Rural round-up

July 22, 2018

Fonterra faces crisis of confidence – Sudesh Kissun:

Former Fonterra director Leonie Guiney says the co-op is facing a crisis of confidence.

She says the dairy co-op’s balance sheet is no longer in a position to handle more of the investment culture, while its leadership continues to deny there are any issues with strategic direction.

Guiney, a director for three years, says because the current leadership is overseeing the recruitment of a new chief executive, farmers face more of the same from the co-op. . .

Concerns over Mycoplasma bovis leave farmer confidence in the balance:

Concerns about the impact of Mycoplasma bovis disease on the country’s agricultural sector have seen New Zealand farmer confidence decline over the past quarter, the latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey has shown.

While farmer confidence remains at net positive levels, the overall reading dropped to +two per cent in the latest quarter, from +15 per cent in the previous survey.

The latest survey – completed last month – found the number of farmers expecting the rural economy to improve in the next 12 months had fallen slightly to 26 per cent (from 27 per cent last quarter), while the number expecting the rural economy to worsen rose to 24 per cent (from 12 per cent). A total of 46 per cent were expecting similar conditions (down from 59 per cent). . .

Hastings’ company First Light Gains gold at World Steak Challenge – Doug Laing:

Innovative Hastings meat company First Light has suddenly become the little mouse that roared by claiming two major steak awards in less than a month, including a rare win for New Zealand beef overseas.

Its grass-fed Wagyu rib-eye, from a Taranaki farm and processed for the company in Hamilton, won a gold medal at the World Steak Challenge which ended in London on July 4, just three weeks after the company won New Zealand’s Best of Brand title, one of the two major titles in the Steak of Origin at the National Agricultural Fieldays on June 13. . .

Eight ways to improve native vegetation on private land:

Researchers have come up with eight recommendations on how New Zealanders can help increase the benefits they reap from large-scale native restorations located on private land.

To substantially increase the scale of native restoration, several issues need to be built into restoration planning, implementation and monitoring, according to a paper co-authored by Challenge Project LeaderProfessor David Norton of the University of Canterbury

The study focuses on areas that have been used for pastoral farming – which comprise 40% of Aotearoa’s land area – because these are the areas that will get the most conservation benefit from substantially upscaling restoration activities. Upscaling means dramatically increasing the land area of restoration activities to tens or hundreds of thousands of hectares. . .

Beetles find an answer to nitrogen – Peter Burke:

While scientists and farm consultants in laboratories try to solve the problem of nitrogen loss on farms, a large force of creatures works underground 24/7 on the issue.

Peter Burke reports on the work of the dung beetle and a man passionate about their progress.

Dr Shaun Forgie, an entomologist who has studied dung beetles in various countries, is one of a small group of international experts. . .

World famous in New Zealand: saleyard tour Fielding – Pamela Wade:

Twice a week, Manawatu Manawatū farmers pour into the middle of the pretty town of Feilding to empty or fill their trailers and stock trucks with the sheep and cattle that are sold at its busy and long-established livestock market.

They reckon it’s the oldest in the country, running since 1880; and that it’s one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere.

Certainly, dogs and people funnel thousands of sheep and hundreds of cattle through the saleyards each week, and the air is full of baaing and mooing – as well as that other distinctive indication that you’re in the presence of large numbers of farm animals. . .

Cultivar performance under the FVI spotlight:

DairyNZ’s Forage Value Index (FVI) helps farmers choose the best-performing grasses for their region using its simple five-star rating system. Trials have now started to test the FVI systems under realistic dairy farm management conditions, as DairyNZ senior scientist Cáthal Wims explains.

The DairyNZ FVI is an independent, regionspecific, profit-based index for short-term and perennial ryegrass cultivars, which allows farmers to select cultivars based on the expected economic value to their business. It categorises cultivars into five ‘star rating’ groups in each dairy region – those with a higher star rating are expected to deliver greater economic value for dairy farmers. . .


Rural round-up

December 1, 2017

Essential to keep close watch on alternative products – Allan Barber:

This is the year when plant based alternatives to dairy and meat have suddenly started to pose a more serious threat to the traditional animal based products on which New Zealand farmers, and our economy as a whole, depend. There is no danger these alternatives will suddenly take over the world, leaving dairy and sheep and beef farmers wondering what to do with their stranded assets. But, to prevent being taken unpleasantly by surprise, it will be necessary for the dairy and red meat sectors to keep a close watch on these competitors and track their progress with global consumers.

Perfect Day is a San Francisco based start-up company which has developed what it claims is a ‘cow-free milk’ that tastes like the real thing because it contains casein and whey produced by inserting a cow’s DNA into a particular strain of yeast and mixed with plant based nutrients and fats. The result is a lactose free milk alternative which uses 65% less energy, generates 84% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 91% less land and 98% less water. . . 

How can we make dairy sustainable – Keith Woodford:

The big challenge for New Zealand dairy is how it can become sustainable in the coming decades. This sustainability includes both financial and environmental sustainability. And it needs to occur in the context of both scepticism and some antipathy from within the urban community.

One of the challenges for our new Government is to come to terms with the extent to which dairy and indeed the broader pastoral industries provide a key pillar that underpins the export economy. Without a vibrant export economy, there is no practical way we can address poverty and inequality within Zealand.   However, that is not the way that many New Zealanders currently see it.  And therein lies the challenge.

I live in an urban community, and my assessment is that most urban people think we do have too many cows.  When I ask what alternatives they recommend, the responses are typically naïve. . . 

Cutting down on cow burps to ease climate change – Eloise Gibson:

In a cream-colored metal barn two hours north of Wellington, New Zealand, a black-and-white dairy cow stands in what looks like an oversize fish tank. Through the transparent Plexiglas walls, she can see three other cows in adjacent identical cubicles munching their food in companionable silence. Tubes sprout from the tops of the boxes, exchanging fresh air for the stale stuff inside. The cows, their owners say, could help slow climate change.

Livestock has directly caused about one-quarter of Earth’s warming in the industrial age, and scientists from the U.S. departments of agriculture and energy say bigger, more resource-heavy cattle are accelerating the problem. Contrary to popular belief, cows contribute to global warming mostly through their burps, not their flatulence. So about a dozen scientists here at AgResearch Grasslands, a government-owned facility, are trying to develop a vaccine to stop those burps. “This is not a standard vaccine,” says Peter Janssen, the anti-burp program’s principal research scientist. “It’s proving to be an elusive little genie to get out of the bottle.” . . 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand elected onto Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef board of directors:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has been elected on to the Board of Directors of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) for a two-year term.

The GRSB is a global initiative developed to advance continuous improvement in sustainability of the global beef value chain through leadership, science, engagement and collaboration.

“This is about B+LNZ on behalf of New Zealand beef farmers and the wider industry stepping up into a global leadership role,” says CEO Sam McIvor. “It is also recognition of the high st anding of New Zealand and our beef farmers when it comes to sustainability globally. . . 

Enhancing native biodiversity in agroecosystems:

Project 3.3

Leaders: Professor David Norton (University of Canterbury) and Associate Professor Hannah Buckley (Auckland University of Technology)

Mission Statement

This project aims to rebuild structure and enhance ecological function of native biodiversity on sheep and beef farms in Aotearoa New Zealand. By working with universities, research institutes, regional councils, iwi and farming communities across the country we will gain a well-rounded view of social and cultural attitudes towards biodiversity in agroecosystems. We will fill gaps in the current knowledge regarding how biodiversity contributes to ecological processes, economic outcomes and human well-being across these farming landscapes. By doing so we will learn how to manage biodiversity in agroecosystems in a way that results in gains for both farming and nature conservation.

Summary

Sheep and beef farms make up nearly 40% of New Zealand’s landscape and play a vital role in our economy. We know that native biodiversity can help agroecosystem resilience, but we don’t know what is required to create and support changes in how this biodiversity is regarded, protected and managed in agricultural landscapes. Given that these farms usually occur in the lowlands in New Zealand – where there is the least native biodiversity remaining – they might be the only opportunity we have to sustain some of our taonga (treasured) species. . . 

NZ Dairy Industry Awards not just about winning:

The first solo female to win the Dairy Manager of the Year category in the 2017 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards believes her win proves that women are capable of being successful in senior roles within the dairy industry.

29-year-old Manawatu Farm Manager Hayley Hoogendyk says her success also shows that the dairy industry is a fast-changing environment that is always looking for the best result.

“One of the hurdles for women years ago was that farming required brawn and skills that supposedly only males possess. It is now obvious that there are a huge amount of aspects involved in dairy farming, some of which your ‘typical female’ is better at than most males,” says Hayley. . . 

 

From potato eaters to world leaders in agriculture – Priti Kumar & Fokke Fennema:

Van Gogh’s famous painting of Potato Eaters depicts a family of poor peasants seated around a dinner table eating their staple fare. The artist confessed that this work is deeply reflective of the hard work that Dutch peasants have to do to earn a bare meal. Van Gogh frequently painted the harvest and often compared the season to his own art, and how he would someday reap all that he had put into it. 

Since those difficult times in the late 1800s, the tiny country of the Netherlands (pop: 17 mill; about the size of Haryana state in India) has come a long way. Matching sheer ingenuity with technological prowess, the Netherlands today is one of the world’s most agriculturally productive countries, feeding people across the globe from its meager land area. Indeed, this small nation is now the world’s second-largest exporter of agri-food products including vegetables, fruits, potatoes, meat, milk and eggs; some 6% of world trade in fruits and 16% in vegetables comes from the Netherlands.

But how exactly did they do this? In October 2017, we went to find out. Our team – of World Bank and Indian government officials working on agribusiness, rural transformation and watershed development projects – sought to learn from Dutch experience and identify opportunities for future collaboration. We met farmer cooperatives, private companies, growers’ associations, academia, social enterprises, and government agencies, and gained fascinating insights. . . 

 


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