Rural round-up

March 25, 2020

Farmers urged to continue producing food:

New Zealand farmers are being urged to carry on producing food while respecting coronavirus guidelines issued by the Government.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says farming is classified as an essential service, so is milk and meat processing.

Lewis says that meat and dairy companies will continue to operate as the country moves into the highest level of alert for coronavirus from midnight Wednesday. . . 

Coronavirus: Farmers’ mental health important says Katie Milne -:

Farmers may be used to isolation but they still need to take care of their mental health says Federated Farmers president Katie Milne.

As efforts to slow the Covid-19 outbreak escalate in New Zealand, people are being asked to stay home and keep their distance from others, while social gatherings and events have been also cancelled.

As a result, farmers may find themselves cut off from everyday rural events that afford them much-needed social interaction, such as rugby games and catch ups at the pub. . . 

Friendly solution to farm water issues – Richard Davison:

A farmer-led catchment monitoring group wants to expand its activities following a successful first year.

In 2014, the Pathway for the Pomahaka water quality improvement project was launched in West Otago, which led to the establishment of the Pomahaka Water Care Group.

Last February, the award-winning group launched the latest phase of its action plan, in the shape of a ‘‘Best Practice Team’’ of 12 volunteers, set up to provide ‘‘self-policing’’ of water quality compliance among the catchment’s about 600 farms.

Team co-ordinator Bryce McKenzie — who farms 700 cows on 320ha adjoining the Pomahaka River — said the concept had worked well during its inaugural year. . . 

Westland Milk unveils Covid-19 strategy:

Westland Milk Products says Covid-19 is causing “minimal disruption” to its supply chains, with the company working to meet rising demand from China.

The second-largest dairy enterprise in New Zealand says domestic demand for its product range is also remaining consistent.

To keep up with demand in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company this morning announced that it is issuing measures to keep staff well and the factory running. . . 

Research reveals fodder beet value – Annette Scott:

New research into fodder beet shows portion control is critical to ensure safe feeding to dairy cows.

Fodder beet is widely used on South Island dairy farms as a versatile, high-energy, high-yield crop that allows cows to put on body condition quickly, if transitioned correctly. 

“This makes it an attractive option for farmers but because of the high sugar content careful transitioning onto the crop is critical,” DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley said.

The Sustainable Use of Fodder Beet research project confirms the crop can be a key part of dairy farm systems. . . 

 

Butchers run off their feet – and it’s not expected to ease – Shan Goodwin:

As butchers report they are now mincing higher value cuts like rump to keep up with astronomical demand, marketing experts and psychologists suggest empty red meat supermarket shelves are likely to be around for months.

It’s not that Australia will run out of beef. Export and food service orders are already being diverted to retail cabinets.

Rather, the unfolding dynamics of consumer behaviour amid the virus crisis indicates the inclination to fill freezers won’t fade. . . 


Rural round-up

December 21, 2019

 Australian farmers receive sick letters telling them to ‘use a bullet on themselves – Karen Ruiz:

Farmers across NSW have become the targets of abusive letters urging them to ‘use a bullet’ on themselves if they ‘can’t handle’ the drought. 

Several residents in Dubbo, Walgett and Peak Hill in the state’s western region reported receiving the disturbing notes last month, police said.  

One of the letters, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, had been typed in a large font on white paper and is believed to have been hand delivered.   . . 

Profit shortfall from regenerative grazing spelt out – Shan Goodwin:

ANALYSIS has shown running a livestock operation under regenerative agriculture principles over a period of ten years sets profit back to the tune of $2.46m.

The work by prominent farm business consultants Holmes Sackett found farms not classified as RA systems generated operating returns of 4.22 per cent, compared to those who were classified RA returning only 1.66pc.

Holmes Sackett director John Francis said the analysis was not a criticism of the philosophy of RA but an analysis of the financial performance of these systems relative to other farm management practices. .

Farmers’ tips for staying well :

How do other farmers look after themselves and their teams? Check out the advice below, including some great ideas from Farmstrong.

Farmstrong’s top tips

Farmstrong is a nationwide, rural wellbeing initiative that helps farmers and their families cope with the ups and downs of farming. Here are some of its suggestions for keeping well.

    • Stay connected – Surround yourself with a network of people you can reach out to. It can be as simple as having a conversation in the pub or over the fence.
    • Keep active – Biking, walking, hunting, team sport – whatever appeals. It keeps you ‘farm fit’, boosts your mood and gets you off-farm.
    • Enjoy the small stuff – When you’re working, take a moment to stop and enjoy the view or the nature. Not a bad office, is it?
    • Eat well – Make sure you have enough fuel in the tank to keep your energy levels up.
    • Look after yourself, look after your team – People are the most important part of the dairy sector. . .

Sheep milk more easily digested than cow milk – study:

Sheep milk’s protein is more readily digested and its fats are more readily converted into energy compared to cow milk, a New Zealand study has shown. The milk’s unique composition could make it a good option for the very young and the elderly, sports nutrition, and people who are looking for alternatives to cow’s milk, researchers say.

Anecdotally, evidence from consumers already suggests that sheep milk may be better tolerated than cow milk by some people.

This is believed to be the first human study in the world to investigate how differences in the composition of New Zealand sheep milk affect ease of digestion, digestive comfort, and the body’s ability to make use of milk protein. . . 

Fonterra to streamline Chilean operations:

Fonterra has purchased the minority interest in Prolesur, held by Fundación Isabel Aninat (the Fundación), as the Co-op looks to streamline its operations in Chile.

The Fundación has sold its 13.6% shareholding for $29.3 million NZD, which takes Fonterra’s ownership of Prolesur from 86.2% to 99.9%.

Prolesur is a milk processor in southern Chile which sells most of its production to Soprole. Soprole is a leading consumer branded dairy company in Chile and is 99.9% owned by Fonterra. . . 

Strong start to dairy export season:

Dairy led the rise in goods exports in November 2019 as milk powder exports reached $1.1 billion, Stats NZ said today.

This is the highest value of milk powder exports for a November month since dairy exports peaked in 2013.

The value of dairy exports (milk powder, butter, and cheese) increased $348 million in November 2019. Dairy was the main contributor to total goods exports reaching $5.2 billion, up $371 million from the same month last year. . . 

Big effort to deliver sustainable premium for NZ food:

Much has been made about New Zealand’s status as “100% Pure” and how much, or how little, needs to be done to keep that claim valid.

While that debate rumbles on, the primary sector has been doing much to deliver on Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s promise to the United Nations in September 2019 that New Zealand will be “the most sustainable food producing country in the world.”

As overseas consumers have become increasingly sophisticated and demand to know where their food has been sourced from, all parts of the New Zealand primary sector have been working to ensure the “paddock to plate” story is more than just a story.  . . 


Rural round-up

October 8, 2019

Green Rush: Foreign forestry companies NZ’s biggest landowners – Kate Newton & Guyon Espiner:

The four largest private landowners in New Zealand are all foreign-owned forestry companies, an RNZ investigation has found.

Despite a clampdown on some overseas investment, including a ban on residential sales to offshore buyers, the Labour-led government has actively encouraged further foreign purchases of land for forestry through a stream-lined ‘special forestry test’.

Since the government was formed, the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has approved more than $2.3 billion of forestry-related land sales – about 31,000 hectares of it previously in New Zealand hands.

Of that, about half has been sold via a streamlined ‘special forestry test’ introduced by the government last October. . . 

Have your say on water – David Burger:

DairyNZ is working flat tack on assessing the Government’s proposed Essential Freshwater Package.

It is of huge significance to farmers and some of the specific proposals are causing concern, particularly at a time when there is so much to do on-farm. 

The time frames for consultation are extremely short, especially given the amount of change being proposed, the complexity of the issues and the sheer volume of material to understand.

Since it was released DairyNZ’s water quality scientists, policy experts and economists have been working through the details to understand their implications on the environment, dairy farming families and our communities.  . .

Farmers’ riparian planting pays for West Otago pool’s new roof – Jo McCarroll:

A few years ago Lloyd McCall, then chair of the Pomahaka Water Care Group, was thinking about the riparian planting needed along the region’s farms’ roughly 4000km of waterway.

“So I worked out how many plants we’d need and it was lots,” he says.

At the same time, McCall was on the committee fundraising to put a new roof on the West Otago Swimming Pool. . .

Successful wintering starts with planning in spring :

Careful planning in spring is an important part of successful wintering and it starts with choosing the right paddocks to grow winter crops in, DairyNZ South Island head Tony Finch says.

”Choosing your paddocks is a crucial part of planning for winter,” Mr Finch said.

”Critical source areas, waterways, shelter, water troughs and being prepared for prolonged weather events all need to be taken into account when selecting a paddock.”

Critical source areas are low-lying parts of a farm, such as gullies and swales, where water flows after rain events. . .

Geraldine High School student named Aorangi TeenAg Member of the Year:

A stroke of luck seven years ago has put a Geraldine student on a path to becoming an arable agronomist.

Ben Chambers, 17, is about to embark on his final set of exams at Geraldine High School.

The Year 13 student has been secretary of the school’s thriving TeenAg club for the past two years. . .

How feeding cattle contributes to national security – Shan Goodwin:

FORGET endless data sets and science-back evidence, the path to communicating with anti-meat campaigners is in changing our own mindset and being able to communicate our ‘why’ in an engaging manner.

So says Colonel Sam Barringer, a veterinarian by trade who spent 30 years in the US Air Force and US Army, during which time he was deployed to 25 different countries and earnt numerous medals and awards for exemplary performance in combat.

Col Barringer today provides technical assistance to Diamond V ruminant teams and plays a key role in the company’s food safety initiatives. He also has extensive knowledge in human behavioural science. . .

 


Rural round-up

January 30, 2019

Tourist demands leave rural practices without a GP for hours – Tess Brunton:

The pressure of having to look after an influx of tourists is leaving some rural doctor’s practices without a GP for hours on end. 

In an emergency, doctors have to abandon the patients at their practices to go out to help. 

They are worried that will happen more often as tourist numbers increase – and they will not have any extra support. . . 

High deer prices sustainable – Neal Wallace:

High and stable venison and velvet prices have been reflected in strong demand for stags with a top price of $155,000 paid for a velvet-trophy animal sold by Crowley Deer from Hamilton.

It was not alone in achieving phenomenal prices.

The Stevens family from Netherdale stud in Southland sold a velvet stag for $90,000, another Southland stud, the Elder family’s Altrive stud, got $75,000 for a velveting stag, Brock Deer from Gore sold a velvet stag for $70,000 and Tower Farms, Cambridge, made $65,000 for a velvet-trophy stag. . .

Cannabis firm soared to new highs – Luke Chivers:

An East Coast company will be the first to import stronger cannabis under new biosecurity laws.

Hikurangi Cannabis in Ruatoria has been granted permission to cultivate 16 new varieties of cannabis – including some of the first high-THC strains to be legally imported – for medicinal use.

The new cultivars include five varieties with high levels of THC, the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis. . .

Pace of change keeps getting quicker – Allan Barber:

Perhaps it’s my advancing age, but it seems as though the changes facing agriculture demand ever faster reactions and responses to stay ahead or even just to keep pace with a whole series of challenges: public expectation, government regulation, consumer tastes, changing climate patterns, and new technologies as well as the usual ones like finances, human resources and health pressures, both physical and mental.

In this age of apparently unlimited opportunity to access advice and assistance, whether from consultants, bankers, accountants, lawyers, IT experts, processors or industry bodies, there’s almost too much choice. The main challenge is choosing between products, services and advice which cover the range from the merely desirable or useful to the downright essential. . .

Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award nominations open in February:

Nominations to a national award that recognises dairy farmers who demonstrate leadership in their approach to sustainable dairying and who are ambassadors for the industry open February 1st.

The Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award was introduced last year by the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards to recognise those dairy farmers who are respected by their farming peers and their community for their attitude and role in sustainable dairying. Entry for this award is by nomination only via dairyindustryawards.co.nz . .

Is the vegan health halo fading? – Shan Goodwin:

VEGANISM’S health halo appears to be dissipating with the spread of nutritional advice that highly-processed packaged offerings are little more than junk food and as everyday consumers push back against overzealous campaigning.

Big United Kingdom movement Veganuary, which urges people to ditch animal products for the month of January, has backfired for the anti-meat army, many marketers and nutritional experts believe.

Health writers have used the event to take a close look at the nutritional values of a vegan diet and have come up with headings like “Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy” and “Vegans take more sickies.” . .


Rural round-up

November 25, 2018

Love of cattle leads to stud – Fritha Tagg :

Determined 14-year-old Waikato girl Tayla Hansen who is putting her stamp on the Speckle Park beef breed is quite possibly once of the youngest stud owners in the land.

Hansen, who lives with her mum Brenda, dad Andrew and siblings Cooper, 12, Alexis, 9, and Mitchell, 7, on a small lifestyle block at Orini near Huntly is the proud owner of Limited Edition Speckle Park stud.

As a young girl attending a country school she always had a calf for calf club but had to give them back to the farmer. She wanted a calf of her own that she could keep.  . . 

Science and complexity a great challenge – Barbara Gilham:

Creating the perfect cow for New Zealand herds is at the heart of LIC’s work. Barbara Gilham reports.

THERE are three things Wayne McNee looks for in a job – complexity, challenges and science.

As the chief executive of Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) he is in charge of overseeing the nation’s herds and their reproductive performance so deals with all three daily.

Add to that about 700 staff throughout New Zealand, increasing to 2500 during the peak dairy breeding season and LIC’s offices in Britain, Ireland, Australia and the United States and agents in South America and South Africa and he has plenty to keep him occupied. . . 

Meet DairyNZ’s biosecurity team:

Diversity and reach come to mind when talking about DairyNZ’s biosecurity team, as each member comes from a different background and works with many others from DairyNZ and beyond. We put our biosecurity senior adviser Dave Hodges under the spotlight.

What does your team do and why?

There are four people in our team: Liz Shackleton started as biosecurity manager last month, based in Wellington, while Nita Harding and I are in Hamilton, and Katherine DeWitt is in Invercargill.

We work across science, policy and farmer engagement, focusing on insect pests, weeds and diseases and preventing new organisms getting into New Zealand. We talk directly with farmers and work with (and are supported by) DairyNZ staff across the business, plus others in the sector and elsewhere. . . 

Large scale mānuka investment a first for New Zealand:

Comvita has partnered with rural investment company MyFarm to offer New Zealanders the opportunity to own mānuka plantations for honey production.

MyFarm chief executive Andrew Watters said the collaboration was the first large scale mānuka investment of its kind in New Zealand and signalled a new era for North Island hill country profitability for specific locations.

“This partnership and investment opportunity ticks all the boxes. It will increase export returns from high value mānuka honey and generate excellent returns for investors. From an environmental perspective, we are storing carbon, reducing soil sediment loss and improving biodiversity. We don’t foresee a more green investment than this.” . . 

Achieving target weights in hoggets:

Veterinarians and farmers working together to improve stock performance must emphasise two aspects of hogget growth, say the authors of a guidebook published by Massey University Press.

These are, firstly, regular recording of bodyweight from weaning to first mating; and secondly, the monitoring of animal health and feed requirements.

Guessing the thrift and weight of ewe lambs and hoggets is not reliable; many a farmer who claims to have a ‘good eye’ for stock has been astonished when confronted with ‘hard data’ of weighed sheep. . . 

Red meat’s structure “a burning platform” – Shan Goodwin:

THE possibility the way the red meat industry is set up and run could be driving division between sectors of the supply chain is what has fuelled a review of the document that governs it, the Memorandum of Understanding.

In a rare and comprehensive insight into what is behind the forming of a high calibre taskforce to pick through the structure and operations of the industry, the man at the helm of industry umbrella body the Red Meat Advisory Council has spoken candidly about how resources and investment levels are perhaps being constrained.

Don Mackay says it is supply chains that produce food for customers, not farmers or processors operating in isolation. . . 


Rural round-up

September 27, 2018

Pasture pests costing economy billions:

Pests most commonly targeting New Zealand’s pastures are costing the economy up to $2.3 billion a year, an AgResearch study has found.

The study is the first of its kind to estimate the financial impact of invertebrate pests such as the grass grub, black beetle, nematodes and weevils in terms of lost productivity for pastoral farming.

The full science paper has been published this week in the New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research and can be found here: . .

Alliance meat company paid too much for winter export lambs cutting profit – Heather Chalmers:

Meat company Alliance Group says it paid too much for export lamb over winter, which has hit its profit. 

Alliance chief executive David Surveyor said that in lamb markets there had been a “fundamental disconnect” between the laws of supply and demand.

“For the last three months lamb prices overseas have been flat, but domestically the export lamb price to farmers has gone up by $20 a head to procure animals.

In the last few weeks Alliance has cut the price it pays for lamb “as it was not sensible to continue at this level of pricing”, Surveyor said. . .

Westland Milk Products final payout for 2017-18

Westland Milk Products has reported a final milk payout of $6.12 per kilo of milk solids (kgMS), less a five cent retention, delivering a net average result for Shareholders of $6.07 per kgMS.

Chairman Pete Morrison noted that a substantial number of Shareholders received an additional premium on the net result of 4.4cents per kgMS for providing UHT winter milk and colostrum, giving them a net average payout of $6.11. . .

Fonterra: ‘lots to do to get basics right’ – Simon Hartley:

China poses several challenges for Fonterra and a2Milk, and both organisations face the likelihood of short term volatility in sales and earnings.

Fonterra’s woes stem from its poor full year result and rising milk prices pressuring profit margins, but it also has to make a decision on its much criticised 18.8% stake in Chinese infant milk formula company Beingmate, which it bought for $755million in 2015.

And a2 Milk could face some short term volatility with recent changes to Chinese law impacting on the thousands of informal ”daigou” traders selling on numerous e-commerce and social media platforms in China. . .

Apple industry welcome release of seized plant material:

New Zealand Apples & Pears Incorporated (NZAPI), the industry’s representative association, has welcomed the Ministry for Primary Industries announcement that 20,000 apple plants have been cleared for release from all restrictions imposed following their seizure after being imported from a US testing facility.

An MPI audit of the facility in March had found that there were incomplete or inaccurate records associated with this material, which raised the prospect of a biosecurity risk. . .

Minister Sage forced to postpone her tahr hunt

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has been forced to postpone the mass tahr cull she ordered to start this weekend because of huge pressure from recreational hunting and tourism industry, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“Ms Sage personally ordered the culling of tens of thousands of tahr without adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters who would be directly affected

Prospects good for anglers – Jono Edwards:

Anglers are waiting with bated breath for a healthy southern fishing season.

Otago Fish and Game officer Cliff Halford said yesterday most fisheries in the region were in ”good condition” for the opening of the season on Monday.

”Certainly, weather conditions play a part in how opening day will pan out and it looks like we will get some clear skies.”

While snow expected this week could impact water clarity, so far there were not expected to be any ”major rain events” between now and opening day. . .

More farmers turn to DNA parentage testing to improve productivity:

Farmer owned co-operative LIC has seen an increase in demand for its DNA parentage testing service as livestock farmers place increasing emphasis on cow quality over cow quantity.

This spring, upwards of 250,000 calves from around the country will have their parentage confirmed by LIC’s DNA parentage service which operates from its laboratory in Hamilton. . .

Hancock’s tech transformation has animals, staff in mind – Shan Goodwin:

THE technology transformation and infrastructure rollout taking place across the 34 cattle properties now in the Hancock Agriculture portfolio is as much about leading the way in animal and worker well being as it is about delivering efficiencies.

From the day of acquisition of each station, Hancock’s Gina Rinehart has expected an allowance be set aside for animal welfare investments.

So far that investment is running in the millions. . .

NFU joins forces with food supply chain to tackle food waste:

The NFU is today announcing its support for the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and is encouraging its members to play their part in tackling food waste in the supply chain.

The initiative, run by the charities Wrap and IGD, aims to have 50% of the UK’s largest 250 food businesses measuring, reporting and acting on food waste by 2019. It is working towards milestones to help halve UK food waste by 2030.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “This is an incredibly important initiative by Wrap and IGD, and the NFU is very pleased to be able to support it. Farmers are the first step in the supply chain, producing the raw ingredients that make up the safe, traceable and affordable domestic food supply that helps to feed the nation. . .


Rural round-up

August 22, 2018

Co-op directors getting harder to find: Farmlands chairman – Andrea Fox:

Attracting directors for cooperatives is getting harder the fewer there are and the bigger they get, says Farmlands chairman Lachie Johnstone as the $2 billion revenue rural services business kicks off director elections.

Three seats are up for election as two long-serving directors step down and a third, Silver Fern Farms chairman and Clutha farmer Rob Hewett by rotation seeks another term.

Leaving the top table this year are Marlborough-based Joe Ferraby, who has been a director more than 20 years, including his time on farm services company CRT which merged with Farmlands in 2013, and Bay of Plenty dairy farmer and orchardist David Jensen. . .

 

Wool protein could boost digestive health – Esther Taunton:

Work to find new uses for wool has revealed the fibre could have digestive health benefits.

AgResearch scientists have found adding wool proteins to the diets of domestic cats improved their digestive health and could potentially do the same for people. 

“There is a lot of work going on to discover new uses of wool to support the sheep industry in New Zealand,” said Jolon Dyer, AgResearch’s science group leader for food and bio-based products.

“The research is telling us that sheep wool has many useful attributes and one of those now appears to be proteins derived from the wool that could be used as a dietary supplement to improve digestion and nutrition, and therefore overall health.”    . . .

Finding a better way to achieve our sustainability goals on farm:

Charlotte Rutherford, Fonterra’s General Manager of Sustainable Dairying is always looking for new ways to support the Co-op’s farmers in achieving their sustainability goals.

This month, Fonterra marks the one-year anniversary of TIAKI – our sustainable dairying programme that helps farmers make their operations more environmentally compliant. In doing so we will also celebrate more than 1,000 Fonterra farmers who now have a tailored improvement plan to help address environmental risks on-farm. Achieving this wasn’t easy and while a significant amount of progress was made pre-Tiaki it often felt like we were trying push a rock uphill. We knew there had to be a better way. . .

eShepherd creates a virtual fence – Nicola Bell:

FARMERS across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK will soon be using world-first virtual fencing technology.

The eShepherd technology by ­agritech start-up Agersens allows a farmer to create a virtual fence and remotely monitor, muster and move cattle, using a smart phone, tablet or computer.

Just like a traditional fence, a virtual fence is used to control the location of livestock and has huge potential for beef and dairy herds. . . 

Anti-meat message hurting poor countries – Shan Goodwin:

THE push to eat less meat in developed countries is posing threats to efforts to improve livestock production efficiency in poor countries, where there is no choice but to under-consume animal foods.

This message emerged from discussions among global livestock specialists at the Crawford Fund annual conference in Canberra this week around the need to reshape agriculture to address the increasingly competing needs of the hungry and the over-nourished and the finite resources of the environment.

Anti-livestock rhetoric missed some big points about the vital role of livestock in poorer countries, according to Dr Anna Okello, associate research program manager of livestock systems at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. . . 

Third of farmed fruit and veg deemed to ugly to sell:

More than a third of farmed fruit and vegetables never reaches supermarket shelves because it is misshapen or the wrong size, according to new research.

A University of Edinburgh study found more than 50 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables grown across Europe were discarded each year.

This was in part because they did not meet consumers’ expectations of how they should look.

The study was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. . .


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