Negative TB test doesn’t mean no TB

June 7, 2016

The headline says: Otago dairy herd to be slaughtered after one cow tests positive to tuberculosis.

It sounds like the farmer has no choice and that Ministry for Primary Industries is being unfair.

But he does have choices and the MPI is doing what the law requires and empowers it to do – keeping food safe and people healthy.

Only one cow has tested positive for TB but that doesn’t mean the rest of the herd is clear.

We had some cows test positive for TB a few years after we started dairying. All were slaughtered and vets who examined the carcasses found some, but not all of them had the disease.

The herd was tested again, any cows that were positive were killed and again some had TB and some didn’t.

Eventually the herd got several clear tests in a row but a couple of years later we had another cow test positive for TB.

We went through the culling and testing again until we got the all-clear.

More than a year after that a cow from our original herd dried herself off, was culled and sent to the works. There the vet found she was riddled with TB. She had been tested before we bought the herd, tested again several times on our farm but not once did she react positively.

A vet told us that was because she was too busy fighting the disease to react to the test.

Our milk is pasteurised so there was no danger to anyone if it was infected with TB.

The farmer in the story sells raw milk which is why MPI has said he must stop. TB tests aren’t 100% reliable and there is a risk that another cow in the herd could have the disease and pass it on to people through milk unless it’s pasteurised.

The farmer isn’t without choices, he doesn’t have to kill his cows. He can’t keep selling raw milk but he could get it pasteurised. He could also sell the herd (although the cows will only be on movement control which means they can only be moved to another property owned by the farmer or to slaughter);  but that’s not what the headline suggests.


Rural round-up

May 4, 2014

Get on the front foot over environment critiques:

FARMERS ARE too defensive in their responses to the issue of the environmental impact of farming.

So says Tihoi, Lake Taupo, farmer Mike Barton, who with his wife Sharon this year won the top award in Waikato in the Ballance Agri-Nutrients awards contest. 

They have taken a leadership role in dealing with Environment Waikato’s controversial Variation 5 that severely limits the amount of nitrogen a farm can leach. . .

Treat farms as cluster of small units:

COLE AND Tania Simmons’ property 20 minutes drive east of Dannevirke can get cold and wet during winter, risking soil damage by stock. Simmons have made provision for this by building a feed pad and by planting shelter trees. 

Dr Alec Mackay, AgResearch, told farmers attending the field day to look at their properties as “assemblages of a diversity of landscape units,” rather than just one big farm.  In the past, people have talked more about average numbers but McKay says this fails to address the reality that parts of a farm differ from each other and need to be treated or managed differently. Better to see a farm as smaller units and see what ‘contribution’ each makes to the business.

“There are opportunities to increase the profitability and performance of a farm by moving away from making average decisions on an average basis across the farm and going out and interrogating the land that makes up the farm.  . .

Hawke’s Bay TB control benefiting native wildlife:

Farmers and environmentalists alike are touting the benefits of planned aerial bovine tuberculosis (TB) control operations this winter in Waipunga near the Taupo to Napier highway. Dennis Ward, of Ngatapu Station, fits into both groups and is also a keen recreational hunter.

“When you look at the practicalities of 1080 in improving the quality of life of our native species, it’s a no brainer. People don’t appreciate that possums, stoats, ferrets and rats do more to decimate our native bird populations than anything else,” said Mr Ward.

He said scientific research has shown the positive effects of 1080 on native birds and forests. “The evidence has convinced me that it is the best method for use, particularly in rugged terrain like the Waipunga area, where ground control is impractical.” . . .

Goodhew visits damaged forests on West Coast:

Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew has visited the wind ravaged West Coast today to experience first-hand the impact on local communities.

“The severe winds on last Thursday have affected the indigenous and plantation forests, as well as the wider agriculture sector from Karamea to Haast,” says Ms Goodhew.

During the storm the strongest gust recorded was 130km/hr at Westport, although the level of damage suggests the winds were even stronger in some areas. The Insurance Council of New Zealand is still assessing the damage.

“In true West Coast style the community has rallied around and demonstrated extraordinary resilience,” says Mrs Goodhew. . .

Wool price focus welcome – Cara Jeffery:

MERINO wool has been their lifelong passion on the land but Rick and Pam Martin know their enthusiasm for fine wools can only stretch so far if something isn’t done soon to improve prices.

The Martins run 1700 breeders and 900 Merino wethers on their property “Burnbank”, at Borambola near Wagga Wagga, and say any ideas that could improve the current situation for woolgrowers should be explored.

Their comments come after it was revealed last week that Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) chairman Wally Merriman had floated an idea with the AWI board to regulate the supply of wool into the auction markets to help stabilise price fluctuations in the market. . . .

Final judging underway:

The final judging is underway to determine the winners in the 2014 New Zealand dairy award winners.

The winners will be announced at a sold-out black tie event attended by 650 people at Auckland’s Sky City Hotel on May 9. About $170,000 in prizes are up for grabs in the New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year competitions.

Judging started on Monday (April 28) for the 11 sharemilker/equity farmer and 11 farm manager regional finalists. A team of three judges – a farmer, banker and farm adviser – spend two hours on each finalist’s farm to critique the finalist and their farm business. The task takes the sharemilker/equity farmer judges from Winton, in Southland, to Whataroa, on the West Coast, and to Ohaewai, in Northland. The last of the regional finalists, the Auckland/Hauraki representatives, are judged on Tuesday (May 7). . .

Sponsorship for ‘Pioneering’ Lincoln research:

Leading maize, lucerne, forage sorghum, and inoculant producer Pioneer® Brand Products has generously agreed to an annual sponsorship arrangement with Lincoln University to assist with projects aimed at ensuring a sustainable farming future for New Zealand.

The objective behind the sponsorship aligns well with the commitment of both organisations to continually look for ways to increase farm profitability without compromising environmental quality.

This year’s sponsorship will support work investigating the use of plants in an agricultural setting – such as around paddock borders and riparian zones – to reduce the build-up of nitrates in the soil. . .


TB or not TB

September 14, 2013

Tasman District is on the verge of being declared TB Free:

Tasman district is within touching distance of reaching a milestone in the battle against bovine tuberculosis, a scourge of cattle and deer farmers.

The district’s farms could be free of the highly infectious disease, which is spread principally by possums, provided the one remaining infected beef cattle herd, north of Murchison, returns a second clear test in December and no new cases emerge in the meantime. . .

However, farmers and animal health authorities warn that there can be no let-up in efforts to tackle the disease, which remains a threat to New Zealand’s reputation as a top agricultural exporter.

Roy Bensemann, a Sherry River farmer who chairs the Tasman TBfree committee, says he has seen the impact TB has wrought on farms in his valley.

“It highlighted to me how devastating it can be for farmers, financially and emotionally.”

Not only is there the social stigma, it severely restricts what farmers can do with their stock, which cannot be moved or sold, unless it is to the freezing works for slaughter at much reduced values.

It means dairy farmers have to either buy in supplementary feed or find winter grazing close by, and they cannot sell their heifers.

It can take a long time for restrictions to be lifted, with two clear herd tests needed at least six months apart.

“Quite often, other infected animals can turn up as you go through the process of getting the whole herd blood tested.”

There are also cases where infections in older animals in particular don’t show up through testing and are only discovered when they are culled and slaughtered. . .

That’s what happened on our farm.

We bought a herd of cows from the West Coast. they’d been tested and declared TB-free but a few years later a test came back positive in several cows.

They had to be killed, some had the disease, some didn’t.

The herd was tested and declared TB-free again but the next season another cow tested positive.

Eventually an older cow dried herself off mid-season and was sent to the freezing works where they found she was riddled with TB event hough she’d never tested positive.

New Zealand already runs one of the most successful TB control programmes in the world, which has made much more progress than predicted, with new research and technology promising even better outcomes, Mr Bensemann says.

It has the added spinoff of protecting native bird and plant populations. . .

Danny Templeman, South Island relationship manager of OSPRI New Zealand, which recently took over TB control from the Animal Health Board, says success in Tasman has been built on getting possum numbers down to one or two per 10ha in buffer zones up to 20 kilometres deep around Kahurangi and its bush margins.

Aerial poisoned bait drops in more remote parts of the park have proved more effective, and for longer than expected, which has allowed the number of ground control operations to be reduced.

“We have been able to get in front of the disease and push it back into the bush.

“But we need to continue this effort.”

A concerted effort is needed and must be maintained to eradicate the disease which is a risk to human and animal health, native flora and birds.


No substitute for 1080 in some areas

July 18, 2013

Environment commissioner Jan Wright advocated for wider use of 1080 two years ago and is disappointed there’s been so little action since then.

. . . Dr Wright says time is running out for native species on the mainland.

“There are three predators that are inflicting enormous damage on our native birds and plants – possums, rats, and stoats. The only way we can control them over large areas is to use 1080. We are lucky to have it.

“When I released my report two years ago I called for greater use of 1080 because I was extremely concerned about the future of kiwi and other native birds.

“Currently the Department of Conservation is spending more on research into 1080 and its alternatives than it is on actually using it.

“While I’m happy this research is being done, I would like to see more money being spent on frontline pest control.

“While I am heartened by the public support for a pest-free New Zealand there is no way that it could currently be achieved without 1080. I will continue to recommend its use is increased. “

Dr Wright’s report is here, her update is here.

Forest and Bird agree with her.

Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says the PCE’s latest report reinforces Forest & Bird’s stance that 1080 remains the most cost effective way of controlling the three “key pests of possums, rats and stoats” over large areas.

“Pests are decimating our native forests and killing an estimated 25 million birds a year, pushing some of them towards extinction. We need to get on top of the pest situation if we want to reverse the decline of our native wildlife.

“We fully agree with the Commissioner in that aerial 1080 drops over large areas are the best way to do that,” he says.

“Other methods of pest control, like trapping and ground-based poison operations, are expensive, time-consuming, cover small areas, and often fail to get into the heart of the back country where it’s most needed. Aerial 1080 drops, at this stage, offer the most cost-effective way to tackle New Zealand’s pest problem,” Kevin Hackwell says.

Forest & Bird is disappointed that the Department of Conservation has not acted on the PCE’s key recommendation from the initial 2011 report to increase the use of aerial 1080 operations.

“DOC should move resources from the less effective ground-based control to the more effective use of aerial 1080. There’s no need for any more delay, we should be acting on the PCE’s recommendations now,” Kevin Hackwell says.

It is impossible to safeguard native birds when 1080 is dropped and it can kill them. But populations recover very quickly when their predators are killed.

Trapping and hunting animal pests works well in some places.

But in many areas 1080 is the best way to kill the pests which destroy native flora and pray on the fauna.

Some of these pests also carry TB which can spread to farm animals and people.


Rural round-up

April 18, 2013

Rationalisation of water services supported:

Rationalising water services and placing them at arms-length from local political control, as recommended in a new report is supported by industry body Water New Zealand.

However, the real concern Water New Zealand has is whether the reforms proposed by the expert group looking at local government infrastructure will be implemented (expert’s report released today).

“The need for reform has been known for a long time, but to date little progress has been made,” Water New Zealand’s Chief Executive, Murray Gibb said.

“Ratepayers and taxpayers will get improved services and better value for their money if the reforms are implemented. The proposals accord with industry best practice and should be supported,” he said.

Two other recommendations supported by Water New Zealand, are;
1. that a minister with responsibilities for management of all water related issues is appointed, and,
2. where economically justified, metering and volumetric charging for water are implemented. . .

Praise for NZ’s Tb programme:

A senior UK minister has praised New Zealand for its work in controlling bovine tuberculosis (Tb) during a fact-finding visit over the weekend.

Owen Paterson, UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said he had enormous admiration for what had been achieved by the TBfree New Zealand programme.

“You are still a society that is much more closely tied to the land and you have had this spectacular success freeing up your agricultural industry,” Paterson said.

“People understand the importance of agricultural production and food production and there are all sorts of lessons to be learned from what you have done.” . .

NZX to target agricultural firms – Christopher Adams:

Boosting the number of listed agricultural firms is one of the NZX’s main priorities and there are about 20 firms in the Waikato alone that could potentially float on the local bourse, says exchange chief executive Tim Bennett.

While agriculture is New Zealand’s largest sector, earning about half the country’s export income, it is under-represented on the sharemarket compared with other industries such as retail and manufacturing.

Bennett said he saw the lack of listed agricultural companies as a problem and an opportunity.

“As a country that’s got a significant export presence in agriculture, we clearly need to provide capital to that sector and at the moment there’s a relatively small number of companies involved in the agricultural sector on the NZX,” Bennett said. . .

Miraka – it’s Maori for milk:

Given the attention that focuses on Fonterra’s every move, it can seem that the huge co-op and the dairy industry are one and the same thing. But despite its dominance, a band of smaller players is surviving – and sometimes thriving – in the giant’s shadow.

One of the newest is a tiny, Maori-controlled dairy company which kicked off late in 2011, quickly turned a profit and already has a waiting list of potential suppliers after just two seasons.

The company, Miraka, runs a wholemilk factory at Mokai, 30km northwest of Taupo, that is already “full” – meaning it can’t take on any more suppliers. The fact that there is a waiting list is hardly surprising, given that it pays 10c per kg over the going rate at Fonterra.

And, unlike the co-operative model, Miraka does not require its suppliers to hold shares. . .

NZ Processing for China win-win – Tim Fulton:

Favourable signals from China’s elite could be just what New Zealand needs to expand its forestry portfolio, a member of the latest trade delegation to that country says. Tim Fulton reports.

Peter Clark, from PF Olsen, has come home from a week-long trip to China convinced New Zealand is moving closer to a stronger domestic milling industry.

NZ has proven its ability to use “rain, soil, sunshine and nitrogen” to turn seeds into logs for export, but the Rotorua-based chief executive wonders whether the timing is right to do more advanced processing at home. . .

Preparing new staff for the season ahead:

DairyNZ is reminding dairy farmers to prepare for new employees as the new season nears.

DairyNZ people team leader, Jane Muir, says people management practices have improved greatly on-farm in recent years, but there are always opportunities to do things better.

“The recent Federated Farmers/Rabobank Farm Employee Remuneration Survey showed 91 percent of dairy farmers provided permanent employees with written contracts – a sharp increase on previous years,” says Jane.

“This is great news because one of the areas where big wins can be achieved is around the staff recruitment and orientation process – the contract is just one part of that. . .

Rural Bachelor is back and this year there’s an international flavour:

The NZ National Agricultural Fieldays is on the look out for hard working rural blokes to represent the farming community  and are calling for entries across the country to the Trans Tasman. This year the competition will consist of eight finalists (six Kiwis and two Australians) who will be flown to a mystery location on Monday 10th June prior to Fieldays, each of the finalists will then make their way to Fieldays, stopping in specific towns along the way to complete various tasks.

The finalists will be judged on a range of aspects from technical skills, innovation, effort to enthusiasm and crowd involvement. They will also participate in heats throughout Fieldays and be judged on their interaction with Fieldays staff and volunteers, their team spirit, helpfulness, conduct and attitude in relation to Fieldays values. . .


Rural round-up

April 11, 2013

Foray into farming stories for children proves fruitful – Sally Rae:

When Lee Lamb could not find books about farming to read to her young son, she decided to do something about it.

Brought up on Grampians Station, near Lake Tekapo, Mrs Lamb now lives on a sheep and beef station in northern Southland with her husband Jamie and their two young sons Jack (5) and Thomas (3).

It was while living in Omarama that she first picked up a pen, having become frustrated by being unable to buy a book about farming for Jack – who was farming-mad. She sat down one day ”and gave it a go” but did not take it any further until after moving to Waikaia and following the birth of Thomas, when she had a bit more spare time. . .

Dairy Awards Winners Achieve Goals:

The 2013 Canterbury/North Otago Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Morgan and Hayley Easton, are using their knowledge to achieve their farming goals.

“Both Hayley and I are well educated in fields supportive of an agribusiness career, which we think is important when running large-scale dairy farms today,” Morgan Easton says. “Large dairy farms are big businesses with significant turnover and numbers of people employed. We feel the knowledge gained from our education has undoubtedly helped us achieve our farming goals to date.”

The other major winners at the Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Industry Awards dinner held at Hotel Ashburton last night were Richard Pearse, the Farm Manager of the Year, and Adam Caldwell, the Dairy Trainee of the Year. Coincidentally Mr Pearse employs Mr Caldwell as an assistant on the Ashburton farm he manages. . .

Ferret trapping programme:

The Animal Health Board is taking advantage of the scavenging habits of ferrets to track bovine tuberculosis in western Southland.

There are only two cattle herds still under movement control in the region because of TB infection, compared with 56 herds in 1996.

TBFree Southland chairman Mike O’Brien said ferret trapping plays an important role in protecting cattle and deer herds from Tb-infected wild animals because they indicate whether the disease is present in other wildlife, especially possums, which can spread the disease to livestock. . .

Freshwater changes show promise – Environment Commissioner:

The Government’s proposed changes to freshwater management are much needed, but only if they are implemented properly says the Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright.

Dr Wright submitted on the changes this afternoon, and says moves to improve water quality are welcome.

“It’s vital we make progress on water quality, and the proposed changes are a step in the right direction. . .

Last call for applications for leading farm business management programme:

Applications close at the end of this month for this year’s Rabobank Farm Managers Program, the region’s leading agricultural business management course for the next generation of farm leaders.

Now in its eighth year, the prestigious Rabobank program offers young farmers from across New Zealand and Australia, and a range of agricultural sectors, the opportunity to develop and enhance their business management skills.

Rabobank business programs manager Nerida Sweetapple says the Farm Managers Program is constantly evolving to reflect the changing challenges and opportunities in agriculture. . .

ANZCO’s published result confirms anticipated loss – but could have been worse – Allan Barber:

ANZCO’s financial result to the end of September 2012 was posted on the Companies’ Office website on Friday in compliance with the statutory requirement for private companies. ANZCO reported losses of $25.6 pre-tax and $19.2 million after tax. We now have the details for the big three meat companies which publish their results and, as anticipated, none makes pleasant reading – total pre-tax losses of $140.4 million and post-tax $102.2 million.

But after seeing the numbers from Alliance and Silver Fern Farms in December, it was possible ANZCO’s could have been quite a bit worse. That they weren’t appears to have been the combination of strength in beef and some good management decisions which mitigated the worst effects of a very difficult year. . .


Rural round-up

February 6, 2012

Richard Steele and his son, Dan, run an eco-tourism operation on their 1500ha sheep and cattle station near Owhango, which is south of Taumarunui and which borders the Whanganui River.

 They delight in showing visitors one of the river’s special dwellers, the whio, or blue duck. This area is one of the bird’s last strongholds, in part because the Steeles declared war on the stoats, rats and feral cats that drove the birds to the edge of extinction . . . .

Irrigation fund’s first project great news for Hawkes Bay – David Carter:

 This week’s announcement of the first project as part of the Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF) is great news for the Hawke’s Bay region.
The go-ahead for the project delivers on the Government’s promise to lift economic growth through efficient use of water storage.
The Government and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council will jointly fund a $3.3 million feasibility study of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Project. . .

James Cameron is a Titanic opporutnity for farming:

With James Cameron stating to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) that he not only intends to make New Zealand home, but that he intends to farm the two properties he has purchased, Federated Farmers believes it unlocks a titanic opportunity.

“This successful application by Mr Cameron shows why Federated Farmers position on overseas investment, is that the rules we have must be applied without fear or favour,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“The hope we have from skilled immigration is that it betters the whole community.

“One example of what I mean is Federated Farmers Board member, Anders Crofoot, who was a past Wairarapa provincial president.  Anders and his family moved from the United States to take over Castlepoint Station in the Wairarapa. . .

Rowath to lead agri-business:

Professor Jacqueline Rowarth, a regular NBR columnist, has been appointed Professor of Agribusiness at the Univerity of Waikato Management School (WMS).

“The Waikato is agribusiness heartland, close to the HQs for Zespri, Fonterra, Ravensdown, Ballance, TruTest and Gallaghers among others — and the University does a lot more with agribusiness than people realise,” she says. . .

Wool press on display – Sally Rae:

The latest in rural technology, equipment and ideas will be on display at the three-day Southern Field Days at Waimumu this month.   

More than 26,000 visitors are expected at the 16th biennial event, about 12km from Gore, from February 15 to 17.   

Among the technology will be the Mosgiel-designed and built Micron wool press, manufactured by P and W Engineering, which will be on display at the Elders site. . .   

Funding for bio farming:

THE DAIRY industry is funding a scoping study into biological farming systems.  

DairyNZ will sponsor the study by New Zealand Biological Farming Systems Research Centre (NZBFSRC). The study will identify research interests and needs on biological farming systems in New Zealand. This will be done by contacting farmers, firms and other research organisations who have been working in the area of sustainable farming. . .

New wheat cultivars anticipated from cereal breeding partner:

An expanded breeding programme will result in new varieties of wheat and barley being made available for New Zealand growers, delivering high yields and improved resistance to disease.

Plant & Food Research and Luisetti Seeds have signed an agreement to renew and expand their cereal grain breeding programme, the largest of its kind in New Zealand. The programme will focus on the breeding of new high yield wheat cultivars with good milling quality and dough properties, as well as new wheat and barley cultivars for animal feed. . .

Weather sweet for busy bees – Jacqui Webby:

Beekeepers in North Otago are having an  excellent season with the  reasonably mild start to the spring and timely showers of rain to keep the clover flowering.

Beekeeper Michael Lory, of Windsor’s Snow Crest Apiaries, said the honey season was still in full swing and it had been excellent. . .

Promoting excellence in irrigation:

Time is closing in on the search to find the best innovation in the New Zealand irrigation industry.

Innovation, discovery and achievement making a positive contribution to irrigation and efficient water management are set to be rewarded by the industry’s national body with an award that aims to uncover the industry’s progressive and exciting happenings.

Entries are due to close for the‘Innovation in Irrigation’ award being co-ordinated by Irrigation New Zealand in association with Aqualinc. . .


%d bloggers like this: