Rural round-up

March 9, 2020

South Otago group buying in to idea of improving environment – Richard Davison:

Southern farmers have come in for a public bashing in certain sections of the media during recent months, as unflattering winter grazing conditions hit the spotlight. Richard Davison takes a look at a group offarmers demonstrating poor environmental practice is the exception, rather than the rule.

Taken at face value, it would be easy to believe the agricultural sector has paid no heed to governmental directives and public appeals to join the clean water revolution now gaining in momentum.

But invest even a moment to dig a little more deeply and peer through the quaggy murk, and that notion is quickly dispelled.

The award-winning Pathway for the Pomahaka agricultural catchment water-quality improvement scheme, started in 2015, has begun to expand into eight more South Otago catchments, bringing with it tried-and-tested techniques, and a spirit of experimentation that is about to be enthusiastically adopted by new stakeholder farmer groups. . .

Airport dairy training school still in limbo – Daniel Birchfield:

Plans for a dairy training farm at Oamaru Airport remain on the back-burner as visa processing delays continue to thwart the National Trade Academy’s ability to enrol international students.

Plans to establish the school, next to the academy-affiliated New Zealand Airline Academy, were announced in August last year.

It was due to open this month, but the academy was not able to fill classes.

The issue arose when six overseas visa processing offices were closed by Immigration New Zealand last year. . .

Let the harvest begin:

Kiwifruit picking is underway in Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty, signalling the beginning of the 2020 kiwifruit harvest.

The 2020 season is forecast to be another very large crop with around 155 million trays of Green and Gold kiwifruit expected to be picked in orchards and packed in packhouses across New Zealand from Northland to Motueka. This year’s crop is forecast to be well up from the 147 million trays exported in 2019.

It is predominantly the Gold variety which is first picked, followed by Green kiwifruit in late March. The last fruit is picked in June. . .

Public, media support of dairying – Hugh Stringleman:

Mainstream media organisations are not anti-dairy farming or beating up on the industry, DairyNZ communications manager Lee Cowan says.

Media items about dairying, across all forms of media, have remained more than 90% positive or neutral over the past three years of analytics, she told Farmers Forums throughout the country in the past month.

Cowan said the problem is sensitivity bias among dairy farmers who are interested in articles about dairying and who therefore read or watch them and are more likely to have an opinion. . .

Sarah’s Country | Spirulina’s for drinking, water’s for fighting – Sarah Perriam:

A favourite saying of Grandad C R Perriam was “Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting”. Nothing has changed since the fight between gold miners and farmers in Central Otago in the 1800s, till now.

We have never had so much technology at our fingertips to preserve water in human history so the fight is about the social licence for every drop.

This week in Sarah’s Country we discover the exploding future of super-foods grown from algae in water with Justin Hall from Tahi Spirulina, New Zealand’s first spirulina farm on how this diversified, plant-based market is on fire. . .

Research to explore benefits of sheep grazing on lucerne:

British farmers are to learn from their counterparts in New Zealand as new research explores the benefits of sheep grazing on lucerne.

The farmer-led field lab will look at grazing ewes and lambs on only lucerne – a legume that is widely used as forage for sheep in New Zealand.

It is valued for its high yield, drought tolerance, protein content, and digestible fibre.

Farmers taking part will assess lucerne’s potential in finishing lambs quicker, tolerating low rainfall, and reducing fertiliser inputs by fixing nitrogen in the soil. . .

 


Rural round-up

February 27, 2020

Water will be currency of 21st century – Todd Muller:

Water is one of our nation’s critical strategic assets, perhaps second only behind our people. Therefore water storage is essential for ensuring we have a thriving primary sector for years to come, writes National’s Agriculture spokesman Todd Muller.

Water will be the currency of success in the next century.

In the 19th century it was coal, in the 20th century it was oil and in my view in the 21st century it is water.

We are a tradeable economy and water is a critical strategic asset in developing our commodities. The ability to store it will be a key infrastructural necessity if we are to leverage the value of water over the next few decades. . .

Wild rabbit enterprises shot down by red tape:

Federated Farmers is dismayed by reports that at least two businesses which process meat from wild rabbits are being strangled by compliance costs.

“It’s tough times on farms at the moment, with rising rabbit numbers in dry conditions.  With all the focus on predator-free and biodiversity, surely we should be working with and encouraging the commercial use of pest species, not making it harder for operators,” Feds Meat & Wool Chairperson Miles Anderson says.

Radio NZ has reported that the owner of a business supplying wild rabbits to high end restaurants, and for pet food, is spending up to 40 hours a week on paperwork, never mind growing MPI audit fees at $176 an hour.  As with another Canterbury-based processor, he told Radio NZ he was thinking of closing down. . .

Dairy returns too tiny for farmers – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers have many reasons for optimism though three out of four say the returns are not worth the effort, DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Bruce Thorrold says.

Many farmers are asking themselves why they still bother dairying and his task is to help clear the fog and rekindle motivation, he told the DairyNZ Northland farmers forum.

Farmers are worried about environmental, banking, farm value, alternative food, drought and disease pressures. . .

Weevil win – we knocked the bastard off – Karen WIlliams:

Hats off to you, Wairarapa.  In the words of another Kiwi who achieved a world-first, “we knocked the bastard off”.

Okay, eradicating the region’s pea weevil incursion isn’t as grand as Ed Hillary and Tensing Norgay climbing Everest but in terms of biosecurity, and protecting an industry that earns us $50 million in domestic sales and $84 million in exports, it is a big deal.  It’s also another bug we don’t have to spray for.

As far as we know, no other country has successfully combatted this pest after an incursion.

It’s taken a region-wide and government agency effort to get where we are – that’s growers/farmers, home gardeners, Federated Farmers, local councils, Greater Wellington, local MPs, MPI, Biosecurity NZ, the Foundation for Arable Research, Assure Quality…a big thank-you to you all for your perseverance, flexibility and understanding. . .

New app to help hunters track tahr during culling –

A long-term plan is being developed to control Himalayan tahr in the South Island.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said the large goat-like animals, introduced to New Zealand during the early days of European settlement, posed a threat to the country’s native alpine plants.

To combat the loss of native vegetation, DOC said it had been working with ecological experts to start a new monitoring system.

The long-term control plan is led by DOC and Ngāi Tahu. . . 

Beef bans based on ‘popular opinion, not facts’, Harper Adams says:

Harper Adams University has said it will never ban beef from its campus menus as it criticises other institutions for their ‘knee-jerk reactions’ to the climate crisis.

In recent years, and even more so in recent months, several UK universities have attracted significant media attention for voting motions to ban beef.

Earlier this month, thousands of students at Edinburgh University rejected proposals to ban the meat in all student union run outlets. . .

 


Rural round-up

February 24, 2020

Dairy farmers must increase risk – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers have to learn to take more risk because staying put is no longer risk-free, independent Cameron Bagrie says.

The pace of change will accelerate not slow and farmers face three to five more years of this grumpy growth, which stems from rising costs and more regulations, he told a DairyNZ farmers forum.

“Stop being so polite and drive the key changes in the things that you can control.” . .

Net zero goal needs new tech – Colin Williscroft:

Agriculture and land use systems will have to be transformed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, Scottish academic Professor Bob Rees says.

While all sectors of the economy will have to play their part cutting emissions, the likely consequences for agriculture are stark, the keynote speaker at the Farmed Landscapes Research Centre workshop said.

Rees, an agriculture and climate change expert at Scotland Rural College, said emissions from the sector urgently need to be reduced but costs and inertia are significant barriers. . .

Cavalcades bosses keep coming back – Sally Rae:

When Chris Bayne and Sandra Cain drive around the Otago hinterland, they know what lies behind the hills.

For they have been there, among the tussocks, during their combined involvement of more than 50 years with the Otago Goldfields Cavalcade.

The two trail bosses are preparing to head off on this year’s event, which will see hundreds of riders, wagoners, walkers and cyclists arrive in Patearoa next Saturday.

Mrs Bayne’s light wagon and riding trail will meet today at Ardgour, near Tarras, while Mrs Cain’s walking trail will start on Wednesday from Ida Valley Station. . .

Winemaking need not drain reservoirs– Mark Price:

Robin Dicey cannot quite turn water into wine, but he is turning grapes into wine without water. The Bannockburn wine industry pioneer tells reporter Mark Price about his recent vino experiments.

Imagine  growing grape vines in Central Otago without pumping millions of litres of water to them through millions of metres of plastic pipe.

Without an irrigation system, surely they would wither and die in the heat of a Central summer.

Retired Bannockburn wine industry pioneer Robin Dicey is not so sure they would, and has begun an experiment to test that theory. . .

New regional leader award:

A new Regional Leader of the Year Award has been established by Dairy Women’s Network.

Chief executive Jules Benton says more than 70 volunteer regional leaders provide an important point of contact for farmers and play key role in their communities through to organising, hosting and promoting regional events.

They are the face of the network while also in some cases are running million dollar businesses. . .

Farmer confidence plummets amid Brexit and bad weather:

Continued weather conditions and Brexit uncertainty has led to a significant drop in farmer confidence, new figures suggest.

Political unpredictability surrounding the terms of the UK’s post-transition period and the recent flooding is taking its toll on industry confidence.

Results from the latest NFU survey of farmers across the UK shows that short-term (one year) confidence has reduced further from last year, dropping 11 points, to its 3rd lowest level since the survey began in 2010. . .


Rural round-up

February 19, 2020

‘Game could soon be over for some farmers ‘ – Nigel Malthus:

Proposed new environmental rules for the Waimakariri District will drive some farmers off their land, say farmers and their support groups.

The district is facing new rules under the proposed Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan (CLWRP), which calls for staged cuts to Nitrogen losses over coming decades – up to 90% reductions in some specified zones.

One dairy farmer in the most-affected “purple zone” near Oxford said he had a consultant run the figures for his farm and it showed that at 30% reduction he might as well “give the keys to the bank” and walk away. . .

Headlines don’t match the research – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Diet-shaming appears to be the new trend and virtue-signaling by ‘celebrities’ is rife.

They’re doing it for their children. Only the cynical would wonder whether their on-line profile needed a boost.

The claim is that animal protein damages the environment more than plant protein, so we should be eating the latter rather than the former. Whether this is true or not very much depends upon which production systems are being compared and the basis for the calculations.

The latest report hitting the headlines is from the University of Otago. It attempts to make dietary recommendations for the New Zealand context, but states overtly that UK data were used. Further, the base for the dietary calculations was 2,130 kilocalories. It wasn’t protein to provide essential amino acids. . .

Dairy and diamonds are forever – Amos Palfeyrman:

One day in the mid to late 2000s I stumbled upon a National Geographic article describing Lab Grown Diamonds and how they would lead to the inevitable demise of the diamond mining industry. 

I couldn’t help but agree with the author.

Why scour the Earth for shiny objects when science now offers an alternative, diamonds grown in labs. These gems weren’t synthetic substitutes. They were optically, chemically and physically identical to their Earth-mined counterparts. 

Though I was a long way from facing the choice between lab grown and mined diamond I’d decided that when the time came I’d be proposing to my future wife with a broker’s receipt for shares or perhaps a digger. Both seemed of much more use than a shiny rock.  . . 

Synlait pegs back growth – Hugh Stringleman:

Synlait has downgraded its earnings guidance for the current financial year by about 15%, saying it would now fall within a range of $70 million to $85m.

The previous guidance was for a 10% increase on last year’s $82m, chief executive Leon Clement said.

He blamed reduced sales expectations in the key China infant base powder market, much more volatile lactoferrin prices, and slower growth in consumer-packaged infant formula sales. . .

Feds delighted to be part of successful eradication effort:

A Wairarapa community-wide effort, backed by government, has achieved what is thought to be a biosecurity world first.

The complete eradication of the pea weevil from the Wairarapa required a four-year ban on the growing of peas, not just for commercial growers, but for all gardeners.

Federated Farmers has been involved in helping growers work through the processes around the biosecurity response and eradication since the beginning of the response, back in 2016.

“The pea industry is worth $130 million to New Zealand. Wairarapa growers and farmers were initially aghast at talk of a ban on growing, for years,” Federated Farmers arable chair, and Wairarapa grower, Karen Williams says. . .

After 139 years, Masterton A&P Show may end – Piers Fuller:

Sweeping changes and nominal entrance fees may not be enough to keep Masterton’s 139-year-old A&P Show from coming to an end.

A disappointing turnout to this year’s event at Solway Showgrounds on Saturday have organisers questioning the feasibility of running the annual show.

“It’s obvious the way things are heading that we simply can’t afford to carry on,” Masterton A&P Association president Peter McWilliam said. The organisation was in good health, but the agricultural showcase was unsustainable. . .


Rural round-up

February 17, 2020

Farmers fear new water rules could push them under – Phillips Tolley:

New Zealanders value freshwater – so much so that four out of five people say it is their biggest environmental worry. The government’s plans for new rules and regulations to halt declining water quality are in the final stages of development, but some farmers fear that unless there are changes to those proposals, they will have to give up farming. For Insight, Philippa Tolley investigates

William Beetham’s attachment to the land he farms in the Wairarapa stretches back six generations. His family settled there in the 1850s and is regarded as one of New Zealand’s farming dynasties. At one stage, the original 30-plus room Brancepeth station was the largest in the district. Beetham lives on a nearby farm and runs a beef and sheep business over the two properties. This is hilly land – baked dry and brown in the summer, but cold and wet in the winter. It is sandstone country, with easily eroded hillsides stretching down to a river – the Wainuiora – that runs along the valley. The family has been planting trees for years to keep the land from slipping. . .

In pictures: farmers show the magnitude of North Island drought:

The drought currently affecting New Zealand’s North Island is having devastating effects on farmers — and has already dramatically changed the country’s landscape.

New Zealand’s lush greenery has now turned into the driest of browns as the North Island’s thirst for rain continues.

Auckland is about to set a new record for its longest dry spell and forecasters have already warned the upper north is headed for “permanent wilting point”.

The New Zealand Drought Index showed severe meteorological drought is widespread across Northland, Auckland, and northern Waikato. . .

Slow China market challenge for OML – Jacob McSweeny:

Just one month after resuming production following a compliance problem, Oamaru Meats Ltd (OML) is now hindered by ‘‘congestion’’ slowing products getting into China in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The meat processor shut down on September 13 after its access to the Chinese beef markets was suspended.

Some 160 seasonal workers were laid off temporarily because of the suspension, which came from a mistake involving beef fat packaging . .

Farmers’ cash backs wool co-op – Annette Scott:

Primary Wool Co-operative shareholders have backed their organisation by providing strong support for its future. 

A bright future for the organisation and the New Zealand wool industry is a step closer, uplifted by the strong support of shareholders in a recent capital raising, chairwoman Janette Osborne said.

That enabled the co-operative to file an improved balance sheet as it emerges from a year of reflection and consolidation on a positive footing. . .

Bananas go with milk up north – Hugh Stringleman:

Bananas have a lot going for them as a fruitful and remedial crop in northern regions of the country, Tropical Fruit Growers of New Zealand chairman Hugh Rose says.

A plantation owner, consultant and stem seller, Rose says the economics of banana growing compare very favourably with most other land uses.

At 1500 stems a hectare, two bunches of fruit a stem each year, at least 10 hands a bunch and $5 retail a hand in local growers’ markets, the returns are attractive. . .

Whistling up some sales while waiting – Sally Rae:

It was Gerard Middleton’s penchant for chewing through his dog whistles that led to his wife, Carleigh, launching a business.

Mr Middleton, a sheep and beef farmer from The Key, near Te Anau, was going through a whistle a week, while his wife quipped he “should just train his dogs better”.

As the cost of his chewing habit mounted up, the Middletons started buying dog whistles through Boulder Bluff, a company in the United States.

They were thicker and of better quality, she said, and Mr Middleton managed to get about six months out of them. . .

Cropping It’s not over yet It’s not over yet 1 day, 22 hours ago – leaders remind public drought recovery a long-term process – Gregor Heard:

FARM leaders in the Murray Darling Basin have a strong message for the 90 per cent of Australians who reside within 100km of the coast – the drought is far from over.

Those living along the east coast, having been swamped by repeated deluges of rain that have replenished dams, could be forgiven for thinking the worst is over, but on the other side of the ranges authorities warn follow-up rain is critical. . .

 


Rural round-up

February 13, 2020

Equity losses dog dairy farming – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy analysts agree with the key factors of a Rabobank prediction of falling dairy land values over the next five years.

Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins said land values have been in neutral for the past decade and are likely to drift downwards over the next five years.

In her report, Afloat but Drifting Backwards, she predicts an average $6.25/kg MS farmgate milk price, which will be barely break-even with low investor confidence, high farm debt, tighter Reserve Bank regulations, foreign capital restrictions and the costs of environmental compliance also factors. . .

Goodbye Britain again :

Those of us who have been around for quite a few years will remember the unhappy and heady days when Britain joined the then EEC on the January 1, 1973.

Up until then, NZ had enjoyed unlimited access to Britain for its agricultural products and at one stage there was even a law passed that said they had to be given priority for our exports.

When Britain joined the EEC, many NZer’s felt hurt and disappointed that the so called ‘mother country’ had deserted us and that we now had to find new markets for our agricultural exports. . .

Busy field days tenure comes to an end – Sally Rae:

Ask Sharon Paterson to recall the most memorable moments during her tenure as event manager-secretary of the Southern Field Days, and an unlikely response is forthcoming.

It was the day she and then organising committee chairman Logan Evans were chatting to Prime Minister John Key and deputy Prime Minister Bill English when they were “photo-bombed” by Road Safety Southland mascot Harry the Hippo.

“That was so hilarious,” Mrs Paterson recalled.

Thousands of people will converge on the small, rural settlement of Waimumu this week for the event, which is held every second year — this year from Wednesday to Friday. . . .

Are you up for the challenge? – Nigel Malthus:

A new event for the 2020 Southern Field Days will be an ‘Amazing Race’-style challenge.

The event is aimed at exciting and informing young people about employment opportunities across the agricultural sector.

Pitched at school pupils, school leavers and career changers, the “Food & Fibre Discovery Challenge” will have participants following clues and answering questions as they navigate around the grounds between participating exhibitors.  . . 

Fiftieth year for New Zealand innovation – Richard Davison:

Fifty years ago, the spirit of “fair go” led to a new branch of rural competition in Balclutha, that has since spread worldwide.

The Otago Shearing and Woolhandling Championships take place in the South Otago town once more tomorrow, but it is only thanks to the self-described stubbornness of former Clinton farmer Don Moffat that the woolhandlers will be celebrating 50 years of competition this time round.

Otago Shears chairman in 1969-70, Mr Moffat believed the efforts and skill of the South’s woolhandlers were such that they deserved their own branch of competition. . . 

Share-farming and leasing properties enabled a Riverina couple to reduce risk – Olivia Calver:

Entering farming is becoming more and more restrictive as land prices surge, but Kendra and Brent Kerrisk, Ganmain found share-farming and leasing properties enabled them to get a foothold in the industry.

The Kerrisk’s, both from rural backgrounds in New Zealand, came out to Australia 14 years ago with the goal to buy a house with some acreage. . .

 


Rural round-up

February 5, 2020

It’s tinder dry – Sonita Chandar:

As temperatures soar and paddocks start to frizzle farmers in Northland are destocking and buying in feed while firefighters are nervously standing by waiting for the sirens to go.

“You could say we are pretty much on edge and on constant standby,” Northland deputy principal fire officer Wayne Martin says.

“Whenever we are called to an event we pretty much throw everything we have got at it to make sure we don’t end up with an Australia-type incident, especially if we have to travel a fair distance to get there. We will send the helicopter out as well to reduce the risk of it spreading and to contain the loss of acreage.” . . 

Hard yards on family farm pays off – Sudesh Kissun:

Harvesting 15 tonnes of cabbage in hailstorms and hand weeding paddocks under a scorching sun made a perfect training ground for Austin Singh Purewal.

The 18-year-old, who won the NZ Young Vegetable Grower of the Year award two months ago, says the hard work on the family farm is paying off.

Purewal, the youngest-ever to win the title, told Hort News that although growing up on the family farm wasn’t easy, he enjoyed the challenges. . . 

LIC delivers steady first half – Hugh Stringleman:

LIC has delivered a steady interim result in line with expectations during the 2020 financial year, including a small rise in revenue and a small drop in first-half earnings.

Revenue in the six months to November 30 was $163 million, up 1.4% from the corresponding period last year.

Earnings before interest and tax were $43.1m, down 6.5% and net profit after tax was $30.3m, down 7.6%.

The artificial breeding and farmer information company said earnings and profit were down because of the timing of expenses. . . 

Two cents’ worth – beetle mania – Nikki Mandow:

One man’s decades-long fight to deal with NZ’s farm effluent problems by bringing dung beetles into the country

As a child, scientist Dr Shaun Forgie was obsessed with snakes, so it was unfortunate he grew up in one of the few countries in the world that don’t have any. Instead he grubbed about in Ruakaka looking for other creepy crawlies, then completed a science degree specialising in insects.

He had planned a masters on parasitic wasps and their impact on fly strike in sheep. As one does. But one day in the lab, Forgie had a Road to Damascus moment that was to change his life, but could potentially have a far greater influence – producing a major change in New Zealand’s farming ecosystems.  . .

No sausages or salami?! The country-of-origin regulations let pork eaters down – Hilary Pearson:

Finally, New Zealand is getting country-of-origin food labelling. But the recently released draft regulations are a missed opportunity to provide consumers with clarity around where their food comes from and how it’s produced, writes Hilary Pearson of Freedom Farms.

It seems a bit laborious to rehash the already storied history of the Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Act. At this point it feels like it’s been talked about for eleventy-seven gazillion years. The bill was passed by parliament at the end of November 2018 and now, 12 months later, draft regulations have been released so we know what it’s going to look like in practice. And it’s clear it’s not as robust as pork eaters need it to be. 

In many ways we’ve timed our run poorly in terms of getting this legislation across the line. In 2018, when the bill was going through the select committee stage, some people delighted in telling me that no one really cared that much about how their food is produced, so country of origin wasn’t a big deal.

We’re now 18 months down the road from the select committee consultation and suddenly one in three New Zealanders are reportedly thinking about reducing their meat consumption because of the environmental impact of how it is produced. . . 

Rural golf course where sheep graze is teed-up for sale:

A quirky provincial golf course where sheep graze the fairways to keep the grass under control has been placed on the market for sale.

The Tumahu Golf Club near Okato in Western Taranaki is an 9-hole course where players have been driving down the fairways and putting on the greens for some 70 years. As a classic Kiwi ‘rural’ course, sheep graze the fairways, with knee-high electric wire fencing keeping stock off the putting greens.

However, with many Tumahu Golf Club members now aged in their 60s and 70s, the steady decline in core membership has seen the club’s fortunes wane. Big swinging Tumahu Golf Club members played their last club day just before Christmas. The course remained open until just after the start of the new year to allow for holiday golfers to get a final round in. The course has now officially closed down. . . 


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