Rural round-up

01/08/2021

Unlikely pair guiding Groundswell juggernaut – Sally Rae:

Two weeks ago, convoys of thousands of tractors and utes took part nationally in Groundswell New Zealand’s Howl of a Protest event, protesting against what the rural sector says are unworkable government regulations. At the core of the group are two southern farmers, who talk to business and rural editor Sally Rae about why they won’t go away.

They’re an unlikely pair of protesters.

In fact, Laurie Paterson and Bryce McKenzie have never been involved in any sort of protest during their lengthy farming careers. Until now.

The co-founders of Groundswell NZ have ultimately been responsible for the biggest protests some towns have ever seen. . .

Photographer bridging the urban-rural divide– Matthew Scott:

After travelling the country in search of sustainable and environmentally-friendly farms, a photographer is bringing her work to Auckland to show what it means to be stewards of the land

Queen Street has been a bit of a Mecca for farmers lately.

This month’s Groundswell protest saw a troupe of tractors and utes trundle through the central city in protest of government regulations targeting the agriculture sector.

The rural-urban divide had never felt as palpable as when the fleet of farm equipment joined Auckland traffic on a Friday morning. . .

Words do matter – Barbara Kuriger:

If you know me, you know how fiercely proud I am of being a farmer.

As an MP and National’s spokesperson I move in rural communities constantly and this month, during Parliament’s recent three week recess I visited many more from Timaru to Te Hapua.

I doubt many New Zealanders would realise rural communities are this country’s second largest city with 700,000+ people.

And despite what people are reading or hearing in media throughout the country, they are innovators. . .

Growing for Gold – Japanese Budou grapes thrive in Hawke’s Bay – Country Life:

Budou table grapes can fetch up to $160 a bunch in Japan.

Third-generation grape grower Tetsuya Higuchi is growing the enormous, sweet, picture-perfect Japanese style grape in Hawke’s Bay.

Tetsuya sees huge potential in his region for expanding the production of his Japanese-style table grapes.

The picture-perfect bunches are highly valued as gifts in Japan and can fetch extraordinary prices – up to $160 dollars for a single top-grade bunch. . .

Opportunities in a changing world highlighted at Red Meat Sector conference:

Climate change is the biggest opportunity for New Zealand agriculture since refrigerated shipping. This was the scene-setting message from entrepreneur and farmer Geoff Ross, who was the opening speaker at the Red Meat Sector Conference in Rotorua last week.

The founder of 42 Below Vodka, Ross is also the owner of Lake Hawea Station, New Zealand’s first carbon certified farm.

“What if we looked at climate change as an opportunity, and the reason why we have such a unique opportunity in a world demanding low carbon foot and fibre is our extensive food systems.

“We have this massive advantage; we are way ahead of other countries.” . .

Local producers band together to launch Good Farmers brand:

A community of passionate New Zealand farmers, growers and artisan food producers have joined forces to launch an exciting new brand – Good Farmers New Zealand.

Put simply, Good Farmers is a community that stands for ‘Good Food, grown on Good Land, nurtured by Good Farmers.’

The collective, which currently includes eight food producers with more joining shortly, has two key goals: . .


Rural round-up

22/07/2021

Groundswell staying mum on future – Gerald Piddock:

Groundswell will keep its word and take no further action until August 16 to give the Government time to respond to its concerns that its farming regulations are unworkable.

The protests on July 16 saw thousands of farmers and their vehicles head to 57 towns and cities across the country to protest policies around freshwater, climate change and biodiversity.

“There’s definitely nothing to add to the protest because we have to wait until August 16 and we’ve given the Government until then to make a response,” Groundswell co-founder Bryce McKenzie said.

“But we have got other irons in the fire. There are other subjects we will be commenting on or putting stuff out on for people to look at separate to the protest,” he said. . . 

Backlash over protest advice to staff – Sally Rae:

Farmer-owned co-operatives have come under fire from the farming community for telling staff they were not allowed to represent their company’s brand at last Friday’s Groundswell New Zealand protest.

Some farmers have indicated shifting their support from co-operatives that took such a stance ahead of the Howl of a Protest, which drew thousands of people from throughout the country.

Clarks Junction farmer Jim Macdonald wrote to Farmlands chairman Rob Hewett before the event saying he was concerned and angered by the decision, and urged a change of heart.

Staff were told if they wanted to support Groundswell the company asked that it was done independently of Farmlands “to protect the Farmlands brand”. It is understood some other rural companies made similar requests to staff. . . 

Farmstrong: discovering my own values :

High country sheep and beef farmer Hamish Murray spent a year on a Nuffield scholarship studying businesses with high-performance team cultures. What he discovered was that before you can work on your team, you need to work on yourself.

HAMISH Murray has an impressive CV. He’s played top-level sport, studied overseas and now works with a team of seven full-time staff, running Bluff Station in the Clarence River Valley. The diversified operation includes 5500 Merino ewes, 950 Angus and Hereford breeding cows and 750 beehives.

“I love the variety of farming. The particular valley and property where we are just gets into your blood. It’s isolated and beautiful. I love being outdoors with our animals, I’m happiest when I’m out riding a horse and shifting stock,” Murray said.

“I spent the earlier part of my life getting an education and learning to do things other than farming, but for me coming back to farming was about giving my children the opportunity to grow up the same way I had. . . 

https://twitter.com/AniekaNick/status/141775380919178445

Grain sense: couple develop on-farm distillery – Sally Rae:

Southland sheep and cropping farmers Rob and Toni Auld are in high spirits.

The entrepreneurial couple operate Auld Farm Distillery, believed to be the southernmost on-farm distillery in the world, on their 200ha Scotts Gap property.

Being primary producers, they were previously used to watching the produce they grew heading out the driveway never to be seen again.

Being able to grow the grain to produce their own whisky was “next-level cool”, Mr Auld said. . . 

The big picture with sheep – Keith Woodford:

The sheep-farming retreat will continue despite excellent meat prices, with carbon farming the mega-force.

In recent months, I have written four articles focusing on the sheep and beef industries across New Zealand. My main focus has been to identify the current situation and to document how the situation varies for different classes of land across the country. Here I return to the overall big question: what is the future of the sheep industry?

There are two parts to that question. The first is the market opportunities. The second is about competing land-uses. . . 

Market opportunities

Apart from some dry hill and high-country farms lying east of the South Island Main Divide, wool is largely irrelevant. Fine-wool merinos are big contributors on low rainfall South Island farms and I expect that to continue. But elsewhere, wool no longer makes a worthwhile contribution to farm income. We can always live in hope, but that is not the basis on which to make land-use decisions. . . 

Productive avocado orchard with commercially run tourist operation placed on the market for sale:

A productive avocado orchard in the heart of Northland’s premier avocado growing district has been placed on the market for sale – with capacity to substantially increase its production scale.

The 15-hectare property is located at Waiharara near 90-Mile Beach in the Far North – which is fast becoming a regional production hub for avocados due to its climate, contour, and free-draining soils.

Located some 40 kilometres north of Kaitaia, the generally rectangular-shaped orchard for sale at 101 Turk Valley Road features nine sheltered and contoured blocks – three of which are now in full production.

Production records from the orchard show that the orchard has been relatively consistent with 12,000 trays being averaged over the past four seasons. The mature trees are Hass on Zutano rootstock, while the younger trees are Hass on Dusa and Hass on Bounty clonal rootstocks. . . 


Rural round-up

15/07/2021

Howl of a protest on the way – Sally Rae:

“Farming could be a joy but really it’s a bloody nightmare.”

Jim Macdonald has been farming Mt Gowrie Station, at Clarks Junction, since 1970 and he has worked through difficult times.

What farmers were battling now had been “created by a government that does not understand and does not even want to understand,” he said.

On Friday, Mr Macdonald will take part in Howl of a Protest, a New Zealand-wide Groundswell NZ-organised event to show support for farmers and growers. . .

National MPs Out In Strong Support Of Farmers :

This Friday rural communities up and down New Zealand will stage a protest at the overbearing government interference in their businesses and lives, and National MPs will be right there supporting them, National’s Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett says.

The protests are organised by Groundswell, a community based group formed as a result of the unworkable Freshwater reforms in Southland. It has expanded nationwide and the recent Ute Tax announcement has seen urban communities become involved as well.

“Our rural communities worked hard to get New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic, they are the backbone of our economy,” Mr Bennett says. . .

Concern over calving season amid labour shortage – Neal Wallace:

They may have had one of their highest ever milk payouts but dairy farmers are anxious about the human toll of the looming calving season, as the industry grapples with an estimated shortage of 4000 workers.

Federated Farmers board member Chris Lewis says the industry’s reliance on immigrant workers will remain, at least until the Government changes to vocational training is completed, which could be several years.

He believes the Government’s recently announced plans to curb migrant workers is shortsighted and will hinder the country’s ability to utilise high international product prices and demand to repay debt, which is growing at over $80 million a day. . .

NZ has reached ‘peak milk’ Fonterra CFO warns – Farrah Hancock:

We’ve reached “peak milk” and are entering the era of “flat milk”, Fonterra’s chief financial officer warns.

Marc Rivers said he couldn’t see the volume of milk New Zealand produces increasing again, “so, I guess we could go ahead and call that peak milk”.

Environmental restrictions were impacting how much more land the dairy industry could occupy.

“We don’t see any more land conversions going into dairy – that’s quite a change from before,” he said. . . 

Vets may choose Oz over NZ – Jesica Marshall:

Border restrictions are putting a roadblock in the way of getting more veterinarians to New Zealand and some are even choosing to go to Australia instead, a recruitment consultant says.

Julie South, talent acquisition consultant with VetStaff, told Rural News that while many overseas vets are keen to work in New Zealand, some don’t mind where they end up.

She says prior to the Government’s announcement that 50 vets would be granted border class exceptions, she’d been working with vets who were considering both Australia and New Zealand as potential places to work in. “However, because the Australian government made it super-easy for them to work in Australia, that’s where they opted to go,” she says. . . 

Farmers facing six-figure losses as salmonella-entertidis wrecks poultry industry:

The poultry industry is in a state of shock and companies are facing huge financial hits following the detection of Salmonella Enteritidis.

Poultry Industry Association and the Egg Producers Federation executive director Michael Brooks said it had been detected in three flocks of meat chickens and on three egg farms in the North Island with some linked to a hatchery in the Auckland area.

None of the affected eggs or meat had entered the market for human consumption, but it was a blow to the industry, he said.

“We’ve never had Salmonella Enteritidis before in this country in our poultry industry. This has been a real shock to the industry but we are meeting the concerns and we will be putting place through a mandated government scheme – which we agree with – to ensure testing is of the highest level and consumers are protected.” . . 

New Zealand tractor and equipment sales continue to grow:

The first half of 2021 has got off to a superb start for sales of farm equipment.

Tractor and Machinery Association of New Zealand (TAMA) president Kyle Baxter said there had been substantial sales increases across all tractor horsepower segments and equipment compared with the same time last year.

Mr Baxter said the big increases reflected a continuing catch up in on-farm vehicle investment as farmers looked again to the future.

“It’s fantastic to see the confidence continue across all of the sectors, and in turn this confidence flowing into wider economy. . .


Rural round-up

06/07/2021

Farmers to make some noise throughout New Zealand – Shawn McAvinue:

Downtown Gore is set to come alive with the sound of chugging tractors, buzzing planes and howling dogs as part of a nationwide protest against government regulations.

Groundswell NZ co-founder Bryce McKenzie, of West Otago, is inviting everyone to take their tractors, utes, topdressing planes and dogs to towns across New Zealand at noon next Friday to protest a range of new and proposed regulations.

The regulations included freshwater and winter grazing, significant natural areas, indigenous biodiversity and the “ute tax” — a new rebate scheme, which would place a fee on higher-emission vehicles, he said.

Events had so far been arranged in about 20 towns across New Zealand, including Alexandra, Gore, Invercargill, Mosgiel and Oamaru, and the northernmost protest site was Kerikeri. . . 

First time competitor wins Young Farmer competition :

Jake Jarman has been crowned FMG Young Farmer of the Year 2021, winning the competition on his first attempt.

Jarman, 24, beat six other competitors in the grand final, which was held in Christchurch from July 1-3.

The ANZ relationship associate, who represented the Taranaki-Manawatū region, said after winning the title he felt overwhelmed, excited and relieved that it was over.

He initially entered the contest just to give it a go but after reaching the final was determined to give it his best shot. . . 

Global dairy price pushing up price of cheese:

Fonterra says sustained increases in global dairy prices are behind the higher cost of cheese.

A 1kg block of Tasty cheese is now selling for between $16 and $18 at the main supermarket chains.

Fonterra said since the pandemic, there had been a significant increase in demand for cheese in New Zealand and globally.

It said global cheese prices have jumped 15 percent over the last year. . .

Top award for farmers’ saviour – Samantha Tennent:

Clever Kiwis have come up with brilliant solutions to simple problems faced by the agricultural industry for this year’s Fieldays Innovations Awards.

Farmers have always faced water supply issues, not least from cows who have always been too rough with trough ballcocks, snapping arms left, right and centre as they nudge them around while drinking.

And as Ric Awburn watched cows at an empty trough break an arm one evening, he thought it needed some give to withstand the rough treatment, so he put his thinking cap on and went to work.

Two years later, Springarm Products Limited developed a durable and reliable ballcock arm that is durable, reliable and easy to install. It was named the winner of the Prototype award at the 2021 Fieldays Innovations Awards. . . 

First-time beekeeper buzzing with enthusiasm – Sally Rae:

A South American forestry engineer, who inadvertently ended up in Central Otago, has been stung with the beekeeping bug. He talks to business and rural editor Sally Rae.

He quips he is “a sea-level guy”.

So just how did Rio de Janeiro-apartment dweller Adriano Lopes de Melo trade big-city Brazilian life for the mountain vistas of the Maniototo and the arguably quieter pace of life in Wedderburn?

Reflecting on this week’s cold snap, which he laughed was “not OK” — “I’m from a hot place, I’m suffering a bit” — and his discovery of hot-water bottles, as his surfboard sat optimistically redundant in his vehicle, you would have to wonder. . . 

Outrage as ‘flick of a pen’ cuts backpacker workforce for farmers – Jamieson Murphy:

Farming groups are outraged the “flick of a pen” has drastically reduced the seasonal workforce in northern and remote Australia, after the working holiday visa rules were changed “without consultation”.

However, the government says the ag sector – along with the tourism and hospitality industries – were widely consulted and the change is a recommendation made by a parliamentary committee investigation into the Working Holiday Visa Program.

The requirement for backpackers to extend their stay by completing 88 days of farm work has been opened up to include the tourism and hospitality sectors in northern and remote Australia. . . 


Intrusive, impractical and inhumane

23/06/2021

A University of Otago study shows MPI’s treatment of farmers whose herds were infected with Mycoplasma bovis was intrusive, impractical and inhumane:

A poorly managed government response to the 2017 Mycoplasma bovis outbreak inflicted significant and lasting trauma on farmers whose stock was culled, a University of Otago study has found.

Extensive interviews with affected farmers in Southland and Otago revealed the enduring emotional cost of a “badly planned and poorly executed process”, leaving farming families feeling isolated, bewildered, and powerless. Others in the rural community, such as local veterinarians, were left feeling their expertise was undervalued and their potential to positively contribute to the management of the outbreak disregarded.

Rural New Zealand is home to about 700,000 people, making it New Zealand’s second largest city, with farming contributing significantly to the economic wellbeing of rural communities and regions, and to the national economy. Nationally, an estimated 180,000 animals were culled on more than 250 farms, which were locked down under strict conditions, in a bid to eradicate the disease. Farmers were paid compensation for lost stock but this was often perceived as inadequate and onerous to secure.

The rational for compensation is that it encourages farmers to report suspected infections. Without compensation, or with poor management of it, the temptation to hide or kill infected animals would be too great for many. MPI’s guiding principle for this is that farmers should be left no better and no worse than they were before the disease struck, which is fair if that’s what happens in practice.

Measuring the human cost of this process was the focus of the Otago study, which was carried out by Dr Fiona Doolan-Noble, Dr Geoff Noller and Associate Professor Chrys Jaye, of the University of Otago’s Department of General Practice and Rural Health.

Study lead, Dr Doolan-Noble says that for her and Dr Noller it was heart wrenching listening to the accounts told by farmers in particular, but also the veterinarians and front-line workers. . . 

A dominant theme of the research was the intrusive, impractical and inhumane nature of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) eradication programme in which local knowledge, expertise and pragmatism were ignored in favour of inefficient bureaucratic processes which made no sense to farmers.

Intrusive, impractical and inhumane – that’s very strong criticism.

“Looking back, I can see I went through a series of emotional phases … The initial one was shock. Second phase I think was probably a panic … Third one was trying to think, ‘Jesus, this is very overwhelming.’ And then I got to [the] phase, ‘Okay, we’re stuck in this, how are we going to get out’?” one farmer told the research team.

Farmers described the damage to their sense of identity and the forced separation from typical farming practices and seasonal rhythms as they transitioned into an incursion management process overseen by an ill-prepared government agency.

An ill-prepared government agency sounds unfortunately familiar.

Once a Notice of Direction (NoD) was issued for a property, farming families effectively lost control of the running of their farm while remaining responsible for the welfare of their remaining stock.

“It says in the notice, in the NoD [biosecurity notice] that we are responsible for everything on the property. So, we’re responsible for the health and wellbeing of all the animals on the property, even though there’s people making decisions for us,” one farmer said.

This situation was compounded by poor communication, lack of clarity about animal testing regimes, delays in providing results, indecision regarding stock management, authoritarian and at times brutal decision-making concerning herd culls, and the ignoring of practical solutions to on-farm problems.

“Farming’s like a great big wheel … and they [MPI] cut a chunk of that wheel out and it collapses. Then it takes years to get that wheel back to that size again… It just breaks farmers down, losing control like that,” a farmer said.

One dairy farmer described how a slaughter team arrived early and started killing cows while he was still in the milking shed.

“So [MPI] decided to start killing them on the farm. And I said, ‘Look, that’s a bit rough’. But they said, ‘No, that’s what’s going to happen’. So, this truck arrives, from this pet food outfit…this guy pulls up and just shoots 10 of them, in the yard. Cuts their throats …I come [out] there, there was hysterics, there were staff crying. I just said to the guy, ‘You can’t do this. This is just heartless’.”

A family of beef farmers who experienced a total cull were impacted by slow MPI decision making, resulting in their farm over-wintering too many cattle during a very wet season: “…the animal welfare of the animals was not good at all…Because they were on very small pads in mud up to their haunches… we had two or three pass away on our pad because the conditions were so rough.”

Another farmer recounted how MPI officials insisted on following the mandated process of decontaminating a shed at a cost of $150,000 when he could have had it rebuilt for $70,000. On another farm a cleaning team was paid to sit at a table dipping individual screws into disinfectant and scrubbing them clean with a wire brush when the cost of brand new screws was negligible.

What on earth rationale was behind such stupidity?

One farmer said he had quit the land because of the impact of the elimination programme and further said he could not remember the birth of a child because of the stress at the time.

The study participants noted that farming was a 24/7 business but MPI officials were unavailable at weekends or over holiday periods. However, they didn’t necessarily blame MPI staff.

“In MPI, there’s a lot of people really, really trying. And they’re just getting caught up by red tape,” one farmer noted.

The researchers were guided by a stakeholder panel with farmer, veterinarian, local business, (human) health professional, rural organisation, agribusiness and MPI representation, and oversight was provided by a governance group comprising a Māori representative, a public health expert, an ethicist, a retired veterinarian and a farming consultant.

They noted another disease incursion was inevitable and that solutions need to be sought from within rural communities and then integrated into the relevant bureaucratic processes.

They propose:

  • The development of a regional interprofessional body to develop pragmatic approaches to future incursions
  • Genuine local engagement to seek solutions from the ground up
  • The formation of a nationwide ‘standing army’ of rural-based experts who can be called on to help shape the response to the next incursion

“One of MPI’s key principles in terms of biosecurity is fair restoration – ‘no better or worse’. We believe this should not just apply to the financial impact on farmers but should be applied to both the mental health of all involved, and also the social wellbeing of rural communities.”

Sally Rae reports on the heartless and devastating intrusion::

In the wake of a University of Otago study on the impact of the Mycoplasma bovisoutbreak on Southern families  – with a dominant theme of  the “intrusive, impractical and inhumane” nature of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ eradication programme – business and rural editor Sally Rae tells the story of a North Otago family caught up in it.

Rob Borst will never forget the scene that greeted him when he turned up at his North Otago dairy shed 15 minutes too late.
With Mycoplasma bovis declared on Mr Borst’s large-scale dairy farming operation in 2018, he had cows with mastitis – one of the symptoms of the disease – that the Ministry for Primary Industries ruled could not be sent to the meat works.

The cows were not unsound and Mr Borst felt they could still be killed at the works, but MPI decided they should be killed on-farm, despite his concerns.

Many of his staff had been with him a long time and had personal connections with the herd. Concerned about the effect on them, Mr Borst intended ensuring they were away when it happened.

He was supposed to meet a representative from a pet food business at the shed, but he turned up 15 minutes early and Mr Borst was out on the farm. He arrived to find 10 cows had been shot, their throats cut and his staff crying.

“I just said to the guy, ‘You can’t do this. This is just heartless’.

“There was hysteria. The rest of the cows got upset. The staff were beside themselves. And then we had to deal with the repercussions of the blocked up effluent systems because all the blood coagulated.

Farmers and their staff milk their cows twice a day.  Many are the results of years of careful breeding and they get to know them well. Having to cull them would be bad enough. Shooting them beside the rest of the herd while the staff watched was cruel and insensitive to the people and animals.

“I rang MPI and said, ‘Look no more, that’s got to stop’. He was told MPI had the option of bringing police in to enforce it.

“So I basically said, ‘… if you’re going to go down that track, there’ll be cameras there to show what’s going on here.’ And I finally got them to back off.”

That, Mr Borst, acknowledges was probably the lowest point in his dealings with the disease and MPI. It was also when he phoned then response head Geoff Gwyn and told him they would not continue with the cull.

He and his wife Sylvia then started to “finally get a bit of understanding”.

“He [Gwyn] brought down three other quite senior people in MPI. And it was my opportunity to … lay it out to them.

“They probably didn’t realise what it’s really like, down on the face. The coal face of dealing with this. These are guys that sit in Wellington, quite high up in MPI, and I made it as real as I could.”

One MPI staffer he felt was “quite arrogant about the situation” when sitting in their home.

“He didn’t even think he should be down here, talking or listening to a farmer.

If a few more people from Wellington got down on the farm they might understand the impact their policies and procedures have on real people and stock.

“I pointed out we were fighting for our whole livelihood, because farming is a career. I wanted to be a farmer when I was in primary school. I never faltered and I’ll be a farmer for the rest of my life.”

“The other thing [is] it’s our home. We live on the farm. It’s not like we turn off at five o’clock and jump in the car and head home. We live it, 24 hours a day and I don’t think they understood that. So we were fighting for our home as well.”

After that conversation, Mr Borst said the process got “a lot better and a lot clearer” and he felt there was much improved understanding and respect, from both sides, about finding a way forward. . . 

The Borsts found out their stock had the disease at the busiest time of the year.

“This was in the middle of calving, the busiest time of year, [I was ] probably overworked, quite stressed, then having to deal with that, it took a lot to take in for starters,” he said.

He went through various phases; initially shock, then panic – wondering how their business would survive – then trying to get an understanding of what was going on, because things were happening beyond his control, and finally, putting a date on when they would get to the end point and get back operating where they needed to be.

“Once I got to that phase, I think I probably became more pragmatic about things. I was more accepting of what needed to happen and then probably focused on trying to make things happen to get us to that point. But it was a difficult period to go through all those phases.”

They got their vet, Kevin Kearney, from Oamaru’s Veterinary Centre, on board. He attended many of the 30-odd meetings the Borsts had on farm with MPI. He was a “god-saver” and helped them to challenge MPI at times “because MPI were making some very poor decisions at that stage”.

During those early meetings, some of the people MPI had fronting them were “probably out of their depth” and he did not think there was clear enough direction from “higher up” about the process.

“I think they [MPI] were terribly poor at the beginning, shockingly poor actually to be fair … they were disorganised, they were ill-prepared and they were terrible at working with farmers.”

But Mr Borst acknowledged the ministry got much better very quickly. . . 

That fast improvement gives some reassurance that MPI learned from its mistakes.

“I look at it as something’s happened in my farming life and I hope I never have that experience again … I just look at it as just an experience and it was tough, but we got through it. We’re out the other side and we’re looking forward.”

As for MPI, he believed the ministry was a lot better for it – “not that you ever want to go through it again but, if we had another something terrible to go through, I think they are certainly much better prepared for it, going down the track.”

MPI plans to add to lessons learned from this experience:

The Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme has been through significant reviews and, with what has been learnt along the way, substantial improvements have been made, programme director Stuart Anderson says.

The aim was to lessen the impact on affected farmers “as much as we can, while we work to eradicate this disease”. . . 

“We know that the M. bovis eradication effort has been challenging for the farmers involved, and even when the process goes as intended and by the book, it is tough for those affected by movement restrictions and directions to cull their animals.

“We and our partners, Dairy NZ and Beef and Lamb NZ, are continuing to work hard to support the wellbeing and recovery of those impacted by M. bovis, including getting through the process and compensation claims paid as quickly as possible,” he said.

The eradication of the disease had been one of the most significant biosecurity challenges faced in New Zealand. Allowing it to spread would have resulted in an estimated $1.3 billion in lost productivity in the country’s “vital” cattle sectors in the first 10 years alone.

“It would have left farmers trying to manage the disease at significant cost and with major changes to the way we farm cattle in New Zealand required to manage the risk.

“This is why Government and industry are investing $870 million over 10 years to achieve eradication,” he said.

Eradication of Mycoplasma bovis had never been attempted before and building the programme from scratch had not been without substantial challenges.

The effect on farmers, their families and workers could not be underestimated – “it’s been tough, particularly so in the early years”.

A review being carried out now sought to assess what could be learnt from what was New Zealand’s largest biosecurity response to date, Mr Anderson said.

Three years on from the joint decision by the Government and the farming industry to attempt to eradicate the disease from New Zealand, the response was “well on track”.

Of the 267 properties confirmed with Mycoplasma bovis, as at June 17, 2021, there were only six active confirmed (currently infected) properties, many of which would be cleaned and cleared, on their way to back to farming as usual over the coming weeks.

“While eradicating M. bovis from New Zealand has been a massive challenge, we are tracking well to success and we are confident that working in partnership with industry and farmers on the ground, will see New Zealand farmers able to farm free from this disease in the future.”

The programme was run with a philosophy of continuous improvement and learning. . . 

MPI deserves credit for the eradication programme being well on the way to success and for learning from mistakes.

The risk of other diseases coming in is real and being better prepared for the next one is essential.

In an interview with Jamie Mackay on The Country yesterday, Sally Rae made the point that not being prepared for M. bovis was bad enough, being ill-prepared for something even more serious, like Foot and Mouth disease would be disastrous, not just for farmers and their stock but the whole economy.


Rural round-up

22/06/2021

Farmers’ $3500 flood clean-up grants ‘disappointing’ – Sally Murphy:

Canterbury farmers who are still cleaning up after the floods earlier this month are being offered $3500.

Heavy rain caused rivers in the region to flood, ripping out fences, washing away feed and depositing huge amounts of shingle on some farms.

The government declared an adverse event and allocated $500,000 to help those affected; $100,000 to three Rural Support Trusts in the area, $350,000 making up the Canterbury Flood Response Fund and $50,000 set aside for other recovery support.

Staff from the Ministry for Primary Industries, councils and industry organisations have been on the ground assessing flood damage on farms. . . 

Govt’s plan for natural areas a brewing scandal – Mike Hosking:

I have become interested in the government’s Significant Natural Areas debacle.

It’s made news of late because of James Shaw appearing to mislead people over how much is or isn’t going on at local council level and the weekend’s protest at Kaikohe.

By way of background, this all began under Nick Smith in 2017. A SNA is basically what is says, important remnants of native habitat. The problem is the councils get to decide what to do with it; remember this is your land.

Once they decide it’s significant, you’re stuck. Existing activity can continue, but future activity is severely curtailed. . .

Meet the 2021 Fieldays Innovation Awards winners :

Winners at the 2021 Fieldays Innovation Awards have shown how Kiwi ingenuity and cutting-edge ideas are tackling the primary industry’s biggest challenges.

The winners were announced June 17, after more than 65 entries were received from across New Zealand.

The awards had a new format for 2021, after Covid-19 saw the 2020 event hosted online, Fieldays Innovation Event Manager Gail Hendricks said.

“Categories were organised to follow the innovation life cycle and provide the support, mentoring and exposure innovators needed to bring their revolutionary products to market or grow market share.” . . 

Taieri holidays inspired career path – Shawn McAvinue:

An Australian boy’s dream of a career in the pastoral industries was born during an annual working holiday on a Strath Taieri farm.

The dream was realised by using the tools of science.

Jason Archer joined the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics team at the start of this month.

Dr Archer was born and raised in Australia. . . 

‘Back from the brink’: Vet pulls out all the stops for calf – Sally Rae:

Warning – this is a heartwarming story.

When Oamaru vet George Smith got called to a sick calf on a North Otago dairy farm late last month, it was a standard callout.

But on arrival, dairy farmer Nathan Bayne told him the 4-day-old heifer was the most valuable calf he had ever had and was possibly worth more than $50,000.

Mr Bayne and his wife Amanda, from Henley Farming Co, own the prominent stud Busybrook Holsteins, near Duntroon, which recently held its “platinum edition” sale which generated turnover of $863,000 and a top price of $38,000. . . 

Rural Aid supports farmers with $1000 grants in mouse plight – Samantha Townsend:

They were there in the drought, bushfires and floods, now Rural Aid is stepping in to help farmers battling the prolonged mouse plague.

The national rural charity has announced a $1 million fund to assist mouse plague affected farmers across the country, opening applications for $1000 grants.

“Whether you are a producer in Queensland or out the back of Wellington in NSW or in Victoria or South Australia, people have the common problem and that’s the mice,” Rural Aid CEO John Warlters told The Land.

Mr Warlters said the ongoing feedback they had been receiving was about the circumstances people have been confronted with in the mouse plague nightmare. . . 

 


Rural round-up

11/06/2021

West Coast mayors call for halt to all SNA work in wake of Far North protests – Lois Williams:

West Coast mayors are calling for a halt to identifying significant natural areas (SNAs) on private land, after suggestions that the process could be paused in the Far North.

An item on TV One news on Friday night cited a leaked e-mail from the office of Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis, indicating that councils which had not already mapped SNAs could hold off until the relevant government policy was finalised later this year.

As recently as 31 May, James Shaw’s office told the Greymouth Star in response to a query that there would be no ‘outs’ for councils when it came to identifying SNAs in their districts.

Since then, there have been strong protests from Māori landowners in the Far North who had received council letters alerting them to potential SNAs on their land. . . 

Can we produce high natural value? Conservation and livestock farming co-existing Prof Iain Gordon – Sarah’s Country:

In this week’s Sarah’s Country’s Opinion Maker we break-down the concept of ‘rewilding’ in a New Zealand concept and the value-add product opportunity with Prof. Iain Gordon, Lincoln University & Australian National University. Iain explains:

  • In Southern Europe, desertification of the land saw farming not financially viable and the farmers moved to the cities. Then there was a build up of biomass, vegetation and large wildfires broke out so the government is paying for farmers to go back and manage the land through grazing livestock!

  • If rewilding approach is adopted, then larger areas can be given over to conservation, because of the potential broader benefits to society from these spaces and the engagement of farmers in practises that are closer to their traditions.

  • In the UK rewilding or conservation grazing is seen as ‘public good’ and good environmental management commanding a premium in restaurants. . .

Orchardist to enjoy weekend sleep-ins – Sally Rae:

Wes Reichel will be entitled to a sleep-in this weekend.

For more than 18 years, Mr Reichel (73) has left his bed at 3.30am on a Saturday, had a coffee and climbed into his produce-laden vehicle and headed to the Otago Farmers Market in Dunedin.

But this past Saturday marked the end of an era, as the Teviot Valley orchardist retired from the market.

While he would continue to grow fruit and vegetables at Te Mahanga Orchard, south of Ettrick, which has been in his family since 1919, he rued he was ‘‘getting too bloody old’’ to continue travelling to Dunedin. . .

Growing professionalism driving awareness of health and safety in shearing industry:

This profile is part of a seven-part series from WorkSafe New Zealand sharing the health and safety approaches taken by the grand finalists of the 2021 FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition. For the next seven weeks, we will be sharing a profile and short video about each of the finalists and how they incorporate health and safety into their work, from a dairy farm manager to an agribusiness banker.

Industry campaigns and growing professionalism are driving awareness of health and safety among shearers,” says national FMG Young Farmer of the Year finalist Joseph Watts. Yet, he still sees plenty of room for improvement.

Joseph, from Waipukurau, will represent East Coast in the national competition. He began his rural career as a shearer, having completed a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise degree and then played squash professionally for several years.

He went on to gain a Graduate Diploma in Rural Studies from Massey University and is now a Technical Field Representative for PGG Wrightson as well as farming some beef cattle on a 30 acre site at Waipukurau, with his partner, vet Lucy Dowsett. . . 

The Co-operative spirit helps Temuka farmer:

When Temuka-based farmer Hamish Pearse suffered a devastating fire in his milking shed in February he witnessed first-hand the benefits of the co-operative spirit of his neighbours, friends and Fonterra.

The fire was discovered around eight o’clock at night and also burnt through the adjoining office and wash room.

“The staff were pretty shaken by the whole thing,” says Hamish. “My dad was emotional about it too, because he built that milking shed himself 30 years ago.”

“The staff were pretty shaken by the whole thing,” says Hamish. “My dad was emotional about it too, because he built that milking shed himself 30 years ago.” . . 

NZ Apples and Pears chief executive to step down:

NZ Apples and Pears Inc. (NZAPI) chairman, Richard Punter, has announced that the organisation’s chief executive Alan Pollard will step down from his role later this year.

Pollard has been in his role for just over nine years. The industry realised about $340m in export earnings when he started as chief executive in March 2012, and about $920m last year, close to the $1billion by 2022 target that was set in 2013.

“As NZAPI defines what business as usual might look like post-COVID, Alan feels that this is the right time for a new leader to bring their own skills, experience and style to the organisation”, Punter said. “We are deeply appreciative of the contribution that Alan has made to the successful growth of the industry and the grower organisation”. . .


Rural round-up

04/06/2021

Naked, bleeding and frozen: man’s quick thinking saves him from floodwaters – Charlie O’Mannin:

A South Canterbury man’s clear thinking left him naked and cold but alive, after he was swept into floodwaters in the early hours of Monday morning.

David Blair had not slept for 24 hours as he went between his farm and another property he owns in Pit Rd, Arundel, a rural community near Geraldine, 45 minutes before dawn on Monday morning.

Floodwaters were flowing directly under his property and Blair had been working to clear debris that might block the flow. As the flow increased, he decided he needed to take off a board under the house which was being blocked up with flotsam.

Blair drove back to his house to get a pinch bar on his quad bike. On his return he parked in the same place on the road he had previously, put his brakes on, and got off his bike. . . 

Help with roads, rivers and rubble a priority as farmers take stock of flood devastation – Martin van Beynen and Charlie Gates:

Farmer Darryl Butterick has lost five of his sire stags but his neighbour’s cows were the top of his many worries as he surveyed flood damage to his beef, deer and sheep farm in Greenstreet, about 20 minutes inland from Ashburton.

The one-year-old heifers from the neighbouring farm of Paul Adams had been swept onto his property by flood waters, and began to appear as the water continued to recede.

Unfortunately most were dead, many caught in trees.

Butterick said removing the dead heifers was a priority as they would contaminate ponds of water on the farm as they decomposed. Stock were drinking the water and people were working in it. . . 

Winter feed concerns after floods – Sally Rae:

Severe flooding in Canterbury poses a risk for the new dairy season’s production outlook.

In Westpac’s latest dairy update, senior agri-economist Nathan Penny said many farmers had lost winter feed during the floods and feed stores were already low given earlier dry conditions.

While that might not necessarily impact production levels from spring, any additional adverse weather events certainly would, Mr Penny said.

The new season officially began on Tuesday and final production data for the 2020-21 season was still to be released, but recent data suggested the season had ended on a strong note. . . 

Changes forced on them turning out for the best – Alice Scott:

While they may not be farming sheep or milking cows, Warren McSkimming and his wife Jodie have tight connections to the Maniototo, where Mr McSkimming grew up.

Pre-Covid they were running successful businesses servicing the tourism sector. Post-Covid, they have had to dust themselves off and carry on.

Mr McSkimming was born and raised in Oturehua. He has fond memories of a free-range childhood on the family farm and plenty of backyard cricket. He represented the Otago Volts for 12 years and had stints for the New Zealand Under-20 side and New Zealand A team.

“I never got that elusive black cap,” he said. . . 

Fast rise to fame for young farmer – Peter Burke:

He’s only been in the dairy industry for just over a year, but that hasn’t stopped 26-year-old Quinn Morgan from taking out the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Dairy Farmer of the year award.

Morgan is in his first season of farming, working as a farm assistant for Sam and Kate Moore on their 155ha farm in Otakiri near Whakatane, where they milk 570 cross breed cows.

The other two finalists were Anahera Hale and Ben Purua. Morgan says he felt humbled at winning the award. He says not everyone gets such a good start as he did – especially getting such good employers.

It was a big week for him and his wife Samantha and he is grateful for the opportunities. . .

Ohaeawai Butchery’s Basil Stewart adapts business through changing times – Donna Russell:

Rural butcher Basil Stewart is a bit of a Northland identity.

Stewart, who runs the Ohaeawai Butchery with his wife, Christine, started learning his craft when he was 18 and worked for the former owner Wyn Penney three times at three different locations before taking over the business in 2010.

He has worked for 32 years in the building, which is at the hub of Ohaeawai. The small village is at the junction of State Highway One and State Highway 12 about 11km east of Kaikohe.

The building was built in the early 1940s and its high ceilings and building features are evocative of the period. . . 

 


Rural round-up

03/06/2021

The climate-change dilemma facing dairy farmers – milk more cows or cull the herd – is politically challenging, too – Point of Order:

From one Wellington  platform  Reserve  Bank governor Adrian  Orr is  telling  the  country   strong global demand for NZ primary products is ensuring the economy remains resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic and is helping offset tourism losses. He  says  Fonterra’s  forecast  of a  record opening milk price is “very good news” and is included in the bank’s projections.

From another platform, Climate Change Commissioner Rod Carr told hundreds of people – including farmers – at an agricultural climate change conference that for the agricultural sector there would be no way to wriggle out of slashing emissions.

Carr said agriculture made up about half of NZ’s emissions, and this needed to be reduced to meet climate obligations.International customers would go elsewhere, costing the economy billions of dollars in the coming years.

So  here’s  the  problem: . . 

Time for industry to be heard, leader says – Sally Rae:

“Maybe enough is enough.”

Otago Merino Association chairwoman Jayne Reed, from Cloudy Peak Station, near Tarras, was referring to the never-before-seen pressures the agricultural sector was facing, in her address to the annual merino awards.

“Not the usual seasonal weather worries, commodity price fluctuations and the odd flustering visit from the bank manager, which our fathers dealt with, but an increasingly scary onslaught of bureaucratic intervention … written in some cases by young idealistic policy makers who have never stepped on a farm.

“Our urban neighbours are telling us how to manage our outcomes without any real understanding of what 99% of us are working towards and this is the really disappointing part. . . 

Rural leaders plead to NZTA for second Ashburton bridge plans – Adam Burns:

Damaging floods in Ashburton have sparked calls for urgency around a second bridge by the district’s rural leaders, with the town’s sole overpass at risk.

The Ashburton River Bridge had to be closed for most of yesterday after reports of slumping. It has reopened to light vehicles only, but further testing for heavy vehicles is expected later.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would not be drawn on questions around the second bridge issue when she fronted media in Ashburton yesterday.

“The priority right now is connecting people with Ashburton,” Ardern said. . . 

Perriam’s vision for breed recognised with family award – Sally Rae:

John Perriam is a man of vision, risk and “you can do it” approach.

Through his love for merino sheep and his home, Bendigo Station, he had “given it his all” and made a significant difference to the New Zealand merino industry.

That was his daughter Christina Grant reflecting on the pivotal role her father has played in the industry, during the Otago Merino Association’s awards evening.

She was presenting him with the Heather Perriam Memorial Trophy, named in memory of his late wife and her mother, and presented for outstanding service to the merino industry. . . 

Synlait braces for heavy loss – Sudesh Kissun:

Listed Canterbury milk processor Synlait is heading towards its first financial loss ever, but is telling its farmer suppliers not to worry.

The company revealed last week that it now expects to make a net loss of between $20 million and $30 million for the financial year ending this July. Last year, Synlait recorded a net profit of $75 million.

The milk processor has had a challenging 18 months. Key stakeholder, and one of its major customers, the a2 Milk company downgraded its forecasts because of disrupted markets and problems with its key Chinese market – leaving Synlait with large inventories of base powder and infant formula.

Synlait co-founder John Penno has returned to his former role of chief executive and is leading a reset of the business. . .

Are we running out of New Zealand wine? :

New Zealand winegrowers are becoming increasingly concerned about running out of wine after a smaller harvest than usual this year. The famous wine-growing region of Marlborough was especially hard hit by this issue. As an area famous for its excellent quality wine – particularly sauvignon blanc – that gets supplied across the country as well as internationally, this lack of grapes could potentially be disastrous for the wine industry as a whole.

Last year, spring was cooler than usual, with frosts occurring until unusually late in the season. This, combined with increasing costs of production, has made wine harvesting more difficult and expensive than usual.

Additionally, the New Zealand wine industry usually relies on the influx of seasonal workers on working holidays who are ready and willing to help with the harvest. With Covid closing the borders, these people have not been able to enter the country in the past year. Attracting New Zealanders into these roles has proved far trickier for many growers, especially those in more rural areas. . . 

 


Rural round-up

01/06/2021

Evacuated farmer took no risks after losing 100 cows to flooding in 2009:

A North Canterbury farmer who had to evacuate today says the intense deluge has brought back memories of floods which washed away nearly 100 of his cows 12 years ago.

More than 240 residents in Waimakariri district have been told to evacuate. They include 102 housesholds in the Ashley River area, eight near Kairaki Beach and 133 near Eyre River – including Peter Schouten’s farm.

Schouten’s farm is 800m from the river, and some of his properties share their boundary with the river.

He recorded 150mm of rain up until 7pm on Sunday evening, shortly before he received an alert telling him to evacuate. They were in the process of packing up and leaving, when the police knocked on the door. Schouten has headed to his parent’s place “just around the corner”. . . 

Zespri profit soars to $290m despite ‘incredibly difficult conditions’ :

Kiwifruit giant Zespri has reported record returns for the 2020-21 season.

The company has reported a net profit after tax of $290.5 million – up $90m on the previous year.

Total global fruit sales revenue also grew to $3.58 billion – up 14 percent – and global sale volumes were up 10 percent on last season to 181.5 million trays.

The company said increased sales, the ongoing expansion of Zespri SunGold kiwifruit production and great quality fruit underpinned the strong returns. . .

Chuffed to hand over wool reins – Sally Rae:

Change is in the air at long-established wool business Brian Redding Ltd which has been operating in Gore since the early 1960s, as business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

When it came to being in business, Jim Paterson’s parents gave him some good advice.

They drilled into him the importance of being “dead straight” in a community like Gore, saying reputation was everything.

And it was advice he heeded during more than four decades in the wool industry . . . 

Feed wheat and barley going strong but uncertainty remains around milling wheat:

Below average rainfall across many regions was a factor in the average 3% drop in yields for the six main arable crops in the 2020/21 season.

The latest Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) report, based on 1 April survey results, also found that the number of hectares harvested was down 3% (-3183ha), with the net result being a 6% decrease in total tonnage compared to the previous season.

Particularly marked drops in tonnages were seen with feed wheat (down 9%) and malting barley (down 21%) while tonnages of milling oats and feed oats jumped 31% and 60% respectively. . . 

Safety profile – ensure people are well trained for all the tasks they need to do:

This profile is part of a seven-part series from WorkSafe New Zealand sharing the health and safety approaches taken by the grand finalists of the 2021 FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition. For the next seven weeks we will be sharing a profile and short video about each of the finalists and how they incorporate health and safety into their work, from a dairy farm manager to an agribusiness banker.

Working on massive farming operations in the United States highlighted the importance of New Zealand’s focus on health and safety for Dale McAlwee.

Dale, Aorangi FMG Young Farmer of the Year, grew up near Timaru on the farm that’s been in his family for over a century. After gaining a Bachelor of Agricultural Science, he headed to the US for a year. He is now assistant manager at Singletree Dairies, a 2500 cow farm five minutes north east of Ashburton.

“In the US, I was working in massive farming operations for the wheat harvest. There were very large staff teams and the main focus was on employing experienced people who were expected to already have the knowledge to work safely with heavy machinery.

Nelson’s Seifried Estate takes top honours for sauvignon blanc:

Nelson’s Seifried Estate family winery has taken top honours for its 2020 Sauvignon Blanc at the prestigious Royal Easter Show Wine Awards 2021, winning the title of Guala Closures Champion Sauvignon Blanc.

This newest accolade from the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards adds to the impressive medal tally for Seifried Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2020, which has already been awarded ‘Best of Show New Zealand’ at the Mundus Vini Tasting in Germany 2020, Gold in the AWC Vienna 2020 International Wine Challenge, Gold in the Melbourne International Wine Competition 2020, and was rated 95/100 by Oz Clarke of Three Wine Men in the UK – his highest scoring wine of the New Zealand tasting!

“We are really quite blown away by this latest recognition of our 2020 Sauvignon Blanc,” says co-winemaker Heidi Seifried-Houghton. “With Sauvignon Blanc making up 63% of New Zealand’s total wine production, our competition was fierce!” . . 


Rural round-up

19/05/2021

ORC to seek controls over carbon forestry – Rebecca Ryan:

Otago regional councillors have voted to lobby central government for national changes to standards for carbon forestry.

Following concerns raised by the public and a visit to the site of October’s Livingstone fire, councillors and iwi representatives on the council’s strategy and planning committee discussed tree planting for carbon sequestration (carbon forests) during a meeting last week.

“Unlike plantation forestry, carbon forests are planted and left in perpetuity,” Cr Kevin Malcolm said.

“As forestry for carbon sequestration is currently a permitted activity in the Otago region, there’s not the same level of maintenance and hazard management expected for forests planted for harvest. This can lead to pest problems, depleted river flow in water-short catchments, and increased fuel loads for bush fires.” . . 

Farmers let down by government MIQ restrictions – Sudesh Kissun:

Farmers will continue to apply pressure on the Government and hope for a change of heart on the need for skilled overseas workers.

Earlier this month, the Government declined an application by the dairy sector for 500 skilled workers from overseas.

Federated Farmers immigration spokesman Chris Lewis says the Government is set to deliver its budget this week, aiming to grow the pie and reduce debt. “For that they would need the economy to grow, but how can you with your biggest export sector facing a worker shortage,” Lewis told Rural News. . .

We’re not a push over – Peter Burke:

Beef+Lamb NZ chair Andrew Morrison has fended off criticism that his organisation is too cosy with government and won’t speak out against it.

In recent weeks, there have been growing calls for the industry good organisations – Beef+Lamb NZ and DairyNZ – to be more vocal against some of the government reforms that are affecting farmers. But Morrison says people should judge them on the outcomes, not the outbursts.

He says right now an entity of 15 farming groups are working together to have a mature conversation with government around what is the best way to achieve some of these reforms so that they don’t impact negatively on the primary sector.

“None of the sectors are selling each other out to get a result. This is about an aligned agreement about what is the best way to construct policy, and throwing rocks doesn’t work – it just gets people offside,” Morrison told Rural News. “You can have heated, mature debates, but you still have to be respectful.” . . 

Awards finalist living her best life – Sally Rae:

Maniototo vet and farmer Becks Smith was a finalist for the recent Zanda McDonald Award for young professionals in the agricultural sector. She talks to rural editor Sally Rae about her passion for the industry.

Becks Smith genuinely has the best of both worlds.

A finalist for the recent Zanda McDonald Award, Mrs Smith works part-time as a vet at VetEnt in Ranfurly, while farming at Gimmerburn with her husband, Jason, and their young family.

As she looked out the window on a blue-sky Maniototo day, which started with a minus-seven degree frost, she reflected on how lucky she was to have that as her office. . . 

AgResearch collects top award for meat imaging technology – RIchard Rennie:

Sheep facial recognition, portable dairy processing, “green” batteries and meat quality tech were all winners at this year’s Food, Fibre and Agritech – Supernode Challenge. Richard Rennie reports.

The Food, Fibre and Agritech challenge, sponsored by ChristchurchNZ, KiwiNet and the Canterbury Mayor’s Welfare Fund aims to capture a range of disruptive technologies that can be commercialised to help address some of agriculture’s major challenges.

This year’s supreme overall winner was the AgResearch team headed up by Cameron Craigie for Clarospec. The team developed a machine to help deliver more consistent and objective lamb meat grading quality using hyperspectral imaging technology. 

The unit that is now operating in a commercial plant providing objective, precise information on lamb meat quality. . .

Red meat under attack – Shan Goodwin:

AMID the plethora of technical seminars and market analysis at Beef Australia this year, it seems a presentation from a Tasmanian orthopedic surgeon with no commercial ties to the red meat game has become the most talked about event.

Dr Gary Fettke’s address at a forum hosted by Agforce touched on everything from religion to diabetes and the breakfast cereal business to the origins of veganism but the overarching message was clear.

The beef industry needs to know where the anti-meat rhetoric started and plan a defence because it is under attack.

The demonisation of red meat has nothing to do with science, Dr Fettke said. . .


Rural round-up

10/05/2021

Fonterra boss Miles Hurrell says turning around the dairy giant has not been smooth sailing – Tina Morrison:

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell faced a daunting task when he was asked to take the helm of the country’s largest company in 2018, but he is getting the dairy giant in shape.

The co-operative owned by its 10,000 farmer suppliers and supporting some 20,000 employees was heading for its first annual loss since its creation in 2001 after a period of big expansion failed to deliver the promised profits and left it saddled with too much debt.

Hurrell, an 18-year veteran of Fonterra and head of the Farm Source unit that worked with farmers, talked with his wife and a few close friends who backed him to take on the challenge of what was looking like a tough couple of years.

“I was under no illusion at that point in time about what needed to be done,” he says. “Clearly we needed to go about doing things differently.” . . 

Living the good life after ‘bovis’– Sally Rae:

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for South Canterbury farmers Kelly and Morgan Campbell since their cattle were the first in New Zealand to be depopulated due to Mycoplasma bovis. But they have come out the other side with a new business venture. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

On a lifestyle block in rural South Canterbury, Kelly and Morgan Campbell are living the good life.

Residing in their dream home, surrounded by hundreds of happy hens, their seemingly idyllic existence belies the roller-coaster ride they have lived the past few years.

Morgan Campbell arguably summed it up best by saying: “it’s a crazy story … with lots of kinks and curves … along the way. Dead cows, IVF and chickens.” . . 

Sheep numbers plummet by 800,000 in a year – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s sheep numbers plummeted by almost a million in 2020, new data shows.

Figures from Stats NZ put the sheep population at 26 million for the year ended June 2020, a fall of 800,000 from the previous year and a far cry from the peak of 70 million sheep in 1982.

Stats NZ agricultural production statistics manager Ana Krpo said widespread drought conditions and feed shortages were a major factor in the 3 per cent fall.

“Hawke’s Bay had the largest decrease, with the total number of sheep falling by 12 per cent (346,000) from the previous year to a total of 2.5 million as at June 2020.” . . 

Too many customers, not enough grapes, Marlborough winemakers struggling to match demand – Hugo Cameron:

Key export markets are thirsty for Marlborough wine, but low grape yields mean that demand is outstripping supply.

Frost and cold weather early in the season led to smaller harvests from many vineyards in the area and the smaller crop could leave some wineries facing tough decisions on who they can supply over the next year, industry group Wine Marlborough says

Caythorpe Family Estate owner Simon Bishell said the grape yield was about 25 to 30 percent down on the normal volume.

The business had seen plenty of fresh interest, but supplying those new customers after a slim harvest was a challenge, Bishell said. . . 

100 years on the land – Shawn McAvinue:

The Frame family recently celebrated 100 years of farming Burnbank in Teviot Valley. Shawn McAvinue talks to Bill and Gwenda Frame about how four generations have transformed the land from an unfenced block covered in gorse and rabbits to a productive sheep and beef farm.

A blanket of snow covered the land when Bill Frame was born on the sheep and beef farm Burnbank in Teviot Valley, on New Year’s Day in 1932.

When the snow melted, rabbits covered the farm in Dumbarton, near Ettrick.

As the baby boy grew, so did the rabbit population, and a dream was born. . . 

Meet challenges head-on says Beef Achiever Tracey Hayes – Shan Goodwin:

IF there is piece of advice Tracey Hayes believes has the power to guarantee a prosperous future for every sector of Australia’s beef industry, it’s the idea of never shying from a challenge.

Don’t turn a blind eye to what’s difficult, regardless of how insurmountable it may appear. Instead focus on precisely that.

These were the words from Ms Hayes after she was named the 2021 Queensland Country Life Beef Achiever at Beef Australia in Rockhampton last week.

Ms Hayes is an agribusiness executive with a beef production background and a down-to-earth persona that has made her one of the most liked, and respected, identities in the cattle game. . . 


Rural round-up

27/04/2021

Farming director on SFF knew the time to go – Sally Rae:

When Fiona Hancox stood for the board of Silver Fern Farms, it was all about timing.

Six years later, the West Otago farmer’s decision to not seek re-election in this year’s farmer director elections for Silver Fern Farms Co-operative was also about timing.

While acknowledging it was sad to leave what was a “fantastic company and board” and also such an important part of her family’s own farming business — it was the right time, she said.

“I think I’ll be just be able to be pleased with what I’ve done,” she said. . .

Govt hasn’t got its ducks in a row on firearms licensing:

The Government’s focus on hitting legal firearms owners with more costs and regulations has meant those keen to participate in the Roar and duck shooting season may miss out.

Opening weekend of duck shooting season is just around the corner and the Roar is drawing to a close but many hunters are still waiting for their paperwork to be processed in order for them to hunt legally.

National’s Police spokesperson Simeon Brown says police have been unable to get on top of the situation.

“Police are telling people it’s taking four months for a license renewal and six months for a new license. But in reality, for some it’s taking much longer than that. . . 

Ag export sector backs scrapping UK Tariffs – Nigel Stirling:

New Zealand’s largest agricultural export industries have given conditional backing to calls for Britain to scrap tariffs on food imports.

Britain’s Trade Minister Liz Truss set up the Trade and Agriculture Commission last year, to plot a path forward for the country’s trading relationships with the rest of the world following its departure from the European Union’s customs union on January 1.

Former NZ trade minister Lockwood Smith, who joined the commission as an expert on international trade and helped write its final report published in February, has said its recommendation to Truss to open the border to food imports from countries with equivalent animal welfare and environmental standards as the UK is potentially a breakthrough moment for NZ dairy and beef exports shut out of the British market by high EU tariffs since the 1970s. . .

Using Mandarin to meat a need – Shawn McAvinue:

Southern students considering careers in the red meat processing and exporting sector were among the Meat Industry Association scholarship recipients for 2021. In a series, reporter Shawn McAvinue asks them about their study and plans.

A Nelson Mandela quote resonates with Meat Industry Association scholarship recipient Joelle Gatenby: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Her dream was to use her agribusiness and Mandarin language skills to “bridge the friendship” between New Zealand and China and sell more red meat to the populous nation.

She learned to speak, read and write Mandarin at high school and represented Columba College at national Chinese speech and essay competitions. . . 

Defining year for winter grazing practices:

While the Government has delayed the implementation of winter grazing regulations by 12 months, it has made it clear it will be keeping a very close eye on wintering practices this year.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s North Island General Manager Corina Jordan says farmers should follow the good practice management advice developed by B+LNZ, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and other industry partners and ensure they have a plan in place that identifies any winter grazing risks and outlines the strategies to mitigate them.

Based on recommendations from the farmer-led Southland Winter Grazing Advisory Group, B+LNZ is planning to hold Forage Cropping Workshops this winter, which are a component of the organisation’s recently released Farm Plan.     . .

* Big agriculture is best – Ted Nordhaus and Dan Blaustein-Rejto:

In some ways, it is not surprising that many of the best fed, most food-secure people in the history of the human species are convinced that the food system is broken. Most have never set foot on a farm or, at least, not on the sort of farm that provides the vast majority of food that people in wealthy nations like the United States consume.

In the popular bourgeois imagination, the idealized farm looks something like the ones that sell produce at local farmers markets. But while small farms like these account for close to half of all U.S. farms, they produce less than 10 percent of total output. The largest farms, by contrast, account for about 50 percent of output, relying on simplified production systems and economies of scale to feed a nation of 330 million people, vanishingly few of whom live anywhere near a farm or want to work in agriculture. It is this central role of large, corporate, and industrial-style farms that critics point to as evidence that the food system needs to be transformed.

But U.S. dependence on large farms is not a conspiracy by big corporations. Without question, the U.S. food system has many problems. But persistent misperceptions about it, most especially among affluent consumers, are a function of its spectacular success, not its failure. Any effort to address social and environmental problems associated with food production in the United States will need to first accommodate itself to the reality that, in a modern and affluent economy, the food system could not be anything other than large-scale, intensive, technological, and industrialized. . .

* Hat tip: Offsetting Behaviour


Rural round-up

29/03/2021

 Reduced foreign Labour in New Zealand fields failed experiment – Kate MacNamara:

It’s time to call New Zealand’s experiment in reduced foreign labour this harvest season a failure.

One of the country’s largest berry farmers has abandoned growing after a season of chronic labour shortage. Apple growers say they’re so shorthanded that exports will drop some 14 per cent this year, a loss of $95-$100 million. The grape harvest has come off with the help of more machinery, a tradeoff that’s likely to result in less premium wine. And growers estimate they’re still 1400 hires shy of the 4000 workers needed for grape cane pruning in Marlborough next month, the country’s most valuable wine region.

Perhaps the Government’s original idea sounded good in theory: redeploy the rump of seasonal foreign workers who remained stranded in New Zealand from the previous season, update working conditions for the few remaining backpackers, and make up the rest of the workforce from local Kiwis.

But if you add a few numbers, that calculation was always heroic. The need for seasonal hands through New Zealand’s harvest and pruning work approaches 40,000 in the peak summer and early autumn months. Before Covid, Immigration NZ anticipated that 14,500 Pacific workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and some 50,000 backpackers with working holiday visas would help to make up the labour force. But New Zealand’s closed border changed that. . . 

Orchard work shortage bites – Jared Morgan:

Some workers sent to Central Otago’s orchards and vineyards are not up to standard and the lack of seasonal workers from the Pacific is beginning to bite, an industry leader says.

Continuing labour shortages across both sectors have affected planning for key phases in production cycles such as picking and pruning.

This has led to calls for the Government to open quarantine-free travel bubbles to allow seasonal workers from Covid-free countries to plug labour gaps before it is too late, if not for this season then the next.

Pipfruit industry pioneer Con van der Voort, who operates a major packing facility in Ettrick, said the “come and go” nature of this season’s workforce was affecting orchardists not just in Central Otago but nationally. . . 

NZ’s potato chip industry threatened by cheap European imports – Sally Blundell:

The impact of Covid-19 on the potato chip industry in the Northern Hemisphere is putting locally grown and processed hot potato chips at the local chippie under threat.

The problem is that quiet streets and empty bars in Covid-ridden Europe have resulted in an estimated 1.7 million tonne surplus of raw potato material.

“People can’t go out, have a beer and buy some chips,” Potatoes NZ chief executive Chris Claridge told Frank Film in a recent interview. “That means there’s a big lump of frozen fries that’s got to go somewhere. Our economy’s working, they are sending it here – it is as simple as that.”

Claridge is looking for government action to protect New Zealand potato farmers from the influx of frozen fries grown and processed in Europe undercutting their locally grown equivalent. . . 

‘Milking cows is the easy part now’ – Sally Rae:

South Otago dairy farmers Scott and Ann Henderson were last week crowned Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners. They talk to Sally Rae about a career they say is not just about milking cows. 

She was from a sheep and beef farm in Scotland, he was a qualified carpenter from Balclutha.

Scott and Ann Henderson might not have grown up in the dairy farming industry, but the pair have made their mark on the sector, winning the 2021 Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year title.

Industry recognition was not new for Mrs Henderson, who won the dairy manager of the year in the Southland-Otago awards in 2017, having finished runner-up the year before. . . 

Happy to be farming hops – Country Life:

Harvesting is the busiest time of the year for Holmdale Farm’s Cameron Ealam and his extended family.

They work from dawn to dusk picking, cleaning and drying several varieties of aromatic hop cones that grow on long leafy hop vines.

“The machine starts at seven each morning. We’re doing 12-hour days picking at the moment. The drying kiln will run through the night as well, so big days but (it’s) a short window to get a valuable crop in,” Cameron says.

On the floor behind the kilns are large piles of Motueka and Riwaka hop cones, waiting to be pressed and baled. . . 

Call for long-time enemies cotton and wool to join forces to push enviro credentials – Chris McLennan:

Long-time market enemies, the wool and cotton industries are looking to join forces globally to take on synthetic fibres.

Wool and cotton believe they both have the same eco-friendly credentials to challenge for better environmental ratings in Europe.

They want to form an alliance to champion the benefits of natural fibres as offering many solutions to the world’s current environmental challenges.

A wool industry leader entered uncharted waters when invited to speak to an international cotton conference in Bremen last week. . . 


Rural round-up

03/03/2021

Covid 19 coronavirus: Golden Shears cancelled for first time in 61-year history :

The 61st Golden Shears, which were scheduled to be held in Masterton this week, have been cancelled.

The decision was made at an emergency executive meeting this morning, following the overnight announcement of a return to Covid-19 alert level 2 across most of the country and the escalation to level 3 in Auckland.

Confirming the decision, Golden Shears said entry fees and tickets would be refunded.

Tickets purchased online through Eventfinda will be refunded, competitor entries done online will be refunded online through PayPal, and those having entered non-website are being asked to email competitor name and bank account details to office@goldenshears.co.nz. . . 

A woolly great idea – Sally Rae:

Phenomenal” is how South Otago farmer Amy Blaikie describes watching the processing of Bales4Blair wool at a Timaru scour — and seeing the piles of donations from around the country.

Bales4Blair was launched in memory of Winton man Blair Vining, whose petition to create a national cancer agency was signed by more than 140,000 New Zealanders.

The wool was given by farmers to be made into insulation for the new Southland Charity Hospital.

The initiative was started by Mrs Blaikie, who pitched the idea to a couple of friends, Eastern Southland farmers Brooke Cameron and Sarah Dooley. . . 

’Stormy fruit’ provides ray of sunshine from Motueka hailstorm – Tim Newman:

A Nelson apple company is hoping its new product will bring a ray of light out of the gloom brought on by the Boxing Day Hailstorm.

Over the weekend Golden Bay Fruit launched its new “Stormy Fruit” brand, comprised of apples which suffered cosmetic damage in the hailstorm but were otherwise unaffected.

Golden Bay Fruit chief executive Heath Wilkins said while the company had been mulling over the concept for several years – the hailstorm had significantly increased the amount of fruit that would fall into the new product line.

He said a significant portion of the fruit was severely damaged by the hail and had to be immediately picked and discarded, but there was another portion of fruit that just received small indentations on the surface. . .

Want to earn at least $22 an hour? Kiwifruit packhouses up rates – Carmen Hall:

Kiwifruit packhouses are offering workers more money and flexible shifts in a desperate effort to avoid a labour crisis as another record-breaking harvest looms.

The harvest is expected to kick off within the week with 23,000 seasonal workers needed nationally – including about 20,000 in the Bay of Plenty.

Packhouses spoken to by NZME are offering major incentives – including flexibility across shifts alongside roles that could lead to fulltime employment.

Starting rates will be $22.10 an hour compared with last year’s average hourly packhouse rates of $19 to $20. . . 

Avocados from Oaonui on your toast – Catherine Groenestein:

A tiny coastal Taranaki community known for dairy farms and a natural gas production station could one day become known for its avocados.

Oaonui, 8 kilometres north of Opunake, was identified in last year’s Taranaki Land and Climate Assessment as an area suitable for growing the fruit.

The report was part of the two-year Branching Out collaboration between economic development agency Venture Taranaki and the food and fibre sector to investigate new commercial opportunities for the region.

Next month, representatives from the avocado industry will be in New Plymouth for a seminar on growing the fruit commercially. . .

Beef demand volatile but there are green shoots – Shan Goodwin:

WITH many of Australian beef’s largest destinations still well in the grip of COVID, and tightening supply of cattle at home putting a hefty price tag on product, the demand outlook could not be described as anything other than volatile.

However, there are some solid fundamentals in place that suggest the outlook is not all doom and gloom.

Global beef consumption is still forecast to grow, Australia enjoys a reputation for safe, high quality, consistent beef and a key lesson from last year was that stable, well-established markets shine through in times of turbulence. . . .

 


Rural round-up

24/02/2021

Lucky to be alive – Nigel Beckford:

Sheep and beef farmer Jack Cocks almost died from an aneurysm. Now he’s sharing with other farmers what his recovery taught him about resilience. 

Jack’s part of the team that runs Mt Nicholas, a high-country merino sheep and cattle station, on the western shores of Lake Wakatipu. “I grew up on a sheep and beef farm, went to uni, travelled overseas and came back and worked in an agribusiness consultancy. My wife Kate and I came here to work in 2009. There’s a team of four of us that run the farm. It’s probably more of a democracy than a lot of farms but it works well. It means we can use all our different skills.”

Jack says Mt Nicholas is a great place to work and raise a family (they have two kids). “Although we’re in an isolated situation, there is a team of us here so we might see more people during our working day than many sheep and beef farmers. I really love what farming offers – that mix of running your own business as well as working outside doing practical things. We enjoy a huge variety of work.”

All that was suddenly at risk when he suffered his aneurysm in 2013.  “I’m very lucky to be here,” he says, remembering the night it happened. . .

IrrigationNZ supports Infrastructure Commission assessment that ‘status quo’ for water management no longer tenable:

IrrigationNZ is heartened by the release of Te Waihanga’s (Infrastructure Commission) state-of-play report #3 on water released today and agrees with many insights .

“The report acknowledges that the status quo of water management is unlikely to be sustainable – and we 100% agree,” says IrrigationNZ chief executive Vanessa Winning.

“We are pleased the report highlights the need for a holistic and long-term strategic view of water to ensure optimal, sustainable and inclusive outcomes. This is long overdue and something we have advocated for. . . 

Regenerative agriculture white paper sets out pressing research priorities :

There is a pressing need for scientific testing of the anecdotal claims being made about regenerative agriculture. A new white paper sets out 17 priority research topics identified by 200+ representatives of New Zealand’s agri-food system.

Regenerative agriculture has been proposed as a solution for some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most acute challenges. Advocates suggest it can improve the health of our waterways, reduce topsoil loss, offer resilience to drought, add value to our primary exports, and improve the pervasive well-being crisis among rural farming communities.

With a groundswell of farmers transitioning to regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, there is an urgent need for clarity about what regenerative agriculture is in New Zealand and for scientific testing of its claimed benefits.

A new white paper, Regenerative Agriculture in Aotearoa New Zealand – Research Pathways to Build Science-Based Evidence and National Narratives, sets out 17 priority research topics and introduces 11 principles for regenerative farming in New Zealand. . . 

Young inventor on mission to transform wool sector – Annette Scott:

The strong wool industry can pin its hopes on a resurgence with $5 a kilogram return for coarse wool fibre in the sights of Kiwi inventor and entrepreneur Logan Williams.

Just 25 years of age and hailing from Timaru, Williams hit the headlines when he developed and successfully exited four revolutionary inventions, including polarised contact lenses to treat photosensitive epilepsy and a system to destroy methane gas produced on farms.

He received awards for his inventions, including a National Merit Award at the Eureka Science and Innovation Competition. . .

Roped in for life by rodeo – Sally Rae:

As the rodeo season continues around the country, Southland farmer and cowboy Greg Lamb has overcome a few hefty obstacles to get back in the saddle again. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Extraordinarily determined.

That sums up Greg Lamb, a Southland sheep and beef farmer and rodeo champion who has battled injury — and a brain tumour — while pursuing and succeeding in the sport he loves.

Mr Lamb (43), who farms near Waikaka, might be a bit banged up at the moment — he hit the ground with his shoulder “fairly hard” at Wairoa rodeo last month, fracturing his shoulder blade, four ribs and a vertebra — but he is focused on making a return this season. . . 

Westland’s new CEO takes reins :

Westland Dairy Company Limited’s new CEO Richard Wyeth is looking forward to bringing the strength of a global dairy giant to the opportunities that lie ahead for the West Coast dairy processor after taking up the leadership role this week.

Mr Wyeth’s arrival at Westland yesterday was welcomed by resident director of Westland Dairy Company Limited, Shiqing Jian, who stepped down as interim CEO. Mr Jian served as interim CEO following the resignation of former Westland CEO Toni Brendish in August last year.

“We hope Richard is as excited as we are about the opportunities that lie ahead for Westland as he takes stewardship of this iconic New Zealand company,’’ Mr Jian said. . . 


Rural round-up

15/02/2021

A tradition of love for the land – Sally Rae:

Maniototo farming families have headed for the hills each summer, moving their sheep into the mountains for summer grazing, in what is believed to now be a unique pilgrimage in New Zealand. This weekend, the Soldiers Syndicate is celebrating its centennial, as business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

In the first year Phil Smith mustered on the Soldiers Syndicate, the mustering team got snowed in at Blue Duck hut in the remote Otago back country.

It was so cold the men’s hobnail boots froze to the floor and icicles hung around the old tin hut.

“I just thought to myself, what the hell are we doing?” the then 21-year-old recalled. . .

Call from uncle started decades of adventure – Sally Rae:

Tim Crutchley has a humorous explanation for why he keeps turning up for the Soldiers Syndicate musters.

“It’s a bit like working … on the wharf. If you don’t turn up, they all start talking about you. I’m a bit worried they’ll start running me down,” Mr Crutchley (63), who lives in Waikouaiti, quipped.

He would have notched up 40 musters last year — if Covid-19 had not interfered — and he reckoned he would probably keep returning as long as he was physically able to.

Despite being somewhat of a gypsy himself, and moving around, it was one place he kept going back to, and he was looking forward to the centennial celebrations and catching up with people he had not seen for a long time. . .

Kiwifruit growers’ PSA case: Government agrees to pay sector $40 million :

The government has agreed to pay $40 million to kiwifruit sector plaintiffs over the arrival of the vine killing disease PSA.

The disease arrived in New Zealand in 2010 and brought losses to the kiwifruit industry of an estimated $900 million.

Strathboss Kiwifruit Limited, representing a group of growers, and Seeka Limited, a post-harvest operator, and others, have agreed to accept a Crown offer of $40m, which includes a $15m contribution from the Crown’s insurers. The plaintiffs had brought a claim for $450m plus interest.

Legal challenges have been running since 2014, when the claimants filed against the Crown for what they alleged was actionable negligence in allowing PSA into the country. . . 

Banking on hemp becoming mainstream – Country Life:

A Canterbury hemp grower is swinging open his farm gates to showcase the crop.

Mainland Hemp’s Jamie Engelbrecht says people are learning of the plant’s potential but still have lots of questions so they are welcome to attend two upcoming field-day events.

Jamie was born and bred on a sheep and beef property in Waimate then studied farm management at Lincoln University.

The former rural bank manager has recently left his job at ASB to focus on the hemp growing and processing business he started with some Lincoln mates a couple years ago. . . 

Heat stress a priority during busy year for animal welfare work :

A significant amount of work is under way this year to update animal welfare codes and provide updated advice to farmers for issues such as heat stress, says the Ministry for Primary Industries.

MPI veterinarian and director for animal health and welfare Dr Chris Rodwell said early next month MPI, in collaboration with industry partners through the Farm to Processor Animal Welfare Forum, will review its work programme after recently completed shade and shelter research.

Dr Rodwell says that while mitigating heat stress in livestock is complex, MPI is confident that this pan-sector discussion will ensure a joined-up approach is taken.

“The industry has already been proactive on this issue and we are looking forward to keeping that momentum going in order to deliver the best welfare outcomes for outdoor livestock.” . . 

Buoyant year for primary sector with caveats:

New Zealand growers and farmers have kicked off the year with plenty of upbeat news, with strong commodity prices, relatively robust supply lines and continuing strong consumer demand for quality food putting farmers in a positive frame of mind as the new year starts.

The latest Federated Farmers farm confidence survey highlights just how positive farmers are, with a 34 point leap in confidence from last July, when farmers’ confidence was at its lowest in the survey’s 12 year history.

Bayleys national director rural Nick Hawken says the strong prices being received across the primary sector for red meat, milk, horticultural produce and wine is good not only for farmers’ returns, budgets, and frame of mind, but is also positive for the underlying productive value of their rural land investment. . . 

 


Rural round-up

07/02/2021

Dismay at conversion to forestry – Sally Rae:

Among the steps the newly  formed Climate Change Commission laid out in its recently issued draft advice to hit ambitious greenhouse gas targets was more forestry. It recommended slashing livestock numbers by about 15% by 2030 and planting 380,000ha of new exotic forestry by 2035. In North Otago, the proposed conversion of a 2590ha sheep, beef and deer property to carbon forestry is creating waves as concerns are raised about environmental impacts and fears that forestry conversions are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as other land use changes.  Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

“I just think it’s an absolute injustice, it’s a crime to have that land put into trees.”

North Otago farmer Murray Simpson has farmed Balmoral, near Tokarahi, for 45 years. The property neighbours Hazeldean, a 2590ha sheep, beef and deer farm in the headwaters of the Kakanui River catchment which appears destined to be planted out in pine trees.

The property is in the throes of being sold to New Zealand Carbon Farming — the largest provider of carbon credits in Australasia. Not mincing his words, Mr Simpson fears the development will be “an absolute shambles”. . . .

Exotic plantations to have a ‘crucial role’ :

The Forest Owners Association says the Climate Change Commission has endorsed the “crucial role” exotic forestry will carry out in meeting New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emission targets in 2030 and 2050.

In a recent statement, president Phil Taylor said the 380,000ha of new exotic plantations the commission anticipates will need to be planted between now and 2035 will be the “support act” for the commission’s targets of massive reductions of the overall carbon dioxide emissions from industry and transport.

“This decarbonisation has to be the thrust of meeting New Zealand’s climate change mitigation obligations. Anything else is delaying solving the problem. Pines are great at buying time, but they don’t cut gross emissions themselves,” Mr Taylor said. . .

Kiwi research on infant milk powder colour goes global :

A Wintec science student Rehana Ponnal has had research published in the International Dairy Journal late last year, a big accomplishment for an undergraduate student.

Done while Rehana was on a work placement at Fonterra, the research tested the effectiveness of using a colorimeter to measure the colour of baby milk powder. Rehana worked on the research with a number of other scientists, and the journal entry, published in September last year, gives positive results of their findings.

As a result of the research, Fonterra is procuring a colorimeter to continue their testing.

“Colour is measured because it’s an important aspect of a product. It’s the first thing you perceive. If milk powder was brown for instance, you wouldn’t buy it,” she says. . . 

Red meat exports reached record highs in 2020 :

The New Zealand red meat sector exported $9.2 billion worth of products during 2020, an increase of 1% on the previous year, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Overall exports during the year reached historically high levels – and were 7% above 2018 exports ($8.6 billion) and 21% above 2017 ($7.6 billion).

“The results demonstrate that New Zealand’s red meat exports have remained stable despite the challenges of the global pandemic,” says MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva. “That is great news for the New Zealand economy and for farmers.

We have a diverse market portfolio and last year exported products to 111 countries around the world. . . 

Wairarapa peas harvested for first time in more than four years:

Wairarapa peas are being harvested for the first time in over four years.

ban was placed on growing peas in the region in 2016, after the discovery of pea weevil.

Production was allowed to resume last year after the Ministry for Primary Industries announced the insect pest had been successfully eradicated. . .

Silver Fern Farms pulling out of contract with Hawke’s Bay’s Graeme Lowe Tannery, union says – Thomas Airey:

The union for workers at Graeme Lowe Tannery says staff have been told a large contract with Silver Fern Farms will not be renewed.

The Hastings tannery is one of the biggest hide processing plants in the country and is owned by Lowe Corporation.

Lowe Corp has interests in other agri-business companies, property and farming around NZ.

The tannery’s exact number of employees is unknown but in 2020 Graeme Lowe Tannery Limited applied for 80 employees to be paid under the initial Covid-19 wage subsidy, then 90 employees in the wage subsidy extension. . . 


Rural round-up

24/12/2020

Regional economies: agriculture strong, tourism struggling:

Regions with large agricultural bases have surging regional economies while those which relied heavily on tourism were struggling.

The latest quarterly figures from Westpac McDermott Miller showed that Gisborne/Hawkes Bay have recorded a huge bounce in confidence, followed by Nelson-Marlborough-West Coast and Taranaki/Manawatū-Whanganui.

It showed the “optimists now outweighed the pessimists” in most regions, except in Northland, Otago and Southland – although the news was not entirely grim for the southern regions which had been hard-hit by the Covid-19 linked downturn.

Senior agri economist Nathan Penny said the bounce in confidence for most regions was a reflection of the general rebound in the economy, helped by news of positive vaccine developments overseas. . . 

Milk price forecast boosted by banks – Sally Rae:

Rabobank and ASB have both increased their farm-gate milk price forecasts to $7 for the 2020-21 season, following an improving dairy outlook.

Prices edged up again at last week’s GlobalDairyTrade auction — the last for the year — with an overall price increase of 1.3%.

Gains were strongest for the fat products; butter prices were up 6% and anhydrous milk fat up 1.9% while whole and skim milk powder lifted 0.5% and 1.2% respectively.

ASB economist Nat Keall said the result reflected the fact global demand was still holding up well, providing support for dairy prices. . . 

Westpac Agri Futures established to help young people into rural careers:

The importance of our primary industries has been recognised with a new sector to be included in The 2021 Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games.

The Rural Games will now include Westpac Agri Futures in association with Property Brokers and this is to be held on Friday 12th March in Palmerston North.

Westpac New Zealand General Manager Institutional & Business Banking, Simon Power said Agri Futures is all about encouraging the next generation into agriculture sector careers.

“The demand for staff across rural New Zealand has only grown since COVID-19, and Westpac understands the need to support efforts to encourage more Kiwis to enter the rural workforce.” . . 

Federated Farmers hails pragmatic migrant worker visa decisions:

Farmers and growers up and down the land will be pleased with the pragmatic decision by government to extend visas for migrant workers already on our shores.

“The six-month extension for employer-assisted work visa holders and the postponed stand down period for low-paid Essential Skills via holders will come as a relief for the primary sector heading into the Christmas and New Year period,” Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“We thank Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi for listening to our case for this, and recognising a common sense approach. . . 

NZ Rural Land Company has quiet NZX debut :

The New Zealand Rural Land Company (NZRLC) has had a quiet debut on the stock exchange, listing at a slight premium.

Its shares touched a high of $1.31 in early trading compared with the issue price of $1.25 in the recent share float, before settling at $1.28 with only small volumes being traded.

The company raised $75 million in the public share float, which along with debt will give it about $100m for rural land buying.

NZRLC plans to buy rural land and lease it to farmers or other producers. . . 

Tractor and Machinery Association announces 2021 scholarships:

The Tractor & Machinery Association Inc (TAMA) is offering to industry trainees who are studying towards a certificate or diploma.

There are several $500 scholarships available to industry trainees who can demonstrate their commitment and potential contribution to the industry. Applications for 2021 open on 18 January and close on 5 March with successful applicants advised in May.

TAMA general manager Ron Gall said the scholarships are part of TAMA’s wider efforts to encourage younger people to stay working in the industry and take advantage of the valuable career path it offers. . . 


Rural round-up

17/12/2020

RSE MIQ & WTF – Eric Crampton:

Late last month, the government announced it would allow 2000 seasonal workers into New Zealand’s Managed Isolation and Quarantine system on Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) scheme, with workers to arrive from January to March 2021. 

There’s just so much that’s backward in all of this.

The RSE scheme is open to workers from the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

The most recent World Health Organization COVID-19 situation report for the Western Pacific notes that the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu have not reported a case to date – as of 25 November. Since then, Samoa has had two positive cases caught at their border. . . 

A Christmas message of thanks from Federated Farmers:

Before Federated Farmers farewells 2020, it wants to salute and thank some generally unsung heroes.

“We all got used to talking about clusters of infection with Covid-19, but in another sense that word cluster is somewhat apt for the entire year,” Feds President Andrew Hoggard says.

“It could have been a lot worse for our export-earning primary industries were it not for the dedication and doggedness of a large number of people in supporting services.”

First up, Federated Farmers thanks the truckies, milk tanker drivers and others in the freight industry for working through the roller-coaster of alert levels to keep supplies coming to farms, and produce getting on the road to markets. . . 

Otago leads trend to larger lamb crop – Sally Rae:

Otago has been the major driver of a lift in lambs born in the South Island this year, with the region recording a 3.9% increase in total lamb crop.

Beef+Lamb New Zealand has released its annual lamb crop outlook report which measured lambing performance and forecasts lamb and sheep exports for 2021.

Nationally, sheep farmers achieved a near-record 130.3% lambing percentage, despite Covid-19 related processing restrictions and widespread drought in the first half of 2020. That was only slightly lower than spring 2019 where 131% was achieved, the report said.

Lamb and sheep export volumes were expected to be more significantly impacted by the follow-on impacts of the drought, due to lower animal weights and the retention of sheep for breeding to rebuild stock numbers. . . 

Farmer bank pressure drops but so do satisfaction rates:

Fewer farmers are feeling undue pressure from their bank but satisfaction rates continue to slide, according to the Federated Farmers November Banking Survey.

Of the 1,341 farmers who responded to the survey independently run by ResearchFirst, 65.4% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their bank relationship.  That’s down from 68.5% from the Feds’ survey in May.

“Satisfaction has steadily slipped over the past three years – in our November 2017 survey it was 80.8%,” Federated Farmers President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

“That’s probably no great surprise.  Banks have been trying to reduce their exposure to agricultural lending as it is considered ‘risky’, including by the Reserve Bank.   Banks put the pressure on farmers to reduce their debt when commodity prices are good to put them into a better position to weather the next downturn, and there is also a trend by banks to diversify agricultural lending from dairy to other sectors, especially horticulture. . . 

Commission publishes final report on Fonterra’s 2020/21 milk manual:

The Commerce Commission today published its final report on its annual review of Fonterra’s Farmgate Milk Price Manual for the 2020/21 dairy season (Manual), which contains Fonterra’s methodology for calculating its base milk price.

This year’s review focused on the changes Fonterra has made to the Manual since last year. These include moving the responsibility to independently review certain aspects of the milk price calculation to the Milk Price Group, and the introduction of the ability to apply the outcome of a ‘Within-Period Review’ to the year in which the review is undertaken.

The findings of the final report are unchanged from the draft released in October. . . 

Lamb losses, carcase downgrades costing farmers millions of dollars – Andrew Miller:

Cat-dependent diseases could be costing sheep producers in Tasmania up to $2 million a year, with the state being one of two significant hotspots for the pathogens in Australia.

Scientists from the Threatened Species Recovery Hub found the effects of four pathogens, including Toxoplasma gondii and Sarcocystis gigantea, caused a range of animal health impacts, including spontaneous abortions, still births, neonatal deaths and visible cysts, in meat.

They found SA, particularly Kangaroo Island, and Tasmania, were the two Australian hotspots for the pathogens. . . 


%d bloggers like this: