Land Girls

April 25, 2018

Farming was a reserved occupation which exempted farmers from conscription during World War II.

Many country men enlisted anyway leaving a shortage of labour on farms which in those days had little mechanisation.

Young women were enlisted to fill jobs vacated by men in the services, some of them became Land Girls, one of those was Sadie Lietze (nee Stuart):

. . .  Lietze was interviewed and she chose the Womens Land Service. A week later tickets arrive in the post. She was being sent to Omarama to work at the high country station, Tara Hills.

“Omarama was a place I had never heard of, never been. I had to look in the map to know where Omarama was. It was quite an experience for me. I was just 19. I had never travelled much or been away from Dunedin.”

The 94-year-old recalls the trip to the high country station, where she would remain for two years, vividly:

“I left in the morning by the Mail Bus … My new boss met me in Omarama. As we travelled the three miles to Tara Hills Station in a jogger, a two wheeled cart pulled by a horse, similar to a trotting sulky. Little did I know I would stay two years as a cowman, a gardner, assistant rabbiter and horse breaker, a musterer, a wool classer and a general rouse about.

“I milked cows morning, night – every day of the year and never had a break. You would get Saturday afternoon off to do your washing. I just did everything that was asked. I did it. People say to me, ‘why did you do it?’ I say, “well, you did it because it was a war effort’.”

Growing up on a dairy farm, Lietze was using to milking cows. But the back-aching task of rabbiting was hard, she says.

Rabbits were real problem. Trapping rabbits was a fulltime job in winter. Rabbits were trapped, gutted and hung in twos on a fence at the road gate. These were picked up an hung on the rabbit truck and taken to Pukeuri Freezing Works near Oamaru to be later sent to England for food.

“After trapping we poisoned the rabbits. A furrow was scratched along the foothills, carrots were packed into saddle bags and I would walk along dropping sliced carrots into the furrows.

“Two days later I would do it again. I had to dig a huge hole big enough to bury a horse in.

“Then the next day I would drop carrots which had been laced with strychnine. The following day we would pick up hundreds of frozen rabbits, take them in the saddle bags to the big hole. Here we would skin them.

“It was a back-aching chore. In the evening we would stretch the skins on wires and hang them on a line to dry. When we had almost forgotten the pain we would start again on another block.”

The biggest hardships were the conditions and the cold, she says.

“There was no electricity. A Delco engine charged batteries for light and the wireless, which we listened to for the War News at nine o’clock. Then I would go to be and be up again at 6am. I just slept in an old hut. You take the sack off the floor and put it on you – it was freezing. Omarama is cold and you put the sack on top of your bedding to keep you warm. I wasn’t the only one.” . . . 

Some Land Girls had been brought up in the country and relished the opportunity to work on farms, often those of their families. But when the war was over and their fathers and brothers returned they weren’t given the choice of keeping their jobs.

Some women who farmed during the war were farmers’ wives who had no choice but to step into their husbands’ boots to keep the farms going.

It wasn’t easy work and it often wasn’t easy for either partner when the war was over.

One returned service man told me when he came home both he and his wife had changed and his children didn’t know who he was.

They called us the heroes, but it was the women who stayed behind who were the heroes.

My wife took over the farm and ran it while looking after the children and managed it all by herself.

She’d been doing it all for all those years then I came home, thinking I knew it all and took over.

These days, one of us would have walked out, but then you got on and made the best of it.

 


Vandalism, activism or personal?

January 16, 2017

Is this vandalism environmental activism or someone with a personal grudge?

“Committed” offenders  would have been drenched as they slashed the tyres on three pivot irrigators, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage,  police said.

Senior Constable Craig Bennett, of Kurow,  believes the attack on the irrigators  occurred early on Saturday near State Highway 8 and Broken Hut Rd, just outside Omarama. Snr Const Bennett said it was too early to say if the vandalism was caused by an individual or several people, but the irrigators were not easily spotted from the road and fences would have been navigated by someone with  intent.

Forty-four tyres, valued at up to $800 each, were slashed, he said.

Omarama farmer and pivot irrigator owner Richard Subtil was upset  about the damage and urged people to come forward with information about the attack.

He believed the vandal or vandals  either had a problem with him or an issue with irrigation and decided to attack his equipment.

“I really hope it’s the latter. I’m trying to understand what motivated someone to do it. If it’s a personal vendetta I’m unsure what it’s about.

The Subtils won the 2015 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

At a BFEA ceremony on March 26, the Subtils also collected the Massey University Innovation Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and the Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award.

They are innovative farmers who have been recognised for their careful management of their farm and the environment. Entrants in the BEFA are also judged on their contribution to their community.

That doesn’t rule out a personal vendetta but this couple is very highly regarded which makes it less likely.

The damage could be an act of vandalism.  But irrigation in this area has attracted vehement opposition so it could be the work of one or more environmental activists who object to the greening of what was an arid landscape.

 


Rural round-up

January 5, 2017

From backwater to water ‘battleground’ – Sally Rae:

Farming in the Omarama area these days is very much like farming in the proverbial fish-bowl.

The spotlight is on both the Upper Waitaki and neighbouring Mackenzie district with changing land-use, water quality and environmental issues to the fore.

Twenty years ago, Omarama barely registered on the map; rather it was ”somewhere to drive through at high speed” to get to Wanaka or Queenstown, sheep and beef farmer Richard Subtil, from Omarama Station, said.

Bellamy’s organic infant formula derails in China – Keith Woodford:

For the last two years, Bellamy’s organic infant formula out of Australia has been one of the two rising stars of the Chinese infant formula market. The other has been ‘a2 Platinum’ produced here in New Zealand by Synlait for The a2 Milk Company (ATM).

In recent weeks, the Bellamy’s business has run badly off the tracks. This has sent jitters more widely through the infant formula industry.

First, there was a cautious market guidance release by Bellamy’s on 2 December, and the Bellamy’s share price immediately crashed 40%. Then on 12 December, Bellamy’s asked that its shares be suspended from trade for 48 hours while they assessed their position. This suspension has subsequently been renewed twice and currently runs through to 13 January 2017 while further assessment occurs. . .

Dairy turmoil shows folly of narrow focus;

Farming does not get the public attention is deserves these days, until this time of year when any road journey out of the cities reveals what a wealth of beauty and prosperity the countryside contains. Many farms somehow managed to look prosperous to the urban eye even when the main industry of most – dairying – was in the doldrums. But at least this summer, city holidaymakers on the roads can look at those verdant pastures and know that this, at last, is a happy new year for rural New Zealand too.

After two years of depressed dairy prices, the market began to turn in the middle of last year and for the past few months the price of milk powder has been back above break-even levels for most producers. Furthermore, there is every reason to believe the slump is over. The over-supply that caused it, largely from Europe, has been reduced or consumed and this season’s supply better matches demand.

The end of the world as we know it: What a vegan New Zealand would look like. – Jon Morgan:

Over Christmas lunch an earnest young niece asked, what did I have against vegans. I replied, nothing.

A couple of people I know profess to be vegans, migrating there from simple vegetarianism. They have to go to great lengths to ensure they have a balanced diet and I worry for their children, but otherwise they’re perfectly likable.

It’s the militant vegans I can’t stand, I told her. They’re the ones who have made veganism into a nefarious political movement, with the closure of all animal farms as their primary goal. . .

Rustlers take 1400 lambs in massive stock heist:

A Whanganui farmer has lost 1400 lambs to rustlers in what might be the largest stock heist in the country.

Police say they received a complaint about the theft from an owner of a property near Fordell.

More than 1400 lambs, worth about $120,000, reportedly went missing between October 25 and November 7, this year.

“That could be one of the biggest thefts involving sheep in the country,” Harry Matthews, president of Whanganui Federated Farmers, said. . . 

Texus Fibre eyes $2.9b face mask market in Asia :

A Kiwi company has secured a deal it hopes will unlock a lucrative $2.9 billion Asian healthcare market.

Texus Fibre uses natural wool to develop ‘functional materials’ – meaning they do something clever scientifically.

On Thursday it announced an investment and distribution deal with Auckland firm Healthy Breath Limited (HBL) for Texus’ wool-based air filter to be used in face masks marketed to city-dwellers in Asia. . .

 


Rural round-up

April 8, 2014

A taste of Waitaki –  Pam Jones:

Pam Jones travels a create-your-own wine and food trail in Waitaki Valley and gives the region top marks.

There is no formal wine and food trail in Waitaki Valley but it is not hard to create your own.

Take a trip from Omarama to Kurow and back to Oamaru and you will discover pinot noirs and aromatics that knock your socks off with their flavours and minerality.

Then add some gourmet treats or rustic farmers’ fare on the side.

It is a recipe for a wonderful day of wining and dining, or stay the night at places along the way to turn it into a multiday sojourn.

We start our loop at the Ladybird Hill Cafe, Restaurant and Winery in Omarama, tucked to the side at the southern entrance of the busy crossroads town. . .

Edendale Nursery sold to large forestry biotech – Sally Rae:

Forestry biotech company ArborGen has expanded its stable of nurseries with the acquisition of Edendale Nursery in Southland.

ArborGen, in which NZX-listed Rubicon has a 31.67% stake, is the largest supplier of seedlings in New Zealand.

It sells up to 25 million trees annually, predominantly in the North Island, and owns five production nurseries, two seed orchards, and a manufacturing facility for the production of radiata varietal seedlings. . . .

Making horseshoe among Young Farmers tasks – Sally Rae:

When Sonja Dobbie entered the North Otago district final of the ANZ Young Farmer Contest, she did not expect to do well.

The competition was held at Totara Estate, near Oamaru, last November and members of her Five Forks club encouraged each other to enter to ensure good representation.

But Miss Dobbie (23), a first-time entrant, finished third behind Marshall Smith (Upper Waitaki Young Farmers) and Steven Smit (Glenavy-Waimate), ensuring her a place in this month’s Aorangi regional final. . .

Sustainable, High-Performing Dairy Operation Collects Supreme Award In 2014 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Okaihau dairy farmers Roger and Jane Hutchings are the Supreme winners of the 2014 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Judges described the Hutchings’ 680-cow business in the Bay Of Islands, Lodore Farm Ltd, as a very sustainable high-input system which is profitable across all aspects of the operation.

“There is a clear balance between the financial performance of the operation and the environmental and social aspects.”  . . .

 Beef + Lamb New Zealand appoints top genetics positions:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has appointed a Chairman and General Manager to run the new entity Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics.

Former Landcorp CEO and Massey University Chancellor Chris Kelly will chair the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics Board and Graham Alder the former Genetics Business Manager of Zoetis, has been appointed General Manager of Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics.

The appointments follow the successful vote at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Annual Meeting to combine the organisation’s current genetics investments. This means Sheep Improvement Ltd (the national sheep genetic dataset), the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Central Progeny Test and Ovita, with added investment in beef genetics, come together with government funds to create the new entity Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics. . .

More success for PGP programmes:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming success by three Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programmes this week, including an award nomination for a revolutionary seafood programme.

“The Precision Seafood Harvesting Programme has been nominated for a KiwiNet Research & Business Partnership Award. This is fitting recognition for a programme that could revolutionise the global fishing industry.

“The programme is developing new sustainable fishing technology that will allow fish to be landed on fishing boats alive, and in perfect condition, while safely releasing small fish and other species.

“The potential economic and environmental benefits of this are huge, and it’s no surprise it is attracting so much attention. This is a $52 million project with funding coming from both industry and government.” .

Another PGP programme – Shellfish Production and Technology New Zealand Ltd (SPATnz) – has also reached a milestone in selective breeding of greenshell mussels. . .

Telecom’s expanding mobile network connects locals in the Far North:

Locals and visitors to Houhora, Pukenui and the coastline north to Rarawa Bay may notice a boost in mobile coverage in the area, with Telecom announcing today that it has invested more than $175,000 on improved coverage to the region.

Telecom’s investment in the Houhora Central Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) site responds to the increasing demand for mobile coverage in the area and will give locals and visitors added access to voice, mobile broadband and text services over the Telecom mobile network, which has been built specifically for smart phones.

The improved mobile coverage is part of Telecom’s commitment to open up access to mobile data and applications for rural communities. . .

New Zealand seafood goes online in China promotion:

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has joined forces for the first time with China’s most popular business-to-consumer online shopping platform Tmall.com, to promote New Zealand seafood in a week-long campaign.

The promotion with Tmall.com will take place between 9-15 April, allowing Chinese shoppers to buy live seafood fresh from the sea in New Zealand, then have it packaged and air freighted to Shanghai within 36 hours. Within 72 hours, the seafood orders will be delivered to Chinese consumers across the country. The New Zealand products available for sale include paua, greenshell mussels and Bluff and Pacific oysters.

The ability to sell and deliver live seafood to Chinese consumers is a significant milestone. A similar Tmall.com campaign with Alaskan seafood last year resulted in a total of 50 metric tonnes supplied to Chinese consumers. . .

The ‘B’ word – Mad Bush Farm:

Yesterday I read the forecast for Northland and I used the “B” word. It’s now Autumn, and yet again we’re in a drought. So is the Waikato and things are looking rather grim where rainfall goes. I’m letting the Toyota crew there say the “B” word on my behalf, and the rest of the rural crew out there looking up at the skies and praying it rains and soon!


Rural round-up

March 24, 2014

New evidence that A1 relative to A2 beta-casein affects digestive function – Keith Woodford:

A new paper has been published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition titled “Dietary A1 beta-casein affects gastrointestinal transit time, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 activity, and inflammatory status relative to A2 b-casein in Wistar rats”

The key findings are:
1. A1 beta casein slows down transit of food through the digestive system relative to A2 beta-casein and this is an opioid effect.
2. A1 beta-casein induces a pro- inflammatory effect in the colon which is also an opioid effect.
3. A1 beta casein relative to A2 beta-casein causes up-regulation of the enzyme DPP4 in the small intestine and this is apparently a non-opioid effect.
4. In contrast to the A1 beta-casein, there is no evidence of opioid effects from the A2 beta-casein in relation to either food transit times or pro-inflammatory effects. . . .

Benefits of collaboration – Sally Rae:

Collaboration and partnerships.

Two words mentioned often during a Federated Farmers high country field day in the upper Waitaki last week.

It was a fitting location for such an event, with what could be dubbed the ”green versus brown” debate a very hot issue in both the upper Waitaki and neighbouring Mackenzie districts.

Starting in Twizel, about 140 people travelled in a convoy of vehicles through Doug McIntyre’s dairy farm operation, on to Ohau Downs, where Kees Zeestraten is battling to bring irrigation to his property, then through Ribbonwood Station and into the Ahuriri Valley before viewing irrigation development at Tara Hills near Omarama. . .

Millions spent but no irrigation yet – Sally Rae:

Kees Zeestraten has spent close to $3 million trying to get water to irrigate Ohau Downs.

He admitted he was ”gutted” it had cost so much to get to that point – and still not have water.

Meanwhile, the flats of the 5200ha Omarama property, where he intended to do his irrigation development, were, as North Otago Federated Farmers high country chairman Simon Williamson said, ”pretty depleted”, with hieracium taking over and tussocks struggling to survive.

”In general, you would not say it’s in great health. It’s certainly not knee-high tussocks waving in the wind,” Mr Williamson said. . .

Green hues advancing in the high country – Sally Rae:

‘You wouldn’t get a better landscape. Green is as much a part of it as the tawny brown landscape in the background. What are they worrying about? It fits in.”

That was the comment of High Country Accord chairman Jonathan Wallis, after viewing the result of irrigation development on Tara Hills at Omarama.

The contrast between the green, irrigated flats of the property and the surrounding brown hills was vivid.

The 3400ha station, best known as a research property, was bought by Dave Ellis two years ago. . .

Sorting out key issues – Bryan Gibson:

Prime Minister John Key will hope his visit to China last week will have done the trick in terms of reassuring the government in that country and the buying public that our milk products are safe and our food-safety regime is robust.

A report, covered in this week’s Farmers Weekly, says New Zealand’s infant formula industry is in pretty good shape, but faces many challenges as China looks to tame the “Wild West” market that has taken shape there.

Audits of this country’s processing plants by Chinese authorities are under way and there will be many eager to know the results. . .

Foundation’s Australian links pay off:

The Foundation for Arable Research says its foray into Australia last year is paying off.

Foundation chief executive Nick Pyke said the link with Australia enables it to leverage off the much larger investment in cropping research being carried out across the Tasman.

“We have had some involvement in programmes which are quite different for them (Australia) because of the way we grow crops here in New Zealand, so they have learnt from that”. . .

Auckland Hauraki Dairy Winners Dominant:

The major winners in the 2014 Auckland Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards, Bryce and Rosemarie Costar, have well achievable goals to keep them focused and heading in the right direction.

The Onewhero couple were named the region’s Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year at an awards dinner in Pukekohe last night . Ngatea contract milker Simon Player was named the 2014 Auckland Hauraki Farm Manager of the Year and Paeroa dairy farm assistant Marion Reynolds won the region’s Dairy Trainee of the Year title.

Bryce and Rosemarie Costar are 55% sharemilking 300 cows on a family farm owned by Bill Costar. They won $20,200 in prizes. . .


They came, they tried, they folded

June 14, 2012

The two companies which planned a large dairy development near Omarama have gone into voluntary liquidation.

Richard Peacocke, director of Southdown Holdings Ltd and Williamson Holdings Ltd, confirmed yesterday when contacted shareholders had decided to enter “solvent liquidation”, for both companies because the process for the dairy developments had become “too long, too hard”

. . . Millions of dollars were spent on the proposal, resource consents process and property development, although Mr Peacocke yesterday declined to be more specific.

Southdown proposed establishing six dairy farms running up to 7000 cows on Glen Eyrie Downs in Quailburn Rd near Omarama.

Williamson Holdings planned three dairy farms with 3850 cows on 1200ha of Killermont Station land on SH8 it had a purchase option over, subject to conditions.

The 2135ha Glen Eyrie Downs property, which has a Waitaki district rateable value of just over $5 million, has been offered for sale.

It was a big project and a big gamble.

Had it succeeded it would have provided a big boost to job opportunities in an area which is sparsely populated.

However it was environmental concerns which held sway.

There we’re reasonable concerns about the impact on water quality.

But a lot of the objections were founded on emotion by people who, if they visit the district at all do so travelling at 100 kph or more en route from Canterbury to Central Otago.


Green beats brown

December 21, 2009

The ability of Israelis to irrigate and then cultivate the desert is often lauded.

Opinions on irrigation here are not always so positive even though the world’s population is outgrowing feed supplies.

There are environmental benefits from irrigation including less soil erosion and it can enhance the view.

Compare this:

with this which has an irrigated paddock in the background:

and this irrigated paddock of wheat:

The irrigated paddocks are obviously more productive than the dry land and, in my eyes the green is far more attractive than the brown.

The photos were all taken on the outskirts of Omarama. It’s land and landscapes like this which are the subject of resource consent applications for large scale dairying in the Mackenzie Basin.

I am supportive of the applications to irrigate this sort of country. But growing crops like wheat have much less an impact on soils and water than dairying would.


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