Rural round-up

August 21, 2019

Output record delights new manager – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group recently marked the 2019 season at its Mataura plant in Southland by breaking a beef processing record. Business and Rural Editor Sally Rae talks to plant manager Melonie Nagel about breaking records — and life in New Zealand.

When cattle beast number 150,216 went through the Mataura plant last week, a photograph was taken to record the occasion.

The vibe in the factory – having beaten the previous record by more than 8000 – was “wonderful”, plant manager Melonie Nagel said.

It was an opportunity for staff to gather and also recognition that without a team effort – involving both Mataura employees and the farmers supplying the stock – it never would have happened, Ms Nagel said. . .

Banks want farm billions back – Nigel Stirling:

Floating farm mortgage rates and some fixed rates fell after the Reserve Bank slashed the Official Cash Rate but not all farmers are benefiting.

The country’s largest rural lender, ANZ, said it will cut its agri variable base rate by 40 basis points from today and its fixed base rates by between 20 and 30 basis points.

Other banks also signalled cuts to rural lending rates after the Reserve Bank moved to head off a slowing economy by lopping 50 basis points off the benchmark interest rate to a record low 1%. . .

Farmers furious at Australian animal rights activists publishing addresses and location on map – Gerald Piddock:

Federated Farmers are furious that an Australian animal rights group have begun listing descriptions and addresses of Southland farms on a website map, claiming it could encourage illegal activity by activists on farms.

The map, created by activist group Aussie Farms lists 150-200 farms, both drystock and dairy across the Southland region.

National president Katie Milne said it was hugely worrying that it could be the start of a more extreme form of animal activism in New Zealand, which in Australia and Europe had seen people break into farms, releasing and stealing stock and chain themselves to farm machinery. . . 

Making a difference:

John Ladley will go down in history as the person who took a broken Doug Avery to that life-changing lucerne workshop where he first met Professor Derrick Moot.

Over the years, John has watched with interest – and immense satisfaction – as Doug has transformed his business and life, raised awareness of mental health issues in rural communities and written a best-selling book.

“It has made me very aware of the influence you can have on one person’s life.”

For John, helping others become the best version of themselves is what gets him out of bed in the morning and as B+LNZ’s South Island General Manager, John sums his job up in just three words – “it’s all about people.” . .

Dairy product prices for manufacturers up 8.7 percent :

Prices received by manufacturers of butter, cheese, and milk powder rose 8.7 percent in the June 2019 quarter compared with the March 2019 quarter, after falls in the previous two quarters, Stats NZ said today.

Dairy product manufacturers received higher prices for products such as butter, cheese, and milk powder in the June 2019 quarter. Together, output prices for this group of products increased 8.7 percent from the previous quarter, the biggest rise in over two years. Prices rose by 16 percent in the March 2017 quarter. . . 

Cultured lab meat may make climate change worse – Matt McGrath:

Growing meat in the laboratory may do more damage to the climate in the long run than meat from cattle, say scientists.

Researchers are looking for alternatives to traditional meat because farming animals is helping to drive up global temperatures.

However, meat grown in the lab may make matters worse in some circumstances.

Researchers say it depends on how the energy to make the lab meat is produced. . . 


Rural round-up

August 6, 2019

We’re on board but don’t kill the cash cow – Dr TIm Mackle:

Dairy farmers in New Zealand are world leading producers of low emissions milk, writes Tim Mackle, chief executive of DairyNZ.

We have a reputation for sustainability and we want to keep it that way. While we are committed to playing our part in the transition to a low emissions economy – alongside the rest of NZ – it must be done fairly and consider the science as well as the economic impacts.

There is more in the Zero Carbon Bill that we agree with than we disagree with, but we have serious reservations about the Government’s proposed 2050 methane reduction target of 24 – 47%.  . . 

Don’t sacrifice science for ideology – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Contrary to recent suggestions in the media, there is very little credible research supporting the success of homeopathic treatment of mastitis in dairy cows.

In fact, reviews published recently covering research since 1970 concluded that ‘homeopathic treatments are not efficient for management of clinical mastitis’. A second review covering research since 1981 concluded that ‘the use of homeopathy currently cannot claim to have sufficient prognostic validity where efficacy is concerned’. 

In plain English, if you want to cure your cow, use the antibiotics which have been the subject of rigorous research and been shown to reduce infection. And, of course, suffering. . . 

DairyNZ director Ben Allomes calls it a day :

DairyNZ director Ben Allomes will step down from the industry good body’s board this October.

One of DairyNZ’s Board of Directors for eight years, Mr Allomes was elected by dairy farmer levy payers in 2011, as one of five farmer-elected directors. Since then, the Woodville-based dairy farmer has played a key role contributing to the governance of DairyNZ and provided key support around a range issues, in particular around people and talent.

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel credits Ben for his contribution to the board and his tireless advocacy for dairy farmers. . . 

The Innovative farmer: Generating innovation through a farmer and grower-led system of innovation – Matt Hocken:

Executive Summary

The genesis for my Nuffield Scholarship research was a sense that farmers and growers have a number of significant challenges or problems, both on-farm and off that have not been solved, or we are struggling to solve. As we milk, shear, tend and harvest, thousands of farmer and grower-minds around the country turn to these problems and to the dreams we have for the future. We think about our immediate problems, like how much grass have I got to feed my animals, or do I have a water leak?

We think about system problems, like how will I reduce my nutrient use, or what is my environmental footprint? We think about the tough problems like changing consumer preferences, or heightened society expectations and how can we reconcile these. Collectively we think and dream of a hundred thousand ideas. At the moment very little happens with many of these ideas. I want to change that. . .

Food chandeliers highlight grower’s gathering – Gerald Piddock:

Grabbing the low hanging fruit took on a new meaning at Horticulture New Zealand’s annual conference at Mystery Creek.

Decorating the main conference are four chandeliers covered with fruit and vegetables, providing a colourful reminder to growers of their contribution to feeding the New Zealanders.

The chandeliers – each weighing an estimated 200-500kg – contained 250-300 pieces of fruit or vegetables held together by cable ties or hooks similar to those used by butchers to keep the produce in place. . . 

‘Environmental misinformation is damaging British beef market’, Yorkshire farming leader says – Ben Barnett:

Inaccurate portrayals of livestock’s environmental role risk turning off shoppers from buying red meat at a time when British beef offers the best value for money, a farming leader has warned.

Amid the lowest farmgate prices for beef cattle in years due to a market oversupply, some retailers are offering price promotions on premium cuts.

Nonetheless, North Yorkshire farmer Richard Findlay said a culture of misinformation about the impact of livestock on the environment means consumers could spurn the chance to support British beef at a critical time for farm businesses. . . 


Rural round-up

June 24, 2019

The race to future-proof our farms – Tracy Watkins, Paul Mitchell and Piers Fuller:

Fielding farmer Ian Strahan was at the dairy buying milk when he picked up the Sunday Star Times and read about Hollywood heavyweight James Cameron calling for a meatless future to save the environment.

A frustrated Strahan felt like once again farmers were being used as the whipping boys.

Cameron told TVNZ’s Sunday programme we weren’t living up to our image as clean, green New Zealand and had harsh words for our reliance on meat and diary.

Strahan got angry, then he decided to take action. He wrote to the Star Times and asked why no one had bothered to investigate the huge change and innovation already well underway in the agriculture sector. . . 

Veteran environmentalist tells farmers to brace themselves for change – Gerald Piddock:

Change is coming and farmers can either take it by the hand or it will grab them by the throat.

The magnitude of this change meant farmers have to begin planning to avoid future pain, environmentalist Guy Salmon told dairy farmers at the Waikato Small Milk and Supply Herds group conference at Lake Karapiro.

“If we don’t, it’s going to be much more difficult to make those changes.” . . 

Machinery sales steady, challenges loom

Sales of tractors and farm machinery so far in 2019 are steady versus 2018 but challenges loom, says Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA) president John Tulloch.

TAMA’s year to date figures to April 30 show 1104 sales across all sectors vs 1111 in 2018. North Island sales fell by 4.7% to 713 (2018 – 748). South Island sales rose by 7.4% to 390 units delivered (2018 – 363). April 2019 sales figures are down 11.7% on April 2018, says Tulloch.

This is partly due to 10% fewer sales of smaller (20 – 50hp) machines typically used by small commercial operators and lifestyle block owners. . .

 

Dealing with the on-going complexities of wool – Brent Mountfort:

Wool has so much potential yet we do not seem to be making any progress, writes Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty Meat & Wool Chairman Brent Mountfort.

Many of the issues farmers in the Bay were facing last year are still exactly the same a year on.

Wool is still in the doldrums. Beef and lamb/mutton returns in the main are still good.

Plenty of regulations and uncertainty surrounding these different regulations are ongoing. Most meat and wool farmers will most probably agree this past season has had its challenges due to the lack of rain at different stages of the year. . . 

Strong plea to Westland farmers – Hugh Stringleman:

Westland dairy farmers have been urged to very carefully consider the costs as well as the benefits of selling the co-operative.

Shareholders will vote on July 4 on a proposal to sell to the Chinese Government-owned Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group for $588 million.

A group of shareholders extremely disappointed at the lack of any viable alternative to Yili’s purchase read a powerful statement to six pre-vote meetings of Westland farmers.

The meetings followed distribution to all shareholders of the notice of meeting, scheme booklet and an independent evaluation by Grant Samuel.

Westland chairman Pete Morrison said the documents will not be made public. . . 

Why I ditched manicures for life with Thrusty the randy ram! Farmer’s wife who left an office job to live on her husband’s farm reveals what a year in rural Britain is really like – Helen Brown:

When Sally Urwin married a farmer, she had visions of ‘harvest picnics in our stubble fields in lovely sunshine, with apple-cheeked children wearing tasteful Boden clothes . . . eating wholesome homemade sausage rolls with lashings of ginger beer’.

When an August picnic eventually materialises, she realises that ‘the fields are prickly, the kids are arguing over who last went on the iPad and they hate my homemade sandwiches’. 

Urwin’s account of a year on High House Farm, with its mix of arable land and 200 sheep in windswept Northumbria, is no rural idyll. But it’s full of passion for the realities of life lived knee-deep in the countryside. . . 

 


Rural round-up

June 23, 2019

New technologies will ‘not be enough’ to hit emission targets – Gerald Piddock:

As thousands of schoolchildren held nationwide strikes to demand action on climate change, 200 dairy farmers gathered in Rotorua to hear the latest science around ways the industry can lower its emissions.

What they heard at the DairyNZ Farmers Forum was there are no silver bullets to help the industry lower its emissions enough to hit the 47 per cent target by 2050 outlined in the Zero Carbon Bill currently going through Parliament.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said he supported the principle of what the students were striking on. . . 

Having the best of both worlds – Colin Williscroft:

When Logan Massie finished school he followed his dream and headed to Europe where he lived and breathed showjumping for a few years. These days he’s back working on the family farm but, as Colin Williscroft found, he hasn’t given up on returning to Europe to ride.

The saying goes that if your job involves something you love doing you’re far more likely to be successful, 

Logan Massie is taking that to the next level by combining two jobs he loves: working on the family farm and running his own showjumping business. 

He sees no reason why the two can’t work together. . . 

Fingerprinting our food – Nigel Malthus:

A machine used by surgeons in delicate operations could eventually provide ways of guaranteeing New Zealand farm exports’ provenance.

And it could improve product traceability and deter supply chain fraud.

The machine is a rapid evaporative ionisation mass spectrometer (REIMS) now being evaluated at AgResearch’s Lincoln campus for its ability to detect the molecular phenotype or ‘fingerprint’ of samples of meat, milk, plants and wine. 

Regional wrap:

Frosts have catapulted the central North Island into winter. In Southland farmers are putting sheep onto crops but crutching has been held up by rain.

Northland is still generally  struggling for pasture. The higher rainfall farms are looking good but the rest  are short. A  lot of the dams, springs and streams are still dry and old timers can’t remember is being like this. As we’ve commented before, there was a lack of kikuyu in autumn … that’s now paying dividends because rye grass is popping up nicely. Beef cattle farmers are carrying fewer animals which helps with pasture covers too.

It was fine and sunny in South Auckland .. until Friday, when light rain and fog moved in. During the fine spell early morning temperatures dropped to near freezing but in general, a constant breeze kept frosts at bay. Conditions were perfect for outdoor growers to plant or sow crops  but heating systems will have been working hard for crops grown indoors.  Kiwifruit pruning gangs had  a good few days too with no need for raincoats but instead had the early morning discomfort of very cold hands. . . 

Lewis Road Creamery’s delicious new range is making a serious case for Jersey milk – Mina Kerr-Lazenby:

Milk, what was once a simple dairy product known primarily for its ability to ameliorate cereal or tea, has since found itself at the centre of a pretty ferocious debate. And now, with several conflicting arguments around the product’s ethics and health benefits, alongside spades of new varieties and brands on the market, most of us are left questioning which milk we should really be using.

Purveyors of all things dairy, Lewis Road Creamery, is making a case for a lesser-known varietal with its delicious new offering: a fresh range of premium, white Jersey Milks. Sourced solely from Jersey cows, the new range champions finer milk that is making a name for itself as a healthier and tastier alternative to the regular, and with a raft of benefits, here’s why you should be making the switch. . . 

5 chemicals lurking in plant-based meats – Center for Consumer Freedom:

Veggie burgers don’t grow in the ground. They’re made in factories

When something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. In recent years, more consumers are trying meat substitutes made with plants. But they’re not made only with plants. Fake meat can have over 50 chemical ingredients—something you wouldn’t realize if you’re ordering at a restaurant.

Consumer interest in fake meat has been piqued thanks to new manufacturing techniques that give plant-based “burgers” a taste more closely resembling real meat.

But how do corporations make plants taste and have mouthfeel resembling real beef? Chemical additives. After all, veggie burgers don’t grow in the ground. They’re made in factories.

Here are some things you might not know are in that veggie burger: . . 

 


Rural round-up

June 6, 2019

Making the most of beef and lamb – Daniel Birchfield:

Inspiration and collaboration are what Oamaru’s Pablo Tacchini is enjoying most about being a Beef + Lamb NZ ambassador chef.

That was on show at his restaurant, Cucina, as part of the 2019 Beef + Lamb NZ ambassador series on National Lamb Day last Friday.

Mr Tacchini and platinum ambassador chef Michael Coughlin, of Dunedin, created a six-course menu for more than 60 guests that focused on fine New Zealand cuts. . .

Oamaru man with 60 years’ experience in market gardens receives Queen’s Birthday Honour – Joanne Holden:

An Oamaru man who has helped the growth of several key organisations in the district has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Peter Lee, 82, has been awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for dedicating more than 60 years to horticulture and the Chinese community.

The honour was “humbling” for Lee as he considered his dedication to the groups he is involved in as “just part of being in the community”.

“I’m quite humbled,” he said. . . 

AgResearch project to determine whether dairy cows can be potty trained – Gerald Piddock:

Potty training Daisy the cow and the rest of New Zealand’s 4.99 million-strong dairy herd may seem fanciful, but that is exactly what AgResearch scientists are attempting in a new study.

While it is still at the experimental stage, if successful it could significantly reduce nitrogen loss on farms because it would help farmers better capture cow effluent before it made its way into waterways. It would improve hygiene in dairy sheds and give farmers greater control over where effluent is applied on pasture. . . 

M Bovis: 129 farms cleared of cattle disease, 43 ‘actively infected’ – MPI:

More than 100,000 cattle have now been culled as part of the government’s Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme.

Figures released by the Ministry for Primary Industries also showed 171 properties had been confirmed as having the cattle disease.

Mycoplasma bovis can cause lameness, mastitis and abortions in cows and was first detected in New Zealand by the ministry in 2017.

In a stakeholder update, the ministry said of the 171 farms found to have the disease, 129 had now been cleared of cattle and declared safe to repopulate. . . 

Alliance Group invests in Dannevirke and creates 35 regional jobs:

Alliance Group is investing a further $1.4 million in improvements to its Dannevirke plant as it seeks greater efficiencies in processing. 

The 100 percent farmer-owned co-operative is re-configuring processing operations and investing in additional technology at the plant in southern Hawke’s Bay, bringing total investment at Dannevirke to $12 million in the past year.

The improvements to the plant’s lamb and sheep processing capabilities will increase the plant’s capacity by 20 percent. The company will re-configure product flows, install additional vacuum-packaging capacity and introduce additional downstream labelling and strapping equipment. . . 

A tax on red meat? That won’t save the planet – or do much to improve our health – Julian Baggini:

The devil is a shape-shifter, not least when he takes the form of demonic foods. In response, the armies of the righteous have already waged war on sugar, and now red meat is in their sights. This time their cause seems doubly just. Red meat, we are told, is not only bad for our health, but the belching and farting ruminants that we farm are ruinous for the planet.

Emboldened by the apparent success of the sugary drinks tax, the weapon of choice to slay this monster is a similar levy on meat. Oxford University’s professor of population health, Mike Rayner, has even done the maths, and concludes that we need to tax red meat by 20% and processed meat by at least 100% to offset their costs to human health.

On the face of it, the meat tax looks like an appetising idea. But once you start putting some flesh on its bare bones it starts to look less savoury. I’ve become even more convinced about this after taking part as a juror in a Food Policy on Trial event hosted by the Food Ethics Council, of which I am a member. This intensive, exploratory half-day exercise heard from four experts, with questions from jurors and an audience made up mostly of food industry and policy experts. . .


Rural round-up

May 26, 2019

New technologies will ‘not be enough’ to hit emission targets – Gerald Piddock:

As thousands of schoolchildren held nationwide strikes to demand action on climate change, 200 dairy farmers gathered in Rotorua to hear the latest science around ways the industry can lower its emissions.

What they heard at the DairyNZ Farmers Forum was there are no silver bullets to help the industry lower its emissions enough to hit the 47 per cent target by 2050 outlined in the Zero Carbon Bill currently going through Parliament.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said he supported the principle of what the students were striking on. . . 

Quake farmers back to normal – Annette Scott:

Clarence Valley farmers say there are lessons to be learned following the Kaikoura earthquake that geologists claim is the biggest land uplift ever recorded in the world.

November 14, 2016, is well remembered in the Clarence Valley farming community as the day a 7.8 earthquake transformed their land.

The worst hit, Rick and Julia King of Middle Hill Station, lost everything except their will to keep farming. . . 

Farming his way back to nature – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay farmers Greg and Rachel Hart are committed to producing top-quality food by using nature as a guide while re-establishing a connection between people and the land that sustains them. Colin Williscroft visited to see what they are doing.

Optimising life – whether that’s soil life, plant life, animal health or the people who make it happen – is a guiding principle for Central Hawke’s Bay sheep and beef farmer Greg Hart.

Greg, who farms Mangarara Station near Elsthorpe with his wife Rachel and children George, Bill and Emma, operates a farming system focused not only on being productive in the short term. It has a longer-term focus, aiming to regenerate the land while helping build stronger connections between the landscape and people.

A key is balancing relationships between nature and production agriculture as part of ecosystem restoration, including a focus on soil health, carbon sequestration and planting native and food-producing trees. . . 

Mechanised future for fruit orchards – Yvonne O’Hara:

The orchard of the future will be highly digitised and more productive, with fruit being grown in a protected environment and tended by robots, says Plant and Food Research (PFR) scientist Dr Jill Stanley.

She said human workers would still be in demand as labour requirements would be the same but there would be less pressure at peak times.

Dr Stanley was the guest speaker at the Alexandra, Clyde and Districts Business Group’s monthly breakfast meeting last Friday and talked about what the horticulture sector would look like by 2050. . . 

Farmers need to embrace technology – Diane Bishop:

The day before his 50th birthday Conor English left a secure high-profile job to start his own company, Agribusiness New Zealand.

It was a big risk, but one that has paid off for the former Southlander.

English was the keynote speaker at the Southern Primary Sector Update conference, hosted by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill on Friday. . .

Best days ahead at Telford

As you pull up to the gates of Telford, the sight before you may not be what you expected to see in the middle of the South Otago countryside.

An impressive historic stone building surrounded by established rolling gardens is your first glimpse into the state-of-the-art offering Telford gives for anyone who chooses to study at the institution. As the heart of the Telford campus, many young minds have walked in through those doors and work-ready agricultural specialists have come back out.

A staple of New Zealand farming history and agricultural education since 1964, Telford’s Balclutha campus extends over 921 hectares of with halls of residence and facilities, technical workshops (machinery, carpentry and welding), classrooms and livestock units. . . 


Rural round-up

April 14, 2019

Owner of M. Bovis-infected farm who had to shoot newborn calves: ‘you just learn to grit your teeth and do it’ – Gerald Piddock:

Henk Smit could handle the bullet in the mail and the death threats.

It was when the dairy farmer had to shoot his newborn calves that the impact of Mycoplasma bovis finally hit him.

Looking back, he now believes it is something no dairy farmer should ever have to put themselves through.

“I think was a really bad call,” he says at his quiet Maungatautari property. “On the other farm, we had a contract milker and that sent him over the edge, killing the calves, and he tried to commit suicide in spring. . .

Changing the face of farming – Stephen Bell:

Alternative proteins and genomics could change the face of New Zealand agriculture, a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment report suggests.

But they come up against the brick wall of the country’s attitude to genetic engineering and editing.

Advances in genomics offer potential to speed up the development of crops and livestock with desirable and valuable traits that meet productivity, quality and environmental goals. . .

Waikato Mycoplasma bovis free after properties cleared to return to farming – Gerald Piddock:

Waikato is Mycoplasma bovis free – for now.

The country’s largest dairying region has no properties infected with the cattle disease after the Ministry for Primary Industries lifted the active property classifications on five Waikato farms in the past month.

But that status may change with six farms under a notice of direction (NOD) status and seven under surveillance.  NOD properties are those which have a high risk of being infected, but have yet to return a positive test. . .

Mega mast another reason to continue GE research:

Turning our backs on promising tools for predator control is a massive disservice to New Zealand’s native flora and fauna, Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“The ‘mega mast’ in New Zealand’s forests this autumn presents a huge challenge to our pest control agencies and countless volunteers.

“The frequency of these exceptionally heavy tree seeding events is likely to increase with climate change, yet this coalition Government has called a halt on research on genetic engineering technologies.” . .

Veterinarians gear up to help farmers comply with new animal welfare regulations:

Veterinarians are gearing up to help farmers comply with new legal requirements to use local anesthetic during the removal of any horn tissue from cattle that will come into force from October 1 this year.

NZVA Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Helen Beattie says the NZVA has been educating members so they are ready to help farmers comply with changes to the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations. . . 

This snap-on sensory could tell farmers exactly how much to water their crops – Nathan Hurst:

In 2010, scientists at California’s Pacific Institute, a global water think tank, defined a condition Earth could face called “peak water.” Loosely, it’s analogous to peak oil, but it’s not just that we’ll run out of water. Fresh water won’t vanish, but it will become still more unevenly distributed, increasingly expensive, and harder to access. Many parts of the world are facing water stress, and 80 percent of the fresh water that gets used around the world gets used for irrigating crops, according to the Pacific Institute’s president emeritus Peter Gleick.

Over the past 40 years or so, total water use in the United States began to level off. Part of that is due to greatly improved irrigation, and part of that is due to remote sensing technologies—satellites, radar and drones—that assess water stress in fields based on temperature or how much light the canopy reflected in different wavelengths. . . 


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