Rural round-up

October 28, 2019

‘We have not suddenly woken up’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

For dairy farmer Peter Dobbie, learning about what affects his farm’s environment and how to remedy or improve it has been a continually evolving journey that has taken almost three decades.

”We have not suddenly woken up and realised we need to do this or that,” he said.

He has been farming since 1991, and was a financial consultant before that.

By 2001 he had moved to dairying in partnership with his brother William. . .

Helping farmers make green dough – Tim Fulton:

A team of agricultural innovators wants to help farmers take clever ideas to market across at least 100,000ha of mixed Kiwi farmland. Tim Fultonreports.

The self-described social enterprise-plus, Leftfield Innovation, is helping farmers explore alternative land uses and contracts.

Funding the enterprise mostly from trust grants, processing companies, farmers and science funds the co-founders Nick Pyke and Susan Goodfellow and four colleagues are exploring commercial opportunities for farmers to convert low-yield farmland to grow high-yield crops. . . .

Gas calculator gets support – Samantha Tennent:

With data scientists and software developers at their disposal Jo Kerslake and Mark Teviotdale from AbacusBio are keen to help farmers understand their on-farm emissions.

When Kerslake heard the call for projects from the Rural Innovation Lab she applied without a clear picture of what an end product could look like.

“We were a little unsure about what farmers wanted to know,” she said. . .

New Zealand’s wallaby problem tough to tackle, fears hunters spreading them – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s wallaby problem could become a full-blown plague unless efforts to control them are ramped up and ‘shortsighted’ hunters start playing by the rules.

Forest and Bird says the pests could spread to cover a third of the country unless the Government steps in to fund a beefed-up control programme.

Central North Island regional manager Rebecca Stirnemann said wallabies were like giant rabbits, eating their way through native bush, damaging tussock grasslands and devouring pasture and young pine trees. . .

Record cattle kill at Pukeuri :

The Pukeuri meat works near Oamaru processed a record number of cattle in the past season.

The Alliance Group announced the achievement for its North Otago plant on Wednesday, saying more than 71,000 cattle were handled there in the beef season that finished on September 30.

The record was the result of hard work and commitment from staff and from farmers who supported the co-operative, chief executive David Surveyor said. . . .

Potential shake-up of GE restrictions – Pam Tipa:

Current restrictions on genetic modification regulation in New Zealand could be reviewed if National were to form the next government.

The party says it will be ready to go out and consult on a proposed review of the legislation and our current regulations if elected.

National leader Simon Bridges says if NZ is serious about tackling climate change that will require biotech answers.  . .


Rural round-up

October 25, 2019

Leader has passion for deer industry – Sally Rae:

Deer Industry New Zealand’s new chief executive Innes Moffat is well versed in the industry.

He has been with the organisation for 14 years and replaces Dan Coup, who is now chief executive of the QEII National Trust.

During his first week in the new role, Mr Moffat said he was conscious his knowledge of the industry and its people was a strength and he could provide continuity as he stepped up to lead the organisation. . . .

Cut nitrates make money – TIm Fulton:

Catch crops and oats don’t usually figure highly in a dairy farmer’s plans but that might change as new nutrient management regulations come into force. Tim Fulton reports.

Clinging to the northern bank of the Rakaia River the last of three Canterbury catch crop trials for this season is growing on a Te Pirita dairy winter forage block that forms part of a three-year Sustainable Farming Fund project to show the benefit of catch crops to reduce nitrate leaching. . .

Shearer aims for world record – Alexa Johnston:

Nine hours of “heart and concentration” is ahead of Alexandra-based shearer Stacey Te Huia, as he attempts to break a world record.

Te Huia aims to claim the 9-hour merino wethers record on December 7, in a shearing shed near Ranfurly.

The record is one of the longest-standing in the books, held by Rakaia shearer Grant Smith, who shore 418 sheep within the allocated time in November 1999. . . .

Nuts? Research says ‘significant’ potential for Rotorua nut crops – Samantha Olley:

Could nuts be the next big thing for Rotorua? It is an idea that has been described by researchers as “radical” – and one that could bring millions of dollars to the region. There is 5000ha of land in the district suitable for growing nut crops and three farms are investigating how it could work for them. Journalist Samantha Olley looks into how nut crops could benefit Rotorua economically, what it would take to get the idea off the ground – and how they could improve the district’s environment.

An idea to bring new edible nut crops to Rotorua is capturing wide interest and could bring at least $20 million a year into the district.

Newly published Crown research says there is “significant” potential for industrial edible tree nut crops in the Rotorua area – but it will require “radical” collaboration. . .

Scholarships address need for farming and horticulture apprentices:

Primary ITO is responding to the urgent need for skilled workers in agriculture and horticulture by launching a scholarship programme for apprentice fees.

Applications for the scholarships are open for October and November and will cover fees for the whole duration of the apprenticeship programmes, which generally take 2-3 years.

“Our industries are facing unprecedented challenges right now and we believe scholarships for apprentices will help business gain the skills they need,” says Primary ITO’s incoming chief executive Nigel Philpott. . .

 

National Farmers Federated to mobilise support for expansion of ag – Mervyn F Bendle:

Finally! The National Farmers Federation has announced that it will implement a long-term public relations campaign to mobilise public and political support for a major expansion of the agricultural industry in Australia and combat the zealotry of animal rights activists and green extremists.

Such a response is well overdue. As I discussed over six years ago in a Quadrant Online article, Australia faces an epoch-defining challenge. With the global population projected to exceed nine billion people by 2050 our country is well placed to become a major food supplier to the world, doubling — even quadrupling — agricultural production, and generating an additional $1.7 trillion in aggregate export earnings over the next four decades. Estimates vary, but global food supply will have to increase by between 60 per cent and 100 per cent by 2050 to satisfy requirements. This is not idle musing: hundreds of millions of people will starve if the global food supply is not greatly increased. . .


Rural round-up

September 5, 2019

Time for a grownup conversation about gene-editing – David Hughes:

 In the late 1990s public scepticism cast genetic modification as “The answer to the question no-one was asking”. Today, the new technology of gene editing is emerging as a real option in facing some of our world’s biggest challenges in food production, medicine, conservation and climate change.

The Institute I lead, Plant & Food Research, has committed our science to helping New Zealand’s agri-food sector deliver the best quality foods from the world’s most sustainable production systems. We believe gene editing can help us meet that commitment. 

Today, Plant & Food Research breeds only 100 per cent GM-free fruit, vegetables and grains. We have never developed GM foods for commercial use and industry does not fund us to do so. Yet our discovery-focused teams routinely use gene technologies to further our knowledge. 

They’ve learned that gene editing can help us achieve our traditional breeding targets around sustainability and nutrition much faster. That means consumers get more healthy whole foods sooner.  . . 

Trees debate ratchets up – Colin Williscroft:

Large swathes of agricultural land need not be planted in trees for New Zealand to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets, NZ’s largest carbon farmer says.

In presenting NZ Carbon Farming’s submission to the Environment Select Committee on the Zero Carbon Bill, company founder and managing director Matt Walsh was questioned by MPs who said they had been told by officials that 30% of NZ’s agricultural land will need to be planted in trees to meet the Bill’s carbon dioxide emissions target of zero by 2050.

Walsh said he has heard the 30% figure before and is puzzled where it came from. He does not believe it is correct.

NZ Carbon Farming has asked officials how they got the number but has not had a definitive answer. . . 

Shear happiness for young women – Yvonne O’Hara:

”Shearing is an art.”

So says Ariana Te Whata, of Mossburn, who was taking part with three other young women in a course run by Elite Shearer Training on the Dowling family’s farm near Gimmerburn last week.

Three of the women, Tatjiana Keefe, of Raupunga, Cheyenne Howden, of Feilding, and Ariana work for Dion Morrell Shearing. They all intend to go shearing full time.

Ariana grew up in a shearing shed and her parents, Vanessa and Mana Te Whata, are shearing contractors and run Shear Tech. Mr Te Whata is a champion competitive shearer.

”I love shearing,” Ariana said.

”I love the art of it and it is beautiful to watch. . . 

Promoting eucalypts– David HIll:

Gary Fleming’s efforts to advocate for the value of eucalyptus trees has been recognised.

The North Canterbury farmer was named South Island Farm Forester of the Year at the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association conference held in Rotorua.

‘‘It’s a good award to get, as it takes a fair bit of dedication,’’ Mr Fleming said.

‘‘There’s a lot of people in the South Island who grow trees and anybody in farm forestry can apply for it.’’

The North Canterbury branch chairman was nominated by his branch committee earlier this year, after missing a meeting due to illness. . . 

Food tourism helps farmers survive – Tim Fulton:

A group of Queensland farmers is making the most of food tourism, proving town and country can work in harness for culinary satisfaction.

Maleny calls itself a hinterland town though, by Australian standards, it’s only a skip from the big smoke.

Perched on the Blackall Range, about 40 minutes from Sunshine Coast beaches, the area catches day trippers on Queensland’s hinterland tourist drive. . . 

 

Love lamb week to encourage better use of carcase :

Yorkshire farmer’s daughter and Great British Menu chef Stephanie Moon is calling on chefs to make better use of the lamb carcase as the country prepares for Love Lamb Week.

The annual campaign, commencing from the 1st of September to the 7th, aims to change perceptions of when to eat lamb.

It highlights that the highest volume of UK product is actually available during the last six months of the year, despite many consumers typically choosing to enjoy lamb around Easter time.

The National Sheep Association (NSA) will be involved in the industry-wide campaign, alongside AHDB Beef & Lamb and other UK levy bodies. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 1, 2019

Spring venison spike back – Annette Scott:

The return of the spring peak in venison prices is not expected to reach the unprecedented highs of last year.

Deer farmers are starting to see a return of the seasonal venison price increase that traditionally occurs each spring, Deer Industry New Zealand chief executive Dan Coup says. 

It follows an unusual 2017-18 season when venison prices climbed steadily from January 2017 before peaking in October last year. 

The return of the spring peak doesn’t come as a surprise but Coup hopes the peaks and troughs in the seasonal price curve will be less marked than in the past.  . . 

Chasing the rainbow – Tim Fulton:

He can play it for laughs and he can play it serious. There’s a discerning side to social media star farmer Tangaroa Walker. Tim Fulton reports.

Media sensation Tangaroa Walker has X-factor in spades and he wants to use it to lift other farmers out of the mire.

Walker has a virtual arena for the job, his vividly upbeat and out-there Facebook page, Farm 4 Life.

He is a contract milker on a 550-cow farm at Invercargill.

The page is a funny but sometimes poignant look at the industry’s challenges. . .

Crown to net $5 million from Westland Milk sale – Eric Frykberg:

The profit made by the country’s largest farmer from the sale of its shares in Westland Milk Products, will disappear into government coffers via a special dividend.

Pāmu, or Landcorp, owns 10 farms supplying to Westland and is its second-largest shareholder.

Earlier this month Westland’s 350 farmer shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favour of selling Westland to China’s Yili dairy conglomerate at a rate of $3.41 per share.

This will net the Crown $5m from a sale that ministers always strongly opposed.

The payment of the dividend is being made despite the fact that overall, state-owned Pāmu suffered a big loss. . . 

Important to choose right crop for right animals on right land – Yvonne O’Hara:

Sediment traps, back fencing, portable water troughs and buffer zones are some of the key elements of good winter grazing practices that Wilden sheep and beef farmers Simon O’Meara, and Peter Adam, recommend.

By careful management, both farmers ensure their sheep and cattle are well fed and as sheltered and comfortable as possible during winter break feeding and adverse weather events.

At the same time, by using the same principles, they can also reduce nitrate and sediment loss and enhance water quality on their properties. . . 

Women in wool take on shearing challenge – Linda Hall:

THE ACRYLIC nails are gone, so has the nail polish, their high heels replaced with moccasins.

They don’t meet for coffee on a Saturday morning, instead this group of amazing women dressed in black head to a woolshed ready for some hard yakka.

Every Saturday since March this group of professional women have been training hard. They call themselves Women in Wool and their goal is to raise as much money as possible for Farmstrong — a nationwide rural wellbeing programme for farmers and growers to help them live well to farm well. . . 

Kea playground to be installed – Kerrie Waterworth:

Complaints of missing gloves, stolen food and shredded windscreen wipers at Treble Cone skifield could soon be a thing of the past when a new kea playground is installed.

The familiar mountain parrot has been a regular visitor to Wanaka’s closest skifield for many years, attracted primarily by the prospect of food scraps.

Treble Cone brand manager Richard Birkby said despite erecting signs and staff educating guests about the thieving habits of kea, the skifield still received regular complaints about kea knocking over mugs, flying off with trays of chips and destroying gloves.

Health and safety officer Jessica Griffin said the idea for the kea playground at Treble Cone skifield was prompted by the kea gyms in Nelson and at the Homer Tunnel and Manapouri power station at West Arm, established primarily to keep kea away from roads and damaging cars. . . 

 


Rural round-up

August 12, 2019

Big tick for farmers – Neal Wallace:

The red meat industry hopes to ramp up its Taste Pure Nature brand campaign on the back of the latest international climate change report.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is being welcomed by New Zealand farming leaders as an endorsement of our low impact systems and the importance of maintaining food production.

The IPCC says land on which we rely for food, water, energy, health and wellbeing is already under pressure and climate change will exacerbate that through desertification . . .

OAD milking offers labour solution – Peter Burke:

Once-a-day (OAD) milking could open a whole new labour market for dairy farmers, says a DairyNZ Wairarapa Tararua consulting officer Gray Beagley.

He says OAD farmers can choose what time they milk, so a later milking time may attract workers who find early mornings hard, and people getting young children off to school. About 9% of dairy herds nationwide are on full season OAD, but Beagley says this is just an average.

In Northland about 25% of all herds are OAD. This variation is partly, but not exclusively, due to the weather.  . .

The father and son shearing duo who both have world titles :

Sir David Fagan is known as the best shearer in the country, with over 600 wins, a number of world records and many world titles. 

His 27-year-old son Jack has just touched down in the country after winning the World Shearing Championships Speed Shear in France. 

The father and son duo have not only competed head to head in the shearing sheds, but they also own a dairy farm together.  . . .

First time dairy farmers take the plunge – Gerard Hutching:

“To buy or not to buy” – that’s the question on dairy farmers’ minds as they weigh up whether now is the right time to invest in some rural real estate.

Milk prices are up, land values are flat or falling, cow prices trending down, interest rates low and Fonterra shares in decline – all ingredients for dipping a toe into ownership.

“There’s a lot of opportunity out there. We looked at over 20 farms and we became pretty good at doing budgets quickly to figure out if a farm could work with the budget we had. We put offers on a few of farms which weren’t accepted, before finding the Tirau farm where our offer was accepted through the tender process,” Mark and Cathy Nicholas say. . .

Kellys keep balance and belief – Tim Fulton:

Even if locusts land on their post-earthquake property the Kelly family will be ready. Tim Fulton reports.

Rebekah and Dave Kelly have an eye for the upside.

In November 2016 the hill country farmers lost most of the infrastructure on their 2000ha North Canterbury property to the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake.

Half a hillside slipped into the Leader River, creating a dam the family christened Lake Rebekah. . .

Walking the talk for safe farming through spring:

With spring just around the corner, farmers will be spending more time out on the farm preparing for the new season’s jobs.

Lambing and calving, tailing and docking, lice treatments, vaccinations, BVD testing for bulls, drenching young heifers, spreading fertiliser and preparing for shearing make it an incredibly busy time.

“Many of these jobs require close contact with animals, including lifting, chemical use and using heavy machinery,” says Mark Harris, Beef + Lamb New Zealand lead extension manager. . .


Rural round-up

August 2, 2019

Can we make stone soup for rural wellbeing? – Michelle Stevens:

Executive Summary

The fable of Stone Soup tells the tale of a weary stranger arriving at a village. He convinces the villagers to each contribute an ingredient in order to make a meal for everyone to enjoy. The weary stranger elaborately makes use of a simple stone as the key ingredient, to start creating the soup, as a catalyst for the village coming together. As the stranger leaves, the villagers plead for the soup recipe. It is at this point the stranger reveals they have always had the recipe. Simply put, it took each of them making a small contribution which ultimately provided a significant result.

The moral of the story is that there is value in collaboration to achieve a better outcome. The question is – can we make Stone Soup for Rural Wellbeing? Mental health and wellbeing is a wicked problem for New Zealand. This report serves to explore if there is sufficient interest within the agricultural sector to pursue a working arrangement, commercial interest’s aside, in collaborating for the betterment of rural wellbeing. . . 

Zero Carbon Bill targets ‘unachievable’ – retiring National MP :

Outgoing National MP Nathan Guy says the public and government have got quite a way to go to see what shape or form the Zero Carbon Bill ends up in.

Ōtaki MP and opposition agriculture spokesperson Mr Guy told Morning Report the Zero Carbon Bill targets were “too extreme”.

“That methane target range from 24 to 47 percent is unachievable. It’s going to take some magic to get there,” he said.

“Yes, we need to do our part” but it slows down the economy. . . 

Plan threatens lowland farms – Tim Fulton:

A Canterbury farmer is quitting a top land and water post, fearing lowland agriculture is being regulated out of existence.

Rangiora dairy farmer and farm management consultant Dave Ashby is chairman of the Waimakariri zone committee, which recommended policy to Environment Canterbury for a local land and water plan change. The proposed plan change 7 is now up for public submissions. 

Ashby is meantime stepping down as zone committee chairman.

“I need to concentrate on my farm and business. Over 80 meetings and workshops over two years is a large commitment and it’s now time to stick to the knitting,” he said.

He will remain on the zone committee at this stage but is very concerned about the direction the plan is taking. . . 

Central Otago rural midwife crisis worsens

The Government must step up and help the Southern District Health Board as Central Otago’s chronic midwife shortage worsens, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean says.

“The board is struggling to fill staffing gaps, with a shortage of relief midwifes affecting Charlotte Jean Maternity, in Alexandra, midwives in Wanaka and the Lakes District Hospital Maternity Unit, in Queenstown.

“I understand board staff are currently working day to day to ensure rosters are filled and that they are really struggling to find staff across the region. . .

Feds scorn firearms register

The practicality and cost of a firearms register will be a waste of money and resources, Federated Farmers says.

The second tranche of proposed Arms Act amendments features a range of tighter controls on firearms ownership and licensing, some of which beg serious questioning. Federated Farmers rural security spokesman Miles Anderson said.

Feds has previously opposed the compulsory registration of all firearms based on the complexity and cost of the process, questionable safety benefits and the likelihood of success.

“We haven’t had a firearms register in New Zealand for almost 40 years.

“The successful re-establishment of one now would require a considerable investment, both economically and socially,” Anderson said. . . 

Grass fed beef can help SOLVE climate change – Dawn Gifford:

150 years ago, much of the Midwest was still covered with chest-deep prairie grassland, providing valuable food and habitat for billions of plant and animal species, including millions of elk, bison and deer. These lands also supported natural environmental processes like carbon sequestration and seasonal flood control.

When Americans first settled the Midwestern prairies, they killed off the natural bison and other ruminants that lived there and began to farm highly fertile, virgin soil that was about 10 percent organic matter. . . 

 


Rural round-up

July 30, 2019

Leading the world and saving it, too – but let’s brace for a drop in our standard of living (and wellbeing) – Point of Order:

So  how  “transformational”  will  the   zero  carbon  legislation  prove to be?

Many  New Zealanders  have come to believe  global  warming  poses  a  real danger  to  their lives – but will the new legislation remove, or even lessen, the danger?

Under the legislation, agriculture   for the first time is brought into the emissions trading  scheme.  That’s won  support from Green lobbyists, but many  say it’s too little, too late –  “a  weak-ass  carbon  reform”.

On  the  other side,  the  criticism is  just as pointed.  There are  no tools to  measure  on-farm emissions and what  the  government proposes   could   shrivel  NZ’s growth rate  by  up to  $50bn   a year. . . .

Planting a billion trees by 2028:

What’s not to love about a billion trees?

Plenty, if you farm in rural New Zealand. For a start, trees require land.

And it’s the fear that farmland will be turned into pine forest that has some worried about the government’s ambitious target of getting a billion trees in the ground by 2028. . . .

Warning of green desert of trees – Tim Fulton:

Incentives for tree-planting credit schemes could create a great, green desert of radiata pine and trample native bush, officials have heard.

The Government proposes taxing farm livestock emissions and fertiliser emissions from 2025.

A Primary Industries Ministry public consultation meeting in Christchurch debated the policy linked to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), a closed, government-managed carbon credit market that’s changing agricultural land use. . . 

Small gains mount up – Colin Williscroft:

Taking small but simple steps on farms can help cut greenhouse gas emissions without biting too deeply into the bottom line, Tirau farmer Adrian Ball says.

With Parliament’s Environment Select Committee hearing views on the viability and fairness of agricultural greenhouse gas reduction targets in the Zero Carbon Bill and debate building on how best to move towards on-farm emission charging, what’s been missed is the work already done by farmers.

However, Ball and others are making incremental changes to reduce their emissions while keeping their eye on the bottom line. . .

Reduction of Johne’s disease possible – Sally Rae:

A case study involving Otago-based DRL Ltd has demonstrated that effective reduction in the prevalence of Johne’s disease is possible for New Zealand dairy farmers.

The study has been completed, in collaboration with Temuka veterinarian Andrew Bates, and a paper accepted for publication in the journal BMC Veterinary Research.

It described the control of Johne’s disease – a chronic wasting disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis – on a large South Canterbury dairy farm with an ongoing Johne’s problem. The farmer was culling between 80 and 100 cows a year on the 1200-cow farm. . . .

Outlook remains for sheepmeat producers -Sally Rae:

Sheepmeat prices are expected to stay at elevated levels over the remainder of this season and into the next, Rabobank animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate says.

Pricing levels out to the end of the season in October were expected to be at least as high as the mid $8 mark per kg seen last year and there could even be some “upside potential” on top of that.

Sheep meat supply from both New Zealand and Australia – the key exporters of sheepmeat to international markets – was expected to remain tight over the coming year.

New Zealand had limited capacity to lift domestic production, given where ewe numbers were at. . .

Women of the Irish food industry- Susanna Crampton, farmer and educator  – Katia Valadeau:

I first met Suzanna Crampton, at her farm, in leafy Kilkenny, a couple of years ago.  She was one of the first small food producers I visited when I started branching out from recipes. She welcomed me at her home and I was lucky enough to meet Bodacious, the wonderful Cat Shepherd and Ovenmitt, the cuddliest cat I’ve ever met. I wrote all about my visit to the zwartbles farm at the time. The hour at Suzanna’s kitchen table is an hour I often think about when I try to explain why I’m so passionate about small food producers in Ireland. 

I am still just learning about the many aspects of life of a farm, the sacrifices, the hard work, the rewards and the glorious food. The conversations I had that day with Julie of Highbank Orchardsand with Suzanna Crampton have stayed with me and I think of them as the true start of my education in all things Irish food. Before, food writing was a hobby. It has since become a full blown passion and has gone into all sorts of directions.  . .

 


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