Rural round-up

December 7, 2017

LEGO farmer helps educate about agriculture – Joely Mitchell:

A small Lego farmer has taken the internet by storm, garnering over 13,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

He’s the brainchild of 27 year-old Aimee Snowden, who is passionate about Lego, photography, and agriculture.

Ms Snowden started Little Brick Pastoral in late 2014, as a way to educate a broad range of people about farming by sharing photos of her Lego farmer on-farm. . .

Little Brick Pastoral’s website is here.

Hawke’s Bay winegrowing future uncertain in face of water order – Victoria White:

Although Hawke’s Bay’s wine industry “can live with” some form of water conservation order (WCO) on the upper Ngaruroro River, it may not survive in future if this extends to the lower part.

This is what the special tribunal considering the WCO application was told yesterday, when the hearing reconvened after a week’s break.

The Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association opened the day, represented by legal counsel James Gardner Hopkins and deputy chairman Xan Harding. . . 

Dairy on-farm debt leaves little headroom – Keith Woodford:

The latest statistic for on-farm dairy debt held by banks was $40.9 billion at October 2017. This equates to $22 per kg milksolids.

Despite the major upturn in dairy prices of more than 50 percent that occurred between July and December 2016, and with those improved prices then holding through much of 2017, there were lags for the increase to flow through into farm incomes. Debt therefore continued to climb through to July 2017 reaching $41.2 billion. It then declined by $285 million in the four months through to October 2017. Looking back ten years, the dairy debt remains more than double the 2007 figure of $18.8 billion.

The recent decline in debt is surely a positive sign, but in the greater scheme of things the recent decline is modest. Key questions remain as to the long term financial stability of the dairy industry. . . 

Andrew MacPherson elected to Westland Milk Products Board:

Westland Milk Products shareholders confirmed farm owner, company director and former dairy veterinarian Andrew MacPherson as their newest director at the co-operative’s annual general meeting today (Wednesday 6 December).

MacPherson (BVSc, MBA (Dist), FNZIM) has worked in a range of senior executive roles including as CEO. He has extensive experience across a range of agri-sector businesses as governor, senior manager, business owner and farm owner.

He currently lives in Te Awamutu but is part of an equity partnership, Sewell Peak Farm Ltd, a 365ha dairy property milking 920 cows northeast of Greymouth on the West Coast. . .

Honey producers abuzz overr promisingg harvest – Adriana Weber:

A bumper honey harvest is on the cards for beekeepers around the country, according to Apiculture New Zealand.

The industry body said it was early days, but this year’s honey production season was shaping up to be one of the best in years.

The season runs from October to February and the recent warm weather has helped boost production.

Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos said it was a complete turnaround from last year’s poor season. . .

Bronze woolly wether park feature – Sean Nugent:

New Zealand’s greatest sheep will be immortalised in his own Shrek-themed park in Tarras village set to open in March next year.

A new bronze Shrek statue will be the fore figure of the 1ha park, on land beside the Tarras Village car park.

A 50m to 60m path will wind its way up to the statue, lined with native plants from the Bendigo landscape the world famous sheep once called home, as well as storyboards detailing his story and others from the Tarras area. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 2, 2015

Chinese deal vital, SFF says – Sally Rae:

Silver Fern Farms could be facing insolvency if shareholders do not approve a 50:50 joint venture with Chinese company Shanghai Maling.

Voting has opened on the proposal before a meeting of shareholders at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on October 16.

Shanghai Maling, a subsidiary of state owned food giant Bright Food Group, is proposing to take a 50% stake in Silver Fern Farms, in return for an investment of $261million. . . 

Hold off on Silver Fern vote, farmers urged –  Sally Rae:

Farmers are being urged to hold off voting on the Silver Fern Farms joint venture deal with Shanghai Maling, with hints that ”concrete” alternatives will emerge.

Voting is under way and closes at 10.30am on October 14, before a special meeting in Dunedin on October 16, where two resolutions will be voted on.

As well as the Shanghai Maling proposal, the meeting will also consider the shareholder resolution, promoted by Heriot farmer Allan Richardson and John Cochrane, from Clinton, seeking full analysis of the benefits and risks of a merger with Alliance Group. That resolution was not supported by Silver Fern Farms’ board. . . 

Bright lets sparks fly – Alan Williams:

Bright Dairy group is an excellent strategic investor in Synlait Milk, the latter’s chairman Graeme Milne says.

“It’s more than just money they bring.

“They’ve got the knowledge and capability to help us make good decisions.”

Shanghai Maling, the proposed new investor for Silver Fern Farms, is part of the wider Bright Dairy-Bright Foods group. . . 

Super-drone sprayer comes with risks -Robin Martin:

The first unmanned helicopter certified to spray chemicals in New Zealand could ultimately save back-country farmers thousands of dollars but it comes with a hefty price tag – and a safety warning. 

The Yamaha RMAX is a beast by drone standards, powered by a 260cc engine and weighing in at close to 100 kilograms.

Yamaha business development manager Geoff Lamb and his team put the chopper through its paces for a gathering of curious farmers, spraying contractors and radio-controlled aircraft enthusiasts at a Lepperton farm in Taranaki this week. . . 

Fonterra boss offers $4m salary freeze:

The chief executive of Fonterra has asked for his multi-million dollar salary to be frozen this year as the co-operative goes through major cost cuts and slashes hundreds of jobs.

Theo Spierings requested the freeze on his base salary on the same day Fonterra announced it was slashing hundreds more jobs as part of a business shake-up, taking total layoffs to 750.

That came just days before the company released its annual result.

A spokesman said Mr Spierings went to a meeting of Fonterra’s people, culture and safety committee on 21 September and requested that his base salary of about $4 million for the 2015/16 year be frozen. . . 

Nutrient loss under the spotlight:

New Zealand’s shift from a pasture-based model to high feed-input dairy farms will come under the microscope in a joint research project involving Ballance Agri-Nutrients, AgResearch, DairyNZ and Tatua, in partnership with the Government’s Sustainable Farming Fund initiative.

The two year project, led by AgResearch’s Dr Stewart Ledgard, will use case study farms varying in intensity of feed use to examine effects of their system changes over the last decade on emissions, production and profit as well as testing options for improving their sustainability.

“Locally there is strong interest in understanding implications for water quality of dairy intensification through increased use of supplementary feeds and how effects can be minimised, while internationally there is a desire for food products to be produced with efficient use of resources and reduced wider environmental impacts”, says Dr Stewart Ledgard. . . 

Aussies nab heaviest fleece record:

Well it’s official New Zealand has been fleeced by the Australians ..who now hold the world record for the heaviest fleece shorn off a merino.

The Australians were quick to yell they had found a wild merino near Canberra in early September with a fleece which weighed in at 40 kilograms.

Otago’s ‘Shrek the sheep’ held the record up until last year when another wild merino – dubbed Big Ben – was found in the Mackenzie Country with a fleece weighing 28.9 kgs. . . 

Steady wool market:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s C.E.O, Mr John Dawson reports that the more restricted wool type offering in the North Island sale of 6,165 bales saw a 97 percent clearance and a generally steady market.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies firmed 1.66 percent compared to the last sale on 24th September only impacting on the finer end of the offering.

Mr Dawson advises that the stronger New Zealand dollar and limited interest in the Fine Crossbred longer wools saw prices ease 2 to 4 percent with shorter types better supported with pries 1 to 3.5 percent softer in local terms. . . 


Rural round-up

September 5, 2015

Rumours of Silver Fern Farms China deal – Sally Rae:

Farmers have been urged not to be ”seduced” by short-term gains as rumours swirl that an announcement by Silver Fern Farms of a 50-50 joint venture with a Chinese company is imminent.

Heriot farmer Allan Richardson, who has led a group of shareholders seeking a meeting to discuss a possible merger with Alliance Group, believed foreign ownership of the co-operative was ”just around the corner”.

Mr Richardson expected Silver Fern Farms could make an announcement to farmers within the next week. . .

Stick to your guns Mr Groser – Andrew Hoggard:

When examining the current low dairy payout there are a number of factors that come into play.

One overriding issue is the protected nature of dairy trade throughout the world. For some strange reason, dairy seems to be one of the most protected food commodities.

This high level of protection means there is only a small global market for dairy products that are freely traded and so, if we get even the slightest market shock, you get quite a big price fluctuation whether it’s up or down.

For me, this emphasises how critically important breaking down trade barriers are for New Zealand’s prosperity not only on farm, but for all those regional economies that rely so heavily on agriculture. . . 

Farmers fear return to ‘desert’ conditions:

A farmer in the heart of the North Canterbury drought says a prolonged dry spell brought on by El Niño will put already struggling farmers in dire straits.

Vince Daily, who runs a 160 hectare cropping farm in Cheviot, said the NIWA weather station on his farm showed the soil moisture level was at 30 percent, rather than the normal 100 percent it is at at this time of year.

Mr Daily said any drought caused by El Niño would just be a continuation of the current conditions.

“We could lose 2 or 3 percent moisture a day and in 20 days you could be back to looking like a desert again,” he said. . .

Building a talent pipeline with New Zealand Young Farmers:

Being part of a TeenAg club at high school kept Northland teenager Sam Moscrip in school longer than he had intended, and it has opened him up to many new possibilities in the primary industries.

The TeenAg club format has been developed by New Zealand Young Farmers as a way for younger people to get started with the movement.

Young Farmers are taking a “pipeline” approach, explains NZYF chief executive Terry Copeland, developing a format to suit each age group around the Young Farmers set-up. New Zealand Young Farmers has existed for more than 80 years and is for people aged 16 to 31. . .

Decision time for dairy support farmers – Rick Powdrell:

As the New Zealand dairy industry has expanded rapidly in recent years so too has the dairy support farm.

So what is the dairy downturn going to mean for the dairy support farmer?

This is an important question which needs some serious thought by both sides of the industry.

Already we have seen many dairy animals not go out to the previously arranged winter feed.

Thankfully for those farmers who had grown this feed, the Mainland drought and North Island floods meant there was an alternative option to sell it. . . 

Calf rearing popular again – Tim Fulton:

Rearing calves on weight gain has leapt back into fashion on dairy units around the country.

A beef-cross calf reared to 100kg may have netted a dairy farmer $400-$500 this season, PGG Wrightson general manager of livestock Peter Moore said.

“If you look over the country there’s been a lot more calves reared than in the past,” he said.Farmers were rearing good Friesian bull calves or the male offspring of Angus or Hereford cows mated late in previous seasons. . .

Wool world record: 40kg fleece shorn off overgrown sheep RSPCA says:

Wool shorn off an overgrown sheep found near Canberra on Wednesday has set an “unofficial” world record for the heaviest fleece removed in one shearing, the RSPCA says.

The sheep, dubbed Chris, underwent a risky shearing operation to remove 40.45 kilograms of wool.

It smashed the previous world record held by a sheep in New Zealand called Shrek, whose fleece weighed 27 kilograms. . .

NZ wool trades at record high amid tight supply – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand wool is trading at record high prices, pushed up by strong demand and limited supply, though the outlook is murky.

The price for clean 29-micron wool changed hands at a record $10.45 a kilogram at yesterday’s North Island auction, up from $9.95/kg at the previous North Island auction on Aug. 13, according to AgriHQ. Meanwhile, the price for 27-micron wool jumped to $10.90/kg, up from $10.70/kg at the previous North Island auction and at its highest level since October 2002, AgriHQ said. . . 

Solutions sought for saving summer fruit:

Combating pests and diseases of tree-based crops and summer fruits was the target of the latest MG Marketing ‘Growing You’ workshop held recently at Lincoln.

MG Marketing, a co-operative organization that has over 90 year of successful record of growing, distributing and selling a comprehensive range of fresh vegetables and fruit, in collaboration with Lincoln University, the Biological Husbandry Unit (BHU) and the Bio-protection Research Centre (BPRC) developed workshops for growers and commercial operators from all around New Zealand to advance their scientific knowledge and practical skills.

About 20 of MG Marketing’s top growers from diverse operations such as cherries, feijoa, raspberry, citrus, and tree-based fruits, from across New Zealand travelled to Lincoln for the workshop. . . 


Rural round-up

September 26, 2014

Biofuels vs food production – Keith Woodford:

There is an inevitable tension between using crops for biofuel or for food. In working out the capacity of the world to feed itself in the future, the demand for biofuel is an essential part of the equation.

In the last ten years, the global quantity of biofuels has more than doubled. The big question is where will it go in the next ten years? It is widely agreed that biofuels are a key reason why grain prices have been much higher in this current decade than in the previous decade.

The largest producer of biofuels is the US, where 40 percent of the corn crop is now distilled into ethanol. To put that into perspective, corn is by far the most important crop grown in the US. The US produces four times as much corn as wheat, and it is corn that underpins both the animal feed and much of the human food industries. . .

New Zealand’s dairy opportunities in China – Keith Woodford:

This is the fourth in the ‘China series’ of articles written for the journal  Primary Industry Management by Xiaomeng (Sharon) Lucock and myself. It was published in September 2013.

As with other products to China, the statistics have moved on in the last year but the drivers of change are similar.

In the last year since the Primary Industry Management paper was written,  New Zealand’s total dairy exports to China have increased from $NZ2.9 billion for the 12 months ending 30 June 2013, to NZ6.05 billion for the 12 months ending 30 June 2014. These numbers will almost certainly decline in coming months, not because of a decline in volume, but from the current major downturn in prices. . . .

Passion for dairy drives manager  – Sally Rae:

When it comes to succeeding in the dairy industry, Maigan Jenkins believes passion is needed.

”You’ve got to want to be out there. It’s not a job where you go to work just for the money,” the young Clydevale herd manager said.

Brought up in South Otago, Miss Jenkins (21) had always enjoyed being around animals and wanted to be a vet from a young age. . .

Sculptor aims for essence of Shrek  – Lucy Ibbotson:

Capturing the ”multi-faceted personality” of New Zealand’s most high-profile sheep was a challenge relished by sculptor Minhal Halabi.

Central Otago celebrity wether Shrek, who died three years ago, will soon be immortalised in bronze in his hometown, Tarras, as a $75,000 sculpture by Mr Halabi nears completion.

Shrek’s owner, John Perriam, commissioned the piece, which will be unveiled later this year in the Tarras village. . .

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1409/S00825/comvita-sees-annual-earnings-lift-of-up-to-32.htm

Comvita sees annual earning lift of up to 32 %  – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Comvita, which produces health products derived from manuka honey, sees annual earnings growth of up to 32 percent, while bemoaning a growing imbalance between the first and second halves of the year.

The Te Puke-based company expects net profit of between $9 million and $10 million in the year ending March 31, 2015, up from $7.6 million a year earlier, on revenue of between $140 million and $145 million, up from $115 million, it said in a statement. That will largely come through in the second half of the year, due to uneven sales between the northern and southern hemispheres, and after the honey harvest is collected between January and May next year, which will generate revenue from the beekeeping operations.

 Strong Wool Sale

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s General Manager, Mr John Dawson reports that at today’s South Island Wool Sale prices held firm to slightly dearer across all categories.

The Trade Weighted Indicator continued its recent decline at 0.7269 against 0.7305 last week.

A small Half-bred offering was generally 2.5 to 3.5 percent dearer through all microns 25 to 30. . . .

 


Big Ben beats Shrek

January 29, 2014

Shrek, the merino wether hermit found on Bendigo Station, has held the unofficial title for the heaviest fleece since being shorn in 2004.

But he’s now been beaten by Big Ben:

A merino wether dubbed Big Ben has been shorn of a fleece even heavier than Shrek’s in what is claimed as a world record.

Big Ben was captured with three other renegades on a high country station near Twizel after years escaping musters.

The merinos, estimated to be aged about 7, were clipped at Omahau Hill Station on Saturday night in accordance with Guinness World Records criteria.

Big Ben weighed 71kg before he was relieved of his 28.9kg fleece by New Zealand blade shearing champion and former world champion Tony Dobbs, who said his 25-minute effort was ”certainly not the fastest I have shorn a sheep”.

Shrek’s 27kg fleece had been unofficially regarded as the heaviest in the world.

If confirmed, Big Ben’s record will be the first recognised by Guinness World Records. . .

The fleece will be spun and used to make a baby’s shawl which will be auctioned to raise funds for the Twizel Medical Centre.


Focussing on what doesn’t matter

November 2, 2013

The Labour Party’s constitutional changes have given more say, and power to the members.

It has, they say, made the party more democratic. Although quite how allowing organisations more power than individuals can be described as democratic is debatable.

Regardless of that, members are having more say and unfortunately for the party’s PR machine, that is what is getting the publicity from this weekend’s conference.

Yesterday Stuff published some of the more radical proposals including  one that would force the candidate selection committee to consider a range of factors, including sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, disability and age, to ensure they are “fairly” represented in the party.

. . . But there are a raft of other controversial remits to be debated at the conference that will turn the focus on Labour’s social agenda.

They include a radical change to abortion laws that seems to take doctors out of decision-making and give a pregnant woman “the opportunity and freedom to make the best decision for her own circumstances”. . . 

Other proposals are:

* Maori language made compulsory in state schools and teachers required to be competent in te reo

* Privatised state assets renationalised with compensation based on “proven need”

* The Government’s roads of national significance project dumped and the funds put into public transport

* Teaching of civics and democracy mandatory for all schoolchildren

* Laws to discourage excessive alcohol consumption, a review of the purchasing age, alcohol availability and an increase in the price of booze

* Prisoners again getting the right to vote

* A national sex and sexuality education programme dealing with sexual diseases, contraception methods, consent, sexual orientation and gender identity

 * New Zealand becoming a republic

* An apology for the Foreshore and Seabed Act passed in 2004

* A prohibition on school boards of trustees restricting same-sex partners from attending school balls

* A Pasifika television station

* A Maori language newspaper

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson agrees the apology should be issued:

“I am glad that almost a decade after passing this shameful piece of legislation, which denied access to the courts to people based on race, the Labour Party is ready to discuss an apology,” Mr Finlayson said.

The National government repealed the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2011 with the support of the Māori Party and United Future, and restored the right of Māori to go to court through the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act.

“I would suggest that the Labour leadership also apologise for their the party’s abysmal treatment of Tariana Turia because of her principled stand over the issue,” he said.

“While they are at it, they should apologise for the way Helen Clark called Dr Pita Sharples, a man who has devoted his life to improving Māori educational achievement, a ‘hater and a wrecker’.”

“They should apologise that Ms Clark deliberately snubbed the 35,000 New Zealanders who made a hikoi to Parliament to protest that discriminatory legislation, preferring to pose for a photo opportunity with Shrek the sheep.”

“At the same time, Labour may wish to say sorry for the way Treaty of Waitangi settlements stalled almost completely during their nine years in power – averaging 1.6 settlements per year, and needlessly delaying the resolution of these grievances for the good of the country. Last year, the government signed 15 deeds of settlement with iwi, only one fewer than Labour’s total for nine years in office.”

This has brought out several helpful suggestions in social media about other apologies Labour should make, including one to Shrek, although as he’s dead just now that’s a bit late.

Back to the conference.

What members in any party want isn’t always consistent with the party’s philosophy and principles.

People join parties for a range of reasons among which is the desire to push a particular barrow and the party is just a vehicle for doing that.

The trouble for the party is that some of these barrows are more interesting and newsworthy than what else might be going on at the conference and therefore get attention.

The selection criteria proposal has already been watered down but not sufficiently to wash from voters’ minds the conviction that Labour is still focussed on social engineering.

It also leaves questions about what the party thinks is important and how different that is to what matters to voters.

John Armstrong writes on the conference:

. . . You could be excused thinking this might also be an opportunity for the caucus spokesmen and women in key portfolios to give some indication of their thinking even though they may not have been in those roles for very long.

Instead the conference will devote several hours to wrangling over the wording of a “policy platform” document setting out Labour’s values, vision and priorities which has already been months in the drafting.

The platform is supposed to answer that perennial question: what does Labour stand for.

You can safely bet that 99.9 per cent of all voters will never set eyes upon it, let alone read it.

This is the kind of navel-gazing exercise a party undertakes and completes in the year after an election – not a year out from the next one.

It all reinforces the impression of a party focused inwards rather than outwards.

That is underlined by the series of policy remits which deal with such pressing matters as compulsory Maori language classes in schools, apologising to Maori over the foreshore and seabed farrago, state funding of political parties (a hardy annual) and entrenching the Bill of Rights (whatever difference that would make).

Many of the items amount to wish-list policies produced by the party’s sector groups. The words “out of touch” spring to mind.

While all this navel gazing was going on, the government was getting on with what matters, including announcements on a replacement for the Teachers’ Council and the decision to not allow the damming of the Nevis River.

Even on a matter of moment – state asset sales – Labour seems to be living in the past. One proposal up for debate at yesterday’s workshops would have had a Labour government reviewing the state-owned enterprises model so that it was no longer “pro-capitalist” and enabled “workers’ participation, control and management of industry”.

The “policy proposal” would have also required Labour to “re-nationalise” every state asset privatised by the current National Government, with compensation being paid only to shareholders with “proven need”.

That is a blunt retort to Bill English’s jibe that if Labour opposes asset sales so much, why doesn’t the party commit itself to borrowing the money to buy them back.

Exactly where the line would have drawn on compensation is not clear. But there would be some mighty unhappy investors in Mighty River Power if told they were not going to get their money back. That would amount to theft – and would have seriously dented New Zealand’s credibility as a haven for foreign investment, as well as sending all the wrong messages about saving.

The proposal was voted down by delegates. The question is how it managed to make it onto the conference agenda – and why something better was not put up in its place. Sometimes political parties need protecting from themselves.

Labour’s membership may feel liberated by recent changes in the party’s rules. But more influence brings the need to act more responsibly. At some point, however, Cunliffe is going to have to lurch back to the right. It won’t happen today. But it will happen. Watch for some real fireworks within Labour when it does.

Cunliffe won the leadership on votes from members and unions and he’s been feeding them left-wing rhetoric.

Whether or not he believes what he says is difficult to fathom because he varies his message to suit his audience.

However, the impression that remains is that he and his party are lurching to the left.

That might appeal to some of those who didn’t bother to vote last time. But it will repel some who did vote for the more moderate policies promoted by Labour under Phil Goff and won’t give their votes to support a more radical left agenda.

Gains on the left flank could be lost from the centre and go to the right.

While the party is focussing on what doesn’t matter, voters are worried about what does – the economy, education, health and security.

That’s National’s focus too and it’s making a positive difference to the country as the series of good news stories grows.

Meanwhile #gigatownoamaru is focussed on becoming the Southern Hemisphere’s sharpest town,

 


World’s oldest sheep dies after fall

March 2, 2012

The merino wether Shrek was considered old when he died aged about 16.

But he was just a teenager in comaprison with Tiwggy, a 25 year-old ewe which met an untimely demise after falling over a cliff on the Isle of Lewis.

The blackface ewe – nicknamed Twiggy because of her scrawny appearance – was just a month short of her 26th birthday.

Crofter John Maciver put her longevity down to her still having most of her teeth, allowing her to graze easily, and her ‘independent spirit’. . .

“It is a sad end,’ said Mr Maciver, 51. ‘She was never a big sheep but she produced her last lambs three years ago and even then they were twins!  . . .

. . . The last recognised holder of the world’s oldest sheep title, Lucky, died in Australia in 2009, aged 23.

The Polwarth-Dorchester cross raised by Delrae Westgarth set the Guinness record in 2007 and was a celebrity in her home town of Lake Bolac, near Melbourne.

Guinness World Records said that since Lucky’s death it had been actively looking for a contender for world’s oldest living sheep.

It was understood that Mr Mr Maciver had not applied for the recognition for his ewe. The oldest age recorded for a sheep so far was 28 years and 51 weeks. . .

 Hat Tip: Cactus Kate


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