Rural round-up

24/09/2020

What’s going on in Southland? – Peter Burke:

It is hard to fathom exactly what’s going to happen in Southland in light of the impact of the Government’s new freshwater regulations.

There is clearly great mistrust on the part of Federated Farmers of Environment Minister David Parker, with Feds provincial vice president Bernadette Hunt saying they can’t get through to him on the issue of winter grazing.

It is no secret that Labour has an equal mistrust of Feds, frequently referring to them as the National Party in gumboots.

Feds see some aspects of the new freshwater regulations as unworkable and in this they are right. Furthermore, they question why such a law was passed with basic errors of fact.

Time to put mental health preparedness into action – Elle Perriam:

Being aware of mental health issues is admirable but sometimes it’s not enough, the founder of Will to Live charity, Elle Perriam says.

“I sort of don’t like to say mental health awareness as much because I think there is a lot of awareness out there – but awareness really means nothing to us unless we put it in to action” Perriam told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

Perriam was no stranger to mental health battles herself, founding Will to Live after she lost her partner to suicide in 2017.

She suggested checking in on farmer friends this week and instead of asking them how they’re going – ask them if they’re happy. . . 

Lincoln PhD student receives prestigious Kate Sheppard Memorial Trust Award :

A Lincoln University PhD student has received this year’s Kate Sheppard Memorial Trust Award for her work in protecting crops from drought.

Laura Keenan, 28, received the prestigious award at a ceremony at the Kate Sheppard Memorial Wall on Worcester St in Christchurch on Saturday.

Keenan completed an honours degree in Agricultural Science at Lincoln University graduating in 2014. She worked within the area firstly with Soil Matters in Canterbury and then Agricom in Palmerston North before starting her PhD study at Lincoln University in June 2020.

Her PhD is focused on creating a tool that will help with predicting yield and the quality of several plants and herbs included in pasture mixes across New Zealand with the goal of improving drought resilience and feed supply for farmers. . . 

New tech to cut rural energy costs – Annette Scott:

An innovative new player in rural electricity supply has commissioned its first investor-owned solar system on a North Canterbury dairy farm. Solagri Energy Ltd founders share their business journey with Annette Scott.

NEW Zealand dairy farms can now get solar electricity and large-scale battery storage on-farm with zero capital outlay.

Solagri Energy Ltd, a new and innovative player in rural electricity supply, has commissioned its first investor-owned solar array and large-scale lithium ion battery system on a North Canterbury dairy farm.

Co-founders Peter Saunders and Hamish Hutton just happen to be cousins with their business idea stemming around a family campfire. . . 

Challenge to keep pastures resilient – Richard Rennie:

Commercial plant breeders are united in efforts to help deliver New Zealand farmers better options when it comes to selecting for more resilient pastures in years to come.

Head of Barenbrug’s plant breeding team Courtney Inch says the challenge in NZ, being a relatively small market on a global scale, is having enough capital to invest in developing commercially viable pastures for our market.

This is complicated by NZ being a relatively complex pastoral system, with climatic conditions in Southland for example quite dissimilar to those in Waikato, often requiring different feed types for a relatively small pastoral zone.

“But it is to the industry’s credit we are seeing some really good collaborative work being done now in this area of developing more resilient pastures,” he said. . . 

Superfines leading the charge in wool price spikes – Bruce McLeish:

The wool market surprised many participants last week, with a much stronger performance than expected.

While there had been some business done the previous week, and a positive tone was anticipated, it just got better and better as the week progressed.

A total offering across Australia of just under 30,000 bales – which these days is considered ‘on the large side’ – was keenly sought after, particularly at the finer end.

The Kiwi’s added to the total – with 3000 bales offered in Melbourne – and South Africa put up 6500 bales, almost all of which were consumed by a suddenly hungry wool trade. . . 


Rural round-up

14/09/2020

Fertiliser levy for vegan fantasy would be handbrake on recovery:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Green Party’s “farming for the future” policy, which would introduce a levy on fertiliser and cost taxpayers $297,000,000 over three years to subsidise “regenerative and organic farming methods”.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Agriculture will be a key plank in New Zealand’s economic recovery. The last thing our farming sector needs is a tax on efficiency in the form of a levy on fertiliser. Fertilisers help farmers produce more with less land, limiting the impact of agriculture on our outstanding natural landscapes. The Greens should be happy about that!”

“That the revenue from this tax will be spent on promoting ‘vegan plant-based practices’ adds insult to injury. The Government should focus on allowing the economy to recover, not wasting money on trendy environmental schemes.” . . 

Nothing sustainable without profit – Sudesh Kissun:

Chair of Dairy Environment Leaders programme Melissa Slattery believes that sustainable farming is highly important to young farmers. T

he Waikato farmer believes the upcoming generation of farmers are driven to learn and adapt, just like the previous generation did for the issues of their time.

“Opportunities will evolve for the new generation farmers who understand what is and will be required in terms of sustainability on farm,” Slattery told Rural News. . . 

Work together industry told – Annette Scott:

Verified sustainable production right across supply chains is key to New Zealand beef improving its standing on the world stage, says NZ Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (NZRSB) chair Grant Bunting.

The results of a pilot programme conducted by NZRSB and delivered at a field day on Rangitikei Station last week are proof NZ can do it, Bunting said.

The NZRSB, formed late last year, is about beef industry stakeholders from across the supply chain working to position NZ as a leading producer of beef that is safe and produced in a way that is environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable.

“We need to ensure we not only keep up with other countries, we want to be world leaders,” Bunting said. . . 

Living the dream:

Kiwi agro-ecologist Nicole Masters is living the dream, touring ranches in the United States with her horse for company.

“I love being able to integrate my two loves which are soil and horses all in one place.”

Nicole has been working in the US for seven years now, pretty much full-time for the past three years, running workshops and coaching clients on how to build soil health and optimise water cycles.

Ranging from bison farmers to winegrowers, her clients are progressive operators who are interested in food quality and improving livestock health and pasture diversity. . . 

Ben Tombs wins Tonnellerie De Mercurey Central Otago Young Winemaker regional competition:

Congratulations to Ben Tombs from Peregrine Wines who came first in the Tonnellerie de Mercurey Central Otago Young Winemaker competition held on Thursday 10th September at VinPro in Cromwell.

Ben was back to defend his title from last year so was thrilled to be again raising the cup. Last year, as he was on the Burgundy Exchange, he was unable to compete in the national final, so is extra thrilled to be heading up to Hawke’s Bay in November this year to represent Central Otago.

Congratulations also goes to Jordan Moores from Felton Road who came second and Rachel Bradley from Burn Cottage who came third. . . 

Cattle might be secret weapon in fight against wildfires, experts say. Here’s how – Katie Camero:

Evidence shows that wildfires have become more widespread and severe over the years, with the ongoing West Coast blazes bearing testament to the worrying trend.

Firefighters and farmers have tricks of their own to prevent fires from sparking and to contain them enough for successful defeat. But there might be a secret weapon that hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves.

Researchers with the University of California Cooperative Extension set out to evaluate how much fine fuel — grasses and other plants known to start fires — cattle eat and how their feeding behavior affects flame activity.

The team concluded that without cattle grazing, there would be “hundreds to thousands” of additional pounds of fine fuels per acre of land, which could lead to “larger and more severe fires.” . . 


Rural round-up

05/05/2020

Coming out of the crisis – Todd Muller:

National’s agriculture spokesman, Todd Muller on why the recovery from COVID-19 needs to include strategic water storage infrastructure.

A few months ago, I penned a column where I noted the challenging conversations farmers were having across dinner tables up and down the country because of the Government’s proposed freshwater reforms. Now, barely six months later, so much of New Zealand is closed with the exception of our farms and hospitals. T

he tough, painful and fearful kitchen table conversations are occurring in many houses across the country.

We are still in the highly fluid part of the crisis, where only hard choices sit in front of us. The ‘stay home, save lives’ strategy will slowly morph into the ‘safety first, but slowly restart’ phase.  . . 

Dairy sector wants New Zealanders to consider farm work as Labour shortage looms – Robin Martin:

The dairy industry wants New Zealanders to fall back in love with life on the farm.

With Covid-19 meaning the migrant workforce is not available, it is predicted the sector will need to fill 1000 jobs in time for Moving Day on 1 June – the first day of the new dairy season.

The Fortuna Group is a corporate farming operation in Southland which milks about 12,000 cows across 19 farms.

At any one time 50 percent of its 100-strong workforce are migrants, predominantly from the Philippines. . .

New health, safety and wellbeing movement for rural women launches in New Zealand with industry wide support:

Save a life, listen to your wife – that’s the message of a new health and safety movement for rural women being launched in New Zealand today.

Safer Farms has partnered with Australia’s Alex Thomas to bring The #PlantASeedForSafety Project across the ditch.

The #PlantASeedForSafety Project profiles women from all parts of rural industries and communities who are making positive and practical improvements to the health, safety and wellbeing of those around them. From farm owners, shepherds, wives and partners, to nurses, doctors, teachers and even the local barista – every person living rurally has an impact on their community. . .

First farm – a 15 year journey to farm ownership :

Just over a year ago Michael and Susie Woodward packed up their four children, a herd of cows, 50 goats, chickens, five dogs and all of their farming equipment and moved islands onto their own farm. They’d beeen 50/50 sharemilking in Canterbury and had been working towards farm ownership for 15 years. It’s been a challenging 12 months. Winter was wet, summer a drought, some of the cows succumbed to a disease the Woodwards had not encountered and animals and humans on the King Country farm have had to adapt to living on hills.

 

AgTech Hackathon Solution Challenge winner announcement:

With a deft pivot around a global pandemic, the fourth annual AgTech Hackathon successfully completed its first ‘AgTech Hackathon Lite’ – a virtual version of their popular annual event. This quickfire competition takes participants through an ideation process before producing an innovative idea to solve challenges faced by the Food and Fibre sector.

Proving innovation doesn’t quit in the face of a nationwide lockdown, the winning team was announced on Friday, scoring themselves $1000 and an answer to the Zespri horticulture challenge.

While many people are using spare isolation time to to perfect their sourdough starters and TikTok dances, Beta Team – a Manawatu based team, developed Bugkilla, an all-in-one product which attracts, monitors and eradicates BMSB and provides real-time monitoring and eradication of bug infestations for fruit growers and horticulturists. . .

Europeans urged to eat their way through steak, chips and cheese glut – Emiko Terazono and Judith Evans :

Belgians have been asked to eat more fries, the British are being urged to tuck into steak and the French have been pressed to up their cheese intake. The unusual pleas come not because people need comfort food as the coronavirus pandemic rages, but to help clear a glut of produce languishing in storage as the crisis shuts restaurants, hotels and workplace eateries across Europe.

With customers on lockdown, the continent’s farmers and food producers are trying to persuade them to increase consumption of their products at home. In Belgium, the world’s largest exporter of frozen fries, trade association Belgapom is urging people to eat an extra portion a week to reduce its 750,000-tonne potato surplus. 

“The frite is an intangible cultural heritage. It is a tradition that [Belgians] have frites once a week. We are asking people to increase that moment of joy an extra time in the week,” said Romain Cools, Belgapom secretary-general.  . . 

 


Rural round-up

16/08/2019

Climate experts flat out lying – Andrew Stewart:

An open letter to our Government and the farming leaders of New Zealand.

For the first time in my farming career, which spans 16 years as an owner and a lifetime on the same farm, I find myself doubting whether I would consider encouraging my two daughters into the agricultural profession. 

This negativity has been created by proposed regulations regarding climate change and how we as farmers will have to cope with it and ultimately pay for it. 

Luckily, my children are still young, at seven and four, and I can only hope I still have the time to help rectify this situation before it is too late.

I am writing this as a response to the bombardment of information that has spewed forth in the past couple of weeks regarding climate change obligations in agriculture.  . . 

Bankers circling? Sudesh Kissun:

Farmers are urging banks to take a long term view of their businesses, now under growing pressure to improve their balance sheets.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says some farmers feel they are facing “a banking crisis” because of relentless pressure from banks.

While ultimately farmers must ‘own’ their individual financial positions, Lewis says banks need to go easy.

“They must take the long term view that dairying is a profitable business,” he told Rural News. . . 

Kiwi Climatology: Land of the Long White Clods – Walter Starck:

The science, technology and economics relevant to the possibility of a catastrophic impact on global climate from use of fossil fuels is vast and complex. Vanishingly few persons can spend the time necessary to begin to appreciate the uncertainties, conflicting information and outright misinformation being promulgated.  Unfortunately, we are taught and expected to have an opinion on everything no matter how little we actually know about it and the climate change meme has proliferated into an epidemic conviction of which the chattering classes in particular appear to have little or no resistance.

As professional opinion leaders, politicians seem to be especially susceptible, to the point of engaging in what in effect have become competitive displays of ignorance about climate change. A current example is the recent initiative of the New Zealand government to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  For a start, NZ accounts for about 0.1 per cent (i.e. one-thousandth) of global emissions. Over 80 per cent of their electrical power comes from renewable energy, mainly hydro and geothermal. Their per capita CO2 emissions are among the lowest in the developed world and natural uptakes make them a net CO2 sink. . .

Tougher animal system rolled out after critical report

Changes to New Zealand’s animal tracking system are starting to be rolled out after a report released last year identified a raft of issues with the scheme.

Lax compliance with the National Animal Identification and Tracing, or NAIT, system by some farmers has been blamed for the spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

Officials complained they sometimes could not find out which animals had been moved or which calves had been born to which cow. . .

Boffins race stink bug’s spread – Richard Rennie:

The spectacular, soaring peaks around Trento on the edge of the Dolomites in northern Italy shelter a glacial valley that has become the fruit bowl of Europe over the past 50 years. But the region is under siege from advancing hordes of brown marmorated stink bugs threatening growers’ futures. The bug’s speed in establishing and its effect on crops provide a chilling insight to what it could inflict in New Zealand should it ever become established here. Farmers Weekly journalist Richard Rennie visited the region to learn more about the bug’s effect and efforts to deal with it.

New Zealand and Italian researchers at the Foundazione Edmund Mach Research Centre near Trento in Italy are on the front line trying to halt the advance of the brown marmorated stink bug rapidly wreaking havoc on crops. 

“This year we have trapped 10 times the number of bugs we did last year and it was only identified here in 2016,” centre head Professor Claudio Ioriatti said.

“The first reports of crop damage came quickly the following year in 2017 and now growers are having to spray heavily to try and slow the bug’s advance.” . . .

More people to shun plant-based ‘milk’ thanks to campaign :

More than one in ten people will now shun plant-based ‘milk’ substitutes following a major dairy campaign highlighting the benefits of real milk.

11% more young parents are certain to buy dairy products according to research carried out after the second year of AHDB and Dairy UK’s campaign.

The study showed an 8% fall in the number of people cutting their dairy consumption now or in the future.

It also showed an 11% reduction in intentions to consume plant-based substitutes. . .

‘Farmers are being bullied over misplaced anti-meat focus of climate change debate’, union leader says – Ben Barnett:

Farmers are being made to feel “isolated” and “terrorised” because of a deeply flawed approach to tackling climate change, according to the industry’s union leader.

Minette Batters has accused a “metropolitan elite” of bullying farmers by focusing on meat-eating alone to tackle climate change.

The president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), posting on social media, said some sections of the media were “destroying lives” by their portrayal of farming’s contribution to climate change. . . 


Rural round-up

30/06/2019

Bovis takes a human toll – Sally Rae:

Next month will mark two years since bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis was first confirmed on a South Canterbury dairy farm. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae speaks to Waimate farmer Carl Jensen, who has first-hand experience of the outbreak.

“As soon as you get that phone call, ‘hi, it’s MPI’, the anxiety journey has started.”

Carl Jensen has traversed that road – with many twists and turns – since becoming caught up in the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in April last year.

The Waimate farmer has come out the other side; restrictions to his farming operation have been lifted, compensation has finally been paid and his business is back on track. . .

‘M. bovis’ anguish: ‘frank’ feedback helping in long process – Sally Rae:

For those farmers most affected by Mycoplasma bovis, the cure may very well seem worse than the disease, programme director Geoff Gwyn says.

“We all need to do everything we can to support them, and that starts with us continuously making sure our systems and processes are working well, and then working in partnership with farmers to get this job done,” he said.

MPI regularly talked to the likes of Waimate farmer Carl Jensen and other farmers, who gave “frank and robust” feedback on how it could improve and that was a very important part of making the programme work. . .

Rat numbers are at a 48-year high and the environment is suffering – Leah Tebbutt:

Rat numbers have exploded across New Zealand and it is no different in Rotorua with some saying numbers are at a 48-year high.

Pest controllers’ phones are ringing off the hook due to an outbreak caused by a mega mast Forest and Bird say.

A mega mast is an over-abundance of plants that have a high seed production, in turn providing food for pests.

The problem began close to four months ago and there are ways to avoid a problem like this in future said Alpeco managing director Heiko Kaiser. . . 

Robust process vital in DIRA review – John Aitkinson:

A robust review process is needed for the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), writes Rotorua/Taupo Federated Farmers Dairy Section chairman John Atkinson.

DIRA is a major part of dairy farming.

It is an important tool in the food chain that allows you to enjoy your cheese, your latte or if you’re partial to it, New Zealand made dairy milk chocolate.

The Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) was a special Act passed by the Helen Clark-led Government enabling the formation of Fonterra in 2001. . . .

A tractor for every day of the week – Samantha Tennent:

Manawatu farmer Reuben Sterling would much rather be behind the wheel of a tractor than at the shed milking.

His preference for tractors goes back to when he was growing up on the family farm at Rangiotu. He would often head out with his dad Rob and sit next to him while he mowed paddocks and did other jobs.

“I guess every farm kid wants to be like their dad and drive the tractor,” Sterling says.

“I remember being about six and going to get the cows in for milking on my own with the four-wheeler. . . 

Shearing and Woolhandling World Championships: Meet the Kiwi team

The 18th World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships are being held at Le Dorat, France, next week.

Teams from around the world, including New Zealand, will compete. The competitions take place on July 4-7.

The Allflex New Zealand Shearing and Woolhandling Team will be there. Check out their profiles below. . . 

‘Our small towns are toppling like dominoes: why we should cut some farmers a checkRobert Leonard and Matt Russell:

How we address an expanding list of crises related to global warming is the most demanding question of our day. So far, our approaches have been piecemeal, enormously costly and largely unsuccessful.

A common denominator for many of these crises is in how we use the land, and that is where we will find the solution. A simple, cheap and relatively quick fix is to pay farmers and ranchers for environmental services. Not traditional government cost-share programs; we mean cut them a check when they provide measurable environmental services. It would cost Americans pennies per meal.

We already provide enormous taxpayer support for farmers to stabilize our food supply. The Trump administration’s trade bailouts for farmers to the tune of $28 billion in 2018 and 2019 are examples. Unfortunately, right now, farmers who invest in conservation practices are at a competitive disadvantage to those who don’t.  . . 


Rural round-up

08/07/2018

Sheep milk gains to be tested by AgResearch:

AgReseach senior scientist Dr Linda Samuelsson says results of the trial to test the benefits of sheep milk for human consumption should be available next year.

In what is believed to be a world first, AgResearch is about to begin a clinical trial to test the benefits of sheep milk for human digestion.

The trial, which will see AgResearch scientists working alongside those at the Auckland University’s Liggins Institute, with support from Spring Sheep Milk Co in the central North Island and Blue River Dairy in Southland, comes at a time of rapid growth for the dairy sheep industry in New Zealand . . 

Portable footwear cleaning station to help stop farm contamination – Gerald Piddock:

A Waikato couple have created what they believe might be the world’s first portable biosecurity system for footwear.

The Jacson Cube, whose name is derived from its creators – husband and wife team Jacqui Humm​ and Russell Knutson​ – is a portable cleaning station that is small enough to fit in the back of a ute.

“It’s a step up from your bucket and brush particularly for those people travelling from farm to farm,” Humm said.

The system took two years to create, and Humm said it was her husband who came up with the idea. . .

Dairy farmer’s passion for goats:

Dunsandel farmer Michael Woodward may be Federated Farmers North Canterbury dairy chairman but his real passion is the angora goats he inherited from his father John.

John Woodward, of Pukekohe, is a pioneer of the mohair industry: he set up its pool marketing system about 1982, is a board member of Mohair Producers NZ and now manages marketing of the North Island mohair clip.

Michael Woodward, meanwhile, is sharemilking on 300ha at Dunsandel with his wife Susie. . .

Hemp is not marijuana, it is a formidable vegetable, says social entrepreneur:

Social entrepreneur Michael Mayell is speaking out about the beneficial properties of hemp to help inform and inspire Kiwis to embrace new business opportunities around what he calls a ‘formidable vegetable’.

“Hemp is food, fibre and medicine. Hemp is cannabis without any of the psychoactive properties of its cousin marijuana and is fuelling an emerging market which is an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors,” says Mayell, who started his food journey as founder of Cookie Time in 1983 and went on to found Nutrient Rescue, a social enterprise, in 2016 and the Drinkable Rivers in our Lifetime campaign. . .

Farmers encouraged to plan ahead by looking at green projects :

Farmers have been encouraged to plan ahead and look at green projects as the future of UK farming looks set to change.

Various grants and funding are on offer for farmers to encourage green growth, coupled with future government subsidies post-Brexit leaning towards environmental stewardship.

In recent debates regarding the future of farming subsidies, the government has strongly indicated that any future funding is likely to be based on farming practices that provide ‘public goods’. . . 

 

It’s time to “Join the Ag Revolution’ –

Agriculture is on the cusp of a revolution, with renewed enthusiasm fueling a transformation. 

Precision ag, increased production capabilities, and water-saving innovations are all reflective of an industry brimming with opportunity.

And now one of Australia’s rural heartlands is calling forth an agricultural army – a vibrant, skilled workforce to lead into the new age. 

‘Join the Ag Revolution’ is an initiative of Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association (GVIA), created to showcase and promote rural industries, and the passionate people behind them. . .


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