Rural round-up

February 18, 2015

No muddying water issues – Jill Galloway:

Tim Brown is a water quality specialist. Jill Galloway found he started his life as a bookie’s son in Britain, but as an academic he made Palmerston North his home.

Professor Emeritus Tim Brown, a water quality specialist and former Massey University micro-biologist, says a friend of his was on tank water.

“When he cleaned it out, he found a dead possum at the bottom of the tank that had been there for some time. The outlet was higher and he’s still alive.”

Brown says rural people have been living on tank water for years and have not come to any harm. . .

(Hat tip: Farmerbraun ).

Swaps settlements finalised, time to move on:

Federated Farmers is pleased the Commerce Commission has now reached settlements with all three banks, ANZ, ASB and Westpac, over the sale of interest rate swaps.

Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston says the agreements are a fair and equitable solution and it’s time to move on.

“Some rural people signed on for interest rate swaps as long ago as 2005 and so for many customers it has been a long running issue that now can be brought to a conclusion, with the three banks involved set to pay a total sum of $24.67 million to approximately 256 eligible farmers,” Dr Rolleston says. . .

State of the environment on farm – James Stewart:

While brought up on a sheep farm I have spent the past 20 years dairy farming.

I have also had a brief stint as a registered commercial jet boat operator, taking locals and international visitors through the Manawatu Gorge, giving them some close contact with our precious Manawatu water through the Hamilton jet spins.

After all the positive comments on water quality that I often receive you can imagine just how disappointed I was with the river being labelled as one of the worst in the west.

Over the past 20 years of farming, there have been many changes to the farming sector. The synthetic carpet now dominates carpet stores as the polar fleece jumpers do in clothing stores. While wool is the superior product, it is left to high top end markets in which exporters fight over with the result of farmers often becoming price takers. . .

More success for Primary Growth Partnership:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming more success stories from the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP), with several programmes making big steps forward.

“Government and industry are together investing $720 over time million into 20 innovation programmes, and many of these are already delivering results,” says Mr Guy.

Mr Guy is speaking today at the annual open farm day at Limestone Downs, which is involved in the “Pioneering to Precision” PGP programme, led by Ravensdown.

“As part of this programme drones and light aircraft are being used to scan the hill country at Limestone Downs Station to develop precision fertiliser applications for hill country. This programme will deliver productivity and environmental benefits. . .

Global Consumer Watchdog gives Mount Cook Alpine Salmon Highest Rating:

Mt Cook Alpine Salmon Ltd has been recognised as one of the most sustainable salmon farming operations worldwide by a globally-renowned consumer watchdog.
The Queenstown-based company said it was delighted to earn a Best Choice (Green) rating from the widely-acclaimed Seafood Watch organisation.

Company chairman and former New Zealand Prime Minister Jim Bolger said the accolade was a huge endorsement for aquaculture in New Zealand.

“In keeping with Mt Cook Alpine Salmon’s previous sustainability credentials, this demonstrates we’re the best of the best,” he said. . .

Southern Discoveries celebrates Chinese Year of the Sheep… with mob of woolly stars:

Tourism operator Southern Discoveries will be celebrating the Chinese Year of the Sheep by welcoming visitors on its Mt Nicholas Farm Experience with a mob of 500 sheep.

Over the next three weeks, visitors can get up close to the 500-strong merino mob, the same woolly ‘stars’ of the ‘Running of the Wools’ as part of the Hilux Rural Games.

This time around, the sheep have agreed to stay (almost) still so that visitors can have their picture taken with them.

Also waiting to greet guests at Mt Nicholas will be two pet sheep and sheepdog Belle to accompany the group on their visit to the working merino farm. . .

 

 

 


Chop, chop it’s National Lamb Day

February 15, 2015

It’s 133 years since the first shipment of frozen lamb left Port Chalmers, bound for the UK.

That was the foundation of an industry which still contributes multi millions of dollars to our economy and today has been proclaimed National Lamb Day in celebration of that:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming Sunday February 15 as ‘National Lamb Day’, a new initiative from Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

“Lamb is a Kiwi favourite so it is a great initiative to recognise this with a set day,” says Mr Guy.

“February 15 is an appropriate day given it was exactly 133 years ago that the first frozen shipment of sheep meat left Port Chalmers for London. This marked the dawn of one of New Zealand’s most important export industries.

“Lamb exports are now worth around $2.5 billion with the biggest markets being the UK, China and the USA.

“Sheep farmers have adapted to change over the years and made major improvements in productivity. It’s remarkable that we now produce the same amount of lamb meat today as we did in the early 1980s but with half the number of sheep.

“I believe in celebrating our farming heritage and recognising its contribution to our economy and way of life. A National Lamb Day is a great way to acknowledge our history and promote red meat.”

Beef + Lamb NZ has a myriad of delicious ways to cook lamb.

My favourite is French rack, salted and slow cooked over wood on the parilla. What’s yours?

 


Drought’s official

February 13, 2015

This summer has been like those I remember as a child with day after day of hot, sunny weather.

Those were summers when we were plagued by drought just like this one, which is now official:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has today officially declared the drought conditions on the east coast of the South Island as being a medium-scale adverse event.

“This is recognition of the extreme dry conditions farmers and growers are facing, and triggers additional Government support,” says Mr Guy.

The areas affected cover parts of Otago, Canterbury and the Marlborough District.

“The Ministry for Primary Industries has been monitoring the conditions very closely over recent months. Most farmers have coped so far by destocking and using feed supplies, and most will not need extra support. However it’s clear that conditions are only going to get tougher as the seasons change and we need to prepare now.

This week local groups, including Rural Support Trusts and Federated Farmers, have acknowledged the need of medium scale recovery measures to deal with the consequence of the drought.

“Extra Government funding will now be available to Rural Support Trusts who work closely with farmers, providing support and guidance.

“Rural Assistance Payments (RAPs) will also be made available in the next few months. These will be available from Work and Income, through the Ministry of Social Development. They are equivalent to the Jobseeker Support benefit and are available to those in extreme hardship.

“It’s important to note that support is already available from Government agencies in all regions. Farmers should contact IRD if they need help or flexibility with making tax payments, and standard hardship assistance is available from Work and Income.

“Federated Farmers have started their feedline to coordinate supplies, and it’s pleasing to see some banks offering special packages.”

Mr Guy made the announcement today at Opuha Dam in South Canterbury which will run dry in the next few weeks without decent rainfall.

“Many rural people can be reluctant to ask for help, but it is important for them to know that support is available.”

Mr Guy says the Government is also keeping a very close eye on Wairarapa and southern Hawkes Bay which are also suffering from very dry conditions.

What are the criteria for declaring a medium scale adverse event?

  • There are three levels of ‘adverse events’ – localised, medium and national. These can cover events like drought, floods, fire, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
  • The criteria for assessing the scale of an adverse event are:
    • Options available for the community to prepare for and recover from the event;  
    • Magnitude of the event (likelihood and scale of physical impact), and;
    • Capacity of the community to cope economically and socially impact.

Stuart Smith MP's photo.

Stuart Smith MP's photo.

 

The declaration reinforces the case for more water storage:

Today’s official declaration that the drought conditions on the east coast of the South Island are a medium-scale adverse event strengthens the argument for further national investment in regional water storage, says IrrigationNZ.

“The only way to prevent communities suffering drought in dry summers is through storing alpine water. We do not need to wait for rivers to run dry, for fish to die and for communities to panic. New Zealand has plentiful supply which flows out to sea; we just need to get better at banking water and getting it to the needy places,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO.

“The official declaration of drought shows that extended dry weather has a significant impact in New Zealand despite its high levels of rainfall. It means that farmers and communities need help.

“We need to make 2015 the year New Zealand finally learns from drought and gets on with building regional-scale water storage to prevent local distress. There are several projects in the pipeline around the country but they need significant community, business and government support to proceed. This South Canterbury drought will cost New Zealanders millions. It’s time we bit the bullet and had a national conversation around how we manage drought,” says Mr Curtis.

“Water storage and irrigation will allow New Zealand to survive climatic variations like extended dry spells which scientists tell us are on the increase, particularly for those of us living in eastern New Zealand. Drought takes away not only income from farmers; it strips whole communities of water for everything from boating to gardening, tourism businesses that rely on healthy river flows to fish struggling to survive in parched streams. Water storage is not just about propping up irrigation; it supplements all of these community values”, says Mr Curtis.

 

 

We’re insulated from the worst affects of drought at home thanks to North Otago Irrigation Company’s scheme, fed from the Waitaki River, which is 99% reliable.

But many dairy farmers rely on dryland farms for winter feed and grazing, both of which will be in tight supply.

Irrigation schemes in other areas are restricting takes and some have had to stop all irrigation.

Dairy farms relying on irrigation have reduced milking and many will have to dry-off cows soon,  more than three months early.

The economic impact of the drought will hit the small businesses which service and supply farms too.

There’s now sufficient, reliable irrigation in North Otago to keep grass and crops growing on many farms and reduce the downstream impact on the local community.

More water storage would give other areas that protection too.


Rural round-up

January 27, 2015

Race to control Canterbury fire – Thomas Mead:

Rural fire crews are considering all possible options as a massive scrub fire burns through a high-country station in Canterbury and temperatures creep up.

Three planes, six helicopters and around 20 firefighters are battling a raging blaze on the hillside at Flock Hill Station, near State Highway 73 and on the way to Arthur’s Pass.

The fire started around 2:30pm yesterday and grew from 10 hectares to 333 hectares overnight, burning through a thick growth of wilding pine, manuka scrub and tussock. The area is equivalent to around 300 rugby fields or three-quarters of the Auckland Central Business District. . .

If farmers hurt, the nation hurts – Bryan Gibson:

Last week, while navigating the cat pictures and uplifting life affirmations of Facebook, I came across a post about the drought-like conditions. The writer stated there seemed to be a fair number of farmers complaining about the weather in the media.

His reasoned the weather was simply a factor of farming business and so farmers should just live with whatever rain or shine the heavens provided.

I sense this is a common belief of many people not associated with farming. . .

McCook hangs up his pest sword – Richard Rennie:

The nemesis for millions of possums is stepping down from his post as king of eradication but his furred foe can be assured there will be little respite on his departure.

OSPRI chief executive William McCook is leaving his post after 12 years heading OSPRI since 2013 and its predecessor the Animal Health Board (AHB). He has decided it’s time for something new but wants to keep his links with the primary sector. . .

Sheep and vineyards a winning combination  – Sally Rae:

Timbo Deaker and Jason Thomson might know a thing or two about grapes but they admit they are ”totally green” when it comes to sheep.

So it comes as something of a surprise that the pair, who operate Viticultura, a Central Otago-based business that manages vineyards and provides brokerage, consultancy and contracting services, supply lambs to Alliance Group.

Historically, they have given winter grazing to local farmers, but for the past two years they have bought their own sheep to fatten beneath the vines. . .

Golden run for NZ shearing legend:

New Zealand shearing legend David Fagan is on a winning streak in what might be his final season on the competition shearing circuit.

He won the Geyserland Shears Open Final at the Rotorua A&P Show during the weekend – the twelfth time he had won that particular event. . .

Equine industry joins GIA biosecurity agreement:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed a fourth primary industry to the GIA partnership today.

The New Zealand Equine Health Association has signed the Deed of the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) for Biosecurity Readiness and Response at the Karaka yearling sales today.

“This means the horse racing, recreational and breeding industry and the Ministry for Primary Industries can work together to manage and respond to the most important biosecurity risks. . .

Double delight for Cambridge Stud early on Day One at Karaka:

The undoubted quality of the famous Cambridge Stud bloodlines were to the fore again at Karaka as the Stud enjoyed a high-priced double strike during the early stages of this year’s premier session at the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling sale series.

The Cambridge draft provided Lot 36, a bay filly from the first crop of resident stallion Cape Blanco out of the Danehill mare Love Diamonds. The mare is a daughter of blueblood producer Tristalove with this filly’s extended pedigree on the catalogue page reading like a who’s who of Australasian racing. . .

 

Doors open at Rabobank Dargaville

Rabobank will open its newest office in New Zealand next Monday February 2, 2015 located in the Northland township of Dargaville.

Nestled in the heart of Dargaville, the new Rabobank branch will be located at 92 Normanby Street.

Rabobank Northland branch manager Tessa Sutherland said the office is convenient and centrally-located, allowing for clients to easily access the branch.

“It has been a vision for quite some time now and we are thrilled to be opening our new branch in Dargaville next week, starting off 2015 with a bang,” Ms Sutherland said. . .

 


Dry but not drought

January 21, 2015

The South Island’s east coast is dry, but not yet in drought:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has met with local farmers near Ashburton today and says that dry conditions are a concern.

“The dry summer may have been good news for holidaymakers but farmers are starting to feel the pinch in South and Mid-Canterbury, North Otago, and Wairarapa.

“Restrictions are in place for some irrigators as water levels drop, and the short term outlook is not showing much rain on the horizon.

“Most farmers I talked to today are managing by de-stocking and using feed supplies, but are hopeful of rain before too long to set them up for winter.

“The Ministry for Primary Industries keeps a close eye on the amount of rainfall, soil moisture levels and river levels and also gets good information from people on the ground.

“At this stage the Government is not planning to classify this event as a medium-scale adverse event, but we will continue to keep a close watch. District or regional groups need to make a formal request for any such a declaration and at this stage this hasn’t been deemed necessary.

“This threshold would be reached when the lack of rainfall has an economic, environmental and social impact on farming businesses and the wider community.

“It’s important to note that support is already available from Government agencies in all regions. Farmers should contact IRD if they need help or flexibility with making tax payments, and standard hardship assistance is available from Work and Income.

“I would urge farmers to make use of the good advice and support available from their local Rural Support Trusts. They are doing a great job of coordinating farming communities and providing information.

“Unfortunately droughts are nothing new for farmers. Two summers ago we suffered through the worst drought in 70 years, and last year we had severe dry spells in parts of Northland and Waikato.

“It is a tough situation for many with this coming on top of a lower dairy payout. However, I know that farmers are resilient and have come through many challenges like snowstorms, earthquakes and commodity price fluctuations before.”

Whether or not it’s officially dry, the wise course of action for farmers is to monitor conditions and make decisions on what they know.

In the old days of subsidies some farmers would wait for a declaration of drought before making decisions because they’d get assistance.

That doesn’t happen now and nor should it.

The weather is one of the many variables farmers face and it’s up to them to deal with it and its impact on their businesses whether or not it’s officially a drought or just another prolonged dry period.

In North Otago the situation isn’t as bad as it is further north because so much of the area is covered by irrigation schemes fed from t he Waitaki River which gives a very high degree of reliability.

That reliability is something farmers further north are seeking:

Farmers in South Canterbury are pushing to be able to take water from Lake Tekapo, with extremely dry conditions forecast to continue.

They rely on the Opuha Dam which is only a quarter full and falling fast.

Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston said access to alpine water like farmers have further south in North Otago would make a huge difference.

He said taking water from Lake Tekapo was a very viable option.

“Surprisingly enough, Lake Tekapo is actually higher than Burkes Pass, so you can feasibly bring water over Burkes Pass and down into the Fairlie Basin to water much of South Canterbury,” he said.

“That would also help to supplement the Opuha Dam. So it is feasible to do that.”

Dr Rolleston said resource consent to bring water from Lake Tekapo over Burkes Pass was granted but was given up when the Opuha Dam was built. . .

That would be expensive but so too is prolonged dry weather.


Agritech exports worth $1.2b

January 14, 2015

New Zealand’s agritechnology exports are worth approximately $1.2 billion annually, and there is a big opportunity to grow them further according to the latest research into the sector, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said.

The Coriolis Report into New Zealand’s agritech sector was commissioned by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to understand the export opportunities for Kiwi agritech companies. It provides detailed analysis of the size, value and future potential of the agritech sector, New Zealand’s strengths in an international context, and compares our agritech production with similar-sized agricultural nations.

“The agriculture sector plays a very significant role in our economy,” Mr Joyce says. “This research shows that our innovative agritechnology systems generate very significant exports in their own right, and provide the opportunity to deliver much more for New Zealand in the years ahead.”

New Zealand’s agritech sector is made up of a diverse range of products and services, including animal and seed genetics, fertiliser and agri-chemicals, fencing supplies, farm tools, machinery and systems, and pumping and irrigation industries.

“Australia and the United States are our top agritech export destinations but the research reveals that exports to Canada, China, South Korea and Saudi Arabia are showing double-digit growth,” Mr Joyce says.

“New Zealand has historically underperformed in agritech exports compared with other advanced agricultural nations.  However our exports are now growing more quickly than our competitors’, and opportunities for more growth exist across a wide range of markets.  Europe, China and South America stand out as the biggest areas of potential growth.”

The removal of the dairy quota system is opening up opportunities in Europe and New Zealand’s Free Trade Agreement with China, along with China’s substantial demand for meat and dairy products, is providing New Zealand agritech companies with significant opportunities, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.

“New Zealand is one of the world’s most efficient primary producers, and this report shows our expertise and technology in this area is in growing demand around the world.”

Animal health products, medicines and preventative treatments for on-farm use were the largest export earners at $311 million. This category was closely followed by fencing supplies and equipment, and machinery and systems, each with $307 million in export sales.

The report is available here.

Land sales to foreigners is a very emotive issue. There’s rarely a fuss when an agritech company is sold even though the land will always stay here but intellectual property is mobile.

This is not an argument against selling to overseas companies. There can be advantages to New Zealand from such sales, not least of which is the investment of more capital.

We need to recognises and appreciate that our success in farming is both helped by and contributes to success in agritechnology and that foreign investment can help both.


Rural round-up

December 20, 2014

More accurate picture of ‘actual’ water use emerging:

A more accurate picture of ‘actual’ water use in Canterbury is emerging as growing numbers of the region’s irrigating farmers provide water monitoring data to Environment Canterbury, says IrrigationNZ.

The regional council’s 2013/14 Water Use Report includes data from more than 50% (50.4%) of all consented surface water and groundwater takes in the region. Last year’s report contained water monitoring data from less than 40% of Canterbury’s takes abstracting water at a rate of 5 litres per second or more.

“That leap alone shows significant progress is being made. Farmers are getting the message that they need to install water metering systems, not just for compliance, but to improve their irrigation efficiency and nutrient management. Now we have more than 50% of Canterbury’s water takes being monitored we’re getting closer to a true picture of ‘actual’ water use based on real-time data that farmers are willingly providing,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO. . .

 Helping other women to take up leadership – Sue O’Dowd:

A desire to help other women reach their potential motivated a New Plymouth vet to join a programme to develop her leadership skills.

Andrea Murray has just graduated from the Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s (AWDT) escalator programme established in 2010 to boost the leadership and governance of women in agriculture. A total of 53 women have graduated since it was set up.

She undertook the 10-month programme to develop her networks and to improve her governance and leadership. “I’ve achieved that and I’m really pleased,” she said.

She was impressed by the level of support the programme’s 14 participants received.

“We were challenged in a way that made sure they got the best out of us. The programme has clarified for me where I can best contribute to the primary industries in New Zealand.” . . .

New reports show value of growing Māori agribusiness:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has released two reports today showing good progress in developing the potential of Māori agribusiness.

“These reports confirm the importance of partnering with Iwi, Māori asset owners, local communities and industry, and show very promising results,” says Mr Guy.

“A report by Kinnect Group evaluates the Government’s work to build partnerships with Māori asset owners, a core part of MPI’s Māori Agribusiness programme. The aim is to help owners make informed decisions on improving their assets by connecting them with the right skills and knowledge.

“This has involved a range of projects covering different property sizes, land-holding structures and uses. The evaluation found the programme made a “valuable and worthwhile contribution”. . .

Forestry opportunities in Maori Agribusiness:

Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew has welcomed the release of a report highlighting the economic opportunities for forestry through more productive use of Māori freehold land.

The report ‘Growing the Productive Base of Māori Freehold Land – further evidence and analysis’ was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries and identifies the potential economic gains from improving the performance of Māori freehold land at regional and national levels.

“By utilising underused land and increasing productivity Māori freehold land has the potential to contribute to an increase in GDP of $1.2 billion between now and 2055,” Mrs Goodhew says. . .

NZ dairy and deer through to agri-business award finals:

Two New Zealand farm managers have made it through to the finals of the inaugural Zanda McDonald Award – a trans-Tasman agri-business initiative created by the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP) Group.

Twenty nine year old Athol New, Farm Business Manager of Synlait’s Dunsandel Dairies based in Rakaia, and Luke Wright, 32, Farm Manager of Landcorp Farming’s Stuart Farm, Te Anau, Southland, have been invited to the PPP annual conference in Darwin in June 2015 – where the award recipient will be announced.

They will be joined by third finalist, 27 year old Emma Hegarty, Beef Extension Officer at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) in Queensland, Australia. . .

New PGP Investment Advisory Panel members:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced three new members of the Primary Growth Partnership’s independent Investment Advisory Panel (IAP).

The three new members are primary industry and business specialist Barry Brook, experienced businessman Harry Burkhardt, and entrepreneur Melissa Clark-Reynolds.

“The IAP plays a crucial role in the success of the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) that aims to boost the value, productivity and profitability of our primary industries,” says Mr Guy. 

“IAP members are responsible for using their expertise and judgement to advise on decisions about the investment of PGP funds, and to help ensure that PGP investments are supporting the overall aims of economic growth and sustainability. . .

 

LIC announces joint venture with Brazilian distributor:

LIC has purchased the majority interest of its Brazilian genetics distributor, NZ Brasil Genetics Producao Animal Ltda.

The joint venture (JV) includes exclusive supply of the farmer-owned co-operative’s dairy genetics for an initial period of 10 years, through a new entity called LIC NZBrasil.

LIC chief executive Wayne McNee said the co-op began exporting genetics to Brazil in 1999, but the new JV will seek to deliver a better return to farmer shareholders in New Zealand.

“Brazil is the fifth largest dairy industry in the world, with more than 23 million dairy cows. Huge growth is expected over the next 10 years and this presents a significant opportunity for LIC, and our shareholders. . . .

 

 


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