Rural round-up

29/06/2021

At last – a paper that recognises climate and nutrition, with GWP* thrown in too – Andrew Hoggard:

Very recently a scientific paper was put out looking at the greenhouse gas and nutritional impacts of replacing meat in the average diet. The paper Lifetime Climate Impacts of Diet Transitions, with input from a number of very well respected scientists across a range of fields, found that the emissions reductions for a person who abstained from meat for a lifetime were very small – only 2 to 4%.  It also highlighted the risk of them missing out on key nutrients.  

It wasn’t so much the findings of this paper that I am most interested or excited by, rather the methodology that went into it. Two items really stick out: firstly, the fact that the paper includes nutrition understanding as well as climate science. Far too often when the subject of agricultural emissions come up, the full picture/understanding is omitted in favour of a narrow, siloed view.  

The problem with this approach is that it fails to recognise choices are never as simple as portrayed. For example, if we get rid of all animal agriculture and only have plant-based ag, what happens to all the crop waste? Think of the most common plants we grow for food: how much of that plant is consumed by humans? Quite often, less than half.  The rest we can feed to animals, which convert it into edible protein.  . . 

‘Shearing sheep was in my blood’ – David Hill:

An eight-month student exchange was enough to convince Diane Webster that New Zealand was the place to be.

The Dunsandel-based shearing contractor first visited New Zealand from the United Kingdom on a student exchange in the 1980s.

“I had always been in sheep farming. My dad was a sheep farmer and a stock truck driver and he used to shear sheep in the summertime, so shearing sheep was in my blood.”

She learned to shear while at agricultural college in the UK and when she first came to New Zealand, the host farmer encouraged her to do a shearing course so she could shear in this country, too. . . 

Hospo  life quite a ride – Ashley Smyth:

Hospo life seems to sit well with former Manuwatu farmers Craig and Blanche Sturgess.

It has been a “learning curve” for the couple, who bought the former Enfield School in 2016, converting the classrooms into a welcoming home, with bed and breakfast accommodation.

“We came from farming, which is not an easy lifestyle, so we’ve never been afraid of work, that’s for sure. And that’s just as well, because it is undoubtedly more work than I had thought it would be, but certainly not more work than we can handle,” Mr Sturgess said.

The business was perfectly placed on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. Visitors tended to stop off after the long cycle from Kurow, and before the last push to Oamaru the next day. . . 

Husky health, dogsled tours and frostbite checking central to vet student’s win – Lauren Hale:

Working 12+ hour shifts outdoors in bitter Northern winter temperatures of minus 45 degrees, would send most school leavers shuddering under their duvets, but not Agcarm’s most recent scholarship winner, Gemma Neve.  The Massey University student, originally from Australia’s iconic Bondi beach, not only embraced the challenge of working with huskies in Finland but thrived on it.  Realising “an obsession with the North and the Northern Lights”, she secured a winter job-stay at a husky farm in Lapland. “Within a week, run ragged by long days with no sunlight, feeding 250 dogs, running dog teams and constantly wiggling my toes to slow the frostbite down,” she says she knew she was staying.

The dogs and the wilderness captivated Gemma and her initial three-month stint at Hetta Huskies kennel farm turned into five years – braving every winter there. Initially employed as a dog handler, Gemma soon progressed to guiding dogsled tours and being responsible for clients and dogs in her sole care for up to five days. “I enjoyed introducing people from all over the world to the wilderness. It was a lot of responsibility. You would go from one hut to the next, with all the gear.” She spent some summers travelling, including two stints working for a New Zealand sled dog company in the Cardrona Valley.

Taking on the challenge of managing the health, welfare and nutrition of 250 sled dogs in her second year at the kennel, located in the far north of Finland – high in the Arctic Circle, Gemma started running and documenting health checks. Part of her role included checking nipples and testicles for frostbite, assessing the dogs’ nutritional needs and ensuring they were in optimal health. . .

Fonterra agrees sale of China JV farms:

Fonterra has agreed the sale of its two joint venture farms in China, with the sale expected to be completed on 30 June.

The farms in Shandong province will be sold to Singapore-based AustAsia Investment Holdings for USD 115.5 million.

Fonterra, which owns the farms with a joint venture partner, has a 51% stake in the business and will receive NZD 88 million* in total asset sale proceeds, which includes cash on completion.

The sale of the JV farms is unconditional and requires no further regulatory approvals. . .

“Maverick” farm advisors with smart ideas invited to apply for research funding:

Do you have an innovative idea that could create real change for Kiwi farmers? Rural professionals are encouraged to team up with farmers to apply for $75,000 funding to rapidly test smart ideas and share the results.

Rural professionals are invited to team up with farmers to apply for funding to test innovative ideas that could lead to significant improvements in farming systems.

The Rural Professionals Fund, established in 2020 by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, is now accepting applications for a second round of funding to support projects that could benefit farming communities.

“We need to encourage more ‘mavericks’ to test smart ideas that challenge our patterns of behaviour,” says Stephen Macaulay, chief executive of the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Managers (NZIPIM), a key partner in the fund. . . 


Rural round-up

13/03/2021

More scientific proof needed – David Anderson:

A new report has joined the chorus within the agricultural sector calling for proper scientific testing of the claims being made by regenerative agriculture practitioners and proponents.

Some of the claims made by regenerative agriculture advocates currently include that it can improve waterways, reduce topsoil losses, offer drought resilience, add value to primary exports and improve the ‘well-being crisis’ among rural farming communities.

However, a new white paper on regenerative agriculture, recently released by Our Land and Water, says there is an urgent need for clarity about what regenerative agriculture is in New Zealand and for accurate scientific testing of its claimed benefits.

The research was funded by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, the NEXT Foundation and Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. . . 

Pork industry demands law change for imported products to be labelled– Riley Kennedy:

The pork industry has slammed the government for refusing to make labelling country of origin mandatory on all imported pork.

Laws designed to give people clarity on where their food comes from were passed in 2018. However, last year the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said there would be a 12-month delay in the new rules coming into effect due to Covid-19.

As part of this, imported pork will need to be labelled with its country of origin, however, the pork industry says a loophole has been left unadvised.

This means pork that is imported and then further processed in New Zealand, including bacon and ham, will not be required to have such labelling. . . 

MPI lost touch – Peter Burke:

MPI boss Ray Smith says with the advent of the climate change proposals and the new essential fresh water regulations, MPI is gearing itself up to help farmers deal with these matters by getting more staff out into the field.

He believes that climate change is the biggest challenge of this generation.

“When I first started it was obvious to me that MPI had lost its outreach and in a sense it had lost some key relationships,” Smith told Rural News. “So we have built an agricultural investment service that has started to put that back and we have more people now based regionally. They have tended to deal with adverse events and things like that, which is good. But I am keen to build that service even further so we can stand alongside farmers and be an independent voice.”

He says the aim is get back some of what was lost many years ago with the demise of the Farm Advisory officers. . .

Automation a mixed blessing for fruit sector – Richard Rennie:

Burgeoning crop volumes have prompted the horticultural sector to lift pay rates as it competes on a tight labour market. The shortage and the cost increases put automation and robotics under the spotlight to help ease labour pressures. Richard Rennie looks at whether robots will replace humans on orchards sooner than later.

Last week’s announcement the kiwifruit sector would be paying a living wage of $22.10 an hour for packhouse work has the sector hoping higher wages will help fill a yawning labour shortage this year.

Filling that gap has only grown more challenging with the exponential growth in kiwifruit volumes over the past five years. The 23,000 workers estimated to be needed by 2027 are needed this year, and the 190 million trays expected to be achieved by then is now likely next season.

Further south the apple sector is grappling with similar issues, requiring at least 10,000 pickers and packhouse staff this season, drawing off locals, a national shared pool of 7000 Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) staff and any remaining backpackers. . . 

Feijoa harvest in full tilt a month early in Gisborne – Hugo Cameron:

Feijoas are expected to hit the shelves this week as good growing conditions have seen harvesting of this season’s crop kick off a month earlier than usual.

Kaiaponi Farms has been growing feijoas in Gisborne for the past 20 years and sells the fruit through its Joa brand for both the local and export markets.

Spokesperson David Hansen said the first fruit would normally be picked at the start March but the harvest got under way last month and was now in full swing, with decent volumes coming through.

The farm had seen sunny conditions which was great for the crops, along with a decent dose of water, Hansen said. . . 

 

Now is the time to talk to consumers – Charlie Beaty:

There has never been a bigger gap between the people producing food and the people consuming it.

Most people knew a farmer or were even related to one 70 years ago. Today, there are children who have never seen a real sheep.

They have no idea that bread is made from a wheat crop that grows in the fields. It’s a threat to our industry, there’s no doubt.

But it’s also an opportunity to step in, share the “what”, the “why” and the “how” of our industry. So let’s seize it. . . 


Rural round-up

02/08/2020

Country’s backbone performs:

New Zealand’s primary sector has added steel to the country’s economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recently released report.

Economic and research firm NZIER latest Insight report – released last week – says the livestock, forestry and horticulture sector have performed well over the lockdown period and as the Covid-19 crisis has continued overseas.

“Our land-based industries have proven themselves to be exceptionally resilient, particularly when it comes to trade” says Chris Nixon, NZIER principal economist and lead author of the report.

Farmstrong: fill the fountain not the drain – Trish Rankin:

Juggling farm work and family responsibilities is a challenge many rural women face.

Taranaki sharemilker and 2019 Dairy Woman of the Year winner Trish Rankin and her husband Glen run a 460-cow sharemilking operation near Manaia. 

Life’s plenty busy for the couple, they’re also raising four kids aged 15, 13, 9 and 7.

“I generally work about four days a week on-farm over the season just to give people days off but obviously in calving and higher-intensity times I’m full-time on-farm.  . . 

From cockpit to farm :

When COVID-19 ground his eight-year career as a pilot for Air New Zealand to a sudden halt, Henry Lambert decided to turn it into an opportunity for a complete change – to farming.

His story has been featured as a positive example of COVID career pivots on the six o’clock news, but the father-of-two is no stranger to dairy. He grew up around his grandfather’s and uncles’ dairy farms and while he was flying planes, a career on the land had always been in the back of his mind. So, when the pandemic started to hit the aviation industry, it seemed like the perfect time to change gears.

The dairy industry’s crying out for skilled workers, so Henry hoped by creating a CV and posting it on the Farm Source website, he’d get to give farming a crack.

“I always thought I’d like to have a go one day, so when I was presented with this unique opportunity, it seemed like a good fit.”. . .

Time for sector to find united voice – Allan Barber:

Several organisations with an interest in the future of our agricultural sector have come out with strategies or visions for what needs to be done to find New Zealand’s place in the sun. One such report produced by the Primary Sector Council has been sponsored, one could say hijacked, by the government, and converted by MPI into a set of financial and environmental targets. Another is the result of independent research and consultation. Ideally either the government will engage with the primary sector to agree the best policy settings the industry believes necessary to meet these ambitious targets, rather than insisting on following the plan it commissioned to meet its own priorities.

The coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming Election have to some extent provided a distraction from the pace of environmental change, but nobody should be under any illusion – this will undoubtedly accelerate when a new government is in power which at the moment looks like a Labour/Greens coalition without the NZ First handbrake being needed to govern. There is a small window for the primary sector to argue for its preferred future direction. . . 

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

Using New Zealand strong wool to produce biodegradable disposal nappies for a multi-billion dollar global market is gaining traction as a new avenue for farmers desperate to find new places to sell their product, with multinational companies showing interest in NZ technology.

As part of the recent launch of the strong wool sector’s plan for the future Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said Wellington-based company Woolchemy will get $80,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Woolchemy co-founder and chief executive Derelee Potroz-Smith says the money will pay for a commercial trial of technology that enables wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in consumer hygiene products, adding significant value to the raw material produced by NZ strong wool farmers. . . 

New crops offer opportunities :

Six ‘star’ crops – soy, hemp, chickpeas, oats, buckwheat and quinoa – could represent new opportunities for New Zealand farmers.

According to the Specialty Grains & Pulses Report produced by an Our Land and Water National Science Challenge research programme, Next Generation Systems, locally grown grains and pulses like soy, chickpeas and quinoa are being explored by local researchers and growers. In the report, researchers looked at the opportunities presented by new and different plant crops in the grain and pulses families. From a long list of 22 possible grains and pulses, the research team narrowed their focus down to six ‘star’ crops they think have the most potential for New Zealand farmers. These are soy, hemp, chickpeas, oats, buckwheat and quinoa. 


Rural round-up

28/01/2016

Rural to benefit:

Rural fire chief Mike Grant hopes the intentions outlined in Fire Service reform documents become reality.  

Grant, the principal rural fire officer for the Southern Rural Fire Authority, said much of the detail was unknown because it had still to be discussed by Cabinet but there was a consistent message on how the new management entity should operate in the review document, submissions and analysis. . . 

Dairy farming best choice for Dairy Woman Network local co-convenor

Matamata sharemilker Suzie van Heuven could not imagine going back to working in town.

The Dairy Woman Network (DWN) co-convenor for the East Waikato group is hooked on dairy farming.

That might not be surprising seeing she grew up on a farm in Waitoa except for the fact that her high school career ambition was to be a vet or a cop.

But while waiting to be old enough to apply for the police force she dabbled in the dairy industry and by 2011, had progressed to farm manager. During that time she was involved in the Ngarua Young Farmers club, where she met her future husband, Alex. . . 

Despite Expected Milk Price Correction, 45 Cent Drop is a Sobering Blow to Farmers:

Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Duncan Coull, said that today’s announcement of a 45 cent drop in the 2015/16 forecast F from $4.60 kg/MS to $4.15 kg/MS, is one that will further amplify the effects of the current low milk price environment on Farmers and their businesses.

Duncan Coull: “Farmers are very aware that this is a global story which is now having a significant local effect. Strong supply out of Europe coupled with flat demand is driving market sentiment as evidenced by the GDT results. . .

More moo woo – Alison Campbell:

Once I started paying attention to the woo around milk I realised how much of it there is. And how ready people are to accept it.

I’ve written about the notoriously non-scientific Food Babe before. Someone with a high pain threshold could probably manage a daily blog post on this young woman and the way she manipulates opinion, and sometimes sells the very things she inveighs against… But I digress!

Today I noticed she’s shared a link about how drinking milk encourages the development of osteoporosis. I was mildly suspicious about the source (‘healthy-holistic-living.com) but before taking a look, I skimmed the comments. Oh dear. . . 

New Science Challenge to boost land productivity and the environment:

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today launched the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, which aims to enhance primary sector production and productivity while maintaining and improving land and water quality.

The National Science Challenges are dedicated to breaking new ground in areas of science that are crucial to New Zealand’s future.

“From an economic standpoint they don’t come much more important than this,” Mr Joyce says.  “There is increasing confidence that new agricultural tools will be able achieve both these crucial objectives for New Zealand.  The job of this challenge is to use science to accelerate the development of these tools.” . . 

Welfare of horses and donkeys the focus of a new code:

New minimum standards and best practice guidelines for the management of domestic horses and donkeys have been developed in a new code of welfare.

The new code comes into effect on Thursday (28 January 2016) and includes standards for equine management, food and water requirements, handling, training and equipment, husbandry practices and equine health.

The code has been developed by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) and applies to horses, ponies and donkeys and their hybrids kept for any purpose including those kept as companions (pets), for breeding, sport, entertainment or as working animals. The code also applies to foals and any horse captured from the wild. . . .

Retiring Farmers Urged to Consider All Options Before Selling Up:

With succession front of mind for New Zealand agriculture, a North Island sheep and beef farmer turned agribusiness advisor is encouraging farm owners to explore all of the options before settling on a succession plan.

Sean Bennett, a veteran of 20 years on the land prior to becoming an agribusiness advisor for Crowe Horwath, suggests that succession is one of the industry’s biggest challenges over the next decade.

“When you consider the average age of a New Zealand farm owner is marching steadily towards 60, and the forecast capital required to replace their exit has been estimated at over NZ$60 billion, it’s easy to see why there are widely held concerns,” says Bennett. . . 

Soaring Start to Karaka Select Sale:

After just one day of trade at the three-day Karaka 2016 Select Sale the aggregate is already over half of the final aggregate of last year’s Sale, thanks to spirited competition at all levels of the market.

The momentum from the prosperous Premier Sale flowed through to the first day of the Select Sale with the aggregate, average, median and clearance rate tracking higher than Day One of the Sale last year, with two days of the Sale remaining. . . 

 

American Cattlemen's photo.


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