Rural round-up

May 9, 2016

Women motivate NZ dairy industry’s survival – Kelsey Wilkie:

Stress, money management and solidarity were the themes of a women in dairy conference. Kelsey Wilkie reports.

Hundreds of women dairy workers came together to talk milk prices, cash cows and rugby in Waikato this week.

The Dairy Women’s Network event at Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton  attracted 340 women keen to to discuss farming issues in the wake of a devastating downturn in milk prices..

Fonterra’s forecasted payout has fallen from $5.25 a kilogram of milksolids down to $3.90/kg. . . 

From wet feet to wool sock success – Sally Rae:

It all began with cold, wet feet.

American couple Peter and Patty Duke were long-time ski instructors before embarking on a business career which has resulted in their launching outdoor apparel brand SmartWool.

The company, based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, was later sold to Timberland and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the VF Corporation, which owns other well-known brands such as Wrangler, The North Face and Lee.

After a break away from the industry, the apparel entrepreneurs got back into business, continuing their passion for merino wool with their woollen sock company, Point6. . .

Landcorp/NZM ink carpet deal:

Landcorp and The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) have signed a contract to supply wool to Australia’s most exclusive carpet manufacturer.

The agreement with Prestige Carpets will see 120 tonnes of wool sent to Australia through their New Zealand-based supply chain.

Prestige uses pure New Zealand wool and a cutting-edge tufted construction method to create carpets targeted at Australia’s leading designers and architects. . . 

Objects of the exercise:

They are the unsung heroes of the Golden Shears World Shearing and Wool Handling Championships.

Millers Flat farmer Trevor Peters is supplying more than 2000 Romney sheep for the event which is being held in Invercargill in February.

The sheep would present the world-class shearers with a good challenge, Mr Peters said.

The Peters family farms six properties: Spylaw, at Dunrobin, Bullock Range, at Moa Flat, Clutha Downs, at Beaumont, Attadale Station, at Middlemarch, Teviot Valley Station, at Millers Flat, and a finishing farm at Waikaka. . . 

Farming difficult but not all gloom and doom – Steve Wyn-Harris:

There is an increasingly growing level of anxiety in this part of the world as the dry conditions reduce options for building up some feed covers as we head in towards winter.

If we don’t get proper rain in these last two or three weeks of May then we can, at best, expect 10kg DM/ha/day or a total of 600kg DM/ha for June and July, which for most is about maintenance.

So early August feed covers are going to be around end of May covers and for many this will be too short for lambing and calving. . .

Old-fashioned farming and good old-fashioned common sense – Peter Burke:

The name Johnstone has been synonymous with breeding bulls in the Whanganui district for at least 90 years.

There are now five generations of Lindsay Johnstones: the latest one is Lindsay – call him Lindsay the fifth.

Back in 1925 Lindsay’s grandfather started off by developing a herd of Herefords. He managed to breed some pure white Herefords and, remarkably, Lindsay has kept that tradition going and has 25 of these animals on his property; more in memory of his grandfather than for commercial gain. . .

Feijoa-geddon could be coming to New Plymouth – Jermey Wilkinson:

Peter Peckham has collected bugs of all kinds for nearly 80 years and had never seen a guava moth until last month.

The New Plymouth man said he was in the shower when he saw the Pacific Island guava moth and rushed to get his bug net to capture it.

“They have quite a distinctive flight pattern, they fly quite slowly unlike other moths,” he said.  . .

 


Rural round-up

March 8, 2016

Embrace change Ballance CEO says – Sally Rae:

Agriculture has to ‘‘sell itself to New Zealand”.

That is the strong belief of Ballance Agri-Nutrients chief executive Mark Wynne, who cited a generation of people with no rural connections.

The sector – which was the foundation of New Zealand’s wealth – had to keep promoting its good stories, he said. . . 

$2m fertiliser plant opens near Timaru – Sally Rae:

More than $2million has been invested at Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ Washdyke site with the official opening of a specialist PhaSedN fertiliser manufacturing plant.

Timaru Mayor Damon Odey and Ballance chief executive Mark Wynne attended the opening, along with local farmers.

The plant was developed in partnership with Te Poi Manufacturing Ltd. It was expected to initially produce about 10,000 tonnes annually with capacity to build production as demand grew. . .

Landcorp to scale back Wairakei dairy conversion – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Landcorp Farming, the state-owned farmer, confirmed it will scale back the conversion of former forestry land to dairy farming on leased land at the Wairakei Estate north of Taupo following a slump in milk prices and concern about the environmental impact.

New Zealand’s largest corporate farmer “will significantly reduce dairy’s footprint from the original plans and instead include alternative uses for the 14,500 hectares of former forestry land it leases from Wairakei Pastoral,” the Wellington-based company said in a statement.

Landcorp has a 40-year lease to develop and farm the former forestry land, and since 2004 has developed 13 dairy farms with 17,000 cows over 6,400 hectares of the property. A new land-use model will see the eventual number of dairy farms and cows on the Wairakei Estate significantly reduced from the 39 originally planned, it said today. . . 

Industry group well advanced on bobby calf initiatives:

The eight organisations that formed a Bobby Calf Action Group at the end of 2015 are well advanced on a range of initiatives ensuring best practice handling and management of bobby calves.

The group is DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Meat Industry Association, Federated Farmers, New Zealand Petfood Manufacturers Association, Road Transport Forum, New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Scott Gallacher, MPI Deputy Director General Regulation and Assurance, said a number of the initiatives being worked on were new, other initiatives were already underway but were being accelerated. . . 

Seeka commits to a new HQ and major infrastructure development to handle growing kiwifruit processing demand:

Seeka Kiwifruit Industries (NZX-SEK) will move into its new headquarters in Te Puke by the middle of this year and plans to make it a centre of excellence for its produce and grower-focused business, says Chief Executive Michael Franks.

“Our new HQ will reflect our focus on the crops we and our growers produce, and the harvest and post-harvest value chain,” said Mr Franks.

The move is part of this year’s planned capital expenditure of $20 million to develop new infrastructure to handle increasing kiwifruit volumes. . . 

Manawatu Dairy Awards Winners Look for New Opportunities:

The 2016 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards big winner, Stephen Shailer, is on the hunt for a new dairy farm position and hopes his win will help his progress.

Mr Shailer won the 2016 Manawatu Share Farmer of the Year title and $10,450 in prizes at the region’s awards dinner held at Awapuni Racecourse last night. The other major winners were Renae Flett, the 2016 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year, and Karl Wood, the 2016 Manawatu Dairy Trainee of the Year.

“We entered the awards for the first time this year as we are hoping to move to a 50:50 sharemilking position or lease farm, so we entered in an effort to make our CV stand out a bit more,” Mr Shailer says. “We also wanted to push ourselves to identify our own strong and weak points.” . . .


Rural round-up

February 18, 2016

Landcorp forecasts bigger loss this year, no dividend – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Landcorp Farming, the state-owned farmer, won’t pay a dividend to the government for a second consecutive year as low milk prices erode earnings from its dairy business.

The company expects to post a net operating loss of between $8 million and $9 million in its current financial year ending June 30, chief financial officer Steve McJorrow told parliament’s primary production select committee in Wellington. That’s a bigger loss than the $1 million to $6 million it forecast in December, and compares with a net operating profit of $4.9 million last year. The projected loss means Landcorp won’t pay a dividend for the year, McJorrow told BusinessDesk after the select committee meeting. . . 

Drought relief in the pipeline for North Otago – Rob Tipa:

Farmers in the North Otago downlands between Duntroon, Enfield and Herbert will be happy to leave behind the stresses of desperately dry summers when the taps are opened on an expanded irrigation scheme covering an extra 25,000 hectares next spring.

In December, this region was shaping up for a summer from hell as farmers were forced to destock quickly with predictions of an El Nino long, hot summer drought.

The North Otago Irrigation Company, which currently supplies about 100 shareholders with irrigation water from the Waitaki River, was running at full capacity in November and December to cope with demand. . . 

North dairy farms lift collective environmental record:

Northland’s dairy farms are collectively lifting their environmental compliance performance with record numbers achieving full compliance last season.

Joe Carr, chairman of the Northland Regional Council’s Environmental Management Committee, says 65 percent of the more than 900 farms inspected over four months from mid-August last year had achieved full compliance, the highest rate ever recorded.

Councillor Carr, an Okaihau-based beef farmer and forest owner who represents the council’s Hokianga-Kaikohe constituency, says 944 farms were visited by the council or its contractor last season. . . 

Wall to wall sky – it’s a big country – Kate Taylor:

Most travellers drive around the South Island looking up at the picturesque high country. Kate Taylor jumped at the opportunity to experience the views up close with four-wheel-drive company NZ Adventures.

Asking how four-wheel-drive a four-wheel-drive trip will be is probably not a good start for my 1250-kilometre high country safari down the South Island.

Usually I would class myself as a good vehicle passenger – chatty, happy and with not an ounce of carsickness. But I think my hosts receive the occasional message about my state of mind… a tight grip on the door handle, mouth firmly shut and eyes to the upward view.

The trip caters for people with their own 4WD vehicles and preferably drivers with 4WD experience. Certainly, some of the places driven in the tour are not for the fainthearted, with sheer drops on the side of the tracks or long, steep inclines up to spectacular views and back down again. . . 

Journey to the top of the world – Kate Taylor:

Kate Taylor concludes her three-part series about a 4WD high country safari from Blenheim to Cardrona. The final days of the six-day journey are more familiar territory for the Otago farmer’s daughter.

Standing beside the monstrous Leaning Rock high above the Cromwell Gorge, I assume the tour guide is joking when he says I can see the Blue Mountains where I grew up.

After all, we had already been on top of one Blue Mountain in North Canterbury and driven through part of Blue Mountain Station in Mid Canterbury.

But there they are – no bird’s eye view of West Otago but undoubtedly the Blue Mountains in the distance. . .

I couldn’t find part 2 of this series, if you come across it please post the link in comments.

 

Is Fonterra’ strategy outdate – Jacqueline Rowarth:

More developments in dairy processing operations, this time in Northland, are yet another nail in what must not be allowed to become Fonterra’s coffin.

The dairy farmers in the region will, potentially, have a choice of which company to supply. The dilemma for them is whether they continue to support their co-operative or move to a new company promising good returns.

The promise is based on the demand in China for UHT milk and ice cream: China is now believed to be the biggest ice cream market globally. Chinese spending on ice-cream increased over 50% between 2009 and 2014. Furthermore, consumption is still under a quarter of that consumed by Americans, giving plenty of room for further increases. The new company should be onto a winner. . . 

Canterbury farmer unofficially tops world crop record – Monique Steele:

A Canterbury farmer with a wheat crop yielding above the world record missed out on glory because it was never officially recorded.

Leeston farmer David Birkett harvested 16.7 tonnes a hectare from his feed-wheat crop which would have topped the existing record of 16.519t/ha held in the United Kingdom.

He suspected he was heading for a personal best, but decided against bringing in officials to verify a Guinness world record attempt. . . 

Southern Dairy Hub site found:

Southern Dairy Hub (SDH) chair Maurice Hardie says the vision of a southern research and development dairying centre is much closer to being realised with a conditional agreement on two properties now having been reached pending the satisfaction of a number of minimum requirements for both parties.

“This is an important milestone in our plan to build a facility that is a partnership between local farmers, DairyNZ and AgResearch; the new farm will enable local dairy farming issues to be researched on southern soils in southern conditions,” he says. . .


Rural round-up

August 27, 2015

Farmers not off the hook on health and safety:

It’s a complete fallacy that the farming community doesn’t have to worry about health and safety as a result of proposed changes to the Health and Safety Reform Bill, according to an expert in the field.

Crowe Horwath agri health and safety expert Melissa Vining says the recent hype around proposed changes have monopolised the headlines in recent days with many accusing the government of letting farmers off the hook.

However she is quick to dispel the myth that farmers have been given a mandate to ignore health and safety. . . 

Landcorp posts 2014/15 annual results:

Landcorp has recorded a net operating profit of $4.9 million on revenue of $224.3 million for the year ended 30 June 2015.

The $4.9 million net operating profit is down from the $30 million result the previous year. The sharp decline in the price of milk solids, combined with lower lamb prices, saw income from farm products drop 11.7 per cent on the previous year, to $213.5 million.

Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden said record-low dairy prices and tough growing conditions had driven overall financial performance down. However, a constructive response to challenging conditions had helped buffer Landcorp from major impact. . .

New Zealand in unique position for ‘water development’:

New Zealand has many advantages over the rest of the world when it comes to ‘water development’ but we need to get better at leveraging water use – for our future well-being and to protect us from the effects of climate change, says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

This week is World Water Week 2015 with a theme of ‘Water for Development’. More than 3000 people, including world leaders, water experts and international aid organisations, have gathered in Stockholm, Sweden to debate solutions for water crisis around the globe at an annual symposium run by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) (www.worldwaterweek.org.nz).

Mr Curtis says New Zealanders are blissfully unaware of the relative advantage New Zealand has with plentiful rivers, lakes and groundwater supply across the country. . . 

Huge potential in Chathams – farmer:

The Chatham Islands has a huge, untapped potential for farming but a better understanding of soils is needed, one of the islands’ farmers says.

The islands are part of New Zealand and lie 750km east of the South Island.

Federated Farmers Chatham Islands chair Tony Anderson said there were 15 large farming operations there but many farmers worked a second job in the fishing industry. . . 

‘Power Play’ Innovation in Dairy Awards:

Entrants in the 2016 Dairy Manager of the Year contest will play to their strengths with a ‘power play’ initiative among the new judging criteria.

The change is one of many to the 2016 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards programme, aimed at enabling more people to enter the awards competitions and at ensuring people with similar age, skills, maturity and investment in the industry compete against each other.

National convenor Chris Keeping says other changes include new competition names, entry and judging criteria – like the power play. . . 

OMG Dairy NZ Confessions Stories Advice's photo.


$1.6b better invested elsewhere

August 19, 2015

Stuff reports that the partial privatisation of Landcorp is on the cards because Finance Minister Bill English is concerned about its level of debt.

. . . English indicated Landcorp may sell farms to improve its balance sheet, but while he would not rule out partial privatisation he said the Government was not at that stage yet. The Landcorp board had looked at ways to raise capital, but not a float or big sell-offs.

“We are not ruling anything in or anything out because we aren’t actually dealing with propositions at the moment.”

But there had been discussions to ensure it was sustainable. He said he had confidence in the board.

He said he “would expect Landcorp to sell off farms if that’s part of maintaining the sustainability of their business”. . . 

Selling the company as a whole would be difficult if not impossible, given its value.

The management arm could be sold separately and farms gradually sold off until the company disappeared but that would be politically unpalatable which is unfortunate.

Think of the good $1.6 billion could do if invested in research and development, infrastructure, education, health, reducing debt  . . .

Now think about the benefits of tying that amount of public money up in farm land.

The only one I can come up with is as a land bank for treaty settlements but I don’t think settling all those still unresolved requires 137 farms covering 158,394 hectares spread throughout New Zealand.

The company made an operating profit of just $1 million in the first six months of this financial year which is an abysmal return on investment.

Even in good years, the return on investment is modest which is not unusual for even the best farmers.

Landcorp farms are well run. They have a good record for staff training, environmental protection and enhancement, and genetics.

But that still doesn’t justify tying up $1.6 billion which could provide much better value if invested elsewhere.


Rural round-up: payout edition

August 8, 2015

Fonterra forecasts $3.85:

Fonterra suppliers will get a total possible payout of $4.85/kg of milksolids this season – but there’s a catch.

The farmgate milk price is $3.85/kg MS with a predicted dividend of 40-50 cents then an extra 50 cents for each fully shared kilogram giving a total of $4.85/kg MS.

But the extra 50 cents is a loan, interest-free for up to two years, which farmers will have to apply for. Farmers would have to pay the money back when the Farmgate Milk Price or Advance Rate went above $6/kg MS.

Shareholders’ Council Welcomes Fonterra Shareholder Support Package Announced as Milk Price Plummets:

Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Duncan Coull said the Co-operatives unique position has enabled it to provide assistance to its farmers in these tough times. The announced support package in the form of an interest free loan of 50 cents per kgMS for production between June and December will help farmers get through the tough times ahead.

While Fonterra Farmers were expecting a drop in the forecast Milk Price (down $ 1.40 per kg/MS to $ 3.85) it does not make today’s announcement any easier to bear. The dividend forecast of 40 – 50 cents per share lifts the total available for payout to $4.25 – $ 4.35 per kgMs. The retention policy means that the forecast Cash Payout for the season would be in the range of $ 4.15 – $ 4.20 for a fully shared up farmer. . .

Interest-free loans soften payout hit – Fran O’Sullivan:

Fonterra’s top brass cooked up a $430 million parachute so that the dairy co-operative could offer farmers a cushion for yesterday’s brutal cut to the forecast milk payment.

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings and chief financial officer Lukas Paravicini began work on the deal five to six days ago along with a couple of the co-operative’s farmer directors.

The upshot was that the Fonterra board was able to yesterday tick off a plan to leverage savings from the company’s transformation project and pump them out to farmers in the form of interest free loans. . .

Plan – do more and work longer – Neal Wallace:

Gerald Holmes concedes he will be a grumpy employer this milking season.

The Taieri dairy farmer has been through downturns before and said the biggest change he will make on his 600-cow farm is to become more self-sufficient.

“It is easy to say no to everything regardless of how reasonable the expense is.”

Gone this season are the days of calling in a plumber, mechanic or electrician to repair equipment.  . .

Times just get tougher for dairy industry – Sally Rae:

”If it continues into next year, … it’s going to be ugly for a lot of people. There will be casualties eventually.”

That was the sobering response of Berwick dairy farmer Mark McLennan on a day dubbed ”Black Friday” for the dairy industry, with Fonterra slashing its 2015-16 forecast price to $3.85 per kg of milk solids, the lowest figure since 2002.

DairyNZ’s latest analysis showed an average farmer needed $5.40 per kg to break even. . .

Fonterra revises down milk price to $3.85 – Tao Lin  and Gerald Piddock:

Fonterra’s decision to slash the price it pays its farmers for milk solids will wipe $2.5 billion off the economy, an analyst says.

Fonterra has cut its milk price forecast to $3.85 per kilogram of milk solids, down from $5.25.

Fonterra has also announced it will provide an estimated $430 million in financial support for farmers to help them cope with the low payout. . .

It is tough down on the farm – Regan Schoultz:

Craig Maxwell, his wife Kathy, and their daughter Penelope have been living on their dairy farm in Paparimu just south of Auckland for 25 years.

It is a big part of who they are as people and a lot of time, blood and sweat has been poured into it.

News of Fonterra’s announcement, informing New Zealanders that the farmgate milk price is set at $3.85, is not welcome.

“It is obviously disappointing but not surprising,” he said. “Nobody is going to be shocked by that figure, but no one is going to be happy.” . .

Milk price drop will have big impact on rural communities:

Rural businesses, not just dairy farmers, will feel a big impact from Fonterra’s announcement today that its 2015-16 Forecast Farmgate Milk Price is reducing from $5.25 to $3.85, says industry body DairyNZ.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says the drop means a further reduction of $150,000 for the average dairy farm income for this season. “The harsh reality of this announcement is that Fonterra farmers won’t actually receive $4.25-$4.35 because of the way the payment system works. It’s likely to be more like $3.65,” he says. (see graph below for more details)

“The effect on the level of payments over a season will keep farmers’ cash income constrained for at least the next 18 months and it will take some farmers many years to recover from these low milk prices. . .

Massive fluctations in milk price show NZ’s dairy model ‘flawed’, Landcorp boss Carden says – Paul McBeth:

 (BusinessDesk) – A $4.55 swing in the forecast milk price paid to farmers over two seasons shows there’s something wrong with New Zealand’s dairy model, which is centred around farmer-owned Fonterra Cooperative Group, and it needs to change, says Landcorp Farming chief executive Steve Carden.

Fonterra today slashed $1.40 from its forecast payout to farmers to $3.85 per kilogram of milk solids, below the 2015 season’s $4.40/kgMS and less than half the record $8.40/kgMS paid in 2014. A slump in global milk prices through the course of the year had markets primed for a reduced payout, and state-owned Landcorp, the country’s biggest farmer, was pleased to lock in as much as it could at Fonterra’s $5.25/kgMS guaranteed milk price for the current season.

Landcorp’s Carden said the Wellington-based state-owned enterprise had been anticipating a weak revision for a while, so today’s result wasn’t a surprise. . .

Government should fast-track rural infrastructure to assist dairy regions:

Federated Farmers wants the Government to fast-track its infrastructure projects in dairy regions to assist local economies through the downturn in dairy prices.

Fonterra has announced its forecast Farmgate Milk Price for 2015/16 of $3.85 per kilo of milk solids. In late July last year Fonterra’s forecast price was at $6 per kilo for the 2014/15 season.

Federated Farmers Dairy Spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says small scale rural service industries, such as engineering or contracting, in some instances might be hit harder than the dairy farmers they traditionally rely on for work. . .

‘Black Friday’ will mean huge debt for farmers – Emma Jolliff:

Today has been dubbed ‘Black Friday’ not just for dairy farmers, but the whole New Zealand economy.

Fonterra has slashed its forecast payout to farmers to $3.85 per kilogram of milk solids, which is well below the break-even rate of $5.70.

Economists say it could strip $1.5 billion or more out of the New Zealand economy.

Sally Bosch has been sharemilking for eight years.  She knew a drop in the payout was coming, but not one this big. . .

Farmers cashing up assets – Dene Mackenzie:

Otago dairy farmers are selling what they can to generate cash flow as they face up to an immediate prospect of lower milk payout prices for the next 18 months to two years.

Holiday homes, second cars and unneeded plant and equipment have been the first on the block but accountants contacted yesterday by the Otago Daily Times say more, harder decisions will need to be made by some farmers.

Fonterra will this afternoon announce what many expect to be a sharply downgraded milk payout forecast for the current season. . .

 

 

 


No excuse for cruelty, deliberate discharge

August 5, 2015

Don’t click on this link if you’re going to be upset by details of ill treatment of animals:

. . .  Michael James Whitelock pleaded guilty in Greymouth District Court on Monday to 12 charges, including ill treatment of animals, unlawful possession of firearms and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

He was bailed to his home in Timaru until sentencing on October 7.

Whitelock was the dairy manager for a Landcorp farm near Westport from July 2012 until his suspension in September 2013. A Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) investigation began that month after a Landcorp manager arranged for a vet to examine the herd.  . .

There is no excuse for cruelty to animals.

People who can’t treat animals with the care and respect they deserve shouldn’t even contemplate working on a farm.

Nor is there any excuse for this:

A dairy farmer has been fined almost $73,000 for deliberately discharging effluent into his drains which then flowed into the Coromandel Peninsula’s Tairua River.

The 11 years of illegal discharges is “quite staggering”, the Waikato Regional Council says. . .

Accidents could happen on the best of farms. Deliberate discharges might still occur in third world countries but they should not happen here.

 


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