Rural round-up

April 12, 2017

NZ lamb shortage drives up prices :

A drop in slaughter rates in New Zealand, the world’s largest exporter of lamb meat, has pushed up prices to multi-year highs in export markets.

Benchmark frozen lamb prices for legs, french racks, forequarters and flaps all lifted in March, according to AgriHQ’s latest monthly sheep & beef report.

Demand for lamb in overseas markets is coming at a time when supplies are lower than normal in New Zealand as good grass growth prompts farmers to retain their stock for longer to increase their weights.The latest lamb slaughter data for New Zealand shows the lamb kill in the fortnight to March 11 was 11 per cent below the same period a year earlier and 18 percent weaker than the five-year average, AgriHQ said. . . 

Synlait transforms from bulk powders to infant formula – Keith Woodford:

Synlait is currently undergoing a strategic restructure from a producer of bulk milk powders to a producer of consumer-packaged infant formula. These investments will make Synlait the dominant New Zealand producer of infant formula.

So far, Synlait are still in the early stages of the transformation, but with a current construction contract with Tetra Pak to double their wet-kitchen capacity to 80,000 tonnes per annum, plus a foreshadowed announcement about doubling canning capacity to 60,000 tonnes, it is ‘all systems go’.

It is only a few months since Synlait was focusing in their public communications on building a fourth dryer on a new yet to be found site. . . 

NZ cow prices rise to record on tepid start to slaughter season – Tina Morrison

New Zealand’s cow slaughter season has got off to its slowest start in five years, pushing prices for stock to record highs for this time of year.

Just 41,789 cows were slaughtered in the fortnight to March 11, the lowest level for this period since 2012, according to AgriHQ. That pushed up the price meat processors paid for stock to record levels for this time of year, with the North Island price last week reaching $4.50 per kilogram, and the South Island price hitting $4.20/kg, AgriHQ said. . . 

Scottish farmer Euan McLeod crosses the world to chase a dream – Andrea Fox:

Thanks to New Zealand’s much-envied farming career pathway, a young Scot is realising his dream, writes Andrea Fox.

When young Euan McLeod was bitten by the farming bug back home in Scotland he became a bricklayer.

Getting a trade seemed the only option to a teenager who jumped at chances to work weekends and school holidays on a farm but without family farm roots couldn’t see how to get ahead, recalls McLeod, Waikato 2017 dairy manager of the year. . .

North Canterbury farmers make the best of life after earthquake – Tracy Neal:

North Canterbury farmers Bob and Vicki Todhunter lost their 1902 villa in November’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake when a fault ruptured beneath it.

It was the centrepiece of the 1100-hectare farm Ngaio Downs, near Clarence, which is also now part of an altered landscape.

They are among the hundreds waiting on insurance assessments and pay-outs, but they have moved ahead under their own steam. They are now living in their shearing quarters, converted into a stylish home, landscaped with the boulders that smashed down the hills behind them. . . 

Vet practice redevelops site -Sally Rae:

When Clutha Vets senior vet John Smart joined Clutha Vets as a young graduate back in 1976, it was a very different place to what it is now.

The business employed two vets in Balclutha and one in Milton, with a total of three other staff.

Forty-one years later, Mr Smart is still there but staff numbers have grown to 20 vets and a total staff of between 45 and 50.

This month, Clutha Vets will celebrate a recent $3million redevelopment of its Wilson Rd premises in Balclutha.

The official opening is on April 20.

The last upgrade was in 1994-95. At one stage during the most recent rebuild, Mr Smart worked out only one more staff member was needed for it to have tripled in size since that last redevelopment. Obviously, the building had been ”bursting at the seams” while, cosmetically, it was also looking a little tired, he said. . . 

Is Mike Joy a biased scientist? – Doug Edmeades:

It might have made good TV but it was, from my perspective at least, bad science. I’m referring to those pictures of Dr Mike Joy, a fresh water ecologist from Massey University, standing in the dry bed of Selwyn River lamenting about the poor state of New Zealand’s rivers.

Those pictures and his words perpetuate what appears to be his considered opinion that, when it comes to water quantity and quality, all roads lead to any combination of nitrogen, dairying and irrigation – intensification of dairying full stop.

From my reading and understanding of the science of water quality, noting that this is not my specialty, it seems to me that Dr Joy’s opinions on this subject are biased. I know some water quality experts who agree with this assessment. . . 

Orange roughy’s redemption celebrated at book launch:

The remarkable turnaround of New Zealand’s orange roughy fishery, long-hailed as an example of over-fishing, has been detailed in a book to be launched tonight in Wellington.

The book Roughy on the Rise was written by Tim Pankhurst, former editor of the Dominion Post and now Chief Executive of the fishing industry’s peak body, Seafood New Zealand.

It tells the story of the decline of the stocks by over fishing in the 1980s to the fisheries management that, last year, saw the fishery gain the global gold standard of sustainability by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). . . 


Rural round-up

September 26, 2016

A woman’s influence can help make NZ’s primary industry great:

While the boardrooms of the various primary sectors are crowded and still male-centric, a natural flair for networking and the rise of new technologies like social media are contributing to the growing influence of women in the industry.

Finalist in the Women of Influence awards for 2016 and director of Grass Roots Media in Feilding, Chelsea Millar, says one of the biggest questions for women who haven’t started a career, or who may have paused to have a family, is figuring out where they fit in the primary industry picture.

“I think that women are key decision-makers on the farms and in the businesses of the primary sector, and they can benefit from understanding that they bring a different perspective to the business. We are living in a world where producers have to be business people, and where technology has reduced the physical demands that previously characterised primary work – so there’s room for everybody.”  . . 

From the Lip – swimming in murky waters – Jamie Mackay:

There’s no doubting the most contentious issue in farming is water; not only the storage and harvesting of this most precious of commodities but, perhaps more importantly, the maintenance of its quality.

To that end, on The Country, we hosted the Great Water Quality Debate last week. In the red corner we had the controversial and outspoken water scientist, Dr. Mike Joy from Massey University, and in the blue corner it was Jacqueline Rowarth, a Professor of Agribusiness from Waikato University.

In conjunction with the on-air radio debate we ran a poll on our website asking, “Is intensive dairy farming degrading our waterways?” At the time of writing, from 650 respondents, 74% said yes, 22% no and 4% did not know. . . 

Network fills gap for rural women Pam Tipa:

Dairy Womens Network (DWN) fills many gaps for women in rural areas, including providing a social network and upgrading their skills, says chief executive Zelda de Villiers.

De Villiers was responding to the findings of a student research project from the Lincoln University Kellogg’s Rural Leadership Programme, by NZ Young Farmers communication manager Nadine Porter.

The survey found 57% of rural women feel isolated, and many find their skills and training from university or career are not being utilised. . . 

Avocado has start status – Jen Scoular:

With the growing body of scientific and nutritional research that revers them as a ‘superfood’, avocados have never been more popular.T

This summer the industry is set to deliver a whopping 7.6 million trays into export markets and the New Zealand market — nearly double the volume last year.

As a result of the success of the marketing programme in New Zealand, the real work being done to educate both retailers and consumers about avocados and the global celebrity status of this wonderful fruit — we all felt the impact of a low crop last year. . . 

Global animal health company sets up in NZ:

Benefits previously only available overseas from world-leading anti-infectives are now available for New Zealand’s dairy farmers, claims David Barnett of Ceva Animal Health.

Ceva describes itself as one of the world’s fastest growing and largest animal health companies.

“Possibly you will not be familiar with the name, but don’t let that put you off,” Barnett says. “Ceva is a significant R&D company based all across the world and has now set up a base in NZ to bring significant innovation to local farmers.”

Barnett says two new anti-infectives form the company are available this spring. . . 

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Today the average US farmer feed 155 people. In 1960 a farmer fed just 26 people. – AMERICASFARMERS.COM


Rowarth vs Joy

September 14, 2016

Jamie Mackay hosted a debate on water quality between Professor Jacqueline Rowarth and Dr Mike Joy on The Country yesterday.

. . . When discussing the fencing of waterways and keeping stock away from streams and rivers, Dr Joy said animals should be out of the food chain by 2050 for other reasons too including climate change and energy transfer.

Professor Rowarth said there is no evidence intensive dairy farming caused the Havelock North water contamination crisis and that the solution lies with smarter feeding of cows and better systems to capture and utilise effluent and nitrogen run-off. 

You’ll find parts one and two of the debate if you click on the link above.


Irrigate to prosper

December 7, 2013

We must irrigate to prosper – that’s the message of Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis.

It’s about time we moved beyond the unhelpful rhetoric expressed in Mike Joy’s opinion piece (Intensification benefits untrue, Nov 29). New Zealanders need to grasp the connection between the productive use of water and our lifestyles.

Our neighbours over the ditch have. Everyone in Australia realises the importance of water to their economy, and the subsequent need for irrigation and modern water supply infrastructure. Australians are much better at seeing the big picture – the link between their quality of life, the availability, diversity and cost of food they consume and efficient water use – whether the water is used by urban residents or rural.

As a result there is bipartisan support for investment in rural water-supply infrastructure for the irrigation of crops. Australian politicians across the spectrum recognise it is in the national interest to do this. The continued socio-economic wellbeing of Australia and its food security depends on this. The political rhetoric across the Tasman is now about how this is done – not whether it should be.

New Zealand has two options when it comes to the future of water and agriculture.

Option 1: Do nothing and watch the gradual decline of agriculture in New Zealand.

Climate-change predictions show New Zealand is going to become warmer (plants will use more water when they grow) and drier (less water available for plants to use). The prevalence of “large-storm events” is also predicted to increase. This is perhaps more significant. Even if annual rainfall reduces only slightly, if more of it comes at once then most will not be able to be captured by the soils of productive land. Irrigation will become essential to enable full production in many areas – not just a tool to manage drought risk.

New Zealand’s export markets and the consumers are also becoming more demanding. Everyone wants safe, high-quality produce but few are prepared to pay the true cost of producing it in a sustainable manner. Recent surveys by IrrigationNZ suggest that, when a food price increase is linked to improved environmental outcomes, people state they are happy with the status quo. The environmental challenges created through land use intensification are ultimately created by everyone.

Given that New Zealand’s wellbeing (our economy) is founded on agricultural exports, doing nothing is not viable

Option 2: As a nation, we decide that water infrastructure for irrigation is essential to future-proof agriculture in our highly productive plains and foothill environments and we consciously invest in efficient and sustainable water management.

Irrigation has well-proven benefits. Irrigated land is at least three times more productive than dryland in New Zealand and irrigated farmers are far more financially resilient. For every $1 of public good, at least $3 is returned to the community. That is why irrigation is used as a socio-economic development tool globally by organisations such as the World Bank.

The challenge for irrigation is that in the past we’ve not been great at getting the sustainability component right. However, significant investment is now being focused in this area. More emphasis at the planning stages for irrigation projects through the Irrigation Acceleration Fund and greater investment in Smart (good-practice) irrigation are delivering better outcomes. However, it all comes back to affordability. Yes, irrigators can reduce their footprint and, yes, we can create infrastructure that minimises direct impact on the environment; however, one generation alone is not going to be able to do this. Irrigation is intergenerational investment and its financing model needs to better reflect this.

It would be useful if the excellent brains and resources of people such as Dr Joy or Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright could be redirected into helping irrigators get it right. We need to move past “problem definition”.

Irrigators are committed to turning things around over time so, please, let’s move forward together.

The column by Mike Joy this is responding to is here.


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