Rural round-up

29/08/2013

In quite pursuit of the perfect lamb – Peter Watson:

Drive past Brent and Bernadette Hodgkinson’s farm in the Tadmor Valley and you would barely give it a second glance.

There is no flash house and garden and the property is far from immaculate.

But behind the modest appearance is a very smart, profitable business.

Not only were the Hodgkinsons finalists in the recent national sheep supplier of the year awards, they grow the meatiest lambs supplied to our largest co-operative, Alliance, by any farmer in the country. And they have been producing high-quality, high-yielding lambs year after year from a property where soil fertility is naturally poor and the climate can range from bitterly cold in winter to drought in summer. . .

Unsung hero recognised – Sally Rae:

Kevin Smith loves farming and he enjoys passing on his knowledge and skills to the younger generation.

Mr Smith, from Middlemarch, was recently named the AgITO Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year at the Beef and Lamb New Zealand sheep industry awards, beating fellow finalists Telford (a division of Lincoln University) and Waipaoa Station Farm Cadet Training Trust.

No-one was more delighted than the woman who nominated him, AgITO’s Rebecca Williamson-Kavanaugh, who was ”extremely excited” and very proud. . .

Employing migrant workers in the primary sector

With the rapid expansion of the primary sector, particularly in dairy farming, an international farm advisor specialising in labour management from the University of California, Professor Gregorio Billikopf, is visiting New Zealand to discuss labour changes and the increasing levels of migrant workers being employed.

In New Zealand for two weeks, Professor Gregorio Billikopf will have a number of speaking engagements, including addressing delegates at the Australasia Pacific Extension Network International Conference being held at Lincoln University from 26 to 28 August 2013, and a speaking engagement in Ashburton on Thursday 29 August. 

“Professor Gregorio Billikopf is an internationally recognised expert when it comes to migrant workers in the primary sector,” says Lincoln University’s Associate Professor in Employment Relations, Dr Rupert Tipples. . .

No more old tyres for silage stacks:

A THROW away remark – “there has to be a better way” – by Toni Johnson while helping her father place tyres on a silage stack cover, led to one of the best innovations at National Fieldays.

Aqua Anchors are either 14m or 16m long and 75mm or 65mm sections of lie-flat hoses hermetically sealed at both ends and filled with water. 

They lie over and around the edges of silage stacks to hold the cover in place and keep the crop from the elements. They replace traditional tyres. A patent is pending. . .

Nothing humble about the bumble:

Avocado growers are keen to hear the latest research findings on the use of bumblebees as pollinators, says AVOCO technical manager Colin Partridge, so they can plan to put the findings into practice and improve the consistency of harvests.

The topic will be addressed at the Australia-New Zealand avocado conference in Tauranga next month, and AVOCO, as principal sponsor of the conference and the largest grower group, appreciates the significance of the research.

“If avocado growers could soon be able to call in special reinforcements to pollinate their trees – the not-so-humble bumblebee – it will do a lot to stabilise the industry and could even help overcome the persistent boom/bust nature of the harvests,” says Mr Partridge. . .

Wairarapa Water Use Project Appoints Project Director:

The Wairarapa Water Use Project has appointed Michael Bassett-Foss to lead future investigations into what could be one of the largest economic and social development projects in the greater Wellington region.

Still in its early stage, the project aims to develop a multi-purpose water scheme to collect and store water then distribute it in the dry season for a variety of economic and community uses in an environmentally sustainable way.

Previously Mr Bassett-Foss has had regional development, investment and strategic roles in the private and public sectors in New Zealand, South America, Eastern Europe and South East Asia. . .


Rural round-up

21/08/2013

NZ reputation will bounce back –  Pattrick Smellie:

Honest disclosure of the Fonterra infant milk botulism scare will stand New Zealand’s reputation as a food producer in good stead in the long run, although the country’s reputation for safe food has taken a short term hit, says ANZ Bank’s chief economist for Greater China.

Speaking to BusinessDesk in Hong Kong, Li-Gang Liu described the impact of the incident, and the subsequent discovery of raised nitrate levels in lactoferrin produced by Westland Milk, as “a temporary scare.”

“Most Chinese consumers still trust the goods provided by New Zealand producers,” he said. “I don’t think that has changed fundamentally, especially how this case was handled. . .

NZ scientist wants ploughing outlawed:

A New Zealand soil scientist is campaigning to outlaw the plough and to have a warning on it.

Dr John Baker said ploughing or conventional tillage contributed to global warming, crop failure, soil erosion and eventually famine.

He said the single greatest challenge facing the world was feeding the extra 50 per cent population by the year 2050.

“We can get away with conventional methods in New Zealand because we have rich soil and rotating pasture, but other countries don’t have that luxury. Instead they’re turning their backs on ploughing and adopting no tillage as the only way to feed the population.” . .

Reduced volatility critical for long-term sheepmeat sector viability:

Representatives of the sheepmeat sectors from the United Kingdom, France and New Zealand met last week and have agreed that the volatility of returns is negatively impacting the long term viability of their respective sheepmeat sectors.

They agreed that the roller coaster ride of good years followed by poor years saps the confidence of sheepmeat producers, resulting in a decline in production in most sheep producing countries and a sector that has difficulty attracting and retaining good young people.

A cross-sector group from the UK and France came to New Zealand on a fact-finding mission to better understand the current outlook for New Zealand sheep farmers and to identify and discuss common challenges. They met with representatives from key industry organisations, farming groups and the meat processing and exporting companies. . .

Views differ on effluent threat to marine farms – Peter Watson:

Farmers and the Tasman District Council are confident increased monitoring and a lot of on-farm work have reduced the risk of dairy pollution again threatening marine farms off the Collingwood coast, but marine farmers say more still needs to be done.

In November, 2011 and May last year high E coli readings in marine farms near the mouth of the Aorere River caused alarm within the export industry, sparking fears the spikes may halt harvesting and prompting complaints to the council about outdated dairy practices, weak rules and a lack of oversight.

It sparked tension in Golden Bay as one heavyweight export industry was seen to take on another. . .

Wineries suffer further damage from latest quake:

Marlborough wineries have suffered more losses and damage from Friday’s magnitude 6.6 earthquake than they did from the 21 July event.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens says a number of wineries in the region closed after the big quake struck on Friday afternoon and structural engineers will be assessing the damage during the week.

He says there has probably been some wine loss, although how much is not really known at this stage.

“I think a number of the tanks, the way they behave would have spilt wine out the top … and those wine losses are financial losses as well.”

Mr Pickens says wineries are reporting minimal damage to bottled wine stocks. . .

Dairy Awards Plan 25th Anniversary Celebrations:

The 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the sharemilker competition with a special launch event and celebration ball at its annual awards dinner.

National convenor Chris Keeping says the milestone anniversary creates an opportunity to delve into the sharemilker competition history and to celebrate its success.

“It’s pretty amazing to think that over those years thousands of sharemilkers have participated in the competition, relishing the opportunity to have their business analysed and enhance their progress in the industry while having some fun and meeting lots of people.” . . .


Rural round-up

14/08/2013

Ravensdown returns ‘unacceptable’ result – Tim Cronshaw:

Fertiliser co-operative Ravensdown is offloading loss-making Australian businesses to ensure there is no repeat of a pre-tax profit of $6 million made in the 2012-13 year ending May.

The ”unacceptable” result is down 88 per cent from $52m the previous year and the co-operative will be unable to pay farmer shareholders a rebate for the first time in 35 years.

Poor performing Australian investments and slower fertiliser sales during the drought contributed to the small profit alongside high urea prices and a consistently high dollar going against the co-operative’s policy of hedging long term. . .

Lab meat ‘no threat yet’ to NZ – Al Williams:

Laboratory-grown meat is the “stuff of science fiction” and a long way off from posing any threat, those involved in meat production in New Zealand say.

Industry reaction follows a taste test last week of hamburger grown in a laboratory.

Scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands developed the burger over five years, with hopes that lab-grown meat could eventually help feed the world and fight climate change.

The project had high-profile funding from Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google, who gave €250,000 (NZ$450,000) towards the project, saying he was motivated by a concern for animal welfare. . .

Farming til the cows come home – Peter Watson:

You won’t hear Ted and Clare Ford complaining about getting up early in the morning to milk the cows and feed the calves.

They have been doing it for more than 40 years, still enjoy it and have no plans to stop.

“What else would I do,” says Mr Ford, a fit-looking 66-year-old who, with his wife, has been at the forefront of promoting dairying in the Nelson region.

“You’ve got to have a reason for getting up in the morning and I firmly believe retirement has killed more farmers than farming.” . .

Sellers warned to identify irradiated tomatoes:

New Zealand businesses selling Australian irradiated tomatoes are being reminded they are obliged to label them as such.

The tomatoes are expected to be on sale in the country shortly, after Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye changed the import rules to allow in irradiated tomatoes from Australia earlier this year.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has issued an advisory telling food businesses they must let consumers know the food they are purchasing is irradiated.

The ministry says the mandatory labelling statement must be on the food or close to the food at all points of sale. . .

Students help with animal progeny programme:

A new generation of budding famers is learning first-hand about genetic selection and animal performance.

Students at the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre at Koromiko farm in Wairarapa are helping with the sheep industry’s central progeny trial programme.

The programme aims to develop sheep selection tools to help farmers working on a variety of land types.

Koromiko farm manager Shayne Rankin said the students at the training centre are helping to monitor the performance of rams on hard hill country. . .

More on the trial at Koromiko here.

How bike bashing Rambro went feral then viral – Michael Daly:

A confrontation between a Nelson trail-bike rider and a belligerent ram is raising laughs around the world.

Nelson man Marty Todd posted video of the face-off, which the ram appears to win, on YouTube.

After being picked up on CNN and by Britain’s Mail Online, the YouTube posting has been viewed about 350,000 times.

It shows Mr Todd stopping when confronted by the animal, known to locals as ‘Rambro’, on a track through his rural property.

After a standoff lasting a few seconds the ram charges the bike. Mr Todd gets off and heads several metres up a side track, then returns to the bike, all the while being watched by the glowering ram. . .


Rural round up

04/08/2013

Food, drink and stock feed in whey crisis – Stephen Bell,

No Fonterra-branded consumer products are affected by contaminated whey, the firm said this morning.

It referred to the crisis following revelations it had produced 38 tonnes of whey concentrate contaminated with the potentially deadly Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, as “the quality issue”.

The farmer co-operative’s statement said it had assured consumers in global markets including Australia, Asia, China, Latin America, New Zealand and the Middle East that none of its range of branded consumer products contained the affected whey protein concentrate (WPC80).

In addition to branded consumer products, Fonterra markets a range of commercial ingredients under its NZMP label. These ingredients are sold to other food companies that use them to manufacture their own consumer products. . .

Fonterra botulism scare caused by dirty pipe –  Amelia Wade , Matthew Theunissen:

The potential contamination of Fonterra products with botulism occurred as a result of a dirty pipe at the company’s Hautapu plant, it says.

Fonterra is still refusing to disclose which of its eight customers were potentially affected by the contamination, saying it was up to them and their regulatory authorities to make those decisions.

Managing director of New Zealand milk products Gary Romano said the contamination occurred as a result of a dirty pipe at Fonterra’s Hautapu plant in Waikato. . .

Russia bans all Fonterra products  – Christopher Adams:

Russia has made one of the most extreme responses to Fonterra’s contamination scare so far, banning all goods made by the New Zealand dairy giant, according to media reports.

Russia was not on the list of affected countries released by Trade Minister Tim Grocer yesterday, which included New Zealand, Australia, China, Vietnam and Thailand.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that the country’s consumer-protection watchdog was recalling Fonterra’s products, including infant formula, and advising consumers in Russia not to buy its products. . .

 

Asparagus bred to beat fungus – Tony Benny:

Canterbury plant breeder Peter Falloon has developed the world’s first asparagus cultivar to have resistance to phytophthora, a fungus that eats the plants’ roots and can devastate crops.

“It is exciting and the nice thing is it’s done in New Zealand, so the growers here can take advantage of it,” he said.

“One of the main drivers in food crops is reduced chemical application and this is a major aim of the asparagus industry in New Zealand. So this gives it a jump on the rest of the world.

“We can back some of our clean, green claims with the fact that this is one more chemical that we’re not using.” . . .

New HortNZ head well know to industry – Peter Watson:

Life just got even busier for Nelson fruit and berry grower Julian Raine with his election as president of Horticulture New Zealand.

Raine, who already has roles in other industry organisations, took over this week from Andrew Fenton who has been president since HortNZ’s inception in 2005.

Fenton said Raine was well respected in the industry and the ideal person to steer the national organisation through the next stage of its journey to becoming a $10 billion industry by 2020.

Raine, who was elected to the HortNZ board in 2011, said he accepted the nomination for president because he wanted to make a difference. . .

Organic carrots no hippy operation – Tony Cronshaw:

Rows of carrots spaced with a precision that could not be done by the human eye give the first clue that the Hicks family runs a modern arable operation.

There are no sandals or hippy beads at Willowmere Organic Farm in Hororata.

On the contrary, cultivated rows of carrots and other crops are prepared and planted at the large operation owned by the Hicks family of Kelvin and his parents, John and Trish, with satellite- aligned GPS equipment.

Kelvin says they make the most of advanced technology to push organic production. . .

Meads goes from breeding to beefing up events – Hugh Stringleman:

Performance Beef Breeders (PBB) chief executive Murray Meads has stepped down after 16 years to concentrate on events management and a new restaurant for the centre of Feilding.

Since 1997 Meads has grown the PBB bureau from four full-time staff members to 16, for the needs of 13 beef cattle breed societies and ancillary services and events.

His future role is events and project manager for Hot Wire Events, a new subsidiary of PBB. . .

This beautiful “189 Miles” wool installation by Angela Wright, featured in the Wool Modern Exhibition in Syndey in 2012 and wallspace at All Hallows church, London:

This beautiful wool installation by Angela Wright, featured in the Wool Modern Exhibition in Syndey in 2012. Click on the link to see the original exhibition and the creation process behind it  http://bit.ly/16NprGw
An illustrated explanation of how it was made is here. (Hat tip: Campaign for Wool)

Rural round-up

05/06/2013

Hepatitis A outbreak linked to Oregon berry farm – Mary Clare Jalonick:

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A linked to a frozen organic berry mix sold by an Oregon company.

The FDA and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that 30 illnesses are linked to Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, which contains pomegranate seed mix. Illnesses were reported in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California.

Several of those who fell ill reported buying the berry mix at Costco, according to CDC. A Costco spokesman said Friday that the company has removed the product from stores and is attempting to contact members who purchased the product in recent months. . .

Research shows importance of dairy

New consumer research shows 72% of Asians think dairy is an important part of a balanced diet.

However, the research also shows fewer than half the 9000 people surveyed in nine countries are eating every day.

Fonterra strategy director Maury Leyland said the results clearly demonstrate growing awareness of the importance of dairy nutrition across the region and the opportunity this presents to the New Zealand dairy industry. . .

High quality tipped for bumper olive harvest – Peter Watson:

It’s a nervous time for Nelson olive growers as they try to beat the onset of winter, and the birds, to harvest what is expected to be a record crop.

Ideally, Peter Coubrough wanted to wait a couple of weeks before starting picking on his small grove on the Waimea estuary near Mapua to allow further ripening and get the oil percentage up, but he was unwilling to take that risk and lose a heavy crop.

“The weather hasn’t been as warm and sunny as we would have hoped.

“If we don’t get the fruit off now it will either get frosted or the birds will get it,” he said as the pickers arrived last week to begin work at Frog’s End Estate. . .

Vital investment tool developed for wood processors:

A major study report released by the Wood Council highlights the need for by-products from established industries like sawmilling if New Zealand is to develop profitable businesses based on emerging technologies, like bio-fuels and bio-chemicals.

The WoodScape study is the result of collaboration between the forest and wood products industry, the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries and NZ Trade and Enterprise, which together funded the project.

Crown Research Institute Scion, in partnership with FP Innovations and the Wood Council, evaluated wood processing investment opportunities in a New Zealand setting. . .

Fertiliser company seeking $10m for phosphate project:

Chatham Rock Phosphate is going to the public for the first time to raise up to $10 million, to help fund it through to the start of mining in 2015.

The fertiliser company said the public offer aims to raise $4 million with the ability to accept oversubscriptions of a further $6 million.

The offer will consist of new ordinary shares at an issue price of 35 cents per share with one option attached to every three shares issued. . .

Reaping rewards of hard work – Rebecca Harper:

There seem to have been a rash of farming awards handed out recently – perhaps it’s the season for it.

As a first-time attendee at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, they were extremely impressive.

The awards, held at the TSB Arena in Wellington, ran like a well-oiled machine. It was a most professional and well-attended black-tie event.

The evening reflected the pride in the dairying industry and the esteem the awards are held in. There was truly the cream of the crop in the room.

And for an industry that pulls in a huge chunk of the country’s wealth, it was great to see its top achievers given the credit they are due, in the capital city. . .

Russell McVeagh and Fonterra scoop up ALB Law Awards:

Fonterra’s Trading Among Farmers transaction, completed in November 2012, was one of the big winners at this year’s ALB Australasian Law Awards. The transaction won New Zealand Deal of the Year and the IPO of the Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund won the Equity Deal of the Year Award, an Australasian-wide category. Russell McVeagh acted as the principal legal advisors to Fonterra from the beginning of the transaction in 2010 to its completion.

The firm would like to congratulate the Fonterra legal team, which also won the New Zealand In-house Team of the Year Award in recognition of their outstanding hard work and achievement. . .

New agriculture vehicle regulations:

New rules for agricultural vehicles came into force on June 1 with rural contractors – and farmers –being encouraged to familiarise themselves with these changes.

Rural Contractors New Zealand – the national association and the leading advocate for rural contractors in New Zealand – executive director Roger Parton says the new rules offer agricultural vehicle owners improved compliance and greater operational flexibility. He says Rural Contractors NZ has worked collaboratively with Ministry of Transport, NZTA and NZ Police to develop them.

“These changes are a long time coming and have resulted in rules that are easy to understand, comply with and enforce,” Roger Parton adds. “These changes recognise the unique operating characteristics and environment that agricultural vehicles require to travel on the road.” . . .


Rural round-up

02/04/2013

‘Inspiring’ kiwi landscape in the blood decades on

Life is still a laugh for 88-year-old environmentalist Gordon Stephenson.

While he was “gobsmacked” to learn that Waikato University wanted to bestow its highest honour on his shoulders, he isn’t above making light of it.

“What do I do in public when somebody says is there a doctor in the house, please?”

“Yes,” he says with a laugh, “that is worrying me.”

But on that score there’s still time up his sleeve – April 16 is the day Mr Stephenson will receive his honorary doctorate at Claudelands Events Centre for his lengthy and ongoing contribution to the environment. . .

Dyed in the wool innovation partners to go global – Peter Kerr:

The time it takes to convert a good idea into something that another person’s willing to buy is almost invariably longer than you think.

A couple of years ago, sticK reported on BGI Developments’ winning the right to commercialise AgResearch’s new textile fabric dyeing process.

The beauty of this process is different dye colours don’t bleed into each other – the picture or pattern remains sharp and embedded in the fabric (unlike say printing on top of a T-shirt for example).

BGI (stands for Bloody Good Ideas) directors Robyn George-Neich and Brent Gregory have spent part of the past two years looking for the right company to take the technology to the global market. . .

Time to shore-up water supplies for the future – Terri Russell:

Southland river levels are the lowest they have been for years. Environment Southland has stopped some farmers from irrigating. No significant rain is in sight. Terri Russell talks to industry experts to find out what is being done to help future-proof the agricultural industry in times of a changing climate.

From flooding in January to a prolonged dry period, the Southland Federated Farmers boss says it is time to look at water storage options for the future.

MetService duty forecaster Ian Gall said parts of Southland were forecast to receive about 10mm to 15mm of rain yesterday but there would be no more significant rain before the end of the week. . .

Orchard optimism follows tough times – Peter Watson:

Turners & Growers has had to make big writedowns in the value of its Nelson orchards for the second consecutive year, but chief executive Geoff Hipkins hopes they are at an end, with market prospects looking brighter.

Bruised by $29 million in asset writedowns, the fruit and vegetables marketer posted a full-year loss of $15.3m for 2012.

The loss, although deep, was an improvement on the previous year’s $18.9m deficit, also a result of asset writedowns, and better than the $16m to $19m loss it forecast in December. . .

Ballance Farm Award finalists chosen – Sally Rae:

The finalists have been selected for the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

There were 10 entries in the awards, which were judged by Matt Harcombe, Andrea Ludemann, Bernard Lynch and John Barkla.

The winners will be announced at an awards dinner to be held at The Venue in Wanaka on Friday, April 12. . .

Venison gets exposure:

The deer industry has just hosted four young German chefs and eight German journalists to New Zealand, to learn more about farmed venison here.

Manager for Deer Industry New Zealand, Innes Moffat, said the aim was to enthuse them about farm-raised venison and develop relationships with these influential people within German cuisine.

“Some of the feedback from both the young chefs and journalists reveals that there is an ongoing need to improve the level of understanding of how NZ venison is grown and how it can be prepared.” . .

Technology important part of farming – Terri Russell:

New Zealand dairy farmer co- operative LIC delivered its farmer workshops in Southland and Otago. 

Last week sessions were held in Gore, Invercargill and Balclutha as part of a series of workshops throughout the country. It provided dairy farmers with the knowledge to plan and record drying- off of cows and and the culling of cows.

There were two sessions on how to enter and access data in MINDApro, a herd management software program, and a more advanced session on how to produce more tailored reports using the program. . .

Agland goes to market:

A $150 million-plus portfolio of Australian agricultural land, including the remaining PrimeAg Australia assets, is being offered to institutional investors just as they start to show greater enthusiasm for the alternative asset class.

Last week the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, one of the world’s largest pension funds, said it planned to start buying Australian farmland.

That follows two Swedish pension funds known as ­AP-fonden, the Michigan Municipal Employees’ Retirement System, US-based fund manager TIAA CREF and the Qatar Investment Authority buying Australian ­agricultural land in the past 12 to 18 months. . .


Rural round-up

27/11/2012

Hardy annual a cut above the rest – Peter Watson:

Tim McKergow isn’t getting much sleep at present.

He’s in the middle of the paeony harvest, a six-week sprint to pick and pack the prized flowers for export to the United States and Asia.

It means long days for his seven staff and even longer days for him deciding which flowers to send where for the best return and filling in an “awful lot of paperwork” to get them there.

The top out-of-season blooms sell for $US30 ($NZ36.37) a stem in upmarket Manhattan florists in New York, although by the time everyone else takes their cut he will only get about $2. . .

Rustlers caught in the act by Bay of Plenty farmer:

Federated Farmers is warning rustlers and poachers that eyes in the rural community are wide open for suspicious activity. Something rammed home to poachers after they were caught in the Bay of Plenty.

“Perhaps the big lesson I learned, is not to leave your mobile phone on the kitchen table,” says Rick Powdrell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson.

“As the matter is before the courts I cannot go into the precise details. That said, I was working late on the farm and spotted someone jumping the fence. You can say that got my attention. . .

Grasshopper Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir takes top spot at Air New Zealand Wine Awards:

A Central Otago Pinot Noir has won top honours at this year’s Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

The Grasshopper Rock Central Otago Earnscleugh Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 was awarded the Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show Trophy at a gala dinner in Wellington on Saturday.

This marks the first ever win at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards for the Central Otago wine producer with judges describing the winning wine as “complex, round and rich”. The wine also won the JF Hillebrand New Zealand Ltd Champion Pinot Noir Trophy. Grasshopper Rock’s vineyard is situated in the southern-most latitude of the winegrowing areas in Central Otago. The five shareholding families of Grasshopper Rock originally met through a common interest in agriculture, with four members involved in rural banking. . .

Southland Hosts Environmental Leadership Forum for Dairy Farmers:

Taking a common sense approach to sustainable dairying is the theme of a sustainability forum for award-winning dairy farmers being held in Invercargill next week.

Forum chair, past-participant and Putaruru dairy farmer Martin Bennett says 54 participants at the Building Environmental Leaders Network Forum will be asked to share their thoughts on how the dairy industry shapes its response to sustainability challenges. . .

Biotech firm gets $2m boost – Hamish Rutherford:

Wellington angel investor Movac is pumping $2 million into Kahne, a biotechnology company trialling wireless devices placed inside dairy cows to provide farmers with health and fertility data.

Founded by Gisborne farmer Michael Eivers in 2002, Kahne was run on a shoestring before hiring former American investment banker Susanne Clay as its first fulltime chief executive last year.

Kahne has about 500 of its wireless rumen and vaginal sensors implanted in dairy cows and is conducting field trials, with the technology expected to launch commercially in about six months. . .

Villa Maria Estate captures big prize at NZI National Sustainable Business Network awards:

Auckland’s Villa Maria Estate has been named Sustainable Business of the Year at the NZI National Sustainable Business Network Awards announced last night (22 November).

The awards, which are now in their ninth year, are the pre-eminent sustainability awards in New Zealand. They recognise leaders in social innovation and businesses that are championing sustainability and new sustainable market solutions. The awards celebrate savvy organisations that are reshaping their business models for a more sustainable New Zealand. . .

And from Smile Project:


Rural round-up

01/11/2012

Wool’s future far from woolly:

Farmers are counting down the days to when major shareholdings in New Zealand Wool Services International (NZWSI) will be on-sold by the receivers.

“In a green-aware age, bales of wool should be flying out of our woolsheds. As they are not, is why management consultants could describe the wool industry as a ‘problem child’,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson. . .

New Head of Farm Environment Trust Ready for Challenge:

Well-known Wanganui farmer Alistair Polson has been elected chairperson of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

He takes over from North Waikato farmer Jim Cotman who has stepped down after six years in the role.

Mr Polson’s extensive experience in farming politics and business management includes serving as national president of Federated Farmers from 1999 to 2002.

Since 2004 he has been Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand. He is a former director or committee member of a number of rural-based organisations, including AgITO, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Veterinary Council of New Zealand and NZ Landcare Trust. . .

Deep in the current – Bruce Munro:

Graeme Martin has been described as everything from a compassionate, principled, visionary genius to an inflexible, stubborn, demanding taskmaster. Bruce Munro examines pieces of the puzzle that make up the influential, complex and soon to retire chief executive of the Otago Regional Council.

“I shan’t forget a very large fist waved very close to my face” Graeme Martin says.

He is sitting in a comfortable chair in a corner office with city, harbour and peninsula views.

Three hundred and sixty kilometres and 45 years separate him from what happened that day in the Addington railway workshops.

But there is no denying the edge to his voice.

“A fist waved in my face because I was working too hard.” . . .

Winemaker celebrates 50 years:

The staff lunchroom might not seem an obvious stop on a tour of a picturesque winery. But Villa Maria’s is immaculate – largely due to the writing on its wall. 

One side of the lunchroom at the company’s winery in Mangere, Auckland, is dominated by information about its lean manufacturing programme, Achieving Continuous Excellence (ACE), running in the company for the past two years. It’s brought efficiencies to the business, but benefits in the physical environment are also obvious. Nothing – not even in the caf – is out of place.

It’s a point of pride for founder Sir George Fistonich, but also gives an insight into how the company, which celebrates its 50th vintage this year, has continued to grow in a tough industry. . .

Soil biology is key to saving saving fertility – Peter Watson:

Complacency is costing us some of our best soils, says ecologist and educator Nicole Masters.

New Zealand is losing 11 tonnes of topsoil per hectare a year, more than 10 times the global average, she said during a recent Beef + Lamb New Zealand field day held at Claire Parkes and Simon Vincent’s farm near Wakefield, and attended by about 35 farmers.

“We live in one of the most blessed soil environments in the world.

“We are fertile, we have good carbon and beautiful rainfall, but we are losing all this topsoil and it’s not sustainable.” . .

Convert to sustainability – Tim Cronshaw:

A farmer with nearly 9000 deer who once never put much thought into improving the environment on his farm, has become a fully converted believer.

Graham Carr estimates he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during the past four years fencing off waterways and putting in settling ponds, so the water coming off his farm at Peel Forest Estate in South Canterbury is crystal clear.

Carr has built up one of the largest deer herds in the country, since emigrating to New Zealand 25 years ago from Britain, where he came from a joinery background. . .

A2 Corp to take control of NZ marketing, enter North America:

 A2 Corp, which markets milk products with a protein variant claimed to have health benefits, wants to directly enter the New Zealand market and is looking to expand into North America and some European nations having wrapped up a strategic review to speed up growth.

The alternative-market listed company will shift its focus to a number of opportunities in a bid to ramp up growth, including directly marketing into New Zealand, it said in a statement. A2 plans to expand rapidly include entering markets in North America, German, France Italy and Spain via joint ventures, using local contract manufacturers or investing in regional processing, it said. . .


Rural round-up

12/10/2012

Business skill vital for farming success – Ali Tocker:

Business skills are crucial to high-performing and profitable farms, new research from DairyNZ shows.

The research covered 150 dairy farms in Waikato and Canterbury, and identified the key characteristics of the top-performing farms.

It took the top quarter of farms surveyed, ranked on operating profit per hectare, and identified their common characteristics.

“It’s not animal husbandry, feed or people management – the biggest skill gap is in the business area,” DairyNZ economist Matthew Newman said. . .

Lamb prices hurting Americans – Gerald Piddock:

New Zealand farmers are not the only lamb producers facing tough times.

North American sheep farmers have had a 40 per cent drop in lamb prices with values now sitting where they were a decade ago, Beef+Lamb North American representative Andrew Burt said.

Mr Burt is back in New Zealand having recently taken up the role of Beef+Lamb’s chief economist.

US lamb producers were forecasting an over-supply of lamb for this coming season he said. . .

Alpaca breeders’ patience pays off – Peter Watson:

You need plenty of patience to breed quality alpacas.

New Zealand herds are invariably small and vary widely in quality, top animals are expensive to buy, females take almost a year to produce an offspring and twins are rare. . .

Apple orchardists on a roll south – Sandra Finny:

With little help from anyone outside of family, orchardists Peter and Danny Bennett are reaping the rewards after nearly six years of battling red tape to bring a lucrative apple growing franchise to South Canterbury.

The Bennetts, who own the established Waipopo Orchard near Temuka, are in expansion mode planting 50,000 apple trees on top of 40,000 they planted three years ago, which are already producing export crops to meet an insatiable demand for their trademark HoneyCrunch apples in US markets.

The apples are a point of difference with Southern hemisphere supply being market-led not producer-driven. . .

Unlocking the perfect sheep:

Imagine the perfect sheep; healthy, fertile, and high producing, with meat of unsurpassed eating quality and wool fit for high value markets. This is the sheep that will transform New Zealand’s sheep industry, providing higher returns to growers and elevating the fibre on which much of the New Zealand economy was built to new heights.

With assistance from the government’s Primary Growth Partnership (PGP), The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) is investing in production science initiatives to unlock the potential of this perfect sheep, which will thrive across a range of geographic areas and combine great quality meat and wool traits in the same animal. . .

And an interesting infographic on the difference between natural cheese and processed cheese.


Rural round-up

08/08/2012

Efficiency with farm inputs – a recipe for productivity

An increasingly complex and volatile global farm input market is making it imperative for New Zealand farmers to have in place good purchasing strategies, while focusing on ways to conserve soil nutrients and input use, according to a new industry report.

The report, Efficiency with farm inputs – a recipe for productivity, by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank, says more efficient use of farm inputs – including fertilisers, chemicals and fuel –will be essential in ensuring profitability, driving productivity growth and improving environmental sustainability of farm businesses into the future.

Report author, Rabobank senior analyst Michael Harvey says, with farm inputs a vital component of modern production systems, all farmers in New Zealand are exposed to the dynamics of procuring farm inputs. “In more recent times these markets have been evolving and becoming more sophisticated, which is altering the business landscape for farmers as end users,”he says. . .

Country life # 4 –  Quote Unquote:

Very late last night – me dozing off to the Economist, my wife dozing off to her novel – we heard a cow mooing, mooing for ages and we knew from which paddock. . .

Welcome to the Hotel van der Bijl – Shawn McAvinue:

More dairy farmers are building wintering sheds in Southland.  Shawn McAvinue  talks to one, who says those building them need to “do it once and do it right”.

The back rubs end abruptly when the music wanes. Then the stampede begins. 

    Car Wash, the 1970s disco hit by Rose Royce is playing to 750 cows and a party of about 20 curious farmers, who have come to see a new $4 million wintering barn in Dunearn, near Mossburn. 

    The $9000 wireless sound system is struggling to stay tuned to The Breeze radio station and the 24 speakers in the shed begin to crackle. Then the music stops. It’s like a gunshot fired in a packed nightclub. The cows get startled then stampede. Then there’s a crackle, the radio reception kicks in and Rose Royce returns: “Talkin’ about the car wash, yeah”. 

    The fickle cows are instantly content and return to chewing on feed or massaging their rumps.

Grand plans for NZ lamb in China – Shawn McAvinue:

The sleeping giant is wide awake and has a taste for our meat, say Alliance Group marketers from Southland. 

  Alliance Group staff went to China for 10 days to meet executives from Grand Farm, the largest single importer of New Zealand sheepmeat in China. 

    Alliance marketing development services manager Gary Maclennan said he was surprised how advanced the Grand Farm processing plant in northeast China was, “and how huge their plans are for target growth. They plan to double in two to three years.” . . .

Waikato cattle farmers at higher risk of fatal disease – Natalie Akoorie:

Waikato beef and dry stock farmers have higher rates of leptospirosis, a potentially fatal bacterial disease passed to humans through animals and infected water, according to a study in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

The farmers were probably more at risk because beef and dry stock cattle were less frequently immunised against the deadly disease, according to the report by Waikato District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Anita Bell and health population officer George Cowie.

The study, done over seven years, found the Waikato has one of the country’s highest annual rates of notified cases of the infectious disease, with the majority coming from the Waitomo district. . .

Online tool could enhance farm compliance –  Shawn McAvinue:

The former head of Environment Southland says new technology can ensure good farmers having a bad day are not unfairly prosecuted by compliance officers. 

    Former Environment Southland chief executive Ciaran Keogh said among the well-attended environmental conference in Auckland yesterday were Environment Minister Amy Adams, Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Nelson MP Nick Smith. 

    Mr Keogh was invited by the Environmental Defence Society to talk about new AG-HUB technology at Aotea Centre. . .

Scott seeks higher honours – Gerald Piddock:

Mid Canterbury arable farmer Andrew Scott is now be turning his attention to the Young Horticulturist competition after being crowned the country’s top young grower. 

    The 29-year-old beat three others to win the Young Grower of the Year title at Horticulture New Zealand’s annual conference in Auckland, 

    He earned his place in the competition after winning the Young Vegetable Grower competition earlier this year. . .

Lifestyle blocks a source of tension – Peter Watson:

Rural subdivision is about to come under the spotlight as the Tasman District Council reviews its rules and research shows the region losing some of its  best land at an increasing rate.   Peter Watson reports on what  is set to be a difficult debate. 

    Tasman and Nelson are losing their most productive land to lifestyle blocks and urbanisation at one of the fastest rates in New Zealand, sparking calls for councils to take a much tougher stance on rural subdivision. 

    Recent research by Landcare shows that 24 per cent of 16,000 hectares of high-class land in Tasman is now occupied by lifestyle blocks – the third highest level among regions and well above the national average of 10 per cent. Another 1 per cent of this land has gone on urban development, double the national rate. . . .

New wine frontman takes pride in region:

Richard Flatman describes himself as a “pretty passionate, outspoken bloke who loves Nelson” and good wine. 

    They are qualities that will come in handy in his new role as chairman of the Nelson Winegrowers Association. 

    The 41-year-old viticulturist at Neudorf Vineyards takes over from Mike Brown, who stepped down last month after six impressive years as industry spokesman. . .

Good Things Come in Eights for Misha’s Vineyard

Cromwell, Central Otago, 8 August 2012 – Misha’s Vineyard has announced a distribution expansion into eight markets around the world. The number eight, a lucky number in Chinese culture, has been an auspicious number since Andy and Misha Wilkinson first planted their vineyard on an old Chinese gold mining site on Bendigo Station, Central Otago, just eight years ago.

In the northern hemisphere the new markets are the Scandinavian countries of Denmark and Sweden through Gastro-Wine and across in the important US market, Misha’s Vineyard will be represented by Vindagra USA. . .


Rural round-up

08/07/2012

1080 doesn’t contaminate waterways new study shows:

New research by NIWA scientists shows 1080 poison does not contaminate waterways.

1080 is used throughout New Zealand to control animal pests – mainly possums – which spread the livestock disease bovine tuberculosis.

Over the past three months, scientists have placed large amounts of 1080 in a trial catchment on the West Coast and then simulated rainfall in the area.

The aim is to understand how 1080 – a natural toxin – moves through or across soil into waterways and if the run-off degrades the quality of water.

Dr Alastair Suren is the freshwater ecologist who led the research and says the study found that during rainfall 1080 diluted to the point where it became nearly undetectable. . .

Rabobank runs masterclass – Hugh Stringleman:

Some “scary numbers” on world food security were addressed by 50 participants, including six New Zealanders, in the inaugural Global Masterclass held by Rabobank in the home country, Netherlands.

Speakers from the United Nations and giant agribusinesses such as Unilever and Cargill impressed upon North Island sheep, beef and deer farmer William Oliver the need for greater efficiency in farming with labour, energy and capital.

“I came home to see the opportunity in everything and bring more passion and inspiration to my farming,” Oliver said.

The theme of the vent was to promote rural entrepreneurship to fill the world’s food needs . .

My farmer was one of the six New Zealanders at the Masterclass. You can read more about it here and here.

Pear investment coming up rosy – Peter Watson:

In more than 30 years growing pipfruit, Bruce Fraser hasn’t seen a pear with such promise.

Shaped more like an apple and bright red, PremP109 has been stirring up a storm since being released in tiny amounts last year.

Dubbed a “papple” in Britain, it has been selling at Marks and Spencer stores for an eyewatering 1GBP (NZ$2.10) a piece and returning growers back here more than $100 an 18kg carton, a staggering sum at a time of hardship in the industry. . .

Fontera eyes up Studholme plant – Andrea Fox:

The small size of New Zealand Dairy’s Studholme plant means it is well-suited for use in short and specialised manufacturing runs, Fonterra says in an application eyeing up the factory.

Fonterra has a deal to buy the dairy-processing assets of New Zealand Dairies, which is in receivership. But while awaiting a Commerce Commission decision, the dairy giant wants to buy the milk of the failed company’s contracted farmers and operate the plant.

Exporter New Zealand Dairies was founded six years ago to build a wholemilk powder processing plan on 55ha at Studholme. The plant was commissioned in 2007 at a cost of $108m. . .

Winemaker introduces smaller bottles:

Mission Estate has been commended by anti-alcohol campaigners for introducing New Zealand’s first 500ml bottle of wine.

The Hawke’s Bay winery, the nation’s oldest, is now selling sauvignon blanc and syrah in the smaller bottles in a bid to make wine more attractive to modern lifestyles. The standard bottle of wine is 750ml, or 7.7 standard drinks.

Mission chief executive Peter Holley and winemaker Paul Mooney read research that showed New Zealanders were becoming older, increasingly urban and living in smaller family units. . .

Sanford sells virus hit Northland oyster farms  –

Fishing company Sanford has sold its Pacific oyster farms in Northland to Aotearoa Fisheries.

Sanford closed its Kaeo processing plant in December because of a virus that killed many of the juvenile oysters and the likely reduced oyster harvest.

Despite having confidence that there was potential to breed new oysters that have some resilience to this virus, it had decided that it made more sense for it to concentrate on its expanded Greenshell mussel business, Sandford said. . .

“Meating” of minds on advancing sector – Shaan Te Kani:

INDUSTRY ORGANISATIONS and commercial companies will work much more closely together in future, says Beef + Lamb NZ chairman Mike Petersen.

“There has been a bit of discussion certainly since Keith Cooper’s resignation from our board around election time – about the value of industry organisations,” Petersen said at the Federated Farmers conference in Auckland.

“Our view is we are a farmers’ organisation…. It should be up to the farmers to decide whether they want to invest in research programmes, extension work, economic anaylysis, skills and trade programme or market access. . .

Growers fear limits to their water take

SETTING limits on irrigation use in the Poverty Bay Flats was one of the main concerns raised by farmers and growers at the Fresh Water Advisory Group community meeting yesterday.

More than 50 people attended the meeting at Bushmere Arms, which discussed the draft freshwater management plan with Waipaoa users.

Advisory group representatives delivered the plan’s vision, which is to ensure the long-term sustainability of freshwater resources as well as considering economic and social activities. . .

So You Think (NZ) Reitred to stud:

The curtains have been pulled on the racing career of one of New Zealand’s most successful racehorses seen in recent times with the New Zealand bred Karaka graduate So You Think (NZ)officially retired to stud.

Announced by Coolmore yesterday, So You Think (High Chaparral x Triassic) has subsequently been withdrawn from Sunday morning’s Group 1 Eclipse Stakes where he was odds on to claim his 11th Group 1 race.

The son of High Chaparral was found to be lame after exercising yesterday morning in Ireland and it appears he has pulled a muscle in his hind quarter which precludes him from running in the Eclipse Stakes. So You Think will enter quarantine this week as originally planned before making his trip back to Australia to commence stud duties. . .

Potatoes NZ welcomes step towards fresh potato exports:

Potatoes New Zealand has welcomed an Australian Government draft report which is expected to open the door to the export of fresh potatoes for processing from New Zealand to Australia.

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) draft report proposes that the importation of fresh potatoes for processing into Australia from New Zealand be permitted subject to import conditions.

Potatoes New Zealand Chairman Stuart Wright said that the news was very encouraging for the New Zealand potato industry and it was hoped the Australian market could be open to New Zealand for the 2012-13 season. . .


Rural round-up

24/07/2011

Interest in merino born in childhood – Sally Rae:

Jayne Rive attributes her love of merino sheep to growing up on remote Halfway Bay Station.

She and her five siblings were all involved in daily station life, including working with sheep, on the property on the western shores of Lake Wakatipu . . .

Stock judge wins national title – Sally Rae:

Olivia Ross proved she has an eye for stock when she won the New Zealand Young Farmers national stock judging competition.

A member of Nightcaps Young Farmers Club, Miss Ross (23) works as a field consultant for Outgro Bio Agricultural Ltd . . .

Fitting milestone as CRT cracks $1b – Sally Rae:

Rural servicing co-operative CRT has cracked the billion-dollar mark – reporting turnover of $1.092 billion and an operating surplus of $8.4 million in the year to March 31.

That was up from a turnover of $801 million and an operating surplus of $5.1 million in the previous year. . .

Well managed systems key to dairy success – Mary Witsey:

The most profitable dairy farms in Southland are those which are well managed.

That was the message the province’s dairy farmers heard from Dairy New Zealand senior economist Matthew Newman, who was in the south last week conducting seminars.

Regardless of the size of the herd, or whether it was a low, medium or a high-input production system, the most profitable farms were those that made the best use of resources on offer, Mr Newman said . . .

Warning on dire state of apple industry – Peter Watson:

Nelson’s apple growers are in such a dire state the region risks not having a viable export industry in five years, leading local businessman John Palmer warns.

Speaking at a Nelson-Tasman Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday, he said it had got to the stage where many orchards were more valuable without their trees and would be “less of a cash drain growing grass than growing apples”. . .

New Fonterra boss wants positive impact – Hugh Stringleman:

A Canadian will hand over management of Fonterra to a Dutchman at the end of September, which indicates that the skills needed to run New Zealand’s biggest company are more readily found offshore.

Theo Spierings, aged 46, has been appointed by the Fonterra board as the new chief executive to take over from Andrew Ferrier, who has held the job for eight years . . .

Welcome end in sight for forced farm sales – Tony Chaston:

Is this just real estate spin or is rural real estate on the move again and can we expect modest price rises based on stronger product prices and profits?

As reported earlier from the June real estate figures, more farms are being sold than last year, but at values last seen in 2004. The banks have signaled their intention to lend more on profits and less on land value, so if product prices continue, we can expect more sales. . .

Better information needed on farm technology – RadioNZ:

Pastoral Agriculture Professor Jacqueline Rowarth of Massey University thinks farmers are not being well served by some of the new technology they’re being urged to adopt, to lift production.

Professor Rowarth, who spoke at an Agricultural & Horticultural outlook summit this week, says New Zealand farmers are doing a good job of taking up new ideas. She says that’s clear from statistics which show  agriculture is one of the few sectors that continues to grow.

Market knowledge the key – Debbie Gregory:

KNOWLEDGE about commodity prices and markets helps farmers future-proof their businesses, says ANZ National Bank agri-economist Con Williams.

Speaking to farmers and others involved in the rural industry in Gisborne this week, he said commodity prices across the board had peaked and would soften, but should remain at a relatively high level compared with prices seen in the past.

“It’s not so much the level they have got to, it’s the speed they have got there,” he said . . .

Hat tip: Interest.Co.NZ


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