Rural round-up

October 22, 2015

Dear Consumer: They tell me not to get angry.  But If I am honest, sometimes I do. – Uptown Girl:

Dear Concerned Consumer,

The marketing research tells me that I should focus on the positive when I address you.   I shouldn’t talk about the environment, or the health of my soil – they say you do not care about those things.

They tell me not to discuss the challenge of feeding the world.  I should not detail the challenges of feeding my own family on a farmer’s income, with ever rising input costs, unpredictable weather patterns and buyer preferences that change with the direction of the wind.  They tell me this doesn’t register with you. . . 

Dairy downturn costs NZ economy $4.8 billion – Gerald Piddock:

The full scale of the dairy downturn nationally has been revealed after new statistics showed a $4.9 billion fall in dairy-related income from the 2014-15 season.

The statistics from DairyNZ showed the value of milk production to the national economy dropped from $18.1b in 2013-14 to $13.2b in 2014-15.

Waikato has taken a $1.8b loss in dairy revenue, from $4.2b to $2.4b over the same period. . . 

Good practice – good farm – Andrew Hoggard:

The Sustainable Dairying: Workplace Action Plan launched last week at Lincoln is the roadmap to achieving the dairy industry’s work environment objectives.

It is part of  an original initiative developed in 2013 by Federated Farmers and DairyNZ and aims to encourage good employment practice by dairy farmers

Whether we like it or not the dairy industry suffers from a perception problem when it comes to employment practices.

Some of that perception is based on the fact that it’s a dirty job and you need to get up early. We can’t do much to change that. . . 

Hilgendorf legacy marked:

Charlotte Hilgendorf, left, Prue Frost, Jane von Dadelszen, and Henrietta Scott, a granddaughter and three great-granddaughters of pioneering New Zealand plant scientist, Lincoln University’s Professor Frederick William Hilgendorf, were given the plaque from the campus building named after him which is being demolished, at a lunch last week at the University.

Some of the history and architectural features of the building was presented to the family members, as well as some stories from those who worked in it. . . 

Minerality mysteries remain:

Ongoing wine research by Dr Wendy Parr of Lincoln University indicates that while minerality is not a figment of tasters’ sensorial imagination, the source of the perception remains a mystery, and the description should be used with caution in formal wine tasting and judging situations.

Minerality’ is used by wine professionals to describe the character of certain wines, with vague references made to wet stones, crushed rock and soil. Regarded variously as a taste, a smell, a trigeminal (mouth-feel) sensation, or all three, until now there’s been little agreement on what is actually meant by this common but enigmatic term, or whether it even exists. 

Intrigued by the lack of scientific knowledge and the plethora of anecdotal evidence around minerality, Dr Parr collaborated with scientists in France and at Plant and Food Research in New Zealand to investigate what the concept means in Sauvignon Blanc wines, and whether there are cultural differences in perceptions of minerality. . . 

 

 
Rat detected on Ulva Island:

A rat has invaded predator-free Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara off the coast of Stewart Island, the Department of Conservation says.

Rat prints were first detected on a tracking card near the Post Office Bay houses as part of a routine tracking card and trap check.

Rodent detecting dog Gadget and her handler Sandy King found signs of a rat in two areas after checking the island. . . 

Rural city living in Gore – Tracy Hicks:

In late 2013 Gore district councillors, still feeling pretty chuffed with the results from the local body elections, gathered for the traditional post-election retreat.

With our three-year term stretching ahead of us, little did anyone realise that what we were about to hear would significantly impact on our decision making.

A talk by leading demographer Prof Natalie Jackson was the catalyst we needed to stop talking about what we could do to make a difference to our future, and actually start doing something. . . .


Let the community own their hospital

March 16, 2009

The Queenstown community wants to take over the ownership and management of the Lakes District Hospital.

The community model has worked well for Balclutha, Dunstan, Gore and Oamaru.

When what was then Healthcare Otago announced it was pulling out of rural services in the late 1990s, the Waitaki District Council stepped into the gap and formed a Local Authority Trading Enterprise (LATE) which became Waitaki District Health Services Ltd.

It built a community owned, publicly funded hospital which provides a wider range of services than would be available if it was under the ownership and control of the Otago District Health Board.

Balclutha, Dunstan and Gore hospitals are run by trusts rather than LATEs but they too are successful and all show that hospitals don’t have to be owned by the state to provide publicly funded services.

The Southland Times asks, whose hospital is it anyway?

It’s the communities and community owned and run models in neighbouring districts provide good examples for Queenstown Lakes to follow.


Gore shepherd perfect woman

October 27, 2008

Perseverance paid off for Gore Shepherd Jaimee MCMeeken who claimed the Perfect Woman  title on her fourth attempt.

Ms McMeeken has entered the competition for four years in a row, last year finishing second, and was determined to keep coming back until she won the trophy.

She achieved that yesterday after two days of intense competition between 30 contestants, with Wanaka shepherd Michelle Osbourne and Wanaka office worker Alice Ferguson second and third.

. . . Now she had won, she would not be back as a competitor, Ms McMeeken said.

She had loved coming back each year and had learned being patient and not rushing was the key to success.

“Every year I’ve learned different things and how to get better and better.

“It’s not about being butch, it’s about femininity . . . Even in speaking, it’s about taking a deep breath. And I never look at what everyone else is doing,” she said.

Among the tests the contestants faced was gutting and skinning a possum.

Proceeds from the contest, held annually in Wanaka, go to the Canlive Trust which helps people with cancer.


New milk plant on hold

October 2, 2008

Construction of the Mataura Valley Milk plant  near Gore has been postponed for 12 months because of funding difficulties.

The $90 million plant was due to open next August:

However, chief executive Chris Shelley said last night company directors thought it prudent to postpone construction by 12 months because delays in closing funding meant a risk of missing the start of the 2009 milking season.

Mr Shelley said commercial production would now begin in August 2010.

The global financial crisis was also a factor in the postponement, he said.

 This is only a posptonment but  there are pretty strong indications the dairy boom has peaked.

Milk companies forecasts for this season’s payout are good by historical standards, but down on last season’s.

Dairy returns are still better than those for beef and lamb, but rising prices for meat are closing the gap which make conversion to dairying less attractive than it was.


More dairying fewer dogs

July 16, 2008

Fewer dogs will be on the market at the 51st annual Gore dog sale  today, another sign that Southland farms are converting from sheep to dairying.

However, demand was still expected to be strong for the 33 heading dogs and 21 huntaways on offer at the Charlton saleyards.

PGG Wrightson agent Nicol Gray believed the good dogs would fetch upwards of $3000.

“The quality is pretty high — just as good as last year — and we will be expecting good prices,” he said.

Each dog would give a make-or-break two-minute demonstration working a mob of sheep under the watchful eye of potential buyers.

Last year heading dog Sox, bred by Matt O’Connell, of Middlemarch, made the top price of $4000, while John Tweed, of Lawrence, sold the top huntaway, Mel, for $3700.

The top dog at last week’s Ashburton sale, a five year old heading bitch, Queen,  sold for $5600. The top huntaway made $2000.


Two of those days

July 7, 2008

Katherine Mansfield said it so much better than I could: It was one of those days, so clear, so still, so silent you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.

I’m not sure if I’ve got that word perfect, though I ought to have because it’s on a Marg Hamilton painting which hangs on our living room wall. But that’s at home while I’m in Wanaka and in awe of the scenery which brought the quote to mind.

We’ve had not one but two of those days. Yesterday we drove tup the Waitaki Valley and through the Lindis Pass, which no matter its mood is beautiful.

In Wanaka we called on friends whose living room window frames the view straight up the lake to the mountains, scenery so stunning it makes you wonder why you’d ever bother to go anywhere else.

Today we left Wanaka by starlight to go to Southland. Our route took us down via Alexandra to Ettrick then south through West Otago to Gore. The views there may not be as awe inspiring as the ones round Wanaka, but there is beauty in those gently rolling, bright green paddocks.

We did a whistle-stop tour of farms at Otahutit, Riverton and Dipton before turning north again up SH6 which follows Lake Wakatipu from Kingston to Frankton. We were treated to many more Mansfield moments as the late afternoon sun spot-lit snow clad hills and reflected them back on the water.

Tussocks poked cheeky heads through the snow as we climbed up the Crown Range then down through the Cardrona Valley and back to Wanaka to marvel again at the breathtaking combination of mountains, snow and lake in the sunset.

Two of those days, and the clear, starry sky is promising a third tomorrow.


SFF Meat Jobs Safe in the South

July 5, 2008

Plans for all-year round processing should safeguard jobs at Silver Fern Farms’ Finegand freezing works in Balclutha and Waitane near Gore.

SFF chief executive Keith Cooper said:

“This is a high-level strategic view to keep costs down, utilise plants better and attract employees by getting away from seasonal work to become a longer-term employer.”

Multi-species plants which operate all year round make sense because of ever-increasing compliance and maintenance costs, and difficulty sourcing seasonal labour.

There will be economic and social gains for the community too because fulltime employment brings more regular and secure income than seasonal jobs which can leave large numbers of people with low incomes and little work in the off-season.

A judge I interviewed for an alcohol awareness week years ago told me he thought there was a relationship between freezing works and alcohol problems because there were a lot of people on high incomes during the killing season but low incomes and too much free time in the off-season.


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