Rural round-up

August 3, 2020

Rural women survived, thrived – Kerrie Waterworth:

Poverty,  isolation, bone-chilling winters, as well as the loss of jobs, partners and family homes were some of the hardships rural women experienced and had to overcome in their daily lives in the Upper Clutha. Kerrie Waterworth reports.

Sally Battson moved from Auckland to Makarora, a town at the head of Lake Wanaka on the Haast Highway between Wanaka and the West Coast, to marry the co-owner of Wilkin jet-boats in the 1980s.

Back then, the sealed road began and ended at Dinner Creek on Lake Hawea.

“People used to say to me ‘Don’t you get lonely?’ but you can get lonely anywhere. The thing I used to say about Makarora was it was on the way to everywhere.” . . 

Water tool for farmers wins  – Sally Rae:

Dunedin tech company Tussock Innovation has received the Digital Innovation Award at this year’s virtual National Fieldays.

Covid 19 restrictions meant the event — which generated $549million in sales revenue for New Zealand businesses and injected $249million into the country’s GDP last year — was held online.

For many in the agri-business sector, the event is the biggest sales opportunity of the year and, for Tussock Innovation, it provided a tool to meet customers, gain product validation information and expand brand recognition, chief executive Jesse Teat said.

The company won the award with its Waterwatch product, which it had spent the past six months “honing” with the support of Palmerston North-based Sprout agri-tech accelerator . . 

Big career change working out well – George Clark:

Simon Kennedy sought a drastic lifestyle change.

After a 25-year history driving stock trucks around the country, and with his son getting ready to fly the coop, he felt a call to the farm.

For the last 12 months, the 45-year-old has been the sole shepherd on the 3500ha Ben Ohau Station at Twizel.

“I came with an open mind and two dogs. Increasing my team up to four dogs, I [now] do 95% of the stock work and love the challenge this property gives me every day . .

Made of clay and full of history:

Restoring two cob cottages in South Canterbury has become a labour of love for a retired Christchurch couple with lots of energy and a passion for the area.

Early settlers in at Burkes Pass made the cob walls of the cottages from clay, animal manure and chopped snow tussock.

Jane and Graham Bachelor bought their first cottage at an auction at the local hotel in 1984. 

It was originally built by a shepherd, James Keefe, in 1876 and in a sorry state of repair when they acquired it, Jane says.

“We bought the cottage at a time when the exterior cladding and windows were disintegrating in front of our eyes.” . . 

Equity partnership pathway to farm ownership:

The New Zealand primary sector faces a dilemma over funding for future expansion which has prompted Bayleys rural real estate to take the initiative on helping to solve it. An upcoming seminar aims to introduce young farmers who are keen to get a piece of their own property to investors who have the capital to help back them.

Bayleys Country has organised a farm equity partnership seminar in Havelock North on August 12 and already have over 100 registered attendees.

Bayleys national director rural Duncan Ross said that bank sourced farm finance has become increasingly difficult for farmers and investors to secure after a relatively easy period for credit from the early 2000s to 2010. . .

New president of Agcarm:

The industry association for crop protection and animal health manufacturers and distributors has appointed Gavin Kerr, Country Manager for agrichemical company Nufarm, as its president at the Agcarm annual meeting on July 23.

Kerr says that “it’s a privilege to work in agriculture and a role I don’t take for granted”.

He would like to see one important change implemented well before the end of his three-year term.

“Farmers and growers need and deserve access to the best and latest products. But New Zealand is missing out on new, more effective treatments due to delays that discourage investment in introducing these technologies. . . 

Livestock management companies for sale provide fertile opportunities for new owners:

Two livestock birth-management firms enabling New Zealand farmers to be among the most productive primary producers in the world has been placed on the market for sale.

Cattle pregnancy testing company Ultra-Scan was established in 1994 to examine the fertility rate of pregnant cows. Ultra-Scan now has 20 franchises throughout New Zealand – with 14 in the North Island and six in the South Island. The majority of the company’s North Island franchise operations are located in the Greater Waikato and King Country districts.

While initially founded to deliver cow gestation scanning services, Ultra-Scan’s service offering has subsequently gone on to include similar pregnancy tests for sheep, deer and goats, as well as the de-horning of young calves aged between four days and 10 weeks of age – in a Ministry for Primary Industry-approved practice known as ‘disbudding’ on calves – as well as DNA sampling, electronic calf tagging for identification, and teat removal. . . 


Rural round-up

July 29, 2020

New farmer training programme being rolled out– Sally Rae:

Wanted — farmers to inspire the next generation of farmers to perform at their best.

That is what Growing Future Farmers (GFF), a training programme for young people interested in entering the sheep, beef and deer industry is looking for — providing a career pathway for farmers of the future.

A pilot programme has been held the Gisborne and Wairarapa regions and it will be rolled out to six regions next year, including two in the South Island.

The aim was to have 10 farmer trainers in each area.

Gisborne farmers Dan and Tam Jex-Blake spoke at information evenings in Winton and Kurow last week, outlining the programme to potential farmer trainers. . .

Ag contractors frustrated – David Anderson:

Agricultural contractors are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of skilled workers available.

The frustration comes amid growing concerns for the industry and farm production in the face of a critical shortage of skilled machinery operators.

Industry body Rural Contractors NZ (RCNZ) is calling on the Government to allow overseas-based operators back into New Zealand to help alleviate the growing problem.

The end of a golden career :

Russell Lowe has spent almost 50 years selecting, observing, propagating and tasting kiwifruit at Plant and Food Research in Te Puke. Earlier this year Russell was recognised for his role in developing Zespri’s SunGold kiwifruit.

Forty-eight years ago, research scientist Russell Lowe moved to Te Puke to work at the DSIR’s new research orchard.

There was not a crop in the ground and Russell’s first job was to bang in posts so kiwifruit could be planted.

Now there are more than 40 hectares of fruit planted for research, greenhouses, eight coolstores, purpose-built labs, a packhouse and an office block on site. . . 

Pork surplus crisis averted by measures- Sally Rae:

It could have been an unmitigated disaster for the pork industry.

Covid-19 Alert Level 4 and 3 restrictions earlier this year meant independent butchers were not allowed to open fully for retail customers.

That meant a surplus of up to 5000 pigs on New Zealand farms every week and a looming animal welfare issue, the worst-case scenario being the euthanasing of pigs on-farm.

However, such a crisis was averted through various solutions, including an innovative food bank initiative. . . 

Feds applauds carpet maker’s wool focus:

Federated Farmers congratulates the leadership shown by New Zealand carpet maker Cavalier Corporation in announcing last week it will to return to its roots as a wool and natural fibres-only business.

Cavalier said in February that profit margins selling synthetic carpets were getting thinner but sales of its wool carpets were steadily rising.

“Choosing to concentrate on New Zealand-produced natural wool, with its superior durability, warmth, sound-dampening and fire-retardant qualities is a smart decision for any company,” Federated Farmers Meat and Wool Chairperson William Beetham says. . . 

Aroma NZ buys leading NZ flower supplier:

New Zealand’s biggest green-lipped mussel health food company has bought one of the country’s largest flower growing companies.

Aroma NZ has successfully purchased Moffatt’s Flowers, which has been growing roses and other flowers in their Christchurch glasshouses since 1949.

As one of the largest rose growers and flower wholesalers in New Zealand, Moffatt’s grows 35 varieties of roses in a network of more than 20,000 square metres of climate-controlled glasshouses. This results in an annual output of more than three million rose stems, along with other flowers.

Aroma NZ director Ben Winters says they have been looking to diversify into different industry sectors. .  .


Rural round-up

July 28, 2020

Synthetics out in favour of natural fibres – Sally Rae:

Carpet-maker Cavalier is ditching synthetics in favour of wool and other natural fibres, citing “negative impacts on people’s health and the planet”.

The listed company yesterday unveiled a new transformational strategy, saying it would transition away from the manufacture and supply of synthetic fibre carpets over the next 12 months and existing synthetic stocks would be sold down.

In its strategy, the company said the long-term dangers posed by plastics were becoming clear. Plastic was a global problem and manufacturers needed to be part of the solution.

The impact that plastics had on human health was not yet fully understood, but early studies suggested that microplastics entering the body were a potential threat. The average Kiwi home with synthetic carpet was similar to having 22,000 plastic bags on the floor, by weight, it said. . . 

From lipstick to gum boots :

City girl becomes ‘Gumboot Girl’ and helps introduce sustainable practices on Northland dairy farm.

For years Jo Wood worked as a beauty therapist in Auckland. She was, in her words, “a city slicker”.

But then she “fell into” another job, one about as far removed from the glamour of make-up, manicures and pedicures as it’s possible to get.

Working in gumboots and a singlet, these days she walks the pastures of a 350ha dairy farm located on the coast between the Northland towns of Wellsford and Warkworth – and is known to one and all by her alter ego ‘Gumboot Girl‘. . .

 

Wools NZ elects new chairman – Annette Scott:

Former Beef and Lamb New Zealand chairman James Parson has been elected chairman of Wools NZ to lead the organisation in a new direction post covid-19.

The recognised industry leader, well known for his past chairmanship of Beef and Lamb NZ and the NZ Meat Board, Parsons was initially elected to the board by growers at the organisation’s annual meeting in November.    

The grower-owned strong wool marketing and export company has now embarked on a new era post covid-19 to re-orientate its strategic direction.

Parsons, a Northland sheep and beef farmer believes he well understands the industry challenges from a grassroots perspective. . . 

What’s next for the wool industry? – Annette Scott:

Step one of the wool industry’s Vision and Action report has connected the stakeholders now Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor says the next step must lead to real purpose.

“It’s absolutely crucial the next step is real purpose, this report will most certainly not be sitting gathering dust,” O’Connor said.

“The project action group (PAG) has rounded up the situation, connected with industry players and provided some real guidance for the next step.

“With the absence of major initiatives from the industry I have to be responsible to put something up.”  . . 

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

Alliance Group is to spend $3.2million on a further upgrade at its Lorneville plant, near Invercargill, to help improve operational efficiency.

The plant’s engine room two, which provides key refrigeration for four cold stores, some blast freezers and several product chillers will receive upgraded safety features, equipment and building structure.

The programme would improve the company’s ability to control the refrigeration system remotely and provide a platform for further investment, Alliance said in a statement.

It would also give an opportunity to have more control points and sensors, improve the ability to provide automation control and result in ‘‘significant’’ savings through energy efficiency. . . 

Welsh unions highlight farmers’ role in fighting climate change :

Wales’ two farming unions have highlighted the vital role of agriculture in helping the UK to address the threat of climate change.

NFU Cymru and the Farmers’ Union of Wales held a virtual meeting with the UK’s High-Level Climate Action Champion, Nigel Topping, who was appointed by the prime minister in January.

In addition to wider discussions around climate change, the roundtable event provided a platform to discuss the ‘Race to Zero’ campaign.

The international campaign aims to strive for a healthy, resilient zero carbon recovery, which was launched on World Environment Day and will run up to COP26 . . .


Rural round-up

July 19, 2020

Early mornings shear joy – Sally Rae:

It was shearing time on the Strachan family’s sheep and beef farm at Awamoko, in North Otago, and Sid was helping pen up when he was not busy shearing at his own stand.

He had been there since 7am and, by late morning, he reckoned his tally was about 8200 — which might have been a slight exaggeration, but there was no doubting his infectious enthusiasm and work ethic.

Sid might only be 6 years old but he has been interested in shearing from an even younger age and spends a full day in the woolshed whenever he can.

He had two very clear ambitions: to buy North Otago shearing contractor Phil Cleland’s business — “he said I can do it when I’m 13” — and to win the Golden Shears. . .

Wool revival coming – Annette Scott:

South Island farmer Kate Acland says the Government’s report on the wool industry is a chance for the sector to come together and realise its potential.

The Vision and Action for the wool sector put together by the Government-appointed wool industry Project Action Group suggests New Zealand is on the cusp of a natural fibre renaissance being led by more environmentally and socially conscious consumers. 

A new approach is needed to seize the opportunity and turn things around.

The report recommends the appointment of an executive officer and establishment of a wool sector governance group to oversee development of an investment case. . . 

A Fonterra of wool is necessary – Annette Scott:

The wool industry needs a real plan to be profitable and the Government’s vision and action report for wool has failed to deliver, according to some industry leaders.

While the report is a step in the right direction a concrete plan is needed to lift the industry from its doldrums, National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests chairman Craig Smith said.

“It’s a report that tells us what we know, the wool industry in general is in a really bad place.

“What needs to happen very quickly now is another report with a clearly defined strategy then we can put some structure around that strategy,” Smith said. . . 

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

Using New Zealand strong wool to produce biodegradable disposal nappies for a multi-billion dollar global market is gaining traction as a new avenue for farmers desperate to find new places to sell their product, with multinational companies showing interest in NZ technology.

As part of the recent launch of the strong wool sector’s plan for the future Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said Wellington-based company Woolchemy will get $80,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Woolchemy co-founder and chief executive Derelee Potroz-Smith says the money will pay for a commercial trial of technology that enables wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in consumer hygiene products, adding significant value to the raw material produced by NZ strong wool farmers. . . 

Still work to be done after diagnosis – Alice Scott:

Like many typical Otago blokes, Scott Clearwater (41) shrugged off his headaches, too busy on his Goodwood sheep and beef farm to see a doctor.

But as Covid-19 cases petered and the country went into Level 2, Mr Clearwater’s headaches got worse.

“He was writhing around on the floor one night and that’s when I said, ‘Enough’s enough, you need to get to a doctor’,” his wife, Joy Clearwater, said.

Since that May 29 GP visit, the family’s life has been turned upside down. . . 

Socially acceptable cows of the future could be within reach – Hannah Powe:

As animal health and husbandry becomes a hot topic in the agriculture industry, DairyBio research scientists have identified the traits needed to breed the socially acceptable cow of the future.

During the Genetics Australia 2020 Virtual Series, Agriculture Victoria principal research scientist and leader of DairyBio, Professor Jennie Pryce said there were five keys areas needed to breed the socially acceptable cow.

“They need to be resource efficient, have a low environmental footprint and low methane emissions, and traits consistent with high standards of animal welfare such as good health and fertility (polled and longevity),” Prof Pryce said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

July 14, 2020

Urban spread: farmer accuses councils of economic vandalism – Tom Kitchin:

A small group of Hawke’s Bay landowners are fighting to ensure what’s described as “a cancerous” spread of urban development doesn’t destroy quality crop lands on the Heretaunga Plains.

Councils agree that something must be done, but say it’s not an overnight fix.

Most days for the past 25 years, Richard Gaddum has gone up into the hills on his cattle farm above Havelock North to take in the view.

It captures the vast plains with the hills and mountains beyond. . . 

Wool report: on ‘cusp of renaissance‘ – Sally Rae:

A wool working group has finally released its long-awaited report, saying it believes natural fibres are “on the cusp of a renaissance” and a new approach is needed.

The Wool Industry Project Action Group was established in 2018 to look at opportunities to improve returns for the beleaguered crossbred wool sector.

New Zealand was one of the world’s most significant producers of strong wool; it produced around 10% of global wool of all micron types and around 20% of the 500 million kg of strong wool produced globally, the report said.

But increased competition from synthetic fibres had reduced demand for strong wool and led to a long-term contraction of the sector. . . 

Action now needed for wool say industry leaders – Sally Rae:

National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests chairman Craig Smith says the big thing missing from the wool working group’s report is an action plan to deliver the recommendations.

Mr Smith, who is general manager of Devold Wool Direct, was part of the working group in the early stages when it was set up in 2018.

“We all know the wool industry is in a bloody tough space but we didn’t want it to be just another report.”

But the report that had been produced reiterated the industry was in a bad place, and something needed to be done about it — “and here’s a few ideas”, he said. . . 

Night Shift – Milk Truck Driver – Andrea Vance:

Throughout the night, a fleet of tankers is on the road collecting milk from all over the country. Meet a man behind the wheel of one of them.

In the silent, starless night, Darren Mason’s enormous truck thunders off the state highway and onto a country lane, churning up a cloud of dust.

Sleepy cows rise onto their knees in fright, frozen breath suspended in the chill air. A lone dog starts to bark somewhere in the distance. 

The tanker rolls into the yard, its headlights illuminating two huge stainless steel milk vats. . . 

Courgette shortage sees record high prices:

Courgette prices jumped 74 percent to an all-time high of $21.42 per kilo in June 2020, as imports from Queensland continued to be barred, Stats NZ said today.

Overall vegetable prices were up 7.6 percent in June, also influenced by seasonally higher prices for tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and courgettes. These rises were offset by typical falls for winter crops including potatoes, onions, and carrots.

Both tomatoes and courgettes are more expensive than usual at this time of the year. . . 

The art of Michelle Clarke – Cheyenne Nicholson :

A Canterbury farmer who is a self-confessed creative type says it hasn’t been the easiest of roads turning a passion for art into a fully-fledged business but she has done just that and is drawing inspiration from rural life. Cheyenne Nicholson reports.

CANTERBURY farmer Michelle Clarke has trod a rather wobbly career path and even when she settled on art it very nearly didn’t happen. 

But now she has forged a successful art career that has grown her business, The Art of Michelle Clarke, into a full-time job. Her photographs and artwork grace the pages of magazines and walls all around the country and more recently she has turned her hand to writing and illustrating a children’s book. 

Michelle and husband Stephen Tuck manage on a 224-hectare dairy farm at Hororata where they milk 750 cows. . . 


Rural round-up

July 8, 2020

Let them eat wood – Dame Anne Salmond:

The farmers are right. As the price of carbon rises, the settings in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will make it more profitable to plant pine trees than to grow food (or native forests) in many parts of New Zealand.

On the East Coast, for instance, a landowner will be paid 10 times more by year 5 for planting pine trees instead of native forest, and farmland is going under pine trees in many places. With wool prices at historic lows, and rising carbon prices, this trend will only accelerate.

On highly erodible soils, the folly of planting shallow-rooted pine trees and clear-felling them every 25-30 years is obvious. Witness the tsunami of logs and sediment that have drowned streams, rivers, houses, fields, beaches and harbours in places like Tolaga Bay, Marahau, and many other parts of New Zealand.

With two-thirds of the forestry industry owned overseas, like the logs, the profits are exported, but the costs remain behind. Ravaged landscapes, wildling pines, roading networks wrecked by logging trucks, workers killed and injured in the forests. . . 

Farmer’s pitch to big biz: My land, your trees, planet’s gain –  Jo Lines-MacKenzie:

One farmer’s novel pitch to big firms to use her land for carbon offset tree planting is being touted as a win-win for both the business and agricultural sectors.

Federated Farmers says the idea could catch on and they could be the organisation to make it work.

The idea has been sparked by King Country farmer Dani Darke who posted a proposal on social media to offer up 10 hectares of her own land to plant native trees.

She pitched the idea to Air New Zealand, Genesis Energy, Contact Energy, Z Energy, and anyone else who wanted to participate. . . 

Strath Taieri the new food bowl of New Zealand – Sally Rae:

Strath Taieri is a traditional farming district, best known for sheep and beef cattle. But an irrigation proposal being mooted has the potential to see it diversify into other areas, including horticulture. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Strath Taieri — the new Food Bowl of Dunedin?

That’s what the Strath Taieri Irrigation Company (STIC) believes could happen if the Taieri Catchment Community Resilience Project wins approval.

It is a project that has been talked about for decades but which, in recent times, has gained momentum, with an application for funding made to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. Without reliable water, the future for the district would be bleak, STIC said.

And by bringing more irrigation water to the area and ensuring certainty of supply, there was potential for diversification of the traditional sheep and beef farming area into the likes of horticulture, as well as increasing productivity within existing farming operations. . . 

Direction of horticulture industry aligns with Fit for a Better World:

Horticulture New Zealand says the horticulture industry’s future focused strategies align well with what is proposed in Fit for a Better World

‘Horticulture is already well into the journey that has been identified and proposed in these reports, and this journey will continue,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil.

‘Immediately post lockdown, our entire industry – comprising more than 20 different fruit and vegetable product groups – got together with key government departments to develop and implement a strategy and work programme that will see horticulture spearhead New Zealand’s economic and social recovery from Covid.

‘We are encouraged to see that the proposal identifies a key opportunity to accelerate the horticulture industry’s development, which fits perfectly with our own work. . . 

Low-methane ‘elite’ sheep breeding project finds success – AgResearch scientist – Eric Frykberg:

Low methane appears to be a breedable trait that does not affect economic value in sheep, and could lead to a cumulative 1 percent reduction in emissions each year, farmers have been told.

AgResearch scientist Suzanne Rowe told a webinar organised by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Council that research into such animals had been going on for a decade.

Rowe said a study of 1000 sheep divided into high emitting and low emitting animals found these traits were passed on to successive generations.

“After three generations we have 11 percent less methane per kilogramme of feed eaten,” she said. . . 

Bingara producers turn to embryos to breed back out of drought – Lucy Kinbacher:

Bingara producer Rhonda King and her 86-year-old father Alf were steaming ahead with their Speckle Park herd when back-to-back droughts crippled their momentum.

In January they had made the decision to sell the final remnants of their 300-head herd at Doctors Creek when rain came not long after and saved them from the decision.

With cattle prices soaring to record levels Ms King opted to use her lifetime travel savings to purchase embryos rather than replacement livestock and is hoping to breed her way back into business.

Their herd currently consists of about 90 Speckle Park including cows, heifers and bulls with an additional 11 Angus recipients purchased from another stud. . . 


Rural round-up

June 30, 2020

Migrant numbers reduce ‘in silence’ as Kiwis move into farm jobs – Lawrence Gullery:

An agency which helps farms source overseas staff believes the Covid-19 fallout is being used to manage migrant workers out of New Zealand.

Christiaan Arns, the managing director of Auckland-based Frenz, a recruitment and immigration agency for dairy farms, described the state of New Zealand’s immigration rules as a “complete shambles”.

The short term picture is clear, the pandemic has forced borders to close.

But the medium to long-term outlook is confusing, Arns said. . . 

Red meat opportunities ‘if we’re quick enough’ – Sally Rae:

The Covid-19 situation has provided opportunities for New Zealand’s red meat sector to capitalise on — “if we’re quick enough”.

That is the message from Michael Wan, global manager of the New Zealand Red Meat Story for Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

Likening it to the equivalent of the panic buying of toilet paper here and in Australia, Mr Wan said there had been a “massive run” on red meat in the United States.

As people hunkered down over lockdown, they were stocking up their freezers, concerned they might not be able to access fresh protein. They had reverted to cooking traditional types of food and wanted to keep well and boost their immunity, he said. . . 

Dunedin geneticist looking to Africa – John Gibb:

When the world starts to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, big agribusiness opportunities will open up for New Zealand, Dunedin geneticist Dr Bruno Santos believes.

Brazilian-born Dr Santos has welcomed his recent promotion to partner at AbacusBio and said that would increase his ability to provide input into the international company’s future.

The agribusiness consulting company was ‘‘hugely passionate about making a difference to agriculture and has great scientific credentials as well as on-farm pragmatism’’.

‘‘Bruno leads projects for AbacusBio in the genetics of many species from sheep to rice,’’ the company said. . . 

Great to meet ewe: Introducing sheep via Zoom to fans worldwide :

A sheep farmer who is making money from virtual tours of her farm does not believe people will give up on the idea of visiting New Zealand to experience things for themselves.

With the world in lockdown, people are having to get creative in their pursuit of overseas adventures.

Sheep farmer Angie Hossack who used to host visitors from all over the world via the Farmstay programme, has discovered another way to make money.

Her popular online farm tour ‘Meet the Woolly Sheep on My Farm‘ takes place on her 10-acre block south of Rotorua. . . 

Fermenting for good :

Three and four-year-olds in the rural village of Clevedon have developed a taste for sauerkraut.

The kindergarten children have been making sauerkraut under the guidance of Kelli Walker who has set up a fermentary just out of the town.

Clevedon is about 35 minutes south-east of central Auckland.

Under Kelli’s supervision, kids there squeeze out cabbage and watch the sauerkraut ferment and burble away before taking it home in jars to devour – much to the surprise of their parents. . . 

North Queensland photographers acknowledged among world’s best – Sally Gall:

Townsville-based freelance photojournalist Fiona Lake has been acknowledged as one of the best in the world in the field of agricultural photography.

In the early hours of Saturday morning Australia-time she was announced as the winner of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalism 2020 Star Prize for Photography for her exquisitely-composed aerial image of a bullock team published by the Queensland Country Life last September.

Ms Lake’s entry had earlier in the evening been announced as the winner of the nature/landscape category.

Commenting on the news, she said the win highlighted the affinity that rural Australians have with their animals. . . 


Rural round-up

June 18, 2020

Farmers must drive change – Colin Williscroft:

Catchment groups offer farmers the chance to take the lead in freshwater quality enhancement while maintaining profits. 

In the process they encourage thriving farming communities, presenters told a Beef + Lamb eforum.

Rangitikei Rivers Catchment Collective chairman Roger Dalrymple said community catchment groups let farmers make change from the bottom up rather than having it forced on them from the top down, which has often been the approach.

Farmers in catchment groups can help lift knowledge and education and have more control of pressure to make environmental improvements while ensuring their businesses remain sound. . . 

Tough road ahead for wool – Sally Rae:

The costs incurred in shearing crossbred sheep are starting to seriously impede the profitability of sheep farming, ANZ’s latest Agri Focus report says.

Strong wool prices were at the lowest level recorded this decade while shearing costs accelerated, a trend that would only continue. Returns were “absolutely dismal” and that situation was unlikely to improve significantly until existing stocks had cleared, the report said.

Wool had built up throughout the pipeline with in-market stocks elevated, local wool stores full and product starting to pile up in wool sheds.

End-user demand for coarse wool remained tied to carpet production. Wool carpets were generally still expensive relative to synthetic carpet which would make selling wool products even more challenging as global economic conditions imploded. . . 

Too important for lazy labels – Mike Manning:

The espoused benefits of regenerative agriculture have captured headlines recently. Proponents argue climate, soil health, waterways and food nutrition can all be improved by taking a regenerative approach. 

That’s quite a list for a cure-all.

Before we throw the export-dollar-generating baby out with the conventional-farming bathwater it pays to probe beneath the buzzword. Where did the concept come from and what is actually meant by the word regenerative?

The concept of regenerative agriculture originated from justifiable concerns about how continuous arable cropping can degrade soils, an example of which occurred in North American wheat and cornfields. The notorious dust bowls of the 1930s were the result of soil problems such as loss of organic matter, compaction, reduced water-holding capacity and diminishing fertility. . . 

New sheep breed key to organic success for Southland family :

Imagine a breed of sheep that requires no dagging, shearing, vaccinations or dipping. It is highly fertile, lives a reproductive life of 15 years or more and puts all of its energy into producing meat.

It has been a 30-year labour of love for Tim and Helen Gow and their family at Mangapiri Downs organic stud farm and this year they are busy selling more than 100 Shire stud rams.

The Gow family established their Wiltshire flock in 1987 after seeing them in England a couple of years earlier.

“Wiltshire horned are believed to have descended from the Persian hair meat sheep brought to Britain by the Romans as the first British meat sheep,” he said. . . 

Reproductive results: Bay of Plenty farm almost halves its empty rate:

A focus on cow condition helped Jessica Willis almost halve the empty rate on a dairy farm she managed for four years.

The 31-year-old ran a 48-hectare farm, milking 150 Holstein Friesians at Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty until May 2020.

The flat property was below sea level and got extremely wet during the winter and spring.

“It was a constant juggling act to ensure cows didn’t pug paddocks and damage pasture when it was wet,” said Willis. . . 

Farming for the future – Virginia Tapscott:

In a eucalyptus forest east of Monto in central Queensland, fat, glossy cattle have retreated to the shade to escape the midday sun. The sun in northern Australia stings even in the cooler months. Flicking flies with their tails, the animals seem completely oblivious to the vital role they have played in the transformation of Goondicum Station. They have enabled Rob and Nadia Campbell to capitalise on the dawn of an unconventional agricultural trade — natural capital.

Not only is the private sector paying them for their bushland and the carbon it captures, but the bank manager is on board too. National Australia Bank has recognised the value of environmental improvements that began at Goondicum in the 1960s, cutting interest rates on parts of the station under conservation. The grazing systems developed by successive generations of the Campbell family have allowed large areas of native vegetation to regenerate and encouraged native wildlife populations to increase. . . 


Rural round-up

May 12, 2020

Accidental farmer now a winner–  Gerald Piddock :

Dairy farmer Ash-Leigh Campbell has come a long way in a short time and now wants to encourage young people into the dairy sector and do what she can locally while travel restrictions limit what she can do with the $20,000 prize she took home as the Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year.

Ash-leigh Campbell didn’t set out to have a career in dairying.

Instead, she stumbled into the industry, starting out relief milking for a local farmer to earn extra cash for her first car while still at high school in Canterbury.

She was an accidental dairy farmer, she says.

Ten years on the 29-year-old has had a meteoritic rise, capped off by being the youngest person to become Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year at the Dairy Women’s Network Awards. . .

Rural fok rally round – Colin Williscroft:

Rural communities are banding together to help Hawke’s Bay farmers dealing with drought and a feed shortage.

Wairarapa farmers Daniel and Sophie Hansen are gathering feed in their region to send to their northern neighbours.

They hoope if farmers there have a bale or two of hay or balage they can do without then, despite it being a small amount individually, combined it could provide a real lifeline to Hawke’s Bay farmers.

Initially, the Hansens aimed to get every farmer on their road to either give or sell one or two bales to make a unit load but the idea has grown. . . 

Red meat exports pass $1b – Sally Rae:

Exports of New Zealand red meat and co-products in March passed the $1billion mark, a first for monthly exports.

Analysis by the Meat Industry Association showed total exports reached $1.1billion, an increase of 12% on March 2019.

While overall exports to China in March were down 9% on the corresponding month last year, due to Covid-19, exports to all other major markets increased, a statement from MIA said.

Sheepmeat export volumes were up 4% and value up 13% compared with last March. And while sheepmeat exports to China were down 11% by volume compared with last March, they still recovered significantly from February, doubling to nearly 25,000 tonnes. . . 

Keytone Dairy a secret Kiwi success – Rebecca Howard:

Keytone Dairy may not be listed on the NZX but it’s one to watch as it inks new orders and ramps up production.

The ASX-listed stock took a tumble on global panic hitting 20.5 Australian cents on March 19.

Since then it’s more than doubled to 43 cents as investors buy into its growth story that Covid-19 triggered “significant” global demand for its products. Appetite for its formulated milk powders is four times greater than before the crisis, it said.

The company was incorporated in September 2017 to buy and run New Zealand’s Keytone Enterprises. It wrapped the deal up in July 2018 and listed on the Australian stock exchange at the same time, choosing Australia because of its proximity to a larger pool of funds. . .

Current grower meeting challenges – George Clark:

Hamish McFarlane is a third-generation blackcurrant grower with a farm 10 minutes north of Temuka.

He grows the superfood, with a mix of cattle and the odd vegetable, for Barkers of Geraldine.

Covid-19 Alert Level 4 allowed business to continue for the McFarlane family but there were challenges.

‘‘We were pretty uncertain what the future was going to hold for us. Once we went into lockdown we were unsure with what government levels immediately meant,’’ he said. . . 

View form the Paddock: don’t fall for plant-based meat hype – Trent Thorne:

In 1787, Catherine the Great toured the recently annexed Crimean Peninsula with her conquering Commander-in-chief, Grigory Potemkin.

In an effort to thoroughly impress the Tsarina with the work he had done in the south of Russia (which for many years had been a desolate area ravaged by constant warfare) following the annexation, Potemkin constructed pasteboard facades of fake village.

As a result of his artifice, the term ‘Potemkin village’ is now used to refer to an impressive show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition.

You may well ask what does modern Russian history and the COVID-19 pandemic have in common? . . 


Rural round-up

April 28, 2020

Farmers must bide their time – Annette Scott:

The probability of a global recession is growing along with the likelihood of reduced consumer spending in all red meat markets.

The covid-19 pandemic has shifted demand for red meat away from food service to eating at home, Beef + Lamb chief economist Andrew Burtt said.

Just how long that will take to reverse will depend on how long it takes people to be comfortable to eat out in restaurants again.

The key for New Zealand across the supply chain will be maintaining integrity, reliability and consistency. . .

Disaster plans made – Toni Williams:

Vicki and Hamish Mee are planning a ‘‘worst case scenario’’ for stock at their Mid Canterbury free-farm piggery.

The Mees run Le Mee Farms and also have a cropping operation.

Their planning follows restrictions during the lockdown period which stop independent butchers from opening, and make any sale of pork limited to supermarket stores, other processors or retailers which were open.

As imported pork was still allowed, the Mees were preparing themselves for a different future market post-lockdown. . .

Backing ‘best fibre in the world’ – Sally Rae:

Long-time wool advocate Craig Smith says his new role as chairman of the National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests is about “championing the cause of wool”.

The council is an association of organisations engaged in the production, testing, merchandising, processing, spinning and weaving of wool and allied fibres.

Mr Smith, who is general manager of Devold Wool Direct, was the first New Zealander to be appointed to the global executive committee of the International Wool Textile Organisation, and he has also been heavily involved with Campaign for Wool, a global project initiated by Prince Charles. . . 

Meat plants back to near normal – Neal Wallace:

Meat processing throughput could be back at close to maximum on Tuesday when the country’s covid-19 response level drops to level three.

Final protocols are still to be confirmed but level three restrictions should enable meat processing to be close to full production, helping address the backlog of stock waiting to be killed, which has blown out to six weeks, Alliance livestock and shareholder services general manager Danny Hailes says.

At level three social distancing between workers drops from 2m, to 1m.

That should allow throughput for sheep to rise from  50% to 90% of plant capacity and beef from 70% to 100%. . . .

Online auction takes off – Annette Scott:

A handshake still carries weight for livestock trading firm Peter Walsh and Associates but with covid-19 it has been forced to change tack.

The lockdown changed that handshake to a tap on a keyboard as the company held to its first Livebid online auction last week. 

“With no saleyard operation we had to find new ways of moving livestock so we said ‘let’s keep it on the farm’,” Peter Walsh said.

With a smart back office team and the latest technology the independent livestock broker came up with Livebid. . .

Full fields, empty fridges – Laura Reiley:

Farmers in the upper Midwest euthanize their baby pigs because the slaughterhouses are backing up or closing, while dairy owners in the region dump thousands of gallons of milk a day. In Salinas, Calif., rows of ripe iceberg, romaine and red-leaf lettuce shrivel in the spring sun, waiting to be plowed back into the earth.

Drone footage shows a 1.5-mile-long line of cars waiting their turn at a drive-through food bank in Miami. In Dallas, schools serve well north of 500,000 meals on each service day, cars rolling slowly past stations of ice chests and insulated bags as food service employees, volunteers and substitute teachers hand milk and meal packets through the windows.

Across the country, an unprecedented disconnect is emerging between where food is produced and the food banks and low-income neighborhoods that desperately need it. American farmers, ranchers, other food producers and poverty advocates have been asking the federal government to help overcome breakdowns in a food distribution system that have led to producers dumping food while Americans go hungry. . .


Rural round-up

April 10, 2020

Fonterra is on the front foot in the safety business, making ethanol for keeping our hands clean – Point of Order:

A   report  on  the  NZ Farmer  segment  of   Stuff  caught  the eye of  Point of  Order.  It  led  off  with a  quote   from respected  economist  Cameron  Bagrie.

“Thank God for farmers….They’ve felt beaten up over the past couple of years, well, thank God agriculture is still the backbone of NZ.The story of the farming sector at the moment is looking relatively good compared to what we are seeing across a lot of the other sectors.Yes, we are seeing pressure on commodity prices, but the bottom line is the world has got to eat.“

It’s a   theme  which  Point of  Order  has  canvassed in  several   posts  over the past  fortnight as the  coronavirus  pandemic has  devastated  other  key sectors of the economy,  including  tourism and hospitality.

On  March  26 the contention was:  . . 

Is the Mycoplasma bovis eradication campaign on track? – Keith Woodford:

New Zealand’s Mycoplasma bovis eradication campaign has now been running for almost three years, with no decline in the number of farms newly detected as being infected. Can the disease be stamped out?

It is now more than five months since I last wrote about Mycoplasma bovis in late October 2019. Since then, another 44 farms have gone positive, bringing the total to 245 farms since the disease was discovered in July 2017. All of these farms have been required to slaughter their herds. There are 31 farms where that process is still ongoing.

During this latest five-month period, farms infected with Mycoplasma bovis have been identified at the average rate of two per week. This is slightly higher than the overall average rate of 1.75 farms confirmed per week since the disease was first discovered in July 2017. . .

Meat industry performing well under level 4 – Allan Barber:

Processing is under severe constraints during the lockdown, although, as an essential service, meat companies are working hard to feed New Zealanders and service key export markets. In a newsletter to staff and suppliers, AFFCO states that processing restrictions on maintaining a minimum distance between employees means sheepmeat capacity is running at 50% of normal and beef capacity is close to 65%. This of course comes at the peak of the season, exacerbated by drought in several regions, particularly the top half of the North Island.

Because meat companies aren’t entitled to government wage subsidies, they have set up schemes to look after employees whose earnings would be adversely affected, either by an inability to work for reasons of age or dependants or the reduced volume throughput. In AFFCO’s case, employees are paid their full production bonus based on numbers processed before the Level 4 lockdown, while those unable to work receive a company funded support package of $585 gross per week for an initial four week period. . .

Pandemic kills off Israel agritech move :

The Covid-19 crisis has killed off a planned expansion of New Zealand agritech into Israel.

Farmer-owned co-operative, Livestock Improvement Corporation, had planned to buy a 50 percent stake in an Israeli company, Afimilk. 

The deal would have cost $US70 million, and was supported by the LIC board.

But when the matter was put to LIC shareholders, 70.30 percent of shares voted against the proposal, 27.56 percent voted for the proposal and 2.14 percent abstained. . . 

Livestock sales open on Trade Me:

Trade Me has announced today that livestock sales and livestock feed sales will be permitted while New Zealand is at COVID-19 alert level 4 after concerns were raised about animal welfare during lockdown.

Head of Marketplace Lisa Stewart said Trade Me had worked with both Federated Farmers and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to understand this issue. “With typical public livestock sales closed due to the lockdown, farmers are restricted in how they sell their livestock at this busy time of year. . .

The naked farmer is ‘living the dream’ – Sally Rae:

It was a cheeky idea.

Archie Kennedy was drenching sheep on the first day of lockdown when he whipped off his clothes and suggested his wife, Lucy, take a photograph.

He posted it on Facebook and the response was so overwhelming that he decided to do a naked farmer post every day of the four-week lockdown.

Whether mustering on horseback or putting the rams out, routine rural tasks have been documented in his birthday suit. . .

Risk is constant, but agriculture is in the box seat – Daniel Pedersen:

CONTINUED positive sentiment for farmland, widespread rain and agriculture’s natural agility to supply people’s needs is spurring confidence across the state, says Rural Bank NSW regional manager for agribusiness Tony Williams.

“We’re off to a fantastic start to the season,” he said.

“Properties are still changing hands,” he said, adding that while social distancing had changed the way properties were inspected, the coronavirus outbreak certainly hadn’t stalled investment. . .


Rural round-up

March 27, 2020

Farming must step up, sector heads say – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s lockdown over Covid-19 is an opportunity for the agricultural sector ‘‘to step up and remind our country how great we are’’, Farmlands chief executive Peter Reidie says.

The farm supplies co-operative has been identified as an essential service and will remain open, although customers have to call or email orders first, and a contactless collection process will then be arranged.

Yesterday, Mr Reidie said the world would still need to be fed and New Zealand was very well placed in terms of the quantity and quality of its produce .

‘‘Provided we can get things on boats … we should keep on keeping on. That’s got to be the ambition,’’ he said.

It was a reminder of the importance of landowners, farmers and orchardists. . . 

Kiwi Jack Raharuhi takes the crown in top Australasian award:

Jack Raharuhi from Pāmu Farms in Westport, and Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer of the Year 2016, has been crowned the 2020 Zanda McDonald Award winner.

Raharuhi, 27 years old, is the Buller Dairy Group Operations Manager for Pāmu, where he oversees 4 dairy farms and a machinery syndicate at Cape Foulwind, and Health and Safety leadership for 10 dairy farms. He is also Chair of the West Coast Focus Farm Trust, and heavily involved with training and mentoring staff as part of the West Coast 2IC Development Programme.

The annual Award, regarded as a prestigious badge of honour by the agribusiness industry, recognises and supports talented young individuals in the ag sector from Australia and New Zealand. It was launched in 2014 in memory of Australian beef industry leader Zanda McDonald, who died aged 41 after an accident at his Queensland property in 2013. . . 

Carrying on farming and consider grain options for stock feed:

Farmers can carry on doing what they do best – putting high quality food on people’s tables and earning export revenue – with confirmation direct from the Prime Minister that they are an ‘Essential Service’ that can continue operating under the Covid-19 lockdown from midnight Wednesday.

Services associated with the primary sector, including food processors, diagnostics, farm suppliers, freight and trucking can also go about their business, while taking all practical steps to limit people to people contact.

This confirmation they are vital to helping the nation survive the virus crisis will be a relief and reason for pride for many farmers and workers in those associated industries. But for some, there remains a pressing concern – the drought, and how to feed stock. . . 

Dairy Trainee of the Year spots all go to women :

Women won all three placings in the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year competition.

The awards were presented at the West Coast Events Centre in Shantytown on Tuesday last week.

Alexis Wells won the trainee section, Dallas Bradley was second and Stephanie Gray claimed third place.

Ms Wells (21) is a farm assistant on a 307ha, 670-cow Pamu Farms of New Zealand property in Reefton. She is studying level 4 husbandry and feeding with Primary ITO and said she was proud to have made it to the dairy awards finals three years in a row. Her goal is to the win the national title. . . 

Pandemic postpones DoC predator control – David Williams:

The Conservation Department will halt operations to kill bird-eating pests during the four-week national shutdown. David Williams reports

Pest control operations to protect rare and vulnerable native species are about to cease.

The Department of Conservation will halt all biodiversity work during the upcoming four-week national shutdown, director-general Lou Sanson confirms.

“We debated that seriously but when we heard the Prime Minister [on Monday], and we understood the seriousness of the lockdown, the number one focus for New Zealand is to stop people moving, and that means all our biodiversity work stops, our construction work stops. About the only things we’ll be doing is the operation of sewerage schemes, search and rescue, and fire.”

(DoC acts as the local council, providing utilities like drinking water and sewerage schemes, in places like Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.) . . 

Exports rise as dairy gains while logs and fish fall:

Total goods exports increased in the February 2020 month due to an increase in the value of dairy products, Stats NZ said today.

The total value of meat exports was little changed, but higher quantities were exported to the United States instead of China.

The increase in total good exports was despite falls in exports of logs and fish, particularly to China, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The value of total goods exports rose by $212 million (4.5 percent) from February 2019 to reach $4.9 billion in February 2020. . . 


Rural round-up

March 19, 2020

Global merino conference in Otago: president says industry better than ever – Sally Rae:

World Federation of Merino Breeders president Will Roberts reckons he has never seen the merino industry has never been so good as it is now.

Mr Roberts and his wife Nada have been in Otago attending the Merino Excellence 2020 Congress, and Mr Roberts also judged at the Wanaka A&P Show.

The couple farm a 13,000ha sheep and cattle property in Queensland, originally bought by Mr Roberts’ family in 1906. The Victoria Downs merino stud was established in 1911. . .

Turning personal challenge into positive life-changing journey:

Dairy farm manager Chelsea Smith from the King Country has turned a personal challenge that blindsided her into a positive life changing journey.

“That’s when I went to the farm owners and just said, look, as much as I love farming and the farm, I’m unable to do another season just due to personal reasons.”

Keen to retain Chelsea the farm owners came back to her with different options and after some time off travelling overseas she returned to take up a role overseeing four farming operations near Otorohanga in the Central North Island. . .

Cattle breeders focus on quality – Neal Wallace:

British Hereford breeders are cautiously optimistic the hardy breed will help them through any post-Brexit regulatory uncertainty.

United Kingdom Hereford Cattle Society president Mark Roberts says with the UK in the throes of leaving the European Union future subsidies to farmers being considered by the government are likely to be linked to environmental issues and not production.

They will primarily be targeted at arable or land that can be cultivated and not land in permanent pasture. . .

Fonterra reports its interim result :

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced its 2020 Interim Results, which show the Co-operative’s financial performance has improved with increased underlying earnings and reduced debt.

Interim Results Summary
  • Total group normalised Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT): $584 million, up from $312 million
  • Total group EBIT: $806 million, up from $312 million
  • Normalised Net Profit After Tax: $293 million, up from $72 million
  • Reported Net Profit After Tax: $501 million, up from $72 million
  • Free cash flow: $369 million, up from $(782) million
  • Net debt: $5.8 billion, down from $7.4 billion. . 

Farmer’s Voice: excerpting Kiwi ingenuity:

Taranaki dairy farmer Kane Brisco has always had a passion for keeping fit and healthy and understood the positive effects it can have both physically and mentally.

Driven by this passion, Kane set up and outdoor training class where he endeavors to inspire the rural community about the importance of exercise in a rural lifestyle. 

Four years has given rise to many topics down on the farm – Joyce Wyllie:

“I am willing to open myself again and add another commitment to the list of ‘what I do with my spare time!’.” The last sentence of the first column I wrote way back on February 20, 2016 and amazingly here I am mid-March 2020 pondering column number 100.

Woohoo… beginning four years ago I never considered that a century of two-weekly typing with single-finger tappings would roll around. Often I’m asked how it came about that a farming ex-veterinarian with nil journalistic experience contributes regular compositions to the paper.

I confess that one day after re-reading yet more articles previously printed in recent farming mags, I sent a hasty email to the Nelson Mail editor offering my cheeky opinion that something fresh in the rural pages would be good. Her response was a positive “We would be delighted to be able to run a fortnightly column from a rural woman on our Primary Focus page each alternate Tuesday” . . .

 


Rural round-up

March 4, 2020

Austrian billionaire to convert farm to forestry:

An Austrian billionaire has been granted consent to purchase an $8m Hill Country farm.

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has granted Wolfgang Leitner consent to buy a 800ha property located in Kotemaori, Wairoa and convert it to forestry.

The property known as Ponui Station currently has 714ha being grazed by sheep and beef stock.  . . 

They just don’t care – Trish Rankin:

Taranaki farmer and 2019 Dairy Woman of the Year Trish Rankin recently attended the annual agribusiness seminar at Harvard Business School in the United States. What she heard was astonishing. What she said shocked them.

New Zealand can be the possible solution for the impossible customer. 

That was my key takeaway from Harvard Business School’s agribusiness seminar.

The impossible customer wants food that is better for the planet, their health, animals and people. NZ products can be the answer. . . 

Scarab beetles provide agribusiness insights – Sally Rae:

“It’s time for the dung beetle”.

So says Dr Shaun Forgie, who admits he has been obsessed with the critters since the early 1990s.

But it was not until 2011 that an application to import 11 different scarab species — suitable for all New Zealand climatic conditions — was approved.

Dr Forgie, the co-founder of Auckland-based Dung Beetle Innovations, was in Dunedin on Friday to speak at a dung beetle seminar at John McGlashan College. . . 

Meat export prices hit record levels:

Export prices for meat, including beef and lamb, rose to their highest-ever level in the December 2019 quarter, boosting overall export prices, Stats NZ said today.

“Meat export prices have risen for three quarters in a row, on the back of strong demand towards the end of last year,” business prices manager Bryan Downes said.

Meat volumes rose 3.2 percent, and values rose 12 percent in the December 2019 quarter. . . 

Young, Jex-Blake re-appointed unopposed:

Richard Young and Dan Jex Blake have been re-appointed unopposed to the Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Board.

Chairman Richard Young said he was pleased the outcome provided continuity for the Co-operative and for Silver Fern Farms Limited.

“This outcome gives continuity for our Co-operative and both Dan and I recognise the responsibility we have as Directors to create enduring value for shareholders. . .

Muddy waters end cotton-pickin’ drought blues – Charlie Peel:

As Paul Brimblecombe looks out over the sea of water pouring into Cubbie Station’s vast dams for the first time since 2012, he sees more than just muddy liquid.

The Cubby Agriculture chief executive can visualise the station’s first crops in two years and the economic boom in the region around Dirranbandi near the Queensland-NSW border.

Floodwater coursing through southwestern Queensland has been pouring into the giant water reservoirs for the past week after massive downpours in the 136,014 sq km Balonne-Condamine catchment area. . . 

 


Rural round-up

February 26, 2020

Wharves in China can’t take more logs from New Zealand:

Lack of space in Chinese ports is bringing a virtual halt to New Zealand log exports to China.

The Forest Owners Association says precautions in China against coronavirus have resulted in almost no offtake of logs in China for processing and exporters understand that the remaining log yard space at most ports near processing centres is quickly disappearing.

The Association President, Peter Weir says exporters had hoped that business would return to normal after the extended Lunar New Year holiday finished in China two weeks ago. . . 

Northland drought: iwi to divert farm water to Support town supply :

Northland iwi Te Rarawa and Ngāi Takoto are on stand-by to supply water to drought-stricken towns, including Kaikohe and Kaitaia.

The water will be sourced from an aquifer which runs through the iwi-owned farm, Sweetwater.

Once a 4km pipe is installed, up to 2700 cubic metres of water will be pumped from the aquifer a day . .

Chickens come to (mobile) home to roost – Sally Rae:

It is the ultimate in mobile homes.

Thousands of hens are living the life of Riley on Tony and Michelle Pringle’s South Otago farm; pecking their way around the 445ha property near Clydevale from their transportable hen houses.

When it comes to their farming operation, the couple, who milk 450 cows and farm 6500 laying hens, think outside the square — and a lot.

They have a focus on regenerative agriculture and soil health to produce nutrient-dense food. Hens were part of that as they added “another system within a system” — introducing poultry to their farming operation, while not affecting their stock numbers.

The Pringle family, who feature on the first episode of the new series of Country Calendar on March 1, started with 50 hens and quickly discovered people liked their eggs. . . 

Hemp farm opens gates to the curious to promote ‘wonder crop’ – Katie Todd:

Growers of industrial hemp say red tape is stopping industries from making the most of what many regard as a potential wonder crop.

Although it lacks the mind-altering power of its close cousin marijuana, hemp can only be grown and sold subject to Ministry of Health restrictions.

Brad Lake, co-founder of Christchurch hemp food company The Brothers Green, helped organise a hemp farm open day in Culverden yesterday, to showcase the farmers and business utilising the crop and help de-mystify how it’s grown and used. . .

Backing the trillion tree campaign to combat climate crisis – Tom Crowther:

Politicians and influencers are signing up to the campaign, but to get things right we must keep in mind the science behind it, says Tom Crowther:

The recent explosion of interest in tree restoration has transformed the climate change conversation. Although the trillion tree campaign – 1T.org – is now in the realm of politicians and influencers (Greta Thunberg: Davos leaders ignored climate activists’ demands, 24 January), it emerged from scientific literature. But what exactly did the science show?

We estimated that there is up to 0.9bn hectares of degraded land that might support a trillion trees outside of existing forest, urban or agricultural land. Although the exact carbon storage potential is debated, scientists agree that ecosystem restoration is a powerful tool for carbon drawdown.

But with anything this powerful, the risks of getting it wrong can be huge. To avoid these risks, any organisation pledging to the trillion tree campaign should uphold these basic principles. . .

Industrial property investors set to plough funds into agricultural engineering site up for sale:

The land and buildings housing a long-standing farm equipment and machinery engineering plant in the heart of the North Island’s premier dairying region has been placed on the market for sale.

The premises at 5855 State Highway 2 in Netherton features a 620 square metre industrial building complex sitting on a 1.89-hectare block of land zoned rural 1A under the Hauraki District Council plan.

The property has been the headquarters of Quinn Engineering since the 1960s – with the company producing hay-bailing machinery, crate-lifting forklift extensions, and tractor extensions for crop and soil management. Its products are sold throughout New Zealand as well as Australia and the South Pacific. . . 


Rural round-up

February 24, 2020

Dairy farmers must increase risk – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers have to learn to take more risk because staying put is no longer risk-free, independent Cameron Bagrie says.

The pace of change will accelerate not slow and farmers face three to five more years of this grumpy growth, which stems from rising costs and more regulations, he told a DairyNZ farmers forum.

“Stop being so polite and drive the key changes in the things that you can control.” . .

Net zero goal needs new tech – Colin Williscroft:

Agriculture and land use systems will have to be transformed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, Scottish academic Professor Bob Rees says.

While all sectors of the economy will have to play their part cutting emissions, the likely consequences for agriculture are stark, the keynote speaker at the Farmed Landscapes Research Centre workshop said.

Rees, an agriculture and climate change expert at Scotland Rural College, said emissions from the sector urgently need to be reduced but costs and inertia are significant barriers. . .

Cavalcades bosses keep coming back – Sally Rae:

When Chris Bayne and Sandra Cain drive around the Otago hinterland, they know what lies behind the hills.

For they have been there, among the tussocks, during their combined involvement of more than 50 years with the Otago Goldfields Cavalcade.

The two trail bosses are preparing to head off on this year’s event, which will see hundreds of riders, wagoners, walkers and cyclists arrive in Patearoa next Saturday.

Mrs Bayne’s light wagon and riding trail will meet today at Ardgour, near Tarras, while Mrs Cain’s walking trail will start on Wednesday from Ida Valley Station. . .

Winemaking need not drain reservoirs– Mark Price:

Robin Dicey cannot quite turn water into wine, but he is turning grapes into wine without water. The Bannockburn wine industry pioneer tells reporter Mark Price about his recent vino experiments.

Imagine  growing grape vines in Central Otago without pumping millions of litres of water to them through millions of metres of plastic pipe.

Without an irrigation system, surely they would wither and die in the heat of a Central summer.

Retired Bannockburn wine industry pioneer Robin Dicey is not so sure they would, and has begun an experiment to test that theory. . .

New regional leader award:

A new Regional Leader of the Year Award has been established by Dairy Women’s Network.

Chief executive Jules Benton says more than 70 volunteer regional leaders provide an important point of contact for farmers and play key role in their communities through to organising, hosting and promoting regional events.

They are the face of the network while also in some cases are running million dollar businesses. . .

Farmer confidence plummets amid Brexit and bad weather:

Continued weather conditions and Brexit uncertainty has led to a significant drop in farmer confidence, new figures suggest.

Political unpredictability surrounding the terms of the UK’s post-transition period and the recent flooding is taking its toll on industry confidence.

Results from the latest NFU survey of farmers across the UK shows that short-term (one year) confidence has reduced further from last year, dropping 11 points, to its 3rd lowest level since the survey began in 2010. . .


Rural round-up

February 21, 2020

Drought, coronavirus rattle dairy – Sally Rae:

Westpac has cut its farmgate milk price forecast from $7.40 to $7.20 and ASB has trimmed its forecast by 10c to $7.40, as economists keep watch on the effects of coronavirus and drought.

At this week’s GlobalDairyTrade auction the headline index was down 2.9% and most products fell. Key export product whole milk powder fell 2.6%.

The result was unsurprising given the continuing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, Westpac market strategist Imre Speizer said in a note.

The steps China had taken to contain the outbreak, such as limiting the population’s movement, had kept many factories closed. . . 

Fonterra ramps up emergency water deliveries to parched Northland– Andrea Fox:

Dairy heavyweight Fonterra is trucking, free of charge, hundreds of thousands of litres of emergency water supplies daily to the drought-stricken Far North.

The drought relief effort will see tankers carrying 90,000 litres of water a day each to Kaikohe and Kaitaia, and new water deliveries just started to Dargaville and Rawene, a spokesperson said.

Sixty tankers a week have been delivering water to emergency holding tanks in Kaikohe and Kaitaia, while Dargaville will get 10 tankerloads or 300,000 litres every two days and Rawene one tankerful or 30,000 litres daily. . .

Rain lifts river levels in Marlborough but region not out of the woods yet – Maia Hart:

A drop of February rain has given water irrigators in Marlborough an extended grace period. 

Several rivers in Marlborough were days away from being “shut off” from irrigators on February 6. 

Marlborough District Council hydrologist Val Wadsworth said Rai Valley irrigation had been shut off for a week but the river had “quite a good lift” earlier this week, which meant it had been turned back on. 

“In some places there was quite a bit of rain, in the Rai Valley there was 50mm,” Wadsworth said.  . . 

Balclutha hens rule the roost on Country Calendar – Melenie Parkes:

In Balclutha, there’s a family rearing some of the happiest hens you’re likely to find.

These merry cluckers are ‘pasture free range’, meaning they have the run of the land.

“There’s 1200 acres that we’re roaming around on here and there’s 6300 chooks, so there’s a lot of space,” says Michelle Pringle who, along with husband Tony, sells their eggs under the Agreeable Nature label.  . . 

Fresh producers must yell loudly – Richard Rennie:

Fresh fruit and produce companies around the world risk having their long-held and proven health claims stolen by the new arrivals on supermarket shelves, plant-based food products.

One of the biggest emerging trends in consumer behaviour in six regions surveyed globally is healthy living, Cathy Burns, chief executive of giant United States trade organisation Produce Marketing Association, told Zespri’s Momentum conference.

“This includes a desire to shed things from the diet that are not good for me and it has become a proxy term for intelligence and social acceptance. . . 

Stratford breaks SI drought -:

Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford won the Southern Shears open final in Gore at the weekend, his first in the event after 24 years of trying.

The result brought him 70 open final victories as he became the first South Island shearer to win the event since 1994 when Edsel Forde, from Winton, won the final for a fifth time . . 


Talking teal

February 20, 2020

February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in New Zealand and Australia.

It’s a time to talk teal because not all cancers are pink.

One in 70 women will get ovarian cancer. In Australia four women are diagnosed with it every day and three of the four will not survive. The survival rate is just as bad in New Zealand.

One reason for that is that it is often diagnosed late because many don’t know the symptoms.

Dealing with a diagnosis of a rare and often fatal cancer, like low grade serous ovarian carcinoma, is hard.

Going public with your story is too.

But after my daughter got over the shock of the diagnosis she discovered her experience of later diagnosis was far too common and that there was very little awareness of, advocacy for, and research into, ovarian cancer. Jane decided that had to change and she was going to change it.

Sally Rae wrote Jane’s story in  survivor changing focus for the ODT. *

Clare de Lore wrote about Jane in  how an ovarian cancer patient is fighting the myth of the ‘silent killer’ for The Listener.

Katie Kenny interviewed her for we’re comfortable talking about breast cancer, but ovarian cancer remains a forgotten disease on Stuff.

Dunedin Central Rotary Club reviewed her speech here.

Jane has a blog janehascancer.com

If you missed my blog post with Jane’s story, you’ll find it at  living under cancer sword.

P.S.

* Milly, the lamb in the ODT photo was very much a city one. She was allowed inside until she got too big for disposable napkins, then she roamed the garden. However, while grazing the lawn was welcome her tree trimming was not so she moved up to our farm.

Like all pet lambs, she is no respecter of boundaries and has found her way to our house a few times.

 


Rural round-up

February 18, 2020

Working to nurture rural wellbeing – Sally Rae:

It’s been a tough time to be a farmer in the South.

But, as he helped man the Ag Proud New Zealand stand at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu last week, Mossburn dairy farmer Jason Herrick was still wearing a beaming smile.

Mr Herrick is heavily involved with the Ag Proud NZ initiative, set up last year to promote positive farming practices and raise awareness of rural people’s mental health. . . 

Solutions may have negative effect

Environmental solutions sought in New Zealand could have unintended global consequences, according to research presented at the Farmed Landscapes Research Centre workshop.

Ravensdown innovation and strategy general manager Mike Manning says there is debate over whether the environmental effects of food production should be calculated by hectare or by unit of food produced.

“If globally we want to continue to feed the world with the least impact environmentally then it is important to have the lowest footprint per unit of food and to maintain the investment in technology to reduce this footprint. To do otherwise simply has a worse global environmental outcome.”

In their research Manning, Jacqueline Rowarth and Ans Roberts looked at the production and environmental aspects of organic and conventional systems, taking into account economic aspects such as government subsidies. . . 

Big load to carry but couple pulls together – Sally Rae:

They say the couple that plays together, stays together.

In the case of Southland couple Brett and Lisa Heslip, their shared hobby is of the very noisy kind; they are enthusiasts of tractor pull, a phenomenally loud and curiously fascinating combination of sheer grunt and horsepower.

Tractor pull involves four different classes of tractor: standard, pre 85, sport and modified. Participants compete to see how far they can drag the Tractor Pull New Zealand weight transfer sled.

It was easy to find the tractor pull area at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu on Friday, as it just required following the noise. . . 

Farming fits the lifestyle – Ross Nolly:

Autumn calving is relatively new in Taranaki but one couple made the switch immediately when they bought their first farm. Ross Nolly reports

Switching to autumn calving wasn’t about making more money for Taranaki farmers Jaiden and Hannah Drought.

It was solely so they could enjoy long summer days with their children.

The couple who milk 360 cows on their 105ha effective farm at Riverlea near Kaponga say the pros of autumn calving far outweigh the downsides. . . 

Vineyard trialling native planting as herbicide alternative:

A commercial vineyard is investigating planting native plants and cover crops under vines as an alternative to spraying herbicides on the area.

Villa Maria Winery is running the trial with funding support from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

Villa Maria’s co-ordinator for the project, Raquel Kallas said conventional practice in New Zealand vineyards was to maintain a bare strip under the vines by applying herbicides, typically two or three times per season. . .

Getting smarter at growing grass – James Barbour:

Trewithen is a 288ha farm with 1,100 cows in New Plymouth, owned by the Faull Family from Waitara. In his third season, sharemilker James Barbour takes us through the farm’s approach to nutrient management.

The problem

We cover a large area, so paddock variability is an important issue for us. If we just apply a blanket rate without testing or targeting, the costs mount up very quickly because of the scale of the operation.

We’re milking all year around with various winter run-offs. We have an ambitious target of 600,000kg MS. Our focus is on growing more grass, taking care of the animals and becoming increasingly efficient. And we’ve managed to cut our stocking rate while increasing production. . . 

 


Rural round-up

February 13, 2020

Equity losses dog dairy farming – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy analysts agree with the key factors of a Rabobank prediction of falling dairy land values over the next five years.

Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins said land values have been in neutral for the past decade and are likely to drift downwards over the next five years.

In her report, Afloat but Drifting Backwards, she predicts an average $6.25/kg MS farmgate milk price, which will be barely break-even with low investor confidence, high farm debt, tighter Reserve Bank regulations, foreign capital restrictions and the costs of environmental compliance also factors. . .

Goodbye Britain again :

Those of us who have been around for quite a few years will remember the unhappy and heady days when Britain joined the then EEC on the January 1, 1973.

Up until then, NZ had enjoyed unlimited access to Britain for its agricultural products and at one stage there was even a law passed that said they had to be given priority for our exports.

When Britain joined the EEC, many NZer’s felt hurt and disappointed that the so called ‘mother country’ had deserted us and that we now had to find new markets for our agricultural exports. . .

Busy field days tenure comes to an end – Sally Rae:

Ask Sharon Paterson to recall the most memorable moments during her tenure as event manager-secretary of the Southern Field Days, and an unlikely response is forthcoming.

It was the day she and then organising committee chairman Logan Evans were chatting to Prime Minister John Key and deputy Prime Minister Bill English when they were “photo-bombed” by Road Safety Southland mascot Harry the Hippo.

“That was so hilarious,” Mrs Paterson recalled.

Thousands of people will converge on the small, rural settlement of Waimumu this week for the event, which is held every second year — this year from Wednesday to Friday. . . .

Are you up for the challenge? – Nigel Malthus:

A new event for the 2020 Southern Field Days will be an ‘Amazing Race’-style challenge.

The event is aimed at exciting and informing young people about employment opportunities across the agricultural sector.

Pitched at school pupils, school leavers and career changers, the “Food & Fibre Discovery Challenge” will have participants following clues and answering questions as they navigate around the grounds between participating exhibitors.  . . 

Fiftieth year for New Zealand innovation – Richard Davison:

Fifty years ago, the spirit of “fair go” led to a new branch of rural competition in Balclutha, that has since spread worldwide.

The Otago Shearing and Woolhandling Championships take place in the South Otago town once more tomorrow, but it is only thanks to the self-described stubbornness of former Clinton farmer Don Moffat that the woolhandlers will be celebrating 50 years of competition this time round.

Otago Shears chairman in 1969-70, Mr Moffat believed the efforts and skill of the South’s woolhandlers were such that they deserved their own branch of competition. . . 

Share-farming and leasing properties enabled a Riverina couple to reduce risk – Olivia Calver:

Entering farming is becoming more and more restrictive as land prices surge, but Kendra and Brent Kerrisk, Ganmain found share-farming and leasing properties enabled them to get a foothold in the industry.

The Kerrisk’s, both from rural backgrounds in New Zealand, came out to Australia 14 years ago with the goal to buy a house with some acreage. . .

 


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