Rural round-up

July 31, 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

June 29, 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

June 22, 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

June 21, 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

May 24, 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

May 16, 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

April 28, 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

April 27, 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

April 24, 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

April 21, 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

April 13, 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

April 12, 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. . . 

 


Rural round-up

March 28, 2020

After the lockdown, the economy’s recovery will be dependent on dairy farms and their milk – Point of Order:

The planet is  in a state of   flux,   economies are tumbling into  recession, no-one (not even Donald Trump) can predict  when the agony will  end.

Suddenly, the streets  are  empty:  life  as  we have  known  it is  now  very  different. The  nation  is  in   lockdown.

As  the  London  “Economist” put it:

“The struggle  to  save  lives  and the  economy  is  likely to present  agonising choices…As  that  sends economies  reeling, desperate  governments are trying to tide over  companies and  by handing out millions of  dollars in  aid and loan guarantees. Nobody can be sure how these rescues  will work”. . . 

Don’t stress weakening economy – Neal Wallace:

Economist Cameron Bagrie is joining a chorus of calls for the Government to delay introducing policy imposing new environmental rules and costs on a rapidly weakening economy.

Bagrie says Government borrowing as a percentage of gross domestic product has doubled from 20% to 40% in the last few weeks as it tries to protect jobs and businesses from the impact of measures to control the covid-19 virus pandemic.

He expects Government borrowing will increase further and warns now is not the time to introduce more costs on businesses in freshwater regulations and the new minimum wage, which applies from April 1.

“Farming has been unloved and beaten up by the Government for the last two or three years but the Government is going to need farmers for the next few years.” . . 

Virus adds to woes of North Canterbury farmers – David Hill:

The uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic is adding yet another headache for North Canterbury farmers.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cameron Henderson and North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Andy Munro say dry conditions, the ongoing effects of Mycoplasma bovis and coronavirus, and this week’s 5.1-magnitude earthquake near Culverden are creating uncertainty.

‘‘The effects of the virus seem to be changing day to day as we have seen with share markets and travel bans,’’ Mr Henderson said. . . 

Meat matters to sector stalwart – Colin Williscroft:

Tim Ritchie retires as Meat Industry Association chief executive on April 7 after a career in primary sector roles that began in the 1970s. Colin Williscroft reports.

THE meat industry has come a long way since Tim Ritchie got involved and a decision made on the far side of the world about then that has provided the biggest advantage to the sector here in the years since.

Though it might not have seemed like it at the time, in retrospect Britain joining the then European Economic Community in 1973 was the best thing that could have happened for New Zealand farmers. . . 

Leader learnt a lot in dairy industry – Yvonne O’Hara:

‘‘It was like being dropped into the mothership of emergency management.’’

That is how Katrina Thomas describes her involvement with the recent flood recovery effort in the South.

The Wreys Bush dairy farmer was Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) southern regional hub leader for Otago and Southland since 2016, and regional leader for Southland since 2012.

However, this year she decided she wanted to try other challenges. . . 

Wine industry faces worker accommodation woes during lockdown:

The wine industry is facing criticism for continuing harvest during the Covid-19 lockdown, and is facing problems with worker accommodation

The government says the grape and wine industry can continue to operate as an essential business, but strict conditions apply as the country moves to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Some Marlborough people have noticed the hundreds of workers travelling to work in vineyards all over the district, and have questioned whether this was safe in the current climate. . . 


Rural round-up

March 23, 2020

Livestock are providing answers – Neal Wallace:

Livestock farmers already have answers to many of the accusations being levelled by critics, they just need to package their responses better, Michigan State University scientist Jason Rowntree says.

He and other speakers at the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown said claims a world without ruminant livestock and diets free of red meat will reverse climate change are scientifically wrong.

Managed properly, livestock on pasture can enhance and improve the environment by increasing organic matter, microbial activity and biodiversity while sequestering carbon in the soil. . . 

Coronavirus: Farming likely to recover fastest from Covid-19, says economist – Bonnie Flaws:

Farming is likely to be the quickest to rebound from the fallout from coronavirus, says ASB rural economist Nathan Penny.

When crises hit, food demand remains and that would be no different this time, he said.

Farmers might not get paid as much but there would be demand for food, with the exception of luxury foods like seafood, prime steak and wine, he said. . . 

Coronavirus: Rural isolation a good thing in face of pandemic, farmers say – Catherine Groenestein:

Rural isolation is helping farmers feel somewhat safer than their urban counterparts in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of confirmed cases in New Zealand has risen to 20, it was announced today, and the Government is advising New Zealanders overseas to return as soon as possible.

North Taranaki farmer Katrina Knowles, who is North Island co-ordinator for the Rural Support initiative, said it was a good time to live rurally.

“We live in relative isolation anyway, we have the opportunity to carry on with our lives and our work and businesses,” she said. . . 

Canterbury has tonnes of feed – Annette Scott:

Ongoing North Island drought has created a serious feed shortage with many farmers looking further afield for supplies.

Arable Solutions director Simon Nitschke, of Marton, said despite the good harvest in the region there’s nothing left to buy on the spot market.

“What is around is under contract, sold. There’s nothing available.

“A lot of barley this season has gone malting and barley harvested for feed is taken up with no reserves looking likely coming into the maize harvest either with a lot chopped for silage due to poor grain quality.” . . 

 

Coronavirus and your workers – guidance for farm businesses – Julie Robinson:

Farms are not professional services firms where remote working may be an alternative to being physically present on site. Remote working does not get millions of daffodils picked, lambs delivered safely or the harvester moved from one field to the next. Farm managers need to be on hand, not at home or stranded in a hotel in lockdown.

That brings its own set of challenges during a period where self-isolation is the Government’s policy for dealing with a highly contagious virus, and where lockdowns are imposed at short notice across the globe, preventing people from travelling freely to their place of work.

The Q&A below describes some scenarios and gives some pointers about how to deal with them. . . 

A look into the future of UK agriculture – Tom Clarke:

It is March 20, 2040 exactly 20 years to the day since the Coronavirus pandemic forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson (remember him?) to acknowledge the Brexit transition period would have to be extended, says Cambridgeshire Fens farmer Tom Clarke. 

And thus it turned out that when it came down to it, what Brexit only ever really meant was… delay.

Our permanently stalled, semi-separation has left us more independent, it freed up our thinking, and the lack of security did make us sit up and sing for our suppers.

The two decades since the pandemic transformed the Commonwealth of Britain (the country formerly known as the UK) in ways that few predicted, and it is perhaps we farmers who have been at the front end of it, again in ways the previous generation could have hardly imagined. . . 


Rural round-up

March 22, 2020

Farming and coronavirus – Primary Land Users Group:

Currently New Zealand is looking down the barrel of a massive health crisis and equally as bad economic crisis due to the advent of the Coronavirus.

New Zealand farming has over the last couple of years under the current government has been berated, belittled & blamed for almost all of the pollution problems that we are facing as a country.

This coalition government has produced many polices aimed at the farmers of New Zealand that are supposedly going to fix all of the problems that we have with pollution of our land & waterways and protection of our national indigenous biodiversity. . . 

Chinese demand provides cushion – Neal Wallace:

Reviving demand in China is providing primary sector exporters with some cushioning from covid-19 fallout as other countries start slipping into recession.

Having earlier this year weathered the virtual shutdown of China as it battled to contain covid-19, meat companies are seeing improved demand as life there slowly returns to normal.

Government restrictions confined people at home, preventing them working, shopping or eating at restaurants but they are slowly being lifted. . . 

Kiwifruit harvest tougher with worker loss – Richard Rennie:

The kiwifruit sector has been left hundreds of workers short after New Zealand’s unprecedented border shutdowns locked out seasonal workers for good this season.

Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Nikki Johnson confirmed 1300 Recognised Seasonal Employer workers from the Pacific Islands unable to get here. That represents more than half the region’s allocation for RSE staff.

The sector is seeking special dispensation to fly the workers in despite the border closure.  . . 

Young breeders from round the world gather – Sally Rae:

Fernando Alfonso describes Hereford cattle as a “very complete breed”.

Mr Alfonso, his brother Guzman, and Agustin Pineyrua were in New Zealand for the Boehringer Ingelheim World Hereford Conference.

The four-yearly conference, which was based in Queenstown, was last held in New Zealand in 1984. It attracted breeders from around the world for the week-long event.

A pre-conference tour was held in the North Island and a post-conference tour was being held in the South Island this week. . .

Cute sheep the rage at UK weddings – Sally Rae:

Brides-to-be take note. Having a sheep at a wedding is apparently all the rage in the United Kingdom.

But not just any old sheep – the Valais Blacknose, which originates from Switzerland, and is dubbed the world’s cutest sheep, is the breed of choice at wedding venues.

It might not have been a wedding but Abraham the ram was a crowd-pleaser at the Wanaka A&P Show yesterday.

Abraham was the first lamb born from 25 embryos imported from the UK by Motueka couple Lindsay and Sally Strathdee and Wairarapa-based business partner Christine Reed. . . 

Inside Pahiatua looking out:

According to the news reports reaching the backwoods here in Pahiatua, we hear the logging industry in the far North has been hit hard by the de escalation of raw log exports to China. The stockpiles of logs at ports are at saturation point. Cutting crews are unemployed and trucks sit idle. It does not look good for their local economy.

Meanwhile here in Pahiatua things appear quite different. The town has  Highway 2 running through its middle, either  to Eketahuna in the South or Woodville in the north.

I live on the Main Highway at the North end of town and being a petrolhead of long standing, I can occupy my twilight years sitting under my shade trees watching the passing parade. Which generally speaking is an ever changing kaleidoscope of kiwi’s on the move.  I can go to all the car shows and never have to leave home. . . 


Rural round-up

March 19, 2020

Global merino conference in Otago: president says industry better than ever – Sally Rae:

World Federation of Merino Breeders president Will Roberts reckons he has never seen the merino industry has never been so good as it is now.

Mr Roberts and his wife Nada have been in Otago attending the Merino Excellence 2020 Congress, and Mr Roberts also judged at the Wanaka A&P Show.

The couple farm a 13,000ha sheep and cattle property in Queensland, originally bought by Mr Roberts’ family in 1906. The Victoria Downs merino stud was established in 1911. . .

Turning personal challenge into positive life-changing journey:

Dairy farm manager Chelsea Smith from the King Country has turned a personal challenge that blindsided her into a positive life changing journey.

“That’s when I went to the farm owners and just said, look, as much as I love farming and the farm, I’m unable to do another season just due to personal reasons.”

Keen to retain Chelsea the farm owners came back to her with different options and after some time off travelling overseas she returned to take up a role overseeing four farming operations near Otorohanga in the Central North Island. . .

Cattle breeders focus on quality – Neal Wallace:

British Hereford breeders are cautiously optimistic the hardy breed will help them through any post-Brexit regulatory uncertainty.

United Kingdom Hereford Cattle Society president Mark Roberts says with the UK in the throes of leaving the European Union future subsidies to farmers being considered by the government are likely to be linked to environmental issues and not production.

They will primarily be targeted at arable or land that can be cultivated and not land in permanent pasture. . .

Fonterra reports its interim result :

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced its 2020 Interim Results, which show the Co-operative’s financial performance has improved with increased underlying earnings and reduced debt.

Interim Results Summary
  • Total group normalised Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT): $584 million, up from $312 million
  • Total group EBIT: $806 million, up from $312 million
  • Normalised Net Profit After Tax: $293 million, up from $72 million
  • Reported Net Profit After Tax: $501 million, up from $72 million
  • Free cash flow: $369 million, up from $(782) million
  • Net debt: $5.8 billion, down from $7.4 billion. . 

Farmer’s Voice: excerpting Kiwi ingenuity:

Taranaki dairy farmer Kane Brisco has always had a passion for keeping fit and healthy and understood the positive effects it can have both physically and mentally.

Driven by this passion, Kane set up and outdoor training class where he endeavors to inspire the rural community about the importance of exercise in a rural lifestyle. 

Four years has given rise to many topics down on the farm – Joyce Wyllie:

“I am willing to open myself again and add another commitment to the list of ‘what I do with my spare time!’.” The last sentence of the first column I wrote way back on February 20, 2016 and amazingly here I am mid-March 2020 pondering column number 100.

Woohoo… beginning four years ago I never considered that a century of two-weekly typing with single-finger tappings would roll around. Often I’m asked how it came about that a farming ex-veterinarian with nil journalistic experience contributes regular compositions to the paper.

I confess that one day after re-reading yet more articles previously printed in recent farming mags, I sent a hasty email to the Nelson Mail editor offering my cheeky opinion that something fresh in the rural pages would be good. Her response was a positive “We would be delighted to be able to run a fortnightly column from a rural woman on our Primary Focus page each alternate Tuesday” . . .

 


Rural round-up

March 16, 2020

Rural people show their support – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay farmer Mark Warren has posted a call for help on social media in an attempt to let other farmers who are finding life tough know that it’s okay to ask for help.

Warren, who owns Waipari Station in Central Hawke’s Bay, says after a sleepless few hours of the 2am churn and trying to be sensible and realise that his Ts and Ps (temperatures and pressures) are in the red zone, he realised he needed help.

“Although I keep hoping to be back to 12 volts, after a weekend wading through waste-deep mud and pulling lambs out of dams I realise my volt meter is struggling to stay in the safe zone. . .

It was all done on a handshake – Neal Wallace:

Stud breeding has enabled the Robertson family from Southland to settle family members onto farms. But Neal Wallace discovers that is only part of the formula for successful farm succession. Being a tight knit, focused and strong family unit also helps.

It might be dismissed as a cliche but the adage that an apple never falls far from the tree is applicable to the Robertson family from Southland.

The Robertsons farm Duncraigen Farm at Mimihau near Wyndham and the cornerstone of their business are stud Hereford cattle, Romney and Dorset Down stud sheep and various crosses of those breeds. . .

 Attracting more ag students – Peter Burke:

The numbers of students taking up agricultural degrees at Massey University is not really increasing, according to Professor Peter Kemp – head of the School of Agriculture and Environment at Massey.

He says there are isolated areas such as animal science that have gone up. However, in horticulture and general agriculture the numbers are lower than they were a few years ago.

Kemp says this is despite the industry, at the same time, having more jobs. He says it’s really hard to unpack the reasons for this. . . 

Blade shear champ looks to 2022 – George Clark:

South Canterbury world champion blade shearer Allan Oldfield is training strategically in an attempt to retain his title at the next shearing and woolhandling world championships in Scotland in 2022.

Mr Oldfield, who is a finalist in the rural sportsman of the year category in this year’s Rural Games, started competing when he was 16 years old in New Zealand’s intermediate blade shearing grade . .

Business is blooming – Toni Williams’s:

Turley Farms Chertsey, in the heart of Mid Canterbury, is among a growing number of farms turning to sunflowers as a rotation crop to use between plantings.

Sunflowers are good for high oleic sunflower oil, which is high in oleic (monounsaturated) acid (at least 80%), and good as a frying oil. It also has a good shelf life and is used in infant formula.

The farm group, which has properties scattered throughout Canterbury, has planted more than 40ha of sunflowers at the Chertsey site. There are 62,000 sunflower plants per hectare. . .

Aussie flock hits 116 year low – Sudesh Kissun:

Prolonged dry conditions in rural Australia are taking a toll on its national sheep flock.

The latest forecast from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) says sheep numbers will fall 3.5% this year.

According to MLA’s 2020 Sheep Industry Projection, stock numbers have been dropping due to drought in key sheep producing regions. . .


Rural round-up

March 7, 2020

Farm confidence – already bruised by the effects of drought – becomes a victim of Covid-19 – Point of Order:

As the country’s  front-line export  sector,  NZ agriculture  is  bearing  the brunt of the global  trade slowdown.  ANZ Bank’s chief  economist  Sharon Zollner says  the  human and  economic damage from the  Covid-19 outbreak is taking a  heavy toll on sentiment in the agriculture  sector.

“Our  best  hope is that the  disruption proves  short-lived but there is not   question the export-oriented  sector is  reeling”.

Authorities   such  as  Keith Woodford  believe NZ, as well as most of the world,  will head into recession.  Woodford contends the key issue becomes rapid support for those who lose their employment.

He  sees  a  “considerable  risk” that the government and Reserve Bank will use the wrong macro tools. . .

The problem with vegans and climate change – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Veganism is a distraction from the major climate change issues of increase in population and lifestyle, including travel, writes Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.

Farmers cannot grow whatever food they like.

This is contrary to ongoing statements in the media, from, for instance the Vegan Society.

Quite apart from the legal restraints to do with type of crop and chemicals that can be used, there are temperature, rainfall, soil and topographical constraints. . .

Court to rule on M Bovis compo – Annette Scott:

The Mycoplasma bovis compensation battle has ramped up following a High Court ruling it is allowed to decide what farmers can be repaid for.

In October last year lawyer Grant Cameron sought a judicial review, on behalf of the van Leeuwen farming group, of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ compensation system.

The van Leeuwens, the first to have the cattle disease confirmed in New Zealand, claim they have been left $3million out of pocket. . . 

Future fails to make present – Neal Wallace:

The present has caught up with AgResearch’s Future Footprint plans which are now a thing of the past. It is now going it alone at Lincoln but collaborating with Massey University in Palmerston North and will keep its centres at Ruakura and Invermay. Neal Wallace reports.

AGRESEARCH has abandoned elements of its Future Footprint proposal begun eight years ago and will keep its four national campuses but expand two.

The original plan was to severely downsize its Invermay campus near Dunedin and Ruakura in Hamilton with the focus on centres at Lincoln and Palmerston North.

Acting chief executive Tony Hickmott says the plan now is to retain all four sites and construct new buildings at Palmerston North, which is under way, and Lincoln. . . 

Magic tonic needed to open wallets – Pam Tipa:

Rain is the magic tonic in the farming community, says Northland based AgFirst consultant Tafi Manjala.

But without it the sentiment going into the Northland Field Days from the farming community will likely to be “cautious”, he says.

“When it is raining and things are going well people are more buoyant and positive about the future,” Manjala told Rural News.

“They feel more confident about things, they can justify to themselves why they can have some discretionary expenditure at the field days. . . 

Agrifeeds invests in increased precision blending and storage:

Agrifeeds have started the new decade in a strong position, having invested significantly in new blending and storage facilities to help increase their nutritional offer to customers.

Following the opening late last year of two new storage facilities in New Plymouth and Marsden Point in Northland, two new blending operations have also been built in each location. . .


Rural round-up

February 23, 2020

Virus bites into jobs – Neal Wallace:

More than 1000 logging contractors, a number industry leaders say could double, have been laid off in recent weeks as the economic impact of China’s battle to contain coronavirus begins to bite.

Meat companies and market analysts report increased activity at ports and distribution of perishable products such as food as business in parts of China returns to normal.

But disrupted shipping schedules are creating a fresh set of challenges for exporters. . .

Lim: real food is here to stay – Gerald Piddock:

Eating fads come and go but real food will never go out of fashion, chef Nadia Lim says.

Natural food, whether grown from the ground or captured from the sea or sky, will always have a place on the food plate, Lim told the DairyNZ Farmers Forum in Waikato.

The dietitian, author, Masterchef winner and My Food Bag founder said the trend to veganism and plant-based alternative meat and dairy will be temporary once consumers understood what is in these products. . .

Importance of healthy plants celebrated in Year of Plant Health:

Healthy plants’ contribution to New Zealand’s wellbeing and economic sustainability has been highlighted at the launch of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) at Parliament tonight.

“Healthy plants are the backbone of New Zealand’s wellbeing and make a significant contribution to our economy,” says Horticulture New Zealand (HortNZ) Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

“Horticulture, including viticulture, contributed approximately $9 billion to the New Zealand economy in 2019. . .

North Canterbury farming keep an eye on the dry:

The Hurunui Adverse Events Committee has been monitoring how farmers are going in the current dry weather, and to remind their communities of the wealth of experience and information available.

Famers in North Canterbury have plenty of drought experience and can take credit for being in reasonable shape as February brings weeks of hot, dry weather and high evapotranspiration.

“If we learned one thing in the 2014-2017 droughts, it was that you need to make decisions early on what you can control,” says Winton Dalley, Chair of the Hurunui Adverse Events Committee. “Its good practice to have plans and deadlines in place to destock, send stock out to graze, and buy in supplements while they are available at an affordable price. . .

Cows can help reverse global warming – Nigel Malthus:

Cows and pasture are not the villains in climate change, but could instead be our saviours, says Hawke’s Bay farmer, soil scientist and consultant Phyllis Tichinin.

An executive member of the Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group (ODPG) and on the organising committee of the group’s upcoming national conference, Tichinin says with regenerative farming methods, the grazing sector alone could make New Zealand carbon-negative.

“Cows are not bad. They’re actually a very important part of reversing global warming and CO2 levels quickly and productively.” . . 

New milk vat monitoring systems for Fonterra farmers:

Fonterra is beginning to install new milk vat monitoring systems over the next couple of years.

The aim is to support their farmers’ production of high-quality milk and make the co-op’s milk collection more efficient.

Richard Allen, group director of Farm Source, says the new milk vat monitoring systems are part of Fonterra’s commitment to help make farming easier.  . .


Rural round-up

February 3, 2020

Worst time for virus – Neal Wallace:

Coronavirus couldn’t have come at a worse time for meat processors, analysts say.

With no one dining out, Chinese cold storage facilities are flooded with product, AgriHQ analyst Reece Brick said.

“From a New Zealand perspective the timing couldn’t have been worse.

“Large-scale buying for the Chinese New Year festivities meant processors’ inventories were well-stocked going into the outbreak. 

“A large portion of the Chinese workforce remains on leave too, further slowing down the movement of product.” . . 

Fighter for free trade will be sorely missed – Federated Farmers

Many farmers will remember Mike Moore as a man who rolled up his sleeves to fight for global trade liberalisation and making things better for New Zealanders in general.

“He was brimming with talent and positivity and wasn’t afraid to stick his neck out,” Federated Farmers President Katie Milne said. “Who can forget his tireless efforts to promote the lamb burger? He took quite a bit of stick for that but was ahead of his time in terms of creating markets for our products.”

For his roles with the World Trade Organisation and as our ambassador to the United States he was away from the home shores he loved, but he continued to strive for the interests of Kiwis. . .

Farmers encouraged to open their gates to connect with urban New Zealand:

Greg and Rachel Hart are opening their Mangarara Station gates on Open Farms Day (Sunday 1 March), and inviting urban Kiwis to learn about their how they farm first-hand.

The Hart family are on a mission to connect New Zealanders with what they eat, how they live, and back to the farm where it all begins.

Greg Hart says, “When we learned about Open Farms Day, it was a no-brainer for us.”

“We love sharing Mangarara Station and offering the farm as a place where people can connect back to the land.” . . .

Walking a mile in her gumboots – Cheyenne Nicholson :

Matamata farmer Ella Wharmby feels more at home in the back paddocks than shopping in the high street. Farming was not her first choice but fate had different ideas. She tells Cheyenne Nicholson how she found her calling.

As the saying goes, you can’t fully understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. And if you swapped the shoes for gumboots, Waikato farmer Ella Wharmby could tell you a thing or two about that.  

Looking at her now, it is hard to believe that she had barely stepped foot on a farm before embarking on a career that would see her combine her passion for food, animals and the outdoors. 

“Having not come from a farming background I now realise how far removed we’ve become from the food chain,” Ella says. . . 

Kiwigrowers to help pay for $18m Queensland fruit fly response:

Kiwifruit growers will fork out around a million dollars toward a year-long operation to eradicate the Queensland fruit fly.

An $18 million biosecurity response in Auckland finished on Friday, with New Zealand declared once again free of the pest.

The total cost will mostly be covered by the government, but industry groups will also have to chip in. . . 

Rothesay Deer operation grew to take over entire farm – Toni Williams:

Rothesay Deer owner Donald Greig has been building up the genetics of his English and composite deer operation for more than three decades.

The farm, near Methven, is spread over three sites but the home block has been in the family for two generations.

The land the stag block is on is an extension of the original farm secured by his father, Tom Greig, following World War 2.

That land was part of a rehabilitation block for ex-servicemen to use for farming after the war. . .

 

Site builds under way at Southern Field Days near Gore – Rachael Kelly:

As trucks roll into the Southern Field Days site at Waimumu to start setting up the South Island’s largest agricultural trade fair, the event secretary has a lot on her plate.

There’s phone calls from exhibitors, a third reprint of 4000 day passes to organise, and a gale warning from the Metservice which may have slowed down progress on putting marquees up.

It’s still two weeks until the crowds begin to flock to Field Days, but the site was a hive of activity already. . . 


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