Rural round-up

October 4, 2018

NZ’s pig-headed rejection of GM is putting our agricultural future at risk – Andrew Allan:

Ignorance of the facts of genetic modification poses an economic risk to New Zealand, writes a professor of plant biology.

There is a new agricultural-based green revolution beginning around the world, and it’s a technique you’ve probably heard of before: gene editing. New types of rice, wheat, tomato, maize, soybean and other crops created through the CRISPR-Cas9 technology are already growing in fields in America and beyond. These enhanced products include wheat with a 30% increase in grain weight and tomatoes with a 5-fold increase in vitamin A levels. The issue however is that these crops rely on ‘directed’ changes to DNA, which we categorise as ‘genetic modification’ (GM) under NZ law. This is despite the fact that the changes made are exactly the same as that created by sunlight, and a lot less than that from traditional breeding. This categorisation makes it near-impossible for our country to join this green revolution. Worse still, the value we currently gain from our plant-based economy is under threat from far better crops being developed quickly around the world. . .

Sheep and beef farmers bullish about the future but watchful of challenging headwinds:

More than two thirds of sheep and beef farmers are positive about the future of the industry, according to research by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

Sixty-eight per cent of sheep and beef farmers surveyed in the August 2018 quarter are confident – the highest level since B+LNZ’s first launched the research in November 2010.

Sheep and beef farmers’ positive mood contrasts with gloomy headlines on business confidence elsewhere in the economy, as well as recent inaccurate claims made by the Productivity Commission about the “marginal” nature of the sector. . .

Using images to misinform – Alison Campbell:

The internet, while it can be a godsend if you need to find something out (gotta love google maps for directions), can also be a wretched hive of wrongness and misinformation.

That misinformation can take many forms, but when it comes to 1080 it’s clear that those opposed to NZ’s use of this chemical firmly believe that a picture is worth a thousand words. Any picture.

Thank goodness for the ‘reverse image search’ function in Google. For example, on the Facebook page for the group New Zealands not clean green, in amongst photos of animals that may or may not have been killed by 1080, we find several of animals that weren’t. For example: . .

More farmers turn to DNA parentage testing to improve productivity:

This spring, upwards of 250,000 calves from around the country will have their parentage confirmed by LIC’s DNA parentage service which operates from its laboratory in Hamilton. So far this year, the co-operative has had on average one new herd a day sign up to its DNA parentage service.

LIC’s General Manager of NZ Markets, Malcolm Ellis, says the increased demand reflects the industry’s new reality of “peak cow”. . .

Wrightson Seeds suitor DLF cites research capability, export growth –  Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Danish producer DLF Seeds says its research capability makes it a strong potential acquirer of PGG Wrightson’s grains and seeds business. The firm is seeking clearance from the Commerce Commission for the $421 million purchase announced in August. . .

Silver Fern Farms Announce Winners of Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships 2018:

Six inspirational young people from around New Zealand have been named as the Silver Fern Farms Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships recipients for 2018. Each winner received $5000 to further their careers in the red meat sector. Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says he is delighted to see the passion young New Zealanders have shown for the red meat industry through the applications submitted to the annual scholarship programme.

   

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 29, 2014

Changes afoot in red meat sector – Allan Barber:

The much maligned red meat sector may at last be about to undergo a structural change if a majority of processors and farmers can reach agreement on a proposed capacity moratorium. Past history suggests that is a big IF, but a document being circulated among processors, Meat Industry Association (MIA), Beef + Lamb NZ, Federated Farmers and the Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) group contains a realistic basis for agreement on a solution to the capacity problem which has dogged the industry for years.

The concept proposes to issue plant and chain licences which would effectively freeze (excuse the pun) the number of sheep and beef processing plants and chains at the current level from the start of next season. The document suggests a 12 year moratorium on any new licences being issued as a means of protecting existing owners’ investment in the industry. . .

Lack of dairy workers a real concern – Susie Nordqvist:

Dairy New Zealand is warning the agricultural sector is in dire need of workers, and if we don’t do something to plug the gap there’s no way we’ll meet our target of doubling our primary exports by 2025.

Agriculture is an industry where jobs go begging, and the next generation of workers are in short supply.

“I think farmers need to pull up their socks a wee bit,” says dairy farmer David Fullerton.

By 2025 it is estimated there could be a shortfall of 8000 workers – so why isn’t agriculture attracting young workers?

“Each individual farmer has to build up a reputation of being fair and that’s time off, remuneration, housing, the whole works,” says Mr Fullerton. . .

Essential steps to protect irrigators:

Point, park and anchor – the three essential steps farmers have been advised to take to protect expensive irrigation equipment from being knocked down and damaged during high winds.

Rural insurer FMG has posted a new guide on this on its website.

The company and Lincoln University launched a joint study following the violent wind storms that hit Canterbury in September 2013, causing massive damage to plantations as well as hundreds of pivot or travelling irrigators on dairy and cropping farms.

It resulted in farmers and growers lodging more than 260 claims with the FMG at a cost of $7.6 million.

FMG’s advice and insurance general manager, Conrad Wilkshire, says more than 100 Canterbury farmers also contributed to the guide with practical advice on preventative measures taken to protect their machines. . .

Merino out of this world  – Tim Cronshaw:

Merino clothing has gone where no sheep has gone before – the final frontier.

Space is the latest extreme environment where high-performance merino T-shirts made from New Zealand wool are being worn. Nasa astronauts wear them on board the International Space Station and during training on Earth.

Armadillo Merino, a British company owned by the South Island family of Andy Caughey, began manufacturing a merino base layer range last year and has secured contracts with national military and police services and now the United States space programme.

Caughey said Nasa had up to 100 astronauts training at any one time, and their clothes needed to be suitable for both orbit and Earth. . .

Farmers and sheep protest at Eiffel Tower

French farmers have brought their sheep to the Eiffel Tower to express their frustration over increasing attacks by wolves that some say have been over protected by the government.

Some 300 sheep grazed at the foot of the French capital’s most famous monument on Thursday (local time) as the farmers gathered under foggy skies to demand an effective plan to stop the wolf attacks.

“Today farmers, tomorrow unemployed,” read one banner, while one of the protesters dressed as a wolf carried around a lamb.

But a rival demonstration by animal rights activists, calling for the wolves to be protected, also made an appearance under the Eiffel Tower. . .

All I want for Christmas is more AB:

LIC is making plans to get more cows in-calf at Christmas in response to high demand for its short gestation genetics offering and as farmers find new ways to maximise the benefits this season.

The leading genetics supplier for the national dairy herd has already set a new semen record this season with 142,006 straws for artificial insemination dispatched from its Newstead laboratory in one day. More than five million straws will be processed by Christmas Eve when the peak time usually ends – but this season farmers want more.

“It’s been a cracker of a season here at LIC, and the massive response to short gestation has been a huge part of that,” says Malcolm Ellis, SGL breeding programme manager. . .

 


%d bloggers like this: