Rural round-up

September 30, 2013

Dung beetle holds dairy farm hopes – Alison Rudd:

Could dung beetles be the environmental warriors New Zealand dairy farmers have been waiting for?

They happily chew through the poo, turning waste into soil fertiliser. And with the average dairy cow producing 11 cow pats every day, the beetles have plenty of work ahead of them.

The national Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group (DBRSG) this week released its first 500 dung beetles into the ”wild” on an organic dairy farm at Tuturau, near Wyndham. Beetles will also be released soon on three other farms elsewhere in the country.

DBRSG chairman John Pearce, who flew from Auckland to supervise the release, said the beetles were expected to naturally spread to all properties, although that would take many years. . .

Prison farm work fodder for future –  Timothy Brown:

The entranceway to the 21st century edifice which occupies a 60ha site outside Milton is the last landmark before tarseal gives way to gravel on Narrowdale Rd.

Just around the corner, two large gum trees stand guard at the entrance to a dairy farm and down the driveway workers can be seen performing their daily tasks.

They look like workers on any dairy farm, but at the end of the working day these workers will return to that edifice in the distance because this is the Otago Corrections Facility’s dairy farm.

At the end of the driveway, I am greeted by the dairy farm’s principal instructor, Tony Russell. . .

Farmer ownership imperative – Sally Rae:

Finding the solutions to implement change in the red meat industry is still the major barrier in reaching the Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) group’s goals, chairman Richard Young says.

In his inaugural chairman’s report, Mr Young said meat company talks had offered no solution to date. However, those talks were still continuing.

What it did offer, if successful, was a managed approach to dealing with overcapacity.

Managed rationalisations would have less impact on all stakeholders and offer better outcomes than unmanaged rationalisations. . .

Pastures to boost hill country production:

AT LEAST 40% of New Zealand is too steep to cultivate yet still less than 1000m above sea-level.

The challenges of improving pasture on such land are considerable, but as the early results of a long-term project show, establishment of more productive species is possible.

What’s more, with the work on four contrasting sites around the country (see panel) on-going as part of the Pastoral 21* initiative, the findings promise to fine-tune best practice for improving and maintaining such country in the future. . .

Best practice could cut emissions by 30%: FAO:

GREENHOUSE GAS emissions by the livestock sector could be cut by as much as 30% through the wider use of existing best practices and technologies, according to a new study released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The report, Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities, represents the most comprehensive estimate made to-date of livestock’s contribution to global warming – as well as the sector’s potential to help tackle the problem.

All told, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with livestock supply chains total 14.5% of all human-caused GHG releases. . .

All eyes on cute badger cull in the UK – Steve Wyn-Harris:

Recently I had eight English sheep farmers come for a farm visit. (There are nine Mexicans coming tomorrow, so perhaps it will be 10 Lithuanians next week).

One of them was Charles Sercombe, who is the National Farmers Union (NFU) livestock chairman. He farms in Leicestershire.

He told me the main issues in front of the union are the Common Agricultural Policy reform and their attempts to get on top of tuberculosis (Tb), which involves starting a badger cull.

This piqued my interest, so I asked him in detail about the issue. Tb has become a major problem and one of the vectors is the badger. . .

 

A Banks Peninsula company has won New Zealand’s top olive oil award for the second year running.

Robinsons Bay Olives from Akaroa took the best in show award as well as best in class in the commercial medium blend class at the New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Awards, where international judges commented on the high quality of the oils produced here. . .

Let’s move from fossil farming to future-proof farming:

“The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides a stark choice for New Zealand agriculture,” says Brendan Hoare, Chair of OANZ (Organics Aotearoa New Zealand). “We either grasp this opportunity to move away from fossil farming to future-proof farming – or we keep making the problem of climate change even worse by the way we farm. The status quo of more dams, more fertilisers and more animals per hectare is at least 20 years out of date. It is time to change the guard and our thinking.”  . .


Rural round-up

August 28, 2013

Badger cull beings in Somerset in attempt to tackle TB

A badger cull is under way in England despite protests, the National Farmers’ Union has confirmed.

About 5,000 badgers are expected to be killed in controlled shootings over six weeks in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Supporters say the cull is necessary to tackle bovine TB, which can be spread from infected badgers, but opponents say it is inhumane and ineffective.

The RSPCA said it was “saddened”, while anti-cull protesters held a vigil as the pilot began, initially in Somerset.

It is understood the cull in Gloucestershire will start later this week. . .

Non-chemical varroa control shows promise:

A bee breeding project that promises another non-chemical option for varroa control is gaining ground.

Nelson company, Rainbow Honey is continuing a programme started by Plant and Food Research to build up populations of honey bees that control the killer parasites in hives by interfering with their breeding cycle.

The bees carry a genetic trait, called the varroa sensitive hygienic or VSH trait.

Project leader Rae Butler says they’ve been building up VSH bee numbers in 80 trial hives to the stage where they’ve been able to reduce the number of chemical treatments needed to keep varroa under control. . .

Native larvae attacks grass grub:

Scientists are investigating a potential new biological control for one of New Zealand’s most voracious pasture pests, the grass grub.

Researchers from the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) made the discovery in Southbridge, Canterbury when they found grass grub pupae being eaten alive by maggots.

They identified the maggots as the larvae of a little known native carnivorous fly. . .

International Standard for Manuka Honey Already Exists Says Airborne Honey:

New Zealand’s oldest honey brand urges producers to stand together and support current international honey guidelines to save industry’s reputation

According to Airborne Honey, New Zealand’s oldest honey brand, embracing the existing CODEX International Standard for Honey would be the most appropriate and immediately effective response to global criticism of Manuka honey and how it is labelled and tested. This call for the industry to stand together comes as New Zealand honey hits the headlines again. Problems have surfaced in the UK about Manuka honey not being true to variety and also in Hong Kong where it has been reported that a large amount of honey is mislabeled as well as being significantly heat damaged. . .

MPI initiative to boost industry partnership a success:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has welcomed two new secondees from industry to its policy branch, after an initial secondment into the standards branch has proven to be a success.

Alistair Mowat from Zespri International Limited and Mark Ward from the Riddit Institute bring industry expertise to the policy group’s strategic team which focuses on long-term decision making and future work programmes. This follows on from an initial secondment in March.

“Having worked with a range of primary sectors at different levels of development enables me to add a unique set of strategic and innovative skills to the team,” says Mr Mowat who is working on the Export Double programme. . .

Increased forecast milk price, a positive for dairy farmers and all of New Zealand: Brown:

All of New Zealand will benefit from today’s announced 30 cent increase in the Forecast Farmgate Milk said Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Ian Brown.

The Fonterra Board of Directors today announced a revised Farmgate Milk Price forecast of $7.80 per kg/MS for the 2013/14 season, a 30 cent increase, keeping the advance rate at $ 5.50 and the previously estimated dividend at 32 cents per share.

Ian Brown: “This result shows the strength of demand on the international market for dairy products and the benefits will flow through New Zealand from farmers increased ability to spend on the inputs required to operate our dairy farms. . .

Entries open for 2014 Ballance Farm Awards:

Entries are now open for the 2014 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Awards, which have been running in the region for 11 years, celebrate responsible land stewardship and sustainable farm management practices.

Jocelyn Muller, the Canterbury Regional Coordinator for the Ballance Awards, said the awards continue to go from strength to strength in Canterbury.

“The Awards recognise and celebrate that best practice on-farm management is good for business and good for the environment. . .

Positive start to season for Zespri SunGold:

Zespri’s recently-commercialised gold kiwifruit variety SunGold is enjoying solid sales in 2013 and a great reception from consumers around the world.

Zespri President of Global Sales and Marketing Dan Mathieson gave growers an update from the markets on a recent visit to New Zealand and spoke about the growing level of confidence Zespri’s customers have in SunGold (also known as Gold3 in New Zealand).

“We’ve had an overall positive response to this juicy new variety and its refreshing sweet/sour taste balance in Japan, the rest of Asia, Europe and North America. With an increased volume, we’re now able to transition from Hort16A (Gold) to SunGold in more key markets and sales are going well,” says Dan. . .


Rural round-up

April 20, 2013

World record for Canterbury merino farmer – Tim Cronshaw:

Canterbury merino farmer Anna Emmerson has beaten the Australians at their own game by winning the Loro Piana Challenge Cup in Hong Kong with a world record bale of the finest merino wool.

She broke her own record of 10.9 microns set in 2010 with an ultra-fine bale in the competition held in Paris.

In the past, winning bales have made around $200,000, paid by the family owned clothing and fabric maker Loro Piana, led by Italian brothers Pier Luigi Loro Piana and Sergio Loro Piana.

The business does not disclose the amount paid other than that a premium was offered above its market value if it breaks a record. . .

First Australian for Kellogg leaders’ programme:

Lincoln University’s Kellogg Rural Leaders Programme has extended its welcome, with the course accepting its first Australian participant this year.

 The programme has welcomed Mary Johnson as the first Australian to join the course and also the youngest applicant in its 34-year history.

“I found out about the programme through my line of work at Cattle Council Australia and then through the Australian Beef Industry Foundation,” says Johnson.
“I did some of my own research and found that the Kellogg programme is all over the world, so I jumped at the opportunity.” . .

Partnership offers promise of profit – Tim Cronshaw:

Meat companies cannot afford to suffer more financial losses after losing $200 million last season, and farmers must commit stock to one company to ensure a healthy red- meat industry, says Lincoln University agribusiness professor Keith Woodford.

He told 600 farmers at a Christchurch meeting of the new Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) group on Wednesday that they had to work in partnership with the rest of the industry, because the combative approach was not working.

A sustainable industry, in which everyone made money, was the end game, he said. This would be challenging and require some restructuring. . .

Australians push for Korean FTA:

AUSTRALIAN BEEF farmers are pushing the Gillard Government to restart free trade agreement talks with South Korea. Industry leaders visited Seoul this month seeking to resume talks with the South Koreans.

The National Farmers Union says Australian beef producers stand to miss out on A$1.4 billion in exports to Korea unless a FTA is in place soon. It says the threat to other exports like wheat (A$350 million) and dairy (A$100 million) is also high.

FTA talks between Australia and South Korea stalled after the Australian cabinet banned even starting talks which require settling any type of investor-state dispute (allowing companies unhappy with their treatment in another country to seek arbitration in an agreed third jurisdiction). . .

Farmer protests fail to sway government

Protest meetings in Victoria and South Australia, further planned demonstrations and a direct meeting have all left Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig unmoved.

Farmer Power representatives met with Minister Ludwig last month at a meeting hosted by the Victorian Farmers Federation. The United Dairy Farmers of Victoria also attended.

The group asked for cash assistance to help farmers address cash flow problems. . .

Southern Clams Plans to Diversify with Bluff Oysters in Otago Harbour:

Within twelve months, Dunedin restaurants, could be serving live oysters on the shell straight from Otago Harbour. The plan is the brainchild of Southern Clams who have identified a unique opportunity to diversify their shellfish operations by utilising the certified growing waters of Otago Harbour.

In a consent application to the Otago Regional Council, tabled today, Southern Clams is proposing to take two year old oysters, which have been farmed by New Zealand’s Bluff Oyster Company (NZBO) in Bluff Harbour, and re-lay them in Otago Harbour for up to four weeks, until they meet statutory regulations for commercial harvest. . .


It’s the market that matters

July 15, 2012

Quote of the day:

. . . It’s not the market’s job to consume milk as and when the farmer produces it. It’s the farmer’s job to produce milk when the market needs it. . . Dr Jon Hauser

In New Zealand, as in Australia about which Dr Hauser writes, milk supply is mostly seasonal.

That is less of a problem here when most of our milk is turned into milk powder, butter or cheese and exported. In most other countries most milk is consumed domestically in fresh liquid form and demand is relatively constant regardless of any peaks or troughs in production.

But regardless of what happens to the milk, the underlying principle is the same – it is up to producers to meet the market in terms of quantity, quality and price.

This is a concept which European and British farmers who have been protected from the market by subsidies are struggling to grasp:

Up to 2,000 dairy farmers are expected in Westminster today to protest at cuts to the price they’re paid for their milk. Last year, dairy farmers received a little under 29p for every litre they sold: this is set to fall to less than 25p. Since it costs about 30p to produce a litre of milk, the cuts constitute yet another catastrophe for a benighted domestic industry, and may put many thousands of dairy farmers out of business. “There has been an unprecedented outcry of anger and frustration among farmers,” says the National Farmers’ Union. “We are united in our demand for an immediate reversal” of the cuts.

Prices for farmers have stalled over the last 15 years: in 1997 they were receiving 25p for a litre of milk, while feed costs alone have doubled since 2010. Half of Britain’s dairy farmers went out of business between 2000 and 2010. Like the pig farmers who only save themselves from going out of business by growing their own feed, dairy farmers will likely attempt to make up the shortfall by reducing staff, which will of course have corollary impact. . .

Welcome to the real world, where, as Tim Worstall observes supply and demand rule:

. . . We’re in a rigged market because of the EU. That’s one cause.

But far more importantly, we’ve the standard interaction of supply and demand. Dairy farming is becoming more efficient: as farming has been doing since the Neolithic. That rising food production is what has enabled civilisation to develop. More milk is being produced from less land with fewer cows. It really is not a surprise that prices paid to producers are falling in real terms.

The effect of this is to bankrupt some producers and force them out of production. Which is, harsh though it may sound, exactly what needs to happen. Production is becoming more efficient thus we need fewer producers. . .

A Yorkshire farmer we visited last month said that message was the one good thing to come out of the foot and mouth epidemic.

All his cows were killed and before he replaced his herd he went through the figures. He realised that dairying didn’t stack up for him and rather than buying more cows he increased the amount of crop he grows.

The market matters. Rather than wasting their energy on protesting to politicians, farmers should be working out how to meet it.


Delia’s NZ lamb promotion prompts storm in roasting pan

June 18, 2009

British culinary queen Delia Smith is advertising New Zealand lamb on her website: 

New Zealand Lamb is produced in lush pasturelands, where plentiful native grasses, fresh air and unlimited sunshine – over 2000 hours per year – all combine to give New Zealand Lamb great flavour and eating quality. The mild temperate climate also means that livestock can remain outside all year round, feeding on grass pasture without the need for nutrient supplements and, as there’s plenty of space for the animals to roam, they are essentially free range.

Nzlogo4 V Low Res And, naturally, there’s a link between what the sheep eat and the quality of their meat: it’s no surprise that feeding on juicy, nutrient-rich grass makes for meat that is also juicy and packed with flavour and nutritional value.

That sounds good to me but Delia’s getting a roasting from British farmers who reckon she should be promoting their lamb.

One concerned website reader, Lewis Palframan, said: ‘I’m gobsmacked and disappointed.

‘In the age of food miles and carbon footprints – not to mention the need for supporting British farming – what on earth is wrong with our own lamb?’

A spoksman for the National Farmers’ Union said: ‘British lamb is produced to some of the highest welfare standards possible and envied around the world for its quality.

‘We would urge consumers to buy British lamb, local if possible, and look out for the Red Tractor logo and quality standard mark.’

Delia received a CBE for her services to the British food industry. Her promotion of New Zealand lamb would be a bit like Alison Holst telling us to buy imported meat with but of course she wouldn’t do that when our lamb really is the best baa  bar none 🙂


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