Rural round-up

May 21, 2018

Disease reaches ‘crisis point’ – Annette Scott:

Mycoplasma bovis has reached crisis point and it’s time the Ministry for Primary Industries handed it back to farmers and support them to manage it, Mid Canterbury dairy farmer Frank Peters says.

The Peters family last week had 450 of their 1400-cow herd trucked to slaughter after just one cow tested positive for the cattle disease, now running rampant across the country.

Peters believes a lack of knowledge about M bovis is the biggest threat the disease poses to the dairy industry. . .

Farming and the Fight Against Climate Change – Veronika Meduna:

Climate friendly sheep could soon be romping around as part of the national flock as farmers take action to help reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture.

As the interim climate commission begins its work, one of its most controversial tasks is to determine how agricultural greenhouse gas emissions could be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme. At the same time, farmers have an increasing number of options to curb emissions.

On a farm south of Invercargill, a small flock of ewes that burp less methane – a potent greenhouse gas that makes up 76 per cent of emissions from the primary sector – is part of a research project to mitigate agricultural emissions. . . 

Tukituki catchment project aimed at curbing N-leaching big challenge :

A project aimed at determining how Tukituki catchment farmers will operate under new nitrogen leaching targets has found significant changes will have to made to achieve the reduced levels.

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Plan Change 6 outlines Land Use Capability (LUC) nitrogen leaching rates for all farms, depending on their physical characteristics and attributes, that have to be achieved by May 2020.

Farmers unable to reach these rates could apply for resource consents provided they stay within 30 per cent of the prescribed rate. . .

Farmer plea to politicians: talk to us not at us – Andrew McGiven:

It certainly is an interesting time to be a farmer now and not necessarily for all the right reasons.

The declaration from Environment Minister David Parker that regulation is his chosen path for dealing with intensive dairying is just the latest salvo from this government that principles and ideology reign supreme over co-operation and common sense.

This comes on top of the Green element of the coalition doing all it can to include agricultural animal emissions in an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), uncertainty around the Tax Working Group and the potential requirements that Plan Change One Healthy Rivers will heap on us.

I am not surprised to see so many farms on the market right now. . .

Technology is getting CRISPR –  Daniel Kelley:

The future of farming just got a lot brighter.

On March 28, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that his department won’t add a new layer of regulations to crops that scientists have enhanced through a cutting-edge method of selective breeding. This wise decision will encourage innovation, helping producers and consumers alike—and it even holds the potential to usher in the next great revolution in food.

After half a century of farming in Illinois, I’ve endured every kind of challenge, from droughts, floods, and diseases to insect invasions and weed infestations. But what I’ll remember best about my career—and the thing for which I’m most grateful—is the stunning technological progress. Today, we have hybrid seed corn that delivers bumper crops, computer databases that overflow with information, and precision agriculture driven by satellites in the Global Positioning System. Compared to what I knew as a boy, these are incomprehensible, head-spinning technologies. . . 

Crop disease: waging modern war against an ancient foe – John Ward:

The problem of world hunger is complex and the threats to our global food supply are many. They include growing populations, loss of arable land, dwindling water supplies, and climate change.

As if these present-day challenges weren’t enough, there is another – far older – adversary that farmers have grappled with for centuries. Crop disease.

Crop losses due to pests and plant pathogens continue to rob world markets of much needed food and cost farmers billions of dollars every year.

But innovators like Ad Bastiaansen, believe that modern information technology might finally help turn the tide of battle against this ancient foe. . . 

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Rural round-up

May 16, 2018

Outbreak response criticised – Sally Rae:

The Ministry for Primary Industries has not been ”up to the job” when it comes to dealing with the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, Federated Farmers national board member Miles Anderson believes.

Speaking at Otago Federated Farmers’ annual meeting in Balclutha yesterday, Mr Anderson said he was a ”bit disappointed” in MPI’s response.

Once the outbreak was dealt with, industry needed to have a debriefing with MPI and work out how improvements could be made. ”It’s currently not acceptable the way it’s going,” he said.

There were people with neighbouring properties that were infected who had not been informed, while there were other farmers who had cattle of interest to MPI who were unaware of that.

Communication needed to be worked on initially, Mr Anderson said. . .

Mycoplasma bovis: the ground has shifted with a megathrust – Keith Woodford:

Events of recent days demonstrate that eradication of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand is no longer a realistic option. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is scrambling to get its messaging together. New strategies are now needed.

As I write this on 13 May, the MPI website still refers in its text material to 38 infected properties. But the latest version of the infection map from MPI tells a very different story (see below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is apparent from comments by BioSecurity NZ Chief Roger Smith to a Parliamentary Committee on 10 May, that the sudden growth in infected and suspected infected properties has come as a big surprise. That may well be so to the Wellington officials, but it will be much less of a surprise to those who have been working closer to the cows. . .

Guy Trafford says although MPI are slow to accept it, containment of MPB is the future with a long-term eradication plan as was used with TB. That will change dairying:

There is consensus from every-one, except perhaps MPI, is that the mycoplasma bovis has bolted and probably had some time ago.

This whole episode has been hampered by things not working as well as they should have. Somehow the disease got in when it shouldn’t have been able.

NAIT was shown to be very deficient from farmers using it through to MPI administrating it.

The testing processes despite earlier assurances still appears not to be able to provide the accuracy required to be able to make decision that affect whole families lives and livelihoods. . . 

Hunt on for rogue Northland wallaby – Andrew McRae:

High-tech surveillance equipment and two tracking dogs have been called in after a wallaby was spotted in South Hokianga.

Staff from Northland Regional Council and the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Te Roroa iwi members are scouring about 500 hectares of farmland and native bush.

Council biosecurity manager Kane McElrea said a person had seen a wallaby on at least two separate occasions at their Waimamaku property in recent months, but did not initially appreciate the potential significance of the sightings. . .

Browns win gold for sustainability:

Matamata farmers Edward (Wynn) and Tracy Brown are the inaugural winners of the Fonterra Farm Source Responsible Dairying Award.

The award was presented at the NZ Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) in Invercargill last Saturday.

The Browns are considered leaders within the dairy industry, in all areas of sustainability, business and farm management, as well as in the way they give back to the industry and community. . . 

Duncans scoop Share Farmer of the Year title –  Sudesh Kissun:

Northland farmers Daniel and Gina Duncan are the 2018 Share Farmers of the Year. 

The former registered land valuers are 50:50 sharemilkers for the Pouto Topu A Trust. The 460ha property on the Pouto Peninsula,at the northern head of Kaipara Harbour, milks 1020 cows.

The Duncans finished top in three of the nine judging categories, winning the PrimaryITO Interview Award, Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award and Westpac Business Performance Award at the awards night in Invercargill. . .

Call for extra focus on tax treatments – Yvonne O’Hara:

Farming employers and employees are being urged to talk more about tax and benefit allowances, Federated Farmers manager general policy Nick Clark says.

Inland Revenue is consulting on the question of what the tax treatments should be for allowances paid and benefits provided to farm workers, and people have until Friday to make a submission.

Mr Clark said benefits allowances covered things such as boarding school fees, while reimbursement allowances were given for things such as wet weather gear and dogs. . . 


M Bovis spread

May 12, 2018

This map shows how far stock with, or from farms with, Mycoplasma bovis, have spread.

No automatic alt text available.

The Country For those interested in M. bovis – here’s the map showing properties under legal controls and surveillance. Valid as of yesterday (10 May).


M bovis far worse than expected

May 11, 2018

The spread of Mycoplasma bovis is worse than has been expected:

The tracking of cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis shows that more farms than previously expected are likely to be affected by the disease, says Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

“While we always expected to find more properties, officials tell me that the numbers will likely exceed their earlier modelling. That modelling work is continuing and we will have a clearer picture in the next couple of weeks. 

“MPI is continuing an intense programme of work with farming sector groups about the next best steps in the response – including containment and phased eradication.

“Testing to date shows all infected properties are connected in some way.   

“The tracing of Mycoplasma bovis is made harder by the poor use of the national animal tracing system (NAIT).  . . 

Problems with the system and with compliance must be addressed.

Had all cattle been registered through NAIT the tracking of stock from farms with the disease would have been much faster.

A cull of 22,000 cows is currently under way, with nearly half, 11,000 animals, destroyed.

“That cull is necessary to reduce the disease’s spread through the national herd. I know farmers whose properties are under control restrictions face a difficult time. I’m working hard to ensure the Government and sector make the best possible decision with the best possible information regarding Mycoplasma bovis. I expect that decision will come in the next few weeks. 

“Farmers should ensure any compensation claims they make related to Mycoplasma bovis are accurate, as it makes the process quicker. MPI and Dairy NZ have boosted the number of people working directly with farmers to assist in that process.  

“As of close of play Wednesday 9 May, 38 farms were active infected places and another 40 were under Restricted Place Notice (i.e. considered highly likely to become infected). Nearly 1700 properties are of interest because of risk events such as animal movements, the supply of milk for animal feed or because they are adjacent to infected properties,” says Damien O’Connor.

Tracking potentially infected stock has been complicated by the black market in calf sales.

A black market in cattle sales and a lack of compliance with the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) regime by farmers is hampering the Ministry for Primary Industries’ efforts to respond to Mycoplasma bovis, which is now New Zealand’s largest animal surveillance issue.

“We do have, unfortunately, quite a black market of cows sold for cash,” Geoff Gwyn, director of readiness and response at the Ministry for Primary Industries, told the primary production committee at the parliament today. “We’re looking at bank records, taking affidavits.”

The Ministry must treat this very seriously.

The black market might be being used to avoid tax, which is serious enough, hampering tracking is more so.

Anything which makes tracing stock is bad enough for a disease like M bovis, it would be much worse if it was Foot and Mouth.

Gwyn and other MPI officials were giving a briefing on the disease to the select committee. Head of Biosecurity New Zealand Roger Smith said it had been “a very challenging incursion response” because of the level of non-authorised stock movements and modern farm practices which meant cows were frequently moved to where the grass was best.

It was also a challenge because unlike a disease such as foot and mouth, there could be little outward sign of infection, and may display as a secondary illness such as mastitis or pneumonia, he said. “It’s a very difficult disease to find. You could have perfectly healthy animals that showed no signs” of the disease. Definitive testing took 60 days unless the animal was dissected. “You have to take the head off the animal.”

Poor records, cash sales and difficulty in identifying the disease have made containing it more difficult.

The increase in the number of infected herds – 129 properties were under some restriction last week, now there are 299 – will make compensation even more expensive.

It will also make it more likely that the Ministry will give up on eradication and look at management and containment instead.

The bovine toll is rising steeply, so are stress levels among farmers which is not helped by delays and uncertainty over compensation for those whose herds have been culled.


Rural round-up

May 4, 2018

Irrigation not an environmental irritation – Jacqueline Rowarth:

 Irrigation can reduce soil erosion.

Of course, the irrigation has to be carefully managed and precision technologies are part of the management. However, there is no doubt that overcoming any drought period during warm temperatures allows increased pasture growth, which is associated with maintenance or an increase in organic matter, which in turn decreases the likelihood of erosion. 

Any increased income resulting from the harvesting of extra pasture or crop can be invested in more environmentally sound technologies. . .

Government-owned farmed tests positive for Mycoplasma bovis – Gerald Piddock:

Landcorp’s Rangesdale Station has been confirmed as testing positive for Mycoplasma bovis.

The sheep and beef property near Pahiatua in North Wairarapa was confirmed as having the cattle disease by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Landcorp (Pamu) spokesman Simon King confirmed the farm had tested positive for the disease and was working with MPI and local veterinary services and were currently culling the impacted herd.

“We had been in touch with neighbouring properties to advise them of the potential that the farm was infected last week, and we held a community meeting on Wednesday to update our neighbours on the situation and the actions Pāmu (Landcorp) is taking. . .

Gathering data on hill country potential, risks – Mark Adams:

Federated Farmers is backing a research project now underway to better understand hill country development practices.  

The end goal is to create a decision tool to aid farmers as they weigh up the benefits, costs and environmental risks of development of their hill country blocks.

Farmers from Canterbury and Manawatu have already shared their experiences on this topic during anonymous interviews conducted by research company UMR.  The next stage of the project, commissioned by Environment Canterbury and supported by Beef & Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers (South Canterbury), involves detailed telephone surveys of 150 farmers in the two provinces. . .

No significant drop in rabbits seen yet – Hamish MacLean:

Counts to establish whether the new strain of rabbit calicivirus has taken hold will begin next week, but Otago landowners expecting to see dramatic drops in rabbit numbers could be in for a wait.

When the impending release of 100 doses of a Korean strain of rabbit calicivirus was announced in March, the Otago Regional Council said the pest population could be cut by up to 40%.

Now farmers are saying they have seen no evidence of the impact of the virus.

Council environmental monitoring and operations director Scott MacLean said post-virus release night counts would begin next week but a potential 40% decrease in numbers of the pest would take time. . .

Eighty per cent of farmers aren’t employing technology to be productive in the 21st century – Pat Deavoll:

A red meat industry group discovered in 2011 that high performing sheep farmers earned more than twice as much for their red meat per hectare of land than lower performing ones,

Furthermore, they produced more than double the amount of lamb per hectare. Why? For many reasons, the group concluded.

Farmers in the lower echelons of productivity were notoriously poor at embracing technology. They also failed to integrate with management systems, failed to connect with their banks, processors and advisors, did not employ measurement and benchmarking strategies, and were terrible at budgeting. An estimated five per cent of sheep and beef farmers used an adequate budget, but 65 per cent didn’t bother with a budget at all. . . .

Agricultural sustainability in a water-challenged year – Roberto A. Peiretti:

I strive for excellence on my farm in Argentina—but this year, I’m delighted to be average.

As we bring in our corn and soybeans this month—remember, our seasons are reversed here in the southern hemisphere—we have no right to expect much of a harvest. This cropping season, our rainfall was far below regular levels. Our plants didn’t receive as much water as they need to flourish as well as they can.

Rather than suffering a catastrophe, however, we’re doing just fine: We’ll enjoy an ordinary harvest.

That’s because right now, our soil never has been healthier. We owe it all to a vision of sustainable farming that is astonishing in its simplicity even as it depends on agriculture’s latest technologies. . . .

 

It’s not #sauvblanc day without #nzwine:

On Friday 4 May New Zealand Winegrowers is ready to celebrate what is shaping up to be most successful International Sauvignon Blanc day yet, with an online digital campaign reaching over 50 million impressions via the hashtags #nzwine and #sauvblanc.

“This is on track to be the biggest social media campaign NZ wine has ever been involved in and it is fitting that it is around Sauvignon Blanc Day – New Zealand’s most exported wine varietal,” says Chris Yorke, Global Marketing Director at New Zealand Winegrowers. . . 


Rural round-up

April 26, 2018

Land use tipped to change on Waimea Plains, near Nelson, if dam gets nod – Cherie Sivignon:

Waimea Irrigators Ltd chairman Murray King is putting his money where his mouth is to support the proposed Waimea dam.

The dairy farmer and long-term proponent of the dam project said he had committed to buy more water shares, at $5500 a pop, than he needed for his 57ha block of land on the Waimea Plains.

“We’re fully subscribed, a little bit over actually.”

His “60-something” shares would cost him more than $300,000. . .

Retaining soil carbon the answer to managing agricultural GHG emissions – Gerald Piddock:

A Matamata dairy farm has become ground zero for a team of Waikato scientists searching for ways to lower agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Soil carbon and nitrous oxide losses are being measured on the 200 hectare farm owned by Terry and Margaret Troughton and managed by their son Ben and wife Sarah.

Their findings so far in a project funded by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre were outlined at a field day on the farm.

Better pasture management, genetics, feed and nutrition had been done well, but new strategies were needed to take the project the next step forward, Landcare Research’s Jack Pronger​ said. . . 

Farmers give thumbs down to new taxes:

Any move to introduce a capital gains, land or environment tax will meet stiff opposition from farmers, a Federated Farmers survey shows.

The Federation asked its members for their views last month, to help inform the farmer group’s submission to the Tax Working Group. The nearly 1,400 responses indicated strong opposition to some of the new taxes that have been suggested.

Just on 81 percent opposed a capital gains tax excluding the family home, with 11 percent in support. However, 47 percent would support a CGT on property sold within a five year ‘bright line’ test. There is currently a two-year threshold, and the measure is seen by some as a way of discouraging speculators. . . 

NZ farm sales fall 11% in March quarter as mycoplasma bovis keeps farmers nervous –  Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand farm sales fell 11 percent in the March quarter from a year earlier, as the mycoplasma bovis cattle disease outbreak weighed on purchasing intentions and spanned a period where smaller plots of rural land were captured by the regime to screen foreign buyers.

Some 388 farms were sold at a median price of $27,428 per hectare in the three months ended March 31, down from 438 farms at a median price of $27,509/ha in 2017, Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures show. Fewer dairy and grazing farms accounted for the drop, with gains in finishing farm sales coinciding with strong prices for beef and lamb meat. . . 

Calm ewes produce more than nervous ewes:

A calm temperament in ewes improves ovulation rate and successful pregnancies, according to a study published by The University of Western Australia.

The study, which was conducted in collaboration with researchers from Uruguay, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development WA and UWA, has implications for the impact of stress in human reproduction.

The team investigated the reproductive outcomes of 200 Merino ewes known to have either a calm or a nervous temperament. They found the ovulation rate and rate of successful pregnancies to be higher in the calm ewes. . .

Shearing at the end of the world –  Tomas Munita and Russell Goldman:

Life at the end of the world can be lonely.

For weeks at a time, Roberto Bitsch and gauchos like him might not see another human being. They see horses, both wild and tame. They see the dogs they work with. But mostly, they see sheep — thousands of them.

Locals mark time by the length of the sheep’s woolly coats here on Isla Grande, the largest of the Tierra del Fuego islands at the tip of South America, closer to Antarctica than to Chile’s capital, Santiago. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 23, 2018

I founded Happy Cow Milk to make a difference in dairying. I failed – Glen Herud:

He founded an ethical dairying company that would allow calves to stay with their mothers. Last week, Glenn Herud had to admit that his enterprise had failed.

I’m a third generation dairy farmer. The milk business is the only business I know. Four years ago I decided to find a way to do dairy in a more sustainable way.

I know New Zealanders want this. They want the land treated better, they want rivers treated better, and they want animals treated better. And they would like the option to buy their milk in something other than plastic bottles.

I founded Happy Cow Milk to make a difference. But last week I had to admit to myself that I failed. . . 

Record butter prices expected: economist – Simon Hartley:

Households, restaurants and bakeries be warned, butter prices are expected to rise well above last year’s records, already sitting just 5% below the highs set last September.

ASB senior rural economist Nathan Penny said butter prices were already well up on the same period a year ago, and the seasonal lull in New Zealand milk production was still to come.

“We anticipate butter prices will shatter last year’s records over coming months,” Mr Penny said.

In October last year, butter prices were up more than 60% against a year earlier. By November, one Dunedin supermarket’s cheapest 500g block cost $5.90 and there were reports of $8 blocks in other Otago towns. . . 

Commercial Mycoplasma bovis test being developed:

A commercial diagnostic tool which will allow farmers to test for cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis themselves is being developed by a partnership comprising commercial laboratories, industry representatives and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The tool will be released once sampling guidelines, a testing strategy and possibly an accreditation programme have been developed – to ensure the test can be accurately applied and interpreted. . . 

There’s more M bovis to come yet – Glenys Christian:

Up to three to four years of Mycoplasma bovis monitoring will be needed and more infected animals will probably be found next year, Primary Industries Ministry senior policy analyst Emil Murphy says.

“It doesn’t make animals sick directly,” he told Auckland Federated Farmers executive.

“It’s more like a cold sore where something happens to an animal which is weak already and M bovis  jumps in and makes it worse.”

Genetic analysis showed the local strain of M bovis is quite different to that seen in Australia for the last 10 years. . . 

Iwi in peat-mining venture say wetland is a wasteland:

The iwi involved in a peat mining venture in the Far North says it’s disappointed the Conservation Minister wants to derail it.

The Auckland company Resin and Wax Holdings has been granted resource consents to dig over land owned by the iwi Ngāi Takoto, in the Kaimaumau wetland.

The company plans to extract valuable industrial compounds from the peat, using a chemical process perfected in the United States.

The project has had several government grants from the Callaghan Innovation fund. . . 

Co-ops also present in German ag – Sudesh Kissun:

The power of cooperative agriculture is proudly on display at a dairy farm near the German city of Dresden.

The Agrargenossenschaft Gnaschwitz (Agri Co-op), in the town of Gnaschwitz, milks 460 cows year round with eight Lely robotic machines. Lely recently unveiled its new Astronaut A5 machine.

The co-op is owned by about 100 shareholders, each owning a small parcel of the farm. Following the reunification of Germany in 1990, land seized by the former communist regime in East Germany was returned to people if they could show evidence of their family’s ownership. .  .

Human ingenuity and the future of food – Chelsea Follett:

A recent article in Business Insider showing what the ancestors of modern fruits and vegetables looked like painted a bleak picture. A carrot was indistinguishable from any skinny brown root yanked up from the earth at random. Corn looked nearly as thin and insubstantial as a blade of grass. Peaches were once tiny berries with more pit than flesh. Bananas were the least recognizable of all, lacking the best features associated with their modern counterparts: the convenient peel and the seedless interior. How did these barely edible plants transform into the appetizing fruits and vegetables we know today? The answer is human ingenuity and millennia of genetic modification.

Humanity is continuously innovating to produce more food with less landless water, and fewer emissionsAs a result, food is not only more plentiful, but it is also coming down in price.

The pace of technological advancement can be, if you will pardon the pun, difficult to digest. Lab-grown meat created without the need to kill an animal is already a reality. The first lab-grown burger debuted in 2013, costing over $300,000, but the price of a lab-grown burger patty has since plummeted, and the innovation’s creator “expects to be able to produce the patties on a large enough scale to sell them for under $10 a piece in a matter of five years.” 

People who eschew meat are a growing demographic, and lab-grown meat is great news for those who avoid meat solely for ethical reasons. It currently takes more land, energy, and water to produce a pound of beef than it does to produce equivalent calories in the form of chickens, but also grains. So, cultured meat could also lead to huge gains in food production efficiency.  . . 

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