Rural round-up

24/04/2021

Looking after the land ‘a passion’ – Shawn McAvine:

Looking after the land is a “passion” for Central Otago farmers Ben and Anna Gillespie.

The couple won the 2020 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards, and opened their farm gates in Omakau for a field day last week.

Mrs Gillespie, speaking to about 100 people on the day, said she and her husband were a “solid team”.

She did the “stock work and finances” and he did the “tractor work, irrigation and agronomy“. . .

The cost of getting soil fertility wrong:

Although many people on the planet are willing to pay more for New Zealand produce, productive land to grow that food and fibre is becoming unavailable here in our own backyard.

Both the current government and previous governments aimed to double export dollars from the primary sector.

In answer, ingenious farmers and growers have had to become more efficient with their inputs to do more with less land. The Ministry for the Environment’s report entitled Our Land shows export values of the primary sector doubled while available highly productive land halved between 2002 and 2019.

This was an impressive achievement, but not without impacts. Hitting the political ambition whilst reducing land use and environmental issues is going to require farmers to become even more efficient in the use of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. . .

Trans-Tasman competition expected to increase for dairy farms seeking workers – Maja Burry:

New Zealand dairy farmers are being urged to make staff retention a priority, with the trans-Tasman bubble expected to make the labour market even more competitive.

Both New Zealand and Australia’s primary industries are facing labour shortages, with border restrictions cutting off the normal flow of migrant workers.

A recent survey by the groups Federated Farmers and DairyNZ found almost half of the sector is understaffed, with a quarter of farmers unable to fill some roles for over six months.

The opening of the trans-Tasman bubble on Monday had resulted in some agricultural labour recruiters in Australia ramping up online advertising campaigns targeting New Zealanders – offering free airfares and good wages. . . 

A2 moves from a brand to a category – Keith Woodford:

Many more A2 milk and A2 infant formula brands are now emerging across the globe but market leader The a2 milk Company is struggling

A notable change has been occurring recently with A2 milk products now available from multiple manufacturers. That includes at least three brands of A2 infant formula available here in New Zealand. These offerings are the original a2 Platinum from The a2 Milk Company (ATM), plus relative newcomers Karicare A2 from Danone and Haven A2 linked to Zuru.

There are also now at least three A2 fresh-milk brands in New Zealand, these being Fonterra, Fresha Valley, and a strangely named “organic A3” product which, according to its owners, is also produced exclusively from A2 cows.

Internationally, there are multiple A2 brands of both A2 milk and A2 infant formula now available, particularly in Asia, to a lesser extent in the Americas, but with Europe still lagging. . . 

The harvest has passed but we are not saved – Tom Hunter:

So that’s it. The last of the maize has been chopped and dropped into bunkers, pits and stacks all across the Waikato.

I’ve finished my first, and likely my last season, on the harvesting teams. As always with such work it seems that time has run much faster than a start last September factually shows. About the only slow period was in January as the huge machines were prepped for the coming chore and eyes closely watched the growing maize to pick the right time for gathering.

This time of year has always been celebrated, so let’s start with Bruegel’s classic from 1565. . . 

‘A farmer with 50 cattle today will only be allowed to have 24 in 2030’ – Catherina Cunnane:

The Rural Independents have warned that the Climate Action Bill will “kill the economy while doing nothing to protect the environment”. 

They fear that “small farms will be in danger of disappearing and replaced by large corporate interests, while one-off rural housing will cease to exist”.

The group believe the bill will cause “immeasurable damage to Irish agriculture”, cause food security issues, lead to thousands of direct and indirect job losses across rural Ireland and create enormous and costly volumes of red tape. . . 


Rural round-up

21/04/2021

Climate change – proposals impossible for farmers – Brian Fellow:

Unfeasible and unfair” — that pretty much sums up the reaction of pastoral farming sector groups to the Climate Change Commission’s draft plan for reducing agricultural emissions out to 2035.

The latest national greenhouse gas inventory, released this week, tells us that enteric methane — belched out by ruminant animals and much the largest source of emissions from farms — made up 37 per cent of national emissions in 2019. That is too large a share to be left in the too-hard basket.

But the inventory also tells us that the increase in annual enteric methane emissions since 1990 has been only 5.5 per cent, when gross emissions from all sources have risen by 26 per cent over that period. Between 2018 and 2019, enteric methane emissions increased at only one-tenth of the pace of emissions generally.

This suggests they are not the most pressing problem; carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use is. . . 

Call a halt to housing eating away at our food production potential – Feds :

While the Ministry for the Environment Our Land 2021 report identifies some challenges in front of us, it also includes plenty of positives, Federated Farmers says.

“The fact that 49% of New Zealand remains native land cover is something to be proud of, especially as we get ready for the release of the National Policy Statement Indigenous Biodiversity,” Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

Our Land 2021, released today, also notes no decline in soil quality from 1994-2018, “and that’s worth acknowledging given the big jump in food production and value from a declining area in farmland. Farmers rely upon good soils, and we’re positive about soil quality improvements to come through good management practices. Federated Farmers would encourage the Ministry for the Environment to use a more current and wider soil data base to determine current soil health across New Zealand, as the data used in this instance seems too small to give an accurate picture. . .

Family does hard yards to transform station – Sally Rae:

The Pavletich family recently celebrated 100 years of farming Station Peak, on the north bank of the Waitaki River. Rural editor Sally Rae speaks to them about their lengthy tenure on the land — and their plans for the future.

Kieran Pavletich always knew that water was the key to the success of Station Peak.

It was his vision to one day see the flats of the property, on the Hakataramea Highway near the Hakataramea township, green, using the valuable resource of the neighbouring Waitaki River.

He and his wife Julie moved to live on the farm in 1982 and, soon after, 120ha was developed into border-dyke irrigation. Unfortunately, that development coincided with the toughest farming climate since the Depression. . . 

James Cameron explains dairy cattle grazing decision for his Wairarapa farm – Nita Blake-Persen:

Film director James Cameron is defending his decision to graze hundreds of dairy cattle on his farm, despite being an outspoken critic of animal agriculture.

Cameron and his wife, environmentalist Suzy Amis Cameron, own about 1500 hectares of land in South Wairarapa, which they are transforming into an organic vegetable farm.

They are big proponents of plant-based diets and have been outspoken about the need to move away from animal products to improve the environment.

That’s prompted some criticism from Wairarapa locals who say they are not walking the talk when it comes to being “animal-free”, given there are hundreds of cows on the Camerons’ farm. . .

Australian farmers attracting Kiwi workers with relocation packages  – Sally Murphy:

An Australian recruiter hopes the trans-Tasman travel bubble will help fill huge shortages of labour on Australian farms.

In November the Australian Government began offering $2000 for New Zealanders to relocate to help with the shortage of horticulture and agriculture workers.

With the quarantine-free travel bubble open, recruiters across the ditch are now stepping up their advertising campaigns – offering free airfares and good wages.

A farm in Western Australia has put the call out for an air-seeder tractor operator – offering free airfares, accommodation, food and $32.50 an hour. . . 

 

Pig farmers urged to ramp up biosecurity measures as illegal importation of pork increases – Jane McNaughton and Warwick Long:

The pork industry is calling on pig owners to boost their biosecurity measures after African swine fever (ASF) and foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus fragments were again detected in pork products seized at Australia’s international mail centres.

Between November 5, 2018 and December 31, 2020, 42.8 tonnes of pork products were intercepted on air travellers, and 9.4 tonnes intercepted in mail items at the Australian border.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said FMD was considered the biggest animal disease threat to Australia’s agriculture.

“An outbreak of FMD in Australia would lead to the closure of major livestock, beef, lamb, dairy and pork export markets with serious economic and social effects in other sectors, including tourism,” he said. . . 


Rural round-up

18/04/2021

New report warns that we’re building over our food basket – Alex Braae:

The 2021 Our Land report has raised serious warnings about our most productive food-growing land being turned over to housing. Alex Braae explains.

What’s all this then?

The environment ministry and Stats NZ have produced a new report called Our Land, which outlines exactly what New Zealand’s land is being used for, or how it is being left alone. Over and above the stats, it also shows the connections between land use, the economy, environmental outcomes, and even human wellbeing. 

What’s the big takeaway from the report?

A major fear that gets outlined in detail is about the spread of cities and residential areas into highly productive land – the sort that is vital for the growing of food. One point the report opens with is that our cities were mostly founded near this sort of top quality land, because that allowed enough food to be grown to sustain them.  . . 

O’Connor opts for a ban on exports of live beasts (rather than tighter regulations) to demonstrate our high animal-welfare standards – Point of Order:

Commodities are leading the global economic recovery. International demand for grains, dairy and forestry products is extremely strong – driven primarily by increased demand from China, ANZ Bank  economists say in their latest NZ Agri Focus.

Dairy markets shot up in March, driven by strong buying from China, among challenging conditions to deliver product to market. Since then prices have stabilised near current levels, encouragingly, despite more product being added to the GlobalDairyTrade sales channel.

The recent strength in global markets, combined with a slight softening in the NZ dollar. has been supportive of farmgate milk prices. . . 

Heriot saleyards closure sad but inevitable– Shawn McAvinue:

The Heriot saleyards closing after being a community meeting point for more than a century is sad but the writing was on the wall, a West Otago farmer says.

Farmer Graham Walker owns a 394ha sheep and beef farm in Park Hill and was the second generation of his family to sell stock at the saleyards, about 50km west of Lawrence.

The saleyards were a social place, which brought the community together.

However, the closure was inevitable, as fewer sales were being held as years passed, and as health and safety regulations had tightened. . . 

From dairy giant to tiny player: Miraka CEO Grant Watson – Laurilee McMichael:

It’s eight weeks in and Miraka’s new chief executive Grant Watson says that so far, it’s been a steep learning curve.

“Information overload,” he jokes. “Lots to learn, lots to soak up. It’s a big industry, that’s for sure, lots of moving parts.”

Happily though, dairy is not a new industry to Watson, who took up the Miraka role on February 3, replacing departing chief executive Richard Wyeth, who had been with the company for 11 years and who had taken it from being a plan with a greenfields building site to a respected player in the New Zealand dairy industry. Wyeth is now chief executive of Hokitika-based Westland Milk Products. . . 

Rural postie makes last run – Mary-Jo Tohill:

It is the end of the road for a South Otago postie — but in a good way.

After 18 years, David Fenton (67) has parked his rural post truck. He delivered his last parcel before Easter, and the new owners, Jane and Richard Whitmore took over the run early in April.

In almost two decades, Mr Fenton has covered about 846,000km. And while somewhat miffed not to have hit the million km mark — he would have got close had he kept going for a few more years — he was pleased with the decision to call time.

“I’ve been getting super for two years, so I’ve been double-dipping. Colleen [his wife] is retiring soon, and we’ve got to get out there and see more of New Zealand. There’s a whole lot more we want to see and go back to see, while we have the health to do it. . . 

Blue Peter drops anti-meat message after farmer’s beef with BBC – Ben Webster:

The BBC has dropped an anti-meat message to children from its Blue Peter green badge initiative after it drew a furious response from farmers.

The children’s programme offered the green badges, similar to the traditional blue ones, for youngsters who demonstrated they were “climate heroes” by making a pledge to “go meat-free”, switch off lights or stop using plastic bottles.

Gareth Wyn Jones, a father of three who runs a 2,000-acre farm in north Wales, last week condemned what he described as a “sweeping statement” that overlooked the lower environmental impact of grass-fed British beef and lamb. . . 


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