Rural round-up

January 14, 2020

Is New Zealand armed for future bio security threats? – Louisa Steyl:

A decade of significant biosecurity breaches have cost the New Zealand economy millions. Reporter LOUISA STEYL finds out if our security borders can withstand modern pressures or are we even more at risk?

“It was scary. I couldn’t work out what was going on.”

Waikaia farmer Rodney Williamson wasn’t sure what the implications would be when the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) found two velvetleaf plants on his Southland farm. 

That was in 2016. . .

Avocado growers prepared in case of summer drought

Avocado growers are confident they will be able to cope in the event of a summer drought.

Forecasters from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said the soil in the top three-quarters of the country had become dry in the past week, with no immediate reprieve in sight.

Avocado industry group Avoco spokesperson Steve Trickett said there was a reasonable crop load at the moment and growers were fairly relaxed. . . 

Shear-a-thon part of fundraiser for young Tapanui family – Jamie Seattle:

The farming industry is uniting to help Shaun Bradley and his family through one of their biggest challenges. 

Bradley, 28, is a Tapanui farm manager battling cancer. He has stage four B cell non hodgkin’s lymphoma.

West Otago communities have rallied around Bradley, his wife Olivia and their 8 1/2-month-old daughter Charlotte. The couple recently celebrated their second wedding anniversary. 

His employers, Nelson and Fiona Hancox, and PGG Wrightson wool buyer Jared Manihera are arranging a 24-hour shear-a-thon as a fundraiser for the Bradley family. . .

‘Like sending bees to war’: the deadly truth behind your almond-milk obsession – Annette McGivney:

Dennis Arp was feeling optimistic last summer, which is unusual for a beekeeper these days.

Thanks to a record wet spring, his hundreds of hives, scattered across the central Arizona desert, produced a bounty of honey. Arp would have plenty to sell in stores, but more importantly, the bumper harvest would strengthen his bees for their biggest task of the coming year.

Like most commercial beekeepers in the US, at least half of Arp’s revenue now comes from pollinating almonds. Selling honey is far less lucrative then renting out his colonies to mega-farms in California’s fertile Central Valley, home to 80% of the world’s almond supply. . . 

Why are limes so freakishly expensive in New Zealand? – Alex Braae:

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that limes get expensive while out of season. But they’re very, very, very expensive right now. Is there something more worrying going on? Alex Braae reports.

There’s nothing like a squeeze of lime juice to make the flavours of a guacamole sing, not to mention to make a mojito possible at all. Unfortunately, picking up a few limes for the purpose right now will probably break the bank.

Prices for the small green citrus fruit have shot up this summer to extreme new highs, with reports of a single kilogram costing as much as $80. That’s many times higher than prices at the peak of the growing season, in which a kilogram can often be bought for a single digit. . . 

A cheese themed hotel is opening in London this January – Alex Landon:

It’s the Hilton of Halloumi, the Radisson of Raclette – yes, it’s a cheese hotel right here in London! If, like me, you’re desperately trying to claw your way back to some healthy eating habits after a season of indulgence, then you might want to look away now.

For the world’s first cheese hotel is opening in the heart of Camden on January 29th, offering cheese fiends the chance to spend a night in the hotel of their dreams (dreams which will be extremely vivid if you scoff all that cheese, of course).

Much like a strong-smelling Stilton, the cheese hotel doesn’t exactly do subtle. The room is an eye-catching shade of yellow, which encompasses cheese-themed wallpaper, bedding, cushions, artwork, and giant cheese installations. There’s even more cheesiness beyond the decor, with cheese boardgames (it’ll be an absolute travesty if they don’t have Mousetrap) and cheese soap, which I’m frankly not sold on. . . 


Rural round-up

January 7, 2020

Dead livestock paint grim picture of fire devastation and logistical challenges of recovery effort – Sophie Meixner and Tom Lowrey:

Images of fleeing kangaroos and dehydrated koalas have captured the world’s attention during Australia’s bushfire crisis — but heartbreaking photos of perished livestock paint an equally devastating picture.

In fire-scorched Batlow, New South Wales, animal carcasses line the sides of the road, with farmers beginning the slow, difficult and grim work of loading the bodies onto the trays of utes.

Most are sheep and cattle held on surrounding properties. Most are clumped together, their bodies blackened. . . 

Bushfires – Little Brick Pastoral:

Do you have 2020 vision? 

It’s been a heartbreaking start to the New Year across much of Australia. Whilst we know the threat is not over with a tough weekend ahead, we’re envisioning a year full of wet stuff! Quenching rains for a dry and barren land. And downpours to extinguish fires and provide some relief for our hardworking firefighters.

But it can be hard to know how to help in these times.

In 2018 we wrote about the drought in an extended blog post. This afternoon, we penned the following on the Australian bushfires; how you can find out more, how you can help, and why it is important that we come together.  . .

Bellbird film inspired by director’s upbringing in rural Northland– Mikaela Collins:

While making Bellbird, Hamish Bennett felt he’d be happy as long as the Northland-based film made his family and home community proud.

But its impact has spread wider than that.

The film, set over four seasons on a humble Maungakaramea dairy farm, is charming audiences already with its story of loss, love and hope in rural New Zealand.

Bennett, who wrote and directed the film, said he did not anticipate his first feature film would be as popular as it is. . .

That’s the spirit: botanicals offer scent of success:

The climate that has made some parts of New Zealand so good for growing grass also brings opportunities to develop some niche, high-value crops that are helping to establish new industries alongside traditional pastoral sectors.

Taranaki is an area where a comprehensive economic strategy has identified the region’s climate, including reliable rainfall and rich soils, which meant it was capable of growing a wider variety of crops than it does – with honey and botanical plants identified as new opportunities.

Botanicals are the herbs, roots, flowers, leaves and seeds added to drinks, cosmetics and foods for scent and/or flavour.

From the Ridge: the year Steve put his hand in his pocket – Steve Wyn-Harris:

Hey, it’s me, Ditch.

You remember me.

I was the tiny pup the boss found a few years ago when some sod dumped me in the water table. He rescued me, called me Ditch because he thought Watertable was silly, even by his standards. He thought he’d give me a chance of being a sheepdog but then folk reckoned I was a rottweiler. But I never was. Classic sheepdog with a bit of beardy, judging from my shaggy coat.

I’m big though. The boss had three nice kennels for Gin, Sue and me but I was very snug in mine . . 

Soil moisture: no more looking over the fence – Nigel Malthus:

Farm manager Bryan Mitchell describes as brilliant the SCADAfarm systems that allow him to remotely monitor and manage the irrigation of his 300ha of leased grazing land near Kirwee.

The farm has recently been transformed under Mitchell’s management — and with the landowners, the Hayes family — with comprehensive irrigation including nine pivots, a weather station and soil moisture monitoring, new fencing and stock water.

Internet-enabled SCADAfarm systems (supervisory control and data acquisition) tie it all together to allow Mitchell to manage his irrigation needs from a desktop or smartphone screen.  . .


Rural round-up

January 5, 2020

A proud advocate for agribusiness – Sally Rae:

AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell is the 2019 Otago Daily Times Business Leader of the Year. She talks to business editor Sally Rae about her passion for her work and Otago.

Growing a business might sound very glamorous, but the reality, says AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell, is a little like the seesaw analogy she uses to describe the oft-quoted work-life balance.

There was a fine line between managing the existing business and pushing to grow; growth was expensive and there was generally continual reinvestment, while there was also the need to look at and assess opportunities while “keeping the money coming in as well”. . . 

Spotlighting the New Zealand story – Jacqueline Rowarth:

The rebellion against synthetic protein systems could well provide a massive demand for New Zealand meat and milk, writes Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.

In 2017 US-based think tank RethinkX predicted that by 2030 self-driving electric cars will dominate our roads, with 95 per cent of US passenger miles occurring in on-demand autonomous EVs owned by companies.

This year RethinkX reported that within a mere 10 years livestock industries will be replaced by synthetic systems that create higher quality and cheaper protein than the animal-derived products they replace. 

Both reports have a lot of assumptions and extrapolations underpinning the bold statements. . .

 

Why Macquarie is looking to pump billions into farms – Clancy Yeates:

It’s 35 degrees, the flies are out in force and five enormous, high-tech machines are working their way through a golden wheat field in southern NSW.

Combine harvesters, 12-metre-wide tractor-like contraptions, motor over a 400-hectare paddock that was once a family-owned farm, harvesting wheat that could be used in bread, noodles or biscuits.

With gusts of wind getting stronger, farmers watching on say it won’t be long until the harvest is shut down for the day, because the risk of sparking a fire is too high.

It is not the sort of environment you would generally associate with the slick world of investment banking. . . 

Urban teachers learn about rural sector

Urban teachers turned out in full force to learn more about the Primary Sector at the Auckland Teachers’ Day Out in November last year.

Held in Pukekohe, the tour visited an award winning sustainable dairy farm, a sheep milking farm, one of the country’s biggest vegetable growers and Norwood Machinery.

Fifty three secondary school teachers took part in the event, coming from between Northland and south of the Waikato.

Te Awamutu College food and fabric technology teacher Pauline Smith said she wanted to learn where the food came from that she taught her students about. . . 

Presenter forging new life in country – Adam Burns:

After more than a decade working as a roving reporter and television presenter, Matt Chisholm has returned to his roots and with his family in tow has relocated to rural Central Otago for a new life. Alexandra reporter Adam Burns spoke to him about the reasons for the move and how he has found the region upon his arrival.

If you are wanting to escape the New Zealand’s largest city, you could do worse than the Central Otago countryside.

Reporter and television presenter Matt Chisholm is living the dream, having made a permanent move with his family to the deep South.

Although he was initially hesitant about such a big move, the 43-year-old says it was a long-time dream he and his wife Ellen (35) had had to move to the region. . . 

The science of sleep:

Falling asleep faster may now be easier than you think, and whilst it doesn’t involve actually counting sheep, it does involve wearing wool.

Scientific studies have tested the sleep of both older and younger adults and found that wool helps keep the body in the “thermal comfort zone” most conducive to restful sleep.

When wearing Merino wool, older adults are falling asleep at least 10 minutes faster than when wearing other fibres, and younger adults are getting at least four minutes extra sleep in wool, than if wearing other fibres. . .


Rural round-up

January 2, 2020

Henry’s letter proves a hit – Murray Robertson:

YOUNG Tairawhiti farmer Henry Gaddum penned an open letter through The Herald in mid-November that has gone ballistic as readers nationally picked up on his concerns around the theme of Carbon Credits and Pine Trees.

It has been viewed more than 14,800 times on The Herald website since publication, and has been shared widely on Facebook and Twitter.

In it, Henry voiced his deep concerns, and the concerns of others, about the future of the region when it comes to land use and he wants to do something about it. . .

Year in Review: Hawke’s Bay farmer’s heartfelt Facebook post goes viral :

Year in Review: This heartfelt social media post from Hawke’s Bay farmer Sam Stoddart went viral in September. In it he pointed out the strong connections New Zealand farmers have with the communities around them. It was one of The Country’s most popular reads of 2019.

In September Stoddart told The Country he was surprised by the strong reaction to his post, which at that point had nearly 6000 reactions and nearly 3000 shares.

“For a vent to mates out of frustration on Facebook it certainly has gained some momentum.

I can’t believe the positive feedback though. For over 700 comments only about five are negative. Maybe the rural urban divide isn’t as big as we think. . .

Central housing demand prices worry fruit growers – Tess Brunton:

Central Otago fruit growers say housing could come under more pressure as their industry expands.

A recent Southern DHB report found a lack of housing availability was driving up housing prices in Central Otago, forcing some to live in crowded homes or even sleep rough.

While many orchards have staff accommodation available, some businesses say they’re losing good staff who can’t find a permanent place to live.

Sarita Orchard manager Matthew Blanch said he was not sure how fruit growers would find enough staff if big orchard proposals went ahead. . .

Reflecting on our rural past and building for the future – Nikki Verbeet:

Hope. It’s fundamental to our psychology to have something to look forward to, writes Nikki Verbeet.

It would be fair to say that hope hasn’t been in abundance in our rural sector of late.

There is no doubt the sector is experiencing rising costs, environmental pressures, public perception issues, shrinking price margins, cash flow challenges and pressure to meet compliance obligations – all of which impact confidence.

Research around mental health indicates that to have hope we need three things: . . 

Rodeo ‘great thing for the community’ – Hamish MacLean:

After more than three decades in Omarama, rodeo is alive an well in the Waitaki Valley town.

Under sunny skies, the 33rd annual Omarama Rodeo drew hundreds to Buscot Station for the penultimate Christmas series rodeo on Saturday.

“You can see by the crowd — people still enjoy it,’’ Omarama Rodeo Club president Jamie Brice said.

“And this is a great thing for the community. It brings money into the wee town.” . .

High country cattle grazing by Victorian family – Stephen Burns:

Grazing cattle in the Victorian high country has been a practice extending over 150 years, but very few families now take advantage of the summer pastures on the Alpine plains.

But the McCormack family from Mansfield, Victoria proudly continue the timeless trek taking three days to drove their Angus cows with calves slowly along the Buttercup Road over Mountain Number Three to the flats alongside the headwaters of the King River. 

Other Mansfield district families have long had an association with the High Country and include the Lovicks, Stoney’s and Purcell’s. . .

 


Rural round-up

December 21, 2019

 Australian farmers receive sick letters telling them to ‘use a bullet on themselves – Karen Ruiz:

Farmers across NSW have become the targets of abusive letters urging them to ‘use a bullet’ on themselves if they ‘can’t handle’ the drought. 

Several residents in Dubbo, Walgett and Peak Hill in the state’s western region reported receiving the disturbing notes last month, police said.  

One of the letters, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, had been typed in a large font on white paper and is believed to have been hand delivered.   . . 

Profit shortfall from regenerative grazing spelt out – Shan Goodwin:

ANALYSIS has shown running a livestock operation under regenerative agriculture principles over a period of ten years sets profit back to the tune of $2.46m.

The work by prominent farm business consultants Holmes Sackett found farms not classified as RA systems generated operating returns of 4.22 per cent, compared to those who were classified RA returning only 1.66pc.

Holmes Sackett director John Francis said the analysis was not a criticism of the philosophy of RA but an analysis of the financial performance of these systems relative to other farm management practices. .

Farmers’ tips for staying well :

How do other farmers look after themselves and their teams? Check out the advice below, including some great ideas from Farmstrong.

Farmstrong’s top tips

Farmstrong is a nationwide, rural wellbeing initiative that helps farmers and their families cope with the ups and downs of farming. Here are some of its suggestions for keeping well.

    • Stay connected – Surround yourself with a network of people you can reach out to. It can be as simple as having a conversation in the pub or over the fence.
    • Keep active – Biking, walking, hunting, team sport – whatever appeals. It keeps you ‘farm fit’, boosts your mood and gets you off-farm.
    • Enjoy the small stuff – When you’re working, take a moment to stop and enjoy the view or the nature. Not a bad office, is it?
    • Eat well – Make sure you have enough fuel in the tank to keep your energy levels up.
    • Look after yourself, look after your team – People are the most important part of the dairy sector. . .

Sheep milk more easily digested than cow milk – study:

Sheep milk’s protein is more readily digested and its fats are more readily converted into energy compared to cow milk, a New Zealand study has shown. The milk’s unique composition could make it a good option for the very young and the elderly, sports nutrition, and people who are looking for alternatives to cow’s milk, researchers say.

Anecdotally, evidence from consumers already suggests that sheep milk may be better tolerated than cow milk by some people.

This is believed to be the first human study in the world to investigate how differences in the composition of New Zealand sheep milk affect ease of digestion, digestive comfort, and the body’s ability to make use of milk protein. . . 

Fonterra to streamline Chilean operations:

Fonterra has purchased the minority interest in Prolesur, held by Fundación Isabel Aninat (the Fundación), as the Co-op looks to streamline its operations in Chile.

The Fundación has sold its 13.6% shareholding for $29.3 million NZD, which takes Fonterra’s ownership of Prolesur from 86.2% to 99.9%.

Prolesur is a milk processor in southern Chile which sells most of its production to Soprole. Soprole is a leading consumer branded dairy company in Chile and is 99.9% owned by Fonterra. . . 

Strong start to dairy export season:

Dairy led the rise in goods exports in November 2019 as milk powder exports reached $1.1 billion, Stats NZ said today.

This is the highest value of milk powder exports for a November month since dairy exports peaked in 2013.

The value of dairy exports (milk powder, butter, and cheese) increased $348 million in November 2019. Dairy was the main contributor to total goods exports reaching $5.2 billion, up $371 million from the same month last year. . . 

Big effort to deliver sustainable premium for NZ food:

Much has been made about New Zealand’s status as “100% Pure” and how much, or how little, needs to be done to keep that claim valid.

While that debate rumbles on, the primary sector has been doing much to deliver on Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s promise to the United Nations in September 2019 that New Zealand will be “the most sustainable food producing country in the world.”

As overseas consumers have become increasingly sophisticated and demand to know where their food has been sourced from, all parts of the New Zealand primary sector have been working to ensure the “paddock to plate” story is more than just a story.  . . 


Rural round-up

December 20, 2019

Manager no stranger to plant reality – Sally Rae:

As Alliance Group holds its annual meeting in Palmerston North today, business and rural editor Sally Rae speaks to its new general manager, livestock and shareholder services, Danny Hailes about his long and varied tenure with the co-operative.

Danny Hailes always gets a little anxious around the summer holidays.

His anxiety is understandable, for it was a Sunday morning in January 2006 when he was in Wanaka to watch his son play tennis, and got a phone call to say there was a fire at Alliance Group’s Pukeuri plant which he managed.

Quickly driving back, Mr Hailes could smell smoke in his car as he hit Peebles on the lower Waitaki Plains. . . 

Pāmu revises full year financial forecast:

Pāmu has revised its full year EBITDAR (Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Revaluations) forecast to between $73 million and $78 million. This compares to the previous forecast of $61 million.

Chief Executive Steve Carden said the increased forecast was pleasing and demonstrated both a lift in milk and meat prices, plus a strong focus on productivity improvement on farm and securing premiums for its products.

“The improved milk price principally reflects the revision in Fonterra’s forecast milk payment to $7.00 – $7.60 per kg of milk solids, while the strong beef and sheep prices are being driven by strong global demand for protein, particularly from China. . .

Pair travelling country on Kaimanawa horses – Laura Smith:

It is an ambition of many to travel the length of the country, but wild horse is not typically the transport of choice.

In 2018, during the annual muster of Kaimanawa horses near Taupo, Jess Mullins and Bijmin Swart took on three wild horses.

The muster occurs to maintain good health within the population and protects fragile ecosystems that are unique to the Moawhango Ecological Zone.

Unfortunately, not long after they took him on, one of the three horses died of illness. . . 

Measles epidemic taking toll on Samoan seasonal workers

The measles epidemic has been “taxing” on Pacific workers in New Zealand’s horticultural industry, a co-ordinator with the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) says.

Jerf van Beek said many Samoan RSE workers had been affected by the impact of the epidemic on their families back home.

“Funerals are a very important part in the Samoan culture and we know it’s very expensive,” Mr van Beek said.

“We as an industry really want to support our RSE workers who are being affected by it, that they are able to come to New Zealand, earn the money and actually take it back again, under a very taxing situation.” . . 

Matakana Island joins the medical cannabis industry:

 Local whānau on one of New Zealand’s most intriguing islands have just received a licence* to grow medicinal cannabis. Grown outside in the Matakana Island sunshine, Mahana Island Therapies will be one of the only legal and naturally grown cannabis products of its kind in the world.

Matakana is a narrow, 28 kilometre-long sandbar at the head of the Tauranga harbour in the Bay of Plenty. Renowned for its unique geology, history and ecology, the island’s primary industries are forestry, dairy farming, kiwifruit and other horticultural activities. Famed for its stunning surf beach, the island is home to about 200 permanent residents. . . 

Survey reveals what kiwis eat on Christmas Day:

Lamb was voted as the meat of choice for Kiwis this Christmas as part of the Classic Kiwi Christmas Census 2019, followed in a very tight second by ham.

The poll – which was conducted by Retail Meat New Zealand in conjunction with Beef + Lamb New Zealand – of over 1,300 Kiwis covering a range of Christmas traditions, saw lamb as the go-to meat of choice with 34% of respondents. Ham was only two votes behind in second with 33% and beef came third with 13%. This represents a significant change in meat choice, with last year’s survey returning a strong mandate for ham which secured 37% of the vote versus 30% for lamb in the 2018 survey.  . . 


Rural round-up

December 8, 2019

The changing face of the dairy farm – Gerald Piddock:

It wasn’t easy for Doug and Tracey Chappell to get onto their own land.

But their entry-level Pukeatua dairy farm means more than just what the 60 hectares and its relatively small 150 cow herd add to their long-term business plan.

“It’s our place and it’s something for our kids as well and they have even talked about running the farm in the future,” said Doug. . . 

Shortsighted? – Annette Scott:

Experts fear high ewe prices are encouraging farmers to sell breeding stock to processors at such a rate New Zealand exports might in a few years not have enough product.

That would provide an opening for Australia to grab market share from NZ. There is also a worry a shortage of stock could lead to a single desk seller, thus eliminating procurement competition.

The problem is compounded by the falling number of farmers willing to breed the lambs. Many young farmers are not interested and instead buy in store lambs to fatten. . . 

Striped dairy cows – a rare breed :

Opunake farmer Andy Whitehead milks eight different breeds of cattle, but Lakenvelders are his favourite. They hail from the Netherlands and are easy to spot in the dark.

If you drive past Andy Whitehead’s Taranaki farm at night, his favourite cows are easy to spot.

They look as though they’ve been draped with a white blanket.

“Lakenvelder simply means ‘white blanket’ or ‘white sheet’ which describes the cow with a stripe over her back,” Andy says. . . 

50 avocado trees completely stripped in Hawke’s Bay orchard – Georgia May Gilbertson:

“Stupidity and desperation” are the only reasons a police officer can think of after 50 avocado trees were completely stripped of their fruit in Hawke’s Bay. 

Sergeant Alasdair Macmillan said the theft happened at an orchard belonging to Crab Farm Winery in Bay View and was reported to police last weekend. 

He said the thieves cut through a fence near a group of beehives and it was  estimated they took an apple crate worth of fruit. . . 

Xmas cheer from Fonterra as the bosses at the dairy co-op get back to basics – Point of Order:

Dairy   farmers  had  some   Xmas cheer  this   week,  as  dairy  giant  Fonterra told them  the  forecast  payout  would  be the fourth-highest-ever,  at the mid-point of its farmgate milk price range.

The  $7.30kg/ms means   the cash payout  for the season  will  reach $11.2bn, a rise of about $400m from the earlier  forecast.

There  could  even  be  a  clap  from the cowsheds for the  new bosses of   Fonterra  who are  turning around the co-op’s  financial  performance, as they apply  a back-to-basics  approach  to  recovering from last year’s  horrendous  $605m  loss.  The first  quarter of the  new financial  year has  gone  well. . . 

Canterbury running out of water??? – Gravedodger:

I have returned to the world after another time of peace and calm at “The Gorge”.

Rakaia Gorge that is and it was somewhat different this time. The river that ruled Mona Anderson’s life inspired her to write of her time married to the then manager of Mt Algidus Station, which lies above the confluence of the Rakaia and Wilberforce rivers, the story related in her first book of nine, “A River Rules my Life”. That river was in flood for many recent days peaking at over three thousand cumecs at least twice.

A cumec is a cubic meter of water flowing past a point each second. Just absorb that figure,  three thousand cubic meters every second!

Do the maths. . . 


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