Rural round-up

14/09/2021

What sounds good may not be – Jacqueline Rowarth:

 “The carbon market is based on the lack of delivery of an invisible substance to no one.”

This was investigative journalist Mark Schapiro’s description in a 2010 article in Harper’s Magazine, under the title of ‘Conning the climate’. The problem? The lack of ability to verify what was going on.

This, he explained, contrasts with traditional commodities, which must be delivered to someone in physical form. Schapiro avoided ‘the emperor has no clothes’ analogy but indicated that the people benefitting from the trading game were auditing companies who weren’t always employing appropriate people. He used the terms ‘flawed, inadequate, and overall failure to assign assessors with the proper technical skills’.

There are lessons in this for New Zealand. . . 

Industry withers in spring as strict lockdown rules bite:

The commercial flower industry is being left out in the cold in this latest lockdown. It’s an industry that can’t close its doors and get a wage subsidy to pay its staff. It’s a constant process of planting, toil and regeneration, National’s Horticulture spokesperson David Bennett says.

“Commercial growers are unable to send their products to market despite sales channels being open to other products. One grower told me they can buy ‘donuts and alcohol, but not flowers’.

“Horticulturists have been selfless and patient in complying with lockdowns like other New Zealanders. However, they do expect a fair playing field where they can undertake contactless delivery with consumers and other essential service retailers. . .

Latest lift in auction prices is an encouraging sign for the fortunes of dairy farmers – Point of Order:

The good  news   was  running  in  favour  of  New Zealand’s  meat  producers early this week.  Today it is running in  favour  of our  dairy  farmers.

The  first  Fonterra  global  dairy  trade  auction in  three weeks  had  the  most  bidders  in  a  year and  charted  prices  on   a  rising  trend,  confirming  the  firm  tone  at the  previous  event   was  not  a  one-off.

The global dairy trade price index posted its biggest increase since early March, when it jumped 15%.

The key WMP product rose 3.3%, SMP was up 7.3% and both butter and cheese each rose almost 4%. Prices rose 4% overall in USD terms, although they were only up 1.2% in NZD terms, held back by a firming currency. . . .

Council’s waste plan puts Manawatū food production at risk – Emma Hatton:

Landowners in Manawatū are anxious their plots will be swept up in plans for the country’s largest-ever wastewater to land treatment system.

Productive land is caught up in the Palmerston North City Council’s proposal to discharge treated wastewater onto between 760 and 2000 hectares, instead of primarily into the Manawatū River.

Peter Wells’ family has been on the land since 1884. He and his wife run a farm and a wedding business on it.

“We would likely be included in the 760, certainly in the 2000. . . 

MPI expecting small number of M bovis infections this spring – Maja Burry:

More cases of the cattle disease M bovis are expected this spring, with bulk tank milk testing last month picking up 61 farms requiring further investigation.

The government has been working to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis since 2018. As part of that work, so far 172,000 cattle from 268 farms have been culled and $209.4 million has been paid in compensation to affected farmers.

Figures from the Ministry for Primary Industries show at moment there are just two farms, both in Canterbury, actively infected with M bovis.

MPI’s director of the M bovis eradication programme Stuart Anderson said it wouldn’t be surprised to see a small number of new cases this spring. . .

Orphan lamb rearing with Kerry Harmer

Kerry Harmer and her husband Paul farm Castleridge Station in the Ashburton Gorge and were concerned about the economic loss associated with lamb wastage, as well as the animal welfare implications.

Determined to address the issue, the couple have set up a lamb-rearing system – which includes automatic feeders – that minimises lamb losses and generates a profit of $50/head (including labour costs).

Kerry was a popular presenter on Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Ladies’ Virtual Muster and joins Regional Associate Briar Huggett to discuss the Harmers’ journey and tips and tricks she has for other lamb rearers. . .

CSIRO, governments and industry put $150m into farm sector research – Kath Sullivan:

Increased exports, drought mitigation and new foods are at the centre of $150 million in research spending by governments and Australia’s farming industry.

It is hoped that the CSIRO-led research will help generate an additional $20 billion of value for Australia’s farm sector by the 2030.

CSIRO has committed an initial $79 million, with governments and industry kicking in $71 million, to fund the five-year research program, which will involve three key “missions”.

“We’ve decided to really focus our efforts on three big challenges that we think are existential for farming in Australia,” CSIRO agriculture and food deputy director Michael Robertson said. . . 


Rural round-up

25/07/2021

Why farmers protested in NZ towns and cities – Shelley Krieger:

 Last week’s Howl of a Protest inspired Balclutha dairy stock agent Shelley Krieger to write the following post on Facebook, explaining why rural people took to the streets.

In case anyone was confused as to why the farmers were protesting on Friday, I thought I would just put something here so people have an idea of why.

Firstly SNAs (Significant Natural Areas).

These are areas of people’s farm land or lifestyle blocks that the Government is getting the councils to survey. . . 

Labour cannot afford to ignore rural concerns – Mike Houlahan:

For something set up as an apolitical organisation, farmer advocacy group Groundswell is having a heck of a political impact.

Yesterday the group, set up by Greenvale farmer Laurie Paterson and his Pomahaka colleague Bryce McKenzie in October last year, held its first national event, Howl of a Protest.

Farmers and sympathetic townies both were encouraged to fetch up to a town centre near them to show how fed up they were with increasing Government interference in their lives and businesses.

There is a long shopping list of government policies Messrs Paterson and McKenzie and co are riled about, which includes fresh water management, stock grazing regulations, promotion of electric vehicles, Resource Management Act reform, emission standards, and significant natural areas regulations. . . 

‘Farmers need to stick together’– Toni Williams:

“Farmers need to stick together, work together and help each other along,” dairy farmer Willy Leferink says.

Mr Leferink, speaking at the Howl of a Protest in Ashburton on Friday, said farmers were sick and tired of all the regulations and needed a change where farmers would make a difference.

“The ink is not even dry on the Canterbury Water Management Strategy,” he said, and changes were already afoot.

“We as rural communities don’t get listened to,” he said. . . 

M. Bovis eradication efforts on track :

A just released report shows efforts to rid the cattle disease M-Bovis from the country are on track and eradication is likely to be achieved.

The disease which can cause lameness and mastitis was first detected on a South Canterbury farm in July 2017.

In 2018 the government committed to eliminating the disease over 10 years.

The latest report from the independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG) shows only three active infected properties remain, down from 34 two years ago, and once cleared the programme will move onto surveillance. . . 

Science helps cook ‘perfect steak’; artificial intelligence creates recipes

AgResearch scientists have taken their skills into the kitchen to identify the ideal cooking conditions for the “perfect steak”; while also harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create new food combinations and recipes.

The scientists used a unique approach of analysing biochemical changes in beef steak during the cooking process.

They worked with world-class development chef Dale Bowie, whose career included working at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin three-star restaurant The Fat Duck in the UK.

When being cooked, steak releases compounds emitted as gases called volatiles, which can be captured and analysed. . .

Angus Youth inspires industry’s next generation – Edwina Watson:

ANGUS Youth protege Damien Thomson reckons there’s never been a better time to be in beef.

At home at Shaccorahdalu Angus, Berremangra, NSW, the Thomsons received the equivalent to their 2019 total rainfall in the first three months of 2021.

Mr Thomson said the good season was now showing in the stud’s pastures and weaners.

“It’s great to see the optimism and confidence in beef cattle after such an extreme drought. The quality of our herd improves year-on-year and we can’t supply enough to our existing clients.” . . 

 


Rural round-up

05/07/2021

Southland MP Joseph Mooney invites Green Party co-leader James Shaw to Southland to meet Groundswell NZ – Rachael Kelly:

Farmer protest group Groundswell NZ said it would ‘’most definitely’’ meet with Green Party co-leader James Shaw if he accepted an invitation to visit Southland.

Southland MP Joseph Mooney wants to extend an invitation to Shaw to the province to meet with the group, who he says Shaw ‘’unfairly vilified in the media this week”.

A spokesperson from Shaws’ office said: ‘’Joseph Mooney is welcome to send an invitation to the Minister, and it will be considered alongside all the others we receive.’’

Shaw admitted for the first time this week that it was Groundswell he was referring to in an interview with Ngati Hine FM last month, when he referred to ‘’a group of pākehā farmers from down south’’ who were ‘’always pushing back against the idea that they should observe any kind of regulation about what they can do to protect the environment”. . . .

B+LNZ launched emissions calculator – Neal Wallace:

The sheep and beef industry have taken a significant step towards managing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission obligations, with the launch of an emissions calculator for farmers.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has released the free-to-use calculator, which takes information about a farm and stock numbers and applies science and data about average emissions at national, regional and farm system level to calculate on-farm emissions and sequestration.

It has been funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership and endorsed by the Meat Industry Association (MIA), AFFCO NZ, Alliance Group, ANZCO Foods, Blue Sky Meats, Greenlea Premier Meats, Ovation NZ, Progressive Meats, Silver Fern Farms, Taylor Preston, Te Kuiti Meats, Universal Beef Packers and Wilson Hellaby NZ.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the calculator has been independently assessed as meeting the requirements for calculating emissions under the He Waka Eke Noa programme and agreement with the Government. . . 

Fences fixed first as farmers count cost of flooding – Country Life:

Farmers in Mid-Canterbury say it could take months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up the mess on their farms following last month’s massive flooding.

It’s been an extremely challenging situation for neighbouring farmers Anne-Marie Allen and Chrissie Wright, who say they are still trying to get their heads around the scale of the damag of Anne-Marie and her husband Chris’s farm resemble a bombsite.

Their six-hectare water storage pond is destroyed, fences are buried, machinery has been damaged and logs, branches, rocks, gravel and up to a metre of silt have been dumped on the Ashburton Forks property. . .

M bovis eradication on track – Annette Scott:

The next few months will be busy for the Mycoplasma bovis programme as it winds closer to a successful nationwide eradication of the disease.

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor is confident the programme is on track to eradicate the disease from New Zealand in the next five years.

“The programme has been refined and improved, the science and practice on the ground has helped get us to where we are now, just a pocket of five infected properties,” O’Connor said.

But, he says, the next few months will be busy and crucial. . . 

Farmers helping Meat the Need charity via Silver Fern Farms – Linda Hall:

Mince — it must be the most versatile red meat you can buy.

Most people would be able to come up with a nutritious meal by just adding some flavour and vegetables. It goes a long way and it’s reasonably priced.

However, there are many people out there who still can’t afford to buy enough food to feed their family.

It’s not surprising that the need for food parcels is growing with the price of housing and accommodation skyrocketing — and there’s no end in sight. . .

Scottish pig sector ‘at risk’ due to unfair supply chain practice :

The future of the Scottish pig industry is at risk due to continued unfair supply chain practices, NFU Scotland has warned.

It has written to Pilgrim’s, the processing partner of Scotland’s largest abattoir in Brechin, to urge them to stop operating pricing practices that ‘threaten’ the sector.

Farmers had ‘serious concerns’ resulting from the ‘uncompetitive price’ paid by Pilgrim’s for pigs going to the Brechin abattoir.

“The price is uncompetitive compared to alternative market routes,” NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

27/06/2021

Was the cost really worth it – ODT editorial:

Albert Einstein once said, “I don’t need to know everything, I just need to know where to find it, when I need it.”

In the case of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ response to the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, it plundered on, ignoring those with the practical knowledge it desperately needed, and leaving a path of trauma in its wake.

A two-year University of Otago-led study has recently been completed on the psychosocial impact of the bacterial cattle disease on rural communities in the South.

Excerpts make harrowing reading, including the farmer interviewed who struggles to remember the birth of his fourth child in the midst of the outbreak, and the dominant theme of the “intrusive, inpractical and inhumane” nature of the MPI eradication programme. . .

The human side of M bovis – Nicola Dennis:

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Many South Island farmers got a very good look at that road as the Government “helped” them through the Mycoplasma bovis (M bovis) eradication programme. So far, there have been over 171,600 cattle forcibly slaughtered from 260 farms. 

A recent University of Otago study found that the “poorly managed government response to the 2017 Mycoplasma bovis outbreak inflicted significant and lasting trauma on farmers”. 

If you farm in the South Island, where 75% of the culled properties were located, then this finding is no surprise. The heavy-handed, whole-herd eradication strategy that MPI adopted cast a very wide net. In addition to “depopulating’’ farms, a further 2000 properties were thwarted by movement restrictions and many more were under the scrutiny of “active surveillance”.

If Southern farmers weren’t directly involved, or consoling someone who was, then they were at least feeling it via the sluggish cattle prices over the past three years. . . 

Nurturing New Zealand’s future farmers – Steve Wyn-Harris:

I want to tell you about a great initiative out there because it’s a good idea and it’s an uplifting story.

Like many industries, the sheep and beef sector has struggled to get enough quality young folk to enter the industry as a career choice.

Near here we have Smedley Station, which has a two-year cadet training programme and has 13 cadets graduate from the course each year.

Up in Gisborne is the Waipaoa Station Farm Cadet Training Trust, which sees five young people graduate from their course annually. And there are other worthy cadet courses scattered around the country too. . .

New business hits spot at right time – Toni Williams:

Lucy Gilbert has a bounce in her step and a shine in her eyes.

She and friend Tash Andrews, of Timaru, started grazing table and platter business Fern & Feta Platters, bringing joy and wonder where it matters: via clients’ stomachs. And business is booming.

It belies a turbulent ride the 31-year-old has been on over the past 18 months.

While married to dairy farmer Nick Gilbert, Lucy has gone from being a top-performing travel agent, managing Flight Centre Ashburton, to losing her job as a Covid casualty then welcoming a much-loved newborn into the world but suffering postnatal depression. . .

Truffle hunt in full swing with expectations of supply outstripping demand – Hugo Cameron:

Truffle hunters are putting nose to the dirt as the harvest for the elusive fungus gets into full swing, with some expecting to find more than they can sell this season.

According to the Tuffle Association, there are over over 300 truffle farms, known as truffières, in New Zealand, including dozens of growers who supply to the hospitality industry.

Maureen Binns, husband Colin and trained truffle-hunting dog Jed collect the fungus from beneath more than 200 trees on their Paengaroa property near Tauranga.

Binns said the harvest started weeks early this year due to requests from a prominent Auckland chef – and supply might outstrip demand. . .

Grain-fed beef’s big potential hinges on knowing the customer and the competition – Shan Goodwin:

As cattle producers rebuild their herds, many are looking towards the promising potential emerging from fast-growing and lucrative global grain-fed beef demand.

Those turning off steers producing some of the best daily weight gains in feedlots say the unfolding dynamics in export markets at the moment are presenting some of the best opportunities for grain-fed beef they’ve seen in their lifetime.

Producers who entered steers in this year’s Royal Queensland Show Paddock to Palate competition notched up average daily gains in the late 2 kilograms and some in excess of 3 kilograms. . .


Intrusive, impractical and inhumane

23/06/2021

A University of Otago study shows MPI’s treatment of farmers whose herds were infected with Mycoplasma bovis was intrusive, impractical and inhumane:

A poorly managed government response to the 2017 Mycoplasma bovis outbreak inflicted significant and lasting trauma on farmers whose stock was culled, a University of Otago study has found.

Extensive interviews with affected farmers in Southland and Otago revealed the enduring emotional cost of a “badly planned and poorly executed process”, leaving farming families feeling isolated, bewildered, and powerless. Others in the rural community, such as local veterinarians, were left feeling their expertise was undervalued and their potential to positively contribute to the management of the outbreak disregarded.

Rural New Zealand is home to about 700,000 people, making it New Zealand’s second largest city, with farming contributing significantly to the economic wellbeing of rural communities and regions, and to the national economy. Nationally, an estimated 180,000 animals were culled on more than 250 farms, which were locked down under strict conditions, in a bid to eradicate the disease. Farmers were paid compensation for lost stock but this was often perceived as inadequate and onerous to secure.

The rational for compensation is that it encourages farmers to report suspected infections. Without compensation, or with poor management of it, the temptation to hide or kill infected animals would be too great for many. MPI’s guiding principle for this is that farmers should be left no better and no worse than they were before the disease struck, which is fair if that’s what happens in practice.

Measuring the human cost of this process was the focus of the Otago study, which was carried out by Dr Fiona Doolan-Noble, Dr Geoff Noller and Associate Professor Chrys Jaye, of the University of Otago’s Department of General Practice and Rural Health.

Study lead, Dr Doolan-Noble says that for her and Dr Noller it was heart wrenching listening to the accounts told by farmers in particular, but also the veterinarians and front-line workers. . . 

A dominant theme of the research was the intrusive, impractical and inhumane nature of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) eradication programme in which local knowledge, expertise and pragmatism were ignored in favour of inefficient bureaucratic processes which made no sense to farmers.

Intrusive, impractical and inhumane – that’s very strong criticism.

“Looking back, I can see I went through a series of emotional phases … The initial one was shock. Second phase I think was probably a panic … Third one was trying to think, ‘Jesus, this is very overwhelming.’ And then I got to [the] phase, ‘Okay, we’re stuck in this, how are we going to get out’?” one farmer told the research team.

Farmers described the damage to their sense of identity and the forced separation from typical farming practices and seasonal rhythms as they transitioned into an incursion management process overseen by an ill-prepared government agency.

An ill-prepared government agency sounds unfortunately familiar.

Once a Notice of Direction (NoD) was issued for a property, farming families effectively lost control of the running of their farm while remaining responsible for the welfare of their remaining stock.

“It says in the notice, in the NoD [biosecurity notice] that we are responsible for everything on the property. So, we’re responsible for the health and wellbeing of all the animals on the property, even though there’s people making decisions for us,” one farmer said.

This situation was compounded by poor communication, lack of clarity about animal testing regimes, delays in providing results, indecision regarding stock management, authoritarian and at times brutal decision-making concerning herd culls, and the ignoring of practical solutions to on-farm problems.

“Farming’s like a great big wheel … and they [MPI] cut a chunk of that wheel out and it collapses. Then it takes years to get that wheel back to that size again… It just breaks farmers down, losing control like that,” a farmer said.

One dairy farmer described how a slaughter team arrived early and started killing cows while he was still in the milking shed.

“So [MPI] decided to start killing them on the farm. And I said, ‘Look, that’s a bit rough’. But they said, ‘No, that’s what’s going to happen’. So, this truck arrives, from this pet food outfit…this guy pulls up and just shoots 10 of them, in the yard. Cuts their throats …I come [out] there, there was hysterics, there were staff crying. I just said to the guy, ‘You can’t do this. This is just heartless’.”

A family of beef farmers who experienced a total cull were impacted by slow MPI decision making, resulting in their farm over-wintering too many cattle during a very wet season: “…the animal welfare of the animals was not good at all…Because they were on very small pads in mud up to their haunches… we had two or three pass away on our pad because the conditions were so rough.”

Another farmer recounted how MPI officials insisted on following the mandated process of decontaminating a shed at a cost of $150,000 when he could have had it rebuilt for $70,000. On another farm a cleaning team was paid to sit at a table dipping individual screws into disinfectant and scrubbing them clean with a wire brush when the cost of brand new screws was negligible.

What on earth rationale was behind such stupidity?

One farmer said he had quit the land because of the impact of the elimination programme and further said he could not remember the birth of a child because of the stress at the time.

The study participants noted that farming was a 24/7 business but MPI officials were unavailable at weekends or over holiday periods. However, they didn’t necessarily blame MPI staff.

“In MPI, there’s a lot of people really, really trying. And they’re just getting caught up by red tape,” one farmer noted.

The researchers were guided by a stakeholder panel with farmer, veterinarian, local business, (human) health professional, rural organisation, agribusiness and MPI representation, and oversight was provided by a governance group comprising a Māori representative, a public health expert, an ethicist, a retired veterinarian and a farming consultant.

They noted another disease incursion was inevitable and that solutions need to be sought from within rural communities and then integrated into the relevant bureaucratic processes.

They propose:

  • The development of a regional interprofessional body to develop pragmatic approaches to future incursions
  • Genuine local engagement to seek solutions from the ground up
  • The formation of a nationwide ‘standing army’ of rural-based experts who can be called on to help shape the response to the next incursion

“One of MPI’s key principles in terms of biosecurity is fair restoration – ‘no better or worse’. We believe this should not just apply to the financial impact on farmers but should be applied to both the mental health of all involved, and also the social wellbeing of rural communities.”

Sally Rae reports on the heartless and devastating intrusion::

In the wake of a University of Otago study on the impact of the Mycoplasma bovisoutbreak on Southern families  – with a dominant theme of  the “intrusive, impractical and inhumane” nature of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ eradication programme – business and rural editor Sally Rae tells the story of a North Otago family caught up in it.

Rob Borst will never forget the scene that greeted him when he turned up at his North Otago dairy shed 15 minutes too late.
With Mycoplasma bovis declared on Mr Borst’s large-scale dairy farming operation in 2018, he had cows with mastitis – one of the symptoms of the disease – that the Ministry for Primary Industries ruled could not be sent to the meat works.

The cows were not unsound and Mr Borst felt they could still be killed at the works, but MPI decided they should be killed on-farm, despite his concerns.

Many of his staff had been with him a long time and had personal connections with the herd. Concerned about the effect on them, Mr Borst intended ensuring they were away when it happened.

He was supposed to meet a representative from a pet food business at the shed, but he turned up 15 minutes early and Mr Borst was out on the farm. He arrived to find 10 cows had been shot, their throats cut and his staff crying.

“I just said to the guy, ‘You can’t do this. This is just heartless’.

“There was hysteria. The rest of the cows got upset. The staff were beside themselves. And then we had to deal with the repercussions of the blocked up effluent systems because all the blood coagulated.

Farmers and their staff milk their cows twice a day.  Many are the results of years of careful breeding and they get to know them well. Having to cull them would be bad enough. Shooting them beside the rest of the herd while the staff watched was cruel and insensitive to the people and animals.

“I rang MPI and said, ‘Look no more, that’s got to stop’. He was told MPI had the option of bringing police in to enforce it.

“So I basically said, ‘… if you’re going to go down that track, there’ll be cameras there to show what’s going on here.’ And I finally got them to back off.”

That, Mr Borst, acknowledges was probably the lowest point in his dealings with the disease and MPI. It was also when he phoned then response head Geoff Gwyn and told him they would not continue with the cull.

He and his wife Sylvia then started to “finally get a bit of understanding”.

“He [Gwyn] brought down three other quite senior people in MPI. And it was my opportunity to … lay it out to them.

“They probably didn’t realise what it’s really like, down on the face. The coal face of dealing with this. These are guys that sit in Wellington, quite high up in MPI, and I made it as real as I could.”

One MPI staffer he felt was “quite arrogant about the situation” when sitting in their home.

“He didn’t even think he should be down here, talking or listening to a farmer.

If a few more people from Wellington got down on the farm they might understand the impact their policies and procedures have on real people and stock.

“I pointed out we were fighting for our whole livelihood, because farming is a career. I wanted to be a farmer when I was in primary school. I never faltered and I’ll be a farmer for the rest of my life.”

“The other thing [is] it’s our home. We live on the farm. It’s not like we turn off at five o’clock and jump in the car and head home. We live it, 24 hours a day and I don’t think they understood that. So we were fighting for our home as well.”

After that conversation, Mr Borst said the process got “a lot better and a lot clearer” and he felt there was much improved understanding and respect, from both sides, about finding a way forward. . . 

The Borsts found out their stock had the disease at the busiest time of the year.

“This was in the middle of calving, the busiest time of year, [I was ] probably overworked, quite stressed, then having to deal with that, it took a lot to take in for starters,” he said.

He went through various phases; initially shock, then panic – wondering how their business would survive – then trying to get an understanding of what was going on, because things were happening beyond his control, and finally, putting a date on when they would get to the end point and get back operating where they needed to be.

“Once I got to that phase, I think I probably became more pragmatic about things. I was more accepting of what needed to happen and then probably focused on trying to make things happen to get us to that point. But it was a difficult period to go through all those phases.”

They got their vet, Kevin Kearney, from Oamaru’s Veterinary Centre, on board. He attended many of the 30-odd meetings the Borsts had on farm with MPI. He was a “god-saver” and helped them to challenge MPI at times “because MPI were making some very poor decisions at that stage”.

During those early meetings, some of the people MPI had fronting them were “probably out of their depth” and he did not think there was clear enough direction from “higher up” about the process.

“I think they [MPI] were terribly poor at the beginning, shockingly poor actually to be fair … they were disorganised, they were ill-prepared and they were terrible at working with farmers.”

But Mr Borst acknowledged the ministry got much better very quickly. . . 

That fast improvement gives some reassurance that MPI learned from its mistakes.

“I look at it as something’s happened in my farming life and I hope I never have that experience again … I just look at it as just an experience and it was tough, but we got through it. We’re out the other side and we’re looking forward.”

As for MPI, he believed the ministry was a lot better for it – “not that you ever want to go through it again but, if we had another something terrible to go through, I think they are certainly much better prepared for it, going down the track.”

MPI plans to add to lessons learned from this experience:

The Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme has been through significant reviews and, with what has been learnt along the way, substantial improvements have been made, programme director Stuart Anderson says.

The aim was to lessen the impact on affected farmers “as much as we can, while we work to eradicate this disease”. . . 

“We know that the M. bovis eradication effort has been challenging for the farmers involved, and even when the process goes as intended and by the book, it is tough for those affected by movement restrictions and directions to cull their animals.

“We and our partners, Dairy NZ and Beef and Lamb NZ, are continuing to work hard to support the wellbeing and recovery of those impacted by M. bovis, including getting through the process and compensation claims paid as quickly as possible,” he said.

The eradication of the disease had been one of the most significant biosecurity challenges faced in New Zealand. Allowing it to spread would have resulted in an estimated $1.3 billion in lost productivity in the country’s “vital” cattle sectors in the first 10 years alone.

“It would have left farmers trying to manage the disease at significant cost and with major changes to the way we farm cattle in New Zealand required to manage the risk.

“This is why Government and industry are investing $870 million over 10 years to achieve eradication,” he said.

Eradication of Mycoplasma bovis had never been attempted before and building the programme from scratch had not been without substantial challenges.

The effect on farmers, their families and workers could not be underestimated – “it’s been tough, particularly so in the early years”.

A review being carried out now sought to assess what could be learnt from what was New Zealand’s largest biosecurity response to date, Mr Anderson said.

Three years on from the joint decision by the Government and the farming industry to attempt to eradicate the disease from New Zealand, the response was “well on track”.

Of the 267 properties confirmed with Mycoplasma bovis, as at June 17, 2021, there were only six active confirmed (currently infected) properties, many of which would be cleaned and cleared, on their way to back to farming as usual over the coming weeks.

“While eradicating M. bovis from New Zealand has been a massive challenge, we are tracking well to success and we are confident that working in partnership with industry and farmers on the ground, will see New Zealand farmers able to farm free from this disease in the future.”

The programme was run with a philosophy of continuous improvement and learning. . . 

MPI deserves credit for the eradication programme being well on the way to success and for learning from mistakes.

The risk of other diseases coming in is real and being better prepared for the next one is essential.

In an interview with Jamie Mackay on The Country yesterday, Sally Rae made the point that not being prepared for M. bovis was bad enough, being ill-prepared for something even more serious, like Foot and Mouth disease would be disastrous, not just for farmers and their stock but the whole economy.


Rural round-up

17/05/2021

Aerial inspection proves farmers well prepared for winter grazing – Peter Burke:

Environment Southland says it’s had good support from the farming community for its fly-over of farms in the region checking there is compliance for the upcoming winter grazing season.

Winter grazing has been in the spotlight in recent years with bad examples of this being highlighted in the media resulting in a major move to get farmers to adopt better management practices when managing stock grazing crops.

Fiona Young, Environment Southland’s land and water services manager, says last year the regional council overflew farms and they were encouraged to do it again by the farming community. She says they recognise that it is a really positive way to reinforce what needs to happen or to highlight potential problems before they happen.

Sustainability, good team helps build better farmers’ :

Dairy Woman of the Year for 2019, Trish Rankin, says sustainable practices and picking the best team have helped her become a better farmer.

“Every year I’ve got more and more involved not just in our own farming business but all these other passions too – the environment, DairyNZ and helping develop waste reduction projects, working with AgRecovery,” says Ranking.

“As I’ve found more gaps where I can help solve a problem, I’ve been happily developing them all.”

Rankin believes that part of looking after the land means striving towards a circular economy. . . 

Risky processes hamper M bovis efforts – Annette Scott:

More than three years in and the Mycoplasma bovis programme is still seeing farming practices that contribute to the spread of the disease.

Insecure property boundaries, mixing cattle on grazing blocks, not recording on and off farm animal movements, sharing milk and colostrum for calves between properties, single NAIT numbers for multiple properties and not recording cattle movements between those properties, shared milking platforms, and inconsistent information from farmers, continue to be risky farming practices that need to change, M bovis programme director Stuart Anderson said.

The M bovis programme has expanded the National Beed Cattle Surveillance project to target surveillance of 2019-born heifers in Canterbury, Otago and Southland.  . . 

The pros and cons of fake meat – Nicola Dennis:

Nicola Dennis examines the different categories of fake meat, including meat grown in a lab and plant based products that look like meat.

I find the fake meat “revolution” fascinating. Not because I am scared that it is going to wipe out the animal agriculture industry and leave me living in a cardboard box. In the unlikely event that the very vocal vegan minority overthrows the other 97-99% of the population, I plan to land on my feet. You were open-minded enough to read one paragraph deep into an article that might say nice things about fake meat, so I think you will also do okay in the vegetable uprising.

No, this immense mash of science and marketing is interesting all on its own, regardless of the supposed threat to my occupation. Plus it’s not all bad news.

Let’s look at the three main categories of meat fakery and what they bring to the table. . .

Mission accomplished for Bremworth’s top man – Hugh Stringleman:

Paul Alston’s departure from the job of Cavalier Corporation chief executive should not reflect poorly on the company’s all-in change in strategy to sustainable natural fibres in carpets and rugs. He spoke to Hugh Stringleman.

Cavalier Bremworth has been redirected on to the crest of a wave of product sustainability running through consumer markets for interior textiles.

Plastics and synthetics have become increasingly decried for their carbon footprints and waste pollution. 

Wool is natural, renewable, recyclable and sustainable. . .

Victorian wins National Kelpie Field Trial Championship :

For the first time in more than 50 years of working dog competitions for the kelpie breed, a woman has won the prestigious Working Kelpie Council National Kelpie Field Trial Championship.

At 26-years-old Bree Cudmore is not only the first woman to win the coveted Australian title, she is also one of the youngest competitors to claim the top honour.

What’s more she secured the win with the first dog she has ever owned.

The Victorian-based livestock overseer stole the spotlight at the 51st championships hosted in Allora, Queensland, after a standout partnership with her four-year-old kelpie, Marista Zoe. . . 

 


Rural round-up

09/05/2021

McBride leads Fonterra with the heart – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra chair Peter McBride has jumped into the biggest job of his considerable co-operative governance life – changing the giant dairy processor’s capital structure to suit the times.

“The issues raised through this review need to be addressed early,” McBride said.

“We have a misalignment of investor profiles and we have to avoid a slippery slope towards corporatisation.

“Waiting for the problem to be at our feet will limit our options and likely increase the cost of addressing them, at the expense of future opportunities for us.” . . 

Meat collaboration benefits all – Hugh Stringleman:

Resilience and collaboration within the red meat industry underpinned the response to covid-19 and managing drought issues across much of the country, according to the latest Red Meat Report.

It is the second in a series by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association, after the first was published last August.

Respective chief executives Sam McIvor and Sirma Karapeeva said collaboration had never been stronger and the recently renewed sector strategy was a strong platform to maximise the contribution to the New Zealand economy.

The report contains sections on the Red Meat Profit Partnership, Mycoplasma bovis, global trade worth $9.2 billion in 2020, free-trade agreements, the Taste Pure Nature origin brand, industry efforts in the environment, innovation and research and the 90,000-strong workforce. . . 

Rabbits: a seaside town over-run – Melanie Reid & Jill Herron:

A small South Island town is under siege from a plague of rabbits that has taken up residence over the entire area

The seaside village of Mōeraki in North Otago paints a pretty picture from a distance but up close, under the buildings, on the hills and along roadsides, things quickly get less attractive.

The place is infested with thousands of rabbits and residents are fighting a losing battle.

“They’re living under houses, they’re living under trailers, water tanks, boats, they’re literally everywhere. It’s ridiculous,” says local resident Ross Kean. . .

Champion of Cheese Awards 2021:

This year’s New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards has recognised long term favourites as well as newcomers among its 27 trophy recipients.

The four Supreme Champion awards went to Kāpiti and Mahoe, two highly awarded cheesemakers with a proud history; The Drunken Nanny with 11 years of cheesemaking, as well as Annie & Geoff Nieuwenhuis of Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Cheese who were named MilkTestNZ Champion Cheesemaker after only three years of commercial cheesemaking.

The trophies were awarded at a Gala Awards Dinner at SkyCity in Hamilton last night (Wednesday 05 May 2021) and followed judging of more than 310 cheeses from 35 cheese companies at Wintec in February. Chief Judge Jason Tarrant led a panel of 32 judges to assess the cheeses. . . 

2021 Peter Snow Memorial Award Goes To Kerikeri GP:

Kerikeri GP Dr Grahame Jelley has been announced as the 2021 recipient of the Peter Snow Memorial Award.

The award was announced at the National Rural Health Conference at Wairakei Resort in Taupō on Friday 30 April 2021.

The Peter Snow Memorial Award honours Dr Peter Snow and his contribution to rural communities as well as recognising an individual for their outstanding contribution to rural health either in service, innovation or health research.

Grahame, currently a GP in Kerikeri, was nominated for his service as a rural General Practitioner and his dedication to rural health for more than 30 years. . .

Stunning high-country grazing farm with multiple recreational benefits placed on the market for sale:

One of the most picturesque livestock farms in the South Island – with landscape for hosting a plethora of recreational activities and stunning views in conjunction with a sheep and beef grazing operation – has been placed on the market for sale.

The Larches – located at the entrance to the Cardrona Valley some seven kilometres south-west of Wanaka in Central Otago – is a 976-hectare farm spread over a mix of irrigated Cardrona River flats, along with lower north/north-west facing terraces and rocky outcrop hills climbing up to the skyline of the Pisa Range.

The Larches currently runs half-bred sheep and Angus-cross cattle. Located at 446 Cardrona Valley Road on the outskirts of Wanaka leading into the Crown Range, The Larches freehold farm is now on the market for sale by deadline treaty through Bayleys Wanaka, with offers closing on June 4, 2021. . .


Rural round-up

06/03/2021

Fonterra milk price forecasts give a fillip to farmers and the regions – the co-op has become an NZX favourite, too – Point of Order:

Fonterra has  confirmed  what  most analysts  had  been predicting and lifted its 2020/21 forecast farmgate milk price range to  $7.30 – $7.90 kg/MS, up from  $6.90 – $7.50. This should  send a  further surge of  confidence  across  NZ’s  rural regions, hopefully in  a  wave  strong enough to encourage  farmers  to plan to  increase production  next  season.

As  a  result  of  the  higher  payout, the co-op  will be  pumping $11.5bn  into the  rural economy, well ahead of the $10bn predicted  last year. Although  farmer-suppliers  to Fonterra  are paid off   the mid-point  $7.60  of the new range, most analysts  believe the final payout will reach $7.90.

That  should  ensure a  handsome  return  for most  suppliers,  whose  cost  of  production averages  around $5.80-$6 kg/MS—and for the  highly  efficient, at below $4, an even   better one. . . 

Lessons from M. Bovis outbreak – Peter Burke:

The chair of a new committee set up to review the handling of Mycoplasma bovis outbreak says it isn’t a witch-hunt.

Massey University academic Nicola Shadbolt says the review is about learning from the past and helping us to be stronger for the future. She says it’s about finding out what happened and seeing what might need to be put in place if there a biosecurity outbreak of this nature in the future.

Shadbolt, a professor of farm and agribusiness, served as a Fonterra director for nine years and is currently chair of Plant and Food Research. . .

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier at risk of losing key community members – locals – Tess Brunton:

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier communities have been told that the government can’t save every business that’s struggling during the pandemic.

A week ago the two communities sent Tourism Minister Stuart Nash a $35 million wishlist of what they need to survive.

Yesterday he visited Franz Josef with Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor but didn’t make any promises.

Across Country Quad Bikes used to run four fully booked tours a day, closing for a few months over winter after a hectic summer. . .

Bees get a fighting chance – Neal Wallace:

University of Otago Researchers have made a discovery that may just give honeybees a fighting chance against the varroa mite. Neal Wallace reports.

Scientists have identified naturally occurring compounds which induces a cleaning response among some worker bees, killing juvenile varroa mites.

The University of Otago researchers are now looking at how to replicate the six relevant compounds they have discovered, and a way to deliver them to hives from which beekeepers can selectively breed bees that have this trait.

Emeritus Professor Alison Mercer of the university’s Department of Zoology says varroa mites reproduce in brood cells, but researchers have identified some worker bees can sense where the mites are using these compounds, then open those cells and pull out the contents, including the mite, killing it. . . 

Why aren’t farmers using more agritech on farm? – Phil Edmonds:

While internet connectivity may be viewed as a barrier to farmers adopting more agritech solutions, Phil Edmonds discovers there are many reasons for New Zealand’s low adoption rate, including technology not being developed with their needs in mind.

A fresh look is under way into understanding why agritech adoption in New Zealand has not escalated to the same extent that our primary sector exports have. A cursory glance at the unflattering data on uptake suggests farmers are content using tried and tested methods despite the increasing availability of ‘go faster’ solutions. However, ‘tried and tested’ will inevitably start to hold the industry back. The initial thinking on where to get the ball rolling faster is for agritech developers to focus on time-saving rather than insight solutions, and stop assuming farmers are inherent technophobes.

An analysis of the impact of agritech on the New Zealand economy published last year suggested that New Zealand is underperforming relative to its global peers. While food and fibre exports have grown substantially, the same can’t be said for agritech, which has netted a consistent (rather than accelerating) $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion over the past five years. . . 

Exclusion fence gives options for diversity at Bollon – Sally Gall:

A decision in the summer of 2017 to fully enclose their 36,420ha of country in the Bollon district has rewarded Scott and Alison Todd many times over.

The couple came to Brigalow Downs 90km south of Bollon in 2014, walking into one of the biggest droughts on record.

At that stage they were an all-cattle operation with rangeland goats running freely on the property, and with a good reserve of mulga and cattle selling very cheaply in the Barcaldine and Blackall districts, they began building cattle numbers.

As the drought went on, their mulga didn’t regenerate as well as expected, and with cattle agistment bills mounting, they decided to diversify. . .


Rural round-up

22/02/2021

EU carbon tax: threat or opportunity? – Nigel Stirling:

New Zealand farmers have been quick to claim world champion status for carbon efficiency. So why are they so nervous about a planned European tax on the carbon emissions of imports? Nigel Stirling reports.

It has been described by the European Union’s top bureaucrat as the continent’s “man on the moon moment”.

An ambitious plan to decarbonise the European economy known as the “Green Deal”.

“The goal is to reconcile our economy with our planet,” European Commission president Ursula van der Leyen boldly declared when first revealing the plan in December 2019. . . 

M. Boris review gets underway – Annette Scott:

An independent review of the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme is aimed at identifying lessons that can be learned from New Zealand’s largest biosecurity response.

Driven by the programme partners, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), DairyNZ, and Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ), the review is deemed best practice given the scale of the eradication programme.

It will also fulfil a commitment made to farmers at the start of the programme, DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel says.

“Eradicating Mycoplasma bovis is hard work, but with the whole sector working together we have made really good progress,” Van der Poel said. . . .

A winning formula for good cows :

A Waikato dairy farming couple have proven they’re at the top their game, taking out two prestigious titles at New Zealand’s largest cattle showing event.

Tom and Francesca Bennett, Te Hau Holsteins, had both the best Holstein Friesian cow at New Zealand Dairy Event and Tom also took out the World Wide Sires, All Breeds Junior Judging Competition. The family was also named Premier Holstein Friesian Exhibitor.

“It was awesome, I did the Pitcairns Trophy judging competition at the Waikato Show and came second, but Dairy Event was my first really big judging competition to win,” says Tom. . . .

Dairy conversion Otaki style – Peter Burke:

From the outside it still looks like a dairy shed except it is painted white with black cow-like symbols. From the outside it still looks like a dairy shed except it is painted white with black cow-like symbols. Near the Horowhenua town of Otaki, dairy conversion has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s not a case of converting sheep and beef farms to dairy farms, rather it’s a case of just converting old dairy sheds to country style tourist accommodation. Reporter Peter Burke visited two such conversions by two pretty special and creative women.

The two conversions are complementary – one offers an experience on a commercial dairy farm while the other has a focus on horses.

Stacy Faith and her husband Andrew milk 360 cows once a day to supply Fonterra. They separately milk 20 more to supply A2 milk for the vending machine they have installed at their farm gate. It’s a farm that has long been in the Faith family. . . 

From working at the dairy farm to owning it – Ruby Heyward:

Raspberry Cottage owner Sarala Tamang is farming with a twist, but not without some help.

Originally from Nepal, Mrs Tamang moved to Waimate in 2010. She bought the Raspberry Cottage business and the attached farm from couple Barry and Margaret Little in 2019.

For the six years prior, Mrs Tamang had worked for Mr and Mrs Little, caring for the berries as though they were hers – and now they are.

Using her experience, and with the help of the previous owners’ continued guidance, Mrs Tamang wanted to grow what the supermarket did not offer. . . 

 

Mental health: young farmer recalls decision to quit farming >

A 23-year-old who had dreamed of being a farmer since he was a child had to quit the industry after his mental health started to slip.

Dan Goodwin from Suffolk has shared his story during the annual Mind Your Head, a week-long campaign raising awareness of farmers’ mental health issues and the support available to them.

When Dan turned 18, he moved from Bury St Edmunds and attended a land-based college in Norfolk.

Throughout his studies, he enjoyed learning and the structure that his apprenticeship with a small family-run farm gave him. . .

 


Rural round-up

26/01/2021

Urban issues starting to affect Wanaka :

Environmental group says urban growth a threat to lake’s natural beauty.

The popularity of Wanaka’s pristine natural beauty could prove to be the lake’s downfall — but not if a group of environmentally-minded citizens has something to do with it.

Environmental consultant Chris Arbuckle, along with agribusiness expert Erica Van Reenen and keen local lake swimmer Eddie Spearing, have initiated the Touchstone project, bringing together local people concerned about the Lake Wanaka catchment, raise awareness of water quality issues, and encourage positive action.

While the vast majority of the lake’s catchment is rural, Arbuckle says urban issues are just as significant, if not more so, as Wanaka grows in size and popularity. The district’s population has doubled in the past 10 years, and is estimated to reach 50,000 by 2040. . . .

FE spore counts hit 1.2m in Matamata – Gerald Piddock:

Farmers are being warned to make sure they have an adequate facial eczema (FE) management plan in place after the first spore counts of the year topped nearly 1.2 million from one grass sample in Matamata.

The maximum spore counts analysed by Hamilton-based Gribbles Veterinary on January 14 also reached 30,000 in Franklin and Tauranga, 120,000 in Waikato, 35,0000 in Waitomo and 150,000 on the East Coast.

In the second week of monitoring, samples collected from farms in Waihi, Franklin, Hauraki, Whitianga, Rotorua, Whakatane, Tauranga, Hamilton, Morrinsville, Waipa, Waitomo, New Plymouth and Gisborne were all higher than the 30,000 spores/gram threshold at which veterinarians recommend farmers take action against facial eczema. . . 

Trees are our great weapons against climate change. But what if they stop soaking? – Mirjam Guesgen :

A new study suggests that trees’ ability to soak up carbon could expire. Mirjam Guesgen explains.

Trees have long been held as the saviour for climate change. Plant enough trees and we might be able to balance out some of that carbon-emmitting flying or driving. But a new scientific study says that trees only buy us a certain amount of time. Push a tree too far and it’ll turn on you.

How do trees fight climate change?

The reason trees make such excellent climate fighting machines has to do with chemistry. They suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it as one of the ingredients to make sugar, their form of fuel. That’s the basics of photosynthesis. . . 

M. Boris numbers falling – MPI :

The Ministry of Primary Industries says New Zealand is getting closer to the eradication of Mycoplasma Bovis.

Ten properties in Canterbury are currently infected with the cattle disease, including two Lincoln University research farms.

The Ministry is working through depopulation plans with the two research farms, but final cull numbers haven’t been determined. . .

Rain secures feed surplus – Gerald Piddock:

Warm temperatures and frequent summer rain have led to a bumper season for summer feed crops and pasture covers for livestock farmers in most regions up and down the country.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround compared to 12 months ago, where severe drought had written off feed crops and farmers around the North Island were burning through their feed reserves to keep their stock healthy.

DairyNZ general manager of farm performance Sharon Morrell says while it has been a good year for many, regions such as Northland was getting dry and areas of the Hauraki Plains also had declining pasture growth rates. . .

Farmers to showcase farmland bird conservation work :

Farmers are being encouraged to get behind this year’s Big Farmland Bird Count to showcase the conservation work being done on farms across the country.

The Big Farmland Bird Count returns in 2021, and organisers are asking farmers and land managers – who look after 71% of Britain’s countryside – to join in.

The project helps show which farmland birds are benefitting from conservation efforts while identifying the species most in need of help.

The annual count, run by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is scheduled for the 5 – 14 February 2021. . . 


Rural round-up

30/08/2020

Farmers worried about ‘economic situation’ – David Anderson:

Farmers remain cautious and even wary – despite the sector having done reasonably well during the COVID-19 pandemic – according to the latest rural report from the BNZ.

The bank’s Rural Wrap report, published earlier this month, says this should not really surprise anyone.

“A global pandemic simply demands vigilance from a sector that sells the bulk of its produce into offshore markets.”

Report author and BNZ economist Doug Steel says farmers the ‘economic situation’ has been catapulted up the list of farmer worries – after being well down the list in previous surveys. . . 

M bovis investigations for 28 more farms after milk tests – Maja Burry:

Bulk milk testing for Mycoplasma bovis has this month picked up 28 dairy farms requiring further investigation.

Figures from the Ministry for Primary Industries show there is just one farm actively infected with the cattle disease at the moment, and a further 249 farms have been culled of their stock and declared safe to repopulate.

The Ministry’s chief science advisor, John Roche, said the 28 farms detected in this month’s national milk screening had been placed under restricted movement controls while more accurate testing was carried out.

Dr Roche said less than 3 percent of farms detected through screening last year ended up being positive for M bovis. . .

FMG grows in complexity and clients – Hugh Stringleman:

FMG made a net profit of $6.1 million in the 2020 financial year and added 6000 clients to its books, the total now numbering 94,300.

Chair Tony Cleland, who sought re-election as a director this year in a crowded field of candidates, said the growth rate was twice that of other insurers.

“While we are not trying to be the biggest, but the best, growth in numbers does lower the unit cost of delivery per client,” he told the mutual group’s online annual meeting.

FMG’s goal is to bring the operating cost from 31% to 25% of premiums over the next 10 years. . .

Abbie reynolds to head Predator Free 2050 Limited:

Predator Free 2050 Limited has appointed Abbie Reynolds as its new CEO

Abbie Reynolds is the former Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Council and in that role helped establish the Climate Leaders Coalition, motivating more than 100 member organisations to climate action.

She received the Board and Management Award at the 2019 New Zealand Women of Influence Awards.

She has also held senior roles in telecommunications as Head of Corporate Responsibility at Telecom and Head of Sustainability and Foundation at Vodafone New Zealand. . . 

New startup supports local Kiwi artisan producers:

New Zealand online startup, The Kiwi Artisan Co, selects the finest small batch artisan goods for food lovers nationwide, supporting and celebrating local independent producers from Southland to Central Otago, Canterbury to Nelson, and Hawkes Bay to Northland.

The artisans, specifically chosen by The Kiwi Artisan Co, handcraft their goods from locally sourced, high quality ingredients in small batches using sustainable production processes. The thoughtfully curated range of delectable sharing platter boxes are tailored to individual tastes and dietary requirements.

Each online order received at kiwiartisan.co.nz is hand packed and delivered direct to your door, making it easier for foodies to entertain, connect and discover the real taste of New Zealand with friends and family. . . 

Uzbekistan’s cotton farms turn to Aussie irrigated farming know-how – Andrew Marshall:

Far from his family farming operation on the NSW-Queensland border, former National Farmers Federation boss Peter Corish is co-ordinating an Australian team leading a multi-million dollar irrigated cotton and grain cropping revamp in Uzbekistan.

In what was a totally unexpected and unusual request two years ago, Mr Corish was called in to help a massive private farming venture adopt Australian cotton growing technology and techniques in the land-locked communist Central Asian country. 

Over the next 18 months, as drought conditions at home kept his own family’s cropping activity in a lull, the advisory job took him back and forth to the former Soviet state 14 times. . . 

Bringing it to the table – farming women who mean business:

Sarah Louise Fairburn has told her empowering story of her role in making one of the UK’s largest egg producers the success that it is today.

It follows the launch of #AgriWomen24 campaign in June, which aims to celebrate women in agriculture.

Sarah Louise’s journey began when she worked as a business improvement driver for Yorkshire Bank and her paths crossed with Daniel Fairburn – who had been in farming all his life at L J Fairburn & Son Limited.

After getting married and having children together, she began helping around the farm, only to realise that as the business grew, so did the need for her to become more involved. . .


Rural round-up

17/08/2020

More action less reports:

What is it with the current Government and its infatuation with setting up committees and producing endless reports?

In the past three years, in the primary sector alone we’ve seen committees established and reports produced on the future of the primary sector, freshwater reforms, wool and agritech – to name just a few.

As one can expect from any type of government-induced report, most of these were heavy on slogans and rhetoric, but lacking in real detail or implementation.

However, one of these reports – and probably the one that will most impact on the primary sector – relating to new freshwater regulations passed into law last week. . . 

United front against UN’s call to eat less beef – Annette Scott:

New Zealand is right behind the global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef taking a stand on the United Nations call to eat less beef.

The UN has published claims that the meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the world’s biggest oil companies.

The Global Roundtable is taking a stand on this and is raising its concerns directly with the UN.

The NZ Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (NZRSB) is right behind condemning the UN campaign and its accusations of the impact of the meat industry on the environment.  . . 

A fake meat future? Yeah right – Sam McIvor:

There has been a healthy debate about the future of red meat over the past few weeks.

But anyone who claims that farmers have their head in the sand is well wide of the mark and we need to set the record straight.

Yes, farmers, like all New Zealanders, have seen the rise of alternative proteins in the supermarket aisles and on restaurant menus. Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s own research two years ago acknowledged alternative proteins were likely to become major competitors.

However, the study also showed the same forces driving investment in and demand for alternative proteins – including concerns about industrial (feedlot) farming, health concerns arising from the use of hormones and antibiotics, the environment and animal welfare – offer an opportunity to differentiate New Zealand red meat internationally. . .

Revenue fall for Central North Island drystock farmers – Gerald Piddock:

The lingering effects of the recent drought are set to hit the pockets of Central North Island sheep and beef farmers after a new report projects a significant fall in revenue this season.

AgFirst’s Central North Island Sheep and Beef Survey is forecasting a 22% fall in cash income compared to last season because of lower lambing percentages and expectation of reduced prices for lamb, wool and cattle.

The fall in income meant farm profit before tax was down 57%, AgFirst sheep and beef consultant Steve Howarth said in presenting the survey during a webinar: “In absolute terms, we have come from $112,000 in the previous year down to $48,000 profit for 2020-2021.” . . 

Taking NAIT seriously – Sudesh Kissun:

North Otago calf rearer Jared Ovens believes the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak has led to more farmers embracing animal traceability.

Ovens says farmers are now realising the value of traceability and it does not pay anymore to take shortcuts.  

“I think those who are less willing to change are the minority and some have since got out of the industry as a result.”

For Ovens, calf rearing is a part-time job.  . .

Commission releases draft report on Fonterra’s milk price:

The Commerce Commission has today released its draft report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2019/20 dairy season.

The base milk price is the average price Fonterra sets for raw milk supplied by farmers which is currently forecast to be between $7.10 – $7.20 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2019/20 dairy season.

The Commission is required to review the calculation at the end of each dairy season under the milk price monitoring regime in the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA). The regime is designed to provide Fonterra with incentives to set the base milk price consistent with efficient and contestable market outcomes. . . 

The Covid diaries: from business owner to grapevine pruner – Maia Hart:

Covid-19 has disrupted New Zealand and the world. People have died, jobs have disappeared and borders have closed. This Stuff project follows seven people or groups of people in the year after New Zealand moved to alert level 1. How does the shadow of the virus hang over their everyday lives?

Stuff journalists will revisit them at key moments over the year, reporting on the Covid recovery through the lives of these Kiwis. The first in the series introduces the people taking part.

A self-proclaimed “people person”, Duncan McIntyre says he struggles to not be doing something.

When borders shut in order for New Zealand to fight Covid-19, McIntyre’s shuttle business, which generally operated out of Marlborough Airport, came to a halt “overnight”. . . 

WA spared grain harvest disaster as rain falls ‘just in the nick of time’ across state – Daniel Mercer and Belinda Varischetti:

Widespread rains that fell across southern Western Australia this month have saved the state’s grain growers from potential disaster, with predictions there could even be a bumper harvest.

In its latest outlook on the summer crop, the Grains Industry Association of WA (GIWA) said recent rains that drenched large parts of the state’s wheatbelt had fallen “just in the nick of time” and turned the season on its head.

Prior to the rains, many parts of southern WA had effectively been in drought following years of lower-than-average falls and a record dry start to the winter. . . .


Rural round-up

10/08/2020

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

09/08/2020

Difficult but the right call – Sudesh Kissun:

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the joint decision three years ago to eradicate Mycoplamsa bovis was a difficult call. However, Mackle says the 10-year eradication plan, while difficult, was the best option for farmers and the economy. He made the comments to mark three years since the bacterial disease was first detected in New Zealand. The discovery shocked the industry and triggered one of New Zealand’s largest ever biosecurity responses.  . .

Farmers missing out on newer technology – Mark Ross:

Ineffective regulation is leading to farmers and growers missing out on products that will increase their productivity and be safer to use.

The Government launched a bold plan to boost primary sector export earnings by $44 billion over the next decade, while protecting the environment and growing jobs.

The plan, launched last month, involves a 10-year roadmap to unlock greater value for a sector vital to New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As the Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor pointed out, there is huge potential in the roadmap, but it can only be achieved through a close government partnership with industry and Māori. . . 

Lamb weight not demand driving price – Annette Scott:

South Island lamb supply is tight but while seasonal procurement pressure may be enough to see marginal price lifts in some regions, weak export markets are keeping a cap on prices.

Alliance Group key account manager Murray Behrent said while procurement pressure may appear to be at fever pitch around the saleyards, the difference in pricing is the weight of the lambs.

Agents around Canterbury saleyards are reporting strong demand is driving prime lamb values with top prices at Temuka and Coalgate this week, fetching $194 and $198 respectively. . . 

Council exploring water storage sites – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is actively investigating freshwater storage sites to carry excess winter water through to dry periods in summer.

It’s part of a four-pronged regional water security programme, supported by the Provincial Growth Fund, which includes a region-wide freshwater assessment, a 3D aquifer mapping project, and exploring viable locations for small-scale community storage schemes in the Central Hawke’s Bay (Tukituki River) and Heretaunga (Ngaruroro River) catchments.

Council acting manager regional water security Tom Skerman says the regional water assessment is analysing water supply and demand across the region to 2050. . . .

Tarras no stranger to the sly land-buyer transaction – Mark Price:

Before international airports became the talk of Tarras, farming was the district’s main preoccupation. In all its guises, farming has stamped its mark on the district and its people over 162 years. Mark Price takes a look at what has happened to Tarras in the days since its potential for farming was first realised.

Christchurch International Airport Ltd caught plenty of flak for the way it bought up land at Tarras for an airport.

Its agents, while making offers to landowners, did not disclose who they were working for, or why the land was wanted.

The airport’s chief executive, Malcolm Johns, was the man who orchestrated the purchase of 750ha for an airport, at a cost of $45 million.

He saw the potential, acted swiftly and quietly and came up last month, holding the deeds to the various farming properties. . . 

Broadacre farmers have their own fire experience – Mal Peters:

Reinforcing farmers’ perceptions the Rural Fire Service is a Sydney-centric bureaucracy, northern NSW broadacre farmers are scratching their heads at the declaration of a bushfire danger period on August 1.

Grass burns poorly in winter, so most of us are waiting for warmer weather.

We can get a permit to burn, but that only adds to our daily mountain of red tape.

Given recent megafires you’d think the RFS would make it easier to conduct controlled burns. . . 


Rural round-up

26/07/2020

Pork farmer predicts ‘massive’ productivity drop – Yvonne O’Hara:

Like many in the pork industry, North Otago pig farmer Ian Carter is dependent on experienced and skilled migrant workers to run his 318ha, 2000 pig, 700 cattle operation.

If farmers cannot access migrant workers with the needed skill sets and experience, including from the Philippines where there are large commercial pork operations, he predicts a “massive drop in productivity” within the industry.

As a result of Covid-19, workers who would ordinarily be arriving to work here on three-year visas had been unable to fly into the country.

Although the former New Zealand Pork chairman was pleased to see the recent visa extensions introduced by the Government, he did not think those changes would be enough to meet the needs of the industry. . .

M bovis eradication on track -Annette Scott:

The number of properties infected with Mycoplasma bovis has dropped to an all-time low, triggering a wave of confidence that the plan to eradicate the cattle disease from New Zealand is on-track.

Three years on since the disease was first confirmed in NZ, industry leaders are confident the world-first attempt to eradicate the disease is making positive gains towards eradication being within reach in the coming seven years.

As of July 22, the M bovis programme had just four confirmed active properties on its books.

Of these,  two are dairy and one beef in the North Island, with one beef property in Canterbury.  . . 

Smith downplays British farming fears – Nigel Stirling:

A former Trade Minister is hopeful he can play his part convincing Britain to open its farmers up to increased competition from New Zealand and other rival producers once it leaves the European Union.

Lockwood Smith credited his appointment to a new commission advising the British government on trade agreements and agriculture to his long experience as a farmer and former trade and agriculture minister, as well as his knowledge of the British farming and political scene as a recent High Commissioner to London.

“There is a realisation that (British) agriculture needs to move forward and this is an attempt to find a consensus on how best to do that,” Smith said. . . 

Can-do farm installs methane-run generator – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy effluent is being used to power an Isla Bank milking shed and mitigate methane emissions at the same time.

Dairy Green and Scandrett Rural owner and consultant John Scandrett has been overseeing a biogas conversion project at Glenarlea Farm, Isla Bank, since November 2016.

Glenarlea Farm, which is owned by the Fortuna Group and managed by Brendon and Lorelai Santos, milks about 900 cows at peak.

Bacteria convert effluent solids into biogas, of which methane and carbon dioxide are the main constituents.

The methane fuelled a converted diesel motor, which drove a generator to make electricity, Mr Scandrett said. . . 

Taranaki dairy farm doing twice the average milk production scoops national awards :

A Taranaki dairy farmer who has won a raft of production awards attributes his success to having well-grown young stock.

Stefan Buhler milks 260 Holstein Friesian cows on his 80-hectare coastal farm at Manaia near Hawera.

The herd produced 202,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in the 2019-20 season.

“It was a record season for us, despite the drought. We produced 2525 kgMS per hectare, which is quite incredible,” he said. . .

Report questions gender bias in succession planning – Mollie Tracey:

WHILE the agricultural industry has made great progress in advancing women in the workforce, little work has looked into shifting traditional patterns of patrilineal farm succession, which act as gender barriers for daughters growing up on farms.

That’s according to a new report by 2017 Nuffield scholar and Morawa farmer, Katrina Sasse, who investigated the position of daughter successors in United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark – a study that was motivated by her own keen interest as a daughter successor and desire to help women in Australia find a pathway back to the family farm. 

It’s an unfortunate fact that in rural communities some people continue to view daughter successors differently to sons and more needs to be done to empower young Women to remain in family farming operations. . . 


Rural round-up

15/07/2020

Dairy challenges the world over – Hugh Stringleman:

Labour shortages and tougher environmental requirements are the concerns of dairy farmers worldwide, an NZX Derivatives webinar has highlighted.

Three industry leaders were asked to speak on the challenges and opportunities in their countries and on their farms.

Irish dairy farmer Patrick Fenton, Molanna Farm, County Limerick, said there is a looming labour shortage as farms amalgamate, now freed from the shackles of European Union dairy quotas.

“We do have opportunities to grow and there is more land available but labour and environmental regulations have to be reckoned with,” he said. . . 

Gas targets might move – Gerard Hutching:

The targets for reducing methane have been set but the message from the Government is they could be changed next year. Gerard Hutching reports.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw has conceded the 24-47% range for reducing methane by 2050 is unsatisfactory and has hinted it might change.

Primary sector groups such as the Meat Industry Association have argued the target, which will affect dairy farmers particularly, has been set too high and the reduction required is only 7%. 

Speaking to a webinar on a low-emissions future entitled Staying the Course, Shaw said the target will be looked at next year by the Climate Change Commission chaired by Rod Carr.  . .

Fonterra warning: Open Country, Miraka fear farmers locked in under new law – Andrea Fox:

New Zealand milk market giant Fonterra is about to get a legislative pass to throw its weight around even more, small dairy companies say.

Miraka and Open Country Dairy are concerned that amended dairy industry legislation is being rushed through that, in loosening the reins on Fonterra’s market power, could lead to milk supply drying up for new dairy processors or those wanting to set up in regions currently only served by Fonterra.

Their chief executives fear that a surprise clause introduced in the Dairy Industry Amendment Bill (No. 3) after lobbying by Fonterra will allow it to deny farmers a previous basic legislative right – to buy back into the big co-operative after exiting for whatever reason. . . 

Māori farming businesses flourish: ‘The world has to eat’ – Susan Edmunds:

Māori farming businesses are booming, and Covid-19 is unlikely to have taken off much of the shine.

Stats NZ data shows that profits for Māori authority farming businesses hit $97 million in 2018, almost double the year before. That is the most recent year for which the data is available.

The role of Māori authorities and their subsidiaries is to receive, manage, and/or administer assets held in common ownership by Māori.

More than 200, or around one-sixth, of Māori authorities are in agriculture. . . 

BVD stealing dairy herd profits:

While M. bovis and Covid-19 may be competing for farmers’ attention this winter, another equally infectious disease that has lurked in the background for years poses at least as big a threat to farm profitability and livestock health.

Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) is estimated to be costing the New Zealand dairy industry at least $150 million a year in animal health costs and lost production, yet experts agree with a focused campaign it could potentially be eliminated in a matter of months, not years.

Greg Chambers, Zoetis veterinary operations manager has been working closely with vets and farmers this year to help raise the profile and understanding of BVD. . . 

Trio team up to trial innovative hemp based food products:

Greenfern Industries has partnered with two other New Zealand companies to commercialise an innovative new hemp meat substitute and hemp snack products.

Greenfern Industries, Sustainable Foods, and the Riddet Institute (Massey University) are working together on the initiative that will see them develop the hemp-based food products and ingredients for both the New Zealand and export markets.

While Greenfern’s primary focus is medical cannabis and wellness products, co-director Dan Casey said it made sense to partner with other relevant industry leaders to utilise the products of Greenfern’s hemp crops.

“We have an abundance of high-quality hemp from which we obtain seed, cake and oil so we partnered with the Riddet Institute to work on background research and hemp product development. We’ve spent 12 months working with Riddet Institute on the product and, after several iterations, we’ve produced some very valuable shared IP.” . . 


Rural round-up

21/05/2020

“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

10/04/2020

Fonterra is on the front foot in the safety business, making ethanol for keeping our hands clean – Point of Order:

A   report  on  the  NZ Farmer  segment  of   Stuff  caught  the eye of  Point of  Order.  It  led  off  with a  quote   from respected  economist  Cameron  Bagrie.

“Thank God for farmers….They’ve felt beaten up over the past couple of years, well, thank God agriculture is still the backbone of NZ.The story of the farming sector at the moment is looking relatively good compared to what we are seeing across a lot of the other sectors.Yes, we are seeing pressure on commodity prices, but the bottom line is the world has got to eat.“

It’s a   theme  which  Point of  Order  has  canvassed in  several   posts  over the past  fortnight as the  coronavirus  pandemic has  devastated  other  key sectors of the economy,  including  tourism and hospitality.

On  March  26 the contention was:  . . 

Is the Mycoplasma bovis eradication campaign on track? – Keith Woodford:

New Zealand’s Mycoplasma bovis eradication campaign has now been running for almost three years, with no decline in the number of farms newly detected as being infected. Can the disease be stamped out?

It is now more than five months since I last wrote about Mycoplasma bovis in late October 2019. Since then, another 44 farms have gone positive, bringing the total to 245 farms since the disease was discovered in July 2017. All of these farms have been required to slaughter their herds. There are 31 farms where that process is still ongoing.

During this latest five-month period, farms infected with Mycoplasma bovis have been identified at the average rate of two per week. This is slightly higher than the overall average rate of 1.75 farms confirmed per week since the disease was first discovered in July 2017. . .

Meat industry performing well under level 4 – Allan Barber:

Processing is under severe constraints during the lockdown, although, as an essential service, meat companies are working hard to feed New Zealanders and service key export markets. In a newsletter to staff and suppliers, AFFCO states that processing restrictions on maintaining a minimum distance between employees means sheepmeat capacity is running at 50% of normal and beef capacity is close to 65%. This of course comes at the peak of the season, exacerbated by drought in several regions, particularly the top half of the North Island.

Because meat companies aren’t entitled to government wage subsidies, they have set up schemes to look after employees whose earnings would be adversely affected, either by an inability to work for reasons of age or dependants or the reduced volume throughput. In AFFCO’s case, employees are paid their full production bonus based on numbers processed before the Level 4 lockdown, while those unable to work receive a company funded support package of $585 gross per week for an initial four week period. . .

Pandemic kills off Israel agritech move :

The Covid-19 crisis has killed off a planned expansion of New Zealand agritech into Israel.

Farmer-owned co-operative, Livestock Improvement Corporation, had planned to buy a 50 percent stake in an Israeli company, Afimilk. 

The deal would have cost $US70 million, and was supported by the LIC board.

But when the matter was put to LIC shareholders, 70.30 percent of shares voted against the proposal, 27.56 percent voted for the proposal and 2.14 percent abstained. . . 

Livestock sales open on Trade Me:

Trade Me has announced today that livestock sales and livestock feed sales will be permitted while New Zealand is at COVID-19 alert level 4 after concerns were raised about animal welfare during lockdown.

Head of Marketplace Lisa Stewart said Trade Me had worked with both Federated Farmers and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to understand this issue. “With typical public livestock sales closed due to the lockdown, farmers are restricted in how they sell their livestock at this busy time of year. . .

The naked farmer is ‘living the dream’ – Sally Rae:

It was a cheeky idea.

Archie Kennedy was drenching sheep on the first day of lockdown when he whipped off his clothes and suggested his wife, Lucy, take a photograph.

He posted it on Facebook and the response was so overwhelming that he decided to do a naked farmer post every day of the four-week lockdown.

Whether mustering on horseback or putting the rams out, routine rural tasks have been documented in his birthday suit. . .

Risk is constant, but agriculture is in the box seat – Daniel Pedersen:

CONTINUED positive sentiment for farmland, widespread rain and agriculture’s natural agility to supply people’s needs is spurring confidence across the state, says Rural Bank NSW regional manager for agribusiness Tony Williams.

“We’re off to a fantastic start to the season,” he said.

“Properties are still changing hands,” he said, adding that while social distancing had changed the way properties were inspected, the coronavirus outbreak certainly hadn’t stalled investment. . .


Rural round-up

28/03/2020

After the lockdown, the economy’s recovery will be dependent on dairy farms and their milk – Point of Order:

The planet is  in a state of   flux,   economies are tumbling into  recession, no-one (not even Donald Trump) can predict  when the agony will  end.

Suddenly, the streets  are  empty:  life  as  we have  known  it is  now  very  different. The  nation  is  in   lockdown.

As  the  London  “Economist” put it:

“The struggle  to  save  lives  and the  economy  is  likely to present  agonising choices…As  that  sends economies  reeling, desperate  governments are trying to tide over  companies and  by handing out millions of  dollars in  aid and loan guarantees. Nobody can be sure how these rescues  will work”. . . 

Don’t stress weakening economy – Neal Wallace:

Economist Cameron Bagrie is joining a chorus of calls for the Government to delay introducing policy imposing new environmental rules and costs on a rapidly weakening economy.

Bagrie says Government borrowing as a percentage of gross domestic product has doubled from 20% to 40% in the last few weeks as it tries to protect jobs and businesses from the impact of measures to control the covid-19 virus pandemic.

He expects Government borrowing will increase further and warns now is not the time to introduce more costs on businesses in freshwater regulations and the new minimum wage, which applies from April 1.

“Farming has been unloved and beaten up by the Government for the last two or three years but the Government is going to need farmers for the next few years.” . . 

Virus adds to woes of North Canterbury farmers – David Hill:

The uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic is adding yet another headache for North Canterbury farmers.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cameron Henderson and North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Andy Munro say dry conditions, the ongoing effects of Mycoplasma bovis and coronavirus, and this week’s 5.1-magnitude earthquake near Culverden are creating uncertainty.

‘‘The effects of the virus seem to be changing day to day as we have seen with share markets and travel bans,’’ Mr Henderson said. . . 

Meat matters to sector stalwart – Colin Williscroft:

Tim Ritchie retires as Meat Industry Association chief executive on April 7 after a career in primary sector roles that began in the 1970s. Colin Williscroft reports.

THE meat industry has come a long way since Tim Ritchie got involved and a decision made on the far side of the world about then that has provided the biggest advantage to the sector here in the years since.

Though it might not have seemed like it at the time, in retrospect Britain joining the then European Economic Community in 1973 was the best thing that could have happened for New Zealand farmers. . . 

Leader learnt a lot in dairy industry – Yvonne O’Hara:

‘‘It was like being dropped into the mothership of emergency management.’’

That is how Katrina Thomas describes her involvement with the recent flood recovery effort in the South.

The Wreys Bush dairy farmer was Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) southern regional hub leader for Otago and Southland since 2016, and regional leader for Southland since 2012.

However, this year she decided she wanted to try other challenges. . . 

Wine industry faces worker accommodation woes during lockdown:

The wine industry is facing criticism for continuing harvest during the Covid-19 lockdown, and is facing problems with worker accommodation

The government says the grape and wine industry can continue to operate as an essential business, but strict conditions apply as the country moves to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Some Marlborough people have noticed the hundreds of workers travelling to work in vineyards all over the district, and have questioned whether this was safe in the current climate. . . 


Rural round-up

08/03/2020

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. . .


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