No electric sheep

July 19, 2019

The government reckons it is on the same page as farmers when it comes to countering climate change.

Farmers beg to differ:

The ‘Action on Agricultural Emissions’ discussion paper is a positive first step as farmers and the government hammer out a practical path to reduce livestock greenhouse gas emissions, Federated Farmers says.

“We are agreed that a priority is to find a workable and affordable way that farmers can measure emissions and sinks at the farm level, and to adopt practices and any new technologies that will help drive down methane and nitrous oxide emissions,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard says.

But there’s a but:

“Where we differ is that the Government keeps emphasising pricing as the predominant tool.  Federated Farmers does not agree with universal pricing of methane.  The ETS has failed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transport – in fact, transport emissions have near doubled since 1990.  Universal pricing of methane will be similarly unsuccessful.”

If it was successful it would reduce production at a significant economic and social cost with no global environmental gain.

If New Zealand was the only country to tax animal emissions and production here decreased as a result it would increase in other countries where production is far less efficient.

What Federated Farmers has committed to is working with the government to design a pricing mechanism where any price is part of a broader framework to support on-farm practice change.  Such pricing would be set at the margin – that is, only applying to methane emissions over the 0.3% per annum reductions that science tells us is enough to ensure methane no longer adds to global warming.

The government can’t tell us to accept the science on climate change then not accept the science on ways to counter it.

New Zealand farmers are proud to be among the most efficient producers in world and, unlike many of their overseas competitors essentially stand on their own two feet, as their animals stand on their own four feet. Farmers here are largely unsubsidised by consumers (by way of inflated prices) or taxpayers, and that has been so for over 30 years, Hoggard says.

If New Zealand’s milk and meat export volumes reduce as a result of lower on-farm production, the gap will be filled by less efficient producers. This is known as “emissions leakage” and will ultimately increase global emissions and food costs.

“So any pricing should only be a tool to incentivise farmers into taking up economically viable opportunities to cut methane, just as the Government might use incentives or a nudge to encourage people to switch to an electric vehicle.

“Unlike for a fossil-fuel powered vehicle, there is no ‘electric sheep’ equivalent for farmers.  But there is the potential for methane inhibitors or a vaccine, albeit some years away from proof and coming to market,” Hoggard says.

Breeding low-emission animals and selecting low-emission feeds are options being explored meantime.

The agriculture sector has committed to work with the government and iwi/Maori to design a practical and cost-effective system for reducing emissions at farm level – including a pricing mechanism as part of the broad framework – by 2025.

Meanwhile, the sector’s proposed 5-year programme of action is aimed at ensuring farmers and growers are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to deliver emissions reductions while maintaining profitability.

Education and tools will do far more good and a lot less harm than the government’s plan which is not just another tax but a tax which is  counter to the science.


Rural round-up

October 29, 2018

Carbon cost shock – Richard Rennie:

Huge costs in New Zealand’s zero carbon goals that could set the country back more than a trillion dollars have been side-lined in Government calculations, seasoned rural economist Phil Journeaux says.

He calculates the policy will costing the NZ economy more than a trillion dollars by 2050 and shave billions a year off income.

AgFirst agricultural economist Journeaux said he has become increasingly alarmed about a failure to acknowledge what the aspirations to lower carbon emissions will really mean in economic terms to not only the rural economy but to all NZ.

Journeaux spent much of his career as an economist with the Primary Industries Ministry. . . 

Meaty topics for Fonterra meeting – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra farmer-shareholders have good reasons to make their way to the Lichfield processing site in South Waikato for the annual meeting of the co-operative on November 8.

Top of the list for interest will be updates from chairman John Monaghan and interim chief executive Miles Hurrell on the searching review of all Fonterra’s investments, major assets, joint ventures and partnerships.

That was promised and began after Fonterra announced its first-ever loss in mid-September, for the 2017-18 financial year.

Word on the future of its Beingmate shareholding and distribution agreement and the China Farms operation will be keenly anticipated. . . 

West Coast farmers doing it tough, as payout lags behind competitors

Farmers on the West Coast have had the lowest payout in the country for four years.  West Coast reporter JOANNE CARROLL talks to those doing it tough and what Westland Milk Products is doing to close the gap.

When Kokatahi farmer Terry Sheridan began in the dairy industry 42 years ago he didn’t expect to be still getting up at 4am to milk cows when he was 72.

“[Years ago] when farmers were at the end of their career, they sold up and bought a house off farm, had some money left over to do world trips. Now in Westland, you leave with nothing. Absolutely nothing. We can’t even afford a contract milker today. That’s why I’m out there. And I don’t get a day off. You don’t expect this at our age,” he said.  . . 

New methane emissions metric proposed for climate change policy:

A new paper published today has outlined a better way to think about how methane and other gases contribute to greenhouse gas emissions budgets. This is an important step towards evaluating the warming from methane emissions when developing strategies to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“Current climate change policy suggests a ‘one size fits all’ approach to dealing with emissions,” says Professor Dave Frame, head of the Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington.  “But there are two distinct types of emissions, and to properly address climate change and create fair and accurate climate change policy we must treat these two groups differently.”

The two types of emissions that contribute to climate change can be divided into ‘long-lived’ and ‘short-lived’ pollutants. . . 

NZ meat trade to Europe and UK faces potential logjam – Gerard Hutching:

New Zealand’s valuable lamb exports to the United Kingdom and Europe could get caught up in a major traffic snarl-up this Easter.

The UK is due to exit from the EU on March 29, just three weeks before Easter when volumes of Kiwi lamb jump 10 times for the festive season.

But New Zealand’s red meat sector Brexit representative Jeff Grant said the uncertainty over what sort of a deal the UK negotiates threatens the smooth flow of trade into the United Kingdom and Europe. . . 

Bull biosecurity at breeding time:

 As another cattle breeding season gets underway, farmers are being reminded to follow best-practice biosecurity management to protect their dairy and beef herds from Mycoplasma bovis.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand General Manager South Island John Ladley says farmers should ensure any bulls they use this season are from a known source and have up-to-date animal health and NAIT records.

Bulls should have been quarantined after purchase and any animal health issues dealt with before they are mixed with home stock. . .


Rural round-up

October 6, 2017

Methane, nitrous oxide levels can be reduced – Nicole Sharp:

Methane and nitrous oxide levels can be reduced on-farm and mitigation options are already available for farmers.

AgResearch science impact leader Robyn Dynes spoke to a group of rural professionals in Invercargill recently about what mitigation options were available to reduce greenhouse gases.

Methane is produced by cows when feed is digested by rumen microbes and 87%-92% of it is produced in the rumen.

Four options either available to farmers at present or being worked on would help reduce methane levels, Dr Dynes said. . . 

Focus goes on safety – Yvonne O’Hara:

Central Otago wool harvesting workers and contractors have contributed to an industry-first online health and safety education resource.

Members of the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association’s ”Tahi Ngatahi” working party were in the region last week to hold three focus groups to ”flesh out” content for the series of short and sharp videos and other information for the online units.

The group hopes the resource will be launched in April or May next year. . . 

Westland shareholders back governance changes:

Westland Milk Products shareholders today strongly endorsed a package of changes designed to improve and update the co-operative’s governance.

Westland Chairman Pete Morrison said, “Shareholders at today’s Special General Meeting in Hokitika approved the changes with 93.5% percent in favour. This will ‘future proof’ the structure and tone of the governance of our co-operative, and better equip Westland for the opportunities and challenges ahead of us.”

Morrison said one of the key recommendations in the report, a programme to identify and upskill potential shareholder directors, was well received, with feedback from shareholders during the consultation and at the SGM emphasising that continuity and succession planning was important. . . 

Dairy sector strong as it gazes at uncertain future:

Trans Tasman Political Pulse

INSIGHTS ABOUT THE NEWS – The dairy sector may be facing a future filled with political uncertainty, but the Fonterra result shows it is working from a strong base with potential to grow further and strengthen the wider economy.

As reported in Trans Tasman’s sister publication The Main Report Farming Alert, Fonterra delivered a solid result, marked by foodservice sales growth into China. Its returns ensure farmers’ protability is back close to long-run averages of $990/ha, with a further lift of protability projected in the current season.

The dairy industry is a vital engine for the economy, but it needs solid Govt backing, particularly as it competes in global markets. Currently, 87% of all NZ dairy exports are restricted by quotas or tariffs of more than 10%. . . 

B+LNZ and MIA concerned by UK media reports of a EU-UK deal on WTO quotas:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the New Zealand Meat Industry Association are concerned by reports that the EU and UK have reached a “deal” to split the EU’s WTO tariff rate quotas following Brexit.

“Given the importance of the European Union and United Kingdom for New Zealand’s sheep and beef exports, stability and certainty is vital,” said James Parsons, Chairman of Beef + Lamb New Zealand. “The tariff rate quotas form part of the EU’s WTO commitments and are legally binding rights and obligations. . . 

PGG Wrightson Plants its Future Growth With Promapp:

A PGG Wrightson, a New Zealand Stock Exchange listed company and a leading provider of products, services and solutions to growers, farmers and processors, has announced that it is now deploying Promapp business process management software across its recently expanded Retail and Water division.

In a strategy designed to support the organisation’s ongoing focus on effective service delivery, business improvement and risk management, Promapp will provide the organisation’s staff with a centralised repository for storing and managing critical processes as well as an enhanced facility for reporting on the status of processes, improvement actions and risks. . . 

No automatic alt text available.

Farmer – I”m more than you think: mechanic, meteorologist, scientist, machine operator, financial planner, agronomist, computer operator, animal caretaker, family.


NZ to lead methane emissions research

December 14, 2012

New Zealand is to join the Climate and Clean Air Coalition a new initiative focussed on climate pollutants such as black carbon, and greenhouse gases including HFCs and methane that have potent but short-lived effects on climate, human health and agriculture productivity.

Climate Change Issue Minister Tim Groser says:

“This new group is not a substitute for action on the real climate change problem, carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for around a hundred years,” says Mr Groser. “But moving quickly to reduce emissions from short lived climate pollutants is part of a coherent strategy to tackle the challenge of climate change.

“The Coalition is focussed on reducing methane emissions from industry which complements work that New Zealand is leading in reducing methane emissions from agriculture. We have been asked to lead an agriculture initiative in the CCAC that will add to our work in the highly successful Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases initiated by New Zealand in 2009.”

Mr Groser says that international action on climate change requires effort on multiple fronts. Work that the CCAC is doing, along with work in the Major Economies Forum, the Global Research Alliance, and the reform or fossil fuel subsidies that New Zealand is coordinating will add value to global agreements negotiated under the UNFCCC.

“New Zealand is active internationally on all these fronts. These efforts demonstrate on-going action on climate mitigation during the transition period to the post-2020 global climate agreement that will be negotiated by 2015.

“We have a long-term and coherent strategy in place and we are on track to deliver what most New Zealanders have voted for – a balanced approach to climate change, playing our part while avoiding imposing excess costs on households and businesses while the Government focuses on jobs and strengthening our recovery,” Mr Groser says.

The CCAC is a United States initiative and the invitation to lead it recognises New Zealand’s strength in agriculture and agricultural research.

Most of our emissions are from livestock so it makes sense to put more effort into research in that area which could not only reduce emissions but increase agricultural productivity.


Researchers give methane a curry up

July 25, 2010

Newcastle University researchers have found that coriander and turmeric – spices used to flavour curries – can reduce the amount of methane produced by bacteria in a sheep’s stomach by up to 40pc.

Working a bit like an antibiotic, the spices were found to kill the methane-producing ‘bad’ bacteria in the animal’s gut while allowing the ‘good’ bacteria to flourish.

The findings are part of an on-going study by Newcastle University research student Mohammad Mehedi Hasan and Dr Abdul Shakoor Chaudhry – the most recent part of which is published this week in the Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 2010.

Mehedi explained: “Spices have long been used safely by humans to kill bacteria and treat a variety of ailments – coriander seeds, for example, are often prescribed for stomach complaints while turmeric and cloves are strong antiseptics.

“Methane is a major contributor to global warming and the slow digestive system of ruminant animals such as cows and sheep makes them a key producer of the gas.

“What my research found was that certain spices contain properties which make this digestive process more efficient so producing less waste – in this case, methane.”

It sounds good in theory but there’s a long way between what works in a lab and what can be applied in the field – literally in this case.

Can coriander and turmeric be grown by the thousands of hectares in the soils and climates in which grass grows well?

If it does, will sheep eat it?

Will they get the nutrients they need from it?

What will eating spices do to the flavour of their meat and milk?

That said, reducing methane emissions in animals relies on science. Reductions of up to 40 per cent in the lab make persevering with the study to see if if can be applied in the fields and paddocks worthwhile.

Hat Tip: Interest.co.nz


Aussie farmers fight methane claims

October 9, 2009

Australian farmers are disputing methane measurements after scientists discovered significant variations in gas produced by individual animals.

Farmers, fearful of the costs greenhouse gas emissions trading will impose on their businesses, are demanding more accurate measurement of emissions before the ETS is brought in.

Beverley Henry, manager for environment, sustainability and climate change with Meat & Livestock Australia, said current estimates were based on livestock overseas, with the actual emissions likely to vary depending on diet and animal type, as well as other factors.

“At the moment, we don’t reflect those in Australia’s national accounts very well,” Dr Henry said.

“We need to get better quantification of the emissions as well as an understanding of how much mitigation is possible.”

Australia boasts 26.81 million head of beef and dairy cattle, and 69.2 million sheep, so even a small error would quickly compound in any attempt to measure the total greenhouse gas expelled by the animals.

New Zealand has 33.14 million sheep and 40.7 million beef cattle and 5.6 million dairy cows. 

If individual animals produce varying amounts of gas, and if the differences are greater on different diets in Australia then it’s probable there would be similar variations here.

That suggests changing what sheep and cattle eat could help reduce emissions.

It also calls in to question the accuracy of claims about how much methane our stock produces.

And if we can’t rely on estimates about how much gas the animals produce in the first place, how can we measure any changes?

Hat Tip: Trans Tasman.


Fish oil cuts the gas

April 3, 2009

If this had been published a couple of days later I’d have put it down to April Fools Day but I think its genuine.

Scientists have found that fish oil reduces burps  in cows.

Researchers from University College Dublin found however, by adding two per cent of fish oil to the animal’s feed the amount of methane is reduced by around a fifth.

The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oils can also help the heart and circulatory system and improve meat quality.

Speaking at the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Harrogate, Dr Lorraine Lillis, one of the researchers, said the study could help the agriculture industry cut emissions.

She said: “The fish oil affects the methane-producing bacteria in the rumen part of the cow’s gut, leading to reduced emissions.

Adding fish oil to feed for cattle in feedlots probably isn’t difficult, it may take a bit of ingenuity to get it into cattle which graze pasture as they do in New Zealand. It would also have to be done reasonably cheaply because added costs will be resisted by farmers and consumers.

Hat Tip: Fairfacts Media by email


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