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Dairy Focus MAY, 2014

The balancing act Pages 3-5 Photo Michelle Nelson

Devon (pictured) and Mark Slee are the winners of this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

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Farming Dairy Focus


Matt Jones


Keeping your employment records up to date is important especially when the labour inspectors are around.


A visit to the London Design Museum provides inspiration for recycling.


A better returning investment is about to hit the market, but it does come with conditions.


This year’s dairy awards were a celebration of an industry proud of its achievements.


Nutrition, a key factor in cow lameness, is explained.




Sheryl Stivens

Grant Davies

Willy Leferink

Fred Hoekstra


The Slees: Cameron (11), Devon, Luke (eight) and Mark at their Ealing dairy farm.





CONTACTS We appreciate your feedback. Editor Email your comments to michelle.n@theguardian.co.nz or phone 03 307 7971.

Advertising Email emma.j@theguardian.co.nz or phone 03 307 7981. Post Ashburton Guardian, PO Box 77, Ashburton.

Michelle Nelson

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to gain instant information about school bus timetables, playgroups, sports practice car pools and such like. The page has also proved its worth in connecting women in need of support. Sheryl Stivens, from Mastagard Ashburton, is a regular in our Guardian Farming publication. She has recently returned from a trip to the UK, where she visited the London Design Museum. On page 8, she presents some clever products made from recycled and renewable materials. We take a look at DairyNZ chairman John Luxton’s background and learn he’s a farmer first and foremost. Matt Jones, in his column Staff Matters, has some timely advice for employers – before Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment labour inspectors come knocking on the door to check your records.

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he wet weather continues to try our patience well into May, making it three wet months in a row for most Canterbury farmers. And with Gypsy Day on the horizon farmers will be hoping the situation improves. This month we feature Mark and Devon Slee’s farm at Ealing. The Slees are this year’s recipients of the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Supreme Award. They also took home the LIC Dairy Farm Award, the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award. We profile the winners of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, and Federated Farmers dairy chairman commends the industry’s shining stars. We have two new columnists. Chantelle O’Sullivan discusses the implications of being a stay-at-home mum. Mrs O’Sullivan, from Mayfield, is the administrator of the Farming Mums facebook page which operates around the country. No doubt with Gypsy Day looming this social networking service will be a valuable resource for new families


What makes a dairy farm stand out for the judges of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards? Canterbury supreme award winners Mark and Devon Slee showcased Melrose Dairy Limited recently, and spoke about their journey.

Michelle Nelson



ark and Devon Slee’s ability to do the hard work and innovate was as apparent to the judges, as their commitment to install cutting-edge technology to measure, monitor, model and interpret data to achieve the environmental, social and economic outcomes required. Chairwoman of the Canterbury BFEA committee, Joanne van Polanen, said the Slees had been asked to consider entering the awards three times in the past, but declined on each occasion saying they weren’t ready. Last year they entered of their own volition. The Slees’ systems to look after the environment, their staff and the business were outstanding, she said. In addition to the supreme award, the couple were also presented with the LIC Dairy Farm Award, the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award and the WaterForce


On the cutting edge

Melrose Dairy Limited, owned by Mark and Devon Slee, is an example of a successful and innovative dairy farm.

Integrated Management Award.


Melrose Dairy Ltd grew out of the Slee family sheep farm. Mr Slee’s parents Syd and Morrell converted the original 365 hectare block in 1987. “We couldn’t carry on sheep farming,” Mr Slee said. “There was no money in it – it was a really tough time, we had to convert.” Initially the banks turned the family down, and they had to look elsewhere for money. Mr Slee had spent 1985 at farm training school Flock House, near Bulls, before completing a Diploma of Agriculture at what was then Lincoln College. After spending a few months working in the North Island, he was back on the newly converted family farm, aged 20, to take over as manager. He was quick to admit the business would not be the

Mark Slee at the environmental field day.

success it is without Mrs Slee’s contribution. With the buying of two neighbouring farms and a runoff block, Melrose Dairy now covers 1014ha, milks 2640 cows across three dairy units, producing 1834kg milksolids per hectare last year. It is one of five farms involved in the Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) benchmark

programme, which aims to compare farms down to operating profit levels. The original farm was irrigated through borderdykes on a 28-day rotation. “By Christmas we were feeding out silage,” Mr Slee said. “Even though we had good irrigation we were not using water efficiently, when we bought the block off Noel Knox, we knew we had to put in spray irrigation.” When the first centre pivot unit was installed, it was one of only a handful in the district. “In 2002 we put in K-line and some centre pivots. There was a 3km walk for the cows, which meant some workers were getting up at 3am to milk 1600 cows. “We were putting two herds of 300 through the original shed – now we have three sheds milking 880 cows each.” Nutrient leaching has also been addressed. “We now had

the ability to grow grass.” The new technology also had environmental benefits, which have been improved with new application systems over the years. In 1992, the farm was running 2.2 cows to the hectare, producing 704kg/ MS/ha (320kg/MS/cow) with a water application rate of 800mm/ha. Ten years later they ran three cows/ha, for 1170kg/MS/ha (390kg/MS/ cow) applying 657mm/ha. This season the property is carrying 3.8 cows/ha, producing 1805kg/MS/ha (475kg/MS/cow), applying 383mm of irrigation per hectare. The efficiency of water use has gone up 400 per cent on 1992 statistics, and with the use of SMART irrigation it is likely to continue to improve.

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Farming Dairy Focus


From page 3

Irrigation Dr Anthony Davoren, who specialises in irrigation management and requirements, spoke about the importance of measuring and monitoring, and the systems the Slees have installed to ensure efficient water use. “With spray irrigation you need to be making strategic decisions about when to irrigate,” Dr Davoren said. “Until you dig a hole you don’t know what you are irrigating.” Melrose Dairies operates on predominately ryegrassbased pastures, with 30cm to 40cm root system, requiring 50mm to 60mm of water to achieve optimum growth. The pasture will begin to decline when half this amount has been used, he said. “Don’t be deceived by what you are seeing on the surface, from mid-December you could be losing up to 6ml a day – you need to be irrigating to achieve maximum pasture growth. “Don’t watch what your neighbours are doing – you need to measure soil moisture.” Melrose Dairies has installed seven Aquaflex

Hydrologist Dr Anthony Davoren at the Slee field day.

sensors to measure the volumetric moisture content of the soil, and plans are in place for more. The 3m sensor tapes are buried at the plant root zone, often with another below to measure drainage events. They enable at least six litres of soil to be sampled, providing a representative measurement. They also measure soil temperature, and the data can be accessed online. The system is field calibrated. “You need to know the water-holding capacity of the soil. If you are going to spend $5000 don’t just do it

because it feels good – make it work for you and get the data interpreted.” Dr Davoren said a single sensor was not sufficient to meet Overseer requirements. “It is important to measure sub-soil moisture to identify drainage, to compare it with what Overseer is measuring – we know there are issues with Overseer because it is a simplistic programme. “It is also important to measure soil temperature. If it is less than 10 degrees it’s not worth irrigating because that’s the threshold temperature for growth.

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IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis spoke about the role of SMART irrigation in good management practices. He said the future of the dairy industry in the face of water limits will depend on farmers having a “really good plan, implementing it, and making it succeed”. “The plan will be the strategy for sustainable dairy farming. A good plan starts with a compelling vision – we know what the challenges will be,” Mr Curtis said. “We have the world’s best farmers who will make sure the dairy industry is going forward sustainably into the future.”

Tucker time

Mr Slee’s philosophy on feed is simple: “I don’t like waste – I don’t like my kids not eating their tea!” Putting this into practice on the farm translates to grass: “It’s going to grow so you need to eat it. “You can come here any time of the year and find good pasture.” “Every paddock is soil tested, but it’s not just about pouring more nitrogen on – it’s about getting back to basics.”

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Ten per cent of the property is regrassed every year. “We do a farm walk each week to monitor pasture – you’ve got to be careful when using supplements to maintain pasture quality Fodder beet, grown on another block, has been incorporated into herd diets as a supplement. “You don’t have to cover the stack, and it’s a very cheap supplement,” Mr Slee says. The crop produces upward of 25 tonne per hectare, and is fed at a rate of 2-3kg per cow – equating to 20 to 30 per cent of the cow’s diet. Any more and there is a risk of milk taint. “Urine patches are a big sustainability concern, regarding nitrogen it may mean a change in diet.” Supplementing with fodder beet also appears to help in reducing nitrogen loses. “It’s a lot less than on ryegrass pasture – it maybe the way of the future. “The way to reduce nitrogen going out the back end of a cow is to reduce the amount going in the front end. “The dairy industry has been driving at 110kg/h – maybe we need to ease off the

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foot pedal and pull back to 100,” Mr Slee said. “What we are doing here is totally legal – we have an option here to carry on farming the way we want to – but we also need to consider the environment.”

Nutrient budgeting

Ballance Agri Nutrient science extension officer Jim Risk talked about the challenges of establishing a nutrient budget. He thinks the Slees are doing a good job. “It’s all very well having a nutrient budget but it’s what you do with it,” he said. This requires accurate collection of information. “If you’re going to apply effluent you need to know the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus going on.” Good storage systems on Melrose mean effluent can be added when and where it’s most needed.


While involved in the overall business, Mrs Slee’s passion is planting shelterbelts. The arrival of the first centre-pivot irrigators in 2001 meant the removal of large, exotic trees. “We were always conscious


about putting back that shelter,” Mrs Slee said. By 2009, when most of the redevelopment work was completed, the project to replant began. On the main block of 890ha, about 10,000 trees have been planted, equating to 8km of native shelterbelts, and plans are in place to plant out another 140ha next autumn. Mrs Slee said there have been lessons learnt on the way. Before the first plants went in, the area was sprayed out; attracting every hare in the district. Another drawback with this system was that weeds such as scotch thistles were able to take hold. Using a broad cone spray, clearing off about a metre was a more successful method of establishing the shelterbelts. Tree selection was also a learning curve, using plants that would have occurred naturally on the plains. The plan at Melrose Dairy was always to maintain landscape integrity by using hardy plants that encouraged biodiversity. Twice-yearly maintenance schedules are also important during the establishment phase and once a year thereafter.

low, in line with the Slees’ aim to select, develop and retain the right people for their business.

Where to next?

The Slee family: Cameron (11), Devon, Luke (eight) and Mark.

Another advantage of using natives is that they will selfpropagate, filling in any gaps. Mrs Slee advised developing a planting plan in consultation with a reputable nursery.

Employers The Slees employ 13 fulltime workers and two part timers, and take staff satisfaction seriously. Each employee has their own house, or individual quarters, with firewood/ heating, health insurance and

meat included in a competitive salary package. The 10-week springtime roster operates on a six-on, two-off rotation. For the rest of the year staff work 11 days on and 3.5 off, with an early finish on the last day and a late start on the first day back. Weekly meetings, a regular newsletter, and an open-door policy keep communication channels open. AgITO industry and on-farm training is also offered. As a result staff turnover is

We need to continually improve the business,” Mr Slee said. “As for environmental improvements, we will continue to make small incremental steps. In the future we will probably have to step back a bit from the business. “A great thing about this business is that we really enjoy what we do. It’s not just about profitability – the other thing is helping people get into the industry, we can do that by helping contract milkers.” Mrs Slee’s immediate plans to improve the business are more concise: “More farm shelter,” she said. “Our staff, our animals and our environment at the face of our industry, and it’s really important we get it right.” • The Slees will compete with the other 10 regional finalists for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy. The winner will be announced at a National Sustainability Showcase in Christchurch on June 26.


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Farming Dairy Focus


Labour inspectors doing the rounds Matt Jones



airy farmers beware; the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s labour inspectorate is on the warpath carrying out minimum employment rights checks on our farms. There is a good reason why. Staggeringly the majority of dairy farmers have not been adhering to employment laws. Over the past six months, 70 per cent of dairy farms were in breach of employment rights, most infringements being due to poor record keeping seeing minimum wage requirements falling short of the necessary thresholds. Action has been taken for offending farming operations and the outcome has resulted in 22 enforceable

undertakings and one notice of improvement being issued. The labour inspectorate will be chasing compliance with these breaches after farmers were given 28 days to make the necessary changes; several cases are still open with more serious action pending. In light of this result, MBIE inspectors are actively monitoring compliance on dairy farms from Kaitaia to Invercargill with a view to protecting employees from the all-too-frequent employment law breaches, such as seasonal averaging of salaries, they are out in force checking noncompliance with minimum wage standards. The next phase of these visits is to ensure migrants, in particular, are being paid at least the minimum wage of $14.25 an hour and that all record keeping is up to date. Make sure that your farm staff are filling in their timesheets every week so that your paperwork is watertight if the MBIE pays you a visit. It’s imperative if you don’t have your staff submitting timesheets, as a minimum

Keeping your employees’ records up to date is important when the labour inspectors visit your dairy farm.

you are recording the hours worked daily of each staff member. If there are any grievances taken against you in future, and an employee has diary notes of hours worked and you, as the employer, have no records, the employee’s records will be assumed correct over your assumptions. Please note you can be forced to back pay what is owed if your employees have been underpaid. In a recent case a farmer had to pay back $6000 that was owed to an employee. There may be an answer

though to help prevent minimum wage issues. The option of including accommodation with remuneration packages could be a silver lining for farm workers and would seldom put them under the minimum wage threshold. In the past, accommodation could not be included in salary bundles to even out minimum hourly rate over the fluctuations of the seasons. Recent MBIE advice suggests remuneration can now include the total rental of lodgings provided by you as part of

the employee’s gross salary package which may hedge any potential risks for you. Are you keeping accurate records for each staff member? I’d advise that dairy farm owners or managers keep a checklist covering all the essentials. It is important that employment contracts, concise timesheets and wage and holiday documentation are in place for all staff members. What are the repercussions for you if your paperwork is sloppy? Not only will the MBIE come down on you hard but you could be penalised between $10,000 and $20,000 for not complying with required employment laws. So farmers take heed, keep the inspectors off your back and be conscientious with employee records. The reputational damage and financial penalties just aren’t worth it. • If you’re concerned about any of these issues, give Agstaff a call and we’ll be happy to help you out.

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Farming Dairy Focus

2 8


Extending the life of waste products Sheryl Stivens



hat a wet autumn it has been. The soils are certainly saturated with lots of surface flooding visible as you drive around Ashburton. On our small farm at Willowby the results of planting shelter as well as building soils and applying compost over many years is evident with good drainage and no surface water visible in our pastures.

Redesign to reduce waste and improve efficiency

Design or redesign can considerably reduce waste to landfill as well as improving our way of life. I had a couple of weeks in the United

Kingdom in April and one of the highlights for me was a visit to the London Design Museum to see the best designs of 2013. Plastic bottle tops off drink bottles etc, although made from recyclable materials, are almost impossible to manage in a recycling facility and for collection, and they inevitably end up rolling into waterways and contributing to the plastic pollution in our oceans. Clever caps are bottle tops that can be used as building blocks that fit into Lego, thus extending the product’s use and reducing the huge amount of plastic polluting our oceans. What a great idea. The PET lamp reuses plastic drink bottles washed up along the Amazon River to make recycled colourful lamp shades that are durable and long lasting. The crowd-funded project, Fairphone is a smart phone that has been developed with airtight ethical credentials and components. The cars on show included the VW XL1, the first car to

Lego-like shapes made from recycled bottle tops extends the use of the waste product.

here too so the safest place to put materials we cannot recycle from your farm or household at this time is to send them to a modern lined landfill.

What happens to your farm waste?

travel 100 kilometres for every litre of diesel used and has a sporty sculptured form that does not instantly express how energy efficient it is. A smart car on display used a range of lightweight materials such as bamboo in its design Street art outside an old pub had used metal bottle tops – it was so effective and really eye catching. Banners on the street reminded passerby of the multiple benefits of recycling glass bottles.

Belgium landfill mining As virgin resources become scarce and more expensive, moves are afoot in Belgium to mine landfills to recover the materials and energy therein. Much of this is organic waste which creates methane which can be used for energy, plastics which could not be recycled in the past and can be now and precious metals which are now recoverable and valuable. This will eventually happen

In Mid Canterbury you can recycle a wide range of materials and hazardous items, including paint, fluorescent tubes and bulbs and household batteries, for free. If you need help reducing your waste, the best way is to do a simple waste audit to see what can be recycled or reduced by changing what you buy. Then you can really see what needs to be disposed of to landfill. • To get advice and help with your waste audit phone 0800 627 824 or email bholley@mastagard. co.nz or sherylstivens@ gmail.com



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s New Zealand Dairy Farmers are aware, the main metabolic issue experienced during calving is milk fever, with the others being grass tetany (magnesium staggers) and ketosis. Milk fever (hypocalcaemia) is a result of low blood calcium levels not meeting

the cow’s requirements once she has calved. This can bring about unwanted issues such as down cows, nervous trembling and suppressed appetite, all of which affect milk production. The high-risk period for such disorders is the transition phase between late pregnancy and lactation. We calculate that a 500kg cow producing 30 litres of milk per day will typically require 46g of calcium per day. However, that same cow is likely to only have 12.5

grams calcium available in her bloodstream or “available calcium pool”, therefore each cow’s requirements are four times higher than the

which causes a mild metabolic acidosis, lowering of the blood pH, resulting in the cow having to respond quickly to buffer and turn on hormonal

The concept of lead feeding also involves feeding the cow a “high octane” high energy feed, thereby lifting cow’s energy levels and assisting them in reaching peak production earlier

amount of calcium in the readily available calcium pool. Furthermore, the colostrum milk contains double the amount of calcium of normal milk (2.4 grams/litre), placing even more demand on the cow’s calcium requirements during this critical time. Remedies in the past have been to basically “starve” cows to keep them skinny, limiting potassium, keeping them on a low calcium diet and dusting the pasture with magnesium oxide. Current thinking centres around Dietary Cation Anion Difference (DCAD)

aspects of calcium absorption. Lead feeding involves the use of anionic salts which decreases blood pH, leading to an increase in the parathyroid hormone which in turn leads to an increase in calcium mobilisation from bones and an increase in calcium absorption from the intestine. We recommend introducing a lead feed supplement during the high-risk period (12-17 days prior to calving) enabling farmers to prepare their herd for the change from dry state to lactation, leading to increased milk production,

reduced weight loss and improved productivity. Lead feed also contains calcium to assist in replacing/ building the cows reserves in what she has lost over the calving period, keeping in mind that although the lead feeding will wipe out milk fever issues, there is still a fundamental issue of the cow’s calcium reserves being mined down. The concept of lead feeding also involves feeding the cow a “high octane” high energy feed, thereby lifting cow’s energy levels and assisting them in reaching peak production earlier. Furthermore, it will assist in training the rumen bugs to be able to effectively breakdown starch based feeds which is important if the cows are going to be on a grain based ration during lactation. Research shows that cows on lead feed will reach peak production earlier, therefore increasing overall milk solids and providing a favourable margin over the cost invested in the lead feed. Advertising feature


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Dairy Focus



Investors and savers have another o Grant Davies



ith interest rates on the rise, savers are starting to see improved returns on their funds. The banks are notoriously slow to pass on rate rises to depositors, but those looking for higher returns can find them in some of the less traditional fixed interest instruments that are now coming to the market. Kiwibank has announced one such instrument, offering an interest rate of 6.61 per cent per annum through the issuance of subordinated, unsecured capital notes. The notes are issued by Kiwi Capital Funding Limited (KCFL), with the funds used to purchase subordinated Kiwibank bonds – the reason for this is explained further

below. The structure of these notes needs further examination as it is important that investors who are considering taking up the offer have a full understanding of how they work. In all likelihood most of the other New Zealand banks will bring similar debt issues to the market in the next six to 12 months. The issues are all likely to be unsecured and subordinated and are also likely to include the loss absorption option.

Why are the banks issuing these securities? Since the global financial crisis of 2008, regulators around the world have been introducing new rules in an attempt to insulate the banking system from further credit shocks. This means that regulators require banks to maintain certain levels of capital. This is supposed to strengthen the bank’s balance sheet and lessen the likelihood of these institutions taking undue risks

by over leveraging. Banks now have strict capital requirements that include holding Tier I and Tier II capital. Tier I capital is essentially equity (or shares in the company) as well as retained earnings (there are other factors outside the scope of this article).

What is Tier II capital?

The capital notes in question are ranked as Tier II capital. Tier II capital is supplementary bank capital. This includes items such as revaluation reserves, undisclosed reserves, hybrid instruments and subordinated term debt. Tier II capital is limited to 100 per cent of Tier I capital, meaning that banks cannot use Tier II capital as a substitute for Tier I. Essentially, Tier II capital is less exposed to financial crisis than Tier I, but not as safe a standard fixed interest or term deposits. As opposed to Tier I capital, Tier II capital notes are restricted in their ability to absorb capital losses (other than in bankruptcy).

What does loss absorption mean? All of these new-style capital notes will include this proviso. Loss absorption means that if a non-viability trigger event occurs then your notes may be converted into ordinary shares or, if that is not possible, written down in value or written off entirely. This means you may only receive 80 cents in the dollar back, or in the worst case scenario, nothing at all.

What is a nonviability trigger event?

are being conducted in a manner prejudicial to the soundness of the financial system; d) the circumstances of Kiwibank are such as to be prejudicial to the soundness of the financial system; or e) the business of Kiwibank has not been, or is not being, conducted in a prudent manner.

What are the chances of a non-viability trigger event? A non-viability trigger event is possible. The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 included many examples of banks suffering similar write-downs. The chance of Kiwibank suffering similar write downs is generally considered slim and would most likely be preceded by global financial turmoil and would also likely require a huge drop in property values in New Zealand. The political palatability of such a scenario playing out should also be considered, but investors should not rely

The grounds on which the Reserve Bank of New Zealand may give notice of a non-viability trigger event are if the Reserve Bank has reasonable grounds to believe that: a) Kiwibank is insolvent or is likely to become insolvent; b) Kiwibank is about to suspend payment or is unable to meet its obligations as and when they fall due; c) the affairs of Kiwibank

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option with new Kiwibank product on the government bailing Kiwibank out. In a non-viability trigger event situation, these notes will cease to behave like bonds and track the performance of the underlying shares instead.

What is the credit rating?

The credit rating for these notes is BB+. This means these notes do not qualify as investment grade according to rating agency Standard & Poor’s. This means the notes fall into what is known as speculative grade. Kiwibank has a credit rating of A+ (negative outlook). The Capital Notes have been assigned a lower rating of BB+ by Standard & Poor’s because of their subordination and loss absorption features. An obligation with a BB credit rating is less vulnerable to non-payment than other speculative grade issues.

your capital notes) and using the proceeds to subscribe for regulatory capital instruments issued by Kiwibank (such as the Kiwibank Bonds held by KCFL). The reason for this structure is that under a non-viability trigger event, the capital notes could be converted into shares. Because the public cannot own shares in Kiwibank (due to its SOE status) investors would be offered potentially worthless shares in KCFL (in a non-viability trigger event any shares offered would likely be worth very little anyway, due to the solvency issues explained above).

When could these notes be called?

These notes are issued for 10 years, but can be called under several different scenarios. The most likely is that the notes get called after five years. This relates to the capital adequacy discussion above. After five years, the Tier II capital nature of these bonds starts to decline. This means that instead of being able to record these

bonds in their books as Tier II capital, they will only be able to record a portion of these bonds as Tier II capital. The proportion they can record as Tier II capital will decrease over the next five years until they are no longer Tier II capital at all. By no longer being eligible as Tier II capital, Kiwibank will be less inclined to hold the bonds on their books, and could very well pay them back.

Should you take part in these issues?

a hitch and are repaid in five years time, then the indicative rate of 6.61 per cent to 6.875 per cent per annum looks quite attractive. All investors should read the Investment Statement before deciding whether to take part.

Hamilton Hindin Greene, who may hold an interest in the security. It does not constitute investment advice. Disclosure documents are available by request and free of charge through www.hhg.co.nz.

• Written by Grant Davies, Authorised Financial Advisor at Hamilton Hindin Greene Limited. This article represents general information provided by

This is an important conversation you should have with your adviser. It is a classic situation where investors need to decide whether the risks associated with these bonds are justified by the returns on offer. In short, investors in these notes receive the income generated by the ATS NEWS AUGUST 2013—hANhAm 1/2PG ADVERT subordinated bonds. This income is not guaranteed. If we assume these ATS NEWS AUGUST 2013—hANhAm 1/2PG ADVERT notes go off without

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Who are KCFL (the issuers of the notes)?

KCFL has been established solely for the purpose of issuing debt securities (such as

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Farming Dairy Focus


Who’s who at DairyNZ The dairy industry is a big part of Ashburton’s economy but do you know who is leading its thinking and research? This month we profile DairyNZ chairman, John Luxton as part of our series on industry leaders and thinkers from DairyNZ, the industry’s research and science body, charged with managing $83 million worth of research, science and on-farm support and advice to farmers.

John Luxton – farmer first W

hen you look at John Luxton’s career history, it’s hard to know whether he’s a farmer first, and a politician and industry leader second, or the other way around. But if you talk to Mr Luxton – the answer is direct and clear. He’s a farmer – because that’s what his life and his family have always been about – even when they have been in politics. “My brothers and I are fifth-generation New Zealand dairy farmers. My forebears originally came from England and settled here into farming life initially in Canterbury, then Taranaki and now the Waikato – and that’s where we’ve stayed farming ever since. Tatua, the dairy company in the Waikato that we supply, has just celebrated 100 years as a company – and my family has been associated with it for 95 years. “I now live in Wellington but my heart is on the farm –

and that’s where I’m often to be found, visiting my children who now farm in Waikato and Taranaki.” Mr Luxton followed his father Jack into politics in 1987, elected as Member of Parliament for Matamata in the Waikato. When the National Party won the 1990 elections and Jim Bolger became Prime Minister, Mr Luxton was appointed to Cabinet. His ministerial roles have included Minister of Energy, Minister of Maori Affairs, Minister of Housing, Minister of Police, Minister of Commerce, Minister of Industry, Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Lands, Minister of Customs and Minister of Agriculture. He was also an Associate Minister of Education and of Overseas Trade. In 2002, when Mr Luxton decided to leave politics, he returned to his passion – dairy farming and leadership. He was one of the founders of

We’re the All Blacks of dairy farming – the world leaders in dairy exports. That’s something to be proud of and we have a rural heritage that deserves celebrating

the Open Country Dairies and the Kaimai Cheese Company in the Waikato, along with former colleague Wyatt Creech. He holds several directorships in the agribusiness sector including

the Tatua Dairy Company, the Crown research institute Landcare Research and a number of other businesses in which he has an interest. He retains extensive farming interests supplying Fonterra, Westland and Tatua dairy companies. He’s been chairman of DairyNZ since 2007. Mr Luxton is sought out as an industry leader who can represent dairy farmers but also take the wider community view – and link sectors together, building consensus and understanding along the way. He has been appointed as a co-chair of the Waikato River Authority and was a member of the New Zealand Constitutional Advisory Panel. He also sat on the board of the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company. But it is dairy farming that captures his passion. He regards the industry as one of New Zealand’s great success

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and foremost stories of innovation, growth and co-operation. “We’re the All Blacks of dairy farming – the world leaders in dairy exports. That’s something to be proud of and we have a rural heritage that deserves celebrating. “The story of dairy farming in this country is one of pioneering innovation – and changing and adapting to new opportunities. The growth of dairy farming in the South Island is an example of that. I’m always inspired when I hear from so many young people who are making their way just as I did. “Dairying is big business, and often in young hands. The average 400-cow dairy farm in New Zealand is worth $6.5 million and at a $8/kgMS payout an average farm is earning $1.1 million in milk revenue, and in the South Island, it’s much bigger numbers. Farmers are contributing significantly to our communities and our

economy. “I’ve seen the industry address its many challenges – including the environmental one. Most farmers are responsible stewards of the land because our primary focus is on sustaining our businesses for future generations. My family is an example of that – and I see firsthand how farmers invest millions of dollars in planting trees and native plants and protecting and caring for the land. “A lot of my time is spent defending and representing dairy farmers – and explaining what’s going on every day on farms throughout New Zealand. We have to focus on telling our story ourselves – because we know it best.”

John Luxton, chairman of Dairy NZ, and keen farmer.


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Additional skills needed for irrigators BY IRRIGATION NZ


airy farmers today need to understand their on-farm financials and demonstrate governance skills if they want to play a larger role within an irrigation scheme. In order to help, two IrrigationNZ workshops will offer opportunities to up-skill in these areas. Not just focused on the needs of directors, the Governance Essentials workshop on June 12 will cover governance from both a staff and board member’s perspective – from understanding the difference between governance and operational decisions to a review of the legislation impacting on companies. Presenter Juliet McKee is an accredited fellow of the Institute of Directors as well as an experienced director, having sat on more than 20 boards across a wide range of sectors. The one-day workshop at the Copthorne Hotel in Christchurch will also

Good record keeping about irrigation is now essential for all irrigators.

cover the essentials of good board papers and well run meetings, and feature a case study focusing on strategy and board-management relationships. In July, IrrigationNZ will follow up with a Finance Essentials workshop presented by Craig Rust, a fellow member of the Institute of Directors, chartered accountant and successful

businessman in his own right as founder-owner of Divine Desserts. The one-day workshop on July 17, also at the Copthorne Hotel, will cover all aspects of financial reporting from financial statements and terminology through to budgets and forecasts. An evaluation of investment approaches using real life examples will help

participants compare scenarios and make their own appraisals. To find out more information about both workshops, phone IrrigationNZ (03) 341 2225 or register online at www.irrigationnz.co/nz/ eventsandtraining Both workshops link to IrrigationNZ’s SMART Irrigation programme of work (www.smartirrigation. co.nz) launched in April.

SMART Irrigation is a framework to ensure future irrigation in New Zealand is implemented and managed sustainably. It is a first for New Zealand and will help irrigators respond to public concerns about the use of public water resources by proving SMART Irrigators are effective water managers. The SMART (Sustainably Managed, Accountable, Responsible and Trusted) Irrigation framework provides three simple steps for irrigators to better manage their environmental footprint: design future irrigation systems to industry standards and codes of practice; annually check the irrigation system is performing as it should; and justify the reason for applying irrigation. Central to this is record keeping – providing evidence that these three simple steps are being achieved. For information about SMART Irrigation visit www. smartirrigation.co.nz, which includes profiles of irrigators and schemes using SMART Irrigation practices.

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Farming Dairy Focus

2 16


Synlait farmers gaining an edge with employment


s DairyNZ has recently urged those in the industry to improve their standards as employers, one Central Canterbury farmer has already taken heed and is noticing the benefits. Leon McKavanagh farms with his wife Bronwyn between Hororata and Dunsandel, supplying milk to Synlait from their 1200 cows. They are among about 40 Synlait-contracted suppliers progressing through the company’s Lead With Pride programme, which recognises and financially rewards the highest standards of dairy farming. Around employment the programme has standards for health and safety, recruitment and growing people within the dairy industry through training, appraisals and skills development.

Mr McKavanagh, who has six staff working on the farm, says the programme is a logical way to give farmers improved peace of mind. “Most farmers are aware that they could do better on employment issues, but until we get a bit of pressure on us, we tend to put it on the back burner,” he said. “Lead With Pride helped me get off my backside and do something about it. We were doing most of the things in the programme, after a fashion, but this collects all the information and gives farmers a structured process to work through, making sure you don’t leave anything out. “For example, this year we need to recruit a new staff member. Lead With Pride gives me a process to do that, in a set and documented procedure, which will give

us more confidence that we are getting it right when we recruit that new person.” A recent Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment survey of more than 40 dairy farms across the country found three-quarters were not complying with employment laws, mostly around not keeping accurate records of time worked and wages paid. Mr McKavanagh reckons public perception of dairy farmers could be improved, and Lead With Pride can also help that. “Most farmers know we have to address environmental issues, but social responsibility is a big part of it too,” he said. “We found that sitting down and writing a farm policy, one of the small things in the programme, was important and valuable. Once you’ve

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Hororata farmer Leon McKavanagh (left) discusses human resources and social responsibility with manager of Synlait’s Lead With Pride certification process for best practice dairy farm management, Mark Wren.

Having a good process and everything documented gives everybody something to fall

back on, and peace of mind knowing you’ve ticked all the boxes and are doing things by

the letter of the law.” Synlait’s Lead With Pride manager Mark Wren says the

programme was developed to assist the company’s milk suppliers to be the best they could be. “Suppliers must meet challenging criteria with respect to the environment, animal health and welfare and milk quality, as well as social responsibility,” Mr Wren said. “They are paid above the standard milk price, based on the certification level they achieve. “Social responsibility focuses on employment and best practice around the human resources side of a dairy farm business. It is more than just doing what is legally required. It aims to assist farmers to do the right thing by the team they employ on the farm, fully engaging those team members in a positive and profitable way for all parties. “Leon and Bronwyn converted their farm to dairy about seven years ago. They

We found that sitting down and writing a farm policy, one of the small things in the programme, was important and valuable

are making good progress towards Lead With Pride certification, particularly around social responsibility,” he said. When Synlait developed Lead With Pride, which was launched last year, Lincoln University agribusiness researcher Glen Greer examined the economic benefits that farmers stand to gain by following best practice. Her study indicated farmers stand to gain significant potential annual benefits by following the programme, social responsibility measures accounting for more than 25 per cent of benefits, much of which is related to anticipated reductions in staff turnover.

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Farming Dairy Focus

2 18

Gypsy Day


Remove the years of grease and grime with a new kitchen With Gypsy Day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to look at upgrading yours or your dairy workers’ kitchen space.


ut where to start? With dairy farm workers being flat out and working shifts, functionality needs to be a priority. There is no set ideal kitchen shape, think about the typical U or L shapes and decide which will work best in the available floor space. The best way to start this plan is to work the sink, fridge and cook top positioning into a triangle with no more than six feet between each. This allows for fluid movement when dishing up dinner for five hungry workers. Remember to make room for storage. If the new season is bringing a family into the house then storage is crucial. Use every nook and cranny. Think about overhead cabinets that go right to the ceiling (also saves on areas needing to be dusted), deep drawers and

corner cupboards to make the most of the space. Most dairy workers will end up cooking in the dark, especially during winter, so think about effective lighting. Does this space in the house have a lot of natural light or will you need to employ the

help of some overhead lights? Ensure that you have the right amount of power sources. There is nothing worse than having to unplug the jug to plug the microwave in every time to want to use it. Ask a professional about the appropriate gas or electrical

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lines to ensure the kitchen is going to work well. Think about spacing in between the appliances too, you want to make sure the new fridge will fit. Keep in mind that after a long day of milking, items may get dumped on the

counter and floor. Mud from gumboots and overalls can get trapped in the grout of a tiled floor so remember to pick smooth surfaces that can be easily wiped and maintained. Remember that opening the windows in the morning will probably be the last thing on the minds of early milkers! Rangehoods are the perfect accessory to ensure that last night’s dinner smell is not absorbed into the curtains and carpets. And if all this seems like too much work you would rather not do – investigate your local kitchen company. These guys can come in and recommend the best options for your new kitchen, they can look after the kitchen build from beginning to end, leaving you free to keep doing what’s important for your business! Advertising feature

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Planning needed when shifting cows D airy farmers should take particular care when planning to transport cows in their third trimester of pregnancy. DairyNZ’s development team leader for animal husbandry, Nita Harding, says at this time of year, many farmers are transporting cows with well-advanced pregnancies. There are several things farmers should be aware of to make sure their pregnant cows arrive at their destination in the best possible condition. The key issue is to always make sure any cows to be transported have a body condition score of three or higher before transport. In late pregnancy even cows that are in good condition are considerably more susceptible to the stress of transport and need to be treated with patience and care if they are being transported to another location. Journeys should be as short as possible. Dr Harding says that careful planning is required before pregnant cows are transported.

Girls on the go: Cows being shifted between farms on gypsy day.

Other than the duration of the journey, farmers should also consider their feedtransition plan and ensure the cows receive an adequate supplement of magnesium before and after the journey. Twelve to 20 grams per day of magnesium supplement should be provided to pregnant cows for at least

three days before and three days following the journey. All cows switching from one feed type to another require a feed-transition plan to give their digestive system time to adjust, maintain their condition and minimise any nutritional problems. Remember to consider a transition plan for coming


home from winter grazing, as well as a plan for going to winter grazing. New feed should be introduced over seven to 10 days before the journey, by gradually increasing the amount of the new feed or supplement made available. If this cannot be done before transport, ensure there is

pasture at the other end to transition cows from. Cows in late pregnancy should be treated with patience and care when being loaded. Before transport, cows should be moved off green feed for four to 12 hours (maximum) and be provided with hay and water to reduce the amount of effluent passed during the journey and minimise any stress. This is best done on a grazed-out paddock or stand-off pad. It is not recommended that cows be on concrete for any more than four hours at a time, Dr Harding says. Any longer is likely to lead to sore feet and legs, and potentially lameness. Remember to take as much care with unloading the animals. Food and water should be provided on arrival and the animals checked, especially for signs of bloat, about two hours after arrival. Have someone who is skilled in transporting animals to supervise the process on the day of transport. Pregnant cows are a valuable asset and are worth looking after properly.

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2 20

Farming Dairy Focus

Gypsy Day


How to move your cows safely

Over the coming weeks, expect to see herds of dairy cows on the roads as they are being shifted between farms.

• Those responsible for driving or transporting cows should have the knowledge and experience to handle the animals, even if the unexpected occurs. • Have a plan in place, in case of accidents. • All animals should be fit, healthy and sound. Lame animals will require special consideration. • Cows need to have a body condition score (BCS) or three or more to travel. Lighter animals will require immediate attention, and should not be asked to walk long distances. • Cows should receive 12 grammes to 20 grammes of dietary calcium per day for three days either side of travel to relieve transport stress.

A feed transition plan will help cows adjust the animals’ metabolism to accommodate winter grazing, and limit scouring

• It is worth noting that in wet weather cows obtain more water from pasture and therefore drink less.

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• If magnesium is supplemented through the water supply they may not be getting an adequate amount.

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• A feed transition plan will help cows adjust the animals’ metabolism to accommodate winter grazing, and limit scouring. • Move stock off green feed at least four hours ahead of travelling, but no longer than 12 hours, to reduce effluent issues on roads. • Allow access to water, hay, baleage or dry feed during any withholding periods. • Feed and water should be available to the animals as soon as they arrive on the wintering property. • Treat the cows with patience and care – particularly heavily pregnant animals. • Keep a close eye on the cows for the next 24 hours.

Gypsy Day



Aiming for hassle free tenancies W

hen Heath and Rebecca Smith started in the Dairy Industry they didn’t realise the opportunities that would come. Now 13 years on they are equity managers on a 192ha dairy farm. The partnership also sharemilks another 190ha farm, and has recently joined with their current partners in a new 260ha conversion. It is their involvement in the two farms that they are managers over, that led them to realiae the need for a new business, not that they were looking for that at the time. After a staff member left a near new house with several thousand dollars’ worth of damage they recognised that they should be carrying out Routine Tenancy Inspections on their houses. As they had responsibility of seven houses (now 12), and they felt awkward doing inspections on their staff ’s houses, it was decided at a farm meeting they would find a third party to carry out the inspections, however they were unable to find a company

which exclusively offered that service, which led them to recognising a gap in the market.

Two years on Rebecca has the business well established and Rural Tenancy Inspections Ltd currently does routine inspections on nearly 100 houses

Two years on Rebecca has the business well established and Rural Tenancy Inspections Ltd currently does routine inspections on nearly 100 houses. Alongside her qualifications she already has in

Business Management and Communication, Rebecca is also studying property management. The growth in the business and growing demand has led to the employment of a staff member last month to help carry out the inspections. Heath and Rebecca are based in Te Pirita, and have been approached about increasing their services further out, which has also led to the latest expansion, working in partnership with Lucy Smith from Methven, who is now serving as an agent of the Company in the Methven/ Ashburton area. Lucy has lived locally for 12 years and along with five years’ experience at a local farm supplier her and her husband also successfully operates other businesses. Especially at this time of the year Rebecca says, people should be looking at what processes they have in place for Initial and Routine Tenancy Inspections. I know on dairy farms it is a busy time with people moving in and moving out and often

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the looking over the house is done briefly or not at all, leading to discrepancies when the next employees leave. An Initial Tenancy Inspection should be carried out together, with photos and kept on file by both parties, but setting a standard early in the picture lets everybody know where they stand. Then routine inspections should be carried out to ensure the property is being kept to a clean and tidy standard and to recognise any maintenance that should be carried out. Rural Tenancy Inspections Ltd is simply an inspect and report service.

The initial inspection is carried out with both the tenant and the landlord present, so everybody is on the same page to start with. From there the landlord can decide the frequency of the next inspections. Routine inspections are carried out with the tenant present, and a copy of the report is emailed to the owner and the tenant. We pick up cleaning and gardening that needs doing through to ovens that need repair and leaky hotwater cylinders, and the simple check sheet we use makes it an unbiased judgment. Advertising feature


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2 22

Farming Dairy Focus


Workshop explores ecosystems and L

eading international ecological and environmental scientists focused on the future during a recent visit to Lincoln University and the Bioprotection Research Centre. The Geographically Appropriate Integrated Agriculture Workshop’s (Gaia), key objective was to develop and evaluate a range of scenarios for agricultural land use and management from the perspective of ecosystems and the fundamental services they provide. The 23 participants – from Denmark, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Kenya and Australia – built on developments in agroecology to estimate how many people the world can sustain without the current dependence on, and over-use of, both the earth’s water resources and fossil-fuel based chemicals such as fertilisers and pesticides. Such questions are highly relevant next to the intensive use of the planet’s resources

currently, which have been rated around 50 per cent higher than the planet can maintain. Under the workshop’s proposed scenario, it is estimated that the Earth is suited to a population of about 4.2 billion; three billion fewer than the current population. Agriculture operates on about 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface, making it the planet’s most significant terrestrial ecosystem, but also one which has developed through the deliberate designs of humankind. While the contribution agriculture has made to the life-supporting development of our species is immense, it has also impacted negatively on ecosystems and biodiversity – the fundamental systems which keep us alive. “It is widely acknowledged that agricultural lands show a steady decline in ecological asset quality,” Lincoln University professor in ecology, Steve Wratten said. “This jeopardises the production of other important ecosystem services that are

Lincoln University professor in ecology Steve Wratten lectures at the workshop.

critical to sustainable, healthy living. “Much research and investment in agro-ecological practices, however, has shown that it is possible to substantially reduce

dependency on non-renewable resources.” One key output from the workshop will be a series of papers for a special issue of the academic journal Ecosystem Services as well

as a paper intended for a high profile journal such as Nature. Presentations by three of the workshop delegates at a special forum held at Environment Canterbury (ECan), attracted a high level



challenges of feeding the world

Professor Robert Costanza delivers his address.

of interest, and were aimed at stimulating discussion around the consideration of ecosystem services in future policy. Professor Robert Costanza, a leading ecological

economist and author, environmental management and sustainability, spoke on the importance of resource economics, which values the natural capital that delivers ecosystem services, and

stresses the need to include ecological considerations in the commercial realm. He also advocated the advantages in using the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) as a more credible and

It is possible to substantially reduce dependency on nonrenewable resources

“full cost accounting” measure of well-being and equality than gross domestic product. Professor Wratten also talked about how crop monocultures can be diversified to improve functional biodiversity, reduce costly inputs, and, crucially, increase farm profits. By way of example, he noted that the giant grass miscanthus can deliver around 14 beneficial ecosystem services on dairy farms alone, and, when planted around paddocks, can contribute to a farm’s overall financial and environmental stability.

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The third presenter was Sasha Courville, a senior manager with the National Australia Bank who specialises in commercial strategies around sustainable investment with consideration for true natural value. She is developing the link between improvements in environmental management and farming financial packages. Recent decades have seen a greatly improved understanding of ecosystems, and, more specifically, the vitally important goods and services they provide: goods and services, that is, which have often been taken for granted or overlooked in commercial and social decision-making. Improved research in recent times has led to more sophisticated skills in modelling and simulating the dynamic complexity of ecosystems, leading to a better understanding of where market and institutional failures may be causing the unintentional depletion of natural and ecological assets.

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Farming Dairy Focus

2 24


Chanelle O’Sullivan lives on a deer farm near Mayfield, with her husband Dave and their two-year-old daughter Isabelle. She is the driving force behind a facebook page set up to support farming mums.

Mums – the backbone of a farm Chanelle O’Sullivan



ow do you feel about being an on-farm, stay -at-home mum? What do you reply when your town friend asks what you do all day? Do you accept that role or resent it? Now this question got a lot of us at Farming Mums New Zealand thinking, is it as easy as some think? We feel that the role of “farming mum” is more complex than it first seems, including – and not limited to childcarer, cleaner, cook, gardener, calf rearer, balancer of the books, courier, farm worker, supporter, counsellor, planner, secretary and put

simply, the backbone of a farming operation. Have you ever stopped to think what would happen if we just stopped doing those things? I certainly don’t feel like “stay-at-home-mum” is the correct description for us. It is a topic with so much depth and passion behind it that I can’t even begin to explain how this affects us all. For example, with the recent drought in the North Island, spring winds in Canterbury taking out 400-plus irrigators, autumn winds on the West Coast damaging crops, buildings and forestry, not to mention the hard South Island winters, we have quite a role in supporting our partners through these times. I often feel I am at risk of sounding like a 1950s housewife – but in reality, the importance of supporting our men is becoming more and more evident with the recent suicide rates revealed in rural

Chanelle O’Sullivan and daughter Isabelle check out the chookies.

Photo: Michelle Nelson

New Zealand. We play such a big role in the farming industry and must make every effort to not feel undervalued, or feel guilt over not making a regular wage. Also, who feels guilty when they would like to go out for a night, or away for a short holiday or course? How lucky are we in terms

our children? We are with them when they are at the most highly developmental stage of their lives. They learn where their meat comes from, what animal their milk is out of, how to grow veges. They will start mistaking house hallways for races, and don’t be surprised if they can spot a springer cow among the

mob before you do. They spend more time outside in a week as a child raised in a city does in a month. Their immunity is out of this world, they love mud, can tell you what colour each make of tractor is and have never heard of Grand Theft Auto or played on an XBox. One thing I am sure of is that you will never have any regrets of bringing your kids up on a farm. So next time you are feeling like you are living the life of a solo mum, feeling isolated, as well as over worked and undervalued – try to think of all the positives. The weather will improve and things will get better. Hang in there, take the family on a picnic and sit back and enjoy what most New Zealanders rarely get to see. • Join us Farming Mums on Facebook at https://www. facebook.com/groups/ 503645793055978/

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Soil testing



Healthy plants and animals start with Healthy Soils


comprehensive Albrecht-Kinsey soil audit from Healthy Soils Canterbury provides farmers with the, information to identify soil nutrient excesses or deficiencies as the basis for sound fertiliser decisions. Over the last 60 years science and research in the world has been concentrating on Production, this included, chemical and fertiliser companies, Ag research and Universities, and we have been very good at it. The innovation of farmers world-wide has seen yields of produce double, even quadruple. The consequence Physics


Chemistry ALL THREE ASPECTS IMPACT SOIL FERTILITY While conventional soil fertility programs focus on N, P, K. The balanced fertility approach considers not only the full spectrum of CHEMICAL elements necessary to optimise pasture or crop yields, but the BIOLOGICAL and PHYSICAL factors that impact production as well.

is a huge removal of soil nutrients with only limited nutrient replacement with say superphosphates and urea. With this huge focus on production, Science has neglected CAUSE and concentrated on EFFECT.

with magnesium tightening and calcium flocculating the soil. The key is to see fertilisers in a different light. Not just applied to assist plant growth, but, are required in a balanced way for a diverse role of functions in nature. See them as an investment not as a cost.

It’s time for new thinking

The balanced fertility approach focuses on correct balance in soil nutrients to affect the Chemistry, Physics and Biology of the soil which results in: healthy soils, healthy plants and healthy animals. There is a direct relationship between the minerals in the soil and the health of plants and animals. Just buying and applying nutrients to the soil will not get them into plants. Even if you have all the minerals a plant requires at optimal soil levels there is no guarantee the plant can access them. Productivity is determined by the most limiting factor. This is not always N,P, K&S the soil is a complex system where many nutrients interact with each other (See

Mulder’s chart.) Excesses in one nutrient can antagonise the uptake of another soil nutrient, for example Phosphorous and Zinc . Or the opposite can be the case where elements are responsible for solubilising nutrients for uptake by the plant for example Boron and Calcium. If we are not measuring these elements we cannot manage them and the others they influence efficiently. The application of unbalanced fertilisers can result in complex soil interactions that can lead to additional deficiencies in plant available nutrients.

While N,P,K & S are the main drivers for production, soils need the correct balance of soil nutrients to affect chemistry, physics and micro biology of the soil. Trace minerals are important for producing metabolites. Primary metabolites are synthesized by plants for growth and development. Secondary Metabolites are defence chemicals produced by plants for strengthening plants immune system improving suppression of disease and pathogen attacks. Calcium and Magnesium are the two nutrients that impact soil structure and compaction

The Albrecht-Kinsey system of soil fertility emphasises time and again, if it is true science it is repeatable

So let the results speak for themselves, not some reasoning because our soils are different here: it cannot possibly work here. Healthy Soils Canterbury principally offer a range of products and services that improves soil fertility, restoring mineral, structural and microbial balance of the soil by balancing fertiliser nutrient availability, promoting productivity and protecting the environment. Advertising feature

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2 26

Farming Dairy Focus


Goal setting pays dividends for couple A

Taranaki couple Charlie and Jody McCaig have taken the New Zealand SharemilkerEquity Farmers of the Year title back to the competition’s county of origin. Nick Bertram became the 2014 New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year and Ruth Hone was crowned 2014 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year. Miss Hone became the first woman to win the dairy trainee title and the McCaigs are the 25th winners of the sharemilker contest. The competition celebrated the milestone with an anniversary ball after the awards presentations. It is the longest-running dairy farming competition and has its roots in Taranaki, where the contest idea was born in the 1970s before the first national competition was held in 1990. “It’s hugely special and sentimental that this year’s

winners are from Taranaki,” national convener Chris Keeping says. “It’s also fabulous to have our first female winner in the trainee contest, which does prove girls can do anything!” All winners exemplify the trends evident from this year’s awards, including the use of the industry’s career pathway to progress, the adoption of smart technology on farms and the talent being attracted to the dairy industry. Sharemilker-equity farmer head judge Leo van den Beuken, a Canterbury farmer, says people are now better at progressing along the career pathway that has always been available in the industry. “For 10 of the 11 farms we visited farm ownership is not a dream, it’s a reality. Most of the sharemilkers plan to move into equity farming as the vehicle they will use to get to full ownership and most plan to achieve that goal in five

to 10 years. They showed us the evidence to back up their goals. They plan to have a substantial share in their farm and they are going to increase that share or sell out of their share to buy a farm of their own.” Charlie and Jody McCaig have been in the dairy industry less than five years and have amassed an impressive record in that time, winning the region’s farm manager title in 2011. “I judged them three years ago and then a big thing for them was to save $10,000 a year. They said they would be herd owners in 10 years and they have achieved that goal in just three years.” Mr van den Beuken says the high milksolids payout had assisted. “But people can see the vehicle and the pathway.” Dairy trainee head judge and Taranaki farmer Paul Davidson says the trainees had been exposed to what

is possible during this past week’s study tour, which introduced them to successful farmers. Farm manager judge and DairyNZ regional leader Phil Irvine says the use of smart phone and other technology on farm was assisting in dayto-day tasks. “On one farm all staff had smart phones so they

could access certain things, like rosters and milking procedures. They were also using snapchat to capture things like a leak on a water line.” Charlie and Jody McCaig are 21 per cent sharemilking 500 cows on a property owned by the oil and gas industry and leased by the Taranaki Rugby Union.

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Charlie and Jody McCaig, the 2014 New Zealand SharemilkerEquity Farmers of the Year.

The couple are in their early 30s and will be 50:50 sharemilking in the coming season. They won $55,500 in prizes. Mr van den Beuken says public perceptions and health and safety are top priorities on the farm. “The farm attracts a lot of outside interest because of its location by the sea, cultural significance due to

early land wars and oil and gas infrastructure.” The Kupe gas field comes ashore on the farm. “Charlie and Jody have to be on top of their game at all times. It’s a very high profile farm and they don’t know who’s going to be looking at what they are doing.” He says the couple’s strengths are in their attention to detail, high standards, team work and communication. They also have strong relationships with their staff, encouraging their progression and involving their families. Waiau equity farm managers Kevin and Sara O’Neill placed second in the contest, winning $18,000 in prizes. “Kevin had dreamt of becoming an All Black, but realised that farming was the future for them. They are goal orientated and very focused and you can’t begrudge them for their two years’ experience in the industry as they were operating at the highest level.” Duncan and Kim Fraser have lifted the performance of the Feilding farm they 22 per cent sharemilk in a short space of time to make it a highperforming farm. The couple


placed third, winning $15,400 in prizes. When judges left the Featherston farm being contract milked by 2014 New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year, Nick Bertram, they were buzzing. “He has really picked up a below-averageperforming farm and made the most of the resources available to him,” Mr Irvine says. “He is doing the basics well and has a good handle on finances and how his farm decisions were affecting the farm owner’s finances.” Mr Bertram, 27, is contract milking 260 cows for David and Lorraine Osborne at Featherston. He won $30,500 in prizes. It was a tight contest for the top three places, with Ngatea contract milker Simon Player second and winning $9000 in prizes. “Both Nick and Simon are really good all-rounders and they have also built strong relationships with their farm owners which may provide future opportunities for them,” Mr Irvine says. Third place-getter, Oxford farm manager Phillip Colombus, has become a leader in staff training for Ngai Tahu’s dairy farming business. “Phillip is training staff through a number of

Full results 2014 New Zealand SharemilkerEquity Farmer of the Year Winner: Charlie and Jody McCaig, Taranaki Runner-up: Kevin and Sara O’Neill, Canterbury/North Otago Third: Duncan and Kim Fraser, Manawatu DairyNZ Human Resources Award: Charlie and Jody McCaig Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award: Chris and Carla Staples, West Coast/Top of the South Federated Farmers of NZ Leadership Award: Donald and Kirsten Watson, Central Plateau Fonterra Interview Award: Charlie and Jody McCaig Honda Farm Safety and Health Award: Charlie and Jody McCaig LIC Recording and Productivity Award: Duncan and Kim Fraser Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award: Charlie and Jody McCaig Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award: Donald and Kirsten Watson Triplejump Risk Management Award: Duncan and Kim Fraser Westpac Business Performance Award: Charlie and Jody McCaig 2014 New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year Winner: Nick Bertram, Hawkes

good initiatives and then they progress on to other farms.” Mr Colombus won $8000. The 2014 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year, Ruth Hone, is excited about the dairy industry and the career pathway that it has, Mr Davidson says.

Bay/Wairarapa Runner-up: Simon Player, Auckland/Hauraki Third: Phillip Colombus, Canterbury/North Otago DairyNZ Interview Award: Sam Ebbett, Manawatu Fonterra Best Practice Award: Phillip Colombus Meridian Energy Leadership Award: Jared Crawford, Southland/Otago PrimaryITO Human Resource Management Award: Phillip Colombus RD1 Farm Management Award: Nick Bertram Westpac Financial Planning and Management Award: Nick Bertram 2014 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year Winner: Ruth Hone, Central Plateau Runner-up: Josh Lavender, Southland/Otago Third: Cameron Luxton, Bay of Plenty DairyNZ Practical Skills Award: Matthew Snedden, Northland. Visit www.dairyindustryawards. co.nz for more information on the award winners.

Miss Hone, 24, won $18,400 in prizes and is in her third season in the industry, working on a 250-cow farm for Michelle and Ross Davison near Taupo. She completed her first marathon in last weekend’s 50th Rotorua marathon.


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2 28

Farming Dairy Focus


Trusted advice helps couple succeed L ong-term relationships are just as important as sound nutrient advice, say New Zealand Dairy Industry Award-winning couple Donald and Kirsten Watson. The Watsons took out the Ravensdown Pasture Management Award at the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, which recognises sharemilkers who have exceptional seasonal strategies, farm system management, fertiliser programme, re-grassing, supplementary cropping, planning and recording. “We were extremely honoured to win this award,” Mrs Watson says. “Donald is so passionate about all that is pasture and feed management, soils, fertiliser and getting the best out of our particular farm. I was so proud to see him honoured.” The couple, both former mixed animal vets, are in their first season 50:50 sharemilking 990 cows for Glenn and Karen Speed at Taupo.

Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award winners Donald and Kirsten Watson with Ravensdown chief executive Greg Campbell (right).

They farm on challenging, mineral-deficient soils and work with complicated cropping plans, so often turn to Ravensdown key account manager Jane Mayo for advice and guidance. Ms Mayo has worked with the Watsons for three years, beginning when they were in their previous position at Benneydale, north-east of

Lake Taupo. Mrs Watson says their relationship with Ms Mayo and Ravensdown has helped propel them forwards. “It’s not always about selling product, as building a longlasting relationship can be just as important.” Ms Mayo has performed herbage, plant and feed quality testing on the Watsons’ current property and the

couple use Ravensdown’s Analytical Research Laboratories for their testing needs. She also supplies animal health supplements including magnesium, lime flour and trace elements, to ensure the health of the herd. “I really enjoy being asked for a second opinion on soil fertility.

“Donald often rings to bounce ideas off me and we have the odd debate on the latest nutrient/animal health theories that Donald is always keen to explore to stay ahead of the game,” Ms Mayo says. “Ultimately, they are a lovely, progressive couple that will naturally succeed with their drive and passion,” she says.




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Dairy farmers have cause to celebrate Willy Leferink



he only shame about the New Zealand Dairy Awards, at Auckland’s SkyCity, was the absence of dairying’s most ardent critics. Instead it was the perfect showcase for the capability and dynamism of New Zealand’s leading export industry. I can forgive the scarcity of the print media presence as the Canon Awards were on the same night, but the media at our industry’s event got to see dairying in its dynamic reality. Special thanks must go to the brilliant MC Mike McRoberts, but especially the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Trust. I honestly thought there would have been more than one Member of Parliament present but as MPs go,

the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, is a very big fish indeed. After the awards I saw one political party leader in a debate label dairy low value. There is no way you could hold those views if he’d attended these awards. That’s the problem we have. There are some who won’t risk shaking their beliefs by opening their eyes. As a farming leader and as farmers, we get a few raspberries chucked at us but that makes you look in the mirror. Being close to this competition, which Federated Farmers started 25 years ago, I know the 2014 winners are really first among equals. Take Taranaki’s super talented Charlie and Jody McCaig. They have gone from being Taranaki Farm manager winners in 2011 to become 2014 New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year. They also took out a heap of merit awards along the way and their health and safety


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focus is industry leading. They are genuinely talented with the skills, talent and aptitude to take the industry forward. As members Federated Farmers is very proud of them. How about Ruth Hone who became the first ever woman to lift Dairy Trainee of the Year. She is smart, capable and adaptable and those words sum up the dairy industry in 2014. In fact, of the 11 dairy

trainee finalists, five were women. Then you’ve got 27-year-old Nick Bertram who was named 2014 Farm Manager of the Year. He came into dairy with a background in accounting thanks to his teacher dad, but no farming experience. His win highlighted others who’d joined dairying from fields as diverse as professional rugby, hospitality, engineering and the police. We are an inclusive open

industry where merit and work ethic speaks loudly and is rewarded. We’ll be showing everyone just what those rewards are in the 2014 Rabobank/Federated Farmers Farm Remuneration Report shortly. While these awards do have winners it is really the industry that wins. There are no bruised egos or heckling but a genuine celebration and desire to lift the entire industry ever higher.

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Farming Dairy Focus

2 30


Nutrition a key factor in lameness Fred Hoekstra



n my last article I asked you to show me evidence that demonstrated stones and pushing cows in the yard would bruise the hooves, cause sole penetration and cause white line separation. A number of readers did respond and I appreciate your emails and feedback. I didn’t get any evidence, but I did get some questions regarding the causes of lameness. I will endeavour to cover those questions in my articles. Lameness is a multifaceted problem. Most of us know that but what are the factors that are involved in this problem? To make it simple, I believe that the main issues are nutrition and stress. There are other factors, but if we control

the nutrition and stress, we can eliminate many of the other problems. These two factors are both broad aspects that need more explanation. Before we start on the nutritional aspects, I am not a nutritionist but I do have some knowledge in this area. A lot of what I say about nutrition comes from the nutritionists who I work with and have a lot of respect for. Many pasture-fed cows do not get enough effective fibre in their diet, and I am aware that this contradicts what some nutritionists believe. Fibre has a big impact on the health of the corium. While there is nothing in the fibre that is directly involved in the healing process of the corium, the fibre does help with the processes in the rumen, creating a better, more stable, rumen pH. The microbes in the rumen function better and there will be less acidosis – acidosis being an important factor in laminitis. This can be particularly important when cows are out of the paddock for long times

Nutrition is a factor in lameness in cows.

during milking. If the cows are fed meal in the cow shed then it may be even more important. Cows gorge themselves when they are in the paddock and starve when they have been out of the paddock for too long so there is a big pH fluctuation in the rumen. This is made worse if the cows are getting meal in the cowshed. I am not saying that we shouldn’t feed meal in the cowshed, but it is important

to know what can potentially happen when we do. I know that it is believed that the fibre content in the grass on our pasture-based systems is enough. My question would be: “how do we know how much fibre a cow needs?” How do we know what the lowest acceptable pH in the rumen is? If we only look at some elements in the rumen and just draw our conclusions on

Sick of hearing no?

that then we may be missing the boat. One scenario I would like to discuss is why beef animals on lush pastures in Canterbury have haemorrhaging and even sole ulcers? I can show you beef cow feet with just that. These cows have never been pushed, don’t know what stones look like and yet have so called “stone bruises”. Of course, there could be other factors like calving, cows being on heat or whatever. The thing is that the haemorrhage in the hooves is quite constant over the year. When you look at cows that are being kept in the high country, they don’t have anywhere near the amount of haemorrhage, yet they have a lot more stones to deal with than their counterparts on the flat. I will continue this subject and endeavour to follow up on those questions in my next article but please keep those emails coming. • Email me at info@ veehof.co.nz for further discussions.

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Dairy Focus May 2014  

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