Rural round-up

April 18, 2020

Northland drought: No feed, no water and coronavirus increases farmers’ stress – Denise Piper:

“Extreme” drought conditions in Northland are being called the worst for decades and have left farms with no stock food and with their water sources drying up.

In Northland, where little rain has fallen, more farmers are asking for help, said Julie Jonker, co-ordinator of Northland Rural Support Trust. 

“There is quite a lot of stress out there,” she said.

Many Northland farmers have already used all of their winter supplementary feed and alternatives, like palm kernel, are expensive and hard to source. . . 

Dairy farmers dry cows off early as tough winter nears :

Tight feed supplies and ongoing drought are forcing some dairy farmers across the country to dry off earlier than usual.

Fonterra Farm Source director Richard Allen estimates that about 13 percent of farmers have dried off by mid-April compared to 8 percent at the same time last season.

Last month, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor declared a large-scale adverse event in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams. The worst-hit region, Northland is still holding out for decent rainfall. . . 

Freshwater 2020 – working towards improved outcomes balancing the environment with community and economic needs:

IrrigationNZ commends the work that has gone into the Freshwater 2020 report released today, and recognises this data helps towards providing certainty of where we need to head.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal says, “Freshwater and related ecosystems are very complex, and as the report says, data gaps do remain. However, it is helpful for farmers to see where their improvements are working, and where further work is required.”

IrrigationNZ notes some positive trends emerging from the report for example: . . 

Puketoro Station — village in a bubble – Leigh McNeil:

Puketoro Station, inland from Tokomaru Bay, has been in lockdown for three weeks now under the Covid-19 rules, and it’s the same as every other farm in New Zealand — business as usual.

But what makes Puketoro slightly different from most farms is that there are 19 people in the station “bubble”.

So the McNeil Farming operation is a tiny village on its own, and in typical village fashion, the residents range in age from four months to Goldcard-holders.

The bulk of the shepherds are under 25 years old, so it’s been somewhat of a tough call for them to stay put for four weekends in a row. . . 

 

California farmer ploughs under lettuce after coronavirus shutters restaurant market – Mike Blake and Christopher Walljasper:

HOLTVILLE, Calif. (Reuters) – There should be tractors rumbling across Jack Vessey’s ranch, pulling wagons full of fresh-cut romaine lettuce to be packed and shipped to restaurants and grocery stores across the United States.

Instead, as the coronavirus outbreak upends the nation’s food distribution network, a tractor and plow destroyed rows and rows of green produce on Wednesday.

“You put your blood, sweat and tears into a crop,” said Vessey, president of Holtville, California-based Vessey and Company, Inc. “To just disc it into the ground: It’s painful.” . .

Digital initiative keeps Northland farmers connected during lockdown:

Northland farmers are embracing the digital age as they respond to the dual challenge of the Covid-19 lockdown and the region’s severe drought conditions.

Extension 350 (E350), Northland Inc’s award-winning farmer-led and farmer-focused programme, is driving a digital initiative, which includes pilot video interviews with farmers, called “What’s on your mind?”, accessible via the programme’s YouTube channel.

The interview format encourages the farmers to share their thoughts on issues impacting their businesses, what specifically prompted these thoughts, and the process they expect to follow in developing and implementing responses to protect or enhance their businesses. . .


Rural round-up

February 23, 2020

Virus bites into jobs – Neal Wallace:

More than 1000 logging contractors, a number industry leaders say could double, have been laid off in recent weeks as the economic impact of China’s battle to contain coronavirus begins to bite.

Meat companies and market analysts report increased activity at ports and distribution of perishable products such as food as business in parts of China returns to normal.

But disrupted shipping schedules are creating a fresh set of challenges for exporters. . .

Lim: real food is here to stay – Gerald Piddock:

Eating fads come and go but real food will never go out of fashion, chef Nadia Lim says.

Natural food, whether grown from the ground or captured from the sea or sky, will always have a place on the food plate, Lim told the DairyNZ Farmers Forum in Waikato.

The dietitian, author, Masterchef winner and My Food Bag founder said the trend to veganism and plant-based alternative meat and dairy will be temporary once consumers understood what is in these products. . .

Importance of healthy plants celebrated in Year of Plant Health:

Healthy plants’ contribution to New Zealand’s wellbeing and economic sustainability has been highlighted at the launch of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) at Parliament tonight.

“Healthy plants are the backbone of New Zealand’s wellbeing and make a significant contribution to our economy,” says Horticulture New Zealand (HortNZ) Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

“Horticulture, including viticulture, contributed approximately $9 billion to the New Zealand economy in 2019. . .

North Canterbury farming keep an eye on the dry:

The Hurunui Adverse Events Committee has been monitoring how farmers are going in the current dry weather, and to remind their communities of the wealth of experience and information available.

Famers in North Canterbury have plenty of drought experience and can take credit for being in reasonable shape as February brings weeks of hot, dry weather and high evapotranspiration.

“If we learned one thing in the 2014-2017 droughts, it was that you need to make decisions early on what you can control,” says Winton Dalley, Chair of the Hurunui Adverse Events Committee. “Its good practice to have plans and deadlines in place to destock, send stock out to graze, and buy in supplements while they are available at an affordable price. . .

Cows can help reverse global warming – Nigel Malthus:

Cows and pasture are not the villains in climate change, but could instead be our saviours, says Hawke’s Bay farmer, soil scientist and consultant Phyllis Tichinin.

An executive member of the Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group (ODPG) and on the organising committee of the group’s upcoming national conference, Tichinin says with regenerative farming methods, the grazing sector alone could make New Zealand carbon-negative.

“Cows are not bad. They’re actually a very important part of reversing global warming and CO2 levels quickly and productively.” . . 

New milk vat monitoring systems for Fonterra farmers:

Fonterra is beginning to install new milk vat monitoring systems over the next couple of years.

The aim is to support their farmers’ production of high-quality milk and make the co-op’s milk collection more efficient.

Richard Allen, group director of Farm Source, says the new milk vat monitoring systems are part of Fonterra’s commitment to help make farming easier.  . .


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 8, 2019

Muller: Labour wants ag gone – Annette Scott:

The Government does not see agribusiness as part of the future of New Zealand’s economy, National Party agriculture spokesman Todd Muller says.

And the freshwater reforms are potentially damaging to the rural community, he told about 200 people at a meeting in Ashburton.

He is wary of new rules without factoring in the potential economic impact.

“You can only get sustainable, enduring outcomes if farmers can see a way they can farm to their limits.

“Economic, social and environmental implications are all perspectives that need to be in communications.

“That’s why we are pushing back very hard and will do if we are in government after September next year.”   . . 

Fonterra wants change to water rules – Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra wants the Government to remove suggested maximum required levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in streams.

In its submission on the Government’s Action of Healthy Waterways proposal, Fonterra says it “strongly opposes” some of the maximum required levels for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP).

Farm Source Group director Richard Allen says the discussion document does not contain sufficient economic analysis to justify the proposed bottom line values.

Fonterra believes that in-stream bottom lines should only be used where there is a direct link to the outcomes sought. . .

‘Some mud needs to be thrown’ – farmer at Fonterra AGM :

Fonterra shareholders are frustrated and want accountability after turbulent times for the country’s biggest enterprise.

About 200 farmers gathered in Invercargill for the dairy giant’s annual general meeting.

The co-op recently posted a $605 million loss for the last financial year, and didn’t pay dividends to shareholders.

Farmer shareholders acknowledged that today was going to be tough for Fonterra’s leaders during an Q and A session. . .

Breeders boost eating quality – Neal Wallace:

Breeders are responding to customers’ desires and positioning the sheep farmers for the day when processors start grading meat for its eating qualities. Neal Wallace reports.

Meat processors don’t recognise eating quality yet but a group of ram breeders is preparing for when they do.

Andrew Tripp from Nithdale Station in Southland is involved in the South Island genomic calibration project, which uses DNA testing to let breeders predict terminal sire rams likely to produce offspring with meat that has superior qualities of tenderness and juiciness.

Other partners in the project include Beef + Lamb Genetics, Pamu, AgResearch, Focus Genetics, Kelso, the Premier Suftex group, the Southern Suffolk group and Beltex NZ. . . 

A blaze of yellow – Nigel Malthus:

Several thousand hectares of South Island farmland is a blaze of yellow as the annual rapeseed crop welcomes the spring.

Cropping farmer Warren Darling is one whose display regularly wows the public, since his farm straddles State Highway One just south of Timaru. His 120ha of rape is at “peak flower” and he expects to harvest at the end of January.

Darling has been growing the crop for about 12 years, along with wheat and barley.

He is now also trying sunflowers, beans and industrial hemp, in an effort to find compatible crops to move to a four-year rotation. . .

Busy music career gathers speed – Alice Scott:

Farmer’s wife, teacher, mother of twin boys, fledgling musician and all while recovering from brain surgery … it’s fair to say Casey Evans hasn’t been taking things easy over the last few years.

Casey moved to husband Rhys’ family farm near Owaka just under three years ago and things have been moving rapidly since, as her country music career begins to gain momentum and she is about to set off on a Somewhere Back Road music tour, raising funds to produce her first solo album.

It is just over a year since Casey underwent surgery to extend the size of her skull and release the pressure on her cerebellum and brain stem tissue which was pushing against the hole at base of her skull. For years Casey said she has experienced chronic fatigue and headaches which she attributed to “a few too many” horse falls. Being pregnant with twins, the symptoms compounded and Casey blacked out.

“It was then they did a scan and diagnosed the problem.” . . 

EcoScapes: Stunning views, mental massages and the country’s coolest cinema – Brook Sabin:

I’ve come up with a great concept: the mental massage.

Let me explain. It’s a crazy time to be a human: we’re bombarded with so much information, we’re expected to do more than ever, and we’re all feeling, well, a little bit tired. 

So, you’ll like this next bit: it’s time for a mental massage. I’m talking about a little holiday that slows the heartbeat. That relaxes the muscles. That gives your brain a break. 

And, boy, I think I’ve found it. 

It’s a luxury pod in the mountains, where you can sit back in bed and stare at the Southern Alps. And with the flick of a button, the room transforms into the country’s coolest cinema – all to enjoy with just one other person. . . 


Rural round-up

January 10, 2019

No pay for Taratahi staff – Neal Wallace:

Staff at Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre cease being paid from this week but have not been made redundant.

Tertiary Education Union organiser Kris Smith said liquidators had advised staff by letter that pay was being suspended from the end of this week but that they were not being made redundant.

She understood there were approximately 200 staff across all Taratahi campuses in Wairarapa, South Otago, Taupo and non-residential campuses in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay and Southland. . . 

Eco-tourism business booming – Sally Rae:

Southland has been investigating how best to boost its tourism opportunities, aiming to hit $1billion in tourism revenue by 2025. Business reporter Sally Rae speaks to one tourism operator in the region who is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.

When Johan Groters and Joyce Kolk realised they needed to make their tourism venture into a ”proper” business two decades ago, there was no such thing as a business plan.

In fact, if someone had asked to see such a document, they would have looked at them blankly, Ms Kolk laughs.

All they wanted to do was ”make ends meet and have fun doing it” and they have maintained that philosophy as their eco-tourism operation in Western Southland continues to grow in ”leaps and bounds”. . . 

Labours recover ‘lost’ waterfall – Richard Davison:

A 15-year ”labour of love” is going viral for a pair of bush-walking cribbies from Papatowai, thanks to the power of the internet.

Local man Wayne Allen’s interest was piqued when he discovered the Catlins had several ”forgotten” waterfalls among its total of 140, alongside tourist drawcards such as Purakaunui and McLean Falls.

When he learnt one of them was a long-lost 20m cataract just 20 minutes south of his Papatowai crib, the die was cast.

”I set out with Peter [Hill] to see what we could see, just with a view to exploring initially . . 

 

Fonterra’s Farm Source™ to sell livestock division to Carrfields Livestock:

Fonterra has today announced that it will sell the Farm Source™ livestock division to Carrfields Livestock – an established livestock agency provider.

Richard Allen, Farm Source™ Stores Director, says the decision to sell was made in the context of a larger review underway within the Co-op.

“In the context of the review of the Co-op’s assets and investments, we have made the decision to sell the livestock division to Carrfields Livestock. This will better serve the livestock team and the farms they service. . . 

Dutch Courage: the little Kiwi cheese comapny taking on the world – Alice Neville:

Since 1981, a pioneering Dutch immigrant has been developing a distinctive New Zealand style of cheese, and now the world is starting to sit up and take notice.

But for Albert Alferink, he’s just doing what he’s good at: working. Waikato: home of the Tron, the mighty river, Hobbiton, Waikato Draught and Jacinda Ardern.

The region is also home, of course, to acre upon acre of lush green grass that’s munched by cows who produce milk that is, or so we’re told, the backbone of the nation. . .

Wool lovers battle animal-rights crowd over sheep shearing – Sarah Nassauer:

Quintin McEwen spotted the tag on a Lucky Brand men’s polyester sweater and decided he had had enough.

“Shearless Fleece,” it read next to a picture of a sheep heavy with wool. “Not a single sheep was sheared in the making of this garment.”

The sixth-generation sheep farmer in Monkton, Ontario, logged on to his farm’s Facebook page to lash out at Lucky. Not only is shearing not inhumane, he wrote, it helps sheep fend off disease and move around more comfortably. “I am absolutely shocked by your blatant disregard for my industry,” Mr. McEwen wrote in the post, eliciting more than 1,000 comments. . .

AsureQuality and Bureau Veritas form exciting new venture in South East Asia:

New partnership between two market leaders will benefit both the growing food industry in South East Asia and Kiwi exporters.

New Zealand’s premier food assurance business AsureQuality and global leader Bureau Veritas are pleased to announce the formation of a new joint venture in South East Asia, BVAQ. Based in Singapore, this new partnership will bring their combined expertise and extensive capabilities to the fast-growing South East Asian food industry, as well as provide on the ground support for New Zealand food and primary exporters to this region

The partnership will combine and strengthen the existing footprints across South East Asia. AsureQuality have been operating a strong food testing business with a state-of-the-art laboratory in Singapore since 2010; while Bureau Veritas has newly established food testing laboratories in Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, plus a majority share in Permulab – a Malaysian leader in food and water testing. . . 

Changing the gender bias in agriculture – Busani Bafana:

Women entrepreneurs are playing an important role in transforming global food security for economic growth, but they have to work twice as hard as men to succeed in agribusiness.

“Agriculture and agribusiness are generally perceived as run by men,” entrepreneur and Director of  the Nairobi-based African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN) Beatrice Gakuba, told IPS. She noted that women entrepreneurs have to prove themselves, even though they are as capable and innovative as men.

“Women entrepreneurs face more challenges in getting their foot in the door in agricultural business than men when it comes to access to finance because of several factors, including socio-cultural beliefs,” adds Gakuba, who runs a flower export business. . . 


Rural round-up

February 5, 2014

Addressing severe erosion on the East Coast:

Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew has today announced that public consultation on proposed operational changes to the East Coast Forestry Project (ECFP) is now underway.

“The Gisborne region has a severe erosion problem. A quarter of the land is susceptible to severe erosion, compared with only 8 percent of all land in New Zealand,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“The ECFP funds the treatment of land to prevent soil erosion, through planting trees or indigenous regeneration.”

Since 1992 landowners have used the fund to treat soil erosion on 42,000 hectares. . .

MPI confirm neurological equine herpes – Corazon Miller:

The Ministry for Primary Industries has confirmed the country’s first case of the neurological form of the Equine Herpes Virus.

12 horses have been affected on a single stud farm, six of which have since died or been euthanised.

While the virus itself is common amongst New Zealand horses, MPI spokesman Andrew Coleman says the virus often sits dormant but can manifest into the neurological form when the animal is stressed.

He says stress is a key factor in transforming the common dormant form of the virus into one which attacks the brain. . .

David Ellis, Karaka’s biggest buyer, blames IRD for bleeding bloodstock sales –  Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – David Ellis, the biggest spender at New Zealand’s premiere Karaka horse sales this year, says the tax department is stifling new investment in the bloodstock industry with its interpretation of depreciation rules.

The value of yearling sales at Karaka in South Auckland have fallen in each of the past six years, reaching $69.7 million last month, down from $111.2 million in 2008. That’s below the average $83.9 million in the past seven sales. The number of catalogued horses has fallen 12 percent in that time and actual lots bought are down 18 percent.

Ellis, principle of Waikato-based Te Akau Racing stables, spent $6.8 million on 43 horses at Karaka last month, almost $3 million more than the second-largest buyer. . .

Plantain Proves Popular Alternative to Pasture:

A Hawke’s Bay on-farm trial shows lambs fatten faster on plantain and yield better than lambs grazed on pasture.

Awapai Station, which is a ram breeder for Focus Genetics recently carried out trials and then held an on farm field day for other farmers to find out more about plantain management.

The field day comes as more farmers turn to plantain as a popular, affordable alternative to pasture for fattening lambs and improving the condition of livestock for mating.

Many sheep and beef breeders and traders say plantain helps produce better growth rates.

Awapai farm manager, Shane Tilson says he has planted 80 hectares of mixed clover and tonic plantain in the last four years and is now seeing outstanding results. . .

NZ agribusiness get dedicated crowdfunding platform :

New Zealand agribusinesses looking for investors will be able to turn to crowdfunding once new legislation comes into effect in April.

The agribusiness-focused crowdfunding platform, Snowball Effect, is the first of its kind in New Zealand, and intends to give small to medium sized businesses access through their website to funding from investors looking for equity.

Snowball Effect’s launch coincides with the new regulations and is the brainchild of Fonterra Cooperative Group executives Richard Allen, Simeon Burnett and Francis Reid. They appointed 26-year-old Josh Daniell to be the company’s business development manager to oversee daily operations. . . .

Judges Choose First Regional Dairy Awards Finalists:

The first regional finalists in the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards should be known, following the start of preliminary judging last week.

National convenor Chris Keeping says the launch of regional preliminary judging signals the start of the process to whittle down the 572 entrants to 33 regional winners and then three national winners.

“It is a long process that involves a lot of planning and preparation by our entrants and considerable time by our teams of voluntary judges,” Mrs Keeping says.

“It is also a very satisfying time, as entrants gain insights and valuable feedback from the judges and judges gain satisfaction in assisting people to progress in their career and in the dairy industry. The judges generally learn a thing or two from the entrants too!” . . .

Three reasons to toast the 2013 vintage:

It is said good things come in threes and the three newly released Sacred Hill Orange Label wines showcase all that was good about the 2013 vintage.

Sacred Hill Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2013, Marlborough Pinot Gris 2013 and Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013 are now available and winemaker Tony Bish says they are ready to drink and be enjoyed during the rest of summer and beyond.

“The superb 2013 vintage has been much talked about and will be for some time,” Mr Bish says. “These wines tell more of the story of just how good the fruit from the 2013 harvest was.” . . .

Wool merger exploratory talks:

Exploratory talks are underway on a possible merger between two farmer-owned wool bodies.

They are the Primary Wool Co-operative and the investment company Wool Equities. . . .


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