Rural round-up

November 6, 2017

Precision agriculture more than just boys and their toys – Gerald Piddock:

Precision agriculture is more than flashy expensive toys and tools

The uptake of this technology cannot be taken too lightly for New Zealand’s farming future as the industry looks at ways of being productive and profitable at a reduced environmental footprint.

The precision agriculture toolbox farmers have is enormous, ranging from measuring and mapping farmland, the precise use of fertiliser and water to livestock traceability using electronic identification tags. . . 

Mad about sheep – Country Life:

Now she’s here, Dayanne Almeida is on a mission to spread the word about sheep farming in New Zealand.

The Brazilian animal scientist was determined to find work on a New Zealand sheep farm so she sent 500 emails to farmers with her CV and references.

She received one job offer.

That was in 2009.

Now Dayanne is working for Wairere Rams in Wairarapa and, whenever she gets the chance, live-streams commentary and video footage about sheep farming activities to the 14-thousand people around the world who follow her Sheep Nutter Facebook page. . .

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First-hand perspectives a decade of levy value:

This month marks a key milestone – 10 years since DairyNZ was formed to support dairy farmers and drive our sector forward.

Over the past decade, the dairy levy has been invested in a wide range of programmes, enabling DairyNZ and its partners to deliver the research, tools and advice farmers need to manage new challenges. Inside Dairy spoke to four farmers who have experienced the benefits of their levy investment directly.

Conall Buchanan

Paeroa dairy farmer Conall Buchanan represented farmers during the development of a 30-year marine spatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf.

Conall Buchanan can speak from a well-informed position about the benefits he’s received from DairyNZ’s commitment to more sustainable dairying. . . 

New Farm Environment Trust Chair looks forward to showcasing farming excellence:

Joanne van Polanen, the new Chair of the Trust which runs the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, says that the organisation is looking forward to working with the new Government to showcase the efforts that farmers and growers are making to balance the needs of the environment, animals, plants and people.

Mrs van Polanen was appointed the new Chair of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust at the Trust’s recent Annual Meeting. She had previously been Treasurer and Deputy Chair of the Trust.

Mrs van Polanen commented that “the Trust is uniquely placed to work across the primary sector to promote farming excellence with other farmers and growers. Increasingly, farmers and growers are reframing environmental issues as opportunities. We would like to see New Zealand’s farmers and growers recognised as global leaders in the stewardship of land and water”. . .

Investors turn to Israeli agritech as demand for food swells – Shoshanna Solomon:

Israeli agriculture technologies for farmers have attracted some seven percent of global investment in the first half of 2017, a new report shows.

Israeli agritech firms, whose technologies are used by farmers to improve the yield of crops and better monitor produce — called on-farm technologies — raised $80 million in the first half of the year, according to data released by Start-Up Nation Central, a nonprofit organization that connects companies and organizations to Israeli technology firms. . .

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Rural round-up

October 23, 2017

Red meat halves risk of depression:

Women who reduce lamb and beef in their diets are more likely to suffer depression, according to the new study.

Experts admitted surprise at the findings because so many other studies have linked red meat to physical health risks.

The team made the link after a study of 1000 Australian women.
Professor Felice Jacka, who led the research by Deakin University, Victoria, said: “We had originally thought that red meat might not be good for mental health but it turns out that it actually may be quite important. . . 

Tech means go slow to speed up – Richard Rennie:

A warts and all insight to precision agriculture’s impact on those at the sharp end includes frustrations over data quantities it generate but also the rewards of sticking with it and saving significant sums along the way.

At this year’s precision agriculture conference in Hamilton delegates had the chance to learn about hands-on farmer experiences with the many different versions of the technology and pick up some lessons on how to get the most from it. . .

Farmers should benefit from calls for greater transparency around food production – Gerald Piddock:

Consumer demands for more transparency in food production are expected to bring greater rewards for New Zealand farmers demonstrating good environmental stewardship.

The push for more transparency came from a growing interest in how food was produced, Ministry for Primary Industries’ director general Martyn Dunne told delegates at the International Tri-Conference for Precision Agriculture in Hamilton on October 16. . .

Concern for farmers involved in outbreak – Sally Rae:

South Canterbury Rural Support Trust trustee Sarah Barr says she is very concerned for the farmers involved with the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, describing it as an “excruciating experience” for them.

Mrs Barr, who has been working closely with the farmers, urged the community to support them.

“Keep in mind how terrible it is for these guys losing their animals,” she told about 50 people attending a public meeting in Waimate this week.

Ministry for Primary Industries technical liaison officer Victoria Barrell said Mycoplasma bovis was a “terrible disease“. . .

NAIT disease response fell short – Annette Scott:

National Animal Identification and Tracing fell short of expectation in the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis response, Ministry for Primary Industries readiness and response director Geoff Gwyn says.

He told a farmer meeting in Waimate on Thursday that NAIT animal declaration had played a key part in the response.

“But we have learnt a lot. It has fallen short of expectation, been disappointing,” Gwyn said.

“If this had been a fast moving disease we could well be in a different situation. . . 

Orchard buyers set new kiwifruit gold standard as Zespri expands plantings – Gerard Hutching:

Prices for kiwifruit orchards have hit new highs, with a handful of sales this week in Bay of Plenty over the $1 million per hectare mark.

Stan Robb of PGG Wrightson Real Estate in Te Puke said properties were in such demand they were snapped up in days.

In June the region was abuzz with news of the first orchards to break through the $1m per ha ceiling. Those orchards had a full crop on them, so the new owners could make an immediate income, unlike the recent ones. . .


Rural round-up

September 19, 2017

Guiney misses out on selection – Hugh Stringleman:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weather hits somber pea growers – Annette Scott:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

September 14, 2017

Maniototo farmers challenge Ardern to visit them on water tax

A group of Central Otago farmers are challenging Jacinda Ardern to visit their farms to discuss Labour’s water tax plans.

The group of women, known as Water Maniototo, say they cannot afford a royalty on irrigated water, planned at one to two cents per thousand litres of water, and it could drive some off their land.

Francine Hore, who farms sheep at Patearoa, says she supports fixing up the nation’s waterways, but many farmers are doing everything they can already. . . 

Lambs hit $7/kg – Annette Scott:

Low global stocks pushing lamb markets above the odds for this season is positive news for the New Zealand sheep industry but farmers are not yet jumping with excitement, Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairman Miles Anderson says.

Latest trade statistics revealed average export prices for both chilled and frozen product were tracking well above any prices seen in recent years, including 2011, the last time NZ saw such strong global demand for lamb.

Demand for chilled lamb had held solid in recent months, driven by the tight supply with chilled prices reaching historically high levels. . . 

Broken business makes comeback – Annette Scott:

From a business that was “essentially broken” to one recording a modest profit in less than 12 months, NZ Yarn is now poised to add value for New Zealand woolgrowers.

Over the past year the Canterbury yarn processor has spun its own turnaround project.

Getting back on its feet to lift returns for farmers and shareholders had been the focus of NZ Yarn’s reinvention, chief executive Colin McKenzie said.

“A year ago the business was essentially broken.

“We have reinvented, repositioned and resized operations and moved from making sizeable losses to recording our first modest profit in July,” McKenzie said. . . 

Millions tune in watch start of fresh NZ milk sales to China through Alibaba – Gerald Piddock:

Milk New Zealand’s trade agreement with global online retailer Alibaba has been launched with millions of Chinese consumers tuning in to watch the event.

The Chinese-owned company’s Collins Road Farm is just south of Hamilton and its 29 New Zealand farms will supply Alibaba with fresh milk to be sold on its online platform.

Organisers of the launch rented a satellite facility for the day to enable it to be live streamed directly to China. In attendance were 10 of China’s biggest social media influencers including Yuni and Joyce, who are known as the Chufei Churan twins in China.

The pair are considered the Chinese Kardashians with social media follower numbers larger than New Zealand’s entire population. They and other influencers videoed the event and the farm directly to their followers in China. . . 

Water royalty point of divergence – Nicole Sharp:

Water and the environment are two of the key talking points for Southern Rural Life readers this coming election. As voting day fast approaches, reporter Nicole Sharp talked to the candidates in the rural electorates of Waitaki and Clutha-Southland about these two issues that will affect rural voters.

Water is crucial to the agricultural sector and all candidates and their parties standing in the Waitaki electorate this upcoming election want to do all they can to preserve water quality now and in the future, they say.

Current Waitaki MP and National candidate Jacqui Dean said National’s new policy statement on freshwater, which was announced last month, would pursue a target of 90% of rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040. . .

 

Canterbury cropping farmer embraces environmental limits – Tony Benny:

Third-generation Canterbury cropping farmer David Birkett isn’t phased by tougher environmental regulations and says they can even lead to an improved bottom line. He talked to Tony Benny.

David Birkett’s farm is near Leeston, not far from what has been called New Zealand’s most polluted lake, Te Waihora/Ellesmere, and he’s well used to close scrutiny of the environmental effects of farming there by the regional council, members of the public and media.

“There’s a bit of pressure on farmers but they gain out of it, that’s the silly thing. I can’t understand someone who doesn’t bother to try to do the best they can because your bottom line is going to be better,” he says.

“Doing some measuring and making sure you know what’s needed, most of the time you’re actually financially better off than what you’d previously been doing.” . . 

Adding value more than just adding cost – Nigel Malthus:

The term ‘value added’ is too often used as a vague generic, and farmers need to consider specific strategies for adding value, says Rabobank analyst Blake Holgate.

Speaking at the recent Red Meat Sector conference in Dunedin, Holgate noted that most lamb was still exported frozen, returning $6906/tonne instead of chilled at $11,897/t.

“By and large we’re still treating sheep meat as a commodity market, so the lower value frozen export market still makes up about 80% of what we export, while the higher value chilled market, that’s worth nearly twice as much per tonne, is only 20%. . .


Rural round-up

September 1, 2017

Low methane producing sheep could be way forward for NZ – Brittany Pickett:

Sheep giving off lower methane emissions are being bred by scientists now looking to see if they can produce leaner meat and more lambs.

Methane from livestock is responsible for 33 per cent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. As part of international agreements, New Zealand is committed to cutting these emissions.

“New Zealand has the issue that they can’t do this by cutting urban emissions or planting trees,” AgResearch senior scientist Suzanne Rowe said.

Scientists at Invermay have been involved in a five year programme to measure whether breeding sheep for low methane is likely to affect reproduction, productivity and health. . .

Dairy farmers discovers the secret of a happy workforce – Esther Taunton:

Faced with a line-up of ‘zombies’ of his own making, dairy farmer Stuart Taylor knew something had to change.

“I looked at these beautiful young people who I’d promised a life and a career and I’d turned them into zombies,” he said.

“I’d made them work from 3am to 6pm and they were broken, the way we were doing things was broken.”

Speaking at DairyNZ’s Taranaki Rural Professional’s Conference in Inglewood, Taylor said the realisation that things weren’t working was the start of a culture change on his Rangitikei farm. . .

Labour manipulating farmers brilliantly over proposed water tax – Gerald Piddock:

Farmers have played right into Labour’s hands with their outcry over their water tax policy.

Last month has seen floods of claims, counter claims, accusations, conflated figures of its impact and downright hysteria in some quarters of the rural sector.

Thankfully, the vast majority of dairy farms in Waikato are dryland apart from a handful that irrigate in South Waikato, so it will have a minor effect on farmers in this region.

A cynical person would see the tax as a simple, clever vote grab of the urban sector by the Labour Party. . .

MPI sniffer dog joins stink bug fight:

A bug-sniffing detector dog introduced by the Ministry for Primary Industries will help stop the potentially devastating brown marmorated stink bug from making a home in New Zealand.

An MPI labrador (named Georgie) demonstrated her sniffing skills on stage today by locating dead stink bugs hidden in a harvesting machine at the New Zealand Winegrowers conference in Blenheim.

MPI will have two trained dogs ready to sniff out stink bugs this summer, including a specialist dog to assist with detecting the pest in the event of an incursion, says MPI Border Clearance Director Steve Gilbert. . .  

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Rural round-up

June 5, 2017

It’s Complicated: Is NZ Media’s Relationship with Kiwi Farmers Busted? – Ben Stanley:

I’m a farm kid, and a journalist, and right now that’s an awkward position to be in.

There’s a name you don’t say out loud in rural New Zealand right now unless you want to draw scorn and outright disgust.

It’s the name of one of my childhood heroes.

For the majority of the 1990s, Cameron Bennett was New Zealand’s foreign correspondent; our eye on international conflict and disaster. He’d travel to Iraq, Russia, Afghanistan and the West Bank and report back home with his gritty, but revealing, insights on war and why people make it. . .

A water battle looms in NZ’s Middle-Earth desert – Matthew Brockett & Tracy Withers:

In the rugged heart of New Zealand’s South Island, a high-altitude desert where the men of Middle-Earth made their last stand in the “Lord of the Rings” movies has become a battlefield once again.

Environmentalists and farmers are clashing over the Mackenzie Basin, an area known for its scorched-brown grasslands and crystal-blue lakes – and now, massive irrigation systems that are spreading circles of emerald-green pasture across the Mars-like terrain.

“It’s similar to greening the desert of Nevada or California,” said Annabeth Cohen, a freshwater scientist at environmental group Forest and Bird. . .

Mackenzie Basin set to lose $1.2b in farming production if wildings aren’t controlled  – Pat Deavoll:

The Mackenzie Basin could lose $1.2 billion in farming production a year if the spread of wilding conifers is not brought under control, said Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) wilding programme manager Sherman Smith.

Few species would survive if the basin was smothered by wildings, he said.

“If the basin is taken over by wildings, that’s 50 cumecs (of water) drained out of the Waitaki system, biodiversity that would suffer and there would be a lot of species that wouldn’t survive,” said Smith at the Federated Farmers High Country Conference, . .

Cut debt or go  – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers with unsustainable debt who can’t build equity buffers with profits should exit the sector, Reserve Bank governor Graham Wheeler says.

But Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard says Wheeler used outdated figures when he warned the dairy sector was still a financial risk to the economy and banks should monitor it closely.

“The uncertain outlook for dairy prices and the rising proportion of highly indebted farms means there remains a risk that non-performing loans could increase in coming seasons. . . .

Whitehall kiwifruit growers come out the other side of Psa disease – Gerald Piddock:

It’s been a slow road to recovery for Mark and Robyn Gardiner since Psa ripped through their kiwifruit business.

Called Seudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae, the deadly viral disease was first discovered at their 200 hectare Whitehall Fruitpackers operation in 2010.

Left unchecked, Psa destroys green and gold vines and spawns leaf spotting, cankers and shoot dieback.

At the worst point of the outbreak, Mark cut out 40ha of his 16 Gold kiwifruit crop as well as partial cuttings of green fruit. At the same time, the more resistant G3 variety was grafted to the vines. . .

Farm win gets civic reception – Hugh Stringleman:

Winning the Ahuwhenua Trophy for Maori Excellence in sheep and beef farming was the achievement of a lifetime for Northland farm manager Lloyd Brennan and his staff, he told Hugh Stringleman.

The Ahuwhenua Trophy might be scheduled for another visit to Kaikohe, the Northland town that needs to celebrate success and encourage more young Maori into farming.

A civic reception was being planned by the Far North District Council with the Omapere Rangihamama Trust (ORT) and its board of trustees, headed by Sonny Tau. . .

National ambassadors for sustainable farming recognised:

The winners of the national ambassador title for the Ballance Farm Environment Awards describe their farm as the largest lifestyle block in Taranaki.

Ohangai sheep, beef and dairy farmers Peter and Nicola Carver won the National Ambassador title over 10 other regional supreme winners at the National Sustainability Showcase event at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill on May 31.

Operating as Holmleigh Trust Partnership, the couple combine dairy and dry stock farming on their 515ha family property east of Hawera. . .


Rural round-up

March 30, 2017

Taihape farmer opens up about depression – Gerard Hutching:

Taihape farmer Dan Mickleson has spilled his heart out on Facebook after a second bout of depression, and has been overwhelmed by the response. 

“The reaction’s gone way beyond anything I imagined when I asked them to post it. I thought it might get 100 likes and 20-odd comments but when they sent me the tracking stats this morning it’s reached over 130,000 people,” he said.

Entitled “Real Men Don’t Cry”, the 1000-word admission of Mickleson’s struggles was posted on the NZ Farming Facebook page.

I’m a food producer not a farmer: Richard Kidd  – Gerald Piddock:

Richard Kidd is not just a sheep and beef farmer, he is a food producer.

It is a small but subtle twist on words that he believed has helped him better connect with urban consumers.

Just calling himself a farmer was too broad, he said.

“We have a better story to say than we are just farmers. We are producing food that the public has to eat and I think they deserve to know that it’s well farmed, as free as chemicals as possible and a good story behind it.” . . 

Engineering student’s start-up has billion-dollar prospects – Madison Reidy:

Growing up on a 300-cow dairy farm in Matamata exposed Craig Piggott to the problems farmers face.

With a first class honours engineering degree and a year’s experience building rockets for Rocket Lab under his belt, he is now solving them with his own agri-tech invention. 

Piggott, 22, came up with the idea for a GPS tracking, solar powered cow collar while studying at Auckland University. The idea could not wait until he graduated, he said. . . 

Strong environmental gains on farm show opportunities:

Substantial reductions in the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions at a South Canterbury farm show environmental gains can be made hand in hand with a farm’s growth, scientists say.

Record keeping back to 1991, when Bill and Shirley Wright took on the sheep and cattle farm at Cave, has allowed scientists to study the profile of greenhouse gas emissions over time in an evolving farm system.

Analysis of the Wrights’ farm system in the last couple of years has also provided important insights into nitrate leaching (the loss of nitrogen), and what impacts on the amount of leaching and how best it can be managed. . . 

Synlait posts 3.8% gain in 1H profit, expects ‘modest’ full-year earnings growth – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Synlait Milk, the NZX-listed dairy company, posted a 3.8 percent lift in first-half profit as higher sales offset increased investment in people and business development.

Profit increased to $10.6 million, or 6.34 cents per share, in the six months ended Jan. 31, from $10.2 million, or 6.99 cents, a year earlier, the Rakaia-based company said in a statement. Sales jumped 35 percent to $288.7 million. The year-earlier earnings included a $2.9 million unrealised foreign exchange loss. . . 

Fonterra Launches Popular New Maternal Nutrition Programme in Hong Kong:

Fonterra has launched a unique nutrition programme for pregnant women in Hong Kong, developing a website endorsed by professional dieticians to give women access to healthy, nutritious at-home dining recipes and tips for eating well when dining out during pregnancy.

The programme, called ‘Anmum You & B’, also offers access to fine dining seminars where pregnant women can receive personalised food and nutrition advice from certified dieticians.

The programme’s introductory video was viewed more than 1.5 million times in one week – accounting for more than half of the 3.5 million females living in Hong Kong. . .

Te Aroha owners take role in governing their land:

Over 2000 owners of Te Aroha Aggregation farm in Waihi are celebrating a major milestone in its development, with an open day on Saturday. The day signifies the start of responsibility for the farm being passed back to the owners.

For the last three years, owners and trustees of the Māori-owned dairy farm have been supported by Te Tumu Paeroa to develop the skills and experience in governance so they can self-manage the successful enterprise.

Since 1989, Te Tumu Paeroa have been responsible trustee to Te Aroha Aggregation. Saturday’s ceremony signifies an important step for owners in the transition of management responsibility to them. . . 

Breakthrough genetics looking at cutting nitrogen leaching by 20% in NZ – CRV Ambreed:

CRV Ambreed has made a genetic discovery that it anticipates will result in a more sustainable dairy industry and potentially reduce nitrogen leaching on New Zealand farms by 20% within 20 years.

In what’s thought to be an international first, the dairy herd improvement company has announced it will market bulls that are desirable for traditional traits as well as being genetically superior for a new trait that is related to urea nitrogen in milk.

CRV Ambreed is now selling semen from bulls whose daughters will have reduced concentration of Milk Urea Nitrogen (MUN) under a LowN Sires™ brand. MUN is a measure of the amount of nitrogen contained as milk urea, and CRV Ambreed R&D Manager Phil Beatson says there’s overwhelming international evidence of a direct connection between MUN and the amount of nitrogen excreted in urine when fed different diets.  . . 

 


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