Rural round-up

November 26, 2015

Farmers on knife-edge as land dries out:

Evidence of a dry El Nino summer is beginning to be seen in Canterbury, and has farmers worried.

Federated Farmers president William Rolleston said the region is not seeing a lot of rain and the nor’west winds are already drying things out.

Fire restrictions have been put in place for the rural district of Selwyn, as have restrictions on taking water from the Opuha dam. . . 

Opuha Dam at 80% capacity:

Early irrigation restrictions have helped South Canterbury’s Opuha Dam reach 80 percent of its capacity.

But with little rain expected in the coming months, farmers are being warned this summer could be harder than last.

The irrigation water supply from the dam was turned off for the first time in its 17 years of operation last February as a result of the drought. . . 

North Canterbury irrigaition proposal rejected:

Independent Hearing Commissioners appointed by Environment Canterbury have rejected a proposal to take water from a North Canterbury stream for irrigation and power generation.

The Kakapo Brook runs through Glynn Wye Station and co-applicants Rooney Group – owner of the station – and Mainpower proposed taking up to 1600 litres per second, to fill two large storage dams on the farm totaling 1 million cubic metres.

The water would be used for irrigating 500 hectares of the high country property and providing hydropower generation. . . .

Fonterra says 2016 forecast payout tied to dairy prices rising next year – Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group has affirmed guidance for the 2016 milk payout to farmers, although chairman John Wilson said it was dependent on global dairy prices rising in the first half of next year from current unsustainable levels.

The world’s largest dairy exporter has forecast a farmgate milk price of $4.60 per kilogram of milk solids and a cash dividend of 35-to-40 cents per share for a total payout of $4.95/kgMS to $5/kgMS. . . .

Fonterra targets doubling of China revenue within five years, Spierings says – Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group, the world’s largest dairy exporter, has set a target of becoming the number one dairy player in China and doubling its business in the country to $10 billion within the next five years.

Speaking at the cooperative’s annual meeting in Waitoa today, chief executive Theo Spierings said the new plan meant China could become 25 percent to 30 percent of total revenue.

When asked whether that would expose the cooperative to too much risk in one country, Spierings said China’s provinces could almost be regarded as countries in their own right. . . 

Results of shareholder voting at Fonterra AGM:

Fonterra shareholders have voted to pass seven of the eleven resolutions at this year’s Annual Meeting.

Resolutions eight, nine, ten and eleven, which were special resolutions put forward by Fonterra shareholders, were not passed. The Board and Shareholders’ Council had earlier recommended that shareholders vote against these resolutions.

The results of the resolutions are:

Resolution result / % in favour

Resolution 1: Approval of remuneration of Directors / 85.32%

Resolution 2: Approval of remuneration of Shareholders’ Council / 83.36% . . .

New technologies a paradigm shift for strong wool:

In a move to improve the returns of New Zealand strong wool growers, Wools of New Zealand (WNZ) has entered into a commercial agreement with to acquire the exclusive global rights to an innovative scour and dying process providing new opportunities for New Zealand strong wool previously only the domain of man-made synthetic fibres.

The two innovative technologies will considerably improve the ‘white and bright’ properties of strong wool, along with colour fastness enhancements that will provide a “paradigm shift” in the demand for end products using strong wool. . . .

Texel Poll Dorset Cross wins Mint Lamb Competition:

Hawarden farmer, and long-time corriedale exhibitor, Andrew Sidey took out the 2015 Mint Lamb Competition at the Canterbury A&P Show on November 11. His texel/poll dorset lamb was judged as the country’s best from paddock to plate.

This year the competition had an overhaul with the overall winner being decided on a combination of yield, tender test and taste results as opposed to just taste alone.

Mr Sidey drafted the lamb himself, and after entering for the past four years, believes that experience helped him take out the win. . . 

2016 Beef and Lamb Excellence Awards / Ambassador Chefs to be Announced:

Mark your calendars: The 2016 Beef and Lamb Excellence Award holders will be announced on Tuesday 1 December, alongside five new Beef and Lamb Ambassador Chefs.

The announcement will take place as part of an exclusive 5 course degustation dinner, specially prepared by the five new Ambassador Chefs, on Tuesday December 1 at The James in Auckland.

The 2016 announcement is a special occasion as it marks the 20th anniversary of the Excellence Awards, establishing them as the longest running culinary awards in New Zealand. . . .

Week to Go Til Dairy Awards Entries Close:

There is [less than]a week to go until entries close in the 2016 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, including the Share Farmer of the Year, Dairy Manager of the Year and Dairy Trainee of the Year competitions.

Entries are being accepted online at and close at midnight on November 30.

General Manager Chris Keeping says there have been 360 entries received to date, including 358 who entered in time to be eligible for the Early Bird Entry Prize Draw of $12,000 in travel vouchers and spending money*. . . 

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 27, 2015

Silver Fern Farms could become global brand – Hamish McNeilly:

The head of a Chinese food giant says Silver Fern Farms’ products could one day have the same global brand recognition as Coca Cola.

China’s largest meat processor, Shanghai Maling, plans to invest $261 million cash to own half of Silver Fern Farms’ business, with the co-operative owning the other half.

The company was a listed subsidiary of Bright Food (Group) Co, China’s largest food company, and involved in the manufacturing and distribution of chilled and fresh meat and value-added beef, candy and bottled honey. . .

New milk price is conservative – Hugh Stringleman:

An unexpected jump in milk payout forecast for this season to a more encouraging $4.60/kg of milksolids was the centrepiece of Fonterra’s annual results presentation for the 2015 financial year.

After only three consecutive price rises in fortnightly GlobalDairyTrade auctions Fonterra was emboldened to increase its forecast by 75c or 20% from the dismal $3.85, the record low it sunk to in early August.

Such a quick reflection of price optimism when the season was still young would be welcomed by farm owners, sharemilkers, staff members and rural suppliers as signalling the worst of the price slump was over. . . 

Leaner Fonterra now a quick responder –  Glenys Christian:

Fonterra has finished cutting jobs with the 750 people culled from its 22,000 workforce allowing it to make quicker decisions in response to market volatility, chairman John Wilson says.  

And its transformation project would also build a less risk-averse culture, which could be a problem in such a big and complex organisation.  

“We’ve got to be far faster because markets are moving so rapidly,” he said after Fonterra’s annual results release.  “Sometimes you can be better at doing that with less people rather than more.” . . .

Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings gets big pay rise:

As Fonterra prepares to lay off 750 staff, the firm has disclosed that chief executive Theo Spierings received a pay rise of up to 18 per cent – taking his pay to almost $5 million in the last financial year.

The dairy giant’s latest financial statements show its top-paid employee earned between $4.93 million and $4.94 million in the year to July 31.

That’s up from $4.17 million to $4.18 million in the previous year. . . 

Lake water quality goes online:

Information on the water quality of lakes around the country will now be available online as part of an ongoing initiative between the Government, regional councils and the Tindall Foundation, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.

“Lakes are popular places for swimming and boating, and particularly with the summer months fast approaching, we want the many thousands of New Zealanders who visit them each year to have access to good, reliable information on the health of our lakes around the country. This is why lakes data is the next step for the LAWA website, which already provides data on our rivers and coastal waters,” Dr Smith says.

Dr Smith made today’s announcement with Local Government New Zealand regional sector group chair Stephen Woodhead. The new data on lakes will be live on the website from today. . . 

Agriculture to widen its reach into schools – Tim Cronshaw:

More agriculture exercises will be introduced in secondary school classrooms to encourage urban school leavers to take up careers in the primary industry.

A study programme for teachers to use agriculture examples in their lessons was launched in Christchurch on Tuesday with 15 secondary schools signing up for a pilot.

Accredited resources initially in science, English, mathematics and economics are expected to be delivered to teachers for the start of the new school year and will initially be for year 9 and 10 students. Over the next few years this will be phased in to NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 students and cover a range of curriculum areas based on school and teacher feedback. . . 

Scientists study the mysteries of cheese:

Makers of Roquefort and Camembert could benefit from a new genetic study of 14 fungal species found in cheeses, French researchers say.

But the study published in the journal Current Biology also raises questions about food safety due to the transfer of genes among Penicillium fungi, which are key to the making of soft cheeses.

“We were able to identify genes that are directly involved in the adaptation to cheese in Penicillium, opening the way for strain improvement, in particular for obtaining fast-growing strains,” said co-author Antoine Branca of L’Universite Paris-Sud. . . 

Tweeting panel

August 8, 2015

TV3 asked me to join The Nation’s tweet panel with Generation Zero co-founder Kirk Serpes this morning.

It was an interesting exercise.

Good interviewers listen to what interviewees say and base their next question on what they hear. I tried to do that with my tweets but kept missing the next point as I was tweeting on the last and trying to keep up with other tweets coming in.

Lisa Owen interviewed Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings talking about the farm gate milk price announcement today. This was followed by  reporter Torben Akel discussing governments appointing ex-MPs to government boards and an interview with American journalist Ben Taub who’s been writing about why teenagers’ journeys to jihad. 

The studio panelists were Heather du Plessis-Allan, Jacqueline Rowarth and Bernard Hickey.

Having Heather on the panel was very good marketing for Story which she’ll be co-hosting with Duncan Garner. It starts this Monday.

You can see the tweets here.

Rural round-up

July 17, 2015

Fonterra shares first results of business review:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited has provided a further update on its business review.

Chief Executive Theo Spierings said the Co-operative’s leadership was developing initiatives to deliver value right across the organisation.
“The key aims of the review are to ensure that the Co-operative is best placed to successfully deliver its strategy, increase focus on generating cash flow, and implement specific, sustainable measures for enhancing efficiency. . .

Fonterra top brass on notice from farmers as 523 jobs go in shake-up – Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – Federated Farmers says top management should be leaving Fonterra Cooperative Group if results don’t start improving in the next couple of years.

The comments, from Fed Farmers dairy chair Andrew Hoggard, were in response to the confirmation today by the world’s largest dairy exporter that it will cut 523 jobs to save up to $60 a million a year on its payroll in the first swathe of a major review of the business. Hoggard said he hoped the job losses were part of a wider strategy to redirect resources in new areas rather than a knee-jerk reaction to cut costs as dairy prices continue to fall.

“Fonterra has had a history of knee-jerk reactions like that where it gets rid of a whole bunch of people and then two years later hires them back again, or rather having got rid of people with institutional knowledge, they hire new graduates who can’t do as good a job,” he said. . .

Waipaoa Station moulds young farm cadets for workforce – Kate Taylor:

The physical nature of the work means some farm cadets he works with fill out and some get lean but they all change, says Waipaoa Station stock manager Jerry Cook.

The station and the Waipaoa Farm Cadet Training Trust welcomes five new cadets every year for two years – all straight out of school.

“They come in as kids and leave ready for the workforce. They might arrive still with a bit of puppy fat at 17 and leave two years later toned and strong and armed with the right skills to go farming as adults.” . . .

New Ospri head sees big opportunities ahead – Gerald Piddock:

New Ospri chief executive Michelle Edge has some bold visions for where she sees the organisation making a greater contribution to New Zealand agriculture.

Edge started her new role in May and said there were exciting opportunities ahead for Ospri’s (Operational Solutions for Primary Industries) two wholly-owned subsidiaries TBfree New Zealand and NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing).

“There’s also a range of business development prospects on the horizon,” she said. . .

 Enterprising Rural Women Awards open for 2015:

Entries have opened for the 2015 Enterprising Rural Women Awards (ERWA) offering women who run their own rural businesses the opportunity to boost their profiles and gain recognition for their achievements.

“This year is very special as we have a lot of interest in the awards and we’re already fielding enquiries from women keen to enter,” says Rural Women NZ national president, Wendy McGowan.

Last year’s supreme winners, Keri Johnston and Haidee McCabe from Irricon Resource Solutions have come on board as sponsors. They are enthusiastic about the awards and want to encourage other women in rural businesses to have an opportunity to get the benefits that their business has gained since winning in 2014.

The future of Fijian sugar cane industry not so sweet:

Fiji’s National Farmers Union says the future of the country’s sugar cane industry could be in doubt.

The country’s cane farmers have begun harvesting however many are facing delays of up to six months due to labour shortages.

The union estimates up to 40 percent of the country’s harvesting labour gangs aren’t operating as they are unable to find enough people to fill them. . .

Weaker NZ Dollar Helps Lift Value of Meat Exports:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand compiles lamb, mutton and beef export statistics for the country. The following is a summary of the first nine months of the 2014-15 meat export season (1 October 2014 to 30 June 2015).


Over the first nine months of this season, beef and veal returns and volumes have been higher than lamb and mutton.

Because of the significant size of the market, changes in Chinese demand – specifically, less lamb and mutton and more beef – impacted across all categories of New Zealand meat exports.

Meanwhile, the USD / NZD exchange rate averaged 0.76 in the first nine months of the current season, compared with 0.84 over the same period last season – a 10 per cent drop. This NZD weakness contributed significantly to this season’s higher average export values across all products. . .


LIC sires named best in season:

Two of LIC’s artificial breeding bulls were named sires of the season by Jersey and Holstein-Friesian breed societies at their annual conferences last month.

South Land Jericho received Jersey New Zealand’s JT Thwaites Sire of the Season award and San Ray FM Beamer received Holstein-Friesian New Zealand’s Mahoe Trophy.

LIC bull acquisition manager, Malcolm Ellis, said it is an honour for the co-op’s sires to be recognised by the societies again, after LIC sires took out both awards last year also. . .

Carrfields Group brand to commence market rollout :

The Carrfields Group brand will begin a market rollout from August 2015 and will be fully integrated across the New Zealand agrimarket by December 2015.

Carrfields is borne from the Carr Group’s acquisition of the Elders New Zealand business in August 2014. The name is representative of the South Island based Carr family who have farmed and built the Carr Group of companies over the past forty years from the fields of the Canterbury region. . .



Rural round-up

July 7, 2015

Is A2 milk about to leap forward? _ Keith Woodford:

Shares in The a2 Milk Company (coded as ATM on the NZX stock exchange) have increased from 48.5 cents on 29 May to 75 cents at 3 July. The market capitalisation has risen from $330 million to $495 million. Where the shares will go in the next few weeks is a journey into the unknown.

What is known is that some of the international big boys have been putting together a syndicate to purchase ATM (also listed jointly on the Australian exchange as A2M). The publicly announced parties are America’s Dean Foods and Australia’s Freedom Foods. But in the background are Australia’s Perich family, Australia’s Moxey family, and China’s New Hope agri-food conglomerate. And hovering nearby is Richard Liu from the rapidly growing Chinese online marketer . .

Top Performing Sheep Farmers And Industry Leaders Celebrated:

Sheep farmers have celebrated the top performers in their industry at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards in Invercargill tonight.

This is the fourth year the awards have been held and Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive, Dr Scott Champion said the awards night was a wonderful way to showcase the sheep industry – a major contributor to the New Zealand economy.

“The industry has and continues to make huge progress – for instance, while the number of sheep has halved in the last 25 years, lamb production has only fallen by seven per cent. Improved genetics is part of this fabulous productivity improvement story and tonight’s winners are leading the way in sheep genetics.” . .


Marlborough Lines takes 80% stake in Yealands Wine for $89M – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – Marlborough Lines has bought an 80 percent stake in Yealands Wine Group, New Zealand’s sixth-largest wine exporter, for $89 million.

The South Island electricity lines company took control from founder Peter Yealands, who wanted to keep the winery fully New Zealand owned, the companies said in a joint statement. Marlborough Lines is debt free and had realised $100 million in cash from investments which it wanted to reinvest locally.

“Opportunities to invest in the electricity industry are limited and this led to us looking to other options,” said Marlborough Lines managing director Ken Forrest. “We are satisfied that this will be a successful investment which will broaden our asset base for the benefit of the people of Marlborough.” . .


New phase for NAIT programme

July is the start of the next phase for OSPRI’s NAIT programme with the three-year exemption period for pre-NAIT cattle now over. This means that all cattle must be tagged and registered in the NAIT system, even if they are not leaving your property or were born before the NAIT programme launched in July 2012 (the transition period for deer ends on 1 March 2016).

Dr. Stu Hutchings, OSPRI Group Manager, says, “Our goal is to get everybody on board with NAIT so we can all reap the benefits of tighter TB control and continued access to export markets. The only way to make this happen is if farmers play their part and fulfil their NAIT obligations.” . . .


Fonterra Updates Progress of Its Business Review:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today provided an update on the business review it announced in March this year.

Fonterra Chief Executive Theo Spierings said the purpose of the review is to ensure that Fonterra is best placed to respond to a rapidly changing global environment.

The initial phases had looked at the entire business in detail and had identified potential areas, including significant initiatives in procurement, business operations and working capital, where the Co-operative can unlock increased value for its owners. . .


Silver Fern Farms chief executive appointed to deer board:

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Dean Hamilton has been appointed to the Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) board for a three year term.

Mr Hamilton joined the board as a venison processor-appointee on 1 July, replacing Dr Andrew West at the end of Dr West’s three-year term.

Deer Industry New Zealand chair Andy Macfarlane welcomed Mr Hamilton.

“Silver Fern Farms is our largest venison processor and marketer and we are very pleased to now have a close connection to that company through Dean’s appointment. To have a leader of his calibre on the board will be an asset for DINZ and is a good signal of Silver Fern Farms’ commitment to the deer industry.” . . .

Labour still wants to meddle in other people’s business

June 14, 2015

One criticism of the last Labour government was its propensity for meddling in other people’s business.

Ruminations from party primary industries spokesman Damien O’Connor show it still wants to do that:

The Labour Party has launched into the controversy surrounding Fonterra’s latest restructuring by saying chief executive Theo Spierings should take a voluntary pay cut “to restore credibility with farmers and staff”.

Spierings’ salary has been estimated to be worth about $4 million a year.

“The events of the last week have shaken the farming sector’s confidence in Fonterra, and the chief executive must take responsibility,” Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor said in a statement.

“Theo Spierings should lead by example and voluntarily reduce his pay by half,” he said. . .

Fonterra’s fortunes do impact on the wider economy but it’s not a public company nor is it an SOE.

It’s a co-operative and the chief executive’s salary isn’t any politician’s business.

It’s the business of the board and shareholders and Labour should keep its nose out of it.


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