Rural round-up

03/07/2018

Moves to revive Ruataniwha dam scheme – Anusha Bradley:

A group of Central Hawke’s Bay businessmen are hoping to resurrect the controversial Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme after buying the intellectual property from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council for $100,000.

The regional council spent $14 million, and four years, trying to get the scheme off the ground before the Supreme Court ruled last year it could not flood a large parcel of conservation land.

Now, a company called Water Holdings CHB has bought the intellectual property and rights to the scheme from the regional council’s investment arm.

Water Holdings CHB director Gavin Streeter said owning the assets, which included consents and modelling data, would allow the community to explore options for reviving the scheme. . .

Chance for young farmers and farm workers to have their say:

Farmstrong has developed a new online survey to better understand the pressures facing younger farmers and farm workers, and asking them what works to improve their wellbeing.

The survey is being undertaken in association with NZ Young Farmers, and is open for all under 35 year old farmers and farm workers.

We have developed two surveys, one for women and one for men. Most of the questions in the two surveys are similar, but there are some that are specific to men or women, such as the networks they belong to or the print magazines they read.

The survey is confidential and only takes about 10 minutes to complete.  It is open till 16 July 2018. . . 

Sell-out crowd for 50th FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Invercargill:

Finalists competing in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final will arrive in Invercargill today.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the iconic agricultural contest, which was first held in Auckland in 1969.

A sell-out crowd of more than 1,000 people will pack ILT Stadium Southland for Saturday’s quiz and awards night. . .

AI and IoT changing the face of NZ dairying:

A fledgling New Zealand agritech company run by a rising Kiwi entrepreneur who has worked for Rocket Lab has raised $8 million, from Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective, which is likely to result in massive changes to the nation’s burgeoning dairy industry.

Waikato company Halter will use the $8 million boost to help farms guide and manage their dairy cows by using IoT and artificial intelligence, sustainably increasing production, saving billions in labour costs and improving environmental compliance and animal welfare. . .

GlobalDairyTrade marks its 10th anniversary:

Ten years ago, Global Dairy Trade held it first online auction on the GDT Events platform with the aim of being the most credible and comprehensive provider of prices across core dairy ingredients.

By the end of June this year, GDT Events had facilitated the trade of more than US$22 billion cumulative value of dairy products to buyers from over 80 countries.

Eric Hansen, Director Global Dairy Trade says the GDT Events auctions re-wrote the rules of engagement for buying and selling dairy commodities. . .

Fonterra welcomes appointment of new Beingmate baby & child food General Manager:
Fonterra welcomes the appointment of Bao Xiufei (Bob) to the role of General Manager of Beingmate Baby & Child Food Co Ltd. The move was announced yesterday and follows a comprehensive search.
Mr Bao joins Beingmate from Royal FrieslandCampina China, where he had a successful career, including most recently, as Friso Chief Sales Officer (CSO) and Consumer Dairy Managing Director. Prior to this, he was the Sales Director at Wyeth Nutrition and held senior roles at PepsiCo and Wahaha Food Group. . .

Horticulture NZ asks growers to renew funding:

Horticulture New Zealand’s Board is asking growers to vote to renew the levy funding that keeps the organisation going, with voting papers going out today. 

A levy rate of 14 cents per $100 of sales of the fruits and vegetables covered in The Commodity Levies (Vegetables and Fruit) Order is the principal funding mechanism to support Horticulture New Zealand’s work for commercial fruit and vegetable growers. The levy expires in May 2019 and voting to renew it, or not, needs to be completed by 13 August 2018.

“The purpose of Horticulture New Zealand is: Enabling, promoting and advocating for growers in New Zealand to achieve the industry goal (a $10 billion industry by 2020),” says Board President Julian Raine. . .

Agriculture 4.0: Technologies at the heart of agtech:

‘Agtech’ has been described as the fourth agricultural revolution – a marriage of data, farming and technological innovation that will further transform the industry and help us to achieve so far unrealised levels of productivity (such as the long-sought 20t/ha wheat yield), efficiency and environmental sustainability.

3D printing

According to Dr Larousse, eight technologies are at the heart of agtech and all have the disruptive power to transform agriculture. Four of them are software, four hardware. One of them is already being practised by Alltech: after its recent purchase of the feed solutions company Keenan, it decided it could provide a more efficient spare parts service by turning to 3D printing, allowing farmers around the world near-instant access to parts from their local dealer. “But it needn’t stop there: we could also ‘print’ food from its constituent ingredients or provide robots with the means to self-repair.” . . 


Rural round-up

29/04/2016

Trade negotiations like water dripping on a stone – Allan Barber:

Before he left for China last week, New Zealand’s Special Agricultural Trade Envoy, Mike Petersen, gave me his thoughts on the process of trade negotiation and a brief list of successes he has been involved with since 2003. At that time he was Chairman of Meat & Wool NZ as it was called in those days.

During that 13 year period New Zealand has signed free trade deals with Taiwan, China, ASEAN which comprises 12 countries and at long last South Korea, not to forget the TPPA. No wonder he called trade negotiations ‘like water dripping on a stone.’ Signing FTAs is never quick and demands a huge amount of manpower, preparation, patience and recognition no country ever gets everything it wants.

The reaction to the TPPA, not only here, but also in other signatory countries, notably the USA, indicates a growing feeling of disaffection with free trade deals because of the perceived loss of sovereignty they entail, including domestic employment opportunities, and conversely the benefits to big business. . .

Food ‘knowledge gap’ creates dangers for farmers:

Does a cow need to have a calf to give milk?

The answer should be obvious, but more than 70% of consumers get the question wrong explains University of Guelph associate professor Mike Von Massow. A majority of Canadians also believe that a chicken is processed for meat when it reaches four years of age.

Von Massow shared these findings from his research on consumer perceptions of food at the Farm & Food Care Ontario annual meeting earlier this month. While many of the findings are troubling for agriculture there is also reason to be optimistic. “Consumers feel pretty good about the food they eat in Canada. Generally they believe they have safe, healthy food and they trust farmers,” says Massow. . .

Tribal councils appeal farmers’ discharge consents – John Gibb:

A decision by independent commissioners to grant a consent for a North Otago farmer from 2020 to discharge nitrogen from three farms on to land ‘‘in a manner that may enter groundwater” has been appealed to the Environment Court.

The consent application from Borst Holdings Ltd was the first to be made under Otago’s new 6A water plan change, which concerns itself with the amount of nitrogen being released into the area’s rivers.

The consent for the Borst farms, near the Kakanui River, was granted for 15 years starting from April 1, 2020. . . 

Dairy farmers will pay for next five years say John Mulvany:

MURRAY Goulburn has sheltered farmers from the real global milk price and they’re going to pay for five years, according to a leading consultant.

Gippsland-based consultant John Mulvany said the effect of the overpayment for milk in 2015-16 will result in the deduction of the equivalent of 24 cents a kilogram of milk solids from milk supply during the next three years, or $36,000 a year for a 150,000kg/MS farm, to pay back for this season’s mistake.

“The late notification is absolutely inexcusable,” he said.

“It is not fair to the MG field staff who, until mid-December, were issuing income estimates with three step-ups leading to a milk price over $6 a kilogram of milk solids. . . 

Sweet opportunities in honey industry for locals:

Today marks the first day of work for 11 Work and Income clients, who will be developing Northland College’s mānuka plantation site.

30 hectares of mānuka will be initially planted on Northland College land – an initiative that provides current and future employment opportunities for Kaikohe people.

The Northland College Mānuka Initiative stems from the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan which identifies 58 actions for stimulating the Northland economy. . . 

Horticulture Welcomes Dam Progress:

Horticulture New Zealand has welcomed the announcement of the progress made in funding for the Ruataniwha Dam project in Hawke’s Bay.

The horticulture industry is reliant on sensible management of freshwater in New Zealand and the provision of water for future generations of primary sector business is essential.

“This will see the number of growers increase, and this in turn will improve the sustainability of the proposal,” HortNZ natural resources and environment manager Chris Keenan says. . . 

Expect more gains in nutrient management says Ballance:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients is confident that Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord targets around nutrient data collection and efficiency reporting will continue to lift as more farmers understand the direct benefits to their farms and their OVERSEER® nutrient budgets.

Commenting on the release of Accord results yesterday, Ballance CEO Mark Wynne said that while results had fallen short of targets for nutrient management data and the reporting back of nutrient efficiency information, good progress is being made.

The target is for all dairy farms to provide quality nutrient management data. Progress is currently sitting at 75 percent, up from 56 percent last year. . . 

New online financial problem-solving platform for farmers: ASK Crowe Horwath:

Earlier this month accounting and business advisory firm Crowe Horwath announced the launch of the online platform, ASK Crowe Horwath.

ASK Crowe Horwath, an obligation-free, online financial problem-solving service allows questions to be posed by New Zealand agribusinesses and individuals that are then answered by Crowe Horwath advisors – ‘get a real answer from a real advisor’ is indeed the tagline of the platform.

There are no boundaries to the questions that can be asked, with rural professionals covering the full spectrum of financial services. . .

Debbie Kelliher's photo.


Rural round-up

03/02/2016

Booklet kicks off Fonterra structure review – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra’s farmer-shareholders have received a preliminary booklet on the co-operative’s governance and representation, raising many questions but not providing answers.  

It begins a five-month journey to a revised structure more appropriate for Fonterra’s size, complexity and global ambitions.  Farmer-shareholders will be expected to contribute to the review and vote on the final proposal in May. . . 

Rabobank announces new head of Food & Agri Research:

Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group has announced the appointment of Tim Hunt as new General Manager of its Food & Agribusiness Research (FAR) division.

Mr Hunt takes on the role after five years with Rabobank in New York, where he served in the international position of Global Strategist – Dairy.

In his new role, Mr Hunt will lead Rabobank’s highly-regarded food and agri commodities research team – comprising 10 specialist analysts – in New Zealand and Australia. . . 

Alliance drafter has eye for winner – Sally Rae:

Warwick Howie received a little good-natured ribbing when he won the Paddock to Plate competition at the recent Otago-Taieri A&P Show.

Mr Howie, a drafter for Alliance Group, laughed that he had ‘‘copped a bit of flak” following the victory.

The competition, which attracted 41 entries, has become an annual fixture at the show, with proceeds going to the A&P Society. . . 

Course already tidy for Legends – Sally Rae,

When it comes to maintaining the Tokarahi golf course, greenkeeper Marty McCone has the same philosophy as for his farm – he likes it tidy all the time.

So preparing for this month’s PGA Legends Tour, which is returning to Tokarahi for the second year, did not require an extraordinarily massive effort.

‘‘I try and keep the course up to speed all the time. There’s a lot of little things you do to have it really tip-top,” Mr McCone said. . . 

Synlait revises milk price forecast to $4.20:

Synlait Milk has revised its forecast milk price for the 2015 / 2016 season from $5.00 per kgMS[1] to $4.20 per kgMS.

Chairman Graeme Milne said the revision is driven by the sustained low global commodity prices since September 2015, and a view that the recovery will be slower than anticipated.

“Our previous forecast of $5.00 kgMS expected prices to recover somewhat by this stage in the season, however this hasn’t happened and our revised forecast reflects this,” said Mr Milne. . . 

World Wetlands Day celebrated:

World Wetlands Day is a chance for New Zealanders to find out more about some of the country’s most important natural treasures, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry and Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner say.

To mark the day the Department of Conservation has released a new online resource,Our Estuaries, to help people explore and look after the wetland environment.

“New Zealand has more than 300 estuaries, and they are home to a wide range of native plants, fish and birds,” Ms Barry says. . . 

Rethink needed over dairy farm planting incentives:

The cost and benefits of planting trees to help mitigate environmental effects of dairy farming need to be shared by us all for it to succeed, a new study says.

Evaluation of an agri-environmental program for developing woody green infrastructure within pastoral dairy landscapes: A New Zealand case study says Government incentive programs are ineffective in overcoming barriers to planting such as the higher cost and slow growth of native plants, and the perception of planting being of little direct benefit to farmers’ operations.

Lead author, Lincoln University Landscape Ecology Senior Lecturer, Dr Wendy McWilliam, says the Government and the dairy industry need to work closely together to develop and maintain a landscape-scaled woody vegetation network on both private and public land. . .

Forestry show NZ way to better safety:

A sharp drop in forestry deaths and serious injuries after a massive safety overhaul in 2014 shows what can be achieved when an industry joins together to make improvements, the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum says.

The fall is welcome and sets an example for other industries to follow, says Forum Executive Director Francois Barton.

“Forestry has shown us some of the things that need to be done to bring down high fatality and serious injury rates in an industry,” Francois says. . . 

Good Progress – But More Work to Do to Make Forestry Safe:

A reduction in deaths and serious injuries in forestry since 2013 is encouraging but there is more work to be done yet, the Forest Industry Safety Council (FISC) says.

WorkSafe figures show serious injuries halved to 78 in 2015 from 160 in 2013, FISC National Safety Director Fiona Ewing says.

“The trend is going in the right direction but we can’t rest on our laurels. Three forestry workers died in 2015. That’s well down on the 10 who died in 2013 but it’s up from just one in 2014.. . .

Irrigation scheme loan approved:

An $8 million loan from the Selwyn District Council means design of stage two of a multi-million dollar irrigation scheme can go ahead.

The council approved the loan to Central Plains Water last month, with the money expected to transfer over next week.

But a community group told RNZ News rate payers should not be lending money to fund a private shareholder scheme. . .

Ruataniwha Dam: Investor mix still being finalised:

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s investment company (HBRIC) says work on getting farmers to sign up to buy water from the proposed Ruataniwha Dam is on hold until the project’s investor mix becomes clearer.

HBRIC has been looking for institutional investors to put money into the dam since Trustpower and Ngai Tahu pulled out in early 2014, saying the risks surrounding the dam were too high and the returns too low.

The company said it had countersigned contracts for 31 million cubic metres of water with a minimum of 45 million cubic metres needed to be sold to make construction financially viable.

It said finalising the investor mix for the Ruataniwha Dam was its current focus. . . 

Global slump in fert prices benefits NZ farmers:

New Zealand farmers stand to benefit from significant savings on their farm nutrient inputs with Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ latest round of price reductions, effective 31 January.

The price review sees urea drop $50 to $525, DAP reduce $25 per tonne, sulphate of ammonia by $15 and potash by $10. These changes will flow through to product blends.

Ballance CEO Mark Wynne says the move comes on the back of a global slump in fertiliser prices, driven by strong supply and soft demand. . . 

Lowest urea price since 2007:

Farmers stand to benefit from a $50 per tonne saving for urea from 1st February, when Ravensdown will drop its prices.

Chief Executive Greg Campbell says he is pleased that Ravensdown is again leading on a price reduction for farmers who are facing increasing costs in many aspects of their business whilst their returns are under pressure.

“We said it not long ago, with our recent superphosphate cap,” Greg says, “that we are about delivering all-year value to our shareholders, and we’re demonstrating it again with urea and other products.” . . 


Rural round-up

20/01/2016

Farmers cop blame – Richard Rennie:

Farming and tourism, the country’s two biggest industries, are set to lock horns over future water quality standards.  

A water campaign with the horsepower of the $12 billion tourism sector behind it will have farming further under the spotlight and under pressure to play a bigger role in lifting national water standards.  

It is gathering signatures for a petition to raise water standards and wants a parliamentary select committee hearing on the issue.

A group of campaigners this month launched a road trip under the Choose Clean Water campaign banner. It is seeking stories from New Zealanders about the quality of waterways in their districts.. . 

Irrigating farmers experience “mixed bag” with El Nino:

While drought conditions persist in many parts of the country, some irrigating farmers are coping well with the dry conditions aided by water supply from alpine-fed irrigation schemes, says IrrigationNZ.

Farmers taking water from rivers and lakes topped up by West Coast rain have benefited from El Nino’s erratic weather pattern this summer, says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

“While we support the Minister’s move to extend the official drought in the South Island, it is interesting to note that farmers connected to the big alpine-fed rivers and lakes haven’t struggled this season, despite low rainfall on the East Coast and an early start to the irrigation season with high temperatures in spring,” says Mr Curtis. . . 

Drought in South Island enters second year:

Widespread drought conditions in the South Island mean the medium-scale event classification will be extended until the end of June, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.

“Extra funding of up to $150,000 will go to local Rural Support Trusts with $40,000 of this going to the North Canterbury Trust,” says Mr Guy.

Speaking with farmers at a sheep and beef farm in Weka Pass, Hurunui, Mr Guy acknowledged this is the third time the classification has been extended.

“Marlborough, Canterbury and parts of Otago were originally classified as a medium-scale event on 12 February 2015 and have had very little rainfall for more than a year now. . . 

Nominations open for Ron Cocks Memorial Award:

Nominations have opened for IrrigationNZ’s Ron Cocks Memorial Award which recognises outstanding leadership within the irrigation industry. The deadline for nominations is 9th February.

The Ron Cocks Memorial Award is presented every two years at the organisation’s biennial conference to acknowledge a person who has made a significant contribution to irrigation in New Zealand.

Two years ago, IrrigationNZ presented the award for the first time ever to two individuals. . . 

Farmers: South Island rain not a drought-breaker -Emma Cropper:

As the wet summer continues to frustrate holiday-goers, torrential rain has kept fire crews busy as it caused minor flooding to low-lying parts of Timaru.

But the heavy downpour has been welcomed by drought-stricken farmers in Hawarden, though they say the challenge isn’t over yet as they find out tomorrow if much-needed support is heading their way.

For the first time in 18 months, it’s pouring on Iain Wright’s farm. Running water and puddles have appeared after three days of gentle, on-and-off rain.

“Things have really turned around now,” he says. “We’ve got moisture in the ground. The paddocks have greened up. There’s hope.” . . .

Ruataniwha Dam’s future still uncertain – Peter Fowler:

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Investment Company has still not secured an institutional investor for the controversial Ruataniwha Dam despite saying earlier it was confident it would be able to do so by the end of 2015.

HBRIC has been looking for institutional investors to put money into the dam since Trustpower and Ngai Tahu pulled out in early 2014, saying the risks surrounding the dam were too high and the returns too low.

In the middle of last December, HBRIC said it was confident it would be able to confirm a preferred investor mix for the project before the end of the year.

It said intensive work was being done with three potential investors but it would not make its decision public until very early in 2016. . . 

Theft of calves in Waimate pormpts warning:

The theft of 25 calves in the Waimate district has prompted fresh warnings for farmers to increase security and keep an eye on their stock numbers.

A farmer on Sodwall Road in Otaio has reported the theft of five heifer and 20 bull calves, thought to have be stolen between November and 5 January.

Waimate Sergeant s said the farmer was unaware the stock were missing until he counted heads in his yards.

“The calves weren’t reported as stolen until the farmer had accounted for all his cattle – got them in and did a head count. . . 

ANZ extends dry weather assistance package for South Island farmers:

ANZ is extending its assistance package to South Island farmers affected by extreme dry conditions.

The bank will commit an additional $20 million to the assistance package, but will extend that if demand for help from farmers is high. ANZ launched the assistance package last January.

The announcement follows the Government today extending its South Island drought declaration, which covers much of the South Island’s east coast, until 30 June 2016.

“While farmers in some areas have welcomed rainfall recently, others are still grappling with extreme dry conditions that will impact the productivity of their farms for some time to come,” said Troy Sutherland, ANZ’s General Manager Southern Commercial & Agri. . . 

Waikato Woman Wins Poultry Trainee of the Year Award:

Waikato woman Dahook Azzam regards her job at an Inghams Enterprises meat chicken breeder farm as an ideal opportunity to combine theoretical knowledge with practical experience. And her enthusiasm for her new career in a new country has played a key role in her recent win of the Poultry Trainee of the Year Award for 2015.

The award is given each year to the top-performing trainee in all of the training courses run by the poultry industry in cooperation with the Primary Industry Training Organisation (PrimaryITO).

Dahook is currently an Assistant Farm Manager whose role includes daily feeding, watering and environmental checks of the birds as well as farm and staff management and data entry. . . 

 


Rural round-up

19/12/2014

New tool to test sheep meat quality:

An international project testing the eating quality of sheep meat using DNA measurements will enter its final stage next year, with the tool developed set to be tested on commercial flocks in New Zealand.

In September last year, a sheep genotyping tool known as a SNP (snip) chip was created by an international team of scientists as part of the FarmIQ genetics project.

John McEwan, one of the project’s leaders and AgResearch principal scientist, says the chip measures hundred of thousands of DNA variances and allows a sheep’s performance to be predicted by testing its DNA, rather than extensive progeny testing being needed.

“We take an ear punch out of the sheep – just a very small piece of tissue about three millimetres in diameter – and we extract the DNA out of that from the sheep. Then we place that DNA on this slide or chip and develop it with a set of chemicals and the DNA variance appears as different colours.” . .

Farmer contracts not taxing water-take:

Contracts signed so far to take water from Hawke’s Bay’s Ruataniwha dam and irrigation project added up to only about 13 percent of the commitment needed to make the scheme commercially feasible.

But the company running the project says farmers representing more than half of the minimum water-take required have made the decision to join the scheme and have asked for contracts.

The figures are in a report that the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s investment company presented to the council today.

The company has until the end of March next year to decide whether the dam and irrigation project in the Tukituki River catchment will have enough backing to proceed. That includes having enough farmers signed up to take a minimum of 40 million cubic metres of water a year. . .

Ngai Tahu launches farming diploma:

Ngai Tahu has launched a new Maori Farming Diploma which it hopes will produce the country’s future leaders in agriculture.

Whenua Kura is a partnership between Te Tapuae o Rehua, Ngai Tahu Farming and Lincoln University.

The diploma course is the first of its kind where students will study in a Maori environment and learn how to apply critical Ngai Tahu values such kaitiakitanga (guardianship), manaakitanga (hospitality) and rangatiratanga (self-determination) to land use. . .

It’s always Christmas for farmers – Vincent H. Smith:

It is Christmas time once again and in my part of the world, southwestern Montana, the snow has arrived and will be with us until early March.  Most nights the temperature will fall well below 20 degrees Fahrenheit; some days the thermometer won’t rise above zero.

That’s winter time in the Northern Great Plains and the eastern Rocky Mountains, where cabin fever is a real phenomenon and ranching becomes truly hard work. In this world, cattle can be inconvenient. They need water and calories in places where they can feed and drink, and cows often calve on bitterly cold February and early March nights.

Ranching is also risky in the winter time; herds can be decimated by blizzards and what seem like mile high snow drifts. And ranchers, on the whole, are genuine risk taking entrepreneurs who, for the most part, neither seek nor receive substantial federal bailouts. Most of them also know that country of origin labelling is a bad economic idea that has reduced the prices they are paid by meatpackers and feedlots. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, for example, has recently argued that the US should “reform” and essentially terminate that program rather than appeal a recent WTO finding that the program violates US WTO commitments. . .

A new standard for labelling of export infant formula:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has today issued a new standard to clarify the labelling requirements for exports of infant formula.

“The standard has been developed as part of the infant formula market assurance programme announced by the Government in June 2013,” said Scott Gallacher, MPI Deputy Director-General, Regulation and Assurance.

“It is the first of a set of technical regulatory changes that will be introduced progressively over the next six months to further strengthen our assurance system for exports of infant formula products.

“MPI consulted on the new standard during July and August. The new standard clarifies the information that must be on labels of infant formula intended for export, and information or representations that are restricted or prohibited on these products. . .

New labelling standard for infant formula:

Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew has today welcomed a new standard under the Animal Products Act that clarifies the labelling requirements for infant formula exports.

“Currently all export dairy products are exempt from New Zealand’s food labelling standards, they instead meet labelling requirements of the importing country,” Mrs Goodhew says.

“Infant formula is a special product. For this reason, the Ministry has put in place this new standard, which applies regardless of where the infant formula is being sent. This will ensure exporters know what information must be on labels, and what information and images are prohibited.  . .

20 years of selling semen and nothing’s a problem:

Te Aroha local, born and bred, Butch Coombe celebrates 20 years working with CRV Ambreed as a field consultant.

Starting out part-time to supplement the income on his 110-acre farm, his sales patch grew and grew and enabled him to buy extra things for farm like a new four-wheeler with his ‘top up earnings.’ When his area grew to the point where it could support his family, he decided to sell the farm and join CRV Ambreed full-time.

It was a big move for Coombe and his wife Heather, who had been farming their whole married life – some 30 years – but he was pleased not to have to leave the industry or cattle completely. . .

 


Rural round-up

19/07/2014

Regen owner named Mumtrepreneur of the Year:

Wellington businesswoman Bridgit Hawkins has been named Fly Buys Mumtrepreneur of the Year in the Fly Buys Mumtrepreneur Awards.

Hawkins’ business, Regen Ltd, helps dairy farmers manage a key issue – disposing of cattle effluent. The company has developed software that turns data, including soil moisture, temperature and rainfall, into a simple daily recommendation that’s sent to the farmer by text message.

Since Regen launched in 2010, the company has helped hundreds of farms across the country manage effluent disposal efficiently and its customer numbers have doubled year on year. . .

$107.5m to Lincoln University science rebuild:

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce today announced that the Government has approved in principle to provide up to $107.5 million in capital funding toward the rebuilding of Lincoln University’s science facilities destroyed in the Canterbury earthquakes.

“Lincoln University suffered very significant damage in the Canterbury earthquakes, and this money will assist the university with its rebuild programme and help it get back fully on its feet. Lincoln is focused on growing its undergraduate enrolments and the rebuild of its key facilities is the next stage in returning it to sustainable operations”, Mr Joyce says.

Lincoln University lost more than 40 per cent of its academic floor space in the Canterbury earthquakes, including much of its facilities for science teaching and research. The rebuild will involve demolishing the badly damaged Hilgendorf and Burns buildings, and replacing them with modern facilities. . .

Federated Farmers on Ruataniwha appeal:

While Federated Farmers did not lodge an appeal with the High Court against the Board of Inquiry decision on the Ruataniwha Dam and the associated Plan Change 6, it is now considering options in light of Hawke’s Bay & Eastern Fish & Game Councils lodging an appeal.

“Federated Farmers principal interests are in the plan change rather than the dam, which was given consent to proceed,” says Will Foley, Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay Provincial President.

“I cannot comment on the merits of Fish & Game’s appeal until we see it next week.

“Since we now know of Fish & Game appeal, we must now reconsider the best way forward.  I need our members to know that we do have options.

“It seems farcical since the news today says Kiwi farmers will have to make big changes to cope with climate change, following release of the International State of the Climate report.  Yet more reasons to store water. . . .

Looking for the South Island’s next top farmer:

The South Island’s next top farmer is out there and Federated Farmers wants to see farmers nominated for the 2014 Lincoln University Foundation South Island Farmer of the Year award. The 2013 award being won by the winemaker, Peter Yealands.

“New Zealand farming does not celebrate success enough,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers National President.

“As the farmer-comedian Te Radar told us at Federated Farmers’ National Conference, we do not take time to stop and appreciate just how good our farmers really are. . .

Levy vote about capturing wool’s value –  Chris Irons:

In recent news, one might think that sheep farming is all about red meat, but the sheep farmer’s story is not all about protein. We farm a dual purpose animal and whilst the red meat side is performing, its fibre counterpart has yet to reach its full potential.

Sheep farmers are world leaders in producing fibre; supplying 45 percent of the world’s carpet wool, we are the world’s third largest wool exporter. To capture that value behind the farm gate and building the industry’s worth of $700 million, we need a Wool Levy.

The Wool Levy Consultation has been officially launched, and the Referendum will be voted on the 10th October. Imagine the possibilities, with the average value of our raw wool exports having increased by 38 percent from 2010 to 2014. . . .

Rural elderly communities to struggle – report:

An ageing population where deaths outnumber births will be a challenge for rural communities who won’t be able to afford the services they need, according to analysis of New Zealand census data.

The challenges of adapting to an older population are highlighted in the Our Futures report, by an expert panel at the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Panel chairman, Professor Gary Hawke, says the review is a unique multi-disciplinary approach that looks at the big picture.

“We wanted to highlight what an evolving New Zealand society might look like, what is underlying these changes, and the challenges and opportunities these present.” . . .

Mixed fortunes at wool auction:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s General Manager, Mr John Dawson reports that the South Island auction offering 10,122 bales this week received varied support despite a weaker New Zealand dollar compared to the last sale on 10th July.

The weighted currency indicator was down 1.11 percent with 81 percent of the offering being sold.

Steady demand from China underpinned the Fine Crossbred sector, however most carpet wool types eased as contracts in this area have been harder to conclude recently. . .

Value Creation and Environmental Sustainability for Marlborough Wine Industry By-Products:

Marlborough’s wine producers have come together with the Marlborough District Council in a new collaborative approach to the management of grape marc disposal, to generate a new, commercially viable and environmentally sustainable product from grape waste.

Facilitated by the District Council, participating wine companies have formed the “Marlborough Grape Marc (MGM) group” to advance a proposal for an environmentally sustainable use of the wine industry’s waste streams.

The MGM group is chaired by Eric Hughes of Pernod Ricard Winemakers with representatives from Cloudy Bay, Constellation Brands, Delegat’s, Giesen, Indevin, Matua, Mount Riley, NZ Wineries, Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Saint Clair and Villa Maria. The group members generate approximately 80% of the wine production in Marlborough. MGM is an open collective, it is hoped that further companies will join and support this industry wide initiative. . .


Rural round-up

28/06/2014

Sustainable farming title goes to Canterbury  – Tim Cronshaw:

Canterbury farmers have made it two years in a row after Mark and Devon Slee were named the national winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Christchurch last night.

The Gordon Stephenson trophy, farming’s top environmental and sustainable silverware, was handed to the couple by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The Slees topped a field of 10 regional winners in the competition run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFE).

Their business, Melrose Dairy, is based on a property portfolio of 1014 hectares in the Ealing district, south of Ashburton. . .

Farming balancing act – Stephen Bell and Bryan Gibson:

The final decision on Ruataniwha Dam represents the way of the future for farming and the environment, which will be balancing competing needs, Massey University ecology Associate Professor Dr Russell Death says.

Farming and environmental groups have cautiously welcomed the Environmental Protection Authority board of inquiry’s ruling on conditions for the $265 million dam in Central Hawke’s Bay.

However, while irrigators said commonsense had prevailed, one environment group said the decision meant the scheme’s viability was questionable.

“I guess to a certain extent both parties are right,” Death said. . .

Dam may be feasible after all – Marty Sharpe:

The correction of a relatively simple but hugely significant error in the 1000-page draft decision of the board of inquiry into the Ruataniwha dam proposal means the project may now be viable.

The board’s final decision on the dam and associated plan change was published yesterday, and corrected an “unintended consequence” in the draft decision, which inflamed farmers, farming organisations and the applicants – the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and its investment arm.

The draft decision held all farmers in the Tukituki catchment responsible for keeping the level of dissolved nitrogen in the river at 0.8 milligrams per litre of water. . .

 

Wanted: young farm workers for the future –  Gerard Hutching:

Need a sharemilker? How about employing a foreigner? Or perhaps a young New Zealander?

At the same time as the agricultural sector needs a big boost in the workforce, it has become harder to entice young people on to farms.

But it is not just a question of working on farms. The primary sector is facing a significant shortfall in skilled staff across the board, as the Government attempts to meet the ambitious target of doubling exports by 2025.

Within the primary sector, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries’ report People Powered, support services is the area of most acute need, followed by horticulture, forestry, the arable industry, dairy and seafood. Only the red meat and wool sector envisages a fall in workers by 5100. . .

Farming app replaces notebooks, calculators: – Anne Boswell:

A barrage of questions from his knowledge-hungry sons led dairy farmer Jason Jones to develop a livestock management application that removes the need for notebooks and calculators.

Handy Farmer, a highly-customisable app for iPhone and Android, was launched earlier this year, eight years after the idea was born.

Jones, a variable order sharemilker of 470 cows on 140ha effective near Otorohanga, said his sons started asking him “all sorts of questions” as they were learning the ropes of the dairy industry. . .

 

Online fruit and vege sales boom – Hugh Stringleman:

Online buying of fruit and vegetables is growing quickly and customers are more discerning and are prepared to pay more, the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Connections conference in Auckland has been told.

Four speakers gave perspectives from supermarket chains to fruit-and-vegetable stores.

New Zealander Shane Bourk, vice-president fresh food for Wal-Mart in China, said e-commerce was huge in China, although fresh fruit and vegetables lagged. . .


Rural round-up

06/02/2014

Dam agreement averts legal action – Marie Taylor:

Ngati Kahungunu’s threats of legal action to stall Hawke’s Bay’s $265 million Ruataniwha dam and irrigation scheme have been put aside.

A new agreement has been reached between Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated (NKII), Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and its investment company Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC), Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga and Te Taiwhenua o Tamatea.

Ngati Kahungunu held a meeting last week with marae, whanau and hapu to discuss the details of the proposed amendments. 

Chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said NKII had always preferred negotiation to litigation.

Council chairman Fenton Wilson and HBRIC chairman Andy Pearce said the recent developments kept lines of communication open between the parties. . .

NZ, Welsh shearers to compete – Sally Rae:

There will be an international flavour at this week’s Otago shearing and New Zealand wool-handling championships in Balclutha.

The event will host the second test in the four-test Elders Primary Wool series between New Zealand and Wales.

Rowland Smith (Hastings) and Tony Coster (Rakaia) will face Welshmen Gareth Daniel and Richard Jones, intent on avenging a 3-1 defeat in Wales last year. . .

Inheriting the farm no cheap transaction – Dr Ann Pomeroy:

An astonishing number of people think that sheep farmers are handed their properties on a plate, writes Ann Pomeroy.

They think that because the farm has been in the family for two or three generations, the farmer has inherited the property and hasn’t had to pay for it.

WRONG. Intergenerational transfers cost money. Lots of it – even when payment isn’t in one lump sum. For a son or daughter, nephew or niece to buy stock and equipment and add their name to the property title, acquire the farm outright or join the family partnership or trust, money changes hands.

This money goes into buying a retirement home for the retiring parents as well as funding parents’ retirement living expenses. The purchase price may also be funding the grandparents’ living expenses. . .

 

Bathurst Resources buys nursery for revegetation – Simon Hartley:

West Coast coal mine developer Bathurst Resources has bought a 51ha cranberry farm in the Buller district as a propagation nursery for replacement native trees and plants.

The listed Australian company has just been granted Overseas Investment Office permission for the purchase, the cost of which was undisclosed.

Following two years of court battles over the consents it was issued by the two West Councils, which delayed the mining start-up, Bathurst is expected to begin operations this month. . .

A better snake trap for the Drover’s Wife – Milk Maid Marian:

The twist of a tail was all it took to drive me and the kids indoors. Normally, prematurely extracting them from the sandpit is a big job but even an ebullient two-year-old can sense the importance of a “Don’t panic but…” message from his mum.

A snake (most likely a copper-head or tiger) had appeared at the bottom of Alex’s favourite climbing tree, just inches from the verandah and the children and I sat frozen in silence, listening to it swish through the dry leaves. And I am not Henry Lawson’s gutsy Drover’s Wife, for I am yellow to the core.

The drover’s wife makes the children stand together near the dog-house while she watches for the snake. She gets two small dishes of milk and sets them down near the wall to tempt it to come out; but an hour goes by and it does not show itself.

Instead, I send the kids scurrying indoors while I deploy my secret weapon: the Snake Trap. Purchased a couple of summers ago after another close encounter of the scaly kind, the trap has been waiting for just this moment. . .

Mildura Living: Angus Whyte: Outback NSW Station Life –  Jodie Morgan:

Yes, yes I know, Wentworth NSW is not Mildura so not technically Mildura Living….. but we consider it a part of our wonderful region as it is very close to Mildura.

Angus has been chatting  with me on  twitter and he finds this a great way to communicate with people, friends and family. We were intrigued to find out more about his life as a Station owner. (Say hello to Angus on Twitter)

He and his family lives on Wyndham Station, a 12500 ha property 85kms out from Wentworth in NSW.   Here Angus shares with us what he loves about being a farmer and also what he loves to do when he gets a chance to come into Mildura.  . .

 


Rural round-up

30/01/2014

Major forest industry safety review launched:

An independent panel is to conduct a major review into the high number of serious and fatal injuries in the forest industry.

The panel members are business leader George Adams, employment health and safety lawyer Hazel Armstrong and business safety specialist Mike Cosman. Their appointment and their terms of reference have been endorsed by forest industry organisations, ACC, relevant government agencies, the NZ Council of Trade Unions and the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum.

The review, which is expected to take up to six months to complete, is being funded by the Forest Owners, Forest Industry Contractors and Farm Forestry Associations, with administrative support and other resources provided by the government’s health and safety regulator, WorkSafe New Zealand.

Forest Owners past-president Bill McCallum says the forest industry makes an important contribution to New Zealand, providing jobs, export earnings and helping to lift economic growth. . .

Forest Contractors Welcome Expert Review Team:

Following the announcement earlier today of the start of the Forest Industry Workplace Safety Review process, the original architects of the review say they are pleased with the makeup of the review team.

“It was our executive board that first raised concerns with the corporate forest managers back in March 2013” says Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) spokesman John Stulen, “so we are pleased to see that a very strong and completely independent team of experienced safety professionals has been engaged to carry out the work.”

“We’ve worked closely with the Forest Owners Association and union leaders to ensure that a robust process was put in place.

The time we have taken to set up this up and ensure the review is impartial will give piece of mind to everyone.

All workers in our industry and their families can be assured they can speak frankly and openly and expect to have their concerns heard.” . . .

Industry-led forestry inquiry welcome:

Labour Minister Simon Bridges today welcomed the announcement of an industry-led inquiry into forestry safety, which will commence next month.

“I am pleased the forestry industry has taken ownership of the inquiry as enduring safety solutions in our forests cannot be made by government enforcement alone,” Mr Bridges says.

“The number of workplace deaths and injuries in forestry is too high and any action to reduce that toll deserves support.

“The Government’s health and safety regulator, WorkSafe NZ, will make a significant contribution to the inquiry. It will provide secretariat and other support, and will also make a substantial submission. . .

Iwi seeks dam benefits:

Hawke’s Bay iwi Ngati Kahungunu wants to know how it might benefit financially from a proposed dam, without becoming an investor.

It’s one of three iwi who have made an agreement with the regional council to talk about making changes to the Ruataniwha Dam plans.

Ngati Kahungunu runanga chair Ngahiwi Tomoana says discussions will take in to account the interest of the tribal people along the river.

The tribe has asked for all information on the dam so it can examine the data and reach its own conclusion on the benefits of any water storage scheme, he says. . . .

Maori trust to build East Coast dam:

A Maori organisation has won the right to build a dam on the East Coast.

Wi Pere Trust has got the tick of approval from Gisborne District Council to store water at Whatatutu.

Supplies will be taken from Waipaoa River and the dam will hold enough water to service tribal farmland, vineyards and orchards for 20 days during any drought. . . .

Contest to set speed fencing world record:

Speed and skill will be the key combination needed in Waikato this week to establish a world record for speed fencing.

The challenge, which involves putting battens on a fence, will be a feature of the Grasslandz Agricultural Machinery Expo, taking place at Ereka, between Morrinsville and Hamilton tomorrow and Friday.

It’s organised by Fairbrother Industries, a New Zealand company that makes post drivers and other fencing equipment for the local and export markets. . .   .

Sheep And Beef Sector Boost With Genetics Investment:

The announcement today that the Government will invest $15 million into sheep and beef genetics research over next five years has been welcomed by Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chairman, Mike Petersen.

The Government has said it will contribute funding for genetic research to allow the sheep and beef sector to further improve genetic gain and the development of new traits that can be farmed on hill country.

Petersen said the Government’s funding commitment was a pleasing show of confidence in the New Zealand sheep and beef sector, with the potential to significantly boost farmer profitability and that of the New Zealand economy.

“This investment supports a whole range of research, identifying new breeding traits that will produce more efficient animals and those that meet consumer preferences in our valuable export markets. . .

Following the announcement earlier today of the start of the Forest Industry Workplace Safety Review process, the original architects of the review say they are pleased with the makeup of the review team.

“It was our executive board that first raised concerns with the corporate forest managers back in March 2013” says Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) spokesman John Stulen, “so we are pleased to see that a very strong and completely independent team of experienced safety professionals has been engaged to carry out the work.”

“We’ve worked closely with the Forest Owners Association and union leaders to ensure that a robust process was put in place.

The time we have taken to set up this up and ensure the review is impartial will give piece of mind to everyone.

All workers in our industry and their families can be assured they can speak frankly and openly and expect to have their concerns heard.”


Rural round-up

25/01/2014

Farm sales up, confidence strong – Laura Walters:

The number of farm sales rose by more than 20 per cent last year, reflecting strong confidence in the rural sector, the Real Estate Institute says.

More than 1700 farms were sold in 2013, the largest number of sales a year since 2009.

Figures released by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) today showed 292 more farms were sold in the three months to December compared to the same period the previous year, an increase of 20.1 per cent.

Overall, there were 554 farm sales in the three months to the end of December 2013, compared to 414 farm sales for the three months ended November 2013, an increase of 33.8 per cent. . .

Good, not spectacular, arable harvest ahead – Annette Scott:

Crops are looking good but the harvest is not going to be a “bin buster”, industry leaders say.

As the combines roll out many farmers, particularly in Mid Canterbury, are counting the losses after wind and hail played havoc with crops in recent months.

All on top of a wet winter that has created more disease than usual.

“We are really just getting started with the harvest,” Mid Canterbury arable farmer and Federated Farmers South Island grain and seed vice-chairman David Clark said.

“So far the vining peas have been quite disappointing. Autumn cereals, having endured some very wet weather, are not expected to be too exciting. Some ryegrasses have been good and some, due to a variety of ills, quite disappointing. . .

Farmers act as water guardians

Farmers have been helping Environment Canterbury by providing practical onfarm knowledge and expertise on water quality.

They are members of the Guardians of Fork/Hakatere Stream.

The group was in the process of completing a funding application to help develop and restore an area of land adjacent to the stream.

This would include an educational amenity with green space and interpretive panels next to the stream on Braemar Road. . .

Apple exports a sweet success – Esther Ashby-Coventry:

The growing American demand for the honeycrisp apple has prompted Waipopo Orchards to encourage other local growers to join its export market.

Honeycrisp out-earns any other export apple grown in New Zealand. In the US it sells for about US$50 (NZ$61) a box, compared with other varieties, which are about US$20 a box.

Honeycrisp is the most popular apple in the US, with demand increasing 20 to 30 per cent each year since Waipopo’s first export of 50 tonnes in 2011.

Waipopo co-director Peter Bennett said that along with growers in Central Otago a total of 1300 tonnes, which was double the volume shipped in 2013, would be exported this year. Waipopo will produce about 1100 tonnes, which is 85 per cent of the market. . . .

Missing foal feared stolen – Nicole Mathewson:

A Central Otago couple are baffled after their foal disappeared. 

Horse trainers Bill and Rosanne Keeler were shocked to find their three-week striking black colt was missing from its paddock on January 15.

Bill Keeler said he believed the male foal went missing about two days earlier, because his mother’s milk had already dried up.

The paddock – located in Millers Flat, just south of Roxburgh – was surrounded by high fencing and there were no holes it could have escaped through. None of the other horses in the paddock had disappeared. 

”I find the chances of it being stolen are pretty minimal, but the chances are even more minimal of it disappearing by itself through two paddocks surrounded by deer fencing,” Keeler said. . . .

Hawke’s Bay iwi want Mayor’s resignation – Adam Ray:

A Hawke’s Bay Iwi says local Mayor Peter Butler should resign after suggesting their opposition to a proposed dam means they should be banned from any jobs it creates.

Mr Butler singled out the chair of Ngati Kahungunu for criticism in an email to other councillors.

He says parched pastures will be transformed with irrigation from the proposed Ruataniwha Dam.

“We’re sick of the negativity of the people trying to stop the dam,” he says.  

Among those in his sights are local iwi Ngati Kahungunu and its chair Ngahiwi Tomoana. . .

 


Rural round-up

26/10/2013

CHB dam supporters back Wilson – Marie Taylor:

Ruataniwha dam supporters filled the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council offices to over-flowing to back Fenton Wilson’s re-election as chairman last Wednesday.

At the council’s meeting in Napier Wilson was returned for a second term as chairman by the narrowest of margins – only one vote – in a meeting which was testy at times.

Wilson, from Wairoa, won the vote 5-4 against new councillor and former Labour MP Rick Barker.

About 150 farmers turned up to this first meeting of the new nine-person council, which has six new members. Only Wilson, deputy chair Christine Scott and Alan Dick from Napier were returned. . . .

One share ruse fails – Alan Williams:

Would-be board candidate John Monaghan says Alliance Group should have had an independent authority decide on his eligibility to stand for election as director.

“There shouldn’t be any hint of interference from the board,” the Fonterra Co-operative Group director said after Alliance ruled he did not qualify as a candidate.

Monaghan called for Alliance to separate governance from representation, as Fonterra has done, to ensure fair and transparent elections. . .

Pita Alexander tells dairy farmers to ‘make financial hay’ before milk prices fall; and sheep farmers turn to shine is coming:

It struck me the other day that within five years it’s more than likely that Australia and New Zealand will be able to sell more lambs than they will have available.

It’s no secret that our lamb flock has been on the wane and we are another couple of million down from last summer’s drought.

The law of supply and demand would indicate that better prices will result.

Scarcity is a marketing tool of a type, but it is not the whole answer. . .

Molesworth Station road opening early:

A 200 kilometre road through New Zealand’s largest high country station is opening to members of the public early this year.

Molesworth Station in Marlborough is opening Acheron Road from Labour Day Weekend (October 26) to Easter Weekend (April 21).

Previously the road had opened from December to April.

The 207km unsealed road, which runs between Blenheim and Hanmer Springs, will be open to four-wheeled-drive vehicles from 7am to 7pm subject to safety and weather conditions, the Department of Conservation says.  . .

Raise a Glass to Success Campaign 2013:

Raise a Glass to Success is an exciting new online campaign being launched by one of New Zealand’s premier wine brands to celebrate six everyday Kiwis whose passion inspire us all.

The six finalists will be individuals who demonstrate innovation perseverance and a determination to succeed in their chosen field – even when those around them said it couldn’t be done.

They can be involved in any area including the arts, fashion, design or hospitality or they could be up and coming innovators in sustainability or science research. . . .

Mortgagee sale a crushing finale for winery:

A boutique winery and hospitality operation in the Hawkes Bay has been placed on the market for sale by mortgagee tender.

Park Estate located at 2087 Pakowhai Road comprises a winery, restaurant and function centre located next to the expressway, linking Hastings and Napier. The property, in two titles, is being marketed by Bayleys Hastings by salespeople Glyn Rees-Jones and Hadley Brown.

Park Estate was started in the mid 1990s, and produced several varieties under the label of the same name. However, in recent years the business has diversified production into an organic fruit juice and beverage operation currently leasing the land and building. . .


Prevent, reverse and/or prepare?

30/09/2013

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded there’s a 95% certainty climate change is human-induced.

There are several possible responses to that including work to prevent or reverse it, panic and/or preparing for it.

New Zealand contributes such a tiny amount to global emissions there’s little we can do to prevent or reverse it, but Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said we’re doing our bit:

. . . “New Zealand has been an active participant in the IPCC process. It is important that we contribute as addressing climate change demands collective action, and it keeps our scientists and officials up to date with the latest in climate science. This assists policy development and decision making at home.

As well as making an important contribution to the IPCC scientific process, New Zealand is playing its part to achieve fair and binding international rules around greenhouse gas emissions.

“New Zealand actively participates in international climate change negotiations and supports collective, collaborative action. We recently convened and hosted an informal dialogue to inject some fresh thinking into negotiations to replace the Kyoto Protocol, by the end of 2015.

“New Zealand is committed to doing our fair share without imposing excess costs on households and businesses, while the Government focuses on jobs and strengthening our recovery,” says Mr Groser.

“The Government recently made an unconditional commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to five per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and maintains a conditional commitment to a reduction target range of 10% to 20% below 1990 levels.

“We have implemented the Emissions Trading Scheme, we are making progress towards our 90% renewable electricity target, and have launched the Global Research Alliance, committing $45 million to research ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions.”

As well as playing our part in prevention and reversal we need to prepare for the consequences should the forecast effects eventuate.

One way to prepare for the increased heat and droughts which are predicted is irrigation some of which requires water storage.

Federated Farmers vice president William Rolleston has been calling for more water storage systems for some time.

He says the Opuha dam in Canterbury has proven to be effective in times of dry weather, and more opportunities for water storage around the country need to be sought.

Dr Rolleston says the discussion around a proposal by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to build the Ruataniwha dam needs to continue and the dam could be positive for the economy and the environment.

The Ruataniwha dam is controversial, because of concerns it could lead to an intensification of farming, with nutrient run-off potentially proving toxic for the Tukituki River and its fish species.

But Dr Rolleston says climate implications need to be considered.

He says farmers need to prepare, and water storage systems, like the Ruataniwha dam, could help mitigate extremes of climate.

Dr Rolleston says like the Opuha dam, the Ruataniwha dam could prove effective in times of dry weather.

While New Zealand has plenty of water, he says it’s not always in the right place at the right time.

“Certainly in South Canterbury we’ve had the Opuha dam for some years and it’s proven to be a real bonus for both the economy and the environment and we need to be aware that water storage can have a positive effect on both.”

Dr Rolleston says discussions about the Ruataniwha dam need to continue.

Ironically  the people who are most vociferous about climate change and adamant we must do something about it are often the ones who are most vehemently opposed to irrigation and the water storage which enables more of it.

They fail to see the benefits which aren’t just economic but environmental and social too.

Whether or not climate change eventuates as forecast, droughts have always been with us and will continue to occur.

Water storage can insure against that and should be pursued where at all possible, with the necessary safeguards to ensure that increasing the quantity of water available doesn’t compromise the quality.


Rural round-up

02/08/2013

Debt puts pressure on large companies to achieve solution – Allan Barber:

If there was ever a compelling reason for the meat companies to sort out the problems of procurement competition and excess capacity, the debt levels on the balance sheets of the big three at the end of last season provide one.

Between them they stacked up combined current and non-current borrowings of $710 million, 45% of these on Silver Fern Farms’ books, 28% on Alliance’s and 27% on ANZCO’s. No wonder they can’t afford another loss-making year like 2011/12 which makes this year so important for getting back into as healthy a condition as possible.

The forecast livestock volumes, especially sheep and lambs, for the next four years place a great deal of pressure on the companies to find a solution urgently before procurement competition breaks out yet again. MPI’s Situation and Outlook Report which came out in June predicts a gradual recovery in values, but livestock numbers and export tonnages are virtually static or declining, because of the effects of the drought, herd and flock rebuilding and the impact of dairy on land use. . .

Ballance pays record rebate after record performance:

 Ballance Agri-Nutrients shareholders are in line for a record rebate and dividend of $65/tonne, along with a recommended 60 cent increase in the value of their co-operative’s shares to $8.10.

The rebate averaging $60.83 per tonne and a fully imputed dividend of 10 cents per share will be paid out nearly six weeks earlier during mid-August, with Ballance Chairman David Graham saying the payment has been brought forward to reward shareholders and assist them with cash flows at the start of the season.

“The drought may be over but the financial impacts are not, so we are fast-tracking the payment for shareholders in recognition of that so they can gain the full benefits of a good year for their co-operative as quickly as possible.” . . .

AgResearch creating the ‘Silicon Valley of Food’

 With food being to New Zealand what ‘Silicon Valley’ is to the United States’ technology sector, Federated Farmers is backing AgResearch’s strategic move to create two major research campuses supplemented by two smaller ones.

“Federated Farmers is backing AgResearch in what is an important strategic move for it and New Zealand,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President.

“Its masterplan is about supporting primary exports to reach $64 billion by 2025.

“We cannot deny there is a human element to this change and while 40 positions are slated to go, the actual number will be low given this is a four- year transition. That said, it will require a number of staff and their families to consider where their long-term futures lie.

“Federated Farmers is encouraged to see that no staff will be required to relocate until 2016. . .

Reduce nitrate leaching with mobile milking system – Milking on the Moove:

Unconventional ways to reduce nitrate leaching

Part 1 
A few weeks ago I explained how agroforestry is a farming system that is able to reduce nitrate leaching.

Part 2
Today I will talk about how a dairy farming system based around a mobile cowshed is able to reduce the level of nitrate leaching.

A traditional cowshed is in a fixed location. The cows have to be within walking distance of the cowshed because they need to get milked twice a day.

The main cause of nitrate leaching on dairy farms in the cows urine patch.

For this reason, the cows are always grazed on the same block of land surrounding the cowshed. . .

Honouring the unsung young heroes of the Hawke’s Bay wine industry:

Moore Stephens Markhams Young Viticulturist of the Year Competition Friday 2 August 2013.

Hawke’s Bay is internationally renowned for its wine. The local wineries and winemakers are household names, with exceptional reputations in New Zealand and further afield.

Less well known, but just as crucial to the crafting of world-beating wine, are the viticulturists. They are intimately involved in all aspects of vineyard management; their extraordinary knowledge ensuring winemakers have the best possible grapes to work with after each harvest.

The region’s best up-and-coming viticulturists are being honoured on Friday 2 August at the Moore Stephens Markhams Young Viticulturist of the Year Competition. This is being held at Mission Estate – their viticulturist Caine Thompson took out the Hawke’s Bay competition in 2009. He went on to win the national awards, before being named New Zealand Young Horticulturist of the Year. . .

Technology could be future boon for kiwifruit growers:

A new online system is being developed that might one day help kiwifruit growers make decisions on when to spray orchards for pests and diseases. The system is in the early stages of development in a joint project between the University of Waikato and Plant & Food Research (PFR).

The web-based tool is should help reduce time and costs associated with pest monitoring in kiwifruit orchards and spray application.

The current process of physically monitoring pest levels is time consuming, says University of Waikato summer research scholarship student Michael Fowke.

“Spraying is a necessary exercise for growers and a lot of time is spent trying to identify when or whether spraying is needed,” he says. “It will need a lot more testing in the field but potentially this system could cut that time down considerably.” . .

Iwi Suggests To Pull Plug on Dam:

At a Hui an Iwi held at Matahiwi marae last night, Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated was asked by several Heretaunga hapū to oppose the Ruataniwha Dam project on their behalf.

The main reasons given were inadequate consultation, selective information release, and the failure by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to recognize and acknowledge the Tino Rangatiratanga that hapū had exercised over rivers and water bodies from time immemorial. . .

Keen-To-Learn Farmer Turns to Ballance Farm Environment Awards for Information and Inspiration:

Returning to the family farm five years ago was an in-the-deep-end experience for Waikato farmer James Bailey and his wife Ella.

‘Momona’, a 440ha (effective) Tirau sheep and beef farm, had been in the Bailey family for five generations, so James was eager to start off on the right foot. While he was mindful of the work performed by past generations, he was also keen to improve the environmental sustainability of the business.

James, a keen surfer, is co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines – an award-winning registered charity that organises coastal clean-ups, educational programmes and riparian plantings. . .


A dam good idea

01/06/2013

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says Ruatianwha is a dam good idea:

To export primary produce, from trees to cheese, we need water and that is the simple truth underpinning the Ruataniwha Dam project in the Hawke’s Bay along with others like it.  Some have raised concerns Ruataniwha will not be financially viable, environmentally sustainable and that it will suffer from lack of demand.  To answer these criticisms, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has consistently put publicly accessible information onto its website.

The large-scale storage of water isn’t a new concept because towns and cities do that with ‘town water’.  Given we have plentiful, if sometimes uneven rainfall, Federated Farmers strongly supports water storage for farming.  We also support Ruataniwha in principle but our final backing awaits the final business case; then and only then will we know if it is financially viable.  To his credit, that is the same position held by Labour’s Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Damien O’Connor.

The last big water storage scheme to open for farming was South Canterbury’s Opuha Dam. 

Opuha opened in 1998 but work towards it started back in the 1980’s.  It came about because of the same issues we have here; a lack of reliable water over summer.  Today, Opuha irrigates farmland, supplies town water and generates electricity.  It also provides permanent flow to the formerly ‘summer-dry’ Oipihi River offering recreational, tourism and environmental opportunities.  In drought proofing South Canterbury, Opuha has vindicated every promise made about itYet Opuha only came about due to the perseverance of a small band of believers spanning two decades. 

If everything stacks up with Ruataniwha, financially and environmentally, having Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s involvement advances its timeline.  From a pure bottom line perspective, the latest report I read says farm revenues could rise by $160 million each year including $25 million for householdsYou see Ruataniwha could generate 630 brand new jobs and 500 of those will be on vineyards and orchards.  Many more downstream jobs will also be created in processing, logistics and services; 530 much-needed jobs in fact. 

Ruataniwha potentially frees central Hawke’s Bay from the annual rainfall lottery and enables new types of land use and yes, environmental innovation too.  All things the Opuha Dam has proven.  Ruataniwha will have the capacity irrigate 25,000 hectares while generating 6.5 megawatts of electricity.  Enough to supply over 3,000 households with clean renewable energy.  Where exactly are the downsides? 

Much of the criticism revolves around low take-up due to the cost and that dairying will be the only land use able to afford it.  A council report from November 2010 put the on-farm investment at $7,394 – $9,428 per hectare.  In the latest September 2012 report, the on-farm water distribution cost is between 20c and 30c per cubic metre.  But can farmers like me not afford to irrigate?  Current water takes are prone to summer irrigation bans highlighting the absolute need for reliable water when those bans affect 200 consent holders. 

Macfarlane Rural Business predicts irrigation will be taken up by dairy (37 percent), arable farming (32 percent) and sheep and beef (13 percent).  Other land uses, like horticulture, will likely fill the balance.  Reliable water may see distinct ‘farm types’ blur along with better farming practices to optimise income per hectare.  Doing this boosts the community’s payback in terms of jobs, incomes and the environment.  Irrigation keeps pastures green and green pasture means that soils and valuable nutrients stay on-farm and out of water.

Budget 2013 estimates this year’s drought will shave 0.7 percent off the nation’s economy; upwards of $2 billion.  Having run a calculation on my sheep and beef farm, using the costs above, it seemingly stacks up. Farmers like me would likely irrigate a portion of a farm creating a ‘pasture factory’ if you like.  This means we can keep stock on-farm rather than destocking in dry summers.  This means I can send stock at the optimum time rather than being forced into it by a lack of feed or water. 

Drought is a fact of life in the Hawke’s Bay; it has happened before and it will happen again.  Ruataniwha potentially means we can farm through it and doing that benefits all.

We built a dam on our farm to store underground water about 20 years ago. We pump into it over winter or when it was wet enough not to need irrigation and irrigate from it when it’s dry.

The small dam worked so well we built a bigger one a few years later. That enables us to produce more grass, convert to dairying, employ more staff, use more goods and services, pay more tax, host duck shooters,  and – when the stars are aligned – make more money.

A few other farmers in the district followed suit but it took the North Otago Irrigation Company’s scheme to allow a critical mass of irrigation which has made a huge difference to farming, the environment and the economic and social fabric of the district.

The NOIC scheme doesn’t involve large-scale storage but ones which do provide recreational opportunities too.

Wills is right – water storage is a dam good idea.


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