Rural round-up

June 7, 2020

What farmers wish other New Zealand knew – Esther Taunton:

Remember when Country Calendar was must-see TV? When The Dog Show was on every week and the Young Farmer of the Year competition was screened live?

The times aren’t just a’changin’, they have already a’changed, taking New Zealand’s general knowledge of farming with them.

We’ve fallen out of touch with the people who put food on our tables and clothes on our backs and it’s no surprise the rural-urban divide often feels more like a canyon than a crack to farmers.

Many Kiwis don’t know the simplest things about farming but, thanks to the farmers who’ve taken me from total-townie to slightly-less-townie in my time as a rural reporter, we can change that right now. . . 

Govt’s snubbing of Feds short-sighted — Editorial:

Petty and small-minded is the only way to describe the continued snubbing of Federated Farmers in regard to the Government’s freshwater reforms.

Outgoing Federated Farmers president Katie Milne has hit out at Wellington-based government officials for their lack of understanding about farming.

Late last week, Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor – along with ministry officials – unveiled the long-awaited reforms before invited guests at Parliament.

However, the farmer lobby was a notable omission.

How does the Government expect to get farmers onside for its highly contentious water plans, when it refuses to deal or even engage with the farmer representative organisation?

China reopens for New Zealand venison imports:

A catalogue of approved animal species for human consumption has been issued by the Peoples Republic of China. It includes venison from farmed malu – the Chinese name for red deer – along with more traditional farm animals and poultry.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) chief executive Innes Moffat says the inclusion of our deer is great news for venison producers and marketers, as it will make it clear to officials across China that the sale and consumption of our venison is legal and safe for Chinese consumers.

“Chinese consumers have a growing appreciation for quality animal proteins, making China an increasingly important market for our venison. It was taking about 10 per cent of our exports until the end of 2019,” he says. . . 

Kinship & solidarity: Harvest a family affair at Domaine Thomson – Sophie Preece:

Kate Barnett clearly recalls her father pulling up in Wanaka on New Years’ Day, to load his four begrudging daughters into the Chrysler Valiant station wagon.

The first days of January were always dedicated to picking blackcurrants on their farm, north of Dunedin, and Kate was there for every harvest, from age five through to 20.

The planting of Felton Road vineyard was also a family affair, after her dad – Stewart Elms – found the Bannockburn site, kick-starting a wine life that eventually led Kate to Domaine Thomson in Central Otago, where she’s Operations, Marketing and Cellar Door Manager.

This year she was also chief recruiter of locals for harvest, including her 11, 12 and 14-year-old children, in a step back in time she’s cherished. . .

 

Strengthened NAIT approach sees significant improvement in compliance:

Farmers are lifting their use of animal tracing after changes to strengthen the NAIT* scheme and boost compliance, new data shows.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director of compliance, Gary Orr, says this is particularly encouraging at this time of year when dairy farmers are moving cows between farms around the annual Moving Day.

“From January to March this year, 77% of animals were registered correctly – a 24% increase over the same period in 2019. And 75% of animal movements were recorded on time (within 48 hours of the movement) – a jump of 11% over the same time in 2019. And 98.7% of animals slaughtered were tagged – an increase of 0.3% from the previous year.

In late 2019 the fine for NAIT offences increased to $400 per animal and Mr Orr says that is quite an incentive to do it right. . . 

Approval for new crop protecting insecticide:

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved a new insecticide, Vayego, for use in New Zealand, subject to conditions.

This insecticide is used to keep codling moths, leaf rollers and other pests away from apples, pears, grapes, and stone fruit crops.

Vayego contains tetraniliprole, an active ingredient that is new to New Zealand and has only recently been approved for use in Australia, South Korea, and Canada. Tests here have found that although tetraniliprole is not rapidly degradable, it also does not build up over time. Allowing this insecticide to be used in New Zealand provides more choice for farmers, which is considered to be a significant benefit. . . 

Cattle producers want best science for measuring methane :

PEAK beef producer group Cattle Council of Australia wants a full scientific assessment of modeling used to calculate the impact of beef on climate change and the alternative global warming potential model.

CCA President Tony Hegarty said with the broader red meat industry committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, it is important to use the best available science to measure the impact of cattle-produced methane.

“We have a responsibility to make sure we use the best available science in our response to climate change,” Mr Hegarty said. . .


Rural round-up

September 15, 2019

Listen to your farmers New Zealand – WhatshesaidNZ:

Some of you may be wondering why I have been absent on here for the past few months. A few of you even messaged me to check I was okay. I am thank you. 

The short answer is I’m tired.

Among other things, this year has been our first year in business, taking over the lease of our family dry stock farm.

It’s been hard. The days are long and often lonely. My husband has worked 12 hour plus days, in the rain, wind and cold. . . 

So farmers and businesses have nothing to fear according to Ardern? – Henry Armstrong:

When the debate on a Capital Gains Tax was in full swing, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was widely quoted as assuring farmers and small business owners that if a CGT were to be introduced, they had nothing to fear.

The productive sector and indeed most New Zealanders, quickly saw through this disingenuous claim and made their views known. The Ardern-led government quickly dropped that proposal-at least for now.

It seems the Ardern-led government learned nothing in the process.

New Zealand must export goods and services to exist financially, yet it seems this government is hell-bent on dumping on those very businesses which produce our wealth- which is then, via taxation, redistributed to fund such basics as health, education, welfare and housing. . . 

Show good faith and grant further extension — Feds – Sudesh Kissun:

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says the two-week extension for submitting on the freshwater discussion document is a start.

But Milne says the Government should show “a sign of good faith” by granting a bigger extension. The Government has extended the deadline for submitting on its freshwater discussion document: farmers say the two-week extension isn’t enough.

“It would be a good sign of good faith if it was substantially lengthened – six months would be optimal, but three months would at least be more reasonable,” she told Rural News online. . . 

Thanks for listening Minister, but bit longer would be nice:

DairyNZ Chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle is welcoming this afternoon’s announcement that consultation on Essential Freshwater has been extended by two weeks – but is calling on the Minister to go further.

“A two-week extension is a step in the right direction, but our concerns remain the same. Farmers still need more time to consider the Government’s proposal and to carefully weigh up the impact it may have on their farms, families, and communities” Dr Mackle said. . .

NAIT simply must work says Federated Farmers:

Federated Farmers presented to the Primary Production Select Committee on the proposed changes to NAIT legislation.

“Implementation and education on NAIT are lacking, we know a system that actually works would mitigate most of the non-compliance issues that currently exist in the NAIT system,” says Federated Farmers Meat and Wool spokesperson Miles Anderson.

“We do not believe that farmers deliberately set out to be non-compliant, and our members have been very vocal of their concerns with the system”.

These concerns include the usability of a system that is clunky and hard to navigate, requires technology which is expensive, and the reliance on connectivity that often fails or is nonexistent in rural areas. . . 

Vegetable growers get behind farm environment plans:

More than 30 Horowhenua vegetable growers are signing up to audited farm environment plans to prove that they care for the environment and freshwater.

At a meeting in Levin last night, Tararua Growers President, Terry Olsen told the growers that now is the time to act to prove to central and regional government that they follow best practice.

‘We need to put our energy into ensuring the Government’s freshwater proposals result in positive outcomes,’ said Mr Olsen. . .

Are European environmentalists responsible for Brazilian forest fires? – Stuart Smith:

EU animal feed import demands pressures crop producing nations

European based environmental organizations were some of the first organizations to publicly advocate against the commercial introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops over 20 years ago. Since this time, these environmental groups have intensively lobbied to have GM crop production banned in the EU. Today, they’ve been successful in that effort, as Portugal and Spain are the only two GM crop producing countries in the EU, with less than 200,000 hectares of GM corn.

Why do GM crops matter in relation to the Brazilian forest fires?

The answer is trade and land. Corn and soy are two vital inputs required to feed livestock. .  .


Rural round-up

August 16, 2019

Climate experts flat out lying – Andrew Stewart:

An open letter to our Government and the farming leaders of New Zealand.

For the first time in my farming career, which spans 16 years as an owner and a lifetime on the same farm, I find myself doubting whether I would consider encouraging my two daughters into the agricultural profession. 

This negativity has been created by proposed regulations regarding climate change and how we as farmers will have to cope with it and ultimately pay for it. 

Luckily, my children are still young, at seven and four, and I can only hope I still have the time to help rectify this situation before it is too late.

I am writing this as a response to the bombardment of information that has spewed forth in the past couple of weeks regarding climate change obligations in agriculture.  . . 

Bankers circling? Sudesh Kissun:

Farmers are urging banks to take a long term view of their businesses, now under growing pressure to improve their balance sheets.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says some farmers feel they are facing “a banking crisis” because of relentless pressure from banks.

While ultimately farmers must ‘own’ their individual financial positions, Lewis says banks need to go easy.

“They must take the long term view that dairying is a profitable business,” he told Rural News. . . 

Kiwi Climatology: Land of the Long White Clods – Walter Starck:

The science, technology and economics relevant to the possibility of a catastrophic impact on global climate from use of fossil fuels is vast and complex. Vanishingly few persons can spend the time necessary to begin to appreciate the uncertainties, conflicting information and outright misinformation being promulgated.  Unfortunately, we are taught and expected to have an opinion on everything no matter how little we actually know about it and the climate change meme has proliferated into an epidemic conviction of which the chattering classes in particular appear to have little or no resistance.

As professional opinion leaders, politicians seem to be especially susceptible, to the point of engaging in what in effect have become competitive displays of ignorance about climate change. A current example is the recent initiative of the New Zealand government to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  For a start, NZ accounts for about 0.1 per cent (i.e. one-thousandth) of global emissions. Over 80 per cent of their electrical power comes from renewable energy, mainly hydro and geothermal. Their per capita CO2 emissions are among the lowest in the developed world and natural uptakes make them a net CO2 sink. . .

Tougher animal system rolled out after critical report

Changes to New Zealand’s animal tracking system are starting to be rolled out after a report released last year identified a raft of issues with the scheme.

Lax compliance with the National Animal Identification and Tracing, or NAIT, system by some farmers has been blamed for the spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

Officials complained they sometimes could not find out which animals had been moved or which calves had been born to which cow. . .

Boffins race stink bug’s spread – Richard Rennie:

The spectacular, soaring peaks around Trento on the edge of the Dolomites in northern Italy shelter a glacial valley that has become the fruit bowl of Europe over the past 50 years. But the region is under siege from advancing hordes of brown marmorated stink bugs threatening growers’ futures. The bug’s speed in establishing and its effect on crops provide a chilling insight to what it could inflict in New Zealand should it ever become established here. Farmers Weekly journalist Richard Rennie visited the region to learn more about the bug’s effect and efforts to deal with it.

New Zealand and Italian researchers at the Foundazione Edmund Mach Research Centre near Trento in Italy are on the front line trying to halt the advance of the brown marmorated stink bug rapidly wreaking havoc on crops. 

“This year we have trapped 10 times the number of bugs we did last year and it was only identified here in 2016,” centre head Professor Claudio Ioriatti said.

“The first reports of crop damage came quickly the following year in 2017 and now growers are having to spray heavily to try and slow the bug’s advance.” . . .

More people to shun plant-based ‘milk’ thanks to campaign :

More than one in ten people will now shun plant-based ‘milk’ substitutes following a major dairy campaign highlighting the benefits of real milk.

11% more young parents are certain to buy dairy products according to research carried out after the second year of AHDB and Dairy UK’s campaign.

The study showed an 8% fall in the number of people cutting their dairy consumption now or in the future.

It also showed an 11% reduction in intentions to consume plant-based substitutes. . .

‘Farmers are being bullied over misplaced anti-meat focus of climate change debate’, union leader says – Ben Barnett:

Farmers are being made to feel “isolated” and “terrorised” because of a deeply flawed approach to tackling climate change, according to the industry’s union leader.

Minette Batters has accused a “metropolitan elite” of bullying farmers by focusing on meat-eating alone to tackle climate change.

The president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), posting on social media, said some sections of the media were “destroying lives” by their portrayal of farming’s contribution to climate change. . . 


Rural round-up

July 31, 2019

Levies are killing farming – Annette Scott:

Levies are killing farming as changes to the Biosecurity Act and Nait set to be another nail in the coffin, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says.

The Government is fixing the Biosecurity Act and the National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) Act to ensure they meet future needs, Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said.

Implementing the programme for Mycoplasma bovis exposed the clunkiness of the outdated Biosecurity Act and lessons must be learned from the M bovis experience to formulate a law that’s more flexible and appropriate. . . .

Organic finds whisky farmers – Neal Wallace:

The Styx Valley is in a remote southern corner of the Maniototo basin in Central Otago where the seasons can be harsh. But that isn’t stopping John and Susan Elliot from running an innovative whisky distillery alongside their farm. Neal Wallace visits Lammermoor Station.

The story of Andrew Elliot discovering a copper whisky still on his Central Otago station early last century is family folk lore that resonates with John and Susan Elliot.

It is a link to the latter part of the 1800s when the Otago hills, rivers and valleys were crawling with gold prospectors, swaggers and opportunists. . . .

Guy’s pragmatism appreciated by Federated Farmers:

Farmers regarded Nathan Guy as a pragmatic and knowledgeable Minister for Primary Industries.    

The MP for Otaki, who among other roles served two years as Associate Minister of Primary Industries and four as Minister in the John Key-led government, has announced he will not seek re-election in 2020.

“His door was always open, and he was always level-headed and considered in his dealings with people,” Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said. 

“He had his finger firmly on the rural pulse and I always appreciated that you could have free and frank discussions with him, including occasionally by phone when he was out helping weigh and drench calves.  He has real empathy for the sector and for the wellbeing of rural communities.” . .

IrrigationNZ thanks Nathan Guy for his work in parliament congratulates Tood Muller:

IrrigationNZ wishes to thank Hon Nathan Guy for his contribution to the primary sector as he announces his retirement from 15 years in Parliament with a departure from politics next year.

Following news of Nathan’s decision, the National Party today announced that Todd Muller, Member of Parliament for the Bay of Plenty, will be picking up the Agriculture, Biosecurity and Food Safety portfolios from Hon Nathan Guy. IrrigationNZ would like to congratulate Todd on this new role. IrrigationNZ also notes that Hon Scott Simpson, Member of Parliament for Coromandel, who leads the Environment portfolio for National, will take on Climate Change from Todd, which IrrigationNZ recognises as a sensible and good fit. . .

Grasslands brings science and practice together:

Linking science and technology with grassroots farming and production has been the key to the success of the Grassland Society.

The Grassland Society of Southern Australia has come a long way in the 60 years since a small group of farmers banded together in 1959 to help producers get the best out of their land.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Society assists farmers across three states to create better soils and pastures. . . .

Agricultural aviation celebrates 70th anniversary:

“In September 1949, a group of aerial work operators got together to form the NZ Aerial Work Operators Association ‘to advance the techniques of aerial work’ in the country,” said the New Zealand Agricultural Aviation Association (NZAAA) Chairman, Tony Michelle.

“We celebrate the achievements of those early companies and pilots at an agricultural aviation show at Ardmore Airport on Sunday 4 August, from 12 midday to 4pm. Many examples of aircraft that have worked in agricultural aviation will be on display. It also gives people a chance to mingle with many of the older pilots from those early days, as well as those safely flying our skies today. . .

Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year 2019 kicks off this week

Now in its fifth year the first of the regional finals will be held this week as the countdown begins to find the Tonnellerie de Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year 2019.

This year there will be three regional finals and the winner from each will go through to represent their region in the National Final.

The North Island regional competition will be held on Thursday 1st August at EIT in Hawke’s Bay and is open to all emerging young winemakers in the North Island. . .

Brexit: Michael Gove admits farmers may never recover from no-deal – Paris Gourtsoyanis:

A no-deal Brexit would seriously harm the UK’s farmers, Michael Gove has admitted.

The Environment Secretary told the National Farmer’s Union (NFU) conference that there was “no absolute guarantee” that British farmers could export any of their produce to the EU in a no-deal scenario, and would face punishing tariffs even if they could.

Mr Gove also dismissed speculation that the UK Government could slash tariffs on food imports after Brexit, an idea hinted at by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. . .


Rural round-up

June 7, 2019

New tech boosts packhouse output – Richard Rennie:

While much has been made of the prospects for robots harvesting kiwifruit and other orchards, one packing company has invested heavily this season in robotic technology in the pack house. Apata Group chief executive Stuart Weston outlined to Richard Rennie some of the smarts behind the country’s most robotised pack house, and what it heralds for the industry.

This year’s kiwifruit harvest is enduring another season with dire predictions of labour shortages coming at least partly true. 

Most processing companies report an ongoing need for more staff, both pickers and in pack houses.  . . 

NZ Producers cheesed off with EU – Pam Tipa:

Trade expert Stephen Jacobi says he thinks New Zealand cheesemakers are rightly concerned about a European Union plan to protect the names of common cheeses.

It is a concern in the context of the EU-NZ free trade agreement negotiations, he says.

“The Europeans say they are not looking to penalise in any way the generic names,” Jacobi told Rural News. “They are saying they are only interested in the ones that have geographical connections.” . . 

Southland maternity like ‘Russian roulette’, midwife says – Tess Brunton:

Supplies mishaps are plaguing the Lumsden and Te Anau maternity hubs that were meant to be up and running seven weeks ago, adding to concerns over giving birth in the region.

RNZ has been told pure oxygen – which poses a danger to babies when administered over long periods – was delivered to the Lumsden Maternal and Child Hub, while the Te Anau hub is still waiting for more equipment.

The news is adding to continued concerns over the emergency hubs, which are only meant to be used when expecting mothers are unable to reach a primary birthing centre in time. . .

Rural mums need urgent action:

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker has again written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after she promised to ‘take another look’ into the Lumsden Maternity Centre downgrade.

“I have written to the Prime Minister and asked for her findings as well as informing her of the second birth in the Lumsden area in just 11 days,” Mr Walker says.

“This could be a matter of life or death. All we have to do is look across the ditch to rural Queensland where since the downgrading of maternity services the death of babies in every 1000 is now at 23.3, compared with 6.1 in rural areas with obstetrics. . .

Farmers ticked off over NAIT ‘fluster cuck’ – Nigel Malthus:

Farmers are bristling over any suggestion they had been slack about re-registering their farm locations in National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) in time for moving day on June 1.

Every person in charge of animals must re-register their NAIT location following a recent upgrade to the system.

Yet only one week out from moving day, the Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor released figures showing that about half of all dairy farms – 8000 out of 15,000 – had yet to re-register. . . 

It’s the little things – Penny Clark-Hall:

What is it that we can do to earn and improve our Social Licence? So many people in the primary sector have asked me this lately and this was precisely what I was wanting to be able to give them from my Kellogg research.

The answer, while no one quick fix, isn’t big either. It’s lots of little things. They require bravery, honesty and accountability, but it’s not going to cost you the world, just time. A resource that I know is probably just as precious, if not more, to farmers than money.

So here is what my key recommendations are. . . 

Dairy a pig of a job – Stephen Bell:

Hold onto your hats folks it could be a wild ride in the dairy industry but without all the fun of the fair.

There are so many things going on here and abroad that will influence not just farmgate milk prices but also input and compliance costs and thus, most importantly profits.

On the face of it things are looking up for the new season with rural economists predicting a starting price somewhere north of $7/kg MS.

But Fonterra, on the back of narrowing its 2018-19 forecast to the bottom end of its range at $6.30 to $6.40/kg MS has given a wide range for this season of $6.25-$7.25. Though the economists are optimistic Fonterra has set the advance rate at only $3.80/kg MS.

And we still don’t know any detail for Fonterra’s new strategy but we can take it from chief executive Miles Hurrell’s comments accompanying the third quarter results that it won’t be plain sailing for a couple of years yet. . . 

Pigeon Valley fire aftermath: ‘Biggest recovery effort ever made‘- Katie Todd:

One of New Zealand’s largest recorded ‘tree salvages’ has been hailed a success in the aftermath of the Pigeon Valley fire.

About 10,000 tonnes of burnt pine trees are being plucked from the ground for use in Canterbury construction projects, Nelson housing developments and to prevent future fires in Tasman.

It comes despite an initial race against time for Tasman Pine Forests, that own about 60 percent or or 14 sqkm of the fire-affected land.

After the fire was out, crews were faced with the task of extracting trees of varying ages and heights, some slightly charred at the base and others scorched to the tips, before beetles and bugs could begin to break them down. . . 

National Lamb Day held where it all began – Sally Brooker:

National Lamb Day was celebrated on May 24 at the place where New Zealand’s frozen meat industry began 137 years ago – Totara Estate.

The historic farm just south of Oamaru prepared a shipment of lamb that arrived in Britain in pristine condition on May 24, 1882.

As Britain looked to its colonies to provide food for its surging population, wool prices here had collapsed by the end of the 1870s.

New Zealand’s huge sheep flocks were increasingly worthless, and the mutton was in such oversupply that it, too, was not valued. Britain represented a massive potential market, but getting the meat there before it went off was no small problem. . . 


Rural round-up

May 30, 2019

Fonterra is investing in  artificial meat but would you eat it? – Bonnie Flaws:

Are cows evil? You could be forgiven for thinking so.

If the alternative protein companies are right, it’s much better to eat reconfigured soy-protein with genetically modified heme, or even meat grown in a lab, than eat an actual cow.

The question is timely because in a surprise move Fonterra announced last month it was  investing in Motif Ingredients, a Boston biotech startup that wants to use genetic engineering and cultured ingredients to “make foods that are more sustainable, healthier, delicious, and more accessible”.

While people had different feelings about eating lab-cultured meat, there was a common concern around healthy and safety from those spoken to. . .

Federated Farmers urges perseverance on NAIT re-registration:

Technical and other issues are not helping with re-registration for the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme but Federated Farmers is urging all farmers to persevere.

“This is too important to backslide on. The Mycoplasma bovis issue has highlighted why we need excellent levels of compliance with NAIT,” Feds Dairy Chairperson Chris Lewis says.

“All of us – farmers and OSPRI – need to pull together to get NAIT working well. In terms of eradicating M. bovis, to borrow the words of Ed Hillary, that’s the way we’ll ‘knock the bastard off’.” . . .

M Bovis: Thousands of dairy farms not on tracking system as moving day looms :

Almost 8000 dairy locations are yet to re-register to a national tracking system, with just days to go until moving day, when sharemilkers move their cows to new farms around the country.

The Ministry of Agriculture says there are 14,940 dairy locations around New Zealand; 7034 have re-registered, 7906 are yet to do so – so more than half. One farm can consist of several NAIT locations, a ministry spokeswoman says.

It means moving day will be an anxious one for many because the main way Mycoplasma bovis spreads is through the movement of animals. . . 

Merino growers celebrate their best – Sally Rae:

Excellence in producing merino wool has been recognised at the Otago Merino Association’s annual awards function.

About 170 people attended the event in Alexandra on Friday night, where the winners of the Clip of the Year and Child Cancer Foundation fleece competition were named.

The overall Clip of the Year title went to the Sutherland family, from Benmore Station, a property synonymous with high-quality fine wool. . . 

Finalists announced for inaugural Primary Industry Awards:

The following nominations are the successful finalists for the Primary Industries Awards, to be presented at a gala dinner sponsored by FMG in Wellington on July 1.

The awards are part of the Primary Industries Awards Summit, on July 1 – 2.

The awards aim to shine a spotlight on the important role the primary sector plays in the economy and honour the most successful and innovative primary industries’ producers and supporters. . .

Wairarapa Cricket Farm to provide 100% Kiwi cricket flour:

A cricket farm in the Wairarapa will be the first of its kind in New Zealand to provide 100% locally sourced cricket flour.

Rebel Bakehouse began work on its cricket farm 18 months ago, to ultimately provide flour for its new cricket flour wraps which were launched into Kiwi supermarkets in March 2019.

Chris Petersen, of Rebel Bakehouse, says making cricket flour and cricket wraps respond to consumer demand for healthier alternatives in the bread aisle. . .

NZ Horticulture exceeds $9.2 billion:

New Zealand horticulture is well on track to meet its goal of $10 billion by 2020. The industry was valued at $9.2 billion in the year ending 30 June, 2018, up $400 million from 2017. The increase was driven by a strong growth in exports, which rose to $5.5 billion from $5.1 billion the year before.

According to the latest Fresh Facts, published annually by Plant & Food Research since 1999, horticultural exports tripled from $1.7 billion 20 years ago. They now accounted for almost 10% of New Zealand’s total merchandise exports. . .


Rural round-up

April 19, 2019

Mentoring takes farmers further – Hugh Stringleman:

Nearly halfway through a big, pioneering, five-year farmer extension project in Northland its benefits are becoming apparent to target farmers, their associates and the region.

Extension 350 (E350) has considerably widened the time-honoured farm discussion group approach of farmers helping farmers.

Private farm consultants are group facilitators and counsellors as well as delivering their one-on-one advice and skills. . .

Is Adrian Orr, Mr Congeniality, ready for a war with farmers? – Hamish Rutherford:

Since Adrian Orr became Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand he has built a reputation of being someone who likes to be liked.

Charming and jocular, but possibly sensitive to criticism.

But Orr is now in a battle with the bulk of New Zealand’s banking sector in a way which could see him demonised, probably with the focus on lending to farmers.

He knows it. Recent days have seen Orr on a campaign to explain itself. . .

Farmers face hefty penalties for flouting Nait rules – Gerard Hutching:

Farmers will face a maximum penalty of $100,000 and corporates $200,000 for not complying with the animal tracing system Nait.

Wairarapa dairy farmer John Stevenson said while the fines were hefty, decisive action was needed to protect the future of the dairy industry.

“We need to ensure animal movement are recorded because we can’t afford to have another example like Mycoplasma bovis. It will be important to see how they implement the new rules.” . . .

Kempthorne family marks 143 years on Spylaw Valley – Richard Davison:

Here’s to the next 143 years.

Not just farming, but farming a particular patch of rural paradise is a way of life for one West Otago family.

The Kempthornes, of Spylaw Valley, near Heriot, have been farming sheep and beef on the same 530ha of hill country and river flat since 1876, and will be among 40 rural New Zealand families marking their toil, perseverance and successes at next month’s Century Farm awards in Lawrence.

The annual awards – which this year take place over the weekend of May 24-26 – honour farms that have remained in the same family for 100 years or more. . . 

Limousin breed has plenty to offer – Yvonne O’Hara:

Easy-going with softer muscularity, good intramuscular fat, feed conversion efficiency and polling; these are key attributes of the Limousin cattle, which stud breeders Clark Scott and Judy Miller, of the Loch Head Limousin stud, breed for.

They have a 320ha, 4000-stock unit commercial sheep and beef farm near Heriot.

”We also have 35 Limousin cows and heifers to the bull and carry 12 to 15 yearling bulls through to sale, along with 30-odd calves,” Mr Scott said. . . 

Breeding the best – Brittney Pickett:

A Southland couple take a great deal of pride in producing top bulls for breeding programmes. Brittney Pickett reports.

The first time Robert and Annemarie Bruin saw their bulls in the LIC sire-proving scheme it felt like their hard work had paid off.

“It’s like breeding a winning race horse, it gives you a kick,” Robert says. . . 


Rural round-up

March 27, 2019

Westland’s biggest shareholders sit on the fence over Yili offer:

Westland Milk’s biggest shareholders — investment fund Southern Pastures and the state-owned Landcorp — are biding their time over Yili’s takeover offer.

Hokitika-based Westland said this week that it had signed a conditional agreement for the sale of the co-op, which will see the Chinese dairy giant pay farmer-suppliers $3.41 a share.

Westland will seek shareholder approval for the proposed transaction at a special shareholder meeting, expected to be held in early July.

Southern Pastures, which has former All Black Graeme Mourie as one of its principals, owns 5.5 per cent of the co-op, which would be worth $13.6 million under the offer.  . . 

Nait a difficult beast but NZ ‘had no chance’ against M. bovis without it – Esther Taunton:

Cattle on 150 farms have been checked against national animal tracing records as part of efforts to wipe out the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis but just one property passed muster.

Dr Alix Barclay, the Ministry for Primary Industries’ intelligence manager for the M. bovis response, said only one property had achieved a 100 per cent match with its National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) account.

The disappointing result highlighted the importance of making changes to the system, Barclay said. . . 

Hayward family cultivate success in South Canterbury by seizing the day – Samesh Mohanlall:

Farming operations flourish on hard work, seizing the chances that come your way and having people that are trustworthy around, the family of a successful South Canterbury venture say. 

Geoff Hayward and his wife Joy, who own and lease 1700 hectares of land for their sheep, beef and cropping operation across the Timaru district, told about 50 visitors to their Mt Horrible farm from the Beef + Lamb annual meeting on Thursday, that the key to their expansion is taking opportunities that come their way. . . 

Pitching in to protect mudfish:

They may be tiny, slimy and reclusive, but the Canterbury mudfish are well worth protecting. 

Kōwaro, as they’re named in te reo Māori, are a treasured species for local iwi Ngāi Tahu and having more of them around helps protect other freshwater natives such as kōura (crayfish) and kākahi (mussels).

Unfortunately, they’re also rare and endangered. 

Fonterra is providing funding to Environment Canterbury to help them implement innovative technology in what is the first project of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. . . 

A2 names China CEO –  Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk Co has appointed Li Xiao as chief executive of its greater China operations.

Li was previously president of the Kids Entertainment Division of Wanda Group, a Chinese multinational which owns the Hoyts cinema group. He starts in the A2 Milk role at the end of April, based in Shanghai, and will join A2’s senior leadership team. He will report to the firm’s Asia-Pacific chief executive Peter Nathan and managing director Jayne Hrdlicka. . . 

Patience needed for Fonterra’s streamlining, says FNZC’s Dekker – Paul McBeth:

 (BusinessDesk) – Farmers and investors will need to be patient with Fonterra Cooperative Group’s overhaul of its business, which sometime-critic First NZ Capital analyst Arie Dekker says is moving in the right direction.

The cooperative’s board is working through a review of the business which has seen several assets put on the market to help cut the milk processor’s debt levels, and has signalled more divestments are coming. . . 

Miscanthus – the magic plant:

In a Rural Delivery television programme last year Prof Steve Wratten of Lincoln University described Miscanthus as a “magic plant”. Although there was a degree of poetic licence in that statement, it is very understandable why he described Miscanthus in that way. But there are no magicians involved. Miscanthus is a truly remarkable plant that has so many advantages and options for commercial use that people who hear about it tend to think “This is too good to be true!”.

So they ignore it. The phenomenal success of Miscanthus therefore actually detracts from securing serious interest in both growing and using it. Contrary to people’s initial reaction, what seems like hype, is in fact true. . . 

It’s time to strengthen trespass laws:

Activist trespassers are making a joke of our legal system – carrying out brazen invasions of private farms and walking away with a slap on the wrist, only to reoffend. It’s time for governments to act.

In recent months we’ve witnessed a spate of farm invasions by activists who think their opinions place them above the law.

These farm intruders are entering private premises, often in the dead of night, often while streaming live on the internet – all just a stones’ throw from where farmers and their families are sleeping.

Police and the court system have proven powerless to help, with those caught walking away with fines equivalent to a parking ticket. . . 


Rural round-up

January 3, 2019

Dairy farming: No job for just any mug off the street – Sam Kilmister:

GIVE IT A GO: There is a common misconception dairy milkers merely slap on some cups and watch their herd of cows circle the shed. 

But the battle to find skilled employees is worsening and working in the dairy shed is no job for just any punter off the street.  

To understand why the industry struggles to recruit young Kiwis, I went undercover on Murray Holdaway’s Tararua farm to experience a morning in the life of a dairy farmer.  . . 

Dairy farmers’ profitable sideline – Pam Tipa:

The jersey-cross beef business at his Whangarei Heads dairy farm is a sideline – but it is a valuable sideline, says Murray Jagger.

Last year beef sales – not including bobbies – totalled $155,000 returning back about $30,000 – 40,000, he told the recent Jersey NZ conference in Whangarei. . . 

Happy Cow Milk Company plans crowd-funding campaign – Rob Stock:

Happy Cow Milk Company founder Glen Herud hopes to raise money through crowd-funding in March.

In May last year, Happy Cow went into liquidation, which seemed to end Herud’s dream of re-inventing dairying, with ethical farmers supplying milk to local consumers.

The dream has been reborn, however, with Happy Cow having transformed from a milk company into a technology company with support from 779 people making regular donations through the online Patreon patronage service. . . 

NAIT online to be upgraded:

NAIT says its online system is set to be enhanced by an interactive map to help users accurately define a NAIT location.

The development uses Land Information New Zealand’s (LINZ) parcel data as the primary building block of NAIT’s Farm Location information. The system upgrade is scheduled for early 2019; it follows a recommendation in a review of NAIT. . . 

Data shows farmers are more progressive and engaged than many city folk – Peter Hunt:

THE urban myth that farmers are a bunch of ageing rural red-necks living in isolation on their land has been well and truly busted.

But the growing disconnect between rural and urban Australians mean it’s a battle to debunk the myth, despite survey and census data showing 20-30 per cent of farmers live in towns and regional cities, are more engaged with their communities than city folk and often more progressive, less religious and increasingly female. . .

TPP redux: why the United States Is the biggest loser – Jeffrey J. Schott:

On the first anniversary of President Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the remaining 11 signatories in that pact have agreed in Tokyo to enter into a revised pact without US participation.

The biggest loser from their agreement, not surprisingly, is the United States. US real income under the original TPP would have increased by $131 billion annually, or 0.5 percent of GDP.

Under the new deal without US participation, the United States not only forgoes these gains but also loses an additional $2 billion in income because US firms will be disadvantaged in the TPP markets. . .

 


Rural round-up

December 18, 2018

Government believes Mycoplasma bovis can be eradicated :

The Government is confident that the cattle disease M. bovis can be eradicated in New Zealand.

It would be a world first if successful.

“Based on all the evidence presented to us, we are confident that eradication is possible and that we are on track in what’s a world first but necessary action to preserve the value of our national herd and economic base, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said today . . 

Federated Farmers cautiously optimistic on M.bovis plan:

Federated Farmers is supportive of today’s government call that we may be able to achieve the biosecurity triumph of being the first country in the world to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis.

While there are farmers throughout the country still battling with the aftermath of the disease’s discovery, Feds believes we can all start to feel more confident about the outcome of the eradication.

“We are cautiously optimistic, and still have fingers and everything else crossed,” Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis says. . .

Climate research leads world:

A government research programme has positioned New Zealand as a world leader in research into mitigating greenhouse gases from agriculture and adapting to climate change, a recent independent review has found.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) research programme supports the generation of new climate change knowledge across NZ’s agriculture and forestry sectors.

The independent review found SLMACC has triggered new research and boosted NZ’s understanding of the potential impacts and implications of climate change for a range of primary industries, particularly pastoral farming systems and responding to drought. . .

Farming sustainably – Sonita Chandar:

Tiaki, the sustainable dairying programme launched by Fonterra last year, is ticking all the boxes for farmers.

The programme, which helps farmers farm in more sustainable ways, has been in place for a year. 

At its launch Fonterra set an initial target of having 1000 farm environment plans in place. 

The Dairy Tomorrow Strategy will see all farmers adopting a sustainable dairying plan by 2025

“When we committed to the programme we increased the number of sustainable dairy advisers we had in the field,” Fonterra sustainable dairying general manager Charlotte Rutherford said.

“However, demand has outstripped supply.  . . 

New NAIT compliance officers in the field:

A cohort of 27 new NAIT compliance officers are ready to hit the ground and start working with farmers after graduating from their training programme on Friday.

Animal Welfare and NAIT Compliance Manager, Gray Harrison, says the new officers are part of a stepped-up effort to educate farmers about their NAIT obligations, and enforce compliance with the scheme.

“The new officers will be located throughout the country helping farmers use NAIT consistently and taking action when non-compliance is detected. . . 

Ngāi Tahu backs out of Agria deal, takes stake in Wrightson:

Ngāi Tahu Capital has taken a direct stake in PGG Wrightson, ending a seven-year relationship with Singapore-domiciled Agria as the foreign investor’s grip on the rural services firm remains uncertain.

Last Friday, the investment arm of the South Island iwi ended an agreement that pooled its investment in Wrightson with Agria and Chinese agribusiness New Hope International. Ngāi Tahu Capital was a junior partner in the joint venture with a 7.24 percent stake. At the time, it touted the $15 million investment as diversifying its portfolio and building international relationships. . . 

Computational breeding: Can AI offer an alternative to genetically modified crops? – Greg Nichols:

Hi Fidelity Genetics (HFG), a company that uses sensors, data science, and statistical genetics to create non-genetically modified crops, just raised $8.5 million in a Series A. It’s a sign of the growing importance of data science in agriculture, and it may signal an alternative path to sustainable farming without the use of genetic modification.

The issue is a prickly one. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have been touted as saving the world by increasing food supply and maligned as a lever by which Big Ag constrains the market while doing untold damage to public health and delicate ecosystems. As the debate rages on, GMOs have come to dominate agriculture, accounting for more than 90 percent of the corn, soy, and cotton grown in the U.S., according to the USDA. . . 


Rural round-up

September 28, 2018

NZ farmer confidence slides into negative territory– Rabobank:

New Zealand farmer confidence has eased from the previous quarter and is now at net negative levels for the first time since early 2016.

The third quarterly survey for the year – completed earlier this month – has shown net farmer confidence has fallen to -three per cent, down from +two per cent recorded in the June 2018 survey.

The survey found a fall in the number of farmers expecting agricultural economy conditions to improve in the coming 12 months (down to 20 per cent from 26 per cent last quarter) as well as those expecting conditions to worsen (23 per cent from 24 per cent previously) while an increased number of New Zealand farmers were expecting the performance of the agricultural economy to stay the same (54 per cent from 46 per cent last survey). . .

Room for improvement despite progress on M. bovis awareness:

Survey shows room for improvement despite progress on M. bovis awareness

More than half of sheep and beef farmers have made changes to reduce the risk of their stock becoming infected by Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis), according to research by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

57 per cent of farmers recently surveyed reported they had taken precautions against the disease while 71 per cent of farmers feel that they have a high level of knowledge on how to protect their stock from M. bovis.

Around a third of farmers surveyed (34 per cent) said they had implemented a buffer zone between them and their neighbours’ stock, as well as communicating with their neighbours about stock on the boundary. . . 

A jigsaw with bits missing – Annette Scott:

Mycoplasma bovis had a head-start on officials trying to eradicate it but Nait is helping them catch up.

While Nait is not perfect it has enabled the eradication attempt that otherwise might not have been possible, Ministry for Primary Industries intelligence group manager Alix Barclay says.

That head-start has, over time, meant changes to the design of surveillance and how it is implemented, Barclay said.

The intelligence team is responsible for tracing the disease, surveillance, targeting of sampling, data management and the diagnostic laboratory systems. . . 

Westland Milk’s payout at low end of guidance; cuts 2019 forecast – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Westland Milk Products has cut its forecast for the 2019 season due to weak global butter prices and announced a farmgate return near the bottom end of guidance.

New Zealand’s third-largest dairy company said its final milk payout for the 2018 season was $6.12 per kilo of milk solids, less a 5 cent retention. That delivered a net average result for shareholders of $6.07 per kgMS. The cooperative had forecast a payout of $6.10 to $6.40 and the retention enabled it to report a pre-tax profit of $3.3 million for the 12 months ended July 31. . .

Tatua Financial Results for the Year Ended 31 July 2018:

The Tatua Board or Directors and Executive met on 26 September 2018 to consider the financial results for the 2017/18 season and decide on the final payout to our Suppliers. We are pleased to report that Tatua has had a good year and has achieved record Group revenue of $357 million, and earnings of $127 million.

Our focus on growing our value-add businesses has contributed significant additional revenue and our bulk ingredient product mix has served us well. . .

Selling bulls but keeping semen rights – Alan Williams:

Te Mania Stud is looking for sons of its sale-topping Australian sire to move the Angus breed forward.

Starting this year the stud is keeping a 50% interest in the semen of all the bulls it sells.

“This keeps us protected if one of the bulls comes through with brilliant traits and we can get that semen back to use through our dam line,” stock manager Will Wilding said.

The deal involves only semen sales. There’s no income-share when buyers use the bulls for physical mating.

Semen from Te Mania Garth was brought from Australia and used to breed the top-priced rising  . .

2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards entries open October 1st:

With less than a week until entries open in the 2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, organisers of the regional competitions are gathering in Rotorua for the annual conference to fine tune processes and launch events.

General Manager Chris Keeping says the conference is an opportunity for the many volunteers from around the country to come together after a busy winter season. “The conference will be a busy few days, bringing everyone up-to-date with the changes made to the entry criteria and visa requirements,” she says. . .

On the brink of innovative Ag technology acceptance: A Kenyan farmer’s perspective – Gilbert Arap Bor:

Farmers have good years and bad years. Here in Kenya, however, the good years never have seemed quite as good as they should be and the bad years have felt worse than necessary.

That’s because we can’t take advantage of a tool that farmers in much of the developed world take for granted: GMO crops. In many countries, they’ve transformed farming, helping farmers contend with weeds, pests, and drought. In my country, we’re still languishing in the 20th century, waiting for the arrival of this 21st-century technology.

We may in fact be on the brink of embracing innovative technology for agriculture, but the long and winding road to this welcome destination has been full of frustration and false starts. We’ve been at it for an entire generation. Africa already faces plenty of problems: poverty, climate change, a poor infrastructure, political instability, corruption and more. So the failure of Kenya and most other African nations to take up GMOs is especially painful because this problem is almost entirely self-imposed. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 5, 2018

Angst on NAIT – Peter Burke:

A rushed change to NAIT regulations has caused growing disquiet about the haste in which the new laws were passed under urgency in Parliament.

The farming industry at first publicly welcomed the changes: DairyNZ and Beef + LambNZ approved, although Federated Farmers said they were rushed.

Many people have told Rural News that they question the hastily enacted new laws and some of the new powers given to MPI. . .

Merino wool fetching strong prices – Sally Rae:

Merino wool is fetching prices at auction not seen since the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Last week’s South Island wool sale in Christchurch was “outstanding” for merino and mid micron wool, following on from the continued strengthening in Australia, Roger Fuller, of CP Wool, said.

Australia was experiencing horrendous drought conditions, which was reflected in the prices being achieved in New Zealand.

The problem would be exacerbated next year as a lot of sheep would not survive the dry conditions, Mr Fuller said. . . 

Changes as event continues to expand – Sally Brooker:

The Otago Field Days are expanding to fit their new name as their October dates approach.

The field days are about to be held for the third time, having sprung up in 2016 as a new initiative from the Palmerston and Waihemo A&P Association.

They were initially called the East Otago Field Days.

”What started out as a small local event has clearly struck a chord with people,” chief executive and A&P Association president Paul Mutch said. . . 

Get in behind Kelvin – the thermokennel, a Kickstarter to change the lives of kiwi dogs:

A dog’s life is about to get a whole lot better thanks to a brilliant bit of Kiwi innovation.

Our hardest working farm hands, the renowned New Zealand working dog, has always had a tough but rewarding job.

All day out in the weather mustering sheep and keeping the farmer company, only to spend the night under a makeshift shelter or kennel, on an old blanket for warmth – that’s the way it’s been since this nation was founded, but one Kiwi entrepreneur thinks it is time for a change. . . 

See more at the Kelvin the Thermokennel website here.

Trial will track calves’ growth:

A trial is underway to measure the growth rates of Angus/Jersey beef calves from birth to finished product.

Initiated by Greenlea Premier Meats, the project will track about 150 Jersey x Angus calves now being born on Zach and Laura Mounsey’s Arcadia Dairies Farm near Otorohanga. 

Semen from the pedigree Angus sire Matauri Crikey G244 was supplied free by Greenlea.  . .

Salute to our struggling farmers as Royal Adelaide Show kicks off

AROUND the Adelaide Showground’s cattle, pig and sheep sheds, farmers from across the state are proving they themselves are the toughest breed.

Low rainfall and high feed prices are putting huge pressure on their incomes and forcing some to make tough decisions about their future.

As the Royal Adelaide Show opened yesterday, behind the draw of the Showbag Pavilion and the excitement of the carnival, farmers who had travelled to Adelaide carried the weight of a tough season on their shoulders.

Among them was Michael Blenkiron, of Keyneton, in the Barossa Valley, who said many working side-by-side in the pig pavilion were “in survival mode”. . . 


Rural round-up

August 29, 2018

Financial incentives no silver bullet for sustainable agriculture – study – Charlie Dreaver:

A Landcare Research study shows financial incentives to encourage more sustainable practices on farms are not enough.

The research, as part of the National Science Challenges, investigated the best incentives to promote changes within the agriculture sector in the face of approaching climate change.

One of the authors, Landcare Research senior scientist Nick Cradock-Henry said he had been working with farmers over the last seven or eight years and had found awareness around climate change was growing.

Dr Cradock-Henry said it was partly due to recent severe weather events. . .

Destocking not the answer – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

It is a great pity that some people have embraced – with little question – the concept that farmers can make a ‘reduction in stocking rate and still make the same money, while leaching less nitrogen’.

Destocking is now being offered as the panacea to environmental woes, and hence a goal for the country, without examination of impacts or alternatives. Nor is the issue of climatic variability being considered; a region once ‘summer safe’ or ‘winter dry’ may be no longer.

Of even more importance is the starting point: destock from what? And did the high stocking rate mean animals were under pressure for feed? And, of course, what is the milk price and the cost of importing food to the milking platform? . . .

No excuse:

 Farmers are unhappy and confused with the NAIT changes rushed through Parliament into law.

Social media has been abuzz with angry farmers demanding a ‘please explain’ from DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ on why they are publicly backing the changes.

One Northland dairy and beef farmer tweeted “please explain why [you] supported the draconian changes to the NAIT Act which treat farmers like terrorists. Why should I pay my levy/sub if u can’t stand up for us?” . .

Fertiliser made from sea squirts shows student ingenuity :

More than 30 student businesses from 11 high schools around Northland competed in this year’s Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) trade fair at the Old Packhouse Market in Kerikeri, and market patrons found plenty to attract their interest.

For YES the students come up with a product or service, set up a real-world business, and end the year with a real profit – or loss.

The fair was the young entrepreneurs’ first chance to test their wares and marketing skills on the public, with shoppers voting for their favourite business and secret judges rating the best stalls. . .

Food price ‘to rise 5%’ because of extreme weather :

Meat, vegetable and dairy prices are set to rise “at least” 5% in the coming months because of the UK’s extreme weather this year, research suggests.

Consultancy CEBR said 2018’s big freeze and heatwave would end up costing consumers about £7 extra per month.

It follows price warnings from farmers’ representatives about peas, lettuces and potatoes. . .

The world’s first floating farm making waves in Rotterdam – Simon Fry:

The world’s first offshore dairy farm opens in the Port of Rotterdam this year, with the aim of helping the city produce more of its own food sustainably. But will such farms ever be able to produce enough to feed the world’s growing urban populations?

A Dutch property company, Beladon, is launching the world’s first “floating farm” in a city port.

It has built the offshore facility right in the middle of Rotterdam’s Merwehaven harbour and will use it to farm 40 Meuse-Rhine-Issel cows milked by robots. . . 


Rural round-up

August 25, 2018

Call for compo for farmers maintaining walkways – Maja Burry:

A high country farmer says there should be compensation for landholders affected by increasing visitor numbers.

A draft report published earlier this year by the Walking Access Commission found that a growing population, combined with record international tourist numbers is putting pressure on some access to the South Island High Country.

Andrew Simpson, who owns Balmoral Station at Lake Tekapo, said about 100,000 people use the Mt John Walkway on his farm each year.

Mr Simpson said he wanted people to enjoy his land, but he was having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on track maintenance this year, even with some support from the Department of Conservation. . .

Farmer leaders back off – Neal Wallace:

Farming sector leaders are unimpressed by the last-minute inclusion of far-reaching search and surveillance powers changes to the National Animal Identification and Tracking Act.

Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ leaders, who endorsed the changes a week ago, said they understand the need for the change but the late additions should have been open to public scrutiny instead of being pushed through Parliament under urgency.

The Farmers Weekly was told a drafting error omitted the search and surveillance powers from the original Nait Act.

Farming sector leaders have been criticised for supporting the changes but they now say they were unhappy at the rushed legislated process. . . 

NAIT still long way from meeting original objective – Allan Barber:

NAIT is like a long running soap opera which viewers can watch faithfully for a couple of years, go back to after a long absence and find nothing much has changed. It was first thought of back in 2004, took eight years of argument, design, business case preparation and readings in parliament and it was finally implemented in July 2012 with a three year lead-in for cattle.

In 2016 a review was started which was finally completed in May this year and presented to the present Minister for Primary Industries. When it finally saw the light of day, you could have been forgiven for thinking it would be a review of all the reasons NAIT doesn’t yet appear to be working properly, but I understand it was always intended to be a routine review of the programme after three years in operation. . . 

Exchange rate reset will breathe new life to agriculture – Keith Woodford:

The recent decline in the value of the New Zealand dollar is about to breathe new life into agriculture. It will take some months before the benefits flow through to farm level, but the macro signs are there to be seen.

The key question is whether we are seeing a strategic reset or is it just short term. My own thinking is that it is medium term through to around three years and maybe beyond, but with inevitable volatility. Beyond that I cannot see.

First let’s get the basic maths sorted out. A lower value of the New Zealand dollar means that we get more New Zealand dollars for exports. And in the New Zealand context, that largely relates to our primary industries, principally agriculture and horticulture, but also forestry and fishing. . . 

A new weapon will help in the Stink Bug battle:

The addition of another weapon to fight any incursion of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on our shores is excellent news, Federated Farmers biosecurity spokesperson Karen Wiliams says.

“We’re delighted to learn the Environmental Protection Authority will allow controlled release of the tiny Samurai Wasp if this stink bug were ever to get a foothold here.

“The BMSB is a scourge that could put a multi-billion dollar hit on our economy. For arable and horticulture farmers, a scenario where a breeding population could get established here is a nightmare,” Karen says. . .

Seeka 1H profit falls on further banana business writedown – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – Seeka, New Zealand’s biggest kiwifruit grower, posted a 6.5 percent decline in first-half profit despite revenue rising, as it wrote down the value of its banana-sourcing business further.

The Te Puke-based company reported profit of $10.4 million in the six months ended June 30, from $11 million in the same period a year earlier. Seeka said the bottom line included a $1.5 million writedown of goodwill to its tropical fruit business, Seeka Glassfields. Revenue rose 8.5 percent to $145.4 million, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation lifted 7 percent to $23.5 million. . . 

Federated Farmers keen to work with new Extension Service:

A new extension service intended to bring knowledge and resources to farmers struggling to keep up on production efficiency and environmental protection fronts is a “positive”, Federated Farmers board member and Arable chairperson Karen Williams says.

“Offering support so farmers can get up to speed is certainly preferable, and more likely to achieve progress, than wielding the big stick of fines and more regulations.

“The new extension service could prove helpful but we would urge MPI to continue to work with farming groups on the mechanics of it and how it is rolled out,” Karen said. . .

Apple and stonefruit group willing to engage in meaningful discussions with MPI following High Court judgment:

The group of five industry members who joined together to challenge MPI’s directive for nurseries and orchardists to contain and/or destroy tens of thousands of apple (Malus) and stonefruit (Prunus) plants has received the High Court judgment and is currently reviewing this in detail.

The judge found that the MPI directions, issued under s116 of the Biosecurity Act were unlawful and has directed MPI to reconsider.

The judgment encourages MPI to work with industry to develop and agree a more appropriate set of directions that address their key biosecurity concerns. . .


Rural round-up

August 18, 2018

A New Zealand farmer looks at subsidies through a different lens – Craige Mackenzie:

A $12-billion “assistance package” to American farmers sounds like a great deal, at least for the recipients: a one-time payment that is intended to soften suffering caused by trade wars and low commodity prices, from a White House that sincerely wants to help.

I have a different perspective. As a farmer in New Zealand who once received government subsidies and then lost them, I speak from experience when I say that agriculture is much better off when governments stay out of our business and let us grow our food without interference.

The federal assistance package is in fact a devil’s bargain: It would deliver short-term benefits but also create long-term problems for American farmers. . .

Law to get tough – Neal Wallace:

Primary Industries Ministry officers now have greater search and surveillance powers than police, lawyers say.

The new law passed under urgency by Parliament strengthens the National Animal Identification and Tracking Act and allows officials to enter farms unannounced without a warrant to search for and seize items.

Penalties under the changes vary from infringement fees of $400 up to fines of $200,000 and five years in jail. 

Ashburton law firm Tavendale and Partners partner Kirsten Maclean said the powers contradict claims MPI wants to work with farmers over the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak. . .

YFC champ adds dairying venture – Hugh Stringleman:

The Kidd family has expanded its farming interests in the Auckland province with the purchase of a medium-sized dairy farm and some adjacent leased land for grazing at Shelly Beach on the south Kaipara Head. Hugh Stringleman went to hear about the new venture.

The Kidds have gone to Philadelphia, in the United States, for the wedding of son Hamish, a New York-based investment banker, to an American woman.

Conversations on the long flights and while away among parents Richard and Dianne, of Whenuanui Farm, Helensville, their three sons and their respective partners will feature the latest expansion of the family farming enterprise. . . 

Drought proofing a dry continent – Viv Forbes:

Earth is a blue watery planet.

70% of its surface is covered by oceans of salt water, some of which are extremely deep. These oceans contain about 97% of Earth’s water. Another 2% is locked up in snow, ice caps and glaciers. That leaves just 1% of Earth’s surface water in inland seas, lakes, rivers and dams. We have plenty of water, but not much to drink.

In addition to these vast surface water supplies, water vapour is the fourth most abundant gas in the atmosphere, after nitrogen (76%), oxygen (21%) and Argon (1%). Moisture in the atmosphere varies from almost zero over deserts and ice caps up to 4% over the wet tropics. (Carbon dioxide is a miniscule 0.04%). . .

Wrightson posts record earnings, lowers dividend and eyes reinvestment options – Tina Morrison:

 (BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson, which is selling its dominant seed and grain business, posted record full-year earnings but lowered its final dividend payment to shareholders, saying it was eyeing reinvestment opportunities.

Operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose to a record $70.2 million in the year ended June 30, in line with its forecast for earnings at the top end of its guidance range of $65 million to $70 million, and ahead of $64.5 million a year earlier, the Christchurch-based company said. One-time items pulled net profit after tax down to $18.9 million from $46.3 million. . .

Zespri launches industry realignment process:

World leading horticultural company, Zespri Group Limited lodged several key documents to support its strategically important industry realignment initiative today, with MinterEllisonRuddWatts advising on the targeted share issue and buy-back.

Zespri’s Product Disclosure Statement, Disclose Register Entry and the Buy-Back Disclosure Document were today submitted to the Registrar of Financial Service Providers for review by the New Zealand Financial Markets Authority, as well as lodged on the USX Share trading platform. . .

Frankie Goes to Wellywood – and Deer Milk stars in the show:

Frankie Goes to Wellywood – and Deer Milk stars in the show

Deer Milk was up in lights last night at the first of three special evenings that chef Frank Camorra from Melbourne restaurant MoVida is presenting in conjunction with Wellington restaurant Logan Brown and Visa Wellington on a Plate.

In his first trip to the capital, Camorra’s menu features the ingredient that is lighting up fine dining in New Zealand. . .


MPI gets more power than police under urgency

August 17, 2018

The government has given MPI more power than police, and done it under urgency:

While some changes to the National Animal Identification and Tracking Act (NAIT) are needed, Parliament has been denied the opportunity to properly scrutinise Government amendments which may not be in the best interests of farmers, National’s Agriculture Spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has had months to introduce this Bill into Parliament, but instead he expanded wide-ranging search powers under urgency.

“Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will be able to turn up to farmers’ properties without getting a warrant and seize anything they want, unannounced and without cause.

This gives MPI more power than the police.

National asked Mr O’Connor to send the Bill to select committee during the two-week recess to allow public input and ensure there are no unintended consequences for farmers, but the Minister refused.

“National proposed amendments during the debate that an officer needs reasonable cause to suspect non-compliance with NAIT before entering the property.

“We also proposed that these wide-ranging warrantless powers being curtailed, so a NAIT officer can’t seize property without obtaining a warrant.

“Unfortunately, both of these safeguard amendments were voted down by the Government.

These safeguards are given to suspected drug dealers, gangs and thieves and but not to farmers.

“However, National did successfully move an amendment that requires the Minister to report to Parliament next year on how these expanded powers are being used. We will await this review with a great deal of interest.

“National reluctantly supported the legislation to improve NAIT’s performance but remain gravely concerned about the process and invasion of farmer’s privacy.”

A serious biosecurity incursion is one of the greatest risks New Zealand faces and the difficulty tracing stock with the Mycoplasma bovis has highlighted deficencies in the NAIT system.

Change and improvements were needed but that doesn’t justify forcing through such draconian law under urgency.

 


Rural round-up

August 16, 2018

 A flow of “fresh air” – here’s hoping Fonterra’ s financial performance gets a good whiff – Point of Order:

Fonterra’s  latest move, appointing Miles Hurrell as interim CEO  “with immediate  effect”, has   sent  fresh rumbles  through the  dairy industry.

The  co-op’s  chairman John Monaghan, announcing the move,  spoke of the need  to  “breathe  some fresh  air  into the business”.

He is  not alone with this observation:  several  politicians  have been calling for just that – but  many of the  co-op’s 10,500 farmer-suppliers may be wondering  what exactly  a  blast of   “fresh air”  may do. . .

Animal tracking legislation to be debated under urgency – Gia Garrick:

Legislation to properly enforce the animal tracking guidelines, which were found to be hugely inadequate during the Mycoplasma bovis response, is to be debated under urgency tonight and through tomorrow.

It will mean farmers’ compliance with the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme (NAIT) – the country’s cattle and deer tracking system – will be properly monitored.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said there would be penalties for those who did not comply.

“We will certainly have enforcement of these new guidelines, I can promise you that,” he said. . . 

Farmers encouraged to open homes to drought-hit Australians –  Esther Taunton:

Kiwi farmers are being urged to extend the hand of mateship to their drought-stricken Australian counterparts.

Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne said the organisation was working on ways to help farmers hit by severe drought across the Tasman.

Much of southeastern Australia is struggling with drought but conditions in New South Wales are the driest and most widespread since 1965.  . . 

Poorest performing iwi invested in large farms, ANZ report says – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – The poorest performing iwi investment in recent years has come from farming, which is often favoured for cultural rather than economic considerations, according to the latest annual ‘Iwi Investment Insights’ report by ANZ Bank New Zealand.

In its 2018 annual ‘Te Tirohanga Whānui’ research report, ANZ evaluated the asset base of 34 iwi and hapū, finding the commercial assets of the combined group had increased by just over $1 billion, or 12 percent, to $5.4 billion since 2015. The report found the most common asset in the top quartile for underlying returns was the significant holdings in managed funds which have performed well in recent years. On the flip-side, most iwi/hapū in the lower quartile were actively managing large farms. . .

Raising triplets indoors works – Joanna Grigg:

It’s raining outside, again, but it’s not worrying these new lambs.

All 250 of Richard Dawkins’ triplet-bearing ewes get seven days or so indoors to adjust to supplementary feed, birth their lambs, bond and feed.

Then it’s out to the real world, albeit a nearby paddock with ad-lib clover and a watchful eye for that fading third lamb. . .

Sheep meats are in a sweet spot – Keith Woodford:

This year has been an exceptional year for many sheep farmers.  Lamb and mutton prices have been at record levels.

The key drivers have been increasing demand from China combined with lower exchange rates. Sales to Britain have slowed down, linked to a ‘buy British’ campaign over there. But that has not been enough to counter the overall good news story.

Sheep farmers are telling me that, for the first time in many years, sheep farming is fun again. The cash is coming through to upgrade tracks and other infrastructure. Venison prices have also been exceptional for those sheep farmers who also farm deer. Most sheep farmers also run beef cattle and they too have been paying well. . .

LIC’s Murray King named Co-operative Leader of the Year:

Farmer owned co-operative LIC is pleased to announce its board chairman Murray King has been named Co-operative Leader of the Year at the Co-operative Business NZ Awards 2018.

The annual award recognises those who have shown strong leadership and commitment to the co-operative sector.

A Nelson-based dairy farmer, Murray has a long-standing connection to LIC and the dairy farming community of the upper South Island. . .


Rural round-up

June 24, 2018

Joint operation to check Nait compliance – Sally Rae:

Knowledge of the National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) system has increased in the wake of the Mycoplasma bovis response but some farmers are continuing to break the rules.

In a statement yesterday, compliance investigations manager Gary Orr said the Ministry for Primary Industries and Nait Ltd had been running joint operations around the country to check compliance with Nait requirements.

The disease response had highlighted the importance of tracing animal movements and having complete and accurate information available. It was critical all farmers complied with Nait and tracked all animal movements on and off their farms and those who weren’t were putting the rest of the industry in jeopardy, Mr Orr said. . . 

Manuka protection needs cash – Richard Rennie:

Manuka Honey Appellation Society members are optimistic money will be forthcoming for a bid to protect the manuka honey brand as a trade mark and ultimately as a Geographical Indication (GI).

A high-level conference on manuka’s status earlier this month was met with a largely positive reception from Government officials, society spokesman John Rawcliffe said.

Rawcliffe and others in the industry hope a cash injection to protect the brand for New Zealanders will soon be forthcoming.

“So far, as an industry group, we have invested $1 million into manuka honey for its protection and we have already seen the landmark decision made in the United Kingdom where their Trade Registry has accepted the filing of the term manuka as a certification mark,” Rawcliffe said. . . 

Farming at the southernmost point of NZ -Brittany Pickett:

Dot and Colin McDonald are farming at the end of the world.

Their 534 hectare Haldane farm Stonewood is only a skip away from Slope Point, the southernmost point in the South Island, making the couple among the southernmost farmers in the world.

They bought the west side of Stonewood in 2003, before buying the east side in 2005.

“We had to completely do it over,” Dot said.

Both properties were run-down, with extensive development needed. The one small woolshed was run by a generator, and other than that there were no buildings and almost non-existent fencing throughout the property. . .

Catch contest win a distraction – Neal Wallace:

Mairi Whittle is having quite a year. Last week she won the Fieldays Rural Catch competition and if that isn’t enough at the end of July she takes over her family’s Taihape sheep and beef farm. She spoke to Neal Wallace.

It is proving to be a busy few weeks for Mairi Whittle.

Having won the Golden Gumboot at the Fieldays Rural Catch Competition earlier this month she becomes the fourth generation of her family to run the 6000 stock unit, Makatote Station north east of Taihape at the end of July.

A former rural banker, Whittle, 28, and her family have been working on a succession plan, A former rural banker, Whittle, 28, and her family have been working on a succession plan, allowing her parents Jim and Maggie to retire from the hill-country sheep and beef farm. . .

 Irrigation helps out with sheep production, during dry times

While Walandi Farms White Suffolk and Poll Dorset stud was founded in 2007, moving to a new property has seen stud principals Ash and Janine Murphy seek new markets.

“We’ve moved to a new area and we thought we would open our gates to get some interest from people, where we are now,” Mr Murphy said.

Operating at Kotta, on the Echuca-Mitiamo road, Victoria, the Murphys were former dairy farmers. . .

Could agricultural robots replace glysophate

Glyphosate is a herbicide that’s used to kill undesired plants. Pulling up plants, or “weeding,” does the same thing without chemicals, but it’s very labor-intensive. What if tireless robots could weed fields cheaply?

Professor Simon Blackmore, head of robotic agriculture at the UK’s National Centre for Precision Farming at Harper Adams University in England, says that increasingly sensitive and precise sensors and instruments are being developed that can measure the “complex nature of the growing environment” on every square meter of farmland — the soil and water conditions; the presence of pests and diseases; the location of weeds, and the size of crop plants.

In addition to measuring the state of a crop, robots will be able to actively improve growing conditions, not least by getting rid of weeds. . .


Rebuilding trust

May 29, 2018

The government’s decisions to attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis is an expensive one, but not eradicating it would be even more costly:

The Government says it has reached an agreement with farming sector leaders to attempt to eradicate the disease from New Zealand.

The cull, of around 126,000 in addition to the 26,000 already underway, will take place over one to two years.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said to not act would cost even more than what would be spent on trying to eradicate it – $886 million.

$1.3b over 10 years was the estimated cost of not acting.

“Today’s decision to eradicate is driven by the Government’s desire to protect the national herd from the disease and to protect the base of economy – the farming sector,” Ardern said.

“This is a tough call – no one ever wants to see mass culls. But the alternative is the spread of the disease across our national herd,” she said.

“I personally do not want to look back on this time … and say I wish we had tried harder.

“We have this one shot to eradicate, and we are taking it together.

“We want New Zealand to be free of it,” Ardern said.

The Government will meet 68% of the cost and Dairy NZ and Beef and Lamb New Zealand will meet 32%. . . 

Farmers have mixed views on the wisdom of this decision but it’s backed by DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb, Federated Farmers and the National Party.

Culling all the cattle will be devastating for farmers and sharemilkers but at least the government has committed to much faster action on compensation claims:

Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity Damien O’Connor said:

. . “I’ve also asked MPI to revisit the compensation process and they’ve developed a new streamlined approach for those whose animals are culled to enable a substantial payment within a matter of days.

“Farmer welfare is crucial and I’d like to thank the Rural Support Trusts for the work they’re doing. With this decision we know more help is needed and the Government and industry groups are committed to helping farmers through this stressful time. . . 

No-one thinks eradicating the disease will be easy and as David Williams writes, another  difficult task will be rebuilding trust in MPI:

. . When the dust settles, and the debate about eradication – or not – is over, MPI needs to start listening. Listening to farmers, to vets, to business people. Because I think MPI’s biggest job is not getting rid of M. bovis, it’s regaining trust. . . 

(MPI admits compensation payments have been too slow. Biosecurity response director Geoff Gwyn told Newshub: “I lose sleep over the fact there are people out there suffering as a result of the actions we’re putting on, and I know it’s cold comfort for them, but they are taking a hit for the national herd.”)

It doesn’t stop there, however. Criticism of MPI is also happening in the supermarket aisles, over the bar in rural pubs and over farm fences. Most importantly, it’s happening at the dining table, shaping the attitudes of the next generation of farmers. Many are probably saying the same things as the infected farmers – but some are undoubtedly going further.

In South Canterbury, there’s talk that there have been signs of disease in some herds for years. Given what’s happened, some are asking why authorities were told at all.

Trouble ahead

That’s the biggest problem. A few people tell me the way MPI has handled this outbreak means, they think, some farmers won’t be inclined to report problems in the future. They don’t think MPI has their back. This is not to defend such behaviour, but to give the authorities a heads-up. If that attitude spreads like M. bovis has, there’s trouble ahead.

As with TB, farmers must be confident that if they report a problem it will be taken seriously, they will be treated fairly and compensated quickly.

Without that confidence, some farmers will be tempted to quietly shoot and bury infected stock.

Of course, in Roger Smith’s perfect world, everyone would do the right thing. But human nature – as proved by the failure of the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system – tells us that doesn’t always happen.

MPI can’t possibly put field officers in every farm, so it has to rely on farmers to report problems. But this mood of mistrust, born of M. bovis, creates a climate of fear and self-reliance rather than faith in the system. The country needs faith, however, and it’s up to MPI to restore it.

What we’ve seen in recent months, however, is farmers turning on farmers, as the secrecy over which farms are infected leads to suspicion and accusation, not just about who knew what but when they knew it. The slowness or non-existence of compensation payments is an added stress. Businesses are failing, people are struggling and MPI is coming across as detached and cold-hearted.

At a national level, Federated Farmers says its members have to lift their game, particularly when it comes to animal identification and tracing. (Northland’s branch is calling for a full, independent inquiry about MPI’s approach to biosecurity.) Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has instructed officials to take a tougher approach to compliance with the tracing system, NAIT. These conversations should have been had years ago.

Problems with NAIT – both the system itself and compliance – must be addressed and addressed quickly.

The tougher conversations are to be had face-to-face with farmers. Yes, there needs to be a better job of selling the benefits of NAIT – that’ll help uptake. But the crucial conversations will be farmers telling MPI what they need, how best to help them and how, when the next outbreak hits – because it will – the ministry can improve its response.

Of course, just because the farmers are talking, doesn’t mean that MPI will listen.

MPI has lost the confidence of farmers.

They didn’t appear to realise the human and financial cost to farmers whose businesses have been threatened and the importance of clear communication and speedy settling of compensation.

Eradicating M. bovis must be its primary focus but it must take seriously the criticisms aimed at it and ensure that its systems and staff training improve so it and they regain farmers’ trust and are ready and able to respond faster and better to the next biosecurity incursion.

MPI’s media release gives some hope that it has already learned from its mistakes.

We understand this will be painful for farmers who are affected, and we are committed to looking after those who have Mycoplasma bovis on their farms.

If you are a farmer and need support, help is available through your industry group representative, individual response case manager, or the Rural Support Trust.

• Rural Support Trust: 0800 78 72 54

• MPI: 0800 00 83 33

Industry representatives:

• Dairy NZ: 0800 43 24 79 69

• Beef + Lamb NZ: 0800 23 33 52

• Federated Farmers: 0800 32 76 46

We’re calling on rural communities to support each other, especially affected farmers and those that appear to be finding it hard. If you have any concerns about someone you know, contact the Rural Support Trust or other community support services.

Download the Looking after yourself fact sheet [PDF, 813 KB]

Compensation

Compensation is available for anyone who has verifiable losses as a result of directions they are given by MPI under the Biosecurity Act to manage Mycoplasma bovis.

Farmers that are directed to have animals culled or their farm operations restricted under movement controls will be eligible for compensation. In particular, farmers whose animals are being culled will receive an initial payment for the value of culled stock within 2 weeks of a completed claim being lodged.

Learn more about Biosecurity Act compensation

Mycoplasma bovis compensation claim form user guide [PDF, 446 KB]

MPI must now ensure its actions match its words, and to date, this from Keith Woodford, shows they haven’t:

There are going to be huge challenges for MPI. To date, they have not covered themselves in glory. All members of their response team will have been working hard within imposed limits, but the MPI system has let them down with too many layers of management and an inability to make timely operational decisions for each farm.

The most urgent issue right now relates to all of the NOD (suspect) farms in the South Island that have their cows and their feed in different locations. As just one example of many, there is a Mid Canterbury farmer I know of who is caught in the constipated bureaucracy and as of today still cannot get approval to shift his stock less than two kilometres to another farm he owns (and which he agrees will then also become a NOD farm).

These cows need to be moved and should have been progressively moved over recent weeks as they were dried-off, if they are to have feed to eat. This farm is not one of the infected properties, rather it is just one of the 300 NOD suspect properties.

We don’t know how many farms are in this situation of cows isolated from their winter feed, but almost certainly well over 100. This is not the ‘gypsy day’ situation but something quite different. And it is a big animal and human welfare issue.

There should be no hold-up over permission to move stock from one block to another owned by the same farmer who agrees to it becoming a NOD farm.

The Government appears to be underestimating the complexity of the compensation claims. The challenge is that claims have to be ‘verified’, but loss of income claims are always debatable. Claim settlements require agreements on what would have happened and by definition that is impossible to verify objectively.

An MPI source advises that any claim over $75,000 requires five separate signatures across various ministries from within the Wellington bureaucracy after the technical assessors have reached agreement. Given the future tsunami of claims, from both infected and suspect properties, and the reality that almost no claims have yet to be settled except in partial amounts, there will be a need for a separate and preferably independent Claims Assessment Commission. . . 

 

This map shows the extent of the known spread of the disease. It looks bad and it is.

But so far all cases can be traced back to a single source, all infections are the same strain and nothing has been traced back further than 2015. It is a lot of farms and a lot of cows and devastating personally and financially for those affected.

Eradication will require a huge effort by the farmers affected and MPI and big changes within the dairy industry and those who support and service it.

 


Cull or contain?

May 28, 2018

The government will announce its decision today on whether it will attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis or contain the disease.

No other country has been able to eradicate it but no other developed country has such a reliance on agriculture in general and dairying in particular.

One factor which could make it less difficult to eradicate is that all cases identified so far have been traced back to a single source. A factor making it more difficult is problems with the National Animal Identification and Tracing system (NAIT).

Those problems are due in part to the system and in part to poor compliance.

Culling all cattle on properties where the disease has been found will be heartbreaking for the farmers and sharemilkers.

It will also be very, very expensive for them and for the government which must compensate them.

Opting for containment won’t be as expensive in the short term, but will have long term human, animal welfare and financial costs.

Whichever decision is made, there must also be improvements to the NAIT system and farmers must comply with requirements to track cattle movements.

There is no good option but opting for eradication would be the less worse one.

However, if that is done, it must be accompanied by significant improvements to communication with people whose stock are infected, or potentially infected.

There must also be significant improvements to the way, and speed at which, compensation payments are made.


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