Rural round-up

September 16, 2020

Greens warned fertiliser tax will ‘create pressure on farmers’ :

The Green Party is being warned that a fertiliser levy is not a solution to more sustainable farming.

The Greens unveiled its agriculture policy in Canterbury at the weekend, where the party announced its plans to levy nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser sales.

They also want to establish an almost $300 million fund for the transition to regenerative and organic farming.

Environmental consultant Dave Ashby runs a dairy farm in North Canterbury.

Keeping animals fenced out, planting along the banks and adding oxygen weed are just a few of the measures he takes to keep his waterways clean.

To prove how clean the water is at his man-made drain he took a handful and drank it. . . 

Independently assessed candidates for Fonterra Board of Directors’ election announced:

Incumbent Director Brent Goldsack, along with Nathan Guy, Cathy Quinn and Mike O’Connor have been announced as the Independently Assessed Candidates for the 2020 Fonterra Farmer Directors’ election. This year there are two Board positions up for election.

Nathan Guy, Mike O’Connor and Cathy Quinn were recommended by the Independent Selection Panel after their assessment process.

Incumbent Director Brent Goldsack is seeking re-election and chose to participate in the Independent Assessment Process. The Panel’s assessment of Brent will be included in the voting pack and as a re-standing Director he automatically goes through to the ballot. . .

Farm worker shows what folk with disabilities can do – George Clark:

A South Canterbury-based farm hand hopes to shed light on people with disabilities who have been overlooked for employment.

Timaru’s David Hanford Boyes has no balance and requires a walking stick to move.

While picking fruit in Australia in 1996, he was swept off a ladder by a branch and fell to the ground, crushing three vertebrae in his back.

Mr Hanford Boyes said he was lucky to have leading surgeons in Melbourne at the time offering a surgery not before tried on humans. . . 

Sharing his passion for dairy farming – Mary-Jo Tohill:

Telford dairy farm manager John Thornley has played a key role in getting the first GoDairy course under way at the Southern Institute of Technology Telford campus. He has first-hand knowledge of making a career change, as Mary-Jo Tohill reports.

After going from cook to cow cocky, Telford dairy farm manager John Thornley can relate to change.

He played a key role in getting the first GoDairy course under way at the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) Telford campus near Balclutha last month, and said he got a real kick out of seeing the 13 people taking part make big changes to their lives.

“They’re like a breath of fresh air and they’re wanting to learn all they can about dairying.” . . 

New director will help push for smarter farming:

Intellectual property lawyer and farm owner Jane Montgomery is Ravensdown’s newest shareholder-elected director, announced at yesterday’s 2020 annual meeting.

Christchurch-based Jane owns a farm in North Canterbury and has been elected as director of Area 3, which extends from Selwyn to the top of the South Island and includes the West Coast.

Ravensdown Chair John Henderson says Jane’s new perspective will be important as the co-operative and its shareholders tackle opportunities and challenges in a volatile world. . . 

 

Commission releases final report on Fonterra’s milk price:

The Commerce Commission has today released its final report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2019/20 dairy season.

The base milk price is the average price Fonterra sets for raw milk supplied by farmers, which is currently forecast to be $7.10 – $7.20 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2019/20 dairy season.

The Commission is required to review the calculation at the end of each dairy season under the milk price monitoring regime in the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA). The regime is designed to provide Fonterra with incentives to set the base milk price consistent with efficient and contestable market outcomes. . . 

 

 


Rural round-up

August 19, 2020

COVID-19: Time for a rethink on priorities – Doug Edmeades:

The Government needs to put environmental goals on the back burner whilst managing debt from COVID-19, according to Dr Doug Edmeades.

New Zealand’s Government has spent about $50-odd billion to-date to counteract the ravages of the COVID virus.

It is an enormous debt. Somehow, someday, we must repay it. But how?

Unfortunately, our tourism industry is also a casualty of the virus. This leaves agriculture as the only industry large enough to muscle-down this debt over time. . . 

Ruminant methane under the spotlight:

For over 20 years New Zealand’s farmers have been unfairly harangued and vilified for their animal’s ruminant methane emissions and a new farming group says it wants to set the record straight.

A recently established organization named “FARM”, which stands for Facts About Ruminant Methane, has been set up by concerned farmers and scientists to present the facts about ruminant methane to challenge unjustified, unscientific emissions reduction requirements imposed by the Government.

FARM says the politics is running away from commonsense and science with current climate policy based on flawed input data about ruminant methane’s impact. . . 

Long way from being out of the woods yet – Allan Barber:

The sense of calm and normality pervading the country for over three months has been shattered by the latest cases of community transmission the country. Until today New Zealanders have been going about their everyday lives, most of them still with jobs and being paid, at least until the wage subsidy ends, while the major concerns appeared to be what Judith’s raised eyebrows say, which political poll is closer to reality, and how many more people would break out of quarantine. Suddenly the media has a lot more than the election to get its teeth into.

Cars have been selling faster than ever, house prices remain steady, people have been able to eat out and travel round the country, enjoying local tourism experiences instead of flying round the world, and agricultural export prices have held up reasonably well. It seemed at first glance as if all was right in our little corner of the world. But the latest events have proved this may just be the calm before the storm which could be brewing in any number of different ways. While optimism is great, it would be as well to anticipate some of the risks facing New Zealand and ensure there are strategies to manage them. . . 

Fonterra confirms appointment of Teh-han Chow:

Fonterra is pleased to confirm the appointment of Teh-han Chow to the role of Chief Executive Officer, Greater China.

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell says since December 2019, Teh-han has been at the helm in an acting capacity, overseeing the Co-op’s overall Greater China business, including Ingredients, Foodservice, Consumer Brands and China Farms.

“He’s made an impressive contribution. It’s certainly not been a steady-state. Teh-han has been responsible for implementation of our new strategy across the Greater China business, and over the course of this calendar year, has shown outstanding resilience, resourcefulness and empathy in getting his team and our China business through the ongoing challenge of the COVID-19 global pandemic. . . 

Growing Food Through COVID-19 – Nutrient Services Essential (again) :

As farming gears up for a busy spring, farm nutrient provider Ravensdown has been given the green light as an essential service as it was during previous levels 3 and 4.

Back in autumn, farmers were catching up on fertiliser and feed as they tried to recover from a crippling drought. A potentially COVID-disrupted spring places different demands on the farm nutrient and environmental experts as soil tests, fertiliser recommendations, nutrient budgets and farm environmental plans need to be generated.

“Our network will be operating as before ensuring the essential nutrients remain available as farmers grow the food for people and livestock,” said Bryan Inch General Manager Customer Relationships. “The team of on-farm advisors will try to do what they can remotely, but unlike the last lockdown, on really important occasions they will need to visit a farm. Of course, they will check ahead and comply with the relevant government advice around safe interaction.” . . 

Derecho: Assessing damage – Rob Swoboda:

Across a wide swath of central and eastern Iowa, people are dealing with the heartbreaking aftermath of a rare derecho windstorm that has turned what was looking like a big corn and soybean crop into deep losses for many farmers.

The Aug. 10 storm flattened cornfields and destroyed or damaged barns, machine sheds, livestock buildings, grain bins, and homes. Central and eastern Iowa were hit by winds up to 100 mph. A derecho is an inland hurricane with ferocious straight-line winds and varying amounts of rain.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig traveled the area to get a firsthand look at the damage, listening to farmers and other folks affected. He held a phone conference with reporters Aug. 12 after viewing fields in central and west-central Iowa. . . 


Rural round-up

August 8, 2020

Expect increased rates costs from new government freshwater laws:

The government’s new freshwater laws, signed off this week, have the potential to create significant unnecessary costs for ratepayers, farmers and entire communities, Federated Farmers says.

“We all want good water quality, that’s why farmers and growers have been spending time and money for decades doing all they can on-farm,” Feds water spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“Millions of trees, hundreds of miles of fencing, sediment management, nitrogen controls … all these things are improving rural water quality.”

While there is still a good deal of detail Federated Farmers is working through to get a better understanding of to communicate to its members, “we do have concerns around the wording of the National Policy Statement. . . 

Red meat exports record seven percent increase year on year :

New Zealand’s red meat sector exported $9.4 billion of sheepmeat, beef and co-products for the year ending June 2020, according to the latest analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector saw an increase of $639 million – or seven per cent – compared to the year ending June 2019.

China remained the largest market for the year ending June 2020, accounting for $3.7 billion of New Zealand’s red meat exports. This was an increase of 24 per cent on the previous June year – and was partly driven by China’s demand for red meat protein as a result of the impact of African Swine Fever. . . 

More hands needed for milk processing – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra has made a strong start to the dairy season and has more than 150 seasonal vacancies in its processing division spread throughout the country, director of manufacturing, Alan van der Nagel says.

The processing jobs at 30 manufacturing sites are among 770 current vacancies throughout Fonterra, including corporate roles, technicians, field staff and working in the Farm Source stores.

“We do gear up for the peak milk processing demand and we are looking for a wide range of skills and abilities,” van der Nagel said.

“We give the appropriate training and there are opportunities for re-skilling at a time when a lot of people are out of work.” . . 

HortNZ welcomes Govt’s recognition of the importance of  vegetable growing in NZ in freshwater decisions:

Horticulture New Zealand is welcoming recognition of the importance of vegetable growing in the Government’s new national direction on freshwater management.

‘HortNZ has worked with growers in Pukekohe and Horowhenua to demonstrate to central and local government that modern vegetable growing techniques dramatically reduce environmental impact,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

‘Over the past decade, vegetable growers across New Zealand have been taking practical steps to reduce environmental impact through precision irrigation and fertilizer application, sediment traps and buffer zones, retiring land, and riparian planting. . . 

NZ apple industry on track to become a billion dollar export business :

New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc (NZAPI), the representative industry body for the apple, pear and nashi industry, held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Hastings today, with members joining from around the country’s growing regions via Zoom.

With NZAPI’s financial year ending 31 March 2020, the published results were for the 2019 growing season and 2019/20 selling season, meaning that they reflect trading conditions pre- COVID-19.

Gross volume for the 2019/20 crop reached 566,200 metric tonnes (mT), similar to the previous year. The proportion of the crop that is exported rose 5 percent to 395,000 mT. . . 

Resilient Ravensdown responds with strong $69m profit – returning $68 million to farming:

After ensuring essential food-creating nutrients kept flowing during the pandemic, Ravensdown has recorded a profit from continuing operations and before tax, rebate and an earlier issue of bonus shares of $69 million (2019: $52m).

Returning a total of $68 million to its eligible farmer shareholders, the co-operative is confident in its financial strength and cautiously optimistic in the face of uncertainty around Covid-19 and emerging government policy.

“The resilience demonstrated was no accident, but deliberately built over five years of steadfast focus on fundamentals and performance. It meant that we could respond when shareholders needed us most and when New Zealand needed the agsector most,” said CEO Greg Campbell. . . 


Rural round-up

July 31, 2020

Lessees can be forced to cull tahr – Neal Wallace:

High-Country pastoral lessees could be drawn into the contentious tahr cull issue with plans for a population survey on Crown pastoral lease land later this year.

Federated Farmers high-country committee past chairman Simon Williamson believes lease terms will force some landowners to cull tahr.

The Conservation Department has begun a major cull in Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks but operations director Dr Ben Reddiex says it is not eradication.

“The vast majority of commercial hunting takes place on Crown pastoral lease and private land. . . 

Cotter passionate about supporting farmers in need – Janette Gellatly:

Passionate about the rural sector and people’s welfare, Southland Rural Support Trust chairwoman Cathie Cotter says the best aspect of her role is being there for farmers.

‘‘Our role is to talk to farmers who are having some kind of stress and . . .to connect them with the right people to make a positive difference.’’

These could include various agencies, such as mental wellness providers, financial institutions and other rural stakeholders such as DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand. ‘‘We are here to support all farmers [whether it be aquaculture or on the land] in Southland.’’ As part of its holistic approach, the trustees were also volunteers. Most have been through challenging times themselves, so could relate and understand when others were having difficulties, Mrs Cotter said.

It was about farmers helping farmers. . . 

Pilot kickstarts shearing training – Colin Williscroft:

Almost $2 million will be spent developing and delivering sustainable and integrated training for shearing and wool handling.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says $1.86m from the Provincial Growth Fund will be invested over two years to establish a pilot for the Shearing Training Model programme.

It will use micro-credentialing, earn-as-you-learn training to upskill 150 new and 120 existing shearers.

It will target school leavers, unemployed and underemployed people, career changers and those already in the industry who want to learn new skills. . . 

Mataura Valley Milk – the zombie dairy company – Brent Melville:

When it started production outside Gore in late 2018, Mataura Valley Milk was greeted with huge excitement by the Southland community, government ministers and dairy farmers alike.

The growth of infant nutritional product sales into China offered the prospect of an export bonanza.

While the growth of New Zealand-sourced dairy formula exports into China lived up to hype – growing by almost a third last year to 120,000 tonnes and generating $1.7 billion in export receipts – Mataura Valley itself was moving in the wrong direction.

It is, after all, a competitive market with well established distribution channels, dominated by Fonterra, Synlait, Danone and GMP Dairy; so growing pains were expected. . . 

Fieldays Online: 2020 Innovation Awards winners announced :

Forward-thinking Kiwis have been celebrated with the annual Fieldays Innovation Awards, with the winners announced today.

Innovation has been at the heart of Fieldays since its inception over 50 years ago, say organisers.

“It is the very reason Fieldays exists and why Fieldays Online was launched. Innovation is not easy, it requires courage and a willingness to take on risk, yet it is also fundamental to the overall sustainability of any business or industry. It is necessary if we wish to solve today’s problems and prepare the ground for solving tomorrow’s.” . . 

A farmer perspective in the boardroom – Stuart Wright:

Deputy chair of Ravensdown, Stuart Wright on why farmers should throw their hat in the ring and join board rooms.

OPINION: The phrase ‘gumboot directors’ came about in the 1970s when co-operatives like Ravensdown were created.

Originally intended as a jibe from the corporate business world, it became a badge of honour as farmer shareholders put their hand up to influence the businesses they own.

These days, New Zealand’s agri co-operatives are multi-million-dollar operations, with complex business models and risk profiles. And the governance of such organisations has never been more important. . . 


Rural round-up

December 19, 2019

The good, the bad, and the ugly – 2019 in review:

As we approach another year’s end we again highlight our annual review of 2019 in the primary sector as seen by Rural News’ editorial team.

THE GOOD

Good messaging award: Dairy Women’s Network’s new chief executive Jules Benton for her clear, confident and articulate communication of the network’s aims and aspirations, but in a real and down-to-earth manner.

Celebrating success: A lot of excellent events and conferences this year with a focus on celebrating the success of old and young people. The Massey Ag students’ dinner is a great example of this where some very smart future leaders come to the fore. The same for the Ahuwhenua Awards where Maori agri success is also celebrated in style. Feds, HortNZ and the dairy industry and others all did their bit to show NZ that the ag sector is well placed for the future.  . .

Phosphate vital, industry says – Brent Melville:

With the recent spotlight on importation of phosphate sourced in the Western Sahara into New Zealand, Brent Melville takes a closer look at the phosphate issue and why we rely on it for our food production.

Blocking  the importation of phosphate into New Zealand could have a $10 billion knock-on effect into the country’s food production and export sector, the fertiliser industry says.

The industry, dominated by the farmer co-operative duopoly of Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients, said without access to phosphate rock, rural production would fall by “at least” 50%.

Phosphate rock is the key ingredient in the country’s production of superphosphate, used primarily as a nutrient by sheep and beef and dairy farmers to boost phosphorus and sulphur levels in the soil. . . 

Land champion: it’s hard to find time to retire – Annette Scott:

Federated Farmers high country champion Bob Douglas has contributed to the smooth running of South Island high country farming businesses for 25 years but next year his visits to the back of beyond will be as a tourist. He talked to Annette Scott about his high country office.

Endless dedication to Federated Farmers high country business will come to an end for Bob Douglas in the next few weeks.

By the end of January the South Canterbury Feds stalwart will be waking each morning to a new life.

“And it will be one that will now mean when I go to the high country it will be as a tourist,” Bob said. . . 

Migrant workers worth the effort :

Waikato farmer and Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says employing migrant workers isn’t always easy but is worth the investment.

Experience has shown me what works best. I could talk about this for hours but I will summarise some of the lessons here.

Employing migrants is not the cheap option for New Zealand dairy farmers. In fact, generally, it will cost you more but it is worth it in the long run.

Firstly, you might need some professional help dealing with Immigration NZ once you’ve found a migrant worker to employ. That will generally cost you $1600-$2000. Visa fees cost about $500 . . 

Routine border checks detect unwanted fruit disease:

Biosecurity New Zealand has suspended fresh melon imports from Queensland following a border detection of an unwanted fruit disease.

Biosecurity New Zealand detected cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) following routine border testing on Friday of a consignment of watermelons from Queensland Australia, says Peter Thomson, Biosecurity New Zealand’s plants and pathways director.

CGMMV does not pose a risk to human health. It affects cucurbit fruit, including watermelon, cucumber, honeydew melon, rock melon, scallopini, zucchini, and pumpkin. . . 

EPA’s Annual Report on aerial use of 1080 released:

The 2018 report on the aerial use of 1080 for pest control provides greater detail than previous years, giving more information on operations and research.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Annual Report on the aerial use of 1080 during 2018 shows a near halving of activity compared with the previous year, in terms of both the number of operations and total area treated.

There were 29 operations covering 441,000 hectares of land, compared with 50 operations across 877,000 hectares in 2017. This was due to the Department of Conservation (DOC) using less 1080, as there were no mast events in New Zealand’s forests. Heavy seed fall seasons (known as masts) drive rat populations up, threatening native species. . . 


Rural round-up

November 30, 2019

Good sheep meat prices will last – Annette Scott:

Despite global trade wars, Brexit and the impact of African swine fever the trade fundamentals for New Zealand’s sheep meat sector remain among the strongest in living memory.

Spring lambs at $9 a kilogram and record high mutton prices are not a flash in the pan, Beef + Lamb chief economist Andrew Burtt and senior insight analyst Ben Hancock say. 

And the fundamentals leading to record highs in the sheep industry look set to continue for at least the next three years.  . . 

Fonterra claims sustainability progress

It is not easy being green when you are not profitable, Fonterra leaders say in the co-op’s third annual Sustainability Report.

The past financial year was tough and one of significant challenges and fundamental change in the culture and strategy of the co-operative.

“Given the tough year we had it would’ve been easy to push sustainability to one side, whereas we have in fact continued to make progress,” chief executive Miles Hurrell said.

“We have underlined our commitment to the importance of sustainability and firmed up plans to do more on climate change, coal, waste and sustainable packaging.” . . 

New wool partnership ‘one of the biggest’ in New Zealand history – Angie Skerrett:

A new partnership between a Canterbury-based wool company and one of the world’s largest apparel and footwear companies is estimated to be worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and VF Corporation have formalised a framework that will grow the market for ZQ certified merino wool.

ZQ natural fibre is the world’s leading ethical wool with growers having to adhere to the requirements set out in the ZQ Grower Standard. . .

US redwood sequoia company wins approval to buy more NZ land – Eric Frykberg:

A US company wanting to grow giant redwood trees here to sell the lumber back home has won the right to buy another 4000ha in New Zealand.

Tough restrictions on cutting down Redwood, or Sequoia, in the US means people cannot get enough of it to use as a building material.

The wood is especially popular for things like decking and outdoor furniture, as it is admired as both attractive and robust.

To meet the need, the Soper Wheeler Company of California set up the New Zealand Redwood Company in Taupō in 2001.

New Zealand’s moist climate allows higher growth rates for Sequoia than in California. . . 

New tool for farmers to measure their GHG :

Options for farmers have now broadened when it comes to managing their greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint on-farm.

The recent inclusion of urease-coated urea fertilisers as an option in the nutrient budgeting tool OverseerFM means farmers will now be able to demonstrate the benefits of its use in reducing farm emissions.

Urease-inhibited urea fertiliser, such as Ravensdown’s N-Protect, has dual benefits. It decreases volatilisation losses, therefore increasing agronomic efficiency by retaining more nitrogen (N) in the root zone. . . 

Dairy Environment Leaders trade gumboots for suits:

The DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leaders are hosting their 7th Annual farmer-led forum in Wellington from 2 – 4 December with a firm focus on supporting communities and embracing change, says DEL Chairwoman Tracy Brown.

“There is a lot of change currently facing our sector with issues like reducing emissions and improving water quality front of mind for both farmers and the general public” Mrs Brown said.

“Our Dairy Environment Leaders are rising to the challenge and leading from the front as they engage with supporters, critics and other farmers. . . 


Rural round-up

November 20, 2019

Small dog helping with big message – Sally Rae:

Poppy might be a miniature dachshund but the message the diminutive dog is helping spread is a big one.

Poppy is the constant companion of Harriet Bremner, a North Canterbury-based teacher-turned-author who is focused on making the most out of life.

Miss Bremner’s partner, James “Bob” Hayman, was killed in a farm machinery accident in the Hakataramea Valley in January 2017.

Following his death, she launched the brand Gurt and Pops and released her first children’s book Bob `n Pops, which was a tale of the special relationship between Mr Hayman and the couple’s dog Poppy. . . 

How banks peddled a product that killed farmers – Nikki Mandow:

The disastrous impact of banks selling risky financial derivatives to farmers is still being felt in rural communities more than a decade later. How did it happen and how can we stop banks doing it again?

Rural advocate Janette Walker has a storage box at her house. She calls it her “suicide box”. In it are letters from farmers – mostly men, mostly in late middle age – who tell her about the impact on their lives of the events surrounding the global financial crisis (GFC) back in 2007-2008. 

The letters came to Walker as part of a research project she worked on in 2010 with Massey University banking specialist Dr Claire Matthews. . . 

Spooked insurers walking away from agriculture – Ean Higgins:

Farmers face potential ruin as insurers spooked by climate change, drought and bushfires ­refuse to cover crops worth billions of dollars.

Plantation crops such as ­bananas and pineapples, some of which were destroyed in the latest Queensland bushfires, could be the next to be uninsurable, a ­report published on Monday by global insurance broker Gallagher warns.

“Plantation insurance will be one of the first casualties of climate change,” the report says. Other crops including grapes, citrus and almonds could be not far behind, with insurers pulling cover altogether or raising premiums to the point where they become unaffordable for most growers. . .

Research to help rural health – Pam Jones:

A Central Otago health professional hopes her upcoming research will help address some of the inequities faced in the rural health sector. Pam Jones talks to Sarah Walker about a national fellowship she has received that will help her look into the challenges and complexities faced by rural allied health professionals.

A Central Otago physiotherapist will notch up a national first following health research she hopes will help all rural communities.

Sarah Walker has just been named a recipient of a Health Research Council of New Zealand Clinical Research Training Fellowship.

The $204,000 fellowship will allow Mrs Walker, who is a physiotherapist for Central Otago Health Services (Cohsl), which operates from Dunstan Hospital, to begin a doctorate at the University of Otago next year. . . 

Who should take up the challenge? – Gravedodger:

Many people who spend their time in cities with occasional trips to popular places for relief, often  have little idea how much of NZ landscape is bereft of communications as they have evolved to in the closing second decade of century 21.

We store our mobile home around five Kms from the northern end of CHC main runway. A site we used as a “Town House ” during our time in Akaroa.
It has zero access to the Spark network and is marginal for Vodafone.

We also have a site at a small camp just south of the two bridges that cross the Rakaia where it emerges from its gorge. That site has even more precarious phone links and our site has a luvly old Cabbage Tree,  ‘ti kouka’,   that completely blocks line of site to Optus. . .

ClearTech a gamechanger for Canterbury dairy farmer:

A revolutionary dairy effluent treatment system is delivering enormous environmental benefits for Lincoln dairy farmer Tom Mason.

Ravensdown’s ClearTech system, developed in conjunction with Lincoln University, uses a coagulant to bind effluent particles together to settle them out from the water. This clarifying process reduces freshwater use, helps existing effluent storage go further and reduces the environmental and safety risks linked with farm dairy effluent (FDE). . .


Rural round-up

September 19, 2019

New environmental laws will encourage stampede into forestry:

The governments’ new environmental proposals will further accentuate the move of good, productive farmland into forestry according to environmental lobby group 50 Shades of Green.

50 Shades of Green Chair, Andy Scott said the figures provided by the government were, at best, dishonest.

“The government is claiming the cost of fencing waterways will cost hill country sheep and beef farmers a few thousand dollars,” Andy Scott said. “This is plain wrong.

“One farmer on easy hill country tells me his cost will be nearer to $one million. He can’t afford it and is selling his farm for forestry. . . 

50 ways dairy farmers show their love for the land:

To mark the 50th anniversary of Conservation Week, DairyNZ brings you 50 ways dairy farmers are showing their love for their waterways, land and environment.

It’s fair to say that almost all dairy farmers care deeply for the natural world that surrounds them every day of their lives – and they are passionate about protecting and nurturing it for the generations to come.

For dairy farmers, the focus in the past few years has been on improving waterways, enhancing biodiversity, and controlling predators, both weed plants and animal pests, such as possums, rats and stoats.  They know some of their actions are also already helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and that there are further mitigations under development they will be implementing in the future.

The farmers around the country who are part of the Dairy Environment Leaders programme, set up six years ago to develop responsible dairying, are true kaitiaki. They not only roll up their sleeves on their land, but they are also inspiring other farmers. They are active in their communities, on boards and local committees and catchment groups, leading the way in achieving good outcomes for the environment and farming.  . .

Palmerston North TeenAg student lands coveted cadetship :

A determined Palmerston North student has achieved a long-held goal of landing a cadetship in the food and fibre sector.

Alex Argyle, 16, is one of only three people accepted for next year’s cadet intake at Pukemiro Station in Dannevirke.

Almost 50 people applied for the coveted two-year cadetships.

“I’m over the moon. I’m quite young for my year at school, so initially it came as a bit of a shock when I found out,” said Argyle. . . 

First four candidates for Fonterra elections :

Sitting Fonterra directors Donna Smit and Andy Macfarlane have been announced as two of the four independently assessed candidates for the 2019 Fonterra board elections.

The other two candidates are Philipp Haas and Cathy Quinn. As re-standing directors, Smit and Macfarlane automatically go through to the ballot: Haas and Quinn were recommended by the Independent Selection Panel after their assessment process.

There are two different ways that shareholders can stand for the board – as Independently assessed candidates or as non-assessed candidates. . . 

New directors to help push for smarter farming:

Agri-environment expert Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, farmer Nicola Hyslop and governance and e-commerce leader David Biland have joined Ravensdown’s board of directors it was announced at the co-operative’s 2019 annual meeting in Lincoln.

Shareholders of the co-operative hailing from Southern Waikato to Northland elected Jacqueline who is from Tirau.  Nicola, a Timaru sheep, beef and arable farmer, was elected director for the Canterbury area. Jacqueline replaces incumbent director Kate Alexander and Nicola replaces Tony Howey, who has retired from the board.

Auckland-based David Biland, who is currently director of management consultancy Hughland Limited, joins as an appointed director replacing Glen Inger who has been on the Board for 12 years.

Ravensdown chairman John Henderson said the new directors were exceptional additions to the Board and would help drive further success for the co-operative and its shareholders. . . 

What we can learn from the Visible Farmer project – Dr Jo Newton:

With over 104K views and 700 shares of their Season 1 Trailer, Visible Farmer – a short film series showcasing the largely untold stories of the role women play in food and fibre production – has made its presence felt on social media.

While any initiative seeking to empower, inspire and encourage women should be celebrated, there’s more to Visible Farmer.

Visible Farmer has already achieved what few projects have achieved in agriculture – a community united around and helping share a vision.

Gisela Kaufmann is the co-creator of Visible Farmer and says she has been utterly humbled and thankful for all the support. . . 


Rural round-up

August 15, 2019

WeatherWatch launches new site: RuralWeather.co.nz

WeatherWatch.co.nz has launched a new website and it’s the biggest weather data dump in NZ history: www.RuralWeather.co.nz.

The new website gives people all over the country the power of weather data, allowing for a much clearer and deeper understanding of incoming weather trends and patterns, particularly useful for farmers, gardeners, market growers, surfers, pilots…and of course, every day weather nerds!

We’ve included trends for dew-point, which helps with fog forecasting (and yes city/town folk, you can use our new Fog Forecaster in the main centres too if you’re about to fly somewhere!). We also have air pressure trends, rainfall figures, frost forecasting and much more – and it’s all incredibly granular and specific to where you live. . . 

A quarter century of transforming Taranaki’s river and stream banks – Mike Watson:

The year is 1993. 

Jim Bolger’s National Government has been returned with a one seat majority, MMP is voted in as Winston Peters establishes NZ First, and Taranaki’s Regional Council (TRC) embarks on an ambitious riparian management plan to encourage farmers to fence off plant trees and flaxes along the banks of every river, stream and drain on their properties.

Fast forward 25 years to 2019.

A Labour-led coalition Government grapples with transitioning the country to a low emissions economy within 30 years, Winston Peters is deputy Prime Minister, and farmers speculate what their economic future will look like by 2050. And the TRC celebrate a significant milestone.

The council-promoted and implemented riparian management programme has reached a 25 year anniversary and the milestone brings with it impressive statistics that would appear to underline the scheme’s success. . . 

Smith promises more MPI engagement – Peter Burke:

MPI’s director-general, Ray Smith, wants his staff to engage more with the rural sector.

He told Rural News this is a key element in his just released strategic plan for this year.

Smith says he’s told his management team to engage more, be agile, open and proactive, and be much more available to local communities.

We have to be seen to be listening and acting on things people want us to do to support them. We are the Ministry FOR the Primary Industries and our job is to back industry to win,” he says. 

Pigeon Valley fire deemed accidental :

Fire and Emergency New Zealand has confirmed that one of the country’s largest plantation forest fires was accidental.

The Pigeon Valley fire was started on 5 February by sparks from an agricultural contractor working in a dry, stony paddock.

The report found that sparks from the discing equipment – from metal on stone or metal on metal contact – ignited dry grass in the paddock.

Strong winds at the time spread the fire quickly, and over the next couple of weeks it burned through 2300 hectares of commercial plantation forest, property and pastures. . . 

Ravensdown to reinvest in innovation and environment on back of good result :

Ravensdown has announced another good financial result with profit before tax and rebate from continued operations of $52 million (2018: $63m, 2017: $51m) for the year ending 31 May 2019.

The co-operative is paying $35 million in total back to farmers who bought fertiliser in the financial year. As part of its commitment to responsible governance and balance sheet strength, 23% of the profit ($12 million) is being retained by the co-operative to reinvest in improved infrastructure, research and development, product innovation and new technology.

A total rebate of $30 per tonne is made up of the $15 early interim rebate paid in June plus $15 that will be paid in August. “After five years of consistently profitable results, our shareholders tell us that the rebate in any one year is not the be all and end all,” said John Henderson Ravendown’s Chair. “What matters to them is a sustainable co-operative that offers great service, quality products, surety of supply, competitive pricing throughout the 12 months and ways to help them perform in the long term.” . . 

North Canterbury farm shows off new rare breed calf – Emma Dangerfield:

A new arrival to a Rangiora farm is making waves in bovine and rare breeds circles.

Stonewall Farm this week announced the birth of a three-quarter Nadudana Zebu heifer.

Nadudana Zebu Cattle are one of the world’s oldest cattle breeds and the only true miniature cattle breed. . . 

Breeder looking to provide what the customer wants – Gregor Heard:

THE HEAD of one of Australia’s largest plant breeders has said her company was looking to engage with end-use customers more than ever before to create products the market wants.

Tress Walmsley, Intergrain chief executive, said there was a strong focus on working with customers at the end of the supply chain, both locally and abroad.

“We recently visited a brewer in Vietnam and it was the first time they had ever been visited by a plant breeder, they welcomed the chance to tell us about what they wanted from barley,” Ms Walmsley said. . . 


Rural round-up

June 15, 2019

Susan Murray wins the Ravensdown Agricultural Communicator of the Year award:

Radio New Zealand’s Country Life producer and presenter Susan Murray has been named the 2019 Ravensdown Agricultural Communicator of the year.

The award, presented last night at Mystery Creek Fieldays, recognises people making a significant contribution to communicating agricultural issues, events and information.

Susan has worked on the popular farming-based radio programme for more than two decades, bringing a wealth of agricultural knowledge to the show and building a greater public understanding of the practical and technical aspects of farming life in New Zealand. . . 

Agri-innovations on show at Fieldays – Maja Burry:

Some of the best new agri-innovations have been recognised at National Agricultural Fieldays near Hamilton.

Winners at the Fieldays Innovation Awards included a ‘fit bit’ for rivers, which monitors water quality, an online service to help orchardists find seasonal workers, and a device that keeps a trough free of algae.

The company, Future Post, was also recognised for its work turning 100 percent recycled plastic waste into durable fence posts.

Judges said the product provided a way for farmers to participate in addressing what is a massive environmental problem for New Zealand. . . 

AgResearch wins supreme Fieldays award:

AgResearch and three other Crown Research Institute collaborators have won the overall Supreme Site Award for Best Stand at National Fieldays.

Scion, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Environmental Science and Research joined forces with AgResearch to showcase innovative science and the research they do to improve New Zealand farming and the food sector.

The award was announced today. It also received a second award – Best Agribusiness Indoor Site award at Fieldays. . . 

ClearTech wins Fieldays innovation award:

Ravensdown’s ClearTech dairy effluent treatment system which was developed in conjunction with Lincoln University has won a Highly Commended Award at the Fieldays innovation awards.

The system uses a coagulant to bind effluent colloidal particles together in order to settle them out from the water. This clarifying process reduces freshwater use, helps existing effluent storage go further and reduces the environmental and safety risk linked with farm dairy effluent (FDE).

“ClearTech is ideal for those dairy farmers who want to save on effluent pond storage and take back control of their capacity and compliance,” said Product Manager Carl Ahlfeld. . . 

Tractor driving bachelor named Fieldays Rural Catch 2019

An Otorohanga tractor driver has taken out the 2019 Fieldays Rural Catch top honours, while a Hamilton dairy technician was named as the People’s Choice.

Eight rural singles showed off their farm skills at the Fieldays at Mystery Creek, hoping to catch the eye of employers – and a potential love interest.

This year’s competition had them brushing up their confidence with some media interviews and sponsor engagements and showing off their skills in the areas of fencing, innovations, chainsaws, health and wellbeing, finance and ATV skills.

Lewis Nichols, who is a heavy machinery operator for agricultural contracting company Bradfields based in Otorohanga was announced as the winner on Friday. . . 

China’s appetite for NZ red meat is surging – Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – China has been New Zealand’s largest market for red meat for some time and growth in that market is surging.

Meat Industry Association analysis of Stats NZ figures shows China accounted for 36 percent of total red meat exports in April and sales there that month jumped 62 percent by value from the previous April.

That’s down a little from the 70 percent year-on-year growth in the month of March, although growth in the year ended March was a slightly more sedate 47 percent. . .

Dairy industry receives boost with $25 million sustainable innovation programme:

A new $25.68 million innovation programme for New Zealand’s dairy industry will drive improvements in the health and wellbeing of the national dairy herd and a step-change in sustainable milk production.

The seven-year programme, called Resilient Dairy: Innovative Breeding for a Sustainable Future, launched today and is being led by farmer-owned herd improvement co-operative Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), with investment and support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and DairyNZ. . .

A Nelson based company creates a world first non-toxic in fighting grape splitting:

Agricultural fertiliser and biostimulant company Waikaitu Ltd has developed a product that could significantly impact the wine growing industry.

Waikaitu Ltd has produced the world’s first seaweed-based product called FruitGuard to help grapes naturally regulate the water pressure inside the fruit and significantly reduce splitting.

Grape splitting can occur at the end of the season just before harvest, potentially ruining harvests with even a single late season rain event. A grape that has split may then allow fungal infection, like Botrytis, to get established in the grape bunches. If the fungus infection is bad enough the grower can lose their entire crop. Fungal pressure intensifies late in grape development – just before the harvest. . . 

Why govt’s GM policy defers logic, hurts farmers :

As farmers under the umbrella of the Shetkari Sangathana start their civil disobedience movement and plant the banned Herbicide Tolerant (HT) GM seeds as well as Bt brinjal, chances are the authorities will treat this as yet another law and order issue and will arrest them; it is, however, not a simple law and order issue. Of course, farmers cannot be allowed to break the law, but it is also true that their protest is against an irrational and farmer-unfriendly policy; more than anything else, it is yet another attempt to get the government to see sense and reverse its policies; indeed, given the prime minister’s avowed goal of doubling farmers’ incomes, the government’s policy on GM make even less sense.

The advantages of Bt cotton in raising crop yields and farmer profits are well known, and that is why almost all India’s cotton acreage is based on Bt cotton; and as a result of productivity surge, India is one of the world’s largest exporter of cotton. . .

 


Rural round-up

May 3, 2019

In defence of the cooperative model – Andrea Fox:

Nearly two decades on from its creation, Fonterra is still handling about 80 per cent of all New Zealand raw milk. But is it time, as some critics say, to chop up this $20 billion beast and create a separate discretionary investment vehicle to chase the money needed to hit the high value, high earning branded consumer product markets? In the second part of her series, Andrea Fox runs the ruler over the cooperative model.

Fonterra’s architects got a lot of backs up when they side-stepped the Commerce Commission, claiming their plan for a super-cooperative to take on the world was beyond the competition watchdog’s scope.

Instead they went directly to the Beehive. The result was the DIRA, the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001. It birthed a cooperative dairy industry mega-merger, deregulated dairy exporting and encouraged new manufacturing and export competition, while setting some onerous rules to rein in Fonterra’s market dominance at home. . . 

Opening the farm gate on Opening Weekend:

Federated Farmers reminds duck hunters heading out on Saturday for the season opening that access to farms is a privilege.

The ‘Opening Day’ of the duck-shooting season is a big deal in rural New Zealand, with 40,000 annual participants across the country. Hunters will pay their money to Fish and Game for a duck shooting licence but access is usually reliant on the goodwill of local farmers. Many hunters find themselves beside a wetland built and maintained on private farmland. Many of these arrangements are several generations old, established on a handshake.

“Farmers and visiting hunters alike look forward to the opening weekend of the duck-shooting season,’’ says Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson Chris Allen. . . 

Continuity assured as ‘fresh hands’ take over – Sally Rae:

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative’s new chairman, Richard Young, describes his tenure on the board as ”one hell of a ride”.

Incumbent chairman Rob Hewett announced he was stepping down from the role at the co-operative’s annual meeting in Dunedin yesterday.

However, Mr Hewett will remain on the co-operative’s board and continue as co-chairman of Silver Fern Farms Ltd, which is jointly owned by Silver Fern Farms Co-operative and Shanghai Maling.

It was part of a succession programme and while he would still be ”here for a while”, it was time for ”fresh hands”, Mr Hewett said. . .

Belief company ‘can do better’ – Sally Rae:

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer is confident of an improved financial performance in 2019.

Before Silver Fern Farms Co-operative’s annual meeting in Dunedin yesterday, Mr Limmer reflected on the 2018 financial year.

Silver Fern Farms Ltd is jointly owned by Silver Fern Farms Co-operative and Shanghai Maling. . . 

Scholarship winner passionate about precision agriculture:

Ravensdown are excited to announce this year’s recipient of the Hugh Williams Memorial Scholarship, Tom Wilson.

The Hugh Williams Memorial Scholarship was founded to commemorate the late Hugh Williams, a Ravensdown Director from 1987 to 2000. The scholarship provides $5,000 per year for the duration of a student’s agricultural or horticultural studies at Lincoln, Waikato or Massey University.

Currently in his third year at Massey University, Tom is studying his Bachelor of Agricultural Science. He is actively involved in the agricultural sector and presented his research on the feasibility of an updated Spreadmark test at the annual Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre conference in 2019. . . 

Real world ranch restorationMike Callicrate:

In late March, a fascinating group of forward-thinkers, innovators and change-makers converged at Callicrate Cattle Company for a ten-day intensive regenerative farm planning and design workshop led by Darren Doherty, a world recognized consultant and facilitator.

Owner Mike Callicrate met Doherty a few years ago on a business trip to Australia and immediately began a long-term collaboration with the native Australian, who is considered a leader worldwide at shifting farms and ranches from the current “extractive industrial model of production” to sounder approaches based on regenerating and rebuilding soils, landscapes, ecosystems and rural communities.

“I wanted to put together a systematic plan going forward that accomplishes our goals rather than just talking about it and never doing it,” Mike explained. “It’s a complex undertaking. It’s hard rebuilding a broken food system. It’s hard for a ranch even to stay in business without fair markets or a democratic food infrastructure that serves everyone equally.” . . 


Rural round-up

April 2, 2019

ClearTech an effluent game-changer – Alan Williams:

Ravensdown says its new ClearTech dairy effluent treatment system will allow two-thirds of the water used to wash farm milking yards each day to be recycled.

It removes up to 99% of E coli and phosphorus from the raw effluent water and cuts nitrogen concentration by about 70%.

ClearTech’s promise, based on Lincoln University dairy farm results, convinced the judges at the South Island Agricultural Field Days to make Ravensdown the Agri Innovation Award winner.

“It’s a privilege for us to achieve this and the culmination of our partnership with Lincoln,” Ravensdown’s ClearTech product manager Carl Ahlfeld said.  . . 

Value of apparel wool surges – Sally Rae:

A new era of profitability is being heralded for mid-micron wool growers.

Despite mid-micron wool being labelled in the McKinsey report of 2000 as having a bleak future, the outlook is looking bright.

New Smartwool contracts have just been released at prices that had not been achieved before, the New Zealand Merino Company said.

South Otago farmer Stephen Jack, who has developed a dual-purpose sheep, described it as “exciting times” in the sheep industry. . . 

Distillery dreams see daylight – Sally Rae:

Young Wade Watson might not know it yet but he is going to have a heck of a 21st birthday party.

The nearly two-month-old infant already has an oak barrel of whisky bearing his name, maturing nicely at Lammermoor Distillery in the Paerau Valley.

The distillery has been established by Wade’s grandparents, John and Susie Elliot, who farm the 5200ha Lammermoor Station. . . 

Definition of lamb now officially changed in export legislation – Kristen Frost:

Australia’s new definition of lamb is on track to take effect from July 1 this year with legislative changes this week registered by the Australian Government.

The move means Australian farmers will be able to sell more lamb with the definition matching our competitors in export legislation.

The new definition is ‘young sheep under 12 months of age or which do not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear’. . . 

Silver Fern Farms cites tough sheep market in profit slide – Gavan Evans:

 (BusinessDesk) – Silver Fern Farms says poor trading in its sheep meat business contributed to a 62 percent decline in full-year profit.

Sales in 2018 rose 9 percent to $2.4 billion but net profit fell to $5.8 million from $15.4 million in the 2017 calendar year. The year-earlier figure was reduced by $10.2 million of one-off costs, mostly related to the closure of the firm’s Fairton processing plant near Ashburton.

While the Dunedin-based company had achieved a “back-to-back profit”, chief executive Simon Limmer stated said the level of profitability was not good enough. . . 

Coastal livestock farm with private airstrip up for sale :

The biggest farm within the Gisborne/Wairoa/Northern Hawkes Bay region to come on the market in the past five years is up for sale.

Tunanui Station at Opoutama sitting on the Mahia Peninsula – which separates Poverty Bay in the north from Hawke’s Bay to the south – is a 2,058-hectare property which comes complete with its own private airstrip. . . .


Rural round-up

February 25, 2019

NZ trade threatened by WTO stand-off — trade expert – Pam Tipa:

The ability of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to hear any New Zealand disputes arising out of Brexit could be under threat.

It is just one example of problems which may arise if the WTO does not have enough appellate body judges to hear appeals, says trade expert Stephen Jacobi.

Seven major NZ agricultural organisations put their concerns to the Government over threats to the WTO rules before the annual forum of global trade and business leaders in Davos Switzerland last month.

Next big technology step is here – Neal Wallace:

The technology’s name, The Internet of Things, sounds both daunting and obscure. But dig below the label and it refers to some very clever technology that will have an application for farmers. Self-confessed technophobe Neal Wallace talks to Internet of Things Alliance executive director Kriv Naicker.

Many farmers are already dabbling in technology’s latest and greatest applications.

Checking the weather, measuring the growth and quality of pasture or crop, weighing animals and checking soil fertility generate data to assist decision-making and administration is made easier with connections to Nait and with rural professionals.

Those things form the basis of the Internet of Things (IoT). . . 

Norwood NZ Rural Sports Awards 2019 finalists announced:

The finalists have been decided for the Norwood NZ Rural Sports Awards for 2019, which take place on Friday March 8 in Palmerston North.

The finalists are leaders in both traditional rural sports like shearing, fencing, wool handling and dog trials, and newer sports like gumboot throwing, cowboy action shooting and tree climbing.

“The range of rural sports represented in this year’s nominations is extraordinary, and I love the fact we’re honouring people from young athletes just starting to make their mark, to the lifetime achievers, and those who work away in the background to make sure our rural sports can happen,” said Sir Brian Lochore, chairman of the New Zealand Rural Sports Awards judging panel. . . 

Native plantings paying dividends:

Mid-Canterbury farmer John Evans is reaping the benefits of native plantings on his farm, in the form of improved pollination and pest control.

“I can’t put a number on it, but I am spending less time and less money on spraying for aphids,” he says.

Evans farms at Dorie, near the coast just south of the Rakaia River, and has five areas devoted to native plantings, established with the help of Tai Tapu native plant nurseryman Steve Brailsford. .  .

Bringing the primary sector together – PINZ 2019 is coming:

Federated Farmers is teaming up with New Zealand’s leading conference company, Conferenz, to bring the country’s primary industry the conference it’s been missing.

The Primary Industries New Zealand Summit will be held at Te Papa in Wellington, July 1-2.

The event is a partnership between Conferenz and Federated Farmers. Both organisations have long histories of running conferences for the primary sector, and this conference will benefit from their combined industry knowledge and experience. . .

Ground Spreaders Announce New Awards Programme:

The New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers Association (NZGFA) is encouraging agricultural companies to nominate candidates for a set of new industry awards. The awards, introduced to recognise and commend those who have made a significant and positive contribution to the ground spreading industry, have attracted sponsorship from Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Graymont, Ravensdown and Trucks & Trailers.

Nominations for the four awards – the President’s Award, the Innovation Award, the Health & Safety Award and the Young Achiever’s Award – open on Monday 18th February and close on Friday 12th April 2019. Finalists will be invited to attend the NZGFA’s 63rd annual conference in Taupo in July. . . 

Grass-fed beef health benefits – a meat-buyer’s guide –  Kathleen Jade:

Beef that is truly 100 percent grass-fed comes from cows that have grazed in pasture year-round rather than being fed a processed diet for much of their life. Standards and labeling laws for grass-fed beef are controversial and confusing. The terms “grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” are allowed even if your beef really came from cows that spent little or no time outdoors in a pasture setting. U.S. beef labeled as “grass-fed” but not bearing USDA certification may be the result of various combinations of grass and grain feeding including grass finishing. If the label doesn’t specifically say “100 percent grass-fed,” or carry the USDA or similar certification, there’s no guarantee.

Even under USDA certification standards, however, cows labeled “grass-fed”can be confined much of the year and fed antibiotics or hormones. The USDA’s standards are lower than those of the American Grassfed Association (AGA), an alternative organization that, like the USDA, offers certification for grass-fed beef.  . .


Rural round-up

February 7, 2019

Drought bites crops in Tasman with little respite forecast for growers – Katy Jones:

Growers are battling to keep crops alive on the Waimea Plains as the drought continues to bite in Tasman district, with no sign of a significant break in the prolonged dry spell.

Irrigators this week saw the amount of water they were allowed to take from catchments on the plains cut by 50 per cent, as the Waimea River dropped to its lowest level for this time of year since the “Big Dry” in 2001.

High winds at the end of last month compounded growers’ woes, further drying out land already parched by a lack of rain and high temperatures. . . 

Court to decide official location of a riverbank – Eric Frykberg:

Where does the bed of a river end and adjacent farmland begin? That is not an easy question to answer, when dealing with braided rivers that often change course.

However, the Court of Appeal will now get the chance to decide the official location of a riverbank.

The problem began in 2017 when a farmer was prosecuted for doing earthworks in the bed of the Selwyn River, in mid Canterbury.

Although he pleaded guilty, the case gave rise to debate about how wide a braided river actually was.

The District Court sided with Environment Canterbury and ruled a river was as big as the area covered by the river’s waters at their fullest flow. . .

Ravensdown CEO agrees farmers have sometimes applied too much fertiliser – Gerard Hutching:

Fertiliser company Ravensdown says it is trying to persuade farmers to use less nitrogen and concedes that in the past too much has been applied “in some cases.”

However it has recently developed new products which result in less nitrogen being lost to the atmosphere or leaching into the soil where it ends up in waterways.

Greenpeace has demanded the Government ban chemical nitrogen because it claims it causes river pollution. It has created billboards accusing Ravensdown and its competitor Ballance Agri-Nutrients of polluting rivers. . . 

Group ignores fertiliser facts – Alan Emerson:

Driving out of Auckland I saw a huge billboard with the message: Ravensdown and Ballance pollute rivers.

How can that be, I thought, but then I noted the billboard was put there by Greenpeace and Greenpeace never lets the facts get in the way of its prejudices.

Starting at the top, the two fertiliser companies don’t pollute rivers, they sell fertilisers, so factually it is wrong.

According to my dictionary pollute means contaminate with poisonous or harmful substances or to make morally corrupt or to desecrate.

How, then, can Ravensdown and Ballance pollute? . . 

Change constant in 50-year career – Ken Muir:

When you have worked for more than 50 years in the rural sector, change is a constant and for Andrew Welsh, an agribusiness manager at Rabobank in Southland, this has included everything from the model of car he was supplied with to the way he communicates with co-workers and his clients.

Mr Welsh said farming was in his DNA.

”My great grandparents farmed in South Otago and Opotiki, and going further back than that our relatives had farmed in County Durham before coming out to Hawkes Bay.”

He started in the industry at the bottom, he said.

”When I started at Wright Stephenson’s in Gore in 1968 as an office junior, I was everybody’s general dogsbody.” . . 

 

Halter targets April launch date

Kiwi agritech start-up Halter expects to commercially launch its unique GPS-enabled cow collars in April.

“We have just finished setting up our production line in China and we have had our first collars off the line come back,” chief executive and founder Craig Piggott told the Young Farmers conference.

“We are targeting April as our commercial launch. It’s all happening very quickly.”

Auckland-based Halter has developed the collar, which allows cows to be guided around a farm using a smartphone app. . . 


Rural round-up

June 12, 2018

Work at Ravensdown’s helm ‘incredibly fulfilling’ – Sally Rae:

It is not very often, as Greg Campbell acknowledges, that a chief executive wants more regulation.

But the boss of Ravensdown is very pleased the Government is investing more money on biosecurity.

He has been concerned the fertiliser sector was far too open to anyone to bring any product into New Zealand and call it fertiliser. . .

Envoy recommends eradication – Sally Rae:

New Zealand special agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen says it appears Mycoplasma bovis is more serious than reports have  so far indicated.

Mr Petersen, a former Beef and Lamb New Zealand chairman, has just returned after a busy time in the UK and Europe with discussions around the future of farming and trade.

Farmers he had spoken to who had the bacterial disease on their properties believed New Zealand should try to eradicate it. . .

Sheep and beef farmers working with nature to create profit:

Farming systems that work with nature are in high demand from consumers of the food that is being produced.

A true farm profit working with a healthy environment is the goal in this new world of ever-increasing environmental scrutiny.

Brendon Walsh from GrowFarm has been working with sheep and beef farmers as a business coach for a number of years. . . 

Love at first sight – after a haircut: Farmer finds his future wife at Fieldays

Taranaki’s trio of Fieldays Rural Catch finalists can take heart – the competition has resulted in at least one marriage and two babies.

Trainee helicopter pilot Lilly Newton, 21, of Urenui, South Taranaki dairy manager Sam Hughson, also 21, and New Plymouth dairy farmer Berny Hall, 29, are among eight young farmers facing off in the fight for the coveted Golden Gumboot this week.

The competition has been a popular fixture on the Fieldays calendar for 13 years, giving competitors the opportunity to test their skills both on and off the farm and a shot at an impressive prize pool. . .

First Northlander to go through to the Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year National Final:

 Congratulations to Jake Dromgool from The Landing in Kerikeri who became the Bayer Auckland/Northern Young Viticulturist of the Year 2018. He will go through to represent the region at the National Final at the end of August and will be the first Northlander to ever compete in this prestigious Final. . .

I quit my job to farm: Laura Hodgkins, 30, West Sussex – Emily Ashworth:

Laura Hodgkins, 30, quit her her job in marketing to take on a tenanted farm with her husband, Andy, 31. Here she tells us her reasons and how she has found her place in the farming world.

1) Where and what do you farm?

Our tenanted farm, Cocking Hill Farm, is part of the Cowdray Estate. Situated on the South Downs in West Sussex, it consists of around 700 acres. It is mainly chalk grassland, rising up to 800ft above sea level.

We run a 2,000 head flock of New Zealand Romneys on an extensive outdoor system, predominantly for breeding stock. . . 


Dairy Award winners living the dream

May 13, 2018

The winners of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards were announced last night:

The 2018 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards winners are smart people who are technologically savvy, care about people, the environment and cows and who are doing very well at dairy farming.

In front of nearly 550 people at Invercargill’s ILT Stadium last night, Dan and Gina Duncan from Northland were named the 2018 New Zealand Share Farmers of the Year, Gerard Boerjan from Hawkes Bay-Wairarapa became the 2018 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and Simone Smail from Southland-Otago was announced the 2018 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year. They shared prizes worth over $202,000 .

“This year there have been a few trends amongst the 33 finalists competing for honours in the awards programme,” General Manager Chris Keeping says. “The finalists are acutely aware of the importance of biosecurity and health and safety with regards to both environmental issues, animal management and sustainability.  It’s extremely positive to see such dedication to these issues within the industry.”

Share Farmer head judge Kevin McKinley, from DairyNZ, says the judges were impressed to discover how educated the entrants were, either tertiary educated or looking to upskill themselves. “We’ve been from one end of the country to the other and we have met a stunning group of people excelling within the industry.”

“We met people who genuinely value other people and how they can help them progress through the industry.  They realise you have to look after staff and value them if you want to keep them. The winners will be excellent ambassadors for the dairy industry,” says Kevin.

Fellow Share Farmer judges Matt Richards, from Southland and Jacqui Groves from Westpac say it’s fantastic to see people putting themselves out there to be judged.  “The industry is in good hands,” says Matt.  “They might be doing it differently to how we used to, but the next generation is growing the industry and evolving and the rest of us have to be ready and prepared.”

Jacqui Groves agrees. “It’s fantastic to see them still seeking advice from more experienced farmers. “They’re seeking out established farmers and asking for support and mentoring,” she says.

The judges say Dan and Gina Duncan can be summed up in three words – passionate, professional and committed.  “They are a friendly, out-going couple who are working on an exceptionally challenging farm.”

“They epitomise living the dream.  They left secure jobs as registered valuers and made the career change to dairy farming, and they’re excelling at it. They’re the complete package.”

“Nothing has come easy for them, they’ve had to work hard” says Kevin.  “When they first began their career, they sought out employers that they thought would be good mentors and role models for them.  They’ve looked for opportunities where people are considered important.”

The Duncans are 50:50 Sharemilkers for the Pouto Topu A Trust milking 1020 cows on the 460ha Pouto property.  Both Dan and Gina, aged 32, hold Bachelor of Applied Sciences majoring in Rural Valuation and Management, with Dan holding a double major including Agriculture.

The former registered valuers have clear, realistic but challenging goals and gave an outstanding presentation which flowed and kept the judges fully engaged. “They managed to get that information across to us in a way we could understand and follow it,” says Kevin.

“Dan and Gina had written a long-term plan on future strategies to improve the property, which they presented to the farm owners.  They called it the Farm Prosperity Report and it encompassed sustainability strategies and solutions to drive the property forward. They had also successfully applied for grants to secure funds for planting on the property.”

In winning the national title and $49,700 in cash and prizes, the couple demonstrated strengths in pasture management and financial management.  They also won three merit awards; the PrimaryITO Interview Award, the Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award and the Westpac Business Performance Award.

“A good example of their pasture management is a comparison report on what quantities a cow would need to eat in Kikuya grass versus Rye grass to receive enough energy to make milk.  It just made it real,” says Matt. “They had calculated all their KPIs of their pasture and they were benchmarking with the rest of Northland, and picked appropriate benchmarks to compare themselves with.”

“They have a good work life balance, they still work hard but they find the time to pursue interests off-farm such as sport, and time with family and friends,” says Kevin

The runners-up in the Share Farmer of the Year competition, Papakura 50:50 sharemilkers Chris and Sally Guy are described by the judges as traditional and solid who are cow and grass focused.

“They were very well organised, it’s a small organisation with not much labour employed,” says Chris.  “They have to be very efficient with their time, and Chris demonstrated this with little bits of technology that he uses, such as an ear-piece he wears in the shed that enables him to record notes.

The couple are in their second season 50/50 sharemilking on Allan Guy’s 80ha Papakura property, milking 200 cows. They also won the Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene merit award and $23,300 in cash and prizes.

Putaruru contract milkers Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson, both aged 31 years, placed third in the competition, winning $13,000 in prizes. The couple also the Federated Farmers Leadership merit award.  The judges noted their financial and analytical strengths and that they had outstanding community involvement.

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors Westpac, DairyNZ, DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra Farm Source, Honda Motorcycles, LIC, Meridian Energy and Ravensdown, along with industry partner PrimaryITO.

Dairy Manager head judge Mary Craw, from Marton, says the 2018 Dairy Manager winner targets excellence in everything he is involved with.

“He has great experience as a manger of people, and a great passion for working with people in a large team environment,” she says.

‘Excellent attention-to-detail and an all-rounder’ is how judges described the 2018 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year, Gerard Boerjan. “He takes a systems approach to the way he manages the farm, he has good systems in place to ensure nothing gets through the gaps,” says judge Mark Shadwick from DairyNZ. “Everything is well documented, he covers health and safety to an exceptional level and his financial understanding is of the highest calibre.”

Gerard, aged 50 years, has successfully farmed in Portugal and Brazil and is currently Farm Manager for Trevor Hamilton on his 553ha Takapau property.  He won $22,600 in cash and prizes.  Gerard also won the DairyNZ Employee Engagement and the Westpac Financial Management and Planning merit awards.

“Gerard is a stand-alone manager and he doesn’t just assume things are getting done, he closely monitors things.  He regularly reviews the information he gets against on-farm targets,” says judge Dave Hutchison from Westpac.  “He’s always monitoring multiple systems to report back to the farm owners, and has good procedures in place to do so.

“Gerard possesses the ability to manage a large, complex business with an absentee owner.  Every detail of the farm is closely monitored, but there’s a real human touch to it.

“He really cares about his staff, he cares about the people, the environment, his cows, what he grows and how he grows it, but he also understands very clearly that it’s a business he is running and he showed us that.”

“Gerard and his partner Marlene are a strong team and she supports him completely,” says Mary.  “He has consciously chosen to pursue a career long-term in management, rather than farm ownership or contract milking.”

“Gerard is very logical and intelligent person, who considers his answers and has a systematic yet adaptable approach to everything he does. He has a fantastic relationship with the farm owners, and keeps the farm and houses in immaculate condition.”

The judges say Gerard is an excellent example of understated confidence. “He’s experienced, yet humble.  He has a great team approach, even texting his staff to ensure they get home safely every night.”

The Dairy Managerjudges were impressed by the calibre of the finalists and by what they were achieving at a young age.  “The standard was phenomenal,” they agreed.

The Dairy Manager runner-up, Will Green from Canterbury, aged 32 years, also won the Ravensdown Feed Management Award.  Will is the farm manager for Kieran and Leonie Guiney on their 240ha, 830-cow farm at Fairlie and won $11,300 in prizes. The judges noted that he is an extremely focused manager with a real emphasis on his team, and has a philosophy of efficient milk production within the system he works, which he adheres to.

Southlander Jaime McCrostie, aged 32, was placed third and won $5500 in prizes and the PrimaryITO Power Play merit award.  Jaime is the Farm Manager for her employer Steve Smith and farm owners AB Lime on the 370ha, 930-cow farm at Winton. The judges describe Jaime as a ‘machine’, who is extremely capable, energetic, focused and operates great systems on-farm.  Her excellent use of technology was commended.

The 2018 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year, Simone Smail, presented herself very well, was at ease in the environment and gave considered, accurate answers. She has a quiet confidence and is sincere, says Dairy Trainee head judge Chris Withy from Southland.

“She is an excellent example of someone who hasn’t grown up in a farming environment, but has developed an obvious love of the land and of the stock that she works with.”

“Simone is an example that anyone can go dairying and succeed if they work hard.”

Judge Tony Finch, from DairyNZ, says Simone is considerate and genuine who is thoughtful of other people’s opinions. “She has mana, coupled with a bubbly personality and a mature approach. As judges, it’s fantastic to see young people like her.”

“One thing that is very clear is that this competition challenges the entrants with their own goals and abilities, and after reflection they realise they can achieve even more.  It has given them great confidence and self-belief. There wasn’t much between the top four, it was very close.”

Simone, aged 24 years, won $10,600 in prizes and the DeLaval Communication and Engagement Award and is herd Manager on an Invercargill City Council farm, working for Steve and Tracy Henderson on the 780-cow, 310ha property at Invercargill. 

It was while she was studying for her Certificate in Veterinary Nursing that she discovered her passion for working with cows.  Simone entered the awards to meet like-minded people who are passionate and want to progress in the industry.

The Dairy Trainee runner-up, Donna McKinley, also won the Best Video Award presented by Streamliner.  Donna is 2IC for Davison Trust Partnership milking 330 cows on a Central Plateau 116ha farm. The judges noted she was a confident person who sets goals, puts a plan together, then achieves those goals.  She’s a very determined person.  Donna won $6000 in prizes.

Third placegetter Quinn Youngman, 21 years, works on David Dean’s 245ha, 600-cow farm in Mercer, He was was inspired by his Grandma to look at the dairy industry as his career.  The judges described him as the quintessential young farmer who was a quiet achiever.  He won $3000 in cash and prizes.

Visit www.dairyindustryawards.co.nz for more information on the awards and winners.

Full Results:

2018 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year:

• Winner – Daniel and Gina Duncan, Northland
• Runner-up – Chris and Sally Guy, Auckland-Hauraki
• Third – Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson, Waikato
• DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Simon and Hilary Vallely
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Chris and Sally Guy
• Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson
• Honda Farm Safety and Health Award – Tim and Melissa Parsons
• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Richard and Wendy Ridd
• Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – Thomas and Jennifer Read
• PrimaryITO Interview Award – Daniel and Gina Duncan
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Daniel and Gina Duncan
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Daniel and Gina Duncan

2018 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year:

• Winner – Gerard Boerjan, Hawkes Bay-Wairarapa
• Runner-up – Will Green, Canterbury-North Otago
• Third – Jaime McCrostie, Southland
• DairyNZ Employee Engagement Award – Gerard Boerjan
• DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Colin Tremain
• Fonterra Farm Source Dairy Management Award – Anthony Lamborn
• LIC Interview Award – Anthony Lamborn
• Meridan Energy Leadership Award – Sam Moscrip
• PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Jaime McCrostie
• Ravensdown Feed Management Award – Will Green
• Westpac Financial Management & Planning Award – Gerard Boerjan

2018 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year:

• Winner – Simone Smail, Southland-Otago
• Runner-up – Donna McKinley, Central Plateau 
• Third – Quinn Youngman, Auckland-Hauraki
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Andrew Trolove
• DeLaval Communication and Engagement Award – Simone Smail
• Best Video Award presented by Streamliner – Donna McKinley


Rural round-up

May 5, 2018

Save water and cut effluent – Richard Rennie:

A partnership between Ravensdown and Lincoln University has unveiled technology its creators believe will reduce farm effluent loads significantly while also saving billions of litres of fresh water.

ClearTech, launched this week, has taken the dairy industry’s two biggest issues, effluent losses and water consumption and dealt with both through a combination of simple water purification principles, managed by a computerised controller.

ClearTech puts a coagulant into the effluent when a farm dairy yard is hosed down. It causes the effluent particles to cluster together and sink, leaving most of the water clear and usable.

Ravensdown effluent technology manager Jamie Thompson said there are challenges to getting effluent to clot given the variable pH, turbidity and content of the waste on any given day. . . 

Dairying unexpected but welcome career choice – Nicole Sharp:

Southland-Otago Dairy Manager of the Year Jaime McCrostie talks at the recent regional field day at the Vallelys’ property, near Gore, about her journey in the dairy sector.

Jaime McCrostie never thought she would end up dairy farming.

She grew up on a sheep farm and it was her neighbour who taught her how to milk cows.

She has travelled all over the world and worked in a range of industries, but always seems to come back to the dairy industry. . . 

MediaWorks to broadcast Grand Final of 50th FMG Young Farmer of the Year:

A new deal will see MediaWorks broadcast New Zealand’s longest running agricultural contest the FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

Under the agreement, an edited version of the 50th Grand Final of the iconic contest will be broadcast on ThreeNow.

ThreeNow is MediaWorks’ free video on-demand streaming service available on smart TVs and mobile devices.

MediaWorks’ Head of Rural, Nick Fisher, said the broadcaster is proud to be partnering with NZ Young Farmers to produce the programme. . . 

Tribute paid upon receiving award – Pam Jones:

An Alexandra man has received national recognition for his services to irrigation in Central Otago, but has paid tribute to the work of “two extraordinary women” as well.

Gavin Dann was one of two recipients of a 2018 Ron Cocks Award from Irrigation New Zealand during its conference in Alexandra recently, for his leadership of the Last Chance Irrigation Company (LCIC) and his work to establish a community drinking water supply.

Mr Dann had been the “driving force” behind a number of initiatives to improve the Last Chance company’s operations, supporting the scheme for more than 40 years, Irrigation New Zealand chairwoman Nicky Hyslop said. . . 

 

Landcorp board gets a refresh – Neal Wallace:

Former Landcorp chairwoman Traci Houpapa was available for reappointment but missed out because the shareholding ministers wanted to refresh the state-owned enterprise’s board, she says.

Her eight-year term on the board, of which three were as chairwoman, has come to an end, along with three other directors, Nikki Davies-Colley, Pauline Lockett and Eric Roy.

Houpapa accepted her appointment was at the behest of the Ministers of State Owned Enterprises Winston Peters and Finance Grant Robertson.

The newly appointed directors are Nigel Atherfold, Hayley Gourley and Belinda Storey.

She said the Landcorp she joined eight years ago was very different to the one she has just left, with a different strategy, focus and operating model. . . 

 

Regional fuel tax will add to the cost of food:

Regional fuel tax legislation, as it stands, is likely to add costs to fresh fruit and vegetables for consumers.

Today, Horticulture New Zealand spoke to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee about its written submission on the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill, that is endorsed and supported by a further 18 organisations.

“While in principle, we agree with measures to reduce road congestion in Auckland, we believe there are un-intended consequences of the Bill as it stands; these could include increases to the prices of healthy, fresh fruit and vegetables,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says. . .  . .

Bull finishing farm steered towards a sale:

One of Northland’s most substantial bull finishing farms has been placed on the market for sale.

The 400-hectare property is located on the western outskirts of the township of Kawakawa in the Mid-North, and is held over 24 individual titles in three blocks. The farm’s topography consists of 268 hectares of rolling to medium-contour grazing paddocks, and 108 hectares of flat land – allowing for tractor-access to 95 percent of the property.

The farm also contains 24 hectares of mature pruned pine trees ready for harvesting, and estimated to be worth in the region of $360,000. The freehold farm has been owned by three generations of the Cookson family. . . 

Delegat has record 2018 harvest, driven by increase in NZ grapes – Jonathan Underhill:

 (BusinessDesk) – Delegat Group, New Zealand’s largest listed winemaker, says it had a record harvest this year, driven by an increase in New Zealand grapes, while its Australian harvest fell.

The Auckland-based company said the 2018 harvest rose to a record 40,059 tonnes, as grapes collected in New Zealand rose 10 percent to 38,012 tonnes. The Australia harvest for Barossa Valley Estate fell to 2,047 tonnes from 2,760 in 2017.

“The 2018 vintage has delivered excellent quality in all regions,” managing director Graeme Lord said in the statement. . . 


Rural round-up

March 19, 2018

We need a long cool look at water – Andrew Curtis:

As years go, 2017 was dramatic.

In February, one of the biggest fires in New Zealand history ignited on the Port Hills in tinder dry conditions, causing thousands of residents to evacuate.

In March, the upper North Island was soaked, with Auckland experiencing its wettest March day in 60 years, and over 300 homes were flooded.

July brought flooding to Otago and Canterbury, and snow and strong winds to other areas. . . 

Mix of farming, forestry, engineering keeps McKenzies busy – Sally Rae:

When it comes to thinking outside the square, it would be hard to look past the innovative McKenzie family from Clinton.

Colin McKenzie jokes they have a lot of junk around, but they are incredibly clever at turning that “junk” into all sorts of machinery.

As well as running a large sheep and beef operation, they also do their own forest harvesting, utilising some of their own home-made technology. . . 

Effluent technology set to lift dairy water efficiency – Jamie Thompson:

Nutrient efficiency is vital to Ravensdown as a component of smarter farming — good for the bottom line and the environment.

Water efficiency is now a catch-cry and the dairy sector is being urged to lessen its water ‘footprint’.

Crucial to this challenge is how effluent is managed. Recycling and reusing the nutrients in dairy shed effluent is good practice, showing that dairy farmers are doing the right thing. This comes with a price tag: 70% of dairy farmers’ environmental spending goes on effluent management (see graph). . .

Passion for dairy farming shows through for Canterbury environment award winners:

The Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards have been won by a dairy farming company showing a fantastic level of passion, pride and promotion for its industry. David and Brenda Hislop, Mark Daly and Janet Girvan are partners in Medbury Farm Limited – milking 1240 cows on 442ha at Hawarden.

The awards judges said the partners show strong awareness of farming practices and how they influence the environment. “They show excellent attention to detail to business planning, governance and policies and how that influences and drives the business, as well as great staff and people management.” . . 

Fonterra close to reaching Argentina deal :

Fonterra is close to reaching a deal with Argentina-based dairy co-operative SanCor, according a media report from Buenos Aires.

The Argentine newspaper La Nacion reported that Fonterra was anticipated to finalise a deal with SanCor by the end of this month.

La Nacion, in a translated report, said Fonterra and SanCor would form a new company, of which Fonterra would have 80 to 90 percent control. The remaining shares would stay with the dairy farmers in Argentina. . . 

Education doesn’t encourage creativity’ – Jill Galloway:

The education system does not value creativity enough, says a business commentator.

Chanelle O’Sullivan​ was one of five speakers at a creativity breakfast seminar, one of 10 events being held as part of the Manawatū-hosted Agri Food Week.

Described as an entrepreneur who founded the websites Rural Mums and Virtual Insights, O’Sullivan advised people to not rely on anyone else “as no one is coming to rescue you”. However, people should not feel ashamed of failing. . . 

Four candidates for Silver Fern Farms board :

Conor English, the youngest brother of former Prime Minister Bill English, is throwing his hat in the ring for election to the Silver Fern Farms board of directors.

English is the former chief executive of Federated Farmers who started his farming career at the family farm in Dipton. He is also chairman of Agribusiness New Zealand, a company he founded after leaving Federated Farmers in 2014.

Board members Fiona Hancox and Rob Hewett, and chairman, retire by rotation at the company’s annual meeting in Dunedin on April 18.

Four candidates have put themselves forward for the two available positions on the board. Hancox and Hewett have both advised they will stand for re-election, while nominations have been received for Chris Allen and English. . . 


Rural round-up

August 25, 2017

Clues to cow disease spread – Hamish MacLean:

The South Canterbury farmer whose property was first identified as infected with Mycoplasma bovis now fears the disease might also be present further north.

Glenavy farmer Aad van Leeuwen’s comments come after the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) announced yesterday the cattle disease was present in Otago.

It had been hoped the outbreak, first detected on Mr van Leeuwen’s Bennetts Rd farm on July 22, and then on his nearby Dog Kennel Rd farm on July 31, was confined to the South Canterbury area.

MPI said blood test results from a farm in the Oamaru area – known to have had a ”direct connection” with the Bennetts Rd farm prior to its current lockdown – showed ”some animals have been infected with the disease”. . .

Flux-meter data relevant for south – Yvonne O’Hara:

Information on nutrient losses from the Foundation for Arable Research’s (Far) flux-meter data-collection project will have applications for Otago and Southland arable farmers.
Far heard earlier this month it had been given $485,168 for its

”Protecting our groundwater: measuring and managing diffuse nutrient losses from cropping systems” project from the Ministry for the Environment’s Freshwater Improvement Fund.

The $1million project has been under way for three years in partnership with HortNZ, Ravensdown, five regional councils and Plant and Food Research. The balance of funding comes from industry and regional council partners. . .

Record 2016/17 season recounted at Zespri AGM

Zespri reported to around 500 grower-shareholders today at its Annual Meeting on a record 2016/17 season, with global sales up 19 percent from last season to $2.26 billion on the back of exceptionally high yields.

Pool results
Zespri Chairman Peter McBride explains the high yields and late start to the New Zealand season meant lower per-tray returns for Zespri Green but continued strong per-hectare returns for the Green business. . . 

New initiative prepares women for calf rearing:

Canterbury dairy farm contractor Nicole Jackson is on a mission to reduce the number of injuries to female calf rearers during the physically demanding calving season.

She’s created a six-week online conditioning and strengthening initiative for women to prepare their bodies for the physically gruelling calving season, which is currently under way in many parts of the country.

“There’s a lot of information out there about things like getting meals and the kids ready for calving season but not a lot about getting your body ready,” says Nicole, a mother of two young boys.

“Women are often involved in calf rearing and it’s really hard physical work. Women are often busy juggling kids and work so it’s hard for them sometimes to stay active and find time to work on their fitness . . .

The secret to cutting nitrogen leaching – Laurel Stowell:

Napier-based farming expert Barrie Ridler has some answers for farmers struggling to curb their nitrogen leaching.

Dairy farmers, especially in the Tararua District, are waiting to see how Horizons Regional Council reacts to the Environment Court’s April declarations – but are already under pressure to reduce the nitrogen they leach.

Mr Ridler says matching stock numbers to pasture growth is the secret, and keeping the two in balance will limit greenhouse gas emissions. . .

Youth scholarships help develop Ag careers – Esther Taunton:

A former Inglewood High School student is among the first recipients of a Silver Fern Farms Pasture to Plate Youth Scholarship.

Jake Jarman, who grew up on a central Taranaki dairy farm, will receive $5000 to help further his career in farming.

The scholarships are aimed at helping young people develop their careers in the red meat, food and farming industries and SFF chief executive Dean Hamilton said the talent emerging from applications indicated a bright future for the broader red meat sector. . .

 

No automatic alt text available.

I’m a farmer. I don’t stop when I’m tired, I stop when I”m done.


Farmers’ pledge will work where water tax won’t

August 23, 2017

Farming leaders have pledged to make rivers swimmable:

In a first for the country, farming leaders have pledged to work together to help make New Zealand’s rivers swimmable for future generations.

The Farming Leaders’ Pledge has been signed today by a group of New Zealand pastoral farming leaders, that represent over 80% per cent of that country’s farmed land, committing them to an ambitious goal of working to make New Zealand’s rivers swimmable for their children and grandchildren.

Group spokesperson, Federated Farmers President and West Coast dairy farmer Katie Milne says the intent behind the pledge is clear.

“Many of our rivers are not in the condition we all want them to be. We are doing this because we want our kids and their kids to be able to swim in the same rivers that we did as children.  And by swim we mean swim. It’s as simple as that.

“We’re standing up and saying we haven’t always got this right. More work is required and we will play our part. While there has been progress on farm in the past 10 years, we know there is more to be done, and that it must be done fast, and together.

Clean rivers aren’t an abstract concept for farmers.

This is the water we drink and wash with every day, not something we might visit a very few times a year.

“Today isn’t about laying out the detail on the huge amount of work going on already on farms up and down the country and how these efforts will need to increase.

“It’s about us as farming leaders signalling our commitment to making New Zealand’s rivers swimmable and doing everything we can to achieve that.”

Ms Milne, says the group understands much of the work needed will be challenging for the farming sector.

Challenging yes, but a  lot will build on work already being undertaken.

“We haven’t put a timeline on our commitment.  Each community will need to decide that for themselves.  This goal will be difficult to meet and we don’t have all the answers today on how it’s going to be achieved”, she says.

“We know that we have work to do. We know it will be challenging for farmers. We know the answers are complex and we don’t have them all now.   This commitment is simply the right thing to do in playing our part to give back to future generations what we enjoyed as kids.”

The Farming Leaders Group is an informal grouping of New Zealand pastoral farming leaders that was established in May 2017 to work on issues of importance to the sector. 

The current membership is Mike Petersen (Sheep & Beef Farmer), Michael Spaans (Dairy Farmer and Dairy NZ Chair), James Parsons (Sheep & Beef Farmer and Beef + Lamb NZ Chair), John Loughlin (Meat Industry Association Chair), Katie Milne (Dairy Farmer and Federated Farmers President), Bruce Wills (Sheep & Beef Farmer and Ravensdown Director), and John Wilson (Dairy Farmer and Fonterra Chair).

The improvements already made have been done by farmers who understand the importance of clean water, without the crude instrument of a water tax which Megan  Hands describes as a kick in the guts for farmers:

There is no doubt that water management is top of mind for many of us this election, but none more so than our farmers and growers, particularly those with irrigation. It’s struck me that using the word farmer seems to irk many, as if it has some kind of negative connotation.

The reality is that New Zealand’s farmers collectively are a group of thousands of small, often family run businesses and their employees. Many are self-employed and punch well above their weight to compete on a global scale, often up against farmers from nations who receive significant subsidies from their governments to assist with their costs of production, top up their incomes or assist them to undertake environmental works.

Irrigation dates to back the Ancient Egyptians and, simply put, we have it because we need water to grow crops or feed for our animals. In the areas of the country that have the most irrigation, rainfall can be scarce, ranging from just 300mm in parts of Central Otago, through to 500-700mm in Canterbury and Marlborough, as compared with the 1,200mm that falls in Auckland annually. Irrigation is used by some farmers and growers to supplement that shortfall in rain and to remain resilient in drought years.

Irrigation schemes don’t just allow farmers to weather dry weather. They also augment natural flows in rivers and streams to improve water quality and enhance water life.

What then is the likely impact of Labour’s water tax policy on these families and their communities?

On the face of it phrases like “polluter pays” or “user pays: may sound appealing, but the balancing of the environmental, social, cultural and economic needs of our communities is more complex than that.

An important point to note from the outset is that nobody in New Zealand pays for water. Even in Auckland, Watercare charges for the treatment and reticulation of water to your home or business, not for the water itself. In the same way as you pay the council through your rates or water bill, Irrigators pay for the infrastructure through consenting, drilling of wells, installation and running of pumping stations or through payments to irrigation schemes with costs of up to $800 a hectare.

That’s what we pay for water from North Otago Irrigation COmpany’s scheme – $800 a hectare a year. On top of that we have to have an environmental farm plan which is independently audited each year.

When Labour’s policy was first announced, there was little detail of pricing. It appears now we are looking at a price of 2 cents per cubic metre, or 1000 Litres.

For some context, to apply 1mm of water over 1 hectare of land it takes 10,000 litres of water or 10 cubic metres. So, to supplement that shortfall of rainfall and sustain crop or pasture growth it quickly equates to large volumes of water.

To keep the maths simple, a 200ha cropping farm growing grain or grass seeds in mid Canterbury applying 500mm of irrigation water a year would have a new additional tax bill of $20,000 a year.

A 100hectare vineyard in Blenheim might use 199,500 cubic metres of water through a drip micro system and have an additional tax bill of $3,990.

Another dairy farmer well known on Twitter has calculated his annual water tax bill on his farm to be $53,000.

Suddenly a couple of cents doesn’t sound so small.

It’s not just the amount but that it will be taken from irrigators regardless of whether their practices are contributing to water quality problems, some will go to Iwi and some will go to regional councils.

What’s left after the costs of collection and distribution is supposed to be used to clean up waterways, but how? It it’s individual farms causing problems they should be responsible for fixing them and not at the cost of those who are already doing everything right.

The key drivers for irrigation requirements are the soil type and its ability to hold water, the crops water demand and the evapotranspiration of the area. In the examples above, grapes have a lower water demand than pasture or grain crops. There is a great deal of science and high level of management that goes into managing irrigation efficiently.

One arable farmer at a meeting in Ashburton on Friday said that he had calculated that at 2 cents/m3 his annual water tax bill could equate to half his annual income. Another wondered aloud what happens if he has a crop failure and he receives zero income for that year but still must pay the tax for the irrigation water he used?

What will happen in wet seasons, like the last one, when there was hardly any irrigation? Our power bill was about 10% of what it had been the previous season which indicates we used about a 10th of the irrigation.

And what will they do with the seagulls which are causing the only water quality problem in the Kakanui River?

In districts where there are significant areas of irrigation this tax would mean millions of dollars being removed from these local economies in additional tax. In these regional areas, the small towns and cities rely on primary industry to keep them going. For Ashburton and Timaru some estimates have come in around $40 million. Tim Cadogan, mayor of Central Otago, is quoted as saying the tax will cost his district $6 million dollars. That’s millions of dollars not transferred to local tradesman, the local café or the rural supplies store.

This proposed tax has been portrayed as the solution to NZ’s water quality problems, although the more we learn about this policy the more difficult it is to link the purported benefits with the method proposed. If Labour do as they say and return the tax to the areas from which it is collected (minus the percentage that goes to iwi), the areas with the poorest water quality will only receive a small slice of the tax. This is because there is almost no correlation between swimability of rivers and irrigation.

This policy is based not on facts but on the unsubstantiated belief that irrigation causes water degradation.

In our area it’s the opposite case. The Waiareka Creek that used to be a series of semi-stagnant ponds now flows clear  all year and water life has re-established because irrigation water is doing what nature couldn’t – maintain water flows.

One of the greatest concerns regarding this policy is the possibility it could make meeting required reductions in nutrient losses more difficult. Making changes on a farm to improve water quality is not cheap and any additional money squeezed out of what are often tight budgets may make it more difficult to do so. As an example, $20,000-30,000 can pay for three or four soil moisture meters to aid in more targeted use of irrigation or perhaps part of a new effluent system.

A water tax is a broad-brush approach to what are varied and complex issues. In my view identifying the contaminants causing the water quality problems for a catchment and targeting the management of those at catchment scale is a far superior approach than paying money to a government organisation in the hope that it will be returned to be spent the catchment it came from.

Last Friday David Parker, Labour’s spokesperson for freshwater fronted a public meeting in Ashburton. While I’d already been publicly critical of the approach of a water tax, I wanted to hear what he had to say in more depth than a media soundbite or the 300-word summary on the Labour party website. I’ve also long believed that there is a legitimate conversation to be had about how we should fund environmental infrastructure such as the Managed Aquifer Recharge site in Ashburton, new storm water systems or floating wetlands such as those installed at Te Arawa in Rotorua.

I was bitterly disappointed.

Mr Parker provided photos of poor farming practices to set the tone. Of the farming practices that we were seeing in the photos, not even one of them was related to irrigation and none were from Canterbury. Almost every single one of them would be illegal in Canterbury under the existing Land and Water Regional Plan putting your consent to farm or your access to irrigation water at risk of being cut off.

When questioned on the price, Mr Parker warned the room that he wasn’t there to negotiate and threatened the farmers in the room that if they pushed him it would be 2 cents instead of 1 cent. He continually referred to the farmers in the room as “you people”, taking aim at them and telling them they alone were responsible for the rural urban divide.

It is the responsibility of us all to manage our water well and that includes irrigators, towns and cities, and other commercial users. If we are going to tackle these challenges we must do it together, instead of pointing the finger at one another.

The management of our freshwater is important for our ecosystems, our businesses and our recreation. Water is precious to all of us and deserves far more sophisticated and collaborative policy development then soundbites and feel good election policies if we are to deliver the kaitiakitanga it deserves.

The pledge by the farmers’ group will work where the water tax won’t.

It will be led by and accomplished by farmers working with farmers, not politicians extracting a tax only some of which will be applied to improving water quality.


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