Rural round-up

11/10/2022

Mindset is everything in uncertain times – Shawn McAvinue:

Wellbeing, Maniototo farmer Emma Crutchley reckons, begins with mindset.

Ms Crutchley is a third-generation farmer on Puketoi Station near Ranfurly. A qualified agronomist from Lincoln University, she spent nearly six years working as a rural professional before coming home to the family farm.

Despite enjoying her childhood on the farm which is relatively remote, she found returning in her late 20s to be quite a culture shock.

“I had been away at boarding school, university and then lived in towns and central Wellington when I was working as an agronomist. It was actually really tough when I came home; trying to find my place and especially as a young female, the weekend sports on offer weren’t really what I was into.” . . 

AgResearch seeks to trial GM grass in Aus – Neal Wallace:

AgResearch is applying to conduct field trials in Australia for its genetically modified high metabolised energy ryegrass.

AgResearch farm systems scientist Robyn Dynes told a Farmax panel discussing how to match consumer expectation with farm business realities that recent United States trials confirmed the promise shown in the laboratory by high ME ryegrass.

The genetically modified grass grows at twice the rate of conventional ryegrass, stores more energy, has greater drought tolerance and reduces by up to 23% the methane released by animals.

Dynes said the US trials have confirmed that promise but research now needs to be scaled up to field trials to prove its efficacy, hence its application in Australia. . . 

New Mycoplasma bovis strain detected – Peter Burke :

A new strain of M Bovis has been discovered on one of four farms infected with disease in Mid Canterbury.

MPI’s M. bovis programme director Simon Andrew says recently completed genomic testing from a single property, which was previously confirmed with M.bovis, had identified the strain.

He says the new strain doesn’t behave any differently than the strain MPI have been dealing with, and their existing testing will pick it up, as it has done in this case.

Simon Andrew says as a result of finding the new strain MPI’s testing programme will be stepped up and a thorough investigation will be carried out to see how arrived on the farm.

Not for the fainthearted – the trials and tribulations of raising pet lambs – Virginia Fallon,:

Raising a pet lamb is Kiwi as, but before you bring little Barbara, Shaun or Rosemary home this spring those in the know have a few words of advice. A traumatised Virginia Fallon reports.

It was lambageddon, that long ago spring.

Every few days more of them arrived, spilling from hessian sacks onto the barn floor in a jumble of skinny woolly legs. Some were still covered in afterbirth, others caked in mud.

While the weakest ones lay dangerously quiet on the straw-covered concrete, the rest screamed for attention. Incredible how such little scraps can be responsible for so much noise. . . 

Lifetime love of land and livestock :

Jenni Vernon reckons her love for the land and livestock was forged as a child, helping her grandfather feed out mangels on farm.

Today, after more than four decades in farming and public sector leadership, she remains passionate about giving back to the industry.

Vernon has taken on the role of independent chair of the steering committee for the Hill Country Futures Partnership programme. It’s a task she combines with her job as a principal adviser for the Ministry for Primary Industries and other governance positions – including with the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) and the National Fieldays Society.

Vernon was also New Zealand’s first female Nuffield Scholar and the first woman chair of Environment Waikato. . .

Kapiti and Wairarapa dominate NZ Extra Virgin Olive Oil awards :

Kapiti and Wairarapa Olive Oil makers have dominated the annual New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards, winning four of the five major awards for Olive Oil Excellence.

The New Zealand Olive Oil Awards began in 2000 and recognise excellence in New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oils (NZ EVOO). The winners were announced tonight at the Olives NZ 2022 Award Ceremony.

The top awards were as follows:

Best in Show – Waikawa Glen Blend, Kapiti . . 


Rural round-up

28/09/2022

Research set to improve safety over calving – Bronwyn Wilson:

Research into sprain and strain injuries over calving has identified some simple ways farmers can reduce injuries on dairy farms.

The three-year DairyNZ project, funded in partnership with ACC’s Workplace Injury Prevention programme, is researching the causes of sprains and strains on dairy farms – and developing practical solutions to reduce injuries.

“Around 40 percent of injuries on dairy farms are sprains and strains, with the highest risk from August to October. As calving progresses, fatigue can set in and increase injuries,” says DairyNZ senior scientist and research lead, Dr Callum Eastwood.

As part of the Reducing Sprains and Strains project, 370 farmers were surveyed on how they managed health and safety, and whether injuries had occurred. . .

Mycoplasma bovis Mid Canterbury update – enhanced biosecurity measures in the Wakanui area :

Beef + Lamb New Zealand, alongside DairyNZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries, is a partner in the Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) eradication programme.

The M. bovis programme is now targeting the remaining known pocket of confirmed infection with depopulation starting on a mid-Canterbury feedlot in Wakanui and strict new biosecurity measures for the surrounding area.

Although further detections across the country are possible in future, the only properties known to have infected cattle are located in this small area, where there are three Confirmed Properties, including the feedlot.

M. bovis is known to be most commonly spread via direct contact between infected and uninfected cattle. However, despite recent thorough investigations, the programme has been unable to confirm the pathway(s) by which disease has been spreading in this area. . .

Gisborne drone spraying trial deemed a success – Hamish Barwick:

Gisborne based vegetable grower LeaderBrand recently trialled the use of drones for spraying at its Makauri Farm with positive results.   

LeaderBrand research agronomist Chris Lambert said the trial took place over three months during winter, an ideal time as the ground was too wet to operate a tractor on.

“We wanted to manage our weeds in winter. Rather than spray over a wide area, which is a big waste of chemicals, the drone was able to target weed clumps.”  

He said the advantage of drones is that they don’t compact soil like tractors do and they’re also more agile than helicopters. . . 

High-tech strawberry farm aims high in Foxton – Country Life:

Slip behind a bee-proof mesh curtain in an old Foxton factory building and a sweet surprise awaits.

“Welcome to our secret laboratory,” Matthew Keltie says.

Under the bluish glow of the high-tech lights, pops of red catch the eye.

A bee buzzes past and quiet music overlays the faint gurgle of nutrients swishing through tubes. . . 

Meryn Whitehead wins 2022 Young Grower of the Year national final :

Meryn Whitehead, a 28-year-old supervisor at Vailima Orchards, has won the national title of 2022 Young Grower of the Year, held in Nelson.

“It is a real privilege to be named the winner of this year’s competition, especially given the impressive talent on display,” says Meryn.

Meryn was one of six contestants that vied for the grand title in a series of practical and theoretical horticulture modules across two-days. The competition encourages young people to take up a career in horticulture as well as celebrating their success in the industry.

Despite being Meryn’s second year entering the competition, she says the experience has been nonetheless valuable. . . 

Proposed Bill would support wine tourism in New Zealand :

New Zealand Winegrowers is thrilled the Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Cellar Door Tasting) Amendment Bill, proposed by Stuart Smith MP, has been drawn from the Member’s Bill Ballot today.

New Zealand Winegrowers has had longstanding concerns about aspects of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act as they apply to winery cellar doors. This Bill would help to address some of our key concerns for wineries.

We congratulate Stuart Smith MP on having this Bill drawn from the ballot. As the Member of Parliament for New Zealand’s largest wine region, he understands first-hand the importance of this proposal.

Winery cellar doors are an important part of wine tourism, yet the current legislation does not permit wineries holding an off-licence to charge for tastings. “The current legislation is out of date,” says Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers. “It either forces wineries to give wine away for free, or forces them to go through significant cost and time to acquire and maintain a separate on-licence.” . . 


Rural round-up

15/09/2022

What the ‘F’ is going on? – Mark Daniel:

Rabobank’s Emma Higgins recently outlined some of the current headaches facing the agriculture sector.

At the Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA) Conference, held in Christchurch, she focused on a number of ‘F’ words – freight, fuel, fertiliser, feed, folk and farmer spending.

Higgins looked at the state of the global shipping industry and what had happened pre- and post-Covid, covering a period from early 2018 to June 2022. She explained that during the pre-Covid era, freight rates had remained largely static with most companies making little or no margin. However, since early 2020, rates had skyrocketed, alliances and consolidations had become the norm and major players were reporting margins approaching 40% or more.

Higgins warned those needing to ship goods in or out of the country not to expect freight costs to return to pre-Covid levels, even though there had been a recent softening of rates. She also noted there is an ongoing problem with scheduling reliability – boats arriving on time. Pre-Covid this was typically at 85%, but more lately was sitting at 35%. . . 

Many flow-on effects if scroll plains classified as wetlands – Shawn McAvinue:

A Maniototo Basin farmer fears proposed new freshwater rules will remove an important tool used to protect a unique scroll plain.

Puketoi Station owner Emma Crutchley said her nearly 3000ha sheep, beef and arable farm was often dry.

About 350mm of rain fell each year on the farm, which is about a 20-minute drive southwest of Ranfurly.

When it tips down, the overflow of the meandering Taieri River transforms a low-lying area of her farm to a “large, slow-moving lake”. . . 

Winter crop consent logjam ‘could reach 10,000’ – Neal Wallace:

Delays in finalising freshwater farm plans threaten bureaucratic snarl-up.

An estimated 10,000 farmers may require resource consent to intensively winter stock on crops next year.

A meeting this week between farming groups and the Ministry for the Environment (MFE) will confirm if a compromise can be found to the consenting requirement, which many fear will overwhelm regional council staff.

It has been estimated that 2000 farmers in Southland and 1000 in Waikato will require resource consent, and farming leaders calculate that nationally, potentially a further 7000 may also need consent. . . 

Ex-Feds dairy boss makes it 3-way battle for DairyNZ board seats – Sudesh Kissun:

Former Federated Farmers leader Chris Lewis is one of three candidates confirmed for DairyNZ director elections.

The Waikato farmer will take on sitting directors Tracy Brown, Waikato and Elaine Cook, Bay of Plenty, both retiring by rotation and seeking re-election.

Voting starts September 19 and ends on October 17. Results will be announced at DairyNZ’s annual meeting in Invercargill the next day.

Lewis, who milks 970 cows at Pukeatua, believes he will bring a farmer’s perspective to the board. . . 

Vets hold the line against M bovis – Mary van Andel :

Local vets are putting the country on track to be the world’s first to eradicate the disease.

Much of the work veterinarians do is behind the scenes but underpins aspects of our economy, environment and way of life. Across New Zealand, veterinarians provide valuable technical expertise and are recognised as trusted advisers on a range of issues, including animal health and welfare, and disease surveillance and investigation. They play a key role in our biosecurity system.

A debt of gratitude is owed to the private veterinarian who first identified Mycoplasma bovis in NZ in 2017. Since those early and often difficult days, private veterinarians have made a significant contribution in identifying the index case and reporting cases of suspected disease, as well as undertaking on-farm testing and supporting their clients affected by the eradication programme. 

If it had been left unchecked, M bovis could have cost the industry $1.2 billion over the first 10 years, with ongoing productivity losses across the farming sector and animal welfare concerns. As we near the halfway mark of our estimated 10-year eradication programme, we are aiming to move from controlling the last known pockets of the disease, to provisional absence. We are on track to become the first country to eradicate M bovis.

An important part of my role at the Ministry for Primary Industries is to identify ways to build relationships that bind our animal health community together to enable successful biosecurity partnerships. MPI is NZ’s largest employer of veterinarians, with 300 working in five of the nine business units, across all regions, including overseas postings.  . . 

Ploughwoman qualifies for national champs – Shawn McAvinue:

Southland ploughwoman Tryphena Carter is going to the National Ploughing Championships next year.

The Waimea Ploughing Club member qualified for the nationals on the first day of the Middlemarch, Taieri and Tokomairiro ploughing matches in Strath Taieri.

“That’s really exciting,” Carter said.

She got podium finishes in the conventional class on all three days — the Tokomairiro match in Sutton on August 26 and the Taieri and Middlemarch matches in Middlemarch on August 27 and 28 respectively. . . 


Rural round-up

06/06/2022

Rural water schemes should remain in private ownershi – working gorup  – Russell Palmer:

Privately owned rural water supplies should be able to keep managing themselves, rather than handing over to the Three Waters entities, a working group has recommended.

By 2028, rural suppliers will be required to abide by the stronger standards being brought in by the water regulator set up in March last year, Taumata Arowai.

The Rural Supplies Technical working group was set up by the government to advise on how the water system reforms would handle rural supply schemes, and has made 30 recommendations.

Privately owned rural suppliers number in the tens of thousands, and the group urged the government to allow these to continue under their current management. . . 

Ikea’s owners buying 1118ha for forestry – Sally Rae:

Companies associated with Ingka Group, the largest franchisee of Ikea stores internationally, have received consent to buy more sheep and beef farming land in the South to convert to forestry.

Yesterday, the Overseas Investment Office released its April decisions, including a successful application by Ingka Investments Forest Assets NZ and Ingka Investments Management NZ, from the Netherlands, to acquire about 1118ha of land on Koneburn Rd at Waimumu.

The applicants were owned by Ingka Investments B.V., the investment arm of Ingka Group, one of 12 different groups of companies that own the Swedish furniture and homeware giant.

In a statement, the company stressed the property — like its other two New Zealand acquisitions — would be planted in plantation forestry, not used for carbon farming. . . 

The fight against Mycoplasma bovis – Sarah Robson:

No other country has done it before, but New Zealand is on the brink of eradicating the cattle disease mycoplasma bovis. It’s come at a heavy emotional and financial cost to farmers – what lessons can be learned?

The first day of winter is a big day in the dairy farming calendar: moving day.

1 June is when dairy farmers around the country move thousands of cows to new pasture for winter grazing or new sharemilking contracts.

But unlike the past few years, the threat of mycoplasma bovis won’t be looming so large, with just one farm – a large beef feedlot near Ashburton – still infected with the disease. . . . 

NAIT reconsiders operational strategy to accommodate smaller rise in levies:

The National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme, NAIT Limited, ran a public consultation with levy payers and collection agents between 21 January and 25 February 2022. A proposal was put forward to increase the tag levy from $0.90 to $1.35 and the slaughter levy from $0.50 to $1.77, to enable NAIT Limited to deliver a traceability system that is easy to use, fit for purpose, and that will perform in the event of a disease outbreak. The proposal included an increase in Crown and Deer industry funding.

A total of 147 submissions were received from individual farmers/farming operations, primary sector groups, shareholders, funders, OSPRI committees and collection agents. Submissions ranged in sentiment towards the proposal, were complex in nature, and required extensive analysis and discussions to make decisions on the outcome. For this reason, the Board of NAIT Limited decided, in March, to defer any decision on NAIT Levies to allow for a comprehensive review of feedback.

On 19 May 2022 the Board of NAIT Limited decided to revise their proposed operational strategy under a reduced funding package with an emphasis on delivering the core capabilities of a fit-for-purpose traceability system that performs in the event of a disease outbreak. The revised strategy will focus on delivering the core capabilities in the immediate term, with a staged approach to delivery of additional services that NAIT Limited believe will be important to optimise the animal traceability system in New Zealand. Under this reduced funding package, NAIT Limited has adjusted the proposed levies, whilst maintaining the 35/65% Crown/Industry Split. . . 

Rural health representatives join new network:

The way rural health is represented is set to change with the establishment of a new collective.

From 28 June, the Rural General Practice Network will transition to a new collective organisation called Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network.

It incorporates nine different organisations, including Rural Nurses NZ and The Rural Midwifery and Maternity Service.

Network chief executive Grant Davidson said the collective organisation will help create a united and trusted voice for rural health. . . 

218 of Aotearoa’s best foods receive medals in 2022 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards:

In what has been hailed as ‘the most exciting year of the Awards to date’ 218 medal winners have been recognised this year’s Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards.

Winners span the length of Aotearoa from Northland to Southland and its breadth, from the West Coast over to the Chatham Islands. Additionally they represent a vast range of locally harvest, grown and made foods including mushrooms, meat, preserves, drinks, ice cream and sweets. Results follow two days of judging at Homeland in Auckland earlier in May.

Seventy-one percent of all of the more than 300 entries received an accolade with 78 Gold Medals, 86 Silver Medals and 56 Bronze Medals awarded.

Reflecting on this year’s medal-winners, Head Judge Lauraine Jacobs said; “2022 has been the most exciting year for the Awards to date. Each year has seen not only growth in the number of entries, but the quality of the food products continues to rise and rise in every category. . . 


Rural round-up

01/06/2022

No Free lunch! – Rural News:

The ink was barely dry on the Government’s newly released emissions reductions plan before the whining began.

“Agriculture – New Zealand’s largest emitting sector – has got off scot-free, again!” the whiners cried. “And it is getting $339m for a new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions, despite the sector not paying any money into the Emissions Trade Scheme.”

On the surface, that may be true. However, you only need to dig a little deeper to see there are no easy answers to agriculture’s emissions profile.

New Zealand is unique in that almost half of the country’s greenhouse gases come from the agricultural sector. However, as has been shown in the wake of Covid and the demise of NZ’s once bustling tourism sector, it’s our dairy, meat, horticulture and other primary produce that this country now relies on for income. . . 

Landcorp land better off with Kiwi farmers :

“State-owned enterprises shouldn’t be competing with Kiwi businesses, and there’s no greater example of this than Landcorp,” says ACT’s Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron.

“The Government has no business being in farming, it’s interfering in the free market and New Zealand has plenty of ambitious, talented farmers who deserve the opportunity to farm the land currently owned by Landcorp.

“An independent review into Landcorp that was undertaken in 2021 said the organisation failed to meet financial forecasts, had high corporate costs, and invested in unprofitable off-farm ventures.

“No private operation would be able to fail like this, Landcorp is taking taxpayers for a ride. . . 

‘You look at the farm now and you think, what flood?’ – Ashburton one year on – Sally Murphy:

Farmers hit hard by the Ashburton floods say their farms have recovered well and in some cases their pastures are better than before.

It is a year since heavy rainfall caused rivers in mid-Canterbury to burst their banks, spewing shingle across farmland and leaving hectares of land under water.

Bryan Beeston’s dairy farm backs onto the North Branch of the Ashburton River in the worst-hit area of Greenstreet.

On the day of the flood the water breached the two-metre stock bank and tore through the farm, washing away 198 of his dairy cows, ripping out fences and flooding houses and sheds on the property. . . 

New Great Walk over the hump – Vaneesa Bellew :

Tired trampers might sometimes beg to differ with the assertion that the destination counts for less than the journey. But the country’s newest Great Walk, with its benefits for the Waiua community, should avoid any such arguments

The Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track will add to its pioneering narrative when it becomes a Great Walk next year and creates history as the only such walk not managed by the Department of Conservation (DoC).

Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track Inc will continue to operate the 61km three-day loop on behalf of the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track Charitable Trust when it becomes New Zealand’s 11th Great Walk at the start of the 2023-24 season.

Glenn Thomas, chair of the trust, and board director, says the trust and DoC are getting down to the “nuts and bolts” of an agreement on how the partnership will operate. “It’s a process and it’s going very well,” he says. . .

Ensure a smooth moving day :

With ‘Moving Day’ just around the corner (June 1), it’s a good time for farmers to review their biosecurity practices while moving their animals.

“Good planning and communication can help ensure a smooth Moving Day,” says Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) Eradication Programme Director Simon Andrew.

“Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of farmers and the wider agricultural sector, we have made good progress toward eradicating M. bovis since it was first detected in New Zealand in 2017. We are now aiming to move from delimiting – controlling the last known pockets of M. bovis – to gathering negative test result data to support a statement of provisional absence of M. bovis.

“Good biosecurity practices remain essential to fighting this disease. If left unchecked, the disease could have cost industry an estimated $1.2 billion over the first 10 years, with ongoing productivity losses across the farming sector and animal welfare concerns.” . .

The rise and rise of production is grounded at this enterprise. – Jamie Brown:

When the Bruderhof community came to the Inverell district in 1999 they were seeking a return to agronomic roots and in the years since have lifted their beef production as a direct result of growing soil carbon.

A Christian community originally founded in Germany in 1920, Bruderhof was ousted by the Nazis and fled to the Cotswolds, in England, where they changed-up a local farm from poor to high quality in just four years. When World War Two loomed large they sailed over the Atlantic and crossed the equator to set up camp in the jungles of Paraguay.

“My father was a Gaucho,” says community farm manager Johannes Meier. “They clawed out a life in the remote jungle and savannah and they were on horseback sunrise to sunset, raising tick-resistant Zebu cattle.”

German farmers perfected sustainable agriculture in the millennia before their scientists discovered a way of making nitrogen fertiliser from the air but those old-school methods were maintained by the Bruderhof community – formed three years before the invention of the Haber-Bosch process. . .


Rural round-up

09/05/2022

Mycolplasma bovis isolated to just one farm :

The world-first attempt to eradicate the disease, which can cause lameness, mastitis and abortions in cows, began after it was first detected in a South Canterbury farm in 2017.

Since then, the disease has been confirmed and cleared from 271 properties, with more than 176,000 cattle culled.

Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor said no working farms we currently infected – the lone property was a large beef-feed lot, and work to clear it will begin later this year.

He marked the milestone as he announced $110.9m funding for biosecurity efforts. . . 

Kiwis endangered by unlicenced occupations – Roger Partridge:

They may not know it, but unsuspecting Kiwis will soon be protected from unregistered log traders and forestry advisers. What a relief that should be.

The Shane Jones-sponsored Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Act was introduced under urgency in the midst of the pandemic in May 2020. Forced along by Jones’s fanciful election-year plans to boost employment in his Northland electorate, the Bill passed into law in August that year.

Jones is long gone from Parliament. But in the intervening two years, the Ministry for Primary Industries has been busily consulting with the forestry industry on a suitable registration regime.

And well they might. Even though the Ministry’s Regulatory Impact Statement could not point to any quantitative evidence of benefits from the proposed licensing regime, tasks as important as regulating log traders should not be rushed. . . 

Saffron grower says industry growth necessary to meet consumer demand – Sally Murphy:

A Southland saffron grower says yields are slightly down this year but the quality of the spice is very high due to dry conditions.

The spice is the red stigma of a small purple flower Crocus sativus and can set you back anywhere from $20 – to $50 a gram.

Kiwi Saffron grows the spice organically across three hectares in Garston, Southland.

Owner Jo Daley said weather conditions had led to an enjoyable harvest this season and they should wrap up in the next week or so. . . 

Geoff Reid poked the bear – Kathryn Wright:

Geoff Reid NZ poked the bear

If you know me, you probably know that I don’t like to say much on social media. And I certainly don’t get involved in online arguments. But when I have something to say, it’s probably important and it’s probably going to be long. The longer it percolates in my mind, the more I will have to say.

This is why, when environmental activist Geoff Reid posted his latest photos in an attempt to shame a Southland farmer that was simply doing his job, I had had enough. I have known about this person for a while – spoken about in both professional and private capacity. I considered sending the post to him privately but no, I wanted others to see the harm this man (and others like him) create. I will include the post below this. Rural people are my heart, and Geoff Reid is hurting them. 

Geoff Reid poked the bear.  . . 

Dairy prices fall sharply but farmers will do nicely thank you from this season’s payout and Synlait has strong half-year – Point of Order:

Only  two  months  ago  Radio NZ  was  airing  a  report “Why  are global dairy  prices  so high?”  Now, the  story  is  rather  different  after  two sharp  falls  at  Fonterra’s  fortnightly  global dairy  auctions,  and  the  pundits   are  pondering  what  has  happened.

But  NZ’s  dairy farmers  can still rest  easy  that  this  season’s  payout  will be  the  highest in Fonterra’s  history.

The  latest fall this  week was  foreshadowed  in  a  report  by ANZ  agri-economist  Susan Kilsby  on commodities. She  noted  dairy prices fell 4% month-on-month in April, driven primarily by lower prices for whole milk powder which is highly influenced by demand from China.

Kilsby  went  on to  point  out market sentiment had deteriorated as the lockdowns in Shanghai and Beijing impact consumer buying opportunities. . . 

Biosecurity funding increase a sensible move :

An $111 million injection for biosecurity in the May Budget is a pragmatic acknowledgement of how vital it is to our economy we stop pest organisms at our borders, Federated Farmers says.

“This extra money shows an appreciation by the government pest incursions can wreak havoc in our primary industries, New Zealand’s powerhouse for export earnings,” Federated Farmers Arable Chair and plant biosecurity spokesperson Colin Hurst said.

“Plenty of Budget rounds go by without any bolstering of funding for biosecurity so we congratulate the government for making this a priority.”

The funding announcement comes on the same day that we mark the fourth anniversary of New Zealand’s world-first attempt to eradicate the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis – indeed the $110.9m in the Budget includes $68 million over the coming year to continue momentum on the M. bovis programme. . . 


Rural round-up

16/11/2021

‘M. bovis’ lessons will fortify system: report – Sally Rae:

An independent review panel is confident the lessons learned from the Mycoplasma bovis incursion — if acted upon — will enable New Zealand to have a “far stronger preparedness platform” for future animal disease incursions.

A review of the cattle disease’s eradication programme found it was on track to achieve a world-first eradication and made recommendations to improve the wider biosecurity system.

It was the largest incursion response ever conducted in New Zealand and, given the country was on track to successful elimination, was a credit to all involved, the report released yesterday said.

No response would ever follow a predictable plan but, in 2017, the readiness and response system was not as well prepared as it was thought to be, it said. . .

Study highlights dangerous disconnect rural hospitals face as specter of Covid-19 looms :

Rural hospital doctors are reporting a lack of support from DHBs during the first Covid-19 outbreak, in new research by the University of Otago.

Dr Kati Blattner, from the University of Otago, says there is a disconnect between different parts of the health system, when it comes to transferring patients, that often ignores both local expertise and the geography.

“This research puts the spotlight on a sector of our health system that’s generally invisible, as we see it out here, at the end of the dripline,” she told Morning Report.

The study involved interviewing 17 senior doctors across New Zealand in 17 different rural hospitals about their experiences planning for the pandemic. It looked specifically at issues in the way of transferring patients to other bigger hospitals so they could receive advanced respiratory care. . .

Fonterra farmers to vote on co-op’s capital structure proposal :

Fonterra has today announced it will proceed with a shareholder vote on the change to the Co-operative’s capital structure, which would give farmers greater financial flexibility and better enable the Co-op’s strategy.

Fonterra Chairman Peter McBride says the Board and Management are united in the belief that the Flexible Shareholding structure is the best course of action for the Co-operative.

The decision to go ahead as planned has been informed by a significant volume of shareholder feedback that shows strong support for the changes.

“The Board is unanimously recommending the changes to our capital structure to put us in the best position to deliver the value outlined in the strategy and protect farmer ownership and control of our Co-op. . .

Federated Farmers partners with NZ YOung Farmers to offer free memberships :

New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF) is excited to announce Federated Farmers has jumped on board as a benefit partner to offer a complimentary NZYF Federated Farmers Membership, exclusive to its members.

It’s already had a strong response, with more than 100 NZYF members having signed up within the first day of its launch.

With more members seeking tangible benefits, NYF CEO Lynda Coppersmith said she was thrilled to add the NZYF Federated Farmers Membership to the list.

“Providing a direct link with Federated Farmers for our members is going to benefit the sector hugely,” she said. . . 

Testing the waters – Country Life:

Christine Finnigan is scanning the stream bed looking for kākahi.

“I found one and it’s very much alive,” she calls to fellow farmer Kim Bills and ag consultant Terry Parminter.

The freshwater mussels, especially baby ones, are a sign the creek is relatively healthy, even though it is in the middle of Bills’ dairy block.

The stream flows through a lush stand of bush, which has been fenced off from the young bulls bellowing in the distance. . .

HortNZ scholarship applications open to support next-gen growers:

Students considering a career in New Zealand’s growing horticulture industry are encouraged to apply for Horticulture New Zealand’s scholarships.

Applications for HortNZ’s annual undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships are open until 10 December 2021 for the 2022 study period.

HortNZ chief executive Nadine Tunley says that the scholarship programme supports students who have a special interest in the fruit or vegetable industry to pursue their careers.

“Young people are the future of the horticulture industry. That is why HortNZ offers these scholarships – worth up to $10,000 – to support the next generation of innovators and leaders. . .

FMG Young Farmer of the year 2022 Otago Southland regional finalists announced :

The finalists for the FMG Young Farmer of the Year 2022 Otago Southland Regional Final have been chosen for the Contest’s 54th season.

Featuring shepherds/sheep and beef farmers, a fencing contractor and rural and agribusiness bankers, only one person will be named 2022 Otago Southland FMG Young Farmer of the Year in February.

Ben Harmer, Isaac Johnston, Matt Sullivan, Andrew Cowie, Alex Field, George Blyth, Kurt Knarston and James Fox are the top eight competitors in the Otago Southland region, whittled down from 37 competitors over two district contests.

They will go head-to-head at the Otago Southland Regional Final on the 12th of February in Waimumu. . . 

 


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”. . . 


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