Rural round-up

07/11/2020

Meat’s outlook looks reddish – David Anderson:

New Zealand beef and sheep farmers are facing more than 25% less income in the season ahead.

That’s the conclusion of Beef+Lamb NZ (BLNZ) in its recently released new season outlook for 2020-21. It is forecasting lamb export receipts to decline by almost 15% and sheepmeat co-products to decline by around 8% compared to the 2019-20 season.

Beef and veal export revenue is forecast to decline by 9% on 2019-20. “The uncertainty in the export market will be reflected in farm-gate prices and subsequent farm profitability,” says BLNZ’s chief economist Andrew Burtt. . . 

NZ challenges US farm subsidies :

New Zealand is questioning whether Donald Trump’s payments of billions of dollars to American farmers go beyond the limits allowed under international trade rules.

The Trump administration forked out US$12 billion in subsidies in 2018 to buffer American farmers from the fallout of the President’s trade war with China. It topped that up with another US$16bn in 2019.

Billions more were set aside after covid-19 dealt a further blow to US farm incomes, which are forecast to drop this year by 15% even after subsidies are accounted for.

According to one US report, payments from the federal government will make up 36% of American farm incomes this year – the highest share since 2001. . . 

New Zealand red meat exports to United States leap 50 per cent in third quarter:

New Zealand’s red meat sector continued to demonstrate its agility in the third quarter with exports to the United States growing by 50 per cent over the three months from July to September compared to a year earlier.

Total exports to the US reached $400 million for the quarter, closely followed by a 42 per cent rise to the UK ($71m) and Germany, a 25 per cent increase to $70m.

The growth in the third quarter offset a 25 per cent decline to China ($530m) although the value of sheepmeat and beef exports to China remains at an historically high level. Overall, exports in the third quarter were $1.69 billion, unchanged from the same period in 2019. . . 

Wool course plans national rollout – Neal Wallace:

The level of interest in a wool grading course has encouraged organisers to take it on the road.

Organised by the Southern Institute of Technology and held at its Telford campus near Balclutha, the plan is to buy a trailer to take equipment and samples to woolsheds to make it easier for people to access training.

The two-day block session for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) approved course held earlier this month, attracted 14 wool handlers from throughout the South Island.

The course is completed through distance learning and filing assignments; one on shed inspection and a grading report on a clip they prepared. . . 

2021 Ngā Karahipi Uru Rākau – Forestry Scholarship recipients selected :

Ngā Karahipi Uru Rākau – Forestry Scholarship is pleased to support another eight aspiring New Zealanders to study and pursue careers in forestry, with its 2021 Scholarship recipients announced today.

Now in its third year, the Scholarships are increasing diversity in forestry sciences and engineering, with a strong focus on encouraging Māori and women to embark on forestry careers.

“Māori and women represent only a small percentage of the forestry workforce. Te Uru Rākau endeavours to change that and make the forestry and wood processing sector more reflective of our communities,” says Henry Weston, Acting Deputy Director-General Te Uru Rākau/ Forestry New Zealand. . . 

Heirlooms – naturally – for one Mansfield small farm business – Andrew Miller:

Mansfield’s self-confessed “small scale farmer” Simone Boyd is on a mission to show Victorians carrots come in more colours than orange and not every lettuce is green.

Ms Boyd, and husband Cam, grow vegetables on a small property in the north-eastern town, selling at farmers markets, to restaurants and now branching out into online sales through their Heirloom Naturally business.

She says heirloom vegetables are much like precious pieces of jewellery, or furniture, which are passed down from generation to generation, after being saved season after season. . . 

 


Rural round-up

06/11/2020

Feds: staff shortages are undermining safety, mental wellbeing:

Skilled staff shortages are not only taking a toll on productivity but also farmer mental wellbeing, Federated Farmers Dairy Chair and rural health spokesperson Wayne Langford says.

“Farmers across New Zealand are having to push the limits to get silage/baleage cut, with many crops in the South Island being harvested when it’s wet.

“With variable weather conditions and a lack of skilled contracting staff, farmers are being pushed to make questionable decisions, such as pushing on with mowing because if they don’t they may not see the contractor again for weeks.” . . 

Dairy farming ‘one of the shining stars of Covid’ – ANZ :

Recent banking results show dairy farming might be one of the “shining stars” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

ANZ chief executive Antonia Watson said New Zealand’s farming sector had taken advantage of good prices for their products.

This means they were able to pay down the principal of their loans.

The problems in the dairy industry usually feature large in ANZ Bank’s full year results but they were absent from its latest annual report. . . 

Foreign investors get land purchase approval – Neal Wallace:

Two foreign-owned forestry companies have been given Government approval to buy land in multiple transactions without requiring approval for each purchase from the Overseas Investment Office.

Known as standing consent, Oji Fibre Solutions and Nelson Forests can both buy up to 15,000ha of sensitive land up to a maximum single purchase of 2500ha of land that is exclusively or nearly exclusively in forestry.

The approval also allows the two companies to buy a maximum of 500ha of land per transaction that is not currently in forestry.

The permission is capped at 25 transactions, excludes residential land and expires on 30 September 2023. . . 

Feds on labour issues as DairyNZ shelves GoDairy – Gerald Piddock:

DairyNZ’S shelving of its GoDairy campaign has shown how hard it is to recruit people into the dairy industry, Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

DairyNZ has put the dairy training initiative on hold until March as it reviews the three-week course and looks at ways it could be improved.

Federated Farmers assisted DairyNZ in getting GoDairy up and running while at the same time, launching its own scheme to get more New Zealanders onto farms.

He says those who had successfully gained employment were given starter packs from Federated Farmers and so far, 240 packs had been sent out. . . 

Feds president Andrew Hoggard elected to IDF board:

Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard is well used to representing New Zealand’s farmers. On top of that, he’ll now be representing dairy farmers from all corners of the planet on the board of the International Dairy Federation.

The Manawatu dairy farmer gets up at 4.30am to milk his herd but at least once or twice a month it’s going to be midnight or 1am starts as he joins on-line northern hemisphere meetings.

The IDF is the only organisation which represents the entire dairy value chain at global level – from farm gate to retailer fridge. Hundreds of millions of people depend on the dairy sector for their livelihoods as farmers, processors, suppliers or traders and every day billions of people consume protein, calcium and other key nutrients from milk and dairy products. . . 

Avian flu: 13,000 birds to be culled at Cheshire farm :

A total of 13,000 chickens are to be culled after an outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) was confirmed at a Cheshire farm.

The H5N8 strain of the disease was confirmed at a broiler breeder’s premises near Frodsham on Monday (2 November).

It follows the unrelated discovery of the H5N2 low pathogenic strain of the virus at a small commercial poultry farm in Deal, Kent, where 480 birds have been culled.

Authorities said all 13,000 birds at the Frodsham premises, which produces hatching eggs, will be humanely culled to limit the spread of the disease. . . 


Rural round-up

28/10/2020

Back the sector that backs New Zealand – Sam McIvor:

The biggest issue currently facing our industry is environmental policy, writes Beef+Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor.

Farmers are passionate about being good stewards of their land and want to do the right thing. However, the scale and pace of new government regulations is impacting the financial viability of farming, affecting farmers’ confidence in their industry and having adverse effects on mental health.

In the next government term, we need to see improvements in the essential freshwater regulations to make the rules workable for farmers so they can get on with achieving the desired water health outcomes.

Meanwhile, the government must get fossil fuel emitters to reduce their emissions rather than just planting their pollution on our farms. Limits must be set on the amount of offsetting allowed in the ETS before it’s too late and further swathes of productive sheep and beef farmland are converted to forestry for carbon farming. The RMA isn’t the right tool to fix this problem, but we can work with the government on what is.  . . 

Meat forecast raises questions – Neal Wallace:

Forecasts that this year’s export lamb crop could be below 18 million for the first time has observers questioning what the impact will be.

Beef + Lamb NZ’s (B+LNZ) new season outlook is forecasting the value of meat exports to fall $1 billion to $7.4bn in the coming year due to market uncertainty from the covid-19 pandemic and increased competition for beef markets.

The report forecasts a lamb crop of 22.3 million, of which 17.4m will be processed for export.

Last year the crop was 23.3m, of which 18.7m were processed. . . 

Sector needs breathing space – Neal Wallace:

Farming leaders say they can work with the incoming government but are asking for space to allow the sector to adjust to regulations introduced by the previous administration.

Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) chair Andrew Morrison says a priority for the next three years will be developing and enhancing trade, especially free trade agreements with the UK and European Union.

But he is asking that the Government give farmers time to implement new freshwater and climate change rules and regulations.

“Don’t give us more stuff, let us deliver this stuff first,” he said. . . 

Van der Poel, Glass re-elected by farmers – Sudesh Kissun:

Dairy farmers have returned Jim van der Poel and Colin Glass as DairyNZ directors for another three-year term.

Van der Poel, who chairs the industry-good organisation and Glass, chief executive of Dairy Holdings Ltd, saw off a challenge from young Ashburton farmer Cole Groves in this year’s director elections.

The result was announced at DairyNZ’s annual meeting in Ashburton last night. . . 

History underpins infant formula operation – Richard Davison:

French food and drink giant Danone enjoys closer links to New Zealand — and particularly the deep South — than might at first be apparent. Richard Davison finds out more about the company’s plans for its Clydevale, South Otago, operation as it invests $30million in green energy, and in its latest boost to local employment.

Danone, founded in Barcelona, Spain in 1919 by Isaac Carasso, and perhaps best known for dominating the yoghurt and dairy food markets in Europe, is better known domestically for its foothold in the infant formula market.

Brands such as Aptamil and Karicare are familiar names to many a Kiwi mum, and the latter brand also has a close historical association with a key New Zealand identity.

New Plymouth-born Sir Truby King was a noted innovator in many areas and, during the early 1900s, ran a dairy farm and logging operation in remote Catlins hamlet Tahakopa. . .

From defense to disruption, how companies are approaching sustainability in the food system:

When Mary Shelman, an internationally recognized thought leader and speaker, takes to the stage, there are many accolades and qualifications she could list to introduce herself. But she always starts like this:

“You’ll see that I live in Boston. You know, I was at Harvard Business school, but I’m from Kentucky. And not only Kentucky- my Dad was a farm equipment dealer there, and then when I was in middle school, he bought one farm and then a second farm.”

The generations before her -on both sides – were all from Kentucky.

 “Always in agriculture, always too poor to own their own land,” she said.  . . 


Rural round-up

20/10/2020

New government needs to release the uncertainty handbrake – Andrew Hoggard:

As politicians engage in a last-week frenzy of campaigning and sniping and mall walkabouts, it’s now up to the voters.  Surely there’s enough at stake this election to galvanise even the most jaded elector into exercising their democratic right. 

COVID-19 and our push for economic recovery is just another reason why we need MPs who will listen carefully, work hard and put pragmatism ahead of rigid ideology.

Farmers, like all New Zealanders, are vitally interested in Saturday’s result.  The fact that agricultural issues have gained more of the spotlight on the hustings and in the televised debates this time around than in some elections past is probably due to recognition that we need thriving primary industries if we’re to dig our way out of the pandemic financial hole, and start to pay back some of the billions of dollars borrowed since March.

Federated Farmers has hammered three key issues that the nation needs to get right if we’re to look after our producers, the backbone of our exports and our environment.  Whatever government dominates the front benches after the weekend, we need: . . 

MfE steadfast on winter grazing dates – Neal Wallace:

Dates by when grazed winter cropped paddocks must be resown were included in freshwater legislation to provide regulatory compliance, Government officials say.

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) says in response to questions from Farmers Weekly, the resowing dates provide “regulatory certainty” and that they will not be changed.

“Without a fixed date the status of the activity, that is whether it was permitted or needed a consent, could remain unresolved after it concluded. This would have made it difficult for councils to enforce,” they said.

Introduced as part of the Government’s essential freshwater rules, most of NZ-grazed winter crop paddocks must be resown by October 1. . .

Katie Milne wins Agricultural Communicator of the Year:

West Coast dairy farmer and former President of Federated Farmers Katie Milne was last night named the 2020 Ravensdown Agricultural Communicator of the year.

The award recognises people making a significant contribution to communicating agricultural issues, events and information.

Katie Milne was the first female President of Federated Farmers in its 118-year history and served between 2017 and 2020. She advocated on behalf of farmers affected by M-bovis and helped spearhead the subsequent eradication programme. Most recently she argued powerfully to have primary sector businesses recognised as essential services during the Covid-19 lockdown. . .

Honouring our wartime ‘land girls’ – Simon Edwards:

The ‘Land Girls’ are largely unsung heroes of New Zealand’s World War II experience and Fiona, Lady Elworthy, of Timaru was determined that in her district at least there should be a memorial to them.

While men took up arms against the Axis enemies, Women’s Land Service (WLS) members placed on farms back home had their own sorts of battles with totally unfamiliar tasks, long hours, isolation, equipment shortages – and with prejudice.

Thanks to the efforts of Lady Elworthy, former Women’s Land Service members Sadie Lietze now 97, and Joan Butland – who forged her father’s signature at age 17 so she could join the WLS – a plaque and seat will be unveiled during a ceremony and picnic at Maungati in South Canterbury on Sunday.

The memorial sits among the cherry trees and native plants of Rongomaraeroa (the Long Pathway to Peace), a reserve established by Lady Elworthy to honour her late husband.   Sir Peter Elworthy, a former Federated Farmers president, was a Nuffield Scholar who was also founding president of the NZ Deer Farmers’ Association. . . 

Fonterra’s Chile investment looking good :

Fonterra’s Prolesur is leading the charge in the dramatic recovery in Chilean milk production as the company reaps the benefits of rebuilding relationships with farmers.

The Latin American nation’s liquid milk collection reached 1.3 billion litres in the first eight months of the year, up 6.3% from a year earlier, or 79 million litres. More than half of that increase went to Prolesur. This compares to the 12.8bn litre collection in New Zealand in the first eight months of the year. 

“Prolesur has been working over the last 18 months to regain milk volumes that it lost in 2018-19. This has been achieved through working closely with farmers to regain trust and competitive pricing,” Prolesur managing director Erich Becker said.

Prolesur collected 147ML versus 103.5ML in the eight months through August 2019, a whopping 42% lift. Fonterra’s other Chilean business, Soprole, also posted an increase, collecting 124ML versus 120m in the prior year. . . 

 

 

Villa Maria Estate launches  the New Zealand’s first wine-based seltzer:

New Zealand’s most awarded winery, Villa Maria Estate, owners of the Villa Maria, Esk Valley, Leftfield, Vidal and Thornbury brands, is launching the country’s first wine-based seltzer – LF Wine Seltzers.

The iconic wine business founded in 1961 will launch LF Seltzer later this month, a product crafted using its premium Leftfield wines, sparkling water and locally-sourced natural botanicals in three flavours – Yuzu, Mint & Cucumber with Sauvignon Blanc, Pear & Ginger with Pinot Gris and Strawberry & Hibiscus with Rosé.

The move comes amidst a serious shake up of the RTD category which continues to expand in line with the booming global seltzer market. . . 

From paddock To Ponsonby – dogs’ appetite for possum growing nationwide:

Kiwi pooches’ growing appetite for possum is helping to create jobs and putting a dent in New Zealand’s pest population.

In the past year, New Zealand dogs have devoured more than 100,000 kg of possum meat – or approximately 70,000 possums – in the form of Possyum dog rolls and dried treats.

New Zealand’s largest possum meat dog food producer Fond Foods has seen demand for Possyum double since 2017 and has recently hit a milestone of 500,000 kg of possum meat used in its possum meat products since 2010. . . 

 

 


Rural round-up

07/10/2020

Weather leaves SI farmers feeling defeated – Neal Wallace:

Dean Rabbidge, who last week had five centimetres of snow on his farm but after thawing was inundated with between 60mm and 70mm of rain at the weekend, is normally a glass half-full type of bloke, but the Wyndham, Southland, farmer concedes his usual optimism is being sorely tested this spring.

“I’m over it,” he said.

“We’ve had no reprieve since the end of August.

“It has been weather event after weather event after weather event.

“We get three or four nice days then another weather event either rain, snow or wind. . . 

Southland’s ‘crazy weather’ makes freshwater rules difficult to follow

Flooding in lower Southland over the weekend shows how difficult it is for farmers to adhere to controversial new government regulations, Bernadette Hunt says.

“It is another example of why resowing by a regulated date, as opposed to when conditions are suitable, just doesn’t make sense,” Hunt, who is Federated Farmers vice president for Southland, told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

Hunt was referring to regulations in the government’s National Environmental Standards for Freshwater, which said farmers in Southland and Otago would be required to resow winter feed crop paddocks by November 1.

Although the sudden flooding over the weekend was unexpected, “crazy weather in October” was not unusual in the region, and any environmental regulations had to take that into account, Hunt said. . . 

Longest running field days all go :

The South Island Agricultural Field Days, held in Kirwee on the outskirts of Christchurch, will celebrate its 70th year in March 2021 with a bigger demonstration area.

Chairperson Michaela McLeod is describing it as the perfect opportunity to celebrate the industry that has been the backbone of New Zealand’s economy during the uncertain times of Covid-19.

“The agricultural industry has hardly skipped a beat over the past few months, and we see the South Island Agricultural Field Days as the perfect place for farmers, contractors and our industry to come together and share their stories, celebrate their successes and look for opportunities to improve their businesses. . . 

Kidding around on farm – Gerald Piddock:

An Auckland farmer has made the transition from milking cows to goats and has now established the largest goat farm in New Zealand. Gerald Piddock reports.

Matthew and Sarah Bolton established Oete Farm to showcase the dairy goat industry to New Zealanders.

Their success at this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards, where they won the supreme award along with four category awards for the Auckland region, validated the journey the business has undertaken since it was established six years ago.

Matthew says the awards success reflected the hard work and team effort from his 30 full and part-time staff spread across the 273-hectare farm at Patumahoe, west of Pukekohe. . . 

Tatua Co-Operative Dairy announces record earnings of $151m for year – Lawrence Gullery:

A Waikato dairy company credits its strong end of year result to its staff which adapted and worked through the Covid-19 alert levels.

Tatua Co-Operative Dairy achieved group revenue of $381 million, and earnings of $151m, in its financial results for 2019-20.

Group revenue was the income received from selling product, goods and services. Earnings was the profit before milk payments to suppliers and tax. . . 

Farming through risk – Tim Keegan:

I’ve lived through tornadoes and hailstorms—but I’ve never seen anything like the derecho that blasted across Iowa and the Midwest on August 10.

Only in the last few days has life on my farm returned to something that resembles normal. For nearly three weeks, we’ve been cleaning up, helping neighbors, and assessing the massive damage.

My family is luckier than a lot of my fellow Iowans. On our farm, near the town of Mount Vernon, the storm did a lot of damage to trees, buildings, and grain bins. It also flattened or damaged a lot of our corn. We’re still not sure how much of it we’ll recover.

But in so many places the devastation is a lot worse. . . 


Rural round-up

03/10/2020

Green bureaucrats pushing our farmers to the brink – Nick Cater:

While it would be foolish to judge a movie by its trailer, the Australian-made feature film Rams is looking like a parable for our times. It is a battle between bureaucrats and two honest, hardworking farmers played by Sam Neill and Michael Caton, heavily disguised behind beards.

When inspectors discover a single sick ram they respond by seizing every sheep in the valley. Neill and Caton resist by hiding their breeding stock in their homes, covering their tracks with copious quantities of air freshener.

Let’s hope it ends happily, unlike in real life, when a farmer caught in the sights of the farming police is generally on a hiding to nothing.

Late last year the National Farmers Federation set the laudable goal of increasing the value of farm production from about $60bn a year to $100bn a year by 2030. Good luck. The regulators and their enforcers have other ideas. Their intention is to limit the expansion of farming and, if possible, force it into retreat, turning farmers from food producers into unpaid stewards of native trees and grasses. . . 

Big costs for freshwater compliance – Neal Wallace:

Meeting new freshwater regulations will cost landowners $900 million and another $140m a year in annual compliance costs and loss of profits.

Farmers Weekly has collated forecast costs from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) in the Action for Healthy Waterways policy, which variously came into force from September 3.

Fencing 32,000km of waterways to meet new stock exclusion, regulations will cost farmers $773m, while the loss of production on the 19,000ha lost from the three-metre riparian setback is estimated at a further $17m.

The MfE calculates fencing costs at $5/m for dairy, $14/m for sheep and beef and $20/m for deer. . . 

Crown land limits harm NZ branding – Philip Todhunter:

“Our primary sector is such a huge part of our economy and our brand.”

So said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on July 7, announcing the launch of a plan to help farmers “to fetch more value, create more jobs and bolster our green reputation”.

Sixteen days later, her Land Information Minister introduced a Bill that threatens the economic future of a collection of farms that embody Brand New Zealand; compromises the ability of those farms to provide the raw materials that underpin some truly global labels; and puts at risk the long-term environmental wellbeing of the land it is supposed to protect.

A week, as they say, is a long time in politics.

Currently, 1.2million hectares of the South Island comes under the Crown Pastoral Lease regime. These are not the type of leases that cover a house or commercial building: while they have 33-year terms, they are perpetually renewable, meaning the leaseholder enjoys exclusive possession of the land indefinitely. . . 

Proud to reach 30 year milestone – Mary-Jo Tohill:

On Christmas Eve 1989, two Earnscleugh orchardists walked into an Alexandra lawyer’s office — and walked out with an irrigation scheme.

There were two key players in ‘Team Tony’; Tony Banks, the 2016 recipient of the Ron Cocks Memorial award for outstanding leadership in the irrigation industry, and Earnscleugh Irrigation Company managing director Tony Lepper.

These were the days when landowners were promised a new, fully piped irrigation scheme, through the Clutha Development (Clyde Dam) Empowering Act 1982, and when the Government was divesting itself of irrigation schemes.

“By 1986, $21million was touted for an Earnscleugh upgrade, but the settlers [the landowners] said they couldn’t afford $677 per hectare,” Mr Lepper said. . . 

Spring surprise – Neal Wallace:

A rapid thaw has eased the worst effects of this week’s storm, which blanketed much of Otago and Southland in snow and caused lamb losses described by some farmers as the worst ever.

Actual losses will not be known until tailing, but Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young expects the storm will reduce his lambing percentage by 5%.

His Cattle Fat Station property is in the area hit by the heaviest snow, which encompasses Waikaka, Waikaia and West Otago hill country areas, where lambing was under way.

Coastal South Otago and the southeast corner of Southland were also hit hard. . . 

Gutsy fight: Livestock agent Mike Wilson shares his story of survival to help save others in the bush – Lucy Kinbacher:

Most people know Mike Wilson as the bloke at the bull sale with a pen in his hand and notepad in his back pocket.

He takes a seat on the bottom row of the grandstand, a strategic position where the auctioneer can see his subtle, yet impactful bids.

There’s a couple of buyers cards wedged inside his catalogue and he wears a vest, even when the weather is a little warm.

On the outside you’d hardly think there was anything different with the 70-year-old livestock agent. . . 


Rural round-up

23/08/2020

Water rules ‘unworkable’ – Neal Wallace:

Environment Southland may ask the Government to relax new strict rules controlling the winter grazing of livestock which is widely considered as unworkable in the cooler southern region.

Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young has upped the pressure on the Government, advising members not to seek resource consent if they are unable to meet the new grazing regulations.

Southern farmers are angered at the requirement to resow winter crop paddocks by November 1, a month later than the rest of NZ, the extent of pugging permitted on paddocks and limits on winter grazing paddocks with a mean slope exceeding 10 degrees.

These provisions are included in the suite of essential freshwater measures regulations released in May.

Labour fails to plan for primary sector :

Labour needs to stand up for the essential primary sector workers who are wrongly being turned away at Auckland region checkpoints, MP for Hunua Andrew Bayly and National’s Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett say.

“Auckland is almost 10 days into their regional lockdown and there has still been no specific exemptions granted by the Ministry of Health to allow primary sector workers to carry out essential services across the Auckland regional border.” Mr Bayly says.

“These travel exemptions should have been ready to go at the first sign of regional restrictions. Instead, it has taken a week for the Minister to secure exemptions for the dairy, horticulture, and poultry sectors.”. . . 

Meat companies forced to divert product – Neal Wallace:

Meat companies are changing portion sizes and targeting mid-week meals as they switch products from food service to chilled retail markets.

Farmers Weekly last week reported the demise of food service markets around the world due to the global covid-19 pandemic forcing meat companies to divert product away from traditional frozen and food service markets.

AgriHQ senior analyst Mel Croad says any increase in chilled meat volumes is welcome. . .

It’s the beta-casein and premium product that makes a big difference between a2 Milk and Fonterra – Point of Order:

Investors  this week took  the  phenomenal result  for a2 Milk   in  their  stride, but  it  may have produced  a few blinks  round   the   nation’s  dairy farms,  particularly  with  the  farmer-suppliers  of  Fonterra. 

Take – for example – a2 Milk’s  earnings  per share  of  52.39c  and contrast them with Fonterra’s 17c per share  in 2019,  or  its  net  profit  of $385.8m   versus  Fonterra’s loss  of $605m.

There  are  other  mind-blowing  figures  from  a2 Milk: total revenue  of  $1.73bn, up  32.8%; ebitda of $549.7m, a  rise of 32.9%;  and operating cash flow of $427.4m. Not to  mention  a  cash  mountain  it has  built up of  $854.2m. . . 

Career off to a good start :

Nineteen-year-old Ashlee Ennis is thrilled she has got a job on a dairy farm after recently completing three-weeks of GoDairy Farm Ready Training with DairyNZ.

Hailing from Tauranga, Ashlee has moved to Taupo for a role as a farm assistant and is excited by her new career.

She says she is relishing getting stuck in helping out with calving.

“It’s been great to get into the work and learn more on the job. I definitely see a future for myself in dairy farming,” she said. “I didn’t grow up on a farm but my mum did and she always loved it. I love working with animals.” . . 

One scientist’s ambitious plan to achieve global cooling with cattle – Farmer Georgie:

Farts are funny. Burger King thinks yodeling about cow farts is even funnier. In mid-July, the fast food chain released on Twitter an ad campaign starring boot-stomping kids, led by Mason Ramsey of Walmart Yodeling Kid fame, singing about cow farts contributing to global warming and claiming that lemongrass can reduce methane in those farts by a third.

The ad, part of the company’s #CowsMenu campaign, generated a backlash of social media criticism. Pissed-off ranchers and a concerned science community pointed out that the ad perpetuated a long-standing misconception about cow farts and the hotly debated narrative that cows are a major climate change problem. Plus, it promoted an unproven solution as its big greenhouse gas win. In doing so, Burger King missed the chance to highlight the real potential for change: turning cows and their methane-producing digestive systems into a climate cooling solution. . .


Rural round-up

21/08/2020

Coronavirus: Millions of bees starve to death as beekeepers held up at COVID-19 checkpoints – James Fyfe:

Millions of bees have starved to death after COVID-19 checkpoints in and out of Auckland caused a delay in beekeepers accessing their hives.

Wetex Kang of Waitakaruru Honey Limited says around 2.5 million bees died after workers were unable to travel from Waikato to Auckland to feed the bees.

Kang, who is based in Auckland, says many of his business’ 2000 beehives are scattered across the North Island, as are the staff who care for them. . . 

Women’s farm training winner – Sally Rae:

A farm training institute with a difference is opening its gates in Northern Southland next year. Business and rural editor Sally Rae finds out more.

When Covid-19 claimed the clientele of her agri-tourism venture near Kingston, Laura Douglas spent a couple of days crying inconsolably.

Still on a high from taking her farm animals to Wanaka A&P Show for a display, she received a phone call from international bus company Contiki two days later, cancelling its visits.

Those tours came through Real Country every month – every week in summer – and represented about 65% of her revenue. Corporate groups also cancelled as the country went into lockdown. . . 

Armadillo Merino aims for the moon – Neal Wallace:

Merino wool has long been praised for its versatility, but Andy Caughey tells Neal Wallace how he is taking use of this miracle fibre to a whole new level.

THE qualities of New Zealand Merino wool clothing are being tested in some of the planet’s most hostile and extreme workplaces and environments – and beyond.

Otago-raised Andy Caughey has for the past nine years been developing and promoting next-to skin Merino wool clothing and socks under his brand Armadillo Merino.

Armadillo clothing is now being considered for astronauts involved in NASA’s 2024 expedition to the moon. . . 

Arable sector must determine its future – Annette Scott:

The next five years will be crunch time for the arable sector that can choose to stand up and shine or remain under the radar and let the larger primary sectors direct New Zealand’s agri-economic development, Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) chief executive Alison Stewart says.

For many years the arable sector has been viewed as the invisible partner of NZ agriculture, given the arable industry’s predominantly domestic, commodity market focus and the fact that it has chosen to fly under the radar on most of the major policy issues affecting NZ’s economic, environmental and social development, Stewart says.

“However, I believe the invisible partner image is slowly changing and could change even more if the entire sector worked together to make it happen,” she said. . . 

Pāmu announces new GM sustainability and farming systems:

Pāmu has appointed Lisa Martin to the executive leadership team in the newly created role of General Manager, Sustainability and Farming Systems.

Ms Martin has extensive experience improving the sustainability practices of the organisations she has worked with, including seafood company Sanford where she was GM of Group Sustainability and at Downer Group where she was GM of Environment and Sustainability. She also co-founded a successful sustainability consultancy, Sustainz which provides sustainability advice to a range of organisations including New Zealand’s agricultural sector.

In her earlier career Ms Martin worked in the environmental science field in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. . .

Sugar price rebound sweetens La Niña risk – Shan goodwin:

REBOUNDING global sugar prices are putting a spring in the step of Queensland cane growers who have been hampered by wet weather hold-ups since the crush started in early June.

Raw sugar traded in New York on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the global benchmark, broke through the US13 cents per pound barrier last week for the first time since March.

Analysts say that has been on the back of easing lockdown restrictions, the resumption of food service, strong demand from Asia where drought has hit local crops and speculative moves by funds shifting to a bullish outlook for sugar. . . 


Rural round-up

31/07/2020

Lessees can be forced to cull tahr – Neal Wallace:

High-Country pastoral lessees could be drawn into the contentious tahr cull issue with plans for a population survey on Crown pastoral lease land later this year.

Federated Farmers high-country committee past chairman Simon Williamson believes lease terms will force some landowners to cull tahr.

The Conservation Department has begun a major cull in Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks but operations director Dr Ben Reddiex says it is not eradication.

“The vast majority of commercial hunting takes place on Crown pastoral lease and private land. . . 

Cotter passionate about supporting farmers in need – Janette Gellatly:

Passionate about the rural sector and people’s welfare, Southland Rural Support Trust chairwoman Cathie Cotter says the best aspect of her role is being there for farmers.

‘‘Our role is to talk to farmers who are having some kind of stress and . . .to connect them with the right people to make a positive difference.’’

These could include various agencies, such as mental wellness providers, financial institutions and other rural stakeholders such as DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand. ‘‘We are here to support all farmers [whether it be aquaculture or on the land] in Southland.’’ As part of its holistic approach, the trustees were also volunteers. Most have been through challenging times themselves, so could relate and understand when others were having difficulties, Mrs Cotter said.

It was about farmers helping farmers. . . 

Pilot kickstarts shearing training – Colin Williscroft:

Almost $2 million will be spent developing and delivering sustainable and integrated training for shearing and wool handling.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says $1.86m from the Provincial Growth Fund will be invested over two years to establish a pilot for the Shearing Training Model programme.

It will use micro-credentialing, earn-as-you-learn training to upskill 150 new and 120 existing shearers.

It will target school leavers, unemployed and underemployed people, career changers and those already in the industry who want to learn new skills. . . 

Mataura Valley Milk – the zombie dairy company – Brent Melville:

When it started production outside Gore in late 2018, Mataura Valley Milk was greeted with huge excitement by the Southland community, government ministers and dairy farmers alike.

The growth of infant nutritional product sales into China offered the prospect of an export bonanza.

While the growth of New Zealand-sourced dairy formula exports into China lived up to hype – growing by almost a third last year to 120,000 tonnes and generating $1.7 billion in export receipts – Mataura Valley itself was moving in the wrong direction.

It is, after all, a competitive market with well established distribution channels, dominated by Fonterra, Synlait, Danone and GMP Dairy; so growing pains were expected. . . 

Fieldays Online: 2020 Innovation Awards winners announced :

Forward-thinking Kiwis have been celebrated with the annual Fieldays Innovation Awards, with the winners announced today.

Innovation has been at the heart of Fieldays since its inception over 50 years ago, say organisers.

“It is the very reason Fieldays exists and why Fieldays Online was launched. Innovation is not easy, it requires courage and a willingness to take on risk, yet it is also fundamental to the overall sustainability of any business or industry. It is necessary if we wish to solve today’s problems and prepare the ground for solving tomorrow’s.” . . 

A farmer perspective in the boardroom – Stuart Wright:

Deputy chair of Ravensdown, Stuart Wright on why farmers should throw their hat in the ring and join board rooms.

OPINION: The phrase ‘gumboot directors’ came about in the 1970s when co-operatives like Ravensdown were created.

Originally intended as a jibe from the corporate business world, it became a badge of honour as farmer shareholders put their hand up to influence the businesses they own.

These days, New Zealand’s agri co-operatives are multi-million-dollar operations, with complex business models and risk profiles. And the governance of such organisations has never been more important. . . 


Rural round-up

29/06/2020

Agriculture emerges from lockdown relatively unscathed, but coming global recession will bite, says economist – Bonnie Flaws:

Agricultural incomes are expected to take a hit later this year as the effects of the global recession caused by coronavirus kicks in, says Westpac senior agri-economist Nathan Penny.

The sector was likely to remain profitable, however.

Despite having come through the lockdown and its immediate effects relatively unscathed, due largely to agriculture’s classification as an essential service, the forecast 3 per cent hit to global growth over 2020, meant there would be less demand for the forseeable future.

As a country that exported over 90 per cent of its agricultural production, New Zealand would be heavily exposed, Penny said. . .

McBride optimistic about Fonterra’s future despite global uncertainty – Esther Taunton:

Fonterra will face “bumps in the road” as the global economy rebuilds after the coronavirusoutbreak, but chairman-elect Peter McBride is optimistic about the dairy co-op’s future.

“Businesses learn more from challenges than successes and there will be plenty learnt from this,” the South Waikato dairy farmer said.

And McBride should know.

As the chairman of the Zespri board from 2013-18, he led the kiwifruit marketer through a crippling outbreak of the vine disease Psa, estimated to have cost growers close to $1 billion . .

Few winter grazing issues found – Neal Wallace:

Soutland farmers are being given a pat on the back for their winter grazing management so far this year, which Environment Southland says is an improvement on last year.

An aerial inspection by regional council staff prompted chief executive Rob Phillips to conclude farmers have made positive improvements.

“I’m encouraged by what we’ve seen. Farmers appear to have made a real effort, which is exactly what we need.”

Phillips said it is early in the season so wet weather will change conditions. . . .

Outstanding vintage despite Covid-19 conditions:

While it will be forever remembered as the Covid-19 harvest, an excellent summer throughout most of the country has contributed to an outstanding vintage for New Zealand’s wine regions.

“Although Covid-19 restrictions did have a huge impact on the way the harvest was run, they will not affect the quality of the wine, and we are really looking forward to some exceptional wines coming from this year’s vintage” said Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers.

The New Zealand wine industry had hoped for a larger harvest in 2020, after smaller than expected crops over the last three years. With 457,000 tonnes of grapes harvested, this year’s vintage will help the industry to meet the high demand for New Zealand wine.

With New Zealand moving into Alert Level 4 just as Vintage 2020 began, the industry was acutely aware that it was in an incredibly privileged position to be allowed to pick the grapes, says Gregan. . .

Tug-of-war fan desperate to keep sport alive – ‘It’s weightlifting lying down’ – Carol Stiles:

A Waikato farmer is building a museum on his farm to preserve memorabilia from New Zealand’s oldest introduced sport – tug-of-war.

Graham Smith has a dairy farm 50 minutes south of Hamilton.

He is also a passionate advocate for a sport which is dwindling. He’s preserving the memory of tug-of-war in case one day it sparks up again.

He is the president of the New Zealand Tug of War Association and has been involved for more than 40 years. . .

Record on-farm price for EC Angus – Hugh Stringleman:

An Angus bull from Turiroa Stud, Wairoa, has made $104,000 at auction, believed to be a New Zealand on-farm sale record.

Turiroa’s best-ever sales performance also featured a price of $86,000 and an average of $12,560 for a full clearance of 50 bulls.

Andrew Powdrell said there was good buying further into the catalogue and there was a bull for everyone.

The Powdrell family was humbled by the result and thrilled the bulls are going to good homes. . .


Rural round-up

22/06/2020

Agriculture Minister is missing in (in)action while climate change warriors harry NZ’s dairy industry – Point of Order:

The  world stands  on  the  brink of a  food crisis worse  than  any seen  in the last  50 years, the  UN has  warned  as  it  urged  governments to  act swiftly to avoid  disaster.

So what  is the  Ardern  government  doing about  it?   Shouldn’t   it  be working  to  ramp  up  food production?  After  all,  NZ   prides  itself  on being  among  the world’s  leaders  in producing  high-quality  food.

Instead,  Climate  Change  Minister  James  Shaw is celebrating  being  “ ambitious” in tackling  what he calls the climate crisis with,  he   says, . . 

Carbon farming ‘a waste of land’ driving rural residents away – farmers – Lisette Reymer:

There are warnings that New Zealand’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2050 is destroying rural communities.

Productive sheep and beef east coast farmland is being blanketed in pine trees that may never be harvested in a mission called ‘carbon farming’, where trees are grown for carbon credits, not for sale.

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) makes carbon farming a financial windfall for landowners – often making it more lucrative than farming stock or milling the trees for export.

And east coasters fear an impending forestry boom will turn more of its communities into ghost towns. . .

Rural women missing out on vital pregnancy ultrasounds – Conor Whitten:

Maternity care is supposed to be free and available to every woman – but that isn’t the case. 

Senior doctors have told Newshub Nation that funding for maternity care is broken and pregnant women are missing out on ultrasound scans – and Health Minister David Clark has known about it for at least two years.

Lack of access to healthcare for pregnant women can see them miss out on crucial scans, including some that should be offered to every pregnant woman. Going without can have tragic consequences, as Kaitaia midwife Shelley Tweedie told Newshub Nation. 

“The worst outcome you could look at is having a foetal demise, a baby dying. That would be the worst outcome that could happen from a lack of access to ultrasound services. It is absolutely devastating. Nobody would want to go through that.” . . 

Action, not old news, needed now – Neal Wallace:

There is plenty the Rural General Practice Network likes about the just released review of health services. 

Now it wants to see action to address the issues.

The Health and Disability System Review said the inequitable access by rural communities to health care is unacceptable, Network chief executive Grant Davidson said.

Rural health in New Zealand is at breaking point. . . 

Art raising money and awareness – Colin Williscroft:

A painting created in support of farmers’ mental health will raise funds for the Rural Support Trust and reduce the stigma of depression.

Taranaki artist Paul Rangiwahia wrote and produced Top Six Inches in a collaboration with Taranaki Rural Support Trust chairman and national council member Mike Green. 

Green says art is a great way to break down the stigma of mental health while helping people talk about what they are experiencing and feeling.

“Two things which make depression much more likely are having long-term sources of stress and an insecure future,” he says. . .

Working in cheese a world-first for TIA student :

In a world first, a PhD student at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is developing predictive tools to influence food safety management decisions for the soft cheese, paneer.

Paneer is a fresh, unaged, soft cheese that is particularly popular in South Asia, but is made and sold around the world.

In Australia, there are currently eight major brands producing paneer, across NSW, Victoria and northern Tasmania.

Not a lot is known about how pathogens behave in paneer and this information is important for refining food safety regulations. . . 

 


Rural round-up

21/06/2020

NZ primary sector the fuel for the post pandemic engine room:

Bank of New Zealand’s (BNZ) Shift Happens Agribusiness survey reveals a significant change in the mindset of New Zealand primary producers with the vast majority excited about the primary sector’s prospects post COVID-19.

The survey, conducted before and during the COVID-19 lockdown, found a marked shift in mindset of New Zealand’s primary producers whose pre-COVID-19 outlook improved from 58% positive about the opportunity to embrace a new future for their agribusiness, to 89% being excited about their pivotal role in supporting the New Zealand economy.

BNZ’s Shift Happens Agribusiness survey also found: . . 

Some farmers get banned gun rights – Neal Wallace:

Select farmers now have the right to use prohibited firearms for pest control but there are warnings access to new weapons and spare parts could be restricted and the cost inflated.

Alexandra pest controller Robert Andrews is unsure he will be able to get spare parts such as rifle barrels, with one importer telling him it will no longer be involved because the market has shrunk.

“We are only looking at probably 300 commercial users with semi-automatics for pest control and they may have two or three firearms each and then factor in the part-timers so I would guess we are talking maybe 1000 to 2000 prohibited firearms nationwide.”

The Council of Licensed Firearms Owners estimates 170,000 now-prohibited weapons were imported in the last 10 years. . . 

Index points to greener herds – Richard Rennie:

Genetics company LIC is providing a tool for farmers wanting to consider their herd’s gas and nitrogen footprint when breeding replacements. Environment and welfare manager Tony Fransen spoke to Richard Rennie about its new HoofPrint index and how it could help make herd environmental footprints lighter.

LIC’s annual genetics catalogue showcasing farmers’ bull options for breeding will this year include an extra column amid the usual production and economic traits. 

The HoofPrint index ranks its sires’ estimated ability to breed greener daughters that produce less nitrogen and methane.

“The objective was to determine how we can quantify the role genetics has had in achieving environmental gains over the last 20-30 years and, from that, estimate what the cow 20-30 years from now will look like,” Fransen said. . . 

Tenure review submitters highlight access :

Access is at the forefront of submissions on a tenure review of New Zealand’s largest high country station.

Many of the more than 30 submissions on a preliminary proposal developed for Northern Southland’s Glenaray Station, home to more than 60 threatened species and 15 rare plants, are focused on access.

Under the preliminary proposal, 38,000ha would become public conservation land, 13,400ha freehold subject to conservation covenants, and the remainder of the 62,000ha station freehold without conditions.

Submitters included Otago Conservation Board, Southland District Council, Game Animal Council and other individuals. . . 

North Canterbury farm wins two accolades in national dairy competition

A North Canterbury farm has clinched two awards in the national final of a major dairy cow breeding competition.

Almost 700 cows from 95 farms were entered in this year’s Holstein Friesian NZ Semex On Farm Competition.

Sherraine Holsteins, of Ohoka near Kaiapoi, won the two-year-old class and the veteran cow class.

“We are thrilled. The line-up of cows in this year’s national final was outstanding, so to take out two classes was exciting,” said Olivia Cahill. . . 

DCANZ welcomes launch of NZ-UK FTA negotiation:

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) is welcoming the launch of free trade agreement negotiations between New Zealand and the UK as a positive development in the trade agenda.

“A high-quality and comprehensive FTA between the UK and New Zealand will further strengthen the historic and close relationship between our two countries” says DCANZ Chairman Malcolm Bailey

“At this time, when we are seeing a number of countries revert to trade protectionist policies and subsidies, it is heartening to see like-minded countries like New Zealand and the UK showing leadership on trade issues”.

Currently, the UK is only a small market for New Zealand dairy exports, accounting for 0.08% of New Zealand’s dairy exports in 2019. This is despite the fact that the UK is one of the world’s largest importers of dairy products. . . 


Rural round-up

24/05/2020

Farmers feel the love – Neal Wallace:

With the demise of New Zealand’s $41 billion tourism industry because of covid-19 the primary sector will carry an even greater economic burden. Not only will it fund the lion’s share of health, education and social welfare but also service the $200 billion the Government plans to borrow. This week we start the series, Growing Our Recovery, which looks at what obstacles and opportunities the sector faces as it leads NZ out of economic recession.

Renewed trust in the primary sector is being shown by the Government and its officials as they see changing economic fortunes around the globe, sector leaders say.

“We are picking up an awareness amongst Government that the stakes have all of a sudden got very high, not that they weren’t high before, but the stakes now are doubly high and they’re very much aware of that,” DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said. . . 

Farmers aim to feed the need – Colin Williscroft:

An AgriHQ initiative started earlier this year is playing a key role providing options for farmers wanting to buy supplementary stock feed while donated balage and hay continue to be trucked into Hawke’s Bay.

In February AgriHQ saw a growing demand for supplementary feed from farmers relying on various avenues to supply their needs.

To connect buyers with sellers it set up the AgriHQ Feed Noticeboard to let sellers listing what they have got, its cost, their location and contact details.

Commercial leader Steph Holloway says the online noticeboard proved popular popular from the start with it not uncommon for feed to be listed one day then gone the next. . . 

Motivated young farmer making rapid gains in sector – Yvonne O’Hara:

Josh Cochrane is passionate about cows and enthusiastic about working in the dairy sector.

At 22, Mr Cochrane has wanted to be a dairy farmer for as long as he can remember.

He is in his first season as a 2IC for contract milkers Ben Franklin and Chelsea Saywell, on Roddy MacInnes’ 140ha property at Ryal Bush, milking 520 cows.

However, next season he moves to a 600-cow property in Oamaru as a contract milker.

He entered this year’s Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year competition and placed third.

His family were on a dairy farm near Rotorua and moved to Southland in 2007, when he was 10. . . 

Zero bobby calves for South Canterbury farming couple :

The versatility of Holstein Friesians is being credited with allowing a young South Canterbury couple to produce zero bobby calves.

Ryan and Billie Moffat milk 460 cows at Waimate. Production on the 145-hectare irrigated property was 262,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in 2018-19.

The couple bought the farm off Ryan’s parents Mike and Chris Moffat last year, after buying their herd four years’ earlier.

“Our business doesn’t produce any bobby calves,” said Billie. . .

Farm ownership long term goal – Yvonne O’Hara:

Jakeb Lawson has been working in the dairy industry since he was about 13 and likes it so much, he wants to eventually own his own farm.

Mr Lawson (19) is a farm assistant for sharemilker Matt McKenzie, on a 300ha property owned by Eoin and Jayne McKenzie, at Woodlands.

They milk 650 cows and the expected production this year is 360,000 kg of milk solids.

‘‘I got the opportunity to do some work for my brother-in-law when I was about 13 or 14 and I really enjoyed it,’’ Mr Lawson said. . . 

Farmers still need ‘up to 40,000’ workers to help pick crop :

Farmers still need up to 40,000 workers to help bring the harvest in this summer despite an ‘overwhelming’ response to hiring campaigns.

Defra launched the initiative ‘Pick for Britain’ last month to bring workers and employers together as the impact of Covid-19 leaves a diminished workforce.

From pickers and packers, to plant husbandry and tractor or forklift drivers, there are a wide range of roles available for furloughed employees. . . 


Rural round-up

16/05/2020

Frighteningly different priorities – Peter Burke:

In the cities people are clambering over each other to get the first Big Mac or piece of deep-fried chicken, not to mention a ‘real’ coffee.

So fanatical were some individuals for a fast-food fix that they were stupid enough to risk undoing the good work of the rest of the country by not sticking to the rules of physical distancing.

Having said that, a few idiot politicians and community leaders have yielded to temptation and broken lockdown rules, setting a poor example. Their actions are insulting to the rural community – farmer, growers, people who work in meat processing plants, packhouses and other facilities to provide food for these unthinking individuals.

And don’t let’s forget all the other essential workers that are the unsung heroes of this crisis.

Nothing for our most productive sector in Budget – National:

Budget 2020 hasn’t provided anything of note for the primary sector at a time when it is leading our nation’s rebuild, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

He says the Government’s claim of ‘rebuilding better’ is nothing but a meaningless slogan for the primary sector. Muller says costly Government proposals like Essential Freshwater are still on the way, there’s no large-scale water storage funding and not enough support to secure the 50,000 workers needed to stimulate the sector.

“Covid-19 has thrown our country into a deep economic hole and we’re now relying on our food and fibre sector to get out of it.

We should be encouraging this sector to grow and maximise its potential but funding has gone backwards. With farmers and growers across the country experiencing the worst drought in living memory this season, it’s disappointing to see no significant investment in water storage,” he says. . .

Farmers want new house rules – Gerald Piddock:

Dairy industry leaders have asked the Government to amend its covid-19 ban on landlords evicting tenants after reports of dairy staff exploiting the rules by refusing to leave supplied housing as the season draws to a close.

As a result, new staff moving onto the farms can’t move into the houses in time for the new milking season in June.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis said the circumstances usually involve a staff member who was exiting dairying when the new rules became law. . .

High country – isolation goes with the territory – Kerrie Waterworth:

Adjusting to the isolation of Covid-19 restrictions has been difficult for many urban dwellers but for families on high country stations isolation goes with the territory.

Duncan and Allannah McRae run Alpha Burn Station, a 4519ha high country beef, sheep and deer farm at Glendhu Bay, 15 minutes drive west from Wanaka.

Before the Covid-19 crisis their two sons, Archie (15) and Riley (13), were at boarding school in Dunedin but they had returned home and were learning online.

Mrs McRae said both she and her daughter, Hazel (10), have had to adjust to having the two big boys back in the house. . . 

Taratahi might host short courses – Neal Wallace:

The Taratahi campus could again be training young people, albeit for short-term courses introducing prospective students to agricultural careers and proviing extra skills for existing workers.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Social Development are considering funding DairyNZ to develop and deliver three-week industry familiarisation programmes at the Wairarapa facility.

The future of the campus has been in limbo since the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre was put in liquidation in December 2018. . .

Want safe affordable food? Reward those who produce it – Peter Mailler;

The world is certainly a paradise for anyone looking for an issue to express an opinion about this week, but I want to take a different approach.

Rather than trotting out my take on the barley tariffs issue and the complete insanity that is diplomacy with China by media, I thought I would try to foster a discussion on an earlier opinion published in The Gauge section and constructively contest some ideas around an issue that I think goes to the core of how the agricultural sector presents itself to the rest of the country. . . 

 


Rural round-up

28/04/2020

Farmers must bide their time – Annette Scott:

The probability of a global recession is growing along with the likelihood of reduced consumer spending in all red meat markets.

The covid-19 pandemic has shifted demand for red meat away from food service to eating at home, Beef + Lamb chief economist Andrew Burtt said.

Just how long that will take to reverse will depend on how long it takes people to be comfortable to eat out in restaurants again.

The key for New Zealand across the supply chain will be maintaining integrity, reliability and consistency. . .

Disaster plans made – Toni Williams:

Vicki and Hamish Mee are planning a ‘‘worst case scenario’’ for stock at their Mid Canterbury free-farm piggery.

The Mees run Le Mee Farms and also have a cropping operation.

Their planning follows restrictions during the lockdown period which stop independent butchers from opening, and make any sale of pork limited to supermarket stores, other processors or retailers which were open.

As imported pork was still allowed, the Mees were preparing themselves for a different future market post-lockdown. . .

Backing ‘best fibre in the world’ – Sally Rae:

Long-time wool advocate Craig Smith says his new role as chairman of the National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests is about “championing the cause of wool”.

The council is an association of organisations engaged in the production, testing, merchandising, processing, spinning and weaving of wool and allied fibres.

Mr Smith, who is general manager of Devold Wool Direct, was the first New Zealander to be appointed to the global executive committee of the International Wool Textile Organisation, and he has also been heavily involved with Campaign for Wool, a global project initiated by Prince Charles. . . 

Meat plants back to near normal – Neal Wallace:

Meat processing throughput could be back at close to maximum on Tuesday when the country’s covid-19 response level drops to level three.

Final protocols are still to be confirmed but level three restrictions should enable meat processing to be close to full production, helping address the backlog of stock waiting to be killed, which has blown out to six weeks, Alliance livestock and shareholder services general manager Danny Hailes says.

At level three social distancing between workers drops from 2m, to 1m.

That should allow throughput for sheep to rise from  50% to 90% of plant capacity and beef from 70% to 100%. . . .

Online auction takes off – Annette Scott:

A handshake still carries weight for livestock trading firm Peter Walsh and Associates but with covid-19 it has been forced to change tack.

The lockdown changed that handshake to a tap on a keyboard as the company held to its first Livebid online auction last week. 

“With no saleyard operation we had to find new ways of moving livestock so we said ‘let’s keep it on the farm’,” Peter Walsh said.

With a smart back office team and the latest technology the independent livestock broker came up with Livebid. . .

Full fields, empty fridges – Laura Reiley:

Farmers in the upper Midwest euthanize their baby pigs because the slaughterhouses are backing up or closing, while dairy owners in the region dump thousands of gallons of milk a day. In Salinas, Calif., rows of ripe iceberg, romaine and red-leaf lettuce shrivel in the spring sun, waiting to be plowed back into the earth.

Drone footage shows a 1.5-mile-long line of cars waiting their turn at a drive-through food bank in Miami. In Dallas, schools serve well north of 500,000 meals on each service day, cars rolling slowly past stations of ice chests and insulated bags as food service employees, volunteers and substitute teachers hand milk and meal packets through the windows.

Across the country, an unprecedented disconnect is emerging between where food is produced and the food banks and low-income neighborhoods that desperately need it. American farmers, ranchers, other food producers and poverty advocates have been asking the federal government to help overcome breakdowns in a food distribution system that have led to producers dumping food while Americans go hungry. . .


Rural round-up

27/04/2020

Farmers claim water law lockout – Neal Wallace:

Federated Farmers says it remains shut out of deliberations on the specifics of the Government’s freshwater legislation after unproved claims it leaked confidential information about the policy last year.

Its water spokesman Chris Allen says the accusation was never proved but resulted in the cessation of what he called a constructive working relationship between the farming body and parties considering the new regulations.

“It really did challenge the integrity of Federated Farmers and we were miffed about that. It did not come from feds,” he says. . . .

Environment moves must be fair – Andrew Morrison:

The past few weeks have served to remind New Zealanders about the importance of the country’s primary sector.

Food has become big news. 

Every day the media brings us stories of supermarket queues, panic buying and supermarket workers going the extra mile to try to keep shelves stocked against a rising tide of worried consumers.

As farmers we are fortunate to be able to continue producing nutrient-rich food for our nation and our export markets.  . .

Rural postie lifts spirits with ‘The Best Dressed Mailbox Competition :

Covid-19 may have everyone in lockdown but that hasn’t stopped one inventive rural postie from keeping people on her route entertained.

Diane Barton wanted to add “a bit of amusement” to her mail run, so she set up a private Facebook group for her RD1 and RD4 route to get the community involved.

First there was a bear hunt, which quickly descended into chaotic fun, with not only bears turning up in letterboxes and windows, but cows and zoo animals as well.

“I had a trusty heading dog that I borrowed from a client’s mailbox and the dog rounded them up and put them back in their paddocks and cages,” joked Barton, who was quick to point out that “no stuffed animals were harmed in the making of this animal hunt“. . .

 

Not your typical sheep paddock: why sunflowers and lentils herald NZ’s regenerative revolution – John McCrone:

Before coronavirus, people were worried about other things. Like the state of New Zealand farming, and climate change. So why were policy makers suddenly getting interested in regenerative agriculture? John McCrone reports.

Wait, are those sunflowers poking their yellow faces above the waist high tangle? Did he just say he loves thistles too? All biodiversity is good?

No wonder Peter Barrett – former campervan entrepreneur and now manager of Central Otago’s 9300 hectare Linnburn Station – has had neighbouring farmers looking askance. . . 

Dairy Women’s Network conference on next month :

As events and conferences throughout New Zealand and around the world cancel and postpone due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Dairy Women’s Network have worked furiously for three weeks to ensure the majority of its annual Allflex DWN2020 Conference will still be held next month.

“While we have had to postpone our face to face conference until 2021, we have adapted to the current situation and are excited to be able to hold four days of online webinars and keynote sessions from the original conference programme,” Dairy Women’s Network Partnerships, Marketing and Communications Manager Zellara Holden said. . .

Beautiful disasters: The wild, wilted world of plant scientists who breed crops ready to thrive on a climate-ravaged earth – Lela Nargi:

A diversity of regionally adapted seeds are in short supply in parts of the U.S. So farmers must increasingly rely on a handful of publicly funded seed breeders to supply them.”

Michael Mazourek led the charge through thick-aired greenhouses, cheerfully tallying the destruction. “We inoculated these with a virus,” he said, stopping beside a table topped with stubby squash plants in square plastic pots. Their leaves were anemic and crisp around the edges.

“This was a beautiful disaster,” Mazourek said as he circumnavigated a miniature forest of wrung out pepper plants dangling shriveled fruits. “Our new fancy heaters didn’t work and we had a frost, which is a very climate change-y sort of event.” . .


Rural round-up

24/04/2020

Now we know what is important – Craig Wiggins:

What will become important is what has always been important.

Last month I wrote about all the things we could do coming up in the rural calendar and within five days the whole world changed and we were heading into lockdown.

There are no two ways about it, the world has changed and we might never again see the likes of what was deemed important before the covid-19 pandemic.

What seemed to be important in the world we were part of was the ideological lifestyles of the rich and famous or those who found themselves in a position of governance and what their opinions meant.  . . 

Meat plants back to near normal – Neal Wallace:

Meat processing throughput could be back at close to maximum on Tuesday when the country’s covid-19 response level drops to level three.

Final protocols are still to be confirmed but level three restrictions should enable meat processing to be close to full production, helping address the backlog of stock waiting to be killed, which has blown out to six weeks, Alliance livestock and shareholder services general manager Danny Hailes says.

At level three social distancing between workers drops from 2m, to 1m. . .

Pesticide usage in New Zealand well below compliance safety guidance:

A survey released today confirms that the Kiwi diet is safe and that any pesticide residues on food are extremely low, far below recommended safety levels.

The Ministry for Primary Industries released results of the Food Residues Survey Programme which tests for residues in plant-based foods. The survey collected 591 fruit and vegetable samples over two years and shows compliance of greater than 99.9%. The survey tests residues from commonly used agrichemicals: insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

“These results are unsurprising,” says Agcarm chief executive, Mark Ross. “Agcarm members work hard to satisfy the stringent requirements set by regulators. They also work with food chain partners to achieve the lowest possible residues in food.” . . .

Survey of rural decision makers 2019 survey out now:

The results of the fourth biennial Survey of Rural Decision Makers, run by scientists at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, have now been released.

More than 3700 people responded to the survey during spring 2019. Respondents include both lifestyle and commercial farmers, foresters, and growers from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

A core set of questions remained similar to previous waves of the survey, to allow researchers to identify trends over time. In addition, new questions were added to reflect emerging issues in the primary sector such as farm-level biosecurity and climate change. . .

A2 Milk sales boost as consumers stock up

Speciality dairy company a2 Milk is getting a windfall boost to sales from the Covid-19 virus.

The company, which mostly sells infant formula, said revenue for the three months to 31 March was higher than expected with strong growth across all key regions, as households stocked up with its products notably in China and Australia.

“This primarily reflected the impact of changes in consumer purchase behaviour arising from the Covid-19 situation and included an increase in pantry stocking of our products particularly via online and reseller channels,” chief executive Geoffrey Babidge said. . .

Remote workers look to crash through grass ceiling – Gregor Heard:

RURAL leaders are hopeful the readjustments to work patterns caused by COVID-19 could lead to more senior level employment and business opportunities in country Australia.

The mainstream business community is now adapting to working from home and using video conferencing for communication, a system already widely used by those based in rural and regional areas to combat issues with isolation.

“In many ways in this current environment those of us that have worked remotely before have a bit of an advantage,” said Wool Producers Australia chief executive Jo Hall, who has split her time between her home at Crookwell, in NSW’s Southern Tablelands, and Wool Producers’ head office in Canberra over the past nine years. . .

 

 


Rural round-up

21/04/2020

Our greatest opportunity – Penny Clark-Hall:

After 10 or so years of a society dislocating itself, with the farming community being challenged to meet the evolving values of its urban counterparts, we have been given a gift. A chance to reconnect.

We’ve been bemoaning the fact that no one wants to listen to the good stories for years. Who would have thought it would take a global pandemic to give us a window to be able to have that voice again? It seems bad taste to be observing silver linings and opportunities whilst so many are suffering however, an opportunity to connect and support our country can only be a positive for everyone in my books. The primary sector’s social licence and our economy depends on it.  . .

Sector wants deal on reforms – Neal Wallace and Colin Williscroft:

Primary sector leaders have been in discussions with the Government to try to reach a consensus on freshwater reforms.

The 11-member Food and Fibre Leaders’ Forum, which represents the primary sector, is adopting a similar approach to last year’s accord on reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and for several months has had regular meetings with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and senior Cabinet ministers.

The Government’s Essential Freshwater reforms have been temporarily stalled by covid-19 with Environment Minister David Parker saying dealing with the crisis necessitates the reconsideration of priorities and timing. . .

Wanna job? We’ve got it – Annette Scott:

Primary industries face a serious staff recruitment pinch of grave concern to AgStaff director Matt Jones.

The impact of covid-19 is alredy starting to bite and with hundreds of vacancies on his books it’s only going to get worse over the next year, Jones said.

Through his employment businesses Jones recruits staff for jobs from farm and agricultural contracting and food processing to seasonal staff and quality assurance experts, many coming from around the globe to work in New Zealand.  . . 

Are pine trees killing kauri?

A new study suggests that kauri dieback disease may be connected to the lack of protective fungi in plantation pine forest soil.

Published in FEMS Microbiology Ecology, the study, by Bio-Protection Research Centre PhD candidate Alexa Byers and others, looked at the differences in the bacteria and fungi living in the soil of kauri forest and surrounding pine plantations in the Waipoua area. It found soil in the pine forest’s neighbouring kauri forests lacked several species of fungi and bacteria that protect plants, promote growth, and improve their health (for example Trichoderma and Pseudomonas).

“The loss of core microbiota from native soil microbial communities… surrounding remnant kauri fragments could be altering the forest’s ability to respond to pathogen invasion,” Ms Byers wrote. . . 

Energy farm to trial zero carbon solutions – Nigel Malthus:

Lincoln University has unveiled plans for what is expected to be a globally-unique Energy Demonstration Farm to help the primary sector meet its future zero-carbon obligations.

The farm is designed to be fossil fuel-free and feature solar and wind power, bio-fuel, and energy storage solutions while showcasing the range of technology available and how it can be applied, as well as providing data for research and innovation.

Project leaders Dr Wim de Koning and Dr Jeff Heyl say the farm would allow the University and their research partners to make mistakes, so farmers won’t have to.

Fury of British farmers as public sector caterers vow to cut meat served ins cools, hospitals, universities and care homes by 20 percent to improve diets and help environment – Jack Wright:

  • British farmers are furious at public sector caterers vowing to cut red meat servings in schools, hospitals, and care homes by 20 per cent
  • NFU board member Richard Findlay described move as ‘frankly ridiculous’
  • He called #20percentless a ‘misguided project’ that is ‘wholly inaccurate’
  • The aim is to cut greenhouse gases linked to livestock and boost public health
  • Hitting the target would remove nearly 20million lb of meat every year in the UK . . .

Rural round-up

13/04/2020

Confidence of farmers falls:

Rabobank’s latest rural confidence survey shows the shadow covid-19 has thrown on the rural sector.

Farmer sentiment has slipped since late last year with net farmer confidence down from 112% to -44% in the March quarter.

Rabobank New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris said the survey results shine a light on the psyche of farmers at a critical time for the nation. 

“The food and agri sectors will be crucial in helping to rebuild the NZ economy and Rabobank continues to have a strong, positive long-term view of the sector outlook,” Charteris said.  . . 

COVID-19: Meat processing delays forecast – Peter Burke:

COVID-19 will continue to impact heavily on the ability of farmers to get stock killed during April and May.

The impact is due to physical distancing requirements between meat plant employees to prevent the spread of the virus Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Economic Service, in conjunction with the Meat Industry Association and the processors, have just released its assessment on processing capacity across the country and the potential impact on waiting times for farmers. 

The findings show the new meat processing protocols have reduced the industry’s peak processing capacity by approximately 50% for sheep and 30% for cattle. . . 

Don’t let fear overcome you – Colin Miller:

Farmer’s Chaplain, Colin Miller on overcoming fear during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before writing my column for this month, I have had to sit by and wait this out. The reason?

Things are changing so rapidly. By tomorrow, today’s breaking news may well be out of date. There is a good chance, by the time this lands at your place, our world may be quite different again.

So yes, I will need to conclude with something that has no ‘use by date’. . . 

Stock sale options being explored – Neal Wallace:

Stock agents and venders are getting innovative to ensure seasonal trading of livestock is occurring while traditional selling methods can’t be used.

Some sales of weaner calves and deer are being held online but others are being arranged privately by agents linking vendors and previous buyers. 

Philip Wareing, who owns Arrowsmith Station in the Ashburton Gorge, had to cancel his annual on-farm weaner deer and weaner calf sales but says he is fortunate agents worked with previous buyers to ensure the stock were sold over a similar time frame to last year. 

“We’re very, very happy with that but it was at substantially lower prices than last year.  . . 

Orchard takes to web to keep pumpkins rolling out – Richard Davison:

First pizzas, now pumpkins.

A rapid diversification into home delivery is paying dividends for a previously locked-down Central Otago business.

Darryl Peirce runs Peirce Orchard at Millers Flat — better known to passers-by as The Pumpkin Place — which a fortnight ago was forced to shut down its roadside shop to comply with coronavirus restrictions.

Reacting quickly to the change in circumstances, he activated fruit and vege home delivery website theorchardshop.nz, and appealed to the Ministry for Primary Industries for registration as an essential service. . . 

 

UK’s native breeds could ‘flourish’ post-CAP, charity says:

The UK’s native breeds could flourish and grow their demonstrated value to the countryside post-Brexit, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust has said.

The latest Watchlist, the charity’s annual barometer of breed numbers, shows that native breeds have a ‘sound platform’ for reviving in numbers post-CAP.

RBST says native breeds could bring ‘new levels’ of environmental, economic and cultural benefit to agriculture and to rural communities. . . 


Rural round-up

12/04/2020

Back to the land after lockdown – David Slack:

With agriculture once again New Zealand’s main export earner, are farmers feeling needed again, and what are their prospects once the lockdown eases? David Slack reports from the farm gate.

There’s a photo of my grandmother and her sisters taken by their father in the late days of the First World War. It’s not the usual sort of photo of the time. They’re alive, it’s vivid. They’re up high in the Rangitikei backblocks. There are cows to be milked, they’re carrying cream cans. They look cheerful, they’re doing work that matters.

There were 16 of them in that family. Some of them went on to raise farmers, some raised city folk. My dad raised us to understand there was no future in farming. We didn’t doubt him, and we made our lives in town. . .

Primary interest: Time to cut the cord and let agriculture thrive – Steve Elers:

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said last year that tourism was New Zealand’s “largest export earner”, contributing $39 billion to the economy each year and directly employing more than 200,000 people.

Obviously, Covid-19 has upended the tourism sector, so Davis was left with no choice but to announce earlier this week that he has tasked Tourism New Zealand to lead a programme that includes the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Department of Conservation, and industry parties to “reimagine the way we govern tourism, how we market domestically and internationally, who we market to, and how we manage visitors when they arrive on our shores”. 

Another major sector upended because of Covid-19 is international education. According to the Tertiary Education Commission, international education “contributes $5.1b to the economy and is the country’s fourth largest export earner” – it also supports about 50,000 jobs. . .

Image sells our meat – Neal Wallace:

China is re-emerging as a significant buyer of New Zealand beef as its families continue to use home cooking skills learned when the country was shut down to control covid-19.

Many restaurants in China are yet to fully reopen and NZ beef appears to be an early beneficiary of growing Chinese retail demand as consumers look for meat from a country with a trusted food production system and a clean and green reputation.

But commentators warn we shouldn’t take this interest for granted, especially when other markets weaken as Governments try to contain the virus. . .

No letup for some works – Neal Wallace:

Most of the country’s largest meat companies will continue to process livestock over at least part of Easter to try to ease a developing backlog.

Selected plants run by Silver Fern Farms, Anzco and Affco will process over the long weekend to clear a developing backlog of stock, which, in some cases, has reached six weeks.

Southland’s Blue Sky Meats has started processing seven days a week and plans to work Easter and Anzac Day. 

Anzco chief executive Peter Conley said it will operate its beef plants on three of the four days over Easter. . . 

 

Coronavirus: Working and living in dairy farm bubble during Covid-19 – Lawrence Gullery:

Ben Moore counts himself lucky to be working on the land during the coronavirus outbreak.

He feels fortunate to still be earning an income, to pay the bills and provide for his family on their dairy farm in the Waikato.

“My heart goes out to those who can’t work,” Moore said. “We can still work, still pay the mortgage but I know there are many people out there who can’t.” 

Stuff is celebrating the coronavirus champions – including essential services workers like Moore and community volunteers – who are keeping New Zealand going though the lockdown. . . 

Prime cuts of beef are going to waste as well: After the scandal of £220,000 of milk being dumped every day during the coronavirus lockdown, GUY ADAMS investigates how the meat industry is coping – Guy Adams:

A couple of weeks ago, as panic-stricken shoppers descended on the nation’s supermarkets, Sainsbury’s and Asda quietly introduced a new product to their meat aisles.

Labelled ‘NO FUSS lean Polish beef mince’ and retailing for the bargain price of £2.95 a pound, it helped fill the empty shelves that had until very recently held Union Flag-stamped packets of best British beef.

Farmers, when they spotted it, hit the roof, accusing the rapacious retailers of flooding the market with cheap imports. . . 

 


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