Rural round up

December 31, 2012

What farmers face in 2013  – Caleb Allison:

Farmers face their most volatile year in recent memory as New Zealand’s agriculture sector remains at the mercy of world markets, according to industry commentators.

While every year comes with a certain level of uncertainty for the farming community, Waikato University’s head of agribusiness, Professor Jacqueline Rowarth told NBR ONLINE it is of particular concern this year.

“Many farmers are already running at a very slim margin. . .

Happy helping Kiwi kids – Hugh Stringleman:

Delivering milk to 56 Northland schools is very rewarding, say Luke and Corrine McDonald, Fonterra Brands franchisees based in Whangarei.

Twice a week they have two of their four trucks on the roads around their large delivery area, delivering the 250ml UHT cartons and picking up the empties for recycling.

Northland was the provincial pilot for the Fonterra Milk for Schools programme, launched at Manaia View School, Whangarei, last March. . .

Paying it forward at Little Acres – Tim Fulton:

Animal care centre run “in the spirit of koha” is getting a make-over, propelled by the kind of generosity that got it started.

Jacqui Emmett and her husband Barry operate the non-profit Little Acres in western Waikato, helping prepare surplus livestock for new homes.

The Te Akau couple charge nothing for taking in animals, despite feed costing them up to $350 a week.

In fact, if money gets tight the humans are the last to be fed. . .

Debt mediation law would rein-in banks: Walker – Jamie Ball:

A farm debt mediation law would reduce the tendency for banks to engage in “reckless” lending practices similar to the mass marketing of complex interest rate swaps to farmers, according to campaigner Janette Walker.

“It will also introduce a level of fairness that will rebalance the power structure, which is presently poorly balanced in the bank’s favour.

“It’s about setting up a more transparent process. The banks have responsibilities and so do the farmers. It also stops the banks doing their snatch and grab,” the farmer’s advocate said. . .

Porina biocontrol promise :

IMAGINE LOOKING across the farm and being pleased to see hundreds of creatures vomiting and dying of dehydration.Sounds surreal, but it’s becoming reality thanks to smart scientists working on porina caterpillar control.

Mark Hurst, AgResearch Lincoln, and his Invermay colleague Colin Ferguson, have, for several years, been working with bacteria Yersina entomophaga MH96, a bug Hurst discovered in native grass grubs in 1996. It’s since been found to be deadly to porina and other insect pests such as bronze beetle and diamond back moth. . .

Bayer and Motutapu Restoration Trust announce forest planting partnership

The Motutapu Restoration Trust has today announced a partnership with Bayer, which is contributing $25,000 for forest restoration to celebrate the company’s 150th birthday in 2013.

In addition to donating to the Trust to support the planting of a block of forest, Bayer will offer its staff an annual opportunity to volunteer on the island to help with planting and weeding.

“In 2013, Bayer celebrates its 150th birthday and we will be marking that in various ways around the world,” Bayer New Zealand Ltd Managing Director Patricia Castle said today. “Helping create a home for kiwi and takahe is something our team in New Zealand would love to support so we’ve chosen to take responsibility for funding the planting and maintenance of two hectares of forest on Motutapu as our birthday gift to New Zealand. . .

TV3 has a video of: Mustering sheep with a remote control quadcopeter.

And NZ Farmers Weekly has a selection of photos of 2012.


Rural round-up

January 29, 2011

Pied Pipers of Galapogos Sally Rae writes in the ODT:

Herbert couple John and Bruna Oakes have played a major role in helping protect the wildlife and plant life of the Galapagos Islands.

Mr and Mrs Oakes, who own Central South Island Helicopters, were approached to do some work for the Ecuadorian Government, due to their expertise in pest control. . . 

The golden shearer hits 70 – Colin Williscroft writes in the ODT:

When Brian “Snow” Quinn needs to shear his flock of about 400 ewes, he does most of the hard work himself, although he admits getting in some help when it is needed.

At 70, there is nothing wrong with that, he reckons.

In his heyday, of course, Mr Quinn was a champion shearer – a world champion at one stage – and today he is still hugely respected for his legacy, having won the Golden Shears competition in 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971 and 1972. . .

Only the tough survive the Wairere hills – Jon Morgan writes:

Asked to explain the key to being a successful sheep breeder, Derek Daniell thinks for a second or two, then smiles and says, “Well, to put it simply, it’s about tits and bums.”

He looks down the hill to a small group of two-tooth ewes hugging the shade of an overhanging bank and explains. “It’s tits because the ewes need to be good milkers and rear big lambs.” He points to the two-tooth rams on the hillside above him and adds, “And it’s bums because that’s where most of the meat is.”

 All sheep prices look good: Tony Chaston at Interest.co.nz writes:

With a picture telling “a thousand stories”, we thought it would be good to review where livestock commodity prices are at compared to the last 3 years by way of our charts.

The wool price rises are spectacular, with crossbred prices back to they were in the 80’s. And it may not be over yet with supply  restricted and no stocks in the pipeline.

 

Wools second auction of the year produced price rises that are unprecedented for decades.

The 6-13% rises for different wool classes lifted the indicator levels dramatically, especially for crossbred (44-49c) and lamb (61c) wools. . .

Rakaia sales show confidence – Tim Fulton writes in NZ Farmers Weekly:

Three years ago it felt like a struggle to get rid of them – now his top pen of store lambs has made $151 and owner Stuart Millar can’t help murmuring “it’s incredible”.

Millar, a champion sheepdog trialist, attributes the price shift to a massive shortage of sheep as dairy expansion and storm losses alter supply and demand for stock.

Flock numbers appeared to be well back on early-season estimates, Millar said following his family’s Suffolk and Perendale sale at Peak Hill.

Their offering of just over 2600 lambs averaged $100 as did another Gorge property Snowdon Station which sold 5400 Suffolk and Perendale lambs. . .

Works buyers breaking ranks – also in NZ Farmers Weekly:

With works struggling to find enough cattle some buyers are starting to break ranks and are competing for cattle by paying premium prices, PGG Wrightson agent Vaughan Vujcich said at the Kaikohe sale.
It was another strong market with 780 head on offer with prices for most of the store market on a par with the previous week which was already high. However, there were still increases for heavier, more forward cattle with schedule changes and a lack of prime cattle for killing.
The cattle market at Pukekohe was very strong with all classes being in very big demand, Chris Humphrey of Livestock Mart Auctions reported.
“This is a trend which looks to only get better as was predicted late last year as cattle numbers are very low in most sales and demand is huge. This will not change for a long time and this shortage of cattle is a real concern,” he said. . .

Confessions of a hunter-gatherer – Steve Wyn-Harris in the Farmer Weekly:

For many years at this time I’ve felt a martyr to the cause on behalf of this country’s export earnings, well at least from Hinerangi Road anyway.

I’d diligently keep slogging away except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day while all the neighbours, stock trucks and various reps magically disappear. The road becomes a sleepy quiet byway instead of its usual busy vein of commerce and frantic activity.

I wonder how others can be so organised at a busy time of the year or alternatively why I am not. . .


Young Country

August 13, 2009

New Zealand Farmers Weekly has a lot of competition from other give-away papers which turn up in rural mail boxes but consistent quality, original stories and intelligent commentary make it a must read.

The people behind it also have courage because they’ve launched a magazine, too.

Young Country is, as its name suggests, aimed at younger rural people but should appeal to a wider audience.

dairy 10004

The cover story of the current issue features  Alex, Anna and Pip Ewing, the third generation to farm Cattle Flat Station in the Matukituki Valley beyond Wanaka.

Their father, Charlie, took over the property from his father and he has worked hard over the years to make sure the same opportunities existed for his children.

His daughters have not only accepted those opportunities created for them, they have grabbed them with both hands  and are beginning to stamp their own mark on the family’s farming and helicopter businesses through hard work, grit and determination.

I got my money’s worth from this story by itself, and there’s plenty more good reading in the magazine: two sides of the debate over irrigating Canterbury; some of the people who are improving performance on Maori farms; a look at rural broadband; carbon farming . . .

A recession may not be the best time to launch a magazine, but if this one continues as it has started it should not just survive but prosper.


Word no longer bond

June 1, 2009

A friend who’s a cropping farmer had signed up deals selling grain for winter feed to dairy farmers which they are now cancelling.

Earlier in the year the Farmers Weekly reports that dairy farmers were walking away from maize deals, leaving contractors with as much as a third of their crop unsold.

The milk payout has fallen and next season’s forecast is lower than this season’s. The price of grain has also fallen, but would these farmers have paid more had the price gone up after they’d signed the deal?

In our area we like to think we can still do business on a handshake, but thses examples show there is a growing number of people for whom their word is no longer their bond.


Hidden agenda in NZX purchase of CPL?

May 6, 2009

I greeted uncrtically the news that NZX was buying Country-Wide, publishers of most of of the papers which get delivered free to rural mail boxes, including my favourite NZ Farmers Weekly.

Others aren’t so innocent.

Cactus Kate finds some sharp knives in the NZX Haystack .

Jenni McManus reports  that Trans-Tasman editor in chief Max Bowden has made a Commerce Commission complaint because he thinks NZX is trying to act as regulator in a market in which it would be a participant.

At issue: whether an organisation calling itself a regulator should be cornering the market in anything, let alone a commercial enterprise, by acting as both a player and the market enforcer.

Adolf at No Minister smells something fishy and asks:

How can it be that the regulator of share trading activities in New Zealand companies an be allowed to itself operate trading companies which are not part of its core activity, namely regulation? What happens when one of its own companies transgresses?

Roarprawn also smells something whiffy and agrees with Fran O’Sullivan who questions why the stock exchange is putting on gumboots.

Expanding into publications during the economic downturn is a bold move.

The Cross memo explains that the NZX is getting into an “advertising-reliant media publication” in this climate. She contends print media are the best way to contact farmers while internet access remains slow and inconsistent for rural New Zealand.

“This protects to a certain extent rural publications from the downturn in advertising in mainstream/daily media publication and, second, farmers’ behaviours as the majority still read physical papers instead of accessing the internet for their news and information.”

The memo predicts it will be more than five years before farmers swap to online news services.

I’m not so sure about that, improvements to rural boradband services are moving quickly. We’ve got wireless broadband but discovered by accident we could get a much better service through the phone line now.

I’ve always used “you don’t do rural broadband” to put off people wanting us to change to telephone providers. But when I used that line with a cold-caller on Monday I was told they did and we could get broadband access via our phone line. I phoned Telecom to check and was told that our exchange had been upgraded and our phone line could now deliver broadband.

If that service is as good as promised more country people will turn to the internet for news rather than waiting for the papers which come with the mail – which for us isn’t until early to mid afternoon.

This point is made by Quote Unquote who also has questions about the NZX purchase of CPL.

. . .  there are some astute comments about magazine publishing in general which Weldon could consider – in particular, Rundle’s key line:

To go into the magazine trade now is like starting a stable just as the first Model T Ford rolls off the line.

We’ve been getting a regular stream of change-of-address emails from farming friends who have discovered they no longer have to rely on dail-up access to the internet.

The service we get in the country still doesn’t deliver the ultra-fast speeds available in cities, but it won’t be far away and when it comes, our readinghahbits will change.

You can’t tuck a PC into your back pocket as you do with a paper when you’re heading up the back paddock . But if you’ve already read the news on the net  over breakfast you won’t need to.

The question of who’s going to pay for the news on internet will wait for another day.


NZX buys Country-Wide Publications

April 28, 2009

Country-Wide Publications is being sold to NZX for an undisclosed sum.

CPL Owners Dean Williamson and Tony Leggett, who bought CPL in 1997, have grown the business to produce 78 publications a year under seven mastheads, and from a turnover of $250,000 in 1997 to over $7 million in 2008. CPL publications reach all 86,000 farmers in New Zealand at least once every week.

Roarprawn doesn’t think it’s a good investment, but I do.

Fielding-based CPL publishes several rural papers including NZ Farmers Weekly, Country Wide South and Country Wide North and the recently acquired Dairy Exporter.

All are give aways which are delivered to rural mail boxes and all are quality publications which concentrate on rural news, issues and features. Unlike some giveaways the majority of their stories are fresh rather than rehashed press releases, are well read by farmers and attract good suppport from advertisers.

The CPL media relesase says:

Dean Williamson said, “This is an exciting next step for both the CPL business and the rural sector as a whole. Bringing NZX and CPL together creates a raft of new opportunities. Both are innovative companies focused on growth.”

Tony Leggett said, ” We understand our market and our business model reflects that. We give farmers the information they need, and astute advertisers appreciate that. We focus on value.

“Print media remains the right medium to reach farmers at this point in time. As we see increased broadband penetration in rural areas, we are likely to see more interest in our online offerings and will continue to develop products in this space,” said Leggett.

CPL operations will remain based in Feilding, managed by Dean and Tony. “This is a long term investment in the New Zealand rural sector,” said Weldon.

This isn’t the NZX’s first foray into rural business, it already owns Agrifax,  Dairy Week and Pro-Farmer Australia.


Are Fonterra’s ethics up to scratch?

October 3, 2008

NZ Farmers Weekly has an interview with Warren Leslie, the Dairy Board’s last chief executive, who said:

he would have “moved heaven and earth” to declare a product recall immediately he had information about poisoned milk.

He also said the Board had discussions with San Lu, in which Fonterra has a 43% stake, two years before Fonterra was created but they had other priorities.

“The whole arrangement in China needed to be very carefully thought through … if you don’t start with really good milk you can’t make the range of product we can here.

“The first thing you have to do is to try to get the standards raised. In any investment we might have made anywhere, we would have wanted to put our own people in, get our own standards in place and generally raise the bar,” Larsen said.

Does that mean the Dairy Board would not have been keen on a joint venture, or only invested in a majority shareholding?: “That would have been a matter for the board, but certainly from a management point of view the answer to that is yes.”

Larsen said his reaction to the SanLu crisis was “one of great sadness”.

“If you look at the chart of risk that most corporates use, the model we had had a big centrepiece and it in were the words ‘food safety’. Food safety is absolutely and utterly non-negotiable. Other risks are negotiable in business but if you are a food company your reputational risk, your brand equity is all on the line, and you do not put it at risk.”

So would Larsen, as Fonterra did, have initially settled for a quiet trade recall of Sanlu product, as advised by local Chinese government authorities? : “Like hell I would’ve.”

The NBR reports that former independent chairman of Fonterra’s disbanded ethics committee Dr Simon Longstaff also has concerns about the San Lu investment and said had the committee still been in place:

he was ‘almost certain’ it would ahve been involved from the outset in putting procedures in palce for setting up the joint venture with San Lu . .

Dr Longstaff is now the executive director of the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney. He said ethical considerations for Fonterra include:

* the “health and safety of the consumers of these products” – though Dr Longstaff accepts it’s extremely difficult to try to protect consumers against malicious conduct of others.

* Concerns for the welfare of Fonterra, and its capacity to generate wealth for New Zealand.

* The duty of a really significant New Zealand company not jsut to look after the singular interests of its farmers but also to recognise that whatever it does has the capacity to affect New Zealand’s reputation; and

* Whether the board or senior management have maintained a capacity to deal with these ethical issues in a complex world which “refuses to be tamed by our ignorance”.

“Most ethical questions are not good versus bd, right vbersus wrong – it’s competing interests all being [weighed],” Dr Lognstaff said. “The thing about making good decisions – it’s not jsut a matter of common sense. It requires engagement, confidence and you’ve got to care. If anyone in the company was involved in a decision which sought to place the interest of the company or its partners in China ahead of the children, then that in my mind would be fudnamentally wrong. A betrayal of the ideals of New Zealand.”

I don’t believe that Fonterra deliberately put commercial interests ahead of children’s lives. But I do wonder if the company had all the information it needed before it went into partnership with Sanlu; and the delay between its representatives on the board discovering there was a problem with melamine poisoning in the milk and the public recall indicates major deficiencies in its procedures for dealing with serious quality issues.

Inquiring Mind comments on and links to the NBR article here.


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