Rural round-up

September 1, 2018

Waimea dam project may be refloated – Cherie Sivignon:

The Waimea dam project may be refloated with a revamped funding model that lowers the estimated cost for ratepayers.

Tasman district councillors look likely to be asked at an extraordinary full council meeting on Thursday to change the “no” vote they made on Tuesday and instead, agree to proceed with the dam project.

However, the issue is scheduled to be discussed behind closed doors although the high public interest is recognised with time allowed in the public forum section of the meeting for people to speak for or against the project. . .

Van Leeuwens face sell-up threat – Annette Scott:

The stress of battling Mycoplasma bovis and trying to keep a multi-million dollar farm business afloat has hit hard for South Canterbury dairy farmers Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen.

The couple blame the Ministry for Primary Industries for the impact on their business as they now face the threat of having to sell farms because of what they see as MPI’s bungling of compensation. . .

Lynda Coppersmith appointed first female chief executive of NZ Young Farmers

A tech-savvy business leader with a passion for the primary industries has been appointed to the top job at NZ Young Farmers.

Lynda Coppersmith, 48, was one of a strong line up of candidates vying for the sought-after chief executive’s position.

“I’m really excited that I’m going to be working in the primary industries again,” she said. . .

LIC introduces world leading measures to combat M. Bovis:

LIC, the largest supplier of artificial breeding services to New Zealand’s dairy farms, is introducing daily testing of bull semen to combat the threat of the Mycoplasma bovis cattle disease.

The daily testing regime is part of a raft of new measures that LIC has put in place to help protect against the Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) outbreak and will give its 10,000 farmer customers additional reassurance this mating season. . .

Annabel Bulk announced as Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year 2018:

Congratulations to Annabel Bulk who has become the Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year 2018. Ms Bulk was representing Central Otago and is Assistant Viticulturist at Felton Road.

She is thrilled to have won this prestigious title and delighted that all her hard work over the last few years has paid off. She is very passionate about viticulture and has proved she has the skills and knowledge to become one of the New Zealand wine industry’s future leaders. Ms Bulk is delighted she will be taking the trophy back to Central Otago. This is only the second time it has been won by someone in this region – Nick Paulin won the competition in 2011. . .

Robotics Plus appoints CEO as demand grows for agricultural automation:

Robotics Plus, a New Zealand agricultural robotics and automation company, today announced it has appointed Dr Matt Glenn as the company’s chief executive officer. The move comes after a period of accelerated growth for Robotics Plus fuelled by industry demand for its innovative horticulture automation technologies.

“The company is growing strongly and is well funded, so now is the right time to add a professional chief executive to lead our high calibre team. We are very pleased to have attracted someone of Matt’s calibre, he brings over 20 years of experience in business management and the commercialisation of science and technology,” says Steve Saunders, Co-Founder and Chairman of Robotics Plus, who had held the role of Acting CEO. Mr Saunders will remain an Executive Director to focus on the strategy and establishment of a US subsidiary. . .

Agriculture gearing up for “fourth industrial revolution”:

The agricultural industry is gearing up for the “fourth industrial revolution”, where machines will be replacing humans in “thinking” as well as “doing” roles.

This is according to Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, who spoke to BBC Radio 4 about the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

Although Mr Haldane has predicted that up to 50% of all jobs could be lost to new technologies, in the next four decades agri-tech will need considerable investment before it can address the labour shortage in agriculture. . .

 

 


Compensation necessary for disclosure

November 9, 2017

Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen have been living in a nightmare since Mycoplasma bovis was discovered in some of their cows:

The cost of Mycoplasma bovis could be a $50 million to $100m hit to Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen’s business, that’s if it continues longer term.

But that doesn’t count the cost of the heartache to them, their workers and community.

When they notified animal health issues in their dairy herd they believed they were doing the right thing for their people, their community, the Government and the wider dairy industry.

Now they are not so sure.

“In fact, to date, the way this response has been managed we feel has caused us and many other farmers in the district to be alienated and if the same circumstances were to recur we would have to seriously reconsider doing what we did,” Aad van Leeuwen said.

“It’s been a three-month nightmare and it’s far from over yet,” the couple said. . . 

The couple’s plight hasn’t been helped by the spread of rumours based on ignorance and misinformation.

Looking back over the three months as several of the group’s farms now face eradication of all cows, the van Leeuwens harbour much disappointment over how the response was managed.

“It has been horrendous on us, our staff and our contract and sharemilkers.

“The impact has been devastating on all our people and for many it will mean the end forever – their businesses and their reputations have been destroyed.”

The near 90 staff had just had enough and being associated with a group farm had tainted them for the future, van Leeuwen said.

“And it shouldn’t be. There’s no need for it. There is a dirty stigma attached to it all now. People talk like it’s a plague. It’s nothing like that at all.”

He laid blame on an overdose of misinformation and people not knowing what they were doing.

He was critical of MPI’s response time.

“It took them five days to find out where our farms were and 10 days to put their feet on the first infected farm.

“We had the cows well sorted and separated by then – thank God this was not foot and mouth,” he said.

“We were very disappointed with comments from the media that targeted the robots (indoor system). We asked MPI, through the media, to clear this up and they never did. Their statements made it worse at the last public meeting.

“To get it right the initial outbreak was over just three farms, two outdoor grass and one what we call in-out, in over autumn and winter for shelter,” van Leeuwen said. 

The outbreak on the first infected property was the in-out property but the cows were outside calving at the time.

It linked to two further farms, both outdoors.

 Other rumours linked the outbreak to imported semen but the van Leeuwens don’t import semen directly. It would be very, very unlikely that only their stock was infected by semen from New Zealand suppliers.

But, ironically, as MPI put key emphasis on doing 39,000 blood tests, the blood testing and its lengthy process had been deemed unreliable, van Leeuwen said.

“MPI indicated that to us. They have admitted what we know too from our research of other countries that bulk milk testing is the best testing.

“That has caused a massive issue for us as we have a lot of young stock obviously not milking so blood tested and it’s unreliable.”

The van Leeuwens had asked MPI why more bulk milk testing was not being done, not just on their herds but also regionally and nationwide.

“We haven’t had an answer but we believe there seems to be no logic in what they are doing with blood testing.

“We got stuck in straight away and talked to the Aussies. They told us the best way was to bulk milk test at least two samples within one week from the same herd three days apart to catch the shedders. We are way past that now and believe this wasn’t done.

“It’s been so frustrating. We know our business, we have researched this and done everything possible to help and we have co-operated 100% but they have not listened or picked up on our input.

“We have taken the hit, for our people, our district and the NZ dairy industry.

“We were prepared to do that but now we are concerned that it will all be wasted.

“It is our belief that Mycoplasma bovis is in NZ as it got into our herd somehow and any day it could break out somewhere else and what does MPI do – believe they have it contained but we feel they may be grasping at straws to satisfy public perception.

“No one can deny the fact that it had to come to NZ from somewhere – that is the key to whether they can contain it or not.”

The disease must be somewhere else in New Zealand. It is possible it has been here for some time and gone undetected. It was only diagnosed in van Leeuwen’s stock through their vet’s extra research. (Covered in the ODT here). Other farmers and other vets may well have not recognised the symptoms.

As the first cows went to slaughter (on November 1) in the eradication process of an initial 4000 head of stock, the van Leeuwens were working on the economic analysis of their business going forward.

That included the overall cost of having all the group farms under indefinite lock-down, lost opportunity with young stock, the cost of not being able to use their own bulls, the added cost of having to retain calves and overall loss of production taking in the quarantine period of the properties and herd rebuilding.

“Compensation – we don’t know where the hell we are at.

“They are going to kill our stock but to date there is no proper guided plan for compensation before commencement of killing our stock.

“Depending on whether this disease is found in the robots, it hasn’t been, not yet anyway, we could be looking of anything from $50 million to $100m,” van Leeuwen said.

“They tell us we will be no worse off than when this started but we have nothing on the table as yet to prove this.

“We need compensation guaranteed from day one. The first day of lockdown of the farms has been the start of lost production and income.

“We have had three months of uncertainty and alienation. It’s been too long. We can’t afford to be waiting too long for compensation and while we were able to help keep our people in the saddle through the downturn we can’t do it a second time.

“We have worked 32 years in dairy, 24 in the Waimate district where we have invested heavily in the dairy industry and its processing businesses.

“Now, because of no fault of our own we could hit the wall before Christmas,” van Leeuwen said.

“For too long we have had our hands tied behind our back. We can’t make our own decisions and forward planning – there has been no clear plan from day one and three months down the track we are no further ahead.

“It’s disappointing, it’s devastating and it just should never have got to this.

“The MPI approach needs to change if they want people to notify,” van Leeuwen said.

“On the only positive note – if we do survive this, the VLDG will be Mb-free.

“As for the rest of the country, I can’t say that with any confidence for them,” he said.

If TB is diagnosed in a herd farmers are compensated for any stock that is killed.

That ensures they aren’t disadvantaged by doing the right thing – declaring their stock is infected and co-operating with vets and anyone else involved.

The van Leeuwens and their staff are losing their milking herd, replacement stock and their income.

They have done everything right from the start. They and their staff must be compensated for their own sakes and to ensure that other farmers know that it is safe to do the right thing should their cattle become infected.

Keith Woodford says the Mycoplasma bovis riddle is far from solved:

. . . The whole saga of the outbreak has been poorly communicated.

The starting point for error has been the widely reported falsehood that it is on intensive confinement farms owned by the van Leeuwen Group.   In fact, the disease has not been detected to date on any of the four robot-milked free-stall farms owned by this family. Rather it is on five outdoor farms that they own.

One of the infected farms does have indoor wintering facilities. That farm is on heavy land with two free-stall barns available for wintering and in bad weather. But this is not an intensive farm like in America or much of Europe. These are grazing cows. And the intensity is broadly similar to some hundreds of New Zealand farmers who have off-paddock wintering facilities of various types.   Unlike many New Zealand farms, this farm does milk cows during the winter.

Two of the other infected VLG farms have spring calving and seasonal milking. Another is a dry-stock farm, and the remaining infected farm is a calf-rearing unit.

The media has widely portrayed the van Leeuwen family as so-called rich listers. What has not been portrayed is that this family has got there the hard way. Aad immigrated to New Zealand in 1983, and Wilma’s parents also immigrated from Holland. Aad and Wilma worked their way up the dairy ladder, first as farm workers, then as managers, contract milkers and sharemilkers, and finally as farm owners.

It has been a more than thirty-year journey of hard work, innovation and business acumen. Some of their children are also now involved in the business. 

These are hard working and innovative farmers who have created many jobs and made a significant economic and social contribution to their local community and the wider country.

I have taken an interest in the outbreak since first detected back in July. I contacted the van Leeuwens at that time to try and understand what was happening, and I have stayed in touch. My interest is that of a semi-retired academic who likes to follow issues from an independent perspective. I go wherever the evidence takes me.

Back in August, I wrote an article on  Mycoplasma published in New Zealand Farmer, also at interest.co.nz, and also here at my own site.   At that time, I wrote that “Regardless of whether or not the current outbreak can be contained, and the disease then eradicated, the ongoing risks from Mycoplasma bovis are going to have a big effect on the New Zealand dairy industry”.

I also wrote back then that “If the disease is contained and eradicated, then the industry and governmental authorities will need to work out better systems to prevent re-entry from overseas. And if the disease is not eradicated, then every farmer will have to implement new on-farm management strategies to minimise the effects.”

Those statements remain unchanged some three months later. . . 

My understanding is that there has never been a documented case anywhere in the world of it being transferred in frozen semen, and all imported semen is frozen.

Aad van Leeuwen tells me that the van Leeuwen group has never imported semen themselves. However, like many other farmers, they do purchase semen from the major semen companies. If semen is the source, and the disease is not elsewhere, then the van Leeuwens have been exceedingly unlucky to be the only farmers to be struck. And if that is the case, then a great many other farmers can only thank their lucky stars that it was not them.

Given the lack of evidence for semen being the source, other possibilities need to be considered.

The normal transmission method for Mycoplasma bovis is from animal to animal. That raises the possibility that the original source is a live import. However, the oral advice from MPI (yet to be confirmed in writing) is that there have been no live cattle imported into New Zealand for the last three years.  

Regardless of when animals were last imported into New Zealand, the importer was not the van Leeuwens, and the van Leeuwens have never received live imports on their farms. So once again, if a live import is the source, then the van Leeuwens have been exceedingly unlucky to the recipients of the disease. And what was the path by which it got there?

Molecular biologists may eventually be able to identify the strain of the organism and thereby identify its source as either Australian, which could implicate a live import, or alternatively Europe or the USA, which could implicate semen.

Testing for Mycoplasma bovis is not easy. Testing of individual animals can be by antibody (ELISA) testing of blood, but there are problems of both false positives and false negatives. Bulk tests of milk can be made using sophisticated PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology that seeks out key DNA sequences, but this will only give positive results if the animals are shedding the bacteria in their milk. With PCR, and with the levels of specificity being used, it needs multiple animals to be shedding before a positive reading is achieved. Swabs of animals can also be taken and tested.

In regard to testing, the bottom line is that no method is reliable by itself and multiple tests are required. The van Leeuwens have experienced this themselves, with one of their herds testing negative on two occasions and only on the third test did a mass of reactors show up. In the periods between the tests, no new animals came onto that farm, so presumably it was there all along from prior to the first testing.

There is now good confidence that all animal movements downstream from the van Leeuwen farms have been traced, and those herds continue to be rigorously tested. However, it is far from clear as to the extent of any upstream testing looking for the original source and dissemination from there.

The VLG-owned herds have been closed herds with no new animals brought in from outside the group for more than three years. However, like probably the majority of New Zealand farms, one sharemilker-owned herd on a VLG property has had animals brought in, and this herd is infected.  This raises the possibility that it first came onto the van Leeuwen farms up to several years ago, but only became evident when it spread into one of the milking herds.

MPI have not been forthcoming as to the upstream (source) testing that has been conducted. But Aad van Leeuwen tells me it is his understanding that MPI upstream testing has not been undertaken looking at source farms going back prior to the start of the 2017 year. If this is correct, then it would seem an important omission.

Although MPI have conducted many thousands of tests, it is not clear as to the proportion of New Zealand’s farms that have undergone any testing, and the level of that testing. Almost certainly, it is only a small proportion of farms that have been tested. MPI have been unable to provide this information to me. And therein lies the uncertainty.

One of the problems we have in New Zealand is that the only Kiwis with Mycoplasma bovis expertise are those who have worked and trained overseas.  I know the van Leeuwens are drawing on overseas expertise, but it is not clear to me as to the extent MPI is benefitting from overseas expertise.

What I am personally hearing from people with overseas Mycoplasma bovis experience is that we should not be confident that we have the disease contained. This is particularly the case given that we really have no idea as to how the disease got here. 

If Mycoplasma is found to be endemic in New Zealand, then it will not be the death knell of the industry. But it will be a big nuisance. And we will undoubtedly need to implement some of the dairy hygiene measures that are typically seen overseas but which are largely ignored in New Zealand. In particular, farmers will need to think carefully about sending their young stock off-farm for grazing with young stock from other farms. Feeding raw (non-pasteurised) milk to calves will also need to be eliminated.   Purchased bulls are another potential source of disease transfer.

Two neighbouring properties are now in lock down because of ‘suspicious’ tests:

However, the farms have not tested positive for the disease, but the ministry said the test results from one of the farms was “suspicious”. . . 

Geoff Gwyn from the Ministry for Primary Industries said as a precaution it put restricted place notices on both the properties, and expected a confirmed test result by the end of the week.

The disease was identified on two other farms several weeks ago and now their is concern about two more. These farmers and their neighbours will now be very nervous.

It would allay one of their fears, and make it much more likely any other farmers with concerns would notify MPI, if there was certainty over fair compensation for loss of stock and income.

Mycoplasma bovis doesn’t infect people and it isn’t nearly as serious as Foot and Mouth disease. But it needs to be taken very seriously.

That includes dealing with the farmers sensitively and fairly and giving them clear and full information on compensation.


Very unlike Lotto

July 31, 2015

The NBR’s annual celebration of achievement will no doubt attract derision from the usual suspects who don’t understand wealth creation, what it takes and what it provides for others:

. . .  New riches have been amassed, much of it self-made from creating businesses that employ thousands of people here and overseas. . .

The list attempts to quantify the value of people’s assets. It doesn’t measure the value their success provides for those they employ,  for those who service and supply them and for the economic, environmental and social fabric of the country.

There might be an element of luck in any endeavour but the success this list celebrates owes far more to hard work, skill and the willingness to take risks.

Vicki Jayne, who led the team who put the list together, says:

“But in many ways the actual money is not that important. It’s the stories behind it and the fact that these people have achieved a high level of success. You don’t get the money unless you achieve at a high level in the area you are functioning. It’s very unlike winning Lotto.”

While we celebrate success in sport and the arts, the tall poppy choppers too often deride business success.

That’s a pity, not for the money made but for what it takes to make it and what the people who’ve got it do with it.

This year’s list includes farmers among the newcomers:

When it comes to promoting farming investment in New Zealand, Craigmore Sustainables chief executive Forbes Elworthy could hardly have a better pedigree.

Not only has his family farmed in the South Canterbury foothills for five generations but he can also boast a stellar career trajectory that suggests he knows a thing or two about business. . .

Craigmore Sustainables is now responsible for 40 New Zealand farms which, as the company name suggests, are being run according to a series of community, environmental and business principles that have sustainability at their core. . .

A regular speaker at global investment conferences, he champions New Zealand as a safe haven for farming investment and explains why his company emulates “family farmer behaviours” rather than being “too corporate” in its approach.

Three of Craigmore Sustainable’s farms are in our neighbourhood. They’ve made a big investment in improvements to the properties some of which have enhanced the part of the Alps to Ocean cycle way which goes through their land.

A little further north are the van Leeuwens:

Robots, rubber-floored stalls, cows that live indoors and choose when to be milked – South Canterbury farming couple Adriaan and Wilma van Leeuwen are busy pioneering new frontiers in New Zealand’s dairy industry.

Last year, they opened the world’s biggest ever robotic milking operation under one roof in the small settlement of Makikihi. They even have a plaque from global dairy solutions supplier DeLaval to commemorate the event – and it marks a step change in how farms in this country are managed.

A massive barn houses 1500 cows who decide for themselves when they will head off to one of the 24 robotic stalls for a quiet feed while their udders are automatically prepped and milked. No longer having to deal with inclement weather, the cows are more contented, production goes up and employment costs go down. It’s also easier on the environment – the effluent is collected and reapplied to the farm as fertiliser, thus helping to grow the crops needed to feed the herds and make the whole system self-sufficient. . .

Wilma was a finalist in this year’s Dairy Woman of the Year award.

 

 

 

 


Rural round-up

June 21, 2015

World’s largest robotic dairy barn leads technology – Pat Deavoll:

 Fitting 1500 cows under one roof seems impossible, but that’s just what Wilma and Aad van Leeuwen of the Van Leeuwen Dairy Group did, by building the world’s largest robotic dairy barn at Makikihi in South Canterbury. 

The 23,000 square metre barn, completed last September at a cost of $22 million, was the third of its kind built by the van Leeuwens, but the first of its scale.

Behind the drive to install the barn was the premium price paid for winter milking, which a robotic system enabled, and a shortage of skilled staff. . .

 Hayley’s star rises at Rabobank:

The market downturn in dairy is among foremost concerns for Rabobank dairy research director Hayley Moynihan as she steps into the newly created role of the bank’s general manager Country Banking.

She is sure the bank has the right support systems in place for dairy farmers in its 33 branches, but a first priority will be to ensure the bank stay aligned to farmers needs in all sectors.

Moynihan told Rural News the new role of general manager Country Banking had been created in recognition of the size of the New Zealand business now. . .

Are the Mexico-bound sheep for breeding or barbeque? – Keith Woodford:

Prior to this week, I had no particular knowledge about the current shipment of 50,000 ewe lambs that are heading to Mexico. So when I was approached by Jamie Ball from the NBR for comment, my immediate thought was to say nothing. I simply assumed that this was indeed a very large shipment of future breeding stock.

However, once my attention was focused, and I started scratching around, all sorts of warning bells started to ring. It seemed a very large number of breeding animals to be sending there. And surely, if this was a genuine shipment, then at the other end there had to be either a huge rural development project, or alternatively a very large agribusiness.

So I started to dig a little deeper. As I dug through the layers, a fascinating story began to emerge. I am sure there is still more to uncover. . .

Mexico-bound livestock get cared for in shipment – Tim Cronshaw:

Until now exporters of a massive shipment of young stock going to Mexico have kept out of the limelight. They tell their side of the story to Tim Cronshaw.

Exporters sending 45,000 ewe hoggets and 3200 beef heifers to Mexico say they will continue to receive top care after their two-week voyage to their new home ends on June 26.

Contrary to concerns by animal right groups the group has confirmed livestock will not go to Mexican regions with temperatures of 40 degrees celsius, have not breached minimum age requirements, will be used only for breeding and the farms have been ratified by state governments who have bought most of the animals. . .

Prestigious, International Agri Conference grows from NZ BBQ:

PPP celebrates 10 years with announcement of inaugural agri award winner

This week, agricultural networking fraternity, the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP) Group, will head to Darwin, Northern Australia, to celebrate its 10th anniversary conference – and announce the winner of a new agri award.

Founded in New Zealand by head of Allflex Australasia and Wairarapa farmer, Shane McManaway, the Group started with a handful of producers at an informal BBQ in 2005. It now comprises over 130 of Australasia’s most influential agri-businessmen and women. . .

 

Hawkes Bay horticulture contractors fined:

The Employment Relations Authority has fined three Hawke’s Bay horticulture contracting companies a total of $22,500 for failing to provide employment records.

The Labour Inspectorate launched an investigation into Kiwi Labour Solution, OOMDA New Zealand and Positive Force after an audit last year to check for compliance with employment, immigration and tax laws. . .

 US going nuts about milk prices:

From Kentucky family farms to Californian ‘mega dairies’, there is one thing on the mind of US dairy farmers – milk price. In California this is driving many to nuts.

The dairy farmers are not making money right now. The Californian price is $13-$16/cwt (cwt = 0.045 tonne), about $2/cwt below cost – and well below the $20/cwt they were getting last year. Kentucky is on a similar price: one farmer told Rural News they were getting $27/cwt last year. . .


Rural round-up

January 18, 2015

From dual purpose to multi-purpose: a win-win for dairy farmers:

Dairy farmers throughout New Zealand will benefit from recent research undertaken by Dr (Paul) Long Cheng and Dr Jeffery McCormick from the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Lincoln University.

Dr Cheng and McCormick found that dairy replacement heifers grazed on dual purpose cereal and brassica crops such as wheat and canola achieved higher weight gains and caused less environmental pollution through reduced urinary nitrogen excretion than heifers grazed on conventional pasture.

“Every year farmers needed to rear dairy heifers as replacements for their milking herds as part of their farm management routines,” says Dr Cheng. . .

 Dairy Woman of the Year finalists announced:

Four women from throughout New Zealand have been selected as Dairy Women’s Network’s 2015 Dairy Woman of the Year finalists.

They are:

• PGG Wrightson animal nutritionist Andrea Murphy of Alexandra

• Dairy director Wilma van Leeuwen of Waimate

• Southland Demonstration Farm director Elaine Cook of Waikato; and

• Federated Farmers board member and provincial president Katie Milne of Kumara, West Coast

Run by the Dairy Women’s Network and sponsored by Fonterra, the prestigious Dairy Woman of the Year Award includes a 12-month scholarship to the Breakthrough Leaders Programme run by Global Women New Zealand, valued at $25,000. . .

Katie Milne, Dairy Woman of the year Finalist:

Federated Farmers President, Dr William Rolleston, says he’s thrilled by Katie Milne’s selection as a finalist for the 2015 Dairy Woman of the Year Award.

“I’m not surprised at Katie’s selection, as she has been a passionate advocate for farmers for a long time and has made some real progress for all of us at both a provincial and national level.”

“Katie has been involved with Federated Farmers since 1991, when as a 23 year old she went along to a provincial meeting with some concerns about the RMA’s impact on her ability to farm. Since then she has moved up the executive ranks, now in her third year as a Federated Farmers Board Member and in her sixth year as the Federation’s West Coast provincial president.” . . .

 

Marlborough farmers resilient despite parched land – Helen Hill:

Continuing dry weather has not yet forced any drought management action on Marlborough farmers.

No appreciable rain has fallen in the province since last April, followed by a cold, dry spring but, in an area where dry summers are common, farmers know how to cope.

“Farmers are very resilient in Marlborough because they’ve been here for a long time and have been through plenty of dry times and they learn to deal with them,” said Marlborough Federated Farmers president Greg Harris.

“Federated Farmers encourages people to be proactive, to have feed resources on hand, practise soil conservation and have water storage dams. Generally Marlborough farmers have been heeding this advice.”

Harris said there were no issues of space at freezing works and plenty of stock was moving out of the district. . .

Low impact of drought on Synlait’s milk supply:

Current dry weather in Canterbury is expected to have little impact on Synlait Milk’s milk supply because almost all Synlait suppliers have reliable irrigation water access.

Managing Director Dr John Penno said that Synlait is not seeing a drop in milk production, which remains at budgeted levels.

“This is consistent with what we’ve seen in the past with dry weather, which Canterbury farmers are used to. We have reviewed the factors at play and do not expect it to have much of an impact on our milk supply,” said Dr Penno.

“However, we are monitoring the situation closely as weather conditions may change this position at any stage.” . .

 

ASB Farmshed Economics Report – Taking stock in the New Year:

• Dairy markets moving back into balance over 2015.

• Beef prices off the boil, but still simmering.

• Lengthy period of low interest rates ahead.

While 2014 was a year of big moves in the dairy markets, with record highs and lows, 2015 is shaping up as a year with more moderation, according to the latest ASB Farmshed Economics Report.

“After last year’s steep falls, we expect dairy prices to recover gradually over the year as dairy markets move back into balance,” says ASB Rural Economist Nathan Penny. . .

 Vic poppies here to stay – William Vallely:

HIDDEN in the depths of a local farming community lies a substance that divided 19th century empires and thus far in Victoria has been shrouded in secrecy.

A batch of opium poppies – a revered alkaloid notionally associated with Tasmania – is about to be harvested close to Ballarat, and early signs suggest it’s here to stay.

Australia’s three largest poppy manufacturers – GlaxoSmithKline, Tasmanian Alkaloids and TPI Enterprises Ltd – have conducted secret trial plots of the crop across Victoria over the past two years, however only one has grown a commercial crop after Victoria passed legislation in May allowing cultivation of opium poppies on its land. . .

 

 

 


Getting the facts on winter options for dairying

July 10, 2010

The announcement of a three and a half year study on options for wintering dairy cows in Southland is welcome news.

DairyNZ regional scientist Dr Dawn Dalley said the aim was to measure all parts of the wintering systems, including the impact on feed supply, animal health, finances, and staff, as well as environmental monitoring.

“We want to look at a whole-farm system analysis and get a comprehensive data set on wintering systems.”

The goal was to produce “good robust data” so farmers considering a wintering system could make an informed decision.

. . .  “What we’re not trying to do is say one system is better than the other.

“It’s more about if you’re choosing a system, these are the things you need to be thinking about and to get right to implement successfully.”

This study will provide facts which will help determine what is best for cows, staff and the environment and that could help counter some of the ill-informed criticism of the industry.

Plans to house cows indoors in the Mackenzie basins were opposed for a variety of grounds including animal welfare, environmental degredation and the impact on tourism.

Almost all of the opposition was on emotive rather than factual grounds.

New Zealand is a world leader at converting grass to protein in the most efficient way – by feeding stock on pastures. But that doesn’t mean that everyone here has to do it that way.

The ODT featured Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen who farm at Morven in South Canterbury. They’ve invested $4.5 million in a European-style barn housing 500 cows which are milked by six computer computerised robotic milking machines. One of the features of the barn is back scratchers for the cattle.

It may not be farming as we know it but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Farmers in Southland have been moving to housing cows indoors over winter for the sake of the cows and to safeguard pastures and soil. But they’ve been criticised for doing this because it’s “not natural”.

The study won’t prove housing is natural but it will provide scientific data on which comparisons between various options for wintering cows can be made.


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