Rural round-up

May 26, 2013

Award success a family affair – Gerald Piddock:

Farming, community, family, innovation and the desire to never stop learning has seen two North Otago farming families forge a successful business partnership.

The Mitchell and Webster families operate an intensive cropping operation and wholesale business producing bird and small animal feed.

Its home base is the Mitchell family’s Rosedale farm at Weston.

Their exceptional crop management and focus on long term sustainability helped them win the supreme award at this year’s Otago Farm Environment Awards.

The families entered the awards to help them learn more about their business, Mitchell Webster Group partner Jock Webster said. . .

Variable conditions a challenge – Gerald Piddock:

Variable growing conditions caused by fickle weather was the biggest challenge this season for the Lincoln University dairy farm.

It caused the dry matter produced on the 186ha farm to swing around violently throughout the season.

“It’s been more variable than most years and I would say that’s a result of those really variable growing conditions. We have seen hot and cold temperatures that have driven more variation in pasture,” DairyNZ’s Steve Lee said. . .

About face on dung beetle assessment – Richard Rennie:

One of the country’s most senior health officials has given the thumbs up to a review on the public health risk of dung beetle release.

Auckland medical officer of health Dr Denise Barnfather expressed her concerns earlier this year over the lack of risk assessment before beetle importation.

Approval for field trials on the beetle has been granted by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and these are under way in Northland. The next step is field release.

But Barnfather said this week the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) applauded the Ministry of Health (MoH) decision to assess the potential public health risk the beetles posed before release occurred. . .

Ten-year plan to beef up venison returns  – Jon Morgan:

A plan to lift venison returns by feeding deer better, improving their health and breeding, and by finding high-paying markets for the tastiest cuts, has been put to deer farmers.

The aim is to add $2 a kilogram to the value of a processed deer over the next 10 years, the deer industry conference in Wellington heard. At current prices, that would take the value of a 60kg stag from $540 to $660 at the season’s peak.

Deer Industry NZ chairman Andy Macfarlane said deer profitability was well ahead of lamb and beef on the same land.

“But are we satisfied with that? The answer is: no.”

The industry was launching “Passion to Profit” – its plan to increase returns – “to put deer farming back into the imagination of farmers”. That would be led by a renewed push in the core German market and a campaign to sell high-quality cuts under the Cervena brand to top-end European restaurants. . .

Butcher wins RWNZ award – Rosie Manins:

Almost four decades of hard slog is paying off for Lawrence butcher Jan Harper.

She is one of four category winners in this year’s Enterprising Rural Women Awards, announced at the Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) national conference in Christchurch on Thursday night.

Ms Harper (57) has worked in the meat industry since leaving school and opened Bluespur Butchery and Deli in Lawrence’s main street in 2009. . .

Sharemilkers second in national competition

Papakaio sharemilkers Morgan and Hayley Easton have placed second in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Sharemilker-Equity Farmer of the Year competition.

The award, announced at an event in Wellington last night, was won by Southland representatives Don and Jess Moore.

The 2013 New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year title went to Richard Pearse, of Ashburton, and James Warren, of Winton, was named New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year. . .

Dairy farm profit down but still high – Andrea Fox:

Higher operating expenses per hectare in an otherwise-spectacular 2011-2012 dairy season resulted in farmer owner-operator profit sliding by $186 a hectare, a new DairyNZ report says.

But the 2011-2012 DairyNZ Economic Survey said operating profit which declined by 6.6 per cent to $2624 per hectare was a “still a high level”.

DairyNZ said the season was characterised by an excellent summer and autumn resulting in record milk production for all regions.

But offsetting the 9.2 per cent increase in milksolids per hectare was a matching decline in milk prices, leaving gross farm revenue per hectare almost unchanged. . . .


Rural roundup

May 20, 2013

Communication key in success of group – Sally Rae:

The importance of communication has been stressed by those involved with Mitchell and Webster Group – the supreme winner of this year’s Otago Ballance farm environment awards.

The intensive cropping operation and wholesale business producing bird and small animal feed is based on the Mitchell family’s historic Rosedale farm at Weston and covers 1375ha of arable land in North Otago.

A large crowd attended a field day hosted last week by Peter Mitchell and Jock and Nick Webster and their families. . .

Exceptional Family-Run Business Scoops Supreme Award In Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

An extraordinary cropping and wholesale business run by two families has won the Supreme Award in the 2013 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Jock Webster, Nick Webster and Peter Mitchell of the Mitchell Webster Group received the special award at a Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony in Wanaka on April 12, 2013.

Producing bird and animal feed, their intensive cropping business spans 1380ha of arable land in North Otago and is based from the Mitchell family’s historic ‘Rosedale’ farm at Weston.

The Mitchell and Webster families joined forces in 1972, creating, said BFEA judges, “an extraordinary and inspirational family business that has withstood the test of time”. . .

Scale, diversity of Asian markets noticed – Sally Rae:

An industry-backed trip to Asia has given Blair and Jane Smith a deeper understanding of the challenges facing marketers of New Zealand meat and dairy products.

Mr and Mrs Smith, from Five Forks and the national winners of the 2012 Ballance farm environment awards, recently returned from South Korea, China, Taiwan and Singapore.

They visited various markets for New Zealand sheep, beef and dairy products, with the aim of learning more about offshore markets, exchanging views on topics of interest to New Zealand farmers and of highlighting New Zealand’s stance on agricultural sustainability. . .

Ace shearer special guest – Sally Rae:

Top shearer David Fagan will be the special guest at the Royal Agricultural Society of New Zealand’s national Golden Fleece competition in Mosgiel this week.

The Otago-Taieri A&P Society is hosting the event, which is open to both fine- and strong-wool growers throughout New Zealand.

The competition has been held for more than 40 years and has moved around the country, although it had predominantly been hosted in the South Island as that was where most of the entries came from, RAS executive member Kelly Allison said. . .

Slow and steady wins farm race – Annette Lambly:

A simple but effective stocking policy has earned Paparoa farmers Janine and Ken Hames recognition in this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The couple, who own Ewenny Farms, a 351ha (256ha effective) beef-only farm on Paparoa-Oakleigh Rd, achieve meat production of 277kg CW/ha (three-year average).

This is well above average for this class of land (Waiotira clay loam) in Northland and is accomplished with all-grass feeding, with no hay or silage.

Janine, a veterinarian, has a comprehensive animal health plan for the cattle, and does regular drench checks and faecal egg counts. . .

Tradeable slaughter rights useful but may not be the answer – Allan Barber:

The Tradable Slaughter Rights concept, raised by me several weeks ago and promoted last week by Mike Petersen, was first proposed by Pappas, Carter, Evans and Koop in 1985. But its purpose was specifically to solve the problem of an industry that consisted of a lot of weak competitors with little innovation or variation in killing charges. The report identified excess costs between farmgate and shipside of $100 million or 8%.

Although the meat companies are not exactly making huge profits or enjoying strong balance sheets, it would be entirely false to accuse them of lack of innovation and high operating cost structures. What is still relevant is the issue of excess capacity, but the end result today is not too much cost, but too much procurement competition. . .


Water quality more worrying than mortgage

October 4, 2012

The ODT’s quote of the day from the hearings on the Otago Regional Council’s proposed water plan was from Neil Smith:

“I worry more about the proposed water management plan and effluent than I do about my mortgage”

Worrying about effluent isn’t unusual and it’s not a bad thing. We ought to be concerned it and the impact it could have on water quality if not managed properly.

However, most of us do what is required to manage effluent and ensure we are well within the rules.

The proposed changes to Plan 6 are a different matter because farmers don’t think it is possible to keep within the limits.

ODT reports on the hearings show farmers are concerned about the viability of their operations  under the proposed changes:

North Otago farmers yesterday queued up to tell the Otago Regional Council (ORC) they could go out of business if the council did not alter proposed changes to water quality rules. . .

Former North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC) chairman Jock Webster said without irrigation schemes, farmers in the area      would still be at the mercy of a historically drought-prone region.   

Mr Webster said farmers had invested heavily in irrigation,  but had also had to increase productivity, in order to pay for watering systems.   

He said those who were part of the NOIC irrigation scheme already had farm environmental plans, which had resulted in better awareness of water quality. . .

. . . However, he added that the varying nature of soil and  particularly sub-soils in the area meant they could be eroded      easily during high rainfall, leading to poor water quality.   

“I do not believe those who drew up the water plan understand      the catchment sufficiently to write up sweeping rules and      conditions that may cover the whole of the Otago area.   

“There is no issue with water quality in the Waitaki Valley, and we have got some good things happening, but there is no      way we can meet some of the standards.   

 “You cannot change nature.”

And nature isn’t perfect anyway. Another quote of the day:

 “Recently we had water tests taken to  check how our farm will meet the proposed levels … They  show that the water quality coming out of the spring was  poorer than further down the drain. The spring water itself  does not meet the required limits” – Jeff Thompson

If spring water doesn’t meet the limits the limits are unreasonable.

There is also concern over uncertainty in the plan and the lack of tools which farmers can use to measure water quality.

My farmer was one of those who submitted yesterday. He likened the impact of the proposed plan to being expected to drive within the speed limit in a car without a speedometer.

No-one is arguing against the intent of the plan and the need to have good water quality.

The concern is that proposed changes are based on theoretic modelling which doesn’t take into account the nature of the soils, expects compliance when there are no measurement tools and imposes limits which are impossible to meet.


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