Rural round-up

September 24, 2020

What’s going on in Southland? – Peter Burke:

It is hard to fathom exactly what’s going to happen in Southland in light of the impact of the Government’s new freshwater regulations.

There is clearly great mistrust on the part of Federated Farmers of Environment Minister David Parker, with Feds provincial vice president Bernadette Hunt saying they can’t get through to him on the issue of winter grazing.

It is no secret that Labour has an equal mistrust of Feds, frequently referring to them as the National Party in gumboots.

Feds see some aspects of the new freshwater regulations as unworkable and in this they are right. Furthermore, they question why such a law was passed with basic errors of fact.

Time to put mental health preparedness into action – Elle Perriam:

Being aware of mental health issues is admirable but sometimes it’s not enough, the founder of Will to Live charity, Elle Perriam says.

“I sort of don’t like to say mental health awareness as much because I think there is a lot of awareness out there – but awareness really means nothing to us unless we put it in to action” Perriam told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

Perriam was no stranger to mental health battles herself, founding Will to Live after she lost her partner to suicide in 2017.

She suggested checking in on farmer friends this week and instead of asking them how they’re going – ask them if they’re happy. . . 

Lincoln PhD student receives prestigious Kate Sheppard Memorial Trust Award :

A Lincoln University PhD student has received this year’s Kate Sheppard Memorial Trust Award for her work in protecting crops from drought.

Laura Keenan, 28, received the prestigious award at a ceremony at the Kate Sheppard Memorial Wall on Worcester St in Christchurch on Saturday.

Keenan completed an honours degree in Agricultural Science at Lincoln University graduating in 2014. She worked within the area firstly with Soil Matters in Canterbury and then Agricom in Palmerston North before starting her PhD study at Lincoln University in June 2020.

Her PhD is focused on creating a tool that will help with predicting yield and the quality of several plants and herbs included in pasture mixes across New Zealand with the goal of improving drought resilience and feed supply for farmers. . . 

New tech to cut rural energy costs – Annette Scott:

An innovative new player in rural electricity supply has commissioned its first investor-owned solar system on a North Canterbury dairy farm. Solagri Energy Ltd founders share their business journey with Annette Scott.

NEW Zealand dairy farms can now get solar electricity and large-scale battery storage on-farm with zero capital outlay.

Solagri Energy Ltd, a new and innovative player in rural electricity supply, has commissioned its first investor-owned solar array and large-scale lithium ion battery system on a North Canterbury dairy farm.

Co-founders Peter Saunders and Hamish Hutton just happen to be cousins with their business idea stemming around a family campfire. . . 

Challenge to keep pastures resilient – Richard Rennie:

Commercial plant breeders are united in efforts to help deliver New Zealand farmers better options when it comes to selecting for more resilient pastures in years to come.

Head of Barenbrug’s plant breeding team Courtney Inch says the challenge in NZ, being a relatively small market on a global scale, is having enough capital to invest in developing commercially viable pastures for our market.

This is complicated by NZ being a relatively complex pastoral system, with climatic conditions in Southland for example quite dissimilar to those in Waikato, often requiring different feed types for a relatively small pastoral zone.

“But it is to the industry’s credit we are seeing some really good collaborative work being done now in this area of developing more resilient pastures,” he said. . . 

Superfines leading the charge in wool price spikes – Bruce McLeish:

The wool market surprised many participants last week, with a much stronger performance than expected.

While there had been some business done the previous week, and a positive tone was anticipated, it just got better and better as the week progressed.

A total offering across Australia of just under 30,000 bales – which these days is considered ‘on the large side’ – was keenly sought after, particularly at the finer end.

The Kiwi’s added to the total – with 3000 bales offered in Melbourne – and South Africa put up 6500 bales, almost all of which were consumed by a suddenly hungry wool trade. . . 


Rural round-up

September 18, 2020

Dr Doug Edmeades responds to Green Party agriculture policy:

The Green Party’s plan to help Kiwi farmers transition from traditional agriculture to regenerative and organic practices is a bit redundant, according to Dr Doug Edmeades.

Most farmers are already using many regenerative agriculture practices, such as rotational grazing, and zero tillage, the soil scientist told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

“Let’s not delude ourselves that if we follow RA, we will improve soil health, we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality – that’s nonsense.”

Edmeades listened with interest to yesterday’s interview with Green Party co-leader James Shaw, where the Minister said regenerative agriculture would result in better profits for farmers. . . 

‘This just cannot happen’: $9.5 billion at risk as horticulture sector struggles to fill $25-an-hour jobs – Bonnie Flaws:

The shortage of horticultural workers due to Covid-19 border restrictions is putting $9.5 billion of the country’s economy at risk, says New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard.

About 10,000 seasonal workers would be needed starting from next month to prune and pick $1 billion worth of fruit across Hawke’s Bay alone, he said.

The shortage had the potential to cripple the region’s economic recovery.

“This just cannot happen.” . . 

Fonterra set to return to profit, but will it pay a dividend? – Jamie Gray:

Fonterra’s annual result this week is expected to show that the dairy giant is back in the black, but will it pay a final dividend?

The co-op last year posted a net loss of $605 million, driven mostly by writedowns of its overseas businesses, dwarfing the previous year’s shortfall of $196m, and sparking a major change in direction.

Fonterra did not pay a dividend in its previous financial year but in its latest earnings update, it said it would reassess a payout at the end of the latest year to July 31. . . 

The future of food – Greg Bruce:

Most of New Zealand’s lowland areas are now devoted to food production. How we produce food for consumption, sale and export continues to shape our landscape and lives, but the 90 per cent of New Zealanders who live in cities have little contact with those processes and the social and environmental considerations they create.

Can farmers improve yields and use resources more efficiently? Can consumers reconnect with the land and farm practices to make more informed choices and reduce waste? What is the future of our food?

THE LATE MAY EVENING my wife and I went to Coco’s Cantina for dinner, it was appallingly cold, probably the coldest night of the year. I wore a long black double-breasted wool coat, which I call ‘The Aucklander’ because it so obviously marks me as a stereotypical city person, which I am—lacking DIY skills, any sort of self-sufficiency, and any idea of what it takes to survive without a supermarket within easy driving distance. . .

Ewe’ll be seeing spots with quintuplets – Daisy Hudson:

You could be forgiven for thinking you were going dotty.

Sue Rissman certainly did when one of her ewes delivered five spotted black and white lambs on Sunday.

The quintuplets, four girls and a boy, seemed perfectly unaware of the interest in them yesterday as they trotted around after their mum on the 21ha lifestyle block Mrs Rissman and her husband, Grant, own inland from Palmerston.

The pair have 47 ewes, which have overwhelmingly delivered twins and triplets. . .

Two farming families form state of the art dairy business :

Two farming families from the Conwy Valley in Wales have gone into a partnership to run as a single state-of-the art dairy business.

The families decided to join together for a better work-life balance, more stock, less pressure and the prospect of new opportunities.

Young farmer Emyr Owen, 30, from Bodrach, near Pandy Tudur, farms in partnership with his parents on a 185-acre former beef and sheep farm.

He joined up with his next door neighbour Gwydion Jones, 38, whose family formerly farmed a herd of 150 dairy cattle at the neighbouring 95-acre Ty’n Ffynnon farm.. . 


Rural round-up

June 28, 2020

One billion . . .  wilding pines – Rachael Kelly:

Is this simply the dumbest waste of Government money to be spent in New Zealand?

The Government has committed $100m​ dollars to tackle wilding pines infestations during the next four years but under the One Billion Trees Fund, it’s also paying for the invasive species to be planted in the first place.

In Southland, a trust that has worked hard to eradicate wilding pines has written to Government ministers asking why they allow, under the fund, the planting of wilding species.

The Mid Dome Wilding Pine Trust has spent more than $10m​ clearing wilding contorta pines from northern Southland since 2007. . .

Farming vs Forestry: carbon credit  policy ‘idealistic’ :

The Government’s carbon credit policy is “idealistic” and missing “the big picture” says Mike Cranstone.

“Allowing an overseas fund manager to use our productive land to grow carbon credits – that’s like cutting off a finger of our productive hand,” the Whanganui Federated Farmers president and hill country farmer told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

Cranstone was also not a fan of giving up profitable sheep and beef land to forestry.

“Let’s have the government set the incentives and the policy to actually encourage farmers to think about their marginal land and plant that”. . . 

Govt underestimating Labour shortage – National :

The government is underestimating the size of the labour shortage rural contractors are facing, according to National’s ag spokesperson David Bennett.

“Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says he expects rural contractors generally require 350 foreign workers to get through the season. But contractors dispute this, saying many more will likely be needed to fill the labour shortage,’ claims Bennett.

“He also admitted the Government’s Covid-19 training programme is only training 40 people across the country to fill these highly-skilled roles.

“The Minister implied that if someone is capable of driving a van then they are qualified to drive a tractor. This is a simplistic view that doesn’t take into account the complexities of rural contracting and the high-value crops that are at stake. . .

Farms rich family heritage recognised – Molly Houseman:

A Taieri farm, owned by the same family for 150 years, has been given a New Zealand Century farm award.

Despite the cancellation of the usual awards dinner due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Janefield farm and its rich family history did not go unnoticed.

The 220ha farm is owned by father and son Ian and Simon Bathgate.

To be considered for the award, an application including photographs and documents supporting the farm’s history had to be submitted. . .

Selling makes no sense when you’re living the dream – Hugh Collins:

The drive between Arrowtown and Queenstown contains arguably some of the most sought-after high-country land in the South Island.

With no shortage of wealthy developers moving into the area in the past decade, many would be adamant the region’s rich farming days are numbered.

But for Malaghans Rd farmer Chris Dagg, it would be a cold day in hell if he ever chose to sell his 404ha sheep and beef farm beneath Coronet Peak.

“I’ve had countless people say ‘why don’t you just sell and go sit on a beach?,” Mr Dagg said when asked about selling. . . 

Pig farmers feed million bees in wildlife project :

Two pig farmers have succeeded in feeding one million bees after participating in a project that saw them turn over half their land to wildflowers.

Four years ago brothers Mark and Paul Hayward decided to farm 33ha – the equivalent of 83 football pitches – in the most wildlife positive way.

This involves planting nectar-rich blooms around the pig site at Dingley Dell Pork, Suffolk with the aim of embracing a sustainable way of farming. . . 


Rural round-up

June 9, 2020

Book puts farming at centre of NZ’s story :

Brian Easton says his new book could not ignore farming’s contribution to the history of NZ.

William Soltau Davidson is not usually considered one of New Zealand’s great 19th century heroes. He came to New Zealand in 1865 as a 19-year-old farm cadet at the Levels in South Canterbury. By the age of 32 he was general manager of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, which held some 3,000,000 acres in the South Island, in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, some of which Davidson sold off to small holders.

In 1882 he supervised the loading of the first exports of frozen meat at Port Chalmers and welcomed the Dunedin when it reached London. That Davidson does not appear more prominently in our general histories reflects their neglect of the central role of farming.

It is a strange omission, probably the result of the urban base of the writers, the tendency to imitate foreign histories with their focus on industrialisation and their lack of interest in the economy. . . 

Farmer is game for a challenge – Colin Williscroft:

Two-time women’s Rugby World Cup winner Bex Mahoney is these days putting her energy into running a Tararua farming business with her husband Luke but she’s also breaking new ground on the rugby field. There are synergies between the two, as Colin Williscroft reports.

Bex Mahoney likes to challenge herself to have a go at different things because that gives her an edge.

Is a simple philosophy but one that has paid off for the Pahiatua farmer. 

Only the fourth New Zealander to have played 50 first class games of rugby and gone on to referee 50 first class games, both men’s and women’s, the mother of two young girls spends much of her time getting her hands dirty on-farm while also exploring new farming opportunities online and on the phone.  . . 

Farmstrong hits 5th birthday:

Rural wellbeing initiative Farmstrong is celebrating its fifth birthday.

More than 18,000 Kiwi farmers and growers have engaged in the last year alone. 

Farmstrong helps farmers and their families cope with the ups and downs of farming by sharing things farmers can do to look after themselves and the people in their business.

It offers practical tools and resources through its website, workshops and community events, inviting farmers to find out what works for them and lock it in. Farmers using good techniques to stay mentally and physically fit and healthy are regularly featured in stories in Farmers Weekly.  . . 

Queens Birthday honours: cattle breeder Bruce McKenzie:

Bruce McKenzie is proud of his Queen’s Birthday Honour, even though rumour has it, he thought it was a joke at first.

The Wairarapa beef breeder was awarded Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to the cattle industry.

“It’s a great honour to receive this. I think agriculture is going to be a part of the future in New Zealand and I feel very proud to have this honour” he told The Country’s Jamie Mackay. . .

Research finds sheep eyes are the window to their stressed out souls :

Kiwi researchers have found the temperature of a sheep’s eye is linked to the animal’s level of stress.

Thermal imaging technology is being used by AgResearch scientists to gain greater insights into how livestock experience stress, and how that knowledge can help enhance animal welfare.

Research in which the technology is focused on sheep has been published today in the PLOS ONE scientific journal, entitled “Evaluation of infrared thermography as a non-invasive method of measuring the autonomic nervous response in sheep“. . . 

Partners in agritech innovation – Niall Casey:

While it may sound like a cliché to say that Ireland and New Zealand both punch above their weights, it’s clear from the figures that it’s true.

Ireland, a country of less than 5 million people produces enough food to feed over 50 million people, while NZ’s agri-food is known across the world for its food – with its dairy farming passing $15b in export earnings annually.

Both countries are united by their shared commitment to quality, traceability and the highest standards in production and safety.


Rural round-up

May 8, 2020

Concern farmers’ wellbeing affected: –  David Hill:

North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Andy Munro is concerned for the wellbeing of farmers as they negotiate the ongoing effects of a dry season and the Covid-19 lockdown.

He said last month’s rain was “a great morale booster” for farmers in the drought-affected area in North Canterbury.

“Since that rain four weeks ago, things went pretty quiet. But it’s just a pity we haven’t had a follow-up rain and we really need a good warm follow-up rain, particularly for the farmers from Waipara north to get some growth before winter.

“It’s starting to get dry and cold in that northern part, but other than that it’s business as usual. . . 

Farmers need to be heard not patronised:

The Government’s drought recovery advice fund announced today is merely a drop in the bucket for supporting farmers affected by drought, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“The fund is specifically for providing affected farmers with recovery and planning advice, but does not contribute to farmers’ rising feed costs or general business costs.

“Most farmers already know what is needed to help their business recover and it is insulting for the Government to tell them they simply need to seek more advice to get through the drought. . . 

Rural GPs not just another business – Peter Burke:

Rural General Practice Network chair Dr Fiona Bolden is disappointed that the Government is treating rural general practices the same as any other business in the community.

Bolden told Rural News that rural GPs were expecting to get two payments from the Government to assist them financially.

However, she says while they had received the first payment, Cabinet vetoed the second payment – just days before it was expected to be paid.  . .

Differing responses to wage subsidy scheme – Allan Barber:

The country’s meat processors have followed two distinctly different paths in response to the government’s wage subsidy scheme which is available to all businesses for 12 weeks, providing they can substantiate a 30% drop in revenue during the period. Silver Fern Farms, Alliance, ANZCO, Taylor Preston and Blue Sky Meats have all claimed the subsidy to varying extents, whereas AFFCO, Greenlea and Wilson Hellaby have decided it is not justified or necessary, at least partly on ethical grounds.

The contrast in approach has already been commented on by independent economist, Cameron Bagrie, who has slammed the two largest claimants, SFF which has claimed $43 million and Alliance $34 million, for taking advantage of taxpayer funding when they are classified as an essential business, operating in lockdown. Equally Bagrie complimented those companies not making a claim because they were getting on with business as usual. Speaking to The Country’s Jamie Mackay, he said “the wage subsidy is out there to support businesses that are getting clobbered, that are effectively in lockdown.”

I am not convinced this interpretation is either totally fair or even correct. Both SFF’s Simon Limmer and Alliance’s CEO David Surveyor are clear the wage subsidy is not a company entitlement, but is paid directly to various categories of employees: firstly it maintains standard wage rates at normal processing speeds despite the 30-50% reduction to meet distance requirements, it retains those who would have to have been terminated seasonally, and it is used to pay those who cannot work e.g. because of age,  compromised immunity or family circumstances. . .

Community to the rescue for harvest – Toni Williams:

CharRees Vineyard owners Charlie and Esma Hill put a call out on social media for help to harvest during lockdown.

They were so overwhelmed by community response, including some from Christchurch, they had to turn people away.

The lockdown harvest, approved by Ministry for Primary Industries as essential for food and beverage production, attracted about 20 people from Ashburton and Methven — many who had never harvested grapes before — to put their hands up to help.

The pickers worked alongside family members of the couple and vineyard workers to pick the first of three annual grape harvests. . . 

Red meat exports top $1 billion in March 2020, a first for monthly exports:

The monthly value of New Zealand red meat and co-product exports topped $1 billion for the first time, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Total exports reached $1.1 billion in March 2020, an increase of 12 per cent on March 2019.

While overall exports to China for the month of March were down by nine per cent compared to last March as a result of COVID-19, exports to all other major markets increased, demonstrating the agility and resilience of the New Zealand red meat sector. . . 

Time to take ag reform out of the “too hard basket” – Fiona Simson:

Regional Australia is well placed to be the engine that powers Australia’s COVID-19 recovery. The bush has done this before, with strong exports helping keep recession at bay during the Global Financial Crisis.

And, after a challenging period of drought, bushfires and floods, widespread rainfall has seen the fortunes of farmers begin to improve. Agriculture is ready and raring to grow.

As we dare to cast an eye to the world post-COVID-19, now is the opportune time to consider the changes agriculture and regional Australia needs to best contribute to the recovery task. . . 


Rural round-up

April 8, 2020

It’s okay to not be okay – Jamie Mackay:

 A recent personal tragedy has made The Country host Jamie Mackay reconsider his stance on mental health.

I’m ashamed to admit it, especially as there is a history of mental illness in my own family, but until relatively recently I was a bit blasé about mental health.

Back when my grandmother was a young mother under considerable stress raising six kids, she had what was at that time called ‘a breakdown’. She was sent off to a mental institution (as they were known then) three hour’s drive away.

We were often packed into the car when my father went to visit her, but we were never able to see her. She lived until I was 16 years of age, but I never met her. As a family we never talked about her, other than to acknowledge that she was institutionalised. . . 

Rural sector vital to recovery, despite confidence dip – David Anderson:

COVID-19 is negatively impacting New Zealand’s rural sector confidence.

The declining confidence comes as the country’s primary industries prepare to shoulder some of the heavy lifting for economic and social recovery, claims specialist rural bank Rabobank.

New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris says the bank’s latest rural confidence survey shines a light on the psyche of farmers at a critical time for the nation.

“The food and agri sectors will be crucial in helping to rebuild the New Zealand economy and Rabobank continues to have a strong positive long-term view of the sector outlook,” he says.  . .

Fruit, wine industries respond to coronavirus with vintage Kiwi adaptability – Georgia-May Gilbertson:

Kiwis are stepping in to cover a shortage of backpackers and overseas seasonal workers in the fruit and wine industries.  

For the last few years the kiwifruit industry has experienced a labour shortage when it comes to harvest, but New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) president Nikki Johnson says covid-19 has changed that. 

“The way that our labour situation is laid out is that about 50 per cent are New Zealanders,  25 per cent are working holidays visa workers or backpackers, then 20 per cent are RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) workers,” Johnson said.  . . 

COVID-19: Growing interest in NZ sheepmeat in China – Peter Burke:

Chinese consumers are increasingly positive about New Zealand-produced beef, lamb and mutton in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a social media analysis by Beef + Lamb New Zealand. 

B+LNZ’s market development team says it is monitoring Chinese consumers’ perceptions of the protein market, the perception of protein origin, and the changes in retail channel choice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The red meat grower organisation has published a report summarizing the latest findings, which can be found here:

Click here to view the full report. . . 

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. . . 

‘Massive disconnect’: Helen Skelton urges public to respect farmers:

Television presenter Helen Skelton has said there is a ‘massive disconnect’ between food producers and the British public.

The BBC presenter, who currently hosts Springtime On The Farm, urged consumers to have greater respect for farmers.

The 36-year-old grew up on a farm herself, and has a ‘huge amount of respect’ for those who produce the nation’s food.

“Now I live on the edge of the city, and there’s a massive disconnect between food producers and the rest of the country,” she said. . . 

 


PM too busy for The Country

January 30, 2020

Jamie Mackay, host of The Country, (formerly known as The Farming Show) has interviewed leaders of the National and Labour parties every week for years, with one exception.

That exception was then-Labour leader David Cunliffe who declined the opportunity because he thought he wouldn’t get a fair hearing.

There’s now a second exception, one of Cunliffe’s successors, Jacinda Ardern who has said she’ll now only be doing a monthly slot.

The Country is the most expensive advertising hour on radio which indicates the size of its audience.

The show goes nationwide, with a sizeable number of urban listeners and it’s a must-listen for most rural people.

Interviews with party leaders are almost always pre-recorded at a time that’s convenient to them and last about five minutes.

What does it say about a PM who doesn’t have a very few minutes to spare for an audience that big?

People wanting to listen to interviews with the PM will no doubt be able to find others but the ones on The Country deal with rural issues in a way others don’t.

If she’s not available for weekly interviews on The Country she’s not interested in talking to country people.


Rural round-up

September 11, 2019

Ten water questions for Jacinda Ardern and Todd Muller – Jamie Mackay:

Today the Country’s Jamie Mackay has 10 questions on the Government’s freshwater proposals for National’s Primary Industries spokesman Todd Muller. Tomorrow, he will ask Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern the same 10 questions.

Comment: Everyone wants cleaner waterways. It’s how we get there that’s the contentious bit for me.

But first, I have to declare an interest here. As the host of a rural radio show on Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport, I have a vested interest in going into bat for the primary sector and I’m personally heavily invested in it.

I’m also in the privileged position of having a nationwide radio show that infiltrates urban New Zealand, one of very few such voices. . .

Robots, trees and pushbikes – farming’s ‘bright’ future – Pete Fitz-Herbert:

Manawatu farmer Pete Fitz-Herbert takes a tongue in cheek look at the future of New Zealand agriculture.

The future is bright.

There is so much negativity around at the moment I thought I would look forward positively to the bright future that awaits New Zealand.

Imagine a country where you can ride your bicycle to the closest hospital to give birth.

Then to save some more of the environment and be a part of the zero waste movement, your first and only hospital meal containing meat is your own gently seared placenta with a pinch of pink Himalayan salt and julienne carrots. . .

Fonterra aims for 750 million-litre annual water saving – Yvonne O’Hara:

Fonterra’s Edendale site intends to reduce its annual water usage by 750 million litres by 2030, as part of the co-operative’s sustainability strategy.

Fonterra’s general manager for the lower South Island, including Edendale and Stirling, Richard Gray, said the co-operative recently announced that six of its manufacturing sites in water-constrained regions would reduce their water use by 30% by 2030 as part of Fonterra’s sustainability plans.

The Edendale site used “close to two billion litres a year” and all its water was taken from the Edendale aquifer, Mr Gray said. . .

Celebrating a life well-lived – Joyce Wyllie:

“The room was a kinder place when Michelle was in it”.

Profound, sincere words to honour a fine, sincere woman. And after many wonderful tributes the final speaker summing up with that simple heartfelt sentence was significant, as we all knew how true it was.

Seeing over 500 people from varied walks of life crammed into the Collingwood Memorial Hall to celebrate the generous, loving life of Michelle Riley showed how many lives  she touched with her wide skills and talents and her great ability to connect with people. Her kindness impacted her community near and far. . .

Hydro exemption from water standards risk two tier system – Trustpower:

Exempting the country’s major hydro catchments from new controls on fresh water quality appears arbitrary and runs the risk of putting disproportionate scrutiny on smaller schemes, Trustpower chief executive Vince Hawksworth says.

The proposal – to allow councils to accept lower water quality in rivers hosting major dams – is intended to maintain flexibility for the country’s biggest providers of renewable energy. But officials acknowledged the move is a compromise that could be unfair to producers of about 10 percent of the country’s hydro-generation.

Hawksworth says everyone has a part to play to improve water quality and most also share an ambition to make greater use of renewable energy to counter climate change. . .

 

The next 30 years will make or break humanity: Farming is a bigger deal than Brexit – Tom Clarke:

Over the next 30 years, farmers will have to produce more food for more people with fewer resources. This is a huge challenge, and much more important than Brexit, says Cambridgeshire Fens farmer Tom Clarke.

Just get on with it.

Everybody wants to get on with it. It’s just everybody disagrees what ‘IT’ is. . .


Rural round-up

September 7, 2019

Farmer’s open letter to Jacinda Ardern: Part 2 –  Andrew Stewart:

 Last month Rangitikei farmer Andrew Stewart wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about his concerns over climate change and farming. In his follow up letter, he calculates his farm’s emissions profile and finds some worrying statistics.

Nearly a month ago I wrote an emotive open letter to Jacinda Ardern and the farming leaders of New Zealand.

My motivation was to try and articulate what I was feeling as a sheep and beef farmer in regards to climate change obligations.

Now I want to share the facts about my own farm and my emissions profile that inspired me to write the open letter. . . 

Time to recognise real progress made by dairy farmers – Tim Mackle:

I can remember a time not so long ago when more than 70 per cent of the country loved our dairy farmers, but it feels like things have changed in recent times. Farmers are doing their best to stay “relentlessly positive” in the face of relentless criticism, but it’s not easy.

Some commentators are quick to stand back and fire shots at farmers from a distance, but what does that actually achieve? It’s easy to criticise our dairy sector in the New York Times.

It’s much harder to voluntarily put in fencing at your own cost that almost runs the equivalent of New Zealand to New York and back – but that’s exactly what our dairy farmers have done.

New Zealand dairy farmers have fenced off 24,744km of waterways. That means that 97.5 per cent of the significant waterways on New Zealand dairy farms are now excluded from dairy cattle. We have also constructed bridges and culverts for more than 99.7 per cent of 44,386 regular stock crossing points on dairy farms. . . 

Water plan cautiously welcomed, but deadline tight, say dairy, beef, lamb sectors :

The Government’s water proposals will not work as a one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to dairy and sheep and beef farmers, says Sam McIvor. The Beef+Lamb chief executive spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay, along with DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle about the Action Plan for Healthy Waterways which was announced yesterday.

While both Mackle and McIvor said they welcomed the idea behind the freshwater plan, they still have concerns for their industries.

Government figures showed the average annual cost on the proposals would be $9350 for a lowland dairy farm, but a hill country sheep and beef farmer could be looking at $14,850. . . 

Social licence to operate just as important as methane reduction – Allan Barber:

Amid all the debate about agriculture’s responsibility to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, and the appropriate levels for those targets, it may seem counterintuitive to claim an equally pressing problem is to earn a licence to operate. Just as great a threat to agriculture’s future is not whether it faces a potentially unachievable government imposed target, but a business environment in which consumers make their decisions based on their perception of the acceptability of the food they eat.

All primary production sectors – red meat, dairy, horticulture, fisheries, forestry and the rest – must recognise they are in competition for the attention of consumers who increasingly have the luxury and the right to decide between products they consume on the basis of multiple dimensions, way beyond the traditional choice based on taste, price and availability. While we are continually told the world’s population will provide ready markets for more than New Zealand can produce, we are also being made increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability and working with instead of exploiting the environment. . .

Oamaru’s Berry family are breaking the mound with special blue cheese – Lucy Corry:

Simon Berry eats blue cheese on toast for breakfast. Not every day, of course, but he has to do his bit to support the family business. “I love all our cheeses, but the blue’s the best,” he says. “It depends on the season, because there’s so much scope. I mean, I do love the halloumi. But yeah, I’m definitely a blue cheese guy.”

It’s not as if he doesn’t have a wide variety to choose from. Whitestone Cheese, the company started by his father Bob and mother Sue back in 1987, now produces 25 different cheeses from its Oamaru factory. One of those cheeses — the Vintage Windsor Blue that Simon is so fond of having on his toast of a morning — is now exported to France. It also won a gold medal in the 2019 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards, along with Whitestone’s Ferry Road Halloumi (the highest scoring cheese in the awards) and its Vintage Five Forks.

Wool footwear:

Thanks to our more active lifestyles and casual approach to dressing, runners are undoubtedly one of the most popular items in today’s global market. The success of wool in footwear lies not only in the fibre’s natural properties, but also in its ability to be constructed in a way that aids performance.

Using the latest fully-fashioned knitting technology, wool footwear can be knitted to its final shape, reducing the amount of wastage associated with regular cut-and-sew techniques.

Wool fibres can absorb large quantities of moisture vapour and then allow it to evaporate, helping keep you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool. . .


Rural round-up

August 23, 2019

Todd Muller: This Government thinks farming is ‘yesterday’s industry’ :

Todd Muller says the current Government does not see agribusiness as part of the future of New Zealand’s economy.

National’s primary industries spokesman told The Country’s Jamie Mackay that this philosphy “runs deep” within the Labour Party, saying Helen Clark once described agribusiness as “a sunset industry” when she was Prime Minister.

“They have a philosophical view the primary industries, somehow, are not part of New Zealand’s future and I totally reject that view. I always have. I think food and fibre are going to be critical for New Zealand in the future”. . . 

(You’ll find a link to the interview if you click on the headline above).

Regenerative Farming: Can meat save the planet? – Bonnie Flaws:

Grazing animals are vital to addressing the climate crisis. Blink. Yep, you read that right. 

Cows, sheep, bison, even pigs, goats and chickens are part of the solution, not the enemy.

But ever since the 2006 UN report on livestock that blamed meat production for contributing to climate change, it’s been taking some flack.

However, a growing body of research shows that livestock, managed properly, help build organic matter and store carbon in the soil which is the second largest carbon sink after our oceans, according to the European Environment Agency. . . 

 

Understanding business empowers busy farmer – Sally Rae:

Jess Lamb loves being busy.

That is just as well, given the amount of things going on in her life, whether it is farming, children, part-time work as a beauty therapist or her involvement with the local fire brigade.

Mrs Lamb farms with her husband Greg in the Wendon Valley, near Gore, where their children Stevie (6) and Mac (5) are sixth-generation on the land.

She recently completed the Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s Understanding Your Farming Business programme, which aimed to equip and support women with the knowledge, skills and confidence to lift the performance and profitability of their farming business. . . 

Roadshows define agtech strategy – Colin Williscroft:

Farmers are being encouraged to have their say on the types of technology that will be of most benefit to the primary sector.

The Agritech Strategy Roadshow is travelling around the country seeking feedback to help identify key priority areas for Government action to support the sector.

Agritech New Zealand is partnering with several government agencies to develop a range of industry-led initiatives and actions to help the agricultural technology sector, lift export earnings and provide more innovation.  . .

Vegan food’s sustainability needs to give the full picture

The IPCC special report, Climate Change and Land, released last night, has found a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the “land”: largely farming, food production, land clearing and deforestation.

Sustainable farming is a major focus of the report, as plants and soil can potentially hold huge amounts of carbon. But it’s incredibly difficult as a consumer to work out the overall footprint of individual products, because they don’t take these considerations into account.

Two vegan brands have published reports on the environmental footprint of their burgers. Impossible Foods claims its burger requires 87% less water and 96% less land, and produces 89% fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than a beef version. Additionally, it would contribute 92% less aquatic pollutants.

Similarly, Beyond Meat claims its burger requires 99% less water, 93% less land, 90% fewer greenhouse emissions and 46% less energy than a beef burger.

But these results have focused on areas where vegan products perform well, and do not account for soil carbon or potential deforestation. This might change the picture. . .

Red meat and the environment: the facts:

Red meat is not only important for a balanced diet – it has an important role in balanced, natural farming, too.

There is a lot of talk at the moment about sustainable food and the impact eating red meat has on the environment.

We’ve teamed up with the Meat Advisory Panel to provide some useful, fact-based messages to help you have positive, engaging conversations about agriculture, red meat and the environment.

Without livestock, the landscape would change significantly, as we reported in the Landscapes without Livestock project.

This visualised the impacts of a reduction in beef and sheep farming on some of England’s most cherished landscapes over a 30-year period. You can explore one example with the image slider above. . . 


Southland shows sense

July 4, 2019

A few days ago I declared a common sense emergency.

Jane Smith is blunter:

Although Jane Smith is not a climate change denier, she says there is no denying things have got “out of control” when it comes to cities declaring a climate emergency.

In fact, this North Otago farmer wants to declare an “Emergency of Political Stupidity”.

“All of these headlines are politically driven propaganda, rather than evidence-based” Smith told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

As a former Ballance Farm Environment Award winner, Smith knows her stuff when it comes to keeping New Zealand clean and green, but a climate emergency is a step too far in her book.

“I just think now is the time to be working together in a calm and rational way – and I’m not a climate change denier at all. It’s just that this is a long game, and we actually need to be thinking about it together and building that plane while we’re flying it I guess”.

Another issue bugging Smith at the moment is millennials being diagnosed with climate change anxiety over the “looming anticipated threats about what might be happening in the future”.

“That is not conducive to really cool, calm and rational thinking. Opinion seems to be taking over fact … and I just think that’s ridiculous“. . .

The political stupidity emergency is coming closer now Jacinda Ardern is contemplating declaring one of behalf of the government.

The Prime Minister’s admission that she is open to the idea of declaring a climate change emergency is nothing more than hot air and rhetoric, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“This amounts to nothing more than political posturing and virtue signalling, the Climate Change Minister himself has admitted that he expects emissions to continue to rise until the mid-2020s, and declaring an emergency would not have any impact on this.

“There is no clear understanding of what declaring a ‘climate emergency’ would actually mean or what would occur as a result.

“When governments declare emergencies they are for natural disasters and requires the full and urgent attention of all relevant government departments. This declaration lacks all such substance and is merely a feel good statement with no plan or meaningful action standing behind it.

“If the Government was explicit in what it would change, fund, or prioritise differently by declaring an emergency then we would be open to the debate, but currently it is just symbolism over substance.

“National is taking a bipartisan approach to climate change and supports the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission. The focus should be on developing real plans to drive our emissions down rather than making empty declarations.”

People clamoring for declarations of climate emergencies should be very careful what they’re wishing for.

Any urgent actions, which is what emergencies demand, would have high economic and social costs and, given just how small New Zealand’s contribution to the problem is, the environmental benefits would be at the very best minimal.

But there is hope in Southland where cooler heads are prevailing:

Environment Southland has today voted against declaring a climate emergency.

Councillor Robert Guyton put forward the motion at a full council meeting to declare a climate emergency. It was seconded by Cr Lyndal Ludlow. . .

However, a second motion put forward by Cr Eric Roy stated council would “commit to applying best practice and best science to it’s responsibilities and accords urgency to developing an action plan.”

This was then voted on – the results being all but two councillors voting in favour of it. . .

Environment Southland is showing sense.

Commitment to best practice, best science and urgent development of an action plan will achieve far more than the empty words and hot air which are the declaration of a climate emergency.

 


Rural round-up

May 17, 2019

Time for agricultural industry to lead the way – Anna Campbell:

It seems a long time ago that National MP Shane Ardern rode ”Myrtle”, his elderly tractor, up the parliamentary steps in protest at the proposed ”fart tax”.

That was back in 2003 and there have been many iterations of carbon reduction schemes since then with agriculture sliding along relatively unscathed. One did feel that it was only a matter of time before the grace period was over. Climate change has not gone away, a raft of regulations are on their way, but they do look a little different from what we were expecting.

The biggest difference to the current scheme versus previous schemes is the split gas regime, where methane is treated separately due to its shorter lifespan in the atmosphere – the target is a 10% reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, with a provisional reduction of 24% to 47% by 2050. . . 

‘Major reset’ for honey industry – Yvone O’Hara:

There has been strong growth by the honey industry during the past few years but with demand and prices dropping by as much as 50% compared to the previous season, there will be belt tightening and rationalisation, Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos says.

She said the strong growth and good returns in the past few years had attracted a lot of new entrants to the industry.

However, the domestic and international markets have been ”a bit sluggish”. . . 

Katie Milne responds to Shane Jones’ claim that farmers are ‘moaners‘:

Farmers have come under fire this week from MP Shane Jones, who says they need to stop “bitching and moaning”. Jones launched into farmers while talking to host Jamie Mackay on The Country yesterday. But what do farmers say in response? Mackay catches up with one of Jones’ targets, Federated Farmers president Katie Milne, who says the urban/rural divide has damaged people’s opinions of farmers.

“I don’t like the term ‘whingeing’,” says Katie Milne. “But we do like to highlight and try to talk to the issues that do affect us that people do have control over.”

The Federated Farmers president is responding to claims from the Minister of Forestry and Regional Economic Development Shane Jones that farmers are moaners. . . 

Facts ‘overrated’ in farming’s fight for social licence – Glen Herud:

There’s the “thing” and there’s the perception of the “thing” and they are not the same thing.

You could say, there’s the “dairy farm” and there’s the perception of the “dairy farm” and they are not the same thing.

You can change the thing but that doesn’t necessarily change the perception of the thing. . . 

FarmStrong: Shearer’s look after top paddock :

An initiative in the wool harvesting industry is changing traditional attitudes to injury prevention and wellbeing and it’s not just shearing crews who are benefiting.  

Times are changing in the woolshed, Shearing Contractors’ Association spokesman Mark Barrowcliffe says.

He’s been running his King Country business for nearly 20 years, employing up to 50 staff at peak season. . .

Busby takes the feijoa for New Zealand’s oldest sheep – Tracey Neal:

Busby’s genetic roots might lie in the blustery North Sea island of Texel, but the owners of what was possibly New Zealand’s oldest sheep said he has thrived on a more gentle lifestyle.

The Texel-Romney cross wether is estimated by Lynley and Barry Bird to be 24-years-old, measured against the ages of their now-adult children who rescued him as a lamb. . .


Rural round-up

May 1, 2019

Gas tax won’t cut farming emissions – Neal Wallace:

A capital gains tax is off the agenda but farming leaders are warning the imposition a suite of new taxes and regulations is pending.

In addition to farmers paying a greenhouse gas emissions tax of $50 million a year the Government is expected to impose tougher regulations on freshwater quality, aerial cropping, winter grazing and feedlots.

“When you look at everything else coming down the pipeline, if I was asked to pick one we were prepared to lose it would be this one, the one we have won,” Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard said of the capital gains tax.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also ruled out water and fertiliser taxes as suggested by the Tax Working Group. . .

Top dairy title revealed tonight – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy farmer Emma Hammond, of East Limehills, felt honoured when she was nominated for this year’s prestigious Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award.

The only South Island-based finalist, she and the other three women will hear if they are winners during a dinner this evening at the Allflex Dairy Women’s Network’s conference in Christchurch.

”For us to be recognised for what we do and get that acknowledgement is humbling,” Mrs Hammond said. . .

Farm management whizz ‘well on track‘ – Sally Rae:

At 19, James Matheson set a goal of having $1 million equity by the time he was 30.

Now 26, the Gore farm manager is ”well on track” to achieve that, sitting at between $700,000 and $800,000.

It has been a meteoric rise for a young man who had never previously considered a career in the dairy industry.

Now he and farm owner Chris Lawlor were endeavouring to help other young people follow a similar path through an innovative initiative. . . 

Highlife on top of the world – Andrew Stewart:

Setting up a tourism venture on a farm not only provides a second income but also acts as a public relations exercise to help bridge the rural-urban divide. And when it includes luxury glamping and breathtaking views the visitors cannot fail to be impressed. Andrew Stewart took a look.

In terms of spectacular views, Angus and Sarah Gilbertson’s farm is up there with the best. 

Rising to 600 metres above sea level at the highest point, the panorama on a clear day encompasses all the mountain peaks of the central plateau, Mount Taranaki to the west and the clear blue waters of the Tasman Sea far to the south. 

Between these stunning landmarks are great swathes of some of the most productive farming country in New Zealand that connect the landscape in various shades of green. It’s the sort of view you can’t help but stop and enjoy and this is part of the reason the Gilbertsons created their glamping business five years ago. . . 

The 10 biggest stories in farming over the past 25 years – Jamie Mackay:

My final chat on Newstalk ZB with the laconic Larry Williams was a great excuse to take a trip down memory lane.

Larry was stepping down after 27 years at the drive helm on ZB, while I was blowing out the candles on an accidental radio career spanning a quarter century in rural broadcasting.

For our penultimate ZB cross the week earlier I’d turned the tables on Larry and, without warning, asked him some unscripted questions. Much like his metronomic golf swing, he’s sometimes hard to get off script, but on this occasion he took up the challenge with good humour. . . 

Hunt on for ‘M.bovis’ study project manager – Sally Rae:

The search for an assistant research fellow to project manage a study on the impacts of Mycoplasma bovis on farmers and their communities has attracted a high level of interest.

In January, it was announced the University of Otago would undertake a study on the emotional, social and psychological impacts of the bacterial cattle disease on southern farmers and farming communities.

The two-year study, due to start this month, will look at the impact of the eradication programme on farmers specifically and the wider community more generally. . . 

Medicinal cannabis firm Pure Cann New Zealand gets $6 million investment– Rebecca Howard:

Pure Cann New Zealand, which counts former Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe as its executive chair, has secured $6 million from Australia’s Cann Group for a 20 per cent stake in the local medicinal cannabis company.

The investment will be made over stages with the initial 10 per cent to be completed on or before August 30 and a further 10 per cent when New Zealand regulations come into force and Pure Cann’s board approves the construction of its commercial cultivation facility.

The New Zealand government anticipates introducing new regulations, licensing requirements and quality standards governing medicinal cannabis usage by the end of this calendar year. . . 

 


Rural round-up

March 7, 2019

Miles Hurell says Fonterra top job was never a done-deal :

The Country’s Jamie Mackay always thought Miles Hurrell would be a shoo-in for Fonterra’s chief executive position but the man himself says it was never a done deal.

“Far from it. They gave me an opportunity to see what we could do in that six months [as interim CEO] and clearly it’s worked. The board have liked what they’ve seen,” said Hurrell.

Fonterra’s new chief executive told Mackay he is well aware that he has a big job ahead of him. . . 

Years of work ahead to eradicate M. bovis, programme director says  – Brianna McIlraith:

More than 80,000 cows have been culled around the country as part of the effort to stop the spread of the Mycoplasma bovis disease, but eradication is still a long way off, the man in charge of the programme says.

Geoff Gwyn said another two years of ‘heavy lifting’ lay ahead before the Ministry for Primary Industries was confidently on top of the bacterial disease, and experts had advised that eradication could take between five and 10 years. . .

Potentialseen in double-muscled Beltx sheep breed – Sally Rae:

A Southland farming family has invested significantly in the Beltex sheep breed, believing it will be of ”major benefit” to the New Zealand sheep industry.

Brent and Ann-Maree Robinson, and son Michael, who farm at Glenham, near Wyndham, last year paid $12,000 for a ram lamb at the inaugural Beltex sale in Canterbury.

Last week, they bought the second top-priced ram lamb for $21,000 at this year’s sale at Mt Somers, a 2-tooth ram for $11,500 and some Beltex ewes to help build their breeding programme. . . 

Woman claims inaugural female shearing crown – Ellen O’Dwyer:

Emily Welch still remembers the time a fellow male competitor refused to shake her hand for out-shearing him.

That was in 2007, when Welch came second in the senior finals at the Golden Shears.

Now the Waikato shearer is the first to have her name etched on the women-only trophy after taking first place in the inaugural event at this year’s Golden Shears competition in Masterton. . . 

Community rallies to support Cambridge wetlands project :

A Cambridge school’s planting project not only assisted local farmers’ environmental efforts, but also attracted plants and sustenance from local businesses.

As part of an environmental initiative between DairyNZ’s education programme and the Student Volunteer Army, 26 rural schools were matched recently with 26 farmers to carry out riparian planting projects around the country.

Two farmers taking part were sharemilkers Stu and Leah Gillanders, who teamed up with a class from Cambridge Middle School to plant a wetland on Merv and Marion Hunt’s Karapiro farm. . .

Dannevirke TeenAg award winner’s passion for Hereford  cattle :

Dannevirke teenager Niamh Barnett knows first-hand how nerve-racking bidding at a livestock auction can be.

The 17-year-old bought some Hereford cows at the Woodlynd Polled Herefords dispersal sale in Gisborne in February 2018.

“I went with a price I was prepared to pay for each animal. I just hoped I didn’t get outbid,” she laughed. . . 


Rural round-up

December 27, 2018

Leave the water rules to locals – Neal wallace:

When water arrived in Maniototo 34 years ago it not only transformed the region’s dryland farms but also Geoff Crutchley’s views on water management.

Crutchley was initially reluctant to become involved in the murky world of water and irrigation management but was prodded into action in response to what he considered inflated water prices being demanded by the precursor to the Maniototo Irrigation Company.

So began an involvement that continues today but which has challenged some of his previous views while shaping others.

His experience has formed views on three issues in particular. . . 

Wilding pine effort set to triple – Jono Edwards:

The attack effort on Otago’s wilding pines seems set to treble.

Over the past year, $1.8 million was spent controlling 332,000ha in the region through the Ministry of Primary Industry-led wilding conifer control programme.

At a recent Otago Regional Council meeting, chief executive Sarah Gardner said she was told by ministry staff the work would soon triple.

This was echoed by the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group.

Ministry Wilding Conifer Programme manager Sherman Smith said phase one was 85% complete and planning for the second phase was under way. . . 

Improving farm performance – one effluent pond at a time – Jim van der Poel:

As a dairy farmer, I take great pride in looking after my farm – its animals, the grass under their feet, our team and how we protect the environment. Every aspect contributes to a successful business.

So, like many farmers, I am disappointed when a few let down the majority. There have been some instances this year of poor effluent compliance, despite many farmers doing great work in this space.

All dairy farmers have a responsibility to manage the effluent from their cows and it is taken seriously by the vast majority who are investing in reliable, sustainable farm systems. . . 

Ex-director suggests Fonterra suspends dividends – Sudesh Kissun:

A former Fonterra director says the co-op could suspend dividends to shore up its balance sheet rather than sell key assets.

Greg Gent says farmers and investors would understand if the co-op suspended dividends to get its books in better shape. And it could suspend dividends and sell some assets that don’t align with its new strategy.

However, he wants to see the co-op’s strategy before decisions are made on selling assets. . . 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2018 – Jamie Mackay:

The Country radio host Jamie Mackay takes a look at the highs and lows for rural New Zealand in 2018.

The Good:

The weather:

This time last year much of the country was in a screaming drought – a farmer’s worst nightmare. Although Mother Nature absolutely forgot to turn the tap off in November and early December, at least once we dry out there will be grass for Africa and for more than quite a few sheep, cattle and deer.

Mycoplasma bovis:

Twelve months ago many were resigned to living and farming with bovis. If a week’s a long time in politics, a year is an eternity in farming. I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest bovis is beaten but we’ve given it a hell of fright in 2018. . . 

Bird veteran still has pluck – Alan Williams:

The glamorous part of the year is over for long-time poultry exhibitor Doug Bain.

After several months of winter and spring shows around the South Island with a lot of ribbons and accolades it is back to the real work of breeding hens and ducks for next year.

“You need to have a reason to get up in the morning. It’s a hobby for me,” the 82-year-old says.

He doesn’t keep count of the birds he breeds and has no preferences. 

“I like them all.” . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 11, 2018

Fonterra is in a fix but farmers should beware of what happens when the Govt steps in … – Point of Order:

“Govt won’t fix Fonterra’s problems” – so ran  the  strapline  on  the  NZ Herald’s  weekly  “The Business”  last  Friday.

And  thousands   of  Fonterra’s  farmer-suppliers,  reading  the  article which quoted Agriculture Minister Damien  O’Connor,  almost  certainly would have sighed  with relief.

Who  would want   this   government  to  “fix”  their  industry?  Look what happened to  the   oil and  gas  exploration industry  after  Energy Resources  Minister   Megan Woods  applied  her  “fix”  to  it. . . 

NZ plays down threat to European agri interests in FTA talks – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand trade negotiators are trying to get their European counterparts to recognise that the nation’s agricultural exports are small-fry in comparison to the regional bloc’s farming sector.

The second round of free trade negotiations between New Zealand and the EU is underway in Wellington, with 31 European officials in the capital to make progress in a deal politicians say they’re keen to fast-track. In a 90-minute public forum, the chief negotiators – Peter Berz for the EU and Martin Harvey of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade – said there was a lot of commonality between the parties, but that agriculture is a sticking point.  . .

Breakthrough technology could save dairy industry millions:

A new device that detects processing losses in dairy plants could save the industry millions of dollars a year and help prevent pollutants from entering waterways.

Lincoln University-owned research and development company, Lincoln Agritech Ltd, developed the breakthrough technology and it was then commercialised by Christchurch-based start-up company, CertusBio.

The result is a robust, automated biosensor capable of continuous monitoring in commercial operating conditions. Known as Milk-Guard, the device uses a lactose-specific enzyme to measure the percentage of dairy products present in waste streams and processing lines
.. .

12 lessons from the Future of Farming Dialogue – Jamie Mackay:

What’s in store for the rural sector? Host of The Country radio show Jamie Mackay got a glimpse at the Bayer Future of Farming Dialogue conference in Düsseldorf and Amsterdam. Here’s what he discovered:

1)

Even though it was very much tempered by sitting much closer to the front than the back, 17 hours is a hell of a long time to be stuck on a plane.

The Auckland-Dubai direct flight is the third-longest commercial flight on the planet, behind Auckland-Doha and Perth-London.

2)

The world faces a food crisis. How to feed a potential population of 10 billion people by 2050? In 1960 we had more than one acre (0.4 ha) of arable land for every person on the planet. Today that number is less than half that. Many of our most productive soils now grow only houses. . . 

 

Multi-pronged approach critical to successful environment strategy – Allan Barber:

Since announcing its environment strategy in May, the Beef + Lamb New Zealand team responsible for developing the plans, processes and tools to help farmers achieve the ambitious goals of being carbon neutral by 2050 and every farm having an active farm plan by 2021 has been working flat out to get the right farm planning systems in place. The strategy identifies four areas of focus – cleaner water, carbon neutrality, thriving biodiversity and healthy productive soils – with their own specific goals and a detailed implementation plan, supported by a series of what are termed ‘foundations’.

Initially there are two foundations which explicitly rely on the participation of individual farmers. The first is helping farmers navigate the myriad of farm environment plans out there so they can identify the one that complies with local regulations and is best suited to help them document their individual on farm environment plan; the second foundation will encourage the establishment and facilitation of catchment communities which are relevant to the farmers’ local areas.  . . 

CP Wool announces exclusive partnership to distribute NZ wool carpets in US:

Premium New Zealand wool carpets and rugs will soon be available to thousands more US consumers under a new distribution partnership between Carrfields Primary Wool (CP Wool) and J Mish Mills.

Under the agreement, leading carpet business J Mish will design and manufacture carpets and rugs from yarn grown and spun in New Zealand. The products will then be distributed throughout the US via J Mish’s large network of dealer and designer relationships. . . 

Feral sheep’s wool could set world record

A feral ewe captured on a remote bluff will have her first brush with the shears this weekend and organisers say she could have the longest wool in the world.

The crossbred sheep was caught in the Mapiu district, south of Te Kuiti, by Amie Ritchie and Carla Clark.

Named Suzy by her captors, the ewe is not believed to have been shorn before.  However, that will change at The Wool Shed, the national museum of sheep and shearing, in Masterton on Sunday. . . 

Why we need a real forestry strategy – Rod Oram:

We’re an odd country when it comes to trees. We have a lot of them but no overarching long-term policy for them. Consequently, our short-term forestry decisions deliver some adverse outcomes, both economic and environmental.

And on our current course it’s going to get worse. We’re racing to plant one billion trees in a decade to help us meet our climate commitments (as last week’s column discussed), develop regional economies, reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance biodiversity such as helping to save native birds from extinction.

Trees could do all of that for us. But only if they can flourish in healthy ecosystems. To do so, they need all the help we can give them over three or four human generations. Instead, we’re working in silos over just a decade or two, the longest time most commercial enterprises can wait for an investment to pay off. . .

Major investors back medicinal cannabis with stake in Helius:

Cannabis-focused biotechnology company, Helius Therapeutics, announced today it has completed its $15m capital raise and is now backed by a small group of New Zealand investors, led by tech entrepreneur, Guy Haddleton.

Haddleton says “Helius Therapeutics has all the features we seek in a high-potential investment. The company has a clear and large vision, extraordinary talent and deep go-to-market experience. More importantly, Helius will improve significantly the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders”. . .


We need to talk about GM

September 24, 2018

We need to talk about genetic modification, former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says.

Sir Peter Gluckman says the debate over whether to use genetically edited grasses to combat greenhouse gas emissions is more philosophical than scientific.

It’s also more emotional and political than rational.

The former Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay about his report released this week in which he suggests New Zealand needs to have a “national conversation,” about using GMOs in agriculture.

“What I’ve raised in the report is just that if we’re serious about climate change, if we’re serious about environmental protection, if we’re serious about a reduction in predators and protecting biodiversity, we perhaps need to think again about whether the technologies which are increasingly being used offshore have got a role to play in New Zealand.” . . 

There are widespread calls for farmers to play their part in reducing emissions but many of those agitating for that are also opposed to allowing GM.

It is a tool widely used in other countries that is being denied to New Zealand farmers.

Mackay wonders if consumers will want to eat products from animals that have grazed on genetically modified grass, but Gluckman says this is already happening.

“Around the world consumers are eating lots of meat and lots of milk that are coming from genetically modified crops now … it’s been going on at least for a decade broadly around the world.”

It’s also in a lot of the food we’ve been eating for years. Most corn and soy that we import will have come from GM crops.

Gluckman says the issue is more “philosophical rather than a scientific debate” with a number of countries ruling that gene editing does not need the same regulatory controls as gene modification, but “other countries are not so certain.”

Gluckman believes there needs to be a discussion around the use of GM grasses before New Zealand begins testing them.

“I think that in theory it’s possible in New Zealand. It’s just that in practice it’s not possible and I think one would need a much broader national conversation to look through the issues which are largely more philosophical and values-based than they are scientifically based.”

We saw huge areas of corn when we were in Colorado and Nebraska on an IrrigationNZ tour 10 days ago.

All of it was genetically modified.

Farmers there have been producing GM crops for years with no problems in the field or in the market.

They told us it had both economic and environmental benefits. It yielded better and required fewer chemicals to grow.

AgResearch is trialing GM grass in the USA because it can’t do it here. The grass has the potential to make a significant reduction to methane emissions.

Opponents of the technology say it could risk our reputation for producing clean and green feed.

Surely the risk our competitors will be gaining the benefits of GM grass and marketing their meat as cleaner and greener is even greater.

Science is rarely 100% settled. But after decades of use in many countries there has been no evidence of any problems with GM that would put our farming at risk, and plenty of evidence of the benefits.

New Zealand needs to start talking about GM and the  conversation must be based on science and facts, not emotion and philosophy.


IHC cans calf scheme

July 4, 2018

Mycoplasma bovis has claimed another victim – the IHC Calf Scheme:

Due to the very real risk of spreading the Mycoplasma bovis disease, IHC has decided for the first time in 33 years to suspend crucial aspects of its Calf and Rural Scheme.

This includes picking up calves and organising IHC sales, simply because we cannot be part of something that puts farmers’ livelihoods at risk.

IHC has had a long and important partnership with farmers, which means together we have been able to make a real difference to the lives of people with intellectual disabilities – particularly those people living in rural communities.

We’ve spoken to many farmers, including at this year’s Fieldays, many of whom were concerned about the spread of Mycoplasma bovis.

Since the eradication programme was announced by Government, IHC has been in ongoing talks with the Ministry for Primary Industries – and based on information provided to us we have had to make some very tough decisions.

Over many years, IHC has tightened its practices – only picking up animals with National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) ear tags and Animal Status Declaration (ASD) forms.

IHC National Manager Fundraising Greg Millar says despite significant improvements in these systems, the risk remains too high.

“We have determined there should neither be IHC-organised transportation of weaned calves to sales, nor IHC calf sale days,” says Greg.

“IHC looked at every possible way to keep the scheme running as is, but after deliberating with MPI we determined it was too much of a risk.

“This is an important decision and one that we have not made lightly – the Calf and Rural Scheme is a long-standing fundraising programme that is now in its 33rd year, and generates more than $1 million annually for people with intellectual disabilities.

“We have a real obligation to do what is right for New Zealand farmers, their livelihoods and long-term sustainability.

“We are keeping up to date with the latest findings, and are working to gather the best data possible, to determine how the scheme will operate in the future.”

IHC would like to encourage people who want to continue to support people with intellectual disabilities to donate and take part in our virtual calf scheme, donating $300 in lieu of a calf, by visiting www.ihc.org.nz/pledge.

“We would also like to acknowledge what a tough time this has been for farmers, and we’re making a commitment to those in rural communities around New Zealand who have supported those with intellectual disabilities over the past 33 years.

“IHC is very grateful for the ongoing support in this difficult year of the key sponsors, in particular PGG Wrightson, who has supported us from the beginning of the calf scheme.” 

On The Country today, Jamie Mackay was encouraging everyone to donate money in lieu of stock.

We will be.

IHC was wonderfully supportive of our son who was profoundly disabled, and us.

Their attitude was summed up by the response to a query about what help was available.

The local IHC manager said, “You tell us what you need and we’ll make our system work for you.”

It’s more than 20 years since we needed that help but there are lots of other disabled people and their families who still need IHC’s assistance.


Farmers’ stories and silver lining

June 13, 2018

Farmers are fighting back against the anti-farmer, anti farming rhetoric.

The antis are well organised and articulate, but social media gives a voice to those like Farmer Tom:

 

I’m one of those ‘industrial farmers’ that practice ‘intensive farming’; people hate me. I’m also a conservation farmer (#glyphosateisvital) and am part of a family farm; people now love me. Confusing isn’t it? Anyway, here’s what I just wrote on another matter – it makes enlightening reading I think (/hope)…

In the past generation we’ve planted 14 football pitches of trees and woodland, we’ve sown 30 football pitches of pollen & nectar mix for butterflies and bees (a RIOT of colour from April to November), we provide 10 football pitches of mixed seed crops to help overwintering birds get through the ‘hungry gap’ at the end of winter, we’ve restored and maintained 20 ponds and we regularly see snipe across the farm, but especially on our managed wetlands. We’ve seen marked increases in brown hare, skylark, red kites, buzzards, sparrow hawk, hobby, and three species of owl make use of our specialised owl boxes. We have seen earthworm populations increase significantly, and we have managed grassland for rare orchids. Our low-input grazing system mimics the movement of wild herds and we have seen five species of deer increasing across the farm. Our crowning glory in my opinion is the reappearance of the stunning kingfisher, however the prevalence of grey partridges or lapwings or any number of redlist species divides opinion as to the title of greatest success story, and a recent visit from an insect expert revealed a rich insect fauna.

We’ve also grown food for 65 million left wing, right wing, centrists, nazis, and communists, for vegetarians, flexitarians, vegans, and omnivores, for black and white, rich and poor, for women and for those who identify as women, for man and beast, for princes and paupers, for criminals, creatives, and crazies, for townies and bumpkins, for slave and free, for erudite and for those who don’t even know what that means, for immigrants, supremacists, for asylum-seekers, for liberals, free thinkers, and for those who read the Daily Mail, the Guardian, the Telegraph, and for those who can’t read. Not bad for a little patch of England eh?

Farmers; keeping you alive since history began, and stewarding our land since conservation was an elaborate way of preserving fruit for application to buttered toast.

Another Farmer, Mark Warren tells the story of going from peasant farmer to present farmer:

Mark Warren was just 24 years old, with a ticket to London and The Big OE in his pocket, when he got the call to take over the old family station in the steep hill country at Waipari in the Hawkes Bay.

“My father said, ‘Oi! The manager’s gone. All the staff are gone. You’re going to have to take over…Make it snappy.’ That was that. I went away for two weeks and came home…to face the music”. . . 

In spite of dyslexia, Mark has published his story in a book: Many a Muddy Morning: Stories From a Life Offroad and on the Land,

And Jim Hopkins sees a silver lining in the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak:

The emotional impact on farmers with animals affected by Mycoplasma bovis may have the unintended side effect of changing the public’s perception of farming.

Rural Raconteur Jim Hopkins spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay saying urban New Zealand will be viewing farmers with much more empathy and sympathy as a result of M. bovis.

Hopkins’ speech was so impassioned and succinct we thought we’d let him do the talking to end today’s show.

“This occurred to me a week or two back when I was listening to you [Mackay] talking to a cocky in South Canterbury who wept on air … I’ve seen farmers on television in the same awfully stressed situation and you feel their pain. But the thing that did occur to me was, this is the first time for two years, that I have seen the other side of farming.

For two years or more, a gullible brainwashed urban media that sort of picks up all the green garbage and feeds it into its audience … has presented farmers as heartless calf-killers and creek polluters … suddenly we see people who are genuinely grief-stricken at the loss of animals, not as economic units but as members of the family, as part of their lives, as individuals.

It occurred to me when I saw that and heard it, I thought – suddenly, an urban audience is seeing farming and farmers in a new and vulnerable and emotional and caring and compassionate light and that’s got to be, long term, a good thing.

It’s a shift in perspective and perception in my view and it’s one that … everyone involved in the sector knows … that farmers … care, but that isolated, insulated urban audience that thinks milk comes in bottles or containers -they haven’t seen that and now they have and I think that’s a fantastic thing.” 

You can hear Jim full speech by clicking on the link above.

The disease is a very high price to pay for an improved perception, and it will be cold comfort for those directly affected, but good can come from bad.


Rural roundup

May 27, 2018

Vet answers pressing Mycoplasma bovis questions:

Trying to stop the spread of Mycoplasma bovis can be a complicated process, with some confusion around winter grazing and Gypsy Day, where stock is moved between farms.

Central-Southland vet Mark Bryan spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay and Andy Thompson in a bid to answer some questions surrounding Mycoplasma bovis.

What happens if you send animals away to grazing and while they’re there some other animals are classed as infected? Do your animals become infected and can you bring them back home?

Bryan says farms that are under restriction, (Infected Properties (IPs), Restricted Place (RP) and Notices of Direction (NOD), can only move to other restricted farms. . . 

MPI ‘slow, uncoordinated’, under-prepared in M bovis response:

One of the owners of the South Canterbury farm where Mycoplasma bovis was first found says MPI has been slow, uncoordinated and under-prepared in its response to the disease.

Wilma Van Leuuwen said she knew the farmer who managed the Waikato farm where the disease was found in December.

“It was traced to them, up there in Cambridge in December, and nobody came on the farm to do testing straight away.

“That person was able to trade stock or do whatever he wished until February when they locked him down and started doing the testing – and they didn’t even notify it until May that he was positive. It’s rather slow.”

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) was never prepared to manage the disease, and would never have enough staff to cope with it now it had spread throughout the country, she said. . .

‘M. bovis’ outbreak devastates couple’s life – Sally Rae:

Thousands of cattle have been slaughtered because of Mycoplasma bovis, but there has also been a very real human cost.

Until Wednesday, former Van Leeuwen Dairy Group (VLDG) sharemilkers Sarel and Mary Potgieter were living in a leaking caravan in Australia.

They had been forced to sell anything they could, including household items, to pay debts, and both were now taking anti-depressants, Mrs Potgieter said.

They also had the “heartbreaking” sight of watching the cattle in their charge dispatched for slaughter, including pet cows.

“On the last day, myself and Sarel could not face it. But the worst was the newborn calves that MPI [Ministry for Primary Industries] instructed pet foods to shoot and slit their throats,” Mrs Potgieter said. . . 

Infected farm’s use of distant vet concerns– Sally Rae:

The New Zealand Veterinary Association has expressed concern over the use of distance veterinary services in light of news the farm at the centre of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak was using a vet clinic about 1600km away.

It is understood Southern Centre Dairies in Southland, owned by Alfons and Gea Zeestraten, which is believed to be the first farm infected, has been using a Waiheke Island-based vet clinic.

Vets on Waiheke manager Stephen Gilmore confirmed to RNZ’s Checkpoint programme that his wife Alexandra was the vet responsible for the Zeestraten herd, and had been for two years, and that they tried to make six-monthly visits to the dairy farming operation.

In a statement, NZVA president Peter Blaikie said the association did not know the details and could not comment on the specific situation. . . 

Mycoplasma bovis: do we need to go so fast and should the North and South Islands be managed separately? – Keith Woodford:

[This is a letter that I sent today (25 May 2018)  to the Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor]

Honourable Damien O’Connor
Minister of Agriculture 

Greetings Damien

Mycoplasma bovis

I am writing this to you because of the huge decision that Government has to make on Monday. It is an open letter, because there are issues which all New Zealanders need to be informed of.

In a perfect world, we would all hope for eradication of Mycoplasma bovis. But the world is not perfect, and there are no good solutions. Unfortunately, there are real risks that an ongoing policy of eradication is one where the medicine is worse than the disease.

I have been following developments since the first identification of an infection, this being the Tainui property owned by the Van Leeuwen Group and share-farmed by Mary and Sarel Potgieter. I contacted the Van Leeuwens at that time, and I have written about Mycoplasma on six occasions since then (at my own website  . . 

‘Your support brought me to tears’: Glen Herud on life after his Happy Cow story went viral – Glen Herud:

His company has been liquidated, his mobile milking shed sold for a song. But Glen Herud is not giving up on his ethical milk mission.

Last month, we hit the wall and shut the doors – but our customers encouraged us to go on.

I founded the Happy Cow Milk Company in 2012, and my mission was to create a more ethical and sustainable diary model.

In April, I faced the hard reality that I couldn’t do it. I was out of money and out of energy. But when I announced I was shutting down, something amazing happened; this passionate community of supporters told me not to give up. . . 

 

We should value our workers, says 2018’s Central Otago Young Fruit Grower:

Hamish Daring from Moorpark and Mulberry Orchard, Cromwell has been named Central Otago Young Fruit Grower of the Year, following a day of intense competition in Cromwell today.

The competition saw six of the region’s top young orchardists engage in a series of challenges designed to test the skills needed to successfully run a thriving fruit-growing business. Events included tractor maintenance, pest and disease identification, and first aid.

Hamish, 21, is a third generation horticulturist who cut his teeth helping set up Moorpark and Mulberry Orchard, just north of Cromwell, in the summer of 2012/13.  . . 

NZ Meat Board chases higher returns from $70M of funds now held in term deposits – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – The New Zealand Meat Board will increase the risk profile of its $70 million of reserve funds, adding shares to what is now mainly held in term deposits in a bid to lift returns.

The shift to a balanced portfolio is aiming to achieve a return of at least 3.3 percent “after all investment, funds management and custodial costs, inflation and any tax drag” are deducted. It generated interest income of $2.3 million in 2017, a yield of 2.95 percent, according to its annual report. . . 


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