Rural round-up

20/09/2021

Lean on a gate, chat to a mate – Toni WIlliams:

‘‘Lean on a gate and talk to a mate’’ is the call from rural health advocate Craig Wiggins.

Mr Wiggins, who farms at Dromore, near Ashburton, has put the message out as a simple mental health campaign to help farmers and others out there struggling.

‘‘I’ve been doing a fair bit of work around farmer support and helping people through some tough times, and especially through Covid,’’ he said.

‘‘We are really, really trying to bridge gaps and talk to people, but it’s just not getting through to some people, and I know that one of the things we can do is just keep checking on each other and talking to those people that you haven’t talked to for quite a while.’’ . .

Agriculture industry voice needs reviewed – Robin Bistrow:

The agricultural industry is being let down in the environmental regulation space, Rural Advocacy Network (RAN) chairman Jamie McFadden says.

Mr McFadden said while Beef+Lamb, Dairy New Zealand and Federated Farmers all operated efficiently in the research space, through on-farm management, environmental issues, floods and gave good sound employment advice, no-one was looking after the farmers at the grassroots level of coping with the avalanche of environmental regulation.

‘‘Farmers are getting cross. Farmers are trying to work with a flood of regulations, but they are having to deal with way too many unworkable regulations,’’ he said.

‘‘They are struggling with the sheer volume of regulations — impractical stuff that is coming through.’’ . . 

Business booming in ‘wop wops’  – Ashley Smyth:

Bex Hayman has made country cool again with her jewellery and accessories brand Whistle & Pop. She makes time to speak to Ashley Smyth, while juggling farm life, lockdown and running a business with three small children.

Talking to Bex Hayman over the phone during lockdown, you can’t help but be buoyed by her enthusiasm.

As we bond over the joys of working from home with three children, she takes a peppering of Nerf bullets from 3-year-old William in her stride. . . 

Young Mackenzie inventors may hold answer to common farming frustration – Keiller MacDuff:

A trio of young inventors from Mackenzie College may have solved an age-old farming problem.

Year 11 and 12 students Amy Hay, 16, Hamish Ryall, 16, and Luke Jordan, 15, invented the Flexi Mat Frostease, a device that can be inserted into water troughs to prevent them from freezing over, as part of the Young Enterprise Scheme (Yes).

The Flexi-Mat is a circular-shaped bladder constructed out of layers of outdoor grade canvas and plastic welded together.

Amy said animals can push the mat down with their nose, allowing water to come up through the milk bottle lid-sized holes. . . 

Jordan Moores from Valli wins award:

Congratulations to Jordan Moores from Valli for becoming the 2021 Tonnellerie de Mercurey Central Otago Young Winemaker of the Year.

He is thrilled to have taken out the title and very excited to go through to the National Final which will be held in Central Otago for the first time this year in late November. No doubt there will be a large local crowd supporting him in the build up and on the day. “I’m going to give myself the weekend off” he said “and then get back into the study and preparation. It’s really exciting to be going through.”

Congratulations also goes to Hannah Lee for coming second. Hannah is currently on maternity leave, so not only did she impress judges with her great winemaking skills and knowledge, but also her multi tasking skills as in between challenges she managed to check in with her little one who was there with her babysitter. Great work! . . 

UN calls for reform of $540bn farming subsidies to help climate – Emiko Terazono:

The UN is calling for reform of the world’s $540bn in farming subsidies to help the climate and promote better nutrition.

Livestock and food production are among the biggest emitters of carbon but also enjoy the most state support, it says in a new report. Financial support to farmers accounted for 15 per cent of agriculture’s total production value globally, with the figure expected to more than triple to $1.8tn by 2030 if subsidies continue to grow at their current pace, the UN warned.

Agriculture is a big contributor to climate change due to greenhouse gases emitted by deforestation, manure, agricultural chemicals, rice cultivation and burning crop residues. Yet farmers are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, be that extreme heat, rising sea levels, drought, floods or locust attacks. . .


Rural round-up

15/08/2021

Farmer who supplies neighbours’ water says he’ll stop if forced to register  – Bonnie Flaws:

Tararua farmer Roger Barton​ supplies his lifestyle block neighbours with water when their rainwater tanks run low. He says it’s “neighbours being neighbours” and he doesn’t charge them.

“They’ve got two tanks and they manage that carefully and are generally fine. But if things get tight they run a hose pipe from our system overnight and over four or five nights the tank gets filled. They don’t have to get the water truck out.”

The water comes from a creek at the fringe of the Tararua ranges. Barton does not treat his water, but uses a filter. His neighbours had an ultraviolet treatment system because they were reliant on rainwater, and this would also treat Barton’s water.

“I think that is fine, sane and sensible. Why I should have to treat it before they receive it I do not know.” . .

200 exemptions for dairy workers took at best – Jason Herrick:

I have been working behind the scenes and in the media around staff shortages and reuniting families of our migrant staff in my sector.

I do this because I see it as part of my responsibility I choose to take on as sharemilker Chair for Southland Federated Farmers,  trying to get the government to see sense and allow staff to come to NZ to fill much-needed roles.

Alongside heaps of others, the government said yes to was the 200 exemptions for dairy workers and their families, I see this as token at best, a gesture to keep us quiet – because they put conditions on the exemptions that have kept the likes of Federated Farmers, Dairy NZ and MPI busy to negotiate better conditions. . .

Groundswell NZ presents petition on ‘unworkable’ regulations to parliament – Laura Hooper:

A Groundswell NZ co-founder has presented the group’s petition against what it calls “unworkable regulations’’ for farmers to the Government.

Last month, Groundswell NZ took to the streets alongside thousands of supporters in around 50 towns across New Zealand to protest against regulations, including compulsory sowing dates, winter grazing rules and the “ute tax”.

On Thursday, group co-founder Laurence Paterson and Rural Advocacy Network chairman Jamie McFadden presented a petition, calling for a review of some regulations, to the Environment select committee.

The petition originally began to call for a review of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, which the group says applies a “one-size-fits-all” approach on sowing dates, winter grazing and best catchment practises. . .

 

Push for govt  incentives to producebio-fuel from local forestry waste – Jonathan Milne:

Warnings that existing ethanol-blended biofuels can’t be used in most storage tanks and pipelines – so new Sustainable Biofuel Mandate will come at a cost.

The clock is ticking at Marsden Point oil refinery. Chief executive Naomi James says they have mere months to reach agreement on converting the refinery to a biofuels production facility, for local forestry waste, before they are forced to begin laying off staff and decommissioning plant.

Energy Minister Megan Woods has expressed interest in the potential to convert the refinery to biofuel production, and James confirms they are in talks with government. But they need quick decisions because once they lose skilled engineers, they won’t be coming back; once they decommission big plant like the hydro-treater unit, there is no turning back.

James confirmed that in its submission on the planned Sustainable Biofuel Mandate, Refining NZ is arguing for government incentives for domestic biofuel production, like grants or Emissions Trading Scheme exemptions. . .

KiwiSaver provider Booster invests over $10m into avocado grower Darling Group – Tamsyn Parker:

The private equity investment arm of KiwiSaver provider Booster has invested more than $10 million into buying a 42 per cent stake in Katikati-based avocado grower and exporter Darling Group.

Booster, which has around $3 billion invested in its KiwiSaver scheme and is the 10th largest provider, is one of the few KiwiSaver schemes which invests in unlisted private companies through its Tahi LP fund.

Private company investment offers the potential for higher returns but are also a less liquid investment as their shares are not traded on a public market making it harder to sell out quickly.

Tahi already owns a number of wineries, as well as having stakes in Sunchaser Avocados, Dodson Motorsport and financial services company Lifetime. . . 

Livestock farm working dogs in Australia and New Zealand tested in Cobber Challenge – Chris McLennan and Daina Oliver:

The endurance athletes of Australia’s sprawling livestock farms are battling it out to claim the title of 2021 champion working dog.

Over three weeks, 12 loyal canines will run hundreds of kilometres in the course of their daily jobs herding sheep and cattle.

The Cobber Challenge celebrates and tests the endurance of working dogs and this year, for the first time, the Australians will be pitted against competitors working across the Tasman.

GPS collars will track their distance, working duration and speed over 21 days from Monday, August 16 and points will be awarded based on daily activity. . .


Rural round-up

04/01/2020

Nature policies an eco disaster – Jamie McFadden:

When government policy goes wrong it can deliver disastrous consequences. Such is the case with the Government’s climate change policies.

North Canterbury is a stronghold of agriforestry and there are many benefits to having exotic forestry integrated on farms. 

However, like the rural lobby group 50 Shades of Green, we have major concerns about the Government’s climate change policies. If the policy direction continues we will see changes to our landscapes and rural communities of a scale not seen since the land clearance subsidy days pre-1980. . .

Agritech worker raising awareness of diverse careers – Jacob McSweeny:

Working in farming doesn’t always mean driving the tractor, herding the sheep or milking the cows, says Next Farm’s Sammi Stewart. She talks to business reporter Jacob McSweeny about her hopes to inspire younger generations to realise the types of futures available in the agritech sector.

Sammi Stewart wants to get kids back into farming but she does not mean chucking on the gumboots and getting up early to milk the cows.

‘‘I grew up on a farm in Southland so my parents had a sheep and beef farm and when you live in rural Southland you either milk cows or shear sheep,’’ said the brand manager of Dunedin start-up Next Farm. . . .

Top seven must dos for employment contracts – Chris Lewis:

Chris Lewis, Federated Farmers employment spokesman, lists his top seven “must-do’s” for farmers when it comes to employment contracts.

Recent legal decisions on employment agreements have highlighted the need for farmers to get the fine print right. Here are my top seven considerations from a farmers’ perspective.

1. Get an agreement in place

The first priority is to get a written employment agreement in place to begin with for every employee, even for casual and part time workers. This should outline the terms and conditions of employment fully, be provided to the employee before they start work, and be agreed upon and signed by both parties. . .

Taranaki rural woman Margaret Vickers is a Member of Excellence – Ilona Hanne:

Margaret Vickers is excellent.

That’s official now, as she was formally enrolled as a Member of Excellence of Rural Women New Zealand last year.

Margaret’s years of service to the organisation were recognised when she was enrolled as a Member of Honour and presented with the Olive Craig Tray in recognition of her dedication and commitment.

Only two women received this honour in 2019, and Margaret says it is still only just sinking in as to quite how special the honour is. . . 

Oamaru Meats to resume operations next week – Jacob McSweeny:

Oamaru Meats Ltd (OML) is set to open again a week into the new year, after a suspension in the China market forced its closure in September.

The factory will open its doors again on Monday.

The suspension came after some beef fat packaging was not up to standard.

The closure put 160 seasonal workers out of work and OML director, Richard Thorp, said it was likely most of them would return.

‘‘I think for this start-up period it won’t be a lot different. There’ll be about 140 to 150 people employed on the site come the sixth. . .

 

The EU’s absurd risk aversion stifles new ideas – Matt Ridley:

With tariffs announced against Brazil and Argentina, and a threat against France, Donald Trump is dragging the world deeper into a damaging trade war. Largely unnoticed, the European Union is also in trouble at the World Trade Organisation for its continuing and worsening record as a protectionist bloc.

Last month, at the WTO meeting in Geneva, India joined a list of countries including Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Malaysia that have lodged formal complaints against the EU over barriers to agricultural imports. Not only does the EU raise hefty tariffs against crops such as rice and oranges to protect subsidised European farmers; it also uses health and safety rules to block imports. The irony is that these are often dressed up as precautionary measures against health and environmental threats, when in fact they are sometimes preventing Europeans from gaining health and environmental benefits.

The WTO complaints accuse the EU of “unnecessarily and inappropriately” restricting trade through regulatory barriers on pesticide residues that violate international scientific standards and the “principle of evidence”. Worse, they say, “it appears that the EU is unilaterally attempting to impose its own domestic regulatory approach on to its trading partners”, disproportionately harming farmers in the developing nations whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. . . 


Rural round-up

23/06/2018

NZ sheep farmers enjoying stellar lamb season with prices reaching lofty heights, AgriHQ says – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand sheep farmers, whose fortunes in recent years have been overshadowed by their dairy farmer colleagues, are having a strong season with lamb prices approaching record levels, according to AgriHQ’s Monthly Sheep & Beef report for June.

“This season continues to move from strength-to-strength for sheep farmers, mainly due to the incredible heights slaughter prices are reaching,” AgriHQ analyst Reece Brick said in his report. “Winter contracts within the North Island and lower supplies in the South Island have pulled lamb slaughter prices up by 30 cents/kg in both regions.” . . 

 The key to successful farm environment plans – Jamie McFadden:

Before the Government decides whether Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) should be voluntary or compulsory we in the Rural Advocacy Network suggest a look at recent experience around New Zealand and overseas.

The voluntary farm plan approach is focused on actions to achieve outcomes. It has been very successful in regions like Taranaki where over two-thirds of hill country now has farm plans.

The key to the success of the voluntary model is trusted advisers working in partnership with landowners. Farm plans are tailor-made recognising that every farm is different and that people learn in different ways. The advisers have a wide range of practical knowledge covering all aspects of environmental management – biodiversity, wetlands, water quality, pests, erosion and sediment loss. It is a whole-farm approach. . .

Arable farmers welcome lift in wheat prices after two poor years – Heather Chalmers:

Central Canterbury arable farmers Syd and Chris Worsfold and their son Earl grow cereals in half their farm and are welcoming a $100 a tonne lift in wheat prices this season.

Syd Worsfold, named Federated Farmers’ arable farmer of the year after 30 years of industry involvement, said the increase was a return to more competitive pricing, after two years of poor returns.

Milling wheat contracts for the 2019 harvest were $420 to $450 a tonne, depending on the grade and variety sown, while feed grains were $380 to $400 a tonne. . .

Pig farmers question future – Annette Scott:

Market demand is slow and pig meat prices have taken a dive in recent weeks as pork producers seriously question their future.

Pig meat prices dropped 10 cents a kilogram in June with cost pressure really coming on from imported pig products, New Zealand Pork farmer spokesman Ian Carter said.

“Imports are coming in really cheap and compromising domestic prices.

“This is where Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) is very important to us,” Carter said.

Misleading domestic food industry advertising is also a concern. . . 

Half a million litres of Pahiatua groundwater to be saved every day:

Half a million litres of Pahiatua groundwater (about the same as 18 milk tanker loads) will be saved every day thanks to the development and installation of a ground-breaking reclaimed water system at the local Fonterra site.

The site team came up with an innovative way to reuse water from condensation that’s produced during the milk powder manufacturing process. 

Robert Spurway, Fonterra’s COO Global Operations, says the water-saving initiative is a testament to the Pahiatua team’s innovative and can-do approach to sustainability. . .

Synlait confirms commissioning date of new Pokeno site:

Synlait has confirmed its new nutritional manufacturing site in Pokeno, Waikato, will be commissioned for the 2019 / 2020 season.

The functionality of Synlait’s first nutritional spray dryer at Pokeno has also been expanded as a result of forecast customer demand.

The nutritional spray dryer will be capable of producing a full suite of nutritional, formulated powders (including infant-grade skim milk, whole milk and infant formula base powders) and the capacity has increased to 45,000 metric tonnes (MT) from an initial 40,000 MT. . .

She Shears – directed by Jack Nicol:

Presented by Miss Conception films, who focus on female-led stories, this fresh dispatch from the heartland introduces two legendary shearers – and three in the making – as they head for black-shirt glory at the Golden Shears.

When a Kiwi girl sets her heart on becoming a shearer there’s not a lot that’s going to stop her, as the five women profiled in this lively doco happily testify. Central Otago’s Pagan Karauria admits it was tough getting a gig at the start, but with her champion dad staunchly behind her, she’s made the shearing shed the focus of her career, not just as a competitive shearer, but as an ace wool sorter and mentor to other young women. Catherine Mullooly, from the King Country, packs her skills for some enterprising OE. With whānau solidly backing them, each of these women strive, more than anything, to better themselves. . .

 


Rural round-up

19/05/2018

Blame Fish & Game for why I didn’t buy a fishing licence – Jamie McFadden:

Last year I didn’t buy a fishing licence – the first time in over 30 years of fishing. When asked by two Fish & Game rangers for my fishing licence I said I had an exemption. I gave them a written document which outlined a number of reasons why I was exempted.

The first reason was “inappropriate use of licence holder funds “. The exemption noted that Fish & Game have used licence holder monies to run a nationwide media campaign targeting one sector of our society. I have no issue with raising issues about water quality but Fish & Games ‘dirty dairy’ campaign deliberately and unfairly branding all farmers as environmental vandals has done a huge amount of damage to community wellbeing. Farmers are not the only ones impacting water quality and targeting one sector in this manner is inappropriate conduct for a statutory organisation. . .

Town encroaches on 150-year farmers – Heather Chalmers:

 For 150 years the Morrish name and arable farming has been a winning combination, writes Heather Chalmers.

Having farmed the same land near Christchurch for more than 150 years, the Morrish family say encroachment from the nearby town of Rolleston will most likely spell the end of their ties with the original family farm.

Farming at Broadfield, between Lincoln and Rolleston, fourth generation brothers David and John not only farm the same land, but continue the same type of farming – mixed sheep and cropping – as their ancestors, even if the type of crops and farming methods have changed over the years.

They also believe in long-term farming relationships, having supplied the nearby Heinz-Wattie’s factory with processed peas since the Hornby factory on the outskirts of Christchurch was opened in 1970. . .

Pittance for MPI, biosecurity halved:

For a Government that has been running around telling anyone who will listen that Biosecurity is underfunded, it has allocated an extraordinarily small sum to strengthen the system, National’s spokesperson for Agriculture Nathan Guy says.

“Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has announced a paltry increase of just $9.3 million for Biosecurity which is half of what National invested in Budget17 at $18.4 million.

“This is a 50 percent reduction and makes a mockery of the Government’s recent rhetoric. . . .

Grass-fed beef the most vegan friendly in the supermarket – Drew French:

Probably the most vegan item you can buy in the supermarket is a pound of grass-fed beef.

I was thinking about that heretical idea as I drove through my neighboring countryside, scanning empty cornfields for signs of life and wondering at the hubris of mankind. When did we decide that we can own all the lands of the Earth and use every square inch of it for our own needs? About 10,000 years ago, actually, when we invented the idea of agriculture.

Sadly, in the practice of agriculture it is impossible to not cause endless suffering to many living creatures. One could argue that the most suffering of all is caused by annual agriculture, the cultivation of vegetables, including grains, beans, and rice, that only take one year to grow from seed to food. . .

Farmers told to change mind-set when UK leaves EU :

George Eustice, the Defra Minister of State for Agriculture described his vision for post-Brexit agricultural policy at a recent event in Cornwall.

The event attracted more than 70 people to Healey’s Cyder Farm, near Truro on Friday 11 May.

Mr Eustice stated that he saw new policy as “rewarding and incentivising farmers for what they do, and not subsidising them for income lost.”

He told the audience: “The end state we seek is support, not based on the amount of land that they own, but to reward them for helping the environment, water quality and to changes in husbandry to deliver for the environment and research and development into more productive working practices.” . .

Bee-ing grateful to our pollinators :

It’s a bee!” someone screams as they jump up from their picnic blanket, knocking over their apple juice and flailing their arms, trying to get away from this flying creature. Does this scene sound familiar?

Many people are afraid of bees. And why not? They look like aliens. They have stingers that hurt more than you would expect and some people are very allergic, even deathly allergic, to them. But contrary to our fears, bees are not aggressive insects and do not go after humans unprovoked. When they come near you, it is only because you have something they consider yummy. And if you knew all that they do for you, you would be happy to share your food or drink with them . . 


Rural round-up

15/05/2018

Farmer urges quad rollover protection – Richard Davison:

Hillend farmer Douglas Jack says a $600 quad bike rollover bar saved his life last month, and wants to see more people follow his lead by installing one.

Mr Jack was putting up a break fence adjoining a field of swedes on his 400ha sheep and beef farm near Balclutha on April 5 when disaster nearly struck.

“I was on the quad bike on a wee slope, nothing dramatic, when my rear wheel hit a large swede and boompha, I was over,” he said.

Fortunately, after seeing his uncle saved by a raised deck board on his Bedford truck during a similar incident as a boy, Mr Jack had long been a believer in rollover protection on his quad. . . 

Soil health main focus of field day – Ella Stokes:

More than 200 people gathered at the Clinton Community Centre on Tuesday in a bid to learn about farming for the future.

The ”Regenerative Farming Field Day” was hosted by Beef and Lamb New Zealand.

It began with talks from researcher Dr Christine Jones and senior researcher at AgResearch New Zealand Dr David Stevens.

They both discussed regenerative farming ideas, minimising bare soil, plant growing, diverse forages and rotational grazing.

Dr Jones has a PhD in soil biochemistry and spoke on the fundamentals of soil. . . 

The right way to protect rare plants on private land –  Jamie McFadden:

To most people, wiggy-wig is an unappealing, non-descript shrub. But to those of us that know wiggy-wig, it is a New Zealand native biodiversity gem. This plant is commonly known as Muehlenbeckia astonii or shrubby tororaro and naturally occurs on the drier east from Wellington to Banks Peninsula.

Wiggy-wig made headlines last week when Forest & Bird claimed that a Banks Peninsula farmer had cleared 1000 of these rare plants. To be fair to the farmer it is the sort of scruffy shrub that you might set alight or spray and it wasn’t that long ago the Government paid farmers to clear this shrub.

The Hurunui district is home to remnant pockets of wiggy-wig. Fifteen years ago a Hurunui farmer approached me about an unusual shrub on his farm. I identified it as a very healthy population of wiggy-wig. I asked the farmer if I could collect seed so we could grow and re-establish more of these rare plants throughout the district. . . 

How to find the best bull for your operation :

The decision you make about which bull to buy this season will still affect your business in four cow generations’ time – that’s 15 years from today. So taking the time to research your bull purchase now yields an exceptional return.

Here are B+LNZ Genetics’ five steps to find the best bull for your operation.

1) What do you want to achieve on your farm?

Where are you right now in your cattle performance and where do you want to be? Use these questions to create your breeding objective or genetic plan. For instance, you might be happy with your 95% scanning, but keen to see heavier weaners.

2) How do you choose a breeder?

Once you’ve set clear objectives for your herd, identify a bull breeder with similar objectives. Ask the breeder for genetic trend graphs. The graphs should show a positive upward trend for the traits that impact on your goals. If not, look for another breeder. . . 

Q and A Lesley Wilson –  Andrew Ashton:

Following the end of a busy fruit-picking season, Hawke’s Bay Today reporter Andrew Ashton talks to project management and event management expert and current Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association president Lesley Wilson – the woman who led the Australian Access Action Group campaign that ended with the Government taking Australia all the way to the World Trade Organisation and gaining meaningful access for New Zealand apples into Australia.

What will be the key things for horticulture and ag-based businesses to come to grips with to be successful in the future?

Doing more with less is the key to providing food for the world’s ever increasing population. The recent wholesale acknowledgement that there are limited resources (land, water and people), is driving positive change in the efficient use of natural resources and the training and retention of our people. . .

Cattle industry looks to defend ‘meat’ label from lab-grown and plant-based products –  Marty McCarthy, Matt Brann:

The peak body for Australia’s cattle industry says it is considering calling for reforms to prevent lab-grown meat from being labelled “meat”.

Experts think a commercial industry to supply meat grown from stem cells in a laboratory is achievable within the next decade and there is also rising demand for plant-based meat alternatives.

France recently banned the use of the words “meat” and “dairy” on vegan and vegetarian food labels, while farm lobby groups in the United States are calling for cell-grown and plant-based replicas to be labelled as such.

Cattle Council of Australia chief executive, Margo Andrae, said her organisation did not want to see a repeat of the dairy industry’s battle over the term “milk” and “dairy” and was considering its own defensive options.


Govt business what not how

30/10/2017

The Green Party is sticking to its plan to reduce dairy farming:

Prior to the election, the Green Party said it would pay more than $136 million for farmers to move to more sustainable practices and if it were in government it would invest in a Sustainable Farming Fund.

Green Party leader James Shaw said a priority would be putting together a package to help farmers make the transition from dairy farming.

He said the Greens wouldn’t be pushing for a cap on the number of cows.

But Mr Shaw said dairy farmers would need help to change.

“A lot of dairy farmers are still heavily in debt from the acquisition of the land and also the conversions and also it’s a pretty difficult time when the price of milk is still somewhat depressed.

“So you know the thing we’re going to be pushing hardest on is making sure that there is a package available for farmers to help them make that transition.”

Mr Shaw said dairy farmers needed to make the transition to more sustainable methods of farming.

Setting standards for water quality is the business of government.

Dictating how that is achieved is not.

It might be that dairying isn’t appropriate in some places. But other land uses aren’t necessarily any kinder to the environment and it could be that a change in management could make dairying a better option than any other form of farming.

Dairying has got a bad reputation, some of which might be justified. But some is based on historical practices no longer in use and some on alternative facts not supported by science.

Some of the latter comes from organisations with an anti-dairying agenda.

Jamie McFadden, a member of Federated Farmers North Canterbury executive, rightly asks is our freshwater fishery really in crisis?

Last year Fish & Game sought and received approval from the Department of Conservation (DoC) to place a winter fishing ban on all North Canterbury rivers below State Highway 1.

At the time, Fish & Game claimed the North Canterbury freshwater fishery was in crisis and it was because of farming.

Both DoC and the Rural Advocacy Network have requested the evidence supporting these claims. After 18 months no evidence has been forthcoming. DoC now realise they have been misled and have said they will not renew the fishing ban unless Fish & Game provide evidence.

Earlier this year I attended a public meeting in Rangiora organised by Fish and Game where the fishing ban was discussed. I presented our submission challenging the lack of evidence behind the fishing ban, particularly for the Hurunui and Waiau rivers. A show of hands was taken and the clear majority of the 70 attendees felt the ban should not apply to these rivers. Of those who fished the Hurunui and Waiau the majority thought these were healthy fisheries. . . 

Clearly there are a range of factors affecting our freshwater fishery and increasing fishing pressure, particularly near Christchurch, is one of them.

A local fishing guide has for several years been undertaking the annual trout spawning surveys in the Waimakariri River. This year he reported better numbers than have ever been seen and some superb stream improvements by many farmers – the future is bright.

In late autumn I checked the middle reaches of the Hurunui River catchment and photographed numerous shoals of 10-20 trout. In one pool alone I counted 65 good-sized healthy trout.

A balanced report on the state of our freshwater fishery would acknowledge there are some healthy fisheries, concerns with some other fisheries and a range of factors affecting both. It is disappointing that Fish & Game has made no attempt to correct their misinformation in the media.

Many farming families are Fish & Game licence holders and enjoy the recreational opportunities our rivers provide. Farmers want to know what they need to do to fix any water quality problems they are causing.

There are many examples of farmers actively engaging in improving water quality and undertaking stream enhancements. Farmers want to work with organisations like Fish & Game but the continual attacks on farmers undermine the ability to achieve this.

We would like to see Fish & Game publicly drop the anti-farming broad brush ‘dirty dairy’ campaign, correct their misinformation in the media and develop a more constructive approach to freshwater issues.

Farmers, and others, are working to improve water quality and this report from Seven Sharp showing definite improvements in Taranaki dairy country.

Meanwhile, science is making progress with pasture species:

Research is in progress but plantain-based pastures may be useful for reducing nitrate leaching while maintaining or increasing milksolids production.

The urine patch is the major source of nitrogen loss to the environment on dairy farms and different forages can be used to reduce nitrate leaching, either by lowering the nitrogen loading in urine patches or increasing the nitrogen uptake from the urine patch.

Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL)

Research in Canterbury and Waikato the FRNL programme has found that urine-N concentration of cows grazing plantain was 56% lower than those grazing perennial ryegrass/white clover pastures, and 33% lower for cows grazing 50/50 pasture-plantain.

Within FRNL, diverse pastures that include plantain were identified as a promising tool for reducing N leaching. Modelling estimated that, at commercial scale, N leaching could be reduced by 10 and 20% when the area of the farm sown in diverse pastures was 20 and 50%, respectively. This was because of lower total urinary N excretion and lower urinary N concentration (Beukes et al. 2014; Romera et al. 2016).

Sustainability balances economic, environmental and social concerns.

Dairying generally gets ticks for its economic and social contributions and farmers and industry bodies like DairyNZ, are making good progress to address environmental concerns .

DairyNZ acting chair Barry Harris said last season saw dairy export earnings reach $13.4 billion, which is on par with the five-year average, and illustrates how well farmers have responded to the low milk prices of previous seasons.

“I see the decade ahead of us to be transformational for our sector. Never before have we had a stronger mandate for the dairy sector to concentrate on productivity – to produce more from less, and to do so sustainably,” says Barry.

“We support initiatives that incentivise farmers to use the best environmental practices. While the 2010s have been about dairy positioning itself for the changes ahead, I see the 2020s as heavily focused on making those changes.

“New Zealand’s environmental reputation, the reputation that gives us an advantage on the global market, relies on us upholding and improving our sustainability.” . . 

Thanks to good science, herd numbers can decrease while production increases.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said in 2016/17 national cow numbers fell to 4.86 million from 5 million previously, with the average herd size dropping five cows to 414.

“Yet production per cow set a new record – increasing by 9kg per cow (381kg MS/cow).” . . 

 

The government and its partners needs to stick to the what, not the how.

Good progress is being made and it will continue to be made not by political dictates but by good practice based on sound research.


SNAs set traps for farmers

21/05/2014

Farmers who’ve allowed wetlands to be surveyed are upset they face restrictions less conservation-minded landowners don’t.

Conservation-minded farmers are annoyed about being penalised by agreeing to wetlands and other natural assets being surveyed, when other Hurunui farmers don’t have rulemakers coming down hard on them.

Members of the Hurunui SNA Group says the Resource Management Act (RMA) disadvantages them, and the group is urging farmers to not allow any more surveys on private land, trapping them in the RMA system, until the legislation is changed.

The group’s farmers say they have to apply for resource consent to fertilise around listed Significant Natural Areas (SNA), when non-surveyed landowners are free of these requirements.

Interested farm buyers have shied away from at least one farm because of its SNAs, and other farmers are worried that this will lower their own land values.

Group spokesman Jamie McFadden said landowners had chosen to leave and care for native bush on their land when they could have easily cleared it.

“These landowners feel aggrieved and angry that seemingly because of their generosity in protecting native bush on their land, they are then trapped in a compulsory regulatory system that does nothing to help them continue to look after these areas.”

McFadden is a Hurunui farm- raised landscaper specialising in planting native plants on farms.

He said QEII Trust covenanting was a much better system, as landowners agreed to conditions that could not be changed without their agreement, and the trust helped with fencing and weed control.

“With the RMA-SNA regulatory system, landowners have no choice, there is no flexibility on rules – one size fits all – and the rules can change at any time, even without the landowner’s knowledge or approval.”

McFadden said that when landowners worked with the Hurunui District Council on a biodiversity strategy for the district, they never expected that Environment Canterbury could come over the top and apply its rules to SNAs on private land, such as not applying fertiliser within 10 metres of listed natural assets.

The regulations were counterproductive, because native shrubs and trees were being cleared by landowners unwilling to be caught in the system or by future rules, he said. . .

When farmers see registering SNAs have this perverse outcome it puts them off doing the right thing and it’s not just with bush and wetlands.

A farming couple had a request from a student who wanted to look for evidence of a rare insect species on their property.

They were happy to do so until neighbours warned them not to.

They’d allowed a student to do something similar on their farm then had restrictions placed on what they could do as a result of what was found.

When conservation conflicts with property rights it’s the latter which comes second and landowners pay a high price which puts them off  trying to be conservation and community minded.


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