Rural round-up

02/08/2020

Country’s backbone performs:

New Zealand’s primary sector has added steel to the country’s economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recently released report.

Economic and research firm NZIER latest Insight report – released last week – says the livestock, forestry and horticulture sector have performed well over the lockdown period and as the Covid-19 crisis has continued overseas.

“Our land-based industries have proven themselves to be exceptionally resilient, particularly when it comes to trade” says Chris Nixon, NZIER principal economist and lead author of the report.

Farmstrong: fill the fountain not the drain – Trish Rankin:

Juggling farm work and family responsibilities is a challenge many rural women face.

Taranaki sharemilker and 2019 Dairy Woman of the Year winner Trish Rankin and her husband Glen run a 460-cow sharemilking operation near Manaia. 

Life’s plenty busy for the couple, they’re also raising four kids aged 15, 13, 9 and 7.

“I generally work about four days a week on-farm over the season just to give people days off but obviously in calving and higher-intensity times I’m full-time on-farm.  . . 

From cockpit to farm :

When COVID-19 ground his eight-year career as a pilot for Air New Zealand to a sudden halt, Henry Lambert decided to turn it into an opportunity for a complete change – to farming.

His story has been featured as a positive example of COVID career pivots on the six o’clock news, but the father-of-two is no stranger to dairy. He grew up around his grandfather’s and uncles’ dairy farms and while he was flying planes, a career on the land had always been in the back of his mind. So, when the pandemic started to hit the aviation industry, it seemed like the perfect time to change gears.

The dairy industry’s crying out for skilled workers, so Henry hoped by creating a CV and posting it on the Farm Source website, he’d get to give farming a crack.

“I always thought I’d like to have a go one day, so when I was presented with this unique opportunity, it seemed like a good fit.”. . .

Time for sector to find united voice – Allan Barber:

Several organisations with an interest in the future of our agricultural sector have come out with strategies or visions for what needs to be done to find New Zealand’s place in the sun. One such report produced by the Primary Sector Council has been sponsored, one could say hijacked, by the government, and converted by MPI into a set of financial and environmental targets. Another is the result of independent research and consultation. Ideally either the government will engage with the primary sector to agree the best policy settings the industry believes necessary to meet these ambitious targets, rather than insisting on following the plan it commissioned to meet its own priorities.

The coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming Election have to some extent provided a distraction from the pace of environmental change, but nobody should be under any illusion – this will undoubtedly accelerate when a new government is in power which at the moment looks like a Labour/Greens coalition without the NZ First handbrake being needed to govern. There is a small window for the primary sector to argue for its preferred future direction. . . 

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

Using New Zealand strong wool to produce biodegradable disposal nappies for a multi-billion dollar global market is gaining traction as a new avenue for farmers desperate to find new places to sell their product, with multinational companies showing interest in NZ technology.

As part of the recent launch of the strong wool sector’s plan for the future Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said Wellington-based company Woolchemy will get $80,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Woolchemy co-founder and chief executive Derelee Potroz-Smith says the money will pay for a commercial trial of technology that enables wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in consumer hygiene products, adding significant value to the raw material produced by NZ strong wool farmers. . . 

New crops offer opportunities :

Six ‘star’ crops – soy, hemp, chickpeas, oats, buckwheat and quinoa – could represent new opportunities for New Zealand farmers.

According to the Specialty Grains & Pulses Report produced by an Our Land and Water National Science Challenge research programme, Next Generation Systems, locally grown grains and pulses like soy, chickpeas and quinoa are being explored by local researchers and growers. In the report, researchers looked at the opportunities presented by new and different plant crops in the grain and pulses families. From a long list of 22 possible grains and pulses, the research team narrowed their focus down to six ‘star’ crops they think have the most potential for New Zealand farmers. These are soy, hemp, chickpeas, oats, buckwheat and quinoa. 


Rural round-up

09/07/2020

Wool, trees, rules threaten sheep – Annette Scott:

Sheep farming is under serious threat from incentives to grow trees and more crops, retired Federated Farmers meat and wool chairman Miles Anderson says.

In his six years on the national executive, the past three as section chairman, Anderson said the biggest single frustration has been wool.

“We have got a product we have selectively bred for generations and generations, it ticks all the environmental boxes and many of us are dumping crutchings, bellies and pieces on-farm because it costs more to get them to the woolstore than you get for it – it’s ridiculous.

“If there was ever a time for the wool industry to get its act together and work collaboratively to improve the fortunes of everyone in the industry, now is the time. . . 

We don’t know how lucky we are – Gerald Piddock:

New Federated Farmers dairy chairman Wayne Langford says the next few years will be critical for the industry as it navigates freshwater reform, climate change and Mycoplasma bovis.

The Golden Bay dairy farmer takes over from Chris Lewis, having served as his vice-president for the past three years.

“I think with the state of the Government and potentially them doing another term, I think these are all going to start to come to a head. 

“They have made their intentions pretty clear on that so I think these next three years are pretty crucial in that, making sure our farming sector, where we are still profitable and where there are still vibrant communities and a bunch of young farmers still on the ground.” . .  

A shake-up for the land and her export billions – Tim Murphy:

The Government wants to accelerate improvements to production and sustainability on the land to greatly increase export earnings over the next decade. But big change will be needed, Tim Murphy reports.

A new package to grow our agriculture, food and fibre industries, improve the environment and stimulate jobs has a huge financial target and an even bigger set of challenges for farmers and growers.

The final report of the Primary Sector Council – Fit for a Better World – sets an ambitious agenda to ‘transform’ farm and forestry practices sustainably and in keeping with Te Taiao (the natural world) to address the climate crisis, while finding new $1 billion export products and saving and developing free trade for our products.

After a long period of consultation and research, the council’s vision for New Zealand’s primary industries is all encompassing: “We are committed to meeting the greatest challenge humanity faces: rapidly moving to a low carbon emissions society, restoring the health of our water, reversing the decline in biodiversity and, at the same time, feeding our people.” . . 

Grief over grain drain – David Anderson:

A whole generation of farmers don’t seem to know about the advantages of feeding NZ-grown grain to livestock, claims Jeremy Talbot.

Talbot is a South Canterbury arable farmer and long-time proponent of farmers using more NZ-grown grain to feed their livestock.

believes the current drought in many parts of the country, and the resulting shortage of hay and baleage, is an ideal time for the practice of grain feeding livestock to be highlighted. . . 

Government Sells Taxpayers Down The River:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is sceptical that 61% of taxpayer funding for waterway clean-up just happens to be focused on the Northland electorate.

Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke says: “The Government has announced that $162 million of taxpayers’ money will be spent on cleaning our waterways. There are 23 projects, but one will receive $100 million, 61% of the total allocation. It is also the only project set to run more than one year.”

“The Kaipara Moana Remediation programme is predicted to create 1,094 jobs over the six-year life of the project surrounding the Kaipara Harbour, most of which sits within the key electorate of Northland.  . . 

How bush fire management is saving the Carpentaria grasswren – Derek Barry:

Aerial fire management is helping save the Carpentaria grasswren in North West Queensland.

The project at Calton Hills at Gunpowder, north of Mount Isa has been running for three years replicating land management that used to be done for centuries before Europeans arrived and a new video produced by Southern Gulf NRM is showing how it is working.

Michael Blackman, a fire management consultant with Friendly Fire Ecological Consultants said the aerial burns was carried out in older age spinifex.

“This country here has a lot of large wildfires come through in 2011 and 2012 and the main reason for doing this project is to assist in the recovery of the Carpentaria grasswren which lives in the old age spinifex,” Mr Blackman said. . . 


Rural round-up

24/01/2020

Failure won’t be farmers’ fault – Arthur Tsitsiras:

Farmers, like any business people, always look to keep costs down and make a profit. 

Farming, however, is an industry with a unique set of variables. Droughts can severely affect crop and livestock growth, floods and storms damage crops and infrastructure, unexpected disease outbreaks and wavering demands in certain products can all have wide-ranging impacts completely out of farmers’ hands. 

In addition, farmers are now expected to be conscious about their environmental impact.  . . 

Primary Sector Council’s starry-eyed vision – Nigel Malthus:

Late last year, the Primary Sector Council (PSC) unveiled its vision for the future of New Zealand’s primary industries.

It centres on the Māori concept of Taiao, which emphasises respect for, and harmony with, the natural world.

The council was established by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor in April 2018 on a two-year mission to provide strategic advice on issues and to develop a sector-wide vision for the future. . . 

Here comes the sun . . . (flowers) – Sally Brooker:

One of North Otago’s favourite crops is making an impact again.

Sunflowers are maturing in paddocks on Thousand Acre Rd, between Oamaru and Kakanui, attracting photographers and adding a feel-good element to the landscape.

They are grown by the Mitchell and Webster families for their animal feeds company Topflite.

“You never get sick of them,” general manager Greg Webster said of the giant yellow flowers. . . 

Robot start-up Radius Robotics seeks to solve world’s soil depletion – Catherine Harris:

Farming by robot is no longer a fantasy, and it also could be a breakthrough for preserving our soil quality, a group of Kiwi entrepreneurs say.

Christchurch’s Radius Robotics is developing a wheel-based robotic system which would direct drill seeds with a minimal footprint, irrigate, weed and collect data.

Reducing the amount of land having to be tilled was one of its key aims, co-founder Henry Bersani said. . . 

Farmers encouraged to seek advice on farm succession planning – Sam Kilmister:

A series of workshops is designed to get farmers thinking about life after the farm.

Farm succession is a pressing topics among sheep and beef farmers, with more than 50 per cent of sheep and beef farms expected to change hands over the next decade.

The Red Meat Profit Partnership will hold a series of workshops educating Rangitīkei farmers on business transition and help them to navigate what can often be a difficult process. . . 

Fonterra leaves impression:

An internship at Fonterra proved to be just as valuable to Massey University science student Victoria-Jayne Reid as it was to the dairy co-operative with the development of a new testing regime.

The third-year science student spent her summer at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre across the road from Massey’s Manawatu campus helping to validate a new test for fat content in milk products that has proved to be robust and simple.

“The old reference method was highly laborious, it involved hazardous chemicals, manhandling and it took a long time,” Reid says. . . 


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