Rural round-up

August 28, 2020

Wool boom from footrot research – Sally Rae:

The development of a commercialised breeding value for footrot resistance represents a “huge opportunity” for the expansion of fine wool sheep production, the New Zealand Merino Company says.

While “not a silver bullet” against the disease which results in lameness and loss of production, it would allow growers to make genetic gains and establish flocks that were footrot resistant, NZM chief executive John Brakenridge said.

Growers would save money from reduced treatment costs and chemical inputs, would not be hit with lower production, all while improving animal welfare.

It was the result of work by the New Zealand Sheep Transformation Project, co-funded by NZM and the Ministry for Primary Industries with a contribution from Merino Inc, to look at ways to contribute to a more productive, profitable and high animal welfare future for fine wool. . . 

From Devine intervention to total faith, highland calf birth adds new blood to line – Laurel Ketel:

Two years ago, Devine, a highland cow living at Plum Tree farm in Glenhope, couldn’t walk.

She had fallen down a bank and with her leg caught in wire fencing, the circulation to her foot was cut off causing severe damage. The rehabilitation costs were huge but owners Lisa and Mal Grennell were determined she wouldn’t be put down.

They worked around the clock for weeks, hoisting her every few hours and after four weeks she was finally able to walk unaided but it took a further six months for her to recover fully.

Last week Devine gave birth to a healthy calf and with the birth came not only new life but the introduction of a new bloodline into New Zealand highland cattle. . . 

Beef + Lamb NZ joins call for new national nutrition surveys:

As World Iron Awareness Week kicks off today, Beef + Lamb New Zealand are joining the growing number of calls for the government to conduct new national nutrition surveys, with the most recent in 2008 for adults, and 2002 for children. 

Iron deficiency is the world’s most prevalent nutrient deficiency with two billion sufferers globally. It greatly impacts young children and women, with symptoms often being mistaken for the impacts of a busy life (tiredness, feeling grumpy, lack of focus). This hidden hunger is impacting a growing number of Kiwis, but the true scale is virtually impossible to quantify.  

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Head of Nutrition Fiona Windle points out that such a large data gap leaves a lot to be desired when trying to tackle the impacts of low iron levels among other nutrient deficiencies.  . .  

Prospectors out in force as gold prices reach fever pitch – Tracy Neal:

Since retiring last year as the Grey District’s long-serving mayor, Tony Kokshoorn says he has been good as gold – he just wishes he had joined the recent rush on prospecting for it.

“I generally nowadays invest in sharemarkets and that type of thing, but I wish now I’d taken up the gold-panning and gone out there because it’s a far better payer at the moment, with the gold price going through the roof and the share price of most companies really in the doldrums.”

Record high gold prices have prompted hobby prospectors to dust off spades and pans and head to South Island rivers in the hope of striking it lucky.

The precious metal recently hit $NZ3000 an ounce, as global investors looked to safer bets in shaky economic times. . . 

Comvita posts reduced annual loss :

The honey manufacturer and exporter Comvita has posted a reduced annual loss as it restructures and looks to capitalise on a lift in sales.

The company’s loss for the year ended June was $9.7 million, most of it caused by restructuring costs, compared with a loss of $27.7m a year ago, which had writedowns in asset values.

However, a second half year revival, as Comvita moved to slim and simplify its business and increase margins, resulted in a profit but not enough to overturn a first half loss. . . 

Validation of agriculture as an essential and sustainable industry – Roberto A. Peiretti:

Did you know that our most basic foods could be totally consumed around the world in just a few months?

This is why governments everywhere have labeled agriculture an “essential” activity during the Covid-19 crisis.

It was gratifying to see this appreciation during the social and economic lockdowns because farmers are often overlooked or even abused.

I hope the awareness of what farmers do continues after we recover from the pandemic.

Over the last several months, we’ve learned to live without a lot of the things that we once took for granted, such as sports, dining in restaurants, and going to church. The rules have varied from country to country, but we’ve all learned to cope with new restrictions so that we can prevent the transmission of a dangerous disease. . . 


Rural round-up

August 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

Women’s farm training winner – Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

Armadillo Merino aims for the moon – Neal Wallace:

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

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

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

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

Arable sector must determine its future – Annette Scott:

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

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

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

Pāmu announces new GM sustainability and farming systems:

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

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

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

Sugar price rebound sweetens La Niña risk – Shan goodwin:

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

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

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


Rural round-up

August 11, 2020

Dry July puts Marlborough farmers at risk of spring drought – Sophie Trigger:

Marlborough farmers are relying on “significant” spring rain to avoid drought, figures show.

Last month’s weather data from the Marlborough Research Centre showed the region had recorded just 26 per cent of the long term July average, with 16.8mm.

Total rainfall in from January to July had been 220.2mm, or 59 per cent of the long term average. This made 2020 the fifth driest year on record so far, in the 91 years of data available. . . 

Carpet company links with NZ Merino:

Cavalier Bremworth has entered into a partnership with the New Zealand Merino Company to launch long-term forward contracts with its ZQ wool certification grower community.

In a statement, it said the partnership would deliver $5million value direct to New Zealand strong-wool growers over the next three years as Cavalier Bremworth moved away from synthetic products in favour of wool and natural fibres.

“Partnerships like this are so important for New Zealand’s economic recovery, adding value in generating local employment with transparency and gives confidence and reward to the growth of the New Zealand strong wool sector.

“It’s great to see local brands like Cavalier shifting the dial and walking the talk in helping counter climate change and carbon emissions with more regenerative fibres,” NZM chief executive John Brakenridge said. . . 

Muster’ brings in the younger generation – Sally Rae:

Georgia Urquhart had a couple of sleepless nights prior to the Nextgen Muster.

Miss Urquhart (24) was a driving force behind the initiative which aimed to get more young people involved in — and learning about — the merino industry.

Initially, she feared no-one would turn up or there might only be five, so she was thrilled when 68 attended the first day at Benmore Station, near Omarama, and about 40 the second at Simons Hill Station, in the Mackenzie district — “way more” than she expected.

Miss Urquhart grew up on Grays Hills Station in the Mackenzie, which includes a merino stud that she has become increasingly involved with over the last several years. . . 

New Zealand’s lesser known honeys to get a boost in international markets:

New Zealand’s apiculture industry has embarked on a collective story-telling drive to educate ‘conscious foodie’ consumers offshore about its diverse range of native honey varieties.

Apiculture New Zealand has joined forces with New Zealand Story to create a suite of compelling promotional material about lesser known honey varieties.

Karin Kos, Chief Executive of Apiculture New Zealand says although mānuka honey continues to yield strong export prices and has provided a ‘halo effect’ for other New Zealand honeys, the shrinking margins for non-mānuka styles mean producers are now competing in a commoditised market. . . 

Permission granted for new potato protector:

A new herbicide that controls potato weeds, like black nightshade, has been approved for use in New Zealand, subject to conditions.

Boxer Gold contains the active ingredient prosulfocarb, which is new to New Zealand, but already approved in the European Union, Australia, and Japan.

Benefits identified in the application process for this product include reduced resistance in weeds, leading to bigger potato crops, and more product choice for farmers. . . 

AACo rolls out the Wagyu flavour wheel :

THE unique flavour, texture and aroma of Australia’s famous Wagyu beef can now be marketed using a world-first flavour profile.

Developed by The University of Queensland in partnership with the Australian Agricultural Company, the new flavour wheel is designed to provide product descriptors and to differentiate the different Wagyu cuts and marbling grades.

Sensory and flavour expert Dr Heather Smyth said flavour wheels were commonly used by the wine, seafood, coffee, beer and cocoa industries to describe flavour and sensory properties . . 


Rural round-up

July 25, 2020

Irrigation NZ restructures in response to sector’s needs:

Irrigation New Zealand is restructuring to put renewed focus on solving the tension between the fundamental need for irrigation in a post-COVID New Zealand, and the sector’s increasingly restricted licence to operate.

In addition, the loss of IrrigationNZ’s flagship conference due to lockdown meant the organisation experienced significant financial loss creating reason to review, reset and refocus.

As such, the Board of IrrigationNZ has restructured the organisation to reflect a new two-pronged approach to focus on advocacy at a national level, as well as deliver value ‘on the ground’ in the regions. The following changes have been made: . .

Rain fails to wash away problems – Colin Williscroft:

The drought might have been broken across most of Hawke’s Bay but many farmers are still dealing with its effects.

Jacqui Anderson, who with husband Wayne has farms at Waipukurau in Central Hawke’s Bay and Maraekakaho, west of Hastings, says the extended drought followed by plenty of rain over the past month has affected each property differently.

They couple have farmed at Waipukurau for 20 years, mainly trading bulls, and put plans in place early. They did a feed budget last year knowing the number of bulls they were likely to carry over winter so bought balage when it wasn’t too hard to get. . . 

From drought to deluge, farmer loses 30 hectares of grass – Amy WIlliams:

A Northland swamp farmer has lost hectares of grass to flooding just months after a drought dried up pastures.

Evan Smeath has farmed a dairy herd on his 190 hectare farm at the top end of the Hikurangi Swamp just north of Whangārei for 42 years.

“This was some of the most intense rainfall I’ve seen in all the time we’ve been here but they’re not the biggest floods,” Smeath said.

“This one came so quick, so fast, it’s done a bit of damage to the fencing and drains. . .

Māori tech business creates app to streamline job matching for seasonal workers – Bonnie Flaws:

A new app that connects seasonal workers with horticultural employers promises to streamline the hiring process.

It was notoriously difficult for horticulture businesses to find and keep skilled staff, Jobloads founder Candice Pardy said.

As a persimmon orchard owner who has struggled to find workers when needed, Pardy said she knew first-hand the frustration of employers. . . 

Want bacon but really prefer to eat lamb? Here’s the product for you – Bonnie Flaws:

Have you ever sat down to breakfast and thought: “I wish this bacon was really made of lamb?”

Auckland butcher Nadine Bates is stocking an unusual product on offer at her shop – lamb bacon. She says it’s a “mind-teasing” alternative to the traditional stuff.

And while you might think of bacon as something that solely comes from pigs, Bates says in fact it can be made from any meat. It’s the curing process that makes something bacon, not the fact that it’s pork, she says. . .

Cutting edge tech removing need for inspectors in meat plants – Shan Goodwin:

Beef and sheep meat processors are well down the road to removing the need for inspectors to come on-site to conduct audits, thanks to cutting-edge augmented reality smart glasses technology.

Australian immersive technology solution company Bondi Labs has been working for several years on wearable, artificial intelligence enabled hands-free technology that would allow for the remote seeing and assisting of tasks and operations within a meat processing facility in real-time.

The initial catalyst for the work was addressing supply chain transparency and quality assurance non-compliance issues in real time globally to build greater trust and confidence in those supply chains. . .


Rural round-up

July 18, 2020

Harvesters fear for industry as temporary workers’ visa expiration looms – Nona Pelletier:

The horticulture industry warns it may have to cut back on the harvest, if the government does not move quickly to head-off a critical labour shortage in spring.

The hospitality, pork, shearing, dairy and agricultural services industries were also concerned about labour shortages, with thousands of working holiday visas expected to expire on or before 25 September.

More of concern was the skilled temporary workers who were unable to re-enter the country.

The minister of immigration promised the horticultural industry that it would be able to recruit up to 14,400 registered seasonal workers from Pacific Islands later this year. . . 

Rural mental health service inundated by women hoping ‘farm speak’ will save men – Pip Courtney and Margot Kelly:

Mothers, wives and sisters have overwhelmed a suicide prevention service with stories of loss and grief after it featured on ABC Landline.

The founder, plant scientist Mary O’Brien, said women left behind after a son, brother, or husband took their own lives, also needed support but often slipped through the cracks.

Ms O’Brien said country women had contacted her to share their stories and thank her for encouraging rural men to ask for help when they were mentally ‘bogged’.

“Many had lost sons and several had lost a father and a brother, or a brother and a husband,” Ms O’Brien said. . . 

Stoat breakthrough could be the key to eradication:

In a country with few living native predators, stoats are the kings of the forest.

Despite appearances, these mustelids are brutal creatures: carnivores who can kill animals many times their size, from rabbits and hares to possums, birds, and even freshwater crayfish.

In many environments in New Zealand, they are the top predator.

As such, they’re a big threat to many of our native species, and the eradication of stoats is a key point in New Zealand’s ambitious goal to be predator-free by 2050.

At the moment, we rely largely on chemical drops and organised trapping missions to get rid of them – but a scientific breakthrough may have changed that. . . 

‘Jaw-droppingly beautiful’: Wanaka winery makes top 50 list

A list of the world’s 50 best vineyards for wine tourism has named a Central Otago and Hawke’s Bay estate as being among the best.

And those two Kiwi vineyards rank in the top 20 in the world in the list out today.

The global list of wine tourism destinations named Argentina’s Zuccardi Valle de Uco in the top spot for the second year running.

Bodega Garzón in Uruguay was second for a consecutive year and Domäne Wachau in Austria jumped 16 places to claim third spot this year.

But Central Otago’s Rippon, on the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Rd, placed 13th and was also named the best vineyard in Australasia. . . 

Congratulations to Annabel Angland – Corteva Central Otago Young Viticulturist of the Year 2020:

Annabel Angland from Peregrine became the Corteva Central Otago Young Viticulturist of the Year 2020 on 16 July following the competition held at Otago Polytechnic Central Campus in Bannockburn.

Congratulations also goes to Liam Burgess from Viticultura who came second and Jordan Moores from Felton Road who came third.

There were eight contestants competing in total. The other five contestants were Katrina Jackson from Chard Farm, Hannah van Velthoven from Prophets Rock, Daniel Brewster from Akarua, Annabel Wylie from Rippon and Theresa Woessner from Domaine Thomson.

“It was one of the closest competitions, we’ve ever seen” said Nick Paulin, the Regional Organiser, and all judges commented on the high calibre of the contestants. . .

 

 

Burger King’s “breathe the farts of change” not passing the sniff test– Dr Frank Mitloehner:

Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, hold the methane?

new communication campaign from Burger King is promising beef that comes from cows that are 33 percent less gassy on average, allowing the international fast-food chain’s consumers to have it their way without guilt.

Burger King, which is part of Restaurant Brands International, has been adding lemongrass to cows’ diets in an attempt to cut down on cattle’s methane emissions. Given the greenhouse gas’ role in global warming, it’s a big deal. If nothing else, decreasing methane would buy us time to try and get a handle on carbon dioxide emissions, the No. 1 elephant in the room – and in the atmosphere.

According to Burger King, cattle that consume the modified diet produce up to one-third less methane than cows that eat a more traditional diet. “ … We found that by adding 100 grams of dried lemongrass leaves to the cows’ daily feed, we were able to see a reduction of up to 33% on average of methane emissions during the period the diet was fed (the last three-to-four months of the cow’s life in the case of our research),” the website states.

It’s a noble pursuit, and such results would definitely be welcome, but has Burger King jumped the gun? . . 

 


Rural round-up

July 14, 2020

Urban spread: farmer accuses councils of economic vandalism – Tom Kitchin:

A small group of Hawke’s Bay landowners are fighting to ensure what’s described as “a cancerous” spread of urban development doesn’t destroy quality crop lands on the Heretaunga Plains.

Councils agree that something must be done, but say it’s not an overnight fix.

Most days for the past 25 years, Richard Gaddum has gone up into the hills on his cattle farm above Havelock North to take in the view.

It captures the vast plains with the hills and mountains beyond. . . 

Wool report: on ‘cusp of renaissance‘ – Sally Rae:

A wool working group has finally released its long-awaited report, saying it believes natural fibres are “on the cusp of a renaissance” and a new approach is needed.

The Wool Industry Project Action Group was established in 2018 to look at opportunities to improve returns for the beleaguered crossbred wool sector.

New Zealand was one of the world’s most significant producers of strong wool; it produced around 10% of global wool of all micron types and around 20% of the 500 million kg of strong wool produced globally, the report said.

But increased competition from synthetic fibres had reduced demand for strong wool and led to a long-term contraction of the sector. . . 

Action now needed for wool say industry leaders – Sally Rae:

National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests chairman Craig Smith says the big thing missing from the wool working group’s report is an action plan to deliver the recommendations.

Mr Smith, who is general manager of Devold Wool Direct, was part of the working group in the early stages when it was set up in 2018.

“We all know the wool industry is in a bloody tough space but we didn’t want it to be just another report.”

But the report that had been produced reiterated the industry was in a bad place, and something needed to be done about it — “and here’s a few ideas”, he said. . . 

Night Shift – Milk Truck Driver – Andrea Vance:

Throughout the night, a fleet of tankers is on the road collecting milk from all over the country. Meet a man behind the wheel of one of them.

In the silent, starless night, Darren Mason’s enormous truck thunders off the state highway and onto a country lane, churning up a cloud of dust.

Sleepy cows rise onto their knees in fright, frozen breath suspended in the chill air. A lone dog starts to bark somewhere in the distance. 

The tanker rolls into the yard, its headlights illuminating two huge stainless steel milk vats. . . 

Courgette shortage sees record high prices:

Courgette prices jumped 74 percent to an all-time high of $21.42 per kilo in June 2020, as imports from Queensland continued to be barred, Stats NZ said today.

Overall vegetable prices were up 7.6 percent in June, also influenced by seasonally higher prices for tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and courgettes. These rises were offset by typical falls for winter crops including potatoes, onions, and carrots.

Both tomatoes and courgettes are more expensive than usual at this time of the year. . . 

The art of Michelle Clarke – Cheyenne Nicholson :

A Canterbury farmer who is a self-confessed creative type says it hasn’t been the easiest of roads turning a passion for art into a fully-fledged business but she has done just that and is drawing inspiration from rural life. Cheyenne Nicholson reports.

CANTERBURY farmer Michelle Clarke has trod a rather wobbly career path and even when she settled on art it very nearly didn’t happen. 

But now she has forged a successful art career that has grown her business, The Art of Michelle Clarke, into a full-time job. Her photographs and artwork grace the pages of magazines and walls all around the country and more recently she has turned her hand to writing and illustrating a children’s book. 

Michelle and husband Stephen Tuck manage on a 224-hectare dairy farm at Hororata where they milk 750 cows. . . 


Rural round-up

July 5, 2020

A business-as-usual approach at Fonterra won’t produce the food-production transformation which Sir Peter Gluckman is urging – Point of Order:

As  the  Covid-19 pandemic  rages   round the world,  New  Zealanders  are  re-discovering food production  is the fundamental  engine of  the   economy.  And farming is not a sunset industry.

Instead of being rubbished   by lobby  groups  for  so-called “dirty dairying”,  the  country’s core  export industry has the chance  to transform itself to be  both more  sustainable and  profitable, along  with remaining one of the main props of the  economy.

Coincidentally,  dairy  giant  Fonterra  gets a   new  leader  in Peter McBride  who  takes over  as chairman in  November.  McBride   steered  Zespri   through  several  crises.   Now, he  says,  he is looking  forward  to  “creating value”   for the co-operative’s 10,500 suppliers. . . 

Fast track Bill for infrastructure approved but water strategy urgently needed:

IrrigationNZ is pleased to see that the Government’s bill for a short-term consenting process to fast-track projects passed in the House last night.

“For far too long we have seen valuable projects fall over because of the long and laborious RMA process, in a post-COVID context we can no longer afford these delays to progress,” says Elizabeth Soal, IrrigationNZ CEO.

“But for our sector, this is not enough.“

“We remain concerned with the capability and capacity for communities to develop meaningful water infrastructure solutions, even if the consenting process is more efficient, without some national level guidance.” . . 

Rural NZ deserves a share of provincial infrastructure spend – Feds:

As it divvies up the $3 billion ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure spending pie, the government should reserve a few slices for the rural areas that drive our export earnings, Federated Farmers says.

“It’s understandable that the first 12 predominantly urban projects announced this week emphasise jobs and kick-starting the post-COVID rebuild,” Feds President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

“But at the same time we should also have an eye to building longer-term resilience and putting in infrastructure that underpins increased primary industry production.”

For example, the government has earmarked $210 million of the fund for climate resilience and flood protection. . . 

Chicken virus in NZ blocking exports to Australia until 2022 – Maja Burry:

A chicken virus blocking exports to Australia is expected to hang around another year before New Zealand is clear of it, a poultry industry leader says.

A chicken virus blocking exports to Australia is expected to hang around another year before New Zealand is clear of it, a poultry industry leader says.

In August last year Infectious Bursal Disease Virus Type One (IBDV-1) was detected on two Otago egg farms belonging to the same company. This can affect the immune system of young chickens, but doesn’t pose any risk to human health.

Recently concluded testing of poultry farms nation-wide found no presence of the virus elsewhere, said Michael Brooks from the Egg Producers Federation and the Poultry Industry Association. . . 

Hunters ask conservation authority to work with all New Zealanders:

The Tahr Foundation is asking the Conservation Authority to represent all New Zealanders and their recreational pursuits in National Parks, including the tens of thousands of hunters who flock to them every year.

The Foundation’s plea is in response to the Conservation Authority’s decision to come out in support of DOC’s controversial plan to exterminate Himalayan tahr in national parks.

But Tahr Foundation spokesperson Willie Duley says tahr were living in the mountains before national parks like Aoraki/Mount Cook were created and exterminating them conflicts with the Authority’s role to protect our cultural heritage. . . 

Prospects for horticulture look bright:

The horticultural sector has continued to surge ahead despite the turmoil and uncertainty Covid-19 has inflicted at a local and international level. Latest figures from Horticulture New Zealand highlight this success with the sector generating a record-breaking $6.2 billion of exports for the year ended June. This is up $700 million from last year and the sector’s earnings now account for 10 percent of the country’s export merchandise earnings.

Kiwifruit has become the “poster fruit” for the horticultural industry’s success, now generating over a third of that export income followed by wine accounting for $1.8 billion of export earnings and apples at $830 million.

This year’s grape harvest of all of these crops bought real challenges, falling as they did while the Covid-19 lockdown commenced with social distancing rules and limited travel all impacting both in the field and within processing facilities. . . 


Rural round-up

July 2, 2020

Contractors need staff pronto – Annette Scott:

Without skilled operators rural contractors risk having millions of dollars of essential agricultural machinery sitting idle this spring. 

After an urgent meeting with Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor, Rural Contractors is surveying members amid rising concern over the pending labour shortage.

Results so far reveal up to 1000 skilled machinery operators will be needed for the spring and summer.     

Many will need to be brought into NZ, Rural Contractors president David Kean said. . . 

Worker shortage worries pig farmers :

Pork producers are calling on the Government to urgently review its policies on skilled migrant workers as severe staff shortages hit. 

Pig farmers rely on experienced workers from overseas to meet a shortfall in staff with the necessary skills required to work with the country’s herd.

However, they are concerned skilled migrants already working on farms might not have their visas renewed or existing workers trying to return from overseas will be blocked, leaving many farmers with significant staffing shortages.

“The sector’s strong preference would be to have a pool of available skilled and unskilled New Zealand workers,” New Zealand Pork chief executive David Baines said.  . . 

Aerial top-dressing, deer among highlights of past century – Richard Davison:

In common with a record 70 families set to receive their Century Farm awards in Lawrence last month, the Mackies, of South Otago, were unable to share their story when Covid-19 intervened. Here they take the opportunity to do so, looking back over the Copland and Mackie families’ 100 years of farming the same land, with reporter Richard Davison.

Given the ups and downs of farming, it’s no mean feat to stay put on the same land for a century and more.

Every year, though, the Century Farms event in Lawrence marks a swag of families from across New Zealand achieving just that, and last month a record 70 families were due to pick up 100- and 150-year awards.

We all know what happened next, but many of those families’ stories still deserve to be told, helping paint a picture of the gambles, innovations, hard work and lighter-hearted moments of New Zealand farming down the years. . . 

Growing native plants creating legacy – Keri Waterworth:

The quality of water entering lakes, rivers and streams from farms in the Upper Clutha catchment is improving due to the thousands of natives planted around waterways on those farms. One of the nurseries supplying the plants is Wanaka’s Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust nursery. Kerrie Waterworth reports.

Nestled in the shelter of an extensive QE11 convenanted kanuka forest beside Lake Wanaka, the Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust nursery is at the end of an easy walk through the QEII Covenant Kanuka forest beside Lake Wanaka.

On the Tuesday afternoon I visited, it was one of the two nursery volunteer afternoons held each week during winter, and only the second since the nursery reopened following the Covid-19 lockdown/restriction periods. . . 

Wine worker launches petition to ease visa conditions as concerns grow for next harvest – Maia Hart:

A petition has been launched calling for the Government to ease temporary work visa conditions for international winery workers impacted by Covid-19.

The petition, started by Cait Guyette, is calling for the Government to allow grape harvest workers already in New Zealand to stay until vintage 2021.

Guyette, who is from the United States but had a permanent job at a winery in Marlborough, said she felt disheartened there had been no leniency to allow harvest workers to continue working in New Zealand’s wine industry. . . 

NSW buys outback station in state’s largest single property purchase for a national park – Saskia Mabin:

It’s the vast embodiment of outback beauty and heartbreak — a sweeping western NSW cattle station that is, by turns, arid no-man’s land and lush waterbird haven, home to ancient Indigenous artefacts, the ghostly trail of Burke and Wills and now the nation’s newest national park.

“It can be very good and then it can be vile,” said Bill O’Connor, 84, owner of Narriearra station, which has just become the largest block of private land bought for a national park in the state’s history.

With nearby Sturt National Park, Narriearra will create a conservation area of close to half a million hectares, or twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory.

The 153,415-hectare station sits in the north-west corner of the state, with the dog-proof fence of the NSW-Queensland border forming its northern boundary. . . 


Rural round-up

May 23, 2020

Covid-19: trusting business to work – Todd Muller:

National’s agriculture spokesman, Todd Muller on the role the Government needs to play for agriculture businesses.

As we continue to grapple with the repercussions of COVID-19, we must look at what’s working and use that as a template for other business sectors.

The kiwifruit industry has been a shining example of how it is possible to continue operating at a high capacity, while adjusting to the restrictions of COVID-19.

It has completely re-engineered its systems from harvesting the fruit, to picking the fruit, to packing the fruit and we’ve seen a bumper season with record amounts of NZ kiwifruit making their way across the world as a result.

This has also meant the industry has been able to keep 28,000 seasonal workers in employment, while recording no COVID-19 incidents. This is the sort of leadership that shows how we can keep people safe and keep the economy moving at the same time. . .

Burger run shows food folly – Annette Scott:

The plan for a food security policy is long overdue with the McDonalds lettuce shortage highlighting its need more than ever, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

It is a warning that should not be ignored.

“Vegetable shortages will become a more frequent occurrence unless we get serious about ensuring we have enough food to feed NZ. 

“Like a dog howling at the moon HortNZ has been on about the need for NZ to have a food security policy and plan.  . . 

Milk price impacts vary widely – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra has published a shiny set of third-quarter numbers to cushion the impact on farmer-shareholders of a $1/kg reduction in the mid-point of its milk price forecast for next season.

Ten days before the start of the new season it released a wide-ranging $5.40 to $6.90 opening forecast – representing the difference between despair and satisfaction for New Zealand farmers.

At the same time it shrank the range for this season, now $7.10 to $7.30, and showed the big blocks are in place for a solid outcome to a tumultuous year. . . 

Family sheep and beef farm takes top regional spot at Taranaki Farm Environment Awards:

A long-term commitment to environmental stewardship has earned Rukumoana Farms the top spot at Taranaki’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards, run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

The awards champion sustainable farming and growing through a programme which sees one Regional Supreme Winner selected from each of the 11 regions involved. As a Regional Supreme Winner, Rukumoana Farms is now in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy, with the winner of this national award to be announced at a later date.

Rukumoana Farms is run by the Brown family – Robert, Jane, Nick, Sophie, Will, Kate and Sam. Thiscohesive family unitissuccessfully driving this farm that has significantlygrownduring the 34 yearsthatRobertand Jane have been involved. . .

Fonterra provides performance and milk price updates:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced its third-quarter business update, narrowed the range for its 2019/2020 forecast Farmgate Milk Price, and announced an opening forecast Farmgate Milk Price range for the 2020/2021 season.

  • Total Group Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT): $1.1 billion, up from $378 million
  • Total Group normalised EBIT: $815 million, up from $514 million
  • Total Group normalised gross margin: $2.5 billion, up from $2.2 billion
  • Normalised Total Group operating expenses: $1,665 million, down $148 million from $1,813 million
  • Free cash flow: $698 million, up $1.4 billion
  • Net debt: $5.7 billion, down from $7.4 billion
  • Normalised Ingredients EBIT: $668 million, up from $615 million
  • Normalised Foodservice EBIT: $208 million, up from $135 million
  • Normalised Consumer EBIT: $187 million, up from $128 million
  • Full year forecast underlying earnings: 15-25 cents per share
  • 2019/20 forecast Farmgate Milk Price range: $7.10 – $7.30 per kgMS
  • Opening 2020/21 forecast Farmgate Milk Price range: $5.40 – $6.90 per kgMS
  • 2020/21 Advance Rate Schedule has been set off the mid-point of $6.15 per kgMS . .

Union boss doffs hat to meat companies – Peter Burke:

Meat processing companies have gained praise for the way they handled the challenges around COVID-19 from an unlikely source – the union.

National secretary of the Meat Workers Union, Daryl Carran, who recently took up the role, says all the meat companies have played the game by the rules very well. He told Rural News that if all the problems in the sector were handled in the way that COVID has been, it would be great.

Carran says currently between 75% and 80% of meat workers are on the job and those that aren’t working are either over 70 years of age, have underlying health issues or have personal family circumstances that make it safer for them – and others in the workforce – to remain in isolation

.

 


Rural round-up

May 19, 2020

Water storage more important than ever as economy recovers from COVID-19 – Irrigation NZ – James Fyfe:

Strategic water storage in key regions could play an important role in helping the country recover from COVID-19, says Irrigation New Zealand.

Many in the farming community were disappointed that last week’s Budget did not allocate any money specifically for water-related projects.

Although the primary sector did get a cash injection of almost $500 million, a large part of which went to fighting Mycoplasma bovis, as well as considerable investment in various schemes aimed at creating jobs in the industry, many questioned the lack of money for water storage.

The Budget came as Hawke’s Bay continues to struggle with one of the worst droughts in living memory. . . 

The missing socks – Cheyenne Nicholson:

New Zealand is home to an extraordinary number of entrepreneurs changing the world, making life easier and pushing the boundaries. In this series we meet dairy women who, along with being top-notch farmers, are entrepreneurs and business owners. They share the triumphs and challenges of starting and running a business and a farm. Cheyenne Nicholson caught up with Eva Botting.

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. 

And it was Phillip Botting’s need for new socks at Christmas 2018 and his wife Eva’s willingness to take the plunge into the business world that led to the creation of The Sock Agent. . .

Thanking New Zealand beekeepers on World Bee Day:

New Zealand honey bees will be giving their beekeepers a buzz of thanks this World Bee Day on Wednesday 20th May.

World Bee Day was established by the United Nations to raise awareness of the critical importance of bees, and other pollinators to the health of our planet and its people. While in many countries, bee populations are in decline: impacted by disease, pests, climate change and intensive agricultural practices, in New Zealand our honey bee population is healthy and continuing to grow.

Recent international research, based on data from the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation, found that New Zealand rated seventh in the world for bee population growth over a decade. . .

New speaker series reveals the good, the bad, and the opportunity in regenerative agriculture:

six-part online speaker series for farmers and growers will explore the nuts and bolts of regenerative agriculture (regen ag), from international trade opportunities in the wake of Covid-19 to how often animals should be moved when grazing.

Hosted by think-tank Pure Advantage and the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, the series authored and hosted by Alina Siegfried will provide insights into the benefits and costs of regen ag and the practicalities of changing systems while maintaining production on a working farm.

The series features Kiwi farmers and international experts, including Gary Hirshberg, Co-founder and former Chief Executive of Stonyfield Organics, the second largest organic dairy company in the world. Soil scientists and business leaders will explore the role of market mechanisms, funding models, soil science, systems-thinking, and community mental health. . . 

Frustrated farmers living on the edge :

THE SEARLE family can’t do too much more to streamline its dairy operation without access to affordable irrigation water.

The family, parents Geoff and Tracey along with sons Michael, 29, and Matt, 35, who farm just outside Barham in NSW, are on its second year of zero allocation and it is decimating a once thriving business.

“We have a pretty good dairy set up and we are just watching it dwindle away to dust,” Matt said.

He said the family has tried to make things work with minimal water and for the last two years a zero allocation. . .

It’s back to business at Level 2 for Ecowool:

New Zealand took a proactive response to the coronavirus, COVID-19, which meant that for a time, many businesses had to close their doors. However, with the changing of the alert levels, it’s business as usual for online sales of quality New Zealand-made products.

The Ecowool team is proud to be able to offer a variety of beautiful sheepskin, wool, natural, and knitwear products for customers around the world from their online store. These are carefully packaged following government guidelines, and then sent on their way. . . 


Rural round-up

April 7, 2020

Queues for meat plant space grow :

Meat companies Silver Fern Farms and Alliance report a dramatic lift in livestock numbers waiting to be processed as their plants are down to half capacity under covid-19 rules.

In a note to its suppliers Silver Fern Farms said queue times at its 14 plants have extended exponentially as suppliers book early to avoid congestion and because of colder weather and diminished feed.

Suppliers might be waiting three to six weeks for space, depending on stock class and region. 

An Alliance update to its co-operative members estimates several weeks’ backlog, with processing down to about 30% for beef. . . 

Famously scenic Arcadia Station sold

A Queenstown farmer has bought a scenic rural property near Glenorchy, famous as a setting for TV commercials and films like The Lord of the Rings, for an undisclosed price.

The 257ha Arcadia Station, bordered by Diamond Lake, Mount Aspiring National Park and Dart River and the Paradise property, has been farmed for 60 years by Jim Veint (83), who in turn bought it off his father, Lloyd.

Mr Veint will continue assisting with the farming operation and help recruit and train a new farm manager. . . 

Beware of false prophets – The Veteran:

There have been calls for ‘value added’ to be the driver for our export industry as long as I can remember.    Much of that directed at the timber industry.   All well in theory.   Reality trumps (bad word) theory most times.

So let’s look at timber.   Some would argue the export of raw timber (logs) should be discouraged/banned in favor of the processed product.   That this would lead to an increased number of jobs in the industry particularly now with the economy predicted to contract. . . 

Support set up for farmers facing feed shortages :

Farming groups have set up advice and support for farmers facing shortages of stock feed as they head into winter.

The Ministry for Primary Industries worked with the groups on the initiative which includes a feed budgeting service and farm systems advice.

Federated Farmers said drought, the cancellation of traditional stock sale forums and reduced processing capacity at meat works meant many farmers were carrying more stock than they anticipated going into winter.

This was putting a huge strain on already stretched feed resources and farmer morale. . . 

No spilt milk during lockdown – Molly Houseman:

Last Friday looked “bleak” for Holy Cow.

The family dairy farm in Reynoldstown, near Port Chalmers in Dunedin, lost about 70% of its customers as restaurants and cafes closed for the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown, and no longer needed their usual milk orders.

Owner Merrall MacNeille was left wondering: “What am I going to do with all this milk?”

However, business quickly took an unexpected turn. . . 

Rural Ambassador program brought a storm of opportunities – James Cleaver:

Is there anything better than hearing rain on the roof?

Or the smell that rolls in 10 minutes before a thunderstorm?

We all love rain for obvious reasons and let’s hope this small break gets bigger in the next few months.

Rain equals opportunity and options. It’s the tangent to allow things to grow to their full potential. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 1, 2020

Hope from the high country – Philip Todhunter:

Covid-19? It’s like opening your front door and finding two metres of snow on the ground just after you’d put all your new fencing in.

The fences have been wrecked. You look at the damage, you shake your head, and then you get on with managing your way through it.

In the back of your mind, you know that spring will come, the tonnes of snow will melt, and the grass will grow again.

Farmers are an optimistic bunch. We’re used to things going in cycles: weather patterns, commodity prices, market demand … but we also know that sometimes the wheel doesn’t turn the whole way round, sometimes the change is permanent. . . 

Coronavirus: can the economy recover – Andrea Vance and Iain McGregor:

The economic ride down is likely to be sharp and steep. But when consumers eventually emerge from lockdown, what will the recovery look like? Andrea Vance and Iain McGregor investigate.

Weighing sheep in a yard in the brown foothills of North Canterbury’s Hundalee Hills, Ben Ensor is an unlikely soldier on the frontline of New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As the country prepared to shut down, to stop the spread of coronavirus, the sheep and beef farmer was separating merino stock under the shadow of rustic woolshed. Hooves beat up clouds of dust, as his farm dog herded them into a race.

With 6000 sheep, and around 500 cattle, Ensor can’t close down. Like nurses, doctors, pharmacists and supermarket staff, farming and cropping have been deemed “essential“. . .

Kiwifruit taste test goes south :

Kiwifruit growers will not be paid for their fruit’s taste profile this season after the country’s only testing facility dropped the test.

Eurofins Bay of Plenty is the country’s only testing facility for the drymatter component of kiwifruit, which gives growers and Zespri a direct indication of the fruit’s taste profile.  

The lab now tests only for residues in fruit, leaving post-harvest processors grappling with how to evaluate fruit quality. . .

Keep calm, carry on – Colin Williscroft:

The Government is well aware of farming’s importance and is doing everything it can to ensure the primary sector continues to operate as close to normal as possible, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

“Farming has been the backbone of New Zealand and that will that continue long into the future,” O’Connor says.

Cabinet understands the role farming plays in the economy, along with the need to maintain farming systems subject to seasonal and biological cycles, including the lifecycle of animals and grass growth, restrictions other businesses around the country are not subject to. . .

Meat industry in better shape today to cope with downturn – Allan Barber:

When I started to trawl through possible topics to write about this week, I had the bright idea it might be worth asking meat processors what contingency plans they have in place in case an employee, more particularly one on the processing floor, tests positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus. So far my research suggests it’s not yet an issue that has received a great deal of consideration by many companies, although it’s certainly on their radar.

In an update to farmers, Silver Fern Farms states its position as “The reality is that an outbreak, or the understandable precautionary response of our people, is likely to see an impact on our processing capacity in coming weeks. It is realistic to expect that with a workforce of 7000 we will at least have precautionary isolation within our workforce. We have processes in place to ensure that, should this occur, it can be managed. We are working on the various contingent options and will keep you updated should there be any disruption to processing.” . . 

Coronavirus: George Eustice applauds farmers as ‘hidden heroes’ :

Defra Secretary George Eustice has labelled farmers ‘hidden heroes’ for keeping food on the nation’s plates during the Covid-19 crisis.

In an open letter to the food and farming industry, Mr Eustice paid tribute to ‘all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed.’

The statement described farmers’ response so far as ‘extraordinary’ and thanked those involved in food production on behalf of the country.

“In the face of what is perhaps the greatest health challenge this country has faced in our lifetime, I want to pay tribute to all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed,” he said. . .  

 


Rural round-up

March 24, 2020

Farmers want essential services clarity :

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne is urgently seeking clarity from the Government about what primary sector activities will qualify as essential after the Government effectively put the country into lockdown for four weeks to stop the spread of covid-19.

Milne said she has made it clear in conversations with the Government the definition of essential business has to be as wide-ranging as possible so farmers can keep functioning.

“They are part of the food chain and we need them. 

“The people who do service farming, they have an as equally critical role as us who are growing the food.  . . 

Otago farmers nervous about labour from border restrictions :

Uncertainty over travel for the international workforce is compounding what has been a difficult season for orchardists in Central Otago.

Border restrictions and reduced airline capacity in response to Covid-19 are creating anxiety in the industry.

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman and chief executive of 45 South – New Zealand’s largest cherry exporter – Tim Jones said traditionally two-thirds of his workforce came from overseas, half on Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) visas and half backpackers.

“As a grower, I sit here nervous about labour and we know we use as many Kiwis as we can but to supplement that we employ RSE labour and we employ a lot of backpackers and our obvious concerns are they may not be around in the sort of numbers we’ve had recently. . . 

A DIRA decision – Elbow Deep:

As the world is faced with torrents of horrific news as the pandemic sweeps the globe, it feels like there is little to be positive about. But over recent weeks there have been two small gems for New Zealand dairy farmers.

The first piece of good news was Fonterra’s half year financial results, which are a remarkable turnaround from the Co-op’s first ever loss posted last year. The loss wasn’t insignificant or so small it could be dismissed as a rounding error, the Co-op lost over half a billion dollars which only makes the recent turnaround even more impressive.

At a time of mass uncertainty when many people don’t know if they’ll still have a job in a few months, it is somewhat relieving that these results will see Fonterra inject more than $11 billion into the New Zealand economy through milk payments to their farmers. Those farmers will in turn spend over half of that in their local communities, communities which need money now more than ever before. It’s not just Fonterra farmers who will benefit from the Co-op’s strong performance; independent processors around the country will be benchmarking themselves off the Co-op’s strong performance. . .

Rural sector crying out to recruit more staff – Jacob McSweeny:

While thousands of people around the country are facing joblessness a recruiting company is calling out for workers in the primary sector, saying there were 40 jobs in South Canterbury available now.

Agstaff, Canstaff and New Zealand Dairy Careers managing director Matt Jones said the need for workers had increased as a result of implications from the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The work does not stop — it’s ramped up as some of our clients in the primary production sector increase production to meet New Zealand’s needs.

“The cows still need milked and the crops must be picked,” Mr Jones said.

He said he had a client in South Canterbury who needed 40 people to start immediately. . . 

Post-quake study reveals hort potential – Nigel Malthus:

Large areas of North Canterbury and South Marlborough – affected by the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquakes – offer wide potential for horticulture.

A Plant and Food Research investigation has found that several crops – in particular, apples, grapes, hazelnuts and walnuts – could be grown in pockets throughout the region.

It identified 41,515 ha of land – or about 9% of the total 466,000ha – that would potentially be suitable. . . 

Vets offer Covid-19 advice:

The New Zealand Veterinary Association has some advice for animal owners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association representing New Zealand veterinarians says COVID-19 should not reduce the care owners give to their animals’ health and welfare.

“We appreciate there are many issues that people are dealing with in relation to COVID-19, particularly those self-isolating or with family members taking this precautionary measure,” says New Zealand Veterinary Association chief veterinary officer, Dr Helen Beattie.  . . 

Why cradle-to-cradle needs to be included in fashion’s sustainability rating tools :

A review of a leading environmental impact tool for apparel finds that unless improvements are made, weaknesses in the underlying science could lead to misleading results, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the environment.

What do textile lifecycle assessment tools do?

Textile lifecycle assessment (LCA) tools aim to understand, quantify and communicate the environmental credentials of textiles with the intent of minimising environmental impact.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Material Sustainability Index (MSI) is increasingly being adopted by industry but this LCA method currently fails to account for the complexity of the textile industry.

“Several significant environmental impacts and processes are excluded from the MSI and PM, including recyclability, biodegradability, renewability of resource used, microfibres, abiotic resource depletion (minerals) and abiotic bioaccumulation,” said Dr Steve Wiedemann of Integrity AG & Environment.  . . 


Rural round-up

November 13, 2019

Banking pressures and Fonterra position prompt low dairy farm sales – Sam Kilmister:

Dairy farm sales are plummeting towards record lows as the sector faces uncertainty and a financial squeeze.

Banking pressures and the financial position of dairy giant Fonterra have been cited as the main factors for another drop in farm sales, which are down 6.7 per cent over the past 12 months. 

Despite an 8 per cent increase in the three months to September, the number of farms sold continues to drop as farmers come to grips with compliance laws, freshwater proposals and frugal banks. . . 

Meet the huntaway – the dog New Zealand calls its own – Jendy Harper:

Hamish Scannell doesn’t have a favourite dog. The Mt White Station shepherd says it “depends on the day”.

He’s certain about one thing, he couldn’t do his job without them. Like most New Zealand shepherds, Scannell and his dogs are a package deal. He owns a mix of heading and huntaway dogs.

Heading dogs are typically border collies, a breed of Scottish origin. The huntaway though, is uniquely New Zealand, acknowledged by the national Kennel Club as being the country’s only indigenous dog breed. . . 

Tree protest this week:

The protest group ‘50 Shades of Green’ is organising a march on Parliament this week to try and stop good farmland being covered in pine trees.

Asked why we they are marching, organisers say the answer is simple.

“Farmers love the land. Many farms have been nurtured for generations to feed not only New Zealand but 40 million people internationally as well.

“We’re now seeing that land gone forever, often to overseas based aristocrats and carbon investors.” . . 

Native planting tailored for better survival – Sally Rae:

Fonterra has announced a partnership between Farm Source and ecological consultancy Wildlands to reduce the cost of on-farm native planting.

Speaking at the dairy co-operative’s annual meeting in Invercargill last week, chairman John Monaghan said Fonterra understood the significant uncertainty and frustration farmers felt when it came to the likes of climate change and freshwater.

The co-operative was putting more energy and resources into developing on-farm tools, research and solutions to help farmers continue to run healthy and sustainable businesses. . . 

Bringing bacon home in south – Sally Rae:

American-born veterinarian and epidemiologist Dr Eric Neumann has made his home in the South while continuing to work around the globe. He speaks to rural editor Sally Rae.

He’s an international expert in pigs who has ended up living in Otago.

Dr Eric Neumann has an impressive list of credentials, having been involved in livestock production, aid and development projects, infectious disease management and research, controlled experimental trials, international project management and collaboration, government-sector biosecurity policy development, and one-health training around the world.

He is an adjunct associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Massey University, and also holds positions as adjunct research associate professor at the University of Otago, Centre for International Public Health, and as affiliate Associate Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology, Iowa State University. . . 

Cowboy’s last frontier: Rancher is a rare breed in O.C. raising cattle in the traditional way – Brooke E. Seipel:

From head to toe, Frank Fitzpatrick looks the part.

With a large, black cowboy hat tilted over his forehead, the 68-year-old cattle rancher casually propped a cowboy boot – fitted with spurs – on a post of a corral with about 20 bulls inside.

“I decided on my 8th birthday I wanted to be a cowboy, and I haven’t changed my mind since,” he said, looking at the herd of red Barzona cattle.

Fitzpatrick tends almost 600 head of cattle between ranches in Indio and Trabuco Canyon – the latter just miles from his home in Silverado, the same home he moved into on his 4th birthday. He attended Orange High School, where he joined the Future Farmers of America. By his senior year he had about 20 bulls. . . 


Rural round-up

October 12, 2019

Flawed policies will bite future growth, Federated Farmers warns:

Before giving thought to splurging funds from the surplus, Finance Minister Grant Robertson should check on the effects some of his colleagues’ policies are having on the economy, Federated Farmers says.

“The warning signs are there as growth in provincial economies slows – predominantly because of a significant drop in farmer confidence, not any fall in product prices.  As any economist knows, a drop in provincial growth will flow through to hit national growth,” Feds commerce and trade spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

There have been media reports that the sharp fall in log prices is hitting employment in regions such as Northland and the East Coast and sentiment in key dairy regions such as the Waikato, Taranaki, Manawatu and Southland is fragile due to concerns about government policy. . . 

Farmers welcome trade envoy appointment:

Farmers are welcoming the appointment of Tararua farmer Mel Poulton to the position of Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says Poulton will be “a great representative of New Zealand farming”.

“She has a very good appreciation of the importance of trade to New Zealand and to the primary sector.

“Mel can also handle a dog around a hillside better than any man I’ve ever watched, which should be an indication of the patience and skill she will bring to wrangling with international free trade agreements and getting good deals for New Zealand.” . . 

Banking on gumboot move :

It’s a change of scenery, customer and supply chain for Skellerup’s incoming agri division head, Hayley Gourley.

The high profile former chief of Rabobank’s New Zealand operations has been with Skellerup, the owner of the iconic Red Band gumboot, for just under a month.

The Christchurch company was an instant switch for Gourley (nee Moynihan), whose presence at Rabobank gave the Dutch owned, global bank a Kiwi identity and voice in the agri industry.

At Skellerup she is managing a range of products and people, enjoying the initial feel of working for a national “household name,” she says. . . 

Scholarships address need for farming apprentices:

Scholarships address need for farming and horticulture apprentices

Primary ITO is responding to the urgent need for skilled workers in agriculture and horticulture by launching a scholarship programme for apprentice fees.

Applications for the scholarships are open for October and November and will cover fees for the whole duration of the apprenticeship programmes, which generally take 2-3 years. . . 

Carrot prices down to seven year low:

Carrots are the cheapest they have been in seven years, while prices for capsicums, tomatoes, and cucumbers are falling sharply as spring arrives, Stats NZ said today.

This has been partly offset by a spike in courgette and broccoli prices, leaving overall fruit and vegetable prices down just 1.9 percent in September.

“Fruit and vegetable prices typically fall in September as the warmer weather arrives and more stock begins to hit the shelves,” consumer prices manager Sarah Johnson said. . .

French farmers blockade roads in protest against ‘agri bashing’:

Angry French farmers blockaded major roads in the country yesterday over fears that ‘agri bashing’ is increasingly becoming the norm.

Protests occurred on Tuesday (8 October) as farmers become more and more concerned with the media’s representation of the industry.

Unions FNSEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs (Young Farmers), which organised the blockades, called on members to use tractors to bring traffic to a standstill. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 6, 2019

Know what’s true about farms? – Sam McIvor:

There’s a consistent theme running through my conversations with farmers – they’re experiencing some of the best returns in living memory but there is a sense of pessimism in the face of what feels like an endless tirade of accusations about environmental vandalism.

I can understand how sheep, beef and dairy farmers feel.

For three years as chief executive at New Zealand Pork dealing with animal welfare issues I had daily accusations that questioned my breeding, my heritage, my integrity and my morals. 

I was threatened and to this day my home phone number isn’t listed.

So what is my response and my advice to farmers right now? 

It is to remember what is true. . . 

Look to today’s young talented people for tomorrow’s solutions – Mark Townshend:

Farmer and former Fonterra board member Mark Townshend explains ten things that may help transition farmers through to the next generation of successful dairying and food production. 1. Find the right people aged 30-45 to lead the dairy industry for the next 20 years.

  1. In my early farming years, the key names were Graham, Spring, McKenzie, Young, Storey, Calvert, Frampton, Fraser and Gibson — all capably leading NZ dairy. The founding of Fonterra brought a complete changing of the guard. The old man of the team was John Roadley (age mid 50s) and the team of van der Heyden, Bayliss, Rattray, Gent and van der Poel were all early-mid 40s. Do not look to yesterday’s people to solve tomorrow’s issues.

2. Work hard to attract the best human talent we can to the industry. We can have the best milk, produced more efficiently than anywhere in the world and produced in a more environmentally and animal friendly manner. But all of our challenges will be solved not by cows, weather or milk, but by smart people. Dairying in NZ needs to attract top quality people to the industry to meet the inevitable challenges. Encourage good people into farming and direct poor people out of farming. . . 

Forestry and silt in candidates’ sights at Havelock election meeting – Chloe Ranford:

Marlborough’s mayoral and Sounds ward candidates put their greenest foot forward at a pre-election debate as environmental issues dominated.

The candidate meeting at the Havelock Town Hall on Wednesday, hosted by the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and the Marlborough Express, drew an audience of about 50.

Current ward councillor David Oddie said the forestry industry needed to take a “serious look at itself” after an audience member questioned why the Marlborough District Council hadn’t taken action against the practice of planting trees on roadside strips in the Sounds.

“It just gets back to the endless encouragement from central government to plant forestry. That has got to change … but it’s been a slow road,” he said. . . 

NZ’s big pest bust: how do we kill the last survivors? – Jamie Morton:

Scientists have begun investigating how to wipe out the last surviving pests in New Zealand’s bold bid to rid itself of rats, stoats and possums by 2050.

A new $7.5 million programme, led by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research scientists, aims to overcome what’s long been a headache for predator-busting efforts – how to eliminate that final 5 per cent which manage to hang on.

The Government’s ambitious Predator Free 2050 initiative required scientific breakthroughs that could lift the kill rate to 100 per cent – a much more expensive prospect than just knocking out most of a population. . . 

US craft brewers chase unique Kiwi hop flavours – Rebecca Black:

New Zealand hops are in demand in the United States as craft beer brewers compete to achieve a point of difference.

The Tasman District produces distinct flavours that can not be replicated, according to Jason Judkins, chief executive of Nelson’s Hop Revolution, and US brewers are keen to use New Zealand hops to stand out among competitors.

Judkins visited 50 breweries on a recent trip the the US. . . 

 

Ag secretary: No guarantee small dairy farms will survive – Todd Richmond:

President Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary said Tuesday during a stop in Wisconsin that he doesn’t know if the family dairy farm can survive as the industry moves toward a factory farm model.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters following an appearance at the World Dairy Expo in Madison that it’s getting harder for farmers to get by on milking smaller herds.

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Mr. Perdue said. “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.” . . 


Rural round-up

June 27, 2019

Culling our cows isn’t the only way to reduce emissions – but greenies shy from the GE option – Point of Order:

Climate  change  warriors  who   are  demanding  NZ’s  dairy  herd   be culled  immediately to  meet  targets of  lower methane emissions  may be confounded by the evidence  that leading farmers  are  already succeeding  in  lowering gas emissions.  And the  prospects  of  huge  advances  in other  aspects  of  dairying,  particularly  in   AI, robotics  and  the development of  new crops,  portend further  gains..

And what’s holding  up another  key development?

It’s the intransigence of the so-called  Green lobby against the introduction of genetic technology. . . 

South Canterbury champion shearers to take on the world’s best – Samesh Mohanlall:

Two South Cantabrians who are New Zealand’s premier blade shearers are headed to France and world shearing championships.

Tony Dobbs from Fairlie and Allan Oldfield of Geraldine are hoping for a good showing when they line up against the world’s best from July 1 at Le Dorat in Haute-Vienne.

The Olympics of shearing round up 35 nations, 300 international shearers, 5000 animals and more than 30,000 visitors, into a small town of 1900 inhabitants in southern-central France. . . 

Venison, velvet and … milk? – Farah Hancock:

How do you milk a deer? Very, very carefully.

In Benio, close to Gore the McIntyre family are doing just that with a herd of 90 hinds. It’s something they’ve been doing for four years and they put their success down to good handling of the deer.

Peter and Sharon McIntyre’s son Chris is in charge of the twice daily milking. He said at first a lot of people didn’t believe the family were milking their deer. Four years on, and with food and innovation awards under their belt not much has changed.

“It depends who you talk to. A lot of people still don’t believe us.” . . .

Fonterra says full-season milk collection up 1.2%- Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra says its New Zealand milk collection for the year through May rose 1.2 percent despite a weak end to the season.

New Zealand’s biggest milk processor collected 1,522.7 million kilograms of milk solids in the year, and noted that the prior year had been a poor production season.

Fonterra said May production by its suppliers fell to 68.4 million kgMS, down 3.5 percent from a year earlier, despite more favourable conditions across many regions in recent months. Conditions in May 2018 had also been more favourable, the firm noted in its latest dairy update. . . 

Lower North Island butchers sharpen up for competition:

Butchers from across the lower North Island sharpened their knives and cut their way through a two-hour competition in the regional stages of the 2019 Alto Butcher and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year.

It was a close call, but after a fierce competition Simon Dixon from Island Bay Butchery placed first in the Alto Butcher of the Year category and Makalah Stevens from New World Foxton claimed first spot in the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year category.

This was the second regional competition in a national series to compete in a Grand Final showdown in August to crown New Zealand’s top butchers, culminating in a glitzy dinner – a highlight of the industry’s year. The Lower North Island competition involved the butchers breaking down a size 16 chicken, a boneless beef rump and a full pork loin into a display of value-added products. . .

Australia’s drought now eating into New Zealand’s rainfall figures – Weather Watch:

On Sunday we wrote about how NZ is being affected by Australia’s drought now a review of the past month’s rainfall shows some places only got 10mm of rain.

Farmers are increasingly telling us they have only received about one third of their normal rainfall in some parts of the country so far this year.

Enormous high pressure systems – like the one moving in this week and weekend – have been drifting east from Australia for months now and it is clearly having an affect on our rainfall figures. As we approach the halfway mark of the year the low rainfall is now starting to concern some in the agri sector about the impact this might have on summer. Likewise power companies are watching the South Island’s hydro lakes.

Recent rain should teach us to be careful what we wish for when it comes to Brexit – Tom Clarke:

Not too long ago, farmers were praying for rain, but now surveying our flattened crops and flooded fields, we’re wishing we hadn’t prayed quite so hard. There’s a lesson to be learned here about pushing for a no-deal Brexit, says arable farmer Tom Clarke.

Ten days ago arable farmers across the South and East of England were praying for rain to end the remarkable dry spell we’ve endured since spring 2018.

This week we got what we wanted. Good and hard. In many places, crops lie flattened and fields flooded.

The moral of this story is to be careful what you wish for. If it comes, it might not be quite what, how or when you wanted it. . .

Fertile large-scale certified organic property crops up for sale:

A large scale and diversified Hawke’s Bay certified organic business and landholding has been placed on the market for sale.

The 62-hectare site at Bridge Pa near Hastings consists of an L-shaped property producing commercial quantities of blueberries, carrots, onions, potatoes, kumara, and pumpkin

Much of the produce grown and sold through the site is branded under the true earth™ branding label. true earth™ food products are sold to wholesalers, food processing and manufacturing companies, selected supermarkets and speciality stores, with a small portion exported to Australia and Asia. . . 


Rural round-up

June 11, 2019

An open letter to the Minister of Regional Development Shane Jones – Richard Alspach:

Dear Mr Jones;

Your plan to plant billions of trees has certainly raised a lot of interest, and not a little concern. I read today of a new lobby group, calling itself 50 shades of Green, which has as its motivation a growing concern about the continued viability of rural communities.

Here in Kaipara we’ve seen it all before. Back in the early eighties the then Government (Prime Minister at the time Rob Muldoon) of the day gave consent for a joint venture to be formed between Shell Oil, an overseas company, and New Zealand Forest Products, at that time New Zealand Owned. The joint venture was called Mangakahia Forests, and its stated intention was to establish a forest of 25,000 hectares, largely in the North of the old Hobson County, since 1989 a part of Kaipara District.

They managed to secure 22,000 hectares. In doing so they displaced a quarter of a million stock units, and brought up 83 separate farms. In a very short time it caused a transformation of the District and its economy. There used to be three top dressing aircraft based in Dargaville, almost overnight it dropped to one. There used to be regular ewe fairs, within two years there were none, the number of shearers dropped off; some country schools closed and others were seriously down sized. The loss of that number of Stock units so quickly was a causal factor in the downsizing of the Moerewa Freezing works. The rate take from that 22,000 hectares dropped significantly, once the land became rateable as exotic forestry. . . 

Austrian aristocrat buys second farm to convert to forest – Gerard Hutching:

Austrian aristocrat Countess Veronika Leeb-Goess-Saurau has snapped up a sheep and beef farm in Wairarapa, to add to the northern Hawke’s Bay property she bought two years ago.

The latest buy is the 1727 hectare Hadleigh farm near Masterton owned by Nelson-based American businessman Tom Sturgess, for which she has paid $13.4 million.

The sale comes amid concerns that a rash of farms is being sold and converted for forestry in areas like the East Coast and Wairarapa, with a resulting loss of jobs and services. . . . 

A sustainable food production silver bullet under our noses – Dr John Baker:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sees New Zealand becoming a sustainable food producing nation in a big way. It’s part of the Government’s wellbeing policy.

I applaud that. Yet she’s ignoring the way to achieve it.

One of the silver bullets to sustainable food production is under our noses and will achieve wellbeing, not just in New Zealand, but the world.

The Government continues to overlook a technology, developed here, that addresses climate change by returning carbon to the soil instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. That’s fundamental. . .  . . 

Room to move on mohair – Carl King:

Weaving quality mohair is keeping the door open for angora farmers to get even higher returns, writes Federated Farmers – Mohair New Zealand chairman Carl King.

New Zealand mohair is experiencing a lift in fleece prices.

The main two drivers behind the boost are that overseas demand outstrips supply and Australia and South African angora goats are facing severe drought conditions.

Top quality angora fleeces are on average being sold at $40 a kilo plus. . . 

Wool bonanza – Annette Scott:

Increased international demand for fine wool is putting Kiwi wool within reach of becoming a $2 billion industry.

New Zealand Merino Company chief executive John Brakenridge said if half NZ’s crossbred wool clip shifts into higher-value fine wool contracts the economic upside will be as high as $2b.

Increased international demand for fine wool could spell profit for sheep farmers with wool giving kiwifruit and wine a real run for their money in terms of exports, he said. . .

Adding value to the farm business through health and safety:

FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand finalist James Robertson gained first-hand experience of the impact an injury can have on a farm business when his father suffered an accident.

“He was kicked by a cow and broke his thumb,” says James, who grew up on his family’s dairy farm near Mystery Creek.

“I think I’d been a bit oblivious to health and safety as a young person but I really saw the implications an injury has on the business. He wasn’t able to work in the cattle shed for a few weeks. Having a key person not able to do that put a lot of pressure on everyone else.” . . 


Rural round-up

June 5, 2019

Climate change burden, benefits must be spread fairly – Gavin Evans:

 (BusinessDesk) – Setting stringent climate change targets without understanding their cost or feasibility risks placing an unfair burden on some sectors, climate change professor David Frame says.

Moving New Zealand to a net-zero carbon economy will have benefits but also real costs and it is important both are shared across the community. That will probably require creative approaches from region to region and from sector to sector, he said at the New Zealand Minerals Forum in Dunedin last week.

Policymakers need to focus on emissions – rather than the resources they come from – and find a way to broaden the discussion beyond electorally-easy targets like heavy industry and coal. Agriculture also receives a lot of pressure that “isn’t really justified,” he said. . . 

New way to work out who’s who in the paddock – Sally Rae:

How do ewe tell one sheep from another?

Greg Peyroux and Benoit Auvray, the co-founders of Dunedin-based Iris Data Science, might well have the answer.

They have been working on sheep facial recognition to cheaply re-identify sheep, potentially removing the need for ear-tags while also solving other farm management and broader issues.

While facial recognition had been developed for cattle in the United States and pigs in China, the pair were not aware of anybody doing it for sheep.

Sheep face images were collected and fed into a machine-learning model. . . 

 

Danone cleared to indirectly hold up to 65% of Yashili NZ –  Rebecca Howard:

June 4 (BusinessDesk) – Danone SA can indirectly hold up to 65 percent of Yashili New Zealand Dairy Co after its Danone Asia Pacific unit got a green light from the Overseas Investment Office to purchase up to 49 percent of the local dairy processor.

“The applicant has satisfied the OIO that the individuals who will control the investment have the relevant business experience and acumen and are of good character. The applicant has also demonstrated financial commitment to the investment,” the OIO said in a statement. . . 

Cherry exporter announces major Cromwell investment:

New Zealand Cherry Corp is expanding its operations and investment in Cromwell.

NZ Cherry Corp is a long established, locally owned Cromwell business. Its 32ha cherry block is the largest netted orchard in New Zealand. During cherry season it employs up to 500 staff and harvests up to 800 tonnes of cherries. It exports to 10 countries.

Director Paul Croft says following the recent purchase of a 244ha block of farmland adjacent to its existing orchard, NZ Cherry Corp is doubling the size of its orchard and turning 4ha into worker accommodation. . . 

 

Dairy export volumes advance to new record:

Dairy export volumes hit a new high after rising 19 percent in the March 2019 quarter, adjusted for seasonal effects, Stats NZ said today.

While dairy volumes were strong in the quarter, actual dairy prices fell 7.5 percent. That means dairy values rose only 9.5 percent, seasonally adjusted.

Dairy products are New Zealand’s top goods export, accounting for more than a quarter of the value of all goods exported in the March quarter. . . 

Shareholders back Primary Wool Co-Operative, providing strong support for the organisation’s future:

Primary Wool Co-Operative (PWC) shareholders have placed their organisation on an extremely strong footing for the future, providing overwhelming support for two key resolutions at the co-operative’s 44th annual general meeting.

Farmer shareholders voted in favour of maintaining PWC’s 50% shareholding in CP Wool, as well as over 98% supporting a constitutional change enabling a capital raise to back CP Wool’s five year strategic plan at the meeting in Dannevirke on May 23. . . 

Caring for stock in wild winter weather:

With winter now starting to bite, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is reminding pastoral livestock farmers of their animal welfare responsibilities, whether animals are kept at home or sent off-farm to graze.

“This time of year can be challenging for farmers, with wet and muddy conditions increasing risks to the welfare of their livestock,” says Kate Littin, Manager Animal Welfare.

“Many farmers, particularly in Southland and Otago, choose to break feed stock on crop over the winter months. It’s a great way to provide food for animals and protect pastures, but does require careful planning and good stockmanship to avoid welfare risks that wet weather can bring. . . 

Rural credit squeeze putting pressure on farmers:

Rural credit squeeze putting pressure on farmers access to capital.

Dairy farmers who are currently facing the two major challenges of falling land prices alongside increasingly restrictive access to capital are being encouraged to focus on a robust budgeting process and get on the front foot with their bank manager.

Findex Head of Agribusiness Hayden Dillon said “access to funding is becoming more of an issue, despite the good payout and this is putting some farmers under pressure” . . 


Rural round-up

December 27, 2018

Leave the water rules to locals – Neal wallace:

When water arrived in Maniototo 34 years ago it not only transformed the region’s dryland farms but also Geoff Crutchley’s views on water management.

Crutchley was initially reluctant to become involved in the murky world of water and irrigation management but was prodded into action in response to what he considered inflated water prices being demanded by the precursor to the Maniototo Irrigation Company.

So began an involvement that continues today but which has challenged some of his previous views while shaping others.

His experience has formed views on three issues in particular. . . 

Wilding pine effort set to triple – Jono Edwards:

The attack effort on Otago’s wilding pines seems set to treble.

Over the past year, $1.8 million was spent controlling 332,000ha in the region through the Ministry of Primary Industry-led wilding conifer control programme.

At a recent Otago Regional Council meeting, chief executive Sarah Gardner said she was told by ministry staff the work would soon triple.

This was echoed by the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group.

Ministry Wilding Conifer Programme manager Sherman Smith said phase one was 85% complete and planning for the second phase was under way. . . 

Improving farm performance – one effluent pond at a time – Jim van der Poel:

As a dairy farmer, I take great pride in looking after my farm – its animals, the grass under their feet, our team and how we protect the environment. Every aspect contributes to a successful business.

So, like many farmers, I am disappointed when a few let down the majority. There have been some instances this year of poor effluent compliance, despite many farmers doing great work in this space.

All dairy farmers have a responsibility to manage the effluent from their cows and it is taken seriously by the vast majority who are investing in reliable, sustainable farm systems. . . 

Ex-director suggests Fonterra suspends dividends – Sudesh Kissun:

A former Fonterra director says the co-op could suspend dividends to shore up its balance sheet rather than sell key assets.

Greg Gent says farmers and investors would understand if the co-op suspended dividends to get its books in better shape. And it could suspend dividends and sell some assets that don’t align with its new strategy.

However, he wants to see the co-op’s strategy before decisions are made on selling assets. . . 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2018 – Jamie Mackay:

The Country radio host Jamie Mackay takes a look at the highs and lows for rural New Zealand in 2018.

The Good:

The weather:

This time last year much of the country was in a screaming drought – a farmer’s worst nightmare. Although Mother Nature absolutely forgot to turn the tap off in November and early December, at least once we dry out there will be grass for Africa and for more than quite a few sheep, cattle and deer.

Mycoplasma bovis:

Twelve months ago many were resigned to living and farming with bovis. If a week’s a long time in politics, a year is an eternity in farming. I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest bovis is beaten but we’ve given it a hell of fright in 2018. . . 

Bird veteran still has pluck – Alan Williams:

The glamorous part of the year is over for long-time poultry exhibitor Doug Bain.

After several months of winter and spring shows around the South Island with a lot of ribbons and accolades it is back to the real work of breeding hens and ducks for next year.

“You need to have a reason to get up in the morning. It’s a hobby for me,” the 82-year-old says.

He doesn’t keep count of the birds he breeds and has no preferences. 

“I like them all.” . . 

 


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