Rural round-up

24/04/2021

Looking after the land ‘a passion’ – Shawn McAvine:

Looking after the land is a “passion” for Central Otago farmers Ben and Anna Gillespie.

The couple won the 2020 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards, and opened their farm gates in Omakau for a field day last week.

Mrs Gillespie, speaking to about 100 people on the day, said she and her husband were a “solid team”.

She did the “stock work and finances” and he did the “tractor work, irrigation and agronomy“. . .

The cost of getting soil fertility wrong:

Although many people on the planet are willing to pay more for New Zealand produce, productive land to grow that food and fibre is becoming unavailable here in our own backyard.

Both the current government and previous governments aimed to double export dollars from the primary sector.

In answer, ingenious farmers and growers have had to become more efficient with their inputs to do more with less land. The Ministry for the Environment’s report entitled Our Land shows export values of the primary sector doubled while available highly productive land halved between 2002 and 2019.

This was an impressive achievement, but not without impacts. Hitting the political ambition whilst reducing land use and environmental issues is going to require farmers to become even more efficient in the use of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. . .

Trans-Tasman competition expected to increase for dairy farms seeking workers – Maja Burry:

New Zealand dairy farmers are being urged to make staff retention a priority, with the trans-Tasman bubble expected to make the labour market even more competitive.

Both New Zealand and Australia’s primary industries are facing labour shortages, with border restrictions cutting off the normal flow of migrant workers.

A recent survey by the groups Federated Farmers and DairyNZ found almost half of the sector is understaffed, with a quarter of farmers unable to fill some roles for over six months.

The opening of the trans-Tasman bubble on Monday had resulted in some agricultural labour recruiters in Australia ramping up online advertising campaigns targeting New Zealanders – offering free airfares and good wages. . . 

A2 moves from a brand to a category – Keith Woodford:

Many more A2 milk and A2 infant formula brands are now emerging across the globe but market leader The a2 milk Company is struggling

A notable change has been occurring recently with A2 milk products now available from multiple manufacturers. That includes at least three brands of A2 infant formula available here in New Zealand. These offerings are the original a2 Platinum from The a2 Milk Company (ATM), plus relative newcomers Karicare A2 from Danone and Haven A2 linked to Zuru.

There are also now at least three A2 fresh-milk brands in New Zealand, these being Fonterra, Fresha Valley, and a strangely named “organic A3” product which, according to its owners, is also produced exclusively from A2 cows.

Internationally, there are multiple A2 brands of both A2 milk and A2 infant formula now available, particularly in Asia, to a lesser extent in the Americas, but with Europe still lagging. . . 

The harvest has passed but we are not saved – Tom Hunter:

So that’s it. The last of the maize has been chopped and dropped into bunkers, pits and stacks all across the Waikato.

I’ve finished my first, and likely my last season, on the harvesting teams. As always with such work it seems that time has run much faster than a start last September factually shows. About the only slow period was in January as the huge machines were prepped for the coming chore and eyes closely watched the growing maize to pick the right time for gathering.

This time of year has always been celebrated, so let’s start with Bruegel’s classic from 1565. . . 

‘A farmer with 50 cattle today will only be allowed to have 24 in 2030’ – Catherina Cunnane:

The Rural Independents have warned that the Climate Action Bill will “kill the economy while doing nothing to protect the environment”. 

They fear that “small farms will be in danger of disappearing and replaced by large corporate interests, while one-off rural housing will cease to exist”.

The group believe the bill will cause “immeasurable damage to Irish agriculture”, cause food security issues, lead to thousands of direct and indirect job losses across rural Ireland and create enormous and costly volumes of red tape. . . 


Rural round-up

07/12/2020

Real meat is green – Viv Forbes:

Wandering recently through an arcade popular with the green smoothie set, I saw a sign boasting: “Plant Based Meat”.

Someone should advise those nutritional dunderheads that all real meat is plant-based. Real beef and lamb are built from live plants like grasses, lucerne and mulga, plus salt, minerals and clay; the best chicken is built mostly on seeds and shoots of wheat, corn and grasses plus a few worms, insects and gizzard-grit; and when I was a kid our bacon was built by porkers from pollard, whey and vegetable scraps.

Cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, deer, bison, rabbits, turkeys and kangaroos have a long history of providing meat for our ancestral hunters and farmers. In tough times the gatherers and gardeners collected and cultivated survival foods like wild onions, seasonal fruit, cabbages, tubers and grass seeds. But there was always a celebratory feast when the hunters returned with high-nutrition meat. . . 

Meat sector’s five-year targeted plan – Neal Wallace:

The meat sector has outlined four goals for the next five years, which it says will target the sustainable growth of value and enhance people, animals and the environment.

The heart of the strategy, set by Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA), is to generate sustainable profits, premium value, vibrant communities and to be trusted guardians. 

Sustainable profits will come from greater innovation, performance and productivity; premium value from creating and capturing value; vibrant communities from economic growth and employment; and trusted guardianship from being guardians of reputation, animals, water and land.

The latest strategy follows the Red Meat Sector Strategy from 2011 and establishes the priorities B+LNZ and the MIA will work on with industry partners over the next five years. . . 

Contribution to wellbeing recognised – Mark Daniel:

Farmstrong is tipping its hat to the farmers and growers of New Zealand who have contributed to it winning two awards at the recent 2020 New Zealand Workplace Health and Safety Awards.

Farmstrong took out the sector leadership and overall honours with the Supreme Award. The judges highlighted that Farmstrong’s intense focus on the mental health of the rural community…”with a programme that seeks to engage with farmers in a relatable and authentic way, which a generation ago would have seemed unlikely”.

“Everyday farmers and growers have driven this programme by sharing their personal wellbeing stories and, with it, giving other farmers and growers the permission, confidence and practical ideas on how they can invest in their own wellbeing,” says Farmstrong project manager Gerard Vaughan. . . 

Big toys for old boys – Tom Hunter:

Attentive readers of this blog – especially our TDS-infused Lefties – will have noticed that I haven’t been posting as much as normal, even as an important US election has been playing out.

There’s a simple reason for this, and it’s based on something I spotted some months ago via our linked blog, Home Paddock.

With the border closures in early 2020 every agricultural contractor found themselves in trouble because they had come to rely upon a flow of young English and Irish guys who knew how to drive combine harvesters, side-dressers, planters and the rest of the complex, computerised machinery that is the basis of modern farming. Think of them as the harvesting version of snow bums who follow Winter around the world’s skifields.

As a result of this, contractors have been forced to call on guys like me; old bastards who last drove tractors decades ago. But the call had gone out, so in the manner of the Soviet call for all hands on deck in 1941, I decided to give it a crack. . . 

Fonterra forks out for Christmas – Hugh Stringleman:

The 20c increase in advance payments will deliver $300 million more into farmers’ bank accounts, more than half of it before Christmas.

The new range is $6.70 to $7.30 and the midpoint has risen from $6.80 to $7.

When back-paid, the 20c increase in advance payments will deliver $300 million more into farmers’ bank accounts, more than half of it before Christmas.

The widely anticipated upgrade for the milk price accompanied its first quarter trading results, including a 40% increase in normalised earnings compared with the previous corresponding period. . .

Brexit is a betrayal of Britain’s farms – James Rebanks:

I think George Eustice, the PR man turned Secretary of State for the Environment, was still telling homely stories about his Cornish farming grandfather when my mobile phone starting ringing. I was moving my flock of sheep down a lane with my sheepdogs and had planned to catch up with the news when I got back to the farmhouse. I looked at the missed calls then stuffed the phone back in my pocket.

Lots of people, including journalists and friends, were calling to ask what I made of the new agricultural policies announced by Mr Eustice. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised: I wrote a book called English Pastoral about how farming and nature in this country got into this mess, so people expect me to have some kind of intelligent opinion on what is happening and whether it is good or bad. And so, having read the documents and listened to Mr Eustice, here is mine.

Our agricultural policies are going to change — hugely — from what they have been under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). And since the tragic decline of biodiversity on British farmland happened under that policy, this is overall a welcome development. . .


Rural round-up

14/04/2020

Winter is coming – Tom Hunter:

Rabobank provides a regular newsletter to its farming clients and the latest one makes for grim reading.

They’re forecasting a milk payout next season (20/21) of $5.60 per kg. Currently it’s at $7+.

Ouch.

The farmers I talk to don’t accept Rabobank’s analysis. Yet. And Fonterra, Open Country and other dairy companies are still optimistic that next season’s payout will still be well north of $6, even at not at this season’s level. The trouble is that their forecasts have often missed the big swings, notably the $4.30 payout of 2014/15, which came so rapidly after the record $8.40 payout, and I don’t have much confidence in Fonterra in general. . . .

Farmers: “cool” not to be unique. When they started farm environmental improvements, couple were unique – but not any more:

Eastern Southland dairy farmers Chris and Lynsey Stratford fielded a lot of questions on the environmental improvements being made when the property they manage was converted from sheep farming 10 years ago.

“Initially there was a lot of interest from other farmers,” Lynsey said.  “We were unique at the beginning – but not now…and that’s cool.”

That was in Southland – and Lynsey believes there’s been a much greater national understanding by farmers of action leading to big impacts on the environment over the last 10-20 years. . .

 

New Zealand onion growers celebrate multimillion-dollar export success in Indonesia:

New Zealand onion growers are celebrating being able to export their world class crop to Indonesia again.

‘Indonesia has just re-opened its market to New Zealand onions after some clarification was required for the new import rules,’ says Onions New Zealand Chief Executive, James Kuperus.

‘This follows months of negotiations, but with the support of key figures such as Director General Horticulture, Indonesia, Prihasto Setyanto and the Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand, Tantowi Yahya, the regulations have been clarified and exports have resumed.’ . .

Sheep conference going ahead via virtual technology :

The stage is set for an international sheep conference, thanks to virtual technology.

Called Head Shepherd, the event on April 16 has been organised by neXtgen Agri, whose team usually spent most of its days visiting clients and assisting with breeding programmes both in Australia and New Zealand.

It had come to a “screaming halt” with the Covid-19 lockdown and the team was now providing that support via video and phone calls, founder and agricultural geneticist Dr Mark Ferguson said. . . 

Straight off the tussock, farming at Okuku Pass – Tim Fulton:

Jack’s mother Winifred knew the Latin name for every plant in the garden but Bill Blain did most of the work. Bill came out to New Zealand from London in 1882 on the same ship as the English cricket team, who were heading to Australia for the first ever Ashes series.

He had been working in the tramway stables in London, where at one stage he had been in charge of feeding about 7000 horses, but came out because of his lungs were crook. Despite his apparent poor health, Bill’s first big job in New Zealand was draining the Coldstream swamp for John Macfarlane – and then working a paddock for him at Loburn. He also drove traction engines, and apparently went to the Boer War as a fully qualified steam engine driver – but he had a long, narrow trenching spade which he prized for the rest of his life.

He worked for both the Macfarlanes and Fultons from the moment he arrived in New Zealand. He was with us at Broomfield and then went into a boarding house in Rangiora. . .

Primary sector needs more govt support:

The Government needs to urgently engage with the meat industry to look at ways to allow increased productivity over coming weeks, otherwise there will be a significant animal and farmer welfare issue, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“While farmers are an essential business, they are still experiencing significant disruption from COVID-19 and are grappling with the ongoing effects of drought.

“Meat processing plants are an essential service and have taken the appropriate steps to enact social distancing and other precautions for staff, but this has also led to productivity constraints.

“Meat Industry Association Chairman Tim Ritchie told the Epidemic Response Committee there was 75 per cent less venison being processed, 50 per cent less sheep meat and 30 per cent less beef. . . 


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