Rural round-up

16/09/2021

‘I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of’ dairy farmers under siege – Joanne Wane:

Dairying has been so demonised for damaging the planet that the children of some Kiwi farmers have been beaten up at school, writes Joanna Wane. Two families who’ve been on the land for five generations talk back.

Northland dairy farmer Hal Harding describes his daughter, Anna, as “a bit of an eco warrior”. The pair work alongside each other on land south of Dargaville that his early-settler ancestors bought back in 1877. But when Anna moved back home just before Covid struck, after a few years in Europe, she was having serious doubts about whether the life she’d been born into was on the right side of history.

“In the UK, there were plant-based cafes popping up left, right and centre,” she says. “I started to think, ‘Is that what we should be doing? Is dairying bad? Is this stuff all these people are telling me true?’ There were facts for one side, and facts for the other that were just as convincing. But it felt too easy to say, ‘Just eat plants and the planet will be saved.’ When I heard about this whole regenerative farming thing, I was like ‘Thank God’. My gut feeling landed; it felt right.”

The Hardings have hand-planted thousands of native trees to reforest parts of the property and adapted their farming practices to nurture soil health by minimising the use of pesticides and commercial fertilisers. They’re also planning to move away from the traditional grazing regime. For Anna, who’s now 30, it’s about believing that a different model of farming can be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, at a time when the agricultural sector is increasingly under siege. . . 

Unskilled pruning of labour force is rotten policy :

The Government’s confirmation of the availability of Recognised Seasonal Employer workers from selected countries is not enough to fix its rotten approach to labour supply, says National’s Horticulture spokesperson David Bennett.

“Prior to the Delta Covid outbreak the Government announced the availability of RSE workers from certain countries.

“While the Government’s decision to approve some RSE workers may provide some token assistance, it won’t change the fundamental flaws in a labour supply policy that’s rotten to the core.

“For example, we see 15 per cent increases in labour costs in the kiwifruit industry, and an apple industry that still has a gap in the loss of the backpacker labour supply. . . 

Low venison prices leave farmers frustrated – Maja Burry:

A deer industry leader is worried farmers will start exiting the sector if venison prices don’t improve.

Covid-19’s impact on the restaurant trade worldwide has come as a major blow, with deer farmers now facing depressed prices for the second year in a row.

The latest figures from AgriHQ show in July 2021 venison average export values fell short of the five-year average of $13.75/kg by $3.67/kg, and was $1.28/kg below July last year.

Deer Farmers Association chairperson John Somerville said the organisation recently shared the concerns of many farmers in a letter to all of New Zealand’s venison marketing company chief executives. . . 

Meat pushes food prices to fifth successive rise:

Food prices rose 0.3 percent in August 2021 compared with July 2021, mainly influenced by higher prices for meat, poultry, and fish, and restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food, Stats NZ said today.

Though modest, August’s movement is the fifth consecutive monthly rise. After adjusting for seasonality, prices rose 0.2 in August 2021.

Meat, poultry, and fish prices were up 1.3 percent in August, mainly influenced by higher prices for roasting pork (up 11 percent), sausages (up 3.5 percent), lamb chops (up 5.4 percent), and porterhouse and sirloin steak (up 2.3 percent). This was partly offset by lower prices for chicken pieces (down 3.3 percent).

Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices rose 0.4 percent, influenced by higher prices for some takeaway food. . .

Why would you want to own a forest? – The Detail:

The forestry industry is beset by supply chain issues, port disruptions, oversupply in China, sky-high shipping rates, the Delta disaster …. and that’s before you even look at the difficulties of cutting down the trees.

On top of that the industry gets a bad rap from the rural sector for being a ‘spray and walk away’ business that’s eating up valuable grazing land, for damage done to the landscape, and for contributing to a lack of employment.

So why would anyone invest in a forest?

Forestry is not for the faint-hearted – but for the persistent, there are good rewards. . . 

Netherlands proposes radical plans to cut livestock numbers by almost a third – Senay Boztas:

Dutch farmers could be forced to sell land and reduce the amount of animals they keep to help lower ammonia pollution.

Dutch politicians are considering plans to force hundreds of farmers to sell up and cut livestock numbers, to reduce damaging ammonia pollution.

After the highest Dutch administrative court found in 2019 that the government was breaking EU law by not doing enough to reduce excess nitrogen in vulnerable natural areas, the country has been battling what it is calling a “nitrogen crisis”.

Daytime speed limits have been reduced to 100kmph (62mph) on motorways to limit nitrogen oxide emissions, gas-guzzling construction projects were halted and a new law pledges that by 2030 half of protected nature areas must have healthy nitrogen levels. . . 

 


Rural round-up

23/08/2021

Another battle about land is ahead – Mike Houlahan:

Back on August 12, 2021 BD (before Delta), when Parliament rose for what was meant to be an uneventful and restful recess week, MPs had just started the second reading debate on the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill.

Back on August 12, 2021 BD (before Delta), when Parliament rose for what was meant to be an uneventful and restful recess week, MPs had just started the second reading debate on the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill.

Quite when they will get back to considering the merits or otherwise of the Bill is anyone’s guess.

When that day comes though, it will be keenly watched – the discussion paper on the review attracted 320 submissions, and the 161 submissions the environment select committee waded through to reach this point included a form submission lodged by 1733 individuals. . . 

Plant nurseries rush to save seedlings on eve of lockdown – Sam Olley:

Lockdown has come at one of the worst possible times for nurseries, amid the late winter planting season for native plants and forestry.

Nurseries are allowed to carry out some maintenance but it is far from business as usual.

For Ngā Uri o Hau nursery in Mangawhai it was a scramble to save the trees on the eve of lockdown.

Six thousand native plants sat on pellets in a loading bay ready to go out to clients but they had no irrigation, and wouldn’t be going anywhere at alert level 4. . . 

While the Brits brace for Christmas without turkeys, NZ leads APEC initiative on food security – Point of Order:

Not enough turkeys for Christmas?

Calamity.

Not in this country (so far as we know), but in Britain, where the British Poultry Council is pressing the UK Government to deal with the culinary consequences of shortages of workers resulting from the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The British food industry faces huge disruptions that have forced leading restaurants – including Nando’s and KFC – to reduce their service or to close. . .

It’s calving time – Country LIfe:

It’s calving season and dairy farmers around the country are working long hours.

They’re not only doing the usual milking and maintenance but watching over their herds as they calve.

Country Life Producer Sally Round got up before the birds and put on her wet weather gear to meet Wairarapa dairy farmer Jody James and his team to find out what happens.

It’s pitch black and the temperature has plunged. . .

Value your time – Mark Guscott:

After a recent field day, Mark Guscott is asking the question: Do farmers value their time?

Do you value your time? In my experience there are heaps of farmers who don’t. I went to a field day to learn from a cocky who was doing a good job of wintering cattle. He fed them a lot of balage and hay and was asked, “how does that amount of feeding-out stack up financially?”.

He replied that it didn’t cost him anything as the grass grew for free and he owned his own baler! Well, the language in my mind was colourful and I straight away lost concentration. This was unfortunate on my part as he was doing a good job overall. I guess his rationale was that once the payments on the baler were finished then it didn’t owe him anything. Fair call, but what about the diesel for the tractor, the person driving that tractor or the maintenance on the baler?

The point is that what we do every day is important and worthwhile. We should value what we do. The cocky was doing a good job but he needed to account for the wage or drawings that he feeds his family with. There are some that would say that any profit made is payment, but when the coffers are empty at the end of the year, it wouldn’t be very encouraging to think ‘I’ve worked hard all year for nothing’. What we do to look after our land, our animals and our people is bloody important. While sometimes it might not feel like it, there are a lot of people out there who value what we do. . .

Rural areas need a Covid strategy, and fast – Stephanie Stanhope:

It’s fair to say that the people of regional, rural and remote NSW are on high alert as the COVID-19 pandemic presents new challenges yet again.

A state-wide lockdown has commenced and communities are grappling with what this means in terms of access to essential supplies and services, keeping businesses afloat and families’ food on the table, in already strained circumstances.

Access to healthcare in regional and rural NSW is already difficult, as the CWA of NSW has been advocating on for some time now.

Last year we surveyed our members and overwhelmingly heard about long wait times to see general practitioners, lack of nurses and health professionals, and ill-equipped hospitals servicing large areas of the regions. . .

 


Rural round-up

16/05/2020

Frighteningly different priorities – Peter Burke:

In the cities people are clambering over each other to get the first Big Mac or piece of deep-fried chicken, not to mention a ‘real’ coffee.

So fanatical were some individuals for a fast-food fix that they were stupid enough to risk undoing the good work of the rest of the country by not sticking to the rules of physical distancing.

Having said that, a few idiot politicians and community leaders have yielded to temptation and broken lockdown rules, setting a poor example. Their actions are insulting to the rural community – farmer, growers, people who work in meat processing plants, packhouses and other facilities to provide food for these unthinking individuals.

And don’t let’s forget all the other essential workers that are the unsung heroes of this crisis.

Nothing for our most productive sector in Budget – National:

Budget 2020 hasn’t provided anything of note for the primary sector at a time when it is leading our nation’s rebuild, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

He says the Government’s claim of ‘rebuilding better’ is nothing but a meaningless slogan for the primary sector. Muller says costly Government proposals like Essential Freshwater are still on the way, there’s no large-scale water storage funding and not enough support to secure the 50,000 workers needed to stimulate the sector.

“Covid-19 has thrown our country into a deep economic hole and we’re now relying on our food and fibre sector to get out of it.

We should be encouraging this sector to grow and maximise its potential but funding has gone backwards. With farmers and growers across the country experiencing the worst drought in living memory this season, it’s disappointing to see no significant investment in water storage,” he says. . .

Farmers want new house rules – Gerald Piddock:

Dairy industry leaders have asked the Government to amend its covid-19 ban on landlords evicting tenants after reports of dairy staff exploiting the rules by refusing to leave supplied housing as the season draws to a close.

As a result, new staff moving onto the farms can’t move into the houses in time for the new milking season in June.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis said the circumstances usually involve a staff member who was exiting dairying when the new rules became law. . .

High country – isolation goes with the territory – Kerrie Waterworth:

Adjusting to the isolation of Covid-19 restrictions has been difficult for many urban dwellers but for families on high country stations isolation goes with the territory.

Duncan and Allannah McRae run Alpha Burn Station, a 4519ha high country beef, sheep and deer farm at Glendhu Bay, 15 minutes drive west from Wanaka.

Before the Covid-19 crisis their two sons, Archie (15) and Riley (13), were at boarding school in Dunedin but they had returned home and were learning online.

Mrs McRae said both she and her daughter, Hazel (10), have had to adjust to having the two big boys back in the house. . . 

Taratahi might host short courses – Neal Wallace:

The Taratahi campus could again be training young people, albeit for short-term courses introducing prospective students to agricultural careers and proviing extra skills for existing workers.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Social Development are considering funding DairyNZ to develop and deliver three-week industry familiarisation programmes at the Wairarapa facility.

The future of the campus has been in limbo since the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre was put in liquidation in December 2018. . .

Want safe affordable food? Reward those who produce it – Peter Mailler;

The world is certainly a paradise for anyone looking for an issue to express an opinion about this week, but I want to take a different approach.

Rather than trotting out my take on the barley tariffs issue and the complete insanity that is diplomacy with China by media, I thought I would try to foster a discussion on an earlier opinion published in The Gauge section and constructively contest some ideas around an issue that I think goes to the core of how the agricultural sector presents itself to the rest of the country. . . 

 


Rural round-up

06/07/2019

BLNZ looking into impact of land conversion – Sally Rae:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has expressed concerns about the potential impacts on communities of ”wholesale conversions” of regions into forestry.

There have been growing concerns in the past few months about the increase in sales of sheep and beef farms into forestry.

In an update to farmers, BLNZ chairman Andrew Morrison said the organisation was working to get a better understanding of exactly what was happening, why it might be happening, quantifying the potential impacts on regional communities, and what the solutions might be. . .

Farmers’ returns should reflect value – Alliance – Brent Melville:

Alliance group chairman Murray Taggart is a firm believer in premium returns for premium products.

The North Canterbury sheep, cattle and cropping farmer wants red meat producers to get out what they put in, meaning Alliance needs to be in a position to objectively measure product value.

It has been an important part of the company’s strategic focus over much of his six years as chairman. He and the Alliance board have worked with CEO David Surveyor over the past four years to improve the company’s operational ”fitness”, transform production capacity and reinvent the company’s global marketing focus. . .

Report dodgy fliers :

Dairy farmers are being urged to tell authorities about “concerning activity” by helicopters and drones.

But farmers should also be aware that drones, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft have legitimate business in rural areas, like checking power lines and spreading fertiliser.

DairyNZ head of South Island Tony Finch says it has had reports of helicopters and drones flying low over Southland farms where they disturb stock. . . 

Triple the success:

The Dawkins family are Beef + Lamb New Zealand Innovation Farmers who are striving to maximise triplet lamb survival by developing an indoor lambing system. Now in their third year of the programme, the family are refining a system that has unexpectedly benefited the whole farm system while significantly reducing lamb losses.

In part one of this two-part series, we look at how the indoor system works.

A recipe for maximising triplet lamb survival is like the holy grail of sheep farming but the Dawkins family from Blenheim are getting closer to finding it.

Chris and Julia Dawkins and their son Richard, who farm The Pyramid, a 645ha down and hill country sheep and beef farm, are in the third year of a Beef + Lamb New Zealand Innovation Farm programme looking to maximise triplet lamb performance through an indoor lambing system. . .

Farming the Chathams: the tyranny of distance – Adam Fricker:

Like a small scale model of the challenges New Zealand agriculture faces being so far from its main markets, farmers on the Chatham Islands are far enough from the mainland to make shipping inputs in and livestock out a marginal exercise. Adam Fricker reports.

An Australian coined the phrase ‘the tyranny of distance’ but it certainly applies here. Rural News took the 2.5 hour flight on Air Chathams’ Convair 580, a graceful 1960s turbo prop.

We came courtesy of Holden who were celebrating their 65th anniversary with an SUV adventure on Chatham Island, the main island in the scattered group of 25 islands. It’s not a cheap flight, so most of the non-human freight, including livestock, goes by ship. . . 

A carnivore diet is more vegan than a vegan diet :

Whether you are ready to hear this or not, a Carnivore Diet, a diet comprised entirely of animal products, and more specifically, a diet comprised entirely or almost entirely of large herbivores such as cows and sheep, is more vegan than the vegan diet,  and we’ll prove this to you with incontrovertible facts.

If you thought veganism was just a diet that excludes animals, well, not quite. According to the Vegan Society, “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” So, according to them, whatever diet accomplishes this best would be a ‘vegan’ diet, or more correctly THE vegan diet.  . . 


Rural round-up

15/04/2019

Diversity makes a sound business – Neal Wallace:

Glen Eden farm is a busy place. Mark and Susannah Guscott, the owners of the South Wairarapa property, have fingers in multiple pies and for good measure are about to open tourist accommodation. Neal Wallace spoke to Mark Guscott.

Discussion groups visiting the Guscott family’s Glen Eden farm near Carterton comment on the complexity of the business.

But Mark and Susannah don’t see it that way. 

Certainly, there is plenty happening but Mark says once you get your head around the various elements it is not daunting. . .

Win a huge surprise – Yvonne O’Hara:

Cameron and Nicola van Dorsten, of Outram, have had an excellent couple of weeks.

Not only were they stunned to hear their name announced as the winners of the Share Farmer of the Year (SFOTY) competition in the 2019 Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards, they also spent a couple of weeks in Bali shortly after.

The awards dinner was held in Invercargill on March 27, and they won nearly $12,000 in prizes and four merit awards.

Mrs van Dorsten said they were stunned and thrilled with their success, especially as it was the first time they had entered. . .

From the shed to the kitchen – Yvonne O’Hara:

Jude Gamble’s day starts at 3.30am and often finishes about 7.00pm.

Her shopping list includes 10 trays of eggs a week and she uses two and a-half dozen every morning. She uses 2kg of bacon, 10 loaves of bread and 8 litres of milk a day.

She buys in 12 litres of cream a week, as well as 10kg lots of scone and muffin mixes, and the odd trailerload of potatoes. . .

Farmers ready for peas’ return – Annette Scott:

One more year under a pea-growing moratorium will ensure New Zealand can deliver a powerful message to overseas customers, Federated Farmers arable industry chairwoman Karen Williams says.

Pea growers were forced out of business in August 2016 when action kicked in to eradicate a pea weevil pest threatening the $150 million pea industry, including both the export pea seed markets and the processed green pea industry. . .

Eric Rush inspires Extension 350 farmers with rags to riches :

From the humble beginnings of hand-milking eight cows as a young Kaeo lad, to meeting the Queen of England, Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela – Former All Black Eric Rush had his audience captivated with his message that “success breeds success” when he spoke to 200 people involved in Northland’s Extension 350 project this week.

Rush was the keynote speaker at two events aimed at recognising the hard work of the target farmers, mentor farmer, consultants and partners of the Extension 350 farmer-to-farmer learning project in Northland. . . 

A tech revolution in agriculture is leaving some farmers without broadband behind – Tim Johnson:

Hundreds of thousands of American farmers wrestle with balky — or nonexistent — internet connections, the exasperating modern-day equivalent of the stubborn mule that wouldn’t pull a plow.

Farmers who lack rural connectivity increasingly lag in a tech revolution that offers robots, drones, sensors and self-driving tractors to farms lucky enough to have robust broadband. It is a rural digital divide on America’s farms that threatens to grow wider. . .


Rural round-up

30/07/2018

More profit with lower impact – Neal Wallace:

The low milk price in 2013 was not the ideal time for a multimillion dollar dairy conversion let alone one writing its own blueprint. But, as Neal Wallace reports, North Otago’s John and Ruby Foley had a vision and a goal and they were determined to see it through.

There was no single dairy farm blueprint for John and Ruby Foley to follow. 

They had just a wish list underpinned by a philosophy that the value of the business had to be set by the enterprise not the cost of land.

In the back of the minds of the North Otago dairy farmers was the increased difficulty for young people to enter the industry because of the cost of land. . .

Shearing pay rises are showing results – Neal Wallace:

Higher pay rates appear to have stemmed the flow of shearers and shedhands heading offshore.

Shearing Contractors Association president Mark Barrowcliffe said a wage increase of up to 25% has been welcomed by woolhandlers and South Island contractors starting pre-lamb shearing have been told by staff the better wages are an attraction to stay here instead of heading overseas.

“We have just made New Zealand an attractive proposition for our transient staff,” he said. . .

 No regional development cash to breed the ‘perfect’ varroa-resistant honey bee – Joanne Carroll:

A West Coast beekeeper has been denied Government funding to breed bees he says are resistant to the varroa mite.

Gary Jeffery, a beekeeper in Westport, said he wanted to continue breeding mite resistant bees from his stock, but that his application for help from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund had been denied.

Jeffery has previously received $25,000 from Development West Coast and has had the backing of private investors, but was running out of money to feed his bees before the end of winter. 

In a letter declining his pitch for $150,000 to develop a breeding programme, the provincial development unit said there was no evidence as to how Jeffery’s proposal would boost the West Coast economy . . 

 

Hillside collapses to from New Zealand’s newest lake – Marty Sharpe:

“Um, I think you might want to have a look at this new slip,” the top-dressing pilot told Gisborne farmer Dan Jex-Blake on February 25.

“Yeah, I know about that one. Been there forever,” Jex-Blake said.

“Nah, I don’t think so. You need to see this,” the top-dressing pilot replied.

So the fourth-generation owner of Mangapoike farm, about 55km southwest of Gisborne, jumped on the plane.

He couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.

Where there was once a grass-covered bluff was now a vertical wall, a massive scar of debris and mud, and where there was once the clear-flowing Mangapoike River was a fast growing lake. . .

City kid’s burgeoning farm empire; 6 leased lifestyle blocks and 160 ewes – Sophie Cornish:

Angus Grant’s younger sister Josie was not happy when he converted her playhouse into a chicken coop when he was eight-years-old.

But now it has all paid off. Angus and his schoolmate Nick O’Connor, won the national Teen Ag grand final, the high school version of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

The 16-year-old St Bede’s College student is a city boy hailing from Papanui who has been passionate about farming since he first watched Country Calendar when he was three. . .


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