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APRIL, 2015

Room with a view ... Carew farmer Wyvern Jones discusses farming on the Mid Canterbury plains in the 21st century.






Farmer profile: Wyvern Jones takes us for walk around his farm P3 Pig farming under the spotlight 


Greg Martin reminisces on the good ol’ days 


A great year for velvet 


Sheryl Stivens talks about the Year of the Soils 


Tony Davoren says the drought is still with us 


John Leadley looks back at the tenure review process 


Michelle Nelson asks how much is too much to spend on pets  P27 Mary Ralston discusses the importance of tussock 


Daylight saving is over and the nights are drawing in. It’s been a long, hot summer for many on the South Island’s east coast and the cooler autumn evenings are welcome relief to both people and animals. Although we need good winter snow to truly recharge the depleted aquifers, here in Mid Canterbury we’ve had enough rain to green up the countryside and power-up winter crops. It’s been a huge relief to many worried farmers and a reminder of the extremes of Mother Nature. Despite the lack of rain, arable farmers on irrigated properties have fared reasonably well, with healthy yields in the silos. This is a big change to last year, when almost incessant rain kept them out of the paddock for weeks. As Wyvern Jones points out in this month’s farmer profile, it is easier to make money in a dry year than a wet one. Having survived the summer many farmers will be turning their attention to the months ahead, especially those preparing to winter over large numbers of dairy cattle.

Michelle Nelson


Winter green feed crops have been stunted and there is still likely to be a shortfall, especially in South Canterbury where irrigation water ran out much earlier than it did in other drought-affected areas. Those providing dairy grazing need to be talking to their clients, to keep them in the loop – if the feed in the paddock is not going to carry the number of cows for the expected amount of time, make sure they know in advance. Dairy farmers have had enough to deal with this season without any unwelcome surprises. And on that subject, keep an eye on your dairy farming neighbours – we all know what a tough year can do to our psyche, and there will be some farmers out there who will come very close to hitting the wall.

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It’s been a tough year, but if anyone knows how to cope with a scorching Mid Canterbury summer it’s Wyvern Jones – whose family have farmed in the district for the past century. Today he runs two businesses on the Carew property, together with his wife Beth. “Dad bought the top block of 400 acres for £7 10s an acre on a returned servicemen’s loan. “The soil was so cropped out it ran through your fingers like sand – it’s very easy to forget how dry and desolate it was here,” Wyvern said. “There’s a whole generation who don’t know how dry Mid Canterbury can be – this year has just been a practice run.” By the turn of the century

Above – Heifers on Aberystwyth Farm. Right – Wyvern Jones.

the winds of change were blowing across the Canterbury Plains, sweeping aside fences and trees to make way for the centre pivot irrigators required to produce milk and increase crop yields. “The transition from borderdykes to spray was a


revelation – it was all farmer driven, we got no hand-outs or government subsidies – farmers saw the benefits and got on with it,” Wyvern said. The Jones put in the first water storage pond on the Mayfield Hinds Irrigation Scheme – which now counts


120 ponds, and made the decision to venture into dairying. “In the first six years we pulled out 857 kilometres of fencing – some of which had only been in for four years, to make way for centre pivot irrigators.

“There’s no point in being sentimental about a fence. Trees also had to come out – you don’t compromise a good irrigation system.” Besides, configuring centre pivots around the 17 pylons marching across the farm was complicated enough. Today 10 centre pivots, most on 180 degree rotations to accommodate the pylons, complemented by two laterals, operate across the property. “I have had more fun doing these developments over the past 10 years than ever before.” In 2008, following an interview lasting just a couple of hours, Wyvern and Beth formed an equity partnership with Jeff and Kelly Gould, creating two inter-dependent but independent businesses – Clontarf Farm Aberystwyth Dairies. Supplements and winterfeed are grown on the original 350ha home block. A weigh bridge has been installed - everything that goes to the dairy farm is weighed and sold at the commercial rate. continued over page

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From P3 “The two businesses are run as completely separate entities – cropping and dairy support and the other purely dairying – but have grown barley and peas for silage using effluent off the dairy platform. Wyvern rotates barley, kale, ryegrass, wheat and green oats across the dairy support block, but has grown a lot of small seed crops in the past – in fact he was an early pioneer in what is now a burgeoning Mid Canterbury industry, growing radish and carrot seed for South Pacific Seeds in the early days. These days he sticks to ryegrass, cereal and winterfeed crops. Water on the home block is pumped from a storage pond via two turbines – which cost a bit to put in but were repaid quickly, Wyvern said. Water from the Mayfield Hinds scheme is “borrowed” to power the turbines, before it is returned to the race. Centre pivots further down the farm are powered by a diesel generator rather than install an underground cable, alleviating the need to pay line charges and also handy during power outages. “We haven’t really struggled at any stage through the

summer, even on 50 per cent irrigation restrictions. It got a bit dry on the dairy side for a while, but we managed. “What’s the point of having irrigation if you don’t turn it on? I can make more money out of a drought than I can of a wet year. “This year has not produced record yields, but they’ve still been satisfying.” Heifers usually on a South

There’s no sign of any of the three Jones offspring returning to the farm. “They are all very interested but they don’t want to be farmers – we are happy they are pursue their chosen careers - in anycase Jones’ don’t do retirement very well.” On the 280ha dairy platform 1130 cows are milked through a 60-bale rotary shed, fitted out so one person can manage

had a planting project under way since 2008. Fruit trees around the cow shed, along with native plantings around the boundaries, are both attractive and functional. The business used to supply Fonterra, but sold shares to free up capital to build the barn – and to service debt, which reduced interest rates. The business has been with Westland Milk for the past

I can make more money out of a drought than I can of a wet year

Canterbury support block are back early this year because they ran out of tucker. Grazing young stock doesn’t fit around the crop rotation, but Wyvern runs 220 ewes as “lawnmowers”, tidying up around the tracks and cleaning off paddocks – but they will be sold off in-lamb shortly, and replaced next season. But the farm will soon be home to up to 1900 cows for the winter, with contract grazers coming in. It is a largely self-sufficient operation with harvesting, spreading and spraying managed on farm.

the job. An extremely wet spring in 2012 prompted the partners to think about covering options, resulting in the construction of a 600-cow barn with a 200cow loafing/calving barn next door. “Three years ago we had a very wet August with 12 inches of rain, we started looking at a feed pad and the idea grew like topsy.” The Jones also built a new house around the same time. “Just when we could see the end of the tunnel we brought in a new tunnel,” Wyvern said. To compensate for the loss of trees, Jeff and Kelly have

two seasons to make the best use of the barn. “We were one of the company’s first winter milk suppliers – we needed to be able to use the barn all year round.” Aside from crops grown on the farm, the cows are fed a blend of vegetables – which arrive on the property in bulk or one-tonne bags, supplied by a company with a contract to take surplus vegetables from bulk processors such as Talleys and Watties, and PKE. “We never know what we will get, but it helps us run a year-round operation.” An animal nutritionist

ensures the animals are getting an optimum diet. “Jeff is very good with nutrition, but this is not a game for the inexperienced – it’s a very fine balancing act.” The rations are mixed with silage in the feed wagon for feeding in the barn. Three feed heads in the shed also distribute meal rations. “The blend is frequently tweaked – grass can vary in quality and it’s easier to get consistency with rations. “We don’t cut and carry grass to the shed – it’s all eaten in the paddock. “The best cows are fed in the barn because they will produce more with the rations they get, milking on average 560kg/MS – they would not do that on grass alone. “People are wary of intensification and the problems it causes, but if everybody in the world has to be fed, we either produce more off existing farmland or cut down more forest. People need to think that through.” As for the cows, research has shown they prefer a temperature between -5°C to 15°C, and contrary to popular belief the heat is as likely to get to them than the cold. “They love the shed especially in hot weather.”

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Canterbury pig farmers proactive The New Zealand farming industry is facing a number of environmental issues and challenges. Our pig farmers are committed to ensuring New Zealand’s high environmental standards are maintained. They also have an extremely innovative approach in managing their farm environmental standards. Water quality is a major issue our Canterbury farmers are currently grappling with. If the manure and nutrient management from farms are not well managed, it can have severe implications on the water quality in the region. The New Zealand pork industry has committed significant time and resources to projects centred on nutrient management and environmental initiatives. This investment is reaping rewards in that pig farmers clearly understand the issues and are prepared to put in place systems to prevent any environmental damage from taking place. However, the industry is also facing economic

Approximately 60 per cent of the national pig herd of 31,500 sows reside in Canterbury, and of these around 60 per cent are bred outdoors. Once the piglets are weaned they are grown indoors in a variety of housing options. Housing pigs indoors allows manure and bedding to be collected and composted before being applied to pasture or sold commercially. The preparation of compost requires a resource consent from the regional council. It is applied to pasture in a controlled manner, which means nutrient loads are managed. For indoor farms where pigs are born and raised indoors, producers are required to have a resource consent to manage manure application to land. In some situations it is applied directly to land, other situations it is composted and some farmers use an anaerobic pond to generate methane. These examples demonstrate how innovative producers are.

Piglets in a warm, dry outdoor hut. PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

challenges and conversations with farmers indicate that compliance costs and future uncertainty are key issues in ensuring pig farming operations remain viable. The Proposed Canterbury Land and Water Regional

Plan presents challenges for the regional council, agricultural sectors and communities, and a balance must be struck that maintains or improves water quality while allowing for social and economic needs.

Outdoor pig farming is popular in Canterbury for a variety of reasons, including proximity to grain growing for feed and straw for bedding, a low rainfall climate and light, free-draining soil conditions.

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2 6 from P5 Outdoor bred pigs, where sows dung and urinate on the land requires innovation to control nutrient discharge, and so this is where the New Zealand pork industry is currently directing much of its environmental focus. In Canterbury, producers are involved with several projects to improve water quality and farming sustainability on these outdoor bred farms. NZPork is a partner in the Matrix of Good Management (MGM) project with Environment Canterbury, other primary sectors and CRIs which has led to the development of industry agreed good management practices – a suite of minimum standards to be met in order to continue to farm sustainably. He has invested with support from the Sustainable Farming Fund to incorporate pig farming into Overseer which will enable farmers to more accurately estimate the nutrient discharge from their farms. Farm environment plans are another tool being developed by

the industry to assist farmers in assessing their environmental risks and identifying actions to avoid them. Pig farmers are committed to working proactively with local and central government and their communities to ensure sustainable farming into the future. Patoa Farms Ltd, a large scale free-farmed pig breeding and finishing operation in North Canterbury, is an example of an environmentally innovative pig farming operation. Patoa was awarded the Lincoln University Foundation’s South Island Farmer of the Year competition for 2014 for their impressive growth, technical excellence, efficiency of production and strategic focus. They also took home the Farmlands Co-operative Prize for Resource Use Efficiency which recognises excellence in the efficient and effective utilisation of the farm’s natural resources and the physical resource inputs needed to generate a high level of production on a sustainable basis.

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Huntin’ and fishin’ in the good ol’ I was driving back from a trip to the upper Rangitata looking for salmon. We hadn’t found any, but it had been a great sunny afternoon in the solitude that you get when fishing up river. Just you and the sun and the rushing water. We were talking about hunting on the way back. “I am a bit disillusioned with deer stalking out the back here,” I said gesturing to the country behind us. “I don’t know what has happened. In 2008 there were stags everywhere.” And that had been right. Our first roar hunt had resulted in a 12 pointer shot within sight of the car. It wasn’t even 7.30am, and we had nearly missed him as we were standing at the top of the terrace admiring the moon setting over the divide. Then my rifle had jammed on the load, and the ‘clink’ when I unjammed the action had got the stag spooked. He’d stopped and stood there looking in our direction, alarmed, front-on and over 200 yards away across the tussock. I’d managed to get my rifle reloaded and looked at him

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through the misting scope. Things were not steady. I gave the shot to my buddy. A crack, and I saw the monarch flinch. He made a dash to the right. A second shot went over his shoulder into the bank behind him, but it wasn’t needed. The first had hit him chest-centre. He dropped and didn’t move again. Ecstasy. First stag. 12 pointer. Awesome shooting. After butchering him we carried the meat and head off the terrace, and down to the car. It was hard work, but who cared. We were on the way home, mission accomplished. One hunt, one stag. Unbelievable. A drink, and then we were driving, picking our way along the track through the gorse back to the road. continued over page

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First salmon for Richard Smedley 2012 – heaps of fish.

from P8 “Hey! What’s that?!” I jammed on the brakes. A dark shadow was moving through the bush ahead of us. “It’s a stag!” He appeared from the bush and crossed the track in front of the car. We jumped out and I tried to load my rifle, but he was gone, across the river bed and moving up the terrace on the other side. We stood and watched as he powered his way up and over the lip out of sight. We were laughing. Unbelievable. A second stag. We climbed back into the car and got on our way. What a first Canterbury stag hunt. Two weeks later I went out on my own to another piece of DOC land where I spooked a 10 pointer out of the tussock in some new country that I thought looked likely on the map. After a bit of cat and mouse, and a large amount of luck, I had my own 10-point head and a life-threatening stagger back to the car with a pack so full of meat that I couldn’t lift it on to my shoulders. For my second stag hunt in Mid Canterbury, that was remarkable. But what happened just



after I had shot him was ridiculous. The stag had fallen in a heap of dust as he ran rightto-left up the hill in front of me. One shot. Something like magic in its own right. But I’d heard about stags being hit and going down, and then jumping up again and running off. Reloaded, I trained my sights on where he had fallen. But he didn’t move. Still I waited, and then I heard something that didn’t make sense. Galloping hooves. Running, like the sound the stag had made as he’d run up the hill in front of me. I couldn’t understand it. It didn’t make sense. But then the mystery was solved. Two more stags materialised running up the hill, the same way as the first. In my excitement I had a crack at the front one, but was wild in my shooting and I was embarrassed I had been greedy. I let them go after that, and they kept on running up the hill and were gone. Three stags. What the hell was going on? “Five stags in two trips. Now it seems like there are no animals any more. We go out, but we get nothing.” “Don’t worry,” my

salmon fishing friend said as we headed back from the Rangitata. “It’s about the time. You do something new, and you give it a nudge, and it’s awesome. And then you move on to something else.” I dropped my friend at his car below Peel Forest and thought about what he had said as I drove back to Ashburton on my own. He was right. It was about the time. The good old days weren’t good because they were better. They were good because you were doing something new, in a new place, with new people, and experiencing something you’d never experienced before. The quarry you were stalking was experience, and the new experiences were everywhere. In the good old days, the territory was fertile for new experiences. And those new experiences become trophies on the wall. Great majestic memories that will be with you forever. But over time the land you have picked through becomes empty. Time to move on to new land. And there is always new land and good old days waiting to happen.


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Great season for velvet producers Deer farmers have now enjoyed a six-year run of firming prices for velvet antler, making velvet production one of the most profitable livestock farming ventures. Deer Industry New Zealand says the 2014/15 season started with a bang, with strong demand from Korean buyers. Then as the styles preferred by Mainland China came on stream, Chinese buyers became dominant. Some exporters reported that prices before Christmas were up 25 per cent on the previous season, bringing the all-grades average to around $125 a kilo, with further increases since then. New Zealand chief executive Dan Coup says that once the strength of demand became apparent, exporters did an excellent job of maximising returns to farmers. But he cautions farmers against banking on similar increases in prices next season. “Of course, prices could continue to increase. But because a good chunk of New

Zealand velvet is still sold in the commodity market, with competing demand from Korea and China, as well as different segments within those markets, it is extremely difficult for New Zealand or exporters to make predictions,” he said. “The reality of commodity

markets is that they are volatile and unpredictable. We know that increased demand from healthy food companies has reduced our reliance on the commodity market, but I’d still advise velvet farmers doing their budgets for next season to be conservative.” Mr Coup said there are very





good reasons for New Zealand velvet to be in the top price bracket globally. The major buyers now recognise that New Zealand has the best product, the best biosecurity and the best quality assurance. “But all markets have their limits. Feedback from the market tells us that as

prices increase, there can be substitution of New Zealand velvet. In oriental medicines and health tonics, the proportion of velvet can be reduced in favour of other medicinal ingredients. “In an ideal world, prices will remain stable at levels farmers have enjoyed during the last few seasons. New Zealand and exporters are having growing success marketing New Zealand velvet to Korean consumer food companies producing branded remedies and tonics for the mass market. “These businesses recognise the attributes of our product and now account for around 20 per cent of production. And like all food manufacturers they look for stability in the prices of ingredients.” He says the sustained profitability of velvet production is a big confidence boost for deer farmers, and has offset some of the disappointment around venison prices and drought. “The velvet industry is feeling confident and we believe it has a bright future.”










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2 12


Grease, with a modern twist Variety Theatre of Ashburton’s latest production Grease puts a modern twist on the original version. But it still promises to be a toe tapping experience for the audience with all the musical’s popular songs, and more, included. It runs at the Ashburton Event Centre from May 15 to 23. Director Alice Sollis has teamed up again with musical director Jo Castelow. The pair have worked together in many different productions over the years, including Mid Canterbury Summer Singing School. In Grease, they are joined by choreographer Julia Bell. The 34-strong cast – 17 lead parts - have met three times a week since February in their buildup to opening night. They include mostly seasoned performers from Mid Canterbury but there are some from just outside the district. The cast includes Nikita Hyde (Sandy), Luke Glendining (Danny), Greta Casey-Solly (Rizzo), Matt Williams (Kenicke) and Michaela George (Frenchy),

Luke Glendining (Danny) and Nikita Hyde (Sandy)

T-Birds Chris Woods (Doody), Awa Timothy (Roger) and Luke Cossey (Sonny) and Pink Ladies Amanda Fleming (Marty) and Gabrielle Stringer (Jan). Tinwald School principal Peter Livingstone plays celebrity television dance judge Vince Fontaine. Grease is a classic love

story of boy meets girl but with all the drama, and comedy, of senior high school students finding a place in their world. It is set in Rydell High School, a 1950s era high school with greasers and jocks maintaining their cool as they vie for social supremacy - and the girls. The production offers the

audience everything they expect from the popular show but with a modern twist. The favourite songs such as Summer Loving, You’re the One that I Want, Hopelessly Devoted and Greased Lightning are still there to get the audience’s feet tapping but Jo says the new version is better, has more harmony and more happening. There are also more group numbers. “People want to come along and know they will hear the great songs they know,” Alice says. And they will: however there will be a few additional songs not in the popular movie version featuring John Travolta and Olivia NewtonJohn. Early rehearsals saw cast members focus on learning lines, before adding songs and now dance to their performances. “The cast is working really hard…everything is on track,” Alice says. The modernised show also features an eight-pieced-band, and high powered dance from a “high calibre, really

energetic cast”. “We have got a cast of really great singers,” Jo says. Although the show is different to the original, it still has the best parts with a modern edge. “I think the audience will really enjoy it. There’s something for everyone,” Jo says. The cast have been absorbing their lines and routines, their choreography, and singing in four-part harmony all the while keeping the persona of their 1950s character, which they have been doing with “great aplomb”, Alice says. There are more than 20 crew involved in various aspects behind the scenes. Grease will be performed at the Event Centre from May 15 to 23. It starts at 7.30pm on show nights, with a matinee performance on May 17 at 2.30pm. Tickets are on sale now from the Event Centre or via TicketDirect. Advertising feature


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2 14


2015 declared the Year of the So The United Nations have declared that 2015 is the Year of the Soils. Healthy soils are the foundation for food, fuel, fibre and even medicine, and are essential for healthy plants and landscapes. Soils are also essential to our ecosystems, playing a key role in the carbon cycle, storing and filtering water, and improving resilience to floods and droughts. Soil is the largest pool of organic carbon, which is essential for mitigating and adapting to climate change. In an era of water scarcity, soils are fundamental for its appropriate storage and distribution. A healthy life is not possible without healthy soils. At least a quarter of the world’s biodiversity lives underground, where, for example, the earthworm is a giant alongside tiny organisms such as bacteria and fungi. Such organisms, including plant roots, act as the primary agents driving nutrient cycling and help plants by improving nutrient intake, in

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turn supporting above-ground biodiversity as well. Better management of micro-organisms can assure that those usually unnoticed organisms boost soil’s ability to absorb carbon and mitigate desertification, so that even more carbon can be sequestered – helping offset agriculture’s own emissions of greenhouse gases.

Why apply compost? Using quality compost improves soil structure, fertility and general soil health. Healthy soil is essential for healthy plants and landscapes! Compost can do a lot of the hard work for you by increasing the water-holding and nutrient capacity of soil,

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meaning that less water and fertiliser is required for ongoing maintenance. This can significantly reduce maintenance costs and makes compost a very cost effective option. As compost can improve soil structure, it can also be used to repair problem soils. Using quality compost on lighter soils will improve soil structure and the water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil. This means that plants have access to both water and nutrients for longer periods of time, ensuring better plant growth. Key benefits of compost:

■■ Increases soil organic matter ■■ Reduces nutrient flows into waterways, lakes and coastal waters ■■ Reduces the need for chemical fertilisers ■■ Reduces the need for irrigation ■■ Improved soil structure and fertility ■■ Improves drainage ■■ Improves yields and suppresses disease ■■ Restores and beautifies

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oils degraded landscapes. ■■ Compost gives crops a kickstart and boosts soil health

In most cropping systems, carbon is taken off the farm through grain harvesting, stubble fed to stock or cutting of hay. Soil quality and fertility reduces over time as carbon is being continually removed from the farm and not replaced. Applying compost replenishes the soil organic matter and helps to sustain soil quality and fertility and maximise production over time. Replenishing soils with compost not only adds valuable organic matter to your system but also adds to the stock of soil carbon. Organic matter contains organic carbon which plays a central and fundamental role in soil quality and fertility. The organic matter acts as the ‘glue’ to bind soil particles into aggregates thus improving soil structure, infiltration, air porosity, water and nutrient holding capacity.

Biological benefits of compost Adding compost to soil improves microbial diversity and activity by providing microbes with a food source: organic matter. As the organic matter decomposes over time it results in the development of more stable carbon compounds, made up primarily of humus. Humus enhances mineral breakdown and in turn nutrient availability. Highly mature and stable composts like the two-year compost brewed at the Ashburton Resource Recovery Park contain stable long-lasting forms of carbon called humates (or sometimes humic and fulvic acids). These are also recognised to be very important for soil health and fertility. Compost can help plants to fight off disease by boosting their immune system and providing more favourable conditions for plant health. Locally brewed quality-tested Masta-Gardener compost is available at the Ashburton

Resource Recovery Park. $3 per bag, $15 per scoop or ask about bulk prices. Phone 0800 627824.

Asphalt product

A new Melbourne-designed asphalt product made with used toner powder extracted from recycled toner cartridges is being used to surface roads in the city. Greater Dandenong residents and businesses have recycled almost 156,000 printer cartridges since the programme began in 2003. Printer cartridges that end up in landfill can take between 450 to 1000 years to break down. But the Toner Pave asphalt invention, created by Close the Loop and Downer EDI Limited, shreds recycled cartridges to separate raw materials for reuse. This technology preserves natural resources, things like bitumen that we don’t have to dig up because we’re using recycled product as well as reducing the carbon footprint. Recycle your used ink cartridges at home, at work or at schools. Drop them off in the sign-

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Human waste contains gold

Researchers have detected trace amounts of gold, silver and other precious metals in human waste from sewerage or bio-solids and are exploring how to make their extraction commercially feasible. Deploying an electron microscope, Dr Kathleen Smith and her team spent eight years unearthing minuscule metal particles in treated solid waste. The gold that was found was at the level of a minimal mineral deposit, meaning that a similar dispersion in rock would be profitable enough for traditional mining. Other metals recovered include silver and

platinum. Smith says metals are ubiquitous in our sewer drains, ranging from those in our personal grooming products to odour-neutralising nanoparticles sprayed on socks. These metals crop up in wastewater treatment plants, where they can be recovered through leaching. Research into collecting valuable metals that could be sold, including some of the more technologically important metals, such as vanadium and copper that are in cell phones, computers and alloys is continuing. Separate research has estimated that metals valued at $13 million could be recovered through the waste of a million Americans alone.

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2 16


Remove bolter plants before flowering

Left – Bolting fodderbeet can outcross with other beet crops, and become unwanted weeds. Right – A paddock full of healthy fodder beet.

significant pastoral base and use many crops in rotations, which do provide the opportunity to manage a weed beet burden, in subsequent seasons. However, it is better if the control occurs at the bolter stage. There is also the risk of cross pollination affecting specialist vegetable seed crops of beet and chard growing on the Canterbury Plains. Any outcrossing would ultimately lead to affected


Farmers need to change their summer management to keep fodder beet sustainable as an increasingly popular supplementary feed in New Zealand, the seed industry has warned. According to the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association, crops should always be checked for bolters and there are benefits to farmers rogueing bolters. “A single bolter can produce approximately 1500 wild seeds, which then drop to the soil and germinate in subsequent seasons as the soil is disturbed,” NZGSTA general manager Thomas Chin said. “These areas could potentially be thick with weed beet in future years, if not managed. “These are lessons learned in Europe many years ago. Farmers there reduced the potential to continue fodder or sugar beet production in paddocks they had previously used to grow the crop because of the seed burden created by bolters. “Fortunately, we have a


vegetable crops being rejected or downgraded for contamination, Mr Chin said. The level of bolters that occurs has been satisfactory, however, in areas where farmers have seed production neighbours, it is important that farmers are talking to each other about the location of crops for seed and forage production. Beets are wind pollinated and fodder beets can outcross with redbeets and swiss chards


up to 10km away. The mechanisms which are not yet fully understood by the scientific community and the presence of bolters are accepted as an inevitable part of growing beet crops. What is known is that the incidence can be accentuated by cold weather during early growth, or by stress factors such as poor fertility, drought, or herbicide stress during the growing season. One of the first things

growers can do is to make sure crops are not sown too early. In all beet crops, removal of bolting beet plants is an accepted practice farmers undertake as a normal part of the farming operation. This would need to be done before the plants flower. This should involve breaking the stem at ground and leave on crop canopy. If a crop has started to set seed, remove the bolter plants from the paddock.

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Drought shows how far we have come By Donna Field, chair of the Ashburton Zone Committee Canterbury Water Management Strategy

This summer has highlighted to me just how far we have come from the “water wars” of the late ‘90s. We are now working together more than we ever have as we have a common goal - to manage our precious water resources better. It has also highlighted to me just how innovative locals can be when given the chance. I would therefore like to acknowledge and highlight the work of some of the local heroes over what has been one of our drier summer periods. Firstly I’d like to highlight the work of Peter Etheridge, Lyndon Webb and the rest of the Greenstreet Irrigator group for convincing Environment Canterbury to allow a small amount of water to be taken from the Ashburton River purely to maintain environmental flows in Spring Creek. This was at a time when surrounding farmers were on 100 per cent restriction. The Taylors Drain water user group also worked together to share available water above the minimum flow to keep the drain from going dry for a longer period than would otherwise have been the case. Eiffelton Irrigation Scheme pumped groundwater into three drains in the lower Hinds to provide water for irrigators while at the same time maintaining aquatic ecosystems in an area where other drains were drying up completely. Mark Webb (Fish and Game), Ian Mackenzie and others who were out

rescuing fish – including the endangered Canterbury mudfish and eels – from drying drains and streams. I’d like to acknowledge the work of Ashburton District Council and Valetta Irrigation Company for their support of a managed aquifer recharge (MAR) trial in the Tinwald area. This project will involve the construction of a “leaky pond” on a site owned by the Ashburton District Council and available stock-water will be transported to the site using Valetta Irrigation Company’s infrastructure. The purpose of the trial will be to determine the effectiveness of a groundwater replenishment system to dilute the high nutrient levels in the water in the area to provide some recharge to a declining groundwater aquifer. Behind a number of these initiatives has been industry support. DairyNZ, Fonterra and IrrigationNZ are all working to help farmers adapt to new water quality and quantity limits. DairyNZ is working with dairy farmers in the Hinds catchment to ensure all have farm environment plans by the end of this year. Fonterra is working with farmers to ensure stock are excluded from streams. IrrigationNZ is encouraging farmers to adopt water efficient technology and practices. We still have a way to go to manage water resources to meet all needs from our water resources – including environmental needs. Not everyone will be happy with the changes being asked of them or the time it will take to see a noticeable improvement. However, taking all of that

Mark Webb and Hamish Stevens (Fish and Game) monitoring a drain recharged with water from the Eiffelton Irrigation Scheme.

into account, I feel we are turning a corner. We are no longer arguing about whether there is a problem or whether we need to do something, but instead local people are finding solutions and taking action. Ashburton district has long been a leader in agricultural innovation in New Zealand. It is now increasingly becoming a leader of farming within limits. I apologise to the many champions in the district I have missed. I would love to hear your stories. Advertising feature

Donna Field, Chair of the Ashburton Zone Committee, and Peter Lowe, local farmer and chair of the Hinds Drains Working Party which is working with the zone committee to develop recommendations on minimum flows and surface water allocation.

A reminder to landowners near rivers By Environment Canterbury

Landowners adjacent to rivers are being reminded that carrying out unauthorised works in riverbeds can result in convictions or costly fines. Landowners or land managers who are in doubt about consent requirements for riverbed works should contact Environment Canterbury before commencing any work to ensure that they are not contravening the law and exposing themselves to potential fines. Over recent years several landowners were prosecuted and found guilty of removing

and damaging flood protection vegetation in riverbeds. The removal or damage of flood protection vegetation and structures has the potential to adversely affect the flow and course of the river and to affect downstream neighbouring properties by exposing them to flood risk. Resource consents may be required for work within the river bed. We now have the flood protection and drainage bylaw that is separate to the Resource Management Act. The Bylaw applies to all rivers, drains and floodways where the Canterbury Regional Council has established rating

districts for drainage and flood control schemes and will provide for the integrity and effective operation of flood protection and flood control works owned or controlled by the regional council. These works include drains, floodways, flood protection vegetation, stopbanks and other structures that help protect people and property from the natural hazards of flooding and erosion, and the effects of poor drainage. To find out whether you need a consent and/or Bylaw Authority for riverbed activities phone Environment Canterbury on 0800 324 636. Advertising feature

Landowners need to check with Environment Canterbury before undertaking any works in river beds or margins to ensure they are not affecting flood protection and drainage systems such as this vegetation clearance on the Ashburton River.

2 18


Is it still a drought? Yes, it sure is

It’s a hard to write this morning. My mind is still reliving yesterday afternoon and evening, buzzing from the noise and occasion. The week has been full of memorable events that will be remembered. It is March 30 and I, along with a large number of Mid Cantabrians, will have awakened wondering what went wrong. We will look back on the period of time between 2.30 and 3.15 yesterday afternoon when our dreams were shattered. While we basked in the Melbourne sun, looked down on the MCG along with the other 93,130 odd other spectators, our top order batting was dismantled by the Aussie bowling attack. But we will look back and know “we were there” – one of those poignant moments in our lives. Yep it was the cricket World Cup final and there were plenty of Black Cap supporters there and given we mostly bought the tickets in the middle of 2014, our hopes had been fulfilled – New Zealand were in the final.

Tony Davoren


The drought was partially over, we progressed past the semi-final, but the drought has just half broken. Over the next few days AirNZ will fly us all back to Canterbury (and elsewhere in New Zealand) and we cricket tragics will have to wait another four years. The other poignant moment of last week was the South Island Field Days. Poignant not just because the SIFD took place, but because of the new “purpose-built” site. This was the first of many field days to be held at the SIFD-owned site at Kirwee. The Young Farmers (and some not so young) must be congratulated for the vision, site preparation and running of the field days.

Figure 1. Rainfall comparison between Winchmore and Christchurch Airport.

The transformation of the previously dryland farm with shelter-belts crisscrossing the site into irrigated demonstration plots, driveways,

laneways, parking areas, securely fenced exhibitor sites, water and electricity reticulation and so on was truly amazing.

Believe me, the site just three weeks before the field days opened was a maze of trenches, poles for power and lights, poly pipe for water, exhibitors

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Figure 2. Soil moisture deficit comparison between Winchmore and Christchurch Airport.

erecting sheds, digging holes, building irrigators and the like. What a credit to the organisation – they have built a site that will serve Canterbury

for many years to come. Many who attended the field days were struck by how dry the area – and what they observed on their drive to

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Kirwee – really was. Parts of Mid Canterbury have had rainfall over the past four to five weeks that has begun to green the dryland

areas and provide relief for irrigators. In Figure 1 the plot of Winchmore and Christchurch Airport rainfall illustrates how much more rainfall there has been in Mid Canterbury since about the beginning of February. The question is however, “Is it still a drought?” In my last article I used the common definition of drought as a point of discussion; ie “A period (long) of dry weather or abnormally low rainfall that is harmful to crops.” As Figure 2 shows, the soil moisture deficit (whether at Winchmore or Christchurch Airport) is very large – 109mm at Winchmore and 127mm at Christchurch Airport at the end of March. To replenish the soil profile and not just the top 20cm or so, is going to take significant rainfall – roughly a couple of months’ worth given average monthly rainfall is about 5060mm. That will take us well into May. I think the question “Is it still a drought?” is answered.

2 20


Time to think again on tenure rev Six years ago in this publication I lamented the insecurity and direction of progress in what has been loosely called “tenure review”. I expressed real concern of what I foresaw as the inability of the Department of Conservation to effectively manage huge tracts of land on what was always going to be a limited budget allocation. With budgets needed to meet public demand for health, justice, education, housing and infrastructure expectations and the Government not needing to totally rely on Green Party support, the Department of Conservation would always be the poor relation. My personal view is that the allocation is not far from correct – the problem being that the government of the day bit off more than it could chew, without giving enough thought to ongoing work on acquired Crown land. The birds are rapidly coming home to roost in respect of too much “retired” high country. In 2009 a gloating Helen

John Leadley


Clark claimed that tenure review was to ensure foreign ownership was kept at bay. Has this worked? Obviously not! If the Crown’s apparent insatiable appetite for high country land is simply to safeguard public access, this, like foreign land sales, could surely be accomplished by adequate legislation as in other countries. If the reason is to safeguard environmental values, who better to do it than those with the proven intergenerational attributes to safeguard the resource. Good landowners never mine the productive capacity of the soil. Quite the opposite. After all it is their heritage and livelihood. continued next page


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from P20 Over the last 12 months visits to local high country stations and travel through many back-country roads has only reinforced my predictions. Despite the well-meaning efforts of willing volunteers and DOC staff, the predicted invasion of wildling pines, gorse, broom and other species is visibly evident and rampant. Speaking recently with a knowledgeable third generation local farmer, he expressed his concern at the state of the interfacing deer fence on adjacent retired land to his freehold block. The clear bulldozed boundary established at settlement some years ago clearly evidences the situation. Land on the freehold side remains clear thanks to grazing deer and other stock and stock tracks. On the Crown side of the fence the bush line has encroached not only through the fence but hanging over the top, making fence security very vulnerable when the inevitable heavy snowfall occurs. Numerous approaches to DOC staff about the dangers

have met a brick wall of no cooperation and insufficient funds. Allied to the issue of lack of maintenance funds, the increasing intensification of agriculture to earn a satisfactory family income on remaining freehold land has highlighted issues of nutrient loading and inland stream water quality. Not a significant issue a generation ago. I believe the best course of action for the Department of Conservation, which is absolutely essential in protecting our indigenous fauna and flora, would be to concentrate on a somewhat smaller area of acquisition. Much better a smaller area adequately protected than a “scatter-gun” approach over huge tracts, constrained and poorly maintained by financial restraints. It’s obviously too late to back pedal on settled claims, but there’s still time for a rethink on areas under negotiation. Most high country farmers have proven to be very good custodians of marginal land with generations of practical experience. Yielding control to

educated theorists was always going to be risky. The Government’s initiative and commitment to establishing walking tracks and cycleways has progressed really well in recent years and is to be lauded. Across New Zealand locals and tourists now have access to many areas previously unavailable on a network of government-funded trails. These impressive trails would equal many I have seen overseas and have significantly enhanced our tourism potential. The added benefit of personal fitness has ongoing health rewards across a nation of plump people and is a real positive. These assets look great now as most are recently established. The real test of the Government initiative will be the financial commitment to ongoing maintenance. The track record in this area is not great. We do not want a repeat of the tenure review situation. Hindsight is a wonderful asset.


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2 22


Co-ops urged to ‘come clean’ Co-operative meat processors Alliance Group and Silver Fern Farms have been urged to be transparent with shareholders about their own estimations of gains to be made from merging, and to independently test MIEcommissioned numbers if necessary. MIE chairman John McCarthy says estimates from work commissioned by farmers, recently published in MIE’s Pathways to Longterm Sustainability report, suggest a valuable opportunity to be pursued by both co-op boards on behalf of their shareholders. “If the co-ops aren’t willing to accept these numbers, we suggest they at least share with farmers any work or analysis they have done in this area,” he said. Mr McCarthy said that the numbers in the report weren’t MIE’s opinion but were the result of rigorous independent analysis. “If the co-ops believe there is no value to be captured here for shareholders, they need to explain why and on what

John McCarthy

basis they’ve reached this conclusion,” he said. “Shareholders in the co-ops can rightly assume there is a very significant value gain to be made on their behalf by their boards engaging. Surely $80-100 million per annum has to be viewed as commercial in anyone’s language. The caveat that any solution must be commercial must surely be crystal clear

to anyone by now,” Mr McCarthy said. He said that Silver Fern Farms had indicated the numbers in the MIE report were consistent with work the co-op had done. “Alliance, on the other hand, says they have different numbers, but won’t say what they are?” said Mr McCarthy. “It’s time to come clean with farmers and get everything

on the table so our boards can start engaging in a meaningful way.” There was mounting concern among farmers over the as-yet-undisclosed intentions of the Silver Fern Farms capital raising exercise, which appeared, at this point, to be only targeted at interests off-shore, he said. The status quo was costing farmers big time, and farmers were becoming impatient that their so-called industry leaders were not pursuing cost savings and consolidation benefits with more vigour. He said that MIE was heartened by the response to the analysis it commissioned using farmer funds via the Beef+Lamb levy. “It’s extended understanding among farmers, which is our key goal. I have to say that I have received some very strongly expressed feedback about lack of action by our leaders,” he said. “We don’t intend to stop, but in the end it is the commercial players who need to step up. We can ensure farmers know what’s going on and have the

information they need to exert pressure to shape the industry they want.” Mr McCarthy said he was confident that the Government would help facilitate reform when it was timely that they became involved. “Private companies, as Sir Graeme Harrison has so eloquently pointed out, have no incentive to enhance farmer balance sheets to the detriment of their own. Only through the co-ops can we effect the changes required. “This is major issue for New Zealand and I think the report has helped raise awareness even among our urban media, many of whom had no idea the sheep and beef sector is in crisis,” Mr McCarthy said. “Our second-biggest export industry is at a crossroads. The need for a balanced and profitable sheep sector is clearly illustrated by the downturn in dairy fortunes. “Whether we capture export value for our economy and for our farmers, or whether this value in the red meat sector goes offshore, is a major fork in the road.”


Mineral deficiencies in sheep and cattle Late summer has proven to be a tough time for livestock in the Canterbury region in areas where irrigation has been restricted or shut off. The challenge for sheep farmers is to get ewes up to weight, and have them in the best condition for a successful mating season. It’s a time of year when stress on sheep from tough feed conditions can compromise good scanning rates, and pre-mating preparation can help lift the odds for a good tupping period. Part of that preparation comes in the use of mineral supplements to boost vitamin and iodine deficiencies, and part of the solution lies with Vet LSD. Vet Peter Anderson of The Vet Centre Marlborough has years of experience in dealing with mineral deficiencies in sheep and cattle, particularly around problems with vitamin and iodine deficiencies. So much so he developed Vet LSD over 20 years ago to assist clients having repeated problems with such

Well known Marlborough vet Peter Anderson, creator of Vet LSD.

deficiencies. “The outcomes for poor iodine levels are at worst poor fertility and lamb survival rates, or at best impaired lamb

growth rates, and both will suck profit out of the new farming year quickly,” says Peter. Supplementary feeding of

ewes on crops makes good sense for lifting dry-matter intake over winter. However he also cautions lambs born to ewes on

brassica crops run the risk of iodine deficiency, due to the presence of goitrogens that increase the need for iodine. “Even lambs off ewes fed high quality pasture can suffer from both iodine and vitamin E deficiency.” Farmer experience has proven using Vet LSD can boost lamb survivability through lifting not only iodine levels, but also boosting vitamins A, D, and E. These valuable “anti-stress” vitamins protect ewes in the lead-up to the most stressful period of the year. Reductions of up to 8 per cent in lamb losses between scanning and tailing have been reported by farmers using this treatment. “Ewes remain healthier through pregnancy, lamb survivability and health also improves and ultimately farm profits are boosted through lower losses and heavier weights,” says Peter. For more information visit: Advertising feature

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Across NZ farm prices remain steady We have found over the past three months that although overall the volume of rural sales is down slightly, good properties are still attracting strong enquiry. Data released in March by the Real Estate Institute of NZ (REINZ) showed there were 70 fewer farm sales (down 13.1 per cent) for the three months ended February 2015, than for the three months ended February 2014. Overall, there were 464 farm sales in the three months to the end of February 2015, compared to 455 farm sales for the three months ended January 2015 (up 2.0 per cent) and 534 farm sales for the three months to the end of February 2014. In total 1809 farms were sold in the year to February 2015, 1.0 per cent fewer than were sold in the year to February 2014. Across all farm types the median price per hectare for farms sold in the three months to February 2015 was $28,009 compared to $22,644 recorded for three months ended February 2014 (up 23.7 per cent). The median

Hamish McLeod

sale price per hectare for finishing farms was $22,186 (63 properties), compared to $23,506 for the three months ended January 2015 (60 properties), and $20,720 (117 properties) for the three months ended February 2014. The median finishing farm size for the three months ended February 2015 was 57 hectares.


price per hectare rose less than 1 per cent compared to January. The REINZ market report highlighted this market trend and how it affected the following farm types:  

Dairy farms

For the three months ended February 2015 the median sales price per hectare for dairy farms was $45,105 (97 properties), compared to $40,742 for the three months ended January 2015 (101 properties), and $34,499 (123 properties) for the three months ended February 2014. The median dairy farm size for the three months ended February 2015 was 114 hectares.

Grazing farms

Included in sales for the month of February were 33 dairy farms at a median sale value of $51,418 per hectare. The median farm size was 100 hectares with a range of 29 hectares in Taranaki to 531 hectares in Canterbury. The median production per hectare across all dairy farms sold in February 2015 was 1010kgs of milk solids. The REINZ dairy farm price index rose by 4.5 per cent in the three months to

February compared to the three months to January, from 1971.0 to 2060.2. Compared to February 2014, the REINZ Dairy Farm Price Index rose by 15.1 per cent. The REINZ Dairy Farm Price Index adjusts for differences in farm size and location compared to the median price per hectare, which does not adjust for these factors.

Finishing farms

For the three months ended February 2015 the median

For the three months ended February 2015 the median sales price per hectare for grazing farms was $16,161 (203 properties) compared to $15,640 for the three months ended January 2015 (201 properties), and $14,444 (213 properties) for the three months ended February 2014. The median grazing farm size for the three months ended February 2015 was 69 hectares. Overall there appears to be a hint of optimism in the market and, as always, it’s very important to make sure you get sound professional advice if you are looking to buy or sell rural property.


Hard workers need care for joint pain Stiff, painful joints are holding many working dogs back from reaching their full potential, and making life miserable for them as well. Zoetis veterinary technical advisor, Dr Clive Bingham, has encountered dozens of working dogs suffering from prolonged pain and stiffness in their legs and backs, and he believes the problem is more widespread than farmers often appreciate. The good news is there is now a new anti-inflammatory drug, Trocoxil® Chewable Tablets that may benefit these working dogs. “The problems we see in working dogs can be caused by injury or genetics, but working conditions can also play a part in why a dog is suffering from joint pain,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of dog breeding is based upon bloodline trial performance rather than the dog’s physical condition and this can result in issues surfacing during their working life.” Conditions like hip dysplasia are recognised more frequently as a result of breeding

Dr Clive Bingham, Zoetis technical advisor and veterinarian. PHOTO SUPPLIED 

combinations that accentuate the genetic condition. The stifle, or knee joint, in working dogs is a common site of injury. Injury often results from dogs getting their legs caught in fences and damaging the internal ligaments, ultimately leading to osteoarthritis of the knee joint. “I have always advised anyone looking to buy an older working dog to check their knees, and if one is thicker

than the other, that is a good indication of knee damage.” These initial leg injuries can have an indirect impact on other joints and limbs over time. Continuing to work with unaddressed joint pain will result in dogs favouring other limbs, which in turn causes problems from an increased workload on those joints. Over time the muscles of affected limbs can atrophy or weaken, compounding the

problem as more pressure is exerted on the joint surfaces. Back injuries, caused by jumping up and down off quad bikes and utes, can also manifest later in life as arthritis. Once this disease process has started, it is irreversible. The sooner you address the pain and inflammation, the better chance you have of slowing down any future deterioration. Like any valuable asset, maintaining your working dogs in premium condition will pay dividends in the future. A Massey University study of disease and injury in working dogs across 44 farms in the Lower North Island found 17 per cent suffered joint and leg issues including stiffness and arthritis. In semiretired dogs the problems with joints soared to 25 per cent. A common means of dealing with canine joint pain has been to use short-acting antiinflammatory treatments, but often that results in “peaks and troughs” in the level of pain relief. Dr Bingham welcomed the arrival of the new pain relief product.

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“One of the benefits of providing a constant long term treatment for pain and inflammation is the muscles of the affected limb continue to be used, so they don’t waste away, but remain strong and continue to support the joint.” Prevention is always better than cure and Dr Bingham urges farmers to treat their dogs like high performance athletes, paying attention to housing, diet and travel to the “job”. Dr Bingham’s tips to reduce joint injury in working dogs:

■■ Drive, don’t run to the job, reducing energy expended and joint use. ■■ Avoid jumping up and down on to utes and quads, reducing potential for back and leg injuries. ■■ Remove obstructions like steel bars on quad bike decks. ■■ Keep out of trouble: Avoid working in yards or close confines where dogs can be knocked around by stock. ■■ Keep kennels dry and warm to help reduce stiffness and pain in joints. ■■ Consult your veterinarian for early diagnosis of and treatment when lameness occurs

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2 26

How much is too much and when It’s been a big month! Number one daughter gave birth, number two daughter was home from London for the occasion and number three daughter put her nursing training into practice with baby Mabel’s early and swift delivery. It’s amazing how quickly a baby finds its place in a family – in three short weeks it’s hard to imagine life without her. On the home front, the last of the monarchs hatched – a moment of magic for my twoyear-old grandson Arlo, and my chilli plants have delivered an exceptional crop of fruit – enough to last me through until next year. On a darker note, that dreadful question of how much is too much to spend on veterinary care surfaced when our much-loved cat succumbed to an undisclosed illness. Betty is technically daughter number three’s pet, temporarily adopted by daughter number two before being dropped back on my doorstep when the big, wide world called. She is a very feisty tabby, prone to scratch and bite when

Michelle Nelson


the mood takes her – with this in mind you might be asking why we were having the debate about money in the first place, but it’s precisely because of her personality. When Betty deems us worthy of her affection, it’s a special moment – it can brighten a dull day! No-one was overly concerned when Betty barfed on a Thursday evening, but when she could still be heard gagging under the house the following morning, we started to worry. Daughter number two and I loaded her into the car and took her to the vet. There she was prescribed the equivalent of Gaviscon (antacid). We paid the bill ($76) and we took her home. The next day we were back at

the vet. Betty was worse, a lot worse. Nobody seemed to have a clue what was going on, but the cat was dehydrated and too depressed to even raise a decent hiss let alone a claw. Of course by now it was

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Saturday, and the only option was to put in a drip line and take blood and urine samples. Problem was the lab wouldn’t be open until Monday. By this point the current bill was sitting around the $600 mark – but what choice was

there until I knew what we were dealing with? Betty’s condition didn’t improve markedly and she was sent to the after-hours clinic until Monday morning, adding to the bill. I visited her on Monday

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morning. She was none too pleased to see me, but still not strong enough to take a swipe at me either. The blood tests didn’t turn up anything noteworthy, so later in the day I made the decision to take her home and

hope for the best. Thankfully, after a night sulking in the cattery, with a smorgasbord of food options to tempt her palate, Betty’s health began to turn the corner.


Above – Betty in better health. Right – Chillis galore.

continued over page



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Arlo meets a newly-hatched monarch butterfly. PHOTO MICHELLE NELSON

from P27 She has now fully recuperated and is back to calling the shots – while I’m still reeling about the cost of her mystery illness – well in excess of $1000! I’m not complaining – the vets and nurses at the clinic were great. They kept me informed throughout the process and provided exemplary care. But keeping pets can be an expensive hobby, and that fact has been well and truly rammed home. I was discussing the cost of vet care with a friend recently – she faced coughing up a similar amount for her dog’s surgery. At the time I recall asking whether she really had a choice – like me, she couldn’t face telling her kids she had opted for the green dream instead of expensive treatment. The thing is I grew up on a farm, where death was a part of life. Pet lambs died, old horses were dog tuckered – and a sick cat or badly injured dog would have been quickly dispatched with the .22 rifle. My kids didn’t and neither did my friends – they are the entirely sentimental product of urban living in the 21st century – where pets have taken on a new status and it’s too late to turn back the clock!

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Tussocks are very efficient users of Tussocks are one of the great unsung heroes of our world. Many of the catchments of the rivers of the eastern South Island are in tussock country, including the big rivers of our district, the Ashburton, Rakaia and Rangitata, and smaller rivers, for example the Stour, Potts, Cameron, and Orari, also drain tussock catchments. We are increasingly conscious of the value of water and the dangers of sedimentation and nutrient load in our lakes and rivers. What do tussocks have to do with irrigation? Quite a lot, it seems. Tussocks are very efficient with water. Water yield from land that is tussock-covered is about 80 per cent of rainfall, which is very high compared to bare soil, pasture or pine forest. This is because tussocks are very efficient users of water (not needing much to survive and grow), they lose very little water through evaporation or transpiration and can “collect” water from fog or mist. The water vapour in the fog condenses on their long strappy leaves and runs down to the ground at the base of the plant,

Mary Ralston


adding to soil moisture. The foliage of pine trees on the other hand intercepts the precipitation and the moisture simply evaporates from their needles. Most of what does get to the ground is used by the tree – we can probably all visualise how dry it is under a pine tree. The conversion of tussock grasslands to pasture is likely to result in 30 to 50 per cent reduction in water yield of the catchment. The continued development of high country tussock grasslands to improved pasture will have resulted in a loss of water to our rivers, at the same time as there is increasing demand for water from those rivers for irrigation. continued next page

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water from P30 Conversion of tussock grassland to pine forest may result in a 25 to 30 per cent reduction in water yield. This should be a consideration for land managers grappling with the issue of wilding pine trees: without those pine trees we will have more water in our rivers. Our native tussocks belong to three groups. The genus Chionochloa includes the tall tussocks, some over a metre high, which are found in wetlands (the red tussock) and at higher altitudes and colder sites. Short tussocks include hard tussock (Festuca novaezelandiae) which grows on the lower hillsides and plains and places where tall tussocks have died out, and silver tussock (Poa cita) which is found on moister areas and slopes with higher fertility. The canopy underneath the tussocks gives significant shade

to the ground underneath, which allows other grasses, sedges and herbs to grow in a moist microclimate. The tall tussocks that form wetlands, as well as providing good water yield to downstream rivers, act like sponges: letting out water slowly, recharging aquifers, soaking up nutrient run-off and providing habitat for wildlife. Tussocks grow slowly and live a long time, a bit like many of our native birds! There may be hundreds of stems in a mature snow tussock, each one taking up to 15 years to mature. They are a valuable part of our natural world and their contribution to our water resources should be taken into consideration in discussions of changing land use. We are lucky to have many areas of tussock under conservation management, including the local Hakatere Conservation Area.

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Farm worker justifiably dismissed An employer was found by the Employment Relations Authority to have justifiably dismissed a farm worker. Arthur Butlin, who ran a farm near Te Puke in partnership with his mother Jenny Butlin, dismissed Donald Dunsmuir on April 17, 2013. Mr Dunsmuir had worked on the farm from late November 2011. His primary duties involved daily milking of the farm’s dairy herd. In April, 2013, Mr Butlin gave Mr Dunsmuir a letter setting out five allegations of inadequate work or unsatisfactory conduct. The letter said they would be treated as serious misconduct if substantiated. Following a disciplinary meeting Mr Dunsmuir was dismissed for serious misconduct. The reasons given for his dismissal were: ■■ He let penicillin contaminate the milk vat while working on March 13, causing the

personal grievance, he said his dismissal was unjustified because:

Christine Summerville

■■ ■■

■■ ■■


partnership to lose the value of two days’ production; He failed to pay the power bill for his farm house; He failed to comply with direct instructions not to let anyone under the age of 16 ride on the farm’s 500cc quad bike; He burned rubbish at the house during a local fire ban; While Mr Butlin was away on holiday, Mr Dunsmuir failed to check that stock being grazed at an off-farm paddock had adequate water (which had resulted in some of the animals getting stuck in a creek when seeking water).

Mr Dunsmuir raised a

■■ He had not breached the fire ban; ■■ He had not let his 14-year-old son use the quad bike after being told he was not to do so; ■■ He was not responsible for the stock grazed off the property; ■■ The dispute about the power bill was not a matter amounting to serious misconduct; ■■ The contamination of the milk was not serious misconduct.

The Butlins said the allegations about Mr Dunsmuir’s work, taken individually and collectively, amounted to serious misconduct. They had followed correct process in terminating his employment. The authority found the allegations about Mr Dunsmuir’s work were fully

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and fairly investigated. Mr Butlin was found to be justified in concluding the five instances identified were serious misconduct. Based on his conclusion about serious misconduct, the decision to dismiss was justified. This case highlights the importance of following a fair process. Be certain your employment agreements and company policies cover how you will deal with situations such as serious misconduct and then be sure to follow these processes should the situation arise. Failure to do this will almost always inevitably result in an unjustified dismissal judgement and an award for lost wages and compensation. Chapman Employment Relations provides employment law and HR advice exclusively to employers.

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Restorative justice benefits trust The Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust is to be paid $80,000 by Interflow (NZ) Limited as the result of a district court sentencing decision involving a restorative justice process – an outcome that Environment Canterbury director of resource management Kim Drummond says is a significant gain for restorative justice. In her sentencing notes, Judge J. E. Borthwick said Interflow had shown remorse firstly in pleading guilty and in requesting and participating in a Restorative Justice Conference. At the Conference, Interflow offered to pay $80,000 to the trust to enhance and restore the stream. The restoration work will follow a habitat restoration plan recommended by an ecologist. The $80,000 will be used to provide a spawning habit for whitebait/inanga and better cover for fish in the Walnut Stream and two branches of the Grehan Stream. “Importantly, the restoration of the stream is not the

The culverts over Walnut Stream in Akaroa township.  PHOTO SUPPLIED

remediation of the harm done, rather it is for the betterment and improvement of the instream habitat that has become degraded following European settlement at Akaroa,” Judge Borthwick said. “The defendant (Interflow) has undertaken significant work in preparing a habitat restoration management plan,” she said, adding that the trust had undertaken to administer the donation in accordance with the management plan.

“I am satisfied that the outcomes of the restorative justice conference are likely to occur,” she said. “On that basis I convict and otherwise discharge the defendant.” Mr Drummond said that the judge’s decision was significant. “The positive outcome of the restorative justice process can be attributed to the positive attitude that Interflow took, once they had realised they had made a mistake,

and the company is to be commended,” he said. “Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust should be congratulated for stepping up and agreeing to oversee this work. We now have a highly engaged community and the chance to offset the damage done through long-term ecological improvements.”

Summary of case:

Interflow (NZ) Limited was convicted and discharged of

discharging chemical-laden water into Walnut Stream, underneath Rue Noyer, Akaroa. After carrying out repair work on the culvert, grout had escaped into the stream and water was allowed to flow over a still-wet coating of waterproof paint, contaminating the stream and killing 142 fish directly downstream (mostly eels, bullies and inanga/whitebait). The remaining live fish were observed to be in a distressed state. Additionally, algal and invertebrate food communities were smothered. The stream is valued by local families who feed and pet the eels. The stream is also valued by Onuku Rununga who, at the restorative justice conference, expressed their sadness at the harm done and the impact on the mauri and the people of the land. Interflow subsequently met with members of the rununga and apologised for the discharge. The judge’s sentencing notes said there had been no long-term effect on water quality.

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Farming Farming


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A speakers line-up of the who’s-who in the primary sector is making this month’s The Future of Heartland Forum near Cheviot in North Canterbury a must-attend event. A farmer discussion in Cheviot late last year about the spread of Chilean needlegrass has since grown into staging a premier forum on the future of the agriculture industries in New Zealand. The Future of Heartland will be held on the Te Mania Angus Stud on Conway Flat on April 17. Other than government speakers, the line-up includes Environment Canterbury’s Dame Margaret Bazley, Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley, Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend, award-winning farmers Craige and Roz Mackenzie and Sam and Mark Zino, New Zealand Biological Farmers’ Association’s Nicole Masters and Federated Farmers national president Dr William Rolleston. Organiser Charles Wiffen says he expects up to 500 attendees, with some coming from well beyond the region. “It’s just grown like Topsy. We were having a meeting of the Cheviot needlegrass liaison committee and we thought it was a good idea to invite Nathan Guy down to show him how

serious a weed needlegrass is,” Mr Wiffen said. “That idea kept on going to expand the discussion into a full-scale forum.  Now we have set up probably the biggest agriculture event of this sort in the South Island for this year.” Mr Wiffen said the one aim of the forum is to attract participants from outside the farming sector. “We want town people along so we can explain to them that a profitable agriculture business is increasingly in their interests as well,” he says. “Not only that, but we want to demonstrate that the farming community are responsible stewards of the land with enduring sustainability absolutely a core belief.” Federated Farmers North Canterbury provincial president Lynda Murchison said it’s a big time for events in the province. “We’ve just had the South Island Field Days at Kirwee. And now there’s the Heartland Forum. There’s something for everyone and some great opportunities to get off-farm and shift focus for a day.” The venue for the Forum is Te Mania Angus Stud Selling Ring, Conway Flat, North Canterbury, 10.30am, April 17. Registration enquiries to: travel@ or phone 0800 Farming.

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First woman at helm of Canty A&P

Canterbury A&P Association’s new president Nicky PHOTO SUPPLIED Hutchinson.

Nicky Hutchinson has been named as the first woman president in the 153-year history of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association. The retired Banks Peninsula sheep and beef farmer was confirmed as the president for this year’s show, at the annual general meeting. She replaces outgoing president Richard Parkes. “It’s an honour to be president and to be adding another rung to the ladder of this historic show as the first woman president of the association,” Mrs Hutchinson said. “I feel very humbled to have my name listed alongside the great names of previous men who had a vision for the show so many years ago and the more recent presidents that have helped the show become such a success.” Mrs Hutchinson’s involvement with the show began in the early 1960s when she first competed in the equestrian section. Making the journey from Rakaia Gorge’s Double Hill Station

to Chirstchurch wasn’t an easy one but it was one that paid off over the years. She won many awards through the 1960s and 1970s, including the prestigious Bethell Challenge Salver, New Zealand Hack of the Year and Lady’s Hack of the Year Championship. As well as competing, Mrs Hutchinson has invested a lot of time volunteering for the association in many different roles including judge, steward, horse committee chairperson, general committee member and as the first woman ringmaster. She is also involved with the Royal Agricultural Society as the national judges convener and the Little River A&P Show as a past president. Mrs Hutchinson’s tenure as president follows in the footsteps of her uncle Jimmy Ensor who was president in 1973 and it’s those sorts of family connections that she cherishes. “The Canterbury A&P Show operates like a very large family and it’s wonderful to see the number of younger family members and their

friends who are also becoming involved in the association along with their parents.” Mrs Hutchinson agreed that young people are the future of the A&P show and stressed the importance of encouraging and supporting their participation. She said that showing and volunteering presents many career and personal development opportunities for youth. Mrs Hutchinson has a clear vision for the future of the show. “I hope that the show continues to be a spectacular event for rural and urban people alike and that we can encourage more overseas visitors to attend. “I also look forward to the Canterbury A&P Show one day becoming a royal show again – it’s very important that everyone has the opportunity to attend and compete at a royal show.” Also announced at the recent annual meeting were Warrick James (Coalgate) as senior vice-president and Peter Gilbert (Ashburton) as junior vice-president.

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Overseer changes and improveme For several years now, IrrigationNZ has advocated for changes to the way OVERSEER Nutrient Budgets (Overseer) records irrigation inputs. Finally with the launch of Overseer 6.2 later this month, some of our concerns are being addressed. Overseer 6.2 features a much more comprehensive irrigation module which includes the ability to model a diverse range of irrigation systems. For the first time, leaching gains that can be made through changing irrigation practice to achieve more efficient and targeted application, can be reflected. This will significantly improve Overseer’s ability to calculate overall N-loss for irrigated properties, a well over due step. So what do irrigating farmers and growers need to know?

Planning ahead is vital as the new Overseer version may take some time to absorb. Have a look at your data inputs and familiarise yourself with what is coming. One of the really valuable things about Overseer 6.2 is that it includes backwards compatibility. This means older files can still be read but they will need to be updated to better reflect your current and previous management practices. Overseer 6.2 isn’t available yet, but when it’s released later this month full technical notes will be provided. This should make it easier to update files to fit your specific irrigation system. But be warned. IrrigationNZ is expecting a spike in Nitrate loss results as we move to realistic modelling. continued next page

Right – IrrigationNZ hosted hands-on workshops used this pivot at the recent South Island Field Days. More training opportunities are on offer next month in Lincoln and Hurunui. PHOTO SUPPLIED

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from P36 With more specific, accurate information being inputted, some irrigators will see increased N-loss estimates for their properties which may cause alarm. But don’t panic. IrrigationNZ, in partnership with Overseer’s owners, has been working closely with the regional councils to ensure this doesn’t create an issue for compliance. The big picture is that realistic modelling is important. Irrigators, over time, will benefit from having more accurate Overseer assessments so they can be rewarded for investing in performance improvements and to truly reflect how we operate today. Overseer will provide more information on their website from mid-April, but in the meantime you also have the opportunity to attend the Overseer workshop roadshow. Canterbury dates include April 2, Lincoln; April 10, Timaru and April 13, Dunedin. Venue and time information can be found on their website Some further dates to put in

your calendar: The new Irrigation Fundamentals three-day course will be rolled out May 19-21 at Lincoln. Targeting new entrants and frontline staff or organisations that provide services to irrigators, this course is of value for anyone wanting an overview of irrigation systems and management – from source to paddock. Including practical work out on the farm, as well as classroom contact, strong interest is expected from farm advisors, financial companies, regulatory authorities and irrigation service companies. Finally if you’re planning to upgrade or install a new irrigation system, you may want to check out the oneday Irrigation Development workshop in Hurunui on May 5. This day covers all the essentials for farmers investing in new irrigation infrastructure or modernising an existing irrigation set-up. Full details of all these training opportunities can be found at

2 38


New rural show for 24/7 viewing Iconic rural broadcaster Rob Cope-Williams is joining forces with New Zealand’s leading producer of online video, Tandem Studios, to create a new farming show, On The Land. Rob is one of New Zealand’s longest-serving television hosts having presented Rob’s Country on CTV for more than 20 years. “Over the past few years farmers have told me they want 24/7 access to news and information,” Rob said. “How they want to view this is changing. “They want to be able to source content on their smart phones, computers or tablets when they have time, but still want to be able to sit down and enjoy a one-hour show.” On The Land will allow farmers to have 24/7 access to the show via its website, YouTube channel, Facebook page and podcasts. Produced in Christchurch, On The Land will also be seen by a national audience through FACE TV and Channel 83 on Sky TV every Sunday night at 8pm.

On The Land producer Dave Dunlay, host Rob Cope-Williams and account manager Jayne Munro. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Tandem Studios managing director, Dave Dunlay, said the show will have a great impact on the South Island’s rural community with local

content screening to a national television audience. “On The Land is our first programme made specifically for multiple platforms,

combining digital media with a national television audience,” Dave said. “We will be able to meet the needs of farmers by keeping

them up to date with quality video information at a time that is convenient for them. The advent of more digital platforms means now more than ever content is king,” Dave said. “As we are seeing with the arrival of Netflix, Lightbox and a myriad of other ondemand services, the channel is not important. Easy access to quality content is what matters.” A key feature of the On The Land will be the archiving of material, making it easy for farmers to focus on specific areas of interest. The content will be edited into small segments and will be easily searchable, with viewers able to share content via their own organisation’s website and social media channels. Dave said On The Land is part of the vanguard of the new world of media. “Everybody, including farmers, is becoming used to consuming content online. What was previously a fringe area of media is now becoming mainstream.”

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The award goes to Omarama farmers Omarama high-country farmers, Richard and Annabelle Subtil, are the supreme winners of this year’s Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA). The Subtils also collected the Massey University Innovation Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and the Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award. Richard and Annabelle run 12000ha Omarama Station – a family-owned property previously farmed by Annabelle’s parents, Dick and Beth Wardell. Situated south of Omarama Village, the Mackenzie Country property winters 23,000 stock units, including 7500 merino ewes and 310 angus-hereford cows. The diverse operation grows a range of crops, produces high quality wool and finishes around 10,000 lambs and 700 steers and heifers annually. Additional income is produced by a homestay and hydro electricity generation.

Canterbury Ballance Farm Environmental Awards supreme PHOTO SUPPLIED winners, Richard and Annabelle Subtil. 

BFEA judges described Omarama Station as a “proven farm business demonstrating excellence in financial, environmental and social sustainability”. The operation is run by an “exceptional team” that includes both family and staff, and its production and financial performance are “industry leading”. Production has risen

significantly since the installation of a centre pivot irrigation system that now covers 560ha. Water is utilised for irrigation and hydro generation in an “integrated way that results in improved water quality outcomes”. The Subtils were early adopters of animal EID (electronic identification) and have worked with industry


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organisations to refine the use of this technology. “A willingness to try things first is clearly stimulating and rewarding for the Subtils,” said judges. “This makes their business ground-breaking and an outstanding example of innovation in sheep and beef production.” Soil and water quality is tested regularly, said judges, and the Subtils have an excellent understanding of nutrient budgeting. “The consideration for both the environment and community when making management decisions is proof that the Subtils are excellent stewards of the land.” For the past 11 years the Subtils have worked with local iwi and the Department of Conservation to promote the regeneration of the native longfin eel population. As part of the tenure review process for the station, a 120ha flood plain, incorporating the Omarama stream, has been designated scientific reserve.  

A QEII National Trust covenant has been placed over 2500ha, including unique high-country bog wetland containing rare native species. The covenant allows for managed grazing to ensure invasive weeds like hieracium (hawkweed) are controlled. BFEA judges praised Richard and Annabelle’s ability to “fully integrate the classes of country available, while running a large, potentially complex, business in an exceptionally organised manner”. “Richard and Annabelle have continued the visionary thinking of Annabelle’s parents by continuously challenging the status quo. “Their motivation and openness to new ideas will ensure a challenging property remains a sustainable farming operation in perpetuity.” The Subtils were also commended for their staff management, industry leadership and community involvement. A BFEA field day will be held on Omarama Station, with the date to be advised.

2 40


Students connecting with the land Forty-three Lincoln University landscape design students have been conjuring up haiku while gaining an appreciation of the Mid Canterbury high country. The group travelled by bus to Lake Heron in the Southern Alps to kick off their second year of study. Landscape Architecture Associate Professor Mike Barthelmeh said the aim of the tour was to introduce students to particular aspects of the New Zealand landscape. “These places may or may not have been familiar to them, but we wanted them to consider the landscapes with new senses – those of landscape architects.” School of Landscape Architecture senior lecturer Dr Wendy McWilliam says the sites formed the basis for the students to practise their inventory and analysis skills. “They were also able to explore the concept of ‘place’, develop their own sensitivities to the special qualities and character of different places, and begin to investigate their design responses to the

Students during their stop at Lake Clearwater (from left): Grace Hall-McMaster, Kennedy Evans, PHOTO SUPPLIED Jorden Derecourt, Dion Findlay, Liam O’Brien and Heath Melville.

landscape.” Activities included recognising cultural heritage in the Methven landscape, sketching a section of some of

the key resources at Timber Yard Point, drawing wildlife and their habitats at the Rakaia River, making a sketch of the Hakatere Station layout

and listing the resources required to process food at the Hakatere Conservation Park. The students were also asked to be attuned to their

connections with nature and their surroundings. Maori Studies lecturer Lloyd Carpenter, a guest speaker on the trip, says he spoke about the importance of Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora and Maori Lakes – O Tu Wharekai as food resources. “The kaitiakitanga, or stewardship, of the resources and their environment was critical to both the health of the resources and therefore the health of the people.” Professor Barthelmeh says one of the activities he devised involved asking each student to compose a haiku at the final tour location of Lake Heron. “Lake Heron is famous for its trout, reflections and the ways it acts as inspiration for poetry,” says Professor Barthelmeh. “A haiku is a particular type of poem about a connection with or aspect of nature.” He says the activity required an introspective engagement with the landscape. “I asked the students to compose a haiku on the hill overlooking Lake Heron, and the results were fantastic!”

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Ashburton guardian farming, april 14, 2015  

Ashburton Guardian Farming, Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ashburton guardian farming, april 14, 2015  

Ashburton Guardian Farming, Tuesday, April 14, 2015