Rural round-up

October 7, 2018

Quite and capable – Richard Rennie:

A farm apprenticeship course now a year old is starting to have an influence on getting more Kiwis in jobs on dairy farms.

Tirau farm apprentice Kadience Ruakere-Forbes is among the first year’s intake under the Federated Farmers’ Apprenticeship Dairy Programme, a pilot programme supported by PrimaryITO, the federation and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. . . 

Dairy database rules under review – Hugh Stringleman:

The valuable core database of the New Zealand dairy industry is subject to a regulatory review by the Ministry for Primary Industries, to which organisations and people can make submissions.

Consultation will run for six weeks until November 12 and any submission becomes public information, MPI said.

The key issue is whether the regulated dataset remains well aligned with the dairy industry’s current and future animal evaluation needs. MPI said there has been some concern expressed among dairy genetics companies about the management of herd improvement data. . .

Huge costs of pasture pests – Peter BUrke:

Grass grub and porina are causing $2.3 billion of damage to New Zealand pastures annually, according to an AgResearch study.

Of the total estimated annual losses in average years, up to $1.4b occurs on dairy farms and up to $900m on sheep and beef farms.

But scientist Colin Ferguson says this figure relates only to the damage to pasture and doesn’t include the cost of replacing the pasture, destocking and restocking and the long lasting damage to affected pasture. . . 

$11m study dives into high value milk products – Peter Burke:

A five year, $11 million research project has begun, aimed at producing new high value milk products.

Led by Professor Warren McNabb, of the Riddet Institute, Palmerston North, the project will seek better mechanistic understanding of the various milks produced in New Zealand including cow, goat, sheep and deer.

A particular aim will be to develop new products for babies, very young children and elderly people in New Zealand and, especially, for export. . .

 

First failed WorkSafe prosecution:

Athenberry Holdings Ltd grows Kiwifruit near Katikati. Zespri buy the fruit, brand, market and sell the fruit. Zespri engaged Agfirst to sample and test maturity and quality of fruit.

Agfirst use a local packhouse Hume to collect the samples. AgFirst’s sample collector died during the collection of fruit when her quad bike overturned on rough ground next to Athenberry’s kiwifruit block.

She was employed by AgFirst who had contracted a local packhouse – Hume Pack-N-Cool Ltd (Hume). It appears the rider had taken the quad bike over steep and rough terrain away from the area where she was required to collect samples.

Her training and industry practices are that you stick to the offical and mown access paths. No-one was sure why she deviated. . . 

Gene edited food is coming to your plate, no regulation included – Lydia Mulvany:

For Pete Zimmerman, a Minnesota farmer, the age of gene-edited foods has arrived. While he couldn’t be happier, the soybeans he’s now harvesting are at the crux of a long-running debate about a “Frankenfood” future.

Zimmerman is among farmers in several states now harvesting 16,000 acres of DNA-altered soybeans destined to be used in salad dressings, granola bars and fry oil, and sold to consumers early next year. It’s the first commercialized crop created with a technique some say could revolutionize agriculture, and others fear could carry as-yet-unknown peril.

In March, the top U.S. regulator said no new rules or labeling are needed for gene-edited plants since foreign DNA isn’t being inserted, the way traditional genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are made. Instead, enzymes that act like scissors are used to tweak a plant’s genetic operating system to stop it from producing bad stuff — in this case, polyunsaturated fats — or enhance good stuff that’s already there. . . 


Rural round-up

September 5, 2018

Angst on NAIT – Peter Burke:

A rushed change to NAIT regulations has caused growing disquiet about the haste in which the new laws were passed under urgency in Parliament.

The farming industry at first publicly welcomed the changes: DairyNZ and Beef + LambNZ approved, although Federated Farmers said they were rushed.

Many people have told Rural News that they question the hastily enacted new laws and some of the new powers given to MPI. . .

Merino wool fetching strong prices – Sally Rae:

Merino wool is fetching prices at auction not seen since the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Last week’s South Island wool sale in Christchurch was “outstanding” for merino and mid micron wool, following on from the continued strengthening in Australia, Roger Fuller, of CP Wool, said.

Australia was experiencing horrendous drought conditions, which was reflected in the prices being achieved in New Zealand.

The problem would be exacerbated next year as a lot of sheep would not survive the dry conditions, Mr Fuller said. . . 

Changes as event continues to expand – Sally Brooker:

The Otago Field Days are expanding to fit their new name as their October dates approach.

The field days are about to be held for the third time, having sprung up in 2016 as a new initiative from the Palmerston and Waihemo A&P Association.

They were initially called the East Otago Field Days.

”What started out as a small local event has clearly struck a chord with people,” chief executive and A&P Association president Paul Mutch said. . . 

Get in behind Kelvin – the thermokennel, a Kickstarter to change the lives of kiwi dogs:

A dog’s life is about to get a whole lot better thanks to a brilliant bit of Kiwi innovation.

Our hardest working farm hands, the renowned New Zealand working dog, has always had a tough but rewarding job.

All day out in the weather mustering sheep and keeping the farmer company, only to spend the night under a makeshift shelter or kennel, on an old blanket for warmth – that’s the way it’s been since this nation was founded, but one Kiwi entrepreneur thinks it is time for a change. . . 

See more at the Kelvin the Thermokennel website here.

Trial will track calves’ growth:

A trial is underway to measure the growth rates of Angus/Jersey beef calves from birth to finished product.

Initiated by Greenlea Premier Meats, the project will track about 150 Jersey x Angus calves now being born on Zach and Laura Mounsey’s Arcadia Dairies Farm near Otorohanga. 

Semen from the pedigree Angus sire Matauri Crikey G244 was supplied free by Greenlea.  . .

Salute to our struggling farmers as Royal Adelaide Show kicks off

AROUND the Adelaide Showground’s cattle, pig and sheep sheds, farmers from across the state are proving they themselves are the toughest breed.

Low rainfall and high feed prices are putting huge pressure on their incomes and forcing some to make tough decisions about their future.

As the Royal Adelaide Show opened yesterday, behind the draw of the Showbag Pavilion and the excitement of the carnival, farmers who had travelled to Adelaide carried the weight of a tough season on their shoulders.

Among them was Michael Blenkiron, of Keyneton, in the Barossa Valley, who said many working side-by-side in the pig pavilion were “in survival mode”. . . 


Rural round-up

August 31, 2018

Commissioner releases research on the contribution of New Zealand’s livestock methane to global warming:

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, has today released new research on the impact methane from New Zealand’s livestock has on global warming.

“I hope this new work will help promote debate on reducing methane emissions that is grounded firmly in science.” . .

Farmers face pressure under climate change legislation – Eric Frykberg:

Farmers’ hopes of getting an easy ride in climate change legislation has been dented by the combative stand on methane taken by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

The commissioner said to prevent global warming, methane emissions would have to fall by 10 to 22 percent below 2016 levels by 2050.

There would then need to be further reductions by 2100. . .

B+LNZ welcomes PCE report on livestock methane emissions:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) welcomes the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report on livestock emissions which recognises the difference in the warming potential between short and long term greenhouse gases.

The Commissioner’s report says that if New Zealand wishes to ensure that methane from livestock contributes no additional warming beyond current levels, methane emissions from all livestock will need to be reduced from 2016 levels by between 10 – 22 per cent by 2050, and 20 – 27 per cent by 2100. . .

Methane report shoots down ‘must be zero’ claims:

Another research paper – this one from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment – shoots down the claims that New Zealand must reduce its livestock methane emissions to zero, Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

The paper, based on modelling by Dr Andy Reisinger of the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, suggests that to ensure no additional warming effects beyond current levels, methane emissions would need to be reduced by 10-22 percent below 2016 levels by 2050, with further reductions by 2100. . .

Snacking taken to a new high by Fonterra beverage – Peter Burke:

Fonterra is launching a milk beverage to tap into the emerging consumer trend called ‘snacking’.

The aim is to replace pies, crisps and sugar-filled soft drinks. Production is by new technology at a new plant in a deal with an apple juice processor. In a large industrial area near Hastings, Apollo Foods has set up a new processing plant, the brainchild of apple industry entrepreneur Ross Beaton who intends to make a quality, long life apple juice.

But the plant can do more than process apples: the technology is perfect for producing quality long life milk beverages, which Apollo has agreed to do for Fonterra. . .

Is agritech destined to save New Zealand?:

Agritech could be destined to save the New Zealand economy, leading New Zealand tech expert Graeme Muller says.

The tremendous worldwide demand for food continues to soar with some estimating the market to be worth $US3 trillion and much of the growth coming from specialty and healthy foods, Muller, the NZTech chief executive, says.

He is one of 30 New Zealand agritech delegates attending the Silicon Valley forum agritech immersion programme this week in San Jose, California, and they are finding that New Zealand is well placed to respond to the substantial changing demands. . .

Strong exports push King Salmon earnings – Pattrick Smellie:

(BusinessDesk) – Strong export growth in its lead North American market and in Asia pushed New Zealand King Salmon to record operating earnings in the year to June 30.

The result would have been stronger had the company not experienced high mortality among its salmon stocks because of high Marlborough Sounds water temperatures.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation – the benchmark measure the company used for forecasts in its prospectus before listing on the NZX in 2016 – came in at $26.2 million, a 21 percent increase on the previous financial year and 17 percent ahead of prospectus forecasts. . .

 


Rural round-up

July 22, 2018

Fonterra faces crisis of confidence – Sudesh Kissun:

Former Fonterra director Leonie Guiney says the co-op is facing a crisis of confidence.

She says the dairy co-op’s balance sheet is no longer in a position to handle more of the investment culture, while its leadership continues to deny there are any issues with strategic direction.

Guiney, a director for three years, says because the current leadership is overseeing the recruitment of a new chief executive, farmers face more of the same from the co-op. . .

Concerns over Mycoplasma bovis leave farmer confidence in the balance:

Concerns about the impact of Mycoplasma bovis disease on the country’s agricultural sector have seen New Zealand farmer confidence decline over the past quarter, the latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey has shown.

While farmer confidence remains at net positive levels, the overall reading dropped to +two per cent in the latest quarter, from +15 per cent in the previous survey.

The latest survey – completed last month – found the number of farmers expecting the rural economy to improve in the next 12 months had fallen slightly to 26 per cent (from 27 per cent last quarter), while the number expecting the rural economy to worsen rose to 24 per cent (from 12 per cent). A total of 46 per cent were expecting similar conditions (down from 59 per cent). . .

Hastings’ company First Light Gains gold at World Steak Challenge – Doug Laing:

Innovative Hastings meat company First Light has suddenly become the little mouse that roared by claiming two major steak awards in less than a month, including a rare win for New Zealand beef overseas.

Its grass-fed Wagyu rib-eye, from a Taranaki farm and processed for the company in Hamilton, won a gold medal at the World Steak Challenge which ended in London on July 4, just three weeks after the company won New Zealand’s Best of Brand title, one of the two major titles in the Steak of Origin at the National Agricultural Fieldays on June 13. . .

Eight ways to improve native vegetation on private land:

Researchers have come up with eight recommendations on how New Zealanders can help increase the benefits they reap from large-scale native restorations located on private land.

To substantially increase the scale of native restoration, several issues need to be built into restoration planning, implementation and monitoring, according to a paper co-authored by Challenge Project LeaderProfessor David Norton of the University of Canterbury

The study focuses on areas that have been used for pastoral farming – which comprise 40% of Aotearoa’s land area – because these are the areas that will get the most conservation benefit from substantially upscaling restoration activities. Upscaling means dramatically increasing the land area of restoration activities to tens or hundreds of thousands of hectares. . .

Beetles find an answer to nitrogen – Peter Burke:

While scientists and farm consultants in laboratories try to solve the problem of nitrogen loss on farms, a large force of creatures works underground 24/7 on the issue.

Peter Burke reports on the work of the dung beetle and a man passionate about their progress.

Dr Shaun Forgie, an entomologist who has studied dung beetles in various countries, is one of a small group of international experts. . .

World famous in New Zealand: saleyard tour Fielding – Pamela Wade:

Twice a week, Manawatu Manawatū farmers pour into the middle of the pretty town of Feilding to empty or fill their trailers and stock trucks with the sheep and cattle that are sold at its busy and long-established livestock market.

They reckon it’s the oldest in the country, running since 1880; and that it’s one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere.

Certainly, dogs and people funnel thousands of sheep and hundreds of cattle through the saleyards each week, and the air is full of baaing and mooing – as well as that other distinctive indication that you’re in the presence of large numbers of farm animals. . .

Cultivar performance under the FVI spotlight:

DairyNZ’s Forage Value Index (FVI) helps farmers choose the best-performing grasses for their region using its simple five-star rating system. Trials have now started to test the FVI systems under realistic dairy farm management conditions, as DairyNZ senior scientist Cáthal Wims explains.

The DairyNZ FVI is an independent, regionspecific, profit-based index for short-term and perennial ryegrass cultivars, which allows farmers to select cultivars based on the expected economic value to their business. It categorises cultivars into five ‘star rating’ groups in each dairy region – those with a higher star rating are expected to deliver greater economic value for dairy farmers. . .


Rural round-up

June 20, 2018

Farmers taking massive blow from disease cull to protect others – Andrew Morrison:

This time last year few of us had even heard of Mycoplasma bovis and now this disease is proving devastating to a group of cattle farmers.

We have seen the heart-wrenching scenes of farmers loading otherwise healthy cows onto trucks headed for slaughter and have listened to the descriptions from farmers who have to wake up every morning to the silence of farms devoid of livestock.

Last month, the Government with industry support made the decision to pursue a phased eradication of this production-limiting disease.

Knowing the pain it was going to cause some farmers meant that it was not a decision made lightly.  These farmers are taking a massive blow to protect the 99 per cent of farmers who don’t have Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) on their properties. We, as an industry, need to do everything we can to support these people both financially and emotionally. . . 

North Otago calves confirmed to have had M bovis -Conan Young:

A North Otago farmer who lost her farm after having to deal with a mystery illness has had it confirmed her calves that year had Mycoplasma bovis.

Susan McEwan’s story featured on RNZ’s Checkpoint and Insight programmes.

At that stage she suspected the reason she lost 600 of the 3000 animals she was raising to arthritis and pneumonia, was due to Mycoplasma bovis, but had no way to prove it. . . 

Farm exports growing – Sally Rae:

A strong export performance and farm profitability results, despite a  variety of challenges, is testament to the resilience of farmers, the Ministry for Primary Industries’ latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report says.

That resilience provided confidence  farmers would be able to adapt to future disruptions such as climate change, adverse events or potential trade issues.

It was also reflected in MPI’s medium-term outlook for annual export growth to range between 1.2% to 2.6% between 2019 and 2022.

Primary sector exports are forecast to exceed $46 billion by the end of the outlook period.

Production and export volumes were forecast to be relatively stable, particularly in dairy and meat and wool.  . . 

Keeping tradition alive after 50 years of Feildays – Horiana Henderson:

Kerepehi stalwart, Alex Quinn is committed to Fieldays and has the golden “50 years commemorating support” award, and a cap, to prove it.

In typical fashion, he was to be found amongst the agricultural equipment ready with a big smile and friendly conversation. He is the owner of Quinn Engineering and attended the first Fieldays with his father Eddie Quinn.

In the 1960s, Eddie created a tractor attachment for handling hay called the Baleboy and brought it to market at Fieldays in 1970. .  .

NZ missing a trick when it comes to selling our food overseas – Heather Chalmers:

The Government needs to invest in a national food brand in the same way it spends $100 million each year to promote New Zealand as a tourist destination, says an agrifood marketing expert.

Synlait’s infant formula sold in the United States was “unashamedly branded” as coming from New Zealand grass-fed dairy cows, but most New Zealand products were unbranded, said Lincoln University agribusiness management senior lecturer Nic Lees.

This was despite research that showed most western consumers view New Zealand food as the next best thing to their own products.

“This research was done by the University of Florida. This is an example of how little market research we do as a country into understanding perceptions of our food in different countries.” . . 

Stay ahead of the game deer farmers urged – Alexia Johnston:

Deer farmers are being urged to ”stay ahead of the game”.

Those words of advice were the key theme at this year’s Deer Industry New Zealand (Dinz) annual conference, recently hosted in Timaru.

Dinz CEO Dan Coup said the three-day event, which included a field trip to Mesopotamia Station, was a success, helped by the positive attitude by those in attendance. . .

Getting calves off to a great start – Peter Burke:

Dairy farmers and calf rearers will in a few months be flat-out dealing with new life on farms. AgResearch scientist Dr Sue McCoard and colleagues are working on adding valuable science and data to this important task.

Sue McCoard says she and her fellow researchers, in partnership with the industry, are researching different feeds and feeding management options and their impact on whole-of-life performance. .  .

 


Rural round-up

March 25, 2018

Growing NZ pride in dairy – Colin Glass:

It’s an exciting time in the dairy sector. There is so much change happening: we have a new strategy, ‘Dairy Tomorrow’, and changes to the DairyNZ board, to name a few.

I’ve seen a marked change in dairy farmers over the past year too.

People outside the sector may think I’m referring to the extensive work farmers are doing to make their farms more environmentally sustainable. But as you all know, this isn’t new; farmers have been doing this for a long time. . . 

Rural Women critical of maternity services :

Rural Women New Zealand say it is ironic that in the 125th year of suffrage, New Zealand women are struggling to gain and retain health services.

“New Zealand is still hailed as a world leader because New Zealand women won their right to vote in 1893, however, we are behind in maternity care,” says board member and Health convenor Margaret Pittaway.

“RWNZ has been observing the developing dilemma for midwives and those they care for, with increasing concern. Rural midwives are simply not receiving a living wage due to the expectation they travel many more miles to visit patients,” says Margaret. . .

Don’t be complacent :

Sheep and beef farmers should not be complacent in grasping opportunities, retiring Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman James Parsons says.

He told the annual meeting in Gisborne the Red Meat Story should be rolled out to global markets later this year.

Final details were being signed off with processor partners on the proposed brand mark, story and Go-to-Market strategy. . .

Farmer relationship with processor costing NZ:

New research from Lincoln University shows poor relationships between farmers and their meat processors could be costing New Zealand.

Dr Nic Lees said improving those relationships was essential to New Zealand producing higher value products that meet consumer needs.

He surveyed over 1000 sheep, beef and deer farmers. These three industries together make up 12 per cent of New Zealand’s exports and currently contribute $5 billion a year to the New Zealand economy. . . 

Westland signs with South East Asia’s largest-listed consumer health and nutrition firm:

Building on its growing market presence in China, New Zealand’s second biggest dairy co-operative, Westland Milk Products, signalled an increased presence in South East Asia by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesian consumer health and nutrition giant Kalbe (PT Sanghiang Perkasa).

Today’s signing, in the presence of visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a business forum held in Wellington, is the first step toward forming a strategic partnership between Westland and Kalbe. . .

Sheep milking serious business – Peter Burke:

The sheep milk industry has made huge strides in the last four years, says Massey University associate professor Craig Prichard.

The 4th annual Sheep Milking Conference was held in Palmerston North last week, attracting 150 producers, scientists and interested observers.

Prichard, known as a driver of the industry, says four years ago only four cheese makers attended; this year there were 16.

He says in four years the industry has moved from being “gee whizz isn’t that interesting” to a serious business with a future. . . 


Rural round-up

February 7, 2018

Still dry on Otago farms despite rain :

Recent rain is unlikely to be enough to break Otago’s drought. Farmers are still feeling the pressure of the extreme January heat as low water stocks start to take their toll.

Federated Farmers Otago president Phill Hunt, of Wanaka, said farmers were still facing what some were describing as the worst dry spell in decades. The stock water supplies farmers relied on in a typical year were not available or sufficient this year, he said.

“Farmers are understandably concerned about the wellbeing of their stock and are de-stocking where needed.” . .

Pioneer to build new hydro scheme on Fraser River – Pam Jones:

A new Pioneer Energy hydro scheme on the Fraser River, on Earnscleugh Station, will generate enough electricity to power 4000 households.

Due to the altitude and topography of the area, construction would not be possible during the winter, but track construction and upgrades would begin this month, Pioneer Energy development general manager Peter Mulvihill said. The main construction of the intake, powerhouse and pipeline was scheduled to start in September.

The scheme would generate about 30GWh of power annually and should be supplying the local region by March next year, Mr Mulvihill said. . . 

Deal a good one for NZ farmers – Peter Burke:

The deal NZ has in the now-negotiated Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the best we could have expected, says NZ’s special agricultural trade envoy.

Mike Petersen told Rural News the deal is potentially better for NZ with the US pulling out of the discussions. It is effectively a series of 11 bilateral agreements between each group member, and while the US has pulled out the market access schedules have remained intact.

That means in theory that NZ has a greater opportunity to export products to the other 10 countries in the agreement, Petersen says. . .

Farmers want Healthy Rivers amendments that are practical and not a free pass – Andrew McGivern:

I would like to think that in 2018 this is, at last, when we all start finalising the Healthy Rivers Plan Change One provisions, with hearings scheduled to begin at the end of this year.

For farmers and rural communities within the Waikato-Waipa river catchments, it will be great to finally get some clarity around the rules and direction of this plan change.

This is because from a business point of view, these regulations have been operational and enforceable since it was notified back in September 2016 and are already affecting farm values and investment.

From Federated Farmers’ point of view, while we agree with the aspirations of the vision and strategy, we believe parts of the plan and some of the rules and implementation, is skewed and in need of change. . .

Sorting the wood from the trees – Steve Wyn-Harris:

One billion trees. That’s a whole lot of trees.

I got an intriguing email last week.

It was from Crown Forestry, a business unit of MPI.

They were asking me if I had any suitable land to plant for the new government’s One Billion Trees programme, which is the ten-year target. To achieve, it will require new forests on up to 500,000 hectares.

This programme with Crown Forestry is but one of several initiatives to help achieve the target.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t help them as I fell outside the criteria of a minimum 200 hectares, which is just over half of our farm area, but most of the other criteria like access within the block and to local roads, terrain, fertility and such applied as we are about to harvest 8 hectares of our own trees that I planted 30 years ago. . .

Rod Slater on how much beef and lamb we eat

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive Rod Slater has gone in to bat for New Zealand farmers after a newspaper article suggested environmental sustainability concerns were putting the heat on meat, with rapidly declining domestic consumption of beef and, particularly, lamb.

Speaking to Jamie Mackay on The Country today, Slater said the figures in the article, including that New Zealanders are eating less than 1kg of meat each a year, were inaccurate, and Kiwis were still eating a lot of beef and lamb, though not as much as we used to. . . 

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