Rural round-up

April 20, 2019

Better data will help us do a better job – Federated Farmers:

The Environment Aotearoa 2019 report released today will help all New Zealanders, not just farmers, identify the priorities for action.

But we can only manage what we have information on, Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“Our message during the last central government election campaign, when various candidates and commentators were putting the boot into farmers for environmental impacts, was that all Kiwis were in this together. This new report underlines exactly that. . .

Irrigation sector committed to continuing to improve environmental practices:

IrrigationNZ says the recent Environment Aotearoa report highlights the need for farmers and growers to continue work underway to: improve practices on-farm and upskill farmers; invest in cutting edge technology; and implement Farm Environmental Plans to change the way water is used for production.

“In partnership with national and regional government, it’s essential we continue to research, trial and adopt new practices and technology,” says Ms Soal.

“It is critical that we recognise that water is a precious resource which is essential for primary production and regional resilience in the face of climate change and that we use it in a way that is environmentally responsible,” says IrigationNZ Elizabeth Soal. . .

Dairy committed to a better environment:

DairyNZ says today’s Environment Aotearoa 2019 report gives honest insight into New Zealand’s environment and where the opportunities lie for the dairy sector, particularly for water quality, biodiversity and climate change.

Strategic leader for DairyNZ’s environmental portfolio, Dr David Burger, said while the report shows the dairy sector has work to do, there is no doubt farmers are working hard to look after the environment – with significant work already undertaken over the last 10 years to improve environmental practices across New Zealand. . .

Living affects the environment – Neal Wallace:

Our way of life is putting the environment under pressure.

A report produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand with evidence and trends of what is happening to the environment highlights nine key issues.

It is based on a comparison with previous reports, analysis of more than 60 indicators and new methods.

It found native plants, animals and ecosystems are under threat, changes to land vegetation are degrading soil and water, farming is polluting our waterways and water use affects freshwater ecosystems.

Urban centres create environmental pollution with urban sprawl occupying the best soils and destroying native biodiversity, it said. . .

Water tax decision allows environmental improvements to be targeted:

IrrigationNZ says the government’s decision not to introduce a water tax in the near future is good news for all New Zealanders.

“The Tax Working Group proposed a nationwide tax on all water use including for hydroelectricity, household, business and agricultural use. That would have resulted in higher power and food prices for households and businesses and higher rates bills for everyone,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal. . .

Wrightson gets OIO approval to sell seeds unit, still mulling size of return – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson has cleared the final hurdle to sell its seeds division to DLF Seeds for $434 million after securing Overseas Investment Office approval, but still hasn’t figured out how much to return to shareholders.

Now the OIO has signed off on the transaction, the rural services company anticipates the deal to settle either this month or May. . .

Whio ducks make a comeback after predator programme :

A nationally vulnerable duck species is making a comeback following a programme to curb predators in Fiordland.

About 64 breeding whio have been found during surveying of a security site for the blue ducks.

Department of Conservation Senior Ranger Andrew Smart said extended trapping efforts and predator control enabled the whio to make a strong comeback. . .


Rural round-up

April 15, 2019

Diversity makes a sound business – Neal Wallace:

Glen Eden farm is a busy place. Mark and Susannah Guscott, the owners of the South Wairarapa property, have fingers in multiple pies and for good measure are about to open tourist accommodation. Neal Wallace spoke to Mark Guscott.

Discussion groups visiting the Guscott family’s Glen Eden farm near Carterton comment on the complexity of the business.

But Mark and Susannah don’t see it that way. 

Certainly, there is plenty happening but Mark says once you get your head around the various elements it is not daunting. . .

Win a huge surprise – Yvonne O’Hara:

Cameron and Nicola van Dorsten, of Outram, have had an excellent couple of weeks.

Not only were they stunned to hear their name announced as the winners of the Share Farmer of the Year (SFOTY) competition in the 2019 Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards, they also spent a couple of weeks in Bali shortly after.

The awards dinner was held in Invercargill on March 27, and they won nearly $12,000 in prizes and four merit awards.

Mrs van Dorsten said they were stunned and thrilled with their success, especially as it was the first time they had entered. . .

From the shed to the kitchen – Yvonne O’Hara:

Jude Gamble’s day starts at 3.30am and often finishes about 7.00pm.

Her shopping list includes 10 trays of eggs a week and she uses two and a-half dozen every morning. She uses 2kg of bacon, 10 loaves of bread and 8 litres of milk a day.

She buys in 12 litres of cream a week, as well as 10kg lots of scone and muffin mixes, and the odd trailerload of potatoes. . .

Farmers ready for peas’ return – Annette Scott:

One more year under a pea-growing moratorium will ensure New Zealand can deliver a powerful message to overseas customers, Federated Farmers arable industry chairwoman Karen Williams says.

Pea growers were forced out of business in August 2016 when action kicked in to eradicate a pea weevil pest threatening the $150 million pea industry, including both the export pea seed markets and the processed green pea industry. . .

Eric Rush inspires Extension 350 farmers with rags to riches :

From the humble beginnings of hand-milking eight cows as a young Kaeo lad, to meeting the Queen of England, Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela – Former All Black Eric Rush had his audience captivated with his message that “success breeds success” when he spoke to 200 people involved in Northland’s Extension 350 project this week.

Rush was the keynote speaker at two events aimed at recognising the hard work of the target farmers, mentor farmer, consultants and partners of the Extension 350 farmer-to-farmer learning project in Northland. . . 

A tech revolution in agriculture is leaving some farmers without broadband behind – Tim Johnson:

Hundreds of thousands of American farmers wrestle with balky — or nonexistent — internet connections, the exasperating modern-day equivalent of the stubborn mule that wouldn’t pull a plow.

Farmers who lack rural connectivity increasingly lag in a tech revolution that offers robots, drones, sensors and self-driving tractors to farms lucky enough to have robust broadband. It is a rural digital divide on America’s farms that threatens to grow wider. . .


Rural round-up

April 13, 2019

Poll says farmers open to change – Neal Wallace:

Increasing numbers of farmers are focused on making their properties more environmentally sustainable but few plan to take steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

A Nielsen Research survey commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries shows 92% of farmers are addressing environmental sustainability, up from 79% in 2009, but just 23% are focused on reducing greenhouse gases, a drop from 30%.

That is despite 63% of farmers agreeing or strongly agreeing human activity is contributing to climate change, up from 54% in 2009, but lower than the 82% of New Zealanders who believe human activity is contributing to climate change. . . 

A lesson in clean dairying from two Waikato farmers – Gerald Piddock:

Being an effluent compliant dairy farmer is about pride and attitude for Alistair Johnson and Tony and Fran Allcock​.

Knowing that the potentially harmful cow muck is properly contained gives them peace of mind after the two Waikato dairy farmers spent thousands on upgrades for new systems on their respective farms near Te Awamutu and Te Rore.

Both opened up their farms to show off their systems to farmers at a recent DairyNZ field day. . . 

Gut health at heart of biotech success – Richard Rennie:

Chinese consumers’ understanding of the brain-gut health axis is paying dividends for Hamilton biotech firm Quantec following the launch of an award-winning nutrition drink. Co-founder Dr Rod Claycomb and chief executive Raewyn McPhillips spoke to Richard Rennie about the exciting potential of some of the company’s patented ingredients.

QUANTEC took out this year’s supreme award from the natural health products industry for the second time in as many years, making it the only company to do so. 

It is a reflection of the recent success the company has enjoyed following the launch of its milk protein and flax seed oil drink on the Chinese market. . . 

Dannevirke A&P show going to the dogs – Sue Emeny:

Dogs of all shapes and sizes will take over the Dannevirke A & P Showgrounds at the weekend when the Ruahine Kennel Association hosts its Dog Dayz show.

It’s an annual event that attracts dog owners from throughout New Zealand.

Ruahine Kennel Association president Tim Delaney says it’s a busy time for owners of pedigree dogs as there are shows just about every weekend.

The show is run over the two days with judging commencing at 9am on both days. . . 

I left Auckland to take the $150,000 job that no-one wanted – Fleur Guthrie:

Sitting down for a cuppa after cycling through the central North Island’s picturesque Timber Trail, Tracey Goodall turned to her partner, Michal Mudroncik, and made a throwaway comment: “Imagine if we lived somewhere like this.”

The outdoors-loving couple thought nothing more of it as they headed back to Auckland, but serendipity had already intersected.

Several days later, at work, Tracey’s colleague asked if anyone had seen “that job doing the rounds on social media” for a general manager of Forgotten World Adventures in Taumarunui. . . 

Let’s talk law: Bees over the boundary – Amy Cranston:

Gold fever has taken hold in the beekeeping industry.

The value of mānuka honey has led to unprecedented returns on marginal land, in both revenue and land value. Ironically, land once cleared for grazing is now left to revert to gorse and scrub to feed the bees.

Councils too are contributing to the planting of mānuka. In return, landowners are retiring steep or sensitive areas from grazing. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 12, 2019

Job offers roll in for Trainee of the Year – Yvonne O’Hara:

When Caycee Cormack left school she had intended to study physical education at Otago University, as she played a lot of sport.

At that stage she had not even considered working in the dairy industry as a career option.

Now she is the Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year and has a dozen job offers to consider.

This was the second time Ms Cormack had entered the competition – she placed third last year.

The win was even more remarkable because when she went through the final judging, she had only been out of hospital for two days after having her appendix removed.

Ms Cormack said she enjoyed the challenge of the competition. . . 

Landcorp will stick to its guns – Neal Wallace:

There are few roles in agriculture that have eluded Warren Parker’s career – except full-time farming, though he does live on a lifestyle block near Rotorua. Neal Wallace spoke to the new Landcorp chairman.

Now, more than ever, New Zealand agriculture needs a trailblazer, an entity with size and scope to test new systems and ventures,  new Landcorp chairman Warren Parker says.

He is happy for the state-owned enterprise, also known as Pamu, to be that entity given the breadth of challenges, from integrated farming systems to water and nutrient management and reducing its environmental footprint, farming faces. . . 

On a mission to lasso youth – Yvonne O’Hara:

Brooke Flett is keen to encourage young people to get involved in the agriculture sector.

After all, her passion for stock and for dairying led her to her career and to winning the 2018 Southern District Harcourts Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) Rural Ambassador Award.

She also won last year’s Young Farmers national stock-judging competition and the 2017 RAS Young Judge of the Year – Dairy.

Ms Flett attended the Royal Agricultural Society’s 2019 junior judging competition at Waikaka two weeks ago, which fitted in with her desire to encourage more young people to learn about stock management, enter shows and view agriculture as a career. . . 

Chipping in on the West Coast:

Our Emergency Response Team is lending a hand to get farms back up and running in the aftermath of recent storm.

You’ll find them following floods, in the sweep of storms and helping after hurricanes.

When natural disaster strikes members of Fonterra’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) can be quick to the scene to help farmers and New Zealand communties deal with often overwhelming recovery situations, such as the 2017 Edgecumbe flood

Right now a group of our ERT is working on the West Coast to help other kiwi farmers fix the storm damage and get farms functioning following the recent bout of bad weather.

National ERT Response Director Kevin Lockley says their current focus is fixing ruined fences and the crew of five working at Hokitika were selected because they have the best skills for the job. . . 

WHO pulls support from initiative promoting global move to plant based foods:

The World Health Organization pulled out of sponsoring a global initiative promoting healthier and sustainable diets across the world after pressure from an Italian official who raised concerns about the impact of the diet on people’s health and livelihoods.

The event—the launch of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health in Geneva, Switzerland on 28 March—still went ahead, sponsored by the government of Norway.

WHO dropped its planned sponsorship after Gian Lorenzo Cornado, Italy’s ambassador and permanent representative of Italy to the international organizations in Geneva, questioned the scientific basis for the diet which is focused on promoting predominantly plant based foods, and excluding foods deemed unhealthy, including meat and other animal based foods. . . 

Welfare the nub of mobile processing – Alastair Dowie:

Animal welfare and reduced stress is the core belief behind the development of a new mobile livestock processing system by Victorian-based company Provenir.

Provenir chief executive and co-founder Chris Balazs said the system introduced a unique, on-farm processing solution that provided the highest animal welfare by eliminating the need for live animal transport prior to processing.

Mr Balazs, a farmer, said the mobile processing unit (MPU) system was created to improve animal welfare and advance sustainable farming practices. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 11, 2019

Dairy loses gloss – Neal Wallace:

Political and banking uncertainty appears to be taking some of the gloss off the dairy industry with just seven farms in Southland and Canterbury selling in the last six months.

From October to the middle of March just two dairy farms in Canterbury and five in Southland were sold but a broader lack of buyer confidence has eased national dairy land prices by up to 15%.

Real Estate Institute spokesman Brian Peacocke says a perfect storm has taken the wind out of the sector’s sails but he notes activity has started to pick up.

Rules governing the sale of land to foreign buyers have been tightened, banks are viewing lending to dairying less favourably, tax changes are possible, the introduction of environmental taxes and regulations are expected and borrowing costs . . .

Dire worker shortage in orchards – Richard Rennie:

Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty orchardists are grappling again with a seasonal labour shortage, with a shortfall of thousands of workers expected as kiwifruit and apple harvests reach their peak.

The shortage has horticultural heads exasperated at the need for greater understanding from the Government of how dire the situation has become.

The Social Development Ministry declared a seasonal labour shortage for kiwifruit early this month and extended the already declared labour shortage hitting Hawke’s Bay. 

Shortfalls in staff numbers have increased over last year’s with Bay of Plenty’s deficit of 1400 likely to push 3800 at the mid-April harvest peak. Last year the region was short by 1200 staff at this stage of harvest.  . . 

Fruit rotting, workers suffering amid Hawke’s Bay labour shortage

Fruit is rotting on the ground in Hawke’s Bay amid a massive worker shortage and orchardists warn that overworked pickers are suffering more accidents.

The official labour shortage first declared for Hawke’s Bay six weeks ago – with 192 tourists granted approval to work in orchards – expired on Friday.

It was immediately extended, but growers say it’s too little too late.

Phil Paynter from Johnny Appleseed Holdings had to say goodbye to 22 hard-working pickers last week and says that with a little more warning, he could have kept them. . . 

Guy Trafford looks at two current on-farm issues, pointing to some recent relevant history for controlling feral goats, and to the battle of the science over glyphosate – GUy Trafford:

Some farmers are feeling let down by government after the recommendations from the select committee on military-styled weapons have been announced.

The particular piece that they are at odds with is that only .22 calibre rifles (or less) are allowed to be semi-automatic and with a magazine capable of holding 10 shells or less. Any larger calibre rifles are only to be used by licensed contractors.

To be fair to the government, from my recollection, at no point did they indicate that higher calibre semi-automatic rifles would be allowed, and it would have been incredibly naive to think otherwise. The only animals needing these weapons are likely to be goats with possums and rabbits quite able to be culled by .22 or shot guns . . 

Comvita to take full control of China JV – Rebecca Howard:

 (BusinessDesk) – Honey company Comvita has entered a conditional agreement to acquire the remaining 49 percent of its China joint venture, Comvita Food and Comvita China, for about $20 million.

Comvita will acquire the JV by issuing 4.05 million new Comvita ordinary shares at $4.35 per share and an additional cash payment of $3.19 million. The acquisition will be earnings accretive immediately on a per share basis, it said.

“This completes the ‘final piece of the jigsaw’ with respect to our China Strategy, which we have been working on for a number of years,” chief executive Scott Coulter said. . . 

Students inspired by agricultural science at UWA Future Farm:

Breaking the city-country divide, Year 12 Geography students from Penrhos College recently had their third annual field day at The University of Western Australia’s Ridgefield Farm in Pingelly.

The UWA Ridgefield Farm is home to the Future Farm 2050 project, which facilitates multidisciplinary research and development of sustainable and economically viable farms at local, national and international levels.

Professor Phil Vercoe from The UWA School of Agriculture and Environment and The UWA Institute of Agriculture introduced the students to the Enrich project, which was part of the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) investigating the benefits of planting native perennial shrubs as livestock feed. . .


Rural round-up

April 3, 2019

Westland Co-operative Dairy demise is self-inflicted – Keith Woodford:

The approaching demise of Westland Co-operative Dairy (trading as Westland Milk Products) has come as a surprise to many people.  It should not have done so.  At the very least, either a partial sale or major joint venture has been inevitable for some years. Survival as a co-operative is now impossible.

Most of the people I talk to think the sale to Chinese company Yili is a very bad idea. West Coasters do not like it. Even Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor is of that opinion. And if a sale really is necessary, then the common perspective seems to be that it should be a local company.

In response, I say ‘dream on’. . . 

Taratahi owes creditors $31 million – Neal Wallace:

Employees will get what they are owed but nearly 1200 unsecured creditors will have to wait to see if they will be paid any of the $15.8 million they are owed following December’s collapse of the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre.

An interim report by liquidators Grant Thornton says the sale of livestock will cover preferential creditors, employees, who are owed $2m, and Inland Revenue, owed $655,000, but there is no indication on the fate of other creditors.

Taratahi’s 518ha Mangarata farm is being readied for sale, over which Westpac has a secured mortgage, along stock, plant and shares. . . 

Crop work went like clockwork – Alan Williams:

Cropping demonstrations across cultivation, drilling, harvesting, balage and silage proceeded without a hitch at the South Island Agricultural Field Days at Kirwee in Canterbury.

Twelve or so hectares can sound like a lot of land area but with several different crops being grown on adjacent strips and some machinery being 10 metres wide there’s not a lot of margin for error.

It helps that each crop and activity is worked at separate times but there’s still a lot of planning and a lot of people to organise. . . 

Forestry sales at record high – reports – Eric Frykberg:

New evidence is emerging of a booming forestry sector.

It follows last month’s report from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) showing 2018 forestry sales at a record high.

Since then, the Seattle based think tank Wood Resource Quarterly has highlighted New Zealand’s role in growing imports of logs by China.

Wood Resource Quarterly said the Chinese took a total of 40 million cubic metres of lumber through their ports last year.

That was over a third more than just three years earlier. . .

Cushing family’s H&G to buy 2.2% Wrightson stake from Agria – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – The Cushing family’s H&G vehicle has agreed to buy a 2.2 percent stake in rural services firm PGG Wrightson from Agria Corp. for $8.3 million.

H&G has agreed to pay 49 cents a share for 17 million Wrightson shares, matching Friday’s closing price. Agria owns 351.6 million shares, or 46.6 percent of the rural services firm, having divested a 7.2 percent holding in December when Ngāi Tahu Capital withdrew from a seven-year pooling arrangement with Agria and Chinese agribusiness New Hope International. . . 

Record number of beekeepers have their say in latest check:

Almost a half of the country’s registered beekeepers have taken part in an annual survey to understand bee health, losses and beekeeping practice.

More than 3,600 beekeepers completed the 2018 Colony Loss Survey, which was carried out on behalf of Biosecurity New Zealand by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

“The numbers of beekeepers participating in the self-reporting survey represents 47 per cent of New Zealand’s registered beekeepers and 42 per cent of registered colonies,” says Biosecurity New Zealand’s biosecurity surveillance and incursion (aquatic and environment health) manager, Dr Michael Taylor. . . 

Miscanthus – a carbon negative crop:

Most annually harvested crops require a lot of activity to get them established, grown and harvested. They need cultivation of the soil, weed control, planting, fertiliser, harvesting, sometimes waste disposal, packing and loading on a truck. Most of them need all that every year. In many cases, there is further cultivation, planting and cutting of a cover crop during the off season as well. Again, every year!

Miscanthus on the other hand needs cultivation, planting and weed control – once in at least 15 years – perhaps 25 years – plus harvesting and loading on a truck every year from year 2 onwards. There is also no waste to be disposed of with Miscanthus. There is no need to cultivate the soil again, no need for ongoing weed control, no need to replant, no need for fertiliser in most cases.  . . 


Rural round-up

March 31, 2019

We cannot take food supply for granted – Neal Wallace:

News the Government will protect elite soils is welcome but by no means signals the resolution of broader challenges facing land use and the productive sector.

Land Squeeze Dinkus 1As reported in Farmers Weekly’s Land Squeeze series, the Ministry for the Environment has started the process of preparing a national policy statement for high-value soils, which will be finalised after consultation later this year.

That protection is needed because urban sprawl and lifestyle blocks swallow up to 100,000 hectares a year including Auckland paving 10,500 hectares of high-quality soil in the last 35 years.

Domestic food demand will only increase as New Zealand’s population is expected to hit five million in 2020 and 5.5m in 2025 while demand will also rise from an ever-expanding global population. . . 

Spud family name’s on the packet – Tim Fulton:

James Bowan grows potatoes for a nationwide paddock-to-packet potato chip brand.  Nearly a decade after the business started he’s still happiest in the paddock. Tim Fulton reports.

The Bowan family farms more than 600ha at Orari in South Canterbury. Down the road at industrial Washdyke, in the slipstream of Timaru, the family also runs the Heartland chips processing plant.

Fallgate Farm includes 250-odd hectares of spuds, 320ha of combinable cereals,150ha of grass seed and a few other bits and pieces, especially seeds.

It adds up to a lot of business from farm to shop shelf but James isn’t bothered with the trappings of corporate hierarchy. . . 

Action groups following different paths – Sally Rae:

More than 900 farmers have signed up to the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) Action Network to help make their farming businesses more productive and profitable.

Each of the Action Groups involved chose a different pathway in the search for solutions to the challenges they faced.

Four action groups in the Milton and Lawrence districts had a lot in common, both in their origins and their goals.

They grew out of two large discussion groups of sheep and beef farmers running in these areas for several years before the RMPP programme kicked into action.

The common link between all four was Simon Glennie, a sheep, beef and deer farming consultant with AbacusBio. . . 

Fonterra’s new management team gives hope – Sudesh Kissun:

Waikato Federated Farmers president Andrew McGiven is happy to see Fonterra back in the black.

He hopes that changes heralded by the new management team signal the start of “some green shoots” for the co-op.

“As a Fonterra farmer I am happy to see that they have posted a net profit and I am happy with some of the rhetoric from board and management about the consolidation of the business,” he told Dairy News. . . 

Support for biosecurity levy:

A big majority of 1794 submissions received by DairyNZ on the biosecurity response levy were supportive.

Sixty-one percent of submissions from farmers backed DairyNZ managing the levy on their behalf and raising the maximum cap to 3.9 cents/kgMS. That totalled 1088 supportive submissions and 706 against.

“We appreciated the candid conversations and the opportunity to discuss not just the proposed levy, but also DairyNZ more widely,” DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel says in a letter to farmers. . . 

Win proves area’s wine can age well: manager:

Wild Earth Wines’ success at the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards earlier this month proves Central Otago wines can age gracefully, marketing and sales manager Elbert Jolink says.

The boutique winery in Cromwell won the Best Pinot Noir trophy of the show during the formal awards dinner in Auckland on March 9.

Mount Pisa winery Ata Mara won both a gold medal and the Red Badge Security Champion Riesling trophy for its Central Otago 2018 Riesling. . . 

 


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