Rural round-up

October 24, 2018

She Shears star Jills Angus Burney surprises audience at hometown screening – Sam Kilmister:

Shearing ace Jills Angus Burney​ wouldn’t be where she was today if she hadn’t picked up a handpiece nearly 40 years ago. 

That’s what the Feilding-born barrister and shearer told audiences as she surprised them during a hometown screening of her movie She Shears at Focal Point Cinema last weekend. 

The film, which premiered earlier this month at the New Zealand Film Festival, follows the fortunes of five female shearers as they prepare for New Zealand’s annual Golden Shears competition.  . . 

Big investor goes others dig deep – Richard Rennie:

The off-again, on-again Waimea Dam has dodged the loss of its mystery $11 million backer with some of the existing irrigation investors reaching into their pockets to make up the difference.

“At the end of the day the terms were not acceptable and it made more sense for the existing investors to take up the unallocated shares,” Waimea Irrigators spokesman Murray King said.

A key concern of the group is the apportioning of risk, with the investor carrying less while Waimea Irrigators carried substantially more.

A group of 14 businesses will collectively buy 2000 convertible notes in Waimea Irrigation at $5500 a share, the same share price paid by the scheme subscribers. . . 

The environmental benefits of glysophate – Mark Ross:

Glyphosate, the world’s most widely-used weed management tool has extensive economic and environmental benefits for farmers, especially for those involved with New Zealand’s grains industry.

The benefits of reducing farming’s environmental footprint are immense. Not only do glyphosate-based products successfully control a broad spectrum of weeds, they also help farmers grow crops more sustainably. This is because they allow farmers to adopt ‘conservation tillage’ – benefiting soil health, reducing carbon emissions and conserving water.

There are countless benefits to the land, the farmer and the environment from adopting a no-till system. First and foremost, by leaving the soil mostly undisturbed and leaving high levels of crop residues behind, soil erosion is almost eliminated. . .

LIC spends big on research – Alan Williams:

Dairy genetics group LIC has confirmed innovation at the heart of its work and the spend on research and development this year is more than 5% of revenue.

That is a spend of $13.1 million for the year to next May 31, chairman Murray King told shareholders at the annual meeting in Hamilton.

The New Zealand primary sector’s research and development spend averages about 1%, he said.

The ambitious spend will drive sustainable growth and profitability and deliver more value to farmer shareholders. . . 

Capital gains tax punishes hard work – Lyn Webster:

 I watched Jesse Mulligan on The Project recently saying something like the only people who did not support a capital gains tax were rich selfish people, and I could not help but disagree.

I do not own an investment property, profitable businesses, shares or farms, so a capital gains tax will not necessarily affect me, but I do have an opinion on it.

The premise behind a capital gains tax is that people who work pay tax but people that get income from investing in capital – ie: shares, farms, rental properties etc do not and that this is somehow unfair. . . 

The Farmer’s Fast Five – Pete Greenwood – Claire Inkson:

The Farmers Fast Five : Where we ask a Farmer Five quick Questions about Farming and what Agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Proud Farmer and Amberley A&P show President, Pete Greenwood.

1. How long have you been farming?

 I have been farming since I was 16 years old.

2.What sort of farming were you involved in?

Cropping, horticulture briefly. Now sheep & beef.

3.What makes you Proud to be a Farmer?

 I am proud of what we produce & how we produce it. I am also proud of our position on the world stage. . . 

 


Rural round-up

July 5, 2018

Discovery that could help save the world – new diet to make cows burp less methane – Gerard Hutching:

New Zealand could be the first country in the world to change a cow’s diet so it burps out less methane.

Dutch nutrition company Royal DSM is developing a commercial feed additive which it hopes will be on the market in two years’ time. Studies had shown it could reduce up to 30 per cent of cattle methane in intensive farm systems.

It is focusing on New Zealand because the country’s livestock produce a lot of methane, one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

A single dairy cow generates about 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year in the form of methane (CH4). . .

Robotic technology running at Alliance Dannevirke plant :

State-of-the-art robotic technology is now running as part of the Alliance Group’s $10.6 million investment in its Dannevirke meat processing site.

The primal/middle cutting machinery is part of the co-operative’s investment programme in the plant which also included a redsigning the boning room.

The technology is the most advanced system of its kind in New Zealand. The custom-built primal/middle cutting technology features an x-ray unit which analyses each carcass and instructs two cutting machines where to cut.

It automatically adjusts to a wide variation in carcass size, a challenge in the red meat processing sector. The technology also minimises waste and improves the accuracy of the cut. . .

New fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and NZ merino :

A unique, environmentally friendly fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and a New Zealand merino wool blend will be displayed as part of the Material Innovation exhibition at the London Design Museum.

The material, which was created by renowned Danish designers Kvadrat, was designed to be a sustainable replacement for leather in the latest Range Rover model.

Jaguar Land Rover NZ sales operations manager Ben Montgomery says the merino wool blend was chosen by the designers for its premium characteristics. . . 

Kiwi meat can cut the mustard – Annette Scott:

There are no facts in the future. It’s all just an educated or opinionated guess, agri-futurist and digital strategist Melissa Clark-Reynolds told 250 sheep and beef farmers in Christchurch.

In her keynote address to Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s FarmSmart 2018 Clark-Reynolds said the biggest challenges in futureproofing farming will come in a changing business farming model.

“The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed,” she said. . . 

LIC takes disease precautions – Glenys Christian:

Breeding companies are gearing up for the busy spring mating season with extra measures to stop the spread of Mycoplasma bovis between dairy farms.

LIC shareholder councillor Mark Meyer, who farms at Tangiteroria, told a farmer meeting in Dargaville AI technicians have already inspected nearly 5000 dairy farms to make sure they have one major suitable entry point and footbaths were in place.

There was 100% compliance with 60 technicians in the field for winter milk inseminations despite some pushback from farmers to start with, he said.  . . 

Best advice to U.S. dairy farmers? ‘Sell out as fast as you can’ – Phil McCausland:

Small-dairy farmers are getting squeezed out by corporate agriculture. “That is not what America is about,” a struggling farmer said.

All Curtis Coombs wanted was to raise cows and run his family’s dairy farm in this slice of Kentucky hill country, less than 35 miles from Louisville. But a few weeks ago, he was forced to sell his milking herd of 82 cows, putting an end to his family’s nearly 70-year dairy business.

On a rain-drenched Monday, Coombs, his father and his uncle struggled to shove their last 13 cows into a trailer destined for auction and slaughter. As the earthy smell of manure filled the air, the men yelled for the Holsteins to move and urged them forward with the whack of a plastic stick. . . 


Dairy Award winners living the dream

May 13, 2018

The winners of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards were announced last night:

The 2018 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards winners are smart people who are technologically savvy, care about people, the environment and cows and who are doing very well at dairy farming.

In front of nearly 550 people at Invercargill’s ILT Stadium last night, Dan and Gina Duncan from Northland were named the 2018 New Zealand Share Farmers of the Year, Gerard Boerjan from Hawkes Bay-Wairarapa became the 2018 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and Simone Smail from Southland-Otago was announced the 2018 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year. They shared prizes worth over $202,000 .

“This year there have been a few trends amongst the 33 finalists competing for honours in the awards programme,” General Manager Chris Keeping says. “The finalists are acutely aware of the importance of biosecurity and health and safety with regards to both environmental issues, animal management and sustainability.  It’s extremely positive to see such dedication to these issues within the industry.”

Share Farmer head judge Kevin McKinley, from DairyNZ, says the judges were impressed to discover how educated the entrants were, either tertiary educated or looking to upskill themselves. “We’ve been from one end of the country to the other and we have met a stunning group of people excelling within the industry.”

“We met people who genuinely value other people and how they can help them progress through the industry.  They realise you have to look after staff and value them if you want to keep them. The winners will be excellent ambassadors for the dairy industry,” says Kevin.

Fellow Share Farmer judges Matt Richards, from Southland and Jacqui Groves from Westpac say it’s fantastic to see people putting themselves out there to be judged.  “The industry is in good hands,” says Matt.  “They might be doing it differently to how we used to, but the next generation is growing the industry and evolving and the rest of us have to be ready and prepared.”

Jacqui Groves agrees. “It’s fantastic to see them still seeking advice from more experienced farmers. “They’re seeking out established farmers and asking for support and mentoring,” she says.

The judges say Dan and Gina Duncan can be summed up in three words – passionate, professional and committed.  “They are a friendly, out-going couple who are working on an exceptionally challenging farm.”

“They epitomise living the dream.  They left secure jobs as registered valuers and made the career change to dairy farming, and they’re excelling at it. They’re the complete package.”

“Nothing has come easy for them, they’ve had to work hard” says Kevin.  “When they first began their career, they sought out employers that they thought would be good mentors and role models for them.  They’ve looked for opportunities where people are considered important.”

The Duncans are 50:50 Sharemilkers for the Pouto Topu A Trust milking 1020 cows on the 460ha Pouto property.  Both Dan and Gina, aged 32, hold Bachelor of Applied Sciences majoring in Rural Valuation and Management, with Dan holding a double major including Agriculture.

The former registered valuers have clear, realistic but challenging goals and gave an outstanding presentation which flowed and kept the judges fully engaged. “They managed to get that information across to us in a way we could understand and follow it,” says Kevin.

“Dan and Gina had written a long-term plan on future strategies to improve the property, which they presented to the farm owners.  They called it the Farm Prosperity Report and it encompassed sustainability strategies and solutions to drive the property forward. They had also successfully applied for grants to secure funds for planting on the property.”

In winning the national title and $49,700 in cash and prizes, the couple demonstrated strengths in pasture management and financial management.  They also won three merit awards; the PrimaryITO Interview Award, the Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award and the Westpac Business Performance Award.

“A good example of their pasture management is a comparison report on what quantities a cow would need to eat in Kikuya grass versus Rye grass to receive enough energy to make milk.  It just made it real,” says Matt. “They had calculated all their KPIs of their pasture and they were benchmarking with the rest of Northland, and picked appropriate benchmarks to compare themselves with.”

“They have a good work life balance, they still work hard but they find the time to pursue interests off-farm such as sport, and time with family and friends,” says Kevin

The runners-up in the Share Farmer of the Year competition, Papakura 50:50 sharemilkers Chris and Sally Guy are described by the judges as traditional and solid who are cow and grass focused.

“They were very well organised, it’s a small organisation with not much labour employed,” says Chris.  “They have to be very efficient with their time, and Chris demonstrated this with little bits of technology that he uses, such as an ear-piece he wears in the shed that enables him to record notes.

The couple are in their second season 50/50 sharemilking on Allan Guy’s 80ha Papakura property, milking 200 cows. They also won the Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene merit award and $23,300 in cash and prizes.

Putaruru contract milkers Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson, both aged 31 years, placed third in the competition, winning $13,000 in prizes. The couple also the Federated Farmers Leadership merit award.  The judges noted their financial and analytical strengths and that they had outstanding community involvement.

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors Westpac, DairyNZ, DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra Farm Source, Honda Motorcycles, LIC, Meridian Energy and Ravensdown, along with industry partner PrimaryITO.

Dairy Manager head judge Mary Craw, from Marton, says the 2018 Dairy Manager winner targets excellence in everything he is involved with.

“He has great experience as a manger of people, and a great passion for working with people in a large team environment,” she says.

‘Excellent attention-to-detail and an all-rounder’ is how judges described the 2018 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year, Gerard Boerjan. “He takes a systems approach to the way he manages the farm, he has good systems in place to ensure nothing gets through the gaps,” says judge Mark Shadwick from DairyNZ. “Everything is well documented, he covers health and safety to an exceptional level and his financial understanding is of the highest calibre.”

Gerard, aged 50 years, has successfully farmed in Portugal and Brazil and is currently Farm Manager for Trevor Hamilton on his 553ha Takapau property.  He won $22,600 in cash and prizes.  Gerard also won the DairyNZ Employee Engagement and the Westpac Financial Management and Planning merit awards.

“Gerard is a stand-alone manager and he doesn’t just assume things are getting done, he closely monitors things.  He regularly reviews the information he gets against on-farm targets,” says judge Dave Hutchison from Westpac.  “He’s always monitoring multiple systems to report back to the farm owners, and has good procedures in place to do so.

“Gerard possesses the ability to manage a large, complex business with an absentee owner.  Every detail of the farm is closely monitored, but there’s a real human touch to it.

“He really cares about his staff, he cares about the people, the environment, his cows, what he grows and how he grows it, but he also understands very clearly that it’s a business he is running and he showed us that.”

“Gerard and his partner Marlene are a strong team and she supports him completely,” says Mary.  “He has consciously chosen to pursue a career long-term in management, rather than farm ownership or contract milking.”

“Gerard is very logical and intelligent person, who considers his answers and has a systematic yet adaptable approach to everything he does. He has a fantastic relationship with the farm owners, and keeps the farm and houses in immaculate condition.”

The judges say Gerard is an excellent example of understated confidence. “He’s experienced, yet humble.  He has a great team approach, even texting his staff to ensure they get home safely every night.”

The Dairy Managerjudges were impressed by the calibre of the finalists and by what they were achieving at a young age.  “The standard was phenomenal,” they agreed.

The Dairy Manager runner-up, Will Green from Canterbury, aged 32 years, also won the Ravensdown Feed Management Award.  Will is the farm manager for Kieran and Leonie Guiney on their 240ha, 830-cow farm at Fairlie and won $11,300 in prizes. The judges noted that he is an extremely focused manager with a real emphasis on his team, and has a philosophy of efficient milk production within the system he works, which he adheres to.

Southlander Jaime McCrostie, aged 32, was placed third and won $5500 in prizes and the PrimaryITO Power Play merit award.  Jaime is the Farm Manager for her employer Steve Smith and farm owners AB Lime on the 370ha, 930-cow farm at Winton. The judges describe Jaime as a ‘machine’, who is extremely capable, energetic, focused and operates great systems on-farm.  Her excellent use of technology was commended.

The 2018 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year, Simone Smail, presented herself very well, was at ease in the environment and gave considered, accurate answers. She has a quiet confidence and is sincere, says Dairy Trainee head judge Chris Withy from Southland.

“She is an excellent example of someone who hasn’t grown up in a farming environment, but has developed an obvious love of the land and of the stock that she works with.”

“Simone is an example that anyone can go dairying and succeed if they work hard.”

Judge Tony Finch, from DairyNZ, says Simone is considerate and genuine who is thoughtful of other people’s opinions. “She has mana, coupled with a bubbly personality and a mature approach. As judges, it’s fantastic to see young people like her.”

“One thing that is very clear is that this competition challenges the entrants with their own goals and abilities, and after reflection they realise they can achieve even more.  It has given them great confidence and self-belief. There wasn’t much between the top four, it was very close.”

Simone, aged 24 years, won $10,600 in prizes and the DeLaval Communication and Engagement Award and is herd Manager on an Invercargill City Council farm, working for Steve and Tracy Henderson on the 780-cow, 310ha property at Invercargill. 

It was while she was studying for her Certificate in Veterinary Nursing that she discovered her passion for working with cows.  Simone entered the awards to meet like-minded people who are passionate and want to progress in the industry.

The Dairy Trainee runner-up, Donna McKinley, also won the Best Video Award presented by Streamliner.  Donna is 2IC for Davison Trust Partnership milking 330 cows on a Central Plateau 116ha farm. The judges noted she was a confident person who sets goals, puts a plan together, then achieves those goals.  She’s a very determined person.  Donna won $6000 in prizes.

Third placegetter Quinn Youngman, 21 years, works on David Dean’s 245ha, 600-cow farm in Mercer, He was was inspired by his Grandma to look at the dairy industry as his career.  The judges described him as the quintessential young farmer who was a quiet achiever.  He won $3000 in cash and prizes.

Visit www.dairyindustryawards.co.nz for more information on the awards and winners.

Full Results:

2018 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year:

• Winner – Daniel and Gina Duncan, Northland
• Runner-up – Chris and Sally Guy, Auckland-Hauraki
• Third – Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson, Waikato
• DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Simon and Hilary Vallely
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Chris and Sally Guy
• Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson
• Honda Farm Safety and Health Award – Tim and Melissa Parsons
• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Richard and Wendy Ridd
• Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – Thomas and Jennifer Read
• PrimaryITO Interview Award – Daniel and Gina Duncan
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Daniel and Gina Duncan
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Daniel and Gina Duncan

2018 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year:

• Winner – Gerard Boerjan, Hawkes Bay-Wairarapa
• Runner-up – Will Green, Canterbury-North Otago
• Third – Jaime McCrostie, Southland
• DairyNZ Employee Engagement Award – Gerard Boerjan
• DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Colin Tremain
• Fonterra Farm Source Dairy Management Award – Anthony Lamborn
• LIC Interview Award – Anthony Lamborn
• Meridan Energy Leadership Award – Sam Moscrip
• PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Jaime McCrostie
• Ravensdown Feed Management Award – Will Green
• Westpac Financial Management & Planning Award – Gerard Boerjan

2018 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year:

• Winner – Simone Smail, Southland-Otago
• Runner-up – Donna McKinley, Central Plateau 
• Third – Quinn Youngman, Auckland-Hauraki
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Andrew Trolove
• DeLaval Communication and Engagement Award – Simone Smail
• Best Video Award presented by Streamliner – Donna McKinley


More milk from fewer cows

November 29, 2017

New Zealand milk production is up while cow numbers are down:

Daisy and her paddock mates are record-breakers, reveal the latest national dairy statistics released today by DairyNZ and LIC.

Over the 12 months to June 2017, the average dairy cow produced more litres of milk containing more kilograms of milksolids than ever before.

The average dairy cow produced 4,259 litres of milk in the 2016-17 season, containing a total of 381kg of milksolids (kg MS), compared to 4,185 litres and 372kg MS in 2015-16.

The latest New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2016-17 also reveal milking cow and herd numbers have decreased for the second consecutive year. The latest count is 4.86 million cows nationally – down from 4.99 million in 2015-16 – while herd numbers have dropped to 11,748 from 11,918 (-170 herds).

But despite the decline in cow numbers, dairy companies processed very similar milk quantities – 20.7 billion litres of milk containing 1.85 billion kg MS in 2016-17. The previous season was 20.9 billion litres of milk (1.86 billion kg MS).

The results are positive for New Zealand and its farmers, says DairyNZ and LIC.

DairyNZ senior economist Matthew Newman says the trend for increasing per cow milk production shows farmers are opting for animals that are year-on-year more efficient at converting grass into milk – the industry’s national breeding objective.

“We are producing similar milk quantities from fewer cows, partly because we are breeding better animals and feeding them well,” says Matthew.

Since the 1980s ag-sag sheep numbers have dropped but meat production hasn’t.

Cow numbers have increased in recent years as more farms converted to dairying but now dairying is following sheep with more production from fewer animals.

“The average herd is now 414 cows, down from 419 in 2015-16. Currently we are at the lowest level of cows milked since 2012 – with North Island cow numbers declining 90,000 to 2.89 million, while South Island numbers decreased 46,000 to 1.97 million.”

LIC general manager NZ Markets, Malcolm Ellis, says the stats reflect a shift in the industry.

“Farmers are acknowledging that, as an industry, if they are not going to be milking more cows then they need to be milking better ones,” says Malcolm.

“The lower payout in previous seasons certainly forced some farmers to reconsider their cow numbers as part of a wider farm system review, but these stats prove it can really payoff for a farming business.

“It boils down to the fundamentals of herd improvement – creating high quality herd replacements that will out-perform their mothers in productivity, longevity and fertility.” . . 

It’s a matter of improving production rather than increasing cow numbers.

Doing more with less is better for staff, the environment and income.

Sharemilking structure

Farm ownership structures have also changed over the last couple of seasons, with 27.3 percent of New Zealand dairy herds operating under a sharemilking agreement in 2016-17, compared with 32.4 percent in 2014-15.

Within the sharemilker herds, variable order sharemilking (VOSM) herd numbers declined in 2016-17. In particular, 20-29 percent sharemilkers decreased by 235 herds (-29 percent) to 586. In 2013-14, there were twice as many VOSM herds compared to today (1,357).

Herd-owning sharemilkers (50:50 sharemilkers) declined (-91 herds) for the fourth consecutive season and now account for 19.8 percent of all herds.

Owner-operator herds increased 188 to 8,503 herds in 2016-17, reflecting VOSMs moving to contract milking after financial challenges with low milk prices. . .

Sharemilking started in New Zealand, where it’s governed by an act of parliament, and is rarely used elsewhere.

A reduction in numbers of sharemilkers isn’t good for the medium to longer-term health of the dairy industry.

It has always been a way for dairy workers to get on and up the ladder to farm ownership.

We used to have managers but changed to lower order sharemilkers several years ago.

The change has been better for animal health, staff and production.

Sharemilkers have skin in the game. The better they do, the more they make and that incentive works to get the farms working better.

For the sake of the industry I hope that the reduction in the number of sharemilkers is temporary.

 


Rural round-up

November 5, 2017

Rebuilding dairy farmers’ social licence to operate with the public – Pat Deavoll:

A couple of weeks ago I went along to the Forest Growers Research Conference. I was bamboozled by science except for one presentation by the director of Our Land and Water National Science Challenge Ken Taylor who works for AgResearch. He was a good speaker, and his topic piqued my interest.

Taylor praised the farming leaders, headed by Federated Farmers president Katie Milne, who fronted up and said: “water quality is our problem, we’ll own it and fix it.” Taylor told us that they were seizing the initiative and stepping towards rebuilding farming’s social licence to operate (SLO).

I’d never heard of this term before, but have since discovered that everybody else has. . . 

Tararua nurse first in country to get certificate in rural nursing – Georgia Forrester:

A Tararua woman is the first in the country to walk away with a new rural qualification in nursing.

Rowena Panchaud said her passion for her rural area led to her completing a graduate certificate in nursing practice, with a rural nursing speciality.

The Otago-born woman has lived in Dannevirke with her family since 2006. . .

LIC bulls given all clear from M.bovis:

LIC has confirmed its artificial breeding bulls are free from the Mycoplasma bovis cattle disease.

LIC is a farmer-owned co-operative and the largest artificial breeding company in New Zealand. More than three out of four cows grazing on New Zealand dairy farms are sired by an LIC bull.

Although confident the disease was not present in its bulls, the co-op announced in September it would test for the disease to provide its farmers with greater peace of mind through the dairy mating season. . . 

 – Keith Woodford:

Those of us involved with research relating to A1 and A2 beta-casein know all too well the challenges of publishing and disseminating that research.  Given the extent to which beta-casein research challenges established positions, some of which are held by powerful entities, there are lots of speed bumps.

Events of recent weeks have once again illustrated some of those challenges. I lay out one such example below.     

Together with Boyd Swinburn, who is Professor of Population Nutrition and Global Health at Auckland University, I was attempting to disseminate to a wider audience the results of a science review paper that we and other colleagues co-authored. The scientific paper itselfwas published earlier this year in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes which is part of the Nature Publishing stable of scientific journals. . . 

Dairy stays above churn of plant-based substitutes – Charlie Dreaver:

Spending on dairy-free alternatives is on the rise as more consumers turn to plant-based milks, yoghurts and cheeses.

The country’s two supermarket chains Progressive and Foodstuffs have taken notice and are stocking more of the products than ever, but the dairy industry said it was not worried.

Foodstuffs, which operates the New World and Pak ‘n Save chains, reported that sales of plant-based milks – such as nut, oat, soy and rice milks – in its North Island stores had shot up 11 percent since August last year.

Progressive Enterprises, which own Countdown’s stores, now has more than 60 non-dairy milk, cheese, and yoghurt products on the shelves. . .

Golden rice approval needed to produce a life changing staple food – V. Ravichandran:

 Their eyes tell their sad stories as ghostly white irises give way to vacant stares. We can look at them but they can’t look back at us. They’ve gone blind because of malnutrition.

I see these poor people all over India, where I live, but their suffering knows no borders: The problem of vitamin-A deficiency curses dozens of countries in the developing world. It causes visual impairment in millions of people. As many as half a million children go blind each year. Hundreds of thousands die within months of losing their eyesight.

What a heart-rending tragedy.

The good news is that science teaches us how to prevent this crisis. The bad news is that manmade complications keep getting in the way. . .


Rural round-up

November 28, 2016

Aiming for better public science understanding – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Interactions between agriculture and the environment have rarely been so much in the face of the public, and finding a path for the future is proving challenging.

Should New Zealand remain GE-free, ban glyphosate and embrace organics, or should it lead in adopting new technologies to increase efficiencies whilst minimising impact on the environment?

The general problem is that decisions have to be made on issues which arouse high public interest, and where knowledge is incomplete and complexity great. These issues are almost always linked to values, emotions and personal experience — what the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor, professor Sir Peter Gluckman, describes as “the political power of the anecdote”. . .

Improved environmental performance to provide long-term strategic value for New Zealand’s agri sector– industry report:

Improved environmental sustainability should provide long-term strategic value to New Zealand’s food and agri sector, according to a recently-released report by agricultural banking specialist Rabobank.

In the report, Sustainable Returns: Finding the value in Environmental Sustainability, Rabobank says two major types of value have been identified for farmers and food & agribusiness (F&A) companies from improved environmental practices – the immediate monetary benefit of these practices (from a price premium) and the long-term strategic advantages that provide growth and prosperity into the future.

Report author, Rabobank rural manager Sustainable Farm Systems, Blake Holgate says the type of value farmers and F&A companies can derive will vary depending on the product they are producing, how they are producing it, where they sit on the supply chain, and who the end consumer is. . . 

Stronger farm partnerships beneficial:

A national programme to increase profitability and productivity of sheep and beef farmers by strengthening farming partnerships is being scaled up to reach 2800 farms.

Since 2014, almost 500 women involved in sheep and beef farming businesses have completed the Understanding Your Farming Business (UYFB) programme, designed and delivered by the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT).  That included 50 women who last month graduated from the similar AWDT programme for Maori women, Wahine Maia Wahine Whenua.

The four-month programme, funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership , builds business and communication skills, and confidence of farming women, empowering them to view themselves and their farming roles differently and help lift farm performance. . . 

South Island leaders in for Australasian agri-business award

2017 Zanda McDonald Award shortlist announced

Three young agriculturalists from the South Island have made it through to the next stage of the 2017 Zanda McDonald Award. The three – Morgan Easton, a 33 year old farm owner and sharemilker from Oamaru, Jolene Germann, a 32 year old dairy consultant from Invercargill and Henry Pinckney, a 34 year old farm owner from Waiau were selected for their impressive leadership skills, passion for their work and determination to make improvements to the agricultural industry.

The three will head to Brisbane next month for the interview round for a place in the finals. They will be up against Australia’s Anna Speer, CEO of AuctionsPlus, Will Creek, a Stud Manager at Stanbroke and Airlie Trescowthick, a business analyst and managing director of The Farm Table. . . .

In the running for agribusiness award – Sally Rae:

Papakaio dairy farmer Morgan Easton has been shortlisted for the 2017 Zanda McDonald Award.

The Australasian agribusiness award was launched by the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP) Group in 2014.

It was in memory of Australian beef industry leader and PPP foundation member Zanda McDonald, who died in 2013 after an accident at his Queensland property.

Mr Easton (33), along with Invercargill-based dairy consultant Jolene Germann (32) and Waiau farmer Henry Pinckney (34), have made it through to the next stage of the award.

The trio were selected for their “impressive leadership skills, passion for their work and determination to make improvements to the agricultural industry”. . . 

New plan to target Mackenzie wilding conifers:

A new strategy for tackling wilding conifers in the Mackenzie Basin has been announced today by Conservation Ministers Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

“Currently, wilding conifers impact on almost a quarter of land in the Mackenzie Basin, and without further control they will spread and take over large areas of farm and conservation land,” Ms Barry says.

“Wilding conifers are a major threat to our ecosystems, land and farms. These invasive self-sown trees spread fast and are very hard to eliminate once established.

“Prevention is the best form of management. Removing young seedlings now, before they start producing seeds, costs less than $10 per hectare, but removing mature trees can cost $10,000 per hectare.” . . .

National milk production down 1.5%:

Despite New Zealand dairy farmers receiving the lowest milk prices in 20 seasons, milk production dropped just 1.5%.

That was one of the New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2015-16 released on November 14 by DairyNZ and LIC. They revealed there were 52 fewer herds and 20,522 fewer cows than in 2014-15.

Dairy companies processed 20.9 billion litres of milk containing 1.86 billion kilograms of milk solids in 2015-16. The previous season, they handled 21.2 billion litres of milk, with 1.89 billion kilograms of milk solids. . . 

Increase in seasonal workers for RSE:

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced an increase in the number of seasonal workers who can come to New Zealand to work in the horticulture and viticulture industry under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

The current cap will be increased by 1,000 from 9,500 to 10,500 RSE workers for the 2016-17 season.

Mr Woodhouse says the horticulture and viticulture industry is New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry, producing almost $5 billion in exports. . . 

Kiwifruit industry welcomes Government decision on seasonal workers:

• 1000 additional seasonal workers for horticulture

• RSE workers support New Zealanders who remain primary workforce

The kiwifruit industry has welcomed the Government’s announcement of an additional 1000 seasonal workers for the coming season.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) Chief Executive Nikki Johnson says the extra workers in the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are essential to support the kiwifruit industry’s strong growth. . . 

Crown Irrigation Invests up to $3.4m in North Canterbury – some good news for the region:

Crown Irrigation Investments will invest up to $3.4m in the Hurunui Water Project, an irrigation scheme that will be capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury.

The scheme infrastructure includes water intakes from the Hurunui and Waitohi rivers, with both on plain and dam storage, and a pressurised piped distribution system. The current project cost estimate is approximately $200 million. . . 

Hurunui irrigation funding welcomed:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming an investment of $3.4 million into the Hurunui Water Project by Crown Irrigation Investments.

“This is fantastic news for North Canterbury after the recent earthquakes and severe drought they have suffered through,” says Mr Guy.

The Hurunui Water Project is a $200 million irrigation scheme capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares within an area of around 60,000ha on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury. . . 

New Zealand Bloodstock – a victim of its own success:

The record turnout for last week’s New Zealand Bloodstock’s (NZB) Ready to Run Sale at Karaka shows our bloodstock industry is still punching well above its weight says Crowe Horwath’s bloodstock specialist Hayden Dillon. As interest from Australian and Asian buyers continues to grow, the sale saw a record number of entries with 552 horses offered, however, this was tempered by a low clearance rate of 60% compared to the 81% of last year’s record-breaking sale, which left a number of vendors taking their horses back home. Dillon, says “the industry should take comfort that this is not a structural issue for the sale, rather growing pains, and NZB and the vendors will be making adjustments as necessary for the 2017 sale.” . . .

The Cambodian farmers paid to protect birds:

Rice farmers in Cambodia are battling falling regional rice prices and a black market that’s been undercutting them.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, together with a firm called Ibis Rice, is offering to pay above market price for the rice.

In return, the farmers must help protect Cambodia’s national bird – the Giant Ibis. . .


Rural round-up

November 15, 2016

North Canterbury farmers confronted by milk crisis – Tim Cronshaw, Gerald Piddock, Gerard Hutching:

Dairy farmers across the Kaikoura and North Canterbury region will have to dump their milk into effluent systems or find other ways to deal with it because it cannot be picked up.

Fonterra said road conditions in Kaikoura meant there were about 30 farms that might not have their milk collected, while others around the country might have late collections as tankers were rerouted.

A Federated Farmers spokeswoman said local councils had given the go-ahead for milk to be dumped into paddocks, following the midnight quake. . . 

Farmers pool resources to keep milking:

North Canterbury farmers are rallying together by sharing cow sheds and lending generators as they try to carry out the daily business of running their farms despite some suffering extensive damage from Monday morning’s quake.

Culverden dairy farmer Justin Slattery said about half of Culverden, in north Canterbury, had lost power and he was still waiting for it to come back on at his farm.

Slattery had been using his neighbour’s milking shed and was working around him, meaning his 520 cows got milked almost five hours late on Monday morning. He planned to return at 6pm if power had not returned to his property. . . 

 

Low price impact on milk production slight – Sally Rae:

Milk production eased only slightly in 2015-16, despite the lowest milk prices in at least 20 seasons, figures released by DairyNZ and LIC show.

Production was down 1.5% nationally, despite 52 fewer herds and 20,522 fewer cows than in 2014-15.

South Island production increased 2%, with rises in both Marlborough-Canterbury (2%) and Otago-Southland (2%). . . 

Alexandra space research centre taking off :

A Central Otago space research centre has been tipped as a game changer for Alexandra after it was announced this morning it is to be funded as a regional research institute.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce made the announcement at a breakfast meeting in Alexandra.

Mr Joyce said the New Zealand Research Institute of Viticulture and Oenology in Marlborough had been chosen as the first new regional research institute. 

The Centre for Space Science Technology (CSST), led by Alexandra-based research company Bodeker Scientific requested $15million in funding. . .

Constable Rhys Connell says police want to work in partnership with rural communities – Sue O’Dowd:

Police are committed to working in partnership with rural communities, says Taranaki rural police officer Rhys Connell. 

 “Ninety per cent of rural crime is solved by people in the community who see and hear things and let us know about them,” he told about 50 people at a rural crime prevention national roadshow in Stratford.

The roadshow also visited Tikorangi. Eight roadshows have already been in other areas of the country as part of a joint police, FMG and Federated Farmers initiative to promote rural crime prevention measures. 

“You are our eyes and ears,” Connell said. “It’s us together, not you and us.” . . 

Native mussels thrive in Canterbury stream:

Last year, we heard the story of Nigel Gardiner who found some Endangered native mussels as a result of riparian planting and continued work around the stream to improve its health. Here’s the latest update, a year on since the first discovery.

Endangered native mussels, or Kākahi, are continuing to thrive in the creek on FLO – Triangle farm in Canterbury one year after they were discovered by sharemilker Nigel Gardiner.

Kākahi are one of only three species of the endangered fresh water mussels to exist in New Zealand and can live for between 30 and 50 years. . . 

Far from ‘uneducated’ – Life on this Side of the Fence:

If you watched any of the recent presidential election results, you may have noticed a recurring theme.  As traditionally blue states turned red, a common phrase heard among reporters was that the “uneducated rural community” had made a larger turnout than what was expected.  As a member of the rural community, which is quite educated might I add, I saw a few things wrong with this statement.

First, the political affiliations of a certain group of people should in no way merit the assumption of education, or lack thereof.  In a society that claims to be open to all walks of life and discourages the labeling of cultural groups, I felt that the way rural voters were viewed was quite misguided. . . 

 


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