Rural round-up

January 28, 2020

Farmers face ‘catastrophic’ costs in coming years, despite all sectors performing well – Bonnie Flaws:

Farmer morale is low, despite record highs for commodity prices last year, farmers say.

Lamb, beef, forestry and fruit all saw record prices in 2019, and 2020 got off to a good start with milk prices up 2.8 per cent.

But the sheer amount of challenges “coming down the line”, from regulation like the zero carbon bill and freshwater management policies, to restricted lending from banks has resulted in low farmer confidence and morale, Canterbury dairy farmer Jessie Chan-Dorman said.

“Yes, it’s a really good milk price, but most of us will be paying down debt and consolidating. There won’t be the growth we’ve seen in previous years.” . . 

Drought conditions on the horizon with pockets of extremely dry weather in Waikato – Sharnae Hope:

The country’s biggest dairy region is facing the first signs of a “green drought” after a spell of limited rain for the last couple of weeks.

With summer weather finally in full force temperatures are expected to rise and soil moisture levels plummet throughout Waikato and Northland, NIWA say.

While much of the region still has green paddocks, Northern Waikato and Coromandel/Peninsula have entered very dry to extremely dry conditions.

Waikato Federated Farmers president Andrew McGiven said it’s not unusual for this time of year, but if it continues into late February farmers will be concerned. . . 

Hailes a meat man to the bone – Neal Wallace:

Danny Hailes has had plenty of variety in his 27-year career with Alliance but it now reaches a new level with his elevation to livestock and shareholder services manager. He talks to Neal Wallace.

WHEN Danny Hailes looks back over his meat industry career he quotes one statistic he says reveals much about the capability of New Zealand sheep and beef farmers.

In 2004 Hailes managed the company’s newly bought and renovated Dannevirke plant where the average weight of lambs processed that season was 15.5kg.

Seven years later in his last year managing the Pukeuri plant north of Oamaru the average weight of lambs processed was over 18kg. . . 

2020 the year of ‘New-Gen’ ag – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Could 2020 be the year of New Zealand ‘generative agriculture’? 

A new thought for the New Year – New Zealand ‘generative agriculture’… or New-gen, for short.

New-gen captures New Zealand’s approach to the soil-plant-animal-environment continuum that makes up agriculture: animals have been moved in herds or flocks around the farm or station, enabling them to graze the pasture at its optimum quantity and quality and return dung and urine to the soil in situ. Earthworms have been introduced to enhance organic matter incorporation into the soil and water has been applied in some areas to overcome drought. The result is that organic matter has been maintained or increased.

Efficiencies developed over the past 100 years have been based on science, informed by research, and honed by farmers. . . 

Rabobank climbs rural loans ladder – Nigel Stirling:

Rabobank has leapfrogged ASB to become the country’s third largest rural lender in yet another sign the Australian banks are backing off lending to farmers.

The Dutch bank had $10.7b on loan to farmers at the end of September, behind ANZ with $17.4b and the BNZ with $14.1b, official figures show.

ASB, which is culling jobs at its rural lending division as it sets itself for a slow-down in lending growth, slipped to fourth place with $10.6b of rural loans. Westpac rounded out the top five with loans of $8.6b.

The switch in rankings follows a strong period of lending growth for Rabobank at the same time as three of the four Australian-owned banks throttled back their lending to the sector. . . 

Veganism may not save the world but healthier animals could – Jeff Simmons:

At this month’s Golden Globes, the meal got almost as much attention as the movies with award-winner Joaquin Phoenix and other celebrities touting veganism as a path to saving the planet. The event’s meatless menu created a lot of buzz and critics gave the effort mixed reviews.

I’m a big proponent of reducing our impact on the environment and I applaud people who want to be part of real change. We face big challenges and it will take all of us working together. If there’s one thing I can absolutely agree with Joaquin on, it’s that we should be talking about animals and their impact on our world. But his storyline is missing the bigger picture. Let’s make sure the facts don’t hit the cutting room floor.  . . 

 


Rural round-up

January 26, 2020

New policy might limit farming – Neal Wallace:

Farmers fear new biodiversity policy could force councils to make them restore areas of indigenous flora and fauna on their land.

The Government has released its proposed draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, which leans heavily on councils to identify, monitor and manage areas with significant indigenous biodiversity.

Within five years councils will have to identify and map significant natural areas using standard national criteria, manage any adverse effects on those areas and survey native wildlife in and outside the areas to determine if they are threatened or affected by land use activities. . .

Sarah’s Country: Are we fit for a better world? – Sarah Perriam:

Sarah’s Country’s debut episode focuses on the key elements of this vision for New Zealand that includes a swing towards regenerative agriculture, capturing the value of the billion-dollar plant protein trend and offsetting our carbon emissions with environmental integrity, not ‘thin air fake’ credits.

Sarah Perriam, the host of Sarah’s Country, is this week joined by guest co-host Kate Scott. Kate is a director of LandPro and a 2018 Nuffield Scholar living in Central Otago. . .

Farm sales start to look up:

Farm sales were down 21.6% for the three months ended December 2019 versus the year prior ­— but sales look to be lifting.

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows that farm sales increased by 22.3% in the three months ended December 2019 compared to the three months ended November 2019, with 345 and 282 sales respectively. . .

$8 payout possible – Peter Burke:

The guessing game has begun to predict what dairy farmers will get for their milk this season.

The consensus in the sector is that the price will be positive: numbers ranging from $7.15/kgMS to $7.50/kgMS, although ASB rural economist Nathan Penny is sticking his neck out and suggesting it could reach $8/kgMS.

Fonterra says its forecast is in the range of $7.00 to $7.60 with the midpoint being $7.30.

Dr. Mitloehner issues warning on increasing herd sizes – Charles O’Donnell:

While there is not necessarily a need to cut herd sizes for the purpose of climate change mitigation, increasing numbers is also not the way to go, according to Dr. Frank Mitloehner.

Dr. Mitloehner, a well-known professor and air quality specialist, was speaking at an event called ‘Climate Action in Agriculture: A Balanced Approach’ in Dublin today, Tuesday, January 21, which was organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

The German-born Californian-based professor spoke out against the perceived necessity to cut herd sizes. However, when asked about the growing numbers of animals in the dairy industry, he warned that going in the opposite direction by increasing numbers would pose a climate issue. . . 

Government urged to block high carbon food imports :

Britain cannot risk importing food with a higher carbon footprint than food which has been produced in the UK, a new report says.

Released by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), it says British farming produces some of the most sustainable food in the world and that emissions from UK beef is half that of the global average.

Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK presents a detailed range of options to drive emissions reductions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. . . 

 


Rural round-up

January 21, 2020

Meat prices squeeze domestic suppliers – Neal Wallace:

A correction in global meat prices has prompted Alliance to scale back its minimum price contracts while sustained high values have forced the closure of a Dunedin meat small goods manufacturer.

Lamb volumes accepted for Alliance’s minimum price contracts have been scaled back because they were oversubscribed and international meat prices have eased, livestock and shareholder services manager Danny Hailes says.

Global demand for protein, primarily driven by China, which has lost half its pig population to African swine fever, is pushing up prices but there was a significant correction over Christmas.

Alliance’s minimum price lamb contract is set at $8.10/kg. Last week the South Island schedule was about $7.70/kg, AgriHQ analysts said. . . 

Happy to be involved with marketing bid – Sally Rae:

When it comes to the future of farming, Omarama farmer Trent Spittle believes it will be the end users of products who will decide what happens on farm.

So when approached by outdoor equipment and clothing retailer Kathmandu to be involved with a marketing campaign for its new merino range, showing the entire process from on the farm through to garment manufacturing, he was happy to oblige.

Mr Spittle manages Quailburn Downs, a 2600ha sheep and beef property near Omarama’s Clay Cliffs landmark. . .

Group aims to boost sheep milk – Annette Scott:

Most people in the South Island associate the iconic high country sheep with meat and wool but that is changing as enterprising pioneers establish sheep-milking operations. Founding member of the Canterbury Dairy Sheep Association David Waghorn talked to Annette Scott.     

Sheep milker David Waghorn is confident the Canterbury Dairy Sheep Association will drive opportunities for local sheep milking farmers.

Canterbury has fallen behind the North Island in developing a sheep dairy industry, missing out on investment in infrastructure and research funding, he says.

The association, set up in September, is charged with changing that. .. 

The case for protective planting :

 Catastrophic Australian bushfires are hardly the result of a single cause.

Those who argue this shouldn’t be seen as an up-close-and-personal face of climate change are delusional. Scientific predictions that the climatic fixings for more extreme bushfires – more intense drought, higher temperatures, stronger winds – have shown up as predicted and on cue.

That said, those who point instead to political issues bedevilling the management of the risk are hardly raising a red herring.

The incoherence of the decision making between federal, state and shire authorities has been horridly exposed in terms of the allocation, and marshalling, of resources. . . 

Family and successful farming career built in Gore – Sally Rae:

“Like all good stories, it began with a boy.”

When Jess Moore moved from Melbourne to Gore, she had no knowledge of farming, nor did she even know where the town was. Fast forward a decade or so and she is proud to be a Southland dairy farmer.

After almost nine years of marriage and three children, Mrs Moore and her husband Don have now bought their own farm northeast of Gore, having made progress through the industry.

Mrs Moore particularly loved how willing people in the industry were to share their knowledge and experiences.

They were a young couple, not from a farming background, and had taken all opportunities available and immersed themselves “in as much dairy as we could”. . . 

Freshwater management unit for Hokitika – Lois Williams:

People who care about their local rivers and the way the water is used might want to show up for meetings in Hokitika and Harihari this week.

The West Coast Regional Council is about to launch the Hokitika Freshwater Management Unit (FMU) and it needs volunteers from all sectors of the community to be on it.

The Hokitika FMU is the third to be set up on the coast, after the establishment of Grey/Mawhera and Karamea groups, and it takes in the area from the Taramakau River to the Waiau (Franz Josef).

FMU’s are part of the government’s strategy to stop the degradation of rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands around the country. . . 


Rural round-up

January 18, 2020

Disease’s cost killed meat firm – Jacob McSweeny:

Meat production at a 100-year-old Dunedin company has ceased and 13 staff have been made redundant but the owner of The Craft Meat Company says the business will live on.

The decision came after meat producers’ profits were cut by rising costs due to a global shortage of protein triggered by the African swine fever epidemic, owner Grant Howie said.

‘‘[It was] the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do,’’ Mr Howie said of the decision to axe staff. . . 

Sage softens lease land changes – Neal Wallace:

The Government appears to have softened the sharpest edges of proposed changes to the management of pastoral lease land while confirming farming will continue in the South Island high country.

The bill detailing changes to the Crown Pastoral Lands Act appears to back down on initial proposals that included greater political oversight of the activities of the Commissioner of Crown Lands, traditionally an independent position.

It seems also to accept submissions from farming sectors that lessees have legal rights to pasturage and quiet enjoyment of their land, which would have been compromised by the original recommendations. . . 

Fonterra pioneer expects much better:

One of the architects of Fonterra says he’s very disappointed with the co-op’s performance over the years.

Tirau farmer, Tony Wilding says farmers expected better when they formed the co-op in 2001. “It’s not the performance we had in mind when we formed Fonterra,” he told Rural News.

Wilding received a New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s honours list for his contribution to the dairy sector and community. . .

New chief executive for Meat Industry Association – Sudesh Kissun:

The Meat Industry Association has appointed Sirma Karapeeva as its new chief executive.

Karapeeva, who is currently the Meat Industry Association’s (MIA) trade and economic manager, has been with the trade association since 2015. She replaces Tim Ritchie who is retiring after 12 years in the role.

Karapeeva, who takes over in April, held a variety of trade, policy and regulatory roles in Government before joining MIA.

Kiwifruit prices hit record high:

Kiwifruit prices were at an all-time high in December 2019, with prices for seasonal fruit and vegetables also up, Stats NZ said today.

“Kiwifruit prices rose 32 percent in December to a weighted average price of $8.27 per kilo, an all-time high,” acting consumer prices manager James Griffin said.

“This compares with $4.24 in December last year.” . . 

Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award nominations open:

Nominations to a national award that recognises dairy farmers who demonstrate leadership in their approach to sustainable dairying and who are ambassadors for the industry open January 15th.

The Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award was introduced by the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards to recognise those dairy farmers who are respected by their farming peers and their community for their attitude and role in sustainable dairying. Entry for this award is by nomination only via dairyindustryawards.co.nz. . . 


Rural round-up

December 31, 2019

Land Champion: helping girls gain confidence – Neal Wallace:

Laura Douglas has successfully slayed her demons and is now using everyday farming skills to help teenage girls confront theirs.

Depression four years ago thrust the 32-year-old Southlander into some dark places, places unimaginable today given her boundless energy, endless positivity and zest for life and people.

Douglas addressed her depression by taking small steps, getting out and doing things such as volunteering at a horse refuge and celebrating small achievements. . .

Alliance aiming for ‘greater value’ as part of evolution – Brent Melville:

Southland-based  farmer co-operative Alliance Group wants to capture “greater value” from its products as part of its evolution to a food and solutions business, chairman Murray Taggart says.

Last month, Alliance Group announced a profit of $20.7million before distributions and tax, on revenue of $1.7billion.

It has now paid $9million to its supplying shareholders.

Mr Taggart said it was the best trading result since 2010.

“While this year’s result enabled us to reward shareholders with a profit distribution, we recognise the need to lift the profitability further. . . 

Land Champion: Many string in Jones’ bow – Annette Scott:

From humble beginnings 19 years ago Matt and Tracey Jones now do business worldwide to help Canterbury farmers staff their farms and have launched a world class learning environment in rural Mid Canterbury to provide elite education to strengthen New Zealand primary industries. Annette Scott caught up with the agribusiness entrepreneurs.

Mid Canterbury couple Matt and Tracey Jones’ agricultural staffing businesses is going world-wide recruiting and training people to work across all sectors of New Zealand’s primary industries.

Starting out as Mid Canterbury Casual Employment Services in 2001 their recruitment and training business has evolved and expanded to meet agriculture’s increasing needs. . .

$42.55m in I billion trees project funding:

Figures released by Te Uru Rakau (Forestry New Zealand) this week show 228 grant applications were received for funding under the Government’s One Billion Trees Programme this year, a total of $42.55million being allocated across 42 projects.

Te Uru Rakau acting deputy director-general Sam Keenan said $22.2million of that had been approved across 10,758.4 hectares of new planting.

“To date approximately 17,056,165 trees comprised of 9,785,067 native and 7,271,098 exotic trees have been funded.” . . 

Ngāi Tahu hopes to raise funds for undaria management by selling the seaweed – Louisa Steyl:

It’s a frigid morning off the coast of Dunedin when a wetsuit-clad diver rises to the surface clutching a slimy prize.

The trophy is a seaweed known as undaria pinnatifida – a pest native to Japan and Korea – and physically cutting it out is the only way to control it. 

On board the Polaris 2, a research vessel stationed just a few metres away, members of Ngāi Tahu is processing and packing the seaweed for research.

Its trying to determine the possible uses of undaria in the hopes that harvesting it could pay for control efforts.  . . 

 

Planning to feed? Try the calculator app to help come with complex decisions :

Livestock producers are now planning for difficult conditions through summer and autumn, going into winter.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services have advised producers to use available tools and tactics to develop feasible solutions for worst case to best case scenarios.

DPI sheep development officer, Geoff Casburn, said the free Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app is available from the Apple App Store and Google Play to help calculate feed requirements, costs and budgets and develop cost effective feeding strategies. . . 

 


Rural round-up

December 15, 2019

Otago institutions work to create virtual centre for rural health education :

Three Otago institutions are teaming up to improve the future of rural health care.

The University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic and Central Otago Health Services have signed a memorandum of understanding on rural health care practice, service, education and research.

The organisations want to create a virtual centre for rural health education. . .

Telford campus future secured at graduation – John Cosgrove:

During the 2019 graduation ceremony, Southern Institute of Technology chief executive Penny Simmonds spoke of the multimillon-dollar plans for the future of the Balclutha farming industry training institute.

“We are projecting to spend $6 million over the next couple of years on Telford, making sure that it is ramped up with plenty of students there getting graduates out into the primary sector.”

“I am really pleased that SIT have locked in a good level of funding to be able to do the upgrades they need to do at Telford. . .

Emissions profile sparks debate – Laura Smith:

It is a moot point; discussion about whether Southland has too many cows has been generated after Great South released the 2018 Southland greenhouse gas emission profile earlier this week.

Agricultural-related emissions were found to be the largest emission source for Southland, accounting for 69% of overall gross emissions.

Greenpeace sustainable agriculture campaigner Gen Toop said there were too many cows.

“We urgently need fewer cows if we are going to address the climate and water crises.” . .

Fortuna buys Zeestraten farms from Southern Centre – Neal Wallace:

Four farms at the centre of the Southland Mycoplasma bovis outbreak have been sold.

Southern Centre Dairies, owned by Alfons and Gea Zeestraten, has been bought by Southland dairy farming firm, Fortuna Group.

Zeestraten said he is uncertain what he will do next, before politely declining to comment further. . .

 

Commission grants clearance for Cardrona to acquire Treble Cone

The Commerce Commission has granted clearance for Cardrona Alpine Resort Limited to acquir either the shares of Treble Cone Investments Limited or the assets it uses to operate the Treble Cone ski field.

In considering Cardrona’s application for clearance, the Commission focussed on whether the price of single day, multi day and season ski passes would increase with the acquisition, including to skiers in the Wanaka region, and whether the acquisition would increase the likelihood of coordination on ski pass prices. The Commission also considered the extent to which an alternative purchaser would invest in, and develop, the Treble Cone ski field. . .

International Human Resources specialist to join Ballance Agri-Nutrients lead team:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients is proud to announce that Jackie Rich, an internationally experienced human resources professional, has accepted the role of General Manager People and Capability.

“We’re excited to add Jackie to our team. She is a proven HR leader who has successfully led teams at both strategic and operational levels, with over 20 years’ experience spanning the full spectrum of HR functions”, says Mark Wynne, Chief Executive Officer. . .

 


Rural round-up

November 27, 2019

Australian pair are here to learn – Sally Rae:

When 2019 Zanda McDonald Award joint winners Shannon Landmark and Luke Evans visited Omarama last week, it truly was a flying visit.

The Australian pair flew into the Waitaki Valley township on a Pilatus aircraft that had been chauffeuring them around the country on a mentoring trip, as part of their prize package.

The Australasian agribusiness award was launched by the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP) Group in 2014, in memory of Australian beef industry leader and PPP foundation member Zanda McDonald, who died in 2013 after an accident at his Queensland property. . .

Seaweed products pioneer named supreme winner in rural women business awards – Angie Skerrett:

A company that has pioneered the use of seaweed products has won the supreme award in this year’s NZI Rural Women NZ Business Awards. 

The annual awards celebrate and showcase entrepreneurship and innovation by rural women.

At a function in the Banquet Hall at Parliament, AgriSea Business Development Manager Clare Bradley accepted the supreme award for the Paeroa-based family business.  . . 

AgriSea specialises in the manufacture of macro-algae concentrates and bioactive extractions to add high-value nutrition for soil, plant, animal and human health.  . . 

Seeking sustainability at scale – Neal Wallace:

Ross and Jo Hay are typical of thousands of young farming couples who work hard and continually search for a chance to grow and get ahead. Neal Wallace met the North Otago couple to find out how they are establishing their careers. 

Ross and Jo Hay are not oblivious to the uncertainty associated with the clouds of rules looming on the farming horizon but they have decided to take a glass half full approach.

Fuelled with enthusiasm and determination to pursue a farming career the Hays are confident there will be opportunity among the plethora of Government rules bearing down on the sector.

“People got through the 1980s,” Ross says. . .

Blueberry picking looms – Abbey Palmer:

As leaves fall and berries begin to change from green to blue, Southland’s only blueberry farm is gearing up for another season of hand-picked fun.

With 220 hectares of land planted in bushes, Otautau’s Blueberry Country will be opening its gates to the public this summer for the eight-week season.

Blueberry Country general manager Simon Bardon said the 10 staff members were hoping to be able to welcome visiting pickers from early January through till the end of February.

“One of the best parts of blueberry picking season is seeing all of the families out and kids knackered from running up and down the orchards,” Mr Bardon said. . .

 

Happy Cow Diaries part 4: We’re back, and ready to take on industrial dairying – Glen Herud:

Happy Cow Milk is poised to relaunch with a new business model and an invention that could revolutionise dairy production, explains founder Glen Herud, in the latest instalment of his Spinoff series documenting the company’s fall and rise again.

Just as we were chilling the beers for our equity crowdfunding launch last Thursday we crossed the line. We cracked those beers instead, because by the time I got home we had fulfilled our target of raising $400,000. After months of work it was a huge relief to reach our goal, and we did it in just 8 hours and 8 minutes.

It was a rare day of success in what sometimes feels like an endless start-up slog. The best part for me is the confirmation that New Zealanders are ready for change. They want solutions that reduce emissions, look after animals, protect waterways and reduce plastics. And they want to connect with farmers and food production in a more positive way . .

Staring into oblivion: People of the drought lands watch their world disappear – Rob Harris:

It’s 5.45am in Casino, just over an hour’s drive inland from Byron Bay in northern NSW, and the smoke from weeks of bushfires lingers, casting a gloomy haze over the sunrise.

The early shift at the town’s meat works has filed in and the piercing noise of an electric hand saw cutting its way through carcass after carcass drowns out the Monday morning chatter.

The Northern Co-operative Meat Company is the town’s biggest private employer with 1000 people – 10 per cent of Casino’s population – relying on a constant flow of cattle to make ends meet. . .


Rural round-up

November 24, 2019

Canterbury farmers fearing as much as an 80 percent crop loss from hailstorm – Kaysha Brownlie:

Canterbury farmers are scrambling to salvage what was spared from hail the size of eggs which pummelled Canterbury this week.

Some of them are fearing as much as an 80 percent crop loss after two severe storms battered the region.

Insurers said they’ve received hundreds of claims after the egg-sized hail and driving rain caused extensive damage. . . .

Fowl under fire for pollution – Neal Wallace:

Southland dairy farmers have become more compliant with their resource consent conditions with the rate of significant non-compliance last year falling from 1.9% to 1.8%.

In the 2018-19 year council staff inspected 783 dairy effluent discharge consents either on-site or by air and found 634 fully compliant, 139 graded as low risk or moderately non-compliant and 10, or 1.8%, as significantly non-compliant.

The previous year 922 sites were inspected, some more than twice, and 17, or 1.9%, were found to be significantly non-compliant.

The council’s regulatory committee chairman Neville Cook said the improvement shows farmers are aware of their responsibilities and are doing something about it. . . .

Landcorp subsidiary sued for hundreds of thousands by Australian sheep farmers – Gerard Hutching:

An Australian farming couple is suing Landcorp subsidiary Focus Genetics for hundreds of thousands of dollars because they cannot access their sheep genetics data.

The Wellington High Court recently conducted an urgent hearing over whether Damien and Kirsten Croser, fourth generation farmers from South Australia, could access some of the data for this season’s mating.

The urgent hearing is separate to an application to sue Focus Genetics. Originally the Crosers said they would sue for $1.9 million, but their claim has been reduced to an undisclosed sum. . .

Profitable year leaves Alliance in strong position – Brent Melville:

Alliance group has doubled profits to $20.7 million and will pay its farmer shareholders a $9 million fillip for the year to September.

The country’s largest processor and exporter of sheep and lamb products, yesterday reported turnover of $1.7 billion, largely on the back of record demand and prices from China.

Alliance chairman Murray Taggart, said the increase in profit was pleasing and reflected the co-operative’s drive to maximise operational efficiency and focus on capturing greater market value. .

 

 

Wool stains could stop processing  – Alan WIlliams:

Dye-stained wool unsuitable for scouring could be problem for years because of the high volume being stored, New Zealand Woolscouring chief executive Nigel Hales says.

“We’d only be guessing how much wool there is out there but feedback from field reps is that every motorbike they see has a can of spray on it.”

The dye stains in wool cannot be scoured out and a lot of wool is now not being scoured at all though Hales said the amount is not material given the overall volumes. . .

How Dean Foods’ bankruptcy is a ‘warning sign’ to the milk industry – Lillianna Byington:

Wrestling with debt and struggling to adjust to consumer demands, ​America’s largest dairy producer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week.

Analysts told Food Dive this news didn’t come as a shock. A number of factors led to Dean Foods’ decline, including dropping fluid milk consumption, rising competition from private label and milk alternatives, and a complex company history with M&A gone wrong and financial missteps from which it never quite recovered. 

These factors culminated in a decline in revenues that led to the company’s bankruptcy filing​ after several CEOs failed to achieve the task of turning around the troubled business. Experts and analysts say what happened to Dean can serve as a cautionary tale to other businesses in the space.

 


Rural round-up

November 16, 2019

Hear our voices – Colin Williscroft:

Country went to town in Wellington on Thursday with hundreds of farmers marching on Parliament to protest against what they see as increasing afforestation of productive farmland, often by overseas owners.

However, it wasn’t the only reason people were there with others expressing disapproval of policies focusing on everything from environmental regulations to gun control.

After gathering at Civic Square the protestors, many with placards and led by a tractor carrying a sign saying “Farmers have had enough” marched down Lambton Quay to Parliament where they delivered a petition, signed by more than 11,000 people onlinem, calling for the rejection of legislation that incentivises blanket afforestation of farmland. . .

Young farmer airs concerns – Henry Gaddum:

A young member of the region’s farming community has written an open letter in which he expresses deep concern himself, and on behalf of others, about the future of the region when it comes to land use and Henry Gaddum wants to do something about it.

Here is his letter —


“To a fellow Kiwi.

We are a group of young farmers in the Gisborne/East Coast region and we are seriously concerned about the future of not only our local environment and economy, but also the whole country in relation to Carbon Credits and Pine Trees.
We are fully engaged and enthusiastic about farming sustainably, keeping our creeks clean and re-establishing native trees and wildlife, but we are seriously worried what our countryside is going to look like in the near future, and what our future generations are going to have to try and deal with, if we as a country continue to sell our land to overseas investors.

It seems mad to be blanket planting the lands of one of the most efficient food (carbon footprint) producing countries in the world, just for a less efficient country to take up the slack in global food demand.
How is this helping the climate change problem
? . .

More restrictions in new gun laws – Neal Wallace:

A proposed new firearms register will require licence holders to constantly update the movement of weapons and ammunition, a firearms lobby group warns.

The Council of Licensed Firearms Owners Association describes the proposed regulations on firearms while they are being moved or loaned as onerous and devoid of practical reality.

“What this law is actually doing is looking at the possession of firearms and ammunition not the ownership,” spokeswoman Nicole McKee said. . .

Meat processing sector trials ‘wearable’ technology to reduce injuries :

New wearable technology designed to reduce the risk of injury is being trialled by New Zealand’s meat processing sector.

The Suit-X Exoskeleton is a spring-loaded, non-mechanical device worn by workers to provide strength and support for mechanical and repetitive tasks.

The suits cut the risk of injury and increase productivity, especially during periods of sustained bending and overhead reaching. . .

NZ’s newest training college:

Training is set to become New Zealand’s newest education provider Agri and will be based in Mid Canterbury. The Agri Training programme will be fully user pays and has a goal of lifting training in the primary industries to a new standard in partnership with the world-renowned City & Guilds who have been providing technical skills education and corporate learning development training programmes since 1878. The partnership with City & Guilds complements the Agri Training programme, and as a result offers the diplomas credibility for graduates and employers. The programme will have specialist streams across dairy production, arable, sheep & beef, and deer offering students skill choices for the future and a wide-ranging knowledge as part of a new, innovative strategy that will offer a unique approach to training and assessment across the agricultural industry.

The Agri Training programme has been in the making for several years and has been guided to its launch by Co-Founder Matt Jones who has had a long involvement with agribusiness and recruitment over a 20-year period. . .

Forget the hunger games, greet the driverless tractor – Marian L. Tupy & Chelsea Follett:

If you are a sci-fi fan, then you have probably noticed the dystopian character of movies about the future. From the classics, such as Soylent Green and Blade Runner, to modern hits, such as the Matrix trilogy and District 9, Hollywood’s take on the future is almost invariably negative. The story lines tend to centre on depletion of natural resources, like in the Mad Max movies, the emergence of highly stratified societies, like Elysium, or both.

In Hollywood’s rendition, the future consists of a few people at the top, who partake in the good life and enjoy what’s left of earth’s resources, while the much more numerous masses suffer some form of enslavement and destitution. That is, until one day, a messianic figure emerges to overthrow the existing order, slaughters the oppressors, liberates the untermenschen and ushers in an era of peace and prosperity.

One of the most recent installments in Hollywood’s ceaseless torrent of dystopianism is the widely popular Hunger Games franchise. The plot warns of the dangers of authoritarianism and of the utter failure of central planning. Thanks to capitalism, the future will look very different. Before we get to that, here is a quick summary of the plot. . .


Rural round-up

November 14, 2019

Saving us from ourselves – John Jackson:

The Government’s policy to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand is working directly against the goals of the Paris Accord.

NZ’s pastoral farming is a low emissions process.

Studies published in the NZ Crown Research Institute (CRI) assessment of agricultural production systems the world over show NZ is “head and shoulders” above its competitors.

This goes well beyond our on farm production. With regard to NZ lamb sold in the UK, ocean shipping made up 5% of the final product’s carbon cost – voiding the belief that meat produced on this side of the world is environmentally unsustainable.  . .

Action groups motivate farmers – Richard Rennie:

Working together to gain access to high-level agriculture and business expertise is already leading to efficiency gains for a group of Hawke’s Bay farmers, rural consultant Sean Bennett says.

Bennett facilitates two Red Meat Profit Partnership action groups and is working with farmers to set up several more. 

The RMPP action network supports small groups of seven to nine farm businesses working together to explore ideas and share expert resources to help make positive on-farm changes. Kick-start funding of $4000 a farm is pooled to fund facilitation and expertise. . .

Independent dairy companies offer farmers an attractive option – Gerard Hutching:

Ask a New Zealander to name a dairy company and the one they are certain to come up with is Fonterra.

But beyond that, many would be stumped for an answer. There are in fact at least a score of independents, processing 18 per cent of New Zealand milk, a share that has steadily increased over the 18 years Fonterra has been in existence.

Open Country Dairy (OCD) farmer supplier Chris Lewis speaks for many when he says farmers opt for an independent over Fonterra because it’s an easier way to get ahead. . . 

He’s just mad about saffron – Nigel Malthus:

“I always reckoned you could make a living off 10 acres,” says Canterbury saffron grower Geoff Slater.

“I think if you get the right products you definitely can.”

For Slater and his wife Jude, their 10-acre (4ha) slice of paradise at Eyrewell, north of the Waimakariri River, is where they are building a multi-faceted business trading under the Canterbury Saffron banner. . .

Council role review a priority – Neal Wallace:

New Fonterra Shareholders’ Council chairman James Barron promises a review of the council’s role will be completed by the co-operative’s next annual meeting.

The council’s priority will be a review of its role while contributing to discussion on the co-operative’s capital structure and new strategy.

Barron is a fourth-generation farmer milking 450 cows on the 140ha dairy farm he grew up on, on the banks of the Waihou River south of Matamata.

He replaces Duncan Coull who has retired after four and a half years. . . 

Artisan cheesemakers unite – Catherine Donnelly:

An excerpt from ‘Ending the War on Artisan Cheese,’ a new book that exposes government actions that limit food choice under the guise of food safety.

Over the past 35 years, the US Food and Drug Administration has pushed for a mandatory requirement for the use of pasteurized milk in cheesemaking, claiming a public health risk for raw milk cheese. This scenario is playing out abroad as well, where creameries are collapsing because they can’t comply with EU health ordinances. In her new book, Ending the War on Artisan Cheese (Chelsea Green Publishing, November 2019), Catherine Donnelly defends traditional cheesemaking and exposes overreaching government actions that limit food choice under the guise of food safety. The following excerpt explains how the loss of artisan cheese is tantamount to the loss of culture. 

American artisan cheese has become mainstream, providing big business for retailers such as Whole Foods, Costco, Wegmans, Murray’s Cheese (now owned by Kroger), and others. Despite the success enjoyed by US artisan cheesemakers and the meteoric rise of artisan cheese production, the American artisan cheese industry faces an existential threat: regulatory overreach. . . 


Rural round-up

November 8, 2019

Muller: Labour wants ag gone – Annette Scott:

The Government does not see agribusiness as part of the future of New Zealand’s economy, National Party agriculture spokesman Todd Muller says.

And the freshwater reforms are potentially damaging to the rural community, he told about 200 people at a meeting in Ashburton.

He is wary of new rules without factoring in the potential economic impact.

“You can only get sustainable, enduring outcomes if farmers can see a way they can farm to their limits.

“Economic, social and environmental implications are all perspectives that need to be in communications.

“That’s why we are pushing back very hard and will do if we are in government after September next year.”   . . 

Fonterra wants change to water rules – Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra wants the Government to remove suggested maximum required levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in streams.

In its submission on the Government’s Action of Healthy Waterways proposal, Fonterra says it “strongly opposes” some of the maximum required levels for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP).

Farm Source Group director Richard Allen says the discussion document does not contain sufficient economic analysis to justify the proposed bottom line values.

Fonterra believes that in-stream bottom lines should only be used where there is a direct link to the outcomes sought. . .

‘Some mud needs to be thrown’ – farmer at Fonterra AGM :

Fonterra shareholders are frustrated and want accountability after turbulent times for the country’s biggest enterprise.

About 200 farmers gathered in Invercargill for the dairy giant’s annual general meeting.

The co-op recently posted a $605 million loss for the last financial year, and didn’t pay dividends to shareholders.

Farmer shareholders acknowledged that today was going to be tough for Fonterra’s leaders during an Q and A session. . .

Breeders boost eating quality – Neal Wallace:

Breeders are responding to customers’ desires and positioning the sheep farmers for the day when processors start grading meat for its eating qualities. Neal Wallace reports.

Meat processors don’t recognise eating quality yet but a group of ram breeders is preparing for when they do.

Andrew Tripp from Nithdale Station in Southland is involved in the South Island genomic calibration project, which uses DNA testing to let breeders predict terminal sire rams likely to produce offspring with meat that has superior qualities of tenderness and juiciness.

Other partners in the project include Beef + Lamb Genetics, Pamu, AgResearch, Focus Genetics, Kelso, the Premier Suftex group, the Southern Suffolk group and Beltex NZ. . . 

A blaze of yellow – Nigel Malthus:

Several thousand hectares of South Island farmland is a blaze of yellow as the annual rapeseed crop welcomes the spring.

Cropping farmer Warren Darling is one whose display regularly wows the public, since his farm straddles State Highway One just south of Timaru. His 120ha of rape is at “peak flower” and he expects to harvest at the end of January.

Darling has been growing the crop for about 12 years, along with wheat and barley.

He is now also trying sunflowers, beans and industrial hemp, in an effort to find compatible crops to move to a four-year rotation. . .

Busy music career gathers speed – Alice Scott:

Farmer’s wife, teacher, mother of twin boys, fledgling musician and all while recovering from brain surgery … it’s fair to say Casey Evans hasn’t been taking things easy over the last few years.

Casey moved to husband Rhys’ family farm near Owaka just under three years ago and things have been moving rapidly since, as her country music career begins to gain momentum and she is about to set off on a Somewhere Back Road music tour, raising funds to produce her first solo album.

It is just over a year since Casey underwent surgery to extend the size of her skull and release the pressure on her cerebellum and brain stem tissue which was pushing against the hole at base of her skull. For years Casey said she has experienced chronic fatigue and headaches which she attributed to “a few too many” horse falls. Being pregnant with twins, the symptoms compounded and Casey blacked out.

“It was then they did a scan and diagnosed the problem.” . . 

EcoScapes: Stunning views, mental massages and the country’s coolest cinema – Brook Sabin:

I’ve come up with a great concept: the mental massage.

Let me explain. It’s a crazy time to be a human: we’re bombarded with so much information, we’re expected to do more than ever, and we’re all feeling, well, a little bit tired. 

So, you’ll like this next bit: it’s time for a mental massage. I’m talking about a little holiday that slows the heartbeat. That relaxes the muscles. That gives your brain a break. 

And, boy, I think I’ve found it. 

It’s a luxury pod in the mountains, where you can sit back in bed and stare at the Southern Alps. And with the flick of a button, the room transforms into the country’s coolest cinema – all to enjoy with just one other person. . . 


Rural round-up

November 4, 2019

$9 billion shock – Neal Wallace and Annette Scott:

Claims the Government’s essential freshwater proposals could cost the livestock industry over $9 billion a year are selective, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

That is the estimated cost of compliance and lower production of meeting proposed freshwater reforms, submissions from Beef + Lamb and DairyNZ say.

More than 12,000 submissions were made by last week’s deadline.

The reforms have been labelled by some farming bodies as unbalanced, unnecessarily harsh and unsustainable. . .

M bovis’ eradication initiatives vindicated – Sally Rae:

An independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG) believes achieving eradication of Mycoplasma bovis is still feasible.

The group’s latest report was released yesterday by the Ministry for Primary Industries in which it supported the changes the M. bovis programme had made over the past six months.

Given available data, achieving biological freedom from M. bovis was feasible provided the number of undetected infected herds was not large, infection had not established and spread within the non-dairy sector, and that the rate of transmission to new herds was reduced via continued shortening in the intervals from infection to application of movement controls, it said. . .

Faith, family and farming– Sonita Chandar:

Southland farmers are community and spiritual leaders in the Islamic community. They put their faith above everything and answered the call to help  after the Christchurch mosque shootings. They talk to Sonita Chandar about their experiences and farming.

On Friday March 15 Invercargill farmer and imam of the world’s southernmost mosque, Reza Abdul-Jabbar, was delivering his weekly sermon when a worshipper’s phone rang.

Until then it had been super quiet, as it usually is during the service.

He reminded the man it was a time for silence, not to take the call and continued. 

But other phones began ringing. . .

Fonterra’s dream run in India – Pam Tipa:

Fonterra three months ago launched its first consumer brand in India under the Fonterra Future Dairy joint venture.

The brand Dreamery has had a “fantastic reception”, says Judith Swales, chief operating officer, global consumer and foodservice.

Fonterra is working with joint venture partner Future Group which is present in 26 of 31 Indian states with over 2000 modern trade outlets and 5000 public distribution outlets. . .

Experts have their say on whether cherries justify their popularity – Mark Price:

Faced with all manner of economic worries — from Trump to freshwater policies — where might investors put their hard-won savings in the hope of a better than deposit rate return? Might cherries — the horticultural darling of the moment in Central Otago — be the answer? Mark Price sought out two opinions.

Ross and Sharon Kirk are cherry industry consultants trading as Hortinvest Ltd. They have the biggest netted orchard under management in Central Otago (close to 40ha), and are in the process of planting two 80ha, ‘‘fully-netted’’ development

Suitability for Central Otago

Q: What are the basic requirements for cherries to thrive?
A: Low rainfall over harvest, good winter chilling, reasonable soils (nutrient), adequate water, reasonable shelter from wind, and netting (to keep out birds).

Q: Which requirements does Central Otago meet?
A: All of the above, although the bird netting is expensive. . . .

Cute as buttons :

North Canterbury farmers Melissa and Hayden Cowan have a small flock of rare black-nosed Swiss Valais sheep.

Often referred to as the “cutest sheep in the world” this distinctive breed with black face and ears, curly forelocks and spotted knees and hocks originate in the mountains of the Valais area of Switzerland.

They imported their first embryos from the UK in 2018 and from the 32 embryos 18 live lambs were born so there’s no guarantee they’ll work. The embryos cost $2000 a pop so it’s a quite an investment. .


Rural round-up

November 1, 2019

Why low morale in a good season? – Peter Burke:

Low morale and uncertainty in the dairy industry appear to be overshadowing the positive outlook for the sector.

The latest ANZ Agri Focus reports a huge range of positives for the sector, yet the bank’s agricultural economist, Susan Kilsby, says dairy farmer confidence is the lowest they have seen in more than 20 years.

The biggest thing impacting farmer confidence is the uncertainty about Government regulations on environmental legislation, she says.  . .

Good farmers must change too -Annette Scott:

Freshwater and climate will be the big drivers of change in balancing competing interests and farmers are not the bad ones in the equation, Ecologic Foundation chief executive Guy Salmon says.

The problem is not that farmers are bad, Salmon told the Agricultural and Horticultural Science Institute forum at Lincoln University.

“It is the institutes and incentives they face that are not the right ones.

“Yes, we need to find new ways of using land, water and greenhouse gas.

“My core argument here is farmers are grounded in this type of thing, they have always had values and bottom lines. They could be a model in the new way of NZ we are trying to form.” . .

Rules to add costs to councils – Neal Wallace:

Regional councils face higher costs, increased staffing needs and delays in implementing water plans because of the Government’s Essential Freshwater policy proposals, they warn.

While there is uncertainty about the effects until the proposed national policy statement freshwater standards are finalised, some councils say the new standard should be incorporated as plans are reviewed but others face long and involved processes.

Six regional councils approached said they face significant costs to plans and need more staff. . .

Carbon absorption on your farm :

New Zealand farmers can now estimate how much carbon their tree blocks are sequestering.

This follows a new addition to OverseerFM. The carbon stock tool in OverseerFM uses data from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Carbon Look-up Tables to estimate the carbon sequestration potential for existing and future tree blocks on a farm.

The new tool adds to OverseerFM’s existing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions analysis tool, which models the farm’s biological emissions (methane, nitrous oxide) and carbon dioxide as well asproduct footprint. . .

Cubbie Station tours Murray-Darling councillors through its controversial cotton holding to show there’s no water – Lydia Burton and Nathan Morris :

A controversial Queensland cotton producer has opened its gates to Murray-Darling Basin councils in an attempt to turnaround its poor reputation among drought-ravaged communities.

Cubbie Station — Australia’s largest cotton farm based in south-west Queensland — has come under pressure in recent years over its water use and impacts downstream.

Cubbie CEO Paul Brimblecombe said the tour allowed local government representatives from all Basin states to see the station and the drought for themselves.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to get out on the ground and put the full story in front of them,” he said. . .

Only a small % of what cattle eat is grain, 86% comes from materials humans don’t eat – Lauren Stine:

The plant-based industry wants you to believe that crops, like soy, corn, and barley, are mostly being fed to livestock, but according to the United Nations FAO, grain makes up only 13% of global livestock feed.

Only 13% of global animal feed (all animals for food, including chickens, pigs and cattle) is comprised of grain crops, according to United Nations FAO research, and only 32% of overall global grain production in 2010 was used to feed livestock.

A staggering 86% of global livestock feed consists of materials that we cannot digest as humans, like crop residues including stover and sugarcane tops. Pigs and chickens are also monogastrics (like humans) and cannot digest these products either. However, ruminant animals like cattle, sheep, and goats can safely consume these materials and turn them into nutrient-dense protein for humans.  . .


Rural round-up

October 27, 2019

Dirty birds are fouling waterways – Ron Frew:

New Zealand’s waterways are mostly pretty good in terms of being safe to swim in. 

Certainly, I know of no deaths or even serious illness directly or indirectly attributed to swimming in a NZ river because of contamination from industrial, agricultural or municipal causes. 

The discussion has largely been about contamination from dairy farms and that was driven by Fish and Game, possibly to divert attention from the fact that E coli contamination from water fowl, eg game birds, is very high in some locations.  . .

Passion for workers’ wellbeing – Yvonne O’Hara:

Serena Lyders, of Tokanui, comes from five generations of shearers, grew up among shearers, is married to a sheep and beef farmer, her three sons are shearers and her 2-year-old granddaughter already has her own miniature woolshed broom.

As a result, Mrs Lyders is passionate about the wool­harvesting industry and the health and wellbeing of its workers.

She is a Manukura navigator leader and mentor, working for Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu, which is the Whanau Ora commissioning agency for the South Island . . 

Farmers ramp up gun action – Neal Wallace:

Farmers are ramping up their campaign to change new firearm laws to allow some of them to use otherwise  banned firearms for pest control on their properties.

The legislation as proposed will compromise the ability of landowners with significant pest problems to do control so Government officials were invited to hear the concerns from some affected Central Otago farmers, Federated Farmers board member Miles Anderson says.

The federation wants an exemption for a small number of farmers who need semi-automatic firearms with large capacity magazines, of the type the bill will outlaw. . . 

Sheep recognition step closer – Sally Rae:

The world’s first sheep facial recognition software, developed in Dunedin, is set to be prototyped this year.

Sheep NN, a project created by artificial intelligence and machine learning company Iris Data Science, has received a $40,000 grant from Callaghan Innovation towards the $100,000 project that will take the model to prototype by the end of the year.

Iris Data Science was co-founded by Greg Peyroux and Benoit Auvray, who have been working on the project to cheaply re-identify sheep, potentially removing the need for ear-tags while also solving other farm management and broader issues. . .

Zespri tries to whet US appetite :

Research has become a bigger part of Zespri’s marketing mix as it reverts to basics to increase sales in the United States.

The US is a comparatively recent market for Zespri, which has previously looked to China and Japan for growth. The kiwifruit marketer opened a pan-American office in 2017. 

Last year US sales reached almost $100 million, an annual increase of 50% and Zespri chief grower David Courtney says this season will see even more fruit sold.  . . 

Rookie women shearers raise funds :

A group of Hawke’s Bay women have organised a shearing competition among themselves to raise awareness about mental health in rural communities.

The catch is that none of them – an accountant, a dental therapist, an optical technician, a police officer and a rural insurance manager – have ever shorn before.

The Women and Wool Farmstrong Fundraiser is the brainchild of shearing contractor Colin Watson-Paul who worked alongside rural insurance manager Harriet Partridge and other women in the community to organise it.  . . 

Open for Business in a Small-Town: 5 things everyone can do to support small-town business – Uptown Girl:

I grew up with a family in the restaurant business and as a kid, loved everything about hanging out in our local, downtown business. So, when my husband climbed on board with the idea of running a small agritourism business on our farm, I jumped in. During that time, it’s become clear a few things people can do to support small-town businesses.

1. Shout the good out and whisper the bad in. This is the complete opposite of how we normally behave, and I am just as guilty as anyone. Think about the last time you had a bad meal in a restaurant. The server comes by and says, “How is everything?” Most people respond, “Fine.” Then, when they walk out, they literally tell everyone how awful the meal was… everyone except the one person who needs to know in order to change it – the business owner!

On the flip, when someone has a good experience, they will often rave to the business owner and then forget about it shortly after leaving. According to Andrew Thomas on Inc.com, a dissatisfied customer will tell 9 to 15 people. Only one out of every 10 satisfied customers will share about their experience. . . 


Rural round-up

October 23, 2019

No change to methane targets – Neal Wallace:

Methane reduction targets are to remain but the Environment Select Committee considering submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill is recommending greater safeguards for using forestry to offset emissions.

The committee recommends the proposed Climate Change Commission be given power to consider the form of greenhouse gas emission targets to ensure targets stay fit for purpose and to consider the impact of forestry offsets.

Another change will allow the commission to recommend changes to the 2050 targets if a significant change is likely to occur. . .

Fonterra’s milk price forecast will cheer farmers but govt has given ample cause for grumbling to persist – Point of Order:

At  last,  a  break in the  clouds for  NZ’s  dairy farmers :  Fonterra  suppliers  could be looking at a  sharp  lift in income,  as the co-op revises   its  forecast  range for the  milk price   to $6.55-$7.55 kg/MS.And  the signals  are   strong enough to underpin projections the  milk price  will rise to its  highest level  since  2014  when the price  hit $8.40.

This  may  diminish, if not completely  halt, the   grumbling in the cowsheds  at  Fonterra’s  dismal  performance  over the last  couple of  seasons, racking  up  losses and  cutting  its dividend.

Whether  it  will  eliminate  the  animosity towards the government,  which  is  proposing to penalise dairy farmers  over  methane emissions and through its freshwater  policy, is  less certain. . .

Digging deeper into soil’s black box – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Could soil organic matter be used for carbon credits?

Organic matter is the black box of the soil: it determines many factors in biological activities but predicting the outcomes of those biological activities is not easy.

With sand, silt and clay, organic matter affects soil structure, porosity, drainage and nutrient availability. It supports soil organisms by providing energy and nutrients for growth and reproduction.  . .

Vaccinations protect people, animals – Mark Ross:

As we struggle to fathom how we ended up in the throes of a measles outbreak again, we’re reminded of the importance of vaccinations to protect us from life-threatening diseases.

This is no less true for animals which can share diseases with people. Vaccination vastly improves the health of people and animals and is vital for continuing to meet the health challenges of growing populations. . .

Is technology a threat to dairy? – Danielle Appleton :

The New Zealand dairy industry is facing major disruption from synthetic dairy, similar to the synthetic fibres that triggered the decline of the wool industry in the 1980s.

Technology companies are now making real dairy products, without cows. 

Their aim is to make real dairy products far cheaper than traditional farming can within the next 10 to 15 years. . .

Dairy price prospects firm :

Prospects for a $7-plus farmgate milk price in 2020 have firmed with the lower New Zealand dollar value and a spring production peak that might not reach any great height.

ASB senior rural economist Nathan Penny believes the NZ dollar falling below US63c is worth up to 50c/kg to the milk price after the delay of the Fonterra currency hedging policy works through.

Fonterra was already forecasting $6.25-$7.25/kg ahead of any currency boost and ASB has pegged $7 before the possible currency upside, Penny said. . .

$2800 a jar: Hawke’s Bay company’s Manuka honey vintage now the most expensive in world :

One single windswept tree block has produced the most extraordinary and expensive Mānuka honey that the world has ever seen.

Ahuriri-based The True Honey Co is now selling its supplies of its 2017 Rare Harvest to luxury retailers such as Selfridges and Harrods in London.

The retailers are buying up to 10 of the 230 gram jars at a time to secure a supply with each jar selling for £1388 (NZD$2815) in the United Kingdom. . .

Why farmers  should avoid magic and opt for science -Phil Holmes and Ian McLean:

Unfortunately, and to its detriment, broadacre agriculture is not always an evidence-based industry at producer level.

Yes, there are areas where evidence drives what is done, but it is far from universal. Too much attention is placed on fads and searches for silver bullets.

By way of contrast, consider engineering. If it was not based on hard evidence, planes would fall out of the sky, buildings would collapse and bridges would cave in. It is the ultimate discipline in everyday life. . .

 


Rural rround-up

October 22, 2019

Rural journalism award :

Allied Press business and rural editor Sally Rae has won the Rural Women New Zealand journalism award..

The award was established to recognise the important contribution women make in rural communities.

Entries in this year’s award had to include two articles broadly based on the theme of ‘‘rural women making a difference’’. . .

Vital animal protein missing from global food discussions – Pam Tipa:

The needs for animal protein in discussions on future nutritious and sustainable food systems seems to be missing from much of the rhetoric, says Jeremy Hill, Fonterra’s chief scientist and technology officer.

That includes the EAT-Lancet report, says Hill, who spoke at the Climate Change and Business Conference in Auckland last week.

Hill said he was speaking in his role as a professor of sustainable food systems at the Reddit Institute.  . ..

They’re committed to their land – Kate Taylor:

A Central Hawke’s Bay family farm is combining bulls and Wagyu steers to make the most of its climate and the most of its family asset. They not only know what they are doing on-farm but also know the supply chain from end to end so can tick all the boxes expected of them. Kate Taylor reports.

Growing quality cattle on an all grass and homegrown fodder system is all that’s needed to keep James Greer happy in his work. 

“Farming is in our blood. Every day is different and every day is a challenge. We love it.”

James and Katherine Greer and James’ parents Jerry and Diana farm 830ha at Argyll east, west of Waipawa. . .

China trade warning – Neal Wallace:

A dollar out every $3 earned from primary products exports comes from China, a scenario that concerns Otago University marketing expert Dr Robert Hamlin.

Treasury has also warned about over-reliance on China, particularly for dairy.

Hamlin says as a rule of thumb no more than 20% of revenue should be earned from one source to ensure a buffer against changes in terms of trade. . .

More stock, less work – Yvonne O’Hara:

Since changing their farming practice to growing all grass year round for full-time dairy grazing, running more than 1000 head of stock was a “doddle”, farm manager Stuart Browning said.

He and wife Kim work for Brian and Glennis Webster, of the Coromandel Peninsula, who bought the 370ha (300ha effective) “Waikite” property next to Waituna Lagoon 11 years ago.

Since the Websters and Mr Browning changed the farming system, they have gone from about 600 stock on crop and grass, to grass only and running nearly twice that number while reducing their workload and making significant feed savings. . . .

One of Wales’ biggest abattoirs to stop processing beef:

One of Wales’ biggest abattoirs is to stop processing beef due to ‘falling volumes, negative margins and spiralling costs of production’.

Randall Parker Foods’ (RPF) abattoir in Llanidloes, Powys is one of Wales’ only beef processors.

It has now made the decision to end beef processing at the plant in what has been described as a ‘another blow’ for the sector. . .


Rural round-up

October 21, 2019

Awards help farmers put spotlight on environmental progress:

It’s never been more important for farmers to showcase to fellow New Zealanders the work they’re doing to lighten their environmental footprint, Federated Farmers says.

“We’re in the middle of a national debate on the best regulatory settings to help drive improved water quality in our rivers and lakes.  Some of the talk might drive an impression that we’re in some sort of downward environmental spiral, when the truth is many farmers up and down the nation are putting in huge amounts of sustainability and biodiversity enhancement work,” Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

Deadlines for the 2019 Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Horizons, Wellington and Waikato have already passed, but it’s not too late for farmers in eight other regions around New Zealand. . .

Shearing costs eat wool cheques  – Alan WIlliams:

A fourth straight year of poor strong-wool prices lies ahead for sheep farmers.

After the increase in shearing charges in 2018-19 Beef+Lamb has estimated that combined with continuing abnormally low strong-wool prices that in the North Island, where nearly all the wool clip is crossbred, shearing costs take up 90% of farm wool receipts.

Until the start of the downturn four years ago shearing costs typically accounted for just 45% of wool returns. . . .

Fewer cows produce more milk – Neal Wallace:

An emerging approach to dairying might let farmers obey environment rules while maintaining or growing milk production.

The farm system change project has found farmers can run fewer but higher-performing cows while maintaining or growing milk supply.

It is done by accurately managing costs, feed quality and quantity to maintain cow condition, which results in a more efficient farm and conversion of feed by cows. . .

Seaweed feed could reduce cattle greenhouse gases :

 

The Cawthron Institute will receive $100,000 from the Government, to help it turn a native red seaweed into a greenhouse gas-busting cattle feed supplement.

The money comes from the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund and was announced by the Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister during a visit to the Nelson-based research institute today. . .

Chicken virus can be eradicated MPI says  – Maja Burry:

The Ministry for Primary Industries believes its is possible to eradicate a chicken virus that was recently detected here.

Last month MPI reported routine industry testing at two Otago egg farms owned by Mainland Poultry had identified the likely presence of Infectious Bursal Disease type one.

The virus can affect the immune system of young chickens but doesn’t pose any risk to human health. . .

‘Hyperactive’ 80-yr-old vet Jakob Malmo retires to run two dairy farms – Marion MacDonald:

Jakob Malmo says he’s too old to be lying in the mud delivering a calf so Gippsland’s legendary dairy vet has retired at 80 – to run two large dairy farms with his new wife, Jean.

Admitting others have described him as ‘hyperactive’, Dr Malmo is not one to sit still.

The achievements across his 58-year veterinary career are so many, it’s hard to know where to start but the man himself was most proud of the Melbourne University Rural Veterinary Unit he and Professor Doug Blood established in Maffra. . .


Rural round-up

October 19, 2019

Act now on swine fever – Neal Wallace:

Dr Eric Neumann’s career takes him to animal disease hot spots throughout the world to advise officials and farmers on their response and to monitor severity and behaviour of disease outbreaks Neal Wallace talks to the epidemiologist.

The savagery of African swine fever was starkly illustrated to Kiwi epidemiologist Dr Eric Neumann when he visited a 1000-pig farm in Vietnam.

The fever’s presence had been confirmed in the housed piggery two weeks before his visit but by time he got there 600 animals had died and most of the survivors were sick. . .

Time to effect meaningful change – Dairyman:

Bashing Fonterra in the media is so prevalent it’s almost a national pastime; farmer shareholders keen to share that phone call they got from the chairman, commentators sticking the boot in at the behest of their dairy processor clients and any politician looking for some airtime will happily have a crack.

If the payout is low it’s due to the incompetence of directors and management, if the payout is high it’s because Fonterra is screwing the scrum and forcing their competitors to pay more for milk than it’s worth.

While there are legitimate criticisms to be levelled at the Co-op, and they’re not above scoring own goals in that department, it’s so easy that writing a column panning them is almost lazy. I make no secret that I’m a fan of Fonterra’s new direction; the honesty that is largely on display at shareholder meetings, the way they now engage with the government instead of the ‘Fortress Fonterra’ mentality of old and their willingness to show leadership and vision in areas that affect their farmers. . .

The NZ Government strategy to destroy the farming sector – Barbara McKenzie:

‘If sheep and beef farms convert to forestry on a nationwide scale at just half the rate that has occurred in Wairoa this last year, there will be no sheep and beef farms left by 2050’ (Neil Henderson, Gisborne farmer)

The agricultural sector is New Zealand’s largest industry, made up chiefly of  pastoral farming and horticulture.

The coalition government, however,  is implementing a strategy squarely aimed at replacing the farming sector with forestry.  The result will be depopulation of the countryside, the destruction of  our environment and our way of life, and sets us on the road to poverty. . . 

Leather exporters struggle in oversupplied market :

Leather exporters are grappling with record low prices for hides.

The agricultral insights group, AgriHQ, said strong beef production in Australia, Brazil and the US had meant that the cattle hide market was significantly oversupplied.

A senior analyst at AgriHQ, Mel Croad, said this oversupply, combined with the rise of much more convincing synthetic leather substitutes and a downturn in the manufacture of luxury leather goods meant global demand was very weak.

“In addition, the closure of some Chinese tanneries due to environmental concerns has narrowed down selling options for hides,” Ms Croad said. . .

 

Demand from farmers for SurePhos expected to exceed supply:

 Ballance Agri-Nutrients has produced a sustainable superphosphate product that is expected to displace traditional ‘Super’ fertiliser used by the majority of farmers – with clear environmental and productivity benefits.

SurePhosTM is expected to reduce phosphate losses by up to 75%, making a significant positive impact on the quality of waterways and, due to low water solubility, keeps nutrients in the soil system where they are available to plants.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chairman, David Peacocke, says SurePhosTM will be the choice of a new generation of farmers who have sustainability front-of-mind. . . 

I’m a farmer and a no-deal Brexit would put me out of business – Will Case:

Crashing out of the EU would not end uncertainty and would be a dark day for agriculture and food in Britain

Here in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside, the sun is out, our grass is growing and the sky is blue. Sheep are busily nibbling the pasture while cattle are basking in the summer warmth. These are perfect conditions for farming. The animals are content and the farmers are working hard.

Everything should be fine, but there is a big, dark cloud lurking on the horizon: the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. This is a threat to everything we do. The uncertainty around Brexit and the prospect of trade tariffs that would cripple our business is a real worry. The future direction of UK-produced food is simply unknown.

Will we be forced to adhere to ever higher standards, while our government allows food to be imported from countries where farmers adhere to welfare or other standards that would, rightly, be illegal on my farm? Will our politicians assure British farmers that they will avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit? . . 


Rural round-up

October 14, 2019

Get on with it – Neal Wallace and Colin Williscroft:

Politicians might be slow acting on climate change but retailers and consumers who buy New Zealand produce aren’t and they expect Kiwi farmers to reduce their carbon footprint, special agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen says.

He urges food producers to stop arguing about details and start reducing carbon emissions to preserve demand in lucrative markets.

“It is very real in-market,” he said.

Peterson said “If people think this is being dreamed up by NZ politicians to get at NZ farmers then you need to think again.”

It is being driven by those who buy our food.

“Companies and consumers are driving climate change. . . 

Number of natives under one billions trees anyone’s guess -Eloise Gibson:

How many of the one billion trees planted in the next decade will be native species? Government tree planting agency Te Uru Rakau has clarified that it can’t hazard an estimate. 

The Government’s tree planting agency, Te Uru Rakau, says it can’t estimate what proportion of the one billion trees programme will be native species, saying a previous figure it gave to Newsroom was meant to be purely “illustrative”.

The illustrative figure was used to calculate the estimated climate benefit from the tree scheme, which Te Uru Rakau has put at 384 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the trees’ lifetimes. . . 

Bunds offer phosphorus solution – Richard Rennie:

Capturing phosphate in water spilling off farm catchments has been made easier thanks to work done by a Rotorua farmer group and a doctoral student who have developed detainment bunds on trial properties.

A field day later this month gives farmers the chance to look at work that has largely been under the radar but offers a practical, farmer-focused solution to improving water quality. Richard Rennie spoke to the group’s project manager John Paterson.

While nitrogen mitigation has played on the minds of most regional councils and many farmers, phosphorus losses are also required, under the Government’s latest water quality rules, to be measured and curtailed.  . . 

Exotic breeds offer genetic diversity – Yvonne O”Hara:

Anieka and Nick Templer like a bit of variety in their dairy herd, adding panda-eyed, triple-cross Montbeliarde, Normande, Fleckvieh and Aussie Reds to their mix.

They are are 50/50 sharemilkers on 230ha near Balfour, with 630 cows, and they are targeting 500kgMS/cow and 330,000kgMS production this season. Their herd includes 35 pedigree Ayrshires.

The 2015 Southland/Otago Farm Manager of the Year winners have daughter Maycie (5) and employ two Filipino staff: Emman Orendain and David Lupante.

Mrs Templer grew up on a dairy farm and has always been interested in the more unusual cattle breeds. . . 

‘If we lose these communities we won’t get them back‘ :

AgForce Queensland chief executive Michael Guerin says “if we lose these communities, we won’t get them back”, as “unprecedented” drought conditions continue to affect Australian farmers.

Hundreds of drought-stricken farmers have reportedly stopped receiving payments in the past two years, through a government assistance program, after having reached the four-year limit.

Under the allowance, more than 1,300 households are given $489 a fortnight.

“This federal government is working with us, trying to work with communities that are in incredible trouble” Mr Guerin told Sky News host Paul Murray. . . 

The latest flip-flop on red meat uses best science in place of best guesses – Nina Teicholz:

Eggs are bad; eggs are good. Fat is bad; fat is good. Meat is bad; meat is… OK?

That last food flip-flop made big headlines last week. It was a “remarkable turnabout,” “jarring,” “stunning.” How, it was asked, could seemingly bedrock nutrition advice turn on a dime?

The answer is that many of the nation’s official nutrition recommendations — including the idea that red meat is a killer — have been based on a type of weak science that experts have unfortunately become accustomed to relying upon. Now that iffy science is being questioned. At stake are deeply entrenched ideas about healthy eating and trustworthy nutrition guidelines, and with many scientists invested professionally, and even financially, in the status quo, the fight over the science won’t be pretty.

Red meat is a particularly contentious topic because people have such strong objections to eating meat for a variety of reasons: the environment, animal rights and even religion (Seventh-day Adventists advise against it). . . .


Rural round-up

September 16, 2019

Farmers despair :

Rising stress levels among farmers struggling to digest a deluge of regulatory changes while weathering constant attacks by critics, have community leaders worried.

BakerAg director Chris Garland says morale is as low as he has ever known it and he is seeing experienced, stoic farmers burst into tears, worn down by constant public attacks on the industry while trying to comprehend the impact of new rules.

He is worried about the mental wellbeing of farmers, a view shared by the heads of several rural support trusts.

Rural Support’s national chairman Neil Bateup says demand for help in his region of Waikato has increased. . . 

The increasingly uncompromising Todd Muller – Alex Braae:

National’s new agriculture spokesperson finds himself in one of the party’s most important portfolios, at a time of dramatically increasing tensions in the sector. Will Todd Muller, a man regularly mentioned as a future leader contender, find common ground?

Todd Muller’s obsession with politics began with an American encyclopaedia, which his parents bought from a door to door salesman in 1979. 

The long biographies of US presidents jumped out at him. He copied their signatures, and drew pictures of them. In time, Muller even came to write a book about his future political dreams. 

“The short synopsis is that I go to America when I’m about 21, I become the vice-president of the United States when I’m 28, and then of course some tragedy befalls the president, and I become the president. And I serve as the United States president for 13 consecutive terms.”  . . 

Data and science do the work – Neal Wallace:

The topography of The Ranch in south Otago is steep to rolling hill country but it is managed and performs like an intensive breeding and finishing farm. Farm managers Maurice and Renee Judson tell Neal Wallace much of the performance comes down to decisions based on science and data.

The impact of data on agriculture has been reckoned to be comparable to that of fertiliser.

The challenge is to decipher that volume of data about farm performance and parameters into a workable form and that is where south Otago farm managers Maurice and Renee Judson have an ace up their sleeve.

The farm is owned by Canterbury-born Lincoln University-trained lecturer and plant physiologist Dr David Ivory who has spent about 30 years working for the United Nations on sustainable agricultural programmes around the world and his wife Wichanee. . . 

Let’s get behind our rural community – Kerre McIvor:

A couple of years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a column calling for there to be a Cockietober – a month to celebrate farmers and their invaluable contribution to the economy.

I felt, back in 2017, that farmers had got a rough ride during the election campaign, and that farmers were getting it in the neck unfairly. They were being blamed for the poor water quality in New Zealand despite the fact that city dwellers are letting literal and metaphorical crap flow into their harbours and rivers. They were being told how to manage their stock by people who’d never set foot on a farm. They were told they didn’t pay their workers enough, they were being told they were destroying the planet by providing milk and meat for consumers, they were told they mistreated their animals.

I thought things were bad two years ago. But it appears things have got much, much worse.

In an open letter to the nation, BakerAg, a rural business consultancy firm, has called for people to get in behind our rural community. . . 

Sheep water ban stuns farmers – Colin Williscroft:

Farmers have been broadsided by a rule in a proposed regional council plan that will cost some of them $1 million each.

Greater Wellington Regional Council’s proposed Natural Resources Plan includes sheep among stock to be excluded from waterways throughout the region, including hill country, a rule neither farmers nor the council saw coming.

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president William Beetham said the rule was not raised during the plan’s hearings process.

But the proposal is unworkable. . . 

Launch of the New Zealand Agritech Story:

New Zealand has a new story to tell, one that highlights the nation’s ingenuity, development of cutting-edge technology, and care for its people and place.

The New Zealand Agritech Story provides a compelling way of promoting New Zealand’s agricultural technology internationally, to build awareness and preference for New Zealand solutions and ultimately help more New Zealand agritech businesses succeed on the world stage.

The NZ Agritech Story, launched today, includes a comprehensive suite of free promotional materials that highlight New Zealand’s leading edge in the sector.

Peter Wren-Hilton, the executive director of Agritech New Zealand, said the story would make a key difference for export companies. . . 

Brazil’s fires and biofuels – Jim Steele:

From leaf cutting ants that cultivate fungus gardens to flowers that fool potential pollinating insects into having sex, the magic of rainforest ecology always inspired my love for nature’s creativity. So, it’s no surprise that any and every report of burning rainforests would rally deep concerns across the globe. Nonetheless I am disturbed by dishonest gloom and doom regards recent Amazon fires. NASA reports since 2003 the square kilometers of forest burned each year has dropped by roughly 25 percent. But such good news doesn’t get headlines.

Although the NY Times wrote the fires have no climate connection, meteorologist Eric Holthaus, who writes numerous catastrophic climate articles for Slate and the New York Times, suggested the fires show, “We are in a climate emergency”. As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years, but Holthaus dishonestly tweeted, “The current fires are without precedent in the past 20,000 years.”

To heighten global hysteria, French president Macron and actor Leonardo deCaprio, tweeted photographs of forest infernos. But those photos were taken 20 years ago. Likewise, Madonna tweeted wildfire photos taken 30 years ago, and others tweeted flaming photos from regions far from the Amazon.

Activist vegetarians denounced meat-eaters for deforestation, arguing forests are burnt to create pastures for cattle. But they failed to mention pastures previously created for grazing without deforestation, are now being usurped by biofuel cultivation. Indirectly, it’s the biofuel fad that has driven cattle grazers to carve out new pastures in the rain forests. . . 


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