Rural round-up

April 24, 2019

Otago’s long rabbit war wages on – Jono Edwards:

They are fluffy, cute, and devastating to agriculture. Jono Edwards examines Otago’s rabbit problem and asks if there is any solution.

Otago’s problems with the long-eared grey/brown menace – the rabbit – began as early as the 1830s, when colonists brought them to New Zealand shores for food and sport.

They quickly realised their mistake as the pests spread and destroyed crops nationwide.

In the 1860s they became established between Invercargill and Riverton, and were devastating crops all over the south by the early 1880s. . .

Horticulture welcomes call for protection of versatile land:

An environmental report released last week further substantiates Horticulture New Zealand’s concerns about ongoing urban and lifestyle block expansion into prime growing land, and shows that urgent action is required to slow this down.

The Environment Aotearoa 2019 report, released by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ, shows that the growth of urban centres threatens the limited versatile land surrounding regional centres such as Auckland, Waikato, and Canterbury. . .

Handling psychological pressure key – Sally Rae:

Lance Burdett describes his job as helping people as much as he can.

A safety, wellness and resilience expert, Mr Burdett has worked with elite international tactical units across police, the military, emergency services, prisons and the FBI.

Now he focuses his time on helping people understand the pressures on their brains and how to handle them.

Rural Support Trusts are bringing Mr Burdett to the South, where he will be speaking in Oamaru on May 13, Balclutha on May 14, Gore on May 15 and 16, and Winton on May 16 . . 

Fonterra mulling Tip Top offers :

Fonterra has moved to the next stage of its plan to sell-off its Tip Top ice cream business.

A spokesperson for the co-operative said it received a number of offers from buyers last month and is now considering them.

Follow-up offers are due on 29 April. . .

N surplus shows performance:

Nitrogen leaching varies significantly depending on soil type and climate, which means it’s not a straightforward performance indicator. An alternative approach is to look at a farm’s nitrogen surplus.

It’s a goal of many farmers to improve sustainability, with a significant focus on N leaching in many regions. However, nitrogen (N) leaching varies significantly depending on soil type and climate, factors that cannot be changed (though irrigation can alleviate dry conditions, but also increase drainage).

Focusing on N surplus instead is an easier method of determining farm performance and gaining environmental benefits. Reducing N surplus can also save farmers money. . .

Applications now open for Silver Fern Farms Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships 2019:

Silver Fern Farms welcomes applications for the Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships for 2019. In its third year, the Plate to Pasture Scholarship programme will award six winners from across the country $5000 to assist with developing their careers and capabilities in the red meat sector.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says that supporting emerging talent in the red meat sector is vital to developing relationships that will strengthen the red meat sector.


Rural round-up

January 5, 2019

Fish and Game do it again – Alan Emmerson:

Here was I listening to the radio to be shocked by the news that 82% of Kiwis saying they were concerned or very concerned about pollution of rivers and lakes.

Then we had Fish and Game chief Martin Taylor telling us that the problem was fair and square farmers fault.

Unsurprisingly I have issues with that.

For a start why don’t you get ten people in a room and ask them their concerns. I’ll lay you dollars to donuts that pollution of our rivers and lakes isn’t the major concern of eight of them.

Let’s take that a bit further. As the vast majority of us live in cities our exposure to rivers and lakes isn’t great. Certainly not eight out of ten. I’d be surprised if it was over two. . .

A-grade farming in a sensitive environment – Tony Benny:

A Canterbury dairy farmer is in tune with his environment. Tony Benny reports.

He says farming in a part of Canterbury regarded by many as too challenging environmentally Tony Dodunski has achieved an A rating for his farm environment plan audit and is achieving his production goals as well.

Tony and wife Clare farm 190ha next to Lake Ellesmere, which is rated the most at-risk in New Zealand with agriculture having a significant impact so farmers in the area are in the environmental spotlight. . .

Telfordstaffremaininlimbo

Uncertainty remains for Telford staff as they approach a critical point in their future with the beleaguered agricultural institute.

Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, which provides courses at Telford, in Balclutha, and other on-farm campuses, was placed in interim liquidation on December 19.

At the time, liquidator Grant Thornton said it understood wages and salaries were up to date and the organisation would continue running “as per normal” over Christmas.

However, the Otago Daily Times has learnt Telford staff expect to receive their final wages on Wednesday, leaving them facing an uncertain future. . .

Climate research leads the world:

A government research programme has positioned New Zealand as a world leader in research into mitigating greenhouse gases from agriculture and adapting to climate change, a recent independent review has found.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) research programme supports the generation of new climate change knowledge across NZ’s agriculture and forestry sectors. . .

Home buyers warned of sex and smell – Jono Edwards:

A Dunedin pig farmer is warning potential home buyers of the sex and stink that come with rural living.

Recently Pieter Bloem, who lives on the Otago Peninsula, noticed the property across from his on Highcliff Rd was for sale.  

On Boxing Day he decided to place a sign on the road reminding interested parties what they were in for. . .


Rural round-up

December 27, 2018

Leave the water rules to locals – Neal wallace:

When water arrived in Maniototo 34 years ago it not only transformed the region’s dryland farms but also Geoff Crutchley’s views on water management.

Crutchley was initially reluctant to become involved in the murky world of water and irrigation management but was prodded into action in response to what he considered inflated water prices being demanded by the precursor to the Maniototo Irrigation Company.

So began an involvement that continues today but which has challenged some of his previous views while shaping others.

His experience has formed views on three issues in particular. . . 

Wilding pine effort set to triple – Jono Edwards:

The attack effort on Otago’s wilding pines seems set to treble.

Over the past year, $1.8 million was spent controlling 332,000ha in the region through the Ministry of Primary Industry-led wilding conifer control programme.

At a recent Otago Regional Council meeting, chief executive Sarah Gardner said she was told by ministry staff the work would soon triple.

This was echoed by the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group.

Ministry Wilding Conifer Programme manager Sherman Smith said phase one was 85% complete and planning for the second phase was under way. . . 

Improving farm performance – one effluent pond at a time – Jim van der Poel:

As a dairy farmer, I take great pride in looking after my farm – its animals, the grass under their feet, our team and how we protect the environment. Every aspect contributes to a successful business.

So, like many farmers, I am disappointed when a few let down the majority. There have been some instances this year of poor effluent compliance, despite many farmers doing great work in this space.

All dairy farmers have a responsibility to manage the effluent from their cows and it is taken seriously by the vast majority who are investing in reliable, sustainable farm systems. . . 

Ex-director suggests Fonterra suspends dividends – Sudesh Kissun:

A former Fonterra director says the co-op could suspend dividends to shore up its balance sheet rather than sell key assets.

Greg Gent says farmers and investors would understand if the co-op suspended dividends to get its books in better shape. And it could suspend dividends and sell some assets that don’t align with its new strategy.

However, he wants to see the co-op’s strategy before decisions are made on selling assets. . . 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2018 – Jamie Mackay:

The Country radio host Jamie Mackay takes a look at the highs and lows for rural New Zealand in 2018.

The Good:

The weather:

This time last year much of the country was in a screaming drought – a farmer’s worst nightmare. Although Mother Nature absolutely forgot to turn the tap off in November and early December, at least once we dry out there will be grass for Africa and for more than quite a few sheep, cattle and deer.

Mycoplasma bovis:

Twelve months ago many were resigned to living and farming with bovis. If a week’s a long time in politics, a year is an eternity in farming. I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest bovis is beaten but we’ve given it a hell of fright in 2018. . . 

Bird veteran still has pluck – Alan Williams:

The glamorous part of the year is over for long-time poultry exhibitor Doug Bain.

After several months of winter and spring shows around the South Island with a lot of ribbons and accolades it is back to the real work of breeding hens and ducks for next year.

“You need to have a reason to get up in the morning. It’s a hobby for me,” the 82-year-old says.

He doesn’t keep count of the birds he breeds and has no preferences. 

“I like them all.” . . 

 


Rural round-up

November 26, 2018

Does Russia belong in the West or the East? – Keith Woodford:

The issue of whether Russia belongs in the West or the East might seem a strange topic for a New Zealand agri-food systems person like me to be discussing. However, political and food systems, and the associated international trade, are joined at the hip. Politics and agricultural trade are always fellow travellers.

These last two weeks, while working in Russia, I have pondered as to where Russia belongs. From a cultural perspective, I have no doubt it is in the West. Yet from a geopolitical perspective it would seem that Russia’s future is more with China in the East. Here, I explore the dichotomy and the contradiction.

Milk flush is depressing prices – Hugh Stringleman:

Record milk collection in New Zealand over the October peak has continued to depress Global Dairy Trade prices, which, in turn, threaten a reduction in the farmgate milk price closer to $6/kg.

The GDT index fell 3.5% after the auction on November 21, the twelfth consecutive fall or sideways movement since mid-May.

World prices are now 20% below their 2018 peak and 12% lower than this time last year.

Plenty of cattle left – Neal Wallace:

Stirring international and domestic storms have conspired to undercut bull beef prices.

A combination of falling United States prices in the last two months, processors trying to maintain margins and farmers being careful with stock purchases because of Mycoplasma bovis have reduced demand and prices, AgriHQ market analyst Reece Brick says.

At a recent Feilding calf sale those bred on the vendor’s property were $30 to $40 ahead of calves that weren’t. . .

The green, green grass of Maniototo – Jono Edwards:

Green fields in the usually-barren Maniototo have some farmers casting their minds back to the 1970s.

Unusually high rainfall, including a recent heavy downpour, was welcome news for the industry after months of dry heat last year.

Gimmerburn farmer Duncan Helm said things were looking “bloody magnificent”

Mataura Valley’s multimillion-dollar milk plant opens – Margaret Phillips:

The official opening of the $240 million Mataura Valley Milk plant at McNab brought guests from all corners of the globe today.

 MVM general manager Bernard May said the plant was forecast to pour about $90 million annually, directly or indirectly, into the South’s economy. Its major shareholder is the China Animal Husbandry Group. . .

Will Argentina be the first country approving a GMO wheat? -Javier Preciado Patiño:

 “We mustn’t do what other countries have already done; we must do what no other country did” Self-confident and why not a little bit provoker, the CEO of Bioceres, Mr. Federico Trucco, challenged the audience in the formal presentacion of the HB4 Wheat, the transgenic wheat that added drought tolerance to glufosinate-ammonium herbicide tolerance.

The beginning of this development dates from middles ’90 when scientist Raquel Chan’s team identified a gene (HB4) that confers sunflower seed a better performance under drought condition. In 2003, Bioceres reached an agreement with Conicet (the governmental Science and Technology Comission) to develop this finding in a commercial way. In 2007, HB4 was transferred to other crops like soybean, maize and wheat, and now only one formal step is missing to release this technology to the Argentinean farmers.

Mr. Trucco explained the three step deregulation process for a GMO crop in Argentina. HB4 wheat has already been approved by the SENASA (Food Quality and Health Service) and the Conabia (Biotechnology Advisor Commission), because there is not risk to the human health, animal health and the environment, and the characteristics of this wheat are the same of conventional ones. . . 

New app helps farmers finish cattle to retailers’ specifications:

A new app can help farmers finish cattle to retailers’ specifications with greater precision, avoiding lower prices for the farmer and waste in the value chain.

Changing customer tastes mean that almost half of prime beef now fails to meet ideal market specifications.

The app will help farmers finish cattle to retailers’ specifications with greater precision, underpinned by the data to evidence this. . . 


Rural round-up

November 20, 2018

Has the time come for genetic modification?– Charlie Dreaver:

Trees with red trunks and apples that are red right the way through and flower all year round. Should we back or block the genetically changed plants New Zealand scientists are growing? Charlie Dreaver reports for Insight. 

Gene edited plants are just as safe as normal plants, according to one scientist. At a Plant and Food Research greenhouse in Auckland, one of the sections is filled with $300 apple trees, and Andy Allan, a professor of plant biology, is pointing out one of his favourite experiment, a tree with bright, fuchsia-coloured flowers.

“The particular red gene we’re testing is under a strong expression, so the roots are red, the trunk is red, the leaves are copper and the fruit goes on to look more like a plum, it’s so dark.” . . 

Hope for kiwi comeback from 1080 project targeting stoats – Jono Edwards:

The first western Fiordland 1080 project will start mid-next year in the hope of bringing the stoat-ridden area’s kiwi back from the brink.

As part of the Department of Conservation’s “Save Our Iconic Kiwi” initiative, the operation will target 50,000ha of rugged, inaccessible terrain at Shy Lake, between Wet Jacket Arm and Breaksea Sound.

Non-toxic baits to accustom rats to the bait are planned for late winter next year, followed by toxic baits in September and October. The stoats will then eat the poisoned rats. . .

Native vegetation on sheep and beef farms summary report:

A report from the University of Canterbury has revealed that 24 per cent of New Zealand’s native vegetation (approximately 2.8 million hectares) is estimated to be on sheep and beef farms. This is the largest amount of native vegetation present outside of public conservation land. 

The report has also uncovered that 17 per cent of all New Zealand’s native forest is estimated to be on sheep and beef farms and is likely playing a vital, but often unheralded role in supporting biodiversity.

B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor reflects that “This is a great acknowledgement for our farmers and the work they’re doing as stewards of the land. I hear sheep and beef farmers talking every day about what they’re doing on farm to support biodiversity and it’s great we have been able to develop evidence to back their passionate voices”. . .

Less effective killers cost more – Jacqueline Rowarth:

 Glyphosphate, commonly sold as Roundup, has been in the news again, this time because of a link to antibiotic resistance.

Canterbury University’s Professor Jack Heinemann has done some interesting work in the laboratory. He has also acknowledged agar plates in controlled conditions are a very long way from field use.

More research is required. Of course.

And scientists love having a reason to do more research.

It’s different in Russia – Keith Woodford:

This last week I have been working in Russia on issues of A1 and A2 beta-casein.  I am still there, but today is Sunday and together with my wife Annette, I am on a fast train from Moscow to St Petersburg.

It’s late autumn over here, but to a Kiwi lad it seems like the middle of winter. Until today, the weather has been fine and clear but with temperatures below freezing. Today the snow has arrived, and it will now be on the ground for at least the next four months.  There is not much sign of global warming over here!

Travelling by fast train at 250 km per hour, I am fascinated by the lungs of Russia. By that I mean the hundreds of kilometres of trees, largely pines, with just the occasional village.  Somewhere there must be some farm lands, but they sure aren’t in sight from the train. . . 

Signs mount that Fonterra will have to cut its payout forecast –  Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – The risks are mounting against Fonterra holding its current forecast milk payout and this week’s GlobalDairyTrade auction could be yet another nail in its coffin.

The auction results will be released early Wednesday, New Zealand time.

Fonterra’s current forecast is a rate of $6.25-to-$6.50 a kilogram of milk solids but Mark Lister, the head of wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners, says the trends in both dairy pricing and the renewed strength in the kiwi dollar could see the actual payout settle closer to $6.00 or $6.25. . . 

Fonterra too helpful to councils – Hugh Stringleman:

The ever-increasing compliance load on dairy farmers was forcibly questioned at the Fonterra annual meeting by Cambridge dairy farmer Judy Bryan.

She alleged Fonterra accepts and facilitates regional councils’ demands for environmental actions that load costs on farmers.

“We may be getting $6 something in milk price but look where a lot of that is going, on compliance. . .

Careful! You might miss New Zealand’s latest luxury lodge:

New Zealand’s newest luxury lodge epitomises discretion, from blending seamlessly into its secluded rural location to the luxe surroundings and discerning service of a high-calibre luxury destination.

Set to become New Zealand’s newest luxury destination, The Lindis which opened this month in a dramatic South Island high country valley, blends so perfectly with the surroundings that you’d be forgiven for missing it.

Try spotting The Lindis from the air and you’re liable to miss it thanks to outstanding architecture designed to blend with the stunning landscape surrounding the building’s resting place in the Ahuriri Valley. The valley lies in a stretch of South Island high country between Mount Cook and Wanaka and the lodge name associates with The Lindis Pass, a picturesque alpine roadway linking the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. . .


Rural round-up

September 27, 2018

Pasture pests costing economy billions:

Pests most commonly targeting New Zealand’s pastures are costing the economy up to $2.3 billion a year, an AgResearch study has found.

The study is the first of its kind to estimate the financial impact of invertebrate pests such as the grass grub, black beetle, nematodes and weevils in terms of lost productivity for pastoral farming.

The full science paper has been published this week in the New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research and can be found here: . .

Alliance meat company paid too much for winter export lambs cutting profit – Heather Chalmers:

Meat company Alliance Group says it paid too much for export lamb over winter, which has hit its profit. 

Alliance chief executive David Surveyor said that in lamb markets there had been a “fundamental disconnect” between the laws of supply and demand.

“For the last three months lamb prices overseas have been flat, but domestically the export lamb price to farmers has gone up by $20 a head to procure animals.

In the last few weeks Alliance has cut the price it pays for lamb “as it was not sensible to continue at this level of pricing”, Surveyor said. . .

Westland Milk Products final payout for 2017-18

Westland Milk Products has reported a final milk payout of $6.12 per kilo of milk solids (kgMS), less a five cent retention, delivering a net average result for Shareholders of $6.07 per kgMS.

Chairman Pete Morrison noted that a substantial number of Shareholders received an additional premium on the net result of 4.4cents per kgMS for providing UHT winter milk and colostrum, giving them a net average payout of $6.11. . .

Fonterra: ‘lots to do to get basics right’ – Simon Hartley:

China poses several challenges for Fonterra and a2Milk, and both organisations face the likelihood of short term volatility in sales and earnings.

Fonterra’s woes stem from its poor full year result and rising milk prices pressuring profit margins, but it also has to make a decision on its much criticised 18.8% stake in Chinese infant milk formula company Beingmate, which it bought for $755million in 2015.

And a2 Milk could face some short term volatility with recent changes to Chinese law impacting on the thousands of informal ”daigou” traders selling on numerous e-commerce and social media platforms in China. . .

Apple industry welcome release of seized plant material:

New Zealand Apples & Pears Incorporated (NZAPI), the industry’s representative association, has welcomed the Ministry for Primary Industries announcement that 20,000 apple plants have been cleared for release from all restrictions imposed following their seizure after being imported from a US testing facility.

An MPI audit of the facility in March had found that there were incomplete or inaccurate records associated with this material, which raised the prospect of a biosecurity risk. . .

Minister Sage forced to postpone her tahr hunt

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has been forced to postpone the mass tahr cull she ordered to start this weekend because of huge pressure from recreational hunting and tourism industry, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“Ms Sage personally ordered the culling of tens of thousands of tahr without adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters who would be directly affected

Prospects good for anglers – Jono Edwards:

Anglers are waiting with bated breath for a healthy southern fishing season.

Otago Fish and Game officer Cliff Halford said yesterday most fisheries in the region were in ”good condition” for the opening of the season on Monday.

”Certainly, weather conditions play a part in how opening day will pan out and it looks like we will get some clear skies.”

While snow expected this week could impact water clarity, so far there were not expected to be any ”major rain events” between now and opening day. . .

More farmers turn to DNA parentage testing to improve productivity:

Farmer owned co-operative LIC has seen an increase in demand for its DNA parentage testing service as livestock farmers place increasing emphasis on cow quality over cow quantity.

This spring, upwards of 250,000 calves from around the country will have their parentage confirmed by LIC’s DNA parentage service which operates from its laboratory in Hamilton. . .

Hancock’s tech transformation has animals, staff in mind – Shan Goodwin:

THE technology transformation and infrastructure rollout taking place across the 34 cattle properties now in the Hancock Agriculture portfolio is as much about leading the way in animal and worker well being as it is about delivering efficiencies.

From the day of acquisition of each station, Hancock’s Gina Rinehart has expected an allowance be set aside for animal welfare investments.

So far that investment is running in the millions. . .

NFU joins forces with food supply chain to tackle food waste:

The NFU is today announcing its support for the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and is encouraging its members to play their part in tackling food waste in the supply chain.

The initiative, run by the charities Wrap and IGD, aims to have 50% of the UK’s largest 250 food businesses measuring, reporting and acting on food waste by 2019. It is working towards milestones to help halve UK food waste by 2030.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “This is an incredibly important initiative by Wrap and IGD, and the NFU is very pleased to be able to support it. Farmers are the first step in the supply chain, producing the raw ingredients that make up the safe, traceable and affordable domestic food supply that helps to feed the nation. . .


Rural round-up

March 27, 2018

MPI cattle cull “the right thing” – Jono Edwards:

The  farming industry is viewing a Mycoplasma bovis cull of more than 22,000 cattle as a tragic necessity.

The Ministry for Primary Industries announced yesterday it would begin a cull of 22,332 cattle today on all infected sites after scientific testing and tracing confirmed the disease was not endemic.

It was working immediately with farmers to kill the stock on the 22 active infected properties which still contained cattle, it said.

The disease can cause pneumonia, abortions, lameness and mastitis and can result in the deaths of infected cows. . . 

Sheep goes for $8k at first NZ auction of Beltex ram lambs – Maja Burry:

About 300 people attended the first ever sale of Beltex ram lambs in New Zealand on Friday.

The Beltex, whose name combines Belgium and Texel, are a breed of muscle heavy sheep that have higher meat yield.

Beltex breeder Blair Gallagher said the interest around the inaugural sale, which was held at his mid-Canterbury farm was very positive.

On offer was 16 purebred Beltexes, 20 Beltex-Poll Dorsets, 18 Beltex-Suffolks and 10 Beltex Perendales. . .

Farmers given food for thought – Sally Rae:

Hakataramea Valley farmers have been given some food for thought with the suggestion they could market their products directly to consumers.

The idea was raised by Prof Keith Woodford during a field day at Waikora Station last week organised by the Hakataramea Sustainability Collective.

The collective, set up in 2016, comprises a group of farmers whose aim is to assist and encourage the protection and enhancement of the valley’s environment and promote profitable and sustainable farming practices for future generations. It has been working closely with the New Zealand Landcare Trust, Environment Canterbury, the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, local iwi and the Waimate District Council to ensure a collaborative and cohesive approach. . . 

Thermal imaging reveal Tekapo pests predator – Kathy Guthrie:

When Sam Staley went to the Defence Force’s Tekapo Military Training Area back in 1996 to run the Military Camp and Training Area for a three year stint, one of the tasks at the time was pest control. Today, 22 years later, he’s still there, and so are some of the rabbits, but after two decades of the comprehensive rabbit control operation which Sam initiated, the rabbits are nothing like the problem they used to be on the 19,000 hectare military site.

“The training area is unique,” Sam says. “It’s a very special bit of dirt! It’s probably the most intensively managed, non-grazed piece of high country land in Canterbury. It includes unique and nationally threatened plants and native fauna like alpine weta, rare butterflies and moths and many endangered vertebrates such as the Mackenzie Basin skink.” . . 

Robots are trying to pick strawberries. So far they’re not very good at it – Dan Charles:

Robots have taken over many of America’s factories. They can explore the depths of the ocean, and other planets. They can play ping-pong.

But can they pick a strawberry?

“You kind of learn, when you get into this — it’s really hard to match what humans can do,” says Bob Pitzer, an expert on robots and co-founder of a company called Harvest CROO Robotics. (CROO is an acronym. It stands for Computerized Robotic Optimized Obtainer.)

Any 4-year old can pick a strawberry, but machines, for all their artificial intelligence, can’t seem to figure it out. Pitzer says the hardest thing for them is just finding the fruit. The berries hide behind leaves in unpredictable places. . . 

Dairy farmers plea for help after Dean Foods ends milk contracts –  Sarah Gisriel:

Sixteen percent of the nation’s dairy farms are in Pennsylvania, but that industry is in crisis.

Two weeks ago, life changed for 26 farmers in Lebanon and Lancaster counties.

“I went to the mail, and in it was a certified letter from Dean Foods,” said Alisha Risser, the owner and operator of an 80-cow farm.

The letter told farmers that Dean Foods was ending its contract by June 1, due to a market surplus of milk.

“It’s the most difficult thing we’ve ever had to do in our lifetimes. To get that notice, and your world is absolutely rocked,” said Kirby Horst, of Lynncrest Holsteins. . . 


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