Rural round-up

08/05/2021

Sheep and beef farms are getting squeezed – Keith Woodford:

The sheep and beef industry is getting squeezed from all sides, yet export returns exceed $7 billion.

I decided recently that it was time to take a closer look at what is happening on sheep and beef farms. The underlying motive is that I have been giving thought as to what the sheep and beef industry, which contributes around $7 billion of export income each year, might look like in another ten or twenty years. But before getting too immersed in that future, I needed to make sure I understood the present and how we got to where we are now.

When I left school a very long time ago, I had in mind that I wanted to be a sheep farmer myself. As a school boy, I used to peruse the advertisements each weekend in Saturday’s newspaper and figure out what a farm for 1000 ewes plus young stock and a few beef cows would cost. The land cost was around 20,000 New Zealand pounds, with this converting subsequently in 1967 to around $40,000. The figure now is about 30 times that, perhaps more, before taking into account that 1000 ewes would no longer be anywhere near enough for a living. . . 

Two big announcements awaited from Fonterra – one deals with dairy payout, the other with the co-op’s capital structure – Point of Order:

So what  are  the  chances Fonterra’s  payout  to its farmer-suppliers  could  top  $8kg/MS the  soon-to-end  current  season?

That would give a  timely  boost  to  the  rural economy  and give  farmers  the kind  of  surge  in incomes  which  would encourage them  to  step up the  pace  of  adapting their dairy farming practices as  the  country  moves  to meet its  climate  change goals.

In March, Fonterra raised its forecast milk price for this season to between $7.30 and $7.90kg/MS with a mid-point of $7.60. That was up from $7.14 last season.

But now, after several  good  results  from the fortnightly GDT auctions, and indications from futures contract prices, the  speculation  is that the payout  could go  higher. . . 

Farms hidden economic vulnerability revealed – Jonathan Milne:

A new stress test reveals just how exposed our farmers are to labour shortages, drought or a downturn in commodity prices.

Milk prices are high and times seem good for dairy farmers – but the Reserve Bank warns half of dairy farms face debt restructuring if milk solid prices drop back below $5.50/kg.

Dairy is just one of the primary production sectors where pockets of high debt create real economic exposure – for farming families, provincial communities and the economy.

While still relatively small, banks’ lending to horticulture producers has maintained a solid growth rate, increasing 11 percent in the year to March. Banks should continue to monitor associated risks, including the sector’s vulnerability to labour shortages and severe weather events, the Reserve Bank says in its first Financial Stability Report this year. . . 

Should rabbits be on the LIM report – Jill Herron:

It’s a dream lifestyle in a dream location, but owning property in Central Otago often comes with an expanding family of unwanted guests. Should real estate agents be telling prospective buyers about the rabbit problem?

World famous for its breathtaking landscape, skifields, wineries and pristine lakes, Central Otago is also fast becoming notorious for its pest population.

And those buying into the lifestyle dream need to be aware of what they are taking on, according to long-time real estate agent, Edwin Lewis.

The fact the costly, destructive and incredibly persistent pests accompany most purchases is proving a rude shock to many newcomers throughout the region. . . 

Minaret Station PLUS an amazing West Coast wilderness experienceJane Jeffries :

Arriving at the Alpine Helicopters hanger in Queenstown, I was full of anticipation for our three days at Minaret Station. I’d read about this property and have always had an inkling to go. Now three nights for the price of two, thanks to Covid, we are on our way. This much talked about Minaret luxury lodge, set in a glacial valley in the Southern Alps, is seriously remote. We had to chopper over some of New Zealand’s most inaccessible, jagged terrain to get there.

The well-known Wallis family are at the heart of this working farm. They are acknowledged in the Central Otago community for their contribution to aviation, farming, deer exporting and tourism. Sir Tim Wallis was one of the great deer farming pioneers. As a young man, his love of the land, aviation and adventure lured him into the helicopter business. He pioneered live deer capture from helicopters which lead to a significant industry in New Zealand. His nick-name, ‘Hurricane Tim,’ was well-earned for his daring flying and would not be approved by OSHA today!

As the helicopter fleet grew to support the commercial and agriculture arm of the family business, they decided to diversify into tourism. They started offering scenic flights and heli-skiing in the South Island in the 1980s. Then, in 2010 they opening the doors to the Minaret Alpine Lodge. The family wanted to share the beauty of the 50,000-acre working farm, home to some 12,000 deer, 1,300 cattle, and 1,000 sheep. . . 

Ravensdown appoints national agronomy manager:

Ravensdown has appointed Will Waddell as its new National Agronomy Manager. Will’s responsibility will be enhancing the co-operative’s service in seeds, agrichemicals and agronomic advice.

The new role leads a nationwide team of nine specialist agronomists supported by a product management team of four and benefits from Ravensdown’s partnership with Cropmark Seeds.

“I look forward to supporting and leading our talented team of agronomists to bring practical and innovative farm systems solutions to our shareholders as we respond to environmental and social needs,” says Waddell.

General Manager Customer Relationships Bryan Inch congratulated Will Waddell on his appointment to the newly created position. . . 


Rural round-up

24/02/2021

Lucky to be alive – Nigel Beckford:

Sheep and beef farmer Jack Cocks almost died from an aneurysm. Now he’s sharing with other farmers what his recovery taught him about resilience. 

Jack’s part of the team that runs Mt Nicholas, a high-country merino sheep and cattle station, on the western shores of Lake Wakatipu. “I grew up on a sheep and beef farm, went to uni, travelled overseas and came back and worked in an agribusiness consultancy. My wife Kate and I came here to work in 2009. There’s a team of four of us that run the farm. It’s probably more of a democracy than a lot of farms but it works well. It means we can use all our different skills.”

Jack says Mt Nicholas is a great place to work and raise a family (they have two kids). “Although we’re in an isolated situation, there is a team of us here so we might see more people during our working day than many sheep and beef farmers. I really love what farming offers – that mix of running your own business as well as working outside doing practical things. We enjoy a huge variety of work.”

All that was suddenly at risk when he suffered his aneurysm in 2013.  “I’m very lucky to be here,” he says, remembering the night it happened. . .

IrrigationNZ supports Infrastructure Commission assessment that ‘status quo’ for water management no longer tenable:

IrrigationNZ is heartened by the release of Te Waihanga’s (Infrastructure Commission) state-of-play report #3 on water released today and agrees with many insights .

“The report acknowledges that the status quo of water management is unlikely to be sustainable – and we 100% agree,” says IrrigationNZ chief executive Vanessa Winning.

“We are pleased the report highlights the need for a holistic and long-term strategic view of water to ensure optimal, sustainable and inclusive outcomes. This is long overdue and something we have advocated for. . . 

Regenerative agriculture white paper sets out pressing research priorities :

There is a pressing need for scientific testing of the anecdotal claims being made about regenerative agriculture. A new white paper sets out 17 priority research topics identified by 200+ representatives of New Zealand’s agri-food system.

Regenerative agriculture has been proposed as a solution for some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most acute challenges. Advocates suggest it can improve the health of our waterways, reduce topsoil loss, offer resilience to drought, add value to our primary exports, and improve the pervasive well-being crisis among rural farming communities.

With a groundswell of farmers transitioning to regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, there is an urgent need for clarity about what regenerative agriculture is in New Zealand and for scientific testing of its claimed benefits.

A new white paper, Regenerative Agriculture in Aotearoa New Zealand – Research Pathways to Build Science-Based Evidence and National Narratives, sets out 17 priority research topics and introduces 11 principles for regenerative farming in New Zealand. . . 

Young inventor on mission to transform wool sector – Annette Scott:

The strong wool industry can pin its hopes on a resurgence with $5 a kilogram return for coarse wool fibre in the sights of Kiwi inventor and entrepreneur Logan Williams.

Just 25 years of age and hailing from Timaru, Williams hit the headlines when he developed and successfully exited four revolutionary inventions, including polarised contact lenses to treat photosensitive epilepsy and a system to destroy methane gas produced on farms.

He received awards for his inventions, including a National Merit Award at the Eureka Science and Innovation Competition. . .

Roped in for life by rodeo – Sally Rae:

As the rodeo season continues around the country, Southland farmer and cowboy Greg Lamb has overcome a few hefty obstacles to get back in the saddle again. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Extraordinarily determined.

That sums up Greg Lamb, a Southland sheep and beef farmer and rodeo champion who has battled injury — and a brain tumour — while pursuing and succeeding in the sport he loves.

Mr Lamb (43), who farms near Waikaka, might be a bit banged up at the moment — he hit the ground with his shoulder “fairly hard” at Wairoa rodeo last month, fracturing his shoulder blade, four ribs and a vertebra — but he is focused on making a return this season. . . 

Westland’s new CEO takes reins :

Westland Dairy Company Limited’s new CEO Richard Wyeth is looking forward to bringing the strength of a global dairy giant to the opportunities that lie ahead for the West Coast dairy processor after taking up the leadership role this week.

Mr Wyeth’s arrival at Westland yesterday was welcomed by resident director of Westland Dairy Company Limited, Shiqing Jian, who stepped down as interim CEO. Mr Jian served as interim CEO following the resignation of former Westland CEO Toni Brendish in August last year.

“We hope Richard is as excited as we are about the opportunities that lie ahead for Westland as he takes stewardship of this iconic New Zealand company,’’ Mr Jian said. . . 


Rural round-up

24/01/2021

Patented milk-derived ingredient effective against influenza

Research commissioned by New Zealand company Quantec, and completed by an independent US laboratory, has found that its patented milk-derived ingredient IDP (Immune Defense Proteins) is effective against influenza virus species.

At a time when there is an intense global focus on viruses, Quantec commissioned the independent in vitro study to see if IDP had antiviral activity, and if so whether its formulation, which contains more than 50 bioactive proteins, provides greater antiviral activity than a singular protein.

The antiviral activity of IDP was tested against two viral species, influenza A H1N1/Puerto Rico/8/34 and herpes simplex HSV-1 MacIntyre, and compared against purified (95 per cent) lactoferrin. Lactoferrin has been shown in numerous studies to have antiviral activity.

Influenza A is a virus commonly implicated with flu occurrences, and herpes simplex is implicated in the causation of cold sores. .  .

‘Plagued by pests’: Daytime ferret sightings, rabbits galore in Hawke’s Bay – Louise Gould:

Daytime stoat sightings and a “plague” of rabbits have Hawke’s Bay residents concerned for wildlife in the region.

Simone Jones lives on a lifestyle block near Havelock North and said she’s noticed a huge increase in wild cats, stoats, ferrets and rabbits in the past year.

“On the 30-minute drive to town I normally see half a dozen ferrets or stoats a week,” she said, “and, at our property alone, dozens of rabbits each morning.”

Jones said the wild cats roaming her and neighbouring properties have been eating quails – even trapping doesn’t seem to curb the problem. . . 

Manapouri couple prepare to export alpacas to Europe– Jamie Searle:

Ray Haanen is hoping 2021 will be a better year with plans to export alpacas, for the first time, to lucrative European markets.

Haanen was one of many Kiwis laid off during the national lockdown in 2020. He lost his health and safety role with tourism company Real Journeys, after working for them for 16 years.

“I went back to working on the [family] farm,” he said.

Haanen and his wife, Jessie, own 70 alpacas and after he was made redundant, they decided to breed elite alpacas for overseas markets. . .

Cutest sheep breed to star at show – Shawn McAvenue

The world’s cutest sheep or a face only a mother could love?

You can decide at the Otago Taieri A&P Show, in Mosgiel, on Saturday.

Woodland Farm owner Nikita Woodhead, of Mosgiel, said Valais blacknose were widely considered to be the cutest sheep breed in the world.

“When they are lambs and have a full fleece they look like big fluffy teddy bears, with a cute little face and horns poking out the sides.” . . 

Regional council releases Japanese butterfly in Taranaki to control weeds:

A Japanese butterfly species has been released in Taranaki, but don’t be fooled by its good looks – it has a very important job to do.

Taranaki Regional Council environment officers released about 100 honshu white admiral (Limenitis glorifica) pupae at Oākura and another 100 at Kakaramea in late December to control Japanese honeysuckle, an invasive weed that smothers and strangles New Zealand’s native bush.

Most of the pupae had successfully hatched by the time the officers returned a week later.

TRC environment services manager Steve Ellis said the honshu white admiral is one of several biocontrol agents the regional council had released to control weeds. . . 

Brexit: lamb exporter to EU: ‘making virtually nothing’ – Sarah Dickins:

One of Wales’ largest lamb exporters says the extra cost and paperwork of selling meat into the EU means it is making “virtually nothing”.

Meat processing plant Randall Parker Foods in Llanidloes, Powys, warned it may lose a third of its 150 workers unless new border controls change.

The company processes one million lambs a year, half of which are exported to the European Union.

The UK government said they are working to help exporters with the new rules. . .

 


Rural round-up

06/01/2021

Why it was good to be a farmer in 2020 – Ben Speedy:

 2020 has been full of surprises. I’m not sure there has been a more disruptive year in my lifetime. For many across New Zealand, 2020 suddenly morphed into the year of “resetting”; a year to take stock, re-evaluate priorities and stay close to home. But for many Kiwi farmers and growers, it’s also been a year to make hay while the sun is shining.

The outlook wasn’t always so rosy. Back in January and February, the north and east of the North Island were officially in drought – some regions for a sustained period – significantly impacting production outputs for many. No one knew what the future would hold and what they’d need to get through.

Then, Covid-19 – and later the rain – arrived.

For an exporting country like ours, initial predictions the pandemic would result in a broad slowdown in international trade amid border closures, logistics difficulties and reduced demand did dampen the economic outlook. However, fears Covid-19 would send globalisation into reverse have so far proved unfounded. . . 

The High Court bombshell that has pig farmers facing an uncertain future – Jason Palmer:

Last month, the High Court dropped a bombshell. A judge in Wellington made a decision which left pig farmers like me facing an uncertain future almost overnight.

The judge ruled that two regulations and two minimum standards in the Pig Code of Welfare, that permit the use of mating stalls and farrowing crates, are now unlawful and invalid.

Now, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), which provides independent advice to the Government minister responsible for animal welfare, must assess the validity of New Zealand pig farmers continuing to use the most common indoor farrowing system globally, to raise pigs.

The Court also directed the Minister to consider recommending new regulations that provide a transition period to phase out the use of farrowing crates and mating stalls. . . 

Maintaining our slice of heaven – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Investment in primary sector research and development will assist in maintaining our “slice of heaven”, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth writes.

“May you live in interesting times.”

What has been described as the translation of a Chinese curse is, in fact, a western and modern invention.

Probably the same is true of “May all your children be daughters”. And in the same way that most people have come to accept that girls are as good as boys, and for different reasons, we also accept that if times aren’t interesting, we’re bored. . . 

Culture shock almost overcome – Mary-Jo Tohill:

Just imagine having been brought up in highly urbanised London.

You’ve spent your career working in hospitality and you have only a rudimentary idea of where milk comes from. Then your Kiwi girlfriend tells you she’s got you a job on a dairy farm in the wilds of rural New Zealand.

That’s exactly what happened to Daniel Bergin (26) when he and Kerryn Brunton moved back to her hometown, Tapanui, from the United Kingdom in July.

More accustomed to pulling pints than a dairy cow’s teats, he’ll never forget his first day in the cowshed.

“I walked in and thought, ‘What have I done?’.” . . 

An 11ha avocado orchard – Brent Melville:

New Zealand produces just 2 percent of the world’s avocados but is the ninth-largest exporter of a fruit that has been touted as the ‘superfood’ of the 21st century. 

Horticulture was the bright spark in New Zealand’s primary export world last year, with fruit, vegetables and wine generating $6.5 billion in export receipts, a healthy chunk of total primary sector revenues of $47.5 billion.

And the Ministry for Primary Industries expects horticulture to continue being the star of the show, with forecasts of a 9 percent increase to $7.1 billion for the 2021 season. 

The biggest contributor to that is kiwifruit, which saw exports valued at $2.5 billion this past year followed by wine, which bottled up $1.9 billion in exports. . . 

Resilient agriculture requires trade barriers be removed – Grace Bwogi Namukasa :

The average person in Uganda eats 660 pounds of bananas each year.

That’s a lot of bananas: It’s at least 50 percent more than the weight of a full-grown male mountain gorilla. Ugandans eat more bananas per person than the people of any other nation.

I’m a banana farmer in the Rakai district of Uganda, so you might think that I’d have trouble keeping up with our country’s strong demand for bananas. The vast majority of Uganda’s bananas supply local markets, but we also export them. More than 1,000 tons each year head to Europe. Many of the bananas on my farm make their way to the United Kingdom, and other Ugandan farmers send bananas to Belgium and Germany as well as neighboring African countries. . . 


Rural round-up

04/12/2020

Petition seeks rewrite of controversial regulations – Sally Rae:

A petition has been launched this week seeking a rewrite of the controversial new freshwater rules.

It has been organised by Groundswell NZ, a new group which stemmed from a tractor trek in Gore in October expressing farmers’ feelings about the regulations.

It comprised a mix of dairy and sheep and beef farmers and some involved in farm servicing and contracting. All were passionate about the rules being “unworkable”, Greenvale sheep and beef farmer Laurie Paterson, in whose name the petition is listed, said yesterday.

The petition requested the House of Representatives to urge the Government to review and amend the national policy statement for freshwater management to ensure it was based on science and best practice for each catchment and farm, and did not require farmers to sow on specific dates. Mandatory sowing dates would compromise health and safety and stress mental health, Mr Paterson said. . .

Biosecurity more important than ever – Peter Burke:

Biosecurity is even more important to New Zealand as the country starts to recover from Covid-19.

That’s the message from Penny Nelson, head of biosecurity at the Ministry for Primary Industries. She told Rural News, at the recent biosecurity awards at Parliament, that biosecurity underpins our primary sector exports – as well as many of the special taonga we have.

She says we just can’t afford to have big incursions at the moment. “I was interested to hear that in the KPMG’s agribusiness survey, biosecurity has been the top issue for the past 11 years. I think New Zealanders realise we have a special way of life and we want to keep it.” . . 

Zespri aiming for Crown research partnership to develop new kiwifruit varieties – Maja Burry:

Kiwifruit giant Zespri wants to establish a Kiwifruit Breeding Centre in partnership with Crown research institute Plant & Food Research.

In an update sent to growers today, Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson said the proposed centre would be dedicated to breeding new kiwifruit cultivars, creating healthier, better tasting and more sustainability-focused varieties to fulfil the growing demand from consumers.

Mathieson said the 50/50 joint venture would strengthen the work already taking place in the breeding programme which it runs in partnership with Plant and Food.

“This is an exciting step forward for our industry and a natural evolution of the hugely successful 30-year relationship between Zespri and PFR which has delivered such strong returns. . . 

Licence to grow gold kiwifruit added to Gisborne rateable land value:

Authorities in Gisborne have decided a $400,000 per hectare licence to grow gold kiwifruit adds value to the land, and will mean a sizeable rates increase.

Gisborne is the first region to adjust land valuation methods for gold kiwifruit properties to now include the value of the growing licence on the rateable value of the property.

This follows a meeting between the Valuer-General and valuers in August, in which they decided the licence should be included in the Value of Improvements, which requires the “assessment of the value of all work done on or for the benefit of the land”.

All councils with gold kiwifruit would have to reassess their methods. . . 

Fresh milk in glass bottles vends itself – Abbey Palmer:

When Melissa Johnson first suggested the idea of selling raw milk in bottles from a vending machine, her husband thought it was a “stupid idea for hippies”.

Just over three years and two vending machines later, the Southland partners in life and business are delivering hundreds of bottles to thousands of customers across the South every week.

Following a decision to downsize and do their own thing, the former large-scale contract milkers started their milk business, Farm Fresh South, in Woodlands, with 35 calves in 2017.

Mrs Johnson spotted a raw milk vending machine when holidaying near Nelson and liked the business concept. . . 

Lifestyle venture, wine not?

A fantastic lifestyle opportunity in the heart of the East Coast wine-producing region is set to attract interest from across the country, says Bayleys Gisborne salesperson Jenny Murray.

“The character property at 16 Riverpoint Road, Matawhero typifies the relaxed atmosphere Gisborne is famous for while providing an exceptional home, lifestyle and business opportunity,” she adds.

Spanning nearly 8,000sqm (more or less) across the Waipaoa Bridge on the site of the Old Bridge Hotel, the property is offered for sale by auction at 1pm on 11 December. . . 

 


Rural round-up

18/11/2020

Farmers care about animals says vet – Peter Burke:

A leading veterinarian says in his opinion farmers are doing a better job now than ever in regards to animal welfare.

Richard Hilson is the managing director of Vet Services Hawke’s Bay, which has a staff of 120 people including about three dozen vets. Hilson says he gets frustrated when he sees a lot of publicity given to people who treat animals badly. He says the reality is that these few individuals unfairly give farming a bad name.

In recent months there have been several high profile cases of animals being mistreated and people being prosecuted for failing to adequately feed cows to killing a lamb. 

Hilson says there is a greater awareness about animal welfare and often people who harm animals find that others who know them report them to the authorities. Hilson says these days, people realise that it’s not okay to mistreat animals. . .

Making wool great again :

A West Otago couple were so sick of seeing so much synthetic clothing around they decided to do something about it.

Murray and Julie Hellewell run sheep and beef on their hilly 610-hectare Waitahuna West property. The focus though is the sheep.

“The sheep are our money and the cattle are here just to look after the pastures and make it better for the sheep,” Murray says.

However, strong wool prices have been trending down for years. . . 

Gisborne couple tout their smooth ‘never dud’ avocados :

Cutting into avocados can be a lottery.

They hold so much promise. A twist of the halves can reveal uniform, creamy, olive-green flesh.

But sometimes they’re destined straight for the compost bin.

They can be stringy, have brown spots or be disappointingly watery.

However Gisborne growers, David and Judi Grey, who have been growing and testing avocados for 50 years, have developed new varieties they say are perfect, every time. . . 

New research project to provide insight into kiwifruit disease PSA:

A new research project that may help future-proof the kiwifruit industry has received a Fast Start Marsden grant.

The project, led by Dr Jay Jayaraman at Plant & Food Research and titled: How do new pathogen incursions evolve during host infection, will investigate the plant pathogen Psa (Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae), to understand how it evolves during infection of the kiwifruit plant.

Psa caused severe damage in New Zealand’s kiwifruit crops after its discovery in 2010. While the industry recovered, thanks to a new cultivar with improved disease tolerance, exploring alternative ways to manage the disease in future is still essential, particularly given the possibility that Psa could adapt to the new cultivar. . . 

Hi-tech hand-luggage scanner gives biosecurity a huge boost at Auckland Airport :

A new hi-tech baggage scanner at Auckland Airport will provide another crucial layer of protection against invasive pests and diseases, says Biosecurity New Zealand.

The computer tomography (CT) scanner made its first detection earlier this month – two bananas in a small carry-on bag arriving with a New Zealand family from Dubai.

Biosecurity New Zealand has been trialling the technology with selected flights since late October. Arriving passengers have their hand baggage scanned before they collect checked-in items from the airport carousels.

“We’re deliberately targeting baggage that travellers carry off the plane. It’s where we’re most likely to find food that could host fruit fly and other pests,” says Brett Hickman, Border Technology Manager, Biosecurity New Zealand. . . 

Ben Tombs from Peregrine Wines announced NZ Young Winemaker of the Year 2020:

Congratulations to Ben Tombs from Central Otago for becoming the 2020 Tonnellerie de Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year. Ben is Assistant Winemaker at Peregrine Wines in the Gibbston Valley and the first Young Winemaker from Central Otago to win the competition.

The other national finalists were Ben McNab from Matahiwi in Wairarapa and Peter Russell from Matua in Marlborough, who both took out sections of the competition, showing the very high calibre of contestants taking part. The judges were hugely impressed with their knowledge, passion and professionalism throughout the day.

The competition is tough and really stretches the finalists. Firstly, they had to prepare a presentation in advance about what the future wine consumer looks like and how New Zealand can maintain its competitive edge around the world. . . 

 


Rural round-up

04/11/2020

MPs push for crop workers–  Alexia Johnston and Jared Morgan:

Central Otago’s MPs have weighed in on the pending labour shortage in the horticulture and viticulture sectors.

In a joint statement, Southland MP Joseph Mooney and Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean say it does not make sense that people are being allowed into New Zealand to work on movies, fishing boats or to play sport, but not to work in orchards or vineyards at what is a critical time.

Last month, an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases were attributed to Russian and Ukrainian fishers who were recruited to support New Zealand’s beleaguered fishing industry.

That led to a cluster of cases in Christchurch’s Sudima Hotel, managed isolation facility, with cases there still recorded yesterday.  . . 

From waste to wetland:

We wanted to improve the farm and do our bit for the environment” is Manawatu farmer Grant Bell’s response when he’s asked why he converted 4ha of his property into an impressive wetland.

Grant and his family farm 525 cows on their 150ha (effective) property on the outskirts of Palmerston North. The farm has been in his family for 25 years and this is his eighth season running the dairy operation.

Farmers like Grant are champions of sustainability and he says creating the wetland made perfect sense.

“It was a wasted area of the farm with wetter, less productive ends of paddocks. Five years ago we developed a 2.5ha area and in the last two years we have extended it so it’s now about 4ha.” . . 

Fonterra’s latest Sustainability Report shows most encouraging progress to date:

Fonterra has achieved its most encouraging sustainability results since starting its annual reporting four years ago, but the Co-op is staying focused on what still needs to be done to reach its long-term targets.

“The progress we’ve made this year towards our three interconnected goals of healthy people, a healthy environment and a healthy business show that our strategy and customer-led operating model are delivering,” says CEO Miles Hurrell, following the release of Fonterra’s 2020 Sustainability Report today.

“We’re proud of what our people have achieved, especially in the face of COVID-19, and want to thank farmers and employees for their support and hard work.” . . 

Move over rock ‘n’ roll – here’s farm music – Robin Martin:

Move over rock ‘n’ roll, forget hip hop and so long soul.

The new scene emerging out of rural New Zealand is Farm Music – people hitting bits of scrap found in the shed, garage or out in the paddock.

The mental health project debuts on stage at Reset 2020 Arts Festival in Taranaki on Sunday.

Farm Music producer Sally Barnett said the idea for the project came to her while volunteering at the Taranaki Retreat – a suicide prevention initiative set up on a rural property southwest of New Plymouth. . . 

Toil and frugality paved way for ownership – Alice Scott:

From growing up in the city to farming in Tuapeka West; Alice Scott talks to a couple about their own unique journey into farm ownership.

Allan Casse got his first taste for farming as a boy in his school holidays.

He was born and raised in Auckland city and his mother, who grew up on a farm, would take him out to the countryside.

“The outdoors appealed right from the beginning. I just loved it. It’s where I knew I wanted to be.”

He then moved to the South Island as a 17-year-old and worked in a fruit and vegetable market for two years before going to university and qualifying as a teacher. . . 

‘Kiss the Ground’ review: regenerating hope for the climate – Natalia Winkelman:

An optimistic climate documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson argues for the healing power of soil, which could offer a solution to the climate crisis.

The actor Woody Harrelson narrates the documentary “Kiss the Ground,” a frenetic but ultimately persuasive and optimistic plan to counter the climate crisis. Streaming on Netflix, the film makes a case for the healing power of soil, arguing that its capacity to sequester carbon could be the key to reversing the effects of climate change.

Directed by Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell, whose credits include other socially conscious documentaries such as “The Big Fix” and “Pump,” “Kiss the Ground” takes a wide-ranging approach. The film begins by examining how tilling and the use of pesticides have led to soil erosion, and then traces the damage done to our ecology, health and climate. The filmmakers find a solution in regenerative farming, an ethical practice designed to restore degraded lands and facilitate carbon drawdown. . . 


Rural round-up

01/11/2020

Shearers remain hopeful foreign workers will be given exceptions as clock ticks :

The shearing industry is nervously waiting to find out if it will be able to bring in overseas shearers to help this season.

The New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association had initially hoped to bring in up to 200 shearers to fill gaps in the local workforce, but with the clock ticking to get people into the country in time, that request has now been scaled back to 40 or 60.

Association president Mark Barrowcliffe said work would ramp up significantly in a month’s time. . .

Farmers need to show vulnerability :

Kane Brisco, who is in his seventh year 50:50 sharemilking at Ohangai near Hawera in South Taranaki, started his own social media page to get farmers talking.

“One of the things I’ve noticed with farmers under pressure is that they withdraw into themselves. I’ve done it myself,” he said.

“So, I think that as a farming community we need to be much more open to discussing the pressures we’re dealing with.

“We need to get better as a community at genuinely finding out how people are doing. The common answer is often ‘yeah good’, no matter how people actually feel, so we need to combat that.  . . 

NZ’s sustainable environment – Mark Chapman:

Freshwater quality and climate change mitigation are inexplicably linked to the whole country creating a sustainable environment. This job is for both urban and rural New Zealand to tackle together. What is often missed is how creating a sustainable environment is linked to businesses being profitable. This is because it is costly to achieve the outcomes that are needed and, where these outcomes reduce productivity and restrict the ability to grow or farm, the required funding becomes very scarce.

This is the conundrum facing the nation and not just rural New Zealand: how are we as a country – as we recover from Covid – going to finance the next steps to environmental sustainability?

It may well be a surprise to urban New Zealand that environmental sustainability is something growers and farmers have been committed to, intergenerationally, for decades. As a result, the rural sector has a significant head start on urban New Zealand.

Overriding these concerns is the need to feed New Zealand as well as keeping businesses profitable, to enable activities that support environmental sustainability. So, there is a balance to be reached: maintaining businesses profitability, feeding the country and making environmental enhancements. . . 

Revealed: taxpayers Cover animal welfare fines For Landcorp farmers:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is today calling on Landcorp to stop reimbursing farmers fined for animal welfare offences.

The Taxpayers’ Union requested correspondence pertaining to staff reimbursements of fines paid by Landcorp over the last three years. Landcorp provided information revealing the following:

• A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting a cow that birthed a calf en route to slaughter on a moving truck. . . 

Science’s major role in our farming future – Neville Wallace:

I grew up during rapid changes in farming techniques from Blue Stone drenching of sheep for parasite control to anthelmintics, rubber rings for animal castration and tail removal. The wool boom of the late forties and fifties led to dramatic changes in farming practice such as the application of fertiliser by Tiger Moth biplanes, which could only carry a eight-hundred weight payload.

Our schooling was scientifically orientated so that we were taught horticulture by the late Rod Syme, who’s career as a horticulturist was to visit schools and demonstrate how to grow a vegetable and potato garden, and the science included how to use artificial fertiliser to increase crop growth and production. 

A leading Taranaki dairy farmer was at the forefront of developing the plastic ear tag for cattle, which ultimately led to the electronic ear tag of today. . . .

Bushfires Royal Commission doesn’t have the answers – Vic Forbes:

Experienced land and fire managers from eight community groups across Australia have jointly written to the Prime Minister urging the restoration of healthy and safe rural landscapes. The grass-roots organisations represent more than 6,000 members and 14 regional councils. They have called for an end to the ongoing loss of human life and the socioeconomic and environmental destruction caused by extreme bushfires.

Former Chief of CSIRO Bushfire Research, Phil Cheney, says that a focus on emergency response at the expense of land management has created an unstoppable monster. Expenditure on firefighting forces is ever-increasing whilst volunteers are being cynically used to deflect criticism away from failed government policies. Land management agencies no longer have primary responsibility for suppressing wildfires. Consequently they have little incentive for stewardship and fire mitigation. Cheney is a scientific advisor to Volunteer Fire Fighters Association.

Chairman of Western Australia’s Bushfire Front, Roger Underwood, points to the stark contrast in historical fire management policies and outcomes on either side of the continent.   Seventy years of data from WA show a strong inverse relationship between the area maintained by mild burning and the area subsequently damaged by high intensity fires. This relationship is especially apparent in extreme fire seasons. . . 


Rural round-up

30/10/2020

50 years of flower farming  – two families harness the power of sunflowers for bird food company – Emma Rawson:

Two Waitaki families farming in partnership for more than 50 years have developed a bird-loving business out of a crop sown on a wing and a prayer.

Riotous rows of yellow sunflowers beaming from fields south of Ōamaru are a shot of happiness in the Waitaki landscape. Sandwiched between crops of golden wheat and barley, the big friendly giants turn up the colour dial to a saturated yellow.

The exact location of the flowers, grown by the Mitchell and Webster families for more than 50 years, is usually kept on the low down.

Sometimes they are planted on Thousand Acre Road between Ōamaru and Kakanui, sometimes further inland towards Enfield. Crop rotation is the official reason; sunflowers need a five-year interval before being replanted in the same field since they are prone to fungal disease. However, transplanting the lots has the bonus of tricking the birds and keeping humans on their toes until the flowers hit their full two-metre height and yellowy glory at the end of January. . . 

Hawke’s Bay growers consider ‘every possible option’ to fill worker shortage – Thomas Airey:

Horticulture and viticulture growers are trying to be innovative and flexible in order to attract the employees they need to get through a worker shortage for the coming summer season.

There is an urgent need for local seasonal labour, with limited availability of overseas workers due to Covid-19 and 10,000 workers required to thin, pick, package and process the year’s crop between November and April.

The industry has joined up with the Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and the region’s local government leaders to deliver a plan to the Government next month to resolve the situation.

Part of that plan includes a growers’ employment expo and information session on Tuesday, November 10, through which they plan to showcase the summer work and career opportunities in the sector. . . 

One-size-fits all-model no more – Anthony Beverley:

New Zealand’s farmers are among the most efficient and productive in the world — and they need to be.

Our world is demanding high-quality, environmentally-friendly food. At the same time, regulatory costs continue to build; our weather is increasingly challenging to bank on and farm profitability and balance sheets are under pressure.

As a result, farmers are increasingly looking more closely at the economic contribution of each part of their farms. Not all land is the same; some parts of farms — if farmers are really honest about it — cost them money to farm.

It’s the steep, rough hill country out the back that farmers are taking a second look at. Not only is this land unprofitable, but it’s often difficult and dangerous to farm. This land is typically erosion-prone and topsoil run-off is undermining farmers’ broader environmental efforts. . . 

Award winner a hands-on business owner – Sally Rae:

Whether  about horses or lambs, alpacas or goats — Henrietta Purvis derives satisfaction from positive feedback from happy animal owners.

She and her husband Graeme Purvis operate Purvis Feeds from their Waianakarua property, south of Oamaru, selling lucerne chaff throughout New Zealand.

Very much a hands-on business owner who spends time both in the cutting shed and on the books, Mrs Purvis has been named the innovation category winner in this year’s NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards . . 

Researchers find ‘sweet spot’ for kiwi fruit pollination

Upping the proportion of female flowers in a kiwifruit orchard may boost production, according to new research.

Plant and Food Research scientists and collaborators from the USA have compiled more than 30 years of field-based data from kiwifruit research to create “digital twins” of pollination processes in kiwifruit orchards, and have used these to predict how growers can optimise their fruit set.

Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical systems – in this case mathematical models of the biology of the plants and the behaviour of pollinating bees.

These digital twins gave researchers the ability to examine complex scenarios which examine multiple, intertwined factors at once. . . .

Brahmans from North Queensland are in demand from NSW graziers – Kent Ward:

Demand for larger lines of quality cattle has seen North Queensland become the go-to market for New South Wales graziers as they rebuild their herds.

The strong demand from southern restockers has not only provided competition at northern store sales, but also seen paddock deals culminate in thousands of cattle being trucked across the border in recent months.

Since March of this year, private agency firm Kennedy Rural has successfully sold and overseen the transport of in excess of 10,000 head of cattle into areas of NSW. . . 


Rural round-up

24/05/2020

Farmers feel the love – Neal Wallace:

With the demise of New Zealand’s $41 billion tourism industry because of covid-19 the primary sector will carry an even greater economic burden. Not only will it fund the lion’s share of health, education and social welfare but also service the $200 billion the Government plans to borrow. This week we start the series, Growing Our Recovery, which looks at what obstacles and opportunities the sector faces as it leads NZ out of economic recession.

Renewed trust in the primary sector is being shown by the Government and its officials as they see changing economic fortunes around the globe, sector leaders say.

“We are picking up an awareness amongst Government that the stakes have all of a sudden got very high, not that they weren’t high before, but the stakes now are doubly high and they’re very much aware of that,” DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said. . . 

Farmers aim to feed the need – Colin Williscroft:

An AgriHQ initiative started earlier this year is playing a key role providing options for farmers wanting to buy supplementary stock feed while donated balage and hay continue to be trucked into Hawke’s Bay.

In February AgriHQ saw a growing demand for supplementary feed from farmers relying on various avenues to supply their needs.

To connect buyers with sellers it set up the AgriHQ Feed Noticeboard to let sellers listing what they have got, its cost, their location and contact details.

Commercial leader Steph Holloway says the online noticeboard proved popular popular from the start with it not uncommon for feed to be listed one day then gone the next. . . 

Motivated young farmer making rapid gains in sector – Yvonne O’Hara:

Josh Cochrane is passionate about cows and enthusiastic about working in the dairy sector.

At 22, Mr Cochrane has wanted to be a dairy farmer for as long as he can remember.

He is in his first season as a 2IC for contract milkers Ben Franklin and Chelsea Saywell, on Roddy MacInnes’ 140ha property at Ryal Bush, milking 520 cows.

However, next season he moves to a 600-cow property in Oamaru as a contract milker.

He entered this year’s Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year competition and placed third.

His family were on a dairy farm near Rotorua and moved to Southland in 2007, when he was 10. . . 

Zero bobby calves for South Canterbury farming couple :

The versatility of Holstein Friesians is being credited with allowing a young South Canterbury couple to produce zero bobby calves.

Ryan and Billie Moffat milk 460 cows at Waimate. Production on the 145-hectare irrigated property was 262,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in 2018-19.

The couple bought the farm off Ryan’s parents Mike and Chris Moffat last year, after buying their herd four years’ earlier.

“Our business doesn’t produce any bobby calves,” said Billie. . .

Farm ownership long term goal – Yvonne O’Hara:

Jakeb Lawson has been working in the dairy industry since he was about 13 and likes it so much, he wants to eventually own his own farm.

Mr Lawson (19) is a farm assistant for sharemilker Matt McKenzie, on a 300ha property owned by Eoin and Jayne McKenzie, at Woodlands.

They milk 650 cows and the expected production this year is 360,000 kg of milk solids.

‘‘I got the opportunity to do some work for my brother-in-law when I was about 13 or 14 and I really enjoyed it,’’ Mr Lawson said. . . 

Farmers still need ‘up to 40,000’ workers to help pick crop :

Farmers still need up to 40,000 workers to help bring the harvest in this summer despite an ‘overwhelming’ response to hiring campaigns.

Defra launched the initiative ‘Pick for Britain’ last month to bring workers and employers together as the impact of Covid-19 leaves a diminished workforce.

From pickers and packers, to plant husbandry and tractor or forklift drivers, there are a wide range of roles available for furloughed employees. . . 


Rural round-up

07/05/2020

Horticultural labour shortage could mean food shortage, industry warns – Eric Frykberg:

Production of some food could become a casualty of the campaign against Covid-19, the horticultural industry says.

The industry said it strongly supported the fight against the disease, but no one should be blind to its real costs.

These included the risk of some growers quitting the business for lack of markets and workers, thereby reducing New Zealand’s food supply.

The comments come in the wake of a desperate plea from a Northland producer Brett Heap who grows zucchini on 30 hectares near Kerikeri. . . 

Hawke’s Bay farmers desperate in drought: ‘Mother nature has got it in for us’ – Eric Frykberg:

Farmers in Hawke’s Bay are becoming desperate as drought conditions continue in their region.

A series of pictures have been posted on Facebook showing dehydrated paddocks, some with barely a blade of grass growing.

Feed brought in from outside is expensive and sometimes unavailable.

Occasional rain has done nothing to dent the real problem. . .

Water quality not just farming’s problem – Peter Burke:

A report by the Government is offering further evidence that New Zealand’s freshwater is being impacted not just by farming but equally by urban development, forestry and other human activities.

Our Freshwater 2020, by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and the Department of Statistics (DoS), highlights how climate change is set to make the issues faced by our freshwater environments even worse. The report’s authors say it builds on the information presented in previous reports but goes deeper on the issues affecting freshwater in NZ.

This includes new insights on the health of freshwater ecosystems, heavy metals in urban streams, consented water takes and expected changes due to climate change. . .

Coronavirus: The harvest bubble ‘flogging the wifi’ as hand picking starts to wrap – Jennifer Eder:

Many seasonal workers in Marlborough’s wine industry are also stuck at home on Coronavirus lockdown as hand harvesting of grapes comes to an end.

All non-essential businesses were to close when the country moved to alert level 4 on March 25, but people working in the grape harvest were categorised an essential service as part of food and beverage production.

Many vineyard workers brought into the country on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are approaching the end of their contracts, but cannot fly home during lockdown.

Hortus owner Aaron Jay said his RSE workers were “flogging the wifi to death” on lockdown like any other household in Blenheim; chatting to people at home, and watching movies and sport. . . 

We are starting to see some hope – Meriana Johnsen:

The heart of the Gisborne economy is beating again as the forestry industry is back in full swing under alert level 3..

About 300 forestry workers lost their jobs or had hours reduced prior to the lockdown after China, which takes over 90 percent of the region’s logs, stopped doing so in February.

Eastland Port has been able to retain all 50 of its staff, and its chief operating officer Andrew Gaddum was relieved it had work for them. . .

 

New British-made camera detects crop disease quickly:

A new camera that will detect crop disease quickly and at a significantly lower cost has been developed by British researchers.

The technology could potentially save farmers worldwide thousands of pounds in lost produce, while increasing crop yields.

Traditional hyperspectral cameras, which can be used in agricultural management to scan crops to monitor their health, are expensive and bulky due to the nature of complex optics and electronics within the devices. . .


Rural round-up

04/05/2020

An apple harvest no-one will ever forget – Nikki Mandow:

Apple growers have filled our fruit bowls and bolstered our export coffers, while harvesting a bumper crop and maintaining strict social distancing for their workforce. It’s been a nightmare.

Simon Easton sounds relaxed. The fourth-generation apple farmer grows 61 hectares of fruit outside Motueka with his brother. They are nearly at the end of this year’s harvest – a week more picking, a month more packing and they’re done.

Easy as. Not.

On a scale of one to 10, Easton reckons his stress levels this season have been up around 9.8. Particularly at the beginning of the pandemic. . .

Coronavirus: Alliance Group adapts to changing global markets -Louisa Steyl:

The rural sector is tipped to help Southland’s economy pull through the coronavirus lockdown. What does that mean for the Alliance Group? Louisa Steyl reports.

Being agile and responding to markets’ rapid changes both domestically and on a global scale will help some companies come through the downturn in the economy.

The Alliance Group, with processing plants in Dannevirke, Levin, Nelson, Oamaru, Timaru and its two Southland-based plants Lorneville and Mataura, has been affected during the lockdown.   . . 

 

Fish and Game review change to refocus:

The recently announced review into Fish and Game needs to ensure the organisation’s focus returns to working in the best interests of anglers and hunters, National’s Conservation spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.

“Over recent years there has been tension between Fish and Game and farming groups that has contributed to a rural-urban divide.

“Many prized fishing and hunting spots are on privately owned farmland and there is a lot of goodwill between individual farmers and recreational hunters and anglers in negotiating access. . . 

Kiwis left scratching their heads as butter turns white – Esther Taunton:

Something’s happening to our butter.

Usually a deep yellow, it’s been getting progressively lighter and even farmers are puzzled by its now barely off-white hue.

In a recent tweet, Golden Bay dairy farmer Wayne Langford pointed out the change, comparing a block of Anchor butter to his “tan free legs.” . .

Act now, plan ahead – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay farmers struggling through extended drought and increasing feed shortages are being told to act now and plan for winter.

It’s a message farmers in other parts of the country should heed as well, with feed shortages likely to be wide-ranging. 

The southern half of Hawke’s Bay is entering its seventh month of below-normal rainfall and there is no sign of the drought breaking. . .

Learning from Covid: How biosecurity lessons in Asia will help Australia :

As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, a consortium of Australian and New Zealand veterinary scientists has been established to train a new generation of ‘animal disease detectives’ in 11 countries across Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

“A year after African swine fever wiped out more than a quarter of the global pig population and with more than 200,000 people dead from COVID-19, equipping veterinarians with the tools for disease outbreak investigation and surveillance has never been more important,” said program leader Associate Professor Navneet Dhand from the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science and Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity. . .


Rural round-up

09/04/2020

COVID-19: Farming focused on playing its part:

A week into the COVID-19 lockdown, DairyNZ says dairy farmers are settling into life in lockdown but the sector’s focus remains on ensuring support for farms.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the Government support for farming as an essential service has been positive to date and is helping ensure all farms can be kept ticking.

“DairyNZ is working closely with dairy farmers and agri-partners to ensure all farming families, staff and support services are safe, and that farmers have access to the equipment, services and people they need,” said Dr Mackle.

“We all share concerns about the health and economic effects COVID-19 will have on our families, communities and New Zealand, and farmers are working hard to minimise risks to keep their businesses running smoothly. . . 

Milking shed projects stymied by lockdown rules – Rod Oram:

Dairy farmers trying to get ready for the new season are striking lockdown problems, writes Rod Oram

A farmer in Northland has a problem: his milk processor had condemned his milking shed; a new one was under construction; work has stopped because the Government has yet to classify such projects as essential; and precious time is being lost before the new milking season starts in July.

This is a real example playing out now, says Justin Thompson, DeLaval’s vice president of sales and support in Oceania. The Swedish-based company, which is one of the world’s largest suppliers of milking systems, is supplying equipment to the Northland project. But as soon as New Zealand went into Covid-19 lockdown, subcontractors packed up and left the site. . . 

Commodity prices continue to fall but offset by weakening dollar:

Commodity prices continue to fall as the impact of the Covid-19 virus continues to be felt on international markets, but the blow is being cushioned by a weaker New Zealand dollar.

The ANZ World Commodity Price index dropped 2.1 percent in March and has now fallen 8.3 percent in the past four months.

In local currency terms the index actually lifted 3.3 percent due to a sharp fall in the New Zealand dollar.

Dairy, meat and fibre, forestry and aluminium all fell, but horticulture remain unchanged. . .

Chair of Ballance Agri-Nutrients retires in September:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited Chairman David Peacocke, is stepping down as a Director in September 2020 at the Annual Shareholders Meeting (ASM). Duncan Coull has been elected as the new Chair by the Board of Directors taking up the post after the ASM.

David a Waikato farmer and businessman has been a Ballance Director since 2005 and was elected as Chair in 2013.

“After 15 years, seven as Chair, this is a logical step in the Ballance board’s succession planning and I felt it was time to let someone else take up the challenge,” says David.

“Duncan is the right person to lead Ballance into our next phase , he brings a strong personal view that we need to work collaboratively as a sector to be future-ready.” . . 

Forestry industry preparing for back to work

Forest industry organisations are planning how to get back to work when restrictions on non-essential work are lifted for the industry.

Organisations, representing forest growers, transport, processing and contractors have set up a working group to develop risk assessment protocols in readiness for start-up of the industry sector.

The National Safety Director of the Forest Industry Safety Council, Fiona Ewing says the aim is to assure government that the sector will be able to comply with the epidemic management conditions of COVID-19. . . 

Update on 2020 Awards:

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards final four regional winners and placegetters have been announced via Facebook Live video and were warmly received by entrants, winners, sponsors and supporters.

The New Zealand dairy industry is resilient, flexible and adaptable to change. The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, adapting and leading with their response to the Covid19 crisis, can be seen as a reflection of the industry and all entrants.

Entrants, families, supporters and sponsors watched with excitement and anticipation in their bubbles. There were hundreds of live streams out numbering the usual attendance to the dinners. It was magical to see the live engagement and comments and likes floating up the screen during the announcements. . . 


Rural round-up

05/04/2020

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

31/03/2020

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

29/02/2020

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

26/02/2020

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

31/01/2020

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

23/01/2020

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

15/01/2020

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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