Rural round-up

April 5, 2020

Meat workers fight battle in small towns – Tim Ritchie:

Meat processing workers are among the heroes in our community, writes Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie.

Right  now, millions of New Zealanders are in a lockdown, following the Government’s announcement last week that the country is in Alert Level 4.

However, the situation is quite different for the many people who work in jobs considered essential services — healthcare professionals, border agencies, media, public safety and local and national government.

But also playing a critical but less visible role are more than 25,000 Kiwis working in the red meat processing sector. That’s because the Government has recognised the importance of the food production sector and classified meat processing companies as an essential service. . . 

Staying connected in isolation – a farmers’ guide – Karen WIlliams:

Sticking in our own bubble has never been as important as it is now. With New Zealand currently at Alert Level 4, everyone except those providing essential services must stay at home and self-isolate. Some farmers may feel that this is a continuation of their business as usual, because sometimes it can be a couple of days before we see anyone else.      

Even though we must self-isolate, there are some steps that we can take to ensure that we are still virtually connected to the communities around us, be it all the farming families along the shingle road or just your immediate neighbours.   

There are numerous examples of video calling technologies out there which we can use to stay connected, including WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and FaceTime.  They’re pretty easy to use. WhatsApp and Facebook messenger can be downloaded from the iTunes store or through Google Play.    

About 15 years ago I set up a neighbourhood email contact list which includes about 60 residents contact details along our road. I did this because of a burglary that I thought neighbours should know about and also a desire to make sure our community of farmers and lifestyle block owners stayed connected. It’s worked well, with many social occasions having sprung out of the initiative, and more recently it enabled the kick-start of our Community Catchment Group. Little did I know however that this email network would form the basis of our community connections during a pandemic! . . .

Covid-19: Fruit industry facing hurdles with harvest due to restrictions – Andrew McRae:

The kiwifruit industry is fighting for survival as it tries to pick and pack the season’s crop while enforcing Covid-19 restrictions.

The apple industry is also predicting problems with at least 10 percent of the crop not likely to be picked.

The nationwide lockdown has come right in the middle of the harvest season.

Mark Hume from Hume Pak ‘n Cool in Katikati normally employs 400 to 500 people in his packing shed, and about 180 pickers – all focusing on kiwifruit.

With the two-metre distance rule in place, his cool store will need to reduce staff by half. . . 

Young farmer pumping out six times as many Delivery boxes as usual – Maddison Northcott,:

Bundling together six times as many boxes of vegetables as usual is helping keep one rural Canterbury farm in business, getting fresh produce to customers all over the region.

Dominique Schacherer, co-owner of the Spring Collective, a 16-hectare market garden in Leeston, said orders for their curated boxes had sky-rocketed, with bookings growing from 40 to 250 weekly boxes in a handful of days.

The collective opened three years ago with the goal of supplying sustainably grown produce to farmers’ markets, restaurants and supermarkets. . .

Working on the farm: your Covid-19 questions answered – Glen Scanlon:

As Covid-19 spreads around the world, it can be daunting keeping up with the information. For RNZ, our responsibility is to give you verified, up to the minute, trustworthy information to help you make decisions about your lives and your health. We’ll also be asking questions of officials and decision makers about how they’re responding to the virus. Our aim is to keep you informed.

They’re back to number one in the export earning stakes and remain critical to our food chain, so what can farmers get up to during the Covid-19 crisis?

Here are some of their questions:

I manage a small farm and at present the animals need water taken to them because the dams that supplied their troughs are dried up. We are also moving electric fencing every few days to give them pasture to graze on. Can I and my two regular part-time farm workers carry out this work? We have modified our work practices already and travel around the farm in separate vehicles and maintain distance between ourselves when out of the vehicles. . . 

 

Why doesn’t Britain value its farmers? – James Rebanks:

They say eight people in our little village have got this plague. It seems weird that it would have found its way here, to these isolated northern farming valleys, where the snow clings on to the high fells, and the woodsmoke rises from the scattered farmhouses.

I always imagined that the apocalypse would look a bit like the movie of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But this valley seems oblivious to the crisis — it is all daffodils, snowdrops, birdsong, and trees bursting into leaf.

My flock is down in the valley bottom. The first lamb of the year was born today and is now lying with its mother. I come in from the fields and the TV news is like something from a science-fiction movie — they are building giant makeshift hospitals in the city centers. People are dying in their hundreds every day. But not far from the farmhouse a duck has made a nest by our pond and has laid thirteen pale green eggs in the midst of a perfect downy circle. . . 


Rural round-up

March 31, 2020

Resuscitating a virus-ravaged economy – the answer lies in the soil and the exports it generates – Point of Order:

Westpac is forecasting 200,000 jobs will be lost in NZ as a result of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.  Chief economist Dominick Stephens estimates economic activity during the four week lock-down would decline by a third, despite the government and the Reserve Bank having “done a lot to calm financial markets”.

Stephens said his feeling was that GDP in the three months to June would fall by more than 10%— “which is completely unprecedented in our lifetimes”.

The  Westpac  diagnosis  reinforces  the argument  advanced  by  Point of   Order   in  one of  its most intently  read  posts:  “After the lock-down the  economy’s  recovery  will be  dependent on dairy farmers and  their  milk”. . . 

Covid 19 coronavirus: It’s essential that agriculture does its bit – Chris Lewis:

To beat Covid-19 those working on the land must do their bit on-farm and off, writes Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis.

Just like our hard working medical and emergency services, communications and infrastructure teams, the next four weeks will see farmers and their supporting services continuing to work while most of the country is locked down.

Being away from the high populations of our urban centres is an advantage in a time when we need to limit people contact and for many, business on the farm will largely feel like usual.

But for all of us to beat this, those working on the land must do their bit on the farm and off. . . 

Protocols present harvest challenges – Richard Rennie:

As Covid-19 protocols for essential industry staff become clearer, the kiwifruit sector is facing some tough decisions on how realistic they will prove for this year’s harvest to be successful.

Growers have only one day to go for registration as an “essential business”, and all growers and contractors with over five staff will be required to be registered with Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). 

Businesses have until 5pm on Friday March 27 to be registered.

Doug Brown NZKGI chairman said he could not reiterate enough the importance of registering under Level 4 Covid-19 rules. . . 

 

Whanganui meat business Coastal Spring Lamb wins another food award – Laurel Stowell :

A second food award is a ray of sunshine amid a time of drought and pandemic for Turakina farmer Richard Redmayne.

He founded and, with farming partners, owns the Coastal Spring Lamb brand. Its lamb backstraps have won a gold medal in the Outstanding New Zealand Food Producers Awards, announced on March 24. Other gold winners in the category were beef and chicken products, and eggs.

The awards are judged 75 per cent on taste, 15 per cent on sustainability and 10 per cent on brand. Judges said the lamb backstraps were “a real class act”, with sustainability built in, consideration for animal welfare and care for the land. . . 

Raw milk rings alarm bells – Richard Rennie:

The increasingly popular and often controversial choice to drink raw milk has had alarm bells ringing among public health officials in recent years. Richard Rennie spoke to veterinarian and researcher Genevieve Davys about her work with Massey University disease experts on the link between raw milk and campylobacter.

Research has revealed children under 10 are most likely to contract campylobacter disease by drinking raw milk and account for 29% of the raw milk-related cases notified in the MidCentral Health district from 2012 to 2017.

The study collected data on all cases of campylobacter notified in that period. It then dug deeper into raw milk campylobacteriosis cases, comparing the demographics of them to other campylobacter cases where raw milk was not drunk.

Raw milk was linked to almost 8% of the notified cases.  . . 

New protocols to keep the shears clicking during the coronavirus emergency – Vernon Graham:

Shearers and shed hands should travel to work in separate vehicles, according to new wool harvesting protocols.

They should only travel together if the vehicle (eg, a bus) is big enough to allow the recommended 1.5 metres spacing between them.

The protocols have been developed in a collaboration between AWEX, WoolProducers Australia, Sheep Producers Australia, the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia and the WA Shearing Industry Association. . .

 


Rural round-up

February 29, 2020

Attacking the noblest profession – Hamish Marr:

In this, the second in a series written by the latest crop of Nuffield Scholars farmer Hamish Marr says farmers are down because they are constantly being attacked while at the same time being denied access to the tools that can help them feed the world while addressing critics’ concerns.

After almost half of this year travelling the world there are a lot of thoughts in my head regarding agriculture and farming.

The biggest take-home for me is the universal problem of people wanting what they haven’t got simply through believing the grass is always greener over the fence and genuinely not understanding agriculture and what is involved in food production. . .

Country Calendar: busy life for Young Farmer Of The Year contestant – Melenie Parkes:

Lisa Kendall is a farmer with a full plate. As well as running her own business, she also works at a rural supply store and volunteers with Riding For The Disabled. 

She also won the Northern Regional final of Young Farmer Of The Year competition and is in the running for the Grand Final in July. As if that’s not enough, she is also pregnant with her first baby.

“The baby will be a farming baby,” says Kendall emphatically. “It will have to be,” she laughs. . . 

Energy the next ag evolution? – Cameron Henderson:

This is the first in a series of articles written by the latest crop of Nuffield Scholars. This week Canterbury farmer Cam Henderson looks at the possibility of farmers generating energy while combatting climate change and being easier on the environment.

Prices are good and interest rates are low but farmers’ moods are down because the regulatory pressure gives them little hope for the future. 

Researchers are furiously searching for more sustainable ways of farming food and fibre but what if there was a whole new sector that could provide a light at the end of the tunnel? . . 

Fonterra reaffirms forecast farmgate milk price and earnings guidance, and revises milk collections:

Fonterra Co-operative has reaffirmed its forecast Farmgate Milk Price range at $7.00-7.60 per kgMS and its forecast full-year underlying earnings guidance of 15-25 cents per share. It has also revised its forecast milk collections for the 2020 season down from 1,530 million kgMS to 1,515 million kgMS.

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell says the Co-operative remains confident in its forecast Farmgate Milk Price range and it is also maintaining its underlying earnings guidance of 15-25 cents per share despite current market conditions as a result of coronavirus. . . 

A2 Milk profit rises as infant formula sales increase:

A2 Milk has delivered a strong financial result, with increased sales in its infant nutrition business and with better than expected profit margins.

The specialty milk company’s net profit rose 21 percent in the six months to December to $184.9m, with an underlying sales margin of 32.6 percent.

Sales rose 32 percent to $806.7m, with a 33 percent gain in the infant nutrition business. . . 

West Coast DHB recruiting ‘rural generalists’ to solve doctor shortage – Lois WIlliams:

The West Coast District Health Board is planning to tackle a shortage of hospital doctors with a new breed of medics: rural generalists.

The Association for Salaried Medical Staff (ASMS) released a staffing survey this month, revealing what it called “a whopping 43 percent shortfall of senior doctors” at the DHB.

Five out of eight heads of department at the West Coast DHB said they did not have enough specialists for their services and estimated they were eight doctors short. . .

NFU tells government to honour UK farm standards pledge :

The government has been urged by the NFU to honour its manifesto commitment in the Agriculture Bill to safeguard UK food and farming standards.

The government has published its future farming policy updates, as the Agriculture Bill goes through the Committee Stage in the House of Commons.

And at the same time, new details on the future post-Brexit Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELM) has been unveiled.

This will see farmers paid for work that enhances the environment, such as tree or hedge planting, river management to mitigate flooding, or creating or restoring habitats for wildlife . . 

 

 


Rural round-up

February 26, 2020

Wharves in China can’t take more logs from New Zealand:

Lack of space in Chinese ports is bringing a virtual halt to New Zealand log exports to China.

The Forest Owners Association says precautions in China against coronavirus have resulted in almost no offtake of logs in China for processing and exporters understand that the remaining log yard space at most ports near processing centres is quickly disappearing.

The Association President, Peter Weir says exporters had hoped that business would return to normal after the extended Lunar New Year holiday finished in China two weeks ago. . . 

Northland drought: iwi to divert farm water to Support town supply :

Northland iwi Te Rarawa and Ngāi Takoto are on stand-by to supply water to drought-stricken towns, including Kaikohe and Kaitaia.

The water will be sourced from an aquifer which runs through the iwi-owned farm, Sweetwater.

Once a 4km pipe is installed, up to 2700 cubic metres of water will be pumped from the aquifer a day . .

Chickens come to (mobile) home to roost – Sally Rae:

It is the ultimate in mobile homes.

Thousands of hens are living the life of Riley on Tony and Michelle Pringle’s South Otago farm; pecking their way around the 445ha property near Clydevale from their transportable hen houses.

When it comes to their farming operation, the couple, who milk 450 cows and farm 6500 laying hens, think outside the square — and a lot.

They have a focus on regenerative agriculture and soil health to produce nutrient-dense food. Hens were part of that as they added “another system within a system” — introducing poultry to their farming operation, while not affecting their stock numbers.

The Pringle family, who feature on the first episode of the new series of Country Calendar on March 1, started with 50 hens and quickly discovered people liked their eggs. . . 

Hemp farm opens gates to the curious to promote ‘wonder crop’ – Katie Todd:

Growers of industrial hemp say red tape is stopping industries from making the most of what many regard as a potential wonder crop.

Although it lacks the mind-altering power of its close cousin marijuana, hemp can only be grown and sold subject to Ministry of Health restrictions.

Brad Lake, co-founder of Christchurch hemp food company The Brothers Green, helped organise a hemp farm open day in Culverden yesterday, to showcase the farmers and business utilising the crop and help de-mystify how it’s grown and used. . .

Backing the trillion tree campaign to combat climate crisis – Tom Crowther:

Politicians and influencers are signing up to the campaign, but to get things right we must keep in mind the science behind it, says Tom Crowther:

The recent explosion of interest in tree restoration has transformed the climate change conversation. Although the trillion tree campaign – 1T.org – is now in the realm of politicians and influencers (Greta Thunberg: Davos leaders ignored climate activists’ demands, 24 January), it emerged from scientific literature. But what exactly did the science show?

We estimated that there is up to 0.9bn hectares of degraded land that might support a trillion trees outside of existing forest, urban or agricultural land. Although the exact carbon storage potential is debated, scientists agree that ecosystem restoration is a powerful tool for carbon drawdown.

But with anything this powerful, the risks of getting it wrong can be huge. To avoid these risks, any organisation pledging to the trillion tree campaign should uphold these basic principles. . .

Industrial property investors set to plough funds into agricultural engineering site up for sale:

The land and buildings housing a long-standing farm equipment and machinery engineering plant in the heart of the North Island’s premier dairying region has been placed on the market for sale.

The premises at 5855 State Highway 2 in Netherton features a 620 square metre industrial building complex sitting on a 1.89-hectare block of land zoned rural 1A under the Hauraki District Council plan.

The property has been the headquarters of Quinn Engineering since the 1960s – with the company producing hay-bailing machinery, crate-lifting forklift extensions, and tractor extensions for crop and soil management. Its products are sold throughout New Zealand as well as Australia and the South Pacific. . . 


Rural round-up

January 31, 2020

Iwi want greater freshwater say :

Waikato Tainui iwi say planned changes to the way lakes and rivers are managed under the Resource Management Act don’t reflect their status as co-managers of the Waikato River.

Proposed special freshwater hearing panels, to be overseen by a chief freshwater commissioner, will have one iwi representative among five panelists though the commissioner can appoint more members.

Waikato Tainui told a Parliamentary select committee they have not been consulted on the proposal and the panel make-up undermines the co-management principles that underpin their 2008 Treaty of Waitangi settlement. . . 

Waikato farmers ‘prepared’ for dry spell but some crops suffering:

Farmers in Waikato and South Auckland are increasingly worried by the drought-like conditions.

Waikato Primary Industry Adverse Event group has reported that milk production, forestry and water levels are down.

Ōhinewai Farmer and group chair Neil Bateup said farmers were prepared, but crunch time would be in a few weeks.

“They do have feed on hand and are into supplementary feeding animals now but I guess it’s a wait and see system from now on.” . . 

Farmers look for water as foresters seek workers – Benn Bathgate:

Turnips the size of radishes and wilting maize have got Waikato farmers concerned about the dry conditions and the forestry sector says a shortage of workers has put them at  greater danger of suffering from the heat too.

Waikato Regional Council said that a meeting of the Waikato Primary Industry Averse Event Cluster core group took place on Tuesday to review conditions and how farmers are coping, with group chair Neil Bateup​ warning “drought like conditions have been a feature of Waikato farming in recent summers”.

The group flagged falling milk production, and cited concerns for the forestry sector that plantings late last year might not survive the summer due to the small root base if there isn’t significant rain. . . 

Dry weather bodes well for Wairarapa wineries after previous frost-bitten harvest – Catherine Harris:

Sun-drenched Wairarapa is drying out, but what’s bad news for sheep farmers is great news for the region’s wineries.

Temperatures nearing the early 30s this week have complimented a gentle spring and warm summer nights.

Pip Goodwin, chief executive of Palliser Estate in Martinborough, said it would hopefully make up for the frosts which limited last year’s harvest. . . 

Dogs and horses at Rural Games:

The New Zealand Rural Games expects a few more four-legged visitors this year.

It supports animal welfare organisations Retired Working Dogs, Greyhounds as Pets, Life After Racing and Canine Friends Pet Therapy Dogs, which will be at the games in a bid to raise their profiles. 

Games founder Steve Hollander said they will bring a new dimension to the event.

“Dogs and horses are a huge part of many successful farms and families and have been for generations. I’m thrilled that we’ve had sponsors come on board to help each of these charities to raise their public profile during the games,” he said. . . 

Waikato Stud leading vendor at Karaka 2020:

Waikato Stud remains on top of the New Zealand breeding world after again bagging top honours at Karaka:

The Matamata farm was the leading vendor again at New Zealand Bloodstock’s Book 1 National Yearling Sale for the seventh consecutive year.

Waikato Stud consigned 71 yearlings, selling 59 at an aggregate of $9.9million.

Its top priced lot was the Savabeel colt out of Magic Dancer, Lot 79, which was purchased by Te Akau’s David Ellis for $800,000. . . 


Rural round-up

January 23, 2020

Farmers, wildlife and residents alike face water shortages as regions dry up fast – Tracy Neal:

Water cuts are looming in pockets of the country drying up fast. 

Councils in affected areas are assembling dry-weather crews, farmers are now giving extra feed to stock, and Northland kiwi birds are now struggling to feed on hard-baked soil, where the dry weather has lingered longer than usual.

Dairy farmer and kiwi conservationist Jane Hutchings said in her 30 years in the area, summer is either saturated by cyclones, or parched dry.

Right now it is the latter, and the kiwi population is struggling. . . 

Farmers’ green tinge growing – Tim Fulton:

Farmers are on a green binge recycling more waste and unwanted products through the Agrecovery scheme than ever before.

Now the Government and agri manufacturers are working on a plan to make industry hitchhikers pay their way.

Agrecovery’s waste collection rates rose 40% in the past couple of years, the animal health and agrichem lobby group Agcarm says.

Agcarm chief executive Mark Ross said the voluntary returns amount to about 437 tonnes of products, including 11 tonnes of chemicals. The total collected was about half the product in the New Zealand market at any time. . . 

Chinese palate has diverse tastes – Richard Rennie:

Shrink wrapped quail eggs, lifestyle choices and social media are all playing their parts in what and how Chinese will eat heading into the new decade.

Chinese media platform company Radii has analysed latest market trends in the country’s enormous food market as the middle class continues to grow and become a more sophisticated, discerning customer for food imports from the likes of New Zealand.

In its report food journalist Mayura Jain identifies takeout food delivery showing no signs of growth experienced in the past five years slowing down.  . . 

Project aims to give vineyard managers more information in a hail storm – Maja Burry:

Researchers are working to fill the information gap for winegrowers hit by extreme weather events.

The Blenhiem-based Bragato Research Institute has started a two-year project to work out how vineyard managers can best deal with hail storm damage to their vines.

The research follows severe hail in Hawke’s Bay in October last year, which damaged about 600 hectares of vines.

Hail in Central Otago and North Canterbury damaged vines during November. . . 

New market for sunflowers leads to big burst of colour near Timaru– Esther Ashby-Coventry:

It’s hard to miss the stunning burst of yellow in paddocks full of millions of sunflowers just south of Timaru.

They sunflowers may become a five yearly feature on owner Warren Darling’s 70 hectares of land as he takes advantage of a new market.

Usually he grows rape seed, which also produces a radiant yellow display when in flower, as well as wheat and barley, but is now considering sunflowers as part of his crop rotations. . .

Tickets on Sale for Women in Forestry conference:

Tickets are on sale for the Women in Forestry Conference, being held from 30 April – 2 May 2020 in Whangamata.

The Women in Forestry conference will bring together women in the NZ Forestry industry, to connect, learn and share experiences.

The third event of its kind, the conference is organised by the Women in Forestry Network, a grass-roots movement founded to support women in the industry.

Women in Forestry co-founder and General Manager Sarah Davidson says there is a need for more female support in the industry. . .


Rural round-up

January 15, 2020

Artificial-food debate needs science, not science fiction – Keith Woodford:

In recent months I have received many emails asking if I have seen the RethinkX report  demonstrating how in ten years’ time animal proteins will have been largely replaced by artificial foods. By 2030, demand for cattle products will supposedly have fallen by 70%. At that time the global grasslands can be returned to nature.

Then this last week the emailers have been asking if I have seen George Monbiot’s report  in The Guardian on how artificial foods will replace both plant and animal foods, thereby saving the planet. According to Monbiot, this food of the future will be made in big laboratory-like factories in which the energy to drive bacterial growth-processes comes from hydrogen separated out from within water molecules.

My response to both the RethinkX and Monbiot reports is that we need more science and less science fiction when shaping the path ahead. . . 

Meat blip no crisis – Nigel Stirling:

The sudden bout of weakness in the Chinese market at the end of last year was to be expected after a rapid run-up in prices in the previous six months, meat exporters say.

Exporters reacted swiftly to a 15-20% drop across all sheep meat and beef categories in the two weeks before Christmas with cuts to schedule prices and the revaluation lower of inventories.

The sudden drop left Chinese importers scrambling to renegotiate contracts while some refused to pick containers up from the wharves. . . 

 

Kiwi carpets are going places – Annette Scott:

Innovative yarn systems showcasing the unique characteristics of New Zealand wool are putting them on planes and into offices, shops and homes around the globe.

Carrfields Primary Wool (CPWool) and NZ Yarn chief executive Colin McKenzie said the global marketing efforts of CPWool mean the humble sheep in the nearest paddock could be producing wool that is destined for some very high places around the world.

McKenzie said the innovative yarn systems of CPWool produce the unique characteristics of NZ wool that designers and customers love and that competitors find difficult, if not impossible, to replicate. 

“Our whole product innovation strategy is to purposely step off the commodity curve, to become global leaders in providing leading-edge woollen yarn for carpets and rugs.” . . 

Canyon Brewing buzzing over bee initiative:

In a corporate social responsibility initiative, Canyon Brewing is sponsoring three thriving beehives in Arthur’s Point, near Queenstown.

Bee the Change founder, Neal McAloon, has placed five apiaries (hive locations) across the district in a bid to help save the bees and grow educational awareness.

Go Orange Marketing Manager Emma Hansen says she’s thrilled Canyon Brewing is part of the initiative. . .

Pioneering settler farm and homestead placed on the market:

Oakdale is situated only a short walk or drive from the historic Puhoi village community, its legendary watering hole and within 35 minutes of central Auckland.

The farm was developed, and home built by Charles Straka (born 1870, the son of Paul Straka) more than 120 years ago, and holds a prominent place in local and New Zealand history.

Paul Straka, arrived on one of the first ships to land in New Zealand from Bohemia, the War Spirit, in 1863 as a 33 year old single man. Their emigration was fueled by tales of golden lands overseas and the promise of free land if they could pay their own passage. . . 

Missouri charmer led double life, masterminded one of the biggest frauds in farm history – Mike Hendricks:

Like all the best con artists, Randy Constant was a charmer, hard not to like.

Big hearted. Good listener. You’d never have guessed that the father of three, grandfather of five was a liar, cheat and serial philanderer who masterminded one of the biggest and longest-running frauds in the history of American agriculture.

“He was a wonderful person,” an old friend said. “He just had that other side to him.”

And then some.

“What he done shocked me to death,” said Stoutsville, Missouri, farmer John Heinecke, who did business with Constant for years. “I didn’t know he was that kind of corrupt.” . . 


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