Rural round-up


The world is keen on our dairy products, which is great for our economy – but what happens when we start culling the cows? – Point of Order:

Although  global  trading patterns  are still recovering from the  Covid  pandemic, the  positive  outcome   for  New Zealand   is  that  it  has  strengthened  demand for  the  kind of foodstuffs we produce.

In particular  the   dairy  trade is booming  and  though  the current  production season is beginning to tail off, Fonterra’s latest global dairy auction showed  demand, far  from  falling off, is  still  very  strong,  with  prices  for  whole  milk  powder   51%  higher  than at the  level they were at  this time  last  season.

Dairy products are the country’s largest commodity export and Fonterra estimates milk payments to its 10,000 farmer suppliers for this season would contribute about $11.5 billion to the economy.

The  encouraging  factor   for those  producers  is  that  there  is  every sign  the   high prices  being  earned  at  present  will  be  sustained  into  the  next  season. . . 

Desperate hort sector demands government action – David Anderson:

Horticultural exporters, growers, food companies and industry leaders are pleading for the Government to make a plan to allow Pacific Island seasonal workers to return later this year.

At a media conference held in Hawke’s Bay last week, sector representatives called on the Government and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi to develop a plan that would allow more Pacific Island workers into the country in the year ahead.

They want to avoid the devastating impact that is happening to the current season’s crop as the labour shortage hits crisis point with fruit with harvesting is at its peak.

Due to the labour shortage, thousands of tonnes of fruit has been left on trees and the apple industry alone is already predicting losses upwards of $600 million, with the national crop forecasts down 14% on 2020. . . 

Possum fur paying out more than wool for one farmer – Susan Murray:

A King Country sheep farmer has earned more money from possum fur than wool this summer, as the wool strong industry continues to deliver below break-even prices. 

Ben Stubbs farms 650 hectares in the Waitomo area and said self-setting auto-kill possum traps on his QEII native block had nailed more than 800 possums this year.

It was a sad state of affairs to find the wool returns from his 2000 sheep could not compete with the fur from those possums, he said.

“We sold the first lot just recently and made $4000 which equated to more than my wool cheque. . . 

Fencers share knowledge, skills – Shawn McAvinue:

No-one was sitting on the fence — everyone agreed the sharing of techniques, product knowledge and safety tips benefits the fencing industry.

Fencing Contractors Association New Zealand’s longest-serving board member Stephen Mee, of Winton, said the association’s best practice days were a great opportunity to learn new skills, see the latest fencing gear and meet like-minded fencing contractors.

About 50 people, mostly fencing contractors and their staff, attended a day in Palmerston last week.

The theme was fencing on a contour and included topics such as setting strainers and hanging gates on an incline. . . 

Taramoa future proofed for sustainability coupled with income diversity:

A coveted award-winning Hawke’s Bay property manages to meet the needs of both pasture and plate, thanks to a history of smart management and value-added product returns. Taramoa Station located 65km north-west of Napier is on the market for sale by tender and showcases the leading edge of modern, sustainable hill country operations, and the opportunity to leverage that management into premium farm earnings.

Bayleys agent Tony Rasmussen says the property exemplifies the best of what a combined breeding-finishing operation in Hawke’s Bay can offer, both in the conventional pastoral sense, and for how it validates high environmental and product expectations.

“Taramoa claimed four awards in last year’s East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards, including for soil management, livestock and innovation. The current farming operation also has GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) accreditation and is proving its regenerative farming methods can provide both sustainability and profitability.” . . 

Solid performance underpins Pukenui appeal with several purchase options:

The desirable central Hawke’s Bay location of Pukenui Station offers future owners several farming and lifestyle options rarely found on properties of its scale, with potential to capitalise even further on the property’s finishing potential.

The 1,270ha property in the Ashley Clinton district generally enjoys safe summers, with rainfall exceeding 1,500mm a year a benefit from the property’s proximity to the Ruahine ranges. A 164-hectare title with hunting hut and woolshed or the 157ha Makaretu finishing block could be purchased separately.

With its medium- steep hill country contour spread between 400m to 600m, Pukenui also offers some highly cultivable 200ha of easy country providing ideal conditions for cropping and finishing youngstock bred on the steeper country. . . 

Possum fur and pest control goals don’t match


A Landcare Research study shows that possum fur trapping and pest control goals do not always match.

That has been welcomed by the Animal Health Board which is tasked with controlling and eventually eradicating bovine tuberculosis as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Possum control is a very important part of their work.

We currently use a combination of trapping, hand-laid toxins and aerial control – an approach that is keeping us on target in terms of eradicating the disease from the wild. From a TB control perspective, even if fur trapping was subsidised, it would be far too risky for New Zealand to rely on fur trappers for critical disease management-driven pest control.

The AHB has recently engaged with the New Zealand Fur Council to identify opportunities for fur recovery as part of our possum control operations. However, our primary  concern  must always be to keep possum numbers low enough to break the TB cycle. Any fur recovery activities would need to be subordinate to this goal. A major advantage of our current control strategy is that we can be confident we are consistently achieving the extremely low possum densities needed for effective TB control. As soon as there is a conflicting objective such as the recovery of fur, the pest control outcome can be compromised. Stringent performance monitoring would need to be put in place, at a significant additional cost. Some of our ground control contractors do recover furs, but this is something they need to negotiate with their employer as it has the potential to reduce efficiency and performance – time spent plucking possums is time not spent checking traps or laying baits.

While the study highlights the theoretical socio-economic benefits of trapping over aerial control, the reality is that the AHB is already using trapping and ground control techniques on up to 90 per cent of our operations annually, and only use aerially-applied toxins where other methods are impractical. Fur Council representatives readily admit that much of land controlled by the AHB is already well below economic levels for the possum fur trade. On top of this, the AHB provides a steady source of work for hundreds of local pest controllers across the country. In the 2012/13 financial year, we expect to spend more than $40 million on TB possum control. Much of this money will end up in struggling rural economies. In many areas, we already struggle to find enough people with the skills to carry out trapping and ground control across often challenging terrain.

I love possum fur clothing and am particularly enamoured of merino mink – the combination of merino wool and possum fur.

I have sympathy with communities which want to foster the fur business:

The Coromandel Colville Community Board and the Thames Coromandel District Council are against using residual poison and are instead supporting a locally based possum trapping industry.

Earlier this year, Waikato Regional Council sought submissions from suitably experienced operators about undertaking possum control in the north west Coromandel Peninsula.

The Colville-Coromandel Community Board has put forward a proposal to the council to allow the community to trial a mixture of commercial and private possum trapping.

But there is no contest between eradicating TB and fostering the fur industry.

Human and animal health and the wellbeing of native flora and fauna which are all at considerable risk from possums must come first.

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