Rural round-up


‘The city-dwellers do not understand the mental and physical strength it takes’ – Gerhard Uyd :

On Clovalley Farms, the cost of feed, fuel, fertiliser and electricity has gone up by about 20% this year, and dairy farmers Sophie Cookson and Donovan Croot have had to make major adjustments to keep the business going.

“We have had to look to other sources of income,” Croot said.

Cookson is employed part-time with Cow Manager, a herd management system, and Croot is a tutor for Dairy Training, which provided further education for the dairy sector.

The pair had also diversified their business and now raised some bull calves and sold them in the meat trade, he said. . . 

Farm debt and mortgages pushing up cost to grow food – Gerhard Uys :

Mortgage rates, inflation and overdraft costs are pushing up the cost of producing food and eroding farm profits, farmers say.

A November survey by Federated Farmers, answered by about 1200 farming businesses, showed the average farm mortgage interest rate had increased to 6.29%, up from 4.59% in May this year.

It was up from 3.95% in November last year.

Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard said many farms carried high debt. . . 

Feds survey: Interest pinch weighs heavily on farmer stress :

Farmers are being squeezed by rising interest rates, with debt or other financial concerns eroding mental wellbeing, the latest Federated Farmers Banking Survey shows.

Nearly 1200 farming businesses answered questions in the November survey, reporting that their average mortgage interest rate had increased to 6.29 percent from 4.59 percent in May (and 3.95 percent in November 2021),
“It’s a reflection of the impact of official cash rate rises and while plenty of other Kiwi households and businesses are also feeling the pinch, many farms are carrying high debt,” Feds President and economy spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

Since the May Federated Farmers survey the average farm mortgage value has increased from $4.07 million to $4.19 million while the median increased from $2.25 million to $2.50 million.

The average level of overdraft was up $46,000 to $328,800, with an average interest rate of 8.59%. . . 

Hawke’s Bay: Ongaonga solar farm to be one of NZ’s biggest, land to be ‘retired’ from intensive dairy to build it – James Pocock :

One of the biggest solar farms in New Zealand is all but ready to be built on 152 hectares of farmland in Central Hawke’s Bay.

Sky Solar purchased the farmland near the Kahahakuri Stream at Ongaonga to build an eco-friendly solar farm, simultaneously retiring intensive irrigation and promoting biodiversity in the stream.

According to the resource consent application, the proposed solar farm would have an operational capacity of 160-gigawatt hours per year at full capacity, enough to power 18,000 houses.

Cameron King, director of commercial projects and sales for Sky Solar, said the solar farm will likely be the biggest of its kind in the country when built. . . .

The hybrid harvester bringing lower carbon logging – Nikki Mandow :

A family owned, South Otago-based logging company has become the first in NZ to import a hybrid electric-diesel harvester. It’s saved them a pack of money too

Balclutha-based Mike Hurring Logging & Contracting isn’t the biggest forestry company in the country. Neither is it the smallest. But it is the first to introduce what could be a new trend in lower carbon forestry – a hybrid harvester.

Run on a mixture of diesel and electricity, the Finland-made harvester has a battery in the back which charges as the machine moves. Once harvesting, the machine uses electricity from the battery to power the hydraulics that run the feed rollers and saws. 

The diesel can kick in when needed, but it’s mostly electric while harvesting.  . . 

Apple industry appoints two new directors to board :

NZ Apples and Pears Inc. (NZAPI) is delighted to announce the appointment of Mr Craig Betty, and Mr Cameron Bagrie to its board.

Craig Betty replaces Peter Landon-Lane, who is stepping down in early 2023. He will serve as a director for the remaining term of Mr Landon-Lane’s tenure, which ends in August 2023, and will be eligible for re-election to the board at that time.

Craig joined T&G as Director Operations in October 2019. He leads T&G’s growing operations for apples and berries, including operational R&D, post-harvest and supply chain operations, and has global accountability for continuous improvement and quality standards and frameworks. Craig has extensive experience in operations and supply chain management, having previously been Chief Operating Officer for Westland Milk Products, and General Manager Operations for Fonterra.

Cameron Bagrie is appointed to the board as our second independent director, the rules of the Society allow for two independent directors. A decision was made some time ago to use this appointment to widen the skill base of the board. . .

Rural round-up


Farmer spirits crushed by red tape – Craig Page :

An “onslaught of government regulation” has seen farmer morale plummet and some opting to sell properties rather than operate under escalating legislation, a Beef + Lamb NZ report says.

The BLNZ Lamb Crop 2022 report says some farmers believe the government has created  significant uncertainty, leading to concerns about the viability of the sector and rural communities.

“Sheep and beef farmers feel besieged and underappreciated for their contribution to food production, significant tranches of native vegetation, ongoing efforts to improve the environment and contribution to the New Zealand economy and society,” the report says.

In the Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty region a “remarkable number of sheep and beef” farms came onto the market in spring, particularly in the King Country. . . 

Farmer confidence at 20-year low – survey :

Government policy and rising farm costs have seen farmer confidence plummet to a 20-year low, according to a Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey.

Farmers from all sectors are now significantly more pessimistic about the prospects for the broader agri economy, and a cocktail of concerns is weighing heavily on them, said Rabobank New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris.

“As with recent surveys, rising farm input costs and government policy were the two major reasons cited by farmers with a pessimistic outlook for the year ahead,” he said.

Rising interest costs and falling commodity prices are also adding to the anxiety.  . . 

Plans for supplementary feed ‘out the window’ thanks to unseasonal heavy rainfall :

A Northland farmer says wet weather has been wreaking havoc on his efforts to grow supplementary feed.

Jason Smith, who farms sheep and beef in Ruawai, south of Dargaville, said he has had 400mm of rain on his farm over the last six weeks – he would normally get about 20mm in that time period.

“So far for us in Northland, we’ve had an incredibly challenging spring and start to summer,” he said.

“All of the normal seasonal patterns of rainfall have just been blown completely out the window by massive amounts of rain.” . . 

Police roll out changes for rural staff – Emma Hatton:

One percent of the police’s total workforce cover 50 percent of New Zealand’s geography. Emma Hatton reports on the challenges of rural policing and what’s being done about it 

Of the 41 recommendations handed down by the Independent Police Conduct Authority last year when it reviewed rural policing, all have been completed or are underway. 

A new Rural Policing Model was signed off by the executive earlier this year. 

And in the new year a Rural Inspector based at national headquarters will begin, a new role and major step in getting rural policing’s voice around the top table. . . 

Feds back Telethon to feed everyone for Christmas:

Federated Farmers is backing The Big Feed, an event calling on farmers and growers to donate one million meals worth of the nutritious food they produce to food banks during a telethon event livestreamed tomorrow.

The Big Feed will be livestreamed via social media on Thursday December 15 at 6am, and runs until 7.30 pm.

During the telethon farmers and growers can pledge to donate livestock, milk and other produce.

‘We support the idea no-one should have to go without nutrient-rich food in a farming country like New Zealand,’ Federated Farmers national president Andrew Hoggard says. . . 

Chapman Tripp assists Fonterra with Nestle partnership to develop net zero carbon dairy farm :

Chapman Tripp is pleased to have advised Fonterra on its new partnership arrangements with Nestlé, designed to help reduce New Zealand’s on-farm emissions and help both companies accelerate progress towards their greenhouse gas emission goals. The initiative includes a five year project to develop a commercially viable net zero carbon emissions dairy farm, to be run with co-partner Dairy Trust Taranaki.

The Chapman Tripp team was led by partners Alana Lampitt and Kelly McFadzien, and senior solicitor Dan Chan.

Alana says, “This initiative is a first for New Zealand. Agricultural emissions are a large part of New Zealand’s emissions profile; tackling them will require fresh thinking, including innovative on-farm solutions. It’s great to work with clients who are blazing a trail and looking for solutions that can be adopted across the industry.” . . 

Rural round-up


Sequestration rules will change – Keith Woodford:

Government foreshadows new ETS sequestration categories but then creates yet another communication muddle

The Government’s on-farm sequestration policy appeared to have taken a big step forward with a media release from the Government on 30 November, apparently timed to coincide with the National Field Days at Mystery Creek. However, precisely where the step has landed is not clear.

The media statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office included statements from Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern, Climate Change Minister James Shaw and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

A key reason why things are less than clear is that once again the Government’s communications messed up in a big way. Remarkably, there were two different versions of the media release. One of these was released to media by Andrew Campbell in his role as Chief Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister. This was the version I was working with when I first drafted this article. The other version is what can currently be found here at the Government’s official Beehive website ( . .

Beef, sheep meat prices tipped to fall as belts tighten off-shore :

Prices for New Zealand beef and sheep meat are expected to soften further in 2023 as people tighten their spending.

Rabobank’s Global Animal Protein Outlook 2022, Deciding How to Grow Amid Challenges and Opportunities, said high input costs were also expected to remain prevalent next year, potentially causing margin pressure for some businesses.

Agricultural analyst Genevieve Steven said sheep meat prices were likely to decrease more significantly than beef.

“Significant economic challenges in New Zealand’s main export markets – China, Europe and the US – are expected to reduce demand for New Zealand’s sheep meat exports, leading to softer sheepmeat prices. . . 


Ultimate three waters bill reveal impact on councils – Jonathan Milne :

Up to 74 rural communities will be allowed to take ownership of water supplies owned by councils, in the final tranche of Three Waters legislation introduced to Parliament last night.

The decision will spark further debate: on the one hand, many in provincial New Zealand have been angry at losing control of their local water infrastructure; on the other hand, this solution is effective privatisation of water supplies on a small scale.

The law change is contained in the final Three Waters bills, introduced to Parliament on Thursday evening. Credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s has been analysing the proposed model, and its analysts spoke with Newsroom.

Their confidence that no local authority will suffer a credit rating downgrade has now waned, but they say they won’t be able to make a final determination until next year’s election decides the fate of Labour’s water reforms. . . 

Maori forestry experts working to unlock $16bn value :

A group of Māori forestry specialists and other experts have met this week in Rotorua to develop the forestry practice which will be key to unlocking more than $16 billion in value for the Māori economy.

The group, brought together by Te Taumata (Māori Forestry Landowners) and funded exclusively by Māori forestry interests, is working to establish a best practice model for permanent transitional forest management.

Te Taumata (Māori Forestry Landowners) chair Chris Karamea Insley says, despite promising to act in partnership with Māori in a hui led by the late Sir Dr. Toby Curtis on the development of the best practice model, the Government has been dragging its feet.

Mr Insley says despite reaching an agreement with Ministers Stuart Nash and James Shaw at the specially convened hui in Wellington in June this year to establish and fund a technical working group in partnership, the Government has since stonewalled any attempts to make progress. . . 

The importance of traceability NAIT compliance essential tool for the M Bovis eradication programme :

Farmers who don’t keep accurate NAIT records put others at risk and can hinder efforts to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, says M. bovis programme director Simon Andrew.

There are currently six Active Confirmed properties with M. bovis infection and a Controlled Area Notice (CAN) in place for the Wakanui area in Mid-Canterbury – Full announcement: Extra measures to target pocket of M. bovis infection.

Mr Andrew said most of the infected properties would be cleared by early next year and eradication remained on-track, but it was vital all farmers used NAIT properly.

“In our tracing work, we have identified some poor NAIT practices, which is disappointing. . . 

Otis Oat Milk announces Plant Research NZ as recipient of the 1 fund :

An oat breeding programme led by Plant Research (NZ) Ltd is the inaugural recipient of research funds from New Zealand producer, Otis Oat Mi!k.

Established last year, The 1% Fund captures one percent of the plant-based milk maker’s total sales to fund New Zealand projects and initiatives that make oats a viable and exciting farming alternative.

Otis co-founder Chris Wilkie says the sustainability initiative was established to help New Zealand farmers diversify their operations by supporting them to grow oats.

He says Plant Research was awarded the monies to support an established oat breeding programme ensuring New Zealand-grown oats remain nutritionally superior to other varieties in the world and to maximise land use by way of increased oats per hectare. . . 

Rural round-up


New Zealand’s meat processors and exporters call for change to emissions pricing proposal :

New Zealand’s red meat processing and exporting sector is urging the Government to make changes to its agricultural emissions pricing proposal.

The Meat Industry Association (MIA) rejects the Government’s proposed interim processor-level levy, wants changes to the emissions price-setting process, proper recognition for genuine sequestration happening on New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms, and levy relief for those farmers disproportionately impacted by emissions pricing.

“The red meat sector has a role to play in addressing climate change and we support an approach to pricing that would reduce emissions but not at the expense of massive production losses and hurting rural communities,” says Nathan Guy, chairman of MIA.

“The He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership’s recommended proposal was carefully calibrated to ensure that disproportionate impacts were minimised across sectors, particularly for the sheep and beef industry. . . 

Thinking gets even woollier – Sally Rae:

Amanda Dorset has gone fully woolly.

And that should come as music to the ears of strong wool growers, as the Wanaka businesswoman — co-founder of Wilson and Dorset with her husband, Ben Wilson — is a passionate advocate for the fibre.

For 16 years, the couple have made sheepskin furnishings, having spied an opportunity to do something “cool” with New Zealand sheepskins.

Having been looking to buy a sheepskin, she found it hard to find a suitable one. “Some fleeces may as well have been synthetic, they were so over-processed,” she recalled. . . 

What reception will PM Jacinda Ardern and Labour get at Fieldays – Jamie Mackay :

If tractor sales are the barometer of success for Fieldays exhibitors this week, then adoring throngs gathered are the equivalent for politicians.

I’ve been a regular attendee at Fieldays since the mid-90s, meaning I’ve seen Jim Bolger, Jenny Shipley, Helen Clark, John Key, Bill English and Jacinda Ardern come and go. And it would be fair to say that only two of those prime ministers, past and present, have enjoyed rock star status at Mystery Creek.

I fondly (sort of, if you excuse the fog diversion from Hamilton airport), remember picking up a fellow stranded traveller for the drive down to the ‘Tron from Auckland. It must have been about 2012 or 2013, because David Shearer was the then leader of the Labour Party.

Like me, and any number of other passengers who were diverted to Auckland, he needed to make his way to Fieldays. We had a rental car. He was (in true egalitarian Labour fashion) going to take a bus. We had a spare seat. I insisted he hitch a ride. He obliged and we thoroughly enjoyed his company, even stopping to broadcast our midday radio show on the side of the road somewhere near Huntly. . . 

A kick in the guts for rural nurses – rural general practice nurses once again overlooked by the Minister :

Today Minister Little announced action planned by the Government to provide pay parity for health workers. In his statement he made two conflicting statements:

“The Government is committed to ensuring health workers are paid fairly and receive parity with others doing the same or similar work, especially given the current cost of living pressures workers and their families are under”,

and then in the next breath,

“However, I have to be clear that this package will not mean significant change immediately for those working in GP practices.” . . 

The deer dairy diaries – Tony Benny :

When deer scientist Geoff Asher and colleague Jason Archer suggested collecting milk samples from milk hinds for a research project at AgResearch’s campus at Invermay near Dunedin, some were sceptical but they found a way to make it work. Now, decades later, deer milk (tia miraka) is not only harvested routinely, it’s a key component of high-value cosmetics.

“We got a lot of commentary thrown at us, ‘I hope you get a new set of teeth soon because you will get your current ones kicked out!’, and various things like that,” Asher says.

“It was kind of considered in the very, very hard basket but we were not been daunted by that. Sometimes you just need determination and a touch of stupidity.” 

Invermay recently celebrated 50 years of deer farming science by AgResearch and its predecessors, always in partnership with the deer industry and farmers. The research on lactation was typical of their studies, which included major advances in understanding deer nutrition, health, behaviour and genetics and the development of products such as venison, velvet and milk that are exported around the world. . . 

New Zealand dairy industry pioneer’s original farm place on the open market for the first time :

A prime cattle grazing block once owned by a former New Zealand dairy industry leader and one of the Hauraki Plains’ earliest farming founders has been placed on the market for sale.

One of the titles in this 81.6-hectare block at Kopuarahi was owned by former dairy industry leader Sir William Hale who not only represented New Zealand’s farming sector on the world stage for its meat and diary products, but also ensured the industry was in a healthy state domestically.

Born in Thames in 1883, William Hale left school at an early age, and took up farming work at Puriri, before he drew a property allocation at Kopuarahi in the first land ballot in 1910. William Hale lived on the same farm until his death in 1968, being the only person of the first ballot to be still living on his property at the time of his death.

William Hale’s long associations with Hauraki Plains local body affairs commenced in 1914 and he served for 18-years as a member of the Thames Hospital Board, 13 of these being chairman. In 1916 he became a director of the Thames Valley Co-operative Dairy Company. . . 

Rural round-up


‘I don’t want to be farming here by myself’ – Richard Walker :

On Tuesday, Dani Darke has a ram sale, a board subcommittee meeting and a pony club meeting. Her neighbour up the valley, Natasha Cave, has an online business seminar in the morning and sheep crutching in the afternoon. On Sunday, Cave and her husband Alan crutched 800 ewes and lambs. Tuesday will be less, though still in the hundreds.

On Monday, both women attended their kids’ school athletics morning, Darke helped her husband on the farm and took her daughter to tutoring.

It’s a busy life. It’s a good life. And it’s a life the two Aria women fear is at risk. Pine trees are starting to arrive in the picturesque King Country, and they’re likely to keep coming. That does nothing for local communities. The plantations are company owned, and the workers are bussed in from who knows where.

Natasha Cave was driven to write an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern almost a year ago after another King Country farm was sold to trees. . . 

Emissions research a black hole – Steven Cranston:

A giant black hole is emerging within the wider agricultural industry. It has been there for some time but has mostly flown under the radar.

To date, it has sucked in over $200 million of industry and government money into its vortex, but – as is the case with black holes – nothing has come out. Most of that funding will be lost forever and if the agricultural industry does not start providing more critical oversight of emissions research spending, many hundreds of millions more will disappear into oblivion.

The consensus now is that solutions to ruminant methane emissions will not be market-ready any time soon; certainly not in time to help offset the Government’s proposed tax on farm emissions due to roll out in 2025. This has only prompted the black hole to expand. The Minister for Agriculture has recently announced another $338.7 million over the next four years to disappear, and the National Party is right behind them with big plans to drive further R&D investment.

The researchers behind these technologies have made bold claims about their potential: Bovaer has been shown to reduce emissions by 30% in Europe and AgResearch has identified a 12% variance between low and high methane breeding lines. . . 

Zespri lowers fruit returns forecast, downgrades FY23 corporate profit outlook – Andrea Fox:

Higher-than-estimated kiwifruit quality issue costs and ongoing challenges have squeezed some of the juice out of global marketer Zespri’s earnings and profit forecasts for this season.

Chairman Bruce Cameron has told the company’s 2800 New Zealand growers in a forecast update that tray returns for the best-seller SunGold kiwifruit and its organic counterpart are now below the June orchard gate return guidance.

The forecast range of corporate net profit after tax for the financial year ending March 31 was now $225 million to $235m, including grower licence income.

Corporate profit after tax in 2021-2022 was $361.5m. . . 


Time to celebrate Kiwi farmers – Todd Muller:

National Party acting spokesman for agriculture, Todd Muller, reflects on a difficult year for New Zealand farmers and reckons it’s time to celebrate our food and fibre sector.

This has been a bloody tough year for farmers.

While our export prices have been solid, the costs imposed on the home front have been shocking.

Continually growing farm inputs costs such as fuel, feed, labour and fertiliser are squeezing margins and causing immeasurable stress. . . 

New chapter for Fonterra as parliament passes DIRA amending Bill but a fresh climate challenge looms – Point of Order :

NZ dairy giant Fonterra expects to have its  new capital structure in place by March after Parliament gave a final reading  this week to the Dairy  Industry Restructuring Amendment Bill. It had the support of Labour, National, and Act, with the Greens and Te Pati Maori  voting against it,  as they did during the first two readings. 

It marks a new chapter for the big co-op at a time when the industry has been hit by soaring inflation-driven farm costs and the Ardern government’s move to tax farm methane emissions.

Fonterra  as a key element  of the dairy industry  has made significant progress with its turnaround 2030 business strategy; and the proposed capital restructure is designed to  ensure its many processing  sites remain full in flatlining, and predicted to decline, national milk production.

The  restructure needed Parliament’s approval because  Fonterra was created by enabling legislation in 2001, and because  a feature of it, delinking the farmer share market and the unit market, could have faced legal challenges. . . 


The blessing of harvest completed – Terry Wanzek  :

Abraham Lincoln issued America’s first Thanksgiving proclamation in a time of violence. The year was 1863, and the president found it appropriate to give thanks even though America was torn by “a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity.”

War was on my mind earlier this month, as I harvested corn on our family farm in North Dakota. It occurred to me that I’m fortunate to farm in peace.

We take so many things for granted—but as Thanksgiving approaches, we should count our blessings and express our thanks.

Let’s start with this simple fact of peace. I could offer that farmers wage war every day, as we battle the elements. A few years ago, a wet fall turned our fields to mud and made it nearly impossible to run our combines. We had to let a lot of corn stand through the winter and complete our job the following February and March. It felt like a war of attrition. . . 

Rural round-up


Bursting the methane bubble :

In their report for BusinessDesk, Adrian Macey and Dave Frame point out that the 30-year-old metric chosen by the UN to measure the different greenhouse gases (known as GWP100) is inaccurate for short-lived gases – such as methane.

“It greatly overstates the warming caused by NZ’s methane in relation to the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal. Recent work by scientists has solved the problem by devising a different metrict, GWP*, which is an adaptation of GWP100 that very accurately replicates methane’s actual warming.”

Macey and Frame point out how even the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report sums up the shortcomings of GWP100:

“Expressing methane emissions as CO2-equivalent using GWP100 overstates the effect of constant methane emissions on global temperature by a factor of 3 to 4, while understating the effect of any new methane emission source by a factor of 4 to 5 over the 20 years following the introduction of the new source.” . .

Creating coats of many colours: The growth of rural women-led businesses – Rachel Klaver:

Years ago I wrote a book called She’ll Be Right, about rural New Zealand women building businesses, running farms, and building careers outside of cities. Some of them had been thrown into it by circumstance, while others were actively pursuing building businesses where they were, instead of having to relocate to cities where there were more people, bigger resources and better wi-fi.

I was living rurally myself, but was making a 60km round trip daily just to get a latte from the nearest town’s cafe. I was not really made from the same cloth as the women I was profiling.

I hadn’t thought about that book for a long time, until I interviewed Claire Williamson for my MAP IT Marketing podcast. I’d asked her to come on and talk about her bespoke clothing line, Velma and Beverly, and quickly discovered this thriving small business was only one of the activities Willliamson has on the go.

There are a growing number of rural women-led businesses emerging, especially as the face of farming is evolving. There’s a greater need to diversify and find ways to generate income off the land, that is sustainable, protects the environment and also helps protect and support the families living on the land. . . 

Website launches to support farmers for major weather events :

A new website aims to make it easier for farmers to prepare for and access support after a major weather event.

The Farmers’ Adverse Events Trust has just launched a new website with tips on how farmers can prepare for bad weather.

Trust chair William Rolleston said the effects of climate change meant farmers were facing more severe weather events more frequently.

Preparing for severe weather events should be incorporated into farm plans, Rolleston said. . . 

Climate science we can all get behind – Bryan Gibson :

A movement based solely on what you don’t want to do has no future.

Most conversations about politics these days seem to focus on what people oppose, rather than what they support.

It may be Three Waters, or co-governance in general.

Other government regulations, like Essential Freshwater and the pricing of emissions, also provoke strong opposition. . . 

New Alumni group has been launched by NZ Young Farmers:

New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF) has formally launched the NZYF Alumni Network.

The NZYF Alumni Network, officially formalised at the 2022 NZYF Annual General Meeting in July, will provide former Young Farmers members with the opportunity to stay connected with the organisation.

The Network will also offer past members a channel for offering up their expertise and support, contributing to NZYFs goal of becoming a sustainable organisation.

NZYF Chief Executive, Lynda Coppersmith, is excited to have the Network formalised. . . 

Aimer raises a million dollars to launch a ‘Siri’ for NZ farmers:

For the average farmer, optimising pasture use is inherently complex, with different herd numbers, paddock growth rates, pre and post graze targets and target feed intakes requiring a myriad of tools and dashboards. Managing this requires a lot of manual calculations, ‘clicking’, guesses and communication with staff and quite often, the use of consultants. To solve this, pastoral optimisation startup Aimer Development has built an artificial intelligence (AI) enabled digital assistant (called Aimer) currently being tested across some of the country’s most complex and challenging dairy farms. The ‘Siri’ for farmers is New Zealand’s first digital coach in your pocket for the dairy industry and has attracted its first NZ$1 million dollars in investment from Sprout.

“Within an industry in which ongoing success relies on optimisation, the stakes are high. The very best farms can be $1,000-2,000 dollars more profitable per hectare per annum than their competition, and a large part of that is due to the successful management of pasture. Aimer has built a digital tool that will allow farmers to test and optimise the use of their pasture easily and at scale. For processors and retailers, Aimer is an effective way of supporting suppliers and customers to improve business profitability and economic resilience as well as meet increasingly stringent environmental requirements. For farmers themselves, Aimer places game-changing, predictive and intuitive technology into the hands of those responsible for on-the-ground decision making,” comments Warren Bebb, Investment Manager for Sprout.

Aimer Development is the fifth investment of over thirty NZ$1 million agritech and foodtech investments Sprout will make over the next six years, having joined forces with investment partners US-based Finistere Ventures, Kiwi dairy giant Fonterra and Israeli venture builder OurCrowd, as well as Callaghan Innovation’s Tech Incubator programme that was designed to support the commercialisation of early-stage deep tech ventures. . . 


Rural round-up


Feds call for halt to Three Waters – Jessica Marshall:

Federated Farmers has called for the controversial Three Waters Reform to be stopped before the legislation bill reaches its second reading.

In a submission to a parliamentary select committee, Federated Farmers expressed concerns about the Water Services Entities (WSE) Bill. If passed, the bill would establish four water services entities in place of more than 70 local authorities that manage the country’s water supplies, storm and waste water management systems.

Federated Farmers argues that the bill should not proceed to a second reading in Parliament.

“Many farmers are either self-suppliers or their water is supplied by private water schemes, meaning they should not be directly affected by the move to WSEs,” it says. . . 

Pastoral farming gets a lift from $26m for regenerative agriculture research but should scientists start by defining it? – Point of Order:

In   a  week  when the Ardern   government  achieved  one of the  biggest  stumbles of  the  modern  era,  with  its backdown over the  KiwiSaver  GST  move,  it  did record  one  positive  outcome   with  a  $26m  research  programme to prove to the world why New Zealand food and fibre should be always the number one choice.

That was the drum Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor   was  beating,  showing  again  he  is  one  of  the  few  Cabinet  Ministers  who  gets  a  pass mark  in his  field.

In  an era  when  climate  change warriors are  casting  doubt  on  New Zealand’s  farming industries, and  calling for the nation’s dairy herd to be culled, O’Connor  says he wants  to  enable farmers to make informed decisions on the financial and environmental benefits of adopting regenerative farming practices.

He said:

“The Government is backing a new $26.1m programme to undertake the most comprehensive study of pastoral farming in New Zealand.” . . . 

Afforestation still a concern :

Afforestation continues to have a negative impact on rural communities, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

The statement comes after the release of the B+LNZ Stock Number Survey which showed farmers adapting to challenging circumstances including drought, processing delays and Covid-19.

The report, published this week, also highlights the extent of farmland being converted to forestry.

B+LNZ Economic Service chief economist Andrew Burtt says that while the increase in farm sales into forestry is yet to lead to a significant reduction in stock numbers, it can be expected to soon. . . 

We’re feeling a bit down on the farm – Steve Wyn-Harris:

Red tape and weird weather are taking their toll on farmers’ spirits but baby boomer farmers have seen tough times before.

I started writing this column back in 1995 so it has spanned 27 years, which is a fair bit of my nearly 40-year farming career – and life, for that matter.

The 1990s were still tough farming years after the change and turmoil, not to mention low returns, of the late 1980s.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the pressure started coming off and instead of just fighting for financial survival here we started making progress with the improved returns. . . 

Deer industry on mission to challenge Russia’s edge in velvet exports :

Representatives from New Zealand’s deer industry are travelling to South Korea this month in a bid to boost velvet sales. 

South Korea is New Zealand’s biggest market for the product, consuming over half of what is produced, but exporters have to compete with well-established Russian products.

The markets manager at Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ), Rhys Griffiths, said Russian exporters have an established stronghold in velvet imports into South Korea, where velvet is used in health products like herbal supplements and teas.

“When we look at the traditional medicine market where the Russians have historically dominated, if we kind of segment that out even further, we can look at the older Oriental medicine doctors and the older patients, they’re more attuned to Russian velvet,” he said. . . 

WA’s Wheatbelt Stocky Jarrad Hubbard aims to change negative perceptions of farming though social media – Olivia Di Iorio:

Jarrad Hubbard, a livestock agent in Western Australia, wants to shine a light on the agricultural industry through social media.

The self-proclaimed Wheatbelt Stocky’s Instagram page is full of images and videos of sheep and cattle across regional WA.

He says he shares insights into his life as a livestock agent in the hope of showing that those in the industry “take a lot of care and put a lot of love” into what they do.

In his first post in early 2019, Mr Hubbard wrote, “Whether you are involved or even opposed, I look forward to your input”. . . 


Rural round-up


Fonterra announces record opening milk price payment for its farmers next season as demand remains strong – Point of Order:

New Zealand  has  suffered  several  jolts  in  the  past week, not  least a  higher interest rate regime as the Reserve  Bank counters  surging inflation.  But  at least  one  beacon of  light shines through the gloom:  the country’s leading primary  export  industry’s boom   is  moving  to a  second  season  of high prices.

Dairy  giant Fonterra,  which sets  the  pace  for  other dairy processors,  has announced a record opening milk price payment for farmers next season amid expectations of continued strong demand for dairy products and constrained global supply.

The co-op expects to pay farmers between $8.25 and $9.75kg/MS  for the season starting next month.  The mid-point, on which farmers are paid, is $9 kg/MS.

That breaks the previous record set at this time last year, when Fonterra’s opening price for the current season was $7.25 – $8.75kg/MS, with a mid-point of $8kg/MS. . . 

Rural mental health ignored again this budget :

The Government was made well aware of mental health concerns for rural communities in a meeting in December last year, this Budget has neglected to do anything to address this crisis, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.

“It is dead clear from the minutes we received under the Official Information Act that everyone around the table could see that things were bad and getting worse” Kuriger says

“The minutes note that clear themes emerged from a discussion of the drivers of poor mental health, including: workforce shortages, public perception of farmers, and the pace of new regulations.

“If they didn’t already know, it is clear that in December the Prime Minister and Minister O’Connor knew what was happening to our rural communities and were asked by rural sector leaders for help, they’ve had all this time to make a plan but have still done nothing in this budget to address it. . . 

Zespri global revenue exceeds $NZ 4 billion for first time despite challenging 2021-22 season:

. . . A record crop, ongoing investment in brand-led demand creation, and the industry’s ability to respond and leverage its scale and structure have helped Zespri deliver a record result for the 2021/22 season, with total global fruit sales revenue exceeding NZ$4 billion for the first time.

In spite of the immense challenges faced by the industry this season, Zespri’s 2021/22 Financial Results show total global revenue generated by fruit sales reached NZ$4.03 billion, up 12 percent on the previous year, with total global operating revenue up by 15 percent to NZ$4.47 billion. Global sales volumes also increased 11 percent on the previous year to 201.5 million trays.

The results saw direct returns to the New Zealand industry increase to a record $2.47 billion including loyalty payments, despite the considerable uncertainty generated by the COVID-19 pandemic and cost increases across the supply chain. Earnings were again spread through regional communities including within the Bay of Plenty, Northland, Nelson, Gisborne, and the Waikato. . . 

Grower returns remained strong in a challenging season, with per hectare returns representing our second best on record across all varieties: . . 

Top ploughers head to Ireland to compete in world championship – Kim Moodie:

New Zealand’s best ploughing talent is set to represent the country in Ireland this year at the World Ploughing Championships. 

Ian Woolley and Bob Mehrtens, who took out the top titles at the New Zealand Ploughing Championships in Seddon earlier this month, are now preparing to compete against the world’s best in September.

Woolley, who won the Silver Plough conventional competition, told RNZ he’s excited to compete, and to soak up the atmosphere, as the event draws a huge crowd.

“It’s basically their National Field Days, there’s 100,000-odd people there each day for three days, although the plowing is on the outskirts of where the main show is taking place. . . 

Silver Fern Farms partnership between consumers and farmers key to nature positive food production :

Silver Fern Farms today celebrated the launch of its USDA-approved Net Carbon Zero By Nature 100% Grass-Fed Angus Beef at a New York City event attended by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Held at the Kimpton Hotel Eventi rooftop in Chelsea, the Prime Minister was joined by the visiting New Zealand trade mission, Silver Fern Farms US customers and in-market partners, and New York and U.S. national media. The event was to celebrate the successful introduction of Net Carbon Zero By Nature Angus Beef to the U.S., which is already being sold in supermarkets in the New York Tri-state area, the Midwest, and California.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says closer partnerships between consumers and farmers through products like Net Carbon Zero beef hold the key to addressing our collective climate and environmental challenges.

“As New Zealand’s largest processor and marketer of red meat, we are in a unique position to build closer partnerships between the needs of discerning customers and our farmers in a way that incentivises nature-positive food production,” says Simon Limmer. . . 

MPI announces finalists in 2022 good employer awards :

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust (AGMARDT) have announced finalists for the 2022 Primary Industries Good Employer Awards.

Now in their third year, the Awards are run by MPI and AGMARDT to celebrate employers who put their people at the heart of their businesses.

“We received a number of impressive entries,” says MPI’s Director Investment, Skills and Performance, Cheyne Gillooly.

“Central to all of the entries was a real passion shown by businesses towards supporting their employees by putting their health, welfare and wellbeing first.” . . 

Rural round-up


Farmer feedback reshaping HWEN :

DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) say they are taking farmer feedback on board and working to improve the agricultural emissions pricing options, including driving down administration costs.

Recently, roadshows were held across the country on the two options developed by the Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership, He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN), as alternatives to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel says the Government has made it clear that the sector need to deliver a credible alternative otherwise the agriculture sector will go into the ETS.

“But that’s not the only reason we need to act,” he says. . .

Landscape like the moon – Sally Rae:

Leo Edginton reckons he landed on the moon this week.

Mr Edginton (39), one of the country’s top dog triallists, is competing at the South Island sheep dog trial championships which being are held amid the vast, rocky landscape of Earnscleugh Station, near Alexandra.

It was a far cry from his home at Mangaheia Station, a large sheep and beef property at Tolaga Bay, on the North Island’s East Coast.

With six dogs qualified for the championships — Larry, Kim, Bully, Robert, Deano and Bert, a mix of both heading dogs and huntaways — it was the most of any competitor. And he has seven qualified for the New Zealand championships in three weeks’ time. . .

Twenty years of forest restoration undone by poor fencing – Diane McCarthy:

One man’s work to restore native bush on Karaponga Reserve over the past 20 years is being undone by inadequate fencing.

Retired dairy farmers Steve and Lesley McCann have taken enormous pleasure in the recovery of native wildlife on and around their McIvor Road property, next door to the reserve.

Even finding the occasional gigantic centipede in the bathtub is a small price to pay.

The McCanns see it as a sign of the resurgence of native biodiversity, due to pest control and planting. . . 

Farmers keen to embrace diverse uses of drones in rural setting – Sally Murphy:

Growing interest among farmers in using drones has led a Southland catchment group to organise a field day to showcase the technology.

Otago South River Care is holding a field day today and tomorrow on a farm in Balclutha with over 80 people expected to attend.

Group co-ordinator Rebecca Begg said catchment group members often talk about innovation on farms and drones keep coming up as something farmers want to try.

“Many are interested but aren’t ready to take the leap yet, so we want to show them what’s available and get some of the technology down to the South Island as most of it is based in the North Island.” . . 

Ready. Set. Rockit – bold new campaign inspires courage  :

As millions of freshly harvested New Zealand-grown Rockit™ apples begin arriving into ports around the world, a bold new brand campaign kicks off harnessing the spirit of bravery.

From artists to fitness instructors to musicians to aspiring basketball players, relatable individuals feature in the compelling campaign, which encourages Rockit’s global consumers to push their limits and go further than they’ve ever gone before (whatever that might look like to them) and “Ready. Set. Rockit.”

With the creative heft of agency Special driving the interpretations of courage that run through this year’s campaign, Rockit’s CEO Mark O’Donnell says the message is bound to inspire. “We love the idea that any challenge – no matter how daunting – can be overcome by taking it just one small bite at a time,” says Mark. “The innovative campaign imagery showcases occasions where a little bit of bravery takes us into territory we’ve never known before – and we can overcome our fear, seize the moment, and really rock it.” . . 

Wattie’s record tomato harvest in 50 years:

Today Wattie’s marks the end of its tomato harvest season with some of the highest yielding tomato paddocks in the company’s 50-year history.

This season, Wattie’s have hit a new record with a crop of 140 metric tons per hectare. That is the equivalent of 5.6kg per plant or 14kg of tomatoes for every square metre and approximately a 5% increase on the highest yield previously achieved.

More impressive is that this is 40% higher than Wattie’s 5-year average yield. Twenty years ago, the 5-year average tomato harvest was 80 metric tons per hectare.

The tomato harvest season started in mid-February and since then, has been going 24 hours a day. Over this time, Wattie’s has harvested and processed 39,000 metric tons of field tomatoes. . . 

Rural round-up


RUC reduction brings no relief for farm machinery users – Gerald Piddock:

The Government’s decision to cut road user charges (RUC) by 36% for three months is cold comfort for contractors and farmers using off-road vehicles that will not qualify for the exemption, Federated Farmers says.

The cut, which will take place from late April to late July, is in response to the spike in global fuel prices. Transport Minister Michael Wood said the change was to support the road transport industry.

For the arable industry, the reduction in charges is too late for this season, with much of the harvest already completed apart from harvesting maize grain, Federated Farmers transport spokesperson Karen Williams said.

On Williams’ own farm, fuel costs for the three months during peak harvest had almost doubled from $4000-$7000 a month in 2020 to $8000-$9500 a month this year. . . 

Omicron: ‘major impact’ on staff shortages as apple picking peaks  – Tom Kitchin:

Some orchardists say Covid-19 is running rampant through their harvest fields.

It is peak apple harvest time across the country – and Omicron is not showing any signs of slowing down in the two busiest apple harvest regions – Hawke’s Bay and Nelson-Tasman.

Hawke’s Bay grows over 4700 hectares of apples and Nelson-Tasman is second with about 2400.

Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrower’s Association chair Brydon Nisbett also runs his own 16-hectare two-orchard apple operation. . . 

Bacteria corralled for quality food outcomes – Richard Rennie:

AgResearch principal scientist Dr Eric Altermann admits he has a dream to see a charcuterie of uniquely New Zealand meats and salamis, along with fermented dairy and plant products on the market someday soon. Richard Rennie spoke to him on how his and his team’s work on fermented foods will make that a reality.

Over the past four and a half years AgResearch’s Fermented Foods research team has managed to slice through tens of thousands of evolved bacterial strains to find those with traits most suited to enhancing the flavour and texture of meat, dairy, and plant fermented food types.

The tool that has enabled them to accelerate the natural process of genetic change, which would otherwise have been an almost impossibly time-consuming and frustrating process, has been a high-throughput robotics handling and assaying (screening) platform, developed by AgResearch principal scientist Dr Eric Altermann and his team. 

“The platform’s technology allows us to take bacteria, subject them to rapid genetic evolution using sources such as UV light and then identify those evolved variants which exhibit a positive change towards the desired traits,” Altermann said.  . . 

Awakiki Ridges owners clearing out for retirement – Shawn McAvinue:

A couple of teenage sweethearts are looking forward to retirement on their sheep and beef farm in South Otago.

Howie and Marion Gardner (both 66) will hold a clearing sale on their farm Awakiki Ridges in Puerua Valley tomorrow.

Awakiki Ridges has come a long way since his parents, Clyde (now 93) and his late mother, Beth, bought the land and started developing it in the mid-1960s.

The property was once considered “the worst bit of dirt in South Otago,” Mr Gardner said. . . 

Sharing enthusiasm for red meat sector – Shawn McAvinue:

Maniototo man Dean Sinnamon’s new job allows him to pursue his passion for the red meat sector.

Mr Sinnamon, of Oturehua, started in a new role at Beef + Lamb New Zealand in January this year.

His job title is Central South Island South extension manager.

“It’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it?” . . 

China tariffs causes Victorian harvest to tank Annabelle Cleeland:

The 2.1-billion litres of unsold Australian wine sitting in storage is wreaking havoc on Victoria’s grape harvest this season, as a storage shortage forces growers to leave grapes on vines.

Last year the nation’s wine exports plummeted $860 million, or 30 per cent, due to China’s crippling tariffs on bottled Australian wine.

China’s anti-dumping duty introduced the last march of up to 218pc for containers of two litres or less, and is set to remain in place for five years.

It has been a blow for the industry with Australia’s wine exports the lowest in nearly two decades, as the volume of wine sent overseas dropped 17pc to 619-million litres in 2021. . . 

Rural round-up


Dairy prices expected to remain elevated in the near term, but longer-term outlook less certain — Global Report :

Dwindling world milk production looks set to support buoyant global dairy commodity prices over coming months, but with the Russia-Ukraine conflict creating a wave of uncertainty in markets, the longer-term pricing outlook remains much less clear, Rabobank says in a recently-released report.

In its “Global Dairy Quarterly Q1 2022: How high for how long?”,the agribusiness banking specialist says weather-related issues, high or rising production costs and lingering disruptions from Covid-19 resulted in milk production growth faring worse than previously anticipated in the final quarter of 2021.

“These challenges have impacted dairy farmers from all the key production regions around the world, and among the “Big 7” dairy exporters – New Zealand, Australia, the EU, the US, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina — production is now expected to fall by 0.7 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2022,” Rabobank senior agricultural analyst Emma Higgins said. . . 

Vegetable prices tipped to go higher due to spiraling costs :

Horticulture New Zealand says vegetable prices will continue to increase if the Government does not support growers to find ways to reduce the costs of growing.

‘There is a crisis developing in commercial vegetable production in New Zealand. Input costs have soared over the past 12 months, not the least being the cost of fuel,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil.

‘Reducing petrol excise duty by 25 cents a litre and road user charges for three months is a positive step for most New Zealanders. However, this has no impact on the significant increase in the cost of diesel for use on the farm, orchard or market garden.

‘Between December 2021 and March 2022, the cost of diesel has increased from $1.67 a litre to $2.41 a litre. . . 

Young Waikato Dairy Award winners see value in judges views :

The major winners in the 2022 Waikato Dairy Industry Awards are a young couple who believe that progression is possible and your limits are only what you perceive.

Brian Basi and Rachel Bunnik were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year category at the Waikato Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held at Claudelands Event Centre on Monday evening. The other big winners were Andrew Macky, who became the 2022 Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year, and Edward Roskam, the 2022 Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Brian and Rachel are contract milkers for Dick and Liz Johnson on their 72ha, 230-cow Putaruru property for the past two seasons. They won $14,828 in prizes and four merit awards.

Brian placed in the top five in the same category last year and believes judges analysing their overall farming business and performance was a key benefit of the awards programme. . . 

Varroa increasingly responsible for NZ bee colony losses :

New Zealand beekeepers have reported varroa to be the most common reason for over-wintering hive losses for the first time, according to the recently released NZ Colony Loss Survey.

The 2021 Survey found varroa was responsible for nearly 40% of all losses. This marks a change in the primary cause, with queen problems having consistently been attributed as the key reason for colony losses in the past six years of the survey.

The Survey noted that an estimated 5.3% of all living colonies were lost to varroa and related complications over the 2021 winter, significantly higher than the 1.6% recorded just five years ago.

Beekeepers surveyed reported a number of reasons for the losses due to varroa; including reinvasion post treatment and timing issues with treatments. Nineteen percent believed their varroa losses were due to ineffective products. . . 

Australia’s biggest customer pressured to give kangaroo products the boot – Chris McLennan:

Australia’s biggest export market for kangaroos has the jitters.

There is a big push from the Netherlands for the European Union to give Aussie roo products the boot now free trade talks have begun.

The EU is our biggest market for kangaroo meat and leather worth about $130 million annually.

Traditionally the light and strong kangaroo leather has been highly valued by sporting apparel companies. . .

Spring Sheep Milk Co wins Company-X Innovation Award:

and the Company-X Innovation Awards goes to . . . the Spring Sheep Milk Co.

The smart Kiwi business began in 2015 and now sources sheep milk from 12,700 grass-fed Zealandia sheep, its own breed, from dedicated farms across the Central North Island.

The milk is spray-dried into powder at Waikato Innovation Park at Ruakura in Hamilton and is used to create high-value nutrition products. Its early life nutrition range, including Gentle Sheep Toddler Milk Drink and nutrition powders are sold in China, Malaysia and New Zealand. Sheep milk is one of the most nutritious milks available and may be helpful for people with stomach or digestion intolerances.

Grass-fed New Zealand sheep milk is one of the highest quality milks available in the world and is clinically proven to be more easily digested and absorbed than cow’s milk, making it the ideal base for premium nutrition products. . . 

Rural round-up


Guilt trees destroying farming – Peter Andrew:

The potential loss of local stations such as Huiarua, Matanui and sadly many other properties to the carbon pine forest bandwagon are an absolute disgrace and embarrassment to us as human beings/farmers. The pioneers who developed and farmed this land would be spinning in their graves if they knew we were letting this happen.

This farmland is top-performing country and one of the best places to grow grass in this country. There is no better indicator of the quality of the land and its productive capability than when in 2001 Huiarua was announced winner of the Gisborne Wairoa “Farmer of the Year” competition.

This long-term loss of the productive use of the land is in complete conflict with our core role of being kaitiaki (caretakers) for our district for our children. Aren’t we meant to leave this place more productive than we found it, not destroy the opportunity for future generations to use the land?

If we don’t care about the future of this place anymore, how we leave it for our children, we may as well let the weeds go and throw rubbish out the car window! . . 

Farmers urged to plan for processing disruptions :

The Farm to Processor Animal Welfare Forum is urging farmers to plan ahead for disruption at processors due to COVID-19.

Forum chair Dr Lindsay Burton said it was critical that farmers book space at meat processors well in advance and be prepared to potentially hold stock on farm for longer.

“We have seen overseas the disruption that Omicron can cause to supply chains – particularly meat processing. It is important that farmers talk to their stock agents, processors and transporters if they aren’t already, and have a plan for what they would do if they need to hold onto stock for longer.

“Make sure you consider this in your feed planning and talk to your levy body or a farm adviser if you need support.” . . .

Omicron phase three: Concern for vulnerable rural communities :

There are fears the phase three Omicron response will see already-stretched rural health services in crisis as they try to care for increasing numbers of Covid-19 patients at home.

Questions are being asked about what happens when sole-charge GPs are forced to shut their doors if required to isolate themselves.

It was not uncommon for rural communities to be serviced by a single doctor and nurse.

A fortnight ago, there was no Covid-19 detected in the Southern District Health Board. . .

Honours in the dairy – Karen Trebilcock:

Working on a dairy farm is not what Paige Harris thought she would be doing after university but now it’s exactly where she wants to be.

Milking 550 cows on 310 hectares near Balfour in northern Southland, the 24-year-old says she is still only “scratching the surface” of dairying.

“All my friends and family were saying ‘what are you doing milking cows with a first-class honours degree’ but if I really want to connect with farmers, I need to understand the role and the only way to do that is by milking.

“You need a lot of tools in the toolbox to really achieve at dairying.” . . 

Vertical farming rising to tackle global food crisis :

The world is consuming more food than it is producing. With the global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, a global food crisis is fast approaching.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 report estimated that on average, 768 million people faced world hunger globally in 2020. The high cost of fresh, healthy produce, combined with high income inequality, means that many cannot afford a healthy diet.

This is especially prevalent in Aotearoa, with almost 40 percent of New Zealand households saying they face food insecurity in the last New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey, conducted back in 2008/2009.

A company that is answering the call to this crisis is Intelligent Growth Solutions Limited (IGS). IGS is an Edinburgh-based company that is developing vertical farming systems that may become a common sight in New Zealand in the future. . . 

Plant-based ‘meat’ could be off the table – Maeve Bannister:

Plant-based food manufacturers may have to change the way they label products if recommendations from a new report are taken on by the federal government. 

A Senate inquiry into definitions of meat and other animal products – initiated by the National Party – recommends the government implement mandatory food labelling requirements.

It also recommends a far-reaching review of Australia’s food standards regulator. 

Nationals Senator Susan McDonald says more regulation is needed as consumers are confused by plant products featuring names like ‘chicken’, ‘beef’ or ‘prawns’.  . . 

Rural round-up


Staffing shortages cause processing delays – Neal Wallace:

Farmers already facing up to six weeks delay getting stock killed are being warned to prepare for a longer than usual season as the meat industry continues to struggle with staffing shortages.

Silver Fern Farms has warned suppliers that for the season to date the ovine kill is 8% behind the same stage last year and bovine by 3%.

“Early indications show that for most stock classes it will not be until July before we will catch up with current backlogs,” chief executive Simon Limmer told suppliers in the newsletter.

Just how late will depend on any impact of Omicron. . . 

Robots offer a tireless staffing option – Richard Rennie:

The prospect of autonomous robotic tractors has long been a lure for growers and farmers, often pushed beyond the bounds of reality by cost and existing technology. But a Blenheim company has been quietly building a fleet of automated machines that are proving their worth with one of the region’s largest winegrowers. Richard Rennie reports.

For any innovative agritech company, New Zealand’s small market size demands founders have an eye out from the start on their tech’s applicability in larger global markets. For the founders of the Oxin automated viticulture tractor, Marlborough has proven an appealing place to start, prior to making that international leap.

“We have been fortunate to have an excellent industry partner right from the start in Pernod, one of the largest grape growers in the region, but also one that has very strong international connections,” Smart Machine director Andrew Kersley said.

Blenheim’s unique concentration of 35,000ha of vineyards, grown primarily by only a few large industry players, makes the company’s ability to showcase the technology, and get it dispersed, a simpler task.  . . 

Stud owners ready for a new chapter – Sally Rae:

For more than a century, the Punchbowl name has been synonymous with stud sheep breeding in North Otago.

But a new chapter is looming for its current owners, Doug and Jeannie Brown, who are holding ewe dispersal sales in Oamaru this month.

It was Mr Brown’s grandfather Henry (HJ) Andrew — a legendary figure in the stud sheep industry — who came to Punchbowl, near Maheno, in 1915 after graduating from Lincoln College.

Originally from the Leeston area, he shifted south with his parents and began breeding Southdowns. Over time, his Southdown stud became very prominent at a time when Southdowns were the main terminal sire breed in New Zealand. He exported sheep to many parts of the world and also imported sires. . . 

Seeds of traceability in digital move – Tim Cronshaw:

Arable growers will enter the digital world for their seed certification this month.

All the paperwork will be replaced by online entries in a $2million industry and government investment, which industry chiefs have called a watershed moment.

About $400million of certified seed crops — including brassicas, herbage grasses and legumes — will be checked throughout their growing cycle for quality control and consistency by about 800 growers, seed merchants and Assure Quality inspectors.

New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association manager Thomas Chin said the app-based system would provide traceability so quality assurances could be given to overseas markets that export seed shipments leaving the country were ‘‘true-to-label’’. . . 

Potato milk hits UK supermarket shelves :

Described as “deliciously creamy” and the “perfect foam” for your cuppa, potato milk is the latest contender to the plant milk market.

Milk developer at Lund University professor Eva Tornberg said she was working with a potato starch company in Sweden when she came up with the idea.

The amino acid composition of potato protein is much like milk and egg, she said.

“I thought perhaps it would be good to use potato protein to make a milk.” . . 

Farmer who flipped car cleared of criminal damage because ‘Englishman’s home is his castle’ – Martin Evans:

A farmer who wrecked a car parked on his land with a tractor has been cleared of criminal damage after he successfully used the 400-year-old legal principle that “an Englishman’s home is his castle”.

Robert Hooper, 57, became an internet sensation in June last year, when a video of him using the spikes on his telehandler to flip a £16,000 Vauxhall Corsa went viral on social media.

The hill farmer from Upper Teesdale said he had been forced to take action after he came under attack from a “strutting and agitated” shirtless youth, who had refused to move the car from his land.

Mr Hooper said he did not call police because he had been burgled eight times and found they were often slow to respond. . . 

Rural round-up


Farmers desperate for machinery workers before cows go hungry :

A rural contractor says the government has two weeks to follow through with its December promise to allow 200 skilled machinery operators into the country to help with the busy autumn harvest.

Since then, not a single worker has managed to secure an MIQ spot because of the Omicron response.

It comes as the government announces it has got a voucher for pregnant journalist Charlotte Bellis in MIQ – and has urged her to travel from Afghanistan to take it.

Brook Nettleton from BlueGrass Contracting in Waikato says if workers don’t arrive in the country within the next fortnight crops will deteriorate to a point farmers will not be able to milk their cows. . . 

Labour shortage affecting harvest time again in Mid-Canterbury – Jonathan Leask,:

It’s known as the breadbasket of New Zealand, but Mid Canterbury is facing a worker burnout to complete this year’s harvest.

The issue is a worker shortage due to delays in skilled overseas workers getting into the country.

The government announced changes in December to the class exemption scheme and securing more visas for overseas workers, but the amendment was only actioned last Friday.

Ashburton mayor and farmer Neil Brown said there was likely to be a worker burnout to get this year’s harvest completed. . . 

Urgent action needed on the special forestry test to stop carbon farming rort :

Federated Farmers is calling on the government to live up to its pledge and review the Overseas Investment Act ‘special forestry test’ and be fair to sheep and beef farmers.

Multiple government policies are driving farmland being sold for pine tree carbon farming, and a multitude of changes are needed to restore balance to land use policy, Feds Meat and Wool Chair William Beetham says.

“Sorting the special forestry test is straight forward and a good first step.”

The Overseas Investment Act ‘benefit to New Zealand’ requirement is waived under the special forestry test when overseas investors buy farmed land for ‘forestry activities’. . .

Bankers muscling in for a big slice of record dairy payout?– Andrea Fox:

Forget new tractor and car dealers – bankers are heading the queue to relieve dairy farmers of large chunks of their forecast record milk payout, says a sector specialist who’s concerned some bankers have “lost touch” during Covid.

Nigel McWilliam, a dairying specialist accountant and director at Morrinsville’s MBS Advisors, said banks need to be realistic and mindful of farmer wellbeing when setting timeframes for repayment of “big chunks” of principal.

While it’s general sector opinion that dairy farmers will prioritise debt repayment with their forecast $9-plus/kg record milk payout this season, escalating costs and rising interest rates mean that $9 prospect will likely represent $7 for the average dairy farmer, say farming sector leaders.

McWilliam said bankers are pushing for more principal repayment and shortening the terms of loans. . . 

Kiwis encouraged to look for 100 per cent NZ pork labelling as new regulations come into force:

Kiwi consumers are being urged to look out for labels showing pork is 100 per cent New Zealand born and raised with the introduction of new food labelling regulations.

The Commerce Commission has issued guidance to support compliance with the long-awaited Country of Origin for Food regulations, which come into force on 12 February.

Under the new regulations, fresh pork and cured pork for retail sale must be labelled with the country or countries where the animal was raised. Cured pork includes bacon and ham, including prosciutto, and other preserved pork products containing at least 66 per cent of whole pieces of pork, such as pickled pork.

However, imported pork processed into other products in New Zealand, including marinated pork and sausages, are not covered by the regulations because they fall outside the cured pork definition. They will only be required to be labelled with the name of the New Zealand manufacturer or retailer. . . 

Pig sector faces ‘collapse’ as on-farm backlog deteriorates:

The government has been told to convene an emergency summit of the entire pig supply chain amid a ‘deteriorating’ on-farm backlog, with fears the crisis could go on until at least June.

The National Pig Association (NPA) and the NFU have issued a fresh plea to Defra Secretary George Eustice to get the supply chain together to find urgent solutions.

The call comes as the pig backlog is now estimated to be well in excess of 170,000 due to a lack of butchers in pork processing plants, as a result of the pandemic and Brexit.

Tens of thousands of healthy pigs have been culled on farms by increasingly desperate producers who have run out of space. . . 

Rural round-up


Urgent action needed to stop carbon farming rort – William Beetham:

Federated Farmers is calling on the government to live up to its pledge and review the Overseas Investment Act ‘special forestry test’ and be fair to sheep and beef farmers

We understand that Forestry Minister Stuart Nash and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor have been lobbying for this fair and sensible step but Cabinet is dithering, and this is profoundly impacting our rural communities.

It’s well past time for action.  This is hurting rural people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

There are multiple factors driving the alarming and accelerating trend of productive sheep and beef farmland being sold for pine tree carbon farming, and a multitude of changes government must make to restore balance to land use policy. Sorting the special forestry test is straight-forward. . . 

Omicron outbreak may leave rural hospitals precarious staffing  levels – Rowan Quinn :

Rural communities could be left without local medical services for a time when Omicron hits.

Staffing is precarious in many small towns – and doctors, nurses or key administration workers will have to stop working if they get the virus.

Hospitals have predicted 30 percent of their staff could be off with Omicron at the height of the outbreak.

Rural doctor Jeremy Webber said it was hard to gauge the impact that would have on very small hospitals, which tended not to have staff to spare. . .

Horticulture, meat processors push for private RAT orders to protect supply chains – Maja Burry:

The horticulture and meat processing industries are among those advocating for the government to allow the private importation of rapid antigen tests, saying they’re worried Covid-19 testing capacity could impact on staffing.

The industry group Horticulture New Zealand said if Covid-19 testing capacity slowed that would impact monitoring – as well as return to work decisions – at a time when the sector needed as many hands on deck as possible.

Chief executive Nadine Tunley said it was imperative there was a focus on maximising the number of people available, to keep the supply chain operating during the Omicron response.

“We have strenuously pointed out to the government that our industry cannot withstand any further labour shortages as growers will be faced with having to leave vegetables in the ground and fruit on trees.” . . 

The taonga on fire: 40 days at Kaimaumau – Matthew Scott:

The fire at overlooked natural treasure Kaimaumau wetland began before Christmas, and it’s still ablaze

It’s been burning for more than 40 days and 40 nights.

Despite summer rains and being largely left behind by the media cycle, the fire in the Kaimaumau wetland in the Far North rages on.

The burning area is 2800ha, with a perimeter of 38km as of Day 41 – larger than Rangitoto Island. “On a national scale, that’s probably one of New Zealand’s biggest fires,” said incident controller Wayne Martin. . .

Robo tractor could revolutionise viticulture :

A driverless tractor able to perform up to three tasks at once is on the cards for New Zealand orchards.

The Government is contributing $622,360 through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund to develop a prototype tractor, which is set to transform the productivity of trellised orchards while reducing carbon emissions. The Smart Machine Company Limited is taking the lead on the three-year project, and is contributing a further $945,520.

“The tractor will be able to perform several tasks, including canopy spraying, mulching, mowing, trimming, and leaf defoliation,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes.

“As well as lowering carbon emissions, we could expect to see reduced spray drift, and improved soil and tree health. . .

Canterbury teen wins beekeeping scholarship :

Canterbury-based Alyssa Wilson (17) is the 2021 recipient of Apiculture New Zealand Ron Mossop Youth Scholarship in beekeeping.

Alyssa topped a strong field of candidates to win the scholarship, which includes $2000 to support training and set-up costs for new beekeepers, a one-year membership with industry body Apiculture New Zealand and attendance at Apiculture New Zealand’s industry conference to be held in June 2022.

The scholarship was set up to help young people into a career in beekeeping and the judges identified Alyssa as showing great potential. “She’s clearly not afraid to get stuck in and learn as much as she can. With a strong work ethic and a real interest in bees, she is going to be an asset to our industry,” says judge Neil Mossop.

Alyssa says she was “pretty chuffed” to win and is planning to use the scholarship to help fund her involvement in the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Apiculture scheme run through Primary ITO in partnership with Apiculture New Zealand. . . 

Rural round-up


Why Utopia is still  a long way off for New Zealand – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Futurists present Utopia for New Zealand in the next 20 years, yet how to achieve this vision is hazy and the execution steps are almost non-existent, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth writes.

It is the time of year when trends for the 12 months ahead are announced, goals are vocalised, and visions are created.

Fitting the pattern is the Utopia being presented to us by futurists, who promote the idea that – “This is what the world/NZ could look like, and this is how it would be achieved. All you have to do is…”

The next word might be “believe”. . . 

Frustration as Goughs Bay still cut off after slips – Jean Edwards:

Canterbury’s Goughs Bay farmers are used to isolation, but imagine walking mile after mile in Sandie Stewart’s shoes.

More than five weeks after torrential rain set off a series of giant mudslides that washed away the Banks Peninsula road, the only way out is a steep hike over a saddle to neighbouring Paua Bay.

That means backpacking groceries for her family of four, weighed down by litres of milk and other essentials. 

“It’s a mission. I’m going to be very strong and mulish after this,” she said. . . 

High commodity prices sees fewer farms put up for sale :

Data just released from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand shows there were 256 fewer farm sales for the three months to December last year than for the three months ended December 2020 – a 46.6 percent drop.

Comparing the same three month period the median price per hectare for all farms has risen by 39 percent to $37,980.

Institute rural spokesman Brian Peacock said sales figures reflected an easing in volumes compared to similar periods over the last three years, with all categories being impacted . . 

Campaign asks people to ‘Pick Nelson Tasman’ again :

A regional collaboration to tackle the ongoing and significant seasonal labour challenges in the Nelson Tasman horticulture and viticulture sector have launched the ‘Pick Nelson Tasman’ campaign to attract workers to the region and entice locals into seasonal work as the 2022 harvest kicks into gear.

The collaboration, which successfully placed dozens of job seekers into seasonal employment in 2021, has come together again as the squeeze of labour shortages continues to impact the Nelson Tasman region.

“Labour is a challenge right across the Country but with a high seasonal peak for our horticulture harvest – the region is eager to ensure everything gets picked and our crucial primary sector is supported with the labour it needs to continue its strong performance in the face of COVID-19” says NRDA Chief Executive, Fiona Wilson. “It’s also more than the jobs we’re promoting. It’s an opportunity for seasonal workers to explore our stunning, diverse region. They can have their overseas experience in our backyard with the huge range of activities and attractions Nelson Tasman offers.” .  .

South Island Cheese Festival down but not out :

The team behind South Island Cheese Festival held onto hope right until the 11am Government press conference on the 23rd January with only 13 days until their event.

The cheese filled Festival was due to be held on Waitangi Weekend – Saturday 5th Feb at the beautiful Clos Henri Vineyard in Marlborough. With the latest announcement the team behind the festival announced the event will not be cancelled but will be postponed until the country is in a more comfortable position living with Omicron. They can confirm the event will be held in 2022.

Hannah Lamb – event owner and coordinator says ‘We are saddened to have to hold off going ahead with the festival that so many people from all over New Zealand were looking forward to. We decided to postpone rather than looking at ways to go ahead in Red. . . 

Oatly ads banned by UK watchdog over ‘misleading’ green claims :

The UK advertising watchdog has banned a high-profile marketing campaign by Swedish alt-milk brand Oatly after ruling its green claims were misleading.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation into the campaign after receiving 109 complaints from members of the public and the campaign group A Greener World.

In one national newspaper ad the company, which attracted investment from Blackstone, Oprah Winfrey and Jay-Z last year ahead of floating on the US stock market in May, claimed “climate experts say cutting dairy and meat products from our diets is the single biggest lifestyle change we can make to reduce our environmental impact”.

The ASA said consumers would understand the claim to be a “definitive, objective claim that was based on scientific consensus,” when instead it was the opinion of one climate expert. . .


Rural round-up


Audit solutions won’t work against climate change – look to the practical – Eric Roy:

It’s encouraging to have some better acceptance of the need to address climate change. What is frustrating is the lack of meaningful engagement and the absence of applied science to find solutions.

It has largely been slogans and talk fests combined with finger pointing as to who the worst perpetrators are by country and by sector.

I’m no doubt biased. I’m a farmer and I take exception to some hyperbole levelled at the industry which largely creates the bulk of the wealth that pays for so much of the social needs and services of our country.

New Zealand is the most efficient food producer in the world. . . 

Meat industry warns a Covid-19 Omicron outbreak among its 15,000 workers would have a significant impact during peak season – Karen Coltman:

New Zealand meat plants are bracing for a wave of staff illness if the Omicron Covid-19 variant hits as they head into peakprocessing season

Silver Fern Farms said chief executive Simon Limmer ​said the timing was bad because its peak workforce of 7000 was already 550 short, and he wanted the Government to re-examine its border rules for seasonal workers.

Good weather conditions had alleviated pressure on farmers who had more feed than usual, but that could change.

“Any significant dry period from this point on, coupled with labour-related capacity reductions, will create livestock pressure on farm,” Limmer said. . . 

Young farmer outstanding in her field – Sharon Cain:

Katie Watson reckons she has always been a bit of an animal mad person. Sharon Cain reports.

Growing up on a lifestyle property at Otorohanga with pet lambs, calves and goats and spending time on the family farm in the school holidays has given her a great love for farming and the outdoors.

Watson’s first on farm working experience came in 2011 at the age of 15. She was in year 11 at school and while her friends were getting part-time jobs in cafes and supermarkets, being quite shy she was freaked out at the thought of working with people. With the help from her livestock agent dad, Owen, she got a job with a nearby dairy farmer who taught her how to milk cows.

During her last year of school, Watson did not have a clue what she wanted to do for a career. Following a discussion with a career advisor, she chose to study an Agricultural Science degree at Lincoln University. For the next four years, she surrounded herself with like-minded people who had the same interests. . .

Listen to the land – Diana Dobson:

Sir Ian Taylor may be a pioneer in technology and animation, but it is from the past he draws his strength and innovation.

A keynote speaker for February’s East Coast Farming Expo, the lad from Raupunga brings a fresh perspective to the effect of Covid on our planet, and how to put our country on track for a sustainable future.

Sir Ian’s company Animation Research created platforms that give a real-time, 3D, bird’s eye view of the America’s Cup, among other sports. It is lauded as one of the world’s leading sports graphics companies.

During the pandemic, he has constantly pushed the Government on MIQ, their response to Covid and the future of New Zealand. . .

Kelston orchards opens new multi-purpose cool store and packhouse :

Family-owned business, Kelston Orchards Ltd, has more than doubled the size of its Hawke’s Bay packhouse and cool store in response to increased global demand for New Zealand apples.

Located in the heart of New Zealand’s apple growing region, Kelston Orchards packs fresh apples grown on their 15 orchards and also provides post-harvest services to some of the largest growers in the Hawke’s Bay.

The new fully racked 1,200 square metre finished goods cool store has the capacity to hold 1600 pallets, adding to the current 3000 square metre, 12000 bin store , while the state-of-the-art 2,500 square metre packhouse facility features a multi-lane feeding and optical grading system capable of handling 60 bins per hour.

With technology developed in France by MAF Roda agrobitoics, the facility includes a high performance handling system which ensures apples are managed delicately and quality is not compromised at any point during the process. When not packing apples for export, the packhouse will also be used to support local summerfruit growers. . . 

John Deere’s driverless tractor have hit bump in the road – Brian Henderson:

Excitement ran high in the farming media last week when the second biggest tractor company in the world, John Deere, announced that they were soon to release their first autonomous tractor on to the market.

For, while we’ve all grown used to the ‘hands-free’ option available with GPS auto-steer guidance systems on our big pieces of machinery, taking that a step further and having little more to do to cultivate a field than to drive the tractor down there and then just let it get on with it would certainly appeal to many.

Well, I say many but there still remains a hardcore of tractor fanatics who would happily spend each and every day ensconsed in their cosy cab, driving up and down the same field or racing about the roads with beacons ablaze.

And some of these fan-boys devote the sort of level of support to one brand or colour equalled only on the pre-Covid football terraces or in the stands at the six nations matches. . . 

Rural round-up


Vaccination critical – MPI boss – Peter Burke:

Vaccination against Covid-19 is absolutely critical to the success of the whole primary sector.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director-general Ray Smith told Rural News that he’s encouraging every business in the primary sector to get their people vaccinated and have strong supporting policies around this.

“It underpins our mobility as individuals and for firms to prosper without having sickness,” he says. “My own organisation with 4,000 staff has a 97% vaccination rate and now, unless you have been vaccinated, you can’t come into work here.”

Smith admits one of the big challenges for MPI in 2022 will be bedding in the environmental changes, which he claims are needed to improve NZ’s sustainability and farming practices. He says the country is starting in a good place but it has more to do. . . 

Strong carbon prices blow into new year – Richard Rennie:

A new year surge in the New Zealand carbon values has caught the market by surprise, with traders anticipating values may well impact upon the first carbon auction of the year due to be held in mid-March.

Values for mid-January are now trading at $72.10 a unit, with a bullish sentiment on the market also reflected in future spot prices. The contracted market has April 2023 values trading at $75.20, and April 2026 at $83.40 a unit.

Lizzie Chambers, director of carbon trading company Carbon Match, said trading is now characterised by a myriad of buyers and sellers across the breadth of the market, including investors, farmers and emitters requiring credits to operate.

“Over the new year the market really gapped it from $69.50 to $71.50 a unit very quickly. It appears almost as if there was a decision made by many buyers first off at the start of the year to get in and tick the box on buying,” Chambers said. . . 

Launch of new social enterprise set to boost sustainably sourced wool sales :

The launch of a new tech start-up and social enterprise is set to provide a significant boost for New Zealand’s sustainably sourced wool sales.

Comfi provides a sleep solution for a child in need, including a single bed and base, and a pillow for every five beds sold.

The company is the brainchild of Vicki Eriksen and Susie Harris who developed the concept after struggling to find suitable beds online during the first Covid lockdown.

Other shareholders in the start-up include Neat Meat chief executive Simon Eriksen, Jucy co-founder Tim Alpe, and director/investor Andrew Harris. . . 

Hopes new tech will attract top cherry pickers :

Central Otago cherry producer Tarras Cherry Corp has implemented New Zealand-developed orchard management technology this season to attract and reward productive workers.

Orchard and project manager Ross Kirk said the company was the first New Zealand cherry business to implement radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology developed by Auckland software firm Dataphyll.

“At a time when pickers are in short supply, investing in smart technologies is a way to attract and retain quality workers.

“We want to lead the charge as an innovative and progressive operation throughout the supply chain,” he said. . . 

Food and Fibre Careers Day doubles in size as universities come on board:

The Westpac Agri Futures Careers Expo is returning to Palmerston North in March with an expanded line-up of attendees that will offer more exciting pathways into rural employment for young New Zealanders.

Hosted in association with Property Brokers and the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Expo provides youth and those interested in a food and fibre career with the chance to explore possible careers and job opportunities throughout the food and fibre industry.

The event is for secondary and area school students from Paraparaumu through to Napier and across to New Plymouth. It’s run as part of the Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games in Te Marae o Hine/The Square in Palmerston North, from March 11-13, 2022.

New Zealand Rural Games Trust Chair Margaret Kouvelis MNZM said the event has grown significantly, attracting attention from tertiary providers from across the country as well as more local businesses. . . 

Young Winemaker national final heads to Central Otago for first time :

The 2021 Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Winemaker of the Year National Final is finally set to go ahead on Thursday 3 February 2022, following postponement last year. For the very first time the National Final will be held in Central Otago with the competition taking place at Amisfield Winery in the Pisa Ranges near Cromwell.

The Awards Dinner will be held the same evening at the stunning venue – The Canyon at Tarras Vineyard in Bendigo. The 2021 national champion will be announced that evening.

This programme supports emerging Young Winemakers helping them upskill, widen their network and giving them a platform to share their ideas for the future.

Having already won their regional competitions, the finalists will be stretched even further and will be tested on all aspects of wine production including laboratory skills, wine market knowledge and wine tasting and judging. . . 

Rural round-up


A humbling and rewarding career – Annette Scott:

Deer Industry New Zealand producer manager Tony Pearse admits his career was not necessarily planned, but rather one of one of huge discovery. He talked with Annette Scott.

As Tony Pearse looks back on a long and exciting career in the deer industry, he says what evolved is best described as a “huge career of discovery”.

“There’s never been a great amount of planning in my life, but what has come out every step of the way has been thoroughly enjoyable and hugely rewarding,” Pearse said. 

Pearse, who has been around the deer industry for 40-odd years, retired last month – taking with him a reputation he says is “humbling to the core”. . . 

Nutrient claims are crap! – Jacqueline Rowarth:

A debate has emerged in nutrient management and fertiliser advice, brought to a head by the hype about regenerative agriculture.

Proponents of the latter are telling farmers that the soil has thousands of years of nutrients and synthetic fertiliser isn’t required. The theory is that animals, including worms and other organisms, will make the nutrients available in their excreta.

The opposite approach from soil scientists is that to maintain soil quality, what is removed in animal and plant harvest (or lost to the environment) must be replaced. If improvements in soil quality are required (development), more nutrients than removed will be required.

This maintenance or development approach was pioneered in New Zealand by soil scientists in the 1970s and 1980s. They initiated the Computerised Fertiliser Advisory Service with soil tests investigated, chosen for appropriateness for New Zealand soils and then calibrated for New Zealand conditions rather than those of the northern hemisphere. . .

Helping to make science useful – Colin Williscroft:

When Trish Fraser arrived in New Zealand from Scotland to study, she had no idea she would still be here more than 30 years later. During that time, she has made a valuable contribution to the rural community as a soil scientist. Colin Williscroft reports.

Plant & Food Research soil scientist Trish Fraser likes to take a practical approach to communicating science to farmers, believing that’s the most effective way of getting her message across.

Fraser, the 2020 Rural Woman of Influence award winner, has attended plenty of field days over the years and she believes the practical approach is appreciated by farmers.

“Farmers are kinesthetic learners and as such like to be able to see and touch things, so I try to have demonstrations that after you’ve seen it, hopefully you’ll remember it,” Fraser said. . . 

Gaining the Knowledge – Sheryl Haitana :

Open Country’s new farm environmental plan tool has helped increase
Mike van Marrewijk’s knowledge so he can build a more sustainable and profitable business for the next generation. Sheryl Haitana reports.

Dairy farmers don’t want to give their kids a hospital pass in the future, with a farming business that is not set up to survive under environmental regulations.

The number one vision for Mike Van Marrewijk is to have a sustainable farm for the next generation. Whether his children decide to go farming or not, he wants to ensure he’s passing on a viable farm that is operating profitably.

“You don’t want to pass on a shambles.” . . 

Plasback on a growth spurt :

Agricultural recycling business Plasback has come a long way since it collected its first consignment of used silage wrap from South Cantebury farmers John and Noelie Peters in 2007.

In the past 13 years it has collected more than 20,000 tonnes of waste plastic from farms up and down New Zealand.

While 2021 was a rough year for many, Plasback has delivered some good news for the environment. Over the past six months, the rate at which silage wrap and other used plastics directly from farms around the country has nearly doubled.

In the period from 1 July to 31 December, Plasback collected 2,500 tonnes of plastic. This compares to 2,600 tonnes in the entire year prior to that. . .

New handbook shows farmers how to plant for bees :

A handbook offering practical guidance on how to plant strategically to feed bees is now available free to New Zealand farmers.

The document brings together knowledge from 10 years of field and laboratory research by the New Zealand Trees for Bees Research Trust, with significant financial support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and other funders.

“It’s a useful tool to assist farmers support the bees, and incorporate into their on-farm planting for biodiversity and other environmental benefits that customers are now demanding,” says Dr Angus McPherson, Trees for Bees farm planting adviser and trustee, one of the lead researchers for the handbook.

“The beauty of our approach is that farmers don’t need to set aside land specially for this planting. . . 

Rural round-up


What farmers are hoping for in 2022 – Mazz Scannell:

If New Zealand beef and lamb farmers were asked what they hoped for in 2022, the answers would be quick: two inches of rain, a slowing of rising land prices, reliable supply chain, consistent kill cycle, good product prices, the ability to manage political change and good staff.

There are more than 44,000 people employed in New Zealand’s meat and wool sector, and the scarcity of seasonal and specialist workers is an ongoing challenge. The one thing farmers can do is to keep the staff they have and grow the next generation of farmers.

Wairarapa farmer Derek Daniell says teamwork is what farming is all about. He knows of farms that have had the same staff for 30 or 40 years, even if the ownership has changed.

“It is about working together as a team and enjoying each other,” he said. “When word gets out someone is leaving, they are usually shoulder-tapped by someone else who wants to take their place.” . .

Reward for improving land – Annette Scott:

Informing policymakers can be challenging, but Professor Richard McDowell has a special interest in presenting understandable science and has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to environmental policy. He talked with Annette Scott.

Richard McDowell has been awarded the Hutton Medal by Royal Society Te Apārangi for his outstanding contributions to the knowledge of contaminant losses from land to water and informing environmental policy.

The Hutton Medal is awarded for significantly advancing understanding in the animal, earth or plant sciences.

A land and water scientist, McDowell works between AgResearch and Lincoln University making a major contribution to the scientific understanding of contaminant losses from land to water. . . 

Planning key to combat higher costs :

Strong financial management, grazing management and people management skills will help dairy farmers buffer rising input costs and produce milk more efficiently.

That’s the message from DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle who says despite a high milk price, high-cost pressures are expected to continue for at least the next couple of years.

Statistics New Zealand released its latest farm expense price index last month which showed large inflation costs for farmers over the past two years.

Four key farming costs have experienced inflation of more than 10 per cent between 2019 and 2021, including fertiliser with a 15.9 per cent increase; cultivation, harvesting and animal feed with an 18.9 per cent increase; electricity with a 21 per cent increase; and stock grazing costs which are 36.9 per cent higher this year than they were in 2019. . .

Dog training from the best – Hugh Stringleman:

Two of the best dog trialists in the country have been sharing their skills with a new generation, giving back to the community that has been the base of their own success. Hugh Stringleman went along to their training day.

The art of sheep dog training, for on-farm working and for competition, was taught in early December at the Maungakaramea farm of Murray and Kathy Child.

It was the Northland training day of the nationwide Purina Pro Plan training series, hosted on this occasion by the Maungakaramea Sheep Dog Trial Club.

Murray does up to 12 of these training days around the North Island every year in his role as a Purina Pro Plan ambassador. . . 

South Island Cheese Festival: a grate day to Brie a cheese lover!:

The South Island Cheese Festival – owned by Cranky Goat Ltd will be returning for its second ever time next month and will be located at the beautiful location of Clos Henri Vineyard kicking off from 10am on Saturday 5th February.

Cheese companies from all over New Zealand will be coming together to celebrate cheese! Giving visitors the perfect opportunity to explore the large variety of flavours, textures and milk types. There will be an abundance of cheeses on offer alongside a large selection of produce that compliments cheeses, giving visitors an instant high quality picnic to enjoy on the stunning lawn at Clos Henri Vineyard.

The South Island Cheese Festival is proud to be hosting incredible companies such as Meyer Cheese, Barrys Bay Cheese, A Lady Butcher, Proper Crisps – Crackerbread, Peckham’s Cider, Easy Cheesy Food Truck and many more! . . 

‘It’ll take away our livelihoods’: Welsh farmers on rewilding and carbon markets

Teleri Fielden is suddenly very despairing. After skirting around the topic for the best part of an hour at her farm in Snowdonia, we’re discussing rewilding and the idea of restoring land to a more natural state and creating more nature-friendly farming practices.

Wales has become one of the focal points of the debate playing out all over the world about how farms and rewilding can work together. Supporters of rewilding say the two can co-exist, but that farming has to change given it is the biggest contributor to nature loss in the country. . .

Around 1 in 6 species in the country are currently at risk of extinction and birds like turtle doves and corn buntings have already gone from Wales’ skies.

With close to 90% of land in Wales used for agriculture, there is currently little space for wildlife to exist free from the influence of farming. Rewilding, which can involve encouraging and supporting wildlife on-farm through replanting hedgerows as well as giving over unproductive land to nature, could help reverse the biodiversity decline. . .

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