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Farming GUARDIAN

INSIDE

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

P19-26

MAKING MORE FROM SHEEP

Page 3-5


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Farming

Farming

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GUARDIAN

Black swan hits exports

INSIDE

Guardian Farming is proudly published by the Ashburton Guardian Limited

I

t is referred to as a black swan event. It’s when something unpredictable occurs that is widespread and far reaching, catching everybody by surprise. I am referring to coronavirus, of course. While almost all of the infections and deaths have occurred in China, its impact has sent a bow wave across some of New Zealand’s biggest economic sectors including red meat, dairy, forestry, tourism and education. The timing could not have been worse, in the middle of peak export processing, the Chinese lunar New Year tourist season and start of the new education year. It also reinforces how rapidly and significantly New Zealand’s economic fortunes have become tied to those of China and the risk of reliance on one key market. Coronavirus has put a brake on exports, just when it seemed that China couldn’t get enough of our produce. Of New Zealand’s main export markets, China

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Heather Chalmers

RURAL REPORTER

had the largest increase in annual exports last year, up $2.9 billion (21 per cent) from 2018 to $16.7 billion. This is almost double the $8.6b exported to China in 2015. Exports to China have risen strongly in the last three years and now make up 28 per cent of the total value of exports, up from 24 per cent a year earlier. Demand from China was a leading contributor to the annual increases in several primary sector export commodities in 2019, including dairy products, beef, lamb, fish and fruit, according to Stats NZ. Hopefully the Chinese wharves resume operation soon and trade starts moving again. China needs our food and its people need to eat, especially in the wake of African swine fever, which has wiped out almost half of China’s pigs, normally its cheapest and most readily available source of meat protein. As always, it reinforces the need to have a resilient and diversified business.   With countries becoming more globally connected, New Zealand, as an exporting nation, will more frequently feel the impacts of events like this which occur far from our shores.

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Beltex impressing Seafield farmer Heather Chalmers

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Hamish Gallagher with two beltex-cheviot cross rising two-tooth rams which will be offered for sale at Mount Somers on March 6.

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RURAL REPORTER

ith a sheep flock less than quarter of the size of earlier years, a coastal Mid Canterbury farmer is looking to achieve the best meat returns he can by switching to a newly-imported sheep breed and trialling out-of-season lambing. Ryan Cockburn, who farms an irrigated mixed livestock and cropping farm at Seafield with his uncle Alan Tindall, said the property would lamb 600 ewes this season. This compared with the 2500 ewes his uncle and grandparents had farmed in earlier years. The property had 120 hectares in crop and another 120ha in pasture for sheep and beef cattle. “As we have fewer sheep, we may as well make every bit of meat count,� Cockburn said. Last year, he bought two beltexpoll dorset cross ram lambs from the Mid Canterbury-based syndicate who imported the distinctive muscle-bound beltex. continued over page


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Farming

From P3 While the offspring were only a quarter beltex, the results to date meant Cockburn was keen to go back and purchase a purebred beltex ram, if possible. “The beltex-cross lambs are more meaty and yield more. I have noticed in the kill sheets a 2.5 per cent increase in meat yield. “They come out big, strong, healthy lambs with plenty of vigour. We had no lambing difficulties, despite reservations from some people because of the shape of them. “We had a 167 per cent lambing, so there were no mating problems over big New Zealand ewes. “The animals have nice short wool, which is a bonus, as it is not worth much. They are growing meat, rather than wool, which is what we want,” Cockburn said. Mount Somers farmer Blair Gallagher, farm advisor John Tavendale and former Invermay head Jock Allison are behind Beltex New Zealand, which brought the breed to the country in 2017. The first new breed to land on New Zealand shores in almost a decade, beltex is a double-muscled texel offshoot from Belgium. The sheep breed is known for its seriously big backside and eye muscle. More rams will be offered for

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Coastal Mid Canterbury farmer Ryan Cockburn says that beltex genetics are producing more meaty, higher-yielding lambs.

sale at Beltex NZ’s third annual auction at the Gallagher family’s property Rangiatea, Mount Somers, on March 6. At last year’s sale one ram sold for $22,000 and another for $21,000. For the first time, beltex-texel

ram lambs and beltex-cheviot cross rising two-tooth rams will be offered, in addition to the suffolk, poll dorset and perendale cross rams sold previously. Significant numbers of threequarter-bred ram lambs would also be offered compared with

only about six at the last sale. While one or two other sheep breeders now had first cross rams available, Beltex NZ remained the only source of purebred animals. As well as adding beltex genetics, Cockburn was also

trialling out-of-season lambing for the first time. The ram was put with 100 ewes on Christmas Day, for a late May lambing. The resulting offspring could then be sold in September and October for early-season premium prices before the main crop of new

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Beltex-cross lambs are more meaty and yield more, says Mid Canterbury farmer Ryan Cockburn.

season’s lambs were available. Veterinary intervention and CIDRs (controlled intra-uterine drug release) were required, at a cost of about $25 a ewe, to get ewes in-season for mating. “It’s similar to what they do with dairy cows.

“I am not sure how many we will get in-lamb, but it will give us the best meat prices and give us flexibility around sowing crops in the spring. “If it works it will be something we consider in the future,” Cockburn said.

“We were considering ewe pregnancy scanning the early mob, but we will put the rams out with all the ewes as usual, as any already in-lamb will start bagging-up in autumn.” Rams go out to the main flock in March.

The property had not bred its own ewes for a few years, instead buying in one-year ewes. It also finishes wagyu beef for First Light Foods. Wagyu calves arrive at 90kg and are taken through to slaughter at two years for heifers and two-and-a-half

years for steers. Tavendale said that as a terminal sire, beltex would have a significant influence on carcass quality and value for those who opt for the breed in New Zealand. “Increased killing out percentage and meat yield are the benefits and particularly a greater eye muscle area and muscling in the leg.” Carcass data from Scotland showed that beltex ram lambs recorded an eight per cent higher killing out percentage and 5 to 17 per cent higher meat yield in the carcass compared with charollais, hampshire, suffolk and texel breeds. While meat companies were not yet paying on meat yield “this will come”, Tavendale said. There were no lambing difficulties with beltex mated over commercial ewe breeds as lambs were born small and vigorous. The pronounced muscling was not apparent at birth, but started to develop shortly afterwards. Beltex cross animals were widely preferred in butchers’ markets in the United Kingdom and commanded premium prices. The decision by the Government to allow direct import of sheep embryos from Europe without quarantine provided Beltex NZ the opportunity to bring in the breed.

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95 years of fun at the Brought up on a farm next door to the Mayfield A&P showgrounds, this year’s show president Rebecca Taylor remembers the thrill of the annual show when she was a child. It is something she is keen to replicate at this year’s 95th Mayfield A&P Show on Saturday, March 14. Along with the ever-popular pig racing, the show features a Clydesdale tug of war, pet tent, and children’s scavenger hunt as well as the traditional favourites of craft sites, trade displays, livestock judging, dog trials, produce shed, food and live entertainment. “The pig racing is always a hit,” Taylor said. “We have big crowds at every race.” This year there will be guest commentators for each of the seven races, including Lynda Topp, of the Topp Twins, as pigs run through tunnels and over an obstacle course to the finish line. In the grand finale, the pigs, supplied by a local farmer, get a feast courtesy of Sim’s Bakery in Ashburton. In a fundraising event for the Young Farmers Club, people can bet on which pig will win. Taylor said the show would be a great community day out, with live entertainment on the village green, a great range of food sites and lots of activities for children. This included a pop-up playground, with carnival rides and a bouncy castle. In a twist to the usual tugof-war competition, teams of children and adults will compete against clydesdale horses from the Dayboo Stud. The size of the pet tent had again been increased, because of its popularity. “We have lots of animals for the children to look at and pet. “It’s a community day out and a great opportunity for people to get off the farm, or away from what they do and catch up with their neighbours and other people in the community. “It’s a fun day with the family.”

The Mayfield A&P Show will have a great range of food sites, live entertainment and plenty of activities for children. PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

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This year there will be guest commentators for each of the races, as pigs run through tunnels and over an obstacle course to the finish line. PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

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Mayfield A&P Show After a stint away, Taylor again lives next door to the showgrounds with her husband Ricky and two children, running the farm and a contracting business. “A big part of why I am on the show committee is that I absolutely loved the Mayfield A&P Show when I was young and I really want to see it carry on for my children and other children in the community as it is such a wonderful day out,” Taylor said. Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor had indicated he planned to attend, although this would not be confirmed until nearer the date. Tractor pull convenor Tim Rowe said a new layout this year meant the tractor pull had been integrated into the showgrounds rather than an adjacent paddock. The tractor pull will feature modified tractors from Southland to North Canterbury, as well as 35 to 40 agricultural tractors. “A lot of the big contractors take part. “The noise always attracts a crowd.”

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Farming

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Make sure you “Thank a farmer” “Eaten today? Thank a farmer” is the theme of this year’s 106th Methven A&P Show on Saturday March 21. Methven A&P president Adam Glass said he chose the theme to “quietly remind” people of the important role farmers’ play. “Farmers let you be creative elsewhere. If your food is being grown for you, you can go and concentrate on other things,” said Glass, who farms dairy and beef properties with his wife Katherine in the Mt Hutt foothills. The Methven show was guaranteed to be a fun-filled day, with arts and crafts, wine and food, animals, sideshows, machinery, trade displays and much more. This year it was also playing host to the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Aorangi regional final, with eight finalists competing for the chance to be in the Christchurch grand final in July. Finalists will complete a series of intense modules before going head to head in two practical challenges at the showgrounds. In another competition, teams representing businesses and organisations around Methven will compete in a tug-of-war. An animal tent was always popular, giving children the opportunity to get up-close to a range of animals, including pigs and some long-lived eels. A free face painter and balloon twister would be on-hand from 10am to 2pm. A sheep colouring-in competition would also return, where children can get creative, colouring sheep’s fleeces with raddle. Regular show events such as shearing, woodchopping, horses, dog trials, sheep judging and vintage machinery would also feature. The dog trialling final would be in the main ring from about 3pm, once the horse competitions finished. A range of food stalls would also be available, offering everything from an Argentinian barbecue to waffles.

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at the Methven A&P Show Heifer competition set to return

The strength and skill of woodchoppers will again be on display. PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

E.

PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

Alterations had been made to the home industries shed, including removing some walls to make it more open and assist the flow of people. New classes that were proving popular included fancy dressed pet and painted rocks, with pavlova classes in the cookery section again generating fierce rivalry, said show secretary Amy Russell. The public entrance had been moved further along Barkers Road and the carpark changed, allowing people to walk past the YFC competition, horses and dog trials before reaching the main part of the show. “Hopefully it will be a fine day, but we could certainly do with a drop of rain,” Glass said.

Methven A&P Association members are thrilled to be bringing back their annual on-farm dairy heifer competition after a three-year hiatus. Spokesperson Phil Lowe said he was pleased to announce its return, following the association having to shelve the competition, because of cattle disease mycoplasma bovis. “We have some great sponsors coming on board,” Lowe said. Farmers had developed a good understanding of biosecurity practices relating to M. bovis, meaning the competition could return after being last held in 2017. “It’s all about putting a bit of positivity back in the dairy sector after what we have been through with bovis,” he said. “It would be great to see as many people come along and support the day as possible.” At the last competition, judges visited about 20 farms in the Methven A&P area and category winners went on to the Canterbury contest. Once again organisers were hoping for good support from farmers and were expecting anything from 20 to 30 entries. There will be three categories – rising one-year-olds, rising two-year-olds and best grazier of rising two-year-olds. The competition will be held March 5, with judges and spectators going from farm to farm and the prize giving held at the end of the day.

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Crop pollinators breed like flies By Heather Chalmers

W

hile most people consider flies to be just an irritating pest, scientists are looking to recruit a common fly for a role on farms normally carried out by honey bees. Scientists say the drone fly (Eristalis tenax) is showing huge potential as an alternative pollinator of field and seed crops. In some specialist vegetable seed crops, including pak choi, radish, onion and hybrid carrot, it may even perform better than honey bees. Drone flies can also be mass reared in the field using systems that seed growers could construct at little or no cost, compared with the expense of paying beekeepers for managed beehives. Plant and Food Research scientist Brad Howlett, an entomologist, said that growers relied on honey bees to pollinate hybrid seed crops, but some were not attractive to bees. Seed production could also be vulnerable if honey bee hive numbers and availability was reduced by diseases and parasites. Often honey bees alone would not optimise the yield of a crop, Howlett said. Having a diversity of insects in crops was beneficial for pollination as different insects operated at different temperatures and light intensities and pollinated better than honey bees. Foundation for Arable Research senior research advisor Phil Rolston said that carrots did not produce a lot of nectar and were often not very attractive to bees. This meant arable farmers growing carrot crops for seed needed eight beehives a hectare, costing $200 a hive. In contrast, clover crops had a lot of nectar and were readily pollinated by bees and may need only one beehive a hectare. Crops with open-type flowers were easily accessible to insects, Rolston said. So growers of these crops could benefit if they had other insects, including flies

visiting flowers. In a project, funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Fund and the Seed Industry Research Centre, scientists were looking to use the drone fly as an alternative managed pollinator. “It is common on farms already and has been shown to be an efficient pollinator of vegetable seed crops as it moves pollen very well,” Howlett said. “Drone flies even look like a honey bee. “An advantage noted by researchers during field work is that drone flies are less discriminating in crops with distinctive male and female plants, whereas honey bees tend to prefer one over the other. This means drone flies carry pollen

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between the two lines more frequently.” It also had a simple life cycle, feeding on organic material such as grass or effluent in a watery solution. “Larvae go through a quick life cycle and we have already shown they can be mass reared. “This means farmers can use a new, simple-to-use technique that is cheap and easy and develop large numbers of efficient pollinators for their hybrid seed crops and potentially other crops in the future,” Howlett said. In 2018-19, field-scale rearing was undertaken adjacent to a radish seed crop at Leeston and a carrot crop at Kirwee. At each site, four trenches were excavated in the first week of December 2018. Each trench was

five metres long, 50cm deep and 60cm wide. The trenches were lined with plastic, filled with water and substrate added. The substrates evaluated were: for carrots, cattle manure and straw baleage, and for radish, roadside grass/broadleaf clippings and straw baleage submerged in water. Containers with dry wood shavings were placed within the ditch for larvae to pupate in. The laying of eggs from drone flies relied on existing natural populations resident in the area. Water levels were topped up to avoid the substrates drying out. Egg numbers, larvae numbers and pupae were assessed at regular intervals. This showed that drone flies readily deposited egg batches, usually containing

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between 100 to 300 eggs, on or near the surface of each substrate. Drone fly and honey bee activity was observed on a regular basis within the carrot and radish trial fields. Drone fly counts outnumbered honey bees in all but two locations of the carrot field. In the radish field, numbers of drone flies appeared to be more evenly distributed, but at lower numbers than honey bees. “We have shown we can rear them by the thousands, using readily available material,” Howlett said. The next step was to develop containers, so breeding sites could be moved around in the same way as a beehive, but without the risk of being stung.

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Left – Spot the difference: the dronefly (left), is bigger than the honeybee (right), with bigger eyes and an H - like dark marking on its abdomen. Below – Drone fly larvae.

Left Creating a trench to rear drone flies. These are filled with substrates including The–trials were being repeated cattle manure, straw baleage and roadside grass/broadleaf clippings submerged in this season, with some tweaking PHOTOS SUPPLIED water. 

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12

Farming

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FEATURE

Farming’s solution to global warming T

he earth draws down every year approximately 120 billion tonnes of carbon from the air through photosynthesis, half is fixed by phytoplankton in the oceans and half by plants on the land. The problem being that 130 billon tonnes of carbon is being emitted back into the atmosphere through oxidation. The result is a 10 billion tonne surplus going into the atmosphere as a part or a symptom of the global warming problem. To cool the earth 10 billon tonnes would only bring it back to status-quo, an extra 10 billion tonnes of draw down would be required to see any improvement, that’s, 20 billion tonnes. The New Zealand Government has a target of zero carbon emissions by 2050, that’s do-able, but a holistic solution to climate change is required rather than a Government reductionist approach, as the Co2 component only, would do nothing to cool the earth apart from pleasing their political idealisms. Fossil fuel emissions, are eight billion tonnes of carbon per annum, a 5 per cent component of the 130 billion tonnes, it’s reported that in a bad fire year we will be emitting more CO2 than fossil fuels. CO2 is only 20 per cent a symptom of what’s driving the increased greenhouse effect and global warming. Yes, we must decrease the CO2 levels by stopping land degradation, burning forests, fossil fuels etc but it’s already too late to just reduce CO2 to reverse global warming. The other 80 per cent of the natural greenhouse effect results from water vapor in the atmosphere, coming from transpiration, to form clouds, hazes and to return as rain and to reflect and absorb solar radiation from reaching the earth. The earth is continually receiving on average 342 watts per square metre of incident solar radiation, for a stable climate the earth has to reradiate 342 watts back out to space, but as a result of the enhanced greenhouse effect we are retaining three watts per square metre, that’s a 1 per cent problem to solve. The power of water vapour to absorb and transfer heat is 20 times higher than that of CO2 molecule per molecule. So why are the regulators and the general public fixated on just CO2? How to draw 20 million tonnes of carbon back into soils and to decrease three watts per square metre to cool and solve the world’s climate issues? According to Walter Jehne an international Australian soil microbiologist and climate scientist and founder of Healthy

Soils Australia, there is only one process via which we can secure our safe climate and future. That is pedogenesis, the microbial bio-conversion of plant exudates and detritus into stable soil carbon. He refers our future, to how well we manage and regenerate the Earth’s soil carbon sponge. From a farming perspective, green plants, animals, photosynthesis and transpiration are the key principles involved. The only carbon drawdown process that nature’s got, involves green plants, taking up CO2 and water and sunlight, then transforming it in to carbon, the plant uses it to grow leaves, stems, seeds and roots, through photosynthesis. It’s a symbiotic relationship, the microbes supply the plant, through the roots with minerals, and the plant supplies sugars (carbohydrates), called plant roots exudates to the biology for energy, surplus carbohydrates are stored in the soil, and are retained only if the soil biology, particularly fungi are present to convert those sugars made from photosynthesis into stable soil carbon. New climate solutions, water drives heat dynamics. The pathway to building really healthy soils is to grow exceptionally healthy plants, it’s healthy plants that sequester carbon and build organic matter and improve soil health. To activate soil health, we have to deepen our knowledge of biology. Plants can signal soil microbes to release specific nutrients, and the soil biology in the rhizosphere are totally dependent on the carbon that is released. That’s the engine room that drives the system through photosynthesis and is the only way to bring new energy into the soil, through sunlight and radiation. The whole system breaks down if the microbes don’t have the right environment, good soil aggregation, water, air and food. It’s the biology that builds the soil aggregates, that makes the organic matter, that regulates the chemistry. In some cases, developing good aggregation involves correcting substantial mineral imbalances. Our main objective now must be to maximise photosynthesis to its full potential and take the carbon and store it in the soil, by maximising plant growth to regenerate the soil carbon sponge and by minimising the oxidative farming practises of excess cultivation, synthetic fertilisers, biocides, bare soil and burning, so not to lose carbon by CO2 emissions. Soil carbon regulates the mineral and water storage and the longevity of the water hydrology capacity of the soil. Every 1-gram increase of

The regenerative farming five principles of soil health are 1. Minimise soil disturbance, chemical and physical. 2. Keep the soil covered at all times, to protect against erosion and soil moisture evaporation. 3. Keep a living root in the soil as much as possible, to provide the biology with a food source, carbon. 4. Provide diversity, both plant and animal species, diversity enhances ecosystem function. 5. Integrate livestock. Animals grazing plants stimulates the plants to pump more carbon into the soil. People won’t change until the pain of change becomes less than the pain of remaining the same. As long as what farmers are doing is financially working, a lot don’t want to change. We need a crisis to happen that forces growers to change philosophy. That has arrived. Individual farmers will change, but the Government needs to develop sound holistic management policies, not the reductionist unsound policies, because of the public’s insistent on change, by not just concentrating on CO2, as it’s only a symptom of the global warming issue. It is essential the Government and public recognise that livestock are essential to draw down and restore soil carbon coming from the atmosphere via photosynthesis. And to understand the success of the clean water and zero net carbon emissions rests with the galvanisation and the profitability of the farming community. We must all comprehend that the activity of the microbial life in the soil, along with the process of photosynthesis in plants, is solely responsible for directly or indirectly supplying the world’s food supply. President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it very clear when he said, “The nation that destroys its soils, destroys itself.” Land management sustainability is not enough, we need to regenerate. Donald L Hart, Topsoils | don@topsoils.co.nz Science References Supporting the soil’s carbon sponge. Walter Jehne, Healthy Soils Australia. Don Hart CEO of Top Soils, a biological farming, soil fertility, consulting, importing and distribution operation, based at his Methven irrigated cropping and lamb finishing farm. stable soil carbon, will hold eight grams of water. To be nett carbon emitters, farming practices will have to retain that carbon in the soil and stop oxidising CO2 back into the atmosphere. We can increase the draw down; we can do that through land regeneration by extending the area and longevity of green growth, but only, if these biosystems have water that comes from the soil. It’s not always, that we have to bring the water to the soil, but to build the carbon levels in the soil to retain that water. Again, our aim should not be purely to sequester carbon to remove CO2 from the air, but to build the carbon levels in the soil to change the hydrological landscape, to change the way water moves in the environment. Water governs 95 per cent of the heat dynamics of the planet. Every time a plant transpires it takes liquid water from the soil and turns it into a gas water vapour this is driven by green plants, and to do that every gram of water needs 590 calories of heat energy to make that transpiration from liquid to gas that’s called the latent heat of vaporisation, and that heat comes from the surface and the surface environment, so every gram or cubic centimetre of water that is transferred, cools the surface. Nature cools the earth by this process. Green vegetation is constantly taking 24 per cent of the incoming energy and sending back into space. So if we increase transpiration by 5

per cent, we would supply the 3 kw/sqm back from the earth, similarly by increasing clouds by 2 per cent we would get an extra three watts per square metre reflected out to space. New Zealand, with its cool climate, adequate rainfall and green pastural system is well placed to regenerate our soils and to aim for zero nett emissions, but do little to contribute in a global world situation in stabilising the climate solution. Bare ground will absorb incident solar radiation and heat up and reradiate back infrared radiation. Animals to the rescue, animals grazing healthy pastures create and maintain grass that’s green, these actively growing healthy green plants, transpire water vapour into the atmosphere, along with methane from animal’s digestion or from the natural breaking down of organic matter in the soil, when sunlight hits this atmospheric water vapour gas, it breaks it down by photo oxidation, this process changes methane (CH4) into CO2 and H2O. A healthy green pasture will produce 100 times more photo oxidation that will break down the methane, than the animal grazing it can produce. Ruminants are therefore essential to keep pastures green to enable photosynthesis, regenerate the carbon and water capacity in the soil, so that the green plants can transpire water to cool the atmosphere. Green grasslands managed by herbivores are the earth’s only

means of keeping the methane level down. Farmers believe they are doing a great job and most are open to progress, but are resistant to change, many know what to do, but don’t know how to do it. Many innovative regenerative farmers may fix up to 40tC/ ha and retain 10tC/ha as stable soil carbon, but not all farming systems will draw down at these rates. Intensive farming practises will draw down similar levels of carbon but most of this will oxidise to CO2 because of the traditional chemical farming practises that vested interests continue to use, in fact soils under these systems may lose 5-10tC/ha as CO2 emissions. Everyone needs to absolutely understand the whole holistic process involved, because if we don’t and continue to naively ignore the impacts that land management has on the clean water issues, the hydrology of the soil and the earth’s climate, by oxidative land management practises, we won’t meet the fresh water and nett carbon emissions targets that are achievable. In addition, it will be to our detriment if we all naively continue with the soluble synthetic fertiliser production model that the industry continues to promote, that’s removing carbon from our soils. The challenge that farmers have, is how to retain most of the carbon in the soil, improve soil health and be profitable. Advertising feature


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Reliance on flawed Overseer questioned I

t just goes to show that a farmer is never happy it seems. This week a mate of mine rang up from the Northern Isle, asking how’s the weather and the harvest down there? Mongrel dry up here. “It’s dry as a potato chip down here, struggling to keep up with the irrigators and not growing enough feed, but if this drizzly, cloudy, easterly rubbish would sod off we might be able to make some progress with the harvest!” We roll with the punches as farmers, react to what the season, markets, and regulatory regimes throw at us. In many ways, that’s the challenge that drives us to run the dynamic businesses that we do. Three months ago, none of us would have picked that most of New Zealand would be in the grip of a severe drought, nor would have expected that everyday life in China, manufacturing supply lines and global commodity markets would be thrown into disarray by coronavirus. As farmers, we react to these factors and try various strategies, some work, some don’t, we change course and move on. Do our regulators have the same ability to admit they have got it wrong and move on? I have read with interest the commentary around Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton’s recent letter to four Government

David Clark

President of MC Federated Farmers

Ministers as a follow up doubling down on his concerns of the use of Overseer as a regulatory tool. He contests that Overseer is both flawed and not fit for use as a regulatory tool set against rigid numbers in a regional plan. That is exactly what we have here in Canterbury as a result of ECan taking us down a brave new path of rigid baseline numbers modelled with Overseer. As a long term farm management model to assist farmers in making fertiliser application decisions Overseer is a fine tool, indicating direction of travel and system comparison. Overseer was never intended to be used as a precise model to match against a rigid, but assumed number. In the practical world in which we all work, we have to use the right tool for the task, and react to problems encountered. I find that a measuring wheel is a mighty fine tool to find the length of a fence line to decide how many posts I need to pur-

It’s dry as a potato chip down here.  chase. However, I don’t find that the measuring wheel is of any use when I’m in the workshop engineering a small piece of equipment. No amount of reassuring myself that while the measuring wheel has some shortcomings for precise tasks will negate the reality that one side of the item might be 300mm long and the other side probably will not be. Likewise, the Canterbury Land and Water Plan has a fundamental problem relying on Overseer to assess the impact of farming activity. If the front wheel was to fall off my tractor, we would stop, assess the problem and get it sorted. To continue ploughing with three wheels while assuring all and sundry that while we

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recognise the problem, and have set aside a work programme over the next two years to fix the wheel, we need to bash on with the ploughing in the meantime would be irresponsible. We cannot rely on a model that throws results such as a field going from wheat to ryegrass loosing 12kgN/ha and the neighbouring field, ryegrass to wheat allegedly loosing around 400kgN/ ha. Worse still, smudging such figures to gain compliance as an individual farmer or within an irrigation scheme grouping is achieving nothing for the environment, but merely soothing the conscious of the regulator. We currently have a plan that doesn’t work that relies on a modelling tool that is being used for a purpose for which it was not

designed. We have created a consultancy industry that is costing the agricultural sector millions of dollars annually, while burying farmers in compliance bureaucracy and not achieving actual environment outcomes in my view. There must be, there has to be a better way, but the first step in planning for that can only come about after acknowledgement from all parties that we are on the wrong track, albeit with good intentions. In my view, focus must be directed at on-farm practices and our reliance on Overseer is a distraction. I would hope that the concerns raised by the Parliamentary Commissioner are going to be addressed by our legislators and regulators.     

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Momentum ticking over in summer T

his summer’s rural property market in our region has shown enough positive trends emerging to keep momentum ticking over. Although we are experiencing a traditional summer dry and the various downsides associated with that, by and large the region’s farmers are coping. In the sheep and beef sector, the market welcomed several attractive properties prior to Christmas. Initially listings received positive interest from buyers. However, some of these parties backed off due to a lack of financial support. To counter, some of those putting their farms in front of the market responded by offering to leave vendor finance in the property. Of course,

Calvin Leen

PGG Wrightson Real Estate

when you have a willing buyer, matched by a willing seller, yet thwarted by a hesitant banker, such alternatives are likely to eventuate and, in the current environment, they are proving an effective means to take an agreement across the line. Farmers are good at finding practical solutions and this is one that has helped successfully conclude a couple of recent Mid Canterbury transactions. Within

the next few weeks a handful of deals for South Canterbury drystock farms appear likely to come to fruition in the same manner. Meanwhile, in North Otago, interest in sheep and beef property is solid, with conditional sales in process. In fact, demand for North Otago grazing, breeding and finishing farms has outstripped supply, leaving our team in the district on the lookout for new listing stock. A steady demand for sheep and beef

property is supporting farm values. So long as farmers can traverse the vagaries of limited bank finance, this situation is likely to prevail for the next few months. In the dairy sector, market constraints are tighter and it is proving more difficult to bring vendors and purchasers together. While some conditional deals are in the process, and likely to firm up in the next several weeks, the absence of irrigation opportunities, or concerns

around environmental compliance, are proving a serious impediment to any deal. Where such issues occur, sale prices are likely to fall below GV, which is no longer representative and higher than the current market will generally bear. Some activity is also taking place in the arable sector, though the appetite for such properties is not as strong as it was two or three years ago, with potential buyers backing off, and sellers preferring to wait it out until the market becomes more lively. Calvin Leen is Mid-South Canterbury and North Otago sales manager for PGG Wrightson Real Estate Limited.

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It’s a Methven regional final for YFOTY T

wo Methven Young Farmers Club members will have special motivation when the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Aorangi regional final is held in their home patch at the Methven A&P Show on March 21. Scott Middleton is a farm manager near Methven, running sheep and beef as well as a mixed cropping block, while Campbell Sommerville is hoping it will be a case of third time lucky competing at the regionals to get through to the grand final. The other finalists are Jesse Wilde, Hinds, Hamish Holland, Timaru, Adam Judd, Pleasant Point, James Hurst, Omarama, George Webster, Dorie, and George Smith, Oamaru. The eight regional finalists will battle it out in a series of eight modules hosted by sponsors and two practical headto-head challenges. Only one contestant will walk away with the $12,000 winning prize package and make it through to the grand final in Christchurch in July to compete for the title of FMG Young Farmer of the Year (YFOTY). Two Aorangi district finals were held at the end of last year, where the top four from each made it through to the regional finals, whittling down 35 competitors to eight. The whole contest is based around five strainers – technology, environment, people, food and innovation. NZ Young Farmers’ chief executive Lynda Coppersmith said the strainers were aimed to test each contestant’s strengths and weaknesses across the whole agriculture, food and fibre sector. “The strainers represent farming today and the realities and considerations of everyday life in the agriculture, food and fibres sector.”

“Farming is no longer just animal husbandry, fencing and practical skills. “The whole primary sector is based around those pillars and every facet of technology and innovation, to be able to produce food for millions of people. “New Zealand is leading the

world in the food producing sector and it is such an exciting time to be in the industry,” Coppersmith said. For the Aorangi regional finalists, the contest starts on the evening of Friday, March 20, where they will sit through a gruelling written exam.

On the morning of Saturday, March 21, they’ll complete a series of intense modules before going head to head in two practical challenges at the Methven A&P showgrounds. The evening show at Mount Hutt Memorial Hall will host the famous YFOTY buzzer quiz

where the regional finalists’ general knowledge of all things farming will be tested in front of hundreds of people. Following that, the points will be added up and the winners of the contest and each strainer will be announced. The FMG Junior Young

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AORANGI REGIONAL FINALISTS’ PROFILES:

James Hurst, Upper Waitaki/Kurow Young Farmers Club, 28, is second in charge on a dairy block under EllisLea Farms in Omarama running 1500 cows and chairman of the YFC Aorangi region. The North Otago farmer also has experience dry stock farming, shepherding

Scott Middleton, Methven Young Farmers Club, 28, is a farm manager near Methven, running sheep and beef as well as a mixed cropping block.

Campbell Sommerville, Methven Young Farmers Club, is second-in-charge on an arable farm near Windwhistle, but has a range of experience under his belt. He grew up on a sheep, beef and mixed cropping block in Methven that was then converted to a dairy farm.

Jesse Wilde, Hinds Young Farmers Club, was forced to miss out on the 2019 regional final for his own wedding, after placing first at districts. He is a lower order sharemilker on a dairy farm near Hinds, milking 900 cows.

Hamish Holland, Timaru Young Farmers Club chair, is a field representative for Turnbull Grain and Seed in Timaru. The 28-year-old has competed in four district finals, but this will be his first regional final.

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Farmer of the Year and AgriKids contests will also run alongside the senior competition at the Methven A&P Show. Secondary school students who are part of Teen Ag clubs will compete for the title of Aorangi FMG JR YFOTY in pairs.

The top two teams advance through to the grand final, where they will compete against 14 other teams from across the country. Meanwhile, the AgriKids contest is for primary school aged children where they compete in teams of three.

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George Smith, Five Forks Young Farmers Club, 28, is a veterinarian at Oamaru, specialising in production animals.

Adam Judd, Timaru Young Farmers Club, is second in charge on a dairy farm near Pleasant Point, milking 740 cows.

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National interest expected in Fairton

N

ational interest is expected in Silver Fern Farms’ mothballed Fairton meat plant and surrounding rural land, valued at almost $40 million, which is now being advertised for sale. The 485 hectares of land, just north of Ashburton, comprise 32ha at the former Fairton plant and 453ha of adjacent rural land. At July 2018, the rural land had a capital value of $19.8m and the Fairton plant $18.1m. Sheepmeat processing at the plant stopped in 2017, with the loss of 370 jobs, following a continued decline in regional sheep numbers following land use change, particularly to dairying. The plant’s final death knell was last year, following the closure of Fairton’s pelt processing operation with the loss of 44 jobs.

SFF has instead consolidated processing at its multi-species Pareora plant, south of Timaru, which processes lamb, goats, bobby calves, cattle and deer and employs about 1000 people in peak season. While a real estate sign was erected on State Highway One at the Fairton turn-off just before Christmas, the sale is only now being publicly advertised. Marketed by Colliers International directors, Sam Staite, industrial, and Richard O’Sullivan, rural and agribusiness division, the site was for sale by deadline private treaty, closing on March 26 at 4pm, unless sold prior. O’Sullivan said that the preferred option was for the site to be sold in one piece, “but if it needs to be broken up to attract a better price we will certainly entertain this”.

As Overseas Investment Office approval would be required for a foreign purchaser, he believed the buyer would come from within New Zealand, or be an expat Kiwi. Potential buyers would need to look at the site’s zoning, resource consents and engage with the Ashburton District Council regarding possible commercial and industrial uses, O’Sullivan said.    Staite said Ashburton was experiencing near record low vacancy across its commercial and industrial asset class and demand was strong for all areas of property in the region. “Astute buyers with logistics in mind will appreciate the prized position of the Fairton plant, bordering the Ashburton Business Estate and featuring more than 1km of main south rail line frontage. “Situated about halfway

between the ports of Lyttelton and Timaru, it’s easy to see the appeal for large-scale producers and exporters. Significant cold storage improvements on the plant site generate a strong monthly rental income while other areas of that same site may have refurbishment or redevelopment potential for the new owners.” Talleys Frozen Foods was a major commercial user of the site’s cold stores. “The demand in Ashburton industrial continues to outstrip supply as is evidenced with the vast uptake of land in the Ashburton Business Estate. The council is pushing forward with the development of future stages here and we believe this strong demand will continue,” Staite said. The Fairton plant contained two and three-storeyed processing areas, stock yards,

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offices, freezers and amenity buildings. It also included 10 houses situated on about 2ha of land, of which the condition varied, with some needing significant work to get to a habitable standard. The block of rural land had productive soils, regular crop rotation, as well as 383ha of borderdyke (flood) irrigation, providing high levels of reliable arable and pastoral production. A SFF spokesman said that given the company had ceased all processing at the site and had completed the decommissioning phase it was seeking expressions of interest with a view to a sale of the site. The company was committed to preserving items from the plant that had historical interest for the local community, as the facility had been operational for more than 100 years.

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LUDF moves forward with integrity Heather Chalmers

RURAL REPORTER

T

he prospect of Fonterra’s fourth highest milk price is not tempting the Lincoln University Dairy Farm to boost its production. LUDF had no plans to change its system to boost production to chase the higher payout, said Ashburton farm consultant and LUDF supervisor Jeremy Savage. “To make the most of a high payout, we are going to do exactly what we will do in a low payout, farm with the lowest cost and footprint possible – and bank the extra profit with a higher payout,” Savage told a field day on the farm. “Over the last three years, there has been a wealth of knowledge and work go into making sure that the LUDF has the lowest footprint possible with the current science. “By good management and application, it is also a very profitable position. Given these key drivers to LUDF, we will not be changing anything in the farm to chase high payouts.”

In December, Fonterra increased the mid point of its forecast milk price by 25 cents to $7.30kg a milksolid, its fourth highest milk price in history. It was forecasting a milk price of between

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$7.00 and $7.60kg/MS. This was matched in January by Synlait, which increased its forecast milk price by 25 cents to $7.25 a kg/ MS for this season. LUDF aims to run a low input, highly productive farming system that reduced nutrient losses while maintaining profitability. The 160-hectare farm, near the university campus, milks 555 cows at 3.45 cows/ha. Despite limiting its nitrogen use to 185kg/ha and supplements eaten per cow, it was budgeting to produce 514kg/MS a cow and 1783kg/MS a hectare this season. LUDF was currently tracking at a $3.65 a kg/MS operating cost structure, a reduction of 15 cents from last season. “This would be a good result, as anything under $3.90 a kg/MS is very sound,” Savage said. Farm manager Peter Hancox said that savings had been made in repairs and maintenance after updating the irrigation system. Less supplementary feeding also meant the silage wagon was being used less. More feed had been made on-farm, which had cut expenses, including $5 to $8 a bale in freight costs. In terms of autumn management, cull cows would be gone by April 15 at the latest. “I know it is getting harder to get stock into meatworks, so I already have them booked in,” Hancox said. The focus would be on cow condition scoring, with any lighter cows put on once-a-day milking from early April. Pastures would be looked after, as the farm can get sodden and pastures can pug in autumn, so destocking helped. Supplementary feed use had been minimal and was on track to be 317kg of drymatter a cow this season, including supplements made on farm. The herd would be wintered about 8km down the road on rape, oats and silage. Savage said that if LUDF adopted a high autumn supplementary feed programme to chase production and payout then its nitrate leaching would

Lincoln University Dairy Farm supervisor Jeremy Savage (left) and farm manager Peter Hancox have no plans to boost production to chase this season’s higher payPHOTO HEATHER CHALMERS out. 

increase to 38kg of nitrogen/ha from its current level of 34kg/N/ha, based on Overseer modelling. “This is a 10 per cent lift and not something we are prepared to do.” The value of the increased milk production was also very similar to the cost of feed, with Farmax modelling showing that profit only lifted from $4880 to $4887 a hectare. “If we chase autumn milk production it is only an extra $7/ha for a lot more nitrogen leaching. “It is not more profitable, we do damage to the farm (which is autumn wet) and we leach more N,” Savage said. LUDF was trialling three different pasture assessment tools, from the traditional weekly farm walk with plate meter, to a pasture robot C-Dax and satellite assessment LIC Space. As the C-Dax robot had not yet completed a full pasture assessment on LUDF, only Space and the plate meter had been compared to date. The farm was walked every Tuesday morning with the plate meter, with the results used to produce weekly feed wedges using Pasture Coach pasture management software. Space had proven challenging as it did not fly over the farm at a consistent interval. It had missed many readings throughout the season and when information was received, it was often many days after the pasture walk, so difficult to compare. LUDF had decided to graph Space data that was within one or two days of the pasture walk to provide a comparison. This showed that typically, the Space and plate meter readings were aligned, with the Space results slightly below those produced by the plate meter.


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21

Break even achievable C

anterbury dairy farmers are struggling to remain profitable, not because of debt levels, but because their farm working expenses are too high, says Ashburton-based farm consultant Jeremy Savage. “The average Canterbury dairy farm requires a payout of $6.70 a kg of milksolids to be sustainable. Half of farmers in Canterbury require a payout higher than this.” In comparison, the Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) needed a break-even milk price of $5.80. “This is what is achievable,” he told a LUDF field day. The dilemma for dairy farmers was that while payout prices were at reasonable levels, they had a lack of cashflow. Despite an average payout of $6.36 a kg/MS in the last three years, up on an average of $6.01 in the last 10 years, dairy farmers were struggling. “The first reaction I normally get from people is that the debt is too high. “However, if I add interest costs for another $8/kg/MS, which lifts debt to a total of $30kg/MS, it only adds 24 cents to the break even cost. “The real problem is not debt

Heather Chalmers

RURAL REPORTER

levels, it is that farm working expenses are too high for half of us,” said Savage, a farm consultant with Macfarlane Rural Business and LUDF supervisor. Within his own client base, farm working expenses ranged from $3.65 up to $5.20 a kg/MS. One of the reasons that sentiment was low amongst farmers was because they were running out of choices, Savage said. Farmers had relied on capital gain to cover poor payout years and a lack of cashflow in the past 10 years as equity increased with land values. “However, farm valuations have gone flat, if not easing slightly and banks are looking to reduce their dairy debt loading. “It is putting a lot of good farmers that have a high cost structure in a dilemma.”

Savage estimated that 30 to 40 per cent of Canterbury dairy farmers were impacted. Dairy Base benchmarking figures showed that the average Canterbury dairy owner operator achieved a gross farm revenue of $6.81 a kg/ MS, compared with LUDF’s $6.95. However, their farm operating expenditure (made up of farm working expenses and depreciation) was higher at $4.99kg/MS compared with LUDF’s $4.22. After interest (based on $22kg/MS at 4.5 per cent), personal drawings, and repayment of principal, the average Canterbury dairy farm was making a loss, while LUDF recorded a profit. Savage said that while some businesses were sitting in an unsustainable position, they had the ability to get their cost structures down. “It is a matter of working through that process.” However, it was not easy, as Savage said it took six months to go through an exercise of changing to a more low-cost business structure on his own dairy farm. “It takes a lot of thought, reflection and refining.” Many farmers had been farming for many years and it

North Canterbury dairy farmer James McCone says he is now focused on cost control rather than per cow production.  PHOTO HEATHER CHALMERS

was difficult to change their mindset and business operation, he said. North Canterbury dairy farmer James McCone, who farms with his wife Belinda at Culverden, said that after a frustrating 2017-18 season when they failed to capitalise on a milk price lift, they had re-evaluated their farming system. “Cow production had been the primary focus, with cost control secondary. So, we flipped that around. We lowered our per cow expectations and concentrated

on costs.” They trialled the new system on the smaller of their two farms, eliminating almost all supplementary feed which contributed 50 to 60 per cent of the cost reduction. Previously, up to one tonne of supplement was fed per cow, but to date this season this had been cut to only 100kg/cow of palm kernel. They visited high performing farms and undertook detailed benchmarking, farm system analysis and budgeting before making the change.

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22

Dairy Focus

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Where’s the logic to Tiwai Point? T

he various owners of Tiwai Point aluminium smelter at Bluff have been out-negotiating successive New Zealand Governments since before the smelter was even built. The builders and original owners of Tiwai Point, Consolidated Zinc, reneged on their agreement with the Government to build the Manapouri hydro-electric power station, leaving the Government to foot the $135 million bill in order to make ConZinc commit to the construction of the smelter. The smelter paid little to no tax from its opening in 1971 through to the late 1980s and, because of its exposure to bauxite prices, electricity charges and fluctuations in the New Zealand dollar, frequently operates at a loss. Despite its wildly changing fortunes, the smelter has grown to be a significant employer in Southland, directly employing some 800 staff and 2000 contractors, and by some estimates it’s

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responsible for 10 per cent of Southland’s GDP. This is one card Rio Tinto, the smelter’s current owners, play when negotiating with the Government. The other card is the Manapouri power station; without Tiwai Point the station is a stranded asset. Tiwai consumes some 570MW of electricity annually, which is one-third of the South Island’s consumption and 13 per cent of the nation’s, and uses it to produce the most pure aluminium on the planet.

Without the smelter, there’s nowhere else for the power to go. Every time closure is threatened blueprints to upgrade the South Island’s power networks are dusted off, and every time the threat is averted, as with the Government’s $30m bail-out in 2013, the plans are shelved again. Almost every commentary I have read about a post-smelter New Zealand imagines the power being exported to the North Island, with Huntly power station being closed and the nation rejoicing as power prices tumble. The reality is much different; there’s no infrastructure to carry the extra power north and the inefficiencies in transporting it that far are huge. The best we can hope for, if the infrastructure upgrades in the South Island are completed, is cheaper prices in the south with Manapouri operating at a greatly reduced capacity. The worst-case scenario would see the power station mothballed. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an option that allowed the Government to say “No, there will be no more handouts, we have another taker for the electricity and if you don’t like it, you can leave”? The Labour-led Coalition recently announced they were spending $10 million to replace the coal boilers in eight schools and two hospitals, reducing CO2 emissions by some 3000 tonnes (the equivalent of taking 1200 cars off the road). On the same day, Fonterra announced it was converting its Te Awamutu factory from coal to wood pellets. This conversion carries a price tag of $11 million and will reduce emissions by 84,000 tonnes (32,000 car equivalents). I did the maths, that’s $8333 per car equivalent for the Government and $344 for Fonterra. The private sector proves its efficiency again. Fonterra’s Edendale factory in Southland is the co-operative’s largest

user of coal. It uses twice as much as its Te Awamutu site, but converting Edendale to an alternative fuel source is no simple task; there’s no piped supply of natural gas in the South Island and nowhere near enough readily available biomass to make wood pellets or a similar viable option. If only there was an abundant supply of clean, renewable energy close at hand and some way to get it to the factory … Imagine if the Government dipped into their $200m decarbonisation fund to build transmission lines to Fonterra’s Edendale plant, lines capable of bearing a load sufficient to allow Fonterra to convert its largest coal-burning site to electricity. There’s no down side; the Government would be investing in infrastructure, as it should, Fonterra would invest in a capital upgrade that reduces its coal consumption by a whopping 20 per cent and the leverage Rio Tinto holds over our Government would all but disappear. If Rio Tinto wants to stay, then Manapouri could ramp up output and supply both Fonterra and the smelter. It is capable of sustaining outputs of 800MW. If Rio Tinto decides to go, well there’s a little something they don’t tell you about the world’s most pure source of aluminium; each tonne produced comes with a price tag of 1.9 tonnes of CO2 emissions, and in Tiwai Point’s case, that’s a whopping 570,000 tonnes per annum. Add that to the potential 170,000 tonne saving from weaning Edendale off coal and that’s the equivalent of removing 300,000 cars from New Zealand’s roads. If the Government is serious about climate change being this generation’s nuclear-free moment, then this would be a big step forward in taking action. Cutting CO2 emissions by a further 170,000 tonnes seems a lot more valuable to New Zealand than giving a gift to a billion-dollar overseas-owned company.

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NZ DAIRY AWARDS FEATURE

23

Clean water, zero carbon emissions? Let’s fix the problem, not dodge it. A while ago it stated that the use of soluble fertiliser was one of the most disruptive practises in mainstream farming, and that the harm those products are actually doing is contradictory to sustaining a beneficial microbial community. So why do we need to worry? Here is why: The increasing environmental regulatory rules and regulations to be set by both government and regional government, requires farmers to have environment plans in place, setting out the amount of nitrogen and fertiliser that can be applied where and when. And with the global warming issues, Government has zero carbon emission targets that will need to be achieved in the future. To be compliant, along with other management practises, these will unlikely, not be achievable, unless we reduce the reliance on synthetic soluble fertilisers. What’s the problem? A tremendous amount of synthetic soluble fertilisers is used in mainstream farming, those products were the backbone of the fertiliser practises over the last 50 or so years, those same products have contributed to the environment and sustainability problems and human health issues that we are facing now. What’s the issue with soluble synthetic fertilisers? By definition they are extremely soluble, meaning when coming in contact with soil water they are available and subject to runoff, causing any excess of nutrients to flow into water-ways, rivers, streams, ground water and underground aquifers.

So, we shouldn’t be so surprised when we find them there. Synthetic soluble fertilisers are the by-products of the petrochemical industry, its farcical to think that those synthetic fertilisers were meant to replace the natural mineral nutrients removed by agriculture farming. Petrochemical products replacing biological nutrients removed from the soil is not what nature’s sustainable plan had in mind, particularly with global warming and climate change issues that we all are facing. Synthetic soluble fertiliser is extremely harmful to the soil’s biology, particularly mycorrhiza fungi, and more photosynthetic

energy is required to convert synthetic fertilisers to amino acids and proteins, than directly, from the soil’s natural mineral and microbial population. More water is used in this conversion process also. What’s the solution? The main objective now must be to maximise photosynthesis to its full potential and take the carbon that it produces and retain it in the soil. The only carbon drawdown process nature’s got involves green plants, taking up CO2, water and sunlight and transforming that into carbon that the plant uses to grow leaves, stems, roots and seeds through photosynthesis.

Surplus carbohydrates are stored in the soil, and are retained only if the soil’s biology, particularly fungi are present, to convert those sugars made from photosynthesis into stable soil carbon. Soil carbon regulates the mineral and water storage and the longevity of water hydrology of the soil. To be nett carbon emitters, farming practises will have to retain the carbon in the soil and stop oxidising CO2 back into the atmosphere. It’s important that we visit the new science and information about the importance of the soil biology, for photosynthetic capability, sustainability, environment, nutrient management and carbon

sequestration practises. Fertiliser management systems will in the future need to be designed to reduce the reliance on these products. For transitioning farmers, a gradual reduction of 20-30 per cent of the synthetic fertilisers and combining with non-soluble fertilisers, would be a solution, thus giving a balance of quick and slow release, this will result in no decrease in production, in fact, beneficial factors would be apparent straight away. There is a real need to work within biological systems rather than against biological systems.

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24

Dairy Focus

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Sharp knives a necessity for trimming Left – Knives need to be sharp when trimming cows’ hooves.

Fred Hoekstra

VEEHOF DAIRY SERVICES

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ast month, I talked about cow comfort and operator safety while trimming. This month, I am going to talk about hoof knives. These are the primary tool that you will use and it is important they are used correctly, which means they need to be kept clean and sharp. We get a lot of knives from all over New Zealand sent to us to be sharpened. Knives that range from one end of the spectrum to the other as far as quality (and cleanliness) goes. The main thing that determines quality is the hardness of the steel used. The harder the steel the longer it will stay sharp. Most knives are made from stainless steel of some kind. Stainless steel is a relatively hard steel that will keep its edge reasonably well. However, some cheap stainless steel knives are very soft and will go blunt quite quickly. Often people buy these cheaper

knives because they are likely to be used for many things other than hoof trimming and it becomes a very costly (and frustrating) exercise if you keep losing expensive knives. The higher quality hoof knives are made of hardened steel. These knives stay sharper for much longer than stainless steel knives, but they will rust if they are not kept clean and dry. Because they are so hard, they can break easier than stainless

steel knives, so it is important to use the right trimming technique. The horny tissue needs to be sliced off, not broken off. What I mean by this is that many people tend to start a cut and then partway through twist the knife causing the hoof to break off rather than making a clean slice. Often people are not even aware that this is what they are doing, but it is something I encounter frequently when running training

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courses. What about double-edged knives? If you use the proper technique you should be able to trim a cow with just one single edge knife. The problem with double-edged knives is that you end up with quite a wide blade which makes it hard to steer your way out of the hoof when you are going too deep, and it is for this reason that I would not recommend them. Thinner blades give you a lot more control as you are trimming. When we trim cows’ hooves, we need to use sharp knives. We wouldn’t like it if a surgeon performed an operation on us using blunt knives. Not so much because it is harder work for the surgeon, but more because the end result is not the same. This is the same for cows. If we use blunt knives, we are more likely to cut ourselves and the trimming job is not going to be very successful. With sharp knives you can be much more precise with less effort. Sharpening knives is not the

easiest thing to do. It takes a lot of practise and patience. We use a bench grinder with a linishing belt or flap wheel. This will sharpen the blade and create a nice bevel. The angle that you put the knife on to the belt will determine the angel of the bevel. As a rule of thumb, this bevel needs to be a minimum of 10mm. Often the knives you buy from a shop are a lot less than that. It is much harder work to trim when the bevel is too steep. The hook of the knife we sharpen with a rubber disc on our grinder. You can sharpen the hook on the outside if you wish, but you should NEVER sharpen the blade on the back side. If you do, you end up having to tilt the knife when trimming and it is much more likely to cut into the hoof rather than take a slice off. I know it is very tempting to touch up that side of the knife because it is easier to get a sharp edge, but you will ruin the functionality of the knife. (To be continued.)


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“

25

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27

Eradication set to remove threat M

id Canterbury arable farmers are welcoming the eradication of the crop pest pea weevil which threatened New Zealand’s $130 million pea growing industry. While the infestation was in Wairarapa, where the pea weevil was first found in March 2016, its discovery put at risk a valuable cropping option in Canterbury, where the bulk of process peas and seed peas are grown.   In Canterbury, process peas, grown for the frozen pea market, are supplied to Talleys at Fairton, just north of Ashburton and Heinz Wattie’s at Hornby, Christchurch, by growers within a reasonable travelling distance of the factories.     Mid Canterbury farmer Joanne Burke, who grows process peas and seed peas at Rakaia with her husband Richard Stewart, said farmers had “missed a big hit”. “The pea industry is huge and worth protecting.” The Stewart farm was part of a grouping around Rakaia which supplied Heinz Wattie’s. This meant the pea viners (harvesters) could travel from farm to neighbouring farm. Apart from hail damage in November, which meant some crops had to be replanted, it had been a great harvest for process peas, with good quality and yields, she said. “Process peas give us a short rotation crop and a bit of income.” In the early stages of the pea weevil incursion there had been huge concerns about its potential spread to Canterbury, so it was a relief it had been eradicated, Burke said. “We had surveillance and workshops and instructions on what to look for as it was all unknown.” New Zealand, one of only a few countries free of the weevil before the outbreak produces 62,000 tonnes of process peas on 8200 hectares, earning $50 million in domestic sales and $84m in exports.  Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said the successful eradication of the pea weevil from Wairarapa was a biosecurity world-first. The eradication of the pea weevil from Wairarapa required a fouryear ban on the growing of peas, not just for commercial growers, but for all gardeners, including the use of pea straw as garden bedding material. This has now been lifted.

Heather Chalmers

RURAL REPORTER

After two complete seasons of no new finds, Biosecurity New Zealand was confident that there were no pea weevils remaining in Wairarapa, and so New Zealand. “To our knowledge, this is the first time a pea weevil population has been successfully eradicated anywhere in the world. This just goes to show what can be achieved when Government, industry and communities work together,” O’Connor said. “It also shows that eradications can be achieved. “This Government is committed to attempting eradications wherever possible. “In this situation we had a good shot at it because the destructive little insect was detected early and in a region with mountain ranges providing some natural borders. “But more importantly – we had an outstanding level of awareness and support within the community for our approach to ban the growing of pea plants and pea straw. “In doing this we removed the pea weevil’s only food source, which caused the population to die out. “It was straightforward and effective,” O’Connor said. In Wairarapa, a network of trap crops was set up to flush out the pest so it could be destroyed before it completed its life cycle. Its last detection was in late 2017. Federated Farmers’ national arable chairwoman and Carterton pea grower Karen Williams said the decision to eradicate was hard on Wairarapa pea growers so it was extremely pleasing to see their efforts rewarded. Williams said the next step for industry was to work with seed companies to bring back pea growing contracts in the region. Growers in Wairarapa were responsible for about 10 per cent of the industry and grow only seed pea crops. Federated Farmers was all too

Mid Canterbury farmer Joanne Burke, who grows process peas and seed peas at Rakaia, says farmers had “missed a big hit”.  familiar with the damage incursions of unwanted pests and diseases can do to New Zealand’s primary sector, Williams said. “It is fantastic to be able to celebrate a win like this one,” she said. Wairarapa growers and farmers

were initially aghast at talk of a ban on growing for years, Williams said. “But we realised we needed to pull together. And we’d need the support of the government, and the support of the wider commu-

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28

Farming

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Sustainable farm practices celebrated Heather Chalmers

RURAL REPORTER

M

id and Central Canterbury farmers dominate the 2020 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards, with all five finalists coming from the two regions. The finalists in the awards, which celebrate good farm practices that promote sustainable land management, range from dairy farmers and beef production to fresh vegetable growers. Finalists include the Mount Somers’ property of former Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers’ president Mike Salvesen and his wife Nicky. Other finalists are: Richard and Chrissie Wright Mount Somers, Pamu’s (Landcorp Farming) Rosebank farm at Carew, Dunsandel dairy farmers Tony Coltman and Dana Carver and Southbridge fresh vegetable growers Robin and Shirleen Oakley. Canterbury’s category award winners and the supreme regional winner will be announced at an awards function in Christchurch on March 11. Pamu’s Rosebank farm at Carew, managed by John Taylor, Brendon Stent and Aafke Huisman, has made a considerable investment in infrastructure over the past six seasons to improve its environmental sustainability. Primarily a dairy support block, the property had diversified by trialling new crops, fertiliser regimes and stocking rates, as well as having a strong commitment to biodiversity. Growing 1500 dairy replacement stock, Rosebank farm had been transformed in recent years thanks to impressive investment in development and capital projects which were driven with a focus on sustainability.

Above – Finalists Mike and Nicky Salvesen, of Mount Somers, run a breeding and finishing beef and deer farm.

Right – Southbridge fresh vegetable growers (from left), Robin and Shirleen Oakley, with Robin’s father Graeme Oakley and daughter April.

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Different cropping options were being trialled to diversify and spread risk, while also aiming to reduce nitrogen leaching and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to prioritising stock performance and health, the farm also had a strong community involvement outside of the farm gate. Tamar Farm at Mount Somers, owned by Richard and Chrissie Wright, has grown considerably since they bought it in 2002. Attention to detail was paramount despite its scale.

The beef, dairy and cropping farm was self-contained in terms of stock replacements and grazing, ensuring a profitable and productive business with healthy animals. As hands-on managers, the Wrights were passionate about farming and proud of their team members, actively advancing them into farming. A significant number of trees have been planted on the property, including shelter belts, ornamental and native plantings. The farm had responsible grazing practices and crop rotation, a focus on

energy efficiency and technology, and excellent management of nutrients. The business was an inspiring example of a family committed to advancing good people into farming and providing options for family succession. At, Wakare, at Mount Somers, owned by Mike and Nicky Salvesen, a progressive vision for the future was guiding the breeding and finishing beef and deer farm, enabling it to adapt to changing conditions and reduce its environmental footprint.

The main block runs calving cows and breeding bulls for dairy herds, deer for venison production and about 1000 lambs. Genetic measurements were tracked as the business strives to continually improve the quality of its animals. A second block runs dairy grazers and wagyu beef. Numerous improvements had been made to the property in terms of production and the environment, including a significant tree-planting programme.

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29

Left – Dunsandel dairy farmers Tony Coltman and Dana Carver have demonstrated that it is possible to look after the environment while still being profitable. Far left – A beef, dairy and cropping farm, owned by Richard and Chrissie Wright at Mount Somers, has grown considerably since they bought it in 2002.  Below – Finalists John Taylor (left) and Brendon Stent, of Pamu’s Rosebank dairy support farm at Carew.

All activities were guided by an acute awareness of how the Salvesens can affect the local and wider environment. Finalists Tony Coltman and Dana Carver are equity partners at Canlac Holdings dairy farm near Dunsandel. Canlac Holdings was a high-

performing farm when this couple took over in 2013 and their focus on good management practice meant they had lifted it to another level. The business demonstrated how it was possible to look after the environment while still being profitable.

For example, the farm was bringing in high profits while significantly reducing its environmental footprint, including cutting nitrogen leaching by 48 per cent. Priorities include stock health, maximising a high-genetic herd and leaving the farm in top environmental condition for future generations through emphasis on plantings, soil fertility and irrigation. The couple had clear goals for both themselves and the health and wellbeing of staff, plus were heavily involved in off-farm

activities. Finalists, Robin and Shirleen Oakley run Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables, at Southbridge. Operating over 400 hectares, this Central Canterbury vegetable producer is the main supplier of potatoes, beetroot, pumpkin and broccoli to one of the South Island’s biggest food chains. Robin Oakley said it can be the small things and observations that make all the difference to sustainably producing quality vegetables. To enhance crop performance, his team keeps a close eye on crop

rotations, soil cultivation, soil nutrients and irrigation, plus they adapt to environmental conditions. An innovative, agile approach was taken across the business, resulting in consistently highquality vegetables that meet the changing demands of consumers. Run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the awards celebrate good farm practices that promote sustainable land management. The programme was run in 11 regions throughout New Zealand, with almost 50 farms eligible for this year’s awards.

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Farming

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Stuart farewells a lifetime’s work It was a sight rarely seen today, auctioneers, pens of sheep and plenty of keen bidders. But earlier this month, when stud breeder Stuart Sinclair put more than 350 of his breeding ewes up for sale, the crowds came and they clearly had money to spend, bidding was brisk as one by one the top class suffolk, south suffolk and cheviot ewes were sold. For Sinclair it was a bitter-sweet day. Yes, it wrapped up a 50 year stud stock legacy, but with money invested in irrigation and better money to be made outside the sheep industry, he’s happy his sons are walking down the cropping path. He admits he’s always been a stockman. He was given a couple of south suffolk ewes when he left school, they were followed by a few suffolks and then cheviots were added to the mix. Unusual in the stud sheep business, Sinclair stuck with the three breeds, carving out a huge reputation as both a provider of outstanding stud stock for sale and as a show ring exhibitor. He had his fingers crossed for a good sale but any stock left at the end of the day would be returning home to his Wakanui farm. “I’ll watch this with interest and I’m hoping some younger people will be among the buyers and they’ll start up their own stud,” he said. Sinclair decided prior to Christmas that the stud had to go and that kick-started a pretty involved process to reach sale day. It took a convoy of three trucks and an early start to move the studs from Wakanui to the showgrounds and each ewe arrived sporting a bright orange number tied to its fleece. They were put up for sale individually. From the first lot the indications were that the quality of stock on offer was going to attract competition. Bids flowed but with a huge yarding to get through, auctioneer Andrew Holt made it clear he wouldn’t be indulging tardy bidders. With the sale over, Sinclair made it clear he wasn’t washing his hands of his stock. He was keen to meet up with buyers, many of whom he already knew. You can’t be a 50 year breeder and just walk away, he said. “Yes I suppose it’s a bit emo-

Left – Ready to farewell the work of a lifetime, Stuart Sinclair at a recent dispersal sale of his suffolk, south suffolk and cheviot stud ewes. PHOTOS SUE NEWMAN 070220-SN-0025

Below – The auctioneers in 070220-SN-0040 action.

tional, but when you make up your mind you just get on with it really.” He’s kept few young rams to show just to keep his eye in for the times he’ll be in the ring as judge, rather than exhibitor. The auction generated huge interest, with 60 registered bidders, some of those buying through agents. Buyers came from around New Zealand. Carrfields stud stock agent Callum Dunnett described the sale as ‘unique’. The last stud dispersal he could recall was at least two years ago, he said. “This is Stuart’s life work, the stock are outstanding, it’s a great chance for young people to come into breeding.”

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31

Aiming for self-sufficiency in wheat Brian Leadley.

By Heather Mackenzie

photographers@theguardian.co.nz

I

mporting wheat into the North Island from Australia does not sit well with the likes of Brian Leadley, but he believes it is possible to change that by 2025. Leadley, the vice-chairman of Federated Farmers’ arable industry group, said the practice was largely down to costs at the end of the day. “Importing wheat from Australia is happening because it’s possible for mills in the North Island to land wheat from pretty much any area of Australia cheaper than South Island farmers can send it up to them,” he said. He and others in the arable industry are aiming to have New Zealand self-sufficient in milling wheat production by 2025. The mills have to be in the North Island due to the heavier population base up there and this causes issues for the South Island producers. “The problem is we have the biggest growers in areas with

the smallest population.” Federated Farmers, the Arable Food Industry Council, the Foundation for Arable Research, and the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association are supporting the industry to achieve that goal. Leadley realises the 2025 goals is optimistic, however, it required a collective approach. “If all parts of the industry work together – the millers, the bakers, the farmers and the growers – it is achievable.” “It’s all about communication,” he said. Grain grown in the South Island has to move to the North Island to be processed and that attracts high freight costs. “New Zealand is long and narrow, so everything has to travel up or down and across Cook Strait.” Ideally the 2025 goal will address this freight problem and go a long way to making self-sufficiency possible. “We need to look at a different way of transporting grains up north.” Leadley suggested coastal

shipping as a conceivable solution. Milling wheat is made primarily into flour for bread, biscuits and pastas. “Bread, for example, is a staple part of the Kiwi diet.” In order to meet the national demand for bread, the millers need a consistent supply of high-quality product. Conversely, growers need to know that they can sell the grain once it’s harvested. “We need to make sure we create a sustainable market here for ourselves and stop Australia taking our market. “There have been times in the past where Australia has struggled to meet their own needs for milling wheat and have had to resort to importing it themselves.” New Zealand has a sound opportunity to market its paddock-by-paddock traceability, Leadley said. “Traceability is not that possible with Australian wheat, because it comes into the country in such large tonnages. It can be traced to a multitude

PHOTO SUPPLIED

of paddocks, but not in as much detail as we can.” Leadley feels New Zealand has various options to increase the amount of milling wheat here. “Milling wheat has the ability to fit in with other farming practices and crop rotation.” For example, wheat could be grown on a rotation basis with peas. “The demand for peas has gone up due to the move to vegetable-based meat products.” “It is not possible to grow peas in the same paddock. If that were to happen farmers would run the risk of soil quality depletion, crop disease and chemical resistance.” Growing different crops in paddocks is the way to avoid that happening. “Potentially milling wheat could fit into that rotation.” Peas belong to the legume family, meaning they release nitrogen into the soil. Leadley explained how the rotation would be beneficial. “The nitrogen produced would then go into the next

crop, rather than stay in the soil and that’s better for the environment. “Dairy finishing units could grow milling wheat on say 15 per cent of their land.” The crop would then utilise the nitrogen produced by the cows. “That would grow a good wheat crop.” Of course, in order for that to happen, farmers would need to be assured there is a market for the end crop. “Farmers can grow any grains or seeds that are required. But what they don’t want to see is to grow something and can’t sell it or don’t grow it and find out they could have sold it. “We would like to see New Zealand become self-sufficient in growing all grains, cereals and small seeds.” However, Leadley realises that it is a matter of breaking it down and setting realistic goals and targets for each sector of the market. “Milling wheat is the first cab off the rank,” he said.

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Farming

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Confident of M. bovis eradication T

he effort to eradicate mycoplasma bovis is showing good progress, writes Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor. He says he’s confident New Zealand can achieve eradication, and the country can farm free from this cattle disease in the future. Attempting eradication was a bold decision, with no country having attempted it before. However, the estimated economic impact of allowing this disease to spread, in just the first 10 years, was $1.3 billion in lost productivity in the cattle industries. And on top of that is the increased antibiotic use, animal welfare issues, and having to make fundamental changes to how freely we can move cattle to grass, limiting our potential industry growth. It has not been an easy fight, but it’s one we are winning. The independent Technical Advisory Group says that eradication is feasible. We are testing more farms and finding fewer cases. More than 93 per cent of farms that are put under restrictions due to a risk of infection are found to be clear of disease. On average it is taking fewer than five days to put farms under restrictions when risk is identified. The Bulk Tank Milk Surveillance programme shows us that the disease is not widespread, and that we are finding infected farms. On average only nine farms a month are now having a “detect” result on this screening test, and 97 per cent of those farms are found to not be infected after onfarm testing. We have also begun testing on a random selection of beef farms, alongside Tb testing, to assure us that the disease is not established in the beef breeding herd. The compensation process, which was taking too long in some cases, has been greatly

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

improved. It’s more agile, has more expert advice from industry, and is getting payments done quicker. More than $127 million has now been paid out in compensation, and 90 per cent of claims lodged have been processed. Part of the reason that the programme is starting to see success has been the partnership between MPI and its industry partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand. They have developed meaningful ways to work together in the field, and to govern and lead the Programme from the boardroom. Farmers are contributing 32 per cent of the total cost of the eradication effort (including

PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

compensation), and the industry groups have made substantial contributions in time and resources to the programme’s operations. Having industry and farmers at the table has fundamentally improved the effort, and has shown us the way forward for future biosecurity incursions. While we are still working to halt the spread of the disease, and cannot ease our efforts now, we are also making sure that we can reach the next phase, which is running a long-term surveillance programme to give us confidence that we have achieved “freedom from disease”. This is likely to involve ongoing bulk tank milk testing, and testing at slaughter and onfarm testing of beef stock.

With weaner sales starting, and Moving Day not far away, all cattle farmers need to be focused on making sure they are completely NAIT compliant. Accurate NAIT records are our greatest weapon against the spread of M. bovis, and we are still seeing far too many farmers failing to comply. The dedicated NAIT compliance team at MPI is cracking down, and issuing infringements and taking prosecutions against the most serious offenders. It is your responsibility to make sure you meet your NAIT obligations – tag every animal, register the tag against it in the system, and record every movement – no excuses. The impact on the farmers

affected by M. bovis, and the steps required to eradicate it, cannot be understated. We will continue to do everything we can to support them – to get decisions made quickly and on the ground, to get compensation paid quickly, and to get farms and farmers back to farming free from this disease. I want to thank every farmer that has worked through the hardship of M. bovis for their efforts to get through such a challenging period, and get back for farming. Damien O’Connor is the Minister of Agriculture, Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth and Minister for Biosecurity, Food Safety and Rural Communities

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33

Why are we eating endangered fish? Mary Ralston

FOREST AND BIRD

N

ew Zealand has many endangered species and you hear a lot about some of them – the kiwi, kakapo and the famous Chatham Island black robin that was brought back from the brink of extinction. Locally, the plight of braided river birds such as the wrybill and black-billed gull gets attention. Most people are sympathetic – no-one wants to see more of our birds fading into oblivion. And no-one would eat a kiwi or a crested grebe. But whitebait? Fishing for, and eating, these endangered species seems to be culturally okay, with little thought given to the fact that some species are now as endangered as the North Island brown kiwi. The tradition of whitebaiting has been sacrosanct and criticising it seen as unKiwi. Perhaps it’s time for a re-think. After all, we re-thought whaling and sealing when it became obvious continued exploitation was unsustainable. Alternatives were found for the products and foods made from whales and seals. Admiration for whales’ beauty and intelligence is now a more prevalent attitude than one of exploitation. Whitebait is the common name for juvenile fish. In New Zealand, there are five species caught as whitebait, all members of the Galaxiidae family. They are freshwater fish, but

Above – Whitebait is the common name for juvenile fish.

PHOTO SUPPLIED

Left – An adult banded kokopu, one of the species of whitebait. PHOTO STELLA MCQUEEN

spend time in the salty ocean. Young ones return to fresh water to breed after their larval stage at sea and it is when they return that they are caught in whitebaiters’ nets. The common galaxias, or inanga, is the most common whitebait species in New Zealand. It lays its eggs on stream banks that are flooded by a high tide; the larvae are taken out to sea on the tide and return

as juvenile fish about six months later. The four other galaxiid species are the climbing galaxias or koaro, banded kokopu, giant kokopu and shortjaw kokopu. These species also spawn on stream bank vegetation, but their spawning is triggered by autumn floods rather than tides. Whitebaiting in New Zealand has a restricted season and there are controls over net sizes and

rules about blocking channels to ensure some fish get past the nets to go upstream to breed. Despite these rules, four of the five whitebait species are in danger of becoming extinct. Over-fishing is not totally to blame. Whitebait have also declined because of the impacts of development of adjacent land and reduced water quality upstream. Loss of suitable spawning habitat has had a big

impact, especially for inanga, which needs dense riparian vegetation and lots of shade along the tidal sections of the waterways. There is already some change in attitude to whitebaiting. In a survey of nearly 3000 people last year, 90 per cent of respondents said the whitebait fishery should be managed more sustainably.   We need to do more to protect these native species. A shorter season would help, as would closing some rivers to whitebaiting where populations are low or in decline.  A change in attitude is also needed. Kiwis have got behind solar panels, recycling and taking bags to the supermarket, so let’s not eat endangered fish.


Farming

34

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Waste into energy W

hat happens to your food waste? If food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Processing our food scraps instead of sending them to landfill reduces the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Many people believe that food decomposes in a landfill, so it’s okay to put it in your bin. The reality is, landfills are designed to store waste, not to break it down. While some Kiwis compost their food scraps at home, research shows that most households don’t. Instead of wasting our food, we can put this resource to good use making fertiliser to grow more food sustainably as well as heat and energy. Food scraps make up close to half the weight of the average Auckland household’s rubbish bin. The Auckland Council has been searching for the technology to reduce household waste to landfill. They have now announced a 20-year partnership with Kiwiowned and operated Ecogas

Sheryl Stivens

ECO EFFICIENCY

to process the food scraps that will be collected kerbside across urban Auckland. This will ultimately divert waste from landfill and put it to use for our planet. When the Auckland food scraps kerbside collection rolls out in 2021, it will shrink the 100,000 tonnes of domestic food scraps that are sent to landfill each year from the city. Food scraps in Auckland will be processed using anaerobic digestion to naturally enrich the soil and heat greenhouses to grow food year-round. With this new collection service, Aucklanders can put items in their food scraps bin that are difficult to compost at home, such as meat, fish and bones. Anaerobic digestion is already the preferred method of processing food scraps in many places around the world.

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35

Connecting the dots Chris Murdoch

PROPERTY BROKERS

T

he other day, as I read The Press, a heading hit me between the eyes. It read “Sardines shrink to half their size in a decade as seas get warmer”. It carried on to say that French scientists have raised the alarm about a rapid shrinkage in the size of sardines in the Mediterranean and Atlantic caused by global warming. Sardines on average have lost two-thirds of their average mass over the past decade. Sardines feed on plankton which has become less nourishing with the changes in sea temperature because the nutrients that feed them are not rising as normal from the colder deep water. I believe the same thing that is happening to sardines may well be happening to salmon here. I am sick and tired of hearing the Greenies in our midst saying

the salmon decline in numbers and size is due to the dairy industry polluting our rivers. In the past two decades we have had salmon numbers and size cut in half. Ten to 20 years ago an average salmon weighed 20 to 25lbs (9kg to 11.3kg). If you caught a 12lb (5.5kg) salmon you let it go or you certainly didn’t boast about it at the pub. However, nowadays a salmon is a salmon and well

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worth bragging about. I guess if you believe the French scientists, then farmers and townies are all contributing to global warming, but you certainly cannot just blame the farmers. In fact, animals and fertiliser aren’t the world’s major problem; it’s people, way too many of them. Farming practices on the Mid Canterbury plains have certainly

changed in the past 30 years or so, but much of that change is for the good. For example, during this hot, dry summer we haven’t been threatened by fire because irrigation and dairy farmers have put green belts between drying crops and dry grass. Also, the dust storms that arose during the mid-1980s just don’t happen anymore, so environmentally the soils are stronger and less

wind-blown. All in all, there is a lot going on in our world that no-one really understands, but if we work together, we should be able to get through this period and come out a lot better off than we were yesterday. Maybe there is a connection between the Mediterranean sardines and our salmon, or maybe there isn’t, but it seems what’s happening over there is very similar to here.

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36

Farming

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When will it break? T

hat desire for warm sunny weather for a smooth harvest in the North Island has come to be. But enough is enough and rainfall surely is just around the corner. Almost everywhere I’ve been in the eastern and central North Island is the same – dry or drier. This month, I’ve been supporting irrigation management staff in the North Island and like Canterbury it is dry. How dry? Well since I returned to Christchurch on January 24 there still has not been any rain. Not in Hawkes Bay, through to Mangakino and up through Galatea/Murupara. Where there is no irrigation there is nothing. Let’s begin in the Mangakino region – for those diehard mainlanders I’m about 40 minutes and 48 kilometres NW of Taupo or 60 minutes and 54km south-west of Rotorua. The day I took the photo (bottom right) it was 32°C and the cows were probably looking forward to the next feed-out later in the day after milking. Nothing much to graze on in this paddock. A little further away from the pumpshed job and heading

Below – In the Mangakino region the cows will be looking forward to the next feed-out with nothing much to graze in this paddock.

Tony Davoren

HYDRO SERVICES

back to the main road this contrasting shot took my eye (below left). Thank goodness for the Waikato River and the Maraetai Dam/Lake from which they have a consented take for irrigation. Without it, well the vista would have been the foreground and background. It is not though an area where they can irrigate a high proportion of the land – unless they move hectares of K-line or sprinklers, and these are not on their agenda. Nothing changed from Mangakino through to Kaharoa (on the western side of Lake Rotorua and between Rotorua and Tauranga) and then up through Galatea/ Murupara. All that changed in Galatea (top) was that the sun wasn’t shining and while the clouds look threatening, not

a drop was shed from them. There was a noticeable absence of stock up through this area compared to the Waikato around Mangakino. While these parched landscapes are desperate for

rainfall and soon to get some growth leading into the autumn, here in Hawkes Bay everyone is more than happy not to have rain. Sweetcorn is ripening and being harvested; apple harvest is under way and a winemaker told

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37

Audits make it tougher for rabbit sellers T

hose trying to make a living from selling wild rabbits to restaurants and for pet food say they are being driven out of business by high compliance costs. Shooters and processors spoken to said audits up to every six weeks were over the top and they should not be treated in the same way as a large scale meat works. Bob Thomson has run a sole operator rabbit processing plant on the outskirts of Christchurch for the past two decades, supplying wild rabbits to high end restaurants around the country and for pet food. But he is drowning under a tsunami of paperwork. “It all has to be up to human consumption standard because we are run under a risk management program and that risk management program requires about 20 lines of compliance at the moment.” Maintaining his records took up to 40 hours a week. A slip up in some paper work recently meant he had gone from audits every three months by the regulator, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to having these done every six weeks.

“It’s just gone crazy. I mean, you know we’re up to $175 an hour the auditor is charging us. It’s basically pricing it off the market.” Thomson wasn’t the only one struggling to make a living under the weight and expense of so much paper work. Another sole charge rabbit

processor who did not want to be named said he recently had to borrow money to meet the cost of his audits. He was now considering throwing in the towel altogether. “I have been thinking about it. But what else do I do you see, I’ve got to look at that as well.

So if I can pinch on, I probably will. I was hoping to train someone up so that they could take over, because it is a good little business.” Yet another processor also said it was unfair they had to pay the same amount for audits as large operators. “They’d do four or five hours

in those big factories and it is costing the same as in a small place like this [and I’m] making not even a quarter of what they’re making. I mean hell, I’ll be lucky to make enough to pay my wages.” Thomson said the rabbit problem was worse than ever and he couldn’t understand why people like him, who were doing something about it, were not receiving any help. As it stood, the high cost of trying to make a living from rabbits had him considering giving up as well. “I don’t know whether I’ve wasted my life. I think you know, the way it’s gone, it’s got harder and harder. I’m just about retiring age now. I think I could just toss it away if we don’t see some relief.” A spokesperson for New Zealand Food Safety, which operated within MPI, said its number one priority was to keep consumers safe from foodborne illnesses. They said the charge for audits increased last year to $176 per hour after consultation, and it was always considering ways to save money, which could then be passed on to small regional businesses.  – RNZ

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38

Farming

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Market mix spreads venison risk

END OF SUMM

Venison prices are down this season from the highs of the previous year.

PHOTO SUPPLIED

V

enison sales have not been seriously affected by the disruption to the Chinese market caused by the coronavirus outbreak, says Deer Industry NZ chief executive Innes Moffat. Deer processing plants were working at normal capacity for this time of the year, with product flowing to major markets. “China takes 50 per cent of New Zealand’s lamb and beef, nearly all of our mutton, but only 10 per cent of our venison. Our main venison markets are northern Europe and the United States. South Korea is our biggest velvet market, followed closely by China,” Moffat said. “Over many years, the deer industry has actively sought to diversify its markets in order to reduce the impact of disruption to any one market. We’ve done pretty well, but if there was a crisis of some sort in Germany or South Korea, deer farmers would still be exposed.” Moffat said marketers expected volatility in world markets to continue beyond the impact of the coronavirus. Living with this volatility was a challenge for farmers and well as marketers. “Many drystock farmers opt to have a mix of livestock classes, including deer, on their farm. They’ve learnt over the years that when one product is struggling, another product is often doing well.” Prices for lamb and beef reached giddy heights before Christmas in response to demand from China for meats to replace pork production lost to African swine fever. The Chinese government had just put in place measures to reduce prices of imported meats when the coronavirus struck. “Lamb and beef prices came off those highs in the last month. We saw a similar venison price spike in 2018 when demand for trim from pet food companies peaked. We’re still in the price correction phase for that, with some distributors in Europe and pet food manufacturers in the United States holding stock of manufacturing grades that they paid high prices for in

2018,” Moffat said. “After a price spike markets often overshoot. “Companies holding expensive stocks might try to recoup some margin by holding off ordering in the hope of a lower price. It can take a year or two before high-priced stocks are cleared and a better market balance is achieved again.” The venison price to farmers, based on the published schedules for a 60kg stag, was $8.09 a kilogram, back about $1.50 on February 2019. It was still the thirdhighest price on record for this time of the year. Moffat said no-one was happy with prices this year. The average value of venison exported from New Zealand in the last months of 2019 was down about 15 per cent on 2018, which was reflected in the prices paid to farmers. Prices on-farm keep rising and farmers and marketers need to be rewarded for the additional efforts being made to meet consumer expectations, he said. Demand for chilled venison was continuing to grow in North America. In continental Europe, demand for game meats appeared to be relatively stable, but with continued signs of the change in market preferences away from frozen products, in favour of fresh. “Our marketers are working with some very savvy partners in Europe and they are developing different presentations to add value to frozen venison including novel retail applications and more portion-controlled items.” Manufacturing grades of venison were once all destined for Europe, but in recent years small goods manufacturers as well as pet food companies in North America have been taking useful quantities, as was China in the months leading up to the coronavirus outbreak. With access to China problematic at the moment, marketers were looking to further expand demand in the United States.

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IRRIGATION FEATURE

39

We have the expertise to keep you irrigating R

ay Mayne Hose and Fittings Ltd is a privately owned irrigation company founded by Ray and Noeleen Mayne. Ray and the team are based in a purpose-built premise at 30 J B Cullen Drive, in the Ashburton Business Estate on the northern edge of Ashburton. Owner, Ray Mayne, said the new 12,000 square metre site has been purpose-built to cater specifically to the needs of the irrigation business. All the products are under one roof to allow for customers and staff to have better access to irrigation parts and products. Ray Mayne and the team have been designing, supplying, installing and maintaining irrigation systems for farms, lifestyle blocks and businesses throughout the country for 27 years. They employ around 30 staff, who include an experienced team of accredited designers on hand to design and custom fit an irrigation system to suit any land shape, size or industry. The team works with their clients to get a plan to suit everyone’s needs.

Purpose built building in the Ashburton Business Estate. 

They are the principal importer and distributor of Reinke irrigation systems into New Zealand - a system that is light weight, more efficient and longer-lasting than comparable systems. The Reinke name is recognised as a world leader, especially for their Trimble GPS guidance which can guide multiple systems off a single GPS base station. This guidance option is

operating on many swing arm corner units and lateral move systems. There are numerous examples of this scenario working in many areas in the South Island. Ray Mayne Hose and Fittings factory trained certified technicians have had many years of experience working on Reinke systems and are highly skilled in all aspects of Reinke equipment. Over the winter season,

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many clients have had their Reinke Pivots and Laterals serviced by Ray’s technicians. Reinke Manufacturing have a dedicated online training schedule, which each technician is encouraged to use to ensure their skills are continually being kept up to date with the latest technology that Reinke provide. Today, an irrigation system is a technically designed system, which is a substantial investment and needs to

operate efficiently and effectively to ensure that all that investment will be readily used for many years. Among the staff are a specialist pump crew, who can remove and install pumps for service and maintenance in any location at any time - and the specialist Reinke staff who are constantly developing their skills to keep up to date with the latest technology available for their clients. In the warehouse, Ray Mayne Hose and Fittings stock a range of Snap-tite irrigation hoses and can source any irrigation associated products for any job. They also manufacture the TurboRain brand of large travelling irrigators and are a distributor for the Pleuger range of Submersible Irrigation pumps through Flowserve Pumps Ltd. – Give the friendly team a call on 03 308 6022 to discuss your needs and for a nonobligatory quote, they will be only too happy to help. Advertising feature


40

Farming

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EDUCATION FEATURE

A Bedean way of life S

t Bede’s College is the South Island’s premiere Catholic boys’ boarding school. It has a long-standing tradition of providing quality boarding school education, dating back to the 1920s. Our boys come from many different parts of New Zealand and from around the world and they benefit from our homeaway-from-home experience. We have the school’s spacious grounds and many facilities available to use and benefit from. Being part of the St Bede’s boarding community is a lifelong experience, as the Bedean spirit stays with you long after you leave. The college motto of Fide et Opere (by faith and by work), also incorporates our boarding school.

The boarding community lives, works and prays as a Catholic faith community centred on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. We begin each week sharing the Eucharist in our Boarding Mass. We aim to provide an environment wherein “he becomes the best possible version of the person God created him to be”. Living in a boarding community provides boys with a unique environment to learn social and co-operative skills. While boarding your son can expect close guidance and support from our boarding team as they work toward achieving their personal goals and learning to contribute in a positive manner to the boarding community.

We set high expectations for our boys and take great pride in supporting them as they develop into fine young men. The boarding school gives all boys the opportunity to pursue academic, cultural and sporting interests that are not always available in their local area. Your sons will have the opportunity to be part of a modern and vibrant new city. The boarding school makes the most of what Christchurch has to offer through our induction and weekend activity programmes. Great emphasis is placed on positive relationships and achievement. We actively work to create a positive environment. Students are expected to commit to the goals they set for themselves and the expectations that

come with being a positive community member. The boarding school adheres to a positive psychology framework that focuses on the strengths of each individual. Students are coached and mentored on a daily basis by a team of committed and qualified staff. Students with the ability to self-determine, achieve to their potential and positively contribute in the traditional school setting, home environment and wider community. Our self-development programme builds on this concept through providing boys, on a daily basis, opportunities to enhance their physical, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing whilst at all times meeting their

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academic commitments. At the core of this is raising student achievement, engagement and selfdetermination, all of which is done in an environment where age appropriate expectations and guidelines are in place. By coaching, monitoring and supporting our boys to make positive choices that impact all areas of their life, we firmly believe we are setting them up to be the best young person they can be. The boarding school is located on the college site. Boarders have full access to college facilities including the weights centre, gymnasium, learning centre, performing arts centre, hockey turf, cricket nets, swimming pool, fields and teaching spaces.


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EDUCATION FEATURE

41

How do we teach our boys? P

arents considering the value of single-sex education, will ask these questions: “Why a boys’ school?” “What are boys’ unique learning needs?” We know that brain research strongly confirms the developmental difference between boys and girls. This means that single-sex education programmes allow boys to thrive and learn at their own developmental pace in accordance with their unique learning and emotional needs. Boys learn better in an environment that: • Allows them to move while learning (more kinaesthetic learning and less time on chairs). • Gives them tasks to apply knowledge, ie learning by doing hands-on activities. • Recognises that boys often act first and think later, so teaches them to take risks responsibly. • Encourages humour; boys make each other laugh, it is a great coping strategy. • Accepts that boys are more

comfortable writing about action, not feelings. • Gives boys a safe space in which to embrace performance and other creative pursuits, not just science and maths – boys are extremely creative. • Understands that boys track moving objects faster than girls but don’t hear as well, therefore they need instructions to be short and clear. • Recognises boys have boundless physical energy, they are often competitive, physical in nature and inclined toward competitive sport. • Recognises that boys are essentially disorganised, so helps them manage themselves. • Provides great male role models and gives boys an opportunity to be leaders and teaches them how to lead. The list goes on and on and it is the school’s job to keep pace with the research we enthusiastically apply in the classroom and beyond. It’s also believing in boys through expertise, resources, staff and facilities to develop the potential and awaken the ambition in each and every boy, whatever his unique strengths and learning needs are.

Above – Waihi School.

ASHBURTON LEARNING CENTRE Do you need help with:

Learning English as a second language? Your apprenticeship paperwork? With reading, writing or maths? Developing your computer skills?

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Contact the Centre

Phone 308 5322 Corner Park and Havelock Street, Ashburton

BOARDING AND DAY SCHOOL FOR BOYS IN YEARS 4-8 www.waihi.school.nz T: 03 687 8014 E: executive@waihi.school.nz State Highway 1, Winchester, South Canterbury

Your son’s future starts here …

Or contact us to book your own personal tour at a time to suit


42

Farming

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EDUCATION FEATURE

Why send your child to boarding school? F

ilms and television shows often give people a skewed view of boarding schools. This vision may leave some parents scratching their heads and wondering, why would any parent send their high school student to a boarding school? There are a variety of reasons why more parents are choosing the top-notch education and experience that only a boarding school can provide. In many instances, parents aren’t the

ones wanting to send their children to boarding schools. Instead, many students are choosing to find adventure and more competitive learning opportunities on their own. They stumble upon a boarding school website or brochure that offers the options they crave, and parents quickly determine that their student’s desire to attend boarding school is a smart move for the future. But the primary reason students and parents choose boarding schools is to

prepare them for the future. Many boarding schools are geared towards preparing students to compete for spots in the best colleges. Compared to public and day private school students, boarding school students are much more likely to earn advanced degrees, with statistics showing that half of boarding school students go on to earn advanced degrees compared to only 36 per cent of their peers who attend private day schools and 21 per cent of public high

school students. There are a variety of reasons parents choose to send their children to boarding schools. Choosing a school that will specifically cater to your child’s individual needs is chief among them. Add to that competitive academics and athletics, unparalleled opportunities, and future preparation, and it’s no surprise so many parents are choosing boarding schools today!

Unlocking every boy’s potential Thinking Boarding, Think Medbury. You are invited to attend the Medbury School Open Day to discover what makes a Medbury education unique.

To register online visit Enrolment at medbury.school.nz

The Open Day is on Tuesday 5 May 2020 from 9.00am to 10.45am. The Headmaster will speak at 10.15am. Academic, Boarding and Music Scholarships are available for 2021.

OPEN DAY


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EDUCATION FEATURE

43

Thomas House – A great boarding option T

homas House, at Timaru Boys’ High School, is a great boarding option for your son. We provide a huge range of academic, sporting, cultural and social opportunities to help our boys grow into confident young men, who can positively contribute to society. Timaru Boys’ has a full range of academic subjects and trades-based pathways. We have high expectations for every student and a record of success. Thomas House boarders enjoy a high rate of academic achievement, which is supported by supervised study sessions in the evenings. Parents communicate regularly with hostel and school staff and can address any issues before they become problematic. The boys learn together, helping each other with academic studies, and this is a real recipe for success. At Thomas House we pride ourselves on the personalised care and support we give to every boarder. We see them as unique individuals, all with their own talents and needs, and our professional staff know the importance of building positive relationships right from the start. We aim to develop the boys’ skills of self-management and resilience, but we also understand that they are young and will need assistance with this journey. One of the most important skills the boys learn while boarding at Thomas House, is the ability to live with and support each other. The staff create fun opportunities to enable the boys to quickly integrate into hostel life. Very early on, the boys realise the power of collaboration, and they form friendships that will last a lifetime. Timaru Boys’ is an extremely successful school in sporting and cultural endeavours, with many of our students going on to compete at a national level and beyond. Boarders have a huge array of extracurricular activities to choose from, and they have very high participation rates. They are often the leaders in our sports teams and cultural groups, contributing greatly to community events. We see all of these things as opportunities to develop teamwork, leadership and character. The hostel is a key factor in the spirit of

Thomas House – a family environment where boys can grow and learn together. 

Timaru Boys’ High School and support from parents, many of whom were former boarders themselves, is strong. The Thomas House buildings are modern, functional and comfortable. The boys can also access other learning and social facilities within the school and the wider community of Timaru. Thomas House life is stimulating and full, but there is also time for winding down and having fun. Our boys tell us that “it’s like a second home”. If you think Thomas House could help your son reach his potential, call us today.

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Thomas House : A great boarding option for boys

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Profile for Ashburton Guardian

Ashburton Guardian | Guardian Farming | February 25 2020  

Designer: Lisa Fenwick

Ashburton Guardian | Guardian Farming | February 25 2020  

Designer: Lisa Fenwick