Rural round-up

14/05/2021

Global food demand on fraught path – Anna Campbell:

My eldest son is flatting and when he comes to visit, one of the first things he does is open our fridge and moan about the price of cheese. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I remember doing the same to my parents.

What we eat and the quality of what we eat, is correlated with what we earn and this is a global phenomenon. All over the world, as wealth increases, so too does consumption of proteins, particularly meat and milk (and fancy cheeses).

We have seen this in China, as the country’s wealth has increased, so too has their consumption of dairy and meat products.

This has been hugely important for New Zealand’s economy and ongoing standard of living. This year, close to 50% of our meat production has been exported to China — no wonder our exporters shake in their boots when politicians start laying down principles. But that is another matter. . . 

Vet shortage nationa-wide pushing them to breaking point – Hugo Cameron:

Vets say a nationwide shortage of staff, drought and uncertainty due to Covid-19 is pushing them to a breaking point.

Veterinary Association (NZVA) chief officer Helen Beattie said the country is between 50 and 100 vets short, which is affecting the well-being of both people and animals.

“We know there’s a bunch of vets out there that are going well above and beyond and, as we know, that’s for a limited time only for all of us.”

Beattie said NZVA had talked to vets who had stood down temporarily due to work-life imbalance affecting the well-being of them and their families. . .

From MP to farmer politician – Sally Rae:

Mark Patterson has gone from farming to politics to farmer politics.

Mr Patterson, who served one term as a New Zealand First list MP, has been elected president of Federated Farmers Otago, taking over from Simon Davies who stepped down at the recent annual meeting in Tapanui.

With his previous experience in Parliament — which ended after last year’s general election when New Zealand First failed to make the 5% threshold — the Lawrence farmer said he felt an obligation to “give something back”. While not necessarily looking to take over as president, he was asked and agreed to take it on.

Asked what the transition had been like from Parliament to back on the farm, Mr Patterson said it did not take too long “to get back into the rhythm”, given he had been farming for 30 years before becoming an MP. . . 

Farms underway for NEew Zealand’s first solar farms – Business Desk:

A new company says it intends to build New Zealand’s first major industrial-scale solar farms at a cost of $300 million.

The five solar farms across the upper North Island would generate approximately 400 Gigawatt hours (GWh), with more than 500,000 solar panels over 500ha of land.

Lodestone Energy managing director Gary Holden says the development is the most ambitious solar venture in NZ to date, and will provide solar energy to Dargaville, Kaitaia, Whakatāne, Edgecumbe and Whitianga.

The first site planned for development is a 62 GWh solar plant in Kaitaia, it will have up to 80,000 panels and will supply electricity directly to a Top Energy substation. . . 

Demand up for New Zealand wool grease – Sally Murphy:

Global demand for wool grease is seeing big returns for a New Zealand exporter.

The grease which is a by-product of wool scouring is used in cosmetics, skincare and medicines.

New Zealand wool is high in cholesterol which can then be turned into vitamin D. The vitamin is in Covid-19 vaccines which is increasing demand for wool grease.

WoolWorks New Zealand is the only company in the country that produces and exports wool grease. . .

Victorian Rabbit Action Network says community action is key – Rebecca Nadge:

The Victorian Rabbit Action Network says ongoing community led action against rabbit numbers is having an impact, but managing the pest is a shared responsibility.

VRAN mentor Neil Devanny delivers training courses on rabbit control to communities around the state.

He said areas with the most success were communities that had a coordinated approach to control work.

A range of methods were required to tackle populations, he said, which included being aware of how many rabbits there were and ensuring all control work was carried out at the optimum time. . .


Rural round-up

10/05/2021

Fonterra boss Miles Hurrell says turning around the dairy giant has not been smooth sailing – Tina Morrison:

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell faced a daunting task when he was asked to take the helm of the country’s largest company in 2018, but he is getting the dairy giant in shape.

The co-operative owned by its 10,000 farmer suppliers and supporting some 20,000 employees was heading for its first annual loss since its creation in 2001 after a period of big expansion failed to deliver the promised profits and left it saddled with too much debt.

Hurrell, an 18-year veteran of Fonterra and head of the Farm Source unit that worked with farmers, talked with his wife and a few close friends who backed him to take on the challenge of what was looking like a tough couple of years.

“I was under no illusion at that point in time about what needed to be done,” he says. “Clearly we needed to go about doing things differently.” . . 

Living the good life after ‘bovis’– Sally Rae:

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for South Canterbury farmers Kelly and Morgan Campbell since their cattle were the first in New Zealand to be depopulated due to Mycoplasma bovis. But they have come out the other side with a new business venture. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

On a lifestyle block in rural South Canterbury, Kelly and Morgan Campbell are living the good life.

Residing in their dream home, surrounded by hundreds of happy hens, their seemingly idyllic existence belies the roller-coaster ride they have lived the past few years.

Morgan Campbell arguably summed it up best by saying: “it’s a crazy story … with lots of kinks and curves … along the way. Dead cows, IVF and chickens.” . . 

Sheep numbers plummet by 800,000 in a year – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s sheep numbers plummeted by almost a million in 2020, new data shows.

Figures from Stats NZ put the sheep population at 26 million for the year ended June 2020, a fall of 800,000 from the previous year and a far cry from the peak of 70 million sheep in 1982.

Stats NZ agricultural production statistics manager Ana Krpo said widespread drought conditions and feed shortages were a major factor in the 3 per cent fall.

“Hawke’s Bay had the largest decrease, with the total number of sheep falling by 12 per cent (346,000) from the previous year to a total of 2.5 million as at June 2020.” . . 

Too many customers, not enough grapes, Marlborough winemakers struggling to match demand – Hugo Cameron:

Key export markets are thirsty for Marlborough wine, but low grape yields mean that demand is outstripping supply.

Frost and cold weather early in the season led to smaller harvests from many vineyards in the area and the smaller crop could leave some wineries facing tough decisions on who they can supply over the next year, industry group Wine Marlborough says

Caythorpe Family Estate owner Simon Bishell said the grape yield was about 25 to 30 percent down on the normal volume.

The business had seen plenty of fresh interest, but supplying those new customers after a slim harvest was a challenge, Bishell said. . . 

100 years on the land – Shawn McAvinue:

The Frame family recently celebrated 100 years of farming Burnbank in Teviot Valley. Shawn McAvinue talks to Bill and Gwenda Frame about how four generations have transformed the land from an unfenced block covered in gorse and rabbits to a productive sheep and beef farm.

A blanket of snow covered the land when Bill Frame was born on the sheep and beef farm Burnbank in Teviot Valley, on New Year’s Day in 1932.

When the snow melted, rabbits covered the farm in Dumbarton, near Ettrick.

As the baby boy grew, so did the rabbit population, and a dream was born. . . 

Meet challenges head-on says Beef Achiever Tracey Hayes – Shan Goodwin:

IF there is piece of advice Tracey Hayes believes has the power to guarantee a prosperous future for every sector of Australia’s beef industry, it’s the idea of never shying from a challenge.

Don’t turn a blind eye to what’s difficult, regardless of how insurmountable it may appear. Instead focus on precisely that.

These were the words from Ms Hayes after she was named the 2021 Queensland Country Life Beef Achiever at Beef Australia in Rockhampton last week.

Ms Hayes is an agribusiness executive with a beef production background and a down-to-earth persona that has made her one of the most liked, and respected, identities in the cattle game. . . 


Rural round-up

22/04/2021

Risks to our industry – Elbow Deep:

On the 14th of August 2020, Gulf Livestock 1 left the Port of Napier bound for China carrying 43 crew and 5,867 cattle. Seventeen days into its journey, after sailing into the path of a typhoon and losing power to its engine, Gulf Livestock 1 capsized with only one crew member surviving and all the animals on board perishing.

This tragedy spurred the Government to suspend live export shipments while a review was undertaken. Two months later shipments resumed but the writing was on the wall, public sentiment had been heavily against the practice for years, and last week the Government announced shipments of live animals would be phased out over two years’ time.

It doesn’t matter that the sinking of Gulf Livestock 1 was a maritime disaster unrelated to its cargo, the vessel had been flagged in both Indonesia and Australia for poor engine maintenance and improperly filed voyage plans, or that it was the only vessel to head directly into the typhoon while all the other ships in the vicinity sought shelter. . . 

Nor does it matter what the conditions were like on-board more modern livestock carriers; how much feed is available; how many vets are on call or even if that the animals gain weight on their journey. . .

Farmers struggling to access water for stock – Sally Murphy:

Dry conditions around the country are causing issues with stock drinking water supplies and crop production a new survey has found.

Nearly 550 farmers responded to Federated Farmers 2021 Drought Survey over the last couple of weeks, painting a picture of conditions.

The survey found with little to no rain farmers are struggling to access water for their stock as dams waterways and aquifers are either substantially lower than normal or completely dry.

Respondents also highlighted issues with authority operated schemes not able to monitor those who are taking too much water from urban development, causing those down the scheme to have too little. . . 

‘Designer’ deer herds touted to help farmers – Hugo Cameron:

A researcher looking at the different foraging behaviours of deer says it could help farmers create the perfect “designer herd” for their land.

AgResearch associate Bryan Thompson said individual deer had preferences for where they wanted to feed – ranging from intensive lowland farms to rugged high-country hills.

He said there was a range of factors that influenced where a deer wanted to forage, including its personality, health, social interactions, past experience, food availability and diet.

Thompson said if those foraging behaviours were better understood, it might be possible to create herds with deer that were suited to specific farms. . . 

‘Game-changer’ tool for agricultural aircraft safety – Riley Kennedy:

A new tool has been launched to make sure agricultural spreader pilots are safer in the air.

Mosgiel technology company TracMap released its new TML-A GPS aviation guidance unit yesterday at a special event at the Otago aerodrome.

The digital, touch screen system, which sits in the cockpit with the pilots, aims to make the pilots’ time in the air more effective, enjoyable, and eliminates one of their greatest risks.

The new system can detect wires, such as powerlines, and lets the pilots know when the hazards are near. . . 

Smaller vintage of exceptional quality:

The New Zealand wine harvest is nearing completion, and a superb summer throughout most of the country means the industry is looking forward to a vintage of excellent quality, according to New Zealand Winegrowers.

“All reports indicate the quality of the harvest so far is exceptional, and we are looking forward to some fantastic wines coming out of this year’s vintage,” says Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers.

While it is still too early to confirm final numbers, it is clear the overall crop size is down on previous years. “There will be some variability across different parts of the country, but the industry is anticipating a significantly smaller vintage across several New Zealand wine regions this year.” . . 

Substantial Northland kiwifruit landholding placed on the market for sale:

A substantial kiwifruit landholding owned and managed by New Zealand’s biggest kiwifruit producer – and with potential to convert vines to higher-value kiwifruit varieties – has been placed on the market for sale.

The portfolio consists of three blocks in Kerikeri, Northland. Combined, the three separate lots comprise some 12 hectares of kiwifruit growing operations in various stages of production – complete with irrigation and established shelters – and a further near 15 hectares of land.

The property is owned and fully managed by leading New Zealand kiwifruit growing and harvesting specialist firm Seeka. In their current format and configuration, the orchards within the Kerikeri block consist of: . . 


Rural round-up

26/03/2021

Sensible pause – Rural News:

Finally the Government has made a sensible move to temporarily pause the implementation of the impractical rules that accompany its proposed regulations on winter grazing.

Last week Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced a temporary delay, until 1 May 2022, of intensive winter grazing (IWG) rules taking effect.

For months farmers, industry groups and councils around the country have highlighted the unworkability of the rules and that numerous issues need to be addressed. Hopefully, this extra time will ensure that both politicians and bureaucrats will now listen to the real concerns of farmers and councils, and implement rules that will actually work to benefit the environment and farming.

It is unbelievable that despite empirical evidence about how the IWG rules, that were part of the Essential Freshwater legislation passed in August last year, had a number of unworkable parts, ministers and bureaucrats took so long to act. This ‘we know best’ attitude needs to change as it is a huge hindrance to making any real progress in improving the country’s water. . . 

South Island Agricultural Field Days expects to draw 30,000 to N Canty – Hugo Cameron:

The Canterbury town of Kirwee is expecting to see up to 30,000 people turn up for one of the country’s largest regional field days events this week.

The South Island Agricultural Field Days, founded in 1951, is the oldest show of its kind in New Zealand and is taking place through until Friday.

Event chairperson Michaela McLeod said she was looking forward to bringing the sector together after a tough year due to Covid-19.

“There have been a number of A&P shows and other events cancelled around the country. They are such important events for farmers and traders, and I know it’s been very hard on a lot of people not having them,” she said. . . 

Anger, guilt and optimism: young farmers’ complicated relationship with climate change – Charlie O’Mannin:

As farming confronts its climate impact, Charlie O’Mannin speaks to the next generation about how they feel. In short: it’s complicated.

“If you’re waking up every morning feeling awful about the job you’re in, feeling like you’re the reason climate change is happening, like you need to counteract your emissions, like you need fewer cows, well what would be the point in waking up and getting the cows in?”

Briana Lyons belongs to a generation of young farmers facing a radical future.

Agriculture makes up 48 per cent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Ministry for the Environment’s 2018 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report. . . 

Two million tonnes of greenhouse gas up for grabs with minimal production hit:

Ravensdown’s recommendations to the Climate Change Commission focus on three specific solutions that can save two million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year with minimal impact on agsector production.

The farmer-owned co-operative’s submission sent yesterday points out the potential savings of using inhibitors that reduce the amount of nitrous oxide being emitted and lost from granulated nitrogen fertiliser and livestock urine.

“Proven urease inhibitors are available for use at scale across New Zealand. Nitrification inhibitors have shown promise in the past and should also be pursued for the future. For both, we’re asking that the Commission looks into how obstacles to adoption can be overcome,” said Mike Manning, General Manager Innovation and Strategy at the co-operative.

“We agree with the Commission that agsector productivity is key – especially when the country is facing such debt and economic uncertainty. At the same time, we believe in smarter farming, in New Zealand’s ambition to hit its climate goals and in the need for practical, scalable innovations to do so,” added Mike. . . 

Leading kiwifruit companies to amalgamate:

Seeka Limited (“Seeka”) and Opotiki Packing and Cool Storage Limited (“OPAC”) are to join via amalgamation. This transaction will see Seeka expand further to be operational in all of New Zealand’s major kiwifruit growing regions in a deal that continues to consolidate the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.

The OPAC shareholders will receive new shares in Seeka at the ratio of 1.4833 Seeka shares for every 1 OPAC share held, valuing the net assets of OPAC at $33.94m provided OPAC shareholders approve the transaction with a 75% approval required. Seeka will assume approximately $25.06m of debt as part of the acquisition bringing the total deal to $59.00m.

The offer is subject to a number of conditions, including approval of OPAC’s shareholders to the amalgamation at a shareholders’ meeting to be held on Tuesday 13 April 2021; and approval by Seeka’s shareholders to the issue of up to 7,042,574 new shares in Seeka at the ASM to be held on Friday 16 April 2021. Further details will be advised in the respective Notice of Meeting to be sent to each Company’s shareholders prior to their meetings. . .

Flood damage: where to find help – Andrew Norris:

As we watch the damage emerge along NSW’s coastal regions as the flood waters move through, you can’t help but feel for those who have copped the brunt of it.

The sheer extent of the flooding has been incredible, and to hear multiple stories about how livestock have been stranded or have turned up in unusual places like the beach or somebody’s backyard is quite bewildering.

This is all before the damage assessment begins in earnest. The extent of infrastructure that will need repairing or replacing and the amount of pastures that will remain unsuitable for grazing will be extensive.

The federal government already has lump sum payments available for which those affected by the March floods can apply, although Moree, which is also dealing with major flooding now too, was not on that list as we went to print (visit www.servicesaustralia.gov.au). . . 


Rural round-up

19/03/2021

B+LNZ’s reaction to the Government’s intensive winter grazing announcement:

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says it’s encouraging the Government has accepted some of the Southland winter grazing advisory group’s proposals, including supporting an industry-led Intensive Winter Grazing (IWG) module to farm plans in the coming year, and the delayed implementation of the winter grazing rules.

Minister O’Connor made the point to our Annual Meeting that more time is needed to work through the Southland group’s recommendations and to write robust policy as a result. We welcome this commitment to getting it right and look forward to working with the Government on this process.

“B+LNZ has been an integral part of the industry front-footing action on the ground. Our belief has always been that industry-led, tested and practical solutions achieve better results than arbitrary rules.

“B+LNZ led the development of the IWG module, and this module is already part of the B+LNZ farm plan launched today and which is being rolled out in the coming weeks as part of our commitment to supporting resilient, profitable farming businesses while achieving positive and lasting environmental outcomes. . .

Rural health workers decline Covid-19 vaccine due to ‘hours of travel’ – Rowan Quinn:

Some rural doctors, nurses and frontline health workers are turning down their first chance of getting a Covid vaccine because they would have to take hours out of their busy day to get one..

They fear it is a signal for what is to come for the wider rural community.

Whangamata doctor and Rural GPs Network chair Fiona Bolden said frontline health staff in the Coromandel have had the call up to get their first vaccination.

Some had not been able to take it up because they would have to make a return journey to Hamilton to get it, and do that again for the second dose three weeks later . . .

Pastoral lease reform back to the future? – Catherine Irons, Mike Britton, Allan Brent:

Will the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill achieve its objectives or will it turn the clock back, reviving old tensions

The Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill, currently before Parliament, will end the 30-year programme called tenure review. Tenure review allows pastoral leaseholders to separate the land they lease from the Crown into two types: farmland where the farm is owned by them freehold and conservation land held by the Crown.

If the Bill becomes law, remaining pastoral leases will continue but with stronger rules limiting the changes leaseholders might make to their farming methods.

We are members of a newly established non-governmental organisation, the Environmental Law Initiative, and we think this Bill will in fact create greater problems in a climate-changed future. . . .

Saving Dolly – Owen Jennings:

The cow has become a much maligned beast of late.  She makes our rivers unswimmable, puts nitrogen in our drinking water, pugs the ground causing erosion and farts and belches poisonous Greenhouse Gases into the atmosphere.  No wonder people don’t want to eat her bountiful products anymore.

Of course, most of that, if not all, is blatantly untrue but it makes for selling copy, keeping well paid academics in their job and the green lobby groups’ coffers filled.

Take the bit about farting and belching.  The story goes that cows emit Methane as they chew their cud.  Methane is a potent Greenhouse Gas.  Greenhouse Gases trap heat in the atmosphere and warm our planet.  The story concludes it is going to get so hot we are all going to die.  Leaves Baldacci and Grisham in the dust.

Now for some balance.  Farms use huge amounts of CO2.  Dr Bradley Case at AUT found farms take in about 90% of the Greenhouse Gas they emit in the woody vegetation and trees alone on the farm. That’s not counting the grass which uses even more CO2 in photosynthesis.  Farms are a net sink. . . 

Native plants can boost crop yields new study shows – Hugo Cameron:

New research shows fruit and vegetable growers can utilise native bush to increase yields and protect plants from pests.

The Plant and Food Research study found having more native plants near crops could attract insects that help with pollination and combat some harmful pests.

Figures from the Ministry for Primary Industries showed insect-pollinated crops such as kiwifruit and avocados were worth about $2 billion to the national economy. . .

Foot and Mouth: hoping that painful lessons have been learnt :

SIR, – Your recent articles commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 2001 foot-and-mouth (FMD) outbreak brought back some bitter and heartbreaking memories for my family.

We had not been farming for long here and were in the process of building up a pedigree flock of 1000 Lleyn ewes when disaster struck as a result of a single ram being purchased at Longtown on that fateful day, February 22, resulting in the entire flock along with my wife’s cherished, prize-winning flock of Jacobs as well as some rare breeds being culled.

The irony for us was that not only was the ram and our flock never infected with the disease, but the nearest outbreak to us was more than 40 miles away

 


Rural round-up

13/03/2021

More scientific proof needed – David Anderson:

A new report has joined the chorus within the agricultural sector calling for proper scientific testing of the claims being made by regenerative agriculture practitioners and proponents.

Some of the claims made by regenerative agriculture advocates currently include that it can improve waterways, reduce topsoil losses, offer drought resilience, add value to primary exports and improve the ‘well-being crisis’ among rural farming communities.

However, a new white paper on regenerative agriculture, recently released by Our Land and Water, says there is an urgent need for clarity about what regenerative agriculture is in New Zealand and for accurate scientific testing of its claimed benefits.

The research was funded by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, the NEXT Foundation and Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. . . 

Pork industry demands law change for imported products to be labelled– Riley Kennedy:

The pork industry has slammed the government for refusing to make labelling country of origin mandatory on all imported pork.

Laws designed to give people clarity on where their food comes from were passed in 2018. However, last year the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said there would be a 12-month delay in the new rules coming into effect due to Covid-19.

As part of this, imported pork will need to be labelled with its country of origin, however, the pork industry says a loophole has been left unadvised.

This means pork that is imported and then further processed in New Zealand, including bacon and ham, will not be required to have such labelling. . . 

MPI lost touch – Peter Burke:

MPI boss Ray Smith says with the advent of the climate change proposals and the new essential fresh water regulations, MPI is gearing itself up to help farmers deal with these matters by getting more staff out into the field.

He believes that climate change is the biggest challenge of this generation.

“When I first started it was obvious to me that MPI had lost its outreach and in a sense it had lost some key relationships,” Smith told Rural News. “So we have built an agricultural investment service that has started to put that back and we have more people now based regionally. They have tended to deal with adverse events and things like that, which is good. But I am keen to build that service even further so we can stand alongside farmers and be an independent voice.”

He says the aim is get back some of what was lost many years ago with the demise of the Farm Advisory officers. . .

Automation a mixed blessing for fruit sector – Richard Rennie:

Burgeoning crop volumes have prompted the horticultural sector to lift pay rates as it competes on a tight labour market. The shortage and the cost increases put automation and robotics under the spotlight to help ease labour pressures. Richard Rennie looks at whether robots will replace humans on orchards sooner than later.

Last week’s announcement the kiwifruit sector would be paying a living wage of $22.10 an hour for packhouse work has the sector hoping higher wages will help fill a yawning labour shortage this year.

Filling that gap has only grown more challenging with the exponential growth in kiwifruit volumes over the past five years. The 23,000 workers estimated to be needed by 2027 are needed this year, and the 190 million trays expected to be achieved by then is now likely next season.

Further south the apple sector is grappling with similar issues, requiring at least 10,000 pickers and packhouse staff this season, drawing off locals, a national shared pool of 7000 Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) staff and any remaining backpackers. . . 

Feijoa harvest in full tilt a month early in Gisborne – Hugo Cameron:

Feijoas are expected to hit the shelves this week as good growing conditions have seen harvesting of this season’s crop kick off a month earlier than usual.

Kaiaponi Farms has been growing feijoas in Gisborne for the past 20 years and sells the fruit through its Joa brand for both the local and export markets.

Spokesperson David Hansen said the first fruit would normally be picked at the start March but the harvest got under way last month and was now in full swing, with decent volumes coming through.

The farm had seen sunny conditions which was great for the crops, along with a decent dose of water, Hansen said. . . 

 

Now is the time to talk to consumers – Charlie Beaty:

There has never been a bigger gap between the people producing food and the people consuming it.

Most people knew a farmer or were even related to one 70 years ago. Today, there are children who have never seen a real sheep.

They have no idea that bread is made from a wheat crop that grows in the fields. It’s a threat to our industry, there’s no doubt.

But it’s also an opportunity to step in, share the “what”, the “why” and the “how” of our industry. So let’s seize it. . . 


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