Reason to moan


Jamie McKay challenged Shane Jones on The Country yesterday and got this response:

“I grew up on a farm, my dad was a farmer, I know what farmers are like and if they’re not milking cows or chasing cows, they’re moaning.”

I don’t agree with that, but there is good reason for farmers to moan under the current government.

The Labour and Green parties don’t pretend to like farmers or farming but New Zealand First likes to call itself the champion of the provinces.

How can it champion the provinces when this is how it’s second most prominent MP regards farmers?

You can listen to the interview and the response from Don Nicolson and Craig Wiggins here.


Rural round-up


Probe of shot-calf incident  – Shannon Gillies:

Police are investigating the brutal death of a bobby calf near Waimate at the weekend.

The calf was found at the side of a road on Sunday morning, apparently shot five times and struck by a vehicle.

Dan Studholme, on whose property near Waimate the calf had been grazing, said it was apparent the calf did not die instantly from its wounds.

Mr Studholme was called by a forestry worker who discovered the calf. Then a vet and the police were called.

Rifle round casings were found lying near the dead animal, which had been shot in the leg, stomach and jaw. . .

New tools needed to ensure pollination – Maureen Bishop:

Breeding flies to act as pollinators, fitting queen bumblebees with radio transmitters, and preloading honeybees with pollen. These are all methods being trialled to increase the range of crop pollinators.
New Zealand crop industries need a box of new tools to ensure sufficient pollination into the future, a pollination scientist told the audience at the Foundation for Arable Research’s field day at Chertsey on December 7.

Dr David Pattemore, of Plant & Food Research, said scientists were seeking new methods of crop pollination for industries such as avocado, kiwifruit and other agricultural crops. . . 

Kakanui River finds new support group :

North Otago’s Kakanui River, the subject of a three-year community programme that finished in October, has a new champion.

The North Otago Sustainable Land Management Group (NOSLaM) has taken over from the Kakanui Community Catchment Project to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and increase biodiversity. The project was funded by the Ministry for the Environment’s  and the New Zealand Landcare Trust, with support from the North Otago Irrigation Company, Beef and Lamb New Zealand and Ravensdown.

NOSLaM chairman Peter Mitchell said the group had held meetings and made funding applications so it could continue the progress already made. . . 

Support for Gisborne conservation work:

Four ambitious conservation projects in Gisborne have received $78,000 in support from the DOC Community Fund, Conservation Ministers Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner have announced.

The projects range from weed eradication on Gisborne’s Titirangi Maunga to protecting wild kiwi in Maungataniwha and represent the best of community conservation, the Ministers say.

“Each of the groups is helping wage the War on Weeds and protect native species from introduced predators and invasive plants,” Ms Barry says. . . 

Kaikōura Cheese keeps going after quake – Max Towle:

Immediately after the Canterbury earthquakes, Daniel and Sarah Jenkins decided to pack up everything they own and move from Christchurch to Kaikōura.

A year later they fulfilled their dream and were cheese making, and eventually opened a shop, Kaikōura Cheese, on the main street.

Last month, when the shaking started again, they were hit with a severe case of deja vu and are only now starting to get their business rolling again. . . 

Fridge stoush over, copyright claim continues: Lewis Road claims partial victory over Fonterra – Ellen Read:

Boutique dairy producer Lewis Road Creamery is claiming a partial victory in its battle with dairy giant Fonterra and is praising social media for the outcome.

The two have been at odds for several weeks over the similarity of labelling on Fonterra’s new Kapiti premium milk range to Lewis Road bottles, as well as who has access to what shelf space in Foodstuffs’ New World and Pak ‘n Save supermarket fridges.

Co-founder Peter Cullinane said on Thursday that his lawyers received a letter from Fonterra lawyers late on Wednesday that showed Fonterra had updated plans it had been making to take up to 97.5 per cent of the supermarket shelf space meaning it was “business as usual” for all suppliers now. . . 

Will the Prime Minister accept Sir David’s challenge?

The challenges for a new Prime Minister are many and varied.

Over the last two weeks Bill English has negotiated a successful leadership campaign to succeed former Prime Minister John Key and a cabinet reshuffle, but now he faces a challenge of a unique kind.

Speaking with Jamie Mackay on NZME’s The Country radio farming show yesterday, Sir David Fagan, the world’s most decorated shearer and a member of the 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships’ Organising Committee, laid an invitation at the new Prime Minister’s feet.

“Our new Prime Minister, I know he can shear. I’ve seen him shear at Lumsden many, many years ago at the Full wool Champs. Now there is a challenge for you Jamie, to get our new Prime Minister to shear a sheep down there.” Sir David said. But he didn’t stop there. . . 

Soils, climate, proximity key to new Marlborough vineyard development as sheep farm sold – Mike Watson:

A long-established Marlborough sheep farm has become the latest pastoral property in the region to be sold for vineyard development.

Vendor Mostyn Wadsworth has been a mainstay on the Northbank of the Wairau Valley for the past 33 years.

The Wadsworth family has farmed in the area for nearly a century. . . 

Fonterra regrets . . .


Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings has expressed regret at a Chinese media conference for consumer anxiety caused by revelations that batches of whey protein had been contaminated.

“We regret the distress and anxiety which this issue could have caused,” Mr Spierings says. “Parents have the right to know that infant nutrition and other products are safe.”

The head of the world’s biggest dairy exporter says Fonterra has three key priorities: public health and food safety; working quickly with customers and regulators to resolve the issue; and working with customers and regulators to take corrective action.

The company’s commitment to China “is very high” and there is a “very strong relationship not only of Fonterra but also the New Zealand government”. . .

The distress and anxiety wouldn’t have been quite so bad if the company had handled the media briefings better, giving as much information as possible from the start rather than drip-feeding it.

Shareholders have been getting regular emails from board chair John Wilson but it was only yesterday that we got this explanation:

  • It is now more than 48 hours since we announced the serious situation we have with three batches of affected whey protein concentrate WPC80.
  • We continue to focus 100% on the health and safety of the public, working closely with our customers and regulators, and being as transparent as possible in the information we provide.
  • Our customers who have been impacted and local regulators have begun making public announcements about products that have been affected.
  • This is good for us as initially we were unable to provide details of our impacted customers.  I’d like to explain to you why this was the case.
  • When we sell commercial ingredients, like the affected whey protein concentrate, to our customers, we do not have visibility of how and where they use them. We are, of course, aware of exactly where product is in every step of Fonterra’s own supply chain, but once it leaves us, it is no longer in our control.
  • This means we did not know what customer products the affected whey protein concentrate had been used in and where these products were. Announcing the names of our international food and beverage customers without this information, could have caused even more uncertainty for consumers. 

Telling us, and the public, all this at the start would have been much more helpful than just saying they couldn’t say which products might be affected.

Explaining the testing regime, what happened, how it happened and what’s been done to ensure it won’t happen again would also have helped.

The 38 tonnes possibly contaminated is a tiny amount in the grand scheme of Fonterra’s production. Northland dairy farmer Grant McCallum, interviewed by Jamie McKay on the Farming Show yesterday, asked why it hadn’t been kept aside from the start.

He pointed out that if farmers know there’s a problem with their milk, they have to put a red padlock on the vat and asked why the processor doesn’t do something similar.

Prime Minister John Key said Fonterra will come under the microscope once the dust has settled.

Ministers have launched an all-of-government approach to Fonterra’s discovery of a bacteria that can cause botulism in some of its whey protein concentrate, and will review Fonterra’s role once it has dealt with the food safety issues, which are its primary concern, Key told reporters at today at his weekly post-Cabinet press conference.

Fonterra “will need to answer some questions which we can’t detail for you today, but they will be around the length of time it took for all of us to know, it will be about the processes it went through from when it first identified there could be an issue to one that was one that was brought into the public domain, and to the general approach to these issues,” Key said.

A second review will be into how the monitoring systems work, and Key said his “top-line assessment is that the bureaucracy-side of this issue has performed extremely well over the last 48 hours.” . . .

Once the health concerns are allayed it is essential that all these questions are answered.

But there wouldn’t be as many questions to be answered if Fonterra had had a much better protocol in place for handling the issue – or at least the publicity around it.

Sisters win Steak of Origin


New Zealand’s tastiest steak is from a Limousin/Angus cross produced by Whangarei sisters Kathy Child and Yvonne Hill.

The 400 entries in the Steak of Origin contest were whittled down to a top 20 and these were judged by BMX World Champ, Sarah Walker, Farming Show host Jamie McKay and former All Black Richard Loe with the expert assistance of professional chefs, Graham Hawkes and Hester Guy.

Jamie is interviewing the winners on his show which will be online here soon.

We went to the field days and we saw . . .


The sun shone, the people flocked and the exhibitors smiled at the Southern field days at Waimumu .

Many companies were sharing sites to save money so site numbers were down a bit on the 2008 record but there were still about 450 exhibitors covering several acres of ground.

We probably saw fewer than half of them in the couple of hours we were there but those we chatted to were happy with the sales they were making – especially the Mitsubishi dealer who’d sold 6 utes.

The mood was relaxed. Farmers we spoke to were looking for rain but cautiously optimistic about the outlook.

Today’s the final of the three day event.

Jamie Mckay  will be broadcasting the Farming Show live from Waimumu. One of his guests will be Prime Minister John Keywho will then be going to Edendale to open Fonterra’s new milk drying plant – the biggest raw milk processing plant in the world.

Backwards, forwards and sideways


Confused about what’s happening with the All Blacks?

Need to know more about rotating players and coaches?

Jim Hopkins has got the backwards, forwards and sideways sussed:

The forward coach is becoming the back coach, the back coach is going sideways to be the defensive coach, the defensive coach will be handling the attacks from the backs while the attack coach will be looking at the defence from the forwards . . .

Well it made sense when he  explained it all to Jamie McKay on the Farming Show.

More milestones


When I posted on today in history I missed a couple of milestones.

Fifty years ago today Mr Rural Radio, the host of the Farming Show, Jamie McKay was born.

Five years ago today goNZo Freakpower  was launched. That makes the man behind it, Will de Cleene, one of the grandfathers of New Zealand blogging.

Click goes the keyboard


Jamie Mckay is running a competition with a prize of a $1500 broadband package from Farmside on the Farming Show.

Last week’s winner was South Otago farmer, poet and singer Ross Agnew.

As the Farming Show’s North Otago correspondent, I’m not eligible to compete, but penned an ode to the internet for my contribution to Jamie’s show this week.

In doing so I’ve taken a bit of poetic licence and ignored Paul L’s facts which got in the way of the good story about pigeon post beating email.

Alone in his office the grumpy farmer sits,

Trying to get his mind round megabytes and bits.

The computer is chugging out the things he needs to know

But the internet is hopeless when it goes so jolly slow.


Click goes the key board, click, click, click,

They say it’s the way to make the business process slick.

That’s okay in town where broadband makes it fast,

Out here in the country we’re dialling up the past.


The farmer prods the key board and peers closer at the screen

Only half a message though half an hour it’s been.

Ten emails are coming, the message brightly flashes

But attachments are so slow the system often crashes.


Click goes the key board click, click, click,

If the computer was a tractor it would get a hefty kick

The farmer knows the internet should keep him up to date

But with dial up the messages always come in late.


Invoices could be sent and bills all swiftly paid

If only transmission wasn’t frustratingly delayed.

Killing sheets and milk reports should easily be downloaded

But minutes turn to hours as patience is eroded.


Click goes the key board, click, click, click.

The computer age is on us but rural internet is sick.

The tyranny of distance means we need the service most

But email is still slower than old fashioned pigeon post.

Great mag & grubby kids


Young Country, the rural magazine which was launched earlier this year, continues to impress.

dairy 10006

The current edition profiles Anna Smith, who’s working towards a PhD in animal genetics;  Michael Short, the 2009 Rural bachelor of the Year; Craig Norgate and six young people who’ve made agriculture their career.

There’s advice on dog handling and the story of Sue Arthur the cheese maker at Over the Moon.

The cover story on Tim O’Sullivan who won the National Bank Young Farmer title this year was written by Kate Rivtett-Taylor. Her blog post on Getting Dirty caught the attention of Jamie McKay who had a chat about it with her on the Farming Show.

If it weren’t for my gumboots . . .


Getting a new product on the news is advertising money can’t buy.

It doesn’t happen very often and when it does it is usually for something a lot more glamorous than gumboots.

But Skellerup has made the news with its new five-star Quatrro.

Gumboots haven’t changed much since they were first made in rubber in the 1850s. Improvement has been a long time coming but Jamie McKay has been singing the praises of the Quatrros on the Farming Show where he’s been giving them away.

Woollen felt lining and moulded inner soles inside, tapered cleats to release mud and anti skid zones on the soles are a big improvement on what’s been keeping feet free from muck for generations. No doubt those who wear them every day, especially the people who spend hours standing round dairy sheds, will appreciate the added comfort. They will be able to justify paying $165 for them too.

But I only use gumboots for the rare emergency appearance in the dairy shed, an occasional stint as junior in the sheep yards and gardening which means I’ll be sticking to the old faithfuls.

They still, as John Clarke, aka Fred Dagg sang, keep out the water and keep in the smell; and for the amount of use mine get, that’s all I really need from them.

Doctoring assumptions


Listening to acting Prime Minister Tony Ryall talk to Jamie McKay on The Farming Show yesterday I was reminded of a conundrum which did the rounds about 30 years ago:

A father and his son were involved in an accident and both were very seriously injured. They were taken to a nearby hospital by ambulance and admitted to the emergency department. A general surgeon was summoned to treat the father and a peadiatric surgeon was called for the child.

The surgeon, took one horrified look at the wee boy and said, “That’s my son.”

Who was the surgeon?

If you can’t work it out, listen to Tony explain about the rural bonding scheme for medical graduates.

If you still can’t work it out, the explanation is after the break. Read the rest of this entry »

What will they be singing


In his interview with Jamie McKay on the Farming Show yesterday, Phil Goff said David Shearer has taken a guitar on the Labour caucus bus tour.

What do you think they’ll be singing?

 Stand By Your Man, or perhaps Yesterday . . . ?

Shortest day longest night


Today’s the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night.

The Carter Observatory says:

The Winter Solstice is on June 21 at 18:46 (6:46pm); this is when the Sun is at its most Northerly point in the sky. At the middle of the day on June 21, it reaches its lowest altitude, from the Northern horizon, for the year.

Brian Carter, Senior Astronomer at the Carter Observatory says, “This means that the longest night is June 21/22 and the shortest day is June 21”.

Jamie McKay discussed this on the Farming Show with Met Service weather ambassador Bob McDavitt on Friday.

He said that in there will be 9 hours 31 minutes of daylight in Auckland and in Dunedin just 8 hours 26 minutes.

The solstice doesn’t mean the coldest weather is over. Just as the warmest weather is usually in January and February after the summer solstice, the coldest days of winter are usually in July, after the winter one.

Memories from school geography tell me the lag in warming and cooling has something to do with being an island nation.

Water heats up and slows down more slowly than land so being surrounded by sea has a tempering affect on temperatures.

But that’s a very rusty memory and affirmations or corrections are welcomed.

We were at the Royal Highland Show in Scotland on June 21 in 1982 when the temperature wasn’t much warmer than we’d have expected in New Zealand.

Four years ago we were in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain, in June. Temperatures were much higher and children celebrated the summer solstice by making Juans and Juanas, which were paraded round the town then, like guys, burnt on a giant fire.

espana 110

Gumboots for ice cream


The link between ice cream and gumboots might not be immediately obvious, but Jamie McKay is making one on  The Farming Show .

He’s asking all his guests where the best ice creams are sold and also inviting listeners to email him with their views.

So far Rush Munro’s in Hastings and the Hilltop Shop in Hampden (north of Moeraki and south of Waianakarua on State Highway 1 in North Otago) are leading.

I can recomend the ones at the Hilltop in Hampden, even if you ask for a wee one they give you a big one – and they’re always served with a smile.

If you want your vote to count – and be in for the draw to win a pair of Skellerup gumboots – email Jamie on

From the blogosphere to the air waves


Every now and then I get a phone call from RadioNZ asking for contacts for matters rural. Today’s call wasn’t a request for information, but an invitation to contribute to Jim Mora’s panel this afternoon.

If you want to put a voice to the blog, I’ll be on at 4.40ish.

As North Otago correspondent for The Farming  Show, I usually have a chat to Jamie McKay every couple of weeks, though this month a change in schedule meant my last spot was on March 11th  and the next one will be next Wednesday.

Farmgirl, Nadine Porter is another regular on The Farming Show. On Monday she spoke about farmers owning and running their own supermarkets, a topic she posted on here.

The Farming Show is broadcast nation wide  on the ZB network outside the main centres or Radio Sport. Today the cricket’s on Radio Sport and for some reason that means our local ZB station, Radio Waitaki, isn’t getting the Farming Show either.

I accept that cricket takes precedence over farming on Radio Sport (which gets negative feedback from listeners who are deprived of their sporting fix when the station switches to rural affairs from 12 – 1). But I don’t understand why the regional ZB stations lose the Farming Show too.

It reminds me of  being back in the bad old days when the state ran radio and scheduled programmes went off-air every time there was a race meeting.

Still, at least I’ll be able to get my farming-fix via the website later today.

More for ag research & greater scope for irrigation fund


Agriculture Minister David Carter says he’ll get more funding for agricultural research than the Fast Forward Fund which was scrapped.

And while there will be a delay as a new funding structure is established, he says what the Government will put in place will ultimately deliver funds faster than the FFF would have. . .

. . . It’s not about removing money from research and development, it’s about developing a transparent process for distributing that money.’

Carter has also expanded the scope of the Community Irrigation Fund to allow local government agencies to apply for grants.

It’s not just what is being done but that fact that the government is demonstrating by actions rather than rhetoric the importance it places on both agricultural innovation and irrigation which heartens me.

The former Minsiter of Agriculture spent a considerable time recently telling Jamie McKay on the Farming Show how good he’d been but when the North Otago Irrigation Company was planning a $60 million scheme to bring water from the Waitaki River to the Waiareka Valley he didn’t come up with a cent.

Fonterra payout drops 90c


I was a little too pessimistic with yesterday’s prediction that Fonterra’s projected payout would drop by a dollar, it’s down 90 cents to $5.10 per kilo of milk solids.

That’s well below last season’s $7.90 and the opening projection for this season of $7 but it’s still ahead of the long term average.

However, it’s still a big drop in farmers’ income. The Herald reports the $5.10 payout will mean a substantial drop in income for farmers

Based on last season’s collection of 1.19 billion kg of milksolids a 90c cut means a loss to the economy of around $900 million to $1bn.

It’s not just the reduced income for farmers, it’s the impact that will have on the wider economy, including the tax take.

Then there’s uncertainty about the outlook which leaves a question over whether the payout will drop again before the season’s over.

But while the payout is out of farmers’ control, the expenditure side of the balance sheet is our responsibility and keeping a tight rein on costs will compensate, at least in part, for the drop in income.

I’ve quoted a speaker at a SIDE conference before and it’s worth repeating: he started dairying when the payout was $5 but had a better financial year the following season when the payout dropped to $3.60 simply by keeping costs down.

Jamie McKay is devoting most of The Farming Show to discussions on the payout.

She’s proud of the photo


Jamie McKay asked Helen Clark about the billboard photos on the Farming Show today.

She said she’s proud of them.

The Woman in White and her alter ego

How can she be be proud of an image which contrasts so strongly with the real thing when she’s running an election on trust?

(Thanks to Inquiring Mind for the photos)

15 farm sales fail


Neal Wallace reports that 15 farm sales fell through last week because the would-be purchasers were unable to secure finance.

A real estate company told the Otago Daily Times funding that had previously been arranged could not be secured in time.

Some of the contracts were unconditional when funding became unavailable, which meant the buyers lost their deposits, in some cases worth several hundred thousand dollars, or had to pay penalty interest. The agent asked not to be named.

For each sale that failed to settle, up to four other land and property deals were affected.

“You have to be in a really strong position to settle a rural real estate deal at the moment,” the agent said. The uncertainty had placed many farmers under enormous stress and strain.

The price of farm land has been driven up by last season’s dairy boom but steep prices weren’t only being paid for dairy farms and those suitable for conversion or dairy support. Sheep and beef farm prices also rose until they were well out of kilter with what could realisticly be made from them.

Westpac Bank chief economist Brendan O’Donovan told Jamie McKay on The Farming Show that banks wouldn’t be worrying about existing customers providing they could service their debts. But they would be looking much more closely at applications for new loans and tightening their criteria for those.

PGW delays SFF settlement


PGG Wrightson couldn’t have chosen a worse time for its first payment towards its 50% stake in Silver Fern Farms.

PGG Wrightson is blaming “extreme financial market conditions” for a delay in settlement of the proposed purchase of 50 percent of Silver Fern Farms.

PGG Wrightson chairman Craig Norgate said a number of banks which had committed to participate in funding the transaction had since been unable to finalise their credit approvals in time for yesterday’s part-settlement.

This is only a delay, but Norgate says it’s likely to take weeks rather than days to get the funds. The first payment of $145m was due yesterday, the second of $75 is due next March.

Jamie McKay’s interview with Norgate on the Farming Show is on line here.

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