Rural round-up

July 8, 2016

Sheep industry recognises top performance:

The sheep industry celebrated its best and brightest at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards in Masterton last night.

This is the fifth year the industry’s top performers have gathered to acknowledge outstanding contributors in genetics, science and commercial lamb production.

Amongst the award recipients were Northland sheep breeder Gordon Levet, who was recognised for his long-term work breeding towards worm resistance, while Hawkes Bay farmers James and Jane Hunter won the Blackdale Stud Sheep Industry Supplier of the Year. . . 

Amethyst the foundation jewel of Hereford family – Kate Taylor:

Five generations of one family have sat at the head of NZ Herefords. Kate Taylor went to Akitio, southeast of Dannevirke, to meet the latest one.

Akitio farmer Philip Barnett has followed in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, great grandfather and great, great grandfather to become president of NZ Herefords.

Barnett and wife Lyn own the Kaitoa Hereford Stud, which traces its origins back to the importation of a cow called Amethyst in 1882.

It is a cow family that still remains a linch pin of the stud more than 130 years later, along with the Kaitoa Lady, Princess and Leonora cow families. . .

Bobby calf welfare: everyone has a role to play:

As the dairy industry’s spring calving kicks off, the Bobby Calf Action Group (BCAG) is reminding everyone who handles calves of the important role they have to play.

“The rubber hits the road now, it’s up to everyone across the supply chain to meet the required standards of care for bobby calves this season,” says Ministry for Primary Industries Deputy Director General, Scott Gallacher.

Eight organisations make up the BCAG which was formed at the end of 2015 to accelerate and add to existing measures aimed at ensuring everyone involved with bobby calves applies best practice in their handling and care. . . 

Dairy farms that survive the current downturn will be leaner, more agile and resilient – Rees Logan:

Two difficult seasons of below-average dairy payouts, and a third being forecast, have delivered a big wake-up to the dairy farming industry.

The average payout for the current and last two seasons is approximately $4.55 (including dividend) against DairyNZ’s estimated average breakeven payout required by farmers of $5.25. This means three seasons where most farmers have had to take on additional debt just to survive.

Dairy farmers have been forced to take a ruthless approach to expenditure and to switch their focus from production to profitability in a bid to cut debt. . . 

Irrigation 101 to upskill professionals:

A beginner’s guide to irrigation will be offered in Hawke’s Bay next month for professionals who need to better understand the sector to help their dealings with farmers.

The Irrigation Fundamentals course is a two day workshop offered by IrrigationNZ to introduce non-farmers to the principles of irrigation management. The course, particularly targeted at frontline staff of organisations and businesses that provide services to the irrigation industry, will take place in Hastings on 3rd and 4th August.

Rural advisors, environmental consultants and regional council staff are among those who have attended the course so far in the South Island. . . 

NZ venison prices rise amid tight supply as farmers rebuild herds -By Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand meat processors are having to pay more to secure supply of local venison to service their overseas contracts as farmers retain their breeding hinds to rebuild herds.

Spot prices for a 60-kilogram AP stag have hit $7.85/kg, up from $6.60/kg this time last year and the highest level for this time of year since 2011, according to AgriHQ. Venison production dropped 36 percent in May from the year earlier month, and is down 23 percent in the processing season so far, from Oct.1 through May 31, according to AgriHQ. . . 

Bright fisheries future:

New Zealand fisheries are in good heart, with great potential for the future, Seafood New Zealand Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst said today.

He was speaking at the Marine Societies of New Zealand and Australia conference at Victoria University of Wellington, which has attracted more than 350 marine scientists from both countries.

Pankhurst says the outlook for the New Zealand seafood industry is bright.
“We are not going to run out of fish.”

“We have a seafood sector that is in good heart. Our stocks are sustainable – it’s not just the fishing industry saying that, the science supports it, and the world wants what we produce – and aquaculture is expanding.” . . 

NZ King Salmon reviewing capital options as IPO rumoured – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand King Salmon Investments says it’s reviewing its capital options to support the development of three new farms in the Marlborough Sounds after Australian media reported the company was looking at an initial public offering.

The Nelson-based salmon farmer and processor hired Credit Suisse and First NZ Capital to test investor interest in Australia and New Zealand for a dual-listing on both sides of the Tasman, valuing the company at $200 million, the Australian Financial Review’s Street Talk column reported. . . 

NZ Yarn Appoints New CEO:

Colin McKenzie has been appointed as the new CEO for Christchurch based NZ Yarn Ltd, effective Monday, 4 July.

NZ Yarn manufactures and markets high quality wool spun yarns for the carpet industry worldwide.

McKenzie was most recently CEO and Managing Director of Cavalier Corporation. He has extensive experience in the textile and manufacturing sectors, and for companies servicing local and export markets.

NZ Yarn is 100% New Zealand owned by Carrfields Primary Wool and several independent investors, who bought it from receivers in 2014. . . 

Global Uncertainity Affects Wool Market:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s C.E.O, Mr John Dawson reports that the ongoing fallout from the Brexit result, continued minimal activity from China and a strong New Zealand dollar have compounded to make significant inroads into local wool values.

The weighted currency indicator compared to last sale lifted 0.66 percent, however against the GBP the New Zealand dollar strengthened a further 4.4 percent making a shift of over 13 percent since the Brexit announcement. Market sentiment is bearish as many clients take a cautious approach during this unsettled period. . . 


Dairy industry left with costs for 1080 blackmail threat

March 24, 2016

The man found guilty of threatening to add 1080 to infant milk formula has been jailed for eight and a half years.

. . .Jeremy Hamish Kerr (60) previously admitted two counts of blackmail and the High Court at Auckland this morning heard the cost of the crime to the country was more than $37 million. . . 

By March 2015, police had 36 full-time staff on the case, resulting in a $5 million bill for the taxpayer. . .

Fonterra managing director of people, culture and safety Maury Leyland said the company lost more than $20m because of the threats and subsequent response. . .

And the Ministry of Primary Industries’ deputy director-general regulation and assurance Scott Gallacher discussed the “significant impact” on the country’s entire economy.

The ministry’s bill came to $4.2m as a result of Kerr’s actions.

“It was one of the most challenging responses MPI . . . had ever staged,” Mr Gallacher said.  

“Complex interactions and negotiations were required on international and domestic fronts.”

Had those negotiations not been successful, it could have seen a $7.5 billion reduction in GDP in the 2015 calendar year, he said. . .

LOSS TO THE COUNTRY

Fonterra – $20m+
Other dairy companies – $47,000 – $1.9m
Federated Farmers – $100,000+
Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises – $1.7m
MPI – $4.2m
Police – $5m
TOTAL = $37m+

Most of those costs have been and gone.

The cost of added safety checks and on-going security at all milk processing plants is continuing.

The only good thing about this whole saga is that New Zealand’s reputation for producing safe food has been strengthened.

 

 


Rural round-up

March 11, 2016

Speech to MPI Internal Science Conference – Dr William Rolleston:

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for providing me the opportunity to address you today.

In my view you couldn’t have chosen a more important topic as your theme for today.

“Our Science” represents the essence of what you do for the primary industry. Remember you are the Ministry for Primary Industries.

This name was not chosen lightly and it indicates not only where your purpose lies but also the strength that New Zealand has. That strength is biology – we are good at medicine and we are good at agriculture.

Biology depends on science. Our health depends on science, our environment depends on science and our economy depends on science. . . 

Federated Farmers welcomes cut in Official Cash Rate:

Federated Farmers has welcomed the Reserve Bank’s decision to cut the Official Cash Rate by 25 basis points to 2.25 percent.

“It’s now up to the banks to pass this cut on to mortgage holders, and we urge them to do so on behalf of all New Zealand farmers,” Dr Rolleston said. . . 

New requirements for the sale of raw milk to consumers come into force:

New requirements about the sale of raw (unpasteurised) milk to consumers have now come into force.

The requirements follow an extensive consultation and review process and strike a balance between managing the risks to public health while recognising that there is a strong demand for raw milk from both rural and urban consumers, says the Ministry for Primary Industries Deputy-Director Regulation and Assurance, Scott Gallacher.

The new requirements recognise that raw drinking milk is a high risk food, carrying an increased risk of food poisoning relative to pasteurised milk. . . 

New wood products partnership launched:

The formal launch today of the Specialty Wood Products Research Partnership, marks a new chapter for the forestry sector in New Zealand, Associate Primary Industries Minister, Jo Goodhew says.

“I welcome the launch of this new partnership, and the ground-breaking research that will be undertaken. Forestry is a key export earner for New Zealand that is worth around $5 billion annually, and employs nearly 20,000 people” Mrs Goodhew says.

The research project, entitled “New Regional Value Chains for Specialty Wood Products Matching Species, Site, Processing, Product and Market”, is part of a seven year partnership between central government and industry. It aims to investigate the development of new wood products from specialty species. . .

Wool Stays Steady:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s C.E.O, Mr John Dawson reports that the South Island offering of 7,800 bales saw good competition with 88 percent selling.

The weighted currency indicator came down 0.98 percent compared to the last sale on 3rd March, however the US dollar was practically unchanged with the NZ Dollar softening against the Euro, Stirling and Australian currencies.

Mr Dawson advises that Fine Crossbred Fleece and Shears were generally firm to slightly dearer. . . 


Rural round-up

March 8, 2016

Embrace change Ballance CEO says – Sally Rae:

Agriculture has to ‘‘sell itself to New Zealand”.

That is the strong belief of Ballance Agri-Nutrients chief executive Mark Wynne, who cited a generation of people with no rural connections.

The sector – which was the foundation of New Zealand’s wealth – had to keep promoting its good stories, he said. . . 

$2m fertiliser plant opens near Timaru – Sally Rae:

More than $2million has been invested at Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ Washdyke site with the official opening of a specialist PhaSedN fertiliser manufacturing plant.

Timaru Mayor Damon Odey and Ballance chief executive Mark Wynne attended the opening, along with local farmers.

The plant was developed in partnership with Te Poi Manufacturing Ltd. It was expected to initially produce about 10,000 tonnes annually with capacity to build production as demand grew. . .

Landcorp to scale back Wairakei dairy conversion – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Landcorp Farming, the state-owned farmer, confirmed it will scale back the conversion of former forestry land to dairy farming on leased land at the Wairakei Estate north of Taupo following a slump in milk prices and concern about the environmental impact.

New Zealand’s largest corporate farmer “will significantly reduce dairy’s footprint from the original plans and instead include alternative uses for the 14,500 hectares of former forestry land it leases from Wairakei Pastoral,” the Wellington-based company said in a statement.

Landcorp has a 40-year lease to develop and farm the former forestry land, and since 2004 has developed 13 dairy farms with 17,000 cows over 6,400 hectares of the property. A new land-use model will see the eventual number of dairy farms and cows on the Wairakei Estate significantly reduced from the 39 originally planned, it said today. . . 

Industry group well advanced on bobby calf initiatives:

The eight organisations that formed a Bobby Calf Action Group at the end of 2015 are well advanced on a range of initiatives ensuring best practice handling and management of bobby calves.

The group is DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Meat Industry Association, Federated Farmers, New Zealand Petfood Manufacturers Association, Road Transport Forum, New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Scott Gallacher, MPI Deputy Director General Regulation and Assurance, said a number of the initiatives being worked on were new, other initiatives were already underway but were being accelerated. . . 

Seeka commits to a new HQ and major infrastructure development to handle growing kiwifruit processing demand:

Seeka Kiwifruit Industries (NZX-SEK) will move into its new headquarters in Te Puke by the middle of this year and plans to make it a centre of excellence for its produce and grower-focused business, says Chief Executive Michael Franks.

“Our new HQ will reflect our focus on the crops we and our growers produce, and the harvest and post-harvest value chain,” said Mr Franks.

The move is part of this year’s planned capital expenditure of $20 million to develop new infrastructure to handle increasing kiwifruit volumes. . . 

Manawatu Dairy Awards Winners Look for New Opportunities:

The 2016 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards big winner, Stephen Shailer, is on the hunt for a new dairy farm position and hopes his win will help his progress.

Mr Shailer won the 2016 Manawatu Share Farmer of the Year title and $10,450 in prizes at the region’s awards dinner held at Awapuni Racecourse last night. The other major winners were Renae Flett, the 2016 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year, and Karl Wood, the 2016 Manawatu Dairy Trainee of the Year.

“We entered the awards for the first time this year as we are hoping to move to a 50:50 sharemilking position or lease farm, so we entered in an effort to make our CV stand out a bit more,” Mr Shailer says. “We also wanted to push ourselves to identify our own strong and weak points.” . . .


1080 protesters threaten infant formula

March 10, 2015

An email to suppliers from Fonterra chair John Wilson tells us that police  are investigating a criminal threat to contaminate infant and other formula in an apparent protest over the use of 1080 poison in pest control.

  • The Police say that even though there is a possibility that the threat is not genuine, they are treating it seriously and have a full investigation underway.
  • The threat is not specific to Fonterra or our brands.
  • It is a criminal threat designed to cause fear to generate a political outcome.
  • We can assure customers and consumers that our own testing programmes confirm our products are secure and free of 1080.
  • We are confident the right testing and security measures are in place to protect the quality and safety of our products.

We fully support the action being taken by the NZ Police and Government.

The Ministry for Primary Industry gives the background:

Fonterra and Federated Farmers received anonymous letters in late 2014. These letters were accompanied by packages of powder, which tested positive for 1080. Police were alerted immediately.

The letters contained a threat to release infant and other formula contaminated with 1080 to consumers. This contamination was to occur unless New Zealand stopped using 1080 for pest control by late March. The person or people making this threat say they intend to run an international media campaign to publicise their threat and pressure the government to stop using 1080. . .

The  media release says:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is working closely with Police to respond to a criminal threat to contaminate infant and other formula in an apparent protest over the use of 1080 in pest control.

MPI Deputy Director-General Scott Gallacher says the Government’s first priority is protecting the health and wellbeing of consumers.

“We are confident that New Zealand infant and other formula is just as safe today as it was before this threat was made. People should keep using it as they always have,” Mr Gallacher said.

“People should feel equally confident about using imported infant formula which has to meet New Zealand’s strict food safety requirements and is equally secure in the retail chain.

“The ability for anybody to deliberately contaminate infant and other formula during manufacturing is extremely low. Regardless, we encourage people to be vigilant when buying infant and other formula. Our advice is always to check packaging for signs of tampering. We are reinforcing that advice as a result of this blackmail threat.

“New Zealand’s food safety model is among the best in the world. New Zealand manufacturers maintain high levels of security as a normal routine. Security and vigilance has been significantly increased since this threat was received.”

Since the threat was made, the Ministry for Primary Industries – with the support of multiple government agencies, manufacturers and retailers – has put additional measures in place to further protect infant formula products, including:

  • strengthened security measures in retail stores
  • enhanced milk and milk product testing, including a new 1080 testing programme
  • increased vigilance by all relevant players in the supply chain
  • extra physical security at manufacturing premises
  • an audit programme to confirm dairy processing facilities continue to maintain the highest level of security and vigilance.

“The combined MPI and industry testing programmes confirm there is no 1080 in infant and other formula. We have tested just over 40,000 raw milk and product samples and we have had no 1080 detections,” he says.

“This criminal threat is designed to cause fear in order to generate a political outcome. It is using food as a vehicle but should not undermine confidence in our world-class food safety system or in any manufacturer.

“This type of threat does occur from time to time internationally.  We are fortunate that this is the first such threat in New Zealand, and that New Zealand has one of the world’s strongest and most secure food safety systems,” he says.

People with any relevant information should contact Police immediately on 0800 723 665 or opconcord@police.govt.nz. Information can also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 11.

Visit www.foodprotection.govt.nz for more advice on how to check packaging for signs of tampering, and for information about government’s response to the threat.

This could be a hoax but Fonterra, MPI and the police are taking it very seriously as they should.

However, some markets whose politicians and media aren’t as open as ours might not understand that it is a potential threat.

Ministers for Primary Industries Nathan Guy, Food Safety Jo Goodhew and Trade Tim Groser recognise this and are doing their best to allay concerns trading partners might have:

The Government is taking a criminal threat to contaminate food products very seriously, and is reassuring parents that our infant and other formulas are safe and that extra testing and security measures have been implemented as a further safeguard.

The New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Primary Industries announced today they have been working with a range of agencies to assess and respond to a threat to contaminate infant and other milk formula products in an apparent protest over the use of 1080 pest control.

“We would like to reassure New Zealanders that every step possible has and is being taken to respond to this threat and ensure the ongoing safety of our food products,” says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, Trade Minister Tim Groser, and Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew.

“While the police have advised the risk is low, we are taking this very seriously. Since the threat was received last November, the Police have been actively investigating, while the Ministry of Primary Industries and other government agencies have been working closely with industry players across the supply chain to insure that all New Zealanders can have the upmost confidence in these products,” says Mr Guy.

“Every resource has been made available and we have treated this as a top priority. Ministers have taken expert advice on how to respond to a threat of this type and made considered decisions.

“The Government’s first priority is the safety of our food for consumers, both here and overseas. We are highly confident our products are safe and new increased dairy product testing gives even greater assurance.

“It’s hugely disappointing that someone would try to damage New Zealand’s strong reputation for top quality products and processes.”

Mr Groser says New Zealand officials have informed authorities in our major markets about this criminal threat and our measures in response.

Mrs Goodhew says New Zealand has a world class food safety system which has been further reinforced by recent improvements.

“We now have a comprehensive new 1080 testing regime for dairy products that gives us a high degree of confidence. MPI has also analysed the supply chain in detail and worked with manufacturers to put in place additional security measures,” she says.

“This new testing is on top of our normal thorough testing, auditing and verification system. It is extremely unlikely that anybody could deliberately contaminate formula during manufacturing, and there is no evidence of this ever having occurred.

“In addition, we have worked with retailers to address any risk to food products at the retail end of the chain.

“The advice to consumers is not to consume any food product that appears to be have been tampered with, and report it to the Ministry for Primary Industries immediately.

“Any signs of tampering are easy to spot. Detailed information on how to check products and further information is available at www.foodprotection.govt.nz.”

If parents or caregivers have any concerns they can contact Plunketline 0800 933 922 or Healthline 0800 611 116.  


Rural round-up

December 19, 2014

New tool to test sheep meat quality:

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

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

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

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

Farmer contracts not taxing water-take:

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

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

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

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

Ngai Tahu launches farming diploma:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new standard for labelling of export infant formula:

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

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

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

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

New labelling standard for infant formula:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Rural round-up

September 11, 2013

More Oamaru meat exports stopped – Andrew Ashton:

Products from a second Oamaru meat plant are being prevented from entering China.

Ministry for Primary Industries acting director-general Scott Gallacher yesterday told the Otago Daily Times the ministry had on August 10 suspended Lean Meats Ltd’s certification to export to China – just two days after 240 seasonal workers at the Alliance Group’s Pukeuri plant were suspended in the wake of that site’s loss of certification in July.

”MPI suspended certification to China from Lean Meats Ltd because it did not comply with labelling requirements in some cartons. . .

Food fight – Offsetting Behaviour:

Oh, Manitoba. Just when you start looking sane, you go back to your old wacky ways.

Recall that Manitoba is the province where you can’t sell a potato without, well, hassles.*

Now, read this one and weep. Since I was a kid in Manitoba, the government made much fuss about agricultural diversification, wanting farmers to move to more processing and oddball thin-market crops.

The Cavers at Harborside Farms are a great example of how this can be done well. They raise Berkshire hogs outside of Pilot Mound, a small town a couple hours southwest of Winnipeg. They started curing hams following old Italian recipes. Bartley Kives reports: . . .

Achieving research and commercial goals:

Any farm with several stock classes presents its challenges but as Peter Burke reports, research farm managers have a whole new level of complexity to deal with.

MASSEY UNIVERSITY runs two sheep and beef farms, two dairy units, a deer farm and a horticultural unit. It has 2000ha dedicated to teaching and research, mostly close to the Palmerston North campus, the exception being the 725ha Riverside sheep and beef unit in Wairarapa.

All the farms, bar 200ha, come under the control of a group within Massey called Agricultural Services, including the sheep and beef farm Tuapaka. Acquired by Massey in 1938, Tuapaka’s perhaps best known for Professor Sir Geoffrey Peren’s research there, developing the Perendale sheep which was officially registered as a breed in 1960. . .

Moumahaki Experimental Farm. A Controversial Start to Agricultural Extension in New Zealand – Pasture to Profit:

I’ve discovered Moumahaki Experimental Farm est.(1892) in South Taranaki, New Zealand. 
 
A fascinating story of how Research & Demonstration Farms started in New Zealand. It’s what happens when you are left alone and get lost in a book shop! A weekend discovery gem!

This is part of my history. 

I’ve worked as an Agricultural Scientist in Extension and Dairy Farm Consultancy with farmers in NZ, Australia, Taiwan, UK, Ireland and France visiting research and demonstration farms, all my working life. 
 
For 33 years the Experimental Farm at Moumahaki was a jewel in the crown of the farming industry. Today we debate the merits, funding and roles of these farms just as they did in the 1890s. . .

Love and loss on the land – Jillaroo Jess:

Everybody knows that as rewarding as life on the land is, you have to deal with death more often than folks in the city. Whether a dog gets trampled while working cattle, or a horse breaks a leg, there is always a chance something will go wrong.

It is a year ago this month that I lost two of the most loved animals I’ve ever had – both in the same week. Even after a year it is still hard to write about them, let alone talk about them in person. Although I am usually trying to put a funny twist on my adventures, I thought I’d share this story – mainly cause they were so beautiful I just want to share their photos! . .

Plague of drunk wasps hit UK – Radically Rural:

While a “plague” of “jobless, drunk” wasps might seem like a metaphor that could go a couple different ways, it’s actually a warning experts are saying those in the U.K. need to take literally.

The wasps are done with their usual task at this point in the season and are now getting “drunk” on fermenting fruit, potentially becoming more aggressive. (Image: Shutterstock.com)
The British Red Cross issued a warning last week advising those sitting out in the sun prepare themselves, as the insects’ work is now done and they’re sitting around sucking on fermented fruit, becoming more aggressive. . .

The Race to the $1m Karaka Million is On:

The build-up to New Zealand’s richest race – the $1 million Karaka Million – is officially underway following the first two-year-old race of the season at Wanganui on Saturday.

The $12,500 94.4 The Sound 800 for two-year-olds was taken out by the $20,000 Select Sale graduate Kschessinska (Volksraad) for trainer Leo Molloy, with the filly taking the early lead on the Order of Entry with $7,810 collected from Saturday’s win.

With a start in the million dollar event determined by prizemoney won, a spot in the 2013 Karaka Million field only took a minimum of $3,750 so Kschessinska has already taken a big step towards competing for the $1 million purse in the final 14-horse field. . .

A Series of Stunning Successes for Coopers Creek:

Coopers Creek continues to lead with their Select Vineyard range, this time with Top Wine results in Cuisine magazine’s last three issues, a Trophy and three Gold Medals from the Bragato Wine Awards and a Double Gold in The Six Nations Wine Challenge.

Coopers Creek wines have had an amazing winter to say the least. In May this year, the Select Vineyard (SV) Hawkes Bay Viognier 2011 securing a Top Wine and Best Buy award in Cuisine magazine. The July Cuisine magazine then named The Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010 as its Top Wine in the New Zealand Syrah tasting. Most recently, in Cuisine’s September issue, the SV 2011 Hawkes Bay Malbec was named as New Zealand’s Best Specialty Red. . .


Fonterra scare false alarm

August 28, 2013

The Ministry for Primary Industries says 195 tests here and in the USA have shown the Fonterra botulism scare was a false alarm.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has received results confirming that the bacteria found in the whey protein concentrate (WPC) manufactured by Fonterra is not Clostridium botulinum. The organism is confirmed as Clostridium sporogenes. It is therefore not capable of producing botulism causing toxins.

There are no known food safety issues associated with Clostridium sporogenes, although at elevated levels certain strains may be associated with food spoilage.

“When MPI received information from Fonterra on 2 August that it had detected Clostridium botulinum in some of its products, I immediately adopted a precautionary approach to protect consumers both here and overseas,” acting director-general Scott Gallacher said today.

“We needed to act on what we knew at that time. The information we had then said there was a food safety risk to consumers and we moved quickly to address it.”

At the same time, MPI commissioned a further array of tests to validate the initial results Fonterra reported. A total of 195 tests using a range of technologies have been conducted in laboratories here and in the USA. Results from the most definitive of these tests arrived over night, and were assessed with appropriate technical advice on hand today.

“We sought additional testing at both local and international laboratories, seeking the most robust results we could get. Scientists used a range of methods – all came back negative for Clostridium botulinum,” said Mr. Gallacher.

“MPI has today informed overseas regulators of these results, and we will be providing them with a full diagnostic report shortly. I will also be revoking my Director-General’s statement, issued under the Food and Animal Products Acts, about this issue.”

A failure of hygiene during processing remains a concern for customers incorporating WPC into their products. However, the concern primarily relates to quality and the potential for spoilage when used in foods that support growth of Clostridium sporogenes from spores.

The scare was a false alarm but it was a wake up call to not just Fonterra but everyone who depends on our reputation for high quality, safe food.

We can not afford to be complacent.

If we want to trade on our reputation we must ensure that it is matched by the highest possible standards in what we do and how we do it.


MPI mulls interim measures for dairy

August 22, 2013

The Ministry for Primary Industries is exploring interim measures to strengthen consumer assurances around New Zealand’s dairy production.

“Our dairy sector trades on New Zealand’s reputation, and that reputation is built on the strong assurances our regulatory system provides, and the quality of New Zealand’s products,” MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher said.

“The reality is the convergence of events over the last six months has sparked debate about some elements of our food system. We need to respond to that.”

“Ministers have established an inquiry process that will yield long term recommendations for how our food safety system in relation to dairy can be further improved. In the meantime, MPI is considering interim measures.”

MPI will:

  • Lift the regulatory presence in manufacturing premises;
  • Lift the level of and nature of testing across dairy production to improve the identification of non-compliance issues;
  • Run tracing simulations to test the capability of the industry to rapidly track and trace product through their supply chains;
  • Increase reviews of the risk management plans dairy producers have for manufacturing facilities.

“At the same time, MPI is also increasing the level of analysis it routinely undertakes of regulatory non-compliance across the dairy sector. We will be looking for trends that will help us identify whether there are any further interim measures that may be required,” Mr Gallacher said.

“In any food system, there are issues that arise from time to time. New Zealand’s food system is no different. Our testing regimes are thorough and robust when compared with the world’s leading dairy producing nations. And when issues do arise, we deal with them promptly and openly with our trading partners.  If there is a food safety risk, we notify the public, and from time-to-time we also notify about broader non-compliance issues, such as the nitrate issue.

“Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement. I am confident these interim measures will help to reinforce consumer trust and confidence in our dairy products,” Mr Gallacher said.

There’s been four issues in just over two weeks.

The first was Fonterra’s precautionary recall of products containing whey protein concentrate. That was followed by Sri Lanka’s blacklisting milk powder over claims it had high levels of DCD.

Next came the news of  high levels of nitrate in a shipment of Westland Milk’s lactoferin and then yesterday Fonterra revealed another hiccup after the quarantine over nitrate levels in May .

The increase in the price of milk in yesterday’s GlobalDairyTrade auction indicates that none of these incidents has caused serious harm but there is absolutely no room for complacency.

If we’re too keep our reputation for high quality, safe food then everything possible must be done to minimise the risk of the human or mechanical errors and to ensure any issues with non-compliance are picked up well before they enter the food chain.


MPI revokes export certificates for 4 Westland dairy consignments

August 19, 2013

The Ministry of Primary Industries has revoked export certificates for four consignments of lactoferrin manufactured by Westland Milk Products following the detection of levels of nitrate that exceed the New Zealand standard.

 Lactoferrin is a naturally occurring protein found in milk. The consignments were derived from two affected batches of lactoferrin manufactured by Westland at its Hokitika factory. One batch was exported directly to China as an ingredient for other dairy products by Westland, and the second batch was supplied to Tatua Co-operative Dairy Company, and also exported to China.

MPI has been advised by Westland, Tatua and their customers, that a small proportion of the lactoferrin was used in consumer products. Almost all of these products are now confirmed as detained in the supply chain. There was no affected lactoferrin used in products in New Zealand.

“MPI’s technical experts have looked closely at this issue and believe any food safety risk to Chinese consumers is negligible because the quantities of lactoferrin used in consumer products was very small, meaning the nitrate levels in those products would easily be within acceptable levels”, MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher said.

“MPI, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the companies concerned are working closely with the Chinese authorities on this issue,” MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher said.

“MPI has sent a team to the Hokitika factory to confirm how this problem arose, and verify the problem is limited to just the two batches identified. It appears to be so, at this time.”

“The consignments exported to China were accompanied by official export certificates stating that the product complies with New Zealand and China’s regulatory requirements.  This was based on testing of composited batches undertaken at the time of manufacturing, which showed no issue. We now know that is not the case and certification has been withdrawn,” Mr Gallacher said.

This isn’t good timing, coming so soon after the precautionary recall of some products which used Fonterra’s  whey protein concentrate.

But it’s important to keep it in perspective.

The affected product has been identified, almost all of it has been contained and there is no food safety issue.

But it will add to perceptions that our quality standards aren’t as high as we boast and put another dent in our reputation for food safety.


Fonterra inquiry needs teeth

August 13, 2013

The government is dusting off a bill that has been languishing on Parliament’s order paper for four years in order to give the inquiry into the debacle over Fonterra’s whey protein concentrate more teeth:

It will rush the Inquiries Bill through its remaining stages within the next three weeks and is considering using urgency to pass it.

The problem ministers face is that current law gives them two options – a commission of inquiry which would take at least a year and a ministerial inquiry which doesn’t have the power to subpoena witnesses and obtain documents.

The bill allows a third type of inquiry to be held, called a Government inquiry, which is effectively a ministerial inquiry with teeth. . .

A toothless inquiry would do more harm than good.

The inquiry also needs to be both fast and thorough.

Prime Minister John Key wants an inquiry that can quickly find out why Fonterra’s whey protein was contaminated and how the company handled the crisis.

He clearly believes it should have the power to compel witnesses to appear and to seize documents if that’s needed. . .

Fonterra is doing its own investigation and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has begun a compliance investigation into the debacle.

“I have said a number of times since MPI was first notified on Friday August 2 of this issue, that we have a number of questions about it, including when relevant parties were informed, and when they should have been informed,” MPI acting Director-General Scott Gallacher said.

“This compliance investigation will determine whether regulatory requirements under the Food Act and the Animal Products Act were met by all parties involved, or whether any parties may have committed any breaches or offences.

“The investigation will include decisions made by all parties and their response, including during production of the whey protein concentrate, and from when anomalies in testing initially arose. It will be led by MPI’s Director of Compliance, and will involve upwards of 20 people,” Mr Gallacher said.

“MPI will continue to provide operational updates on other matters relating to the potential contamination of whey protein concentrate, but it cannot comment any further on the compliance investigation until it is completed. It is likely to take three to six months,” Mr Gallacher said.

Maximum penalties for breaching regulations under the Food and Animal Products Acts range from $100,000 to $500,000, and/or up to 12 months imprisonment, depending on the nature of the offence.

MPI will also undertake a formal debrief process on its own response to the incident, to identify any lessons learned.

This isn’t just Fonterra’s problem.

It has impacted on other exporters and threatens to tarnish the country’s reputation for high quality, safe food.

We need to find out what happened and how it happened.

We also need to find out what needs to change to prevent it happening again and how any future food safety issues can be handled much better.


Why did it take so long?

August 4, 2013

The Ministry of Primary Industries is advising people to avoid Nutricia Karicare follow on formula products from 6 months.

The Ministry for Primary Industries today announced the details of one product in New Zealand potentially containing contaminated whey protein from Fonterra’s Hautapu manufacturing facility.

“Since we were informed by Fonterra yesterday afternoon that three batches of concentrated whey protein contain Clostridium botulinum, MPI has been working intensively to identify what, if any, products on the New Zealand market may be contaminated,” Acting Director General Scott Gallacher said.

“The batches of whey product have been on sold and mixed with other ingredients to form 870 tonnes of consumer products sold in a variety of markets. I am now publishing a statement under the Animal Products Act 1999 and Food Act 1981 identifying the following products in New Zealand:

  • Nutricia Karicare follow-on formula products for children from 6 months old.

“MPI has been advised that in the case of the Nutricia Karicare, five batches of follow-on formula were manufactured using the contaminated whey protein,” Mr Gallacher said.

“Nutricia has advised that three of those batches are in a warehouse in Auckland, one is on a ship, and the other is in storage in Australia. Nutricia has advised it has locked down those batches, and they will not be sold on the market.

“MPI is still in the process of verifying this information, and today sent a team to Nutricia’s Auckland warehouses” Mr Gallacher said.

“Until this process is completed, I advise parents and caregivers with infants consuming Nutricia Karicare follow on formula products from 6 months, to use infant formula for children aged 0-6 months, ready-made formulas or alternative brands.”

Mr Gallacher said the government had last night advised regulatory authorities in markets where affected product had gone.

“MPI and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are continuing to work with overseas regulators to provide information as it becomes available. Clearly, a number of markets are very concerned about this situation.”

MPI Acting Director General, Scott Gallacher, says he’s been informed that no batches of formula which may contain the contaminated whey are in New Zealand retail stores. MPI is still verifying where the batches are and he is taking a cautionary approach.

That is sensible.

The government is being similarly cautious.

Trade Minister Tim Groser has today confirmed New Zealand is working closely with our trading partners to keep them informed of the potential contamination of some products, including follow-on infant formula, made from whey protein concentrate contaminated with the bacteria that causes botulism.

 “As soon as New Zealand authorities were notified of this risk, we immediately acted to inform relevant authorities around the world,” says Mr Groser.

 “This has included formally notifying Infosan, the World Health Organisation’s international food safety regulators network. As more information on this issue is confirmed we will provide our trading partners with further updates.

 “We understand that the markets to which contaminated whey protein concentrate, or products using this ingredient, has been exported are Australia, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Viet Nam.

 “New Zealand authorities are working with Fonterra to identify and trace all potentially affected products and then inform regulators around the world,” says Mr Groser.

Fonterra says none of its branded products are affected.

That will be reassuring to people who use these products but of no comfort to companies which use ingredients which might have been contaminated, or to the people who consume products using these ingredients.

. . . The whey protein is used to make a range of products, including infant formula and sports drinks.

A dirty pipe at Fonterra’s Hautapu plant has been blamed for the contamination.

The dirty pipe suggests a failure of process which has now been addressed.

But I’m still left with a question – why did it take so long to act on the risk?

Fonterra’s first media release and an email to shareholders said,  the affected batches were produced in May last year and the potential issue was identified in March this year,.

Shouldn’t there have been some action before now?

Even though there are hundreds of different strains of Clostridium, the majority of which are harmless, wouldn’t recalling such a small amount of product as a precaution have been better than waiting until the contamination was confirmed?


MPI accepts blame for China meat muddle

August 2, 2013

The Ministry of Primary Industries has accepted the blame for the muddle which left New Zealand meat stuck on the wharves in China.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will develop an MPI China strategy, and invest in more staff and more training to strengthen relationships between MPI and key Chinese regulators, acting Director-General Scott Gallacher said today.

His comments follow the release of a review of MPI’s handling of changes to export certification to China, which left significant quantities of New Zealand meat delayed at the Chinese border.

“The review clearly shows MPI made mistakes when changing the templates used for certifying meat exports to China. These mistakes resulted in delayed acceptance of these exports,” Mr Gallacher said.

“The mistakes were compounded by a failure to appropriately escalate an emerging issue internally, or to Ministers, once delays to exports began. The review identifies a series of learnings for MPI, which we are immediately acting on.”

Mr Gallacher said it was clear MPI needed to lift its game with China.

“Trade with China has tripled in the past five years.  It is a market growing in size and importance to New Zealand. It is also a market we are still getting to know.  The review makes it clear we need an improved approach to how MPI works with China, and we are committed to achieving that.

“We are also focussed on improving our internal resourcing, culture, systems and processes to prevent mistakes like those identified by the review recurring in future, and when things do go wrong, to ensure the smooth flow of information to the right levels, and integrated ‘whole of organisation’ and ‘whole of government’ responses to them.”

Following the review, MPI is implementing 25 management actions, which will be completed by July 2014. These include:

  • Developing an MPI China strategy, investing in more staff and more training to strengthen relationships and understanding between MPI and key Chinese regulators
  • Renewing efforts to double the resourcing for MPI’s market access team in Wellington from 8 to 16
  • Developing a new issues management system in partnership with the meat industry
  • Improving processes for the identification and management of risks to trade issues, and the escalation of emerging risks internally and to Ministers.

“MPI handles more than 120,000 export certificates each year to more than 100 countries. We are absolutely determined not to make the same mistakes twice. Our trade system is too important,” Mr Gallacher said.

The delays were serious. Around $100m worth of meat was stuck at the Chinese border as a result of MPI’s mistakes.

The Ministry accepts it was to blame but it’s learned from it’s mistakes and doing everything to ensure it will get it right in future.

The full report is here.


Rural round-up

July 2, 2013

Dairying drives region’s growth – Neil Ratley:

The agricultural industry ensured Southland was one of New Zealand’s fastest-growing regions during the global financial crisis, new figures show.

Statistics New Zealand this week released the first official measure of regional economies, analysing 15 regions between 2007 and 2010.

Although the figures are three years old, Venture Southland enterprise services manager Alistair Adam said agriculture and manufacturing remain the two biggest drivers of Southland’s economy.

The conversion to dairy has strengthened the agricultural industry while the global financial crisis impacted on the manufacturing industry, he said.

“In the past 18 months, it has been a difficult time for manufacturing but we are seeing some good growth in the industry in Southland,” Mr Adams said. . .

Feed an issue as cows lose condition – Tony Benny:

Saturated paddocks are making it difficult for Canterbury dairy farmers to feed their stock and cow condition is suffering as a result.

“The amount of feed wasted over the last 10 days to two weeks has just been phenomenal,” said South Canterbury sharemilker Ben Januay. “We’re probably only getting 50 per cent utilisation and we’ve lost two weeks of putting condition on cows so we’re now right behind the eight-ball.”

Januay milks 2200 cows on a farm near Rangitata but the herd is being wintered on a runoff at Waihao Forks, near Waimate. “We’re the same as every farmer I think in the region – flooded paddocks, flooded rivers and mud up to your waist. Every farmer I talk to says they’re just struggling to get into paddocks to feed stock.” . . .

Acting Director-General of Ministry for Primary Industries announced:

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie has today announced the appointment of Scott Gallacher as Acting Director-General and Chief Executive of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Mr Gallacher is currently MPI’s Deputy Director-General Resource Management and Programmes. He will take up the position from 29 July 2013 when the current Director-General, Wayne McNee, leaves MPI to take up a role in the private sector.

Mr Gallacher joined the Ministry of Fisheries in January 2009 as Chief Legal Adviser. He moved to become Director Strategy, Planning and Governance in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in early 2011 before taking up his current role in MPI in late 2011. . .

New chair for dairy industry awards:

SOUTH AUCKLAND sharemilker Gavin Roden is the new chair of the Dairy Industry Awards organisation.

Roden has been on the executive committee since 2011 and takes over from Southland farmer Matthew Richards who’s chaired the awards for the usual three year term.

“It’s business as usual for the awards this year,” Roden told Rural News. “The focus is the 25th anniversary of the Sharemilker competition.” . . .

Trophy treasured – Sally Rae:

When Outram stock agent and farmer Geoff Edgar won the Doug Lindsay Memorial Trophy in the annual Otago-Southland beef competition, he admitted it gave him ”a bit of a kick”.

Mr Edgar described the late Taieri cattleman as a ”grand old gentleman”. He had learnt a lot from him.

Mr Edgar received the trophy for winning champion on the hoof with a Limousin steer, which was described as having tremendous quality and finish. He also won reserve champion on the hoof with another Limousin steer. . .

Future of farming – robo hamster balls:

The hamster ball. Great for exercising hamsters, bringing stress levels down in humans and, according to Spanish scientists, the future of farming.

The Robotics and Cybernetics Research Group from the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid have devised a robot that can effectively check moisture levels of farm soil.

Watch the robo ball in action below . . .


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