Rural round-up

August 13, 2018

Synlait Milk’s $2b man John Penno only wanted to be a farmer – Heather Chalmers:

John Penno says he only wanted to be a farmer; instead he set up a major export dairy company.   

On August 10, the Synlait Milk managing director officially stepped down after turning a bare paddock near Dunsandel in Central Canterbury into a multi-product company now worth $2 billion.

With a second $260 million nutritional powder manufacturing site at Pokeno, in north Waikato, set to start processing next year for the 2019-20 season, the company had much more growth to come, he said.   . . 

Lake Opuha holds out for last minute winter snow – Pat Deavoll:

It’s not just the ski fields looking for a late-season top-up of snow.

Opuha Water chief executive Andrew Mockford is hoping “mother nature will finish the winter with a flourish” and provide the much-needed snow to melt and fill irrigation reservoir Lake Opuha in South Canterbury.

There was less snow than usual this year and it was higher up the mountain, he said. . . 

 

Red meat sector confident despite some head winds – Allan Barber:

Since I attended the 2016 conference, having missed last year’s, several things have changed considerably: two years ago Donald Trump wasn’t President, Silver Fern Farms hadn’t concluded its capital raising with a Chinese investor, alternative proteins and non-meat burgers weren’t on the industry’s radar and there was little recognition of the need for a Red Meat Story.

This year the conference programme acknowledged these changes by focusing on disruption to global trade, the China influence, heightened consumer expectations, the effects of the digital revolution and the importance of building consumer trust by telling our story about product provenance, traceability and environmental credibility. The conference was very well attended by farmers, processors and service providers, all of whom were optimistic about meeting the challenges ahead of an industry which has faced many different threats to its survival in the past 140 years. . . 

Unyielding weather for European fruit and vegetable growers, how is the heat impacting crops?

Wrinkled tomato skins, curly cucumbers and small plums – these are some of the effects of drought on fruit and vegetables in Northern Europe. Exactly how great is the impact of heat and water shortages on crops, yields and growers in the region?

Hot and dry weather affects field crop farming the most, says Cindy van Rijswick, RaboResearch Fruit and Vegetable Analyst. “Yields are lower, but fruits and vegetables are also smaller in size and sometimes have quality issues. Because of the high temperatures or lack of water, growers have smaller plums, wrinkled tomatoes, and more misshapen cucumbers. In the coming months, the harvest of apples, pears and potatoes may potentially be smaller in size and yield too.” . . 

Agribusiness professional wins Future Leader role:

As a full-time rural valuer and part-time farmer George Macmillan has insights into many aspects of the agricultural industry.

Based in the Hawkes Bay, he lives close to his family’s 380ha sheep and beef farm south west of Hastings and has recently taken over the lease of a 50ha block. As a foot in the door towards land ownership, he will use the block to grow out the dairy cross beef calves he rears every year to heavier weights and will possibly finish a small number.

George, along with Northland farmer Mack Talbot Lynn, has been appointed a Beef + Lamb New Zealand Future Leader and will represent New Zealand at the International Beef Alliance conference in Canada in September. . .

For farmers, traumas tariffs are far worse than any bad trade deal – Bart Ruth:

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to open new markets to trade, rein in regulatory overreach, cut government spending, and rebuild infrastructure and communication networks to enable rural America to compete in the global economy.

While there have been some positive changes under President Trump – when it comes to American agriculture, we are headed toward economic disaster.

As a sixth-generation farmer and a lifelong Republican, I am alarmed over the impacts that the administration’s actions are having on the agriculture economy and rural America. President Trump has shown a blatant disregard for international institutions, sound science, proven economic theory, and the history of protectionist policy. . .


Rural round-up

January 9, 2018

Stock killed apparently for ‘target practice’ – John Lewis:

Five farmers are livid after nine sheep, two cattle beasts, a cow and a bull were shot on their properties for what appears to be nothing more than “target practice”.

Taieri farmer James Adam said he went to check his stock in Otokia-Kuri Bush Rd yesterday morning and found two of his beef cows shot dead.

Another farmer’s cow was shot and killed on a nearby property in Akatore Rd, south of Taieri Mouth.The night before, a third farmer found five of his sheep shot dead nearby on Takitakitoa Rd. . .

Lake Opuha works around the clock to keep up with irrigation demand – Pat Deavoll:

South Canterbury’s Lake Opuha is getting a workout this summer with an “almost unprecedented” swing in December weather ramping up irrigation demand.

Opuha Water Limited executive officer Tony McCormick said the shift from extremely wet to extremely dry had resulted in a rapid increase in irrigation from “virtually zero” in early November to nearly 100 per cent four weeks later.

“The sudden dry conditions affected lake storage and required special efforts from our ops team to get the scheme up to full capacity in a short time,” he said. . .

Norsewood fabulous place to farm and garden, says land owner Lyn McConchie – Christine McKay:

It’s quite possible Norsewood is one of the best places in the Tararua to be a farmer or a gardener, local weather watcher Lyn McConchie says.

“The average annual rainfall on my farm in upper Norsewood for the past six years (2012 to 2017) has been 1293mm. In that period the lowest rainfall was 1207mm in 2015 and the highest has been 1428 in 2017,” Ms McConchie said.

“Despite other areas around – such as the Takapau Plains – having poor rainfall, we have not.” . . 

 

Oxford Farming Conference Union Debate 2018  “This House believes that by 2100 eating meat will be a thing of the past” – Seconding AGAINST the motion – Emily Retledge:

Mister President, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the House on this motion.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as informed and conscientious members of the agricultural industry, I do not doubt for a second that you will vote wisely and reject this motion. The slippery rhetoric of the liberal elite will not wash with you. We have no sympathy for the Proponents or the extremist behaviour they inspire. Their cause is lost here today.

However, I would like to take this opportunity to challenge your thinking on WHY we must reject this motion and also I would like to be so bold as to give you some inspiration as to HOW we can continue to “meat” the expectations of society for years to come. . . 

In Nigeria farming needs and rewards creative agripreneurs – Chibuike Emmanuel:

I never expected to become a catfish farmer, though I’m not all surprised that I wound up in agriculture. I’ve always been around farms—so it was natural that I’d make it my life’s work here in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, many of Africa’s young people don’t recognize the same opportunity. Many don’t know how to get started. Lots think that it’s old fashioned. Others worry about the challenges of finance and infrastructure.

Yet we all see the need: Farmers are the key to Africa’s economic emancipation. We have an enormous amount of arable land, a large youth population, and a lot of catching up to do—untapped potential to feed a hungry world, if we’re willing to work hard and take up new technologies. . .


Rural round-up

June 27, 2015

Lincoln University’s VIce-Chancellor Resigns:

Dr Andrew West today resigned as Vice-Chancellor of Lincoln University.

“I am proud of what the University has achieved under my leadership. It has been a fabulous three years and Lincoln is on track to become one of the world’s truly great land-based universities”, said Dr West.

 “However my commitment of time, energy and focus has been so great that it is now appropriate that I refocus on my family that live in the Waikato and on my very elderly parents that live in England”, Dr West added.

Farm Environment Award goes to Rotorua couple – Gerard Hutching:

ROTORUA couple John and Catherine Ford have won New Zealand’s pre-eminent farming prize, the Ballance Farm Environment Award for 2015.

It is the first time in the five years since the award was established that a North Island farming business has won.

The Fords were presented with the Gordon Stephenson trophy by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy at a Parliamentary function.

The judges said the sheep and beef property had the “wow” factor and had been chosen from out of 10 regional supreme winners. It stood out in terms of environmental sustainability and impressive production and performance figures, they said. . .

Taupō farmer warned over nitrogen cap breaches:

A sheep & beef farmer has been formally warned for breaching the Resource Management Act by exceeding a nitrogen discharge cap on properties in the Lake Taupō catchment over a two year period.

It is the first warning issued by Waikato Regional Council under the new Variation 5 consenting regime designed to protect the lake’s health from nitrogen, which can leach into waterways and cause nuisance algae.

The warning came after it was discovered more than a tonne of excess nitrogen could eventually leach into the lake as a result of the farmer’s operations over the two years. By themselves the breaches are not expected to have a major detrimental effect on the lake’s future health. . .

Look at it as a challenge – Bryan Gibson:

The line painted on Rob Craig’s haybarn, marked 2004, is a reminder of the devastating floods of a decade ago. 

But heavy rain is often enough to jog Craig’s memory, as it did last weekend.

“I didn’t sleep well on Friday night, to be honest. It was bucketing down with rain. Ever since ’04 it’s always in the back of your mind when it’s raining heavily. It just kept raining and raining and I got a pretty bad feeling then that it was going to be bad.” . . .

Lake Opuha reaps the winter harvest – Tim Cronshaw:

A rich snow harvest in the Fairlie basin is providing an unexpected windfall for lowland farmers needing Lake Opuha to fully recharge for the next irrigation season.

After being closed to irrigating in February the lake reached “zero storage” for the first time in 17 years and had been slow to return to its normal levels over autumn.

The lake will be boosted by the initial snow melt in the lower basin with lake levels expected to continue rising as deeper snow in the Two Thumb Range thaws in spring, but more water is needed for it to totally refill. . .

 NZ finishes 2014/15 wool season with smallest volume sold at auction in at least 7 years: – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s 2014/15 wool season ended this week with what is expected to be the smallest percentage of the clip sold through auctions in at least seven years, as more farmers were attracted to the premium prices and protection from commodity price volatility offered in private sales.

The auction system’s share of wool is expected to continue to shrink. An estimated 464,000 bales are expected to come up for auction in the 2015/16 year, down from 480,000 bales in 2014/15 and 493,000 bales in 2013/14, according to Wool Services International executive Malcolm Ching, who is on the roster committee which estimates wool bale supply for the auctions. Ching said the committee has been forced to revise down its estimates in recent years to reflect declining sheep numbers and an increased amount of wool circumventing the auction system. . .


Irrigation’s not just for farmers

January 20, 2014

IrrigationNZ chief executive, Andrew Curtis, shows irrigation isn’t just for farmers:

You finally made it out of the office and hit the road for a much-deserved break. Whether you towed a boat, carried mountain bikes or packed the caravan or tent for a quick escape this summer, chances are you took advantage of irrigation infrastructure.

While most of us think of our waterways as natural, the reality is many popular water destinations have been modified to support farming or energy production.  Your annual summer holiday just as likely included a dip in a river or lake that helps generate electricity or waters crops as it was swimming at the local pool.  

Increasingly farmers and irrigation scheme managers are incorporating recreation interests when they design new systems. Event managers and community groups are also recognising the unique potential of irrigation canals and storage ponds for fundraising and thrill-seeking. 

The challenge for those managing irrigation infrastructure is ensuring holiday makers and adrenalin junkies can be safely integrated into commercial operations, without impeding vital irrigation flows. We profile several irrigation schemes working with their communities to provide access to water for activities other than irrigation.

New Zealand’s largest irrigation scheme, the Rangitata Diversion Race (RDR) is also one of our oldest. Depression-era labour was used initially to build the race which officially opened in 1945.

Several Mid Canterbury community groups already take advantage of the RDR’s 67km of canals – most visibly the ‘Peak to Pub’, ‘Big Day at the Office’ and Frostbusters’ multisport races. 

And this Easter, a new endurance horse-riding event is likely to see riders crossing the canals as part of 36 hours on horse-back in the district.

Ben Curry, CEO of the RDR, says it’s a balancing act providing access, as health and safety as well as operational and insurance issues, need to be taken into account. But the company tries to find ways to accommodate requests.

While swimming is not allowed due to multiple potential hazards within the water (some of which are submerged), fishing, duck-shooting and cycling along the canals are permitted. A local tourism company has just been given approval to offer high-end cycle tours along the RDR close to the foothills, and the Methven Walkway, created by the local Lions group and a well-used visitor attraction, meanders along sections of the race. 

“We had hoped that the RDR would have been included in the National Cycleway network. It’s still an aspiration,” says Mr Curry.

Lake Opuha is the jewel in the crown when promoters cite wider benefits from irrigation. The man-made 700 hectare lake not only provides water for 230 farms, but as the most accessible lake in South Canterbury, is a magnet for local boaties, kayakers and rowers. 

While rainbow trout were found in Opuha River before the dam was built, brown trout and salmon have since been released into the lake.

Opuha Water Ltd CEO Tony McCormick says since it was filled in 1998, the lake has been a popular destination for anglers and boaties.

His irrigation company supports community use of the lake and its related systems where it can.

Fundraising events are common and one of the most colourful is South Canterbury Diabete’s annual duck race held in an irrigation channel on Arowhenua Road. Fairlie Lions has run a duathalon and mountain bike event around the lake for the past two years and before that hosted fishing competitions. Local farmer and Lions member Murray Bell says the lake is the perfect setting. “It’s a great facility and the location is good as it’s convenient.” As a shareholder in the scheme, Mr Bell says he, like other farmers who supported the lake’s development, is buoyed by its success.

“The duathalon is such a small part of it. Any weekend you are there it’s crowded with boats and in the early mornings you watch the rowing clubs turn up.”

Keith McRobie is President of the Timaru Rowing Club and can vouch for Opuha’s value.

“We’ve used the lake pretty much since it was filled. We are quite limited in Timaru with just a 1km stretch of water so it was a Godsend to have something developed just 45km from town.”

Opuha is pretty much rowable year-round as it is sheltered and accessible during most weather conditions, says Mr McRobie.

Having access to the lake for the past decade has improved South Canterbury’s rowing results. “The schools here punch above their weight at a regional and national level. Every year we have one or two national representatives and Opuha is part of the reason.”

Discussions are underway with the irrigation company and supporters about dedicated facilities for rowing at the lake. Currently three Timaru schools leave boats stored on local farmers’ properties but ideally a purpose-built storage shed and rowing ramp will result in the future.

“We’ve had some discussions with the company and we’re very keen to pursue. If you compare us with Auckland or any other major city, 45 minutes is not really a problem,” he says.    

The Lake Opuha Users Group was created when the lake was first formed to initiate extra amenities for visitors and recreational users of the lake.

Committee member David Williams says their biggest project to date has been the building of a boat ramp to create safe access. Before that up to 150 cars would converge on a 300m section of lake edge that offered the easiest access. Now 90% of traffic has been redirected to the boat ramp greatly reducing the potential for mayhem, he says.

As a farmer himself, Mr Williams says the biggest challenge now is ensuring the lake’s recreational popularity doesn’t impact on its delivery of water to shareholders. “One of the biggest problems for Opuha in the future could be the issue of minimum flows. Some of the recreational fraternity would like to see fluctuations in river flows. But at the end of the day it is the irrigators who are paying,” he says.

Another issue, not created by recreational use, but occasionally compounded by poor behaviour by some boaties, is the spread of didymo. The irrigation scheme and recreational users will need to work together to tackle the algal bloom problem in the future, says Mr Williams.

“Irrigation has provided a great facility by putting this lake here. For the recreationalists there has been a big spin off. At the end of the day it’s been very positive for them and the economic value to our community is also positive.”

The Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company prides itself on a strong relationship with its community, says Chairman Chris Dennison.

“We’re very keen to add benefits to the whole community and not just through the economic driver that irrigation brings,” he says.

 Among its initiatives is the ‘Take A Kid Fishing’ day which the company resurrected in conjunction with the Waitaki Irrigators Collective after an absence of many years. 

Using a shareholder’s attractive tree-lined pond already stocked with trout, 700 salmon were released resulting in very happy young anglers, says Mr Dennison. “The farmer kept his pond open for several weeks after the event to allow the public to fish in a controlled environment with pretty good odds. For young people fishing is about catching fish and most of the kids went away with something for dinner.”

The company has also worked with a local high school to provide access for a fast water kayaking course. Kayaking experts created the course on the scheme’s intake channel by placing obstacles within the stretch of turbulent water and hanging gates from overhead wires. “The effects for us are minimal and the school has ended up with a really good course with easy access,” he says.

Irrigation schemes are developed, and largely paid for, by farmers but the benefits from them are shared well outside of farming.

The economic spin-off helps those who work for and service farms.

Environmental benefits include protecting fragile soils from wind erosion and enhanced flows in natural waterways.

And then there are the recreational opportunities outlined above.


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