Rural round-up

06/11/2020

Feds: staff shortages are undermining safety, mental wellbeing:

Skilled staff shortages are not only taking a toll on productivity but also farmer mental wellbeing, Federated Farmers Dairy Chair and rural health spokesperson Wayne Langford says.

“Farmers across New Zealand are having to push the limits to get silage/baleage cut, with many crops in the South Island being harvested when it’s wet.

“With variable weather conditions and a lack of skilled contracting staff, farmers are being pushed to make questionable decisions, such as pushing on with mowing because if they don’t they may not see the contractor again for weeks.” . . 

Dairy farming ‘one of the shining stars of Covid’ – ANZ :

Recent banking results show dairy farming might be one of the “shining stars” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

ANZ chief executive Antonia Watson said New Zealand’s farming sector had taken advantage of good prices for their products.

This means they were able to pay down the principal of their loans.

The problems in the dairy industry usually feature large in ANZ Bank’s full year results but they were absent from its latest annual report. . . 

Foreign investors get land purchase approval – Neal Wallace:

Two foreign-owned forestry companies have been given Government approval to buy land in multiple transactions without requiring approval for each purchase from the Overseas Investment Office.

Known as standing consent, Oji Fibre Solutions and Nelson Forests can both buy up to 15,000ha of sensitive land up to a maximum single purchase of 2500ha of land that is exclusively or nearly exclusively in forestry.

The approval also allows the two companies to buy a maximum of 500ha of land per transaction that is not currently in forestry.

The permission is capped at 25 transactions, excludes residential land and expires on 30 September 2023. . . 

Feds on labour issues as DairyNZ shelves GoDairy – Gerald Piddock:

DairyNZ’S shelving of its GoDairy campaign has shown how hard it is to recruit people into the dairy industry, Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

DairyNZ has put the dairy training initiative on hold until March as it reviews the three-week course and looks at ways it could be improved.

Federated Farmers assisted DairyNZ in getting GoDairy up and running while at the same time, launching its own scheme to get more New Zealanders onto farms.

He says those who had successfully gained employment were given starter packs from Federated Farmers and so far, 240 packs had been sent out. . . 

Feds president Andrew Hoggard elected to IDF board:

Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard is well used to representing New Zealand’s farmers. On top of that, he’ll now be representing dairy farmers from all corners of the planet on the board of the International Dairy Federation.

The Manawatu dairy farmer gets up at 4.30am to milk his herd but at least once or twice a month it’s going to be midnight or 1am starts as he joins on-line northern hemisphere meetings.

The IDF is the only organisation which represents the entire dairy value chain at global level – from farm gate to retailer fridge. Hundreds of millions of people depend on the dairy sector for their livelihoods as farmers, processors, suppliers or traders and every day billions of people consume protein, calcium and other key nutrients from milk and dairy products. . . 

Avian flu: 13,000 birds to be culled at Cheshire farm :

A total of 13,000 chickens are to be culled after an outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) was confirmed at a Cheshire farm.

The H5N8 strain of the disease was confirmed at a broiler breeder’s premises near Frodsham on Monday (2 November).

It follows the unrelated discovery of the H5N2 low pathogenic strain of the virus at a small commercial poultry farm in Deal, Kent, where 480 birds have been culled.

Authorities said all 13,000 birds at the Frodsham premises, which produces hatching eggs, will be humanely culled to limit the spread of the disease. . . 


Rural round-up

29/10/2020

Dairy industry short hundreds of staff

The dairy industry says despite a big push to try and attract locals, it is still hundreds of staff short this season.

Dairy NZ chief executive Tim Mackle said there were about 800 vacancies farmers were still looking to fill. The busy calving period had been challenging and exhausting for those who were unable to plug gaps, he said.

Mackle said a government-backed GoDairy course launched in May to attract and upskill locals did help, but like many in the primary sector, it had not seen as much demand for work as was expected.

“GoDairy was designed during the first Covid-19 lockdown in April when unemployment was expected to reach upwards of nine percent, if not higher, by late 2020. . . 

Is food too cheap? What makes up the price of your fruit and vegetables – Dr Helen Darling:

Warnings of an acute shortage of workers to harvest food crops in New Zealand are growing. But the problem – and potential solution – are more complex than they may seem, and give rise to the question: ‘Is food too cheap?’ Food Truth’s Dr Helen Darling considers the issues.

Spring brings hope on the orchard; trees burst to life with blossom signalling a good crop, however, the usual horticultural fears of frost, rain and hail have been joined this year by a significant shortfall of orchard workers.

The situation is not new, but it is usually addressed by the influx of seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands. This year is different, of course, because closed borders mean fewer workers are now available. Commentators (and there have been many) claim orchard workers are paid too little, and Kiwis are too lazy to do the work. The reality, however, is that it is not that simple and it raises the rather interesting question of who is responsible for our end-to-end food system? . . 

Helping the meat industry nurture female talent – Sally Rae:

When Ashley Gray was studying communications in Auckland, she dreamed of working for a large, “glossy” public relations agency.

The last thing on the self-described city girl’s mind was a job in the meat industry and yet, fast forward a few years, and she wears multiple “hats” within the sector.

Among those roles is chairwoman of the New Zealand chapter of Meat Business Women, a professional networking initiative founded in the United Kingdom by Laura Ryan in 2015.

The New Zealand meat sector and Meat Business Women recently signed an agreement aimed at boosting the number of women in the industry . . 

Growers employment expo in Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay growers are facing their most challenging season, with about 10,000 workers needed between November and April for thinning, picking, packing and processing the region’s world renowned produce.

COVID-19 has severely impacted the availability of overseas workers so the industry is looking for local heroes to help.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst says we feed the country and the world with our produce and the industry needs everyone’s help in these unprecedented times.

“More than 8,000 local people are permanently employed in Hawke’s Bay in and around the horticulture and viticulture sectors, from pack-houses to the port. However these jobs are at risk if the fruit is not picked. . . 

Woolhandler wins two major titles at Waimate – Yvonne O’Hara:

Amber Poihipi is passionate about the wool industry and wool handling.

That passion contributed to her success when she won both the New Zealand Spring Championship and South Island Circuit senior woolhandling finals at Waimate.

Based in Winton, Ms Poihipi has been working for Shear Tech Ltd owners Ray Te Whata and Matt Watson for about a year.

She has been in the industry full-time for 14 years, and has worked throughout New Zealand and also spent six years in Australia, as well as several months in the United States, grading wool in a mobile woolshed.

“It was very different working out there in a trailer, and we graded into short, long, strong and coloured wools and we didn’t skirt,” she said. . . 

The farmers trying to  save the world and how you can help :

Farmers are using innovative methods, on their farms and further afield, to reduce their environmental impact. Some are creating products you may not know about, others are using techniques and technology designed to slash their carbon footprint. Just how far has environmentally friendly farming come, and what questions should you be asking about how your food is produced?

Slashing food waste

Fruit farmer Charlie Fermor has two main environmental focuses: to reduce food waste and find the most environmentally-friendly packaging for his farm. And he’s found ways to do both.

“We’ve always tried to be as efficient as possible on the farm, and reducing waste is probably the biggest part of that.” . . 


Rural round-up

02/10/2020

Freshwater rules take toll on confidence – Sally Rae:

Southern sheep and beef farmers have experienced their worst fall in confidence in a recent survey by Beef+Lamb New Zealand, as the Government’s freshwater rules are cited as a major factor.

Nationally, confidence dropped to the lowest recorded level since August 2017 with less than half — or 46% of farmers — confident in the future of New Zealand’s sheep and beef industry compared to 58% in May.

Farmer confidence was down in all regions, except for the northern North Island, and the largest fall was in the southern South Island at 32% (down 27%), followed by the central South Island at 42% (down 19%).

In a statement, B+LNZ chairman Andrew Morrison, a Southland farmer, said sheep and beef farmers were increasingly concerned at the speed and scale of government-led reforms. . . 

26 million national flock down 2.3% – Sally Rae:

Sheep numbers in New Zealand have dropped 2.3% over the past year to 26.21million — a far cry from the 57.85million recorded in 1990.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s annual stock number survey estimated this spring’s lamb crop would be 4.2% lower — or 980,000 head down — compared with spring 2019, while adverse weather events could lessen that further.

Ewe condition during mating was poor to average due to lower overall feed availability while ewe pregnancy scanning results were 5%-10% lower due to dry conditions and feed shortages. Fewer ewe hoggets were also mated.

In a statement, B+LNZ Economic Service chief economist Andrew Burtt said drought meant farmers decided to have fewer hoggets, weaner cattle and cows mated which would have impacts on future stock numbers. . . 

Fruit picker shortage reaches new levels :

With closed borders and no backpackers or casual labour coming in, the fruit picking industry desperately needs more workers than ever before.

Today The Detail looks at why it’s so hard to fill the gaps and whether robots are the answer to the labour shortage for what even employers admit is a “shit” job.

Horticulture is a $10b industry and is one that will continue to grow despite covid-19.

But the lack of workers has been something that has plagued the sector for years, even before the pandemic. . . 

Work experience helps fresh talent into dairying

Gillian Saich from Invercargill is new to dairy farming and was thrilled when a dairy farmer offered her work experience on his farm.

Gillian recently finished DairyNZ’s GoDairy Farm Ready Training, designed to give Kiwis throughout New Zealand entry level training to work on dairy farms.

After the training, dairy farmer Edwin Mabonga from Otautau offered Gillian two weeks’ work experience and she jumped at the chance.

“It’s been brilliant to get hands-on experience. I have learned so much and have been involved in lots of aspects on the farm, including calving and milking,” she says.  . .

NZ cheese sales a lockdown silver lining:

Everywhere, everyone agrees that 2020 has been one of the most challenging years. For many NZ cheesemakers that has meant quickly adapting and finding new markets as farmers’ markets, some specialty retail food stores, cafes and restaurants closed during lockdown.

However there is a silver lining, while New Zealanders hunkered down staying safe they used their free time to explore and support NZ made produce, including New Zealand cheese, which is enjoying record sales.

According to Nielsen Scantrack[1] – a record of supermarket sales for the year to 9 August 2020 – total value for all cheese sales is up by 12.2% for the 12 months. Among these numbers is a strong increase for speciality cheese – up in value by 9.5%. Always a favourite with families, blocks of cheese are up 14.5% in value and grated cheese sales were up a whopping 25.1%. . . 

Silver Fern Farms awards additional scholarship in light of Covid crisis:

Silver Fern Farms has announced their Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships recipients for 2020, adding two additional scholarships this year, on top of the six normally offered, to strengthen their support for the industry through the challenges presented by Covid-19.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says the commitment Silver Fern Farms has to developing young people and their careers has become even more important as the red meat industry responds to disruption around the world.

Over 60 people applied for this year’s scholarships. “They were asked to identify outstanding opportunities for the red meat industry in light of the Covid-19 crisis and to share the role they could play in New Zealand’s recovery. . . 


Rural round-up

16/09/2020

Greens warned fertiliser tax will ‘create pressure on farmers’ :

The Green Party is being warned that a fertiliser levy is not a solution to more sustainable farming.

The Greens unveiled its agriculture policy in Canterbury at the weekend, where the party announced its plans to levy nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser sales.

They also want to establish an almost $300 million fund for the transition to regenerative and organic farming.

Environmental consultant Dave Ashby runs a dairy farm in North Canterbury.

Keeping animals fenced out, planting along the banks and adding oxygen weed are just a few of the measures he takes to keep his waterways clean.

To prove how clean the water is at his man-made drain he took a handful and drank it. . . 

Independently assessed candidates for Fonterra Board of Directors’ election announced:

Incumbent Director Brent Goldsack, along with Nathan Guy, Cathy Quinn and Mike O’Connor have been announced as the Independently Assessed Candidates for the 2020 Fonterra Farmer Directors’ election. This year there are two Board positions up for election.

Nathan Guy, Mike O’Connor and Cathy Quinn were recommended by the Independent Selection Panel after their assessment process.

Incumbent Director Brent Goldsack is seeking re-election and chose to participate in the Independent Assessment Process. The Panel’s assessment of Brent will be included in the voting pack and as a re-standing Director he automatically goes through to the ballot. . .

Farm worker shows what folk with disabilities can do – George Clark:

A South Canterbury-based farm hand hopes to shed light on people with disabilities who have been overlooked for employment.

Timaru’s David Hanford Boyes has no balance and requires a walking stick to move.

While picking fruit in Australia in 1996, he was swept off a ladder by a branch and fell to the ground, crushing three vertebrae in his back.

Mr Hanford Boyes said he was lucky to have leading surgeons in Melbourne at the time offering a surgery not before tried on humans. . . 

Sharing his passion for dairy farming – Mary-Jo Tohill:

Telford dairy farm manager John Thornley has played a key role in getting the first GoDairy course under way at the Southern Institute of Technology Telford campus. He has first-hand knowledge of making a career change, as Mary-Jo Tohill reports.

After going from cook to cow cocky, Telford dairy farm manager John Thornley can relate to change.

He played a key role in getting the first GoDairy course under way at the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) Telford campus near Balclutha last month, and said he got a real kick out of seeing the 13 people taking part make big changes to their lives.

“They’re like a breath of fresh air and they’re wanting to learn all they can about dairying.” . . 

New director will help push for smarter farming:

Intellectual property lawyer and farm owner Jane Montgomery is Ravensdown’s newest shareholder-elected director, announced at yesterday’s 2020 annual meeting.

Christchurch-based Jane owns a farm in North Canterbury and has been elected as director of Area 3, which extends from Selwyn to the top of the South Island and includes the West Coast.

Ravensdown Chair John Henderson says Jane’s new perspective will be important as the co-operative and its shareholders tackle opportunities and challenges in a volatile world. . . 

 

Commission releases final report on Fonterra’s milk price:

The Commerce Commission has today released its final report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2019/20 dairy season.

The base milk price is the average price Fonterra sets for raw milk supplied by farmers, which is currently forecast to be $7.10 – $7.20 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2019/20 dairy season.

The Commission is required to review the calculation at the end of each dairy season under the milk price monitoring regime in the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA). The regime is designed to provide Fonterra with incentives to set the base milk price consistent with efficient and contestable market outcomes. . . 

 

 


Rural round-up

23/08/2020

Water rules ‘unworkable’ – Neal Wallace:

Environment Southland may ask the Government to relax new strict rules controlling the winter grazing of livestock which is widely considered as unworkable in the cooler southern region.

Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young has upped the pressure on the Government, advising members not to seek resource consent if they are unable to meet the new grazing regulations.

Southern farmers are angered at the requirement to resow winter crop paddocks by November 1, a month later than the rest of NZ, the extent of pugging permitted on paddocks and limits on winter grazing paddocks with a mean slope exceeding 10 degrees.

These provisions are included in the suite of essential freshwater measures regulations released in May.

Labour fails to plan for primary sector :

Labour needs to stand up for the essential primary sector workers who are wrongly being turned away at Auckland region checkpoints, MP for Hunua Andrew Bayly and National’s Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett say.

“Auckland is almost 10 days into their regional lockdown and there has still been no specific exemptions granted by the Ministry of Health to allow primary sector workers to carry out essential services across the Auckland regional border.” Mr Bayly says.

“These travel exemptions should have been ready to go at the first sign of regional restrictions. Instead, it has taken a week for the Minister to secure exemptions for the dairy, horticulture, and poultry sectors.”. . . 

Meat companies forced to divert product – Neal Wallace:

Meat companies are changing portion sizes and targeting mid-week meals as they switch products from food service to chilled retail markets.

Farmers Weekly last week reported the demise of food service markets around the world due to the global covid-19 pandemic forcing meat companies to divert product away from traditional frozen and food service markets.

AgriHQ senior analyst Mel Croad says any increase in chilled meat volumes is welcome. . .

It’s the beta-casein and premium product that makes a big difference between a2 Milk and Fonterra – Point of Order:

Investors  this week took  the  phenomenal result  for a2 Milk   in  their  stride, but  it  may have produced  a few blinks  round   the   nation’s  dairy farms,  particularly  with  the  farmer-suppliers  of  Fonterra. 

Take – for example – a2 Milk’s  earnings  per share  of  52.39c  and contrast them with Fonterra’s 17c per share  in 2019,  or  its  net  profit  of $385.8m   versus  Fonterra’s loss  of $605m.

There  are  other  mind-blowing  figures  from  a2 Milk: total revenue  of  $1.73bn, up  32.8%; ebitda of $549.7m, a  rise of 32.9%;  and operating cash flow of $427.4m. Not to  mention  a  cash  mountain  it has  built up of  $854.2m. . . 

Career off to a good start :

Nineteen-year-old Ashlee Ennis is thrilled she has got a job on a dairy farm after recently completing three-weeks of GoDairy Farm Ready Training with DairyNZ.

Hailing from Tauranga, Ashlee has moved to Taupo for a role as a farm assistant and is excited by her new career.

She says she is relishing getting stuck in helping out with calving.

“It’s been great to get into the work and learn more on the job. I definitely see a future for myself in dairy farming,” she said. “I didn’t grow up on a farm but my mum did and she always loved it. I love working with animals.” . . 

One scientist’s ambitious plan to achieve global cooling with cattle – Farmer Georgie:

Farts are funny. Burger King thinks yodeling about cow farts is even funnier. In mid-July, the fast food chain released on Twitter an ad campaign starring boot-stomping kids, led by Mason Ramsey of Walmart Yodeling Kid fame, singing about cow farts contributing to global warming and claiming that lemongrass can reduce methane in those farts by a third.

The ad, part of the company’s #CowsMenu campaign, generated a backlash of social media criticism. Pissed-off ranchers and a concerned science community pointed out that the ad perpetuated a long-standing misconception about cow farts and the hotly debated narrative that cows are a major climate change problem. Plus, it promoted an unproven solution as its big greenhouse gas win. In doing so, Burger King missed the chance to highlight the real potential for change: turning cows and their methane-producing digestive systems into a climate cooling solution. . .


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