Rural round-up

March 7, 2014

Why agribusiness is different – Keith Woodford:

There is a common perception within Business Schools that agribusiness should operate by the same principles as other businesses. The reality is somewhat different. Agribusiness plays by its own complex set of biophysical rules, and beats to its own drum.

There are at least six defining reasons why agribusiness is different from most other types of business. It is these differences which make agribusiness so complex, so fascinating, and at times so frustrating. It is these same differences that can also cause so-called business experts to struggle when they apply their textbook skills to agribusiness.

The six defining characteristics are long investment cycles, long production cycles, production volatility, food safety issues, the politics of food security and environmental implications. The specific ways that these characteristics play out vary from situation to situation. . .

Education for Agribusiness – Keith Woodford:

Last week I wrote about how agribusiness was fundamentally different to other forms of business. I described the defining characteristics as long investment cycles, long production cycles, production volatility, food safety issues, the politics of food security, and environmental impacts. The one I missed was perishability.

All of the above have implications for agribusiness education. Without an understanding of biology, agribusiness managers will blunder.

Of course agribusiness managers also have to understand the principles of economics, marketing, accounting, finance, and law. And then there is the challenge of bringing all of these together within an overall bio-physical system. . .

Kiwi gene tool offers big boost – Abby Brown:

Kiwi technology developed to find desirable sheep traits and now being used on Atlantic salmon could boost agricultural profits by $300 million every year.

It has potential for use on other farm animals, pastures, pests, trees and diseases and could be used for audit and traceability purposes.

Genomic tools created by AgResearch to test a sheep’s genetic worth and predict its future productive merit and meat quality are now being transferred to Atlantic salmon in Iceland in a project that could see them used in other animals, plants and organisms.

The Infinium chip’s technology has enabled researchers to profile a diverse range of traits in a sheep’s DNA and for the first time across a variety of breeds. . .

Employers must recruit on skills – Marie Taylor:

Fencepost Jobs website staff have refused to post advertisements for dairy farmers who want to employ only Filipino staff.

Employing people had a large legal responsibility that went with it and human rights legislation made it illegal to discriminate in employment, which started with advertising roles, DairyNZ people team leader Jane Muir said.

All New Zealand employers, including farmers, had to recruit on skills, Muir said.

“This should also give you the best person for the role.”

A Fencepost spokeswoman said while the site was the largest in the country for dairy workers, containing up to 500 advertisements for work wanted or offered at one time, the advertisements were not policed. . .

Advanced weaning approach boosts beef return:

IF YOU haven’t weaned your beef calves by the end of this month you could be compromising calf and overall farm performance, the experience of a leading Hawkes Bay station shows.

Rissington Station’s advanced weaning approach, honed over the past five years, is to wean calves at 150 days old instead of the traditional March or April date.

A minimum liveweight threshold of 160kg is applied but in practice calves are averaging 230kg at 150 days. . .

 

Dry message goes out:

DairyNZ is issuing summer dry messages to farmers and advising farmers to look after young stock.

DairyNZ’s Craig McBeth drove from Hamilton to Wellington last weekend and got a pretty good idea of the situation, he says.

The drought is severe in Waikato and he was amazed at how dry it was around Otaki in Horowhenua, he says. He knows it is equally dry in parts of Northland’s west. . . .


Tougher stance, fewer workers

August 14, 2013

A tougher stance on employees under the influence of drugs or alcohol is shrinking the rural labour pool.

Rural sector employers say they need to take a united stand against employing those who choose to work under the influence alcohol or drugs, putting safety and the business at risk.

However, the outcome of adopting such a stance has been to shrink their already limited labour pool, they say.

Employers across all sectors are becoming more vigilant about drug and alcohol testing in the workplace, as well as pre-employment testing, because they have a duty under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to provide a safe workplace. . .

People working under the influence of drugs or alcohol aren’t just a danger to themselves they can put other people vehicles, machinery and equipment at risk too.

Landcorp Farming Ltd national recruitment and training manager Al McCone said the state-owned enterprise had had a drug and alcohol policy in place since 2007.

Landcorp Farming Ltd, one of the country’s largest farmers, strictly enforced its alcohol policy and was looking to extend its drug policy, Mr McCone said.

Pre-employment drug testing was already mandatory and at present it was consulting staff about expanding its workplace testing to include random testing, he said.

Staff were required to take on many responsibilities on farm.

This included dealing with animals and machinery – a potentially ”hazardous” mix, he said.

”We need people in full control of their faculties.” . . .

But not everyone wants to be in control of their faculties.’

Drug use seemed to be a factor making it difficult for some people to get work, he said.

”As soon as they find out we have an entry drug test they will hang up [the phone].

”It’s reducing the population we can draw our workers from.” . . .

DairyNZ people team leader Jane Muir said she believed more farmers were carrying out pre-employment and on-farm drug testing. . . .

A united stand was ”the ideal”, and showed there was ”no place for drugs on farms”.

However, the shortage of labour meant it posed a ”challenge”.

Work on dairy farm involved working with other people and with a food product. Employees must be heedful of health and safety and have good skills, attitude and concentration, she said.

To attract and keep the best employees and keep drugs and alcohol out of the workplace employers had to build a reputation as an ”employer of choice”, provide ”great” working conditions and encourage staff to be involved in the business, Ms Muir said.

Contracts, systems, policies and procedures around drug-testing must be sound and adhered to by the employer, as well as the employee, she said.

”If you say you have random testing then you must carry out random testing.

”Be aware, even if someone tests positive, there is still a process that must be followed,” Ms Muir said.

Not following the process can put employers in the wrong, even when they’re right about staff trying to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The owner of a food processing business in a small town was sure one of his staff was using drugs and it was endangering him at work. He called the police who arrested and charged the worker but he was let off on a technicality.

He applied for a benefit and was told he’d have to have a stand-down period. He then took action against his former employer for wrongful dismissal, the employer lost and had to employ the man again.

The worker carried on taking drugs, endangering himself and putting the food he was processing at risk.

The employer was concerned about the bad example it set for other workers and the risks to his business and was about to sack the worker when he left.


Rural round-up

April 18, 2013

Rationalisation of water services supported:

Rationalising water services and placing them at arms-length from local political control, as recommended in a new report is supported by industry body Water New Zealand.

However, the real concern Water New Zealand has is whether the reforms proposed by the expert group looking at local government infrastructure will be implemented (expert’s report released today).

“The need for reform has been known for a long time, but to date little progress has been made,” Water New Zealand’s Chief Executive, Murray Gibb said.

“Ratepayers and taxpayers will get improved services and better value for their money if the reforms are implemented. The proposals accord with industry best practice and should be supported,” he said.

Two other recommendations supported by Water New Zealand, are;
1. that a minister with responsibilities for management of all water related issues is appointed, and,
2. where economically justified, metering and volumetric charging for water are implemented. . .

Praise for NZ’s Tb programme:

A senior UK minister has praised New Zealand for its work in controlling bovine tuberculosis (Tb) during a fact-finding visit over the weekend.

Owen Paterson, UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said he had enormous admiration for what had been achieved by the TBfree New Zealand programme.

“You are still a society that is much more closely tied to the land and you have had this spectacular success freeing up your agricultural industry,” Paterson said.

“People understand the importance of agricultural production and food production and there are all sorts of lessons to be learned from what you have done.” . .

NZX to target agricultural firms – Christopher Adams:

Boosting the number of listed agricultural firms is one of the NZX’s main priorities and there are about 20 firms in the Waikato alone that could potentially float on the local bourse, says exchange chief executive Tim Bennett.

While agriculture is New Zealand’s largest sector, earning about half the country’s export income, it is under-represented on the sharemarket compared with other industries such as retail and manufacturing.

Bennett said he saw the lack of listed agricultural companies as a problem and an opportunity.

“As a country that’s got a significant export presence in agriculture, we clearly need to provide capital to that sector and at the moment there’s a relatively small number of companies involved in the agricultural sector on the NZX,” Bennett said. . .

Miraka – it’s Maori for milk:

Given the attention that focuses on Fonterra’s every move, it can seem that the huge co-op and the dairy industry are one and the same thing. But despite its dominance, a band of smaller players is surviving – and sometimes thriving – in the giant’s shadow.

One of the newest is a tiny, Maori-controlled dairy company which kicked off late in 2011, quickly turned a profit and already has a waiting list of potential suppliers after just two seasons.

The company, Miraka, runs a wholemilk factory at Mokai, 30km northwest of Taupo, that is already “full” – meaning it can’t take on any more suppliers. The fact that there is a waiting list is hardly surprising, given that it pays 10c per kg over the going rate at Fonterra.

And, unlike the co-operative model, Miraka does not require its suppliers to hold shares. . .

NZ Processing for China win-win – Tim Fulton:

Favourable signals from China’s elite could be just what New Zealand needs to expand its forestry portfolio, a member of the latest trade delegation to that country says. Tim Fulton reports.

Peter Clark, from PF Olsen, has come home from a week-long trip to China convinced New Zealand is moving closer to a stronger domestic milling industry.

NZ has proven its ability to use “rain, soil, sunshine and nitrogen” to turn seeds into logs for export, but the Rotorua-based chief executive wonders whether the timing is right to do more advanced processing at home. . .

Preparing new staff for the season ahead:

DairyNZ is reminding dairy farmers to prepare for new employees as the new season nears.

DairyNZ people team leader, Jane Muir, says people management practices have improved greatly on-farm in recent years, but there are always opportunities to do things better.

“The recent Federated Farmers/Rabobank Farm Employee Remuneration Survey showed 91 percent of dairy farmers provided permanent employees with written contracts – a sharp increase on previous years,” says Jane.

“This is great news because one of the areas where big wins can be achieved is around the staff recruitment and orientation process – the contract is just one part of that. . .

Rural Bachelor is back and this year there’s an international flavour:

The NZ National Agricultural Fieldays is on the look out for hard working rural blokes to represent the farming community  and are calling for entries across the country to the Trans Tasman. This year the competition will consist of eight finalists (six Kiwis and two Australians) who will be flown to a mystery location on Monday 10th June prior to Fieldays, each of the finalists will then make their way to Fieldays, stopping in specific towns along the way to complete various tasks.

The finalists will be judged on a range of aspects from technical skills, innovation, effort to enthusiasm and crowd involvement. They will also participate in heats throughout Fieldays and be judged on their interaction with Fieldays staff and volunteers, their team spirit, helpfulness, conduct and attitude in relation to Fieldays values. . .


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