Rural round-up

26/11/2021

Carbon farming – farmer’s poem for the Prime Minister – Graeme Williams:

East Coast farmer and bush poet Graeme Williams is back with another poem for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Today he wants to take the Government to task over carbon farming and shares his poem, written at 2 o’clock this morning – his “least angry period of the day”.

Dear Aunty Jacinda,
From you we have not heard.
I’ve written to you twice before
And this will be my third.

I’m really, really annoyed
And I think it’s only fair,
That the reason for the annoyance
With the country, I should share.

Carbon farming will ruin us all.
Of that, I have no doubt.
I am acutely aware of the issues
And wish to share my views about. . . 

Alliance Group financial performance lifts – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group’s improved financial performance is a ‘‘favourable result’’ after another challenging year, chairman Murray Taggart says.

The co-operative yesterday announced an operating profit of $41.9million before tax and distributions for the year ending September 30, up from $27.3million last year.

Last year’s result was heavily impacted by a $19.9million provision for back-paying employees for donning and doffing. This year’s result included an allowance of just over $2million for that.

Revenue of $1.8billion was on a par with last year and a profit distribution of $8.5million would be made to farmer shareholders, in addition to $16.7million in loyalty payments already paid over the course of the year. . .

Fish & Game supports calls for forestry refocus :

Fish & Game NZ is supporting calls for an urgent rethink on the rapid proliferation of exotic forests currently being supported by central government, and instead refocus on native plantings for better long-term environmental and social outcomes.

The Native Forest Coalition – comprising the Environmental Defence Society, Pure Advantage, Road Donald Trust, the Tindall Foundation, Project Crimson, Dame Anne Salmon and Dr Adam Forbes – recently released a statement urging a shift away from “short-term thinking and siloed government policy” in tackling climate change.

Central to the Native Forest Coalition’s concerns is current policy favouring carbon sequestering in exotic pine plantations over native forests, which is being driven by high carbon prices. This is having a myriad of adverse impacts.

“While Fish & Game is behind initiatives to address the climate crisis, the current short-sighted focus on securing offshore carbon credits ignores significant long-term environmental and social problems,” says Fish & Game spokesman Ray Grubb. . . 

Lake Ohau narrative goes up in smoke – David Williams:

On closer inspection, luck played a bigger part in no one losing their life in last year’s Lake Ōhau Alpine Village fire. David Williams reports

It was the country’s most damaging wildfire in living memory.

The early-morning conflagration in October last year destroyed most of the houses in the Mackenzie Basin’s Lake Ōhau Alpine Village, burning through more than 5000 hectares, including conservation land.

The costs were eye-watering. Fighting the fire from the air alone cost more than $1.2 million, while insurance losses totalled about $35 million. . . 

The wizard of woolsheds for 41 years – Alice Scott:

If your woolshed has been built by Calder Stewart in the past 41 years, chances are Dave Mathieson probably built it.

Mr Mathieson (61) started out with Calder Stewart at the age of 20 and, apart from a short stint working on commercial builds in the late ’80s, he has enjoyed a career as a foreman specialising in woolshed builds.

Being based in Milton, Mr Mathieson and his crew will travel up to an hour and-a-half for work and in his early years he would often stay away.

“I probably stay away for one job a year, but I’d like to think I am mostly done with that now. After all these years, I am allowed to make that demand,” he laughed. . . 

Unvaccinated shearers continue to work – Annabelle Cleeland:

Unvaccinated shearers are continuing to work, despite Victoria’s sweeping effort to compel most agricultural workers to receive two doses of the coronavirus vaccine before Friday.

Victorian shearing contractors have complained to Shearers Contractors’ Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford about unvaccinated shearers and shed staff continuing work in a “concerning cash economy”.

“I thought the way it would roll would be that unvaccinated shearers would find work in NSW, but the concern I have is they have stayed and they are finding enough work in Victoria,” Mr Letchford said.

“We have tried the positive approach with these people who are resistant to being vaccinated. . . 


Rural round-up

13/04/2021

Red meat retreat – Neal Wallace:

This year’s prime lamb production is headed to be the lowest on record, reflecting low farmer confidence, and could result in fewer ewe numbers, Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) is warning.

The number of lambs likely to be processed this season is estimated at 18.2 million, a drop of 4.5%, or 900,000, compared to 2019-20, with total export production of 347,600 tonnes bone-in.

“This will be the lowest lamb production on record. Confidence in the industry is subdued,” the B+LNZ report said.

“Farm gate prices have eased from recent high levels, farmers are wary of the volatility of weather events and environmental regulation is weighing heavily on morale. Forestry is also spreading into sheep farming land. . .

Bills on tax creep and sound law-making deserve public debate – Feds:

A government committed to fairness and responsible law-making should not allow two bills recently drawn from the Member’s Ballot to sink without debate, Federated Farmers says.

“At the very least the Regulatory Standards Bill and the Income Tax (Adjustment of Taxable Income Ranges) Amendment Bill deserve to go to select committee for examination and public submissions,” Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard said.

The Regulatory Standards Bill would require any proposed legislation to be subject to clear analysis of the problem the legislation is aimed at solving, a thorough cost-benefit analysis of expected outcomes and adequate consultation with affected parties.

“Quite frankly with such requirements, the Essential Freshwater legislation and the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill – to name just two recent examples – would not have got through as written,” Andrew said. . . 

Resting in fleece – Annette Scott:

Choosing an end of life in wool has become a popular option as woollen caskets take off in New Zealand.

Ten years ago when Polly and Ross McGuckin launched Natural Legacy woollen caskets in NZ the idea struggled to gain traction.

“We were seen as eco warriors, there wasn’t the interest then, I was flogging a dead horse, but now people are waking up, the public is listening and the table is turning,” Polly McGuckin said.

“The world is changing and funeral homes want to do the right thing by being eco-friendly and sustainable – it’s a lot easier to talk about wool now, every year we are seeing interest grow. . . .

Love of the land a Shaw thing:

Farm Environment Plans are not just about cows, grass and other farm management practices, says Ross Shaw – they are an integral part of any farmer’s connection to the land.

Shaw, along with wife Karla and parents Jim and Helen, have a deep and strongly held philosophy about the land. That dovetails with his recent enthusiastic embrace of a Farm Environment Plan (FEP) – one of the many compulsory (by 2025) calls on farmers’ time and wallets in order to improve nutrient management and reduce farming’s impact on water quality.

Jim and Helen Shaw bought the Reporoa property 36 years ago when it was 62 hectares and with 150 cows; it’s now 400ha, with many more cows and farmed, for the last 13 years, with Ross and Karla.

It is also the subject of a long-held family belief in multi-generational farming and what that means in terms of custodianship of the land: “We are like most New Zealand farmers – we want to be here for multi-generations,” Ross says.  “We were farming in our own right [before joining up with his parents] and our kids will be the third generation on this farm. . . 

Relief in Australia as welcome mat goes out for New Zealand shearers – Sally Murphy:

Australian farmers are breathing a sigh of relief as much needed New Zealand shearers will now be able to travel over for their busy spring season.

Covid-19 border closures have meant nearly 500 New Zealand shearers who normally travel to Australia to help out have been unable to.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford said it’s been tough going with farmers paying almost double per sheep to have them shorn.

“It’s been really tough and there’s been months of delays. The standard rate over here for shearing a sheep is $A3.24 [$NZ3.51] but now in New South Wales which has about 40 percent of the country’s sheep it’s hard to get a shear for under $A3.72. . . 

China trade tactics didn’t hurt AUstralia as anticipated – Jamieson Murphy:

CHINA’S aggressive trade tariffs have cost the Australian economy millions of dollars, but the damage isn’t anywhere nearly as bad as originally anticipated, according to leading think tank economists.

Across the affected commodities, trade to China is down about 78 per cent. But the trade sanctions took place against the backdrop of COVID-19 which “significantly clouds the picture”, Lowy Institute lead economist Roland Rajah said. 

Nonetheless, one can parse the evidence to arrive at some conclusions and it would seem the impact has in fact been quite limited,” Mr Rajah said.

“Exports to China have predictably collapsed in the areas hit by sanctions, but most of this lost trade seems to have found other markets.”. . .


Rural round-up

19/01/2021

Why we can’t plant our way out of climate change – Marc Daalder:

As New Zealand gears up to fight climate change, experts warn that we need to actually reduce emissions, not just plant trees to offset our greenhouse gases, Marc Daalder reports

This year is shaping up to be a major one for climate policy. Between the Climate Change Commission releasing its recommendations around our Paris target and emissions budgets and a major climate summit in Glasgow in November, 2021 is the year the New Zealand Government will finally lay out in detail its plans to fight climate change.

Ahead of February 1, when the Commission will release drafts of its advice for consultation, experts warn that we shouldn’t be taken in by the allure of trees as a silver bullet. It’s true that major reforestation will be crucial to slowing global warming (and has added biodiversity benefits as well), because all plants sequester carbon breathed in from the atmosphere. . . 

Daigou disaster – Elbow Deep:

It is surprising how quickly a company’s fortunes can change; the A2 Milk Company (A2MC) played a dangerous high-stakes game, relying heavily on an informal network of Chinese students and personal shoppers to distribute much of its product into China. It’s a game that has cost other companies dearly in the past.

Daigou, buying on behalf, is a network of Chinese nationals living in or visiting Australia who buy local products and ship them back home to groups of friends, customers cultivated via the social media app WeChat. It is not uncommon for Chinese tour groups to visit stores like the Chemist Warehouse and buy products in bulk, much to the ire of locals.

Such is the demand from China for Australian packaged products that in 2019 a Sydney store owner was found to have stockpiled 4,000 1kg tins of baby formula ready for export. . . .

Concerns over shearer ‘bidding wars’ – Gerald Piddock:

Reports of unofficial bidding wars among Australian farmers to secure shearers has a New Zealand shearing boss worried it could lure Kiwi shearers across the Tasman to chase the money, leaving the industry short-staffed.

The shortage of shearers in Australia due to covid-19 restrictions meant some farmers were paying shearers 20-50% premiums per sheep above the usual rate, the ABC reported.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford told ABC farmers were offering shearers A$4-$5/head to shear sheep. The minimum pay rate to shear a sheep in Australia is A$3.24.

Prior to the covid-19 border restrictions, these jobs would have been taken up by NZ shearers. . . 

Exchange rate a pain point for meat export – Neal Wallace:

A wildly fluctuating exchange rate is causing headaches for meat exporters. Silver Fern Farms (SFF) says between October and November the NZ-US exchange rate rose from $US0.65 to $US0.71, wiping $140 a head off beef and up to $11 off a lamb.

As of late this week the exchange rate was $US0.72.

In a Christmas update podcast, SFF’s supply chain manager Dan Boulton says in addition to exchange rate fluctuation, the other headwind facing exporters as they enter peak production, is the congested global supply chain.

This is causing issues with container availability, shipping schedules and port access. . . 

Tractor industry remains optimistic for 2021:

The tractor sales industry finished 2020 on a strong note with December sales up 18.4 % on 2019.

Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA) president Kyle Baxter says that while 2020 definitely posed challenges for the industry, the current mood of members is positive.

Overall tractor sales for 2020 were down 15.3% compared with 2019, with sales for the bigger machines (375+ HP) particularly affected with a drop of 25%. . . 

Dairy markets stable despite Covid challenges – Carlene Dowie:

Global dairy markets appear to be weathering the COVID-19 storm with prices stable despite pandemic-induced changes in demand in key markets.

The Australian Milk Value Portal’s latest Global Dairy Update says resilience in demand for dairy products is underpinning the market.

International analysts are also pointing to stability – with ANZ in New Zealand last week lifting its forecast farmgate price there by 7.5 per cent while the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s dairy price index jumped for the seventh month in a row in December.

The Milk Value Portal’s Nanna Moller said the market outlook was mostly bullish, despite differences in global markets, with slowing growth in milk supply in Europe and Oceania and sustained demand for consumer staples. . . 


Rural round-up

24/10/2020

Fired up over freshwater – Hamish MacLean:

Stop the degradation, show real improvements in five years, restore New Zealand’s waterways in a generation, and infuriate how many farmers? Environment reporter Hamish MacLean checks in on the fight for healthy rivers after 100 tractors rolled through Gore last week in protest over new freshwater regulations. 

Southern farmers are facing reams of new rules and red tape as New Zealand starts to go hard on keeping sediment, E.coli, phosphorous, and nitrogen out of its rivers.

But Federated Farmers calls some of the new rules “unworkable” and prohibitively costly, and says they will need to be amended by Cabinet.

Federated Farmers environment and water spokesman Chris Allen says a parade of tractors down Gore’s main street and a gathering of hundreds of farmers in Invercargill last week amid public calls for ignoring the new rules en masse are representative of farmers’ anger about the costs and the extent of the changes being forced upon them.

Measures would squeeze businesses ‘doing it tough’ – Jacob McSweeny:

Business and farming leaders in the South are joining a chorus of similar stakeholders throughout the country hoping the Labour Party forms its own government rather than going into a coalition with the Greens.

Labour won 64 seats according to Saturday’s preliminary results and can govern alone if it chooses.

Farra Engineering chief executive and Southern Otago Regional Engineering Collective chairman Gareth Evans said he was not surprised by the result, just that it was more comprehensive than expected.

“It’s good in a sense that Labour have an absolute majority so that they have to be accountable for everything that they do from here on in.” . . 

Research funded to unlock seaweed’s potential as new ‘superfood‘ –

It is far from a staple on most Kiwi dinner tables, but AgResearch scientists are aiming to unlock the potential of seaweed as a go-to food with proven health benefits. And they have enlisted the services a of a world-class chef to help them do it.

The scientists are joining counterparts in Singapore in a project funded by New Zealand government, in the amount of $3.3 million, alongside parallel funding from the Government of Singapore. The New Zealand funding is from the Catalyst Fund:Strategic – New Zealand-Singapore Future Foods Research Programme.

The research, focused on the Undaria pinnatifida species of seaweed abundant in waters around New Zealand and Singapore, also involves partners the University of Otago, University of Auckland, A*STAR, AgriSea NZ, Ideas 2 Plate and AMiLi. . . 

Waikato berry farm expecting influx of visitors due to strawberry picker shortage:

Strawberries may be harder to come by on supermarket shelves this year due to an expected shortage of pickers, so a Waikato berry farm is gearing up for a big influx of Kiwis wanting to pick their own.

Whatawhata Berry Farm, located five minutes from Hamilton on the Raglan Road will open for the summer this Friday (23 October) and is expecting record crowds during the strawberry picking season, which runs from now until late March or Easter if demand exists.

Owner Darien McFadden says commercial growers are deeply concerned there won’t be enough overseas RSE workers or those on Working Holiday Visas to pick this year’s crop, leaving fruit to go to waste and creating supply and demand issues for both export and domestic markets. . . 

Shearers were among those travelling to Melbourne via Sydney :

New Zealand shearers were on the first flights to Australia and among those who travelled on to Melbourne.

Shearers who boarded the first flights to Melbourne should have been praised for their work ethic not “poo-pooed by the Premier”, an industry representative has said.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford confirmed New Zealand shearers were on the first flights out of New Zealand to Sydney, and they later went on to catch a flight to Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne.

“Anecdotally I know they were on those flights and there was nothing illegal or incorrect in what they did – they followed process and were sponsored by their employers and had the correct permit to travel from metropolitan Melbourne to rural Victoria,” he said. . . 

HappyMoo developing tools to monitor cow health :

ICBF is participating in a large-scale European research project called HappyMoo. The project aims to develop tools to identify cow welfare issues before they become a problem and affect performance. There are many different aspects to cow welfare and essential among them are freedom from hunger, stress, and disease. These are the areas that the HappyMoo research project is focusing on.

The project will use machine learning to identify patterns in milk spectral data that are associated with undesirable conditions in the cow. Milk spectral data is recorded when milk samples are analysed in a milk recording lab by mid-infrared machines. Essentially a mid-infrared laser is shined into a milk sample and the absorbance levels are recorded. Every analysed milk sample generates 1060 data points and when we consider the thousands of cows in the thousands of milk recording herds it does not take long to add up to Big Data. Therefore, these absorbance levels provide a deep dataset and in the HappyMoo project the spectral data will be correlated with phenotypes. Already, spectral data can be used to measure milk constituents, but it has also been shown to indicate difficult to measure phenotypes such as energy balance. . . 


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