Rural round-up

July 22, 2019

Large farms have more eco-options – Colin Williscroft:

Harder hill country farms have more options for increasing productivity and eco-efficiency than easy hill country farms, AgResearch scientist Alec Mackay says.

Farmers on extensive sheep and beef farms on hard hill country can continue to make production and eco-efficiency gains by increasing the reproductive performance of ewes and lamb weaning and growth rates, he told the Animal Production Society’s annual conference.

They can shift from breeding cows and older cattle to buying and finishing younger cattle. . .

Stinginess upsets plant breeders – Richard Rennie:

The Government has been accused of leaving plant breeders short when it comes to addressing Treaty of Waitangi issues around plant variety rights.

Policy makers are in the process of seeking breeder input on the revised Plant Variety Act to better protect breeders and their seed and germplasm.

Maximum fines are only $1000 and offer little disincentive to the theft of plant intellectual property. . .

Steak award gives company confidence – Sally Rae:

It’s a long way from Mataura to Dublin.

But that was the journey taken by Alliance Group’s steak, which won a gold medal in the World Steak Challenge in Ireland.

The company’s Pure South handpicked 55-day aged beef, processed at its Mataura plant, won a gold medal for ribeye and a bronze medal for fillet.

There were more than 300 entries from 25 countries and the title of world’s best steak was awarded to a grass-fed Ayrshire ribeye steak reared in Finland and entered by JN Meat International, from Denmark . . .

Latest survey: most employers delighted with RSE:

A survey of New Zealand companies involved in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme has garnered positive results.

The survey, by Immigration New Zealand, shows 45 percent of the RSE members grew their businesses as a result of employing workers from the Pacific.

Immigration’s Pacifica Labour and Skills Manager, George Rarere, said a stable, seasonal workforce meant more employers were able to expand, invest more in equipment and offer jobs to locals. . .

Flexi-milking – same Milk more sleep – Anne Hardie:

Flexible milking frequencies have proved a solution to a Westport farm’s problems with dry summers, Anne Hardie reports.

Last season John and Jo Milne milked their cows twice a day, 3 in 2, 10 in 7 and once a day to achieve good production results during a severe drought on their Westport farm and plenty of sleep-ins.

You read it right – 10 in 7. From mid-December to the end of February they were milking the cows 10 times during the week which meant twice a day (TAD) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then once a day (OAD) on the other days. And through the season they changed milking frequencies four times. . .

Exciting year in dairy for Kimberley – Yvonne O’Hara:

Kimberley Simmons (15) is passionate about dairy cows and has had an excellent year so far, dairy-wise.

It has included a trip to International Dairy Week in Australia in January, and a win in a national competition last month.

The Menzies College year 10 pupil lives with her parents Teena and Sandy and brother Jack on a 61ha property near Dacre.

The family runs 175 cows and several chickens, and they have three studs – the Brydale Jersey Stud, the Lowburn Milking Shorthorn Stud and the Lowburn Holstein Friesian Stud. . .

 


How much will they pay for food?

January 15, 2019

Cows need milking, fruit and vegetables are ripe for picking and farmers and horticulturists are struggling to find staff.

The Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE), which allows industries to recruit workers from overseas for the season goes part way towards bridging the staff gap, but year after year farms, market gardens and orchards are desperately seeking workers.

One reason put forward for the shortage of workers when people are unemployed is that the work is seasonal and those who go off a benefit for short-term work find it difficult when they face a stand-down period before they can get a benefit again at the end of the season.

That might employ to some, but orchards which put a lot of effort into recruiting and training staff and finding work for them all year, still struggle to find enough staff.

Some say that workers aren’t paid enough to make the job attractive.

Dairy farm workers get well above the minimum wage plus accommodation.

A lot of horticulture work has performance pay – the more people pick the more they earn and anyone prepared to take the work seriously won’t find it difficult to make a decent wage.

But what’s enough?

Wages are a cost of production that has to be recovered when the produce is sold if the business is to be profitable.

Higher wages will lead to higher prices for food.

How much more are those saying people in dairying, horticulture and market gardening aren’t paid enough, prepared to pay for their food?

Nothing if complaints about the price of milk, butter, cheese, fruit and vegetables and tales of people being too poor to eat properly are taken seriously.


Rural round-up

August 17, 2018

Tru-Test to sell businesses to Datamars for $147.9 million – Rebecca Howard

(BusinessDesk) – Tru-Test Corp will sell some of its business to Switzerland-based Datamars for $147.9 million, it said in its annual report.

Tru-Test announced plans to shed the bulk of its businesses, signing a conditional deal to sell its retail solutions and milk meter divisions, which account for about 85 percent of group revenue.

Those businesses include the weighing, electronic identification, contract manufacturing, electric fencing and milk metering operations. All intellectual property – including the Tru-Test name – form part of the deal. . .

Farming educator explains how forecast hot weather could impact farmers and food:

International scientists have released new forecastspredicting higher global temperatures from 2018 – 2022.

IrrigationNZ strongly believes that as the climate continues to vary, many areas of New Zealand will be at increasing at risk of drought and to mitigate this risk, the country must invest in well-designed water storage.

“In hotter conditions crops need more water. Water makes a huge difference to plant growth – for example a wheat field which is not irrigated will only produce half the amount of wheat as a field which is irrigated,” says Andrew Curtis, Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ. . . 

Our calving season has finally arrived – Bruce Eade:

The biggest event on every dairy farmer’s calendar is finally here, writes dairy farmer and Southern Rural Life columnist Bruce Eade.

Calving is in full swing for most southern farmers with the middle of August upon us.

The mating decisions and choices we made in October last year are all now coming to fruition.

As I’ve said before, I really enjoy this time of year, seeing the next generation ”hatch”.

Will it be a heifer?

The anticipation, the excitement and the disappointment when it’s a bull is all part and parcel of the season. . .

The ‘cutest sheep in the world’ are now running around in Canterbury – Pat Deavoll:

When North Canterbury farmer Melissa Cowan discovered the valais blacknose sheep on the internet, she thought it was the most endearing animal she had ever seen.

With a black face, ears and feet, a shaggy fringe and beautiful white fluffy fleece it was no wonder the breed had become known as “the cutest sheep in the world”. 

They looked like cuddly toys. Plus they had a friendly temperament. Melissa Cowan had fallen in love.

It wasn’t long before she had talked her husband Hayden Cowan into importing valais blacknose embryos into New Zealand to start a flock. . .

 Swiss immigrant creates piece of pastoral paradise on the Christchurch fringe – Pat Deavoll:

Take a drive out the south side of Christchurch, go around a bend or two, and on the right, no more than a minute from the last house you will find a little piece of pastoral perfection.

Trees, both exotic and native shade small grassed paddocks dotted with plump sheep.  Fantails and tuis dart amongst the treetops. If you are lucky you will see a wood pigeon lumbering through the branches.

This 18-hectare farmlet is the 40-year labour of love of Swiss immigrant Ernst Frei, who brought the property with his wife Renate in 1979 with the dream of converting it into an organic market garden . .

RSE scheme better for business and New Zealand workers:

The tenth annual survey of RSE employers is another win for the New Zealand horticulture and viticulture industries – and New Zealanders.

The latest employers’ survey found that nearly nine in 10 employers had employed more New Zealanders – in addition to RSE workers. On average each of those employers has been able to hire five additional permanent workers, and 20 seasonal workers as a result of their participation in the scheme. . .


Rural round-up

February 14, 2018

Disease leaves pair with nothing – Annette Scott:

In early June last year all was looking rosy for South Canterbury contract milkers Mary and Sarel Potgieter.

By the end of July their lives had been turned upside down and their dairy business was on a rapid downward spiral because of their honesty over Mycoplasma bovis.

Now the self-described Mb founders are in two minds over the call they made to the Ministry for Primary Industries to report untreatable mastitis in their dairy herd.

“We first noticed a problem in early June. By the end of June we had 162 cows showing signs and the vet was flabbergasted,” Mary said.

“By mid-July we had tried everything. We had done tests and milk samples, nothing could be cultured – it was not normal mastitis. . . 

QEII National Trust defending protected land:

QEII National Trust are in the Supreme Court today defending the intentions of the original landowner to protect 400 ha of Coromandel forest land forever against someone who wishes to overturn covenant protection to develop a property for commercial purposes.

QEII National Trust CEO Mike Jebson says “covenants are protected for the benefit of current and future generations because of the vision of the original owner who loved the land and wanted to protect it. Individually and collectively covenants represent a huge legacy to the country.” 

Grumblings on the grapevine – are seasonal workers treated well in NZ? – Johnny Blades:

You see them in small groups, often two or three, walking along Blenheim’s roadsides to the big supermarkets.

Young men from the Pacific Island archipelago of Vanuatu, they stand out in a New Zealand region not known for its multi-culturalism.

But here in grape country, Marlborough, ni-Vanuatu are the driving force behind New Zealand’s growing wine industry.

There are over 4000 ni-Vanuatu, or ni-Vans as they’re known, doing seasonal work this year under New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme  . . .

Women’s group seeks new head – Annette Scott:

Dairy Women’s Network chief executive Zelda de Villiers has called time on the organisation she has helped to grow over the past four years.

De Villiers had solidified the organisation’s systems, structures and reputation in the industry, chairwoman Cathy Brown said.

Her commercial and financial expertise had led the not-for-profit organisation into a strong position.

“We have also grown our membership significantly during her tenure. . . 

Farmers Fast Five: Andy Fox – Claire Inkson:

The Farmers Fast Five:  Where we ask a Farmer five quick questions about Farming, and what Agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Proud Farmer Andy Fox.
How long have you been farming?

Having been brought up on a farm, I was keen from an early age to go farming. Besides working as a builder, a mechanic, a period on my OE and Uni I have farmed all my life.  Since about 2000, I have farmed only a proportion of the time which allows me time to sit on agricultural boards, contribute to other industry good activities and to undertake volunteer work.

   What sort of farming are you involved in?

I am the 4th generation on “Foxdown” in the Scargill Valley, North Canterbury. We are a sheep and beef protein producer on a dry-land hard hill property. We aim to produce the best base ingredient for a quality eating experience, while maintaining the farm in a way that makes this production sustainable and improves the state of the land for the future. We also have approximately 400 visitors a year to the farm museum and a walking track that is a 4 hour return walk to the top of the farm, Mt Alexander. . . 

Chattan Farm:

Chattan Farm is situated in an idyllic locale approximately 40 minutes south west of Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand’s North Island.

Owners Tim and Jo Mackintosh, along with their children Alice and George, run a livestock operation along with a number of diverse businesses from their 680 hectare farm. Sheep and beef production is the cornerstone of the Chattan Farm operations, where they produce up to 5000 stock units a year of Romney, East Friesian and Texel sheep along with Angus cattle. Along with these stock numbers Tim says they also graze dairy heifers.

“We generally grow out around 400 head of heifer stock from the age of four months through to 18 months,” Tim said. . . 

New fund to help sustainable farming school at Waipaoa:

The trustees have established the Waipaoa Station Farm Cadet Training Trust (WSFCTT) Endowment Fund at the Sunrise Foundation to help build long term financial stability into the organisation.

Ken Shaw, WSFCTT Chair, says although they have been operating for ten years and are pleased with the progress they have made, a reliable ongoing source of revenue is their biggest challenge.

“We are lucky to have had the generous support of many individuals and organisations in the agricultural industry, which has helped us build Waipaoa into the success it now is. Even so we have to secure our sponsorship every year, and we know we can’t rely on the same people and organisations to keep giving year on year.” . . 


Rural round-up

January 13, 2018

Seasonal labour a vital ingredient – Mike Chapman:

Research New Zealand recently conducted a survey reporting on the impacts of the RSE scheme, where it has directly enabled:

– The area under cultivation to expand consistently over the last three years.

– The employment of more permanent and seasonal New Zealand workers.

– A more stable workforce, with better and more productive workers.

RSE workers supplement other seasonal employees, and account for roughly one in five of all seasonal workers across the country. In areas where unemployed is very low, more RSE workers are employed, while in areas with higher unemployment, fewer RSE workers are employed. . .

Storm helped cure dry spell for Waikato farmers – Ruby Nyika:

The storm that battered the North Island last week left lasting damage for some.

But for farmers, the heavy dump of rain was magic.

The lengthy dry spell that preceded it had been stressful.

I think it’s been a bit of a relief for every farmer,” Waikato Federated Farmers president Andrew McGiven said. “Not for the poor townies having their holidays, but for farmers it’s been a relief to get some moisture back in the ground.” . .

MPI and dairy industry extend milk testing programme for Mycoplasma bovis:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its dairy industry partners have decided to extend the current Mycoplasma bovis milk testing underway in Canterbury, Otago and Southland into a national milk surveillance programme.

While there is no indication that the disease is present beyond the areas currently identified, checking for other possible regional clusters is essential to building a complete picture of the disease in New Zealand.

The programme will involve testing 3 milk samples from every dairy farm. One sample will be taken from bulk milk as part of the regular sampling process at milk collection. Farmers will also be required to provide 2 samples from ‘discard milk’ (milk unsuitable for collection, for example, from cows with mastitis). Mycoplasma bovis is more easily identified in milk taken from otherwise sick animals, which makes testing of the discard milk a valuable surveillance tool. . .

Concern about cattle disease in Hawes Bay – Jill Galloway:

Manawatū and Tararua dairy farmers are getting anxious about future outbreaks of Mycoplasma bovis after the disease was confirmed in Hawke’s Bay.

Farmers are looking more closely at the source of their feed supplies and where they graze their young stock.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman, Murray Holdaway said he hoped the Ministry for Primary Industries would be able to tell farmers more in the coming weeks.

“Not as many cows go to [Hawke’s Bay] as there used to be six to eight years ago, but it is always an alternative if things get really tight on the feed front, here.” . . 

Trans-Tasman war of words over ‘mānuka’ honey gets stickier :

Australia’s honey industry is calling for an armistice in the ongoing battle over use of the term “mānuka honey”, after Tasmanian producers claimed they produced it first.

The Australian Mānuka Honey Association says New Zealand apiarists should join forces with their Ocker cousins to peacefully assert Antipodean dominance over the global market.

Mānuka honey is produced by European bees feasting on the pollen of the plant Leptospermum scoparium – known here by its Māori name, mānuka. . . 

Celebrity farmer suggests badger caused death of sheep on viral social media post :

A celebrity farmer has caused a stir on social media after suggesting badgers killed his sheep.

Martin Irvine, who has appeared in BBC documentary This Farming Life, posted a photo on social media of his dead sheep with a gory wound.

Mr Irvine wrote on Facebook: “Badgers decided to have this ewe for Christmas dinner, she’s still alive for now. About time we were allowed to control this destructive vermin!” . .


RSE workers leave union after 4 days

July 13, 2017

Union membership is low, so too is signing up people who don’t understand what they’re doing:

Attempts to sign up migrant vineyard workers in Marlborough to a union have hit a snag, with more than 100 workers joining then abruptly cancelling their membership.

The workers, in the region on the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, signed up to the Central Amalgamated Workers Union following a meeting last Thursday.

Union co-ordinator Steve McManus said the 118 workers – a figure disputed by the company involved, who claimed it was 111 – cancelled their membership just four days later.

McManus alleged the workers were pressured to leave the union, however the head of vineyard contracting company Hortus, Aaron Jay, has rubbished the claim.

Many thought they were signing up for insurance, and once they found out what the union was, how much it would cost and what it offered they became upset, Jay said.

The Hortus boss was told about the meeting, at the company’s accommodation facility Duncannon, on Friday by worker leaders concerned about what had taken place. . .

Jay said the workers had originally been happy to join, but once they understood exactly what was being offered they told him they felt ambushed, and upset.

“Unions definitely serve a purpose, I’ve got no problems with them as long as it’s done properly. A lot of the guys didn’t necessarily understand what they were signing up to,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on our morals, our values, who we are and what we do. I’m the sole owner and director of the business, so when they’re in New Zealand I’m responsible.

“We make sure they’re happy, and if that means becoming part of a union I’ve got no problems with that.” . . .

Jay is the RSE scheme representative for Marlborough, and his company, Hortus, has frequently been held up as an example of an employer following best practice guidelines.

The RSE scheme has just passed its 10th anniversary.

It’s been a success for employers who struggle to get staff during harvest and for the workers who earn good money to take back to their home countries.

There have been a few problems with a very few employers.

But this isn’t a case of a bad employer.

Nor of an anti-union employer.

This looks like a union taking advantage of people who didn’t understand what they were doing.

 


Rural round-up

July 7, 2017

Govt renews call for Landcorp dividends – Alexa Cook:

The government wants better returns and a dividend to the Crown from Landcorp but isn’t looking at selling it, the Minister for State-Owned Enterprises says.

A strategic review advised the government to sell Landcorp because the asset-rich, cash-poor nature of farm ownership was not well matched to the government’s fiscal objectives.

Independent financial consulting firm Deloitte carried out the review in 2014, which was released under the Official Information Act to agricultural markets publication AgriHQ Pulse. . . .

Speech to RSE Conference – Michael Woodhouse:

. . . It’s a big year for the RSE scheme – 10 years since it was first introduced and what a difference it has made. To the horticulture and viticulture industries, to business growth, to Kiwis looking for work, and of course, to the Pacific communities.

As I stand here today, I can’t help but think back to 2007 when the RSE scheme began, with around 65 RSE employers and a national cap of just 5,000. Today, there’s more than 130 RSE employers and the national cap has more than doubled to 10,500.

That growth is a vote of confidence in the scheme. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this ground-breaking policy has been such a success.

The RSE scheme has been regarded as one of the best circular migration schemes in the world, and without the dedication and willingness from employers to try something new back in 2007, we wouldn’t be here today celebrating its 10th anniversary. . .

Pukeko Pastures: Bridging the urban-rural divide – Siobhan O’Malley:

Christopher and Siobhan O’Malley are the current NZ Share Farmers of the Year. Here Siobhan writes about why they decided to put their farming practices out into the digital world.

Lately, we can’t go to an event, meeting or even open a rural newspaper without someone asking the question: “What are you doing about the public image of dairy farming? The media hate us. We feel picked on. It is an unfair and inaccurate portrayal. What are you doing about it?”

We sympathise. We feel like the media have created a narrative that vilifies the “dairy industry” while forgetting that behind our corporate co-operative stand literally thousands of families. .  .

Sheep industry leaders recognised: 

The skills and depth of talent within this country’s sheep industry was recognised at Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Sheep Industry Awards in Invercargill last night.

Now in their sixth year, the Award’s celebrate the top performers in the field of science, innovation, industry training and genetics and acknowledge emerging talent and outstanding contributions.

Among the award recipients was retired Hawke’s Bay Romney breeder Tony Parker, whose stud, in 1961, was the first to produce a Selection Index for sheep. This was selecting sheep on recorded performance data rather than physical attributes alone. Although controversial at the time, this represented a step-change in this country’s sheep industry. . .

Westland appoints new Chief Operations Officer:

Westland Milk Products Chief Executive Toni Brendish has continued her drive to add depth and strength to the dairy co-operative’s management team with the appointment of a new Chief Operations Officer, Craig Betty.

It is the second new appointment to Westland’s Senior Management Team (SMT) following the announcement of Gary Yu taking up the role of General Manager, China.

Brendish says Betty’s appointment will bring considerable operations experience to the Hokitika based company. . .

National apiculture conference set to break record numbers this weekend:

Myrtle rust, manuka honey and the impact of neonicotinoids on bees are just some of the current topics that have been making global headlines. These and more will steer the conversations at the Apiculture New Zealand national conference this weekend.

A record 1200 plus people from around the country and abroad will be in Rotorua for the conference, which will be held at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre from Sunday 9 July to Tuesday 11 July 2017. . .

International staff seeking short term agriculture employment :

New Zealand as a location to work and travel is becoming more popular amongst students and graduates from abroad.

While it has always been a popular choice, many travellers are now looking to seek work in advance and secure longer term positions, from 6-12 months, as opposed to trying their luck when they arrive. This is largely due to many travellers wanting to experience New Zealand’s working lifestyle, particularly in agriculture, and to be able to learn on the job and pick up some knowledge they can take away with them. . .


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