Rural round-up

December 23, 2016

Probe of shot-calf incident  – Shannon Gillies:

Police are investigating the brutal death of a bobby calf near Waimate at the weekend.

The calf was found at the side of a road on Sunday morning, apparently shot five times and struck by a vehicle.

Dan Studholme, on whose property near Waimate the calf had been grazing, said it was apparent the calf did not die instantly from its wounds.

Mr Studholme was called by a forestry worker who discovered the calf. Then a vet and the police were called.

Rifle round casings were found lying near the dead animal, which had been shot in the leg, stomach and jaw. . .

New tools needed to ensure pollination – Maureen Bishop:

Breeding flies to act as pollinators, fitting queen bumblebees with radio transmitters, and preloading honeybees with pollen. These are all methods being trialled to increase the range of crop pollinators.
New Zealand crop industries need a box of new tools to ensure sufficient pollination into the future, a pollination scientist told the audience at the Foundation for Arable Research’s field day at Chertsey on December 7.

Dr David Pattemore, of Plant & Food Research, said scientists were seeking new methods of crop pollination for industries such as avocado, kiwifruit and other agricultural crops. . . 

Kakanui River finds new support group :

North Otago’s Kakanui River, the subject of a three-year community programme that finished in October, has a new champion.

The North Otago Sustainable Land Management Group (NOSLaM) has taken over from the Kakanui Community Catchment Project to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and increase biodiversity. The project was funded by the Ministry for the Environment’s  and the New Zealand Landcare Trust, with support from the North Otago Irrigation Company, Beef and Lamb New Zealand and Ravensdown.

NOSLaM chairman Peter Mitchell said the group had held meetings and made funding applications so it could continue the progress already made. . . 

Support for Gisborne conservation work:

Four ambitious conservation projects in Gisborne have received $78,000 in support from the DOC Community Fund, Conservation Ministers Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner have announced.

The projects range from weed eradication on Gisborne’s Titirangi Maunga to protecting wild kiwi in Maungataniwha and represent the best of community conservation, the Ministers say.

“Each of the groups is helping wage the War on Weeds and protect native species from introduced predators and invasive plants,” Ms Barry says. . . 

Kaikōura Cheese keeps going after quake – Max Towle:

Immediately after the Canterbury earthquakes, Daniel and Sarah Jenkins decided to pack up everything they own and move from Christchurch to Kaikōura.

A year later they fulfilled their dream and were cheese making, and eventually opened a shop, Kaikōura Cheese, on the main street.

Last month, when the shaking started again, they were hit with a severe case of deja vu and are only now starting to get their business rolling again. . . 

Fridge stoush over, copyright claim continues: Lewis Road claims partial victory over Fonterra – Ellen Read:

Boutique dairy producer Lewis Road Creamery is claiming a partial victory in its battle with dairy giant Fonterra and is praising social media for the outcome.

The two have been at odds for several weeks over the similarity of labelling on Fonterra’s new Kapiti premium milk range to Lewis Road bottles, as well as who has access to what shelf space in Foodstuffs’ New World and Pak ‘n Save supermarket fridges.

Co-founder Peter Cullinane said on Thursday that his lawyers received a letter from Fonterra lawyers late on Wednesday that showed Fonterra had updated plans it had been making to take up to 97.5 per cent of the supermarket shelf space meaning it was “business as usual” for all suppliers now. . . 

Will the Prime Minister accept Sir David’s challenge?

The challenges for a new Prime Minister are many and varied.

Over the last two weeks Bill English has negotiated a successful leadership campaign to succeed former Prime Minister John Key and a cabinet reshuffle, but now he faces a challenge of a unique kind.

Speaking with Jamie Mackay on NZME’s The Country radio farming show yesterday, Sir David Fagan, the world’s most decorated shearer and a member of the 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships’ Organising Committee, laid an invitation at the new Prime Minister’s feet.

“Our new Prime Minister, I know he can shear. I’ve seen him shear at Lumsden many, many years ago at the Full wool Champs. Now there is a challenge for you Jamie, to get our new Prime Minister to shear a sheep down there.” Sir David said. But he didn’t stop there. . . 

Soils, climate, proximity key to new Marlborough vineyard development as sheep farm sold – Mike Watson:

A long-established Marlborough sheep farm has become the latest pastoral property in the region to be sold for vineyard development.

Vendor Mostyn Wadsworth has been a mainstay on the Northbank of the Wairau Valley for the past 33 years.

The Wadsworth family has farmed in the area for nearly a century. . . 


Not just farmers fear Green influence

July 8, 2014

Jon Morgan says farmers should fear Greens’ influence:

He’s right and they do.

Farming has moved a long way in the past few years and the current leadership of Federated Farmers gets some of the credit for that.

Instead of being defensive and/or belligerent  as previous administrations often were, they have accepted problems where they exist and worked hard to encourage farmers make improvements where they’re needed.

Farmers have been helped by improvements in monitoring and advice and further encouraged by meat and milk companies which are requiring much higher standards from their suppliers.

Where carrots haven’t worked, there are sticks. Regional Councils are imposing higher standards and taking a very strict approach to breaches of compliance.

In North Otago, at least, the return of farmers’ adult children in big numbers for the first time since the ag-sag of the 1980s has also helped bring fresh eyes and new approaches to farming practices.

The requirement for shareholders in North Otago Irrigation Company’s scheme to have environmental farm plans which are independently audited each year has helped focus farmers’ on their responsibility for care of the soil and water.

The resurrection of the North Otago Sustainable Land Management group has helped with education in best practice.

In spite of this most of the publicity about farming and the environment is negative and that’s what Green policy appears to be based on resulting in more restrictions and higher costs.

Mix that with Labour’s policies and throw in the influence of New Zealand First and Internet Mana and farmers are right to fear a change of government in which the Green party would have a say.

But it’s not just farmers – the rest of the country which eats the food they produce and benefits from the export income they earn should be just as worried.

Higher costs and lower productivity won’t help any of us.


Majority of NZers appreciate irrigation

February 8, 2014

An independent phone poll, commissioned by Irrigation New Zealand, reveals that New Zealanders – regardless of political leaning – see irrigation as good.

The poll also confirms that New Zealanders recognise the link between irrigation and their ability to access cheap and plentiful produce in their supermarkets.

The survey canvassed 1,000 respondents from Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington, Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay to better understand public perceptions of irrigation.

The only one of the areas surveyed  – Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington, Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay – which has significant areas of irrigation is, I think Canterbury.

Irrigation CEO, Andrew Curtis, says he didn’t expect such a positive response to irrigation from the New Zealand public and is encouraged by the results.

“Close to two-thirds overall agree that irrigation is good for New Zealand. This appears to be the case across the political spectrum which reinforces our belief in the need for a bi-partisan approach to irrigation,” he says.

“In an election year our plea is for politicians to come together to develop a strong vision to continue modernising irrigation infrastructure and practice which would drive sustainable development and achieve benefits for all.”

The poll also identified food production, water management and economic growth as major benefits of irrigation. Environmental impact was identified as a concern and there was a call from respondents for irrigation to be used responsibly – for irrigators to limit losses from nutrients as a result of irrigation; for water use to continue to be monitored and for water wastage to be limited.

This can easily be managed through the resource consent process. North Otago Irrigation Company’s requirement for all shareholders to have environment farm plans which are independently audited each year is a good model.

Andrew Curtis says that irrigation is not just a rural issue and that all New Zealanders need to use water efficiently. The focus now needs to turn to urban and rural water storage development. Providing more information about irrigation to the public is also essential he says.

“The survey shows us New Zealand recognise irrigation’s role in producing affordable and diverse food, but they want to know more about how irrigation works, who is responsible and how it impacts the environment,” he comments.

“We are working with agencies, organisations and individuals to minimise the impact of irrigation on our rivers and river flow and water quality limits are being set so that irrigators sustainably manage the water we all value.” . . .

It is disappointing that few recognise the environmental benefits or irrigation. But it’s not surprising when it’s far more often in the news when there are problems than for good reasons such as its ability to improve water quality and protect fragile soils.

There is no mention of the recreational benefits either, such as this one on the Lower Waitaki.

Imagine having key access to a private waterway with a suite of yachts, kayaks and paddleboards available for year-round use.

It’s not the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but an exciting new initiative by a group of Oamaru dairy farmers who have made sailing and kayaking accessible to anyone in their North Otago community.

The farmers, all shareholders of the Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company, saw an opportunity for recreational use of a 5 hectare irrigation buffer pond developed just over a year ago. With the support of the irrigation company, they created the Lower Waitaki Water Sports Trust to progress the concept.

While the pond was built for irrigation storage, Trust Chairman Richard Willans says its proximity to Oamaru, easy access and un-impeded views make it ideal for anyone wanting to learn how to sail or paddle. “It’s the safest place to get out and learn on. You can see the whole pond from any point as it’s just so flat.” Local farmers supported the project as a way to encourage greater interaction between townies and farmers. “We want to get people from the town out into the country,” he says.

Ironically, Mr Willans admits none of the trust’s committee had sailing or paddling experience before getting involved, but local boaties and kayakers have been happy to provide advice. He says they’re enthusiastic about the new water asset on their back door-step which compares favorably to the next closest waterways, the Waitaki Lakes, which take another 40 minutes to reach.

The project to date has cost more than $150,000 with the trust sourcing funding from the irrigation company, local businesses, Meridian Trust, Waitaki District Council and the Otago Community Trust. An A4 bay shed for storage, fencing of the area and a car park were completed just before Christmas and the project’s jewel in the crown is a floating jetty.

For only $50 a year, key holders gain access to the pond as well as the use of 10 yachts, 15 kayaks and two paddleboards stored at the lake. Water safety measures including lifejackets and a fully inflatable motorized rescue boat are also available on-site.  

The Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company granted the trust a long term peppercorn rent for the site as Chairman Chris Dennison says the company sees the project as worthy.

“In constructing the pond we aimed to design structures and controls so they posed no harm to the public and the risk to users would be minimal. Working with the community on this joint venture has produced a great outcome and all this happened very quickly. The pond was only built in late 2012 and the trust’s facilities were finished last month,” he says.

Originally the pond was going to embrace day visitors such as anglers, but advice from a health and safety consultant suggested compulsory membership would safeguard its farmer-backers. You have to be a member of the trust to use the pond; however membership is open to anyone who is happy to abide by a comprehensive list of rules in place to ensure the safety of all users. 

An official opening of the pond will take place in the next couple of months and the trust hopes to bring un-named Olympians to town to launch the project.

The ODT has more on the waters sports park here.


Rural round-up

December 8, 2013

Another 385ha to be irrigated by scheme – David Bruce:

The North Otago Irrigation Company is expanding again, and will next week add another 385ha to a scheme that started with a 10,000ha first stage.

That initial investment of $67 million commissioned in 2006 to ultimately bring irrigation to 26,000ha on the North Otago Downlands, Waiareka Valley and eventually the Kakanui Valley has now grown to an asset of $75 million.

The new expansion, worth $3.5 million, has been financed by a combination of shareholder equity and company borrowings. . . .

Perfect country for sheep, paradise for rabbits too… – Timothy Brown:

The story of Earnscleugh Station was told at a field day at the property last month. Reporter Timothy Brown went along to hear how a rabbit-plagued desert was transformed into an award-winning showcase of farm management.

Earnscleugh Station stretches across 21,000ha of rugged Central Otago landscape. 

The station rises from 170m above sea level to 1850m, and has bitterly cold winters and hot dry summers – perfect sheep country.

Unfortunately for the Campbells – the owners of the station – it is also perfect rabbit country. . .

Fruit research aims for yield boost – Yvonne OHara:

A new research programme for pipfruit, kiwifruit and summer fruit is expected to see potential yield increases of between 50% and 150% by 2025.

Plant and Food Research (PFR) was given $8.3 million over six years by the Government, along with a 20% industry buy-in, in August, to redesign orchards from the ground up.

PFR business manager Declan Graham said the programme, Future Orchard Planting Systems (FOPS), was designed to increase the productivity and efficiency of the industry and that included expanding the kiwifruit and pipfruit sectors to $4 billion, up from the present $1.5 billion, by 2025. . .

Lack of pasture persistence a recurring theme:

IN THE 2007/08 drought Wayne Reynolds’ cows chewed covers down to four clicks and average cover across his 154ha effective farm was just 1190kgDM/ha.

Production that season dropped from 1200kgMS/ha to 1000kgMS/ha and despite immediately reseeding nearly half the farm, and a quarter of the farm annually after that, it didn’t recover.

“Milksolids were static despite our best efforts, bringing feed in and renewing the pasture of the farm,” he told the New Zealand Grassland Association’s conference in Tauranga earlier this month. . .

Attempt at shearing record:

WAIKARETU SHEARING record-holding husband and wife Sam and Emily Welch are rewarding the loyalty of their workers by helping them also get their names into the books with a five-stand lamb shearing record near Auckland this month.

The two and shearing contracting partner Tony Clayton-Greene are organising The Cavalier Woolscourers Ltd eight-hour, five-stand World Lamb Shearing Record attempt for the unclaimed eight-hour tally record at Cashmore Farms in Kawakawa Bay, between Clevedon and the Firth of Thames, on December 10. This is the closest to Auckland an event like this has ever been held. . .

Foaly Moley! – Jillaroo Jess:

This year, we only have had 3 Australian Stock Horse foals born on the property. It’s definitely quality over quantity though, they are beautiful. First born was a flashy chestnut colt with a big baldy face (lots of white) and 3 white socks who we named Coolrdige Kidman – after a famous Australian cattle baron. Next, a lovely little bay filly with a bucket load of attitude named Coolridge Karijini – a beautiful desert in Western Australia. Finally, a leggy black filly called Coolridge Khaleesi – I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones!

In case anyone is interested in Australian Stock Horses, and follows their breeding, all three are by Kooloombah Confidence, a very handsome red dun stallion. Confidence, and all of the mares are bred to Campdraft, which is an Australian horse sport with cattle, where you must first cut out a beast in the ‘camp’, then take it out into the arena and bend it around two posts and through a gate. These foals all have great breeding and we are looking forward to seeing their natural ability under saddle. I’m currently in the process of building a website for our horses and will have it finished in the coming months. Once breeding season is over I’ll have more time to get things happening. . .

Thousands attend official opening of world’s largest drier:

Thousands of Cantabrians joined Fonterra today to celebrate the official opening of the world’s largest milk powder drier at the Co-operative’s Darfield site.

The milk powder drier, which has already produced more than 50,000 metric tonnes of whole milk powder since it kicked into gear, was officially opened by Selwyn Member of Parliament and Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams as part of a public open day.

Fonterra’s Director of New Zealand Operations, Robert Spurway, said the completion of Darfield’s second stage was great for the local community and means that Fonterra can make the most of the Co-operative’s milk produced in the South Island. . .


Water quality more worrying than mortgage

October 4, 2012

The ODT’s quote of the day from the hearings on the Otago Regional Council’s proposed water plan was from Neil Smith:

“I worry more about the proposed water management plan and effluent than I do about my mortgage”

Worrying about effluent isn’t unusual and it’s not a bad thing. We ought to be concerned it and the impact it could have on water quality if not managed properly.

However, most of us do what is required to manage effluent and ensure we are well within the rules.

The proposed changes to Plan 6 are a different matter because farmers don’t think it is possible to keep within the limits.

ODT reports on the hearings show farmers are concerned about the viability of their operations  under the proposed changes:

North Otago farmers yesterday queued up to tell the Otago Regional Council (ORC) they could go out of business if the council did not alter proposed changes to water quality rules. . .

Former North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC) chairman Jock Webster said without irrigation schemes, farmers in the area      would still be at the mercy of a historically drought-prone region.   

Mr Webster said farmers had invested heavily in irrigation,  but had also had to increase productivity, in order to pay for watering systems.   

He said those who were part of the NOIC irrigation scheme already had farm environmental plans, which had resulted in better awareness of water quality. . .

. . . However, he added that the varying nature of soil and  particularly sub-soils in the area meant they could be eroded      easily during high rainfall, leading to poor water quality.   

“I do not believe those who drew up the water plan understand      the catchment sufficiently to write up sweeping rules and      conditions that may cover the whole of the Otago area.   

“There is no issue with water quality in the Waitaki Valley, and we have got some good things happening, but there is no      way we can meet some of the standards.   

 “You cannot change nature.”

And nature isn’t perfect anyway. Another quote of the day:

 “Recently we had water tests taken to  check how our farm will meet the proposed levels … They  show that the water quality coming out of the spring was  poorer than further down the drain. The spring water itself  does not meet the required limits” – Jeff Thompson

If spring water doesn’t meet the limits the limits are unreasonable.

There is also concern over uncertainty in the plan and the lack of tools which farmers can use to measure water quality.

My farmer was one of those who submitted yesterday. He likened the impact of the proposed plan to being expected to drive within the speed limit in a car without a speedometer.

No-one is arguing against the intent of the plan and the need to have good water quality.

The concern is that proposed changes are based on theoretic modelling which doesn’t take into account the nature of the soils, expects compliance when there are no measurement tools and imposes limits which are impossible to meet.


NOIC wins irrigation innovation award

April 17, 2012

North Otago Irrigation Company has won the 2012 Irrigation New Zealand innovation award for its audited self-management system.

The company’s entry featured a comprehensive programme of  environmental management which had been developed during the last six years.    

The company’s scheme irrigates 10,000ha, with work under way on stage two.   

         Environmental stewardship was part of everything the company  did, NOIC chairman Leigh Hamilton said in a statement.   

         “It starts with our culture and values and is a central part      of all our day-to-day operations, and has been so since the very start  of  the company.”   

        Environmental sustainability was not just something that happened on its own.   

        The company has invested significant time, money and effort into developing environmentally sound farm plans and improving environmental performance right across its scheme, Mr Hamilton said.  

The need to look after the land and soil were important has been a focus of NOIC from the start.

Environmental farm plans were requirements of its resource consent.

They’re independently audited and just part of the company’s determination to ensuring that its commitment to greening North Otago doesn’t just refer to the colour of the grass irrigation helps to grow.


Economic, environmental and social boost from irrigation

October 29, 2010

North Otago Irrigation Company’s scheme has created 76 new jobs and boosted farm incomes by $44 million dollars.

This was the finding of a Waitaki Development Board study.

The results showed the scheme was “the single most significant economic development” project in the Waitaki district in recent years, board chairman Peter Robinson said yesterday.

The study of the farms in the scheme revealed some phenomenal increases, exceeding the expected performance and making larger gains than originally forecast at the time resource consents for water from the lower Waitaki River were granted.

For example, revenue from the irrigated properties has increased from $21 million without irrigation to $65 million with irrigation.

“This is the single most significant economic development scheme the Waitaki District has seen in recent years – these results would not have been achievable without this investment,” Mr Robinson said.

I don’t think the study took into account the development which took place in expectation of the irrigation scheme which would have created a similar number of jobs.

The social benefits are also significant. For the first time since the ag-sag of the 80s farmers’ adult children have returned home in reasonable numbers, reducing the average age of the rural population which had been increasing for more than 30 years.

There were eight houses in our road before irrigation, now there are 13, with another planned for next year. The school had to put on a bigger bus to cope with the increase in pupils.

The irrigation scheme will also have been one of the factors in an increase in the number of births at Oamaru Hospital – 86 eight years ago and a record 103 last year.

Last summer’s drought was one of the worst for years – we had only about half our average annual rainfall in the year to March.

In the past this would have had a devastating impact not just on farmers but on the people who supply and service them and this would have flowed on to significant reduction in spending in Oamaru. The lack of rain last summer was very difficult for farmers on dryland but there are now enough irrigated properties to insulate the wider community from the worst of impacts of drought.

The environmental impact has also been positive. A condition of the NOIC consent was that all shareholders have to have environmental farm plans which are independently audited each year to ensure that water and soil quality are safeguarded.

The downlands which received water from the NOIC scheme have good soils but were prone to wind erosion in droughts. Irrigation means that is no longer a concern.

Some farmers have pulled out trees to cater for centre pivot irrigators. But others have used the reliable water supply to increase plantings and many have also channelled water into gardens.

One of the biggest benefits from the increased irrigation is difficult to measure but obvious to anyone who knows the district. That’s the change of mindset. Without irrigation North Otago farmers always had to farm for droughts – going backwards when it was dry and playing catch-up when it rained.

Even the most optimistic people found it difficult to retain a sunny outlook under those circumstances. Thanks to irrigation, instead of focussing on how to stop going backwards they are able to put their energy and enthusiasm into activities which make a positive difference on farms and in the wider community.


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