Rural round-up

October 3, 2019

Gas targets will divide society – Alan Williams:

Alliance believes its Dannevirke sheep meat plant’s small size will let it survive a big fall in eastern North Island livestock numbers because of a loss of farmland to forestry.

If a similar change in land use happens in Southland the farmer-owned co-operative could be more exposed because the bigger operators in a region are likely to be most affected, chairman Murray Taggart said.

Anecdotal evidence indicates the scale of land use change could mean the loss of half a meat plant in the eastern North Island, he told shareholders in North Canterbury.

The industry believes taking out half a million stock units would essentially close down the equivalent of one plant, he told Farmers Weekly. 

The transparency of the scale of forestry interests buying farmland appears greater in the eastern North Island than in other regions.

It is possible the full extent of the loss of productive farmland might not be picked up until the damage is done. . . 

GM safe and we need it: plant biologists – Associate Professor Richard Macknight, Dr Lynette Brownfield, Associate Professor Paul Dijkwel, Associate Professor Michael Clearwater, Professor Paula Jameson and Dr Nijat Imin:

 A group of scientists belonging to the New Zealand Society of Plant Biologists say it’s time to review GM laws. They say new techniques in gene-editing can help ensure a clean green future for New Zealand.

When genetic modification technologies were newly-developed, people were rightly concerned that this relatively untested technology might harbour risks to health and the environment. So in the year 2000, the NZ government established a Royal Commission into the use of GM. After widespread and careful consultation, the commissioners’ report recommended an approach that preserved opportunities and that NZ should “proceed carefully, minimising and managing risks”. Specifically, around crop plants, the commissioners suggested New Zealand postpone any decision until more information had been obtained and the technology had developed.

The Royal Commission was nearly 20 years ago, so where do things now stand around crop plants?  . . 

Controversial red meat research bucks vegan diet trend recommendations – Stephanie Bedo:

As more people turn to eating less meat, new and “controversial” research gives you reason to return to red meat.

While the vegan trend has taken off, a series of reviews has found there are very few health benefits to cutting your meat consumption.

Based on a series of five high-quality systematic reviews of the relationship between meat consumption and health, a panel of experts recommends that most people can continue to eat red and processed meat at their average current consumption levels. . . 

Miraka pioneers farm carbon report :

Māori-owned milk processor Miraka is now reporting carbon emissions for each of its 100-plus supplier farms.

The Taupo company claims this as a first for New Zealand.

The farm-specific reports give detailed understanding of each farm’s greenhouse gas emissions and compare results between farms.

Miraka’s general manager of milk supply, Grant Jackson, says many of its farmers know little about their carbon footprint. . . 

A toast to the future – what we’ve learned from 200 years of New Zealand wine – Sarah Templeton & Lisette Reymer:

A birthday is always a time for reflection; a time to consider all you’ve achieved and what goals you’d want to tackle in the future.

I imagine that’s no more relevant than at a cool 200th – maybe one day I’ll know, if modern medicine does its thing. 

But believe it or not, this year we’re celebrating the 200th birthday of the New Zealand wine industry, which outdates even the Treaty of Waitangi. 

Aussie Reverend Samuel Marsden recorded September 25, 1819 as the day he first planted a vine in Kerikeri. The birthday was celebrated last week with the replanting of a vine in the same spot outside the Stone Store, accompanied by a celebration dinner and of course, a lot of wine.  . . 

Dutch tractor protest sparks ‘worst rush hour’ – Anna Holligan:

Tractor-driving farmers taking to the streets to demand greater recognition have caused the worst ever Dutch morning rush hour on Tuesday, according to motoring organisation ANWB.

There were 1,136km (700 miles) of jams at the morning peak, it said.

Farmers reacted angrily to claims that they were largely responsible for a nitrogen oxide emissions problem.

A report has called for inefficient cattle farms to be shut down and some speed limits lowered to cut pollution.

Farming groups believe they are being victimised while the aviation industry is escaping scrutiny. . . 


Rural round-up

September 20, 2019

Call for an end to scaremongering – David Hill:

Incessant scaremongering over the threat to the livestock industries from plant-based food has to end, the chief executive of the Foundation for Arable Research says.

Dr Alison Stewart says while the attention on plant-based proteins could be seen as a win for the arable sector, the debate should not be seen as an ”either/or” scenario.

”New Zealand has to stop endlessly talking about what its future could look like and just go out and make things happen, and it has to stop the incessant scaremongering around the threat to the livestock industries from plant-based food.

”It should not be an either/or situation but a win-win where New Zealand is seen as a leader in both animal and plant production systems.” . . 

Enjoy NZ meat and dairy without guilt – Katie Milne:

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne explains why consumers can tuck into the milk and meat that New Zealand produces without qualms about global warming and health impacts.

You are what you eat.

To each his own.

Two time-worn sayings that have much to recommend them, and that are relevant in today’s discussions about vegetarianism, red meat, nutrition and the environment.

They’re certainly worthwhile topics to talk about and in recent years voices saying meat eaters are doing a disservice to their health and the planet have become more insistent and strident. . . 

Freshwater changes not set yet – Yvonne O’Hara:

The Government’s   Action Plan for Healthy Waterways  proposal includes tighter restrictions for farmers, including restrictions on land intensification, improvements to “risky” farm practices, and more controls on changing land use to dairy. Consultation meetings in Southland attracted hundreds of vocal farmers. Yvonne O’Hara reports.

Farmers need to “make some noise”, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s general manager policy-advocacy Dave Harrison.

All farmers, rural business owners and employers are urged to make submissions to the Ministry for the Environment (MFE) about the Government’s Essential Freshwater: Action for healthier waterways package.

The Government has released a discussion document that outlines proposed changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the National Environmental Standards, to clean up and prevent further water quality degradation. . . 

 

5 Fast Takes after Freshwater Consultation Meeting – Siobhan O’Malley:

Summary of my thoughts after attending the Freshwater Consultation Meeting in Nelson for the Ministry for the Environment last night…

Number 1 – gratitude. I am so grateful for industry organisations like Beef+Lamb, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers who look at all the details of this legislation through the lense of their industries and who have teams of people who understand policy fineprint. There are so many details and implications to be understood. The farmer is already working 90 hours a week right now in calving and lambing, and it isn’t their zone of genius to analyse policy. So I felt mega grateful we have those organisations to do the heavy lifting. I plan to check out the summaries they have emailed me, because I realised last night I need help understanding this far reaching and massively complex legislation.

Number 2 – wow this is going to cost a lot. This is something not being well communicated in the current media reporting, who seem to be describing mainly what farmers will have to do. I began to appreciate the scale of spending required by local councils all over the country to upgrade their infrastructure for sewage, wastewater and stormwater, and that about blew my mind. And that was before I thought about how much individual farmers will be spending on farm environment plan consultants, fencing, riparian planting and infrastructure, as well as loss of income from retired land.  . . 

Vote for those who understand farming – Rhea Dasent:

Local elections are coming up and Federated Farmers reminds members how important it is to vote.

The quality of local government in rural communities can mean the difference between dodgy roads and safer ones, thousands of dollars in rates, and the kind of regulation you face on-farm.

Councillors have an important role in influencing the development and implementation of regional and district plans.

Councillors who know and understand farming, or who recognised the practical need to engage with farmers on plan development and implementation, are critical to good resource management. . . 

Female farmers gather to celebrate women in ag at Longerenong – Gregor Heard:

THE INSPIRING story of a former Vietnamese refugee now part of a broadacre farming business in South Australia’s Barossa Valley was a highlight at this week’s Emmetts Celebrating Women in Agriculture Ladies Day event at the Longerenong field days site in Victoria’s Wimmera region.

A large crowd of females in agriculture gathered at Longerenong for the day, organised by Emmetts, one of south-eastern Australia’s largest John Deere dealerships.

The group heard the story of Yung Nietschke, who along with participating in her family farm business with her husband, also works as an educational consultant developing mentoring programs for women and youth. . . 

 


Rural round-up

August 11, 2019

Fact check: Are our farm systems any better for the climate? – Esther Taunton:

Kiwi farmers love to claim their meat and dairy products come from farms with some of the smallest carbon footprints in the world. 

Unsurprisingly, they were quick to defend their systems after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Report on Climate Change and Land on Thursday.

Federated Farmers led the charge, saying it was concerned New Zealanders “simply don’t understand how much better we are at low-emissions farming than other countries“. . .

Kiwi farmers defend meat after report calls for more plant-based food – Rebecca Black:

We should be eating plenty of plants, South Taranaki dairy farmer Matthew Herbert says, but that doesn’t mean we should reduce our animal-based protein production.

A new IPCC report into climate change makes the recommendation that we alter our diets from being high in meat and dairy to include more plant-based food choices.

The report indicates that more efficient farming methods could dramatically increase food output while keeping emissions in check. . .

AbacusBio merges with plant breeder – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting firm AbacusBio has merged with a North Island-based plant breeding company.

Rotorua-based Gemnetics did similar work to AbacusBio but in plants, not animals, and it was a very complementary skill set, AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell said.

Plant and animal breeding methodologies were converging with the growth in genomics and big data tools and technologies.

The merger would allow the company – retaining the name AbacusBio for operations and Gemnetics for specific plant-breeding software – to offer clients access to leading-edge genetic and system services, software and data management products, she said. . .

Milking it: Tapping into coffee culture – Sally Rae:

Two young Dunedin entrepreneurs are tapping into the nation’s coffee culture.

Jo Mohan and Luka Licul have co-founded Spout Alternatives, with Nick Jackson, of Christchurch, to put milk into kegs and reduce the number of plastic milk containers used in cafes.

The trio are preparing to launch their permanent dispensing system, which is similar to the way beer is available on tap in bars. . .

Let people eat as much red meat as they want Norway’s health minister says :

Norway’s new head of health has criticised the ‘moral police’ and said people should be allowed to eat as much red meat as they want.

In her first days as the country’s new health minister, Sylvi Listhaug implied that Norwegians shouldn’t be told what to do when it comes to health.

The comments come as part of an interview with Ms Listhaug conducted by Norwegian broadcaster NRK. . .

Can the Prairie Generation save rural America? – Laurent Belsie :

Outside Unadilla, Hannah Esch walks into her cooler and pulls out packages of rib-eye, brisket, and hamburger. Over the past nine months her new company, Oak Barn Beef, sold out of meat four times and brought in $52,000 in sales. Over the next year, she expects to double those sales numbers.

That will be a milestone. It will also be when she finishes her last year of college.

Some 150 miles northwest, the Brugger twins, Matt and Joe, show off how they’re diversifying from traditional agriculture. They directly market the beef from the cows they raise and they grow hops for local microbreweries. But the most visible sign of their commitment to the rural Plains is the two-story farmhouse they’re renovating on the family homestead. . . 

 


Rural round-up

July 28, 2019

88-year-old dairy farmer keeps ahead of technological changes – Gerard Hutching:

“If you don’t comply you won’t be able to supply.”

Ngatea dairy farmer Ken Jones has seen the future – and at 88 years of age a lot of the past.

He knows farmers will soon be confronted with an assortment of environmental rules they will have to abide by – in fact they already are – and he wants to get ahead of the game.

“I don’t know how far off that is but it’s no good hitting your head against a brick wall. I just want to make the farm compliant so I can hand it on to the family.” . . 

Tech journey discussed – David Hill:

Tina Mackintosh admits there were some late nights loading data after she and husband Duncan opted to embrace technology more than a decade ago.

The Mackintoshs, who farm at White Rock Mains, north of Rangiora, shared their journey of using technology to improve their farm system at last month’s Beef + Lamb New Zealand FarmSmart conference in Christchurch.

”We have a curious mind about data and what it can do, and we also believe it’s about sharing the good things when they work and, equally, not being afraid of sharing when the shite happens,” Mrs Mackintosh said.

”As we were going along the journey we had two babies, so we were entering data late at night. There was a lot of data to enter so it was quite frustrating. . .

$10,200 dog makes quick impression – Yvonne O’Hara:

A farm dog that sold for more than $10,000 in Gore yesterday marked the occasion by lifting his leg on his new owner’s gumboot.

Heading dog Glen sold for $10,200 at the annual sheep and cattle dog sale at the Charlton saleyards.

PGG Wrightson Gore sheep and beef representative Ross McKee said his company was calling it ”a New Zealand record”.

”At $10,200 he is in a league of his own.”

Glen was sold by his breeder, trainer and farmer David Parker, of Teviot Valley, and bought by sheep, beef and venison farmer Richard Tucker, of Becks. . . .

The Poison of Precaution: The Anti-Science Mindset -Riskmonger:

In last year’s excellent book, The Wizard and the Prophet, Charles Mann juxtaposed two polemics on the environment in the 1940s during the turning point of agricultural development: Norman Borlaug and William Vogt. Borlaug (the Wizard) took the scientific approach to innovate and develop new tools to solve problems facing agriculture. Vogt (the Prophet and arguably the founder of the modern environmental movement) would see an environmental problem as a reason for man to pull back and let the planet heal itself.

To this day, both approaches (to innovate or to pull back and take precaution) have defined environmental debates. There is no doubt which side I fall on. Borlaug’s scientific route has allowed humanity to thrive over the last 70 years. The Green Revolution in agriculture led to global economic expansions as abundance led to generations of risk-takers being able to leave the land and develop other opportunities for wealth generation. Environmentalists argue that the agri-technologies have led to deeper problems from saturated soil and poisoned water tables to serious human health issues to climate calamity. Social justice theorists are proposing agro-ecology as a Vogtian response in pulling back from seven decades of agricultural development. . .

Landmark report shows value of pesticides to NZ’s land-based industries:

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Development today released a landmark report, showing that New Zealand’s economy would lose up to $11.4 billion without crop protection products – and that crops would lose 30 percent of their value overall.

The report covers forestry, pasture, horticulture, field crops and vegetable production.

Agcarm chief executive, Mark Ross, says that the report highlights the importance of the crop protection industry to New Zealand’s economy. . .

African farmers increase yields and income with their smartphones -Bekezela Phakathi:

From drones and big data to financing apps, advanced technology can be a game changer.

More farmers across Africa are set to turn to digital solutions within the next three years, which will boost productivity and, potentially, employment across the value chain, according to a new study.

The study by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA) and advisory firm Dalberg Advisors, says that several barriers hindering the adoption of digital solutions in agriculture across the continent — notably, limited access to technology and connectivity — will be overcome. . .


Rural round-up

July 20, 2019

Social licence about trust – Sally Rae:

Penny Clark-Hall is passionate about helping rural communities.

Ms Clark-Hall is the founder of New Zealand’s first social licence consultancy, helping farmers and agri-businesses earn and maintain their social licence to operate.

She is excited about speaking at the Women’s Enviro Evening in Clinton later this month, saying meaningful change had to come from grassroots, or “the ground up”.

That had a domino effect and, if everyone did their “own little bit” then it all added up to something big, she said. . .

Need for study of winter grazing – Sally Rae:

There is no place in modern farming for winter grazing practices that compromise animal health and welfare, the New Zealand Veterinary Association says.

Chief veterinary officer Dr Helen Beattie, of Dunedin, has strongly advocated for a national-level, pan-sector working group to be formed, saying a collaborative approach is needed to assist farmers through a fair transition away from such practices.

Intensive winter grazing was common and could lead to poor animal welfare and environmental damage, particularly during prolonged periods of wet weather, Dr Beattie said.

“We need to take a second look at these practices and, when animal welfare isn’t protected, find solutions that rectify this safely,” she said. . .

Thinking outside the square – Jenny Ling:

A Waikato couple are finding doing things a bit differently is paying off. Jenny Ling reports.

Hard work, a shared passion for science and technology and sheer grit and determination are helping a Waikato dairy farming couple create their dream property and life together.

Bill and Michelle Burgess milk 340 cows on 100ha of prime land in Te Poi, a small but thriving farming area 10km south of Matamata.

Here they milk and manage their elite herd of mostly Friesian and Friesian crosses and a small amount of Jerseys, while raising their two children, Alex, 3, and Sophie, 5. . . 

Government ‘don’t have a clue’ when it comes to rural living – Kate Hawkesby:

Interesting that 6,000 Aucklanders have moved to Northland over the past 4 years. 

I’m not surprised. 

Auckland traffic’s a nightmare, public transport isn’t up to scratch, property prices are still excessively high, and I think these days we’re getting better at prioritising quality of life. 

We bought a place in the country on a whim, and we haven’t looked back. 

There’s something very soothing about rural life.. trees, birds, animals, rolling hills, quiet roads.  . .

Farmers help pooh-powered milk lorries become a reality :

Farmers who supply Arla are starting to make the most of their cow’s manure by using it to power up milk lorries.

Farmers in Sweden are contributing to a fossil-free fuel future by turning manure into biogas, which in turn powers vehicles.

Biogas can also be a source of the income for farmers, and the biomass that remains after the cow manure is digested can be used as a fertiliser. . .

Rejoice: the earth is becoming greener – Matt Ridley:

Amid all the talk of an imminent planetary catastrophe caused by emissions of carbon dioxide, another fact is often ignored: global greening is happening faster than climate change. The amount of vegetation growing on the earth has been increasing every year for at least 30 years. The evidence comes from the growth rate of plants and from satellite data.

In 2016 a paper was published by 32 authors from 24 institutions in eight countries that analysed satellite data and concluded that there had been a roughly 14% increase in green vegetation over 30 years. The study attributed 70% of this increase to the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The lead author on the study, Zaichun Zhu of Beijing University, says this is equivalent to adding a new continent of green vegetation twice the size of the mainland United States.

Global greening has affected all ecosystems – from arctic tundra to coral reefs to plankton to tropical rain forests – but shows up most strongly in arid places like the Sahel region of Africa, where desertification has largely now reversed. This is because plants lose less water in the process of absorbing carbon dioxide if the concentration of carbon dioxide is higher. Ecosystems and farms will be less water-stressed at the end of this century than they are today during periods of low rainfall. . .

 


Rural round-up

April 22, 2019

Farming to create fresh air – Luke Chivers:

When people think of farming, few think of carbon farming. But Canterbury farmers Warrick and CeCe James are using agriculture to feed people and fight climate change. Luke Chivers spoke to them on-farm.

Imagine carbon emissions and what springs to mind? 

Most people tend to think of power stations belching out clouds of carbon dioxide or queues of vehicles burning up fossil fuels as they crawl, bumper-to-bumper along congested urban roads. 

But in Canterbury’s picturesque Selwyn Gorge the owners of a forest of 18-year-old pine and Douglas fir trees are confident that at harvest age the trees will still be worth more alive than dead and will continue to be indefinitely. . .

Lower carbon food chain challenges – Richard Rennie:

A dive into the little-known field of energy return on investment for his Nuffield Scholarship was the extension of a long-held interest for Solis Norton of Otago. It measures energy flows through New Zealand’s primary food chains to see how we might move to zero emissions by 2050 while remaining a viable economy. He spoke to Richard Rennie.

Nuffield scholar Solis Norton acknowledges the area of energy return on investment (EROI) is not top of mind for many but his year’s study found the field holds important tools for one of this country’s most pressing demands – getting to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Mapping out the transition to carbon zero using economics is a good starting point but mapping our true energy use during the transition is critical too. This is what EROI does. Our path to carbon-zero economic prosperity will collapse if we run short of energy along the way.”  . . 

Mānuka honey regulatory definition throws industry into turmoil :

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) regulatory definition of mānuka honey has thrown the honey industry into turmoil and European authorities are beginning to notice there’s something wrong, a Northland honey expert says.

Dr John Craig, a veteran beekeeper and former professor of environmental studies, said the ministry’s challenged the industry to prove that its definition needs to change.

But he said the ministry’s own research has already done that. . .

High octane’ deer feeds examined at workshop – Yvonne O’Hara:

”High octane” feed was the subject at the Otago Advance Party regional workshop in Poolburn last week.

Deer farmers and industry representatives met at the Poolburn/Moa Creek Hall last Wednesday in a meeting organised by Abacusbio consultant Simon Glennie.

The Advance Party workshop was part of the deer industry’s Passion2Profit programme.

The group visited Poolburn deer farmer Cam Nicolson’s property to look at his deer, then returned to the hall to discuss how he could improve growth rates and profits by using ”high octane” forages. . .

 

Capturing the spirit of New Zealand by turning sheep’s milk into booze – Esther Taunton:

Like many off-the-wall ideas, Sam Brown’s came to him on a night out with friends.

The Kiwi entrepreneur and founder of The White Sheep Co was living in China when he realised New Zealand had no national drink.

“I was out with friends and we decided to have a drink for everybody’s country.

“We had a bit of tequila for a guy from Mexico, some vodka for a guy from Russia and even some brandy for a person from France,” he said. . .

Regional wrap:

Northland still has green grass everywhere, but there’s not much of it .. normally farms would be knee deep in kikuyu and it would be a challenge to manage it, but that’s not the case. It’s not a disaster but lots of dairy herds have been partially dried off.

Outstanding autumn weather has been the main feature this week for Franklin vege growers .. in fact for much of the North Island. . .


Rural round-up

April 2, 2019

ClearTech an effluent game-changer – Alan Williams:

Ravensdown says its new ClearTech dairy effluent treatment system will allow two-thirds of the water used to wash farm milking yards each day to be recycled.

It removes up to 99% of E coli and phosphorus from the raw effluent water and cuts nitrogen concentration by about 70%.

ClearTech’s promise, based on Lincoln University dairy farm results, convinced the judges at the South Island Agricultural Field Days to make Ravensdown the Agri Innovation Award winner.

“It’s a privilege for us to achieve this and the culmination of our partnership with Lincoln,” Ravensdown’s ClearTech product manager Carl Ahlfeld said.  . . 

Value of apparel wool surges – Sally Rae:

A new era of profitability is being heralded for mid-micron wool growers.

Despite mid-micron wool being labelled in the McKinsey report of 2000 as having a bleak future, the outlook is looking bright.

New Smartwool contracts have just been released at prices that had not been achieved before, the New Zealand Merino Company said.

South Otago farmer Stephen Jack, who has developed a dual-purpose sheep, described it as “exciting times” in the sheep industry. . . 

Distillery dreams see daylight – Sally Rae:

Young Wade Watson might not know it yet but he is going to have a heck of a 21st birthday party.

The nearly two-month-old infant already has an oak barrel of whisky bearing his name, maturing nicely at Lammermoor Distillery in the Paerau Valley.

The distillery has been established by Wade’s grandparents, John and Susie Elliot, who farm the 5200ha Lammermoor Station. . . 

Definition of lamb now officially changed in export legislation – Kristen Frost:

Australia’s new definition of lamb is on track to take effect from July 1 this year with legislative changes this week registered by the Australian Government.

The move means Australian farmers will be able to sell more lamb with the definition matching our competitors in export legislation.

The new definition is ‘young sheep under 12 months of age or which do not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear’. . . 

Silver Fern Farms cites tough sheep market in profit slide – Gavan Evans:

 (BusinessDesk) – Silver Fern Farms says poor trading in its sheep meat business contributed to a 62 percent decline in full-year profit.

Sales in 2018 rose 9 percent to $2.4 billion but net profit fell to $5.8 million from $15.4 million in the 2017 calendar year. The year-earlier figure was reduced by $10.2 million of one-off costs, mostly related to the closure of the firm’s Fairton processing plant near Ashburton.

While the Dunedin-based company had achieved a “back-to-back profit”, chief executive Simon Limmer stated said the level of profitability was not good enough. . . 

Coastal livestock farm with private airstrip up for sale :

The biggest farm within the Gisborne/Wairoa/Northern Hawkes Bay region to come on the market in the past five years is up for sale.

Tunanui Station at Opoutama sitting on the Mahia Peninsula – which separates Poverty Bay in the north from Hawke’s Bay to the south – is a 2,058-hectare property which comes complete with its own private airstrip. . . .


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