If you don’t learn from mistakes

August 14, 2020

The government is making the same mistake it made during the first lockdown at higher levels:

Wood processors say plants will close for good if the government persists with its plan to shut non-food industries in the event the Auckland lockdown moves into level 4.

Industry executives were alarmed yesterday when told that officials expected to apply the same essential and non-essential split as in March in the event that deeper workplace restrictions are required. During that lockdown many manufacturers – particularly exporters – fought unsuccessfully to keep operating given the safe distance working inherent in many of their operations.

Jon Tanner, chief executive of the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association, said the stakes are now much higher.

“If we get shut down this time there are plants that will close. There are plants that are that vulnerable,” he told BusinessDesk.

And he said all the sector’s efforts in April, getting safe working practices approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation, are at risk of being wasted.

“We’ve got all the protocols in place. We’ve had them approved by MPI and MBIE. There’s no reason for the wood processing industry to be shut down.” . . 

The insistence on the arbitrary essential rather than safe is also a problem for horticulture. Mike Chapman, CE of Horticulture NZ  has outlined his concerns in an open letter to the Prime Minister:

We are writing to you on behalf of the New Zealand horticulture industry to collectively address our growers’ concerns that independent fruit and vegetable retailers are not classified as essential services under Covid-19 Alert Level 3 and 4.

In New Zealand there are multiple ways fresh fruit and vegetables are available for sale to the general public. The majority of these sales are made through large supermarket chains and independent fresh fruit and vegetable retailers, at a market share of approximately 80 and 20 percent respectively. However, in Auckland independent retailers represent 60% of sales of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Growers will still be able to harvest fruit and vegetables but if 60% of Auckland sales aren’t available there will be a lot of wastage.

Unlike supermarkets, fresh fruit and vegetables sold through independent retailers are different grades than sold in supermarkets and in some outlets at more affordable prices and in high end outlets at higher prices. Independent retailers also sell culturally significant fresh fruit and vegetables in their communities (that aren’t readily available in supermarkets) that form the staple diets of different ethnic groups in New Zealand.

Supermarkets usually cater for mass buying, smaller greengrocers cater for niche markets.

When New Zealand was in Alert Level 4 and 3 earlier this year, households were significantly impacted by not having access to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from independent retailers, especially lower income households. In addition, rural communities often rely on independent retailers for supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables that are produced locally, where large supermarket chains are not readily present. This is in alignment with the government’s messaging to support local businesses.

In Auckland a large number of households in the poorer outer suburbs have lost the ability to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from their local independent retailers at affordable prices. Supermarkets tend to operate a structure whereby the consumer drives to the store. In lower socioeconomic areas this is not always practical and a portion of the population needs walking access to retailers selling fruit and vegetables.

Some elderly will usually shop close to home and might need only fresh produce. If they can’t get that locally they will be forced to go to supermarkets where they will be exposed to more people.

This issue is exacerbated by many households facing financial hardship since lockdown due to loss of employment and other pressures. The result of this situation is a significant increase in demand at foodbanks across New Zealand to provide food parcels to families in need. The horticulture sector has programmes in place supporting foodbanks, but this only addresses a small portion of the lack of supply.

While the government did confirm that independent retailers are able to operate in a contactless manner at Alert Level 3 and 4, this method of business operation is not suitable for many lower income households who don’t have the ability to order or pay for food purchases online.

The closure of independent retailers does not only impact consumers, it also impacts the horticulture industry who work tirelessly to provide all retailers, large or small, with seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. The closure of independent retailers during lockdown resulted in an excess of fruit and vegetables that could not enter the supply chain. This loss of access resulted in direct financial loss to growers from failure to sell their products, causing some to exit the industry and delay or reduce replanting. Ultimately, this impacts on consumers due to lower supply levels and increased pricing. These impacts will be further exacerbated by the current Alert Level 3 restrictions in place in Auckland.

When New Zealand was in lockdown earlier this year the horticulture industry, together with independent retailers, developed a protocol for the safe operation of retailers. This protocol used the principles of essential service operation, the same as other primary industry businesses and dairies had been using to operate. We know that the New Zealand government recognised protocols for independent retailers during Alert Level 3, as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment approved the operation of some retailers. Independent stores are much smaller than supermarkets and have indicated their ability and commitment to operating safely.

Producing fresh fruit and vegetables is regarded as essential, selling them should be too and the criteria for who sells them should be safety.

To maintain adequate supply of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables to all New Zealanders, it is critical that both supermarkets and independent retailers are able to operate if they are able to demonstrate they can do so using Covid-19 safe practices. The horticulture industry sincerely requests that the government re-considers their decision not to recognise independent retailers as essential services. We ask that a decision is made to consistently apply to all independent retailers to ensure New Zealanders have access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables across the country.

We are available to discuss this request with you and your officials to find a solution that is in the safety and wellbeing interests of our team of five million.

Yours sincerely

Mike Chapman

On behalf of the New Zealand horticulture industry

Butchers will also be on the wrong side of the essential vs safe debate as they were last time. That nearly caused an animal welfare issue with pigs until the government bought 2,000 pigs a week and gave the meat to food banks.

Auckland Business Chamber CEO says the lockdown cost is too high:

Government says they learned things from the last lockdown so if they did can we do things differently and let all businesses that can comply with Covid-19 safety measures stay open, says Auckland Business Chamber CEO Michael Barnett.

“The cost to businesses locked down and out of their livelihoods is too high,” he said. “Why can a dairy open and a supermarket sell fresh fruit and vegetables, but your local greengrocer cannot? It would be much better for the economy and wellbeing of the community to allow shops to operate if they follow the strict compliance and safety requirements that can be enforced for each alert level.”

Many small businesses, particularly in hospitality and retail, are teetering with reserves run down, jobs at risk and confidence shaken, forced to shut their doors because they are not on government’s list of essential retail and services, Mr Barnett said. . .

If you don’t learn from your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them.

The government obviously hasn’t learned from its mistaken insistence on what was essential rather than what could operate safely earlier this year and is repeating it.

Businesses, consumers and the economy will pay the price for this with no health benefit.


Rural round-up

August 10, 2020

No long term business without animal welfare: farmers – Bonnie Flaws:

Farm or Harm: In this series we look at the rules, expectations and attitudes guiding the New Zealand primary sector’s treatment of animals.

Animal welfare should be the priority if farmers want to build a successful business, say a leading dairy farming couple.

A number of cases of mistreatment of animals have put the spotlight of some farmers and industry practices.

But for award-winning Taranaki sharemilkers Simon and Natasha Wilkes animal welfare simply makes good business sense. . . 

From pasture to pastoral care – Mary-Jo Tohill:

If you’d asked South Otago pastor Alex McLaughlin back in his Canterbury farming days if he was interested in becoming a minister, he’d have said, “Never, it’s just not me.”

The religious conviction was always there; he started running Sunday school at the age of 17 but never envisaged it becoming a fulltime role. Yet, now 62, here he is.

“Being a pastor in a rural community requires being able to roll with whatever comes your way and there is no real way to prepare for the wide variety of tasks that are expected of you.”

He is also pastor at Silver Fern Farms’ Finegand plant and the Southern Institute of Technology’s Telford campus near Balclutha.  . . 

No working dogs but lots of kiwi on Okaihau dairy farm – Kate Guthrie:

Jane and Roger Hutchings haven’t had a dog on Lodore Farm, their 450-hectare Northland property, in over 20 years – but they do have a lot of North Island brown kiwi.

“We estimate we have at least 50 pairs of North Island Brown kiwi,” Jane says. “We do the kiwi call census every year in two different areas of the farm. I’ve sat in the same spot for the last 8 years and Roger has another area he has counted in the last few years.”

This gives the Hutchings an idea of how many birds they have in certain areas. Calls identify male or female birds, a compass bearing and distance apart. The good news is counts are going up meaning young birds are surviving.

Jane’s call-count spot is a mixture of pasture and regenerating bush while Roger counts kiwi calls from an area of mature bush. . . 

Southland cleared of M.bovis cattle disease – Louisa Steyl:

It was considered the origin of New Zealand’s Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in 2017, but today, Southland is infection free.

Ministry of Primary Industries regional recovery manager Richard McPhail praised the farming community for their co-operation as he shared the news on Friday that there are no longer any active properties, or properties under a Notice of Direction, in Southland.

“There’s been a lot of heavy lifting done to get to this point,” he said.

But there was still work to be done, McPhail said. “There’s an expectation that more infection will be found, [albeit] not necessarily in our area.” . .

Arable farmers pleased with 2020 harvest yields:

Final harvest data for wheat, barley and oats (milling/malting and feed) in 2020 show yields were up 17% overall across the six crops.

The July AIMI (Arable Industry Marketing Initiative) Survey report shows these results were from a reduced number of hectares planted (down 6%), with the net result being a 10% increase in total tonnage compared to last season.

“For context, keep in mind when making the comparison that 2019’s results were below average,” Federated Farmers Vice-Chairperson Grains, Brian Leadley, said.

“Nevertheless, we have those reported strong yields and even a new world record.  While the 17.398 tonnes/hectare of Kerrin wheat harvested on Eric Watson’s Ashburton farm is testament to great management, it’s also a reflection of a pretty good growing season.” . . 

Spat hatchery business in the wings for eastern Bay of Plenty:

Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and Aotearoa Mussel Limited have joined forces to build a land-based mussel spat hatchery in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, to enhance New Zealand’s growing aquaculture industry.

Te Whānau-ā-Apanui will invest $1.2million in a research and development programme with support from Callaghan Innovation. The programme is scheduled to commence in early September 2020.

Rikirangi Gage, CEO of Te Rūnanga o Te Whānau has assumed a sponsorship role in the project. He said that “the hatchery concept is a perfect fit with a burgeoning mussel industry in New Zealand, particularly within the Eastern Bay of Plenty”. . . 


Rural round-up

August 1, 2020

A ticking time bomb – Sudesh Kissun:

Our dairy industry risks been exposed to a ‘ticking time bomb’ of unethical players unlawfully passing off New Zealand-made and packed milk powder products in China as supplements for babies.

A Kiwi entrepreneur has warned Rural News that the issue could easily become another food safety headache for the NZ dairy industry in the lucrative Chinese market.

Jane Li, a China dairy market consultant who operates retail stores in China, says formulated milk powders with added whey protein concentrate, lactoferrin and colostrum are being repacked by some Chinese-owned companies here and sold as supplements for infants and toddlers in the China market. . . 

MPI says it will act:

MPI says it takes the claims made by Jane Li seriously and where it has evidence that exporters are not meeting their requirements, it will take action.

Li says New Zealand’s dairy industry risks being exposed to a ‘ticking time bomb’ of unethical players unlawfully passing off New Zealand-made and packed milk powder products in China as supplements for babies. 

“We take complaints against New Zealand businesses very seriously,” a MPI spokesperson told Rural News.

He says that the safety and wellbeing of the public is central to the rules and requirements New Zealand has in place to ensure food and beverages are safe and suitable. 

Expecting flight attendants to become dairy workers is unfair:

An Auckland academic and innovation advisor at Tech Futures Lab Richard Rowley is not surprised that former Air New Zealand flight attendants don’t want to become dairy hands or social workers, describing such change as too confrontational, not to mention unfair.

“The slow start to fill 1000 vacant dairy farm jobs, and the fact that employers in several sectors are struggling to fill vacancies isn’t because everybody’s happy to be on welfare,” says Rowley. “It comes down to the fact that what we do is tied to who we are, and for some, the leap of faith is just too great.

“Our education system has largely not produced adaptable people. The people who struggled at school will be the same people who are challenged by changing careers because it was drummed into them that they are not good learners.”

Rowley says that when it comes to shifting career, self-esteem and confidence play a huge part. As a result, most people will see only obstacles, including age, experience, and physical ability. . . 

Seeds sown for strong elderflower future –  George Clark:

If you think a trip overseas could inspire a future career, you may be right.

Just ask Addmore owner Kate Addis.

The seeds for her Geraldine-based elderflower business were planted in 2002 after a stint abroad in Dorset, England, where she had been travelling.

Her elderflowers were grown locally and the beverages bottled in North Canterbury. . . 

Right tree right place, the solution to New Zealand’s afforestation question:

With discussion growing around NZ’s afforestation targets and farm conversions to forestry, like many groups, the New Zealand Forest and Wood Sector Forum is advocating for the right tree in right place for the right purpose as the obvious solution.

The farm vs forest debate is not a new one, but has certainly been more heated in recent months, with industry commentary from both sectors.

As with many groups, the New Zealand Forest and Wood Sector Forum is advocating for a unified approach, with the right trees, in the right places, for the right purposes as the answer.

This means taking a measured approach to the question of land use. Rather than buying a title and saying it will be solely for one use or another, we need to examine the land under the title, and decide what the best use is for each piece of land. In other words, some hill country farmers would benefit from having some of their land under forest, while some forest land could be better used for food production. . . 

Continued growth for the mighty avocado industry :

The New Zealand avocado industry has finalised the 2019-20 season results. The 2019-20 avocado season saw avocado export volumes up to 3.8m 5.5kg trays, an increase of 26% on the previous season. Asian markets including Thailand, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan received 35% more volume, meeting the industry’s objective to grow volume to the Asian markets.

Industry returns for the 2019-20 season are $154m, and increase on the previous year of $10m. The New Zealand market sold a record 2.7m trays worth over $50m demonstrating kiwis growing love of the wonderfully healthy avocado. For the first time in a number of years there was no break in avocado supply, as growers held on to one crop while the new crop matured on the trees. This also avoided the spike in pricing that often accompanies the lower supply but increasing demand.

Investment into new plantings continued in 2019 with over 120 new avocado properties registered between May 2019 to May 2020. New Zealand Avocado Growers’ Association Inc. Chair Tony Ponder says New Zealand’s avocado industry is in a position of growth and development. . . 


Frank conversation on water

July 29, 2020

Irrigation New Zealand is seeking a frank conversation about water:

Today Irrigation New Zealand released its 2020 Election Manifesto. IrrigationNZ represents most of the country’s large irrigation schemes and has 3500 members across 800,000 hectares of New Zealand contributing $5.4bn of GDP. The manifesto puts the following requests to the New Zealand Government:

A national water strategy that guides the future of water management and investment across Aotearoa New Zealand – and asks that IrrigationNZ be at the table to contribute to this.

A focus on water storage to ensure our communities are resilient to climate change and to assist with land-use change to meet sure carbon targets

The devastation droughts wrought on Hawkes Bay and Northland this year could have been minimised had water been harvested and stored when there was a surplus. Some of the damage inflicted on Northland by recent floods could have been offset, at least a little, had some of the rain been captured in dams.

More and better water storage would also have protected towns and cities from water shortages.

Policies that support irrigation and the environment, through monitoring, farm environment planning, innovation, and adaptation – and asks the government partner with IrrigationNZ to assist because of its ‘on the ground’ expertise.

A resolution to Māori rights and interests in freshwater – and offers support to iwi, hapū, and whānau groups about access to water and efficient, effective, environmentally sensitive irrigation development, where appropriate and beneficial.

An allocation framework that provides certainty and reliability of supply, whilst providing for multiple uses and benefits for economic, social, cultural, and environmental well-being. IrrigationNZ can assist agencies with this policy work through its expertise in managing complex changes to allocation frameworks in catchments with multiple stakeholders and water uses.

IrrigationNZ also states that it will support the sector and partner with Government, members and stakeholders to achieve the following:

  • develop a clear, recognised and unambiguous set of standards for irrigation
  • ensure efficient and effective water use that minimises adverse environmental effects
  • work to ensure widespread adoption of the irrigation standards
  • increase understanding of the benefits of irrigation.
  • support members in national and regional advocacy

IrrigationNZ is offering to share its knowledge, expertise, and data to support the above in relation to:

  • farm environment plans and the freshwater modules within them
  • Water storage solutions
  • Water allocation issues

“Freshwater use in New Zealand involves multiple aspects and is integral to life, IrrigationNZ wants to see this precious resource better managed through the development of a water strategy for Aotearoa,” says Elizabeth Soal, chief executive of IrrigationNZ.

“We are already seeing a focus on freshwater across various policy areas such as the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Fit for a Better World, Ministry for the Environment’s Essential Freshwater policy package and the Department of Internal Affairs three waters’ reform and establishment of the drinking water authority, Taumata Arowai.

“IrrigationNZ believes all these issues could be aligned with a water strategy to guide and lead decision-making and funding allocation at the central, regional, and local levels. This could be led by a bi-partisan, independent water commission.

“As part of this, we would also like to progress a frank conversation with the Government and stakeholders about water storage and irrigation development which does not shy away from both the benefits and the impacts.

“With primary industries the backbone of this country for the foreseeable future, and access to reliable water a critical part of enabling this, we must move forward and ensure the right investment and outcomes from best practice water management.”

North Otago has had very little rain for several months. When, as often happened before we had much irrigation, we would have been going into spring with little soil moisture and a lot of uncertainty about pasture and crop growth.

Thanks to several irrigation schemes, we know that irrigation will compensate for what nature hasn’t provided.

The economic and social benefits from that are immense and it also has environmental benefits by maintaining minimum flows in waterways and protecting soils from erosion.

If predictions of higher temperatures and more floods due to climate change are taken seriously, irrigation must be part of the mitigation plan.

Irrigation New Zealand’s 2020 Election Manifesto can be found here.


Rural round-up

July 22, 2020

Alternative labour sources needed – David Anderson:

Industries that depend on migrant labour – like many in NZ’s primary sector – will need to find alternatives, according to a new report.

The need for alternatives is one of the key findings of the latest report on the agribusiness sector by KPMG in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2020 KPMG Agribusiness Agenda says that there is a stigma attached to a career in the production and processing of food and fibre products.

“The jobs are seen as being low skilled, low paid roles which are done by those for which there are no other employment options,” the report says.

“While such perceptions are a million miles away from the truth, they have made it difficult for organisations to recruit the labour force they need, even in countries with significant levels of unemployment.” . . 

Desperate lobbying for the status quo – Elbow Deep:

You could be forgiven for thinking the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) reforms were a done deal; a cross-party panel of MPs had unanimously recommended a raft of sweeping changes that addressed issues that have been plaguing the industry for years, and they did so with a refreshing display of clarity, common sense and unity.

After eight years with no changes, a period during which independent processors have been given a leg up at the expense of New Zealand dairy farmers, the Select Committee decided that DIRA had achieved its goal of fostering competition in the dairy industry and it was time for all processors to stand on their own merits.

Having failed to convince the Select Committee to maintain the status quo with their formal submissions, the independent processors are now publicly lobbying to keep the uneven playing field tilted in their favour. They have arranged a last minute meeting with the Minister of Agriculture in an attempt to stop the legislation being passed before the election so they can have another go at arguing for the retention of DIRA’s open entry provisions. . . 

Forest owners to fund clean up of debris, logs at Tolaga Bay :

The Forest Owners Association has apologised and said the industry is committed to cleaning the beach and owners will pay for it, not ratepayers.

The beach in Uawa is strewn with logs and debris from forestry operations up in the hills.

The slash washed onto the beach over the weekend after a metre of rain fell in 24 hours.

Forest Owners Association president Phil Taylor said: “On behalf of the forest industry … I unreservedly apologise to the community for the debris on the beach. They acknowledge it is unacceptable. I can assure the community on the East Coast that the forest industry is committed to cleaning the beach up in conjunction with GDC (Gisborne District Council) … that planning is underway.” . . 

Hope high for wool’s future :

The latest wool working group report brings some hope for reform, innovation and, most importantly, boosted returns for a sector that has languished for almost a generation of farmers as the smallest part of their income stream.

Released this month, the vision and action plan developed by the Wool Industry Project Action Group contains three key recommendations to kickstart the strong wool sector as a sustainable economic fibre base once again.

These include developing a market focused investment case and road map for a strong wool sector, establishing the capability the sector needs to become “match fit” for future opportunities and establishing better co-ordination and governance capability. . . 

Trusts to get extra help – Peter Burke:

MPI says it’s looking at increasing its support to Rural Support Trusts and other rural advisory groups.

Director general of the Ministry for Primary Industries, Ray Smith, says it seems like the country is moving from one set of issues to another, which are all challenging to farmers.

He cites the droughts in the North Island and the feed shortage in the South Island – along with M. bovis and the damage from earthquakes.

“It feels like the expectations on those Trusts are growing and we are trying to increase our investment in them to help the local people,” he told Rural News. . . 

Rural data usage continues to soar as new tech drivers efficient farms and sustainable communities:

Rural broadband specialists, Farmside, have reported a massive 34% average year-on-year data usage increase in Aotearoa’s rural communities since 2017 as new technologies drive efficiency, productivity and sustainability in the sector. The internet provider, powered by Vodafone New Zealand, is a Gold Partner of the first Fieldays Online launched last week, showcasing three of the latest innovations driving smarter, and more connected, farms.

The Farmside and Vodafone site set up for Fieldays Online features: water quality monitoring system RiverWatch that analyses real-time data on the health of New Zealand’s waterways; smart traps run on Vodafone’s narrowband IoT (nb-IoT) network keep the bird sanctuary at Punakaiki predator-free; and a Wide Area Network (WAN) that securely connects all Pāmu New Zealand’s farms with its corporate offices.

Farmside CEO Jason Sharp says it is innovations such as these that has seen the demand for rural connectivity grow relentlessly over the last few years. . . 


Rural round-up

July 19, 2020

Early mornings shear joy – Sally Rae:

It was shearing time on the Strachan family’s sheep and beef farm at Awamoko, in North Otago, and Sid was helping pen up when he was not busy shearing at his own stand.

He had been there since 7am and, by late morning, he reckoned his tally was about 8200 — which might have been a slight exaggeration, but there was no doubting his infectious enthusiasm and work ethic.

Sid might only be 6 years old but he has been interested in shearing from an even younger age and spends a full day in the woolshed whenever he can.

He had two very clear ambitions: to buy North Otago shearing contractor Phil Cleland’s business — “he said I can do it when I’m 13” — and to win the Golden Shears. . .

Wool revival coming – Annette Scott:

South Island farmer Kate Acland says the Government’s report on the wool industry is a chance for the sector to come together and realise its potential.

The Vision and Action for the wool sector put together by the Government-appointed wool industry Project Action Group suggests New Zealand is on the cusp of a natural fibre renaissance being led by more environmentally and socially conscious consumers. 

A new approach is needed to seize the opportunity and turn things around.

The report recommends the appointment of an executive officer and establishment of a wool sector governance group to oversee development of an investment case. . . 

A Fonterra of wool is necessary – Annette Scott:

The wool industry needs a real plan to be profitable and the Government’s vision and action report for wool has failed to deliver, according to some industry leaders.

While the report is a step in the right direction a concrete plan is needed to lift the industry from its doldrums, National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests chairman Craig Smith said.

“It’s a report that tells us what we know, the wool industry in general is in a really bad place.

“What needs to happen very quickly now is another report with a clearly defined strategy then we can put some structure around that strategy,” Smith said. . . 

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

Using New Zealand strong wool to produce biodegradable disposal nappies for a multi-billion dollar global market is gaining traction as a new avenue for farmers desperate to find new places to sell their product, with multinational companies showing interest in NZ technology.

As part of the recent launch of the strong wool sector’s plan for the future Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said Wellington-based company Woolchemy will get $80,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Woolchemy co-founder and chief executive Derelee Potroz-Smith says the money will pay for a commercial trial of technology that enables wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in consumer hygiene products, adding significant value to the raw material produced by NZ strong wool farmers. . . 

Still work to be done after diagnosis – Alice Scott:

Like many typical Otago blokes, Scott Clearwater (41) shrugged off his headaches, too busy on his Goodwood sheep and beef farm to see a doctor.

But as Covid-19 cases petered and the country went into Level 2, Mr Clearwater’s headaches got worse.

“He was writhing around on the floor one night and that’s when I said, ‘Enough’s enough, you need to get to a doctor’,” his wife, Joy Clearwater, said.

Since that May 29 GP visit, the family’s life has been turned upside down. . . 

Socially acceptable cows of the future could be within reach – Hannah Powe:

As animal health and husbandry becomes a hot topic in the agriculture industry, DairyBio research scientists have identified the traits needed to breed the socially acceptable cow of the future.

During the Genetics Australia 2020 Virtual Series, Agriculture Victoria principal research scientist and leader of DairyBio, Professor Jennie Pryce said there were five keys areas needed to breed the socially acceptable cow.

“They need to be resource efficient, have a low environmental footprint and low methane emissions, and traits consistent with high standards of animal welfare such as good health and fertility (polled and longevity),” Prof Pryce said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

June 23, 2020

Sorting the manure from the facts on nitrogen – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Nitrogen is a basic requirement for the creation of soil organic matter.

It doesn’t matter whether the source of the nitrogen is synthetic fertiliser (such as urea or DAP), urine, legume fixation or animal manure – but it is required. Every tonne of carbon sequestered in the soil is associated with 80 to 100kg of nitrogen, as well as approximately 20kg phosphorus, 14kg of sulphur and smaller amounts of various other nutrients.

In many soils it is the addition of nitrogen fertiliser that has allowed more plants to grow and die, contributing more organic matter to the soil than was possible before the fertiliser was added.

This is assuming that moisture and other nutrients are not limiting for plant growth. . .

Naki sets native planting record :

Almost 600,000 native plants were distributed to farmers, last week, as part of Taranaki’s Riparian Management Programme.

This was a record number for the scheme that’s having a huge impact on the region’s water quality and landscape.

For 27 years, the Taranaki Regional Council has worked with farmers, developing individual riparian management plans to improve freshwater quality. Plans recommend fencing off waterways and native planting on riverbanks to keep stock out of streams and reduce overland run-off.

As part of the programme, landowners can buy native plants at cost through the council, ordering one to two years in advance so plants can be grown for them.  . .

NZ Apiculture Industry sees continued growth in production:

The Ministry for Primary Industries released its annual Apiculture Monitoring Programme Report for the 2018/19 season today, which confirms the New Zealand apiculture industry is still growing.

The number of registered hives increased 4% on the previous season to 918,026 in June last year while the number of registered beekeeping businesses also increased, up 8% to 9,282.

The report estimates the 2018-19 season produced an estimated 23,000 tonnes of honey, up by 3,000 tonnes (15%) on the previous year, driven by the increase in hive numbers. . . 

Constrained conditions for the rural sector:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 122 less farm sales (-32.1%) for the three months ended May 2020 than for the three months ended May 2019. Overall, there were 258 farm sales in the three months ended May 2020, compared to 251 farm sales for the three months ended April 2020 (+2.8%), and 380 farm sales for the three months ended May 2019. 1,132 farms were sold in the year to May 2020, 19.5% fewer than were sold in the year to May 2019, with 26.6% less Dairy farms, 27.8% less Grazing farms, 26.0% less Finishing farms and 1.2% less Arable farms sold over the same period.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to May 2020 was $23,221 compared to $22,244 recorded for three months ended May 2019 (+4.4%). The median price per hectare increased 2.5% compared to April 2020.

The REINZ All Farm Price Index fell 0.1% in the three months to May 2020 compared to the three months to April 2020.  . . 

Milk dispensers and glass bottles a hit with shoppers:

A nationwide plan to put fresh milk dispensers and reusable glass bottles into grocery stores kicks off today, following calls from shoppers for milk brands to ditch plastic bottles.

Lewis Road Creamery launched the initiative after receiving multiple requests from shoppers asking for a return to glass.

“The plastic problem really worries our customers,” says Lewis Road Creamery founder and CEO Peter Cullinane. “Two years ago we switched to 100% recycled plastic bottles but we’ve always wanted to do more, so this is another step in the right direction.” . . 

The name behind some of New Zealand’s best known pastures and forage crops is changing this spring:

Thirty-three years after it first teamed up with a family-owned seed business in the Netherlands, Barenbrug Agriseeds will be known as Barenbrug, effective 1 July.

Managing director Michael Hales says the Royal Barenbrug Group has been part of the NZ company since it was founded, providing unique access to plant genetics, science and knowledge.

“This collaboration has been a key part of our success in the NZ pastoral industry – we would not be where we are today without it.”

While the name on the distinctive yellow seed bags will be different as of this season, Michael says farmers can be reassured everything else remains unchanged: “Our people, products and strategy remain the same.” . . 


Rural round-up

June 7, 2020

What farmers wish other New Zealand knew – Esther Taunton:

Remember when Country Calendar was must-see TV? When The Dog Show was on every week and the Young Farmer of the Year competition was screened live?

The times aren’t just a’changin’, they have already a’changed, taking New Zealand’s general knowledge of farming with them.

We’ve fallen out of touch with the people who put food on our tables and clothes on our backs and it’s no surprise the rural-urban divide often feels more like a canyon than a crack to farmers.

Many Kiwis don’t know the simplest things about farming but, thanks to the farmers who’ve taken me from total-townie to slightly-less-townie in my time as a rural reporter, we can change that right now. . . 

Govt’s snubbing of Feds short-sighted — Editorial:

Petty and small-minded is the only way to describe the continued snubbing of Federated Farmers in regard to the Government’s freshwater reforms.

Outgoing Federated Farmers president Katie Milne has hit out at Wellington-based government officials for their lack of understanding about farming.

Late last week, Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor – along with ministry officials – unveiled the long-awaited reforms before invited guests at Parliament.

However, the farmer lobby was a notable omission.

How does the Government expect to get farmers onside for its highly contentious water plans, when it refuses to deal or even engage with the farmer representative organisation?

China reopens for New Zealand venison imports:

A catalogue of approved animal species for human consumption has been issued by the Peoples Republic of China. It includes venison from farmed malu – the Chinese name for red deer – along with more traditional farm animals and poultry.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) chief executive Innes Moffat says the inclusion of our deer is great news for venison producers and marketers, as it will make it clear to officials across China that the sale and consumption of our venison is legal and safe for Chinese consumers.

“Chinese consumers have a growing appreciation for quality animal proteins, making China an increasingly important market for our venison. It was taking about 10 per cent of our exports until the end of 2019,” he says. . . 

Kinship & solidarity: Harvest a family affair at Domaine Thomson – Sophie Preece:

Kate Barnett clearly recalls her father pulling up in Wanaka on New Years’ Day, to load his four begrudging daughters into the Chrysler Valiant station wagon.

The first days of January were always dedicated to picking blackcurrants on their farm, north of Dunedin, and Kate was there for every harvest, from age five through to 20.

The planting of Felton Road vineyard was also a family affair, after her dad – Stewart Elms – found the Bannockburn site, kick-starting a wine life that eventually led Kate to Domaine Thomson in Central Otago, where she’s Operations, Marketing and Cellar Door Manager.

This year she was also chief recruiter of locals for harvest, including her 11, 12 and 14-year-old children, in a step back in time she’s cherished. . .

 

Strengthened NAIT approach sees significant improvement in compliance:

Farmers are lifting their use of animal tracing after changes to strengthen the NAIT* scheme and boost compliance, new data shows.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director of compliance, Gary Orr, says this is particularly encouraging at this time of year when dairy farmers are moving cows between farms around the annual Moving Day.

“From January to March this year, 77% of animals were registered correctly – a 24% increase over the same period in 2019. And 75% of animal movements were recorded on time (within 48 hours of the movement) – a jump of 11% over the same time in 2019. And 98.7% of animals slaughtered were tagged – an increase of 0.3% from the previous year.

In late 2019 the fine for NAIT offences increased to $400 per animal and Mr Orr says that is quite an incentive to do it right. . . 

Approval for new crop protecting insecticide:

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved a new insecticide, Vayego, for use in New Zealand, subject to conditions.

This insecticide is used to keep codling moths, leaf rollers and other pests away from apples, pears, grapes, and stone fruit crops.

Vayego contains tetraniliprole, an active ingredient that is new to New Zealand and has only recently been approved for use in Australia, South Korea, and Canada. Tests here have found that although tetraniliprole is not rapidly degradable, it also does not build up over time. Allowing this insecticide to be used in New Zealand provides more choice for farmers, which is considered to be a significant benefit. . . 

Cattle producers want best science for measuring methane :

PEAK beef producer group Cattle Council of Australia wants a full scientific assessment of modeling used to calculate the impact of beef on climate change and the alternative global warming potential model.

CCA President Tony Hegarty said with the broader red meat industry committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, it is important to use the best available science to measure the impact of cattle-produced methane.

“We have a responsibility to make sure we use the best available science in our response to climate change,” Mr Hegarty said. . .


Rural round-up

June 1, 2020

Forestry Bill lambasted at select committee – Gavin Evans:

Forest owner Ernslaw One says the Government’s planned regulation of the industry may stall four projects the firm was considering to expand its processing capacity.

The potential powers the Government was seeking – to intervene in the log sales and contracts of forest owners – were ‘‘absurd’’ and went against any sensible business practices, chief executive Paul Nicholls told Parliament’s environment select committee this week.

Ernslaw One has forests throughout the country, including in the Coromandel, Gisborne, Ruapehu and Manawatu-Rangitikei regions, and Otago and Southland. . .

Hawke’s Bay $1m drought funding ‘doesn’t go very far’ – Rural Advisory Group – Tom Kitchin:

$1 million will be divided between thousands of Hawke’s Bay farmers struggling with one of the worst droughts in a century.

The mayoral relief fund is expected to get the final sign off today and be on its way to farmers.

Hadley Boyle of Tikokino in Central Hawke’s Bay has been working through the night to make sure his farm survives.

His trees are turning orange, his dams have dried up and his cattle are not reaching their target weight. . . 

We must protect our soil, it is precious – Selva Selvarajah:

Elite soil is a disappearing priceless national asset, writes  Selva Selvarajah.

During the unprecedented and unexpected Covid-19 crisis, the supermarkets and our supply chains have served us well with an ample supply of fruits and vegetables.

Who produces our fruits and vegetables? Our horticultural farming sector, which employs more than 60,000 workers.

In 2016, we consumed $2.1billion worth of our own fruits and vegetables and exported $3.1billion worth. We consume more than 90% of our vegetables produced in New Zealand. We do import small amount of selected fruits and vegetables. With our growing population and our annual vegetable demand nearing one million tonnes, we are likely to import more. . .

Good winter grazing urged as cold weather closes in:

The Winter Grazing Action Group says farmers are taking steps to improve wintering systems despite the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions and weather events.

Action group chair Dr Lindsay Burton said it was important everyone worked together to ensure farmers had the right tools to get through winter.

“Ensuring you follow a gradual transition plan when moving your animals from pasture to crop and back again will help prevent issues. This is particularly important for cattle wintered on fodderbeet,” says Dr Burton. . . 

Proper nutrition pre-calving boost yield – Natalie Chrystal:

If milk fever is keeping you or your staff awake at night, you are not alone.

Many New Zealand dairy farms grapple with down cows at calving with research showing that on average between 2-4% of all cows across New Zealand exhibit the typical clinical signs of milk fever – so called ‘downer cows’.

Most farmers recognise that it is not only these clinical cases that cost time and money, but the estimated 30 to 40% of cows that are sub-clinically hypocalcaemic that really impact your bottom line as a result of significant negative effects on milk production.  . . 

Why do we fear the food we eat? – Jack Bobo:

Our food has never been safer, so why is it that consumers have never been more concerned? And here’s another paradox: At a time when consumers have never known more about nutrition, why is it that obesity is at an all-time high?

From fad diets to panic buying, the decisions we make about the foods we buy and the foods we eat are often the result of hidden influences of which we are little aware. The rise of “clean eating” and the marketing of “natural” foods has not made us feel safer. Instead, these trends leave us less certain and less confident in the food choices we make.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made people think a lot about where their food comes over the last few months. Consumers are asking: 1) who produced their food and where 2) who picked, processed and packaged it 3) how did it get to the food processor and then to the grocery store, and, finally 4) who placed it on the shelves? . .


Rural round-up

May 21, 2020

“Geen tape’ policies should be put on hold – Simon Bridges :

National leader Simon Bridges wants the government to put off “green tape” policies in the farming and primary sector.

The comments were in response to a question asked during a presentation to the Otago Chamber of Commerce, on whether the government needed to change some of its policies it wanted to introduce in the primary sector.

Bridges said it was one thing to have certain policies in good times and another during a time of deep recession or depression.

“Some of the policies around climate change, water, a variety of other areas of green tape I think are going to be unhelpful at this time.

“I’m not suggesting these issues aren’t important, they are, but the facts have changed and we need to change what we do.” . . 

Prices drop for sheep and beef farmers:

Prices paid to sheep and beef cattle farmers and meat manufacturers both fell sharply in the March 2020 quarter, Stats NZ said today.

Sheep, beef, and grain farmers received 11.5 percent less for their products in the March quarter, reversing rises over most of 2019. In turn, prices paid to meat manufacturers were down 4.4 percent in the March quarter.

“The sharp fall in prices for sheep and beef farming in the first three months of 2020 coincided with dry conditions in many parts of New Zealand, with sheep and beef prices falling,” business prices acting manager Geoffrey Wong said. . . 

How to export your way out of a financial crisis – a 10 point plan for New Zealand – Charles Finny:

The hugely successful coronavirus response means New Zealand is well-placed for an export-led recovery, writes Charles Finny in this paper for the SSANSE Commission for a Post-Covid Future at the University of Canterbury.

New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 has come at an enormous economic cost. If we don’t move very fast that cost will increase greatly, and if we are not careful we will be left with a really perverse result. We will be even more dependent on one market, China, and on one sector, agriculture, than we were before going into this crisis.

Of course, China will continue to be an important market for New Zealand for many years to come and agriculture is critical to our future – but we don’t want all our eggs in a couple of baskets, particularly as China has in recent years shown a propensity to use trade dependency as a political lever.

In 2019 China took: . . 

Nine Van Leeuwen Group farms offered for sale :

Nine Van Leeuwen Group farms are up for sale, close to three years after cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis was discovered on more than a dozen properties owned by the South Canterbury-based company.

Sixteen properties belonging to the group had restricted place notices imposed on them by the Ministry for Primary Industries in July 2017 after the outbreak of the bacterial cattle disease, in an effort to control the movement of stock.

At the time two dozen cows on one of the group’s farms tested positive for the disease, the first identified in New Zealand. . . 

Rain brings relief to Hawke’s Bay farmers over weekend – but the drought isn’t over yet – Bonnie Flaws:

For the first time since the drought began, Hawke’s Bay has had double digit rainfall over the weekend, bringing much needed relief to farmers in the region.

Farmers have been under extraordinary pressure in recent months as coronavirus compounded the issues brought about by the drought.

Rain fell all weekend on the farms of Hawke’s Bay, which saw sample measurements of rainfall for the week reach approximately 30 millimetres in the Southern Ranges, south coast and Tangoio as well as some northern coastal areas and ranges. . . 

Taranaki accounting specialist urges farmers to be proactive about their future finances :

The $500,000 government funding for drought recovery has been welcomed by the dairy industry. However, with the current global uncertainty limiting the ability to predict where the milk price will land and the negative implications of COVID-19 affecting contractors’ and farmers’ income, Dairy NZ and Baker Tilly Staples Rodway have teamed up to highlight the need for farmers to understand their finances.

Taranaki farm accounting specialist, Amanda Burling, of Baker Tilly Staples Rodway said: “It’s been a challenging time for the Dairy Industry. The drought, along with the impacts of Covid-19 are providing a lot of uncertainty. The sale yards in lockdown along with the works slowing down due to social distancing rules has had an impact on cashflow. Now we must work together to prepare for next spring.” . . 


Rural round-up

May 20, 2020

Kiwi lamb in limelight – Annette Scott:

Changing consumer demand in China has opened an opportunity for New Zealand lamb to take centre stage.

In a move to encourage online sales of NZ lamb in China, Beef + Lamb and Alliance have joined forces to launch a digital campaign aimed at leveraging the new consumer behaviour.  

The e-campaign is focused on driving online red meat sales as Chinese consumers seek out healthier food options in the wake of covid-19.   

“Alliance and B+LNZ are co-investing in the initiative to drive the awareness of NZ’s healthy and natural grass-fed lamb but ultimately to drive sales,” B+LNZ market development general manager Nick Beeby said. . . 

Wallaby curse – Farmer refuses to be caught on the hop – Sally Brooker:

Wallabies have been marketed as a cute local attraction in Waimate, but farmers curse the day they crossed the Ditch.

The problems began soon after Bennett’s wallabies from Tasmania were taken to The Hunters Hills in the Waimate District in 1874 for recreational hunting.

Their population boom led to damaged farm pasture, crops and fencing, and native bush and forestry plantings.

A 2017 Ministry for Primary Industries report predicted the cost to the economy of not controlling wallabies in the South Island could be $67million within 10 years.

Anecdotal reports say the numbers are increasing again in the Waimate area. Many farmers are upset about it, but few would go on the record.

Walter Cameron had no such qualms. He has been dealing with wallabies at his family’s 3900ha Wainui Station, near Hakataramea, for most of his life and knows how to keep them in check.  . . 

High paying environmental jobs not realistic:

The Government’s $1.1 billion idea of redeploying people into environmental jobs is great in concept but difficult to turn into reality, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.

“It’s a struggle to get Kiwis to take well-paying jobs in the horticulture or farming sector, so convincing people to become rat-catchers and possum-trackers in the numbers the Government is hoping for will be an enormous challenge.

“It’s all very well allocating the funding, but there’s no detail on how the job numbers will be achieved and this Government has a poor track record of delivering on their big policies.

“The $1.1 billion for 11,000 jobs means they’ve allocated $100,000 per job. There is no detail about how much of this is going to workers on the ground doing the environmental work and how much of this is going to added bureaucracy in Wellington offices. . . 

Training our rural doctors – Ross Nolly:

Attracting general practitioners to work in small rural areas has been challenging at times, which has led people to delay seeking medical care. Ross Nolly caught up with one Taranaki rural GP who says there are a lot of benefits to working in small communities.

In recent years finding doctors willing to work in rural general practices and rural hospitals has been difficult.

The Rural Hospital Medicine Training Programme is a subset of the Royal New Zealand GP College. It’s a relatively new programme and its aim is to give doctors an experience of rural hospital medicine. 

The programme has been operating at Hawera Hospital in South Taranaki for three years and shares some elements with general practice with many doctors practising rural GP and rural hospital medicine simultaneously. . . 

The power of community – James Barron:

Chairman of Fonterra Shareholders Council, James Barron on Fonterra, COVID-19, and the importance of community.

He waka eke noa – we’re all in this together. It’s a phrase that seems to be coming up a lot lately, and it reminds me how powerful community can be.

For wider New Zealand, the challenges brought about by COVID-19 have been significant.

But they have also presented some unexpected opportunities – to rediscover community spirit, spend quality time with our families, and do what’s best for the greater good. . . 

Tree planting is not a simple solution – Karen D. Ho and Pedro H. S. Brancalion:

A plethora of articles suggest that tree planting can overcome a host of environmental problems, including climate change, water shortages, and the sixth mass extinction (13). Business leaders and politicians have jumped on the tree-planting bandwagon, and numerous nonprofit organizations and governments worldwide have started initiatives to plant billions or even trillions of trees for a host of social, ecological, and aesthetic reasons. Well-planned tree-planting projects are an important component of global efforts to improve ecological and human well-being. But tree planting becomes problematic when it is promoted as a simple, silver bullet solution and overshadows other actions that have greater potential for addressing the drivers of specific environmental problems, such as taking bold and rapid steps to reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. . . 


Rural round-up

April 24, 2020

Now we know what is important – Craig Wiggins:

What will become important is what has always been important.

Last month I wrote about all the things we could do coming up in the rural calendar and within five days the whole world changed and we were heading into lockdown.

There are no two ways about it, the world has changed and we might never again see the likes of what was deemed important before the covid-19 pandemic.

What seemed to be important in the world we were part of was the ideological lifestyles of the rich and famous or those who found themselves in a position of governance and what their opinions meant.  . . 

Meat plants back to near normal – Neal Wallace:

Meat processing throughput could be back at close to maximum on Tuesday when the country’s covid-19 response level drops to level three.

Final protocols are still to be confirmed but level three restrictions should enable meat processing to be close to full production, helping address the backlog of stock waiting to be killed, which has blown out to six weeks, Alliance livestock and shareholder services general manager Danny Hailes says.

At level three social distancing between workers drops from 2m, to 1m. . .

Pesticide usage in New Zealand well below compliance safety guidance:

A survey released today confirms that the Kiwi diet is safe and that any pesticide residues on food are extremely low, far below recommended safety levels.

The Ministry for Primary Industries released results of the Food Residues Survey Programme which tests for residues in plant-based foods. The survey collected 591 fruit and vegetable samples over two years and shows compliance of greater than 99.9%. The survey tests residues from commonly used agrichemicals: insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

“These results are unsurprising,” says Agcarm chief executive, Mark Ross. “Agcarm members work hard to satisfy the stringent requirements set by regulators. They also work with food chain partners to achieve the lowest possible residues in food.” . . .

Survey of rural decision makers 2019 survey out now:

The results of the fourth biennial Survey of Rural Decision Makers, run by scientists at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, have now been released.

More than 3700 people responded to the survey during spring 2019. Respondents include both lifestyle and commercial farmers, foresters, and growers from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

A core set of questions remained similar to previous waves of the survey, to allow researchers to identify trends over time. In addition, new questions were added to reflect emerging issues in the primary sector such as farm-level biosecurity and climate change. . .

A2 Milk sales boost as consumers stock up

Speciality dairy company a2 Milk is getting a windfall boost to sales from the Covid-19 virus.

The company, which mostly sells infant formula, said revenue for the three months to 31 March was higher than expected with strong growth across all key regions, as households stocked up with its products notably in China and Australia.

“This primarily reflected the impact of changes in consumer purchase behaviour arising from the Covid-19 situation and included an increase in pantry stocking of our products particularly via online and reseller channels,” chief executive Geoffrey Babidge said. . .

Remote workers look to crash through grass ceiling – Gregor Heard:

RURAL leaders are hopeful the readjustments to work patterns caused by COVID-19 could lead to more senior level employment and business opportunities in country Australia.

The mainstream business community is now adapting to working from home and using video conferencing for communication, a system already widely used by those based in rural and regional areas to combat issues with isolation.

“In many ways in this current environment those of us that have worked remotely before have a bit of an advantage,” said Wool Producers Australia chief executive Jo Hall, who has split her time between her home at Crookwell, in NSW’s Southern Tablelands, and Wool Producers’ head office in Canberra over the past nine years. . .

 

 


Rural round-up

April 7, 2020

Queues for meat plant space grow :

Meat companies Silver Fern Farms and Alliance report a dramatic lift in livestock numbers waiting to be processed as their plants are down to half capacity under covid-19 rules.

In a note to its suppliers Silver Fern Farms said queue times at its 14 plants have extended exponentially as suppliers book early to avoid congestion and because of colder weather and diminished feed.

Suppliers might be waiting three to six weeks for space, depending on stock class and region. 

An Alliance update to its co-operative members estimates several weeks’ backlog, with processing down to about 30% for beef. . . 

Famously scenic Arcadia Station sold

A Queenstown farmer has bought a scenic rural property near Glenorchy, famous as a setting for TV commercials and films like The Lord of the Rings, for an undisclosed price.

The 257ha Arcadia Station, bordered by Diamond Lake, Mount Aspiring National Park and Dart River and the Paradise property, has been farmed for 60 years by Jim Veint (83), who in turn bought it off his father, Lloyd.

Mr Veint will continue assisting with the farming operation and help recruit and train a new farm manager. . . 

Beware of false prophets – The Veteran:

There have been calls for ‘value added’ to be the driver for our export industry as long as I can remember.    Much of that directed at the timber industry.   All well in theory.   Reality trumps (bad word) theory most times.

So let’s look at timber.   Some would argue the export of raw timber (logs) should be discouraged/banned in favor of the processed product.   That this would lead to an increased number of jobs in the industry particularly now with the economy predicted to contract. . . 

Support set up for farmers facing feed shortages :

Farming groups have set up advice and support for farmers facing shortages of stock feed as they head into winter.

The Ministry for Primary Industries worked with the groups on the initiative which includes a feed budgeting service and farm systems advice.

Federated Farmers said drought, the cancellation of traditional stock sale forums and reduced processing capacity at meat works meant many farmers were carrying more stock than they anticipated going into winter.

This was putting a huge strain on already stretched feed resources and farmer morale. . . 

No spilt milk during lockdown – Molly Houseman:

Last Friday looked “bleak” for Holy Cow.

The family dairy farm in Reynoldstown, near Port Chalmers in Dunedin, lost about 70% of its customers as restaurants and cafes closed for the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown, and no longer needed their usual milk orders.

Owner Merrall MacNeille was left wondering: “What am I going to do with all this milk?”

However, business quickly took an unexpected turn. . . 

Rural Ambassador program brought a storm of opportunities – James Cleaver:

Is there anything better than hearing rain on the roof?

Or the smell that rolls in 10 minutes before a thunderstorm?

We all love rain for obvious reasons and let’s hope this small break gets bigger in the next few months.

Rain equals opportunity and options. It’s the tangent to allow things to grow to their full potential. . . 

 


Rural round-up

March 31, 2020

Resuscitating a virus-ravaged economy – the answer lies in the soil and the exports it generates – Point of Order:

Westpac is forecasting 200,000 jobs will be lost in NZ as a result of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.  Chief economist Dominick Stephens estimates economic activity during the four week lock-down would decline by a third, despite the government and the Reserve Bank having “done a lot to calm financial markets”.

Stephens said his feeling was that GDP in the three months to June would fall by more than 10%— “which is completely unprecedented in our lifetimes”.

The  Westpac  diagnosis  reinforces  the argument  advanced  by  Point of   Order   in  one of  its most intently  read  posts:  “After the lock-down the  economy’s  recovery  will be  dependent on dairy farmers and  their  milk”. . . 

Covid 19 coronavirus: It’s essential that agriculture does its bit – Chris Lewis:

To beat Covid-19 those working on the land must do their bit on-farm and off, writes Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis.

Just like our hard working medical and emergency services, communications and infrastructure teams, the next four weeks will see farmers and their supporting services continuing to work while most of the country is locked down.

Being away from the high populations of our urban centres is an advantage in a time when we need to limit people contact and for many, business on the farm will largely feel like usual.

But for all of us to beat this, those working on the land must do their bit on the farm and off. . . 

Protocols present harvest challenges – Richard Rennie:

As Covid-19 protocols for essential industry staff become clearer, the kiwifruit sector is facing some tough decisions on how realistic they will prove for this year’s harvest to be successful.

Growers have only one day to go for registration as an “essential business”, and all growers and contractors with over five staff will be required to be registered with Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). 

Businesses have until 5pm on Friday March 27 to be registered.

Doug Brown NZKGI chairman said he could not reiterate enough the importance of registering under Level 4 Covid-19 rules. . . 

 

Whanganui meat business Coastal Spring Lamb wins another food award – Laurel Stowell :

A second food award is a ray of sunshine amid a time of drought and pandemic for Turakina farmer Richard Redmayne.

He founded and, with farming partners, owns the Coastal Spring Lamb brand. Its lamb backstraps have won a gold medal in the Outstanding New Zealand Food Producers Awards, announced on March 24. Other gold winners in the category were beef and chicken products, and eggs.

The awards are judged 75 per cent on taste, 15 per cent on sustainability and 10 per cent on brand. Judges said the lamb backstraps were “a real class act”, with sustainability built in, consideration for animal welfare and care for the land. . . 

Raw milk rings alarm bells – Richard Rennie:

The increasingly popular and often controversial choice to drink raw milk has had alarm bells ringing among public health officials in recent years. Richard Rennie spoke to veterinarian and researcher Genevieve Davys about her work with Massey University disease experts on the link between raw milk and campylobacter.

Research has revealed children under 10 are most likely to contract campylobacter disease by drinking raw milk and account for 29% of the raw milk-related cases notified in the MidCentral Health district from 2012 to 2017.

The study collected data on all cases of campylobacter notified in that period. It then dug deeper into raw milk campylobacteriosis cases, comparing the demographics of them to other campylobacter cases where raw milk was not drunk.

Raw milk was linked to almost 8% of the notified cases.  . . 

New protocols to keep the shears clicking during the coronavirus emergency – Vernon Graham:

Shearers and shed hands should travel to work in separate vehicles, according to new wool harvesting protocols.

They should only travel together if the vehicle (eg, a bus) is big enough to allow the recommended 1.5 metres spacing between them.

The protocols have been developed in a collaboration between AWEX, WoolProducers Australia, Sheep Producers Australia, the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia and the WA Shearing Industry Association. . .

 


Rural round-up

March 15, 2020

Drought, Covid-19 expected to slow primary sector export revenue – Maja Burry:

The Ministry for Primary Industries expects drought and Covid-19 coronavirus will slow the growth of primary sector export revenue.

MPI’s latest situation and outlook report forecasts primary sector revenue will rise 0.5 per cent in the year to June 2020 to $46.5 billion.

This forecast is $1.3 billion lower than the previous forecast published by MPI in December, with downward revisions to most sectors, particularly dairy, meat and wool, and forestry. . . 

Big Healthy Rivers changes mooted :

Widespread changes to the Healthy Rivers plan that will remove some of its more contentious elements have been recommended.

The hearings panel formed to consider submissions and recommend changes to the Waikato Regional Council has released its findings.

They want to scrap the requirement for all farmers to establish a nitrogen reference points (NRP). . . 

Horticulture’s growth is thanks to growers:

New Zealand horticulture’s steady growth of nearly three percent to more than $6 billion a year in export earnings1 is thanks to passionate growers, quality produce, and decades of investment, says Horticulture New Zealand. 

‘New Zealand’s growers are committed to the long-term future of the industry.  Their fruit and vegetables are the envy of the world, particularly with current concerns around health and wellbeing,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘The industry’s steady growth reflects decades of investment in research and development in new varieties and efficient growing techniques.  Our growers know their stuff and are committed to doing the best for the environment as well as for the people they employ.  . .

 

A2 Milk expands North American footprint with licensing deal :

Speciality dairy company A2 Milk is expanding into Canada through a venture with the local co-operative Agrifoods.

A2 will give Agrifoods access to its intellectual property and marketing systems, as well as work with it to get the necessary milk from Canadian dairy farmers.

Chief growth and brand officer Susan Massasso said it was part of the company’s plans to expand its North American market. . .

20 sheep and beef finalists announced for the 2020 Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

This year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards finalists have been announced and out of 50 finalists across 11 regions, 20 are sheep and beef farmers.

Run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFET), the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) celebrate good farm practices and promote sustainable land management.

Category award winners and the supreme winners will be announced at an Awards dinner in each region, starting with the East Coast on 4 March. Find more details and a full list of the finalists on NZFET’s website. . . 

David and Prue Bondfield step back from daily Palgrove operations :

LIVESTOCK industry champions David and Prue Bondfield are stepping back from daily operations at Palgrove, with both to remain as directors of the large scale genetics company.

The decision follows the development of Palgrove as one of the largest seedstock and commercial producers in Australia, with significant land assets across Queensland and NSW.

Mr Bondfield said well-planned business succession was critical to the success of an innovative enterprise like Palgrove. . .


Rural round-up

March 8, 2020

No need to destroy the perfect way of farming – Lone Sorensen:

Why are we accusing farming and in particularly dairy farming for being the cause, at least here in NZ, for global warming?

Would it by any chance be because it is a lot easier finding a scapegoat to blame everything on than actually cleaning up one’s own back yard first.

The atmosphere now contains 409 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO₂), when it is claimed that it can only cope with 350 ppm without a change in climate. The reason for this is that for the last 200 years, or since the industrial revolution, we have overused the earth’s resources of fossil fuels and by industrialising our farming methods also the humus in the soil: basically an overuse of stored carbon in the ground which we have turned in to CO₂, and methane. All this has made our life as humans more comfortable, but it has come at a cost.  . .

Biosecurity cost blowout for councils – Gerald Piddock:

Federated Farmers is warning rural district councils could face cost blowouts in meeting the requirements of the Government’s National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity.

Councils will have to map all land classified as a significant natural area in five years.

They already have to protect and map those areas in district plans and many have already done so. 

However, the new policy changes the criteria of for those areas, meaning some councils might have to redo their mapping, Federated Farmers regional policy analyst Paul Le Miere told about 20 farmers at a meeting in Te Awamutu. . .

Award for irrigation innovation :

Farmers leading the way in responsible irrigation could win a trip to America.

Encouraging farmers to share their ideas for sustainable water management has motivated the launch of an award by agricultural irrigation systems company Zimmatic.

The Zimmatic Trailblazer Sustainable Irrigation Awards aim to celebrate excellence in sustainable irrigation. recognising farmers leading the way in responsible irrigation, innovative water management and environmental stewardship. . . 

Being a good boss:

If you’re a dairy farmer reading this, then ask yourself, are you a good boss?

Do you value your workers and is their wellbeing your priority? 

Most farmers are good employers and to celebrate this, industry stakeholders have launched the Good Boss campaign.

A sector-wide initiative by Federated Farmers, DairyNZ, Dairy Women’s Network and NZ Young Farmers it was launched last month . . 

M Bovis research to look at milk yield impact– Maja Burry:

The Ministry for Primary Industries is commissioning new research into the impacts of Mycoplasma bovis on cattle in New Zealand.

Scientists at Massey University would undertake the one- to two-year study, where they would look at the symptoms of the cattle disease, the effects on milk yield and composition and the duration of these effects.

MPI chief science advisor John Roche said the work would help accelerate eradication of the disease from New Zealand farms and minimise the negative impacts. . .

 

Red meat exports reach more than $870 million in January as sector demonstrates resilience:

New Zealand exported red meat and co-products worth $873.2 million in January 2020, an increase of 26 per cent compared to January 2019, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Despite global market instability as a result of the Coronavirus, the market prices achieved in January were still stronger than the same month last year. The value of beef exports was up by 50 per cent sheepmeat was up by 18 per cent and co-products were up two per cent.

While the average value of sheepmeat exports to China declined from $8.87/kg in December 2019 to $7.63/kg in January, it was still significantly higher than in January 2019 ($6.57/kg). . . 

Whenua Ora Tangata Ora partnership leads the way forward in regenerative agriculture:

An initiative targeted at establishing and supporting a critical mass of New Zealand landowners to use regenerative farming practices was launched today.

Whenua Ora Tangata Ora is a joint partnership between FOMA Innovation, the science and technology arm of the Federation of Māori Authorities (FOMA); Soil Connection, biological farming and soil health experts; and Toha, an environmental impact platform that recently launched Calm The Farm to support farmers to reduce their environmental and climate impacts while improving financial resilience.

“Transforming ‘industrial farming’ practices in Aotearoa through regenerative agriculture to reflect true kaitiakitanga (guardianship) is the way of the future,” says FOMA Innovation lead representative, Te Horipo Karaitiana. . .


Rural round-up

February 27, 2020

Water will be currency of 21st century – Todd Muller:

Water is one of our nation’s critical strategic assets, perhaps second only behind our people. Therefore water storage is essential for ensuring we have a thriving primary sector for years to come, writes National’s Agriculture spokesman Todd Muller.

Water will be the currency of success in the next century.

In the 19th century it was coal, in the 20th century it was oil and in my view in the 21st century it is water.

We are a tradeable economy and water is a critical strategic asset in developing our commodities. The ability to store it will be a key infrastructural necessity if we are to leverage the value of water over the next few decades. . .

Wild rabbit enterprises shot down by red tape:

Federated Farmers is dismayed by reports that at least two businesses which process meat from wild rabbits are being strangled by compliance costs.

“It’s tough times on farms at the moment, with rising rabbit numbers in dry conditions.  With all the focus on predator-free and biodiversity, surely we should be working with and encouraging the commercial use of pest species, not making it harder for operators,” Feds Meat & Wool Chairperson Miles Anderson says.

Radio NZ has reported that the owner of a business supplying wild rabbits to high end restaurants, and for pet food, is spending up to 40 hours a week on paperwork, never mind growing MPI audit fees at $176 an hour.  As with another Canterbury-based processor, he told Radio NZ he was thinking of closing down. . .

Dairy returns too tiny for farmers – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers have many reasons for optimism though three out of four say the returns are not worth the effort, DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Bruce Thorrold says.

Many farmers are asking themselves why they still bother dairying and his task is to help clear the fog and rekindle motivation, he told the DairyNZ Northland farmers forum.

Farmers are worried about environmental, banking, farm value, alternative food, drought and disease pressures. . .

Weevil win – we knocked the bastard off – Karen WIlliams:

Hats off to you, Wairarapa.  In the words of another Kiwi who achieved a world-first, “we knocked the bastard off”.

Okay, eradicating the region’s pea weevil incursion isn’t as grand as Ed Hillary and Tensing Norgay climbing Everest but in terms of biosecurity, and protecting an industry that earns us $50 million in domestic sales and $84 million in exports, it is a big deal.  It’s also another bug we don’t have to spray for.

As far as we know, no other country has successfully combatted this pest after an incursion.

It’s taken a region-wide and government agency effort to get where we are – that’s growers/farmers, home gardeners, Federated Farmers, local councils, Greater Wellington, local MPs, MPI, Biosecurity NZ, the Foundation for Arable Research, Assure Quality…a big thank-you to you all for your perseverance, flexibility and understanding. . .

New app to help hunters track tahr during culling –

A long-term plan is being developed to control Himalayan tahr in the South Island.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said the large goat-like animals, introduced to New Zealand during the early days of European settlement, posed a threat to the country’s native alpine plants.

To combat the loss of native vegetation, DOC said it had been working with ecological experts to start a new monitoring system.

The long-term control plan is led by DOC and Ngāi Tahu. . . 

Beef bans based on ‘popular opinion, not facts’, Harper Adams says:

Harper Adams University has said it will never ban beef from its campus menus as it criticises other institutions for their ‘knee-jerk reactions’ to the climate crisis.

In recent years, and even more so in recent months, several UK universities have attracted significant media attention for voting motions to ban beef.

Earlier this month, thousands of students at Edinburgh University rejected proposals to ban the meat in all student union run outlets. . .

 


Rural round-up

February 1, 2020

Dairy debt and declining values create an equity pincer – Keith Woodford:

Some weeks back I wrote how the market value of dairy land is declining substantially. The biggest factor is a change in bank-lending policies such that local buyers cannot get funding. The second key factor is that foreign buyers can no longer buy land for dairy farming. A third factor is pessimism about the long-term future relating to environmental issues and labour availability.

The consequence of these factors is that although many dairy farmers would like to sell, there are very few buyers. This is despite three years of good dairy prices and now a fourth good year heading into the home straight with nearly all farmers making operating profits.

In this article, I build on that situation to explore the proportion of farmers who, with declining asset values, have either exhausted or are close to exhausting their previous equity. . . 

New levy to hit farmers – Peter Burke:

The New Zealand Agricultural Aviation Association (NZAAA) is up in arms about a proposed new safety levy.

They say it unfairly targets the ag sector and will lead to increased costs of spreading fertiliser and spraying crops. NZAAA chairman Tony Michelle says his organisation is happy to pay levies set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). However, he believes the new proposals are almost double the present ones and says there is a huge inconsistency in the way these would be applied.

Some operators believe the ag sector is seen as a soft target by the CAA, because it assumes the new charges will just be passed on to farmers.

Fonterra’s Te Awamutu site moves to pellet power:

Fonterra is taking another step forward in its commitment to renewable energy as it announces that its Te Awamutu site will be coal free next season. 

Until now the site has used a combination of fuels to process milk – including coal.  This latest move, follows a trial last year and means it will switch from using coal at the end of this season, starting the 2020/21 season powering the boiler with wood pellets. 

Fonterra’s Sustainable Energy and Utility Manager Linda Thompson says it’s an exciting step for the Co-operative and, in particular, the Te Awamutu team. . .

China overtakes the US as top beef market:

China overtook the United States as the biggest market for New Zealand beef exports in 2019, Stats NZ said today. 

In the year ended December 2019, beef exports to China rose $880 million (112 percent) from 2018 to reach $1.7 billion. In contrast, beef exports to the US fell $245 million (20 percent) to $956 million.

“China became the number one destination for beef exports from New Zealand in 2019,” international statistics manager Darren Allan said. . . 

LIC half-year revenue up as farmers invest in ‘precision farming‘:

Performance Highlights H1 2019-20:

$163 million total revenue, up 1.4% from $161 million in the same period last year.

$30.3 million net profit after tax (NPAT), down 7.6% from $32.8 million in the same period last year.
$58.4 million earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), down 1.5%.
$43.1 million earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), down 6.5%.
Underlying earnings (NPAT excl bull valuation change)* range remains forecast to be $21-25 million for year-end, up from $19.5 million in 2018-19. . . 

Farm Debt Mediation Scheme – next steps:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is taking steps to establish the new Farm Debt Mediation Scheme, which will begin operating on 1 July 2020.

From next week MPI will be able to consider applications from mediation organisations wanting to take part in this scheme.

“We’ve already heard from leading mediation organisations that are interested in participating. If an organisation is approved, they will then make sure their mediators are trained for the new scheme,” says Karen Adair, MPI’s deputy director-general of Agriculture and Investment Services.

The Farm Debt Mediation Act became law on 13 December 2019 and brings a new approach to farm debt mediation. . . 


Rural round-up

December 30, 2019

Everyone wants clean water, it’s time for David Parker to tell us how much it will cost – Todd Muller:

New Zealanders have a natural affinity with our water.

Whether that be swimming at the beach in the beautiful Bay of Plenty, kayaking on a West Coast river, or pulling in a snapper on the Hauraki Gulf to take home for the family dinner.

There is no argument that Kiwis want clean and healthy waterways where we can swim, surf and fish.

Nobody wants to see plastic in our oceans, polluted rivers or septic beaches that are unable to be used. . . 

Rising demand for avocados could threaten water levels in Aupōuri, Northland – Denise Piper:

An insatiable appetite for avocados could threaten both water quality and land stability in New Zealand’s Far North, according to locals.

Residents of Aupōuri Peninsula fear water levels in the unique aquifer under their land could drop so much that salt water runs in, wetlands run dry or the ground above the aquifer subsides, due to requests to take massive amounts of water needed to feed orchards.

But orchardists say they have to trust the science of specialised hydrologists, who calculate the water being taken as just a fraction of what flows into the aquifer each year. . .

‘Getting naked to show bravery’: Reporoa community calendar with a twist – Caroline Fleming:

After a spate of suicides in the rural Bay of Plenty community of Reporoa, young farmers have stood up and stripped off to say ‘enough is enough’.

Over the years, the small community has been rattled by a number of youth suicides. Just a couple of months ago, another young farmer is believed to have taken their life.

“Everyone was hit really hard,” said Reporoa Young Farmers events coordinator Laura Pulman.

At the time, lots of the community relied on the Rural Support Trust, a national support service for farmers, to talk through the pain. . . .

Fonterra’s year by the numbers:”

It’s that time of year when we take a look back at the highlights that helped make 2019 what it was before turning the page to 2020.

Just like Santa, Fonterra has been keeping a list. Instead of who’s been naughty or nice, we’ve published a list of some of the things in 2019 we’ve been up to as the year (and decade) wraps up.

A massive thanks to our farmers, employees and communities for helping make this happen. . .

$100k annual cost for dairy farmers:

Dairy facial eczema (FE) can cost farmers at least $100,000 each year in lost milk production, a recent study has found.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Farming Fund is supporting the Facial Eczema Action Group – made up of veterinarians, dairy farmers and rural professionals – to explore ways of raising awareness of FE so that more farmers take preventative action.

Many cows don’t show clinical signs of FE. As a result, farmers often don’t know why milk loss is happening and end up drying off their cows early. . .

NFU urges MPs to support British farming as Brexit looms:

The NFU has met with MPs and urged them to support British farming as the UK looks likely to leave the EU by the end of January.

The union held one of its first receptions for politicians since the general election last week.

MPs were told to recognise the importance of Britain’s farming standards and ensure they are not sacrificed by the UK’s future trade policy. . .


Rural round-up

December 24, 2019

Pappinbarra dairy farming couple pours 4,000l of milk down the drain after NSW bushfires cut electricity: – Michael Cavanagh and Tim Fookes:

A dairy farming couple on the NSW mid-north coast have been forced to drain nearly 4,000 litres of milk after bushfires left their property without electricity for four days.

For Mary and Peter Reynolds, watching thousands of litres of milk being poured down the drain was heartbreaking as it has cost them thousands of dollars.

As the dairy farming couple watched as a series of fires approached their Pappinbarra property, near Port Macquarie, the electricity went off and remained off for four days. . .

Wool News: Wellington start up taking innovative new coarse wool concept to the world:

NZ coarse wool innovation on-track to disrupt 78 billion USD global hygiene market.

A Wellington-based start up company, founded by a mother and daughter with a multi generation background in farming, has found a new way to add value to coarse wool that could revive the sector and promises to create fresh revenue opportunities for New Zealand wool growers.

Derelee Potroz Smith is CEO and founder of Woolchemy, which she established in partnership with her mother Angela Potroz. Derelee, whose professional background is in engineering and whose family has farmed in Taranaki since 1876, says the company has developed patented technology to use wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in hygiene consumer products.

“Legislative and consumer pressure worldwide is bearing down on manufacturers to use sustainable resources and take responsibility for the full lifecycle of their products. Disposable personal hygiene products, which include nappies, feminine hygiene pads and incontinence pads, are hugely problematic in this respect. These products account for a global market valued at $US78 billion per annum. . . 

Green light for irrigation scheme :

North Canterbury’s Amuri Irrigation Company (AIC) is pressing ahead with plans for a new irrigation scheme for the Hawarden/Waikari area, following a positive response from potential users.

The company issued a product disclosure statement (PDS) last month for shares to fund a revised Hurunui Irrigation Scheme. The PDS closed on November 28 and AIC says it received sufficient interest to advance to the next stage of design and development.

The proposal is for a 2000ha to 3000ha piped irrigation scheme to supply farms near the North Canterbury towns of Hawarden and Waikari. It is a smaller alternative to a scheme proposed by AIC earlier in the year, which did not proceed due to insufficient support. . . 

An update on the Mycoplasma bovis Programme: –  Sam McIvor:

M. bovis is one of the greatest biosecurity challenges we have faced in New Zealand and 2019 has been a challenging year for the eradication effort, especially for our farmers who have been affected.

Over the past few months, we have seen improvements in the Programme and we and our partners, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and DairyNZ, remain committed to achieving eradication so that we can farm free from this disease.

It is important that we keep up this momentum in 2020 so that we catch and stop the disease quickly, and prevent as many farmers as we can from being affected. . . 

Marlborough author Tony Orman goes back down a country road – Sophie Trigger:

From an unhygienic farmer with an artificial leg to Rai Valley’s “livestock psychologist”,Tony Orman brings to life New Zealand’s country characters. 

Following the success of his 2018 book Down a Country Road, which sold out in six weeks, the Marlborough writer felt he had more stories to tell. 

This year’s sequel, Down a Country Road II was released last week, featuring “spillover” stories from the first book and more from Orman’s years working as journalist in the area.  . . 

Nowt But a Fleeting Thing: the reality of farming – Lindsay Poulton:

Our latest Guardian documentary, Nowt But a Fleeting Thing, has just launched: a father and son story about the challenges of farming and a changing world in the north of England. It’s a beautiful film directed by Dom Bush and made with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

We talked with Dom about his experiences making a film about a subject that is really close to his heart.

What was it like making a film about a subject and a community that you’re so close to?

I’m born and bred in the hills here in Cumbria so the story is really personal to me. I grew up on a smallholding in north Cumbria and we were surrounded by farms so I understood early on the intrinsic connection between people and animals.

I worked a little on farms as I got older so I saw what was going on behind the scenes to some extent. I knew there were solid reasons why people would choose to rear animals and work the land, but I could also see that life could be hard and livelihoods hung in the balance at times. Pride and purpose were mixed with some deep-set social and economic problems. . . 


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