Rural round-up

24/10/2020

Fired up over freshwater – Hamish MacLean:

Stop the degradation, show real improvements in five years, restore New Zealand’s waterways in a generation, and infuriate how many farmers? Environment reporter Hamish MacLean checks in on the fight for healthy rivers after 100 tractors rolled through Gore last week in protest over new freshwater regulations. 

Southern farmers are facing reams of new rules and red tape as New Zealand starts to go hard on keeping sediment, E.coli, phosphorous, and nitrogen out of its rivers.

But Federated Farmers calls some of the new rules “unworkable” and prohibitively costly, and says they will need to be amended by Cabinet.

Federated Farmers environment and water spokesman Chris Allen says a parade of tractors down Gore’s main street and a gathering of hundreds of farmers in Invercargill last week amid public calls for ignoring the new rules en masse are representative of farmers’ anger about the costs and the extent of the changes being forced upon them.

Measures would squeeze businesses ‘doing it tough’ – Jacob McSweeny:

Business and farming leaders in the South are joining a chorus of similar stakeholders throughout the country hoping the Labour Party forms its own government rather than going into a coalition with the Greens.

Labour won 64 seats according to Saturday’s preliminary results and can govern alone if it chooses.

Farra Engineering chief executive and Southern Otago Regional Engineering Collective chairman Gareth Evans said he was not surprised by the result, just that it was more comprehensive than expected.

“It’s good in a sense that Labour have an absolute majority so that they have to be accountable for everything that they do from here on in.” . . 

Research funded to unlock seaweed’s potential as new ‘superfood‘ –

It is far from a staple on most Kiwi dinner tables, but AgResearch scientists are aiming to unlock the potential of seaweed as a go-to food with proven health benefits. And they have enlisted the services a of a world-class chef to help them do it.

The scientists are joining counterparts in Singapore in a project funded by New Zealand government, in the amount of $3.3 million, alongside parallel funding from the Government of Singapore. The New Zealand funding is from the Catalyst Fund:Strategic – New Zealand-Singapore Future Foods Research Programme.

The research, focused on the Undaria pinnatifida species of seaweed abundant in waters around New Zealand and Singapore, also involves partners the University of Otago, University of Auckland, A*STAR, AgriSea NZ, Ideas 2 Plate and AMiLi. . . 

Waikato berry farm expecting influx of visitors due to strawberry picker shortage:

Strawberries may be harder to come by on supermarket shelves this year due to an expected shortage of pickers, so a Waikato berry farm is gearing up for a big influx of Kiwis wanting to pick their own.

Whatawhata Berry Farm, located five minutes from Hamilton on the Raglan Road will open for the summer this Friday (23 October) and is expecting record crowds during the strawberry picking season, which runs from now until late March or Easter if demand exists.

Owner Darien McFadden says commercial growers are deeply concerned there won’t be enough overseas RSE workers or those on Working Holiday Visas to pick this year’s crop, leaving fruit to go to waste and creating supply and demand issues for both export and domestic markets. . . 

Shearers were among those travelling to Melbourne via Sydney :

New Zealand shearers were on the first flights to Australia and among those who travelled on to Melbourne.

Shearers who boarded the first flights to Melbourne should have been praised for their work ethic not “poo-pooed by the Premier”, an industry representative has said.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford confirmed New Zealand shearers were on the first flights out of New Zealand to Sydney, and they later went on to catch a flight to Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne.

“Anecdotally I know they were on those flights and there was nothing illegal or incorrect in what they did – they followed process and were sponsored by their employers and had the correct permit to travel from metropolitan Melbourne to rural Victoria,” he said. . . 

HappyMoo developing tools to monitor cow health :

ICBF is participating in a large-scale European research project called HappyMoo. The project aims to develop tools to identify cow welfare issues before they become a problem and affect performance. There are many different aspects to cow welfare and essential among them are freedom from hunger, stress, and disease. These are the areas that the HappyMoo research project is focusing on.

The project will use machine learning to identify patterns in milk spectral data that are associated with undesirable conditions in the cow. Milk spectral data is recorded when milk samples are analysed in a milk recording lab by mid-infrared machines. Essentially a mid-infrared laser is shined into a milk sample and the absorbance levels are recorded. Every analysed milk sample generates 1060 data points and when we consider the thousands of cows in the thousands of milk recording herds it does not take long to add up to Big Data. Therefore, these absorbance levels provide a deep dataset and in the HappyMoo project the spectral data will be correlated with phenotypes. Already, spectral data can be used to measure milk constituents, but it has also been shown to indicate difficult to measure phenotypes such as energy balance. . . 


Rural round-up

14/11/2018

Mackenzie Country and Waitaki: Balancing the extremes – Sally Rae:

Over the past two decades, the Mackenzie Basin and Waitaki Valley have undergone significant change.

The region has gone from a little known backwater to one of the highest profile battlegrounds over environmental protection and agricultural intensification, farmer Annabelle Subtil says.

The Omarama woman  addressed  delegates at the New Zealand Grassland Association’s 80th annual conference in Twizel last week. . . 

Farmers find irrigation can be controversial -Sally Rae:

For Glenn and Sarah Fastier, farming Simons Hill Station  on the eastern side of State Highway 8 between Tekapo and Twizel  is like living in a glasshouse.

The Mackenzie district was an area  many New Zealanders felt connected to and, when it came to land use, there were a lot of differing opinions as to what was appropriate, Mr Fastier said.

They farm next to Simons Pass Station, where a high-profile dairying operation is being established by  Dunedin businessman Murray Valentine,  attracting the ire of environmental activists.

“There’s definitely a different public perception on anything related to dairy. I don’t often think it’s justified. . . 

Guiney for the protest and McBride for the promise – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra shareholders have spoken loudly with the re-election of Leonie Guiney and election of soon-to-be-former Zespri chairman Peter McBride.

One director position is unfilled because incumbent Ashley Waugh, Maori farming leader Jamie Tuuta and multi-farm Canterbury candidate John Nicholls did not reach the required 50% approval of votes cast.

Waugh’s failure to reach the threshold is another aspect of the protest vote and the mood for change among farmer-shareholders after Fonterra’s worst year in financial results and setbacks. . . 

Details vague on proposed rewards scheme – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra will introduce a single on-farm assurance and recognition scheme including the existing milk quality, animal welfare and environmental requirements.

The scheme will begin next season, farmers at the annual meeting in Lichfield were told.

Chairman John Monaghan said the new scheme has not been named and Farm Source employees will interview farmers on the types of recognition and rewards it should contain.

“Once the commercial value is better understood we will decide whether to expand the programme to include financial incentives.”

A small minority of farmers who do not meet minimum standards will be subject to demerits, as is the case now. . . 

Profits up at Westland Milk pre-tax – Brendon McMahon:

Westland Milk Products yesterday posted a before-tax profit of $3.25million as it tries to claw its way to profitability.

Last year’s before-tax profit was just $29,000.

On releasing its annual report the West Coast farmer-owned co-operative acknowledged it was still not industry competitive and lacked “financial flexibility” due to high debt levels and the need for more working capital. . . 

Four Mycoplasma bovis myths busted:

Many farmers are going through a challenging time with the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak. But the Ministry for Primary Industries says their stress and anxiety is being compounded by some misinformation. Here the MPI dispels some of those myths:

Myth 1: Mycoplasma bovis has been in New Zealand since around 2004

All of the available research, as well as data collated during on-farm investigations, indicates that Mycoplasma bovis is likely to have arrived in New Zealand in late 2015 to early 2016. Although investigations are ongoing, two pieces of evidence give MPI confidence about that: . . 

Three young leaders up for major agribusiness award :

THREE young agriculturalists from Australia and New Zealand are through to the final for the prestigious 2019 Zanda McDonald Award. 

The award is widely recognised as a badge of honour in the agriculture industry, recognising future leaders and innovative young professionals from both sides of the Tasman.

The 2019 finalists are made up by two Australians and one New Zealander, who were described by judges as ‘diverse and equally impressive’.  . . 


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