissions.

The committee recommends the proposed Climate Change Commission be given power to consider the form of greenhouse gas emission targets to ensure targets stay fit for purpose and to consider the impact of forestry offsets.

Another change will allow the commission to recommend changes to the 2050 targets if a significant change is likely to occur. . .

Fonterra’s milk price forecast will cheer farmers but govt has given ample cause for grumbling to persist – Point of Order:

At  last,  a  break in the  clouds for  NZ’s  dairy farmers :  Fonterra  suppliers  could be looking at a  sharp  lift in income,  as the co-op revises   its  forecast  range for the  milk price   to $6.55-$7.55 kg/MS.And  the signals  are   strong enough to underpin projections the  milk price  will rise to its  highest level  since  2014  when the price  hit $8.40.

This  may  diminish, if not completely  halt, the   grumbling in the cowsheds  at  Fonterra’s  dismal  performance  over the last  couple of  seasons, racking  up  losses and  cutting  its dividend.

Whether  it  will  eliminate  the  animosity towards the government,  which  is  proposing to penalise dairy farmers  over  methane emissions and through its freshwater  policy, is  less certain. . .

Digging deeper into soil’s black box – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Could soil organic matter be used for carbon credits?

Organic matter is the black box of the soil: it determines many factors in biological activities but predicting the outcomes of those biological activities is not easy.

With sand, silt and clay, organic matter affects soil structure, porosity, drainage and nutrient availability. It supports soil organisms by providing energy and nutrients for growth and reproduction.  . .

Vaccinations protect people, animals – Mark Ross:

As we struggle to fathom how we ended up in the throes of a measles outbreak again, we’re reminded of the importance of vaccinations to protect us from life-threatening diseases.

This is no less true for animals which can share diseases with people. Vaccination vastly improves the health of people and animals and is vital for continuing to meet the health challenges of growing populations. . .

Is technology a threat to dairy? – Danielle Appleton :

The New Zealand dairy industry is facing major disruption from synthetic dairy, similar to the synthetic fibres that triggered the decline of the wool industry in the 1980s.

Technology companies are now making real dairy products, without cows. 

Their aim is to make real dairy products far cheaper than traditional farming can within the next 10 to 15 years. . .

Dairy price prospects firm :

Prospects for a $7-plus farmgate milk price in 2020 have firmed with the lower New Zealand dollar value and a spring production peak that might not reach any great height.

ASB senior rural economist Nathan Penny believes the NZ dollar falling below US63c is worth up to 50c/kg to the milk price after the delay of the Fonterra currency hedging policy works through.

Fonterra was already forecasting $6.25-$7.25/kg ahead of any currency boost and ASB has pegged $7 before the possible currency upside, Penny said. . .

$2800 a jar: Hawke’s Bay company’s Manuka honey vintage now the most expensive in world :

One single windswept tree block has produced the most extraordinary and expensive Mānuka honey that the world has ever seen.

Ahuriri-based The True Honey Co is now selling its supplies of its 2017 Rare Harvest to luxury retailers such as Selfridges and Harrods in London.

The retailers are buying up to 10 of the 230 gram jars at a time to secure a supply with each jar selling for £1388 (NZD$2815) in the United Kingdom. . .

Why farmers  should avoid magic and opt for science -Phil Holmes and Ian McLean:

Unfortunately, and to its detriment, broadacre agriculture is not always an evidence-based industry at producer level.

Yes, there are areas where evidence drives what is done, but it is far from universal. Too much attention is placed on fads and searches for silver bullets.

By way of contrast, consider engineering. If it was not based on hard evidence, planes would fall out of the sky, buildings would collapse and bridges would cave in. It is the ultimate discipline in everyday life. . .

 


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