Rural round-up

February 10, 2015

Watt family all pulling together – Sally Rae:

They say many hands make light work.

At Waitaki Orchard, near Kurow, there are many hands, although the workload is not always light, particularly over the busy harvest season.

But the remarkable Watt family, who own and run the summerfruit operation, take it all in their stride.

Justin and Julie Watt, along with their eight children, aged between 9 and 20, do not consider themselves anything out of the ordinary.

But their story is anything but ordinary as the close-knit family work together and the children step up to take on more responsibility, due to their parents’ serious health issues. . .

Challenge for A&P Shows to satisfy demands of new public – Allan Barber:

The 148th Warkworth A&P Show was held on the Saturday of Auckland Anniversary Weekend on a very warm day with no fear of rain which at least alleviated the committee’s first concern. In the north at least feed is still plentiful, although rain would be welcome, but there is as yet no major worry of drought; so we were able to plan the event and welcome the weather forecast without a guilty conscience.

Two years ago there were rather more serious concerns the Show wouldn’t reach its 150th anniversary, but a few things have happened since then which have pushed this undesirable outcome into the background. . .

– Allan Barber:

Ever since the Korean War over sixty years ago the price of wool has been in decline with a few upturns along the way. Over the period the fortunes of wool growers have suffered from massive lifestyle changes leading to reduced demand for woollen textiles and fibres and the rise of synthetics with properties capable of imitating, if not matching, those of wool at a lower price. Wool is not the only natural fibre to be affected, with cotton being hit even harder.

There are a remarkable number of parallels between the red meat and wool industries in the reactions to the situation which is not surprising given the respective price trends and the fact many of the farmers are the same individuals. Sheep and beef farmers’ opinions of the deficiencies of the meat industry are virtually identical to those of the wool trade, while proposed solutions are also remarkably similar. . .

Smoke-tainted grapes could be an issue:

The fire which burned through almost 600 hectares of forest and farmland in Marlborough in the past week could be costly for some grape growers as well.

Vineyards in the vicinity of the fire which burned over five days in the Onamalutu Valley near Renwick, may now have a problem on their hands with smoke-tainted grapes.

Wine Marlborough’s general manager Marcus Pickens said they did not know yet how many vineyards may have been affected by smoke from the fire, on the edge of one of Marlborough’s main wine producing areas.

But they were acting on advice from the Australian wine industry and its experience in dealing with the impact of bush fires on grape production. . . .

Minister welcomes launch of Safer Farms:

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse today welcomed the launch of the government’s Safer Farms programme.

Safer Farms is a multi-year programme designed by farmers and the wider agricultural sector, WorkSafe New Zealand and the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

“The death and injury rate behind the farm gate is simply unacceptable. Someone is killed nearly every fortnight – this needs to change,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Safer Farms is a new way of tackling a long standing problem hurting rural New Zealand. It’s about education, awareness and support for rural communities.” . . .

Sharing a passion for smart farming – Diane Bishop:

All eyes will soon be on Brian and Kristine Russell’s deer farming operation.

The large-scale deer farmers are the new Southland deer focus farmers. Their first field day will be held later this month, with Browns farmer Dave Lawrence as facilitator.

“We wanted a farmer with the right attitude and who is prepared to change. Brian is extremely positive and extremely passionate about the deer industry,” Lawrence said.

The Russells farm almost 10,000 stock units on two properties totalling 2165 hectares in central and northern Southland.

The 845ha Dipton West block, where the couple live with their three children, is used mainly for finishing, while the 1320ha Kowhai hill block, 20 kilometres away, is primarily used for breeding. . . 

 Attention to deer health can boost farm profits:

Deer farmers are being encouraged to have a close look at their animal health as part of the Passion2Profit initiative.

P2P aims to improve deer farm profits by developing new high-value markets for venison and removing barriers to performance on the farm. The initiative, which has just won funding support from the government’s Primary Growth Partnership, already has several activities underway.

“Animal health, feeding and genetics are the three big areas where farmers can influence the profits they make from deer,” says Deer Industry NZ chief executive Dan Coup. . . 


Rural round-up

August 21, 2013

NZ reputation will bounce back –  Pattrick Smellie:

Honest disclosure of the Fonterra infant milk botulism scare will stand New Zealand’s reputation as a food producer in good stead in the long run, although the country’s reputation for safe food has taken a short term hit, says ANZ Bank’s chief economist for Greater China.

Speaking to BusinessDesk in Hong Kong, Li-Gang Liu described the impact of the incident, and the subsequent discovery of raised nitrate levels in lactoferrin produced by Westland Milk, as “a temporary scare.”

“Most Chinese consumers still trust the goods provided by New Zealand producers,” he said. “I don’t think that has changed fundamentally, especially how this case was handled. . .

NZ scientist wants ploughing outlawed:

A New Zealand soil scientist is campaigning to outlaw the plough and to have a warning on it.

Dr John Baker said ploughing or conventional tillage contributed to global warming, crop failure, soil erosion and eventually famine.

He said the single greatest challenge facing the world was feeding the extra 50 per cent population by the year 2050.

“We can get away with conventional methods in New Zealand because we have rich soil and rotating pasture, but other countries don’t have that luxury. Instead they’re turning their backs on ploughing and adopting no tillage as the only way to feed the population.” . .

Reduced volatility critical for long-term sheepmeat sector viability:

Representatives of the sheepmeat sectors from the United Kingdom, France and New Zealand met last week and have agreed that the volatility of returns is negatively impacting the long term viability of their respective sheepmeat sectors.

They agreed that the roller coaster ride of good years followed by poor years saps the confidence of sheepmeat producers, resulting in a decline in production in most sheep producing countries and a sector that has difficulty attracting and retaining good young people.

A cross-sector group from the UK and France came to New Zealand on a fact-finding mission to better understand the current outlook for New Zealand sheep farmers and to identify and discuss common challenges. They met with representatives from key industry organisations, farming groups and the meat processing and exporting companies. . .

Views differ on effluent threat to marine farms – Peter Watson:

Farmers and the Tasman District Council are confident increased monitoring and a lot of on-farm work have reduced the risk of dairy pollution again threatening marine farms off the Collingwood coast, but marine farmers say more still needs to be done.

In November, 2011 and May last year high E coli readings in marine farms near the mouth of the Aorere River caused alarm within the export industry, sparking fears the spikes may halt harvesting and prompting complaints to the council about outdated dairy practices, weak rules and a lack of oversight.

It sparked tension in Golden Bay as one heavyweight export industry was seen to take on another. . .

Wineries suffer further damage from latest quake:

Marlborough wineries have suffered more losses and damage from Friday’s magnitude 6.6 earthquake than they did from the 21 July event.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens says a number of wineries in the region closed after the big quake struck on Friday afternoon and structural engineers will be assessing the damage during the week.

He says there has probably been some wine loss, although how much is not really known at this stage.

“I think a number of the tanks, the way they behave would have spilt wine out the top … and those wine losses are financial losses as well.”

Mr Pickens says wineries are reporting minimal damage to bottled wine stocks. . .

Dairy Awards Plan 25th Anniversary Celebrations:

The 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the sharemilker competition with a special launch event and celebration ball at its annual awards dinner.

National convenor Chris Keeping says the milestone anniversary creates an opportunity to delve into the sharemilker competition history and to celebrate its success.

“It’s pretty amazing to think that over those years thousands of sharemilkers have participated in the competition, relishing the opportunity to have their business analysed and enhance their progress in the industry while having some fun and meeting lots of people.” . . .


Rural round-up

August 19, 2013

Growing good apps to protect crops:

Smartphones that respond to signals from plants? Laptops that co-ordinate irrigation at dozens of vineyards? Remote weather stations programmed to text frost alerts?

Many commercial growers are using laptops, tablets or smartphones to keep costs down and production up. Home gardeners too, if they can afford it.

Apps may get more attention but they’re small potatoes compared with the software and online programs already at work or being tested for horticultural use. Simply scanning a monitor or applying a few keystrokes can save water and fuel, redirect a labour force or protect a crop. . .

New role fulfils rural passion – Sally Rae:

Kim Reilly recalls how she was a ”ridiculous tomboy”, growing up in a farming family on the Taieri Plains, – so it was no surprise that she pursued a career in the rural sector.

Dunedin-based Mrs Reilly (41), a senior policy adviser for Federated Farmers, has taken over from Matt Harcombe as regional policy manager South Island, following his move to the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Working for the rural lobby organisation provided her with the challenge of utilising her tertiary qualifications, while also maintaining her passion for the rural lifestyle and a firm belief in the importance of farming. . .

Unmanned aerial vehicle monitors river pollution – Laura Macdonald:

A Wairarapa farmer’s developing an unmanned aerial vehicle that can be programmed to fly remotely to take video of the state of our rivers.

It’s being tested with the help of Victoria University in the hope it’ll be used by regional councils trying to get to grips with the problem of polluted waterways.

An unmanned aerial vehicle is the last tool in the effort to monitor New Zealand’s fresh water. It’s being test flown in the Wairarapa over the Muir family farm.

“We don’t actually see a lot of what is going on in the back country of New Zealand, and with this we can actually see it,” says farmer James Muir. . .

Making money on dairy futures – post botulism – Michael Field:

Fonterra’s botulism scare may have scared people off buying milk powder and knocked New Zealand’s international trade, but it may have helped financial traders making money off it.

Two years ago, the New Zealand stock exchange launched a futures trading market for milk powder.

NZX Dairy Futures notched up a record trading month last month, and this week – just as Fonterra executive Gary Romano resigned over the botulism scandal – it had a record trading day. . . .

Bold dairy comeback – Murray Robertson:

DAIRY farming will make a big comeback to the Gisborne-East Coast district if a bold new move by landowner partners in the new Ata Milk brand comes to fruition.

The man spearheading the Ata Milk concept, Dr Hugh Jellie, said it’s about “taking the region back to the future”.

He has been working on the project for 10 years.

Dr Jellie and his partner Sheryl Andersen moved to Gisborne from the Bay of Plenty six months ago.

“To get this community project off the ground, it’s important to be part of the community.” . . .

Wineries suffer further damage from latest quake:

Marlborough wineries have suffered more losses and damage from Friday’s magnitude 6.6 earthquake than they did from the 21 July event.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens says a number of wineries in the region closed after the big quake struck on Friday afternoon and structural engineers will be assessing the damage during the week.

He says there has probably been some wine loss, although how much is not really known at this stage.

“I think a number of the tanks, the way they behave would have spilt wine out the top … and those wine losses are financial losses as well.” . . .

Science award winner values time at Invermay – Sally Rae:

George Davis, who spent decades working at Invermay, has been acknowledged by the sheep industry for his contribution to sheep industry science.

Now retired, Dr Davis received the Silver Fern Farms sheep industry science award at the second annual Beef and Lamb New Zealand sheep industry awards in Invercargill last week.

It was both a very nice occasion and a nice surprise to receive the award and it was also special to be recognised by the industry, Dr Davis said.

The award acknowledged his contribution to New Zealand’s significant international profile in sheep genomics research. . .

What is a new potato? New guidelines issued:

A complaint to trading standards officers in Scotland has led to an industry body issuing a new description of what constitutes a “new potato”.

South Ayrshire Council was asked to investigate whether new potatoes were stored for long periods before sale.

It found that in some cases newly-harvested potatoes were stored for up to seven months before being sold.

The Potato Council has now drawn up an industry standard definition after the council raised its concerns.

The traditional description of a new potato is that it has been specially grown and harvested early, with a thin skin or one you can rub off with a finger. . .


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