Rural round-up

December 17, 2018

Climate change debate is heating up – Andrew Hoggard:

Science and practicality should underpin the climate change discussion but sometimes that’s de-railed by politics writes Federated Farmers dairy chairperson, Andrew Hoggard.

Debate about how New Zealand will honour the commitments we gave under the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming and climate change is – if you’ll excuse the pun – heating up.

In the last few months a series of weighty reports on options and forecasts have been published, notably from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), the Productivity Commission (a whopper, at 620 pages), and earlier this month from BERG (the Biological Emissions Reference Group). . . 

Tararua dairy farmers out to curb nitrate leaching and negative whispers – Sam Kilmister:

Tararua dairy farmers are turning over a new leaf to reduce their environmental footprint. 

Plantain, a common weed, is being injected into pastures to help reduce nitrogen leaching into the district’s waterways. 

The fibrous plant holds less nitrogen, meaning less passes through a cow’s system after they eat it. It also causes them to pass urine more frequently, resulting in less concentrated urine patches in a paddock.  . . 

 

More stories from on-farm :

For the last edition of Farmers Weekly we went back to some of the farmers featured in On Farm Story this year and asked them to look back on the year that’s been, and ahead to what’s in store for New Zealand agriculture.

Morrison Farming

Will Morrison is looking forward to having time to enjoy the farm scenery and healthy livestock.

What has 2018 been like for your farming business?

Seasonality for Morrison Farming feels like an increasing challenge. The consistent, well spread 1000-1200mm annual rainfall and summer-safe tag for western Rangitikei no longer feel so consistent or safe. However, prices were fantastic and financially 2018 has been one of Morrison Farming’s strongest. . . 

Richard Thompson steps down from Landcare Trust

The long-time chairman of NZ Landcare Trust and Whanganui man, Richard Thompson, has retired after 22 years on the board.

And in his place the trust has chosen its first woman chair in Fiona Gower, who is also Rural Women New Zealand national president.

Landcare Trust is an independent NGO that attempts to bring together various stakeholders to work on sustainable water and land quality. . . 

From dust bowl to productive farmland: Farmers visit Nebraska – Pat Deavoll:

A party of 25 farmers and irrigation experts has returned from Nebraska, United States, with some fresh ideas about how to improve environmental management in New Zealand.

“Nebraska was one of the states which were devastated by the dust bowl storms during the depression and farming families had to leave the land,” outgoing IrrigationNZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said, who was part of the group.

“By 1932, 750,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of farmland had been abandoned in Nebraska due to soil erosion and dust storms. . . 

 

There’s Hope for wool in art show :

Dunedin artist Hope Duncan says a wolf-shaped rug made from crossbred wool is the perfect analogy for the state of the carpet fibre industry.

The Dunedin School of Art graduate loves wool but despairs about the state of the crossbred wool sector so for her end-of-year exhibition she chose a two-piece item with a wool carpet in the shape of a wolf as an eye-catching element in a none too subtle dig at how synthetic carpet manufacturers have laid claim to wool’s natural attributes.

Duncan hopes it will provoke conversation about the attributes of wool and issues with synthetic fibres. . . 

 


Rural round-up

December 1, 2018

Big leap forward for New Zealand sheep genetics – Pat Deavoll:

Beef and Lamb New Zealand Genetics has launched a $5 million genetic evaluation system set to revolutionise the sheep breeding industry.

Beef and Lamb Genetics general manager Graham Alder said the new evaluation, named “single-step” was the result of four years of research.

“Single-step provides more accurate estimated breeding values in young animals,” Alder said.

“Breeders can work out a rams merit at birth rather than waiting for at least two years until the ram has lambs on the ground. . .

Milk and fires, a tricky combination – Samantha Tennent:

A Foxton Beach firefighter successfully combines fighting fires with milking. Samantha Tennent reports. 

Manawatu farmer and volunteer firefighter Tony Eade had been asleep for only a couple of hours when his pager and cellphone went off.

It was midnight and he was being called out to fight a fire. By the time the brigade put the fire out it was time to head to work. He left the site of the blaze and headed straight off to milk. . .

Telling farmers’ stories :

Every week Ash Robinson packs up his camera, overnight bag and gumboots and leaves his home in Auckland to go On Farm.

It’s his dream job. “It combines my passions for filming and farming.”

Equipped with the knowledge he learned growing up on a sheep and beef farm he heads away to another rural region. . .

Industry offers variety of careers – Yvonne O’Hara:

In the 20 years since Janiene Bayliss and husband David Pratt established their Ata Mara vineyard near Cromwell, she has seen the Central Otago wine industry grow rapidly.

There are increasingly challenging hurdles to over-come and benefits to harvest.

She said challenges included finding more workers to fill the increasing number of seasonal and permanent vacancies and how to provide accommodation for them. . .

Warning to take steps to avoid crime – Richard Davison:

Those living rurally should be taking simple steps to avoid falling prey to current trends in country crime, police say.

Levels of most types of crime remained steady in rural South Otago, and on average police were dealing with an incident every week, Sergeant Robin Hutton, of Balclutha, said.

Because of the remoteness and isolation of many rural properties, a certain segment of criminals targeted them specifically, regarding them as “easy pickings”, he said. . . 

Arable prospects ploughing ahead:

Good seasonal prospects, stronger markets and an increased variety of crop options are putting the cropping sector on a good footing after a two tough years, with farmers optimistic returns will be buoyant for some time yet.

The industry’s latest survey the Arable Industry Marketing Initiative has given farmers and investors an insight to their sector’s success, with the sector appearing to be significantly more positive than only two years ago. . .


Rural round-up

October 22, 2018

The business giving tourists a taste of the country – Sally Rae:

It is probably just as well that Laura Douglas has ditched her stiletto heels, given her days can include chasing errant pigs.

And while leading a runaway porker next to a state highway might draw a few odd glances from passing motorists, it is all in a day’s work for the self-confessed farm girl.

In a gutsy move, Miss Douglas (31) traded in a successful corporate career to establish an agri-tourism venture near Kingston in late 2016. In a major development for her fledgling business, Real Country recently confirmed a contract with international bus tour company Contiki to provide travellers with an authentic Southland farm experience.

Shares wobble as rules change – Hugh Stringleman:

Sharemarket high fliers A2 Milk and Synlait have lost considerable market value over the past month as investors try to make out the impact of forthcoming Chinese e-commerce regulations.

The prospects for both dairy companies run in tandem because Synlait produces most of A2 Milk’s infant formula and A2 now has a 17.4% stake in Synlait.

Both reported the doubling of sales and profits for the 2018 financial year when their share prices nudged $13 but A2 has since fallen to $10 and Synlait to $9. . . 

 

Butlers put berry farm up for sale – Chris Tobin:

Donald Butler (78) has spent most of his life growing berry fruit – strawberries especially – but now he and wife Jacky (76) have decided it’s time to step back.

The couple have placed their cafe and 11.95ha property at Hook, on State Highway 1 north of Waimate on the market, and will move to another property they own to run sheep.

Mr Butler has lived in the Hook area his entire life and has always been on a farm. ”My parents farmed on the Lower Hook Road and had 14 cows and apple orchards on a 40-acre [16ha] block. . .

Glysophate foes driven by hatred for Monsanto – Peter Griffin:

The NZ Environmental Protection Authority made the right call last week to leave glyphosate​ off a list of chemicals it will reassess to determine their risk to people and the environment.

In doing so, it resisted political pressure to put use of glyphosate-based weedkiller like Roundup in the spotlight. Associate Environment Minister and Green MP Eugenie Sage had wanted the EPA to consider classifying glyphosate as a hazardous chemical.

There’s a movement, particularly in Europe, to have glyphosate banned. . .

Property steeped in history on market for first time in over a century – Pat Deavoll and Rob Smith:

A historic farm near Culverden in North Canterbury is up for sale for the first time in 110 years.

PGG Wrightson real estate agent Bruce Hoban said that Mandamus Downs, owned by the Hammond family, had a “fine heritage” and was “held in high regard by North Canterbury farmers.”

“This is one of the Amuri Basin’s most admired grazing properties. It has an excellent scale, a good balance of hills, downs and flats, and has never been offered for sale before.” . . 

If we’re going to eat cattle let them eat grass – Jared Stone:

Stories about impending environmental apocalypse circulate almost daily, especially in drought-ravaged California. Many of these stories tend to blame agriculture — and specifically, beef — for gobbling up our resources. Though numbers vary widely and are hotly contested, some researchers estimate that it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce each pound of beef.

The real problem, however, isn’t cattle. It’s industrial feedlots, where more than 70% of U.S. cattle eventually live.

In an industrial feedlot, potentially thousands of animals are packed together in an enclosure of bare, unproductive dirt. Nothing grows there. Operators have to bring in water for the cattle to drink, and for the enormous manure ponds that contain the cattle’s waste. But the majority of the water used in raising industrial cattle goes into growing their feed. These operations are tremendously resource-intensive. . .


Rural round-up

September 14, 2018

Fonterra loss could be opportunity for change – Andrew McRrae:

Dairy farmers are hoping the massive financial hit taken by Fonterra will be used as an opportunity to reset the business for the future.

The dairy cooperative delivered a net loss of $196 million for the year ended July, after being hit by compensation payouts and investment write downs.

Revenue rose 6 percent to $20.4 billion.

Orini farmer Allan Crouch said even though a loss had been signalled, it was still very disappointing, especially compared to the $734m profit the year before. . .

Fonterra ponders Beingmate future as part of strategic review – Nikki Mandow:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra is looking at whether it should get rid of its disastrous Beingmate investment as part of an ‘everything up for grabs’ strategic review.

Speaking as the company announced the first full-year loss in its 18-year history, chairman John Monaghan said the company was doing a “full stocktake and portfolio review looking at all our major investments, assets and joint ventures to see how they are performing and where they fit with our strategy”. Beingmate was a key investment under the spotlight. . .

Co-op must do better:

The Chairman of Fonterra’s Shareholders’ Council Duncan Coull has said he is extremely disappointed with the Co-op’s 2018 Annual Results.

“There’s no denying that our farmers are unhappy with current performance, and this year’s results,” he said.

“The underlying result and its impact on earnings, dividend and carrying value is totally unacceptable and one that our farming families will not want to see repeated. Moving forward, it is imperative that our business builds confidence through achievable targets and at levels that support a higher carrying value of our farmers’ investment. . .

A thoroughly modern-day forward-thinking farmer – Pat Deavoll:

If ever there was the epitome of a thoroughly modern-day Kiwi farmer, the new Federated Farmers South Canterbury president would be it.

Jason Grant does it all. He owns and manages two dairy operations and a 1000 hectare dry stock farm, is a director of an irrigation company, an active member of two river catchment groups, a husband to Anna and father to Ruby (11), Oscar (12) and Wills (13), and of course, in his Federated Farmers role, an advocate for the local farming fraternity.

That he has a lot on his plate is an understatement. He says his life is “pretty full.” . . .

Farmers deserve recognition for their hard milk slog – Lyn Webster:

We are living in fantasy land where many people seem to think money grows on trees.

Well, it bloody well doesn’t!

Warning: I am grumpy because I have just lost my job due to impeding farm sale – more on that later.

About 25 per cent of New Zealand’s overseas revenue is generated by dairy farming, which is done by about 36,000 people.  That’s not many people to bring in a huge chunk of the country’s income.  

When the payout drops, which can happen overnight, it can affect your dairy farming business very badly very quickly.  Milk prices are volatile, sensitive to international demand and currency changes. Farmers put their seasonal plans in place, including stock numbers and a budget – if the milk price plummets, you pretty well have to suck it up because you haven’t got much wiggle room. . .

Funds run dry for beekeeper working to eliminate deadly parasite – Maja Burry:

A West Coast beekeeper says his bees are resistant to the varroa mite but that decades worth of work may be lost unless he can urgently pull together enough money to keep his business running.

Varroa mites infest bee hives, feeding on larvae and an infected hive usually dies within three or four years.

Westport beekeeper Gary Jeffery said he wanted to eliminate the parasite by distributing mite-resistant queen bees that he has bred around New Zealand. . .

Fonterra changes vindicated– Hugh Stringleman:

The calibre of new directors and nominees for the Fonterra board vindicates the governance changes and the downsizing of the board and outweighs the initial loss of experience, departing director Nicola Shadbolt says.

Her decision not to seek a fourth three-year term is in accordance with the guideline of nine years as the optimum and 12 years as the maximum.

The three candidates for vacancies around the board table announced last Monday are one-term sitting director Ashley Waugh along with Jamie Tuuta and Peter McBride. . .

Deer market doing well – Ashleigh Martin:

The deer market is achieving well at the moment, New Zealand Deer Farmers Association chairman John Somerville says.

“Venison prices are the best they’ve ever been and the velvet has been really stable for six or more years with some really good pricing.

“We’re hoping for slow steady growth of the deer market


Rural round-up

August 17, 2018

Tru-Test to sell businesses to Datamars for $147.9 million – Rebecca Howard

(BusinessDesk) – Tru-Test Corp will sell some of its business to Switzerland-based Datamars for $147.9 million, it said in its annual report.

Tru-Test announced plans to shed the bulk of its businesses, signing a conditional deal to sell its retail solutions and milk meter divisions, which account for about 85 percent of group revenue.

Those businesses include the weighing, electronic identification, contract manufacturing, electric fencing and milk metering operations. All intellectual property – including the Tru-Test name – form part of the deal. . .

Farming educator explains how forecast hot weather could impact farmers and food:

International scientists have released new forecastspredicting higher global temperatures from 2018 – 2022.

IrrigationNZ strongly believes that as the climate continues to vary, many areas of New Zealand will be at increasing at risk of drought and to mitigate this risk, the country must invest in well-designed water storage.

“In hotter conditions crops need more water. Water makes a huge difference to plant growth – for example a wheat field which is not irrigated will only produce half the amount of wheat as a field which is irrigated,” says Andrew Curtis, Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ. . . 

Our calving season has finally arrived – Bruce Eade:

The biggest event on every dairy farmer’s calendar is finally here, writes dairy farmer and Southern Rural Life columnist Bruce Eade.

Calving is in full swing for most southern farmers with the middle of August upon us.

The mating decisions and choices we made in October last year are all now coming to fruition.

As I’ve said before, I really enjoy this time of year, seeing the next generation ”hatch”.

Will it be a heifer?

The anticipation, the excitement and the disappointment when it’s a bull is all part and parcel of the season. . .

The ‘cutest sheep in the world’ are now running around in Canterbury – Pat Deavoll:

When North Canterbury farmer Melissa Cowan discovered the valais blacknose sheep on the internet, she thought it was the most endearing animal she had ever seen.

With a black face, ears and feet, a shaggy fringe and beautiful white fluffy fleece it was no wonder the breed had become known as “the cutest sheep in the world”. 

They looked like cuddly toys. Plus they had a friendly temperament. Melissa Cowan had fallen in love.

It wasn’t long before she had talked her husband Hayden Cowan into importing valais blacknose embryos into New Zealand to start a flock. . .

 Swiss immigrant creates piece of pastoral paradise on the Christchurch fringe – Pat Deavoll:

Take a drive out the south side of Christchurch, go around a bend or two, and on the right, no more than a minute from the last house you will find a little piece of pastoral perfection.

Trees, both exotic and native shade small grassed paddocks dotted with plump sheep.  Fantails and tuis dart amongst the treetops. If you are lucky you will see a wood pigeon lumbering through the branches.

This 18-hectare farmlet is the 40-year labour of love of Swiss immigrant Ernst Frei, who brought the property with his wife Renate in 1979 with the dream of converting it into an organic market garden . .

RSE scheme better for business and New Zealand workers:

The tenth annual survey of RSE employers is another win for the New Zealand horticulture and viticulture industries – and New Zealanders.

The latest employers’ survey found that nearly nine in 10 employers had employed more New Zealanders – in addition to RSE workers. On average each of those employers has been able to hire five additional permanent workers, and 20 seasonal workers as a result of their participation in the scheme. . .


Rural round-up

August 13, 2018

Synlait Milk’s $2b man John Penno only wanted to be a farmer – Heather Chalmers:

John Penno says he only wanted to be a farmer; instead he set up a major export dairy company.   

On August 10, the Synlait Milk managing director officially stepped down after turning a bare paddock near Dunsandel in Central Canterbury into a multi-product company now worth $2 billion.

With a second $260 million nutritional powder manufacturing site at Pokeno, in north Waikato, set to start processing next year for the 2019-20 season, the company had much more growth to come, he said.   . . 

Lake Opuha holds out for last minute winter snow – Pat Deavoll:

It’s not just the ski fields looking for a late-season top-up of snow.

Opuha Water chief executive Andrew Mockford is hoping “mother nature will finish the winter with a flourish” and provide the much-needed snow to melt and fill irrigation reservoir Lake Opuha in South Canterbury.

There was less snow than usual this year and it was higher up the mountain, he said. . . 

 

Red meat sector confident despite some head winds – Allan Barber:

Since I attended the 2016 conference, having missed last year’s, several things have changed considerably: two years ago Donald Trump wasn’t President, Silver Fern Farms hadn’t concluded its capital raising with a Chinese investor, alternative proteins and non-meat burgers weren’t on the industry’s radar and there was little recognition of the need for a Red Meat Story.

This year the conference programme acknowledged these changes by focusing on disruption to global trade, the China influence, heightened consumer expectations, the effects of the digital revolution and the importance of building consumer trust by telling our story about product provenance, traceability and environmental credibility. The conference was very well attended by farmers, processors and service providers, all of whom were optimistic about meeting the challenges ahead of an industry which has faced many different threats to its survival in the past 140 years. . . 

Unyielding weather for European fruit and vegetable growers, how is the heat impacting crops?

Wrinkled tomato skins, curly cucumbers and small plums – these are some of the effects of drought on fruit and vegetables in Northern Europe. Exactly how great is the impact of heat and water shortages on crops, yields and growers in the region?

Hot and dry weather affects field crop farming the most, says Cindy van Rijswick, RaboResearch Fruit and Vegetable Analyst. “Yields are lower, but fruits and vegetables are also smaller in size and sometimes have quality issues. Because of the high temperatures or lack of water, growers have smaller plums, wrinkled tomatoes, and more misshapen cucumbers. In the coming months, the harvest of apples, pears and potatoes may potentially be smaller in size and yield too.” . . 

Agribusiness professional wins Future Leader role:

As a full-time rural valuer and part-time farmer George Macmillan has insights into many aspects of the agricultural industry.

Based in the Hawkes Bay, he lives close to his family’s 380ha sheep and beef farm south west of Hastings and has recently taken over the lease of a 50ha block. As a foot in the door towards land ownership, he will use the block to grow out the dairy cross beef calves he rears every year to heavier weights and will possibly finish a small number.

George, along with Northland farmer Mack Talbot Lynn, has been appointed a Beef + Lamb New Zealand Future Leader and will represent New Zealand at the International Beef Alliance conference in Canada in September. . .

For farmers, traumas tariffs are far worse than any bad trade deal – Bart Ruth:

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to open new markets to trade, rein in regulatory overreach, cut government spending, and rebuild infrastructure and communication networks to enable rural America to compete in the global economy.

While there have been some positive changes under President Trump – when it comes to American agriculture, we are headed toward economic disaster.

As a sixth-generation farmer and a lifelong Republican, I am alarmed over the impacts that the administration’s actions are having on the agriculture economy and rural America. President Trump has shown a blatant disregard for international institutions, sound science, proven economic theory, and the history of protectionist policy. . .


Rural round-up

May 4, 2018

Irrigation not an environmental irritation – Jacqueline Rowarth:

 Irrigation can reduce soil erosion.

Of course, the irrigation has to be carefully managed and precision technologies are part of the management. However, there is no doubt that overcoming any drought period during warm temperatures allows increased pasture growth, which is associated with maintenance or an increase in organic matter, which in turn decreases the likelihood of erosion. 

Any increased income resulting from the harvesting of extra pasture or crop can be invested in more environmentally sound technologies. . .

Government-owned farmed tests positive for Mycoplasma bovis – Gerald Piddock:

Landcorp’s Rangesdale Station has been confirmed as testing positive for Mycoplasma bovis.

The sheep and beef property near Pahiatua in North Wairarapa was confirmed as having the cattle disease by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Landcorp (Pamu) spokesman Simon King confirmed the farm had tested positive for the disease and was working with MPI and local veterinary services and were currently culling the impacted herd.

“We had been in touch with neighbouring properties to advise them of the potential that the farm was infected last week, and we held a community meeting on Wednesday to update our neighbours on the situation and the actions Pāmu (Landcorp) is taking. . .

Gathering data on hill country potential, risks – Mark Adams:

Federated Farmers is backing a research project now underway to better understand hill country development practices.  

The end goal is to create a decision tool to aid farmers as they weigh up the benefits, costs and environmental risks of development of their hill country blocks.

Farmers from Canterbury and Manawatu have already shared their experiences on this topic during anonymous interviews conducted by research company UMR.  The next stage of the project, commissioned by Environment Canterbury and supported by Beef & Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers (South Canterbury), involves detailed telephone surveys of 150 farmers in the two provinces. . .

No significant drop in rabbits seen yet – Hamish MacLean:

Counts to establish whether the new strain of rabbit calicivirus has taken hold will begin next week, but Otago landowners expecting to see dramatic drops in rabbit numbers could be in for a wait.

When the impending release of 100 doses of a Korean strain of rabbit calicivirus was announced in March, the Otago Regional Council said the pest population could be cut by up to 40%.

Now farmers are saying they have seen no evidence of the impact of the virus.

Council environmental monitoring and operations director Scott MacLean said post-virus release night counts would begin next week but a potential 40% decrease in numbers of the pest would take time. . .

Eighty per cent of farmers aren’t employing technology to be productive in the 21st century – Pat Deavoll:

A red meat industry group discovered in 2011 that high performing sheep farmers earned more than twice as much for their red meat per hectare of land than lower performing ones,

Furthermore, they produced more than double the amount of lamb per hectare. Why? For many reasons, the group concluded.

Farmers in the lower echelons of productivity were notoriously poor at embracing technology. They also failed to integrate with management systems, failed to connect with their banks, processors and advisors, did not employ measurement and benchmarking strategies, and were terrible at budgeting. An estimated five per cent of sheep and beef farmers used an adequate budget, but 65 per cent didn’t bother with a budget at all. . . .

Agricultural sustainability in a water-challenged year – Roberto A. Peiretti:

I strive for excellence on my farm in Argentina—but this year, I’m delighted to be average.

As we bring in our corn and soybeans this month—remember, our seasons are reversed here in the southern hemisphere—we have no right to expect much of a harvest. This cropping season, our rainfall was far below regular levels. Our plants didn’t receive as much water as they need to flourish as well as they can.

Rather than suffering a catastrophe, however, we’re doing just fine: We’ll enjoy an ordinary harvest.

That’s because right now, our soil never has been healthier. We owe it all to a vision of sustainable farming that is astonishing in its simplicity even as it depends on agriculture’s latest technologies. . . .

 

It’s not #sauvblanc day without #nzwine:

On Friday 4 May New Zealand Winegrowers is ready to celebrate what is shaping up to be most successful International Sauvignon Blanc day yet, with an online digital campaign reaching over 50 million impressions via the hashtags #nzwine and #sauvblanc.

“This is on track to be the biggest social media campaign NZ wine has ever been involved in and it is fitting that it is around Sauvignon Blanc Day – New Zealand’s most exported wine varietal,” says Chris Yorke, Global Marketing Director at New Zealand Winegrowers. . . 


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