Rural round-up

08/02/2021

Climate focus highlights need for water storage – Vanessa Winning :

We should no longer be afraid of the conversation about water storage, dams, and reservoirs in the right places, as they are necessary for a sustainable, inclusive, productive and decarbonised economy, chief executive of Irrigation NZ Vanessa Winning writes.

It has been hot, very hot, especially in the central north island, Canterbury, Nelson, and Otago areas.

Then it was cool – still dry for most of us, but temperatures dropped a minimum of 10 degrees in the space of 24 hours in the height of summer.

Southerlies have settled into the lower North Island and we may get a storm next week in the South. Climate scientists tell us that these swings are expected to get more extreme all year round. . . 

Climate hurdle a high bar for farmers – Tom O’Connor:

Farmers in Waikato and across the country are to be commended for their courage in facing up to what they rightly say are the daunting changes ahead them following a report by the Climate Change Commission.

The 800-page report is wide-sweeping, thorough, challenging, hugely ambitious and more than a little frightening for those locked into our extensive agricultural industry and those in wide-spread supporting industries.

In a first draft of the report, dealing with carbon budgets, released last week, the commission has suggested that dairy, sheep and beef cattle numbers must be reduced by 15 per cent by the end of the decade. That is a very short time frame for such a major change and some probably won’t make it.

Fortunately, we seemed to have passed through the phase of blind opposition to the concept of climate change. For about thirty years a number of sceptics challenged almost every scientist who presented evidence of climate change or predicted what climate change would do. . . 

Exports remain strong – Neal Wallace and Gerald PIddock:

Farm gate prices for New Zealand dairy and meat exports have defied economic fallout from the global pandemic and are trading at above long-term averages.

Demand from China and Asian economies emerging from the covid-19 pandemic are underpinning the buoyant prices, but there are warnings a strengthening exchange rate and prolonged supply chain disruption will put pressure on returns.

Fonterra this week lifted its farm gate milk price guidance range from $6.90 to $7.50kg/MS, up from $5.90 to $6.90 at the start of the season, potentially making this the second consecutive year of a $7-plus milk price. . . 

The dream team: Jess, David and Bronwyn Hill :

A Raglan dairy farming family set up a wee milk bottling plant three years ago.

Then, the Hill family produced 30 litres of drinking milk a week and delivered it to local customers. Now they bottle and deliver 5000 litres – in one-litre bottles – from the west coast to the east coast.

Their website has a rolling tally of the number of plastic milk bottles they’ve saved from re-cycling or landfill – over 150,000  and counting.

Jess Hill says customers are loving the glass bottles and the fact they’re supporting a local enterprise.   . . 

Mustering at Molesworth – Sally Round:

It’s an early start for the musterers at Molesworth Station. The bulls are out with the cows for the mating season and the stockmen need to beat the heat. Country Life producer Sally Round spent a day with the musterers, the farmer and the cook, peeling back some of the mystique of New Zealand’s most famous farm.

Duncan, Connell, Josh and Liam  are up before the birds.

Head torches on, they catch their horses before tucking into a pile of bacon and eggs in the kitchen at Tarndale.

The homestead there is one of Molesworth Station’s far-flung camps where the musterers can have a feed and bed down for the night while working on the furthest reaches of the 180,470-hectare property.

Molesworth, in the backcountry of Marlborough, has a mystique and mana which few other high country farms can match. . . 

 

Are cows accelerating climate change? – Stu McNish:

Cows have rapidly moved into the crosshairs of climate change and diet. But Frank M. Mitloehner of University of California, Davis says much – if not most – of what you think you know about ruminants and climate change is inaccurate.

His findings align with those of climate scientist Myles Allen, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contributor and Oxford professor who says the global warming carbon equivalency formula commonly applied to livestock is incorrect.

Both Mitloehner and Allen point to the impact a stable or declining herd has on methane production. Add in improving dietary and animal husbandry practices, along with methane-capturing systems, and the picture for livestock farms in northern hemisphere countries is positive. . . 


Rural round-up

13/12/2020

Totara could be part of the water quality answer:

Tōtara oil and milk might seem strange companions – but a project currently under way could one day see both become products emanating from dairy farms.

The pairing is just one option that could stem from a project looking at productive riparian buffers – native and/or exotic planting that can not only promote better water quality in New Zealand waterways but also create new income streams for farmers.

“We know riparian planting benefits the environment by reducing nutrient losses into farm waterways,” says Electra Kalaugher, senior land and water management specialist at DairyNZ. “However, riparian planting can often mean a loss of productive land for farmers.

“Productive riparian buffers are different – and the project is exploring new and existing plant product options and their ability to deliver environmental, social, cultural and financial benefits.” .

Top RWNZ award for shearer – Annette Scott:

A competitive and world record-holding shearer, Sarah Higgins’ passion for shearing has earned her a top award at the NZI Rural Women NZ 2020 Business Awards. She talked with Annette Scott.

SARAH Higgins’ Marlborough-based shearing business breaks all the stereotypes of how a shearing crew might look and behave.

“We strive to break through the status quo of the shearing industry,” Higgins said.

And, it was her passion and commitment to harness her love of the land that has her Higgins Shearing business now firmly rooted in its local community. . . 

 

Farming through the generations – Colin Williscroft:

Members of Guy Bell’s family have been farming in Hawke’s Bay for five generations, with his sons making it six. Colin Williscroft reports.

The Bells are a family that farms four properties across Hawke’s Bay, from the Central Hawke’s Bay coast to the foothills of the Ruahines.

Guy Bell is the fifth generation of his family on his mother’s side to farm in the area, and the second on his father’s side.

He has two brothers and a sister who also farm in the district. . . 

Cut flower farming grew after few seeds planted – Mark Price:

Anna Mackay, of Spotts Creek Station in the Cardrona Valley, has diversified into cut flowers. She described to Mark Price her experiences so far.

During a family holiday in Matakana a few years back, I purchased a book called The Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein, of Floret Farms, in the United States, and I was totally inspired by her story.

In my past life, I have owned a florist’s shop, have been heavily involved with interior design, worked alongside Annabel Langbein as her prop stylist during her ‘‘free-range cook series’’ and, in later years, operated an event-styling company, Barefoot Styling, with good friend Sarah Shore.

When the younger of our two sons started school in September 2016 I wanted to slow my life down. . . 

Sowing the seeds of success :

Rangiora’s Luisetti Seeds’ warehouses, seed clearing facilities and silos are a constant reminder to locals of the town’s long agricultural history.

The family business was established by Vincent Luisetti in 1932 and while it may be 88 years old, the company is in expansion-mode and is investing in state-of-the art seed cleaning technology.

Edward Luisetti, Vincent’s grandson and Luisetti Seeds managing director says the company is in the process of installing the highest capacity ryegrass and cereal seed cleaning facility outside of America. It will be located in Ashburton.

The machinery has been purchased from Germany and initially, Covid delays put a spanner in the works. . . 

Are cows getting a bad rap when it comes to climate change? – Stu McNish:

A leading climate scientist, Myles Allen, believes the effect of cattle on climate change has been overstated.

“The traditional way of accounting for methane emissions from cows overstates the impact of a steady herd by a factor of four.”

That’s a problem, says Allen. “If we are going to set these very ambitious goals to stop global warming, then we need to have accounting tools that are fit for purpose. … The errors distort cows’ contributions — both good and bad — and, in doing so, give CO2 producers a free pass on their total GHG contribution.”

Allen is a heavyweight in climate circles. The BBC described him as the physicist behind Net Zero. In 2005, he proposed global carbon budgets and in 2010, he received the Appleton medal and prize from the Institute of Physics for his work in climate sciences. . .


Rural round-up

22/11/2020

Woodchips to help solve nitrogen problem – Peter Burke:

Preventing nitrogen getting into waterways is high on the priority list for many farmers and growers.

There is no silver bullet because farms are different and what works on one property won’t work on another.

Peter Burke recently went along to a field day where a solution using innovative drainage technology, which is based on good science and with minimal cost to the farmer, is being trialled.

The setting is Waitatapia Station near Bulls in the Manawatu.

Weka could be the key to solve NZ’s pest problems –

Could weka be a key to helping deal with NZ’s pest problem? A new study shows weka eat rodents, rabbits and even stoats, helping to suppress population numbers and protect other wildlife.

Lead author of the study and post-doctoral researcher for Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Dr Jo Carpenter, told Midday Report: “We were interested in whether weka could be able to help New Zealand out in controlling these invasive mammalian pests”.

Those involved reviewed scientific studies to find out about what weka ate to see if they had eaten invasive mammals.

“What we found was yes, there are quite a few studies that have found weka eating rodents, rats and mice and also quite commonly rabbits but also even stoats as well, which is pretty phenomenal.” . . 

Alliance puts in good performance despite Covid-19 :

Meat co-op Alliance Group announced an underlying profit of $27.4 million for 2020. Adjusted for one-off events, the annual profit result was $7.5 million before tax.

The co-operative achieved a turnover of $1.8 billion for the year ending 30 September 2020.

New Zealand’s only 100% farmer-owned major red meat co-operative achieved a record turnover of $1.8 billion for the year ending 30 September 2020.

Murray Taggart, chair of Alliance Group, said it is a good performance for the company given the disruption and volatility in global markets due to Covid-19.

Biosecurity champions recognised at 2020 awards night:

The winners of the New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, announced last night at a ceremony in Wellington, represent some of Aotearoa’s most outstanding efforts to protect our unique environment from pests and diseases.

The awards recognise organisations, volunteers, businesses, iwi, hapū, government, and tamariki around the country who are contributing to biosecurity – in our bush, our oceans and waterways, and in our backyards.

Taking out top honours with the supreme award was Miraka, a Taupō-based dairy company that has created an extensive course educating their suppliers about biosecurity risks in the dairy industry from cow to bottle. 

The winners include people at the forefront of a wide variety of exceptional and innovative biosecurity-related projects, from those who have been trapping possums to protect our native birds, to learning about marine pests.  . . .

Buyers keep up with bumper crops AIMI survey shows:

With total grain production for the 2019/20 season well up over one million tonnes, it’s great to see that willing growers are finding willing buyers, Federated Farmers Arable Vice-Chairperson Grains, Brian Leadley, says.

According to the just-released October Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) report, cereal grain production (wheat, barley and oats) for the season totaled an estimated 881,800 tonnes, and maize grain 181,800 tonnes, for a total of 1,063,600 tonnes.

Unsold stocks of grain, across all six crops are estimated to have reduced by 50 percent between 1 July and October 10.

Even when compared to the same time last year, unsold stocks across all six crops are pretty much unchanged, with an increase in the unsold stocks of milling and feed wheat (57,600 tonnes, up by 18,600 tonnes) offset by a decrease in unsold stocks of malting and feed barley (38,700 tonnes, down by 18,900 tonnes), Brian said. . . 

New methane maths could take the heat off cows – Georgie Smith:

Oxford University researchers are pushing for a new method of measuring greenhouse gas emissions and their warming impact.

Myles Allen, Ph.D., a professor of Geosystem Science and head of the Climate Dynamics Group at Oxford Martin, University of Oxford, has a beef with how the impact of methane emissions on global warming is wrongly calculated — and then misconstrued to blame livestock for climate change.

He and his Oxford Martin colleagues have proposed a new metric called GWP* (global warming potential – star), which focuses on the warming effects of the different gases, rather than their rate of emissions. The current mischaracterization of methane’s impact on warming, Allen told The Daily Churn, ignores the “white elephant” in the room — fossil fuel-based carbon dioxide emissions. This in turn could lead to misguided policies that inaccurately target animal agriculture.

“If we all turn vegetarian, but we don’t do anything about fossil fuel emissions, in five years we’ll be in exactly the same position we were before,” Allen says of rising global temperatures. But “we’re vegetarians.” . . 

 


Rural round-up

13/10/2020

Vegetation grown on farms offsets agricultural emissions

Farmers are welcoming an independent study which has found New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms are already close to being carbon neutral.

The study, led by Dr Bradley Case at the Auckland University of Technology, estimated the woody vegetation on farms was offsetting between 63% and 118% of their on-farm agricultural emissions.

If the mid-point in the report’s range was used, on average the woody vegetation on sheep and beef farms was absorbing about 90% of these emissions.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive Sam McIvor said absolute greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand sheep and beef production have reduced by 30% since 1990.

“This research shows that of the remaining emissions, the vast majority are being offset by the trees on our farms and New Zealand sheep and beef farmers are well on the way to being carbon neutral by 2050. . . .

Oxford University researchers are pushing for a new method of measuring greenhouse gas emissions and their warming impact

Myles Allen, Ph.D., a professor of Geosystem Science and head of the Climate Dynamics Group at Oxford Martin, University of Oxford, has a beef with how the impact of methane emissions on global warming is wrongly calculated — and then misconstrued to blame livestock for climate change.

He and his Oxford Martin colleagues have proposed a new metric called GWP* (global warming potential – star), which focuses on the warming effects of the different gases, rather than their rate of emissions. The current mischaracterization of methane’s impact on warming, Allen told The Daily Churn, ignores the “white elephant” in the room — fossil fuel-based carbon dioxide emissions. This in turn could lead to misguided policies that inaccurately target animal agriculture.

“If we all turn vegetarian, but we don’t do anything about fossil fuel emissions, in five years we’ll be in exactly the same position we were before,” Allen says of rising global temperatures. But “we’re vegetarians.” . . .

Southland farmer makes finals – Sally Rae:

Helping people is a big part of what makes Bernadette Hunt “tick”.

Mrs Hunt, a Chatton farmer and vice-president of Southland Federated Farmers, is a finalist in the primary industry leadership award in this year’s Primary Industries New Zealand awards which will be announced at a function in Wellington on November 23.

Balancing farming, family — she and her husband Alistair have two primary school-aged daughters — and rural advocacy was a “real juggle” and there were certainly times when the balance was not right.

However, she was a firm believer in volunteering — “that’s what makes communities tick” — and also role modelling that to her own children. . . .

Title ton: shearer celebrates milestone :

A South Canterbury farmer has become the first person in the world to win 100 blade-shearing finals. 

Tony Dobbs won the open blades title at the Waimate Shears Spring Championships last night, a competition he first competed at in 1979.

Dobbs won the title by shearing four sheep in 14 minutes and 48 seconds.

He beat the reigning individual world champion Allan Oldfield, who is also from South Canterbury. . . 

Feet first :

Draining abscesses on cows hoofs may be a mucky job but Johan Buys loves it.

“When I get rid of that I can get rid of the pain,” he says.

Johan is known as ‘The Hoofman’ and spends his days tending cows’ hoofs, curing lameness.

He says it’s hugely satisfying watching a cow that limped in for treatment, leave for the paddock pain-free. . . 

Wairarapa sweeps 2020 Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards, 2020 best year yet:

Wairarapa Olive Oil makers have swept the annual NZ Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards, winning four of the five major awards for Olive Oil Excellence, with the region’s growers also taking home 58 medals.

Beginning in 2020, the New Zealand Olive Oil Awards recognise excellence in NZ Extra Virgin Olive Oils (NZ EVOO). This year’s winners were announced tonight at the Olives NZ 2020 Award Ceremony.

Four Wairarapa Olive Growers received top awards: . . 


Rural round-up

21/07/2019

Meeting the gas challenge – Tim Fulton:

New legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will hit farmers in the pocket. Tim Fulton reports.

Waikato farmer George Moss, who operates two dairy farms, believes running a small business can be just as difficult when meeting environmental targets as large scale farming.

Moss and wife Sharon operate two small dairy farms at Tokoroa in south Waikato. One is 72ha milking 180 Friesians and the other is 67ha milking 175 crossbreds. They also own an adjoining 40ha drystock block. . .

Fonterra co-op leader Miles Hurrell – we can turn this around – Jamie Gray:

Nearly a year into his job as chief executive of Fonterra, Miles Hurrell is a man on a very public mission.

Since late last year, the co-op has been pulling out all the stops to streamline itself, improve earnings and trim debt.

There has been no shortage of criticism and there’s a lot at stake. The livelihoods of about 10,000 farmer-shareholders depend on it, and Fonterra is New Zealand’s biggest exporter by far.

Stung by the co-op’s first-ever loss last year, Hurrell’s job is to turn around the supertanker that is Fonterra. . .

Berry farm gets government help to expand hydroponic operation – Esther Taunton:

A $2.37 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund will allow a Northland company to expand its hydroponic berry-growing operation, creating dozens of new jobs in the process. 

However, not everyone is happy about the arrangement, with the Taxpayers’ Union saying Maungatapere Berries should have got a bank loan.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced the partnership on Friday, saying it would allow the Whangarei-based business to add four hectares of berries to its existing operation. . .

Fingerprinting food :

AgResearch is finding new uses for a machine that uncovers the unique fingerprint of food.

The Crown agency’s lab at Lincoln is using a mass spectrometer to quickly analyse the interaction of genes and the environment.

In a sign of technology advances in the field, work that previously took over an hour can now be done in seconds on samples of meat, milk, plants and wine.

It will open up new opportunities for food science and industry, AgResearch senior research scientist Dr Alastair Ross, who leads the metabolomics platform, says. . .

Handpicked is judges’ top pick

Meat co-op Alliance Group’s Pure South Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef has won international honours in the World Steak Challenge for the second year running.

Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef, which combines selection for exceptional quality and marbling with extensive wet ageing, took out a gold medal for ribeye and a bronze medal for fillet at the event in Dublin, Ireland, on July 10.

The latest honours repeat the premium product’s success at last year’s contest, which helps benchmark the quality of beef production against global competitors. There were more than 300 entries from 25 countries in the competition. . . 

A 20% drop in methane emissions would cause global cooling, says expert – Lauren Dean:

A leading environmental professor has said farming can become completely ‘climate neutral’ if agricultural methane emissions are reduced by just 20 per cent over the next 30 years. . . 

Myles Allen, a professor from the University of Oxford, who has served on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claimed this kind of gentle reduction in methane emissions would be enough to fully compensate for the warming impact of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from agriculture.

Farmers have already been cutting methane emissions by 10 per cent every 30 years, through measures such as better slurry storage and application. . .

Ongoing stable methane emissions from cattle doesn’t change the climate – Alan Lauder:

Could it be that a lot of cattle producers world-wide are being unfairly blamed for progressing climate change because of the methane released by their cattle? Going one step further, in this contributed article Alan Lauder, long-time grazier and author of the book Carbon Grazing – The Missing Link,  suggests that the methane emissions of the Australian sheep and cattle industry are not changing the climate, because they have been stable since the 1970’s.

WE have to ask the question, is the current way of comparing methane and carbon dioxide, using the Global Warming Potential (GWP) approach, the best way to assess the outcome of the methane produced by ruminant animals like sheep and cattle?

I raise the point, keeping in mind that the debate is about “climate change”. We keep hearing the comment that we have to limit “change” to two degrees.

I am not suggesting that the science the IPCC and the world is relying on is wrong, but maybe it is worth having another look at how we are interpreting it in the area of ruminant animals. . .

 


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