Rural round-up

August 4, 2020

Hyperbole flies over high country – David Williams:

The Government’s big shake-up of the high country has upset farmers and green groups. David Williams drills into the detail

Across Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown, at the sprawling Mt Nicholas Station, Kate Cocks and her family seem sheltered from the ill winds of Covid-19. 

Yes, the catamaran that used to bring tourists over for farm tours isn’t running, and the public road running through the almost 40,000-hectare station isn’t packed with tourists riding the Around the Mountains cycle trail. 

But Mt Nicholas still has certainty. It has long-lasting contracts with US-owned clothing company Icebreaker and Italian textiles company Reda for the wool from its 29,000 merino sheep, and also runs 2300 Hereford cattle.  . . 

Crossbred farmers feel financial pinch – Yvonne O’Hara:

Southern Rural Life reporter Yvonne O’Hara  looks at  issues affecting the shearing sector, particularly training and crossbred wool returns.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul does not make financial sense when shearing crossbred sheep.

Although the issue was not common at present, some crossbred farmers might be looking at cutting costs and asking their contractors to limit the supply of woolhandlers to their sheds, New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association president Mark Barrowcliffe said

More were likely to be considering that if the price they received for their wool did not improve and shearing, transport and associated costs were not recovered. . .

Tackling farming boots and all – Gerard Hutching:

A former international rugby player who once played for the All Blacks, decided to end his stellar career and hang his boots to return to his farming roots. Gerard Hutching reports.

For George Whitelock a decade-long professional rugby career had a myriad benefits: a secure income, world travel, paths to leadership and friendships forged with a cross-section of Kiwi society. 

But in terms of dairy farming, the pay-off has related to the way in which performance was measured on and off the sports field, and how that has translated into his new business.  

“What drives you when you’re a sportsman is that when you play every week, with technology you get all the improvements from watching video clips and varying your performance,” George said. 

“With farming I get great satisfaction every day knowing what’s going out the gate and I can judge myself and ask ‘what did I do well today or not so well’ – it’s so measurable. That challenge drives me, and it’s why I’m so passionate about dairying.”1 . . 

From koru to cows – Annette Scott:

Nikayla Knight’s career path has gone from the glamour of serving lattes in an airport lounge to milking cows on a Mid Canterbury dairy farm and she is stoked.

Knight was pursuing a hospitality career in the Koru Lounge at Dunedin airport when covid-19 struck. She effectively lost her job overnight.

“Given tourism shut down because of covid I was out of work. I wasn’t going to sit around and do nothing.

“I had three months out of work, no money coming in, no hope of returning to my job so I was looking for anything,” Knight said. . . 

UN removes anti-meat tweet:

The United Nations has removed a tweet following a global backlash from farmers.

The tweet, posted on July 26, stated “The meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the world’s biggest oil companies. Meat production contributes to the depletion of water resources & drives deforestation.”

The tweet was accused of being sympathetic to oil companies, whilst targeting the meat industry.

According to Australian website Farm Online, the Australian government felt particularly targeted by the tweet. . .

Agrichemical industry will take responsibility for environmental waste :

Agrichemical manufacturers back the government’s mandate to take environmental responsibility for their products at the end of their useful life.

Agcarm members support the government’s moves to place the onus on them to ensure that their products can be recycled or disposed of safely. The association’s chief executive Mark Ross says “our members have a long history of taking responsibility for their products. They do this by paying a levy on all products sold, so that they can be recycled or sustainably treated at the end of their useful life”.

The industry funds the rural recycling programme Agrecovery which offers farmers alternatives to the harmful disposal practices of burning, burying and stockpiling of waste. Agcarm is a founder and trustee of the programme, “demonstrating a long-standing commitment to better environmental outcomes,” says Ross. . .


Rural round-up

July 26, 2020

Pork farmer predicts ‘massive’ productivity drop – Yvonne O’Hara:

Like many in the pork industry, North Otago pig farmer Ian Carter is dependent on experienced and skilled migrant workers to run his 318ha, 2000 pig, 700 cattle operation.

If farmers cannot access migrant workers with the needed skill sets and experience, including from the Philippines where there are large commercial pork operations, he predicts a “massive drop in productivity” within the industry.

As a result of Covid-19, workers who would ordinarily be arriving to work here on three-year visas had been unable to fly into the country.

Although the former New Zealand Pork chairman was pleased to see the recent visa extensions introduced by the Government, he did not think those changes would be enough to meet the needs of the industry. . .

M bovis eradication on track -Annette Scott:

The number of properties infected with Mycoplasma bovis has dropped to an all-time low, triggering a wave of confidence that the plan to eradicate the cattle disease from New Zealand is on-track.

Three years on since the disease was first confirmed in NZ, industry leaders are confident the world-first attempt to eradicate the disease is making positive gains towards eradication being within reach in the coming seven years.

As of July 22, the M bovis programme had just four confirmed active properties on its books.

Of these,  two are dairy and one beef in the North Island, with one beef property in Canterbury.  . . 

Smith downplays British farming fears – Nigel Stirling:

A former Trade Minister is hopeful he can play his part convincing Britain to open its farmers up to increased competition from New Zealand and other rival producers once it leaves the European Union.

Lockwood Smith credited his appointment to a new commission advising the British government on trade agreements and agriculture to his long experience as a farmer and former trade and agriculture minister, as well as his knowledge of the British farming and political scene as a recent High Commissioner to London.

“There is a realisation that (British) agriculture needs to move forward and this is an attempt to find a consensus on how best to do that,” Smith said. . . 

Can-do farm installs methane-run generator – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy effluent is being used to power an Isla Bank milking shed and mitigate methane emissions at the same time.

Dairy Green and Scandrett Rural owner and consultant John Scandrett has been overseeing a biogas conversion project at Glenarlea Farm, Isla Bank, since November 2016.

Glenarlea Farm, which is owned by the Fortuna Group and managed by Brendon and Lorelai Santos, milks about 900 cows at peak.

Bacteria convert effluent solids into biogas, of which methane and carbon dioxide are the main constituents.

The methane fuelled a converted diesel motor, which drove a generator to make electricity, Mr Scandrett said. . . 

Taranaki dairy farm doing twice the average milk production scoops national awards :

A Taranaki dairy farmer who has won a raft of production awards attributes his success to having well-grown young stock.

Stefan Buhler milks 260 Holstein Friesian cows on his 80-hectare coastal farm at Manaia near Hawera.

The herd produced 202,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in the 2019-20 season.

“It was a record season for us, despite the drought. We produced 2525 kgMS per hectare, which is quite incredible,” he said. . .

Report questions gender bias in succession planning – Mollie Tracey:

WHILE the agricultural industry has made great progress in advancing women in the workforce, little work has looked into shifting traditional patterns of patrilineal farm succession, which act as gender barriers for daughters growing up on farms.

That’s according to a new report by 2017 Nuffield scholar and Morawa farmer, Katrina Sasse, who investigated the position of daughter successors in United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark – a study that was motivated by her own keen interest as a daughter successor and desire to help women in Australia find a pathway back to the family farm. 

It’s an unfortunate fact that in rural communities some people continue to view daughter successors differently to sons and more needs to be done to empower young Women to remain in family farming operations. . . 


Rural round-up

July 23, 2020

Synthetic products ‘kick int he guts’ – Alice Scott:

When it comes to supporting the New Zealand wool industry, East Otago sheep and beef farmer Georgie McGregor reckons there needs to be a new hashtag started for synthetic apparel: #senditback.

“The big farm retailers not only stock synthetic clothing and hats but they also run these promotions and send what is essentially a plastic bush shirt to us for buying a certain product in bulk.

“It’s one thing to stock this cheap synthetic product, but to give it away to farmers who are out there every day trying to make part of their living out of wool, well it’s a kick in the guts really.

“I just think we should all start sending back this plastic stuff they give us and make it their problem. If we don’t say anything, nothing will change,” she said. . . 

No place for Tom, Dick or Harry :

Migrants are a critical and valued part of dairying in New Zealand, filling skills shortages on farms when there aren’t enough local workers available.

The sector currently has about 4000 migrants on work visas (18% of total sector employees) and another 1500 on resident visas (mostly employees but some employers).

The NZ Government, like other governments around the world, is facing a growing unemployment queue thanks to Covid-19. They are under pressure to employ locals. But it isn’t as simple.

All those out-of-work Queenstown baristas are hardly likely to give up and move sticks to the Waikato, don an apron and start milking cows.

Cost control the biggest influence for farmers in latest survey – Gerald Piddock:

DairyNZ’s latest economic survey reveals that cost control continues to be a key driver for New Zealand dairy farmers as the industry faces ongoing challenges in both production and profitability.

The survey for the 2018-2019 year showed that operating profit per hectare for owner-operators was $2154. This is down on the previous year’s total of $2238, but above the average for the previous decade of $1696, DairyNZ principal economist Dr Graeme Doole said.

 Dr Doole says that volatility will remain a significant challenge for farmers to manage.

Feed continues to be a farmers largest expenditure area at 28.5% of total expenditure. It has been farmers’ expenses category since 2007-2008. . . 

Five southern farmers grade-free for 10 years – Yvonne O’Hara:

Five Fonterra suppliers have earned blocks of cheese and plaques as recognition for being grade free for 10 years or more, for the past season.

Thirty-four suppliers nationwide earned the plaque, five of whom are in Otago and Southland.

In addition to the Weir family, of Inch Clutha, there are the Chalmers family of Kaitangata, the Morrisons, of Kaitangata, the Rutter/Hannah families, of Kaka Point, and the Cricketts of Otautau. . . 

Bees to help elephants and tribes thrive in Africa: a powerful new partnership to help save the wild:

Comvita, New Zealand’s largest producer of UMF Mānuka honey, has today announced a new multi-year partnership with wildlife charity Saving the Wild, which will see the two organisations work together on global projects to help protect ‘nature in need’.

As the major Sponsorship Partner of Saving the Wild, Comvita will be acting upon its founding values, with the mission to connect people to nature at the heart of the partnership.

Established in 1974, Comvita and came to life in a counter-culture movement built on respect for nature and humankind. Saving the Wild was founded in 2014 by Jamie Joseph, with a mission to protect endangered African wildlife and ultimately the priceless biodiversity of the planet. . . 

Livestock birth-management companies for sale provide fertile opportunities for new owners:

Two livestock birth-management firms enabling New Zealand farmers to be among the most productive primary producers in the world has been placed on the market for sale.

Cattle pregnancy testing company Ultra-Scan was established in 1994 to examine the fertility rate of pregnant cows. Ultra-Scan now has 20 franchises throughout New Zealand – with 14 in the North Island and six in the South Island. The majority of the company’s North Island franchise operations are located in the Greater Waikato and King Country districts.

While initially founded to deliver cow gestation scanning services, Ultra-Scan’s service offering has subsequently gone on to include similar pregnancy tests for sheep, deer and goats, as well as the de-horning of young calves aged between four days and 10 weeks of age – in a Ministry for Primary Industry-approved practice known as ‘disbudding’ on calves – as well as DNA sampling, electronic calf tagging for identification, and teat removal. . . 


Rural round-up

July 12, 2020

Farm owner rejects carbon bids to buy East Coast station – Tom Kitchin:

A Gisborne farmer is ecstatic that a large sheep and cattle station in Tolaga Bay – which has just changed hands for the first time in nearly half a century – will not be turned into forestry.

Earlier this week the Labour Party announced plans to introduce legislation limiting forestry conversions of the most productive land, if it wins re-election.

Annette Couper is saying goodbye to Mangaheia Station, a farm that’s been in her family since the 1970s.

She said selling up was tough, but none of her daughters were farmers. . .

Shortage of skilled operators – Yvonne O’Hara:

Invercargill agricultural contractor Daryl Thompson is more than “extremely worried” about finding enough skilled and experienced staff to operate his expensive equipment for the coming season.

“On a scale of one to 10, ranging from not worried to extremely worried, I am sitting at a 12.”

Mr Thompson, of DThompson Contracting, usually employs 50 to 60 people in Southland during the season, including trainees and retired farmers. . .

Tahr Foundation welcomes landmark High Court decision on DoC’s controversial extermination plan:

The Tahr Foundation is welcoming the High Court decision halting DOC’s controversial plan to kill thousands of tahr through the Southern Alps.

The Foundation asked the High Court for a judicial review of DOC’s plan to exterminate all Himalayan Tahr in national parks and sharply reduce tahr populations in other areas.

The application was heard in the High Court in Wellington on Wednesday and Justice Dobson has just released his decision this afternoon.

In the decision, Justice Dobson says that DOC is to reconsider its decision to proceed with the 2020-2021 plan after consulting with interests represented by the Foundation and other stakeholders. . . 

B+LNZ’s Economic Service celebrates 70th anniversary:

This month marks the 70th anniversary of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Economic Service, which was initially set up in 1950 to help a struggling post-war sheep sector.

The Service was established as a joint venture between the Meat Board and Wool Board after a 1947 Royal Commission study recommended establishing a Sheep Industry Board to collect and document factual information about farm production and economics.

This continues to be done today, as it was back in 1950, through the Economic Service’s Sheep and Beef Farm Survey.

As well as giving insight into the state and financial health of New Zealand’s agricultural industry, the information gathered through the Survey is used to inform local, regional and central government policy, underpin forecasts and trends in meat and wool production. It also enables farmers to benchmark their own businesses against others in their cohort. . . 

Property sales to finance wool :

Plans to sell and lease back its portfolio of properties are part of a range of ways Cavalier is financing its natural fibre strategy, chief executive Paul Alston says.

Alston said listing the firm’s three industrial sites in Auckland, Napier and Whanganui is about transforming the company into a high-end, premium flooring brand rather than strengthening the balance sheet.

“We are comfortable with current debt levels,” he said, referring to the sale and lease back plans and noted the firm can access more bank funding to cope with any covid-related impacts. . . 

£2m grant to help Scottish farmers create more woodland :

Over £2 million is being made available to Scottish landowners and farmers to help them play their part in creating more woodland.

The support is part of Scottish Forestry’s Harvesting and Processing Grant, which will help farmers and foresters buy specialist woodland equipment.

This could range from poly tunnels, seed trays through to mounding equipment, work site welfare units and small scale sawmills for wood processing. . .


Rural round-up

July 11, 2020

Farmers paying on land lost to erosion – Mike Houlahan:

Farmers whose properties are alongside the Waitaki River are irate they are being charged rates on land which has been washed away.

Waimate farmer Gert van’t Klooster lost 4ha of farmland when Meridian Energy spilled water from its hydro-electric storage on the Waitaki in December.

While Mr van’t Klooster could accept that Meridian was operating within its consent, he said he found it much harder to pay Environment Canterbury rates on land which was no longer part of his property.

“I have a bill now from ECan on land which isn’t there. It doesn’t generate any income, and there are mortgages to pay on that land, too,” he said. . .

Slight dip in 2019-20 milk collection – Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra’s milk collection last season was slightly down as North Island farmers faced a crippling drought.

However, the 2.1% dip in North Island milk was offset by the South Island where full season collection was up 2.1%.

The cooperative’s total milk production in 2019-20 reached 1,517 million kgMS, down 0.4% on the previous season.

Full season collection for the North Island was 874.6 million kgMS and for the South Island, 642.5 million kgMS. . .

Couple’s flexible approach paying off  – Yvonne O’Hara:

Waimumu sheep and beef farmers Jason and Debbie Smith have a “take it as it comes” approach to farming and it is paying off — despite their operation being affected by Covid-19.

The couple have a 747ha property and this year are fattening 23,000 store lambs as well as running 200 beef cattle under Smith Farming 2018 Ltd, a move made as part of their succession planning.

That is in addition to the 7000 lambs they bred themselves. . .

Agritech has a plan – Tony Benny:

The New Zealand agritech sector is pushing ahead with ambitious plans to grow its exports with $11.4 million Budget funding and despite covid-19 disruption.

Though the launch of the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan in April had to be delayed work has continued behind the scenes to realise the Government’s desire to take NZ farming technology to the world.

“We’ve been talking to the Government pretty much every week over the past three months about the plan,” Agritech NZ executive director Peter Wren-Hilton says. . .

Grain deal gets over the line – Annette Scott:

The arable sector’s biosecurity partnership has been signed.

Five key members have joined forces to form Seed and Grain Readiness and Response to work with the Government to protect the industry from new weed, pest and disease incursions. 

Federated Farmers, the Foundation for Arable Research, the Flour Millers Association, the Grain and Seed Trade Association and United Wheat Growers spent years discussing signing the Government-Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response. . . 

Lockdown reading lessons from New Zealand – John Elliot:

One positive of lockdown is that it has given us the most valuable currency of all which is time,” Katie Piper.

For me, a member of the ‘vulnerable age group’, Covid-19 hasn’t been all bad.

I’ve dusted off the dumb-bells, watched some fabulous programmes on Sky TV and caught up with my reading. Many of the books have been in my possession for years unread.

Some I have read several times. Two of the more interesting came from New Zealand. Their titles, ‘The Intuitive Farmer’ and ‘The Resilient Farmer’ hint at their contents. . .


Rural round-up

June 26, 2020

Govt’s obsession with planting trees a big mistake – Mike Hosking:

am glad the forestation of this country at the expense of good, productive farmland finally appears to be getting the sort of attention it deserves. The trouble with a crisis, is it takes your eye off all sorts of balls, and  various issues would have had far greater scrutiny if we hadn’t had a virus to deal with.

Planting trees to allow us to meet our Paris accord deal is potentially a catastrophic mistake that is unfolding before our eyes.

Firstly, because our calling card to the world is not our climate credentials, it’s the food we sell. For that you need productive land. Under the Emission Trading Scheme changes, the price of carbon lifts. As it lifts, it becomes more attractive to buy land to plant trees.

Planting trees is easy, and people always take the easy path. And what makes this worse is many who invest in these trees have no intention of harvesting them. They’re simply there to clip the ticket. . . 

Majority of farmers find Fonterra Shareholders’ Council ineffective – survey – Eric Frykberg:

The main watchdog for dairy giant Fonterra has been told it has to lift its game.

The comments came in the first of a two-part inquiry into Fonterra Shareholders Council.

The council is supposed to monitor the company on behalf of its 10,000 farmer shareholders, but it has incurred a lot of criticism including comments from the Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor that it was “less a watchdog than a lapdog”.

The Shareholders Council commissisoned a review of itself last year, chaired by veteran public servant James Buwalda. . . 

Wool classer receives merit award – Yvonne O’Hara:

Wool has always been part of Anne-Marie Parcell’s life.

“I love it and not a day goes by when I am not staring at sheep or touching wool. If I am not spinning it, I am shearing or crutching or drafting. I never wear polar fleece,” the Bannockburn wool classer said.

And neither did the two lambs that turned up last week wearing wearing wool jackets.

Ms Parcell was delighted when she was given a merino merit award from the New Zealand Wool Classers Association recently, for the clip she classed at Northburn Station, near Cromwell. . .

Fonterra announces Peter McBride as chairman elect:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited (FCG) has announced that current Farmer Director, Peter McBride has been selected as the Co-operative’s Chairman-elect by his fellow Directors.

Under Fonterra’s constitution, its Chairman is selected by the Board from within its pool of seven elected Farmer Directors.

Mr McBride will replace current Fonterra Chairman, John Monaghan when he retires as a Director of the Co-op at its Annual Meeting this November. . .

Adept wool presser will never give up :

Here’s a riddle … If two shearers clip a total of 100 sheep, and one shears three more than the other — what is the tally for each? Turangi Morehu jokes that he has asked this riddle to many in the shearing fraternity over the years, including world champion Sir David Fagan “and I’m still waiting for his answer”, he quips.

Mr Morehu, known to most as Tu, “after one and before three”, is the ubiquitous and hard-working character floating between the gangs of Peter Lyons Shearing, keeping an eye on things for Mr Lyons and wife, Elsie.

Originally from Tuatahuna and spending his younger years in Rotorua, Mr Morehu has worked as a wool presser since he left school at the age of 13 . .

Kauri still waiting for dieback plan – Farrah Hancock:

A pest management plan for kauri dieback is missing in action. Farah Hancock reports.

Thirty months after it was announced, there’s still no National Pest Management Plan for kauri dieback.

In 2017, the Government said it was moving immediately to strengthen efforts to protect kauri trees. One of those efforts was creating a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP).

“An NPMP shows how serious we are about protecting kauri. It is by far the strongest piece of regulation available and will ensure mandatory hygiene practices, consistent regulations that apply nationally, stronger governance and access to funding,” said Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor when he announced the plan in December 2017. . .

Britain opens free trade negotiations with New Zealand – Liz Truss:

This week is the start of an exciting new chapter in the shared history of Britain and New Zealand.

Our two island nations are already close friends, bound tightly by cultural, economic and social ties that have stood the test of time.

Britain is the largest ex-pat community in New Zealand. We both share a language, a head of state and a system of common law. We also share a strong commitment to free and fair trade, and believe fundamentally in the rule of law and the power that democracy has to drive forward human progress. . .


Rural round-up

June 24, 2020

Freshwater style over substance – Elbow Deep:

Much has been written about the Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE) newly released National Policy Statement (NPS) on Freshwater, some groups are cautiously optimistic while others are outraged. Generally when nobody is happy with a decision Government has made it’s an indication they’ve got things pretty much right; I’m not so sure that’s the case this time.

From a farmer’s perspective the NPS could have been much worse; we were faced with the prospect of tearing down thousands of kilometres of fences and putting them back up a couple of metres further away from waterways, and worse, the prospect of a “one size fits all” nitrogen limit for the entire country in spite of its potentially devastating economic consequences for diminishing environmental outcomes.

The majority of freshwater ecologists in the MfE science and technology action group (STAG) were arguing for this blanket nitrogen limit, 1mg of dissolved inorganic nitrogen per litre of water, or 1% DIN. The remainder of the nineteen-strong STAG, the Cautious Five, wanted to use another method  entirely to measure a river’s health, the macroinvertebrate community index (MCI); quite literally counting the creatures in the water to determine how healthy it is. . .

Place on rural leaders’ board chance to give back – Yvonne O’Hara:

Former Nuffield scholar Kate Scott, of Cromwell, has joined the national scholarship programme’s overseeing body as a trustee.

The New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust (Rural Leaders) runs both the Nuffield New Zealand farm scholarship programme and the Kellogg rural leadership programme.

She replaced trustee James Parsons.

“It was an opportunity for me to give back and support the trust, which helped support my scholarship.

“I am looking forward to working beside other board members to provide learning and rural leadership opportunities throughout New Zealand,” she said. . .

Stranded seasonal workers want to go home – Jared Morgan:

Vanuatu’s approach to repatriating seasonal workers stuck in Central Otago may be motivated by economics more than fears of Covid-19, an orchardist and a worker say.

Strode Road Orchard owner Lochie McNally said Vanuatu had not had a case of Covid-19 and the disease had been effectively eliminated in New Zealand, making it difficult to understand what Ni-Vanuatu officials were waiting for.

Orchardists and viticulturists were willing to pay for flights home for the men; he questioned if leaving the workers here was politically motivated.

Mr McNally said it would be cheaper to pay for flights home than to keep paying the men, in his case eight, as work ran out. . . 

Blue Mountain College wins 2020 AgriKids Grand Final:

A talented trio from Blue Mountain College has taken out the title as the 2020 AgriKids winners.

The “West Otago Rams,” made up by Charlie Ottrey, 12, Dylan Young, 12, and Riley Hill, 13, were awarded the title at the Grand Final on Friday.

When asked how the trio felt about their win, they replied in unison “happy,” “overwhelmed,” “and a little bit surprised as well”.

They said the day was really fun but also challenging, with it being their first Grand Final. . . 

New Zealand’s sheep milking business is expanding :

New Zealand’s sheep milking industry has reached a significant milestone as Spring Sheep Milk Co. adds three new farmers to their growing supplier base for the coming dairy season. The new farms are coming onstream as the global dairy company responds to demand for nutritional products made with New Zealand sheep milk.

The addition of new farms is an important tipping point for Spring Sheep as this year the milking flock maintained by external suppliers will exceed that of Spring Sheep’s own farms. These additional milking ewes will help grow the company’s product lines into new markets as well as.

Growing consumer awareness and clinical evidence of sheep milk’s nutritional and digestibility benefits means demand is rising and Spring Sheep is now looking to partner with additional suppliers for the following 2021 dairy season. . . 

Study shows EU intervention programme wreaked havoc on global dairy prices; U.S> groups call for end to EU dumping of dairy products in international markets:

An economic analysis published today shows the serious impact of the European Union’s Skim Milk Powder (SMP) Intervention Program on the U.S. dairy industry—especially to U.S. farm-gate milk prices—in the years 2016-2019.

The report authors conclude that the United States was “economically harmed by the EU’s Intervention program for SMP” in three ways. First, the EU program depressed the global price of SMP, which lowered U.S. milk prices in 2018 and 2019, contributing to a $2.2 billion loss of U.S. dairy-farm income those years. The EU program also artificially inflated its global export market share, resulting in drastically lower market share for U.S. dairy exporters and other SMP exporters and U.S. dairy export losses of $168 million from 2018-2019. Finally, the analysis shows that when the EU unleashed its stockpile of “Intervention SMP” onto the global marketplace, the disposal of the product had harmful effects on the competitiveness of the United States in historically important export markets including Southeast Asia.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the leading dairy trade associations in the United States—the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC)—point to this economic analysis as proof that the EU’s SMP Intervention program wreaked havoc on the U.S. dairy industry. In their letter, the groups urge the U.S. government to prevent the EU from using future Intervention practices to effectively dispose of publicly stockpiled EU dairy products at discounted prices in the international markets. In May, dairy groups from across the Americas joined to call for an end to the EU Intervention Program. . . 


Rural round-up

June 2, 2020

Growing new farmers – Gianina Schwanecke:

Four months into the Wairarapa pilot of the Growing Future Farmers programme, GIANINA SCHWANECKE speaks to those involved about how it has been going.

Interim GFF general manager Tamsin Jex-Blake said many students had expressed interest in the Wairarapa pilot late last year and six students were partnered with farmers.

The sheep and beef focused training programme officially kicked off in February this year, and she was happy with how it had progressed so far.

She said the programme helped provide students with opportunities to learn practical farming skills from those experienced in the industry and would go a long way to helping with the skills shortage. . . 

Food can fuel NZ recovery – Ross Verry:

Syndex CEO Ross Verry gives his view on how New Zealand can emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.

As the gates of lockdown open onto a changed landscape it’s time to take stock; to look at what we have, where our strengths lie and where the opportunities are.

There has to be a silver lining and, with the right innovation and systems in place, New Zealand could emerge shining brightly.

Having worked for both the industry and the financial systems that support it, in times of peaks and troughs, I can say that as we stand on the start line of the race ahead, we have to remember New Zealand is a world class producer of food – leaders in quality, productivity and efficiency.

We have a population of less than 5 million yet we produce enough to feed many more. Our supply is important to the world. Our kiwifruit, cherries and hops are revered and exported at premium prices and, although these items may fall into the luxury category, we excel in staple goods too. . . 

 

Urbanites upskill for career in dairy :

With large numbers of people losing their jobs because of Covid-19, Dairy NZ has launched a publicity campaign to encourage people to consider changing careers and getting into dairy farming.

On 8 June, it is running a “farm-ready” entry-level training course which is free for those serious about working on dairy farms.

Enquiries have already come in from people who have lost their jobs. They include a former fly-fishing guide, someone in film and television, another in banking and finance, a couple of commercial pilots, a biologist, a welder and people from construction and forestry. . . 

Awards co-ordinator bids adieu – Yvonne O’Hara:

Outgoing Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards regional co-ordinator Tracie Donelley has always been impressed by how dedicated and passionate the entrants are about their farms.

‘‘I would like to invite urban people to come to the awards so they can see how much effort these farmers put into their land,’’ Ms Donelley, who has been in the position for nearly seven years, said.

‘‘I have been continually amazed by amount of time and money the farmers put in their farms with no immediate payback, and by how much they care for their land and their stock.’’ . . 

Heifer on the lam: Farmer seeks sightings of ‘mildly agitated’ cow :

The owner of a cow that pulled an audacious Houdini act to escape a trip to a Southland abbatoir is asking for the public’s help to get her back.

Stock agent Terry Cairns put an ad in the Southland Times seeking sightings of a “solid black Heifer” described as being “mildly agitated”.

“Her mates that I sold were $800 each, so while it’s not a fortune, it’s significant and it’s a hell lot of steak and hamburgers and stuff gone west if I can’t find her.” . . 

Root canals and GMOs – Uptown Girl:

Last week I went to the dentist and was surprised with an unexpected root canal. Nice, right?

The dentist explained the entire process and said that root canals have come along way with modern technology and were safe, and fairly pain free.

I shocked him and said, “Doc, I appreciate the offer but would you mind doing the procedure the same way it was done in the 50’s?”

😳

OK, I didn’t actually say that. (Everyone knows you can’t actually talk to the dentist because they only talk to you with their tools in your mouth.)

I just nodded and embraced the modern advancements that made the process nearly pain free.

As crazy as that request sounds- for a patient to request a dentist revert back to practices from decades ago – it’s the same request that is thrown at farm families all the time. . . 


Rural round-up

May 25, 2020

Rural life in lockdown: Farming women’s struggle with mental health and work – Bonnie Flaws:

South Island dairy farmer and company director Jessie Chan went to some pretty dark places during lockdown.

The experiences of rural women often go unheard, she said, and lockdown was particularly tough on them.

Between homeschooling her six-year old while juggling a toddler, farm and board commitments, there were often nights she was up at 11pm doing paper work.

Catching up with women in her local community in Dorie, after lockdown eased, Chan realised she was not alone as others expressed how much they had struggled. . . 

Easier without trampers, climbers, walkers, tourists – Kerrie Waterworth:

Running a high country farm next to a national park has been easier during the Covid-19 lockdown because there are no climbers, trampers, walkers and tourists on the road or property.

Fourth generation farmer Randall Aspinall and his wife, Allison, manage the 2300 ha beef and sheep property, 50km from Wanaka, at the gateway to the Mt Aspiring National Park.

It is estimated more than 100,000 people travel through the property each year which can present challenges, the most common of which is shifting stock.

‘‘Normally we would try to do it first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and often it would be a two-person job to stop traffic at some of the choke points, whereas with no traffic you can just go and do it wherever you want to,’’ Mr Aspinall said. . . 

Coronavirus: Govt buying 2000 pigs a week as industry struggles with surplus – Esther Taunton:

With thousands of pigs unable to go to market during the coronavirus lockdown, the Government is stepping in.

Independent butchers were not allowed to open to the public while the country was at Covid-19 alert levels 3 and 4, resulting in a surplus of up to 5000 pigs on New Zealand farms every week and a looming animal welfare issue.

To help clear the backlog, the Government has agreed to buy some of the surplus pork at cost, up to a maximum of 2000 pigs or 112 tonnes a week.

The meat will then be delivered to food banks by national food rescue network KiwiHarvest. . . 

Covid fails to stop moving day – Gerald Piddock:

Moving day is under way again for many dairy farm workers following several weeks of covid-19 lockdown disruption.

Level four reduced the time farmers had to move because it put on hold much of the shifting and preparation done in the lead-up to the move.

Federated Farmers sharemilkers spokesman Richard McIntyre said the resulting uncertainty caused some issues. 

Moving companies were also booked ahead months in advance and the lockdown did lead to stress, he said.

McIntyre’s sharemilking neighbours had bought a farm and were in the process of moving when the lockdown occurred. . . 

Forestry in blood of Dipton man – Yvonne O’Hara:

Many of Nic Melvin’s ancestors were in the forestry and sawmilling business in New Zealand from the 1860s and he knew from an early age he wanted a career in the sector.

From a dairy farm at Dipton, Mr Melvin (19) is in his second year of a four-year forestry science degree at the University of Canterbury.

He has been awarded this year’s Southern Wood Council’s Scholarship, worth $4500 over three years, which he’ll put towards student fees.

His father used to be a tree feller for whom he started working when aged about 13. . . 

Failed petition aims to spark more farming support – David Anderson:

Te Kuiti-based electrician Terry Waite’s demand that the Government apologise to farmers for the way it has treated them – especially over the last couple of years – has failed.

Waite was so sparked up by what he believes is the Government’s poor treatment of farmers that he started a petition, asking people to support it so it could be presented to parliament.

The petition needed to attract 100,000 signatures. He’d tried to get his petition to ask: ‘The NZ Govt to apologise to NZ farmers’. However, the bureaucrats wouldn’t allow that wording.  . .


Rural round-up

May 24, 2020

Farmers feel the love – Neal Wallace:

With the demise of New Zealand’s $41 billion tourism industry because of covid-19 the primary sector will carry an even greater economic burden. Not only will it fund the lion’s share of health, education and social welfare but also service the $200 billion the Government plans to borrow. This week we start the series, Growing Our Recovery, which looks at what obstacles and opportunities the sector faces as it leads NZ out of economic recession.

Renewed trust in the primary sector is being shown by the Government and its officials as they see changing economic fortunes around the globe, sector leaders say.

“We are picking up an awareness amongst Government that the stakes have all of a sudden got very high, not that they weren’t high before, but the stakes now are doubly high and they’re very much aware of that,” DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said. . . 

Farmers aim to feed the need – Colin Williscroft:

An AgriHQ initiative started earlier this year is playing a key role providing options for farmers wanting to buy supplementary stock feed while donated balage and hay continue to be trucked into Hawke’s Bay.

In February AgriHQ saw a growing demand for supplementary feed from farmers relying on various avenues to supply their needs.

To connect buyers with sellers it set up the AgriHQ Feed Noticeboard to let sellers listing what they have got, its cost, their location and contact details.

Commercial leader Steph Holloway says the online noticeboard proved popular popular from the start with it not uncommon for feed to be listed one day then gone the next. . . 

Motivated young farmer making rapid gains in sector – Yvonne O’Hara:

Josh Cochrane is passionate about cows and enthusiastic about working in the dairy sector.

At 22, Mr Cochrane has wanted to be a dairy farmer for as long as he can remember.

He is in his first season as a 2IC for contract milkers Ben Franklin and Chelsea Saywell, on Roddy MacInnes’ 140ha property at Ryal Bush, milking 520 cows.

However, next season he moves to a 600-cow property in Oamaru as a contract milker.

He entered this year’s Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year competition and placed third.

His family were on a dairy farm near Rotorua and moved to Southland in 2007, when he was 10. . . 

Zero bobby calves for South Canterbury farming couple :

The versatility of Holstein Friesians is being credited with allowing a young South Canterbury couple to produce zero bobby calves.

Ryan and Billie Moffat milk 460 cows at Waimate. Production on the 145-hectare irrigated property was 262,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in 2018-19.

The couple bought the farm off Ryan’s parents Mike and Chris Moffat last year, after buying their herd four years’ earlier.

“Our business doesn’t produce any bobby calves,” said Billie. . .

Farm ownership long term goal – Yvonne O’Hara:

Jakeb Lawson has been working in the dairy industry since he was about 13 and likes it so much, he wants to eventually own his own farm.

Mr Lawson (19) is a farm assistant for sharemilker Matt McKenzie, on a 300ha property owned by Eoin and Jayne McKenzie, at Woodlands.

They milk 650 cows and the expected production this year is 360,000 kg of milk solids.

‘‘I got the opportunity to do some work for my brother-in-law when I was about 13 or 14 and I really enjoyed it,’’ Mr Lawson said. . . 

Farmers still need ‘up to 40,000’ workers to help pick crop :

Farmers still need up to 40,000 workers to help bring the harvest in this summer despite an ‘overwhelming’ response to hiring campaigns.

Defra launched the initiative ‘Pick for Britain’ last month to bring workers and employers together as the impact of Covid-19 leaves a diminished workforce.

From pickers and packers, to plant husbandry and tractor or forklift drivers, there are a wide range of roles available for furloughed employees. . . 


Rural round-up

March 28, 2020

After the lockdown, the economy’s recovery will be dependent on dairy farms and their milk – Point of Order:

The planet is  in a state of   flux,   economies are tumbling into  recession, no-one (not even Donald Trump) can predict  when the agony will  end.

Suddenly, the streets  are  empty:  life  as  we have  known  it is  now  very  different. The  nation  is  in   lockdown.

As  the  London  “Economist” put it:

“The struggle  to  save  lives  and the  economy  is  likely to present  agonising choices…As  that  sends economies  reeling, desperate  governments are trying to tide over  companies and  by handing out millions of  dollars in  aid and loan guarantees. Nobody can be sure how these rescues  will work”. . . 

Don’t stress weakening economy – Neal Wallace:

Economist Cameron Bagrie is joining a chorus of calls for the Government to delay introducing policy imposing new environmental rules and costs on a rapidly weakening economy.

Bagrie says Government borrowing as a percentage of gross domestic product has doubled from 20% to 40% in the last few weeks as it tries to protect jobs and businesses from the impact of measures to control the covid-19 virus pandemic.

He expects Government borrowing will increase further and warns now is not the time to introduce more costs on businesses in freshwater regulations and the new minimum wage, which applies from April 1.

“Farming has been unloved and beaten up by the Government for the last two or three years but the Government is going to need farmers for the next few years.” . . 

Virus adds to woes of North Canterbury farmers – David Hill:

The uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic is adding yet another headache for North Canterbury farmers.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cameron Henderson and North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Andy Munro say dry conditions, the ongoing effects of Mycoplasma bovis and coronavirus, and this week’s 5.1-magnitude earthquake near Culverden are creating uncertainty.

‘‘The effects of the virus seem to be changing day to day as we have seen with share markets and travel bans,’’ Mr Henderson said. . . 

Meat matters to sector stalwart – Colin Williscroft:

Tim Ritchie retires as Meat Industry Association chief executive on April 7 after a career in primary sector roles that began in the 1970s. Colin Williscroft reports.

THE meat industry has come a long way since Tim Ritchie got involved and a decision made on the far side of the world about then that has provided the biggest advantage to the sector here in the years since.

Though it might not have seemed like it at the time, in retrospect Britain joining the then European Economic Community in 1973 was the best thing that could have happened for New Zealand farmers. . . 

Leader learnt a lot in dairy industry – Yvonne O’Hara:

‘‘It was like being dropped into the mothership of emergency management.’’

That is how Katrina Thomas describes her involvement with the recent flood recovery effort in the South.

The Wreys Bush dairy farmer was Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) southern regional hub leader for Otago and Southland since 2016, and regional leader for Southland since 2012.

However, this year she decided she wanted to try other challenges. . . 

Wine industry faces worker accommodation woes during lockdown:

The wine industry is facing criticism for continuing harvest during the Covid-19 lockdown, and is facing problems with worker accommodation

The government says the grape and wine industry can continue to operate as an essential business, but strict conditions apply as the country moves to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Some Marlborough people have noticed the hundreds of workers travelling to work in vineyards all over the district, and have questioned whether this was safe in the current climate. . . 


Rural round-up

December 5, 2019

Escalator programme provides next step up – Alice Scott:

Rebecca Smith is a wife, mother, farmer and qualified veterinarian.

She is now also a graduate of the Agri Women’s Development Trust’s Escalator programme.

Escalator is a leadership and governance programme for women involved in the primary industries and rural communities and is run by the Agri Women’s Development Trust. The Escalator programme equips women with the tools, confidence and support they need to successfully lead and govern in their chosen fields.

Each year, the programme receives around 80 applications from around New Zealand, which need to be whittled down to just 14. . . 

Olive yield doubles through change of technique:

Using New Zealand fruit tree management techniques instead of the olive grove management methods used in the Northern Hemisphere and Australia has at least doubled olive yields at trial sites across New Zealand, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)-funded research has shown.

MPI supported Olives New Zealand to carry out a three-year research project, through its Sustainable Farming Fund.

The project explored ways to increase market share for New Zealand olive oil, with the aim of increasing the average harvest tonnage of less than 10kg per olive tree to 15kg.

The researchers exceeded their own expectations, reporting a yield of 20-35kg per tree by the end of the project. . . 

Rural firms promote ingenuity :

A campaign celebrating unique rural enterprises has been launched by the Wanaka A&P Society.

Four rural businesses in the Clutha area will front the Acres of Ingenuity campaign.

They were selected in a competition focusing on diversification in farming and land use.  

Salmon farm and restaurant Hook, tourist attraction LandEscape, cherry growers and exporters New Zealand Cherry Partnership and honey production company Taylor Pass Honey feature in the campaign.

“All four enterprises are using their land in unique and varied ways in an effort to create a viable and sustainable business,” Wanaka Show event manager Jane Stalker said. . . 

Hemp growers aiming high – Sudesh Kissun:

New regulatory changes are forcing some horticulture and dairy farmers to look at a new crop – hemp.

About 1300ha are now assigned by growers across New Zealand for the 2020 hemp crop. HempFarm NZ founder Dave Jordan hopes the 2021 crop will increase four-fold.

“Who knows, it could be more if we can sell our story well to the New Zealand public and business sector,” Jordan told Rural News. . . 

Nutrition key to productive cows – Yvonne O’Hara:

A productive cow is the dairy world’s equivalent of a triathlete, ruminant nutritionist Andrea Murphy, of Alexandra, says.

Therefore, nutrition which meets her energy requirements is essential to keeping her healthy and productive and enhancing her longevity within the herd.

Ms Murphy was one of the committee that organised the New Zealand Association of Ruminant Nutritionists’ first conference in Gore last week.

More than 80 people, including fertiliser company representatives, veterinarians, agronomists and animal feed consultants, attended the day.

‘‘I often use the analogy of sport. Just like an athlete, the better the nutrition of the individual the better the performance, both in training and on game day,’’ Ms Murphy said. . . 

Hay bale art challenge is on as designs appear in paddocks – Alastair Dowie:

The challenge has been set as Newstead’s Hutton family unveiled their new hay bale artwork.

The well-known annual construction on the Pyrenees Highway near Newstead has been creating widespread interest and comment.

This year the Christine and Craig Hutton and children Maddy, 17, and Charlie, 14, hope fellow district farmers will take up the challenge and construct their own works of art.

Ms Hutton said the artworks started in around 2012 and were spasmodic for the first few years, but more regular in the past few years. . . 


Rural round-up

November 22, 2019

Jane Smith on what urban people really think about farmers:

Although the Government may be “factose intolerant” when it comes to farming, urban people are hungry for more information says Jane Smith.

The North Otago farmer told The Country’s Jamie Mackay that she had “some really robust conversations with urbanites” in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown recently.

“I’ve in effect sort of run my own referendum of what they really think about farmers and gosh, it’s been really insightful”. . .

Farmers fear significant losses – Toni Miller:

As farmers anxiously await the outcome of the Government’s Essential Freshwater plan, Ashburton farmer David Clark has outlined the significant losses it could have on his arable farm operation.

It includes crop income losses of 92%, sheep gross income losses of 62% and an expenditure decrease of 70%, affecting businesses, contractors and services in the district used by the farm.

He questioned how any government could suggest a plan that resulted in ”such economic vandalism”.

Mr Clark, attending a public meeting in Ashburton, organised by National Party opposition agricultural spokesman Todd Muller, said it was a comparative analysis based on a report done by Environment Canterbury’s head scientist Dr Tim Davie in 2017, using similar cutbacks for the Waihora Selwyn Zone. . .

Farmers fear loss of millions as slip repair wait continues – Aaron van Delden:

Waikura Valley farmers face missing out on millions in income during one of their most lucrative seasons of the year following a road slip three months ago.

Access to about 9000 hectares of some of the country’s most isolated productive land – about four hours’ drive north of Gisborne – was completely severed for several days when a slip came down on Waikura Road about 15km from the turnoff on State Highway 35.

The slip on 22 August left 36 valley residents from 13 households stranded in a part of the country that averages up to 3m of rain a year. . .

OAD milking brings environmental, financial benefits – Yvonne O’Hara:

Milking once a day year-round has both environmental and financial benefits, Dipton dairy farmer Jim Andrew says.

Mr Andrew and his wife Sandra bought and converted the Lumsden-Dipton highway property specifically for once-a-day milking full time, about 10 years ago.

He was born and bred on a Wairarapa sheep and beef farm before moving to Southland to become a rural manager for the Bank of New Zealand.

The Andrews then bought their own farm as part of a syndicate before buying the Dipton property. . .

Apple industry changes prompt some growers to get environmentally creative with plastic waste:

Significant growth and redevelopment in the apple industry has prompted some growers to get environmentally creative with the way they dispose of kilometres of plastic irrigation pipes.

New Zealand’s largest organic apple grower, Bostock New Zealand, pulled out 80 kilometres of irrigation pipes during winter and has teamed up with Aotearoa New Zealand Made to recycle it into black damp-proof film for the building Industry and black rubbish bags.

Bostock New Zealand Orchard waste coordinator Lisa Arnold said the initiative is a good way to give a new meaningful life to orchard waste. . .

Promising signs for drive for milling wheat self-sufficiency:

A big drop in the amount of unsold cereal grain since July, and continuing strong demand for milling wheat, are key features of the latest Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) survey.

It is estimated unsold stocks of cereal grain, summed over all six crops, reduced by 44% between 1 July and 10 October.  “That’s a good sign, even if deliveries hadn’t happened by the time of the October survey, that people have been meeting the market and getting product sold,” Federated Farmers Arable Vice-Chairperson Grains, Brian Leadley, said.

Total production from the 2019 harvest (wheat, barley and oats) was 799,900 tonnes, about 25,000t up on the 2018 harvest. . .


Rural round-up

November 19, 2019

Tolaga Bay: A beach covered in forestry waste – Rebecca Black:

As temperatures rise in the Gisborne district, Tolaga Bay locals face a beach covered in logs and expect more debris every time it rains.

More than a year since a huge storm hit the district on Queen’s Birthday weekend 2018, washing over 40,000 cubic metres of wood onto beaches, rain is still sending forestry waste down the district’s rivers to Tolaga Bay beach.

On October 15, the beach was covered in 15,000 cubic metres of wood in what the Gisborne District Council described as, “a storm that could be expected every couple of years”. . . 

Recipient off to study operations – Yvonne O’Hara:

As one of five new Nuffield Scholarship recipients, sheep, beef and dairy farmer Ed Pinckney, of Manapouri, will be spending several months overseas next year exploring different farming operations.

The experience gained will enhance his own farming operations and also form part of a study project each scholar is required to do.

Although he has yet to distil his ideas into a specific topic, he is keen to look at how to encourage more people to enter the agricultural industry and develop their skills.

”There will be something to learn from most businesses [I visit] around the world and will be applicable back here to what we do,” Mr Pinckney said.

The Nuffield Scholarships provide new scholars with an opportunity to travel abroad in groups and individually, and study the latest developments in several leading agricultural countries. . . 

New man at the helm – Jenny Ling:

The new person at the helm of the Dairy Industry Awards has never milked a cow but has business skills that will serve him well in the role. Jenny Ling reports.

A solid understanding of rural life combined with a high-flying international career in marketing and events has secured Robin Congdon his latest role as Dairy Industry Awards general manager.

Congdon has some big shoes to fill as he took over from long-serving leader Chris Keeping, who had 18 years in the role. . .

NZ, a great place for  agri-tech – Tim Dacombe-Bird:

New Zealand agritech start-ups are creating value, powered by technology.

We are at the beginning of a golden age of artificial intelligence and the possibilities of what it and other modern technologies can deliver are still to be seen.

The agritech sector here is in a unique position to address critical global issues such as meeting the food demand from a growing global population. . .

Spring Sheep is bringing sheep milk to Kiwi homes:

Following popular demand to make it available locally Kiwis are now able to receive the nutritious benefits of New Zealand’s own grass-fed sheep milk, with the launch of Spring Sheep® Full Cream Sheep Milk Powder in convenient 350g and 850g resealable pouches.

It is now available at Aelia Duty Free stores in Auckland and will be followed by select supermarkets in early 2020.  . . 

Groundspreaders’ Association encourages incident reporting amongst all members:

The New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers Association (NZGFA) is actively encouraging all its members to sign up to free, real-time incident reporting app, Spotlight. The move comes as interest in best practice incident reporting is on the rise and as vigilance around health and safety continues to climb to the top of the industry’s agenda.

Grant Anderson, the NZGFA’s Health & Safety representative, says health and safety is of paramount importance  in every industry where there is risk and that ground spreaders are making great efforts to ensure their health and safety and incident prevention procedures are effective. . . 


Rural round-up

November 18, 2019

Fortitude in face of loss bears fruit – Sally Rae:

A North Otago berry fruit business has grown to be the largest producer of strawberries in the South Island. Business and rural editor Sally Rae speaks to the remarkable driving force behind the operation.

If strawberry plants came in pink, then Leanne Matsinger would probably place a bulk order.

For the North Otago berryfruit grower is particularly fond of the hue and, when she bought a new tractor, she even asked if it was possible to get it in that colour.

Sadly it was not, and when she heads out at 2am with the floodlights blazing to go spraying in the still of the night, it is on a conventionally coloured workhorse.

Wind the clock back to 2010, and Mrs Matsinger did not know how to drive a tractor. Nor how to grow strawberries. . . 

Barns have big footprints :

In a New Zealand first new research from Lincoln University doctoral researcher Hafiz Muhammad Abrar Ilyas is estimating the carbon footprints of pastoral or grass-based and barn dairy systems based on their energy consumption.

This study was done on 50 conventional dairy farms in Canterbury – 43 pastoral and seven barn systems.

Hafiz said the difference between the two systems indicates the barn system has an 18% higher carbon footprint than the pastoral system per hectare of farm area and 11% higher footprint per tonne of milksolids. . . 

Off like a Rockit

The CEO of the company that grows and sells New Zealand’s tiny Rockit apple says no-one expected the apple to be so popular.

“It’s blown away everybody’s expectations, which is terrific,” Rockit’s Austin Mortimer says.

Listen duration19:51 

He says Rockit is the only miniature apple available globally.

“My understanding was when it (the apple) was offered to the big players none of them would touch it because they just didn’t think there was value in a small apples.”

There is.

Rockit apples are now returning about $150,000 per hectare to growers. . . 

Ida Valley wool makes good show – Alan Williams:

Fine wool prices might be below last year’s levels but they still made the sale screen at the New Zealand Agricultural Show in Christchurch good viewing for Central Otago farmer Jock McNally.

He watched as his 15 to 17 microns Merino wool sold for up to $17.50/kg greasy at the annual live auction on Thursday.

“The prices are still reasonable, still above the averages of the last few years and I’m happy with the sale,” he said. . . 

Boer goat meat to grace Korea tables – Yvonne O’Hara:

Two tonnes of Central Otago Boer goat meat was shipped from New Zealand recently to appear on the menus of three planned specialist restaurants in Korea.

The shipment was organised by Alexandra-based New Zealand Premium Goat Meat Ltd (NZPGM), which is run by John Cockcroft, of Clyde, and Dougal Laidlaw, of Alexandra.

The first new restaurant, called Cabra’s Kitchen (cabra is Spanish for goat), will specialise in meals made using New Zealand Boer goat, as well as New Zealand beef and lamb and Central Otago wine. . . 

NZ 2019 Young Horticulturist announced

Simon Gourley of Domaine Thomson Wines is the 2019 Young Horticulturist of the Year.

From Central Otago, Simon (28) represented the NZ Winegrowers sector at the competition, which celebrates excellence in people aged under 30, employed in the horticulture industry.

It’s the second consecutive year the Young Horticulturist (Kaiahuone rangatahi o te tau) title has been won by a viticulturist. Last year’s winner was Annabel Bulk, who is also from Central Otago. . .


Rural round-up

November 9, 2019

Why are farmers treated differently?:

For all the protestations of affection and respect, dairy farmers seem to be in a class of their own when it comes to the non-negotiability of their environmental responsibilities.

That was made very clear once again last week when the Ministry for Primary Industries announced that it would not be prosecuting anyone over the deaths of potentially hundreds of long-finned eels, which were removed from their habitat and dumped by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council workers. The dead and dying eels were discovered by a Napier resident, encased in tonnes of mud that had been dumped on the banks of the Moteo River in February. A video that went viral on Facebook prompted the MPI to investigate, and the council downed tools while it undertook its own review.

Eight months later the MPI said it had insufficient evidence to charge anyone. . .

Zero Carbon Bill a mixed bag for farmers:

DairyNZ Chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle is describing the Zero Carbon Bill as a ‘mixed bag’ for farmers, while urging all political parties to work together to find consensus on a pathway forward.

“The agricultural sector has engaged positively and constructively in this process over the past 18 months to help craft a piece of legislation that is both consistent with a 1.5-degree pathway and fair for farmers” Dr Mackle said.

“We support the key architecture in the Bill. This includes the establishment of an Independent Climate Change Commission, carbon budgeting and, in particular, a split gas approach that recognises methane is different to other greenhouse gasses”.

The key point of contention remains the methane reduction targets. . .

Farm moves cut gas and nitrates – Richard Rennie:

On-Farm solutions to lower nitrates and, by default, nitrous oxide gases are also a good way to ensure farming holds up to public scrutiny, farm environment consultant Alison Dewes says.

There is a strong social-licence angle in pursuing environmental efforts on water quality and greenhouse gases.

Farmers being seen to be making efforts across both areas will only aid farming’s continuing acceptability to society, regardless of the science dynamic.

“It really has to pass the front page test now,” Dewes said.  . . 

Family tradition reflected in win – Yvonne O’Hara:

Julie Skedgwell, (16), of Tuatapere, got a hug from her mum and a dinner out after becoming reserve champion in a national dairy judging competition in Hastings recently – despite being extremely nervous.

The James Hargest College pupil is a fourth generation Jersey stud breeder, with her own stud, the Mount Brook Stud.

Sister Alannah (17) also has her own Elms Lake Stud.

Julie and farm worker Lisa Bonenkamp (22) who works for Waikaka Genetics, near Gore, represented the New Zealand Royal Agricultural Society’s southern district at the New Zealand Royal A&P Show, hosted by the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society in Hastings on October 23 to 25. . .

Alex Malcolm: The 9-year-old on a mission to eradicate catfishLeah Tebbutt:

Pesky catfish have grown to record numbers in Rotorua lakes over the past two years but one 9-year-old is making a record number of catches.

Alex Malcolm has been hunting the whiskered fish since “the end of term one” and can tell you the exact number he has caught over the short space of time.

“556,” he said with a grin wider than a Cheshire Cat.

“I’m not giving it up anytime soon because it is something I can do in my own time. I like being out on the lake.” . .

“Plants good, meat bad” is too simplistic when tackling climate change – Hannah Thomas-Peter:

Last week I wrote about the environmental impact of the global meat and dairy industries. It made quite a few people cross, particularly British farmers, who felt unfairly maligned.

National Farmers’ Union Vice President Stuart Roberts asked if we could have a conversation about it all, and so that’s what we did. He made a series of illuminating points, and our exchange left me with a lot of questions about the nature of fairness and competition under the pressure of the climate crisis.

Mr Roberts started with a broad argument: “People have drawn this conclusion that meat is bad, plants are good, and therefore we should all stop eating meat. It over simplifies a tremendously complicated issue.” . . 


Rural round-up

October 28, 2019

‘We have not suddenly woken up’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

For dairy farmer Peter Dobbie, learning about what affects his farm’s environment and how to remedy or improve it has been a continually evolving journey that has taken almost three decades.

”We have not suddenly woken up and realised we need to do this or that,” he said.

He has been farming since 1991, and was a financial consultant before that.

By 2001 he had moved to dairying in partnership with his brother William. . .

Helping farmers make green dough – Tim Fulton:

A team of agricultural innovators wants to help farmers take clever ideas to market across at least 100,000ha of mixed Kiwi farmland. Tim Fultonreports.

The self-described social enterprise-plus, Leftfield Innovation, is helping farmers explore alternative land uses and contracts.

Funding the enterprise mostly from trust grants, processing companies, farmers and science funds the co-founders Nick Pyke and Susan Goodfellow and four colleagues are exploring commercial opportunities for farmers to convert low-yield farmland to grow high-yield crops. . . .

Gas calculator gets support – Samantha Tennent:

With data scientists and software developers at their disposal Jo Kerslake and Mark Teviotdale from AbacusBio are keen to help farmers understand their on-farm emissions.

When Kerslake heard the call for projects from the Rural Innovation Lab she applied without a clear picture of what an end product could look like.

“We were a little unsure about what farmers wanted to know,” she said. . .

New Zealand’s wallaby problem tough to tackle, fears hunters spreading them – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s wallaby problem could become a full-blown plague unless efforts to control them are ramped up and ‘shortsighted’ hunters start playing by the rules.

Forest and Bird says the pests could spread to cover a third of the country unless the Government steps in to fund a beefed-up control programme.

Central North Island regional manager Rebecca Stirnemann said wallabies were like giant rabbits, eating their way through native bush, damaging tussock grasslands and devouring pasture and young pine trees. . .

Record cattle kill at Pukeuri :

The Pukeuri meat works near Oamaru processed a record number of cattle in the past season.

The Alliance Group announced the achievement for its North Otago plant on Wednesday, saying more than 71,000 cattle were handled there in the beef season that finished on September 30.

The record was the result of hard work and commitment from staff and from farmers who supported the co-operative, chief executive David Surveyor said. . . .

Potential shake-up of GE restrictions – Pam Tipa:

Current restrictions on genetic modification regulation in New Zealand could be reviewed if National were to form the next government.

The party says it will be ready to go out and consult on a proposed review of the legislation and our current regulations if elected.

National leader Simon Bridges says if NZ is serious about tackling climate change that will require biotech answers.  . .


Rural round-up

October 27, 2019

Dirty birds are fouling waterways – Ron Frew:

New Zealand’s waterways are mostly pretty good in terms of being safe to swim in. 

Certainly, I know of no deaths or even serious illness directly or indirectly attributed to swimming in a NZ river because of contamination from industrial, agricultural or municipal causes. 

The discussion has largely been about contamination from dairy farms and that was driven by Fish and Game, possibly to divert attention from the fact that E coli contamination from water fowl, eg game birds, is very high in some locations.  . .

Passion for workers’ wellbeing – Yvonne O’Hara:

Serena Lyders, of Tokanui, comes from five generations of shearers, grew up among shearers, is married to a sheep and beef farmer, her three sons are shearers and her 2-year-old granddaughter already has her own miniature woolshed broom.

As a result, Mrs Lyders is passionate about the wool­harvesting industry and the health and wellbeing of its workers.

She is a Manukura navigator leader and mentor, working for Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu, which is the Whanau Ora commissioning agency for the South Island . . 

Farmers ramp up gun action – Neal Wallace:

Farmers are ramping up their campaign to change new firearm laws to allow some of them to use otherwise  banned firearms for pest control on their properties.

The legislation as proposed will compromise the ability of landowners with significant pest problems to do control so Government officials were invited to hear the concerns from some affected Central Otago farmers, Federated Farmers board member Miles Anderson says.

The federation wants an exemption for a small number of farmers who need semi-automatic firearms with large capacity magazines, of the type the bill will outlaw. . . 

Sheep recognition step closer – Sally Rae:

The world’s first sheep facial recognition software, developed in Dunedin, is set to be prototyped this year.

Sheep NN, a project created by artificial intelligence and machine learning company Iris Data Science, has received a $40,000 grant from Callaghan Innovation towards the $100,000 project that will take the model to prototype by the end of the year.

Iris Data Science was co-founded by Greg Peyroux and Benoit Auvray, who have been working on the project to cheaply re-identify sheep, potentially removing the need for ear-tags while also solving other farm management and broader issues. . .

Zespri tries to whet US appetite :

Research has become a bigger part of Zespri’s marketing mix as it reverts to basics to increase sales in the United States.

The US is a comparatively recent market for Zespri, which has previously looked to China and Japan for growth. The kiwifruit marketer opened a pan-American office in 2017. 

Last year US sales reached almost $100 million, an annual increase of 50% and Zespri chief grower David Courtney says this season will see even more fruit sold.  . . 

Rookie women shearers raise funds :

A group of Hawke’s Bay women have organised a shearing competition among themselves to raise awareness about mental health in rural communities.

The catch is that none of them – an accountant, a dental therapist, an optical technician, a police officer and a rural insurance manager – have ever shorn before.

The Women and Wool Farmstrong Fundraiser is the brainchild of shearing contractor Colin Watson-Paul who worked alongside rural insurance manager Harriet Partridge and other women in the community to organise it.  . . 

Open for Business in a Small-Town: 5 things everyone can do to support small-town business – Uptown Girl:

I grew up with a family in the restaurant business and as a kid, loved everything about hanging out in our local, downtown business. So, when my husband climbed on board with the idea of running a small agritourism business on our farm, I jumped in. During that time, it’s become clear a few things people can do to support small-town businesses.

1. Shout the good out and whisper the bad in. This is the complete opposite of how we normally behave, and I am just as guilty as anyone. Think about the last time you had a bad meal in a restaurant. The server comes by and says, “How is everything?” Most people respond, “Fine.” Then, when they walk out, they literally tell everyone how awful the meal was… everyone except the one person who needs to know in order to change it – the business owner!

On the flip, when someone has a good experience, they will often rave to the business owner and then forget about it shortly after leaving. According to Andrew Thomas on Inc.com, a dissatisfied customer will tell 9 to 15 people. Only one out of every 10 satisfied customers will share about their experience. . . 


Rural rround-up

October 22, 2019

Rural journalism award :

Allied Press business and rural editor Sally Rae has won the Rural Women New Zealand journalism award..

The award was established to recognise the important contribution women make in rural communities.

Entries in this year’s award had to include two articles broadly based on the theme of ‘‘rural women making a difference’’. . .

Vital animal protein missing from global food discussions – Pam Tipa:

The needs for animal protein in discussions on future nutritious and sustainable food systems seems to be missing from much of the rhetoric, says Jeremy Hill, Fonterra’s chief scientist and technology officer.

That includes the EAT-Lancet report, says Hill, who spoke at the Climate Change and Business Conference in Auckland last week.

Hill said he was speaking in his role as a professor of sustainable food systems at the Reddit Institute.  . ..

They’re committed to their land – Kate Taylor:

A Central Hawke’s Bay family farm is combining bulls and Wagyu steers to make the most of its climate and the most of its family asset. They not only know what they are doing on-farm but also know the supply chain from end to end so can tick all the boxes expected of them. Kate Taylor reports.

Growing quality cattle on an all grass and homegrown fodder system is all that’s needed to keep James Greer happy in his work. 

“Farming is in our blood. Every day is different and every day is a challenge. We love it.”

James and Katherine Greer and James’ parents Jerry and Diana farm 830ha at Argyll east, west of Waipawa. . .

China trade warning – Neal Wallace:

A dollar out every $3 earned from primary products exports comes from China, a scenario that concerns Otago University marketing expert Dr Robert Hamlin.

Treasury has also warned about over-reliance on China, particularly for dairy.

Hamlin says as a rule of thumb no more than 20% of revenue should be earned from one source to ensure a buffer against changes in terms of trade. . .

More stock, less work – Yvonne O’Hara:

Since changing their farming practice to growing all grass year round for full-time dairy grazing, running more than 1000 head of stock was a “doddle”, farm manager Stuart Browning said.

He and wife Kim work for Brian and Glennis Webster, of the Coromandel Peninsula, who bought the 370ha (300ha effective) “Waikite” property next to Waituna Lagoon 11 years ago.

Since the Websters and Mr Browning changed the farming system, they have gone from about 600 stock on crop and grass, to grass only and running nearly twice that number while reducing their workload and making significant feed savings. . . .

One of Wales’ biggest abattoirs to stop processing beef:

One of Wales’ biggest abattoirs is to stop processing beef due to ‘falling volumes, negative margins and spiralling costs of production’.

Randall Parker Foods’ (RPF) abattoir in Llanidloes, Powys is one of Wales’ only beef processors.

It has now made the decision to end beef processing at the plant in what has been described as a ‘another blow’ for the sector. . .


Rural round-up

October 20, 2019

Is this the future of irrigation? – Luke Chivers:

Curbing water consumption and the leaching of nitrogen is no easy feat but a major research programme has devised an ingenious plan. Luke Chivers explains.

A six-year research programme on irrigation has ended with a big win for agriculture – the development of promising new sensor technology systems that give arable, vegetable and pastoral farmers the tools to use precision irrigation at sub-paddock scales. 

The systems work alongside existing irrigation scheduling technology, mapping and monitoring a field at sub-paddock scales and calculating exactly how much water is needed at the right time and place. It is a leading development for irrigation and field trials have proved to dramatically reduce water wastage, save users money and minimise farm runoff. . .

On-farm research helps water quality :

An innovative approach to improving environmental sustainability is proving its success in intercepting and treating storm water before it leaves the farm and trials indicate it could be a game-changer for water quality.

A four-year trial has looked at intercepting and treating storm water before it leaves the farm – stopping the phosphorus, sediment and E coli from washing off into Lake Rotorua

The detainment bund science project manager John Paterson says while there is an increasing spotlight on farmers and the impact farming has on waterways, this is a project developed and led by farmers. . .

 

The fourth industrial revolution in agriculture – Sebastiaan Nijhuis and Iris Herrmann:

For agribusinesses, implementing new technologies requires focusing on four critical capabilities.

Do all cows’ faces look the same to you? They don’t to systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Bovine facial recognition technology, developed through a strategic partnership between Cargill and an Irish technology company called Cainthus, equips barns and fields with smart cameras that can identify each cow in a herd in seconds based on facial features and hide patterns. Linked to machine learning software, the system determines whether a cow isn’t eating or drinking enough, or if she’s sick, and can alert the farmer via smartphone app. It can also look at the whole herd’s behavior to identify how best to distribute feed or schedule cows’ stints in a specific pen or in the field. Over time, the platform learns from what it sees and begins to automate more of the daily care for each animal. . . 

Profit improves in better year for Alliance: -Sally Rae:

Alliance Group shareholders can expect a “substantial” improvement in profit performance when the company announces its year ended September 30 financial results, chief executive David Surveyor says.

Speaking at a roadshow meeting in Oamaru this week, Mr Surveyor said it was also very pleasing to announce a profit distribution would be made to shareholders.

Last year, the company posted an operating profit of $8million, down from the previous year’s $20.2million, and did not make a distribution to shareholders.

Chairman Murray Taggart said the company had made “really good” progress again this year but there was “still plenty to do“. . .

Hogget lambing ‘taken a hit’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

The recent bad weather has meant farmers in southern areas and the Southland hill country have ”taken a hit” with hogget lambing, says consultant Deane Carson, of Agribusiness Consultants, Invercargill.

Mr Carson said with the recent wet and windy weather last week, farmers had ”high losses”.

”While farmers in Central Southland have a good lambing and are nearly finished, those who are hogget lambing are getting impacted at the moment.”

He said hill country farmers were also affected by the poor weather, which ”knocked them about a bit”, and they also have had high losses, particularly as their lambing season was later than in other areas. . .

 

 

America’s first urban ‘agrihodd’ feeds 2000.  Households for free -Lacy Cooke:

When you think of Detroit, ‘sustainable‘ and ‘agriculture‘ may not be the first two words that you think of. But a new urban agrihood debuted by The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) might change your mind. The three-acre development boasts a two-acre garden, a fruit orchard with 200 trees, and a sensory garden for kids.

If you need a refresher on the definition of agrihood, MUFI describes it as an alternative neighborhood growth model. An agrihood centers around urban agriculture, and MUFI offers fresh, local produce to around 2,000 households for free. . .


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