Rural round-up

22/09/2020

Water and labeling high on hort sector’s election wish-list – David Anderson:

New Zealand’s horticulture industry has set out its wishes for the upcoming election campaign, covering water, climate change, country of origin labelling and labour issues.

Industry body Hort NZ is asking that any future government ensures the horticulture sector can develop “within a supportive framework that enables sustainable growth”.

It says the sector currently contributes more than $6 billion to NZ’s economy, is the country’s third largest export industry and employs approximately 60,000 people.

“What horticulture needs in order to continue its success in producing fresh and healthy food for New Zealand and export markets is quite simple.” . . 

Rural environment grows ideas just fine – Mary-Jo Tohill:

Two years ago when he was playing for the Southland Sharks, Clinton man Lydon Aoake struggled to stay motivated.

The now 30-year-old was in the team that took out the 2018 New Zealand Basketball League. That year he juggled training, a full-time job at Danone Nutricia, and fatherhood.

“When I was working out trying to get fit for the Sharks, I wanted to get a personal trainer, but Clinton was pretty rural,” Mr Aoake said.

“So I had a little bit of a fitness background, I knew what I needed to do — it was just the PT motivation that I wanted.” . . 

Fonterra’s dividend – my five cents – Elbow Deep:

It has been quite the year for Fonterra, the co-operative not only won unanimous parliamentary support for the changes they sought to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act, they also returned to profit after last year’s first ever financial loss. That profit, a stunning $1.3 billion turnaround from the previous season, saw Fonterra pay suppliers their fourth highest payout in the Co-op’s history; $7.14 per kg of milksolids and a 5c dividend on shares.

As dairy farmers we have been pretty well insulated from the worst financial effects of the pandemic, it has been business as usual thanks largely to Fonterra’s ability to navigate the strict requirements of operating under various levels of lockdown and to quickly react to changes in demand caused by Covid-19.

It struck me as curiously ungrateful, then, that the first response I saw on social media to Fonterra’s excellent result was a complaint the dividend was too low. This, it turns out, was not an isolated expression of that sentiment. . . 

Fonterra stabilises finances with back to basics model, selling assets and retaining profits – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra has stabilised its finances with more asset sales forthcoming. It now operates a conservative model supported by its farmer members. But the model will not create the ‘national champion’ that the Labour Government has always hoped for

Fonterra’s annual results announced in 18 September for the year ending 31 July 2020 indicate that Fonterra has made good progress in stabilising its financial position. A key outcome is a reduction in interest-bearing debt by $1.1 billion, now down to $ 4.7 billion. This has been brought about through asset sales and retained profits.

Chief Financial Officer Marc Rivers told a media conference immediately after release of the results that further debt reductions were desired.  The key measure that Fonterra is now using for debt is the multiple of debt to EBITDA, which now stands at 3.4. The desired level in the newly conservative Fonterra is between 2.5 and 3. . . 

Self-shedding sheep study:

Massey University is examining the economic impact and the production consequences of crossbreeding with Wiltshire sheep to a fully shedding flock.

Coarse wool sheep farmers are struggling with the cost of shearing in relation to the value of the wool clip. Many are considering if changing to a self-shedding flock, such as a Wiltshire, is a better way forward.

However, the cost of purchasing purebred Wiltshires – and the limited numbers available – means this is not a viable option for many. However, there are examples of farmers successfully grading up to Wiltshires by continual crossing.

But there is a general lack of accurate recorded information on the costs, benefit and pitfalls from doing so. . . 

Plug pulled on 2021 Marlborough Wine and Food Festival – Tracy Neal:

Organisers of next February’s Marlborough Wine & Food Festival have pulled the plug early.

It is the first time in the event’s 36-year history it has been cancelled, but the potential lingering challenges over Covid-19 posed too much risk.

Marlborough Winegrowers Board Chair Tom Trolove said it had been a really tough decision that would impact businesses in our community.

“But the board was clear that in these unprecedented times, it had to prioritise the safety of the harvest. . . 


Rural round-up

18/06/2020

Farmers must drive change – Colin Williscroft:

Catchment groups offer farmers the chance to take the lead in freshwater quality enhancement while maintaining profits. 

In the process they encourage thriving farming communities, presenters told a Beef + Lamb eforum.

Rangitikei Rivers Catchment Collective chairman Roger Dalrymple said community catchment groups let farmers make change from the bottom up rather than having it forced on them from the top down, which has often been the approach.

Farmers in catchment groups can help lift knowledge and education and have more control of pressure to make environmental improvements while ensuring their businesses remain sound. . . 

Tough road ahead for wool – Sally Rae:

The costs incurred in shearing crossbred sheep are starting to seriously impede the profitability of sheep farming, ANZ’s latest Agri Focus report says.

Strong wool prices were at the lowest level recorded this decade while shearing costs accelerated, a trend that would only continue. Returns were “absolutely dismal” and that situation was unlikely to improve significantly until existing stocks had cleared, the report said.

Wool had built up throughout the pipeline with in-market stocks elevated, local wool stores full and product starting to pile up in wool sheds.

End-user demand for coarse wool remained tied to carpet production. Wool carpets were generally still expensive relative to synthetic carpet which would make selling wool products even more challenging as global economic conditions imploded. . . 

Too important for lazy labels – Mike Manning:

The espoused benefits of regenerative agriculture have captured headlines recently. Proponents argue climate, soil health, waterways and food nutrition can all be improved by taking a regenerative approach. 

That’s quite a list for a cure-all.

Before we throw the export-dollar-generating baby out with the conventional-farming bathwater it pays to probe beneath the buzzword. Where did the concept come from and what is actually meant by the word regenerative?

The concept of regenerative agriculture originated from justifiable concerns about how continuous arable cropping can degrade soils, an example of which occurred in North American wheat and cornfields. The notorious dust bowls of the 1930s were the result of soil problems such as loss of organic matter, compaction, reduced water-holding capacity and diminishing fertility. . . 

New sheep breed key to organic success for Southland family :

Imagine a breed of sheep that requires no dagging, shearing, vaccinations or dipping. It is highly fertile, lives a reproductive life of 15 years or more and puts all of its energy into producing meat.

It has been a 30-year labour of love for Tim and Helen Gow and their family at Mangapiri Downs organic stud farm and this year they are busy selling more than 100 Shire stud rams.

The Gow family established their Wiltshire flock in 1987 after seeing them in England a couple of years earlier.

“Wiltshire horned are believed to have descended from the Persian hair meat sheep brought to Britain by the Romans as the first British meat sheep,” he said. . . 

Reproductive results: Bay of Plenty farm almost halves its empty rate:

A focus on cow condition helped Jessica Willis almost halve the empty rate on a dairy farm she managed for four years.

The 31-year-old ran a 48-hectare farm, milking 150 Holstein Friesians at Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty until May 2020.

The flat property was below sea level and got extremely wet during the winter and spring.

“It was a constant juggling act to ensure cows didn’t pug paddocks and damage pasture when it was wet,” said Willis. . . 

Farming for the future – Virginia Tapscott:

In a eucalyptus forest east of Monto in central Queensland, fat, glossy cattle have retreated to the shade to escape the midday sun. The sun in northern Australia stings even in the cooler months. Flicking flies with their tails, the animals seem completely oblivious to the vital role they have played in the transformation of Goondicum Station. They have enabled Rob and Nadia Campbell to capitalise on the dawn of an unconventional agricultural trade — natural capital.

Not only is the private sector paying them for their bushland and the carbon it captures, but the bank manager is on board too. National Australia Bank has recognised the value of environmental improvements that began at Goondicum in the 1960s, cutting interest rates on parts of the station under conservation. The grazing systems developed by successive generations of the Campbell family have allowed large areas of native vegetation to regenerate and encouraged native wildlife populations to increase. . . 


Rural round-up

10/03/2020

Kiwifruit harvest begins for 2020, Covid-19 and dry weather to create problems

Covid-19, dry weather and labour shortages are expected to create hurdles for the start of the kiwifruit harvest in Bay of Plenty.

There was even talk about New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated working with forestry organisations to ascertain if they could provide opportunities to forestry employees while there was a lull in wood exports.

NZKGI today released its forecast for another bumper season with about 155 million trays expected across the country. . . 

Fonterra shareholders pitch ex-Zespri leader Peter McBride as new chairman: –  Andrea Fox:

The money is on Fonterra’s next chairman to be former Zespri chairman Peter McBride as shareholders demand a leader with international market experience and a good commercial record to guide the big dairy co-operative out of a morale funk.

Fonterra farmer-owners approached by the Herald after the announcement that chairman John Monaghan would step down in November said the news was no surprise, and the next appointee must inspire confidence among shareholders, staff and New Zealand Inc.

The company signalled in September last year, around the time it announced a FY2019 net loss of $605 million on asset writedowns of $826m, that a succession plan for the top job was being worked on, though this did not mean Monaghan was going to retire. . . 

Answers please!:

Overseer is proving to be a major worry. This software was supposed to be the solution for monitoring fertiliser input use and its potential environmental impacts, but concerns have been raised by farmers, regional councils and even the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Farmers have long complained that Overseer is a flawed tool.

However, the current Government – hell-bent on introducing new water quality regulations – has nailed the success of its proposed freshwater reforms to the use of Overseer as the key monitoring tool. . .

A2 Milk ploughs on in China :

The A2 Milk Company delivered another strong sales result in the first half of the 2020 financial year, lifting most of its key numbers by 20-30% over the previous corresponding period.

Revenue was $806.7 million, up 32% or nearly $200m on the first half of FY2019.

Earnings before interest and tax and net profit were up 21%, at $263m and $185m respectively.

Basic earnings a share were 25.15c but the company will continue its policy of not paying a dividend while reinvesting its profits. . . 

No wool sheep mean no worries – Suz Bremner:

Wiltshire sheep have recently come under the spotlight as the labour required and shearing costs associated with the more traditional breeds start to outweigh a dwindling wool cheque for crossbred wool. 

The Wiltshire animals have a relatively young history in New Zealand compared to some sheep breeds but it is a breed that has been nurtured for at least 40 years. 

For some the idea of farming ewes that shed or, at the very least, do not grow wool over their belly and crutch is a too good a chance to pass up and therein lie the bones of an increase in interest for Wiltshires.  . . 

Britain needs its farmers more than ever – Alice Thomson:

So that’s it, the new government doesn’t need farmers. They are antiquated, redundant, whingeing and muddy. We can buy in all our food, Tim Leunig, Treasury adviser and friend of Dominic Cummings, said in an email to the National Food Strategy last month. A second government adviser has suggested the return of lynx so we can rewild Britain and leave it to the big cats. Ardent environmentalists want to plant forests of native trees to replace crops, fields and hedgerows. Militant vegans are pushing for all domesticated farm animals in this country to be phased out.

Farmers can just pack up their diesel tractors and trundle off into the history books, along with wooden ploughs and oxen. They only make up 1.5 per cent of our 21st-century workforce, they moan about the weather, their hunting and shooting hobbies are dubious, and their barns make wonderful rustic conversions. . . 


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