Rural round-up

07/06/2021

‘More insulting than nothing’ – Govt cash not enough to fix single flood-struck station – Amber Allot:

Farmers in the Canterbury high country are dismissing as “woefully inadequate” a $500,000 fund from the government to restore their stations after they were hammered by rain.

Canterbury was battered by torrential rain on Saturday afternoon, with no reprieve until Monday evening. For some areas, up to half the usual annual rainfall fell in two days.

It has devastated much of the region, leaving huge swathes of land under water, animals dead and properties flooded, forcing many evacuations.

Rail and road infrastructure is also badly damaged, with repairs likely to cost tens of millions of dollars, while the region’s farmers face a huge clean-up bill. . . 

Rabbits not on Government’s radar – Jacqui Dean:

 Last year, $315 million dollars was directed to pest and weed control as part of the Government’s $1.2 billion Jobs for Nature programme. The fact that none of this money has gone towards targeting rabbits leaves me bewildered.

The recent images coming in from Australia of mice in their millions threatening homes and farms across New South Wales has been shocking to many New Zealanders.

But for people across large parts of the South Island, a plague of pests is their reality too, with rabbits running rampant across parts of North Otago, Central Otago and further afield.

Rabbits are an ecological disaster. . . 

Feds survey: Branch closures add to farmers’ bank concerns:

Concern about branch closures can be added to the continued slide in farmers’ satisfaction with their banks, the latest Federated Farmers Banking Survey shows.

More than 1,100 farmers responded to the May survey and 71% of them said they were concerned about bank branch closures. Of those who were concerned, 42% said they needed branches to carry out their business and 56% were worried about the impact of closures on their local communities.

“Provincial towns are under all sorts of pressures, with workforce gaps, farms jobs disappearing as productive land is planted out in pines for carbon credits, competition from on-line sales trends that all traditional retailers face, to name some of the factors,” Federated Farmers President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

“Bank branch closures are just another hit on confidence, making doing business in rural areas that much harder, and another reason for young people to look to cities for their future when agriculture is the main way New Zealand earns its living in the world.” . . 

Farmers flock to see Wiltshire wool-less sheep benefits – Maja Burry:

It is hoped a multi-year study on a research farm near Masterton will give farmers a better understanding of the benefits and costs of shifting to a wool-less flock.

Massey University animal science professor Steve Morris said with the increased costs of shearing and ongoing poor returns for strong wool, many farmers were considering a transition to Wiltshire sheep, which naturally shed their fleece.

Morris said farmers were getting about $2-$2.50 a kilogram for crossbred wool and modelling showed prices needed to double for farmers to break even and cover the costs of shearing.

“We’re a long way off that and shearing costs are going up.” . . 

Plant & Food Research mentoring initiative wins HRNZ Award:

Our in-house mentoring initiative won the award for Learning and Development Capability at The Human Resources Institute of New Zealand (HRNZ) national awards.

The initiative provides a formal system to create more value and impact from mentoring relationships among staff. Since a successful pilot of the programme in 2018, 70 mentoring relationships have been established

During the programme participants explore their career aspirations with their mentor and create a development plan. Included is a 2-day opening workshop, mentoring sessions throughout the year and a closing workshop. . . 

Biocontrol gene tech set to shred mice population – Samantha Townsend:

A technique that exploits the natural mating process in mice, which has previously been proven in insects is being explored to help reduce populations.

The technology aims to pass on an increased proportion of males genes to reduce the number of females to keep populations at manageable levels.

“The new technology we are trying to develop in mice is the same that we’ve had some success in this area for insects for malaria control,” lead researcher Professor Paul Thomas from the University of Adelaide said.

“The idea is that we using the natural mating process of mice to spread genetic traits through the population.” . . 

 


Rural round-up

20/09/2020

Imminent crisis threatens Central Otago fruit exports:

Central Otago fruit growers support their industry’s call for urgent action from Government to address the looming shortage of horticultural workers, says Ettrick Fruit Growers Association Chairman, Peter Vernon. Last week, New Zealand Apples and Pears raised concerns that the $870 million dollar apple industry will be at risk if a seasonal workforce is not assembled.

The New Zealand horticulture sector usually hosts more than 14,000 workers from the Pacific Islands for up to seven months to strengthen the workforce on local orchards and vineyards. The New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme was established in 2007 by Helen Clark’s Labour government. The RSE scheme is viewed internationally as a best practise model in social responsibility for labour mobility. The Central Otago region employs up to 5,000 temporary staff at the peak of the season for apple, apricot and cherry work, comprising New Zealand and RSE workers, plus working holiday visa holders. Labour planning shows that even with the numbers of recently unemployed New Zealanders now available, there will simply not be enough suitable people to fill all the seasonal roles needed . . 

Rural road-users heading for potholes – Feds:

Rural road users are in for a continued bumpy ride with no extra money for local road improvements in the final Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2021.

“The final GPS released this week has investment in local road improvements unchanged from the draft at an upper level of $300 million down to as low as $100 million in 2021/22, and steadily declining each year for the decade after,” Federated Farmers transport spokesperson Karen Williams said.

“However, it is pleasing to see increases in local road maintenance and renewal, with a forecast range of $650m-$760m next financial year, and slow but steady increases thereafter.”

Central and local government share the costs of upgrading local roads, which includes most rural roads. With councils under heavy financial pressure, there has been considerable under-investment, Karen said. . . 

Family shares the shearing – Yvonne O’Hara:

When Colin “Mouse” O’Neill first considered setting up as a shearing contractor five years ago, he knew it was a big risk, and he had his family’s future at stake.

Mr O’Neill, of Alexandra, has worked in shearing sheds since he was 12 and has been shearing professionally and competitively for 27 years.

His parents, Marie and Terry, worked in the woolsheds and his grandparents were orchardists in Alexandra, where O’Neill Cres is now. . .

On the farm – a wrap of farming conditions around New Zealand:

Our contact in Northland says it’s unusually dry. Feed is short usually at the end of winter, but it’s come six weeks earlier than normal. It’s affecting the market for cattle as farmers are careful about what they’re buying. Dairy farmers are at the tail end of calving while beef farmers are 50 to 60 percent of the way through.

Around Pukekohe it’s been dry and breezy. The wind  made it tricky to spread lime and fertiliser and spray crops. Work activity and crop growth could best be described as “steady”.  It’s probably been busier in kiwifruit orchards with their shelter belts receiving an annual trim.

It cooled down a little bit in Waikato this week and grass growth rates have tapered off in response, but farmers have either supplements on hand or a bank of feed still to rely on. With calving ending, they’re catching up on jobs before the start of mating next month. . . 

Heading back to the land – Mary-Jo Tohill:

A job loss has brought Mosgiel man Steve Morris back to his agricultural roots, and the 55-year-old is glad of it.

He grew up on a farm on the Otago Peninsula, near Larnach Castle.

“It was a small farm, and you don’t always want to work with your father,” Mr Morris said.

He left school and became a glazier, holding down his first job for 16 years and the second for 18, before making a complete change and driving trucks for three years. . .

Britain needs to grow more trees – are sheep farms the answer? – Connie O’Neill:

Britain’s green fields and “wild” uplands may have become important parts of the national heritage, but they are landscapes wholly created by people. There’s no reason to think of these areas as precious natural resources to be preserved at all costs.

If humans hadn’t chopped down the trees, most of what are now Britain’s sheep farms would still be part of the large forests that once covered the islands. So why can’t some of these areas be turned back into woodland?

Doing so would help fight climate change, as trees absorb carbon from the air and keep it out of the atmosphere. As we found in our new research, there’s even a solid economic case for sheep farmers to instead grow forests and become carbon offsetters.

Tree growing is a political hot topic in the UK, since vast areas of new forest will be needed if the country is to achieve net zero emissions. . . 


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