Rural round-up

October 11, 2019

Anger at slow compensation process –  Sally Rae:

”I think I would rather have cancer than Mycoplasma bovis.”

That was the hard-hitting opening line in a letter from North Otago farmer Kerry Dwyer, to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor last month.

Mr Dwyer and his wife Rosie were among the first farmers affected by Mycoplasma bovis when their property was confirmed as having the bacterial cattle disease in August 2017.

It was in March last year that Mr Dwyer first publicly expressed fears over the compensation process.

Now, more than two years after having all their cattle slaughtered due to the disease, and a year after lodging their last compensation claim, they were still waiting for settlement.

But after the Otago Daily Times contacted MPI yesterday, a spokesman said director-general Ray Smith had requested an urgent review of the Dwyers’ claims and MPI would pay what was owing by the end of the week. . . 

Hurunui mayor blames public opinion for ‘unattainable’ water targets – Emma Dangerfield:

An outgoing North Canterbury mayor says “public opinion and impatience” are driving proposed water quality targets that will be impossible to meet.

Environment Minister David Parker last week released the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater Management and the Government’s rewritten National Policy Statement, which aims to improve New Zealand’s waterways, crack down on farming practices and increase regulation. The plan includes a mandate for councils to have freshwater plans in place by 2025.

In a statement published on the Hurunui District Council’s website, mayor and farmer Winton Dalley said the Government was responding to the “huge pressure of public opinion and impatience with what in their view is … [a] lack of progress to return all water to a quality, which – in many cases – is unattainable.”

Water quality issues in the district were not only caused by rural and urban pollution, he said. . . 

Irrigation achievement celebrated:

The prosperity of the Mid Canterbury district stems from the 67km-long Rangitata diversion race (RDR), which started from humble beginnings with workers using picks, shovels and wooden wheelbarrows in its development at Klondyke, Mid Canterbury in 1937.

It has gone on to supply water to the district’s plains and helping to generate social and economic benefits to Mid Cantabrians, from the people on the land, to those in its towns and villages.

The engineering feat required for its development was celebrated with new signage provided by the Mid Canterbury RDR community and those connected to the system.

They included farmer and RDR Management Ltd (RDRML) chairman Richard Wilson, irrigation scheme representatives, members of the engineering fraternity and other invited guests such as ”RDR Kid” Viv Barrett (87), who, at age 5, lived with his family in the RDR camp at Ealing as his father Jim was the first RDR raceman. . . 

Teenager creates company to get high-speed network to rural communities – Rebecca Black:

A Whanganui teenager has big plans to get fibre internet speeds to rural customers.

Alex Stewart, 14, says rural communities are paying fibre prices for copper speeds and face a huge bill to get access to faster internet.

Stewart was staying at Turakina Beach, 20 minutes south of Whanganui, when he got talking to frustrated locals who had been in touch with a telecommunications company about getting cell phone coverage and better internet. . . 

Painting cows like zebras keep flies at bay – study – Angie Skerrett:

A new study suggests painting cows with zebra stripes could be the answer to the age-old problem of fly attacks on livestock, and bring economic and environmental benefits.

Biting flies are serious pests for livestock, which cause economic losses in animal production. 

However a new study by Japanese researchers and published in PLOS One found that black cows painted with zebra stripes are nearly 50 percent less likely to suffer from the bites.

Researchers used six Japanese Black cows with different paint designs in the study. . . 

African Swine Flu just a stone’s throw from Australia :

The deadly virus which has claimed one quarter of the world’s pig population is now perilously close to our northern border.

A disease that has wreaked havoc and caused mass devastation to the global pig population, has now spread from China to other parts of Asia, including the Philippines, North and South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and now Timor-Leste.

Outbreaks of African Swine Fever also continue to be reported in eastern Europe as the deadly spread shows no signs of slowing. ASF is reported to have already wiped out a quarter of the world’s pigs, and the risk of it infecting pigs in other countries in Asia and elsewhere remains a serious threat. The disease is known to kill about 80 percent of animals which become infected. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 9, 2019

Extinction Rebellion should unglue their hands and reach out for the potential of gene editing technologies – Point of Order:

History was being made (we  were  told  by  mainstream media)  when  170,000  New Zealanders  took to  the streets to  demand  decisive  action  against  climate  change.  It capped a  week in which the  16-year-old Swedish girl Greta Thunberg dressed down a  summit in New York of world leaders:

“We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth”.

That  apocalyptic   vision  was  clearly  shared  by  many young  New Zealanders: one Wellington student called on the government immediately to  cull the   country’s entire  dairy herd.

So   what   has   happened in the  fortnight  since? . .

Water rules’ outcome predetermined – Alan Emerson:

I joined more than 400 local farmers at the Ministry for the Environment consultation meeting in Carterton. 

In addition it was streamed to Federated Farmers members. It was an interesting experience.

The meeting started with MfE staff telling Wairarapa rivers are in good shape. 

They then went on to outline all the expenses to be foisted on us even though our rivers are, in their words, in good shape.

We were then told we need to manage our emotions and to be respectful of other attendees.

I’d suggest it’s not easy to manage your emotions when you are getting considerable costs foisted on you for no good reason. . . 

Kiwi clarity inspires import – Samantha Tennent:

Being a foreigner in a strange land is no barrier to progression in the dairy industry for one young woman from England. Samantha Tennent reports.

Nicola Blowey is the manager on 575-cow farm at Fairlie.

She was also the 2019 national winner of the Dairy Trainee of the Year at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

She has found consistency and clarity across the NZ dairy sector compared to the diversity in Britain where farmers use grass in some way across their systems.

“Back home discussions don’t have the same clarity,” Blowey says. . .

Meat company still in limbo – Brent Melville:

About 160 seasonal workers at Oamaru Meats Ltd (OML) are entering their fourth week off the job after the meat processor shut down the majority of its processing on September 13.

The unplanned closure followed the suspension of its access to China beef markets.

The North Otago company, owned by Chinese company BX Foods, said it had been working with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Chinese authorities to get more information.

OML director Richard Thorp, who had described the shut-down as a “temporary break in production”, said the plant had continued and about 20 staff had been retained for “non-China” processing. . .. 

Pioneer of Central Otago winemaking still in the business – Yvonne O’Hara:

Reverend Samuel Marsden did not know it, but when he planted the first grapevines in Kerikeri, Bay of Islands, on September 25, 1819, he was indirectly introducing an industry that is now earning Central Otago millions of export dollars.

Frenchman Jean Desire Feraud introduced wine grapes into Central Otago in 1864 at Clyde, as did Alexandra businessman Thomas Oliver in the same decade.

They were also indirectly responsible for the modern vibrant wine industry in Central Otago.

There are now 135 wineries and 32 grape growers, producing wines that attract global accolades.

There is 1884ha planted in vineyards, of which 1502ha is planted in pinot noir, and last season the region produced 11,868 tonnes of wine grapes, New Zealand Wine Growers says. . . 

Minnesota farmers diversify into hemp production to stay viable – Lucy Kinbacher:

An American farming family are among a host of Minnesota growers taking up new hemp crops as prices for corn and soybeans tumble.

The Peterson family of Sever and Sharon, along with their son Aaron and his wife Nicola, operate about 445 hectares growing everything from corn, soybeans, pumpkins and apple trees, and are no strangers to business restructure.

Traditionally a truck garden vegetable farm in the early 20th century, they went on to dabble in wholesale production throughout the US and central Canada, roadside retail stores and even established Sever’s Corn Maze for added income. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 1, 2019

The climate change blame-game:

In spite of the abuse heaped on farmers by urbanites, the causes of climate change are a town and country problem.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern undersold New Zealand when she told the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit in New York that we were “determined to show that we can be the most sustainable food producers in the world”.

By most key measures, and even counting food miles for our exports, we already are. But that message needs amplifying.

Never mind the world stage – farmers need defending at home against the current fashion for demonising them as the prime culprits for greenhouse-gas emissions and water pollution. . . 

Farmers’ inner-city BBQs aim to boost urban connections, mental health – Maja Burry:

A farming group is hosting barbecues in cities around the country to try to strengthen the relationship between rural and city people.

Ag Proud, a group formed by Southland farmers, aims to promote positive farm practices and raise awareness around mental health in the farming-sector.

Dairy farmer and Ag Proud co-founder, Jon Pemberton, said a recent winter grazing campaign by environmentalists in his region and some of the stress that had created among farmers sparked the group’s formation. . . 

Celebrity chef Al Brown pledges support for NZ farmers, takes swipe at ‘urban keyboard warriors’ – Angie Skerrett:

Celebrity chef Al Brown has taken a swipe at “urban keyboard warriors” he claims criticise farmers unnecessarily.

Brown posted a message on his Facebook page pledging his support for New Zealand farmers and calling on city-dwellers to stop bagging them.

“I just want to say thank you to our farmers of New Zealand,” the Depot owner wrote.  . .

‘M. bovis’ costs $203m to date – Brent Melville:

The costs of Mycoplasma bovis to the agricultural sector continue to stack up.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says the eradication programme has cost more than $203million to date – excluding compensation to farmers.

In that respect MPI has received a total of 1450 claims with a value of $109.9million and has so far completed 1100 of those, cutting cheques to farmers valued at about $96.5million.

According to the latest figures from MPI more than 116,526 cattle and cows have been culled in just over two years since the M. bovis eradication programme was launched.

That’s getting close to initial estimates that around 126,000 animals would be culled during the course of a multi-year surveillance and eradication strategy, or around 1% of New Zealand’s cattle population. . . 

New dehorning rules are here :

New rules will require pain relief when dehorning and disbudding cattle.

From tomorrow, new rules require people working with cattle to use local anaesthetic when dehorning and disbudding.

Veterinarian and director animal health and welfare Dr Chris Rodwell says removing horns or horn buds is necessary on the farm to keep animals safe from each other, as well as for human safety.

“These regulations highlight that removal is painful and those carrying it out need to reduce the pain experienced. . . 

Wool price rebounds after dip :

After an extremely turbulent few weeks, fine-mid wool growers are breathing a sigh of relief that prices are on the mend.

The US-China trade war has been affecting demand, with factories in China feeling reluctant to buy wool to make garments they might struggle to sell.

PGG Wrightson South Island sales manager for wool Dave Burridge said at its peak three weeks ago mid-fine wool prices in New Zealand were down 50 percent compared to the same time last year, but they had now made a notable recovery, sitting about 25 percent back on 2018 levels. . .

 


Rural round-up

August 18, 2019

Alliance upgrading Timaru meat processing plant :

Meat processor Alliance Group is investing $1.2 million in its Smithfield plant in Timaru.

The co-operative is owned by approximately 4000 farmer shareholders and exports lamb, beef, venison and co-products to more than 65 countries.

Alliance Group chief executive David Surveyor said the upgrade of the Smithfield plant would include installing additional vacuum packaging, co-products processing technology and extending the secondary processing area at the South Canterbury plant.

Mr Surveyor said the changes would boost processing efficiency by up to 20 percent and help meet the needs of farmers in the South Island. . . 

Turning meat into money – Colin Williscroft:

The McFadzean name is well known to farmers looking for top-quality weaners but the family is now turning its attention to producing affordable yearling bulls based on top-of-the-line genetics, as Colin Williscroft discovered.

Johnie McFadzean is helping take a well-respected family business to the next level.

The son of Wairarapa farming stalwart John McFadzean, who has been achieving top prices at the Masterton weaner fair for about 40 years, Johnie wants to build on his father’s work that has attracted weaner prices that stack up well nationally, often the top in the country, illustrating a successful breeding programme.

The idea now is to use technology like intramuscular scanning to build on that impressive breeding history, making quality bulls that will improve the productivity of commercial herds at an affordable price.

 

‘If you read BBC headlines you would believe the IPCC supported a vegan diet – it did not’ – Martin Kennedy:

The BBC nationally need to take a real good look at themselves and start reporting the real facts in a balanced manner instead of misrepresenting views and reports, says In Your Field writer and NFU Scotland vice president Martin Kennedy. 

Some recent reporting is being done in a manner that not only undermines the integrity of what should be a highly thought of British organisation, but also has massive implications on an agricultural industry that has welfare standards and environmental credentials that are the envy of most across the world.

That is why NFU Scotland (NFUS) has written in the strongest terms to the BBC this week to complain about its poor reporting around the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last week. . . 

Potato mop-top virus response closes out :

A joint Biosecurity New Zealand and Potatoes New Zealand response to the crop disease potato mop-top virus (PMTV) is being closed out, with industry taking the lead on long-term management.

PMTV was confirmed in New Zealand in September 2018, initially concentrated in grower paddocks in Canterbury.

A national survey to determine the extent of the disease has now been completed and the virus has been confirmed throughout the country north to south, indicating that it has been in New Zealand for a long period of time.

“It became evident earlier into the response that this disease couldn’t be eradicated and that the best outcome for potato growers was for industry management long-term,” says Sam Leske, Biosecurity New Zealand’s acting director of readiness and response services. . . 

Celebrating 200 years of New Zealand wine:

September 25 2019 marks 200 years since the first planting of grapevines in New Zealand.

From the humble beginnings of a vine planted in Northland, the New Zealand wine industry has grown to become a $1.83 billion export earner, with an international reputation for premium, diverse and sustainable wines.

Reverend Samuel Marsden, Chaplain to New South Wales (1765-1838), records September 25 1819 as the day he planted a vine in the rich grounds of the Stone Store, Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. These pioneering vines were the very first to be planted into New Zealand soils, with New Zealand being one of very few countries in the world where the exact date of the planting of the first vines is known, making our story unique on the world stage. . .

LIC named top co-op :

LIC has been named as the Cooperative Business of the Year.

The co-op, which supplies genetics and world-leading agritech solutions to farmers across New Zealand and around the world, was praised for making a significant and positive impact within the co-operative community and returning benefits to its 10,300 Kiwi shareholders.

It received the award at Cooperative Business NZ annual awards in Wellington last night. NZ Co-ops chief executive Craig Presland said LIC exemplifies cooperative values and highlights the strengths of the enduring business model.


Rural round-up

August 15, 2019

WeatherWatch launches new site: RuralWeather.co.nz

WeatherWatch.co.nz has launched a new website and it’s the biggest weather data dump in NZ history: www.RuralWeather.co.nz.

The new website gives people all over the country the power of weather data, allowing for a much clearer and deeper understanding of incoming weather trends and patterns, particularly useful for farmers, gardeners, market growers, surfers, pilots…and of course, every day weather nerds!

We’ve included trends for dew-point, which helps with fog forecasting (and yes city/town folk, you can use our new Fog Forecaster in the main centres too if you’re about to fly somewhere!). We also have air pressure trends, rainfall figures, frost forecasting and much more – and it’s all incredibly granular and specific to where you live. . . 

A quarter century of transforming Taranaki’s river and stream banks – Mike Watson:

The year is 1993. 

Jim Bolger’s National Government has been returned with a one seat majority, MMP is voted in as Winston Peters establishes NZ First, and Taranaki’s Regional Council (TRC) embarks on an ambitious riparian management plan to encourage farmers to fence off plant trees and flaxes along the banks of every river, stream and drain on their properties.

Fast forward 25 years to 2019.

A Labour-led coalition Government grapples with transitioning the country to a low emissions economy within 30 years, Winston Peters is deputy Prime Minister, and farmers speculate what their economic future will look like by 2050. And the TRC celebrate a significant milestone.

The council-promoted and implemented riparian management programme has reached a 25 year anniversary and the milestone brings with it impressive statistics that would appear to underline the scheme’s success. . . 

Smith promises more MPI engagement – Peter Burke:

MPI’s director-general, Ray Smith, wants his staff to engage more with the rural sector.

He told Rural News this is a key element in his just released strategic plan for this year.

Smith says he’s told his management team to engage more, be agile, open and proactive, and be much more available to local communities.

We have to be seen to be listening and acting on things people want us to do to support them. We are the Ministry FOR the Primary Industries and our job is to back industry to win,” he says. 

Pigeon Valley fire deemed accidental :

Fire and Emergency New Zealand has confirmed that one of the country’s largest plantation forest fires was accidental.

The Pigeon Valley fire was started on 5 February by sparks from an agricultural contractor working in a dry, stony paddock.

The report found that sparks from the discing equipment – from metal on stone or metal on metal contact – ignited dry grass in the paddock.

Strong winds at the time spread the fire quickly, and over the next couple of weeks it burned through 2300 hectares of commercial plantation forest, property and pastures. . . 

Ravensdown to reinvest in innovation and environment on back of good result :

Ravensdown has announced another good financial result with profit before tax and rebate from continued operations of $52 million (2018: $63m, 2017: $51m) for the year ending 31 May 2019.

The co-operative is paying $35 million in total back to farmers who bought fertiliser in the financial year. As part of its commitment to responsible governance and balance sheet strength, 23% of the profit ($12 million) is being retained by the co-operative to reinvest in improved infrastructure, research and development, product innovation and new technology.

A total rebate of $30 per tonne is made up of the $15 early interim rebate paid in June plus $15 that will be paid in August. “After five years of consistently profitable results, our shareholders tell us that the rebate in any one year is not the be all and end all,” said John Henderson Ravendown’s Chair. “What matters to them is a sustainable co-operative that offers great service, quality products, surety of supply, competitive pricing throughout the 12 months and ways to help them perform in the long term.” . . 

North Canterbury farm shows off new rare breed calf – Emma Dangerfield:

A new arrival to a Rangiora farm is making waves in bovine and rare breeds circles.

Stonewall Farm this week announced the birth of a three-quarter Nadudana Zebu heifer.

Nadudana Zebu Cattle are one of the world’s oldest cattle breeds and the only true miniature cattle breed. . . 

Breeder looking to provide what the customer wants – Gregor Heard:

THE HEAD of one of Australia’s largest plant breeders has said her company was looking to engage with end-use customers more than ever before to create products the market wants.

Tress Walmsley, Intergrain chief executive, said there was a strong focus on working with customers at the end of the supply chain, both locally and abroad.

“We recently visited a brewer in Vietnam and it was the first time they had ever been visited by a plant breeder, they welcomed the chance to tell us about what they wanted from barley,” Ms Walmsley said. . . 


Rural round-up

July 27, 2019

Huge challenge facing RMA review panel:

Federated Farmers believes the Government has set a substantial challenge in its announcement of a review into the Resource Management Act.

The organisation agrees with Environment Minister David Parker that because of frequent amendments, the RMA is now overly cumbersome, costly and complex.

“The review will be no easy task. It will need to consider wide and diverse opinions and concerns. There are few organisations which have been more intricately and routinely involved in resource management processes across the country since the Act first came into force than Federated Farmers, so we consider our active input on the review panel will be vital,” Federated Farmers resource management spokesperson Chris Allen says. . .

Eliminating ‘M bovis’ tough but correct call – Peter Bodeker:

The Ministry for Primary Industries remains confident it can eradicate M.bovis from New Zealand,  Peter Bodeker says.

July marks two years since Mycoplasma bovis was first detected in New Zealand, kicking off the largest biosecurity response we’ve ever seen.

Along with the entire country, Otago has been affected – facing immense challenges in dealing with this disease, and the ongoing effort to eradicate it. . .

More Miraka farmers win for excellence :

Miraka’s insistence on sustainable farming practices has shown results in more farms winning honours in the recent Te Ara Miraka farming excellence awards.

“Since establishing the awards four years ago we’ve started to see significant change in on farm practices,” says Grant Jackson, general manager milk supply. “

We’re not just meeting the regulations, that’s mandatory for us. Rather we’re going over and above, to achieve excellence in animal welfare, sustainable land management, looking after employees and premium quality milk.”  . . 

Young Farmer passionate about improving dairy’s environmental footprint :

A pair of fantails flit above Robert Barry’s head as he bends down to inspect a predator trap at the base of a totara tree.

The towering native is in a pristine bush block on a farm owned by the BEL Group near Waipukurau in central Hawke’s Bay.

The eight-hectare block is protected by a Queen Elizabeth II Trust covenant and is dotted with almost a dozen traps. . . 

Tenure agreement reached for Canterbury high country station

A tenure review agreement has been reached for the North Canterbury high country station, Island Hills.

Under the soon-to-be scrapped tenure review process, leased high-country Crown land can be signed over to farmers, provided they set aside areas for conservation.

Land Information New Zealand said 1600 hectares would be transferred to the Crown as conservation estate and 3200 will be freehold subject to conservation covenants, that restricts activities such as grazing and vegetation clearance.

The remaining 200 hectares would be freehold without restrictions. . . 

How do riparian strips fare long term – Bert Quin:

Could our riparian systems become overloaded and therefore useless? Riparian strips are correctly promoted as useful tools for reducing environmental pollution, especially for their ability to filter out faecal bacteria and sediment before these enter streams. But there is much more to it, writes Bert Quin.

Many frequently made claims for the ability of riparian strips to improve water quality are based on very short-term studies only. This is particularly true of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) removal.

Unfortunately, we are now in the days of emphasis on short-term, quick-results trials that lend themselves to publication in many different journals to ensure more cash from equally short-sighted funding organisations and companies with vested interests. . .


Global pig fever alert

July 26, 2019

African Swine Fever has been declared a global pandemic by the World Organisation for Animal Health:

That is an international major event putting New Zealand’s $750 million commercial pork industry at risk, NZ Pork general manager David Baines said.

“It’s concerning. It isn’t going away. In fact, it’s got bigger,” Baines said.

NZ Pork, the Ministry for Primary Industries and AsureQuality have embarked on a nationwide education campaign to warn people keeping domestic pigs or coming into contact with feral pigs of the risks of the disease.

“The industry is taking the threat of the disease extremely seriously.

“Watching the disease spread through Europe and Asia demonstrates how devastating it could be if it reached NZ,” Baines said.

Though the disease has no effect on human health the only response is to cull infected herds. . .

While there have been no detections of the it in NZ, about 60% of pork consumed in NZ is imported from more than 25 countries including China, Poland and Belgium that are identified as having the fever.

The virus is exceptionally hardy and can survive almost indefinitely in frozen meat. 

It can also be carried on clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles. . .

It’s estimated pigs are kept on at least 5500 properties outside the commercial industry with an unknown number of animals.

“One of the things we’re really emphasising is the importance of not feeding untreated meat scraps to pigs,” Baines said.

“The major risk to our industry is that African swine fever gets into the lifestyle or para-commercial pig population through the feeding of untreated food scraps and from there into our commercial herd.”

In NZ it is illegal to feed meat to pigs unless it has been cooked at 100 degrees, essentially boiled, for one hour.

“This is a key biosecurity measure as African swine fever is a very hardy virus and can survive in pork products that might not have been cooked thoroughly as well as various types of processed pork products. 

“It can infect the pigs that eat them.” . . 

The pork industry has been calling for an end to imports of pork for years.

Until now that’s looked like a non-tariff barrier to protect the local industry from overseas competitors.

The risk of ASF provides a much stronger case for restricting imports on biosecurity grounds.


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