Dairy Focus MARCH 2018
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Less than a year ago the vast majority of dairy farmers would never have heard of mycoplasma bovis. What a difference nine months can make, as today many in the South Island are crying out for a concrete decision to be made by Ministry for Primary Industries’ officials on whether the goal of eradicating the disease from these shores will continue - or whether we, like just about every other dairy farming nation in the world, should instead adopt some sort of plan around long-term management of the disease within the dairy industry. Well that decision is due within the next couple of weeks, something that can’t come soon enough for most, who just want to know what the approach is going to be so they can just get on with the business of farming. One of the ideas being considered is whether to pursue the idea of making the North Island M. bovis free, given there’s only one infected property there, and then dealing with it in the south. Unsurprisingly, from the farmers I’ve spoken to, and I’m not restricting that to those quoted in the story that begins on the following page, support for that idea almost exclusively comes from the north, while those of us in the south are less inclined to believe it’s an option worth pursuing. You’ve got to feel possibly a little sorry for those at MPI, accept maybe around the speed of compensation paid to some farmers who took one for the team and culled stock months ago but who have since struggled financially due to those payments not being forthcoming in the timely manner they planned on. For a good few months after the outbreak was identified in the South Canterbury/North Otago area it looked like by-in-large it had been confined there, which would have done much for the eradication option. However, the number of Southland farms identified since must have been a body blow for officials, with the
infection no longer concentrated in one region. In fact, if you want to read between the lines of MPI’s plea for information on stock movement from a Southland operation from January, 2016, you might think there is at least some suspicion that the original source of the disease in this country was actually there and not where it was discovered around a year and a half later. After all, that’s one of the hardest aspects about pinpointing M. bovis, it can be present but hide away for a very long time. Another important date on the horizon for quite a few involved in the dairy industry is the close-off day for the South Island Contribution Work Visa, which is May 23. Immigrant workers play a critical role in the dairy industry in this part of the world and the visa is a one-off potential pathway to residency. Anything that provides a bit of long-term certainty for the migrant workforce should be applauded, although some of those applying for the visa have struck a bit of trouble, as you’ll see in the story 13. Changes to rules and regulations in the immigration sphere in recent years have been a source of frustration for many who operate there and the change of government has added another level to that. We can only hope that Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway’s planned new measures, which are still being worked on, will be in place sooner rather than later and will provide a much needed boost to the rural migrant worker population.
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M. bovis decision looming A decision on whether the Ministry for Primary Industries will continue in its efforts to eradicate mycoplasma bovis is due within the next couple of weeks – but for dairy farmers, it can’t come soon enough. Federated Farmers national board member and dairy industry group chairman Chris Lewis says it’s an issue on the minds of many dairy farmers, particularly those in the South Island. “There’s a lot of farmers out there talking about it, that’s for sure.” As part of the government response to the outbreak of the disease, Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor has asked officials to explore the feasibility and implications of making the North Island M. bovis free, given all but one of the 33 infected properties are in the South Island. It’s an idea that’s been labelled defeatist in its approach by Opposition agriculture spokesman Nathan Guy, who has questioned its practicality. Lewis, however, wants every
Federated Farmers dairy section chairman Chris Lewis wants a decision on mycoplasma bovis eradication or management to be made as soon as PHOTO SUPPLIED possible. Colin Williscroft
option explored. “Whether that (restricting M. bovis to the South Island) can be done is a fair question but it’s one that needs to be looked at.” He said some farmers he had spoken to definitely thought it was an option worth exploring, even if it was only a temporary measure. “Farmers are used to movement controls. It’s not as if they have not had to work with them before, adding that approach was one of the ways used to get on top of Tb. “Closing off movements between the islands, if only for a short time, might be a way of getting things under control. “But that does not mean we want to see farmers’
businesses shut down. “Farmers are asking ‘have you considered all the options to get on top of this?’ “Saying that something can’t be done without exploring it properly is not acceptable.” Lewis does not buy into the argument that it would be difficult to stop the movement of embryos and semen across the strait. “That should be very easy to control,” he said, pointing out that most semen movements are controlled by agri-genetics companies like LIC, while vets are usually responsible for embryo movements. “There are well-established protocols and rules around this so I don’t see it being a problem.” What was concerning farmers, especially those whose herds had tested
positive for the disease, was the speed of compensation payments. “There’s a bit of fear about that. “There needs to be complete transparency. The days of sorting things out behind closed doors are long
gone. You need to be fair to everyone. “Let’s just get on with it and pay some money out to those who are entitled to it. “There’s some who have no stock but still have costs coming out of their business. continued over page
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from page 3 “There’s only so long you can survive in that situation.” He said there was no reason for those farmers who were told before Christmas that their herds were infected to not have received some form of payment by now. Federated Farmers would continue to lobby for those farmers to be compensated as quickly as possible, he said. Whichever option – eradication or management – MPI decides to take Lewis just wants an informed decision made as soon as possible. “Let’s have an open discussion. We need to have everything on the table so farmers know where they are, what the targets are. “Sometimes tough calls need to be made. Farmers understand that. They can deal with that. “But the longer the delay and the messing about, well that doesn’t help anyone. “I’ve had a few farmers ring me at the end of their tether. They’re beyond frustration.” Lewis did however give some credit to MPI for the work it has done so far in keeping a handle on the spread of the disease, referring to the latest positive tests
Federated Farmers North Otago dairy chairman Lyndon Strang is personally against the idea of making the North Island M. bovis free and containing the disease in the south. PHOTO SUPPLIED
coming from properties that were traced back to stock movements from earlier infected farms, rather than
being unexplained new outbreaks. The latest of those positive tests was a dairy farm near
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Ashburton that was already under movement restrictions due to it having links to previously confirmed infected properties. Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury dairy chairman Nathan Currie said there were mixed feelings in the region’s dairy community about the disease. “Obviously some people are very wound up and stressed, and rightly so. It would be a very uncomfortable position to be in.” Currie said he was hopeful that it was still possible to get the spread of the disease under control. “They’ve done a lot of tests and it hasn’t gone ballistic through herds. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to get on top of it.” What it had been was a wake-up call to farmers that identified some holes around the National Animal Identification and Tracing
(NAIT) system that needed to be rectified, Currie said. Feds North Otago dairy spokesman Lyndon Strang said farmers in his area had been dealing with M. bovis for a few months longer than other areas so they were more focused on putting practical steps in place in terms of how to deal with young stock and wintering practices, given that there would be a lot of cows coming off farms in coming months. “So they’ve been having discussions with people like graziers to work out the best way forward.” Strang said he personally did not support the idea of making the North Island M. bovis free and containing the disease in the south. “You’ve got to remember that the vast majority of farms are not infected and as long as farmers have the right systems in place and working properly, that will continue to be the case. “I think it would be a mistake to try and make an exclusion zone and it could have a detrimental effect on our markets. “It would be a bit of an over-reaction and I think it would be pretty hard to police.”
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Ballance Farm Environment Awards Dairy farmers cleaned up at the recent Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Three of the six awards went to dairy operations, including the regional supreme award, which was won by Hawarden’s Medbury Farm.
Left – Board members (from left) Brenda and David Hislop, Janet Girvan, Mark Daly and farm manager Dennis Lagrosa are key members of the team at Medbury Farm. PHOTO SUPPLIED
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David and Brenda Hislop, Mark Daly and Janet Girvan are partners in Medbury Farm Limited, which milks 1240 cows on 442 hectares. The award judges said the partners showed strong awareness of farming practices and how they influence the environment. “They show excellent attention to detail to business planning, governance and policies and how that influences and drives the business, as well as great staff and people management.” The farm’s board members had completed a governance course before the sudden death of founding farm partner Eric Jacomb (husband of Girvan) in January 2016. As resident equity partners, the Hislops said they wanted
to enter the awards to fulfil a wish of Jacomb’s and show what was good practice, have pride in what they are doing, and to counter negative press about the dairy industry. Over the past 15 years and with the equity involvement of Mark Daly from 2008, the business has developed to two farm dairies and housing for six staff members on the property.
The original 50-bale rotary milking 500 cows has been joined by a second farm dairy and the farm business boosted to a carrying capacity of 1240 cows with 300 replacement heifers. It is producing more than 540,000kgMS annually, with yield figures of 1550kgMS/ha and 445kgMS/cow. An original border-dyke irrigation system using water
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from the Hurunui River has been upgraded to a more efficient centre-pivot and supplementary sprinkler system. Spray irrigation across the whole property draws on water from Medbury Irrigation Company Limited. Aquaflex soil moisture sensors are also employed to help irrigation management decisions and stock water
meters feed information by telemetry to the farm computers. “As early adapters of new technologies and having been open to industry leaders to trial new technologies on the farm, we have encouraged a high standard of involvement within the industry for staff and those developing new opportunities to further sustainable farming practices,” the board said. The judges commended Medbury Farm Limited for its outstanding documentation, health and safety programme, Farm Environment Plan and the five-year Environmental Action Plan. The farm dairy effluent systems have been showcased by Fonterra to its sustainable dairying advisors. continued on next page
from page 5 Soil structure is protected by use of stand-off areas in a quarry and in forest areas. Medbury Farm has fenced and planted its boundaries to the Waitohi and Hurunui Rivers, planted natives around both farm dairies and fenced off some wetlands. Employees are also provided with assistance for work visas to gain residency and has a touch rugby team entered in the local competition. Staff members are also encouraged to help plant and help maintain the riparian areas. The judges commended David on his underpass innovation, containing a false floor and pumps to take the effluent and water to the farm storage ponds. David had also shown innovation in designing and building an irrigation movement pole on the front of the farm utility. Opportunities and financial support are provided for the personal development of staff members and the rostering takes into account family circumstances. As well as the regional supreme award, Medbury Farm won the Ballance Agri-
Nutrients Soil Management Award, CB Norwood Distributors Ltd Agri-Business Management Award, DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award and Bayleys Canterbury People in Primary Sector Award.
Sam Mallard, who manages Align Emilius, a 180-hectare property milking 680 cows at Ealing, was another dairy farmer recognised at the awards, picking up the Waterforce Integrated Management Award. Mallard said he was surprised to have won the award but very pleased he did. “It’s nice to be commended for doing what you believe in.” While this season Align Emilius is forecast to produce 299,910kgMS at 1733kgMS/ ha, it was Mallard’s work to ensure the irrigated dairy farm has as little impact as possible on the environment that really impressed the judges. In terms of farm presentation, health and safety, soils, nutrient budgeting, irrigation management and livestock care, it was evident that Mallard put a lot of effort and thought into his role, the judges said.
Award-winning farmer Sam Mallard, with partner Tracey Thomas and baby Chloe (3 weeks), is pleased he entered the 2018 Ballance Farm Environment Awards. PHOTO COLIN WILLISCROFT 150318-CW-001
“It is a well-presented farm, it is very tidy and it was evident staff were proud of their surroundings.” The judges noted that native plantings around the cowshed and driveway had been well maintained and were well established for plants only three years’ old, with linseed straw used to control weeds around them to reduce spraying. Comprehensive soil testing had been carried out and this information was used to
ensure water efficiency. Mallard said the judging process was “intensive, but I never felt like I was being grilled”. He was initially nominated by his milk company, Synlait, which was followed by an on-farm visit from a team of four judges who interviewed him for about three or four hours, with a focus on how the business was run alongside looking after the environment.
deliver variable rate fertiliser application for the farm’s nutrient needs, which also impressed the judges. “Sam showed a great knowledge and understanding of soils and nutrient management factors that accompany this. Irrigation was well monitored and well understood.” The judges highly commended Mallard on being proactive in finding practical solutions within the constraints of infrastructure to
continued on next page
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from page 6 He said the judges were particularly interested in the protocols he had in place to achieve that. After being named as a finalist, which Mallard said was “completely unexpected”, he was interviewed by four different judges. Entering the awards wasn’t just about winning, Mallard said, it was also a learning experience because he had to think about what was happening on-farm. “It’s not the sort of award you can just go through ticking boxes. You really have to believe in what you’re doing. “You’ve got to live and breathe it.” Align Emilius Limited produces A2 milk through a 60-bale rotary with cup removers and in-shed feeding. The property is 100 per cent irrigated, 95 per cent covered by centre-pivot and the balance with K-line and sprinklers. Irrigation water is supplied by MHV Water and farm dairy effluent water is irrigated through the centre pivot. The farm has poplar trees planted along the boundaries and native trees surrounding the farm buildings and effluent pond, along with native tree lines separating paddocks. Mallard paid tribute to the teamwork of those who work on the farm, saying it was important that everyone had brought into the idea of ensuring farming activities left as small a footprint on the environment as possible. He said support from the Align Group was also important, and he thanked those involved for their backing and help. Align Emilius Limited is one of four dairy farms and one support farm in the region owned by Align Group. As a whole the group has 4000 cows on 1500ha, producing 1.73 million kgMS annually, and employs 27 staff.
Winner of the Massey University Innovation Award was Hayden George, farm manager at Kohakaumu, part of the Ngai Tahu Farming Limited group. The judges said George was implementing a number of on-farm technologies very effectively at Kohakaumu, one of seven dairy farms owned by Ngai Tahu in Eyrewell Forest. There are also four beef grazing and five dairy grazing farms in the district,
one of which will be converted to dairy from June. The almost fully irrigated Kohakaumu has two big centre-pivots on variable-rate irrigation, under which soil moisture monitors ensure application efficiency. The water comes from the nearby Waimakariri River and is stored in a 6.5ha dam which can hold 10 days of irrigation water, enabling 95 per cent reliability of supply. Farm dairy effluent is also spread through the irrigators, and is monitored to ensure the even coverage of nutrients. Kohakaumu has a very comprehensive Health and Safety plan, which the judges said is actively used. This includes all contractors having inductions, great staff training, a Health and Safety committee with a representative from each farm, all machinery labelled as well as regular checks on machinery. George conducts regular toolbox meetings and daily meetings before work starts. Safety walks are held with discussions on how a job is done with an emphasis on safety. Ngai Tahu Farming Limited has even gone to the extent of developing its own Health and Safety app. All staff members at Kohakaumu are encouraged to take in-house training, appropriate courses on subjects like irrigation and first aid, or to enrol with the Primary ITO. “Hayden shows great awareness of staff members and their wellbeing,” the judges said. There are regular health checks and slow cooker meals provided. Three research trials are being conducted on-farm; fodder beet under irrigation, microbes to limit nitrogen volatilisation, and urine leaching limitation. In only its fourth season after conversion out of forestry, the farm has 900 milking cows this season and the milk production last season from 920 cows was 1334kgMS/ha and 436kgMS/cow. Nearly 7ha of fodder beet was grown last season and yielded 17 tonnes/ ha, while the area under beet has been doubled this season. The shelter belts between every second paddock are planted with localsourced natives and the property has a 5ha reserve that is planned to be fully planted out with manuka and kanuka.
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Relationships key for award winners The winners of the 2018 Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year competition believe strong relationships with all the people they deal with are the key to their successful business. Simon and Hilary Vallely were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year competition at the Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards annual dinner held in Invercargill last week. The region’s other big winners were Jaime McCrostie, who was named the 2018 Southland-Otago Dairy Manager of the Year, and Simone Smail, the 2018 Southland-Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year. The Vallelys, both aged 31, are 50:50 sharemilking 475 cows on David and Valerie Stafford’s 160ha farm in Gore. They won $20,010 in prizes. They believe the different strengths and interests each other brings to their working relationship makes their business stronger. “We also have an excellent relationship with our farm owners, and we really value the relationship,”
All smiles after winning their respective categories at the 2018 Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year PHOTO SUPPLIED awards dinner are (from left) Simone Smail, Simon and Hilary Vallely, and Jaime McCrostie.
say the couple. “Trust is the key when making on-farm decisions as the owners live at the other end of the country,” Simon said. “We are passionate about what we do. We care for our staff, environment, cows and our
farm owners’ asset.” The couple both hold a Bachelor of Commerce (agriculture) from Lincoln University and have entered the awards twice previously. “One of the benefits of entering is that we have been
able to cross-examine our business and learn about ourselves,” Hilary said. They both grew up on farms and wanted to continue in a rural career. “We’re passionate about dairy farming and could see a pathway to grow while
being self-employed relatively young,” they said. “We’re proud of the record production results we’ve achieved and we love seeing our animals looking great and being well-fed and happy. continued on next page
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from page 8 “We’re also proud of purchasing a 72ha property, which we farm in conjunction with sharemilking, and of surviving a low payout, which was a challenging time with minimal bank security.” Future farming goals for the couple include consolidating debt, owning a 500-cow farm by 2020 and improving per cow production to 100 per cent body weight. Women were represented strongly in the 2018 Southland-Otago Dairy Manager of the Year competition, achieving both first and second places, with 32-year-old McCrostie, who manages a 370ha, 930-cow farm at Winton, prevailing. “I love cows and I love being outside working with stock. I love the multidisciplinary challenges on-farm and that there is always something new to be learning,” she said. McCrostie believes one of the benefits of entering the awards is that the process highlights areas for improvement. “It also forces you to consolidate all your farm data and help benchmark, reflect and justify decisions.” McCrostie holds a Degree in Physical Education and a Diploma in Agribusiness Management and was previously a programme co-ordinator for Project K with the Foundation for Youth Development. She still gives of her time to the Family Works Big Buddy programme. She aims to move into an overseer role to make the most of her organisational skills, her developing manage-
ment skills and her expanding knowledge around human resources and health and safety. Trainee of the Year Smail entered the awards to meet like-minded people who are passionate and want to progress in the industry. “I wanted to challenge myself,” she said. “You never lose, you either win or learn.” This is the 24-year-old’s third full season dairy farming, and she is currently herd manager on a 780-cow, 310ha Invercargill City Council farm. It was while she was studying for her Certificate in Veterinary Nursing that she discovered her passion for working with cows. “I have always loved being outdoors and love being able to be hands-on and working with cows,” she said. “I hope to continue to increase my knowledge and keep progressing through the industry.” The Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on April 11 at 86 Charlton Siding Road RD 2 Gore, where the Vallelys sharemilk. McCrostie and Smail will also give presentations. Further details on the winners and the field day can be found at www.dairyindustryawards. co.nz. The 2018 Canterbury North Otago Dairy Industry Awards dinner was held in Christchurch on Saturday night. Unfortunately an embargoed list of the winners was not received by Dairy Focus before this issue went to the printers. However, we congratulate all the winners and placegetters on their achievements.
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Water use to reduce Fonterra to reduce water use at Darfield plant. Construction is under way on an advanced plant that will reduce the amount of groundwater extracted for Fonterra’s Darfield manufacturing site by around 70 per cent. Darfield is already a world leading facility and the $11 million investment in water processing technology will have a significant impact on its environmental footprint. “Thanks to the new plant we’ll save the equivalent of around 100 tanker loads of water every day,” Robert Spurway, head of Fonterra’s Global Operations, said. “As well as reducing water use, the new technology also decreases the amount of water the site discharges for irrigation. It’s a win-win situation.” The new plant uses a reverse osmosis technique to purify the water extracted from cow’s milk during the manufacturing process. Water is passed through a membrane filtration system, which makes it drinkable and suitable for use in a range of on-site activities such as cooling, heating and cleaning. The Darfield development aligns with Fonterra’s six water
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Darfield’s Fonterra plant. PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN
commitments to help improve the quality of New Zealand’s waterways. “We’re prioritising investment to reduce water consumption. Last year we announced our 2020 target to reduce the amount of water we use across our 26 New Zealand manufacturing sites by 20 per cent. “The new plant will go a significant way toward helping us achieve our target, creating a manufacturing site that’s more self-sufficient.” The new plant is expected to be up and running by October this year, in time for the 2018/2019 milk season.
Westland signs deal Building on its growing market presence in China, New Zealand’s second biggest dairy co-operative, Westland Milk Products, signalled an increased presence in south-east Asia by signing a memorandum of understanding with Indonesian consumer health and nutrition giant Kalbe (PT Sanghiang Perkasa). Last week’s signing, in the presence of visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a business forum held in Wellington, is seen as the first step toward forming a strategic partnership between Westland and Kalbe. Westland chief executive Toni Brendish said that this was a significant opportunity for Westland to work with a south-east Asian market leader in infant nutrition and dairy products and that the MOU will lead to a strategic relationship with Kalbe, allowing Westland to grow in ways it could not do with its own resources. “Kalbe is a highly sought after customer, with huge market penetration and networks in an increasingly important region, Brendish said. Kalbe also has a joint venture with Morinaga Japan for the production of infant formula in Indonesia. This gives it around a 13 per cent share of the current domestic powdered milk market in Japan under both Kalbe and Morinaga brands, presenting additional opportunities
Westland Milk Products plant. PHOTO SUPPLIED
for Westland in the Japanese market. “These strategic relationships with other companies enable Westland to get access into key markets through advanced existing networks. “This is an effective and prudent growth strategy for Westland, which we fully expect to lead to financial benefits for the company – welcome news for Westland’s shareholders. “Kalbe and Morinaga senior executives visited Hokitika and Rolleston operations earlier this year and were impressed with Westland’s strategy and capabilities and we hope to eventually become a Kalbe preferred supplier for a number of nutritional and consumer products,” Brendish said. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise helped introduce the two companies more than a year ago, resulting in the MOU. It also supports Westland’s strategy to increasingly move into the South East Asian region and not relying wholly on its growing market in China. DJ6743_SW_calf_campaign_ad_360x124_v5.indd 1
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SI work visa deadline looms The South Island dairy industry relies a lot on immigrants to do jobs farmers cannot fill through the New Zealand born labour market and for many of those workers an important date is approaching fast. Applications for the South Island Contribution Work Visa must be in by May 23 for the 30-month visa, which enables those who get one to apply for residency after two years. While applying for the visa is relatively straightforward for some, Rakaia-based Filipino Dairy Workers in New Zealand chairman Earl Magtibay says others who have applied have struck difficulties due to past breaches of their original work visa conditions. He said the most common breach was when an immigrant worker got a new job on a different farm to the one they were granted their original visa for. Anyone beginning work on a farm different to the one they were at when granted their original visa needed to
apply for and be granted a new one before they began their new job. Magtibay said it was not uncommon for the worker, wanting to show their new employer how keen they were, to begin their new job before their latest application had been processed. He said the members of his group were often people who just wanted to get to work and provide for their families and were not aware the troubles that awaited them later if they did not have all their paperwork in order. Often farmer employers also did not fully understand some of the intricacies of working visas and the trouble their immigrant workers could face further down the track.
Filipino Dairy Workers in New Zealand chairman Earl Magtibay says while applying for the South Island Contribution Work Visa is straightforward for some people, others are running into PHOTO COLIN WILLISCROFT 220318-CW-003 trouble.
He said it was easy for the Department of Immigration to discover this type of breach because they liaised with the Inland Revenue Department. Another potential trap that some fell into was accepting a job at a pay rate that was less than had to be paid to a New Zealand born employee. That desire to work - and
in doing so accept a lesser pay rate - was another way of not meeting work visa conditions, Magtibay said, even though some might argue that it’s actually their employer who is more at fault. He encouraged those planning to apply for the South Island Contribution Work Visa who had not done
so to contact an immigration consultant if they had any questions, as those consultants are legally the only people who can offer that sort of advice. Magtibay, who has lived and worked in New Zealand since 2007, said there did not seem to be as many Immigration Department run seminars held in regional centres as there were when he first arrived, with more emphasis these days being put on doing everything online. However, that also raised problems for those workers in more remote areas where internet service and speed was not the standard it was in urban areas. From what he has seen and heard so far, when it came to applying for the South Island visa, the Immigration Department was usually understanding of one prior visa breach, but anyone who had three or more could expect some difficulties. However, he encouraged anyone who wanted to apply to do so as soon as possible.
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Being an employer of choice is not a Most New Zealand industries are now in a position where recruitment of staff is the hardest it’s been since just before the global financial crisis. In his recent trip to the South Island, Immigration Minister Ian Lees-Galloway, was told this, in no uncertain terms, by many industry representatives. The latest Federated Farmers Mid-Season Farm confidence survey, shows this is no different in dairy. Of the 18 surveys since 2009, the latest is the worst. Of those dairy farmers surveyed, 44.6 per cent have found recruiting staff harder than six months ago with only 1.3 per cent finding it easier. And I don’t have to tell you what the cost of either being understaffed, or having poor staff, means to your farm. So, what can you do differently to attract (and then retain) good quality staff ? Becoming a great employer requires doing a number of things well. Most important is a mind-set shift: decide to treat your employees as if they
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are the most important thing in your business. Because they actually are. Most farmers know that if you have great cows but poor staff, your business will go backwards. Great systems can help but they cannot replace staff completely. Making people your major asset will create an environment where people are passionate and are ready to get on board with your business. And change starts at the top – you, your manager or your sharemilker. If they all prioritise staff, then team culture will change. And with a positive culture, productivity and longevity of your workforce will improve. I guarantee it. continued on next page
choice any longer from page 14
Many small things can help you achieve this goal
Be farm proud – you don’t have to have the latest gear, or the latest shed, but if the farm is neat and organised, staff will be proud of their work environment. Understand your staff – different characters respond better to different ways of communication. There are some great (and cheap) online character assessment tools to use. Understanding the key motivators for your staff will go a long way to them enjoying their job, staying longer and seeing you as an employer of choice. Be open – to ideas; to suggestions; to changes. You don’t have to implement them, but listen. Celebrate – celebrate the end of calving season; farm production goals; birthdays; children’s successes. In fact, make excuses to celebrate. Balance – try and ensure that staff get regular time off farm: for family, recreation, or simply to re-charge. People don’t perform well when they are tired. And it is not sustainable. Accommodation – clean, warm and dry are basics. Insulation is becoming a requirement soon. A secure and neat yard and lockable garage will be attractive. Good internet – critical to all staff now. And why not have unlimited Wi-Fi at the shed? You probably need it for your shed computer anyway. It is pretty cheap these days and will be a bonus for all staff. Shorter rosters – the days of one weekend off a month is long gone. Due to staff pressures, the South Island is, mostly, already on eight on/ two off or better. The North Island lags a little. Flexible rosters – one size doesn’t fit all. Staff with kids at school often need weekends off, but single staff
members might be happy with some days off during the week. Others may prefer longer weekends, so they can go away, and will be prepared to compromise for this. Calving – an intense time which usually coincides with training new staff. Calm and level-headed management is required for best results. Some farmers swear by more regular time off, not less, during calving, even if for shorter periods. Stick to your roster - staff will be counting on it. What about offering breakfast for staff on farm? Or lunch. Or make it pizza Friday. Task rotations and staggered starts – rotating early starts and farm tasks can help prevent burnout and teach younger staff a broader range of skills. It may initially take them longer to complete jobs, but when senior staff go on leave, junior staff can then cover and your team will become more resilient. Training – Primary ITO study is highly valued by many staff and is available in most areas. If you are going to pay, make sure they pass the course first. Bonuses – grade free and/or production incentives can be great team builders. I understand if placing staff at the top of your farming priorities is not an easy decision to make, as many farmers have grown up learning to farm in a tough world where you worked hard and asked few questions. But times have changed and you are now competing for the same staff pool as many other growing industries. That is why I say that becoming an employer of choice is really, no longer, a choice at all.
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Make a submission on the tax review The government’s tax working group is now calling for submissions on a background paper prepared as part of the review it is carrying out. We encourage all irrigators to read the paper online at www.taxworkinggroup.govt. nz and make a submission before April 30. It looks at a land tax, along with a number of environmental taxes including a water tax. As we said during the election campaign, imposing a water royalty or tax is a complex idea and its implications need to be carefully considered. Unlike minerals, water is not a finite resource. Currently less than 2 percent of our national annual rainfall is used by humans, with 80 percent of rainfall flowing out to sea supporting river ecosystems along the way, and the rest evaporating. It seems clear that the government sees a water royalty as driving more efficient water use. However, we already
have a range of regulatory requirements which encourage and require efficient water use. Consents impose limits on water use. In dry years, farmers are often unable to use their full water allocation as restrictions are introduced. Many regions also require farm environment plans where irrigation water use must be justified. These all create a huge incentive for efficient water use. New Zealand irrigation systems are already relatively efficient by world standards. Centre pivot and drip-micro irrigation is widely used, whereas internationally flood irrigation systems are still common. The single biggest change
we could make to improve water efficiency would be to convert our remaining older irrigation systems to new precision methods. This would require major capital investment by farmers. Imposing a new tax would reduce the funds farmers have to shift to more modern, efficient irrigation systems. We also need to consider how a water tax would operate. The election proposal to spend water royalties within the region they were raised in doesn’t work as a national solution to improving waterways. This would see 64 per cent of a water tax spent in Canterbury, and 85 per cent of the tax spent in five regions – Canterbury, Otago, Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Wellington. The other 10 regions would receive only 15 per cent of the remaining national funding. This includes the regions classified as having the least swimmable rivers – Auckland and Northland, which have little irrigated land. Most recently the Ministry
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Centre pivot irrigators are widely used in New Zealand and use PHOTO SUPPLIED water efficiently.
for the Environment noted that Canterbury and Otago are two of the three regions which have made the most progress in implementing the National Policy Statement for Freshwater. Irrigators have invested heavily in modern irrigation equipment to meet new water quality requirements with improvements in water quality expected in the future. As 76 per cent of New Zealand’s irrigated land area is within Canterbury and Otago, imposing a new environmental tax on landowners who have recently made substantial investments to reduce their
environmental impacts seems unreasonable. Many other countries have looked at a water royalty. However nearly all have seen it as too complex. Deciding who would pay and who wouldn’t is challenging. They reported problems measuring water usage, high administration costs, and concerns about the possible adverse effects of a charge. Having a debate about a water tax is worthwhile. But we also need to discuss how it would work and the other options on the table to improve water use efficiency and water quality.
PASTURE MANAGEMENT FEATURE
Winter pasture management The days are getting shorter and the temperatures lower, a sure sign that while we’re only in autumn, winter is approaching. So now is a good time to think about what you’re doing to do with your pastures during those cold and wet months to ensure you’re in the best possible position to begin next season on a positive note. There’s only one thing worse than seeing a badly pugged pasture in the middle of winter, and that’s living with the result – lost growth and the cost to repair the damage in spring. The price of treading and pugging is two-fold: immediate DM utilisation can drop by up to 40 per cent, and future growth can be significantly compromised. In severe cases, pugging can completely kill a pasture. The good news is that there are ways of managing this risk, so when spring comes, your pastures are ready to grow to their potential. Use these tips and pointers to protect your grass factory this winter, and remember the old saying, cows don’t pug paddocks – people do. Draw up a wet weather management plan and make sure everyone shifting stock on the farm understands your expectations and goals around
paddock damage. Paddocks vulnerable to wet conditions should be grazed early, in case the weather
turns against you later on. This is especially important for newly sown grass paddocks. They are your most valuable areas; they are also most at risk because they are not yet fully established and they must be protected for the coming seasons. When stock are on Only $5.85 per hectare plus gst delivered. wet pasture, spread them out at a lighter stocking rate to help reduce Brian Mace 07 571 0336 0274 389 822 damage.
Don’t worry about postgrazing residuals when it’s wet. Concentrate on protecting your soils. Focus back on residuals when conditions are dry again. Use on-off grazing to minimise damage, in conjunction with a feed pad, yards etc. Create laneways within paddocks which are being break-fed, to limit treading damage to smaller areas. If you have a poor producing paddock destined for crop or pasture renovation this spring, consider using this as a sacrifice paddock. It’s not an ideal answer, but it will protect pastures over the rest of the farm. Have a repair plan in place, to restore productivity ASAP (eg August). Even with a good wet weather plan in place, cows
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have to be fed regardless of conditions, and our climate and farm systems mean it’s unlikely you’ll come through winter without incurring at least some damage to you pastures. To repair pugging or treading, mark areas of damage on a farm map for the contractor or whoever will be sowing seed to fill the gaps. Colour code to differentiate between lesser damage (where seed just needs to be direct drilled to fill gaps) and more severe damage, where paddocks require levelling before direct drilling. Repairing wet weather damage is a race between you and the weeds, and you have to win if you want to restore productive DM growth. Article kindly supplied by Agriseeds
PASTURE MANAGEMENT FEATURE
EM soil surveying makes a mark With a huge increase in the drive for improved soil and water management electromagnetic (EM) soil surveying is really making a mark. Landowners now have the potential through EM mapping to match their irrigation and nutrient inputs to the soil’s requirements. “All farming starts with the soil,” says Jemma Mulvihill, general manager at Agri Optics NZ Ltd, Precision Agriculture specialists, “and that’s where we’ve started too. We’ve been focusing on our electromagnetic (EM) soil surveying business and managing farmers’ data. These are two pretty complex areas that need specialised management if the farmer is going to get improved results that he is looking for.” “As farmers we need to better understand the land we’re working with. By EM soil surveying the farmer gets an in-depth look at what his soil is like. In many cases the farmer will know that he has poor patch in one place while another can yield very well. By mapping the soil he gets
an understanding of why this is happening. These maps can be used for identifying soil testing areas. The same map can be adapted for variable rate application of irrigation, fertiliser or any other paddock input.” “With the big focus on water throughout the country, irrigated farmers are now looking at variable
rate irrigation (VRI) to make their water go further. By utilising the EM soil survey for VRI farmers can typically get water saving of up to 15 per cent with some farmers achieving annual savings of up to 30 per cent.” Data management has been the big stumbling block throughout the world for the adoption precision agriculture
beyond guidance. “We recognised fairly early on that most farmers wouldn’t want to be sitting at the computer adjusting data for variable rate application (VRA) maps when they could be out on the farm.” says Mulvihill. “It a pretty specialised area and like anything, if you’re not doing it all the time you can be a little rusty at it. In
farming timing is everything. So to make it easier for the farmer to get his fertiliser or chemicals applied on time, we take the hassles out of it by processing the data for them.” “We can do this with all precision agriculture data. From EM soil maps through to combine yield maps and grid soil sampling maps, we are able to make sure the farmer has the data he requires to apply inputs at the optimum time. “PA is no longer just the domain of the cropping farmer with the big tractors. With catchphrases like ‘More crop per drop’ and ‘Making more with less’ the drive for focused water management has increased significantly. EM soil surveying is now being used on all types of farms throughout the country as they try to make better use of their resources to boost efficiency and profits. It’s really making a mark”. For further information visit www.agrioptics.co.nz or email info@.agrioptics.co.nz.
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Young scientists deliver outcomes A group of bright young women are helping to find answers to one of the major environmental challenges facing farming - reducing nitrate leaching on farms. The doctoral students are contributing to research in a $28 million, six-year primary sector initiative, Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL). The programme is aiming to reduce farming’s environmental footprint by improving the nitrogen efficiency of the animals and plants used on New Zealand farms. Dairy, arable (crop) and sheep and beef farms are involved in the programme which is focusing on three areas, alternative pasture species, crops, and farm systems. The PhD students are Kirsty Martin, Anna Carlton, Roshean Woods, Lisa Box, Elena Minnee, and Grace Cun. They joined a team of scientists from AgResearch, DairyNZ, Foundation for Arable Research, Landcare Research, Lincoln University, and Plant and Food Research
Lincoln University doctoral students Lisa Box, Kirsty Martin, Anna Carlton, and Roshean Woods PHOTO SUPPLIED have been contributing to research into reducing nitrate leaching on farms.
investigating which forages will best reduce nitrate losses. The multi-partner approach is the first of its kind on this scale in New Zealand where several organisations are working together seeking answers to improve environmental and economic sustainability. DairyNZ senior scientist Ina Pinxterhuis, who leads the FRNL project, said that the doctoral students from
Lincoln University have provided valuable information about what is happening at urine patch level. “Having these dedicated students researching specific aspects of diverse pasture species is invaluable. They have the time to delve into the literature, do detailed measurements, and develop a solid thesis describing their results and discussing the potential benefits to
agriculture. We have been extremely lucky to find these six students. They have engaged well in the programme and even delivered papers and conference presentations on the way.” Lincoln University’s professor of soil science, Dr Keith Cameron, said the application of science is important to the university, along with its relevance to the agricultural industry.
“At Lincoln we are keen to focus our research in areas where students can see how what they are doing fits into the bigger context, particularly the application of science and the connection between scientific discovery and industry application. “The multi-disciplined, multi-partner approach to find answers in projects like Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching is the way of the future. When the students leave here they will not only have new skills, but will also have contributed to the research. Many of the students we train at PhD level go on to make major contributions to New Zealand agriculture,” Cameron said. Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching is principally funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, with additional funding from programme partners DairyNZ, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, Lincoln University, Foundation for Arable Research and Landcare Research. The programme finishes in 2019.
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For over a decade Canterbury feed specialists, Feedmix, have been providing nutritious, healthy calf and dairy meal to the dairy industry. Feedmix’s smart technology – a fleet of trucks, unique to New Zealand, fitted out with American-made milling and mixing machines, are able to turn unprocessed grain into a tasty, nutritious meal that will fill the gap created from a predominately grass fed diet. Once the grain (which can be supplied by you or Feedmix) has been through the roller mill and been invigorated with Bovatec, nutrients and molasses, it’s not just tasty (especially to calves) but it’s also a very effective way to boost your animal’s diet. With a truck’s capacity to process up to 20 tonnes per hour, Feedmix really are the economic solution to optimise your herd health. Better still, it’s not just the cattle
ANIMAL HEALTH FEATURE
that benefit from Feedmix’s unique mobile feed processing service – farmers too enjoy the versatility of having fresh, on farm feed when they need it. The processed dairy and calf meal is delivered straight into meal silos with the right nutrients included to boost your herd’s productivity. The price, from $40 for dairy meal and just $140 per tonne of calf meal, has Canterbury farmers phoning at all hours of the day to get Stewart and Devin to pay a visit to their farms.
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The Foundation for Arable Research recently initiated a conversation with DairyNZ about M. bovis and what precautions can and should be taken by cropping farmers who are taking on herds for dairy grazing this winter. The resulting advice is a timely reminder to all dairy farmers concerning what they need to be thinking about to ensure their stock stay free of the disease.
Can you be sure that cattle arriving on your farm do not have, or have not been exposed to, M. bovis?
No one can give that guarantee. However, the herd owner should be able to provide the results of surveillance bulk milk tests. Negative results should provide some assurance. If you have stock from more than one source on your farm, implement strict measures to keep them completely separate. That way, if a herd were to come under suspicion, the rest of the stock on the grazing block will not have been exposed. If you must graze stock from two sources in one paddock, fence off a two metre strip across the centre of the paddock to separate stock. If the neighbouring property has cattle, arrange for each farm to fence off a one metre buffer along the boundary. If you neighbour won’t co-operate, take responsibility and create a two metre buffer on your side. The feed in these buffer zones can be utilised when there are no longer stock on the other side of the fence.
What biosecurity measures should you take for stock arriving on and leaving the farm?
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that herds from different sources do not get close. Try to arrange for different herds to arrive on different days, or at least space out the time of arrivals. Give yards a good clean out to reduce the build-up of muck, which will inhibit cow flow and will also reduce the effectiveness of any disinfectant spray that may be used.
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DAIRY MEAL from $40 a tonne! We Wefind findthat that -Stew CustStew om blendinCALF g for individual faMEAL rmsMEAL $140 ave andand CALF $140 - We can supply and add other micro ingredients - We can suck problem materials from blocked auger tubes supplying your roller mil - We can roll your grain if there is a problem with your roller mil PHONE: STEWART - We can process barley, wheat , peas, mai- 027ze &462beans2529 | DEVIN - 027 930 4906 Like us on Facebook Call us today to find out more 0274www.feedmix.co.nz 622 529 “We have “We have been using using Feedmix Feedmix Calf Calf Meal Meal on on our farm farm for for55years. years.We Wefind findthat that our our calves take taketotoFeedmix Feedmixa alotloteasier easier than than other other products products . FROM Dave . Dave andand StewStew Hinds. Thomas, Hinds. are are excellent excellenttotowork workwith withtoo.” too.” Graham Thomas,
The biggest risk for the spread of M. bovis, is through nose-to-nose contact between cattle. For this reason, it is important to manage the arrival of stock onto the farm in such a way
If you must graze stock from two sources in one paddock, fence off a two metre strip across the centre of the paddock
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ANIMAL HEALTH FEATURE
your farm M. bovis free work in 10 minutes or so). Transporters will have to be involved so that you donâ€™t have trucks from different herds arriving at the same time. Consider the use of portable ramps to allow unloading of cattle as close to their grazing paddock as possible, avoiding the yards completely. As many treatments (tagging, drench, copper bulleting, selenium injections, vaccines, etc) as possible should be carried out before animals arrive to minimise use of yards.
What precautions do you need to take while the animals are on the farm?
When grazing stock from more than one source on your farm, implement strict measures to ensure they are kept separate at all times.
Time between the arrival of different herds should be based on the time it takes to apply a disinfectant spray
(backpack sprayer) along the sides of the unloading ramp and yards, and the time it takes for that to work (most
Have a biosecurity plan in place before the animals arrive. DairyNZ are working on some recommendations around personal protective equipment (PPE) and protocols. Effluent is a much lower risk for disease transmission
than nose to nose contact. Ring feeders can get quite â€˜slobberyâ€™. Disinfect them if moving between herds or paddocks. Consider options for disinfecting hands/gloves between herds. Leave machinery (bikes and tractors) outside paddocks as much as possible, because curious cows licking these vehicles is a contamination risk.
What happens if cattle grazing on the farm are found to have M. bovis while they are there?
This would be a matter for MPI, however, if you have implemented strict biosecurity protocol (can prove that herds have not had contact) it will be much easier for all concerned.
What happens if, despite a contract being in place, the dairy farmer is unwilling to bring
stock to graze because they are worried about M. bovis issues? Not covered by MPI compensation. Work it out with herd owner and try and find someone else to take up the grazing.
What happens if, despite a contract being in place, the dairy farmer is unable to bring the stock to graze because M. bovis has been detected in their herd and they are under movement control?
Contact MPI to discuss possibility of compensation. Further information about M. bovis management is available on the following wesites www.dairynz.co.nz www.mpi.govt.nz
ANIMAL HEALTH FEATURE
Gypsum valuable aid at calving time Gypsum is one of those rare materials that performs in all categories of soil treatment: an amendment, conditioner and fertiliser. It is useful in the transition period in dairy cows two to four weeks pre and post calving, and can be used as an anionic salt to counteract the effects that high potassium and sodium concentrations have on increasing hypocalcemia. Gypsum, a readily available form of calcium, is 100 times more soluble than lime and is more suitable for the digestive system during this period. As soon as cows have calved, the Gypsum Soil Life™ can be dusted on. Dusting is generally going to mean around 50 per cent of gypsum getting ingested. Spreading gypsum normally onto the soil can’t be relied on to give a significant short term boost to calcium in the herbage (of the sort of levels likely to be required in early lactation). The aim of any bulk spreading would be more to improve soil structure and resilience to pugging etc. Dusting for the colostrum
period (of high Ca demand) would typically be at around 300g to 500g per cow per day. For the 50 per cent of the dusting that is ingested, it
is generally assumed that there will be around a 70 per cent absorption of the Ca so 300g dusting delivers an estimated 105g to the cow. 100
times more soluble than lime and useful elsewhere in the farmers regime. So if integrated in feed or dusted – the application rates
will vary based on the delivery mechanism. Advertising feature
Apply Gypsum Now The benefits of gypsum in soil treatment are well known, but its value goes well beyond this: •
Helps mitigate the flow of nitrates and phosphorus in New Zealand waterways
Can be used tox address the issue of sodium from applied effluent
Reduces surface run-off and drainage loss, reduces preferential flow of water run-off in soil
Can be applied by a number of different means to target risk zones
Assists with addressing high soil potassium levels
for more about Natural Gypsum and soil stabilisation visit gypsum.co.nz. Rates vary per farm and soil type. Applications can last for up to three years and can be used as a base layer in stand-off (loafing) pads.
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with Albrecht consultant, Neal Kinsey Tuesday 26th – Thursday 28th June The Albrecht concept of biological soil fertility is simple: Tests carried out on soils that consistently grew the highest quality crop yields revealed that all these soils had a similar chemistry: Calcium levels between 60-70% , Magnesium between 10-15%, Potassium at 5%, Sodium at 1.5% and definite levels for Nitrogen, Phosphate, Sulphur and trace elements. Agricultural crops and high production pastures grow best within this range of soil chemistry. HEAR NEAL KINSEY AT THIS UNIQUE 3-DAY SOIL FERTILITY COURSE Today, Neal Kinsey is the leading consultant and advocate for this Albrecht biological system. For over 40 years in over 70 countries, Neal has proven that this balanced approach to soil chemistry is the key to successful plant growth and animal health. He has demonstrated, scientifically and practically, that when this nutrient balance occurs, soil pH, aeration, drainage, structure and beneficial soil biology inevitably improve. THIS 3-DAY COURSE IS WILL COVER THE MAIN MINERALS: Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Sodium as well as Phosphate, Sulphur and Nitrogen. The importance of trace elements will also feature.
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Good bugs under threat Chlorine has long been promoted as an effective cleaner and sanitiser for dairy sheds, and on the surface, it is exactly that. However, is it doing more harm than good to the health of your farm? Forward Farming biological farming consultant David Law says he came across some fascinating findings when he started investigating the green slime and green bubbles found on the surface of several his clients’ effluent ponds. “After testing these green samples in the lab, I now know that the green slime is dead bacteria in the presence of chlorine,” Law said. “These dead bacteria contain a high level of aerobic bacteria, or good bacteria, which had previously been keeping the effluent pond healthy.” Law said a healthy effluent pond is dominated by aerobic bacteria, which naturally digest solids and create clear, processed effluent that is ready for soil to absorb. In comparison, an unhealthy pond is dominated by
anaerobic, or bad bacteria; a tell-tale sign of an unhealthy pond is a thick crust. In addition to green slime or green bubbles, Law says an unpleasant smelling pond can be another sign there are dead bacteria present. “When chemicals kill bugs, you get a toxic smelling pond,” he said. “By using harsh chemicals such as chlorine in their cowsheds, farmers are saying ‘no’ to biology. “Chlorine kills all bacteria like a bomb, including aerobic bacteria. When washed into your effluent pond, it kills all the good bacteria that would have helped your farm.” Law said in addition to chlorine, he has seen other chemicals have an adverse
effect on an effluent pond: copper sulphate, a common chemical in footbaths, and rumensin, a feed additive and rumen modifier designed to prevent coccidiosis parasites. Having told his farmer clients they shouldn’t use harsh chemicals in their dairy sheds, David says he needed to be able to offer an alternative. “Their question was always “what should I use then?”, so after three years of research and development we launched a range of chemicals which includes DX50 Dairy Sanitiser,” he said. DX50 is made from a stabilised chlorine dioxide and is engineered to kill pathogens 2.46 times better than chlorine, through a process called oxidation; the larger and higher voltage good bacteria are strong enough to resist DX50’s advances, so are not harmed, and effluent pond health is not compromised. DX50 also formed a partnership with Clarks Products of Napier to bring farmers Ultimate ULF Acid and Ultimate Liquid Caustic, to complete the eco-friendly
A chlorine-damaged pond, without the “good bacteria” that PHOTO SUPPLIED can help a farm.
cleaning system. All products are MPIapproved for use in farm dairies. Law said the more harmful chemicals farmers use, the more they are moving away from the natural biological processes that create an optimal farm environment. “Chlorine is now the go-to product for shed clean-up,
and as a result I’ve seen an increasing amount of green effluent ponds,” he said. “The DX50 range as an alternative not only cleans to the standard of chlorine but leaves the aerobic bacteria in your effluent pond to do its job – to naturally digest solids and create clear, processed effluent that is ready for soil to absorb.”
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Sometimes it pays to reach out I was recently enjoying a drink with my wife and my employers at the Hotel Ashburton; we had just finished a fun day at the races courtesy of FarmSource and Ecolab and were contemplating where to head for dinner. A hand clapped down on my shoulder and a voice boomed in my ear “Craig! Good to see you!” as is wont to happen in a crowded pub. I turned, expressing my pleasure to see them also, only to come face-to-face with a complete stranger. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not very good with names, but I’ll usually have a nagging feeling that I should know somebody or that I’ve met them before. Not this time. Luckily for me the gentleman in question had thoroughly availed himself of the hospitality at the races and was having enough trouble remaining upright, let alone wondering why I wasn’t introducing him as my best friend to the others at the table. He knew my name, he knew I had booked annual
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leave for the next day and he inquired after my children. It wasn’t until he lurched off to the bar that my wife pointed out his parting farewell had been “We really should get a selfie together” that it finally clicked; he follows me on Twitter. The encounter got me thinking about how much I share online. Despite the fact I’m a fairly prolific tweeter I’m also pretty private, what I do share is generally superficial; you might see what I’m eating or read my views on farming, you’ll see how proud I am of my children and get treated to jokes on every topic under the sun, but you’ll almost never read about things going badly in my life or how I’m feeling. Plenty of people online
share extremely personal things to their followers but that’s not me, either in real life or in the virtual world. It’s something that extends into other aspects of my life; I like to nut things out for myself, I tend to focus inwards and I’m reticent about asking for help. Unfortunately these are all things that can be bad for business. We haven’t had a flash season on the farm this year, especially coming off the back of three record years,
and the shareholders are understandably disappointed. Some people who know me well online picked up that something was off, I didn’t post as often as I usually do and I was less ready with a joke, more inclined to snap. I sat down with the farm consultant to review our season to date, and we pinpointed several things that in isolation don’t mean very much, but together they add up to something; we reared the calves ourselves instead
of hiring help, we had key staff leave unexpectedly (one to pursue true love, the other because he got an offer he couldn’t refuse), we had trouble finding good replacement staff (we didn’t have a full complement until Christmas) and when I did find good staff I told them what to do instead of why we do things because it was expedient. These things all meant I was focusing on the wrong area, I turned in and tried to solve problems rather than reaching out and asking for help. I didn’t share. I didn’t focus on the single biggest driver of our production; hitting a 1600kg residual, instead I focused on trying to solve problems by myself. And it shows. None of this means I’ll be any more inclined to share online when things aren’t going well, that’s just not me, but it does mean I’ve learned my lesson; that you can’t coast on previous successes and that if support is only a phone call away you should pick up the damned phone.
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Feds support climate change plan Federated Farmers says proposals to tackle climate change can work as long as there is cross-party support backed by a Climate Commission that has informed science. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, recently outlined nine recommendations in a report, A Zero Carbon Act for New Zealand. They’re aimed at ensuring New Zealand sets effective carbon budgets, establishes a credible Climate Change Federated Farmers climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard says there needs to be a pragmatic approach as to how New Zealand manages and reduces greenhouse gases.
Commission and drives plans and policies that actually turn into action. “The federation supports the thrust of Mr Upton’s report,” Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers climate change spokesman said. “It’s particularly pleasing to see that the commissioner’s report acknowledges the complexity there is around different greenhouse gases and how each gas – whether methane, nitrous oxide or carbon dioxide – has different effects on the climate, and how they need to be managed. “For example, the report regards methane as a less urgent problem against more persistent greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide,” Hoggard said. The federation wants the government to consider the commentary in the report supporting the potential use of targets for different greenhouse gases to ensure that emission reduction targets are achievable and fair. “It is worth noting that carbon dioxide emissions related to road transport have
increased by 78 per cent since 1990, compared to methane, which has increased 5 per cent. “This surely emphasises that while agricultural emissions are part of the problem, there needs to be a pragmatic and balanced approach to tackling how this country manages and reduces all greenhouse gases.” Federated Farmers seeks public policy that supports New Zealand’s natural advantages in agricultural production, such as further investment in research to reduce biological agricultural emissions where cost-effective mitigation technologies can assist farmers. “Farmers have and continue to make reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product. We are particularly efficient at this compared to other countries. “It’s important that the government pursues a Zero Carbon Act and establishes a Climate Change Commission that makes decisions which aren’t detrimental to our international competitiveness as a food producer,” Hoggard said.
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Research to aid cow gas reductions A global scientific project led by New Zealand researchers has provided the next step to creating vaccines and inhibitors to reduce methane emissions from cows. The project, called the Hungate1000, named after Bob Hungate, an American scientist who trained the first generation of New Zealand rumen microbiologists in the 1960s and 1970s, was led by former AgResearch scientist Dr Bill Kelly, and AgResearch scientist Dr Sinead Leahy. The pair brought together nearly 60 scientists from 14 research organisations across nine countries, who collaborated to generate a reference catalogue of 501 rumen microbial genomes – before Hungate1000, just 15 rumen microbial genomes were available to the scientific community. The research, which has generated a reference set of genome sequences of microbes found in the stomachs of sheep and cattle, has been published in the respected international scientific journal Nature Biotechnology. Kelly said the project gives a new understanding of what exactly is taking place inside a rumen. “Hungate1000 means we can now start to reveal the intricacies of how the rumen microbial community functions, and provides a roadmap for where to take the science next,” he said. “This data can be translated into interventions that are useful, such as identifying targets for vaccines and inhibitors to reduce methane emissions and improve productivity, among other things.” Leahy, who is currently seconded to the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) as its international capability and training co-ordinator, said the project represented a major scientific advancement in the field of rumen microbiology, an area of science that up until recently had largely been unexplored. “These microbes in the stomachs of ruminants are crucially important – they convert grass and other dietary components into smaller compounds that the sheep or cow uses to make meat and milk,” she said.
Dr Bill Kelly and Dr Sinead Leahy from the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre have led a new research project that has provided a better understanding of what exactly is taking place inside a rumen. Photo: New PHOTO SUPPLIED Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.
“The data we’ve made available with Hungate1000 will underpin the development of technologies to target these microbes and aid productivity or reduce greenhouse gas emissions – you need to know what you’re targeting to make a specific impact on the rumen microbiome environment.” Dr Andy Reisinger, the NZAGRC’s deputy director (international), said Hungate1000 is central to the work that the NZAGRC is managing. “Hungate1000 shows what a powerhouse the rumen is in converting digestible plant material to energy, and gives us a much better understanding of how we might be able to use science to influence that process,” he said. “This will help us find ways not only to enhance productivity but also to achieve emissions reductions and deliver solutions to farmers – such as inhibitors and vaccines – that don’t affect their bottom lines.” The Hungate1000 was funded by the New Zealand government through the Ministry for Primary Industries in support of the Livestock Research
Group of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), which is administered by the NZAGRC. The genome sequencing and
analysis component of the project was supported by the United States Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute, via its Community Science Programme. Dr Harry Clark, the director of the NZAGRC who also co-chairs the GRA’s Livestock Research Group, said Hungate1000 would not have come about without the financial support of the New Zealand government. “The investment by MPI to support good science delivers multiple benefits, not just to New Zealand but globally too,” he said. “This project shows the power of international collaboration – we’ve been able to bring scientists together from around the world to create this resource that can benefit all countries, and New Zealand can be proud that we made it happen.” Kelly said he and the rest of the Hungate1000 team are delighted to see their work published in Nature Biotechnology. “It’s the culmination of a long journey and a lot of work, and we have achieved something that I think is really worthwhile,” he said. “The kudos of getting something published in a high-impact journal like Nature Biotechnology is enormous, and highlights the value of this work to a global audience.”
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