Rural round-up

22/10/2011

Contamination claims rubbished – Richard Rennie:

Taranaki farmers and their regional council are demanding critics of an oil and gas drilling method show more science to prove claims about damage to their environment.

“Fracking” or deep rock fracturing for extraction of hydrocarbons in under scrutiny in Taranaki following claims by an environmental group the practice is responsible for ground water contamination, water table loss and even earthquakes . . .

Interested in more than rugby – Jackie Harrigan:

Scoping out opportunities in the New Zealand dairy industry was fitted in around rugby fixtures by a handful of Argentinian farmers in the Manawatu for the Argentina vs Georgia pool match.

Taking the opportunity to network with Kiwi agricultural businesses, the Argentinian farmers were hosted by the NZ Agribusiness Roadshow and shown facets of Kiwi pastoral farming which fitted their individual interests.

One Argentinean who visited was Miguel Rohrer, a beef and cropping farmer who grows soybean, corn, rice, peanuts and beans alongside dairy units running 1200 Holstein cows. Cows are generally run at lower stocking rates than New Zealand at around 1.5cows/ha and fed mainly on alfalfa with grain supplements to produce around 26l/cow/day . . .

Lamb docking a community affair – Jill Galloway:

There used to be 70 million sheep in New Zealand. Now there are around 32 million overwintered each year. So, fewer lambs to dock?

Maybe, but it is still a big job on sheep and beef farms.

Jacquetta Ward is just one of the many farmers docking. And she has nearby farmers, mates and people from the district helping her.

Today, they plan to dock 1200 lambs. A goodly number. But some stations dock 6000 a day. They may have 60,000 lambs to get through . . .

Lorraine hangs up the apron – Jill Galloway:

It is the cafe you can wear your working clothes into, and your gumboots.

The Feilding Saleyards Cafe is synonymous with good mugs of tea, great pies and gravy with chips, and the highly sought-after lamb shanks.

Lorraine Pretious left last Friday after 30 years preparing and serving meals to stock agents, truck drivers and farmers . . .

Women get to grips with using guns – Jill Galloway:

Women In Farming is a non-competitive group, and its members wanted to learn about guns and have a go at shooting on a range.

They get a thorough safety lesson from Marton Smallbore Rifle Club member and mountain safety instructor Peter Lissington. He takes people for their firearms licences, so he knows all about guns, the law and safety.

“I want people to know all about firearms, and feel confident about using them,” he says.

Twelve Women in Farming members find out more about rifles, what types there are and how to safely store and use them . . .

Faster internet offers potential for big gains:

Dairy farmer co-operative Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) believes that not enough attention has been given to how the Government’s rural broadband initiative will affect farmers.

Infrastructure for faster broadband to rural areas, including those in Southland, will be invested over the next six years, at a cost of $285 million.

LIC general manager of farm systems Rob Ford said people had heard about how high-speed broadband in rural areas would help schools and hospitals, but not about the connection between farming, the internet, productivity and profit.

Free website helps global sharing – Collette Devlin:

A former Southland researcher has developed an easy-to-use, free website specifically for farmers.

Gary Hutchinson, originally from Taranaki, was the project manager for Topoclimate South, a successful three-year soil and microclimate mapping programme that finished in October 2001, after mapping 830,000 hectares of Southland’s farmlands . . .

Angus burger demand boosts Southland beef sales – Collette Devlin:

Southern angus beef farms are being boosted by the popularity of McDonald’s angus burgers in the region.

Taramoa angus beef breeder David Marshall said the high sales of angus burgers at the fast-food restaurant has had a direct influence on the market, which has led to a record sales of Southland angus beef and it looked as if they were set to rise further.

Mr Marshall’s family have been breeding angus since the 1940s and his herd can be traced back to the 1860s when the first angus cattle arrived in New Zealand.

The only show in town – Shelley Bridgeman:

A & P Shows – with their prize-winning heifers, farm machinery, highland dancing, wood-chopping, sheep dog trials and carnival atmosphere – are as Kiwi as No. 8 wire and gumboots.

Last season I attended eleven, from as far north as Whangarei right down to Hawke’s Bay . . .

Focus farm is the real thing – Sue O’Dowd:

DairyNZ’s focus farm in Taranaki is being promoted as a real-life farm with challenges ordinary farmers can understand.

The first field day, with a focus on mating, attracted more than 80 people.

Chris and Kathy Prankerd’s Tariki farm was chosen earlier this year as the focus farm after 20 farmers expressed interest in the project . . .

Beef lull then bonanza tipped:

Rabobank is picking United States beef prices to soar to record highs later next year.

But first, the bank says in a new report, New Zealand will have to weather a supply “bulge”.

Escalating exchange rates, global economic uncertainty and climate risks are short-term obstacles for global beef markets, but the longer outlook remains positive, report co-author Rebecca Redmond says.

Breaking lactose down in fresh milk – Collette Devlin:

Diary giant Fonterra is now producing a lactose-free fresh milk, which means it is now in direct competition with a small Southland organic dairy company.

Early last month, Retro Organics released the first lactose-free fresh milk and yoghurt in New Zealand, which company owner Robin Greer said was the solution to a growing need.

Until now, an Australian company, Liddells, dominated the lactose-free milk market here . . .

Druming upsupport for drum use:

Avoiding accidents with agrichemicals is high on the agenda with a new drum recovery programme launched by Agrecovery Rural Recycling.  

The Agrecovery Drum programme offers farmers and growers around the country free on property collection for plastic or steel drums from 61 – 1000L in size. Drums must be empty and triple rinsed . . .

Paediatrict product move at Westland:

WESTLAND SUPPLIERS can look forward to their processor moving more of their milk up the value chain from next season. The Hokitika-based cooperative last week announced a multi-million dollar investment in a state-of-the-art paediatric nutritional product plant.  

“It’s principally about adding more value,” chief executive Rod Quin told Rural News . . .

Havard reports good return form NZ forest investments – Pam Graham:

Harvard Management, the manager of Harvard University’s US$32 billion endowment, made an 18.8 percent annual return on its natural resource portfolio, which includes majority ownership of the cutting rights to the Kaingaroa forest.

Harvard, the oldest and most richly endowed university in the US, has put 10 percent of its portfolio into natural resources, which it says is mostly timberland, and agricultural and other resource-bearing properties on five continents . . .

Ballance dinners demonstrate path to profitability:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients has pulled together a raft of experts to present at its Business Development Dinner series over the next few months.

Ballance Sales and Marketing General Manager Graeme Smith says the business development dinners are held every year as part of the co-operative’s programme to provide more information and tools to farmers.

“We want to be able to seed new ideas and new ways of thinking with our customers as part of our commitment to help them farm more profitability and more sustainably,” Mr Smith says . . .

Claim wool is losing ground to nylon carpets:

A textile industry representative says resurrecting the fortunes of strong wool is going to take more than the wool sector has come up with so far.

Carpet makers say there has been a significant drop in carpet sales, which have been blamed on unsettled world economic conditions and the rapid rise in wool prices over the past year . . .


Cow numbers moooving up

08/12/2010

A couple of decades ago New Zealanders used to have more than 20 sheep each – that’s when our human population was around 3 million and the ovine one topped 70 million.

Sheep numbers have declined and the number of people has increased so we now have only about 10 sheep each. However while that’s been happening the dairy population has been growing and we now have more cows than people.

Dairy statistics released by Dairy NZ and Livestock Improvement show the milking cow population is now 4.4 million, compared with 4.39 million people.

They also show:

· Nationally there was a slight increase in the number of herds. The total number of herds in the 2009/10 season increased by 73 (to 11,691).

· Consistent with the trend for the past 30 seasons, the average herd size increased to 376, an increase of 10 on the previous season. The average herd size has tripled in the last 30 years, and has increased by more than 100 cows in the last eight years.

· Nationally the number of cows in New Zealand has increased 3.4% over the previous season to 4.4 million.

· Half of all herds have 300 or more cows, a little under 15% have between 200 and 249 cows, 56% have between 100 and 349 cows. In 2009/10 49% (5762) of herds had 300 cows or more, 2444 (21%) had 500 or more cows and 400 (3%) has over 1,000 cows.

· The majority of dairy herds are located in the North Island (77%). The greatest concentration of herds is in the Waikato region (31%).

· Although South Island dairy herds account for a little less than one-quarter of the national total, they contain over one third of all cows.

· There are more than 1.5 million cows in the South Island and the South Island average herd sizes are increasing faster than the North Island.

· The highest average production per herd, and per hectare was recorded in North Canterbury at 280,935 kilograms of milksolids.

· There are now 11,691 dairy herds in New Zealand.

· Holstein Friesian and crossbred cows show highest milksolids (Kg) production (herd test statistics).

· In the 2009/2010 season 3.15 million cows were mated to artificial breeding.

South Island herds are generally bigger than those in the north but there is a trend back to smaller herds.

We started with 400 cows, increased over a couple of seasons to 600 then built another shed and got up to 1200 cows. We’re now in the middle of preparations to build a third shed and run three smaller herds.

We think that will be better for staff and stock.

When you get up to 1200 cows your manager has to manage people and it’s not easy to find people who can do that well.

With smaller herds you can employ lower order sharemilkers who are generally highly motivated. Many of those looking for jobs are couples who are very good at managing stock and feed and have to employ only one other fulltime worker.

Larger herds increase milking time which means longer days for staff. It also means more time off-feed for cows and they have to walk further to get to the shed.

One of the big concerns with bigger herds is effluent. With three smaller herds and three separate sheds if something goes wrong with one we can be reasonably sure it’s due to either an equipment or people problem rather than something wrong with the system.

We’re interviewing staff at the moment and have been very impressed by the calibre and enthusiasm of applicants. By this time next year we’ll have a good idea whether reducing the herd sizes is the right mo(oo)ve.


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