Rural round-up


Maori Trust beats 1080 opponent in court:

A veteran oponent of using 1080 poison to kill possums has lost his latest bid in the courts to stop a Maori organisation using the compound.

David Livingston asked for a review of the Lake Taupo Forest Trust, after the Maori Land Court previously refused to grant an injunction against the trustees . . .

The use of dicyandiamide (DCD) to control nitrogen pollution in NZ – Bob Wilcock:

For the last 20 years New Zealand has been undergoing a rapid expansion in dairy farming, driven by commodity prices. New Zealand’s dairy exports, although small on a global scale of production, comprise 30-40% of internationally traded dairy products and are a major component of our gross domestic product (roughly 3%). Dairy farming is an intensive form of agriculture and its expansion into areas that were previously used for sheep and beef farming, combined with increased stocking rates in established dairy farming regions, has resulted in much greater leaching of nitrate to groundwater, and to surface waters receiving inputs of groundwater. . . .

Cargill to idle Plainview, Texas, beef processing plant; dwindling cattle supply cited:

Cargill today announced that it will idle its Plainview, Texas, beef processing facility effective at the close of business, Friday, Feb.1, 2013, resulting primarily from the tight cattle supply brought about by years of drought in Texas and Southern Plains states.  Approximately 2,000 people work at the Plainview facility, and they will receive company support.  Federal, state, county and city government representatives, as well as Cargill customers, suppliers and other key stakeholders were informed today of Cargill’s decision, concurrent with Cargill employees being notified.

“The decision to idle our Plainview beef processing plant was a difficult and painful one to make and was made only after we conducted an exhaustive analysis of the regional cattle supply and processing capacity situation in North America,” said John Keating, president of Cargill Beef, based in Wichita, Kan.  “While idling a major beef plant is unfortunate because of the resulting layoff of good people, which impacts their families and the community of Plainview, we were compelled to make a decision that would reduce the strain created on our beef business by the reduced cattle supply.  The U.S. cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1952.  Increased feed costs resulting from the prolonged drought, combined with herd liquidations by cattle ranchers, are severely and adversely contributing to the challenging business conditions we face as an industry.  Our preference would have been not to idle a plant.” . . .

Brazillian beef imports doubled in 2012 – Gemma Mackenzie:

UK imports of Brazilian beef doubled during 2012, but trade restrictions mean import levels are still 85% lower than in 2007, said Quality Meat Scotland.

Speaking at a recent “EU Imports and CAP” seminar in Bridge of Allan, QMS head of economic services Stuart Ashworth said that since trade restrictions were placed on Brazil in 2008, beef imports to the UK fell by 80% between 2007 and 2008, and continued to fall until 2011.
The European market was shielded from these imports as a result of significant import tariffs, however if trade restrictions were lifted, Scottish farmers faced the prospect of lower and more volatile beef prices, he warned. . .

Fonterra CFO announces retirement:

 One of the chief architects of Fonterra’s successfully launched listed units, chief financial officer Jonathan Mason, is to leave the co-operative.

The softly spoken former senior executive for the American wood products giant International Paper first came to New Zealand from 2000 to 2005 to be cfo at Carter Holt Harvey, which IP owned at the time, before returning to the US. . .

And a media release from the Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust:

Competition to boost awareness of pasture renewal:

Over 80% of New Zealand dairy farmers intend to renew run-out pastures this season, regardless of their financial outlook, reports a dairy farm survey released recently from CINTA.

This result highlights farmers know that annual pasture renewal is vital to their operations and yet actions do not always follow those intentions.

To encourage more action on pasture renewal, agribusiness organisations have the opportunity to get alongside farmers to discuss and encourage their annual pasture renewal programmes through the “Win a Free Paddock” campaign which runs from 20 January through until the closure date of 28 February.

Open to all farmers (from both the dairy and sheep/beef/deer sectors) the three prizes, valued at $8,000 each, will be drawn on 5 March 2013. The prizes consist of products and technical advice used in the pasture renewal process and may be redeemed direct from the winners’ nominated rural retailer.

On-line entries are encouraged at Entry forms are also available from most rural retailers or direct from their representatives. Winners will have the option to undertake their pasture renewal in either autumn or spring depending on their farming system and location.

Run by the Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust (PRCT), the competition is an excellent chance to be “in the money” and “do something about the difference” between the best producing paddock on farm and the worst”, to boost overall farm productivity, says PRCT project manager Nicola Holmes.

“PRCT recognises the importance of trusted, long-term working relationships between rural retailer representatives, contractors, consultants and farmers and having them plan programmes and timing of pasture sowing to ensure the best results,” says Nicola.  “Right now plans for autumn pasture renewal activity for 2013 will be well underway on many North Island dairy farms.”

Farmers not committed to an annual pasture renewal programme miss the chance to significantly improve pasture quality on their farm, which in turn will ensure greater productivity, increased returns, improved animal health and more farm management options.

Nicola says The CINTA survey of 600 dairy farmers nationwide shows cropping programmes, not finances, are the biggest barrier to increased areas of pasture renewal on New Zealand dairy farms.

Around New Zealand the total percentage of pasture renewal falls well behind the 10-12% annually recommended by the Trust. Dairy farmers renew around 6-7% annually and the sheep and beef sector 2-3%.

Growing grass, growing economy


Increasing the quality and management of pastures could increase pastoral farming’s contribution to the economy from $16 billion to $19 billion a year:

The farm-gate value of dairy, sheep and beef products grew by 58% from $10.2 billion in the 2006/2007 season, to $16.3 billion in the 2010/2011 season – but greater investment in pasture renewal could have boosted growth even further. 

“Pasture-based farmers are making a very significant contribution to the economy,” says Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust (PRCT) chairman, Murray Willocks.  “But if we can increase the quality and management of our pasture crop, pastoral farming can make an even greater contribution to New Zealand’s GDP – and deliver higher farm incomes and more jobs.

Mr Willocks was commenting on the release of an economic analysis of the value of pasture by Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL). The report was commissioned for the (PRCT).  The analysis concluded that sustained investment in pasture renewal has the potential to increase the farm gate value of pastoral products from $16 billion per annum to $19 billion and boost direct and indirect full-time employment associated with pastoral farming from 334,000 jobs to 390,000.

“Pasture is the crop on which our dairy, beef, sheep, and deer sectors rely,” “But we’re not investing as much as we should to maintain the quality and productivity of our pastures. 

“BERL’s report confirms that while there has been an increase in the proportion of dairy pasture being renewed in recent years, overall investment in pasture renewal in New Zealand remains low.  BERL’s $19 billion projection can only be achieved if the proportion of sheep, beef, and deer pasture continuously renewed rises from just 2% per annum at present to 8%, and dairying pasture renewal rises from 6.6% to 12%.”

PRCT says decisions about where to invest in pasture renewal are best made by individual farmers. The return to individual farmers will vary according to region, and the specific paddocks renewed on each farm.

“Farmers know their land best, and need to know which paddocks will give the greatest return on investment.  Trials have shown response rates following pasture renewal can vary widely within one property, with a significant difference in performance between the lowest and highest performing pastures.”

“The challenge for each farmer is to take advantage of hardy modern ryegrass and white clover cultivars within a programme of improved pasture management. We understand the pasture renewal process and its follow-up management needs careful planning, and a close eye needs to be kept on pasture development in the first two years.”

“Quality pastures are the foundation of productive, sustainable farming.  We cannot afford to take them for granted if we want pastoral farming to remain a cornerstone of the New Zealand economy for generations to come.

“The goal of encouraging increased investment in pasture renewal and management is to achieve an economically and environmentally sustainable increase in the quantity of product produced per hectare through optimal management of the feedbase.”   

Note:  Total GDP contribution from the pastoral sector is estimated at $24.5 billion – one eighth or 12.2% of GDP – compared with $17.5 billion from the tourism industry (under 9%). Using a simple ratio, if the tourism industry were to generate the same $24.5 billion a year of GDP as pasture does, short-term overseas visitor numbers would need to rise from around 2.5 million today, to around 3.5 million. 

Good farmers produce more grass and better stock and pasture quality is one of the factors that make a difference.

The full BERL report is here.

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