Rural round-up

August 5, 2019

Beef’s bad rap based on poor science: prof – Brent Melville:

Beef has been getting a bad rap – blamed for everything from increased cancer to greenhouse gas emissions by environmental and commercial influencers.

Prof Frederic Leroy, Professor of Food Science and biotechnology at Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, said meat had effectively become a scapegoat for commercial and environmental advocates, much of which was based on bad science.

Speaking at the red meat sector conference this week in Christchurch, Prof Leroy said the industry as a whole had a responsibility to change the narrative.

“The anti-meat lobby has gained traction in Europe and elsewhere over the past few years. Its led to calls for a sin tax on meat or even meat eaters being banned from restaurants, by high level policy-makers.”

Prof Leroy said one of the major issues is that advocates had linked a reduction in CO2 gas emissions directly to meat intake. . . 

Keeping it simple – Luke Chivers:

Farmers have been worshipping at the altar of productivity for too long.

“More production doesn’t necessarily mean more profit,” 35-year-old Ben Riley says. 

“It’s more about keeping your costs low.”

Ben and wife Renee milk 110 cows on their 38 hectare farm at Rockville in Golden Bay.

The farm is System 2 and they are adamant a small farm doesn’t have to mean less value so focus on profitability rather than production.

They focus on maintaining a grass-based system and looking after pastures, particularly through winter and spring to sustain quality. . . .

From the ground up – Maureen Howard:

We’ll need to feed extra billions by mid century while being kinder to the land and reducing planet-heating carbon emissions to zero. The challenge has prompted some to call for a great food transition.  Maureen Howard talks to a farmer playing his part.

“It’s like cottage cheese, but black,” says Peter Barrett of the soil that lies beneath Linnburn Station, his 9300ha beef and sheep station at Paerau in Central Otago.

Above ground, depending on the time of year, sheep may be spotted grazing beneath the gaze of yellow sunflowers, surrounded by a mix of up to 30 other plant species.

Not just a pretty postcard, Linnburn Station is home to 25,000 winter stock units. In fact, this is farming close the limits. Much of the terrain is exposed rocky high country and for the past two years, the already low mean annual rainfall has declined to just 170mm. Temperatures fluctuate from below zero to 40degC. . . .

 

Regional wrap:

Winter’s been tracking quite dry in Northland so working outside has been pleasant. Kumara growers are starting to put their Kumara beds in  – the grower we spoke to will spend the next six weeks putting in seven kilometres of small tunnel houses – about a metre wide and half a metre high. He says you have to grow a crop to grow a crop. Seed kumara will be planted by hand and spend a couple of months in the houses growing and sprouting before being planted out in the paddocks.

Pukekohe has had changeable weather with some showers from passing cold fronts. Vegetables are in heavy supply because of near perfect winter growing conditions and extensive plantings. That’s excellent for consumers but growers are losing money. . . 

Big names join forces to connect farmers and consumers :

Better connecting farmers and the food and fibre they produce with consumers is the aim of a new communications campaign led by the National Farmers’ Federation.

“Aussies continue to support farmers through tough times such as drought and floods,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.

“And, more and more they would like to learn more about modern agriculture, and how and why we grow what we do. In general, the community is interested in the story behind their beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs, milk, wool, cotton and more.” . . 

Dismantling free markets won’t solve biodiversity threat – Matt Ridley:

Driven perhaps by envy at the attention that climate change is getting, and ambition to set up a great new intergovernmental body that can fly scientists to mega-conferences, biologists have gone into overdrive on the subject of biodiversity this week.

They are right that there is a lot wrong with the world’s wildlife, that we can do much more to conserve, enhance and recover it, but much of the coverage in the media, and many of the pronouncements of Sir Bob Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), are frankly weird.

The threat to biodiversity is not new, not necessarily accelerating, mostly not caused by economic growth or prosperity, nor by climate change, and won’t be reversed by retreating into organic self-sufficiency. Here’s a few gentle correctives. . . 


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