Rural round-up

August 11, 2019

Fact check: Are our farm systems any better for the climate? – Esther Taunton:

Kiwi farmers love to claim their meat and dairy products come from farms with some of the smallest carbon footprints in the world. 

Unsurprisingly, they were quick to defend their systems after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Report on Climate Change and Land on Thursday.

Federated Farmers led the charge, saying it was concerned New Zealanders “simply don’t understand how much better we are at low-emissions farming than other countries“. . .

Kiwi farmers defend meat after report calls for more plant-based food – Rebecca Black:

We should be eating plenty of plants, South Taranaki dairy farmer Matthew Herbert says, but that doesn’t mean we should reduce our animal-based protein production.

A new IPCC report into climate change makes the recommendation that we alter our diets from being high in meat and dairy to include more plant-based food choices.

The report indicates that more efficient farming methods could dramatically increase food output while keeping emissions in check. . .

AbacusBio merges with plant breeder – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting firm AbacusBio has merged with a North Island-based plant breeding company.

Rotorua-based Gemnetics did similar work to AbacusBio but in plants, not animals, and it was a very complementary skill set, AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell said.

Plant and animal breeding methodologies were converging with the growth in genomics and big data tools and technologies.

The merger would allow the company – retaining the name AbacusBio for operations and Gemnetics for specific plant-breeding software – to offer clients access to leading-edge genetic and system services, software and data management products, she said. . .

Milking it: Tapping into coffee culture – Sally Rae:

Two young Dunedin entrepreneurs are tapping into the nation’s coffee culture.

Jo Mohan and Luka Licul have co-founded Spout Alternatives, with Nick Jackson, of Christchurch, to put milk into kegs and reduce the number of plastic milk containers used in cafes.

The trio are preparing to launch their permanent dispensing system, which is similar to the way beer is available on tap in bars. . .

Let people eat as much red meat as they want Norway’s health minister says :

Norway’s new head of health has criticised the ‘moral police’ and said people should be allowed to eat as much red meat as they want.

In her first days as the country’s new health minister, Sylvi Listhaug implied that Norwegians shouldn’t be told what to do when it comes to health.

The comments come as part of an interview with Ms Listhaug conducted by Norwegian broadcaster NRK. . .

Can the Prairie Generation save rural America? – Laurent Belsie :

Outside Unadilla, Hannah Esch walks into her cooler and pulls out packages of rib-eye, brisket, and hamburger. Over the past nine months her new company, Oak Barn Beef, sold out of meat four times and brought in $52,000 in sales. Over the next year, she expects to double those sales numbers.

That will be a milestone. It will also be when she finishes her last year of college.

Some 150 miles northwest, the Brugger twins, Matt and Joe, show off how they’re diversifying from traditional agriculture. They directly market the beef from the cows they raise and they grow hops for local microbreweries. But the most visible sign of their commitment to the rural Plains is the two-story farmhouse they’re renovating on the family homestead. . . 

 


Rural round-up

December 12, 2018

Inspirational focus in driving NZ wool business honoured – Sally Rae:

Dave Maslen is a reluctant sustainability superstar.

The New Zealand Merino Co’s general manager for markets and sustainability was a finalist in the sustainability superstar category in the recent NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards.

The category, won by Waikato dairy farmer Tracy Brown, celebrated people who inspired and led others to make a difference.

Mr Maslen’s own nomination came as a surprise and he was reluctant to be singled out, saying it was “most definitely” a team effort. . . 

Leaders discuss sustainable farming – Sally Rae:

Agriculture, as a whole, needs to be brave.

That was the take-home message for North Otago dairy farmer Lyndon Strang after attending the annual DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leaders Forum in Wellington recently.

The three-day event was attended by nearly 100 dairy farming leaders who discussed sustainable farming and progressed goals for the future.

Mr Strang and his wife Jane milk 450 cows at Five Forks and run a self-contained operation, wintering all cows, rearing young stock and growing the majority of their supplements. . . 

Waimea Dam to aid eels on journey to Pacific – scientist – Tracy Neal:

The Waimea Dam will improve the health of the river downstream, and ensure the path of eels to their breeding grounds in the Pacific is not hindered, a freshwater scientist says.

The Tasman District Council recently voted to go ahead with the $105 million irrigation and urban supply scheme, despite levels of public opposition, mainly over cost.

Scientist Roger Young, from Nelson’s Cawthron Institute, has been involved in the project since its inception. . .

More farmers feel under financial pressure:

Farmer satisfaction with their banks is dropping, and more are feeling they are under financial pressure, the Federated Farmers November Banking Survey shows.

While 73.7% of the 750 farmers who responded to the Research First-conducted survey said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their bank, that was a drop of 5% since the previous survey in May.   It’s also the lowest satisfaction level recorded in any of the 10 surveys conducted since 2015.

“The results show a need for renewed efforts to improve relationships between farmers and banks,” Federated Farmers Economics and Commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . . 

SenseHub monitors treats – Sonita Chandar:

Consumers of Nestle products can be assured the treats they like best have been made with milk from happy, healthy cows.

As part of Nestle’s commitment on animal welfare it has partnered with Antelliq’s Allflex on a pilot programme to monitor dairy cows’ wellbeing through Allflex’s SenseHub on several Nestle farms.

The collaboration aims to provide Nestle with full visibility into the wellbeing of individual cows and the herd according to a set of key performance indicators. . . 

Group of sheep breeders running parasite resistant stock:

A group of leading sheep breeders have formed WormFEC Gold to show farmers that breeding for parasite resistant genetics will strengthen flocks and save time and money on-farm.

Growing concerns from farmers around increasing levels of drench resistance, rising farming input costs, and issues getting farm labour have prompted 10 WormFEC breeders from across New Zealand to join forces. The breeders’ group brings together more than 200 years combined experience breeding highly productive, parasite resistant rams.

Chairman Robert Peacock of Orari Gorge Station in South Canterbury said the WormFEC Gold group aims to show farmers that breeding sheep for parasite resistance is achievable and will save farmers time and money. He said breeding animals with natural resistance to parasites is part of the long-term sustainable solution for parasite management. . . 

Researchers conclude livestock have no detectable effect on climate – Amanda Radke:

Cow burps are destroying the ozone layer — we’ve all heard that one, and frankly, it’s time for the industry to ditch that myth once and for all.

As our industry zeroes in on topics of sustainability and ways we as beef producers can improve for the better, I continue to beat the same drum — cattlemen and women already do a spectacular job of managing our land and water to produce more beef using fewer resources.

Simply stated, beef production isn’t just sustainable; it’s regenerative. And despite what the naysayers claim, cattle grazing and consuming by-products of crop production play a critical role in our ecosystem. . .

 


Rural round-up

December 4, 2018

Superstar spotlights dairy efforts – Luke Chivers:

DairyNZ Environmental Leaders Forum chairwoman Tracy Brown has won a Sustainable Business Network award. She spoke to Luke Chivers about some of the challenges facing the rural sector.

Waikato dairy farmer Tracy Brown has been named a dairy sustainability champion for inspiring farmers to change on-farm practices, protect waterways, enhance biodiversity and lower their environmental footprints.

She was rewarded for her efforts by winning the Sustainability Superstar category at the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards.

The award marks a momentous occasion for New Zealand’s primary industries, Brown says. . . 

Town folks love a good farm story – Pam Tipa:

‘A good story’ was a key motivator for fourth-generation Helensville farmers Scott and Sue Narbey to open their farm to the public.

The couple opened their farm as part of Fonterra’s Open Gates 2018 day.

“We entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and when we started writing down all the good things we were doing we thought we were doing a pretty good job,” Scott told Dairy News.

“And we were sick of hearing all the bad things and how people perceive dairy farms. . . 

A hand up or corporate welfare? – Andrea Fox:

Westland Milk Products, approved for a taxpayer-funded Provincial Growth Fund loan branded “corporate welfare” by some critics, says it would have been happy for the commercial terms to be disclosed but Government officials ruled them confidential.

The Westland dairy exporter, which in its 2018 annual report discussing a capital restructure said it had “relatively high debt and limited financial flexibility”, is to get a $9.9 million interest-bearing, repayable loan towards a $22 million manufacturing plant project to produce higher-value goods.

The annual report noted Westland’s cash flow for the year was below expectations, its milk payout to farmers was not competitive and “obtaining new capital would make a significant difference to the co-operative”. . . 

People need to be told ‘what wool is about’ – Sally Rae:

Education is the key to lifting the state of the wool industry, industry leader Craig Smith says.

Mr Smith, general manager for Devold Wool Direct, is a member of the Wool Working Group, which has been working on how to create a more sustainable and profitable sector.

Made up of 20 wool producers, processors and other industry representatives, it has been charged with developing a pan-sector action plan.

Earlier this year, Mr Smith was  the first New Zealander to be appointed to the global executive committee of the International Wool Textile Organisation, and he is also heavily involved with Campaign for Wool. . . 

Hill country’s development risks and opportunities:

Sheep and beef farmers are increasingly finishing stock on hill country forage crops and pastures, with a resultant drop in erosion risk.

But some farmers had difficulty assessing the potential environmental impact and the financial return of hill country development, due to the unpredictability of sediment loss and the costs.

This was discovered by studies done as part of the Sustainable Hill Farming Tool project (SHiFT), says Paul Hulse, of Environment Canterbury (ECan).

The SHiFT project is to tell landowners the best ways to address these concerns, says Hulse . .

Smartphone cattle weighing technology set to expand – Lucy Kinbacher:

A HUNGARIAN developed smartphone accessory is helping producers weigh their cattle without the use of any scales or yard infrastructure. 

Known as Beefie, the new technology allows producers to calculate their cattle weights in less than half a minute by attaching an external device to an Android 5.1+ smartphone and capturing a range of photographs.

Livestock are analysed from two to six metres away, even whilst in motion or partially obscured, with more than 5000 tests on animals producing a 95 per cent accuracy rate.  . . 

 


Rural round-up

November 28, 2018

Sheep burping project given wheels – Sally Rae:

This is a tale of burping sheep.

Among the work AgResearch scientists have been doing to reduce methane emissions from agriculture is a project to breed sheep that naturally produce less methane – the gas released in the burps of ruminant livestock.

Having determined sheep could be bred for lower methane emissions, the project was now being rolled-out to farms, giving breeders the opportunity to measure and select sheep with lowered environmental impacts.

Scientists had been working on the prospect of low methane sheep for quite some time, AgResearch Invermay-based senior scientist Dr Suzanne Rowe said yesterday. . . 

Weather, labour stalls contractors – Ken Muir:

While the weather has meant a testing time for farmers and contractors in the south, labour issues continue to be a major constraint in keeping up with work on farms, Southland agricultural contractor Peter Corcoran says.

‘The weather has undoubtedly been better than last year and the recent variations we’ve had have caused some backlogs,” Mr Corcoran said.

”While this has been annoying, we are undoubtedly in much better shape than we were last year.”

At that stage, he said, contractors were sitting around with nothing to do, but at least this year things were off to an early start. . . 

 

Postharvest scientist honoured by NZIAHS:

Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Jeremy Burdon has been awarded a Fellowship of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science in recognition of his longstanding contributions to postharvest science that supports New Zealand’s fresh fruit industries, particularly kiwifruit and avocado.

Dr Burdon is a leading postharvest scientist well respected by industry and academic peers. Over a career spanning 30 years, he has consistently demonstrated outstanding skills in innovative thinking and scientific excellence in partnering science with business. He is especially noted for the science underpinning the successful commercialisation of new kiwifruit cultivars and his practical advice to packhouse and coolstore operators. . . 

Vertical farming has limits:

Vertical farming – where food is grown indoors in high stacks – will not replace traditional fruit and vegetable growing in New Zealand, but it may supplement it in future if technology makes it economically viable, research released today finds.

As part of her Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme, Horticulture New Zealand environmental policy advisor Rachel McClung has published a report, “Can vertical farming replace New Zealand’s productive land to deliver high quality fruits and vegetables in the future?”

“Growing towns and cities are reducing access to some of New Zealand’s most productive land for growing fruit and vegetables,” McClung says. “There is some complacency about this because of the misconception that fruit and vegetables can be grown ‘somewhere else’. But the combination of the right soils and climate is necessary.  . . 

When good sense takes control of the wheel:

 Today marks a big win for on farm safety and biosecurity, says Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis. In the Government’s announcement of its Employment Relations Bill today, a change Federated Farmers advocated for appears to be included.

The Bill allows union representatives the right to access worksites where union members are covered by or bargaining for a collective agreement, but requires consent from employers in all other circumstances. . . 

Glyphosate and TIME magazine: writer employed by advocacy group a dubious choice – Grant Jacobs:

TIME magazine has a story on DeWayne ‘Lee’ Johnston who took Monsanto to court claiming RoundUp caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.[1] The story has obvious appeal, but is crying out for balance and it’s provenance is, to be kind, awkward. I’d love to read his account of his experiences since the trial — but from a source I can trust. I’m dubious that a writer employed by an advocacy organisation can be sensibly used as a journalist.

A reply

responded on TIME’s Facebook page, . . 

Tulips from Balfour – Blair Drysdale:

Quite often when farmers share their frustrations about the weather in conversation with others, we’re accused of just being a “whinging farmer”. But for farmers and horticulturalists alike among others, it dictates our day-to-day operations, our state of mind and the bottom line result at the end of the financial year.

And this year just like all before it, has had its perils and is no exception. A dull winter with little sun and few frosts, has continued on well into spring with plenty of precipitation, a combination of a lack of equinox winds and little sunshine to dry the soil out, has made it very frustrating trying to get spring barley in the ground here. . . 

On the farm – what’s happening in rural New Zealand:

What’s happening on farms and orchards around New Zealand? Each week Country Life reporters talk to people in rural areas across the country to find out.

Northland warmed up as the week progressed. It has had a drop or two of rain – 30 to 40mm in the west, less in the east. That has nudged along sluggish grass growth, which has given farmers the confidence to buy cattle. Two-year-old steers have been fetching between $1200 and $1500 and yearlings $650 to $1000. Female cattle have not been doing so well. Prices are down for younger cattle by 8 to12 percent compared with last year. . . 


Rural round-up

May 16, 2018

Outbreak response criticised – Sally Rae:

The Ministry for Primary Industries has not been ”up to the job” when it comes to dealing with the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, Federated Farmers national board member Miles Anderson believes.

Speaking at Otago Federated Farmers’ annual meeting in Balclutha yesterday, Mr Anderson said he was a ”bit disappointed” in MPI’s response.

Once the outbreak was dealt with, industry needed to have a debriefing with MPI and work out how improvements could be made. ”It’s currently not acceptable the way it’s going,” he said.

There were people with neighbouring properties that were infected who had not been informed, while there were other farmers who had cattle of interest to MPI who were unaware of that.

Communication needed to be worked on initially, Mr Anderson said. . .

Mycoplasma bovis: the ground has shifted with a megathrust – Keith Woodford:

Events of recent days demonstrate that eradication of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand is no longer a realistic option. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is scrambling to get its messaging together. New strategies are now needed.

As I write this on 13 May, the MPI website still refers in its text material to 38 infected properties. But the latest version of the infection map from MPI tells a very different story (see below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is apparent from comments by BioSecurity NZ Chief Roger Smith to a Parliamentary Committee on 10 May, that the sudden growth in infected and suspected infected properties has come as a big surprise. That may well be so to the Wellington officials, but it will be much less of a surprise to those who have been working closer to the cows. . .

Guy Trafford says although MPI are slow to accept it, containment of MPB is the future with a long-term eradication plan as was used with TB. That will change dairying:

There is consensus from every-one, except perhaps MPI, is that the mycoplasma bovis has bolted and probably had some time ago.

This whole episode has been hampered by things not working as well as they should have. Somehow the disease got in when it shouldn’t have been able.

NAIT was shown to be very deficient from farmers using it through to MPI administrating it.

The testing processes despite earlier assurances still appears not to be able to provide the accuracy required to be able to make decision that affect whole families lives and livelihoods. . . 

Hunt on for rogue Northland wallaby – Andrew McRae:

High-tech surveillance equipment and two tracking dogs have been called in after a wallaby was spotted in South Hokianga.

Staff from Northland Regional Council and the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Te Roroa iwi members are scouring about 500 hectares of farmland and native bush.

Council biosecurity manager Kane McElrea said a person had seen a wallaby on at least two separate occasions at their Waimamaku property in recent months, but did not initially appreciate the potential significance of the sightings. . .

Browns win gold for sustainability:

Matamata farmers Edward (Wynn) and Tracy Brown are the inaugural winners of the Fonterra Farm Source Responsible Dairying Award.

The award was presented at the NZ Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) in Invercargill last Saturday.

The Browns are considered leaders within the dairy industry, in all areas of sustainability, business and farm management, as well as in the way they give back to the industry and community. . . 

Duncans scoop Share Farmer of the Year title –  Sudesh Kissun:

Northland farmers Daniel and Gina Duncan are the 2018 Share Farmers of the Year. 

The former registered land valuers are 50:50 sharemilkers for the Pouto Topu A Trust. The 460ha property on the Pouto Peninsula,at the northern head of Kaipara Harbour, milks 1020 cows.

The Duncans finished top in three of the nine judging categories, winning the PrimaryITO Interview Award, Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award and Westpac Business Performance Award at the awards night in Invercargill. . .

Call for extra focus on tax treatments – Yvonne O’Hara:

Farming employers and employees are being urged to talk more about tax and benefit allowances, Federated Farmers manager general policy Nick Clark says.

Inland Revenue is consulting on the question of what the tax treatments should be for allowances paid and benefits provided to farm workers, and people have until Friday to make a submission.

Mr Clark said benefits allowances covered things such as boarding school fees, while reimbursement allowances were given for things such as wet weather gear and dogs. . . 


Rural round-up

July 18, 2017

 Southern Dairy Hub celebrated – Sally Rae:

About 200 dairy farmers and supporters gathered to celebrate the opening of the Southern Dairy Hub in Southland on Friday.

Conversion of the 349ha property at Makarewa, near Invercargill, began in November last year and the hub is now operational, with research under way and calving due to begin.

The official opening, by Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell, was an ”important milestone” for the region and New Zealand, Southern Dairy Hub chairman Maurice Hardie said. . . 

Future of dairy women bright in Women of Influence nominations:

Two women described as “humble and leading from the heart” are among the nominees for this year’s Women of Influence awards.

Dairy Women’s Network trustees Pamela Storey and Tracy Brown have been nominated for the Women of Influence award in the rural category.

Ms Storey is an electrical engineer ‘by trade’ and has extensive governance experience across a variety of local and international organisations, including the Energy Management Association of New Zealand, the Waikato Environmental Centre, the Council for Women in Energy and Environmental Leadership, and most recently Primary ITO. . . 

NZ fruit & vegetable sector urged to watch consumer trends:

There is significant potential for New Zealand to increase sales of fruit and vegetable produce into both developing and developed markets, but the industry must keep a close eye on evolving consumer consumption patterns if it is to maximise export opportunities, according to a visiting US fruit and vegetable expert.

In New Zealand last week to meet with local growers and to deliver a keynote address at the Horticulture New Zealand conference in Tauranga, Rabobank’s California-based senior fruit and vegetable analyst Dr Roland Fumasi said the growing middle-class population in developing countries had generated considerably greater global demand for fruit and vegetables. . .

Twin beef titles for Gore farmer – Sally Rae:

An ”outstanding” eye muscle area of 191sqcm was among the reasons Gore farmer Mike Thompson claimed this year’s Otago-Southland beef carcass competition title.

Mr Thompson’s Limousin steer won both the on the hoof and on the hook sections of the annual competition, which attracted 30 entries.

Convener Barry Gray said entries were down on recent years, which could possibly be attributed to a good season with cattle being killed earlier. . .

Deer industry mulls GIA – Annette Scott:

Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) has begun exploring the benefits of entering a Government Industry Agreement (GIA) on biosecurity.

The organisation’s science and policy manager Catharine Sayer said maintaining the health of NZ’s deer herd and protecting it from biosecurity risks was critical to the industry, prompting DINZ to explore the benefits of entering a GIA. 

She said livestock industries, including DINZ, had been fleshing out with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) what a GIA would look like for the sector. . . 

Pinus radiata, New Zealand’s adopted icon –  Jean Balchin:

I used to be terrified of pine forests. The tall, dark trees seemed to quiver with menace, fringing the roads as we drove along in our little car. I’d peer out the window and dare myself to look into the forest, half expecting to see a wild thing lurking between the trees.

Pinus radiata is New Zealand’s great timber tree. It covers 1.3 million hectares of land and forms the basis of a massive export industry. It was first introduced into New Zealand in 1859 and comprises 89% of the country’s plantation forests, including the massive Kaingaroa Forest on the central plateau of the North Island, the largest planted forest in the world. . . 

Rural recycling programme challenges New Zealand to clear more waste:

Rural recycling programme, Agrecovery, challenges other industries to follow its lead in clearing more of New Zealand’s plastic waste.

The programme will this year recover and recycle over 300 tonnes of plastic that might otherwise be burnt, buried or dumped. “That is enough plastic to cover a rugby field six feet high,” says Agrecovery General Manager, Simon Andrew.

“Agrecovery is a great example of how manufacturers, industry, government and consumers can work together to reduce the harmful impacts of plastic waste on our environment,” he says. . . 

Off Road Heaven – The Pinnacle of Adventure Travel in New Zealand:

The words ‘adventure tourism’ and ‘Queenstown’ go hand-in-hand:

And now one of the tourism resort’s longest-standing adventure tourism companies is revving up the adventure experience to a whole new level.

Off Road Queenstown, a pioneer in everything off road since its inception over 27 years ago, is offering those seeking the ultimate Kiwi adventure the opportunity of a lifetime.

Their new tailor-made private expeditions on four wheels or two – off-road (of course) through the central South Island — give groups exclusive access to some of world’s most stunning and remote off-road terrain and landscapes. . . 


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