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Farming GUARDIAN

MARCH, 2016

Food waste and why

yield isn’t

king

Pages 3-5


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Farming

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COMMENT FROM EDITOR

GIVEAWAY We want to encourage your opinions and discussion on issues highlighted in Guardian Farming. Just pen us your views by emailing Nadine.P@theguardian.co.nz, or writing to Guardian Farming Editor, 161 Burnett Street, Ashburton, 7700 and you could win Andrew Grant’s wonderful book Hawks – a Kiwi masterpiece on the venison wars in New Zealand’s wide south-west.

CONTACTS We appreciate your feedback. Editor Email your comments to nadine.p@theguardian. co.nz or phone 03 307 7957. Advertising Email deidre.n@ theguardian.co.nz or phone 03 307 7927. Post Ashburton Guardian, PO Box 77, Ashburton.

Your friendly Guardian Farming team.

It would be easy to to absorb all sides of become overwhelmed a discussion for the at this juncture in time. greater good. Technology is often Recently I had the moving faster than we good fortune of hearing are ready to accept and Synlait CEO John it seems that change Penno talk about his is something we have thinking processes. Nadine RURAL Porter EDITOR to grapple with on a He says that whenever level never experienced he thinks he is certain Tweet us @farmjourno before in our history. about something he But grapple with it knows he might be we must. Recently we had the pleasure heading down the wrong path. of welcoming a young British arable Put simply, he is constantly challenging farmer to our own patch of dirt. George himself, just as we must be constantly Young represents everything that is challenging ourselves in today’s exciting about the primary industry. environment. He has an unquenchable desire for I read recently a disturbing yet knowledge and is constantly challenging inspiring piece on the future of New himself under difficult loss making Zealand agriculture and it didn’t contain systems to find a better way. paddocks with livestock. His ‘big picture thinking’ has him The article in question envisaged thinking about food waste worldwide thermostatically solar powered and whether driving up yields of crops is controlled rooms with vertical farming. actually what’s needed to feed a growing It also envisaged plant-based protein population. that tastes and replicates meat – So he has travelled to the other side of dramatically reducing our environmental the world to listen and learn and to then footprint. make his own decisions on creating a We might not understand or like lower input, lower yield system. what is happening, but we have a duty George is a leader - not because to listen, ingest and develop our own he heads a large company, or sits on a strategies for a sustainable future – in board. short, we must all be our own leaders, He’s a leader because he dares to and farmers must lead from the gate challenge his thinking every day and upwards.

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FOOD WASTE AND WHY YIELD ISN’T KING

A man for our times A former oil trader, George Young headed back to his South Essex family arable farm and has met declining cereal returns and uncertainty with Britain poised for a referendum on exiting the European Union. Nadine Porter talks to the young emerging British agricultural leader about why our obsession with cereal yields is not for him and how a lower input, lower yield system may yet still save the world. George Young is an old soul – at least in terms of the type of management he’s thinking of inplementing on his 500 hectare farm in South England. And yet his ideas are fresh, brave and ironic in a time when English and New Zealand farmers are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of cereal yields. With recent feed wheat crops Left - East Sussex farmer George Young is operating a low input, low yield arable system he hopes will produce consistent returns.

in Mid Canterbury reaching unconfirmed yields of over 18 tonnes, FAR’s 20 tonnes by 2020 research project and the intense rivalry between the two countries for the world record George’s ideas are not just outside the square, they’re out of the park in the minds of today’s agronomists as well. Travelling Australia and New Zealand recently to gain an indepth view of global agriculture, he has clarified his vision for his farm – and it doesn’t entail increasing cereal yields. Instead he’s happy to drop the numbers, simplify his system and in the process ensure environmental sustainability. It would be easy to dismiss

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George’s theories as somewhat greenie if it weren’t for the fact that this smart, articulate and educated young farmer is not from an environmental background. He’s a British cereal farmer and cereal farmers are doing it tough. Something has to change and that has led George to try and find a sustainable economic long-term solution to retain his farm. In short, volatile market conditions and woeful returns has forced George and others to rethink their entire operation. Currently spot prices for feed wheat are sitting at just $206 per tonne, while barley is at $189. continued P4

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FOOD WASTE AND WHY YIELD ISN’T KING from P3 And even though he’s subsidised up to $380 per hectare, George will struggle to make any profit. With large amounts of grain on hand and overproduction, George believes there is nowhere for the price to go apart from stagnating or dipping further. It’s a serious situation and has meant the arable industry is in much the same state as the British dairy industry – precariously balancing on a knife-edge. “If it drops too much further we’re going to have make serious decisions as to what we do. “For us that decision is obviously more complicated than just a year-onyear decision because it comes down to the fact that we can do an awful lot of good to our soil and sort out a lot of our weed problems by having a year of fallow.” Weed problems are, like many areas of management of crops, a significant issue for British farmers who have had to face up to chemical resistance problems a lot sooner than their Kiwi cousins due to our heavily restricted availability of products here. The word crisis has been used by visiting English agronomists to describe the situation back home in recent years. And so all inputs are being questioned, with many farmers doing their own investigations including

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George Young’s East Sussex farm is struggling to be a viable business as cereal prices drop dramatically.

George. On the back of low returns the agriculture industry is struggling to understand what exiting the EU might mean for them. At a recent conference George attended he came away unsure of what it might mean in terms of reduced subsidies on farm, but certain that he would need to be in a strong financial position. “While the referendum isn’t legally binding it could prove to be a

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bargaining chip for our Government to go back to the EU to say we’ll stay if we get these conditions.” He has a point. The United Kingdom is part of an unbalanced agricultural subsidy system that sees it pay $4.6 billion pounds annually, yet it only receives $2.9 billion back. Payments to farmers like George decrease the more efficient they get. It’s a system that rewards poor farmers.

■■ Farming 500 ha in partnership with parents. ■■ Soil health a key driver – converted to 100 per cent zero-till two years ago. ■■ Producing milling wheat, feed barley (autumn and spring sewn), oilseed rape (canola) and combinable peas. ■■ Looking into a number of other crops to increase diversity. ■■ After this year’s harvest, George will be establishing grass-based leys into the arable system which he intends to rotate around the farm with the intention of reintroducing stock (store lambs, store cattle, and hopefully an end-to-end production beef herd), and returning to a more mixed farming approach (this was a key driver of his recent travels to Australia and New Zealand). ■■ Increased herbicide resistance coupled with no new actives coming onto the market means this is the farm’s method to deal with grass weed issues as well as improve fertility.

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FOOD WASTE AND WHY YIELD ISN’T KING “I know there are other farmers that feel the same as me and would love to be in a subsidy free system but due to the fact Australia and New Zealand are geographically far removed you do get a better payment than we do per tonne, which doesn’t entirely make up for the subsidies … My worry is that due to our proximity to Europe and other good grain producing countries, if we were subsided at a lower rate or had no subsidy at all, it would be exceptionally difficult for us to compete.” Should Britain reject the EU, the Government will need to fight to have trade agreements in place for UK grain, he believes. “There is some worry that unscrupulous supermarkets could buy in cheaper produce from abroad and affecting food security.” While New Zealand food security is not conversed about regularly, UK farmers are worried at their current level of supply - sitting at around just 58 per cent. Following two wars and depression memories run deep, and the fear of food scarcity has underpinned much of historical agricultural policy. But not so today, George says. “There is certain people in Government who have no concern about food security at all which is worrying.” Against a backdrop of continuing

political and global unease particularly in the Middle East, having secure food stocks is seen as a safety guard, but that’s not happening in the current environment of selling commodities into the worldwide market. “That’s how industry has gone but it doesn’t necessarily make sense. It should be a lot more locally driven, especially when a lot of food is related to fuel prices as well. There are so many variables that mess it up. In theory it should be nice and simple and about producing enough food for your area and your country.” And that’s where it gets interesting as George moves the current conversation away from feeding the ballooning world population to one of assessing just how much food waste we create. That, he believes, is where the answers lie. Although still working on the figures, he believes if you estimate how much we need to produce for fuel, food and the escalating population and add in another 15 per cent for variance you would come up with a figure each country needs to produce to be sustainable – but that figure could be substantially reduced once food wastage was subtracted. “I think food wastage is a bigger issue.” continued P6

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The scale of food waste in India is vast and horrifying with 40 per cent of product failing to even reach the market.

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FOOD WASTE AND WHY YIELD ISN’T KING

While millions starve on a daily basis, masses of food are wasted or dumped.

Will British farmers lose out from exiting the EU?

from p5 Recently he saw a documentary that frightened him with the staggering figures around cereal wastage in India, which can be as high as 40 per cent due to poor storage conditions. “They just tip all their grain onto a dirt pad. If it rains it’s ruined. For me these are the issues. Food waste is the issue – not production. Production is the simple way out.” And so his biggest passion lies in how to reduce inorganic inputs into farming in exchange for a lower but consistent margin. “I would rather consistently grow six tonne where three or four of that is profit rather than working hard to grow 10 tonne where two tonnes is profit but yield sometimes increases to 14 tonnes. It’s a more sustainable approach.” It’s about having harmony between farming and nature, he says. “It’s this whole thing about stopping chasing yields. Yield is such a simple quantifier – for me it’s a little bit of a misnomer to be aiming for yields. I know that the farmer that got the UK record over here for wheat last season didn’t get a huge amount more in margin than we did for producing half as much at 8.5 tonnes. It’s such a natural competitive thing in humans to try and produce more. “I take that back and say I don’t think we need to produce as much. I

think we just need to produce enough.” While most of the problems facing arable farmers today are due to supply and demand, if you were to grow only what the world or your country needs consistently there would be no volatility in price – an idea he knows most people will think is naive. Currently he’s toying with the next step of marketing product according to its holistic qualities. “I’d never want to produce any kind of campaign that rubbished conventional farming but I’m wondering about some way of doing a pre-accreditation on labelling where we could show consumers are interested in food holistically.” A no-tillage farmer, George at first thought he would market around that but he now thinks any marketing has to be around the entire approach to production and not just one part of it. Always learning, George says he’s constantly reassessing his ideas and will continue to travel and discuss in an effort to find the appropriate way forward. But for now there’s spring planting to do although you can be sure his mind will be turning over as much as the tractor tyres. George welcomes constructive farmer discussion on his twitter feed: @FarmingGeorge

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FOOD WASTE AND WHY YIELD ISN’T KING

Is there Lance Wiggs is an independent investment and business advisor providing investment readiness consultancy through Better by Capital and Return on Science investment committees, direct investments through LWCM and Punakaiki Fund and advice and directorships through LWCM and Lance Wiggs Consulting. He recently wrote an important paper on what the future might look like for primary industries. Guardian Farming is delighted to re-publish his challenging report. Global food wastage

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FOOD WASTE AND WHY YIELD ISN’T KING

a future in food for NZ? New Zealand’s traditional leadership in agriculture is due to our land, climate, hard work and invention from generations of farmers, and our universities and business that have supported them with increasingly valuable technology. But our position is under threat, not today, but in the medium-term certainly. The threat is that high quality food will be grown essentially anywhere for lower cost of inputs, and that global demand for meat will fall. Perhaps something will come along to make it easy to replace milk as well. High density gardening There is a trend towards growing plants in more controlled environments in agriculture (CEA). The neat trick with high density gardening is that the control of temperature, energy and climate not only reduces the amount of inputs (water, energy and so on) but also allows for control of insects and pathogens. And when you control the access of pathogens then you don’t need so much fungicides and pesticides, if at all. The result is not only faster growing plants, but food that is almost organic in its lack of pesticides and other additives. It can be delicious.

Independent investment and business advisor Lance Wiggs says our current position is under threat.

At the moment it is relatively rare to see crops grown using tightly controlled environments for the whole lifecycle. But observe in the supermarket that some crops, such as tomatoes and blueberries, are now available – and incredibly tasty – year-round. I suspect the same is happening with many high value flowers. These crops are grown in glasshouses, but there is, apparently, still a good gap between current

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practices and true CEA. The goal, still fairly seldom seen, is vertical farming, with leaders like Plantagon and AeroFarms. With this very high intensity farming there is no reason why the farms need to use a lot of land footprint – a farm can be on floors of a tall building, with controlled LED lighting delivering the light to the plants. But there is a problem, as it costs money to power those LED lamps, while on traditional farms the plants receive free energy from the sun. The answer is tied up in the lowering costs of renewable energy, such as solar panels, and batteries. These costs are already at to the point where it makes little sense to build traditional power plants, with Warren Buffet bragging in his latest letter that, “Berkshire Hathaway Energy (“BHE”) … … has invested $16 billion in renewables and now owns 7 per cent of the country’s wind generation and 6 per cent of its solar generation. Indeed, the 4423 megawatts of wind generation owned and operated by our regulated utilities is six times the generation of the runner-up utility. We’re not done. Last year, BHE

made major commitments to the future development of renewables in support of the Paris Climate Change Conference. Our fulfilling those promises will make great sense, both for the environment and for Berkshire’s economics.” If you are not content with a quote from a capitalist, then Al Gore has popped up with a new TED talk, The Case for Optimism on climate Change, last week: He also showed slides showing the precipitous fall in prices for storage batteries and solar panels. These curves will keep going, so while today it’s hard to economically justify building a thermal power plant, at some stage soon it will not be economical to even fuel a thermal power plant. Once we reach and pass that point it’s clear that generating and storing the power to drive those LEDs will be relatively cheap and a relatively low capital or opex cost for a vertical farm. So Malthus can wait a while longer it seems. But the problem is not solved yet, as this Guardian article shows the energy requirements for indoor crops are very large. continued P10


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FOOD WASTE AND WHY YIELD ISN’T KING from P9 Better meat But we also eat meat, and as more of the world enters the middle class the demand for grass and grain eating inefficient methane belching animals will continue to grow. We can gain more efficiencies and control effluent and CO2 by keeping animals inside, and that’s done in many countries. If that’s the future for meat and milk then New Zealand has no structural advantage over any other country, and the resulting products will be priced accordingly at very low or negative margin. There are alternatives – The Economist has a video article, The Meat Makers, on two companies with different approaches to replacing meat. One which is attempting to grow meat in-vitro and the other is trying to use plants to create a beef substitute. The video shows poor progress for both companies, but it does show that a lot of investment is going into moving directly from plants into meat. In New Zealand SunFed Meats is attempting the same, and seems to be making great progress turning peas into

The future – an anti-smog tower in Paris with high density gardening.

chicken. Now if we combine the two trends together it seems logical that someone will figure out how to grow a plant that is able to be easily processed into a substance that we find very close to meat. Will it be tasty? I suspect that for many years a very good steak will continue to attract demand, but would not be surprised to see meat eating consigned to the same shameful dustbin as cigarettes within the next 50 years. Malthus is wrong again When I was younger, many years ago, I remember reading

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Green literature about the end of days. The world was going to run out of resources and food, and quoted Thomas Malthus, who wrote in 1798: That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence, That population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase, and, that the superior power of population is repressed, and the actual population kept equal to the means of subsistence, by misery and vice.

Malthus was right, but he also thought that population would increase exponentially and food production linearly. However productivity of food (and other) production improved exponentially over the ensuing years and the techniques above will continue that trend. It’s a future where we can produce more with less, as a globe, and one where there is no need for our plants at least to not be tasty and fresh. Existential crisis All these trends are great for the world, but will they also trigger an existential crisis for New Zealand? If anybody anywhere in the world can use small amounts of energy, water and nutrients to create the same quality food as we can here then why would anyone buy from New Zealand? If good-enough meat made from plants is able to substitute for a large amount of meat eaten globally then won’t the demand and price for our cattle and sheep fall? And surely someone will figure out how to more efficiently produce milk from plants?

The future of New Zealand is unknown, and these trends could be decades away. But we should be leading and not reacting late to these trends. We do have a good Agri-Tech sector, with many companies helping traditional farming get more efficient, and others like Sunfed Foods and Autogrow, who make controllers for glasshouses, aiming ahead of the curve. We should support them. We should also focus on the quality end of food production, aiming to be the purveyor of the best food in the world rather than shifting tonnes of powder and meat. We’ve moved a long way in this direction over the years, but our polluted rivers are evidence that we can no longer collectively hold our heads high. Or perhaps there is another path – fast adoption of these intensive techniques to increase production and lower land and other resource use per output, followed by the return of some of the less productive land under grazing to native forest and birds. That’s a New Zealand we could all live in.

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2 12

Farming

www.guardianonline.co.nz

Hold the world in the palm He’s funny, engaging and has made quite an impression as a New Zealand dairy farmer overseas with his irreverent and highly amusing tweets. Guardian Farming is thrilled to have Mid Canterbury dairy farmer Craig Hickman, a.k.a DairyMan, as a regular columnist.

In the past couple of months I’ve had an article written about me for the IHC newsletter, had lunch with a freelance writer from LA, engaged in banter with an award-winning Craig ELBOW DEEP documentary maker @dairymanNZ Hickman and been quoted in the Washington Post for an article about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All because I spend too much time on my phone. I joined Twitter, the social media site that restricts your musings to bursts of 140 characters, in the leadup to the 2014 election. I mainly followed politicians and political reporters (quickly ditching most of the politicians) and as a consequence, soon stopped watching the news. Every story of note was discussed, dissected and debated during the day. By the time it made it onto the evening news, I knew what angle the reporter was going to take and what bits they were leaving out. From there, my Twitter habit has grown. I’ve found a large and diverse farming community, both in New Zealand and abroad, who are willing to share information and discuss any issue. We don’t always agree, but the debate is always entertaining.

I’ve made some great friends and fantastic contacts via Twitter. My daughter was recently accepted into Broadcasting School, and two prominent journalists were happy to spend time on the phone with her to coach her for the interview process. In her first week at Broadcasting, the guest lecturer was the aforementioned award-winning documentary maker. Needless to say, selfies of the two of them were tweeted at me directly after the lecture. Two years ago at the Mid Canterbury Rugby Union’s Bobby Calf fundraising dinner, a marketing professor

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www.guardianonline.co.nz

13

m of your hand from Canterbury University gave a stunning speech on social media and rural mental health. I had only met Dr Ekant Veer online, but social media gave me the chance to get to know him and invite him to be our guest speaker. Twitter has expanded my world greatly. A teacher from Upper Hutt has taught me to cook the prefect pork belly and make the most amazing beef patties, I’ve learned the nuances of parmesan from an

Italian, been invited aurora hunting in Dunedin and requested a specific whisky for the next tasting at the Somerset Grocer! I now think twice about telling my kids or workers to stop staring at their phones. I don’t know if they’re playing a game, sharing a joke with someone in another country, learning a new skill, sharing information or just making a new friend. But I do know one thing: they literally have the world available to them in the palm of their hand.

@dairymanNZ’s top tweets this month Call vet out to cow with cancer eye. Vet pumps cow full of local, enucleates eye. Dog promptly eats eye. Dog seems no more dopey than usual.

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2 14

Farming

www.guardianonline.co.nz

AROUND THE WORLD UKRAINE: US BACKING

Ukraine has signed a deal with US agriculture giant Cargill to build a major grain export terminal that Washington’s ambassador said could help turn the embattled country into an agricultural “superpower”. The $100 million deal with Ukraine’s MV Cargo firm came despite jitters over a political crisis in Kyiv this year and an ongoing conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the east. “Ukraine is already one of the world’s great agricultural producers, but it should be an agricultural superpower,” US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said. About a quarter of the world’s black-earth land is in Ukraine, making it a natural global centre for food production. He said agricultural exports already reached $16.5 billion in 2015. Major global corporations like Cargill “are looking for a government and a presidency that demonstrates a clear commitment to continued progress on the rule of law, to include the critical issue of anticorruption reform,” he said.

AUSTRALIA: PRODUCTION SET TO PASS $60 BILLION The value of Australian agricultural production should pass $60 billion for the first time next year, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES). In its annual update, ABARES projects farm production will be worth $60.3 billion in 2016-17, a 3 per cent increase on this financial year. But the 2016 Outlook is a mixed bag for farm export earnings. The overall numbers are steady at around $45 billion for 2016-17, including an overall record value for livestock and livestock product exports. But that masks a decline in value for beef and veal exports (4 per cent), as well as mutton (11 per cent) and lamb (3 per cent). The value of crop exports is also expected to decline slightly in 2016-17, reflecting lower global prices and plentiful supply.

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www.guardianonline.co.nz

15

NZ NEWS BRIEFS VENISON PRICES REFLECT DEMAND

CHERRY EXPORTS HUGE

A four-year high in venison prices reflects good demand in overseas markets and favourable currency movements, farmers say. Deer Industry NZ chief executive Dan Coup said at $8.63, the spring peak of the 2015 venison schedule was 11 per cent higher than 2014 and the highest since 2011. Venison prices peak each year in spring in response to demand from traditional game meat markets in Europe. Mr Coup said demand for chilled venison during the 2015 season was solid, with air freight shipments continuing up to Christmas. The average stag venison schedule stands at $7.28 per kilogram - an increase of 16 per cent compared with last year.

The primary sector continues to be the dominant driver of the economy, with dairy and cherry exports propelling China further ahead as New Zealand’s top export destination in January. Statistics New Zealand figures show exports of milk powder, butter, and cheese, as well as cherries, pushed China even further ahead than Australia as New Zealand’s top export market. The figures show the value and quantity of cherry exports hit record highs last month. The value rose more than 50 per cent to $55 million, and the quantity rose 30 per cent. Cherry export earnings and volumes were expected to rise again this month as the season closes.

Mr Coup said that reflected an 11 per cent currency gain and a 5 per cent market gain. Overall venison exports dropped in volume by 5 per cent to just about 15,000 tonnes. A key industry objective was to build year-round demand for chilled venison at premium prices in new and existing markets, he said.

The strength of exports in the horticulture sector saw an 84 per cent rise in the profit for produce grower and distribution company, T&G Global. It made a net profit of just over $18 million in the year ended December, driven by the volume and prices for pipfruit. Source: Radio New Zealand

CATTLE SALES CANCELLED DUE TO HIGH BEEF PRICES High beef prices and a surge in pasture growth has led to the cancellation of two cattle sales in Gisborne, a farmer and former stock agent says. In January, two cattle sales were cancelled because there were not enough stock. Barrie Gordon has worked in the cattle industry for more than 60

years and said only a few sales had been cancelled in the major cattle breeding region in all that time. He put the cancellations down to a combination of factors. “The circumstances in this particular year, a so-called el nino year, are that we have less cattle because we’ve planted tens of thousands of acres in pine trees,

which has reduced the number of breeding cows,” he said. “On top of that, we’ve had the most massive grass production that, in all of these years, I have seen in a January/February period. “Cattle prices have been highly satisfactory and farmers are holding on to their animals to gain weight.”

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2 16

Farming

www.guardianonline.co.nz

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2 18

Farming

ADVERTISING FEATURE

www.guardianonline.co.nz

No-Tillage part of sustainable No-Tillage is a vital part of sustainable farming and will play an integral part in the future as we try to rectify the damage done to our soils from historical agricultural practices. Under conventional and minimum tillage practices New Zealand soils have been in a gradual decline and now many farmers are faced with the question of just how to reverse the damage. Pendarves arable farmer and cross-slot contractor Tim Porter converted to a completely no-tillage system 13 years ago. He is now seeing the benefits with people commenting when walking his paddocks on how soft the soil feels soft under foot. “It’s a combination of organic matter worm activity creating natural aeration which leads on to improved water hold capacity, healthier plants reduced grass grub problems and increased worm activity. We thought our soil was pretty good thirteen years ago but now it’s so much better and as each year goes by the improvement seems to accelerate.”

The soil now appears to be alive with biology, he says. “And I feel we are at a stage now where the payback will be less inputs to maintain our current yields. As with soil degradation, improvement doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years and the sooner you start the better.” It’s something that well known cross-slot contractor and former farmer Mark Scott understands well having experienced the same results at home and seeing the farmers that use NT extensively benefiting from its adoption. “It is a common myth that soil cultivated in recent years is easy for us to sow than one that had been left Untilled, We use more fuel and there is more wear on our machines” With No-Tillage the soils biology heals, soils become less dense and have the right amount of air in them. Sowing is easier. Crops are healthier. Time and cost is more than halved. Yields are better. The system proves itself here and all around the world”

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www.guardianonline.co.nz

ADVERTISING FEATURE

19

farming Both have travelled the world extensively and have seen the soil crisis countries that have been using conventional and particularly minimum till practices a lot longer than New Zealand are faced with. United Kingdom cropping farmers frustrated by plateauing yields and deteriorating soil structure are increasingly turning to notillage and in particular the Cross Slot drill to regenerate their farming systems. The benefits of no-tillage have spread - due in part to four English Nuffield scholars who implemented Cross Slot no tillage on their farms after visiting New Zealand in 2013. Cross Slot general manager Bill Ritchie said there had been a “sudden realization” in Britain that farmers had a significant problem after huge improvements over the past twenty years in plant genetics, fungicides, herbicides and precision farming did not increase yields. “What’s mitigating that is what’s happening below

the soil. At the same time they’ve got deteriorating soil structure and reduced soil organic matter and that’s offsetting any gains they

yields are plateauing, if not going down.” A geographically and historically younger country, New Zealand was heading

United Kingdom cropping farmers frustrated by plateauing yields and deteriorating soil structure are increasingly turning to no-tillage and in particular the Cross Slot drill to regenerate their farming systems.

might get.” If farmers could regenerate their soils they will also get a benefit from companion technology that they haven’t previously been getting, he said. Although there had been much talk worldwide about environmental sustainability, Mr Ritchie believed the UK had moved past that point and needed to be focused on regeneration. “Recent data has shown

down the “same track” as the UK, Mr Ritchie said. “But we’ve got the opportunity to react sooner before we allow our soils to get to that point.” Recent research results from a Plant and Food Research trial at FAR’s Chertsey site support much of what Tim and Mark are saying. It highlighted the long term decline in soil health from intensive tillage.

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2 20

Farming

www.guardianonline.co.nz

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www.guardianonline.co.nz

23

What’s in your shed? Many of us grew up on farms that had stockpiles of farm chemical containers tucked away somewhere. These chemicals had once been a part of everyday farming but were no longer used and had been put away and forgotten over time. Today, those places still exist on farms. March is the month to finally clear out stockpiles of various containers and chemicals. By taking part in the DDT muster you can finally get rid of these harmful chemicals for free as part of a nationwide cleanup programme. Please see the information below for contact details and keep your family and future generations as well as our environment safe by taking part. Waste free parenting: The nappy lady is coming to Ashburton for two workshops in March at the Eco Education Centre in the Ashburton Resource

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Recovery Park. Taking place on Wednesday, March 16 from 6pm to 8.30pm and Thursday, March 17 from 10am to 2.30pm. This is a great opportunity for parents to come along and learn how to reduce waste and save money. Bookings are essential and the cost is $25 per individual or couple. This includes a free starter pack worth $100. Book now at www. thenappylady.co.nz Rural community recycling depots: Have you seen the new yellow lidded bins at your local recycling depot?

The great DDT muster is taking place.

Did you know you can now recycle household plastic bottles and containers along with cardboard, paper, and cans all together into this bin? This makes recycling so much easier for you and your family. Already volumes have

increased and contamination is down. Please help make it work by keeping out any polystyrene or rubbish and make sure your containers are clean. Glass bottles and jars will need to be kept separate in the glass bins alongside.

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2 24

Farming

www.guardianonline.co.nz

We need to look after our river Imagine you are travelling from Ashburton to Tinwald over the bridge. As you look at the river, do you see a nationally and internationally significant ecosystem that provides outstanding habitat for rare birds, fish, plants and other species, or do you see a stretch of gravel that has a trickle of water and is surrounded by an infestation of weeds? Unfortunately we see the latter – a gravel riverbed, not much water and lots of weeds. How, and why, have we let things get so bad for the river? It’s not that we don’t know what’s going on. We know that these are internationally rare ecosystems that have special characteristics, a high variation in flow rate, a lot of sediment movement, multiple braids, and a seasonally abundant food supply that supports specialised wildlife. In Canterbury, the braided rivers, especially the Ashburton, once supported a large number of native birds, including the wrybill, the black-billed gull (the rarest

Mary Ralston

FOREST AND BIRD

gull in the world), the banded dotterel, and many others. Other species are fed and live on the wetlands and estuaries associated with the river. There has been a lot written about the importance of the river. The Ashburton District Council identified the river as an Area of Significant Nature Conservation Value in its district plan. Environment Canterbury, through the Canterbury Water Management Strategy’s (CWMS), focuses on the integration of water and land management, including the protection of indigenous biodiversity and water quality, and had the aim of halting the decline of the river’s biodiversity.

River in crisis - yellow lupins have encroached on the bare shingle islands that are needed by nesting birds.

The Canterbury Biodiversity Strategy’s Goal 1 is to protect the health of all significant habitats and ecosystems, and Goal 2 is to restore the natural character of degraded indigenous habitats and ecosystems. Despite this, the river’s

biodiversity has declined rapidly over the past decade. Bird numbers are declining to crisis levels. The proliferation of weeds, especially the yellow lupin, a comparatively recent invader, has compounded the problems of low summer flow due to

high irrigation abstraction rates, disturbance, and bird predators (especially cats, rats, and stoats). The bare shingle islands that the birds need for nesting are hard to find. The “elephant in the room” is water. The Ashburton River is the most heavily allocated river in New Zealand. It was agreed to raise the minimum flow from 3 to 6 cumecs, but this has not happened. ECan and voluntary groups support the birds with trapping of predators and signs to try to raise awareness of the value of the river and the birds. But this is not enough, unless we pursue a “whole of river” approach to its management, decline will continue. We need to value the river as a major natural asset and take weed control and water flow seriously. It’s a bit like wilding pine control, it will be a a big and expensive job, but it will get a lot worse and more expensive the longer it is postponed.

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Neal Borrie 03 964 6521 / ASHbuRtOn Matt Bubb 03 307 6680 / HAmiltOn Greg Barkle 07 858 4851

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www.guardianonline.co.nz

25

Invest in the future There is no doubt dairy farmers are facing strong headwinds that have proved more persistent than many commentators expected, but if you are prepared to look beyond dairy, the primary sector trends are significantly more optimistic. The beauty of New Zealand’s primary sector is its diversity. We provide a basket of premium food and beverage, fibre and timber products to the world, yet the wider community has been conditioned to largely measure the sector’s contribution to the economy on the basis of dairy prices. Depressed prices over the past two years have raised questions over the economic viability of some dairy farmers, and resulting media commentary has raised concerns for many that intense financial pressure will impact the decisions farmers make surrounding their natural environment, their livestock and their own health and safety. We have seen also venture

Maurice Myers

KPMG

capital investment being directed into companies looking to create alternatives to animal protein; companies like Mufri, which is focused on developing an alternative dairy protein, Hampton Creek Foods, who are looking to synthesise eggs, and Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, who are creating alternative forms of meat protein. All these entities highlight their comparatively small environmental footprint, their ability to eliminate animal welfare issues and the health attributes of their products as competitive advantages over natural protein. While many of these alternative products remain

some years away from commercialisation, we cannot ignore the disruption that is coming to the global agri-food system or underestimate the pace at which the change is going to be adopted. The wool sector chose inaction when faced with the competitive threat posed by synthetically produced carpets. The industry was ultimately left with an immaterial share of the global carpet market and decades of low returns, as consumers voted with their wallets for cheaper synthetic products. We need to learn from wool farmers’ experience and invest today to build and protect a market position as the world’s leading producer of innovative, natural products. A further clear global trend we are observing is the arrival of new investors and entrepreneurs into the primary sector; people that have previously invested in communications, IT or healthcare but recognise that agriculture, due to its traditional nature and slow

The wool sector chose inaction when faced with the competitive threat from synthetics. Is the meat sector going down the same path?

adoption of digital technology, is ripe for disruption. New Zealand has benefited significantly over the decades from having an innovative primary sector and strong recognition as a ‘clean, green’ country which has generated export earnings and wealth to support the standard of living expected in a developed country. However, what has delivered success in the past will not be sufficient to secure future success in our dynamic and rapidly changing world, making it critical that the sector invests in innovation

and technology to secure its future. Many of the good news stories from the primary sector are a result of companies responding to rapidly changing markets, moving swiftly, innovating with their products and the solutions they deliver to consumers around the world. Despite the headwinds, now is the time to boldly invest in the innovation that will differentiate our products in the minds of consumers and preserve the premiums we have enjoyed in the past. There is no other choice but to invest in the future.

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www.guardianonline.co.nz

ADVERTISING FEATURE

27

Combine maintenance! Farming is a hard and often dusty business. Today’s combine harvesters, with their fresh air systems for the cab, protect the operator from most of the dirt and grime that occurs during harvest operation but it’s what goes on outside that you need to keep an eye on. While operating your harvester, material such as straw and chaff will come into contact with the moving parts. Regular and thorough cleaning of your combine will keep machine performance at its peak and greatly reduce the chance of costly downtime. Cleaning your combine harvester with an air compressor is the fastest way to rid your harvester of unwanted dry material which may ignite during operation. Be sure to clean all areas, including corners and difficult to reach places. And remember to wear protective clothing and eye guards to prevent injury

or damaged. Replace where necessary.

from flying debris. In addition to the job of keeping your combine clean, optimal operation requires regular checks of all moving parts.

Auger finger inspection

Check to see that no auger fingers are broken or bent. Genuine auger fingers feature a breakaway groove, permitting them to break at a specific point and fall back into the auger drum to prevent platform damage.

Knife and section guards inspection

Check to see if any of the knife guards are broken or bent and replace where necessary. When replacing a knife, be sure to use genuine John Deere knife sections to ensure that the knife has the durability and the size needed for optimal operation.

Adjust drive parts

Crop lifter inspection

Check crop lifters to see if any are bent or damaged. Bent crop lifters will reduce the performance of the combine. If they are bent downwards, they could even damage the header by digging into the ground.

Check the reel tines Check the reel tines to ensure that none are bent

The cutting belt drive and the auger chain drive can be adjusted on the right side. Remove the left hand side shield and check tension of belt and chain to ensure optimal header performance. See operator’s manual for optimal adjustment.

Crop divider inspection

Check crop dividers to see if they are damaged or bent. Check hinges to see if the crop dividers move properly. Bent crop dividers result in higher header losses and lower combine performance.

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2 28

Farming

www.guardianonline.co.nz

Is it time for a mixed farm model? Mark Lemon

PROPERTY BROKERS

Our district has been called a “land of milk and honey”. As a long time Mid Canterbury resident, this area is a great place in which to have lived and farmed and raised a family. Often a glib statement like “a land of milk and honey,” when thought about, has several elements that make up its meaning. The obvious one is that life here is easy. I read that comment a bit differently and for me the mixed farming model is the dominant theme. In past times, the rural Mid Canterbury economy was based on a mixed farm operation with sheep, beef, cereal and small seeds in differing proportions depending on such things as soil type, location and water availability. There was also pockets of dairying and following the 1970s some deer operations. Canterbury lamb became known worldwide - it was an icon. In farming, returns vary. Downturns in prices for some products came and went.

Is it time to move away from monoculture farming in Mid Canterbury?

A mixed farming model helped buffer returns as they were not all down at the one time and so the mix could change in an endeavour to improve finances. This gave mixed income streams and helped internalise some farm operating costs. So what has changed today? With the amalgamation of farms and the more corporate model of ownership and operations, business plans

seem based around operational and management efficiencies. This has led to more monoculture farming operations, these being 100 per cent dairy platform, a full time winter grazing farm or 100 per cent arable. As the influence of this dairy downturn spreads to the grazing and feed supply farms, including arable, is it time that we look again at a mixed farm model?

Has its time returned? The synergies unlocked with a range of farming activities and options within a farming operation need to be revisited. A greater range of farming skills would be required and it may not fit some management and ownership models or current debt leadings. However, it may be a more sustainable model for our district and better meet nutrient leaching targets.

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Impressive 335ha self-contained dairy farm located in the favoured Te Pirita area close to Christchurch. Featuring a highly developed 215ha milking platform, currently milking 735 cows. VIEW By Appointment DEADLINE SALE closes Thursday 17th March, 2016 at 4.00pm, (unless sold prior)

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BY NEGOTIATION DAIRY FARM- 322 HA WEB ID AR48149 ALBURY 2034 Mt Nessing Road Seldom do we see freehold farms of this size (being 2151 ha freehold) and scale come to the market. A great opportunity to purchase a well balanced farm with land that goes from easy fattening downs to tussock breeding country. This farm has the ability to both breed and fatten and has an array of buildings from modernised homestead, tidy second home, excellent three stand raised board woolshed and covered yards, cattle yards, implement shed and workshop. All in all a great farm in a well regrassed area and only 63km to Timaru or 36km to Fairlie. VIEW By Appointment Chris Murdoch

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$12,850,000 + GST (IF ANY) WEB ID AR48173 METHVEN 149 McLennans Bush Road A quality Methven dairy farm operation. The 1200mm rainfall allows for low operating costs but with the ability to "ramp up" with excellent in shed and feed pad systems. The quality of the development is evident in lanes, subdivision, pastures, stock water supply, 60 bale rotary milking shed, vet facilities, extensive sheds, quality executive four bedroom home and three homes for staff accommodation. An attractive proposition in a great environment. Deserving genuine consideration at a very fair price. Peaked at 1000 cows for 411,964 kgs. VIEW By Appointment Paul Cunneen

Mobile 0274 323 382 Office 03 307 9190 Home 03 308 8035 paulc@propertybrokers.co.nz


www.guardianonline.co.nz

ADVERTISING FEATURE

29

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2 30

Farming

www.guardianonline.co.nz

ADVERTISING FEATURE

Preparation for drilling pasture Effective pasture renewal is the result of good planning, utilising best practice techniques and minimising the risk of failure. The success of new pasture usually comes down to its establishment. Attention to detail at and leading up to establishment will pay dividends in the long run. Weeds and insects are two key causes of poor pasture establishment and performance.

Develop a programme

This is important, as the renewal process must address all factors limiting pasture performance such as drainage, fertility, pests, weeds and soil compaction. Walk each paddock to assess its current status, and take a soil test. Note any limiting factors such as pH, fertility, soil structure and drainage issues, weeds or pests – anything that might limit new pasture establishment. Develop a plan to address these issues and allow time for the necessary work.

Spray out Whether you are coming out of a cropping programme or going straight from pasture back into pasture, it’s imperative to get the sprayout right. Attention to detail now will save time and money later.

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Soil tests For pasture renewal, soil test the specific paddocks.

Don’t rely on total farm soil tests as paddock variation can be quite significant. Lime early for maximum benefits. Determine the base, starter and side-dressing fertiliser programme through the pasture renewal process.

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2 32

Farming

ADVERTISING FEATURE

www.guardianonline.co.nz

What is Environment Canterbury’s grou It’s a system developed to follow the policy outlined in the Proposed Natural Resources Regional Plan (NRRP) for the setting of allocation limits for groundwater allocation zones. The setting of groundwater allocation limits commenced when the NRRP was notified in July 2004. The allocation limit is a calculation of the amount of water that can be abstracted from a groundwater allocation zone. The way groundwater is managed in any location is dependent on the level of technical information known about the aquifer. At the simplest level groundwater is allocated up to 15 per cent of the annual rainfall, which represents 50 per cent of rainfall recharge (rainfall actually soaking through to the groundwater) in an average year. This establishes the groundwater allocation limit. In many zones a more refined method is used to set the allocation limit, whereby up to 50 per cent of the landbased recharge (i.e rainfall and

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ADVERTISING FEATURE

33

undwater allocation limit system about? of supply of existing groundwater users. These rules can only change by way of a plan change or variation. The general approach is not expected to change but because it is adaptive, as technical information and understanding of aquifer allocation limits

be no, or few, other consents issued, giving you reasonable assurance of ongoing reliable supply. Because this approach is limiting the total amount of water that can be allocated you may be required by Environment Canterbury to provide more information on your water usage in the future.

develops, some changes may be required to take that new information into account. If you have a consent for groundwater abstraction in one of the red or yellow zones you may continue to exercise your consent as per the terms and conditions of consent. If the zone is red there may

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increasingly be essential for many reasons. We will all benefit from knowing how much water can safely be abstracted from aquifers. To enable adequate management of an aquifer we need to know how much water is going into and being abstracted from the system.

People wanting a groundwater permit in white zones or others areas not in or near a zone, will still have to provide an appropriately detailed assessment of environmental effects with their application and this should include the justification for the proposed seasonal or annual total abstraction volumes

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The more we know about inflows and outflows the more we can reliably ensure that environmental requirements are met and enable abstractors to have a fair system of access to the available water. As an abstractor accurate knowledge of water use can be very useful.

Knowing how much water is used can help in improving production, save in pump operation costs and also identify system performance problems. In one case, the cost of water and soil monitoring systems was recovered against the cost of pumping after using these tools only two times to determine there was not the need to irrigate. My bore is not in a red or yellow zone - does this affect me? Not necessarily, unless your bore is just outside a yellow or red zone and produces enough water for irrigation. In such cases any application for a groundwater permit should include comment on cumulative effects within the nearest zone. People wanting a groundwater permit in white zones or others areas not in or near a zone, will still have to provide an appropriately detailed assessment of environmental effects with their application and this should include the justification for the proposed seasonal or annual total abstraction volumes.

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irrigation), plus any recharge from intermittently flowing streams, can be allocated for use. This is a trigger level where further water allocation needs to be based on greater knowledge of the aquifer. Applying this approach across the region produces three different colour categories that can apply to a groundwater allocation zone. The different categories reflect the extent to which water has been allocated from the zone. A red zone is an area that has reached and/or exceeded this trigger level. A yellow zone is an area where groundwater allocation is within 80 per cent of this level. A white zone is an area where groundwater allocation is less than 80 per cent of this level. Being in a red zone does not mean there is no more groundwater available. It means that Environment Canterbury needs considerably more technical information to be confident that allocating more groundwater will not compromise environmental standards or the reliability

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CULTIVATION PARTS

0800 4 PALMERS - www.palmeragriparts.co.nz 34 Robinson St, Riverside Industrial Park, Ashburton

1 Cox St, Ashburton

ARE YOU READY FOR WINTER?

FRIENDLY PRICES

GARDEN CENTRE

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT Quality timber at very competitive rates

No Hassle Farm Building We take care of your plans, council pim, administration and compliance.

MORRISONS SADDLERY & FEED

32 Racecourse Rd, Ashburton Tel: 03-308-3422 or 0800 Harness (427 637)

Call us today.

92 Dobson Street, Ashburton Phone 307 0412 | sales@ashburtonitm.co.nz

Mon - Fri 7am - 5pm Sat 8am - 12 noon

Don’t have a Farmlands Card? Join 58,000 shareholders nationwide and enjoy the wide range of exclusive offers and rebates that only Farmlands Card can offer! Call for your shareholder application pack today on 0800 200 600.

Finding Farmlands Card Partners is easy go to: www.farmlands.co.nz Or just look for the ‘Use your Farmlands Card’ signs. Support Farmlands Card Partners and save!


Now is the perfect time to order

Three easy ways to contact us with your seed order Freephone 0508 GRAINS (0508 472 467) Email cerealseeds@pggwrightsongrain.co.nz Or visit our website www.pggwrightsongrain.co.nz

In your n! letterbox soo Your cereal seed guide to autumn 2016

pggwrightsongrain.co.nz


Feeding Animals Since 1850

Need low cost quality feed then give us a call.

Are you considering wintering your own dairy cows? Looking to increase your dry stock numbers & take advantage of a favourable beef price?

Potato Fries Is co-product which is rich in carbohydrate energy and very palatable. Potato is ideal in early lacta9on to maintain body condi9on through to ma9ng & it performs best in a high protein environment like spring when the pasture is abundant. Potato delivered on farm in bulk for around $40-$50 per tonne.

D.M. % C.P. % DM MJ M.E./kg DM N.D.F. % DM Oil % DM Starch % DM

22% 7.5% 14 6% 1% 55%

Carrot products High in soluble sugars is excellent for a cows metabolism.

If so call James & Son to discuss our Vegetable co-product options:

An ideal feed to ensure she has the best shot at a produc9ve calving & early lacta9on period & set up for a successful ma9ng

Please Call 0800 MR FEED (673333) OR

Jason Birchall 021 669 797 Dallas Gillies 027 599 9031

Potato is a high quality energy supplement.

Carrot Products delivered on farm in bulk for around $35-$45 per tonne.

D.M. % C.P. % DM MJ M.E./kg DM N.D.F. % DM Oil % DM

12-15% 8% 15 38% 6%

Supply of both co-products runs right through to October / November 2016

James & Son - NZ Most Diverse Animal Feed Company

We build for industries. Starting with the primary ones. At Calder Stewart we’ve never forgotten where we

build - matched to your exact farming needs.

started, building quality farm buildings for the Kiwi

We pride ourselves at being a Rural Design &

farm industry. And over the course of the last 55

Build specialist and have gained a considerable

years of involvement, we’ve developed something

reputation in meeting the needs of many a farmer

of a knack for it. Our dedicated team’s expertise

over the years. Let us put our expertise to work for

in constructing custom woolsheds, covered yards,

you; call your nearest Calder Stewart Construction

wintering sheds and state-of-the-art dairy sheds

Representative today and see how we can deliver

ensures practicality, quality and a professional

a farm building that suits.

Over 55 Years Farm Building Experience A Rural Design and Build Specialist Premium Grade Construction Materials Used Durable & Rugged Design is Standard Best Value-for-Money in the Industry

Donald Sutton 211 Alford Forest Road, Ashburton

(03) 307 6130

To learn more visit our website:

COMMERCIAL•INDUSTRIAL•RURAL

www.calderstewart.co.nz

Guardian Farming - March 2016  
Guardian Farming - March 2016