Wet, wet, white

June 21, 2013

We’ve had rain, then more rain and now we’re getting snow.

It’s lying on the paddocks but not very deep and roads around our farm are still open.

Waiology pointed me to Niwa’s Citizen Snow Project:

Snowfall is not routinely measured in New Zealand, but is an important part both of our natural hazards and our water resources.

Snow which falls at high elevations will generally melt slowly in spring; it will be absorbed by soil (for use by vegetation) or become runoff, which adds to stream flow. Snow which falls at low elevations will generally melt quickly after the snowfall, and be absorbed by soil and added to groundwater.

Measurements of snowfall at low elevations around New Zealand are few and far between, and yet the data would be really helpful in understanding how snowfall occurs, and quantifying snow-related risks to infrastructure (e.g. buildings, power lines, etc.) and impact on water resources. After all, the large majority of New Zealand’s population and infrastructure reside closer to the coast than the mountains.

And so we’d like your help to measure snowfall. You can measure the snow depth after it snows and, if you’re extra keen, measure the snow water equivalent (snow density) too.

Your measurements will help us to characterise the complex patterns of snow depth and water content which are important for monitoring New Zealand’s water resources and snow-related risks. . .

Instructions for measurement are at the second link.

Quote Unquote has a photo of 70cm of snow at Lake Heron Station.

And the ODT has a slide show of wintry weather in the south.


The case against farm subsidies

June 11, 2013

The economist shows the stupidity of farm subsidies:

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN once sang about “going on the town now looking for easy money”. As easy money goes, it is hard to beat farm subsidies. Handouts for American farmers were a tasty $256 billion between 1995 and 2012. The fattest subsidies went to the richest farmers. According to a study by Tom Coburn, a fiscally conservative senator, these have included Mr Springsteen himself, who leases land to an organic farmer. And Jon Bon Jovi, another rocker, paid property taxes of only $100 on an estate where he raises bees. Taxpayers will be glad to know he is no longer “livin’ on a prayer”.

These two aren’t rich because of farming, even with subsidies, but that still no reason to prop up their farming operations.

Every five years, Congress mulls a new farm bill. To confuse matters and gin up more votes, the bills typically address two entirely separate problems: the plight of the poor (to whom the federal government gives food stamps) and the unpredictability of farming (which the government seeks to alleviate). Politicians from rural states, which are grotesquely over-represented in the Senate, back farm bills for obvious reasons. Many urban politicians back them, too, not least because some of their constituents depend on food stamps.

Buying votes is a very expensive business but it means everyone, rich or poor, is paying twice for their food.

Their taxes contribute to the subsidies to produce it. they also pay to buy it and it might well be more expensive because with subsidies goes protection which limits competition and almost always pushes up prices.

 

The farm bill faces a fight this time but the rest of the story makes even more depressing reading.

It makes me very pleased we no longer have farm subsidies.

I’d much rather face the market than be at the mercy of bureaucrats and politicians.

Hat tip: Quote Unquote


Rural round-up

March 21, 2013

MPI investigates GM breach:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investigating how a genetically modified (GM) fungus came to be used outside approved containment facilities at Lincoln University’s campus.

All samples and plant materials known to contain the modified fungus have been secured. MPI is now checking if any other materials may have been inadvertently exposed to the fungus.

“Based on what we know at present, the potential biological risks from this discovery appear very low,” says Roger Smith, MPI Deputy Director General, Verification and Services. 

“At this stage, we believe it is unlikely any potentially genetically modified Beauveria bassiana fungus has spread further. The fungus in question was found indoors in glass houses and laboratories with restricted access,” says Mr Smith. . .

Grasmere water plan request declined – Tim Fulton:

Resource consent has been declined for a plan to irrigate a high-country station in central Canterbury, on the basis it would potentially have too much impact on landscape values and water quality.

The hearing commissioner said it was one of the most difficult, finely balanced decisions he had had to make.

P&E, run by Pete Morrison and Liz Nattrass, from Darfield, wanted permission from Environment Canterbury to divert, take and use water from Cass River to irrigate pasture for sheep and beef cattle. The 35-year consent would have required disturbance to the river-bed.

The land involved was on both sides of State Highway One, just east of Arthur’s Pass. P&E owns more than 550 hectares at Lake Grasmere. . .

Leadership skills programme an ‘eye-opener’ – Sally Rae:

When Amanda Hasselman returned home to Glenorchy after attending a leadership skills programme in Wellington, she admits her brain was ”fizzing”.

Mrs Hasselman, of Temple Peak Station, was among 16 rural women who attended the course run by Rural Women New Zealand.

During the three-day programme, the group heard presentations from leaders as diverse as Fish and Game NZ chief executive Bryce Johnson and former Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast. . .

Tree lucerne planting should be widely encouraged – Alan Diak:

Present drought conditions are spreading and will remain with us for some time.

Short term, dairy production will suffer as will the welfare of cattle. Long term, sheep, beef and dairy production will be affected into next year.

There is little that can be done with this drought for animal welfare and production. However, let us look positively to the future.

I am of the opinion that the benefits of establishing tree lucerne as a fodder crop on farms to support livestock during stress periods because of feed shortages from whatever cause should be encouraged and supported by everyone. . .

A big call on imported pig meat:

With the Court of Appeal dismissing NZPork’s appeal over the Import Health Standard for imported pig meat, Federated Farmers believes this now leaves considerable uncertainty.

“We were not surprised at the outcome because the Court of Appeal case was limited to an examination of process and not science,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Food Production spokesperson.

“It seems inevitable raw pork will be imported from countries which have the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). . .

Waikato Times letter of the month – Quote Unquote:

The skinny: we’ve had a drought over the whole country because farmers use PKE as a stock-feed supplement, which causes climate change. And something about chocolate. I have passed this on to my wife’s colleagues at AgResearch in Ruakura as the connection probably hadn’t occurred to them.. .


Rural round-up

August 8, 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

May 23, 2012

The message gets through to US milk producers – Xcheque:

A week ago we published this chart which shows the margin over feed cost for US class III milk. It is an ugly sight and is only going to get worse if you believe that the futures market is a guide.

Current margins are down to the critical lower limit of $5/cwt. Beyond this the short term futures for feed and milk price take us back to the depths of 2009 and no sign of a recovery anytime soon. . .

Fonterra Payout a Global Economy Reality Check:

The second payout revision downwards by Fonterra Cooperative Group in just over two months, is the reason why Federated Farmers warns farmers to budget conservatively.  It is estimated this revision will see around $500 million less come into the economy.

“When the last revision took place in March, we warned it might not be the final one before the end of the 2011/12 season.  Since then, international dairy prices have fallen to levels last seen in August 2009,”says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“While this is due to increased global milk supply, it also coincides with major uncertainties over the direction of the world’s economy.  We may be an island but economically we’re not.  . .

Meat industry faces challenges positively – Allan Barber:

This season is more of a challenge for the meat industry than last, although suppliers are still reasonably comfortable in spite of the lower lamb price which has now dipped below the $100 mark.

Good growing conditions in most of the country, especially the North Island, have removed the summer stress that always comes with drought and enabled suppliers to put a bit more weight on to compensate. But for processors the combination of extremely high procurement prices, over $6 a kilo for lamb until end March, the exchange rate and low plant throughputs has meant a very challenging first half year. . .

“Team Talk” the best farm amangement tool I’ve seen for decades – Pasture to Profit:

“TEAM TALK….I believe this on-farm staff/team communication system to be the most innovative development I’ve seen in Farm Business Management for decades”

TEAM TALK is a very exciting new on-farm computer communication system that is simple to use and empowers all staff members to take responsibility for their individual roles on the farm. It permanently records what has previously been keep on hundreds of bits of paper, whiteboards and shed notice boards. . .
Collectively Owned Māori Farms Much Larger than the Average New Zealand Farms:

At nearly 2,000 hectares (ha), the average collectively owned Māori farm is about eight times the size of the average New Zealand farm, Statistics New Zealand said today.

The figures come from a survey of farms owned by members of the Federation of Māori Authorities (the Federation), which are a sub-set of all farm and forestry land that is collectively owned by Māori.

“The 140 Federation members’ farms have a total of 272,200ha of farm and forestry plantation land that members directly own and manage. It’s an area that’s more than one and a half times the size of Stewart Island. Altogether these Federation members’ farms occupy nearly 2 percent of New Zealand’s total farming and forestry area,” agricultural statistics manager Hamish Hill said. . .

 Study suggests eating organic foods leads to moral depravity
Science can be a wonderfully vindictive thing, especially when it suggests that people who self-righteously purchase and consume organic foods are more likely to not help you jump your dead car battery, hold the door open for you, or volunteer to coach a community little league team. That’s right, everyone — organic foodies would sooner run a child down on her way to softball practice with their Schwinns than help that child learn how to catch a flyball, and that’s more or less a scientific fact.This is because, according to a new study published this week in Social Psychology & Personality Science, people who eat organic foods are more likely to think that eating those pesticide and hormone-free foods gives them the moral latitude to be super judgey about other peoples’ behavior and skimp on altruistic deeds . . . Hat Tip: Quote Unquote

Books, adjectives and icons

May 22, 2012

Websites discussed with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today were:

How a book is born (warning might be depress you if you’ve got a good idea). Hat tip: Beattie’s Book Blog

The hierarchy of adjectives – scroll down to the last paragraph to find one of those things-you-know-but-didn’t-know-you-knew. Hat tip: Quote Unquote

And one we didn’t discuss because Jim had discussed it with someone else recently but I missed it and you might have too: Icons that don’t make sense anymore – only people of a certain age will recognise the origins of most of them.


Rural round-up

April 17, 2012

The Ploughman’s Lunch – Quote Unquote:

Yesterday we attended the 57th New Zealand Ploughing Championships, held nearby. Thirty-seven farmers had come from as far afield (geddit?) as Temuka, Winton, Asburton and Gore to demonstrate their skill in the conventional (i.e. with a modern tractor), reverse, vintage and horse ploughing (shown above) categories. Judging ploughing is a serious business, requiring assessment of the opening split (10 points), crown (20), main bodywork (40), finish (20), ins and outs (10), general appearance (10) and straightness (20. . .

Last week the Farming Show celebrated its 18th birthday – Farming Show Blog:

It seems only like yesterday two young blokes from Gore took a huge punt by purchasing 4ZG, the first, and only Radio New Zealand station sold to private enterprise.

Even our landlord to be, a delightful old farmer by the name of Bert Horrell, thought we were mad. But once we’d convinced him of our conviction to see this through, he gave us his blessing and some advice I’ve never forgotten. You don’t regret the things you do, you regret the things you don’t do.

What started as a five minute rural segment on a fledgling private radio station way back in 1994, has today grown to a one hour programme broadcast nationwide on a national network. . .

NZ sheep milk heads to Indonesia:

The Prime Minister is in Indonesia pushing New Zealand’s trade links there,  which includes the export of sheep milk there.

Indonesia already has plenty of interest in New   Zealand – in buying our  farm land.

An Indonesian billionaire with close links to former President Suharto’s  family has taken a 50 per cent share in a Southland farming operation based in  Brydon, Winton, and Hedge Hope.

It is a seemingly typical Southland dairy farm, but a closer look shows they  are milking sheep – a flock of 15,000.

Southlander Keith Neylon came up with the idea, saying they produce better  milk than cows. . .

AFFCO and meatworkers both holding firm – Allan Barber:

Getting on for two months into the lock out interspersed with strikes, both sides in this struggle are holding firm. There was a brief moment of hope of some degree of resolution at last week’s mediation, but it appears that after some progress in the morning, it all went downhill in the afternoon with some suggestion the union representatives weren’t all in agreement about what they were after.

At present the meat workers who are union members are in the middle of a seven day strike (or five day depending on your definition of a week) until Friday. However AFFCO says more than half its workforce are on individual employment agreements which means it can continue operating at something close to three quarter capacity. . .

Dexters smallest. oldest UK cattle – Sally Rae:

It’s a long way from Turiwhati to Fairlie.   

 But Dexter cattle enthusiasts Richard and Angela Stevens made  the journey from their West Coast home with their two heifers, Silk and Viyella, to the 114th Mackenzie Highland  Show on Easter Monday.   

 The Dexter breed is the smallest and also one of the oldest types of British cattle. It was the feature breed in the beef  cattle section at the show. . .

A2 signs supply agreement with Synlait Milk:

A2 Corp, the NZAX-listed alternative milk company, has signed a supply agreement with Canterbury processor Synlait Milk as it seeks to launch its infant formula into Asian markets.

The deal will see Synlait Milk source A2 milk from accredited Canterbury suppliers, and manufacture A2 brand nutritional powders for A2 Corp to sell in international markets. With the supply agreement sealed, A2 Corp said it will press on with negotiations to enter into marketing and distribution partnerships. . .

Drive and passion earns upreme title in Otago:

An “enthusiastic and incredibly driven” couple has been named Supreme winners of the 2012 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Blair and Jane Smith run Newhaven Farms Ltd – a North Otago sheep, beef, forestry and dairy support operation that spans three family-owned properties totalling 1528ha.

Their win was announced at a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on April 13. As well as the Supreme award, the Smiths also collected the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Nutrient Management Award, the Massey University Discovery Award, PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award and the Otago Regional Council Sustainable Resource Management Award. . .


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