Rural round-up

18/09/2021

Group gets go-ahead to buy Catlins station for forestry – Sally Rae:

Ingka Group — one of 12 different groups of companies that own Swedish furniture and homeware giant IKEA — has got the green light to buy a 5500ha sheep and beef station in the Catlins for forestry development.

Following recent approval by the Overseas Investment Office, an area of 330ha at Wisp Hill , in the Owaka Valley, would soon be planted with radiata pine seedlings

The long-term plan was to have a total of 3000ha — more than three million seedlings — planted in the next five years and the remaining 2200ha would ‘‘naturally regenerate into native bush’’, a statement from the company said.

Ingka Group owns about 248,000ha of forestry in the United States, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. Between September 2019 and August 2020, Ingka Group planted close to seven million seedlings. . . 

The yo-yoing fortunes of the darling of the stock market – The Detail:

It used to be the darling of the share market, racing from 75 cents before sales of its infant milk powder took off, peaking at more than $21 last year.

But the a2 Milk Company’s meteoric rise is now tumbling, struck by complications by Covid.

Today on The Detail Emile Donovan talks to Sam Dickie, a senior portfolio manager at Fisher Funds, to talk about the company’s roller coaster ride, and how one of its greatest strengths – its unusual distribution channel – has become its greatest weakness.

Between 2017 and 2020, a2 Milk’s share price rose more than 900 percent. But over the past 13 months it has fallen by nearly 75 percent. . . 

Unhappy farmers are missing an important point – policy changes are what customers want to see – Craig Hickman:

It is much easier to say no to new ideas and just accept the status quo than it is to embrace change. Change can be scary.

Fonterra changed, it became more honest and transparent in its communication with farmers, and completely transformed the way it deals with the Government. It became better at articulating what it wants from suppliers.

Plenty of farmers don’t like this change, this new collaborative approach, and four years on they are still muttering that the dairy co-op is cosying up to the enemy.

Slowly but surely, with the odd hiccup along the way, farmer advocacy groups like Beef & Lamb, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers have adopted the same approach and given the same reasoning; it’s much more fruitful to work collaboratively with whoever is in power than to shout impotently from the sidelines. . . 

Young Farmer of the Year winners on the wealth of opportunities in ag :

On August 22, 1969, Gary Frazer from Swannanoa was crowned the inaugural Young Farmer of the Year, the same year that the first Fieldays event was launched at Te Rapa Racecourse.

Over 50 years later, the competition still stands as a staple event in the rural calendar and an opportunity for rural youth to come together and showcase their skills, knowledge, and stamina. The current and past Young Farmer of the Year, Jake Jarman and James Robertson, are young agri professionals trailblazing through the primary sector in their respective fields.

Jake Jarman gained the title, 53rd Young Farmer of the Year In July. A couple months later, Jake says the excitement surrounding his win has settled now, and he’s getting back to his normal routine, working as a Relationship Associate at ANZ in Ashburton.

“It was definitely a rollercoaster afterwards with lots of celebratory messages, interviews, emails, and what not, so now things have settled down I’ve got my life back a bit!” . .

OFI to build Tokoroa dairy plant for desserts, beverages, baked goods :

An overseas food ingredients company is planning to build a dairy processing plant in Tokoroa in south Waikato.

Singapore-based Olam Foods International (OFI) said the plant would create 50 to 60 full time jobs when fully operational.

OFI expected the first stage of the new investment would be completed in the Spring of 2023. This would involve the construction of a spray dryer facility, capable of producing high-value dairy ingredient products.

OFI has dairy operations in Russia, Uruguay and Malaysia and also grows and sources cocoa, coffee, nuts and spices from other countries. . . 

Commission releases final report on its review of Fonterra’s base milk price :

The Commerce Commission has today released its final report on Fonterra’s calculation of the base milk price it will pay farmers in the 2020/21 dairy season.

The Commission found that Fonterra’s forecast price of $7.45 – $7.65 per kilogram of milk solids for the season is calculated in a way that is likely to be consistent with the requirements of the milk price monitoring regime under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA).

The key areas of the Commission’s focus in this year’s review were two components of the cost of capital (the asset beta and specific risk premium), the appropriateness of provisions for asset stranding, and the inclusion of instantised milk powder as a reference product in the calculation of the base milk price. . . 


Rural round-up

02/09/2021

How dairy farmers can look after their mental health during lockdown – Sam Owen:

Dairy farmers may be essential workers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean “business as usual” when it comes to mental health during lockdown. Waikato dairy farmer Sam Owen offers practical advice on how to look after family, friends, staff and yourself.

Murphy’s Law – after dodging a bit of a bullet in 2020, Covid has now reared its ugly head during one of the busiest times on farm.

Luckily, there are so many ways we can look after not only ourselves, but our staff and others in our rural communities as well.

We all know that keeping good mental health during the spring period is critical. But what does that actually look like in practice? . . 

Keep in contact with each other’ – Peter Burke:

Keep connecting. That’s the message to farmers from the chair of the Rural Support Trust, Neil Bateup.

He told Dairy News that since lockdown the trust probably haven’t had as many requests as they normally get, but the trust is still there to help.

He says because of the Covid lockdown they won’t go out to a farm unless it’s an emergency but people can still do things by phone.

An issue that has cropped up, and one that is hard to deal with, is when farm staff change jobs and problems arise. Bateup says the best they can do is refer individuals to MPI or Federated Farmers, who can help deal with contractual matters. . .

Escalating women leaders :

”To be a good leader, you have to first know your ‘why,’” says Ravensdown shareholder and Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) Escalator programme graduate Donna Cram.

For me it is to connect people across agricultural communities using values-based communication to empower collaboration.”

Donna, a dairy farmer at Wylan Dene farm near Awatuna in South Taranaki, was one of 14 women chosen by AWDT to take part in their annual Escalator programme. It gives women in the food and fibre sector the mindsets, skills and connections to lead, govern and inspire.

Donna says the experience has helped her understand more about her own leadership qualities. . . 

Lip Gloss and Gumboots:

While some people are attracted to the more solitary parts of a rural working life, many farming women seek out others going through the same experiences, according to Ravensdown shareholder Jo Hay.

“Farming can be a pretty lonely lifestyle. It’s important for women in agriculture to have a supportive group where they can discuss their experiences and bring their ideas to life.”

Jo Hay and husband Ross have operated a family sheep and beef farm in Herbert, 20 minutes south of Oamaru since 2006. Jo was a teacher in Oamaru for 6 years before returning to farm life after the birth of their first child.

That’s when she took part in the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) “Understanding Your Farming Business” course. . .

Helping farmers find ‘aha’ moments – Alice Scott:

Helping farmers find their “aha moments” was Steven Nichol’s reason for choosing to step away from the day-to-day rigours of running his own farm and set up a farm consultancy business.

Mr Nichol grew up on the family farm at Clarks Junction and, in 2007, he was able to farm a portion of the family property as a stand-alone economic unit.

“I reflect back on those early years; all the things I wish I knew then that I know now. The thing that always used to bug me was finding ways to create a farming system that would produce consistently good results.”

A season could be impacted in many ways and Mr Nichol said it was learning how to measure those variables in order to make “proactive decisions” rather than “reactive moves”. . . 

‘It’s not the cow, it’s the how’: why a long-time vegetarian became beef’s biggest champion – Patrick Barkham:

Nicolette Hahn Niman was an environmental lawyer who became a cattle rancher, and didn’t eat meat for 33 years. For both the ecosystem and human health, she argues, it’s how animals are farmed that matters.

After refusing to eat meat for 33 years, Nicolette Hahn Niman bit tentatively into a beefburger two years ago. She had become a vegetarian because she was concerned about animal welfare and the environmental cost of meat. Unlike most vegetarians, she had experience of the dire conditions on factory farms during her career as an environmental lawyer campaigning against pollution caused by industrial meat production in the US. Then she married a farmer.

Hahn Niman’s journey from vegetarian activist to cattle rancher to writing a book called Defending Beef may be driven by love, but it is also informed by a lawyerly desire to stick up for small farmers besieged by the growing ethical and environmental clamour against meat. The burger turned out to be an unexpectedly delicious brief pleasure, but it was the 18 years working on the ranch alongside the man who grilled it – and raised the cow – her husband, Bill Niman, that inspired her. . . 


Rural round-up

02/08/2021

Dairy farmers sell: ‘We didn’t feel proud to be farmers anymore’ – Carmen Hall:

”Staring down” a $700,000 barrel of compliance, regulation and other costs proved to be the last straw for Welcome Bay dairy farmer Andrew McLeod.

In May 2020, he sold up and walked away from dairying and a farm that had been in his family for more than 50 years.

He’s not alone.

Farming leaders say the ”family farm is struggling to survive” amid an ”avalanche of regulations” and syndicates motivated by ”money”. . .

Precious memories of daughter, grandson – Alice Scott:

In the wake of the report on the death of Dunback farmer Nadine Thomlinson and her son Angus, Alice Scott talks to Nadine’s mother, Ann Restieaux.

Even when Nadine Tomlinson was young, she relished the physical nature of farming. She was a down-to-earth Southern girl; shy as a youngster who came out of her shell when she went to boarding school.

Her mother, Ann Restieaux, recalled her and her sister drenching lambs for their dad, Alex, while still at primary school.

“Alex would just trickle the lambs up to them and they chipped away. Nadine loved it. She was full speed ahead, she set incredibly high standards for herself and as a mother she achieved so much in her day because she just got up earlier if she needed to.” . . 

Farmers feeding thousands of Kiwis through Meat the Need:

Through the Meat the Need charity, farmers have provided more than 408,783 meals from over 883 donations in just one year. Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) talks to co-founder Siobhan O’Malley to reflect on a successful year and what’s next for the charity.

Since its inception early last year, Meat the Need has provided over 408,783 meals from over 883 donations to vulnerable people. The charity is nationwide and works to supply foodbanks with much-needed meat which is donated by farmers and processed and packaged with the help of Silver Fern Farms.

The charity was founded by South Island based farmers, Siobhan O’Malley of Pukeko Pastures and Wayne Langford, also known as the YOLO farmer. Together they discovered that while there was a need for such as organisation, there was never anyone connecting willing farmers and community foodbank together to create a regular supply chain. . .

The wahine winemaker hunting for a sense of place – Charlotte Muru-Lanning:

With few Māori in the winemaking industry, and even fewer Māori women, Jannine Rickards is a rare breed. Charlotte Muru-Lanning visits her in Wairarapa.

An eye-catching bone hei matau adorns Jannine Rickard’s neck.

A fishhook symbolic of journeys that are interwoven into journeys, it’s been worn for the last 20 years, since her parents gifted it to her on her 21st birthday.

Those unexpected twists and turns that have unfurled along the way have coloured her own journey, which has brought her to where she is now, making wine in the Wairarapa.

There are just a handful of female Māori winemakers in the country, so, like her own small-batch wine, Rickards is something of a rare breed. . .

Testing efforts to keep family farm – Shawn McAvinue:

South Otago “primary school sweethearts” David and Ailsa Mackie have kept their farm in the family for more than 100 years.

The Mackie family run sheep, beef and deer on their 500ha farm Kuriwao Downs at Clinton, about 40km east of Gore.

Mrs Mackie (80) has never lived anywhere else. She was a girl when she met her future husband at Clinton School. He was a year older than her.

The couple raised five children on the farm — Brent, Copland, Jane, Rachel and Arthur. . . 

Craft and the love of learning kept this couple up late at night

Eric and Lois Muller have always loved timber and lace and the proof is in their home, which they completed themselves and which looks out on paddocks of tropical pasture. Here grows Santa Gertrudis/Hereford cross cattle, along the southern slopes of the Border Ranges at Rukenvale near Kyogle.

The interior glows with timber hues contrasted by velvet curtains backed by fine white lace and all up the presentation shows devotion to craft.

“As a kid I was self taught,” recalled 92 year Eric. “As a 12 year old I did woodwork one day a fortnight at the rural technology school at Boonah, Qld.

I went to lots of different schools in the depression. My father was a share farmer and worked wherever he could.” . . 


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

20/06/2021

Canty navigates post-flood infrastructure woes – Annette Scott:

Time is ticking for high country farmers rebuilding access infrastructure to get stock off their properties before the snow sets in.

Ravaged by the Canterbury flood event, three weeks on and high country farmers are grappling with greater than usual isolation as they wait for washed out roads and bridges to be repaired.

The biggest concern being to get stock out before the snow sets in.

“Usually in the first three weeks of June we would have had our first decent snow dump,” Erewhon Station farmer Colin Drummond said. . .

How will be Beef and Lamb vote break? – David Anderson:

Farmers around the country will vote soon on whether or not Beef+Lamb NZ will retain its right to continue to levy them and fund its operations.

However, BLNZ is facing a battle as it fights against typical farmer apathy when it comes to such votes, and a growing level of discontent among its levy payer about the industry organisation’s performance. David Anderson looks into the issues…

The powerbrokers at Beef+Lamb NZ may very well have a feeling of déjà vu with the organisation facing growing intensitities of farmer disgruntlement as its levy vote fast approaches. . . 

Supply chain drag on US beef bonanza – Hugh Stringleman:

Strong imported manufacturing beef demand and high prices in the United States are not being passed fully through to cattle farmers in New Zealand.

The US market is paying US$2.90 a pound for imported 95CL bull beef (NZ$8.95/kg cif) compared with US$2.66 this time last year.

The big difference in the comparison is the higher conversion value of the NZ dollar, currently US72c compared with 62c last June.

That impact alone is unfavourable by $300 a head, a Silver Fern Farms (SFF) spokesperson said. . . 

Intensive sheep and beef provides cash but wealth depends on capital gain – Keith Woodford:

Intensive sheep farms have been squeezed by dairy and are now drifting to beef with wool right out of the money

 This is the third article in a series investigating New Zealand’s pastoral sheep and beef farms. The first one was an overview of New Zealand’s 9200 commercial sheep and beef farms, and how the pastoral-farming area has declined over the last 30 years.  The second article focused on the North Island hill and hard-hill country, now comprising approximately 4000 of these 9200 commercial farms. On those hill farms, key issues are land-use competition between pastoralism and production forestry, combined with retirement of the tougher country for carbon farming.

This time my focus is on the 4400 intensive farms spanning both North and South Islands.They are classified by Beef+Lamb as Classes 5-8, with Class 5 being the in the North Island and Classes 6-8 being in the South Island. That leaves 200 high-country and 600 South Island hill-country farms that need their own analysis, but that will have to wait. . .

New Zealand has real opportunity to be a world leader in agritech:

TIN’s second annual Agritech Insights Report offers significant analysis of New Zealand’s Agricultural Technology export sector

Technology Investment Network (TIN) has released its second annual NZ Agritech Insights Report, providing compelling analysis of the size and scope of New Zealand’s leading agritech export companies, and the pipeline of promising Early Stage agritech companies.

Launched at Fieldays yesterday, the report provides a closer look into NZ’s agricultural technology sector based on data from TIN’s 2020 survey results, including size and significance, key export markets, investment challenges and opportunities, along with a comprehensive directory of over 110 early stage Agritech companies currently developing their own IP in New Zealand.

The Agritech Insights Report was first commissioned in 2020 to provide a baseline of data on New Zealand’s growing agritech export sector as the New Zealand Government launched its Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP). . . 

Pet milk formula new gold rush? Announcing world’s most comprehensive  series of goat milk formula for cats and dogs :

In the early 2000s, demand for infant formula skyrocketed. New Zealand has enjoyed a new export revenue stream since. Peaked in 2013, export value was over $700m a year for New Zealand and over 200 brands were entered the market to compete for limited manufacturing capacity.

The playing field was late restricted largely to few big players, especially these with own factories, following policy changes in China. Despite of the restrictions, New Zealand still enjoys steady export revenue in infant formula today.

Could pet milk formula be the next gold mine for New Zealand? “Yes, it’s entirely possible. “, said James Gu, one of the founders of PetNZ Ltd and creators of the PetNZC brand. . .


Rural round-up

05/09/2020

Local farmers in competition final – Sally Brooker:

North Otago has produced two of the eight finalists in an Australasian sustainable agriculture competition.

Farmers Nick and Kate Webster and Brock and Gemma Hamilton have been shortlisted from a slew of entrants on both sides of the Tasman for the Zimmatic Sustainable Irrigation Awards.

The contest aims to celebrate irrigation excellence and encourage farmers to share water management ideas.

The Websters run Totara Fields and Hillbrook Dairies – mixed beef finishing/cropping and dairy operations on a total of 700ha, 550 of them irrigated. . . 

RSE workers stranded in NZ: ‘Tonga needs to look after its own citizens’ – employer :

A large Hawke’s Bay fruit grower fears for the well being of Pacific Island workers still unable to return home and says Tongan authorities must help out.

Some 487 workers from Tonga and 763 from Vanuatu are registered as requiring urgent repatriation.

There are hundreds of others urgently wanting to get back to other countries including Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Kiribati.

A flight to Tonga yesterday was suspended until further notice because of Auckland’s Covid alert level 3 status. . .

Water the word on farmers’ minds – Sally Brooker:

North Otago farmers are feeling the effects of a dry winter, Federated Farmers provincial president Jared Ross says.

“We’re 100mm behind in rainfall,” he said of his Duntroon dairy-support farm.

Local contractors had sold out of their feed supplement supplies in the lead-in to winter, and one had been bringing in feed from Central Otago and Southland.

“It was priced accordingly.” . .

Sell venison or risk loss say experts – Annette Scott:

Deer farmers are being advised to take the going price for chilled venison now, or risk significantly lower returns.

With a short chilled season expected venison marketers are recommending to farmers to take the money being offered during the chilled season.

Currently, the market for frozen venison is subdued and the prospects post-Christmas are uncertain.

Deer that miss the chilled season cut-off at the end of October will be unable to reach Europe in time for the last game season sales.

While a portion will go to alternative markets, some venison will be frozen.  . . 

White Rock Station’s revival – Peter Burke:

One of New Zealand’s most historic sheep stations – White Rock – has a new lease of life thanks to family members who wanted to preserve the property for future generations. Peter Burke reports.

White Rock Station, way out on the isolated south Wairarapa Coast, is the epitome of rugged beauty that typifies much of NZ’s East Coast.

It’s named after a stunning white rock formation, which dominates the shoreline where the hills rise steeply from the relentlessly pounding surf. The property is about an hour’s drive from Martinborough, along a winding – mainly gravel – road.

Tim Ritchie, who earlier this year retired as the chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, is the great, great grandson of the original owner, Richard Barton who acquired the land in 1843. . .

New digital campaign thanks NZ farmers:

New digital campaign by OverseerFM thanks Kiwi farmers and lets them know they have choices when it comes to managing sustainable impact

From propping up our economy, to feeding the world, and overcoming numerous challenges along the way, Kiwi farmers play a vital role in keeping our nation, and its people happy and healthy.

Now, more than ever, it’s time to say thanks. It’s time to reassure those in the agricultural sector that we are there for them – every step of the way.

That sentiment is echoed in a new digital campaign for agricultural management tool OverseerFM fronted by rugby legend Buck Shelford, Dame Lynda Topp (Ken the farmer), TV presenter Toni Street, fishing legend Geoff Thomas and cricketing icon Sir Richard Hadlee. . .


Rural round-up

09/08/2020

Difficult but the right call – Sudesh Kissun:

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the joint decision three years ago to eradicate Mycoplamsa bovis was a difficult call. However, Mackle says the 10-year eradication plan, while difficult, was the best option for farmers and the economy. He made the comments to mark three years since the bacterial disease was first detected in New Zealand. The discovery shocked the industry and triggered one of New Zealand’s largest ever biosecurity responses.  . .

Farmers missing out on newer technology – Mark Ross:

Ineffective regulation is leading to farmers and growers missing out on products that will increase their productivity and be safer to use.

The Government launched a bold plan to boost primary sector export earnings by $44 billion over the next decade, while protecting the environment and growing jobs.

The plan, launched last month, involves a 10-year roadmap to unlock greater value for a sector vital to New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As the Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor pointed out, there is huge potential in the roadmap, but it can only be achieved through a close government partnership with industry and Māori. . . 

Lamb weight not demand driving price – Annette Scott:

South Island lamb supply is tight but while seasonal procurement pressure may be enough to see marginal price lifts in some regions, weak export markets are keeping a cap on prices.

Alliance Group key account manager Murray Behrent said while procurement pressure may appear to be at fever pitch around the saleyards, the difference in pricing is the weight of the lambs.

Agents around Canterbury saleyards are reporting strong demand is driving prime lamb values with top prices at Temuka and Coalgate this week, fetching $194 and $198 respectively. . . 

Council exploring water storage sites – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is actively investigating freshwater storage sites to carry excess winter water through to dry periods in summer.

It’s part of a four-pronged regional water security programme, supported by the Provincial Growth Fund, which includes a region-wide freshwater assessment, a 3D aquifer mapping project, and exploring viable locations for small-scale community storage schemes in the Central Hawke’s Bay (Tukituki River) and Heretaunga (Ngaruroro River) catchments.

Council acting manager regional water security Tom Skerman says the regional water assessment is analysing water supply and demand across the region to 2050. . . .

Tarras no stranger to the sly land-buyer transaction – Mark Price:

Before international airports became the talk of Tarras, farming was the district’s main preoccupation. In all its guises, farming has stamped its mark on the district and its people over 162 years. Mark Price takes a look at what has happened to Tarras in the days since its potential for farming was first realised.

Christchurch International Airport Ltd caught plenty of flak for the way it bought up land at Tarras for an airport.

Its agents, while making offers to landowners, did not disclose who they were working for, or why the land was wanted.

The airport’s chief executive, Malcolm Johns, was the man who orchestrated the purchase of 750ha for an airport, at a cost of $45 million.

He saw the potential, acted swiftly and quietly and came up last month, holding the deeds to the various farming properties. . . 

Broadacre farmers have their own fire experience – Mal Peters:

Reinforcing farmers’ perceptions the Rural Fire Service is a Sydney-centric bureaucracy, northern NSW broadacre farmers are scratching their heads at the declaration of a bushfire danger period on August 1.

Grass burns poorly in winter, so most of us are waiting for warmer weather.

We can get a permit to burn, but that only adds to our daily mountain of red tape.

Given recent megafires you’d think the RFS would make it easier to conduct controlled burns. . . 


Rural round-up

05/08/2020

All well and good – Sam Owen:

Waikato dairy farmer Sam Owen has learned from experience about the importance of looking after his mental health. Sam shares his story and his tips for maintaining wellbeing.

An overwhelming sense of joy or happiness doesn’t sound like depression or anxiety, but to me this is one of my triggers. That’s because I know it will usually be followed by an impending sense of ‘the only way is down from here’.

My wife Jacqui and I are 50:50 sharemilkers. We live on-farm with our kids Abbie (13) and Rhys (11). We’re milking 260 cows on 70ha (effective), on the W and T van de Pas farm at Eureka, just east of Hamilton.

I’m a DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leader (DEL), and a board member for the Port Waikato School Camp. I’m very focused on getting young people into the sector. Jacqui is also a qualified lawyer who contributes time to the Rural Support Trust. Both of us are passionate ambassadors for mental health and wellbeing. . .

‘Blown away’ by response to wool petition – Sally Rae:

South Otago sheep and beef farmer Amy Blaikie has been “absolutely blown away” by the response to her wool petition.

In June, Mrs Blaikie launched a petition calling on the House of Representatives to ensure all publicly funded buildings and KiwiBuild homes were built or refurbished with New Zealand wool carpet and insulation.

Tomorrow, Mrs Blaikie, her husband Victor and their children are due to head to Wellington, where she has asked New Zealand First list MP and Lawrence farmer Mark Patterson to present the petition, which has been signed by more than 14,000 people.

She said she was not only overwhelmed by the number of signatures but also by the phone calls and communication she had received. . . 

Is regenerative agriculture the real deal – Keith Woodford:

Regenerative agriculture is in vogue as a concept but what does it really mean?

I often get asked my opinion about regenerative agriculture.  My standard rejoinder is to ask what does the questioner mean by ‘regenerative agriculture’? That typically gets a response that it is somewhat of a mystery to them, but it is a term they keep hearing, and supposedly it is the way we need to act to save the planet.  My next rejoinder is that I too am struggling to know what it means.

Then some two weeks ago I was asked to join a focus group for a research project looking into what regenerative agriculture means specifically in the New Zealand context. The project has considerable backing, including from the Government-funded ‘Our Land & Water National Science Challenge’.

I was unable to participate in the focus group on account of another commitment. But it did make me think it was time for me to do my own research and find out what the term actually stood for. . . 

Application for prestigious agricultural award open:

Being mentored by some of the greatest leaders in the Australasian agriculture industry might sound appealing, but how about travelling by private jet as part of the experience? This very opportunity will be available to one young Kiwi or Aussie again next year, when they take out the 2021 Zanda McDonald Award.

The search is once again on for talented young individuals across Australia and New Zealand, with registrations opening for the annual award today.

Now in its seventh year, the award recognises those who are passionate about agriculture, wanting to make a difference in their sector, and looking to take their career to the next level. There’s an impressive prize package up for grabs, that will put the winner in the passenger seat with some of the biggest and best agriculture operators across both countries, through the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP) network. . .

A love letter to the mighty Mataura River :

Dougal Rillstone’s new book, Upstream in the Mataura details his 70-year fascination for the Mataura River from his childhood in Gore through until the present day. 

Rillstone said he became fascinated by the river when he was still a child and at that time it was a place of recreation for swimming and picnicking.

He said one particular incident is imprinted in his memory.

“A memory of swimming in the river, a place we called the bend just on the north side of Gore, on a flat calm pool into the evening, sun dropping and my father was swimming near me because I couldn’t really swim properly, but I was in the river up to my shoulders and trout started to rise all around us and I was totally mesmerised by it – it’s what I later came to realise is called the ‘mad Mataura rise’.” . . 

 

Farm biosecurity a good BVD insurance:

Biosecurity is high on most New Zealanders’ minds this year, thanks largely to Covid-19 and the need to keep it firmly on the country’s border edges to avoid it spreading throughout the community. For New Zealand farmers there is another disease that does not affect humans which can, also with good biosecurity, be avoided.

Estimates are about 80% of this country’s dairy and beef herds have been exposed to Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD). Over the past decade as more herds have cleared it, they have again become susceptible, or “naïve”. This leaves them with no resistance to a disease that can account for a variety of undiagnosed ailments.

Greg Chambers, Zoetis veterinary operations manager says comprehensive control of BVD relies upon three key planks in any farm campaign – testing/culling, vaccination, and biosecurity. . . 

Ballance’s financial results are a positive sign for New Zealand primary sector:

New Zealand is looking to, and counting on, the primary sector to underpin our economy. The sector provides opportunities for thousands of kiwis every day.

Owned by 19,000 farming families, Ballance Agri-Nutrients is well positioned to support the sector to drive the prosperity of NZ with a strong balance sheet and another year of consistent farmer and grower rebates. Leading into 2021, the Ballance team continues their unrelenting focus on nutrient leadership and leading by science.

“I want to acknowledge all the individuals that come together to form the Ballance team, we are fortunate to have an extremely talented and passionate group focused on delivering value for our shareholders, customers and all kiwis,” says Ballance Chairman, David Peacocke. . . 


Rural round-up

26/07/2020

Pork farmer predicts ‘massive’ productivity drop – Yvonne O’Hara:

Like many in the pork industry, North Otago pig farmer Ian Carter is dependent on experienced and skilled migrant workers to run his 318ha, 2000 pig, 700 cattle operation.

If farmers cannot access migrant workers with the needed skill sets and experience, including from the Philippines where there are large commercial pork operations, he predicts a “massive drop in productivity” within the industry.

As a result of Covid-19, workers who would ordinarily be arriving to work here on three-year visas had been unable to fly into the country.

Although the former New Zealand Pork chairman was pleased to see the recent visa extensions introduced by the Government, he did not think those changes would be enough to meet the needs of the industry. . .

M bovis eradication on track -Annette Scott:

The number of properties infected with Mycoplasma bovis has dropped to an all-time low, triggering a wave of confidence that the plan to eradicate the cattle disease from New Zealand is on-track.

Three years on since the disease was first confirmed in NZ, industry leaders are confident the world-first attempt to eradicate the disease is making positive gains towards eradication being within reach in the coming seven years.

As of July 22, the M bovis programme had just four confirmed active properties on its books.

Of these,  two are dairy and one beef in the North Island, with one beef property in Canterbury.  . . 

Smith downplays British farming fears – Nigel Stirling:

A former Trade Minister is hopeful he can play his part convincing Britain to open its farmers up to increased competition from New Zealand and other rival producers once it leaves the European Union.

Lockwood Smith credited his appointment to a new commission advising the British government on trade agreements and agriculture to his long experience as a farmer and former trade and agriculture minister, as well as his knowledge of the British farming and political scene as a recent High Commissioner to London.

“There is a realisation that (British) agriculture needs to move forward and this is an attempt to find a consensus on how best to do that,” Smith said. . . 

Can-do farm installs methane-run generator – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy effluent is being used to power an Isla Bank milking shed and mitigate methane emissions at the same time.

Dairy Green and Scandrett Rural owner and consultant John Scandrett has been overseeing a biogas conversion project at Glenarlea Farm, Isla Bank, since November 2016.

Glenarlea Farm, which is owned by the Fortuna Group and managed by Brendon and Lorelai Santos, milks about 900 cows at peak.

Bacteria convert effluent solids into biogas, of which methane and carbon dioxide are the main constituents.

The methane fuelled a converted diesel motor, which drove a generator to make electricity, Mr Scandrett said. . . 

Taranaki dairy farm doing twice the average milk production scoops national awards :

A Taranaki dairy farmer who has won a raft of production awards attributes his success to having well-grown young stock.

Stefan Buhler milks 260 Holstein Friesian cows on his 80-hectare coastal farm at Manaia near Hawera.

The herd produced 202,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in the 2019-20 season.

“It was a record season for us, despite the drought. We produced 2525 kgMS per hectare, which is quite incredible,” he said. . .

Report questions gender bias in succession planning – Mollie Tracey:

WHILE the agricultural industry has made great progress in advancing women in the workforce, little work has looked into shifting traditional patterns of patrilineal farm succession, which act as gender barriers for daughters growing up on farms.

That’s according to a new report by 2017 Nuffield scholar and Morawa farmer, Katrina Sasse, who investigated the position of daughter successors in United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark – a study that was motivated by her own keen interest as a daughter successor and desire to help women in Australia find a pathway back to the family farm. 

It’s an unfortunate fact that in rural communities some people continue to view daughter successors differently to sons and more needs to be done to empower young Women to remain in family farming operations. . . 


Rural round-up

18/04/2020

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

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

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

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

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

Dairy farmers dry cows off early as tough winter nears :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puketoro Station — village in a bubble – Leigh McNeil:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Digital initiative keeps Northland farmers connected during lockdown:

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

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

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


Rural round-up

07/12/2019

Action needed now:

Houston – or more correctly Wellington – we have a problem.

And that problem is a shortage of workers right across New Zealand’s primary sector.

The latest example is the apple sector (click here for the story), which is facing a potential $80 million loss in the coming season because of a looming labour shortage.

Apples and Pears NZ chief executive Alan Pollard told Rural News that the main reason for this is the Government’s decision not to allow the numbers of overseas workers required under the RSE (recognised seasonal employer) scheme to meet the needs.  . . 

Analysis of regenerative ag needed – Jacqueline Rowarth:

The groundswell supporting the restoring powers of regenerative agriculture is mostly based on examples from overseas.

The big question should be, do the examples stack up in New Zealand? If yes, no problem. If no, what might happen? Would there be any unintended consequences?

Answering these and similar questions is the goal of scientific research.

The foundation for advancing knowledge is laid by identifying the problem and then analysing what has gone before . . .

Setting up for the future:

Key changes made by Waikato dairy farmers Sam and Jacqui Owen have laid their on-farm groundwork for 2020 and beyond. They’re also focused on growing dairying’s next generation.

The Owens stepped up to 50:50 sharemilking in the 2014/15 season at Walton – then the milk price more than halved. That’s when Sam became chair for MP3, a DairyNZ-supported three-year project focusing on ‘profit, planet and people’, starting with 35 Matamata-Piako farms.

“I wanted to help others make their way through that price drop. MP3 also enabled us to grow our budgeting and financial skills to work out that doing that would be profitable for us. . .

Hail limits summer fruit supply – Riley Kennedy:

Some stonefruit will be in short supply this season after a severe hailstorm damaged Hawke’s Bay orchards in October.

The storm hit the region at the most vulnerable time for growers when the fruit was in early spring growth. 

SummerfruitNZ market support manager Richard Mills said the storm was very unusual for the time of year.

“An October hailstorm this bad had not been witnessed before by growers. . . 

Production of red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit is under way:

Zespri expects it will take two years before it can meet demand for its new red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit. 

The company has been trialling the fruit in New Zealand and Singapore, and chief executive Dan Matheson said it had sold well even when priced at 25 percent above green and gold varieties. 

“The response has been quite exciting. We’ve had incredible feedback from our consumers who have been buying the fruit at the supermarket shelf.

“In fact we’ve just had letters coming in from consumers both here in New Zealand and Singapore asking for more of that and ‘why it was only available on the shelf for such short period of time’.” . . 

Imported insect predator to help bees and willow trees to thrive – Eric Frykberg:

Beekeepers are keenly awaiting the arrival of a tiny insect from California which preys on the giant willow aphid.

They say it will help willow trees survive and provide essential food for bees.

Their response follows approval of the parasitoid insect Pauesia nigrovaria by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Scion entomologist Stephanie Sopow said the insect was an an effective control agent. . . 


Rural round-up

07/11/2019

Canterbury farmer fears sheep and beef property might be turned into forest – Gerard Hutching:

Waimate sheep and beef farmer David Gardner is “gobsmacked” a government policy might see his property sold to an overseas investor and converted into pine trees.

Having reached retirement age, Gardner is looking to sell his 800-hectare Melford Hills farm, about 50 kilometres south of Timaru. He would prefer it remains as it is, but the likely buyer is a forest investor.

In fact he’s already spurned an offer that would see some of the property continue as a farm, and the balance as forestry. . .

Less fat on meat income – Alan Williams:

Scott Technology revenues have jumped in the last year but its automated equipment for meat processing plants played a lesser role.

Revenue from meat processing work for the year ended August 31 was $34.5 million, down from $45m a year earlier, as total revenue from the world-wide activities rose to $225m from $181.8m.

Some of the bigger overseas projects have been challenging and while the operating earnings were higher, at $20m from $19.3m, the after-tax profit fell to $8.6m from $10.77m.

Dunedin-based Scott Tech warned of those challenges in early July and chairman Stuart McLauchlan and managing director Chris Hopkins said the projects are now nearing completion. . .

Kea attack sheep in low numbers, study finds – Will Harvie:

Kea attacks on sheep have been measured for the first time.

About 0.5 per cent of sheep at five South Island high country farms were attacked by the alpine parrots, according to just published research by wildlife scientist and kea specialist Clio Reid and colleagues.

It was the first time “kea strike”, as these attacks are known, has been quantified, she said.

“This study showed that kea strike on sheep was occurring at a low prevalence on the high country farms surveyed. The wounds identified were survivable.” . .

NZ River Awards 2019 River Story finalist: Wharekopae River, Gisborne :

Cawthron is proud to be running the 2019 New Zealand River Awards. As part of the celebration, the River Story Award category sponsored by the Ministry for the Environment recognises interesting and compelling stories about individuals, businesses and communities working to improve the health of our rivers.

Each year Cawthron receives River Story entries that are representative of our collective desire to improve New Zealand waterways. The stories are inspirational projects that involve community collaboration, science and innovative ways to address freshwater-related challenges.

This year, eight stories were selected as finalists and from these, the judges have selected the top three. The work being done to restore Rere’s Wharekopae River catchment is our second story. . .

With the walls closing in, regenerative farming is a way forward for agriculture – Daniel Eb:

A quiet revolution is growing on New Zealand farms. As debates on water and emissions grind on, a new group of farmers are showing us the way forward – regenerating the land, and themselves, writes Daniel Eb.  

Mum has a saying: when you’re boxed into a corner, move the walls. It’s a reference to the two-sided nature of crisis – that in difficulty lies opportunity.

New Zealand agriculture is not in a crisis, but we all feel the tension rising. They’re a tough bunch, our farmers, but this wave of anger and pain in response to new freshwater and emissions proposals is a clear indication that they’re hurting. A recent morning radio show turned into a public, cathartic release for many Kiwi farmers who just wanted to be heard.

There’s a pervading sense that farming as we know it is under threat – that the walls are closing in. This is a global issue. Australian farmers are losing the fight against historic drought. American farmers are struggling, battling record flooding, reckless trade policy and the breakdown of the family farm way of life. Dutch farmers recently blocked motorways in protest against environmental reforms; some Kiwi farmers have called for the same. . .

Narrandera grower Nathan Heckendorf credits water saving product for reviving crop – Lucy Kinbacher:

A NARRANDERA grower has turned his harvest prospects around and retrieved up to 2.5 tonnes a hectare from his barley crop thanks largely to a water saving organic fertiliser.

Nathan Heckendorf, Top Reeds, Sandigo, was very skeptical when he heard about a product that could hold twice its weight in water and eliminate loss of water to a crop from evaporation or frosts.

Operating a 1600 hectare property, Mr Heckendorf planted 150ha of canola from April 20, 200ha of barley from May 10 and 1000ha of wheat from May 15, along with a summer crop of 70ha of maize. . .

 


Rural round-up

24/09/2019

Consultant fulfilling passion for agriculture – Sally Rae:

He might not have ended up pursuing a hands-on farming or shearing career but Guy Blundell has still forged a profession in agriculture.

Mr Blundell is managing director of Compass Agribusiness, an agribusiness advisory, agri asset management and client partnership specialist.

Established a decade ago, it has head offices in both Arrowtown – where he lives – and Melbourne, where his business partner former Otago local Nigel Pannett leads the team, and has just opened a Dunedin office. . .

Fear, anger and mistrust in government at Mystery Creek freshwater meeting – Gerald Piddock:

Hundreds of angry farmers have confronted government officials at an environment roadshow. 

The Government’s freshwater policy reforms consultation event hit Waikato on Monday with over 500 people packing out the venue at Mystery Creek.

What officials heard was mistrust, cynicism and anger about the proposals from the largely rural audience. . .

Hawke’s Bay farmer’s heartfelt Facebook post goes viral :

A heartfelt social media post from Hawke’s Bay farmer Sam Stoddart has gone viral. In it he points out the strong connections New Zealand farmers have with the communities around them.

Stoddart told The Country he was surprised by the strong reaction to his post, which has had nearly 6000 reactions and nearly 3000 shares.

“For a vent to mates out of frustration on Facebook it certainly has gained some momentum.

I can’t believe the positive feedback though. For over 700 comments only about five are negative. Maybe the rural urban divide isn’t as big as we think. . .

Fonterra chairman John Monaghan due to step down in 2020 :

Fonterra chairman John Monaghan says he is due to retire next year and will work with the board to plan succession, but the company says he has not made up his mind about whether he will leave.

Monaghan was due to retire by rotation at next year’s annual meeting, at the end of his three-year term. 

“Having seen through the introduction of our new strategy, operating model, and with our divestment and debt reduction efforts well progressed, I will be working with the board in 2020 to facilitate chair succession. The timeline for that succession will be agreed by the board nearer to the time,” Monaghan said on Friday. . .

Food award finalist for preserved apricots in wine – Yvonne O’Hara:

Augustines of Central founder and Food Award finalist Gus Hayden, of Wanaka, is bottling “nostalgia”.

He was delighted and “pretty surprised” when he found out his preserved apricots in riesling and sugar syrup was one of 20 finalists in the Cuisine Artisan section of the New Zealand Food Awards.

Mr Hayden, who is a chef with Cardrona Terraces, Wanaka, uses spray-free apricots from two suppliers on Burn Cottage Rd, Cromwell, and Earnscleugh, near Alexandra. . .

Isn’t it time we stopped commoditising the crap out of everything. – St John Cramer:

Discounting destroys value and has always been a clear signal you’ve run out of ideas. So you end up pulling the crude cord called discounting.

Discounting is rife in Ag because it sometimes seems like it’s the only strategy we have left to compete which is always a race to the bottom.

We haven’t been very smart.

Discounting is disastrous for profits because the profit you didn’t make on that sale has to be replaced by the profit on the next sale. Worse, you condition your customers into lower prices and devalue your market positioning in the process. It also robs your business of the capital it needs to invest and grow in itself. . .


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