Rural round-up

April 23, 2020

Farmstrong: focus on controlling what you can:

Learning to live with unexpected challenges is the key to getting through life in lockdown for Otago farmer Luke Tweed.

Luke and his family run a 730ha sheep and beef operation in Central Otago. It’s the family farm and he enjoys carrying on the tradition. 

“I love being able to work outside and with animals but the opportunity to bring up our kids on this farm is the really big one for us.”

Tweed, his wife Bridget and their four kids have coped okay with lockdown so far.  . .

Covid 19 coronavirus: Why New Zealand’s mānuka honey exporters are smiling again – Jamie Gray:

One of the strongest harvests on record, together with a big lift in sales resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, have combined to brighten the outlook for New Zealand’s mānuka honey sector.

The harvest, which ends soon, is well up on last year, and mānuka honey is in demand overseas for its claimed health benefits.

It’s not all good news, however. Domestic sales aimed at the incoming tourism sector have been hit hard as countries go into Covid-19 lockdown and air travel subsides. . .

 

Free range chooks scoop top award – Richard Rennie:

Living a carefree life comprising a diet of bugs, apples and organic maize has earned the chickens raised by Hawke’s Bay brothers George and Ben Bostock New Zealand’s supreme food award.

The Bostock brothers were named the supreme champions for their organic whole chicken brand in this year’s Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards. 

The firm was established by Ben five years ago.

Today the brothers supply organic, free-range chicken to butchers, supermarkets and the pre-covid-19 restaurant trade.   . .

Bumper maze crop despite drought – Pam Tipa:

Waikato owner-operated farmers Nacre and Anthony Maiden says the “stars aligned” this year to give them a particularly bumper maize crop despite the drought and their sandy loam soils.

However being flexible with their planting timing, good communication and use of their Herd Homes effluent all helped with their maize crop.

“We were impressed with their maize this year considering the soils we farm,” Nacre told Dairy News.  . . 

NZ’s top young Maori growers – Peter Burke:

The finalists in the inaugural Ahuwhenua Young Māori Grower Award have just been announced.

The finalists are:

• Twenty-four-year-old Brandon Darny Paora Ngamoki Cross, 24, works as trainee orchard manager for the large kiwifruit orchard management and post-harvest company Seeka.

• Maatutaera Tipoki Akonga, who is 26, works as a senior leading hand at Llewellyn Horticulture based in the Hastings area.

• Finnisha Nicola Letitia Tuhiwai, 25 who is a packhouse manager for Maungatapere Berries, located west of Whangarei.

Smithfield shutting U.S. pork plant indefinitely, warns of meat shortages during pandemic – Tom Polansek:

Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, said on Sunday it will shut a U.S. plant indefinitely due to a rash of coronavirus cases among employees and warned the country was moving “perilously close to the edge” in supplies for grocers.

Slaughterhouse shutdowns are disrupting the U.S. food supply chain, crimping availability of meat at retail stores and leaving farmers without outlets for their livestock.

Smithfield extended the closure of its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant after initially saying it would idle temporarily for cleaning. The facility is one of the nation’s largest pork processing facilities, representing 4% to 5% of U.S. pork production, according to the company. . .

 


Rural round-up

April 13, 2020

Confidence of farmers falls:

Rabobank’s latest rural confidence survey shows the shadow covid-19 has thrown on the rural sector.

Farmer sentiment has slipped since late last year with net farmer confidence down from 112% to -44% in the March quarter.

Rabobank New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris said the survey results shine a light on the psyche of farmers at a critical time for the nation. 

“The food and agri sectors will be crucial in helping to rebuild the NZ economy and Rabobank continues to have a strong, positive long-term view of the sector outlook,” Charteris said.  . . 

COVID-19: Meat processing delays forecast – Peter Burke:

COVID-19 will continue to impact heavily on the ability of farmers to get stock killed during April and May.

The impact is due to physical distancing requirements between meat plant employees to prevent the spread of the virus Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Economic Service, in conjunction with the Meat Industry Association and the processors, have just released its assessment on processing capacity across the country and the potential impact on waiting times for farmers. 

The findings show the new meat processing protocols have reduced the industry’s peak processing capacity by approximately 50% for sheep and 30% for cattle. . . 

Don’t let fear overcome you – Colin Miller:

Farmer’s Chaplain, Colin Miller on overcoming fear during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before writing my column for this month, I have had to sit by and wait this out. The reason?

Things are changing so rapidly. By tomorrow, today’s breaking news may well be out of date. There is a good chance, by the time this lands at your place, our world may be quite different again.

So yes, I will need to conclude with something that has no ‘use by date’. . . 

Stock sale options being explored – Neal Wallace:

Stock agents and venders are getting innovative to ensure seasonal trading of livestock is occurring while traditional selling methods can’t be used.

Some sales of weaner calves and deer are being held online but others are being arranged privately by agents linking vendors and previous buyers. 

Philip Wareing, who owns Arrowsmith Station in the Ashburton Gorge, had to cancel his annual on-farm weaner deer and weaner calf sales but says he is fortunate agents worked with previous buyers to ensure the stock were sold over a similar time frame to last year. 

“We’re very, very happy with that but it was at substantially lower prices than last year.  . . 

Orchard takes to web to keep pumpkins rolling out – Richard Davison:

First pizzas, now pumpkins.

A rapid diversification into home delivery is paying dividends for a previously locked-down Central Otago business.

Darryl Peirce runs Peirce Orchard at Millers Flat — better known to passers-by as The Pumpkin Place — which a fortnight ago was forced to shut down its roadside shop to comply with coronavirus restrictions.

Reacting quickly to the change in circumstances, he activated fruit and vege home delivery website theorchardshop.nz, and appealed to the Ministry for Primary Industries for registration as an essential service. . . 

 

UK’s native breeds could ‘flourish’ post-CAP, charity says:

The UK’s native breeds could flourish and grow their demonstrated value to the countryside post-Brexit, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust has said.

The latest Watchlist, the charity’s annual barometer of breed numbers, shows that native breeds have a ‘sound platform’ for reviving in numbers post-CAP.

RBST says native breeds could bring ‘new levels’ of environmental, economic and cultural benefit to agriculture and to rural communities. . . 


Rural round-up

April 8, 2020

It’s okay to not be okay – Jamie Mackay:

 A recent personal tragedy has made The Country host Jamie Mackay reconsider his stance on mental health.

I’m ashamed to admit it, especially as there is a history of mental illness in my own family, but until relatively recently I was a bit blasé about mental health.

Back when my grandmother was a young mother under considerable stress raising six kids, she had what was at that time called ‘a breakdown’. She was sent off to a mental institution (as they were known then) three hour’s drive away.

We were often packed into the car when my father went to visit her, but we were never able to see her. She lived until I was 16 years of age, but I never met her. As a family we never talked about her, other than to acknowledge that she was institutionalised. . . 

Rural sector vital to recovery, despite confidence dip – David Anderson:

COVID-19 is negatively impacting New Zealand’s rural sector confidence.

The declining confidence comes as the country’s primary industries prepare to shoulder some of the heavy lifting for economic and social recovery, claims specialist rural bank Rabobank.

New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris says the bank’s latest rural confidence survey shines a light on the psyche of farmers at a critical time for the nation.

“The food and agri sectors will be crucial in helping to rebuild the New Zealand economy and Rabobank continues to have a strong positive long-term view of the sector outlook,” he says.  . .

Fruit, wine industries respond to coronavirus with vintage Kiwi adaptability – Georgia-May Gilbertson:

Kiwis are stepping in to cover a shortage of backpackers and overseas seasonal workers in the fruit and wine industries.  

For the last few years the kiwifruit industry has experienced a labour shortage when it comes to harvest, but New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) president Nikki Johnson says covid-19 has changed that. 

“The way that our labour situation is laid out is that about 50 per cent are New Zealanders,  25 per cent are working holidays visa workers or backpackers, then 20 per cent are RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) workers,” Johnson said.  . . 

COVID-19: Growing interest in NZ sheepmeat in China – Peter Burke:

Chinese consumers are increasingly positive about New Zealand-produced beef, lamb and mutton in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a social media analysis by Beef + Lamb New Zealand. 

B+LNZ’s market development team says it is monitoring Chinese consumers’ perceptions of the protein market, the perception of protein origin, and the changes in retail channel choice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The red meat grower organisation has published a report summarizing the latest findings, which can be found here:

Click here to view the full report. . . 

Coronavirus: The harvest bubble ‘flogging the wifi’ as hand picking starts to wrap – Jennifer Eder:

Many seasonal workers in Marlborough’s wine industry are also stuck at home on Coronavirus lockdown as hand harvesting of grapes comes to an end.

All non-essential businesses were to close when the country moved to alert level 4 on March 25, but people working in the grape harvest were categorised an essential service as part of food and beverage production.

Many vineyard workers brought into the country on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are approaching the end of their contracts, but cannot fly home during lockdown. . . 

‘Massive disconnect’: Helen Skelton urges public to respect farmers:

Television presenter Helen Skelton has said there is a ‘massive disconnect’ between food producers and the British public.

The BBC presenter, who currently hosts Springtime On The Farm, urged consumers to have greater respect for farmers.

The 36-year-old grew up on a farm herself, and has a ‘huge amount of respect’ for those who produce the nation’s food.

“Now I live on the edge of the city, and there’s a massive disconnect between food producers and the rest of the country,” she said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

March 1, 2020

Food producers in pressure cooker – Corrigan Sowman:

We are not alone as New Zealand farmers feeling the weight of change bearing down on us. 

It is a global trend.

It has many different, complex drivers but two stand out – consumers’ willingness to pay for sustainability and farmers ability to capture it.

The resulting pressure is evident a recent survey of Canadian farmers that found 45% have high levels of perceived stress, 58% met the criteria for anxiety classification and 35% met the criteria for depression. . . 

Mission completed – Carter bows out – Peter Burke:

David Carter’s served 26 years in parliament, including time as the Minister of Agriculture and speaker of the house and now he’s going back to his old job – that of a farmer.

Recently 67-year-old Carter announced that he’s ending his long parliamentary career and heading back home to his farms on Banks Peninsular, near Christchurch.

Since his days as a student completing an Ag Science degree in the 1970s, Carter harboured the notion of becoming the Minister for Agriculture . .

Bridging the communication gap – Hamish Murray:

This is the third in a series by the latest crop of Nuffield Scholars. This week Marlborough high-country farmer Hamish Murray discusses the communications gap between older farmers and the youngsters working for them.

There is an increasing breakdown in the communications between young and older farmers and both are struggling to get what they want and need out of conversations.

We have a generation of farmers raised by parents who lived through World War II, which shaped their childhoods and ment no one spoke about the emotional stuff for fear of weakness. No positive feedback was given or received for fear of getting a big head. 

Contrast that with the generations entering the workforce today who are growing up with a constant stream of feedback via social media and online lives that is so constant they never consider life could be any different. . . 

 

Making the most of wine – Brad Markham:

A Canterbury couple had to make compromises to ensure their herd was all-A2, but it was key to them owning their first farm. Brad Markham reports.

A lucrative contract supplying sought-after A2 milk to Synlait has helped Daniel and Amanda Schat buy their first dairy farm.

The Canterbury couple is in their second season milking 385 mainly Holstein Friesian cows on 103-hectares (effective) at Darfield.

Before buying the irrigated property in June 2018, they were 50:50 sharemilkers on an 800-cow farm owned by Daniel’s parents at Te Pirita. . . 

 

Hot cows, less delicious wine: The problems food growers face with climate change – Eloise Gibson:

Twenty years ago, George Moss didn’t often worry about planting trees to shade his cows. Cows in chilly Tokoroa didn’t experience searing heat.

Now, he’s at the end of two extremely hot, dry, summers and he’s started having meetings with a tree-planting company.

“We are seeing significant change in the climate down here,” he says. “We have had droughts, the daytime highs are getting higher and the winters are warmer than they were when we came down here 25 years ago.” . . 

Tightening Agricultural Property Relief ‘could devastate’ farms:

Any move to tighten Agricultural Property Relief rules could ‘devastate’ family farms across the UK, the farming industry has warned.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is looking at plans to make inheritance tax (IHT) rules stricter in a bid to raise around £800 million a year, the Daily Mail reports.

Currently, people can invest in agricultural land and their children do not have to pay inheritance tax on their value if they are passed on after death.

Business property relief is also in Mr Sunak’s crosshairs. This gives up to 100% off IHT if the deceased has an interest in a firm or shares in an unlisted company. . . 

 


Rural round-up

February 28, 2020

Farming needs policy certainty – SImon Bridges:

Our reputation as a producer of quality agricultural products is well known around the world and the sector contributes close to $48 billion in export revenue to our economy. The primary sector provides an economic shot in the arm to New Zealand, and we want to see it continue to grow.

If there’s one thing I’ve picked up from the many farmers I’ve spoken to over the past couple of years, it’s that they want certainty. Farmers and growers already have enough variables to deal with such as the weather, interest rates, disease and international markets. There needs to be a clearly sign-posted direction of travel from the Government that allows everyone to get on board without adverse effects. . .

Former National MP Shane Ardern builds New Zealand’s ‘fastest’ cow shed – Catherine

A former politician has built what could be New Zealand’s fastest dairy shed – able to milk 600 cows an hour.

Two 40-bail rotary platforms turn like giant clockwork dials side by side, and the cows choose the one they prefer to be milked on.

Shane Ardern, who farms at Te Kiri, South Taranaki, with his wife Cathy, is still remembered for driving a tractor named Myrtle up the steps of Parliament in 2003 to protest the Labour Government’s plans to impose a ‘fart tax’ on farmers.

Ardern returned to farming in 2014 after 16 years as National’s Taranaki King Country MP. . .

Southern peas please big producers  :

The Maw family, of Mid Canterbury, has been been farming at Barrhill for four generations, dating back to 1925.

They rotate a broad range of crops including cereals, grass and clovers for grazing and seed production, vegetable seed crops and peas, which are currently being harvested for produce giant, Wattie’s.

Colin Maw has been supplying Wattie’s for over 20 years.

Wattie’s farmers had vast experience in growing the very best peas with knowledge handed down and nurtured between generations, he said. . .

 

The importance of the humble blueberry – Dr David Chagné:

New Zealand is involved in a US$12.8 million USDA grant to improve the quality of blueberry and cranberry.

The four-year project, led by North Carolina State University, is part of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which funds multi-year, multi-institutional collaborative projects.

Genomics Aotearoa and Plant and Food Research Ltd have just become part of this project, and we’re very excited about what that offers – for blueberry producers here, for the New Zealand economy, the consumer and for other genomics researchers.

But what does this actually mean for us? . .

Robotics Plus a THRIVE Top 50 agtech company:

Robotics Plus, a world-leading robotics and automation company developing innovation to unlock new levels of productivity in agriculture, has been named in the THRIVE Top 50, an annual ranking of leading global AgTech companies exemplifying the best in agriculture innovation. Robotics Plus, the only New Zealand company to make the 2020 Top 50 ranking, was just one of five companies featured in the Robotics & Automation category.

Robotics Plus CEO Dr Matt Glenn says it’s a huge honour to receive a coveted spot on THRIVE’s Top 50 global list. “We’re thrilled to be showcased in such a prestigious list alongside exceptional AgTech companies from around the world who are pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation. . . 

Don’t mess with farmers – Peter Burke:

Policymakers in Ireland have learned the lesson about demonising farmers – just don’t do it.

That’s the word from a leading Irish scientist, Dr Karl Richards from Teagasc, that country’s semi-state organisation that is responsible for R&D, training and advisory services to farmers.

Richards told Rural News, at recent seminar at Massey University, that policy makers in Ireland have realised that farmers will react badly to being constantly demonised and are less likely to react positively to improving the environment. . .

 


Rural round-up

January 26, 2020

New policy might limit farming – Neal Wallace:

Farmers fear new biodiversity policy could force councils to make them restore areas of indigenous flora and fauna on their land.

The Government has released its proposed draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, which leans heavily on councils to identify, monitor and manage areas with significant indigenous biodiversity.

Within five years councils will have to identify and map significant natural areas using standard national criteria, manage any adverse effects on those areas and survey native wildlife in and outside the areas to determine if they are threatened or affected by land use activities. . .

Sarah’s Country: Are we fit for a better world? – Sarah Perriam:

Sarah’s Country’s debut episode focuses on the key elements of this vision for New Zealand that includes a swing towards regenerative agriculture, capturing the value of the billion-dollar plant protein trend and offsetting our carbon emissions with environmental integrity, not ‘thin air fake’ credits.

Sarah Perriam, the host of Sarah’s Country, is this week joined by guest co-host Kate Scott. Kate is a director of LandPro and a 2018 Nuffield Scholar living in Central Otago. . .

Farm sales start to look up:

Farm sales were down 21.6% for the three months ended December 2019 versus the year prior ­— but sales look to be lifting.

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows that farm sales increased by 22.3% in the three months ended December 2019 compared to the three months ended November 2019, with 345 and 282 sales respectively. . .

$8 payout possible – Peter Burke:

The guessing game has begun to predict what dairy farmers will get for their milk this season.

The consensus in the sector is that the price will be positive: numbers ranging from $7.15/kgMS to $7.50/kgMS, although ASB rural economist Nathan Penny is sticking his neck out and suggesting it could reach $8/kgMS.

Fonterra says its forecast is in the range of $7.00 to $7.60 with the midpoint being $7.30.

Dr. Mitloehner issues warning on increasing herd sizes – Charles O’Donnell:

While there is not necessarily a need to cut herd sizes for the purpose of climate change mitigation, increasing numbers is also not the way to go, according to Dr. Frank Mitloehner.

Dr. Mitloehner, a well-known professor and air quality specialist, was speaking at an event called ‘Climate Action in Agriculture: A Balanced Approach’ in Dublin today, Tuesday, January 21, which was organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

The German-born Californian-based professor spoke out against the perceived necessity to cut herd sizes. However, when asked about the growing numbers of animals in the dairy industry, he warned that going in the opposite direction by increasing numbers would pose a climate issue. . . 

Government urged to block high carbon food imports :

Britain cannot risk importing food with a higher carbon footprint than food which has been produced in the UK, a new report says.

Released by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), it says British farming produces some of the most sustainable food in the world and that emissions from UK beef is half that of the global average.

Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK presents a detailed range of options to drive emissions reductions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. . . 

 


Rural round-up

December 1, 2019

Hocken wins Rabobank Emerging Leader award:

Manawatu dairy farmer Mat Hocken is the winner of the Rabobank Emerging Leader Award for 2019.

Hocken is director and owner of family business Grassmere Dairy, a 1000-cow dairy operation on the banks of the Oroua River in the Manawatu.

He becomes the first Kiwi to win the award since its introduction in 2013. The awards ceremony was held in Auckland last night. . . 

New Zealand arable farmers face unfair competition from imported grain – Gerard Hutching:

Arable farmers have appealed to their dairy farmer colleagues to buy their grain rather than importing it from overseas.

Federated Farmers arable spokeswoman Karen Williams complained about the lack of a level playing field over grain sales.

She was commenting on the Feds’ latest banking survey showing 30 per cent of the arable farmers surveyed felt under pressure and they also had the lowest percentage feeling very satisfied or satisfied (60 per cent). . . 

Boomer year for OAD farmers – Peter Burke:

A leading once a day (OAD) farmer says her farm is set to have a record year thanks to a combination of favourable circumstances – especially the weather.

Christine Finnigan who farms near Rongotea, Manawatu says the warm winter has seen good pasture growth into spring and her 220 Kiwi cross cows are in good condition.

She says the original target for this season was 78,000kgMS, but says if conditions stay favourable the record of 82,500kgMS could be reached. . .

Alliance pays out $15.2m:

Alliance Group says it has paid farmer shareholders a further $1.67 million in loyalty payments.

This brings the total bonuses it has distributed for the season to $15.2m.

The latest quarterly payments were made to the co-operative’s ‘platinum’ and ‘gold’ shareholders who supply 100% of their livestock to Alliance. The latest payments cover the July to September period. . . 

Last of Zespri’s 2019 New Zealand kiwifruit crop heading to markets:

The last of New Zealand’s successful 2019 kiwifruit crop has been shipped, with four containers of Zespri Green leaving Tauranga for North Asia, unloading in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Around 70 tonnes of the Bay of Plenty-grown kiwifruit was loaded onto the APL Denver this week which is expected to reach the first port in 15 days.

Blair Hamill, Zespri’s Chief Global Supply Officer, says 147 million trays of kiwifruit were shipped offshore this season to more than 50 countries, with record numbers of consumers creating unprecedented levels of demand.

“Our premium Zespri SunGold and Green Kiwifruit are more popular than ever, and over the course of the season we’ve moved 44 full charter shiploads and 17,160 containers, or more than 500,000 tonnes in total, to our markets,” Mr Hamill says. . . 

Women in Scottish farming ‘downplayed’ and ‘unseen’

A ‘fundamental cultural change’ is needed to ensure that women in the Scottish farming industry are valued more, a new report has revealed.

Women’s contribution to the sector can be ‘undervalued, downplayed, or simply unseen’, it explained.

The findings are included in a Women in Agriculture Taskforce report which was commissioned by the Scottish government. Taskforce co-chair Joyce Campbell said the the report has shone light into the ‘very dark corners of Scottish agriculture.’ . .

 


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