Rural round-up

January 18, 2018

Mycoplasma bovis is unlikely to go away – Keith Woodford:

It now seems likely that Mycoplasma bovis is in New Zealand to stay. Just like the rest of the world, we must learn how to live with it. We do not yet have to give up totally on hopes of eradication, but eradication is looking more and more unlikely.

The control program has suffered from incorrect information and poor communication, and there is much to be learned from that. These information flaws have affected farmer and public attitudes. In some cases, this has created additional and unnecessary stress, and unfair criticism of individuals.

However, the probability is that these flaws have not affected the success or failure of the eradication program. The chances are that Mycoplasma bovis has been here for some years, in which case eradication was always going to be impossible. . .

Plants dying as drought threatens vegetable and fruit supplies to shoppers – Pat Deavoll:

Droughts are threatening the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables on shopping shelves and storing water in dams would rectify this, says Horticulture New Zealand.

“Relying on water to fall from the sky simply isn’t enough,” said HortNZ chief executive Mike Chapman. “HortNZ believes we should be more proactive in capturing and storing that water to ensure sustainability of supply during times of drought.”

Chapman said the dry conditions of early summer were putting fruit and vegetable growers under pressure to the point where some of them were having to make decisions about which plants and trees they would plant or harvest. . . 

Kiwi-born Nasa scientist for CSST – Pam Jones:

An award-winning Nasa scientist has been appointed director of research for the Centre for Space Science Technology (CSST).

The appointment of Delwyn Moller was announced yesterday.

Dr Moller was born and raised in the Waikato, studied at the University of Auckland and went on to design and implement technology for Nasa space missions. She will be moving to Central Otago from Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

CSST chief executive Steve Cotter said Dr Moller’s contribution would be invaluable to CSST and to New Zealand as a whole. . . 

Ask a farmer, we don’t hate you – Pete Fitzherbert:

It must be so easy for the average New Zealander to just start again at the end of one year and begin another – make some resolutions, forget about them within the week, and then if you are feeling a little overweight just go down to the food court at the local mall and problem solved, because compared to the fatty at the smorgasbord you are an athlete!

It’s fair to say it is not as easy for your average farmer. Our seasons roll over without ever having a definitive start or finish.

So, what kind of New Year resolutions or hopes could we have? The best we can do sometimes is hope for the best, plan for the worst and the rest of the time play it as it lays.

Maybe we could hope the next year brings the chance to take off a couple of those public holidays.

Maybe hope for a totally average year in every way, or hope that we can farm, just farm, to the best the season presents us with without the public scrutiny that has begun to develop around agriculture.

Could you imagine a return to a world where the only people that gave dairy farmers grief were sheep farmers and bank managers? . . 

Fonterra partners with Alibaba’s Hema Fresh to launch fresh milk product into China:

Fonterra has launched a new fresh milk product in China in partnership with Hema Fresh, Alibaba’s innovative new retail concept which combines traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping with a digital experience.

The new Daily Fresh milk range is now available in Hema’s 14 stores in Shanghai and Suzhou in 750mL bottles, sourced directly from Fonterra’s farm hub in Hebei province. The product boasts unique product labels to match each day of the week in order to emphasise freshness, with stock being replenished overnight ready for each new day.

Initial volumes are currently around three metric tonnes daily, with plans to scale-up over time and expand with the retailer as it rapidly grows its footprint of stores across China. . . 

A blast from the Haast – NZ’s most isolated town – Sarah Harris:

Of the 240 people who call Haast home there’s one policeman, 13 students at the only school, one electrician who is trying to retire and no plumber. If one comes to town residents chase him down the road.

There’s also no doctor – one comes once a fortnight. If there’s a medicial emergency a helicopter can land on the school field.

A drive to the closest supermarket is two hours away and the nearest hospital in Greymouth is a four-hour drive or 90 minute flight. . . 

Can we keep our country shows alive? – Alex Druce:

IT’s been nearly two years since Wingham last held a country show and organisers are determined to get it right.

“We had to go back to the drawing board, and we’ve got some pretty exciting new things,” says press officer Elaine Turner. 

“For starters, there’s the piggy races. And the demolition derby is going to be on again too . Everyone loves that.” . . 


Water storage is the green answer to food shortages

January 18, 2018

HorticultureNZ says drought is threatening food supply:

Water is vital for plants and trees to grow and New Zealand needs to better mitigate droughts that threaten our domestic supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

“The dry conditions we have seen through early summer are putting fruit and vegetable growers under pressure to the point where some are having to make decisions about which plants and trees they may not be able to plant or harvest, and which may need to be left to die as scarce water supply is used to keep other plants alive,” Chapman says.

“No water means plants die and as a result, fresh fruit and vegetables are unavailable and prices go up because demand is higher than supply.

“Relying on water to fall from the sky simply isn’t enough. HortNZ believes we should be more proactive in capturing and storing that water to ensure sustainability of supply during times of drought.

“The best way to ensure adequate water supply to irrigate fruit and vegetable plants is to store water in dams. Dams also benefit streams and rivers by reducing flood risk and keeping flows up during dry periods, which protects aquatic life.

“There are benefits to every New Zealander from having a reliable water supply. But there are inconsistent policies across central and local government when it comes to water, land use, preparing for climate change goals, and community needs. We believe these should be looked at holistically.

“On the one hand the government wants a  Zero Carbon Act and to plant one billion more trees, but on the other hand, local authorities are increasingly putting pressure on water supplies, limiting water access for irrigation to grow food. There needs to be a wider national approach to these issues and support and recognition for regions that are addressing them as communities.

“For example, Horticulture New Zealand supports the Waimea Dam in the Tasman District and the proposal for it to be a joint venture with the territorial authorities. This is because there are broad community benefits from the dam in an area that is growing in population, and therefore, has a greater need for water supply for people as well as plants.

“The benefits of the dam include water for food security and primary production, security of water supply for urban water users, improved ecosystem health of the Waimea River, recreational benefits, regional economy benefits, business development and expansion, and more jobs.

“The Waimea Dam is the answer to everyone’s water needs in the district.”

Horticulture New Zealand’s submission on the Waimea Dam proposal for governance and funding can be found here

The emotive anti-farming green lobby paints irrigation as bad for the environment but it can be, and often is, good.

Irrigation is like precision rainfall – applied where and when it’s needed.

Storing excess water in times of flood and high river flows to use when there’s not enough rain ticks the economic, environmental and social boxes.

It ensures minimum flows can be maintained to protect water life, it allows plant growth to protect soil from erosion, it provides secure jobs and enables food to be grown during droughts.

Without irrigation farmers and horticulturists are at the mercy of the weather. When it’s dry they produce less food and as the supply drops the price increases which hits the poorest hardest.

There’s irony that many of those opposed to irrigation which enables the growth of fruit and vegetables are often the ones making the most noise about growing obesity.

More irrigation enables the production of food including fruit and vegetables which ought to form the basis of every-day diets. Without irrigation these foods become more expensive leaving the poor no choice but to purchase cheaper, less nutritious and more energy-dense food.

The anti-farming lobby must remove their blinkers and open their minds to the fact that water storage is the green answer to the problems of food shortages, poor diets and soil and water degradation.


Rural round-up

January 13, 2018

Seasonal labour a vital ingredient – Mike Chapman:

Research New Zealand recently conducted a survey reporting on the impacts of the RSE scheme, where it has directly enabled:

– The area under cultivation to expand consistently over the last three years.

– The employment of more permanent and seasonal New Zealand workers.

– A more stable workforce, with better and more productive workers.

RSE workers supplement other seasonal employees, and account for roughly one in five of all seasonal workers across the country. In areas where unemployed is very low, more RSE workers are employed, while in areas with higher unemployment, fewer RSE workers are employed. . .

Storm helped cure dry spell for Waikato farmers – Ruby Nyika:

The storm that battered the North Island last week left lasting damage for some.

But for farmers, the heavy dump of rain was magic.

The lengthy dry spell that preceded it had been stressful.

I think it’s been a bit of a relief for every farmer,” Waikato Federated Farmers president Andrew McGiven said. “Not for the poor townies having their holidays, but for farmers it’s been a relief to get some moisture back in the ground.” . .

MPI and dairy industry extend milk testing programme for Mycoplasma bovis:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its dairy industry partners have decided to extend the current Mycoplasma bovis milk testing underway in Canterbury, Otago and Southland into a national milk surveillance programme.

While there is no indication that the disease is present beyond the areas currently identified, checking for other possible regional clusters is essential to building a complete picture of the disease in New Zealand.

The programme will involve testing 3 milk samples from every dairy farm. One sample will be taken from bulk milk as part of the regular sampling process at milk collection. Farmers will also be required to provide 2 samples from ‘discard milk’ (milk unsuitable for collection, for example, from cows with mastitis). Mycoplasma bovis is more easily identified in milk taken from otherwise sick animals, which makes testing of the discard milk a valuable surveillance tool. . .

Concern about cattle disease in Hawes Bay – Jill Galloway:

Manawatū and Tararua dairy farmers are getting anxious about future outbreaks of Mycoplasma bovis after the disease was confirmed in Hawke’s Bay.

Farmers are looking more closely at the source of their feed supplies and where they graze their young stock.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman, Murray Holdaway said he hoped the Ministry for Primary Industries would be able to tell farmers more in the coming weeks.

“Not as many cows go to [Hawke’s Bay] as there used to be six to eight years ago, but it is always an alternative if things get really tight on the feed front, here.” . . 

Trans-Tasman war of words over ‘mānuka’ honey gets stickier :

Australia’s honey industry is calling for an armistice in the ongoing battle over use of the term “mānuka honey”, after Tasmanian producers claimed they produced it first.

The Australian Mānuka Honey Association says New Zealand apiarists should join forces with their Ocker cousins to peacefully assert Antipodean dominance over the global market.

Mānuka honey is produced by European bees feasting on the pollen of the plant Leptospermum scoparium – known here by its Māori name, mānuka. . . 

Celebrity farmer suggests badger caused death of sheep on viral social media post :

A celebrity farmer has caused a stir on social media after suggesting badgers killed his sheep.

Martin Irvine, who has appeared in BBC documentary This Farming Life, posted a photo on social media of his dead sheep with a gory wound.

Mr Irvine wrote on Facebook: “Badgers decided to have this ewe for Christmas dinner, she’s still alive for now. About time we were allowed to control this destructive vermin!” . .

Urban sprawl threatens food security

November 3, 2017

Horticulture NZ sees a perfect storm brewing for fresh fruit and vegetable supply:

A perfect storm is brewing for New Zealand’s supply of healthy fresh fruit and vegetables that could see us unable to feed our growing population with domestically grown produce, a report from Horticulture New Zealand says.

In releasing the report, New Zealand domestic vegetable production: the growing story, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says it is time to take stock and develop a national food security strategy.

“Our research shows that New Zealanders not only want to know where their fruit and vegetables come from, they want to buy New Zealand grown. This report looks at the factors that will impact security of supply. Our current consumption levels of fresh produce show that net production is already below what is required for domestic consumption, meaning we can expect food shortages if we can’t get that balance of supply from imports,” Chapman says.

“Prime fruit and vegetable growing land is being squeezed by rapid growth in towns and cities and high demand for new housing. Changes in weather patterns and extreme unseasonal weather events are becoming more frequent and damaging, impacting the supply and, consequently, the price of fresh, healthy food.

“Things are changing fast, so we need to look closely at our domestic food supply and be sure that town, city and regional planning decisions are seen in the context of impacting the whole of New Zealand’s food supply.”

The report looks at domestic vegetable supply, particularly of what would be considered staple vegetables, to examine all the factors that go into getting these vegetables from the field to the plate. It examines the challenges to supply, through to what is driving demand and price.

“Information and evidence are required to enable good decisions about New Zealand’s domestic food supply and we are keen to engage the new Government with our call for a national food security strategy,” Chapman says.

“Domestic supply is not being viewed as a national system, with identified strengths and weaknesses, to give New Zealanders continued access to all the fresh fruit and vegetables they need in the future. Local, district and regional decision-making doesn’t look beyond its borders. While this is appropriate in the context of their planning, consideration is not given to national food supply when land is zoned for housing, or when water is allocated.

“We need to future-proof the resources required to supply food to our growing population, and this report looks at this with the backdrop of global megatrends, including rapidly changing consumer demands, growing populations, urbanisation and the impact of life-style blocks on horticulture, emerging technology and the emphasis on sustainability.

“This report doesn’t answer all the questions. It provides a snapshot of domestic vegetable production to start the conversation about food security in New Zealand and is part of a body of research we have planned to ensure food security is taken seriously,” Chapman says.

The report is here.

One cause of housing shortages is restrictions on urban limits but unfettered housing sub-division on productive land could lead to shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables and threaten food security.

You can’t blame horticulturists who work out they’d get more for selling their land than they can earn from growing produce on it.

But planning rules dictate what can happen where already. Should they be applied to stop housing subdivisions sprawling onto productive horticultural land?

Rural round-up

September 29, 2017

NZ beef prices drop marginally lower with further downward pressure expected – industry report:

A strong New Zealand dollar and declining US imported beef prices have seen New Zealand beef prices drop marginally lower over the past quarter. And further downward pressure on beef prices is expected as the year progresses, with increased Japanese tariffs on frozen beef imports creating additional headwinds for Kiwi exporters, according to Rabobank’s latest Beef Quarterly report. . .

Synlait Receives CFDA Registration of the A2 Milk Company’s Infant Formula:

Synlait has received registration which will allow exports of The a2 Milk Company Limited’s China label infant formula to China to continue.

All manufacturers of infant formula are required to register brands and recipes with the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) in order to import products into China, through traditional import channels, from 1 January 2018. . .

GlobalDairyTrade beefs up offering with multi-seller pools of US lactose products – Rebecca Howard

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group’s GlobalDairyTrade platform, which has moved more than US$20 billion in dairy products since it launched in 2008, is looking to broaden its offering to meet customer needs.

“We are continually innovating and always looking for these expansion ideas,” Eric Hansen, director of GlobalDairyTrade, told BusinessDesk. . .

Science And Innovation Key to Farming’s Future, Says Dairynz Candidate:

Sustainability and scientific innovation is high on the agenda of Waikato dairy farmer Grant Coombes.

As a candidate for the DairyNZ Board of Directors, Coombes says it’s time for farmers to embrace new technology and innovation as a way forward, to tackle issues such as environmental sustainability. . .

App to Combat Kauri Dieback Disease – an Environmental Game-changer:

There is a game-changing tool on the way in the war against kauri dieback disease which is having a devastating effect on New Zealand’s native forests.

Thanks to the 2016 WWF-New Zealand Conservation Innovation Awards, sustainable land management group Groundtruth is developing a Stop Kauri Dieback app that will support community engagement and management of kauri dieback. The fungus-like disease with no known cure is killing kauri forests in Northland, and kauri could become extinct in some locations without urgent action. . .

Growers of NZ goes live on Instagram:

Global interest in the story behind healthy, fresh food has inspired Horticulture New Zealand to start an Instagram page where people can better get to know the fruit and vegetable growers of New Zealand, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

Growers of New Zealand (@growersofnz) went live yesterday and already has sparked interest from New Zealand and around the world. Each week a grower will be profiled at work, and the seasonal crop they have been working with will be highlighted in a recipe. . .

Hangawera Station Hereford bull sale ready for auction:

Tainui Group Holding’s annual Hangawera Station Hereford sale is set to go with over 180 pure-bred, vaccinated and tested bulls being auctioned on Monday 2nd October.

TGH’s Primary Industries Manager Mark Jackways says they expect a solid auction turnout, much like previous years, given strong market demand for quality bulls, as dairy herds re-stock after a tight couple of years. . .

Punishing tax won’t clean up water

September 12, 2017

Andrew Dickens talks sense and science on the water tax:

I think his son is over-generalising about older farmers who don’t care, but he’s right that farmers are doing a lot to improve practices and that water quality is improving as a result of their efforts.

He’s also right that there’s no point taking money from farmers that they could – and most are – using to improve the environment.

And he’s right that a punishing tax won’t clean waterways.

Horticulture New Zealand says science and technology will:

Using science and technology to inform sustainable farming practices and reduce adverse environmental impacts will have better outcomes than taxes will, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

Reacting to today’s announcement from the National Party that it will invest $20 million in what was the Sustainable Farming Fund and is now the Future of Farming Fund, Chapman says this will do more in perpetuity than an arbitrary water tax.

“National made this announcement on a horticulture property near Levin where science and technology are being used to inform and enhance the environmental sustainability of growing food,” Chapman says.

“One of the Sustainable Farming Fund projects Don’t Muddy the Water has a focus on keeping soil in the paddock and out of the waterways, this is a win for the environment and for farmers and growers.

“This research will quantify the effectiveness of sediment control on cultivated land and is an example of working proactively with regional councils.

“This property is also part of a three-year Freshwater Improvement Fund project: Protecting our Groundwater – Measuring and Managing Diffuse Nutrient Losses from Cropping Systems.

“Environmental sustainability is paramount as it relates to freshwater and horticulture growers are very aware of this. This project will give us really useful information to target on-farm management practices to meet environmental expectations.

“Ultimately, we are looking to give growers the tools to manage and reduce their environmental footprint and long-term, robust data and science will allow us to do that.

“Food consumers world-wide are increasingly wanting information about the environmental impacts of the food supply chain, particularly when it comes to healthy food such as fresh fruit and vegetables.

“Our growers are mainly intergenerational family businesses with a lot of collective knowledge about cropping systems and the environment. Working with them, rather than punishing them with taxes that are not even related to good environmental outcomes, will have the most positive impact on reaching whatever targets a new government sets.

“Horticulture New Zealand supports sound, consistent water policy to support efficient use of water and we have issued our own such policy (available here).”


Rural round-up

September 2, 2017

10 reasons to questions Labour’s water tax – Mike Chapman:

1 – There is no detail, it is uncertain and its keeps on changing. The only certainty is there will be a water tax if Labour are elected.

2 – No one in New Zealand pays for water. What we pay for is the infrastructure to deliver water and for water treatment. Legally, you can’t be charged for water. For example, one rural bore to draw water from could cost around $200,000 to put in, and that’s before it’s operational – it then costs to run it.

3 – Only rural businesses will pay the water tax; urban businesses will not. This means it is incorrect to portray this tax as being on large commercial water users. If your farm or processing plant is on urban water supply, you’ll only pay for infrastructure but, if your farm or processing plant is taking rural water, you’ll pay for infrastructure plus a water tax. Global drinks manufacturer Coca-Cola is on Auckland’s town supply, and so will get an advantage over rural water bottlers for example. . .

How to save wool? Look to the future – Andy Ramsden:

The way to lift wool prices out of their doldrums is to develop products the future will want, writes Andy Ramsden.

How do we double the value of wool returns to the grower?

Lifting wool returns significantly requires a shift in the way we think about wool. We need a new model that puts the consumer’s needs first and works back to breed to create a product tailored for that specific market.

We need to think, how do we double the value of wool? As opposed to a slight shift, we should ask – how do we go from $3 to $7/kg for coarse wool? We need to get back to a premium value, where the pride in producing a good wool product comes back. . .

Otago century orchard a good keeper – Rob Tipa:

Rob Tipa meets a fourth-generation orchardist still picking the fruit from trees planted by his great-grandfather 100 years ago.

If there is one single factor that links Kiwi families who have passed farmland down from one generation to the next for 100 years or more, it is sustainability.

For Central Otago fruit-grower Simon Webb, his measure of sustainability is that he is still harvesting and selling fruit from a few old varieties of apples and pears planted by his great-grandfather more than a century ago. . .

Award winning moova keeps calves high and dry – Rexene Hawes:

Newborn calves are being kept high and dry thanks to a bit of clever innovation.

The Moova calf transporter, is meeting animal welfare needs and also health and safety for the farmer.

The idea came from Taupo farmer Kim Caldwell, who wanted an easier way to transport calves, and load and unload them into a trailer rather than bending over. . .

Farmer gains advice, expertise when judges visit:

Having a group of people of differing expertise visit her farm and offer advice was extremely valuable for 2017 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards finalist Nic Leary.

She’s in charge of Tarata Farm – a leased 500ha, 4400-stock-unit sheep and beef property west of Raetihi – run in conjunction with another family property.

“The judging panel that visited Tarata included two farmers – two different farmers in terms of the type of property they farm, where they farm and what they focused on – as well as a rural banker and a regional council land management person. . .

Fresh grass or fresh ideas, which will secure New Zealand’s future – James Wilkes:

New Zealand’s lush green countryside and its free-range farming system has generated and created the nation’s wealth and whilst that system is now stretched to capacity, it has positioned the farming sector well for the disruptive rigors of the 21st Century…and it’s mostly a great story.

New Zealand farmers have done some heavy lifting over the country’s history and are held in high regard by global peers. Townies and those in professional services please take note. Someone has to do something for you to make a living. Thank goodness for farmers. What would the cash flow and P & L performance look like in many professional services firms without them?

Actually what would New Zealand look like without them? Prosperity and productivity would be further challenged and whilst Sir Paul Callaghan famously suggested getting off the grass, he also noted the country would be much poorer without Fonterra and the dairy sector. Like most things in life, finding the balance is key. . .

Keeping ‘natural capital’ intact – Bala Tikkisetty:

One teaspoon of soil contains more living organisms than there are people in the world. Without this biological diversity there would be no life on earth.

In addition to providing habitat for billions of organisms, soil acts as a water filter and growing medium. It contributes to biodiversity, solid waste treatment, acts as a filter for wastewater and supports agriculture.

Unlocking the secrets of this complex chemical, physical and biological powerhouse – a powerful source of ‘natural capital’ — has had a huge impact on human life. . .

Who owns Australia’s biggest dairy operations?

As a battle for the assets of Murray Goulburn heats up, we list who is behind Australia’s largest dairy operations. . .

%d bloggers like this: