Dairy Focus DECEMBER 2018
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Sheddies get tool treat
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Some of Ashburton’s finest handymen will have no excuses about blaming their tools for their handiwork after a package arrives paid by Fonterra farmers. Much of the equipment has been donated at the Ashburton Menz Shed, but a set of brand new battery tools is heading their way as a result of a $1000 grant from the co-op’s Fonterra Grass Roots Fund. This will be put to good use within the community as shed members often pass on their skills to people with dementia and other groups, fix broken chairs for widows and complete many community projects. Fonterra farmers feel pretty good that some of their hard earned milk money is going out to community groups throughout high and low payout years. New Fonterra Shareholders’ Council councillor Mark Slee visited the shed on Wednesday to meet the recipients of the tool funding and was impressed by their work. He said farmers would appreciate that the money was
At the shed is chairman Stewart Dunlop, Fonterra farmer Mark Slee, and shed member Peter Weily, a retired Highbank farmer. PHOTO TIM CRONSHAW 281118-TC-0088
going to buying tools for shed members who would do a lot of good work in the community with them. “Fonterra wants to help people in the community and if we can put something back to the community that has got to be good. Funding is not directly related to farming and that’s what the Fonterra Grass Roots Fund is about.’’ The shed team is made up of volunteers and built 90 per cent of the shed facilities in Ashburton. Chairman Stewart Dunlop said the shed was a charitable
organisation that did a lot of good in the community as well as provide a haven for people wanting to do projects. “We do a helluva lot for the community. Sometimes we do work for kindegartens and widows comes down if they want something fixed. We do all sorts of jobs and we have a workshop that has all the tools.’’ Dunlop said the shed members appreciated the funding from farmers and the tools would be put to use for many more community projects. Farmers are sometimes the
beneficiaries of their handiwork. Shed members spent a year completely restoring a 1904 wool wagon for the Prouting family at Mesopotamia Station. A water wheel for Lake Hood was another major project. The Ashburton shed roll is at 72 members now with a core group including former farmers, engineers, accountants, mechanics and electricians. Fonterra farmers have also passed on a $3000 grant to the Rakaia Childcare and Preschool and the Methven Agricultural & Pastoral Association received $500 within the Ashburton District. The Fonterra Grass Roots Fund has helped 696 initiatives, contributing $770,000 through grants and equipment donations. More than 10,000 high visibility vests and 25 defibrillators have gone to communities. “We are helping the community and these guys are helping the community as well with their projects,’’ said Slee.
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Farmers warned to budget with caution Canterbury dairy farmers are out of pocket again as a result of another Fonterra cut to the milk price and their town neighbours will feel the pinch as well. The average national farmer stands to lose $40,000, but Canterbury farmers have larger farms with more milk production so will lose more. Mid Canterbury farmers will be down an average $82,500. The dairy giant announced on December 6 its 2018-19 forecast had dropped from a range of $6.25-$6.50 a kilogram of milksolids to $6$6.30/kg. Mid Canterbury farmers typically dish up 330,000kg of milksolids from herds averaging 760 cows compared with the national average of 430 cows yielding 160,000kg. They had a pretty good inkling the milk price was vulnerable, despite commodity prices finally rising at the last GlobalDairyTrade (GDT) auction on December 4 because of the seven consecutive falls previously. Farmers have seen the payout drop from an originally promising $7/kg to $6.75/kg in August and again to a range of $6.25-$6.50/kg in October before the latest cut. Fonterra chairman John Monaghan said the revised forecast was from demand failing to keep up with strong milk supplies globally, as reflected by downward GDT prices since May. “Since our October milk price update, production from Europe has flattened off the back of dry weather and rising feed costs. US milk volumes are still forecast to be up 1 per cent for the year.’’ An abnormal El Nino weather pattern over summer could yet impact farmers’ milk production. “Demand from China and
Asia remains strong. However, we are seeing geopolitical disruption impacting demand from countries that traditionally buy a lot of fat products from us. (The) forecast range assumes dairy prices will firm across the balance of the season. This is consistent with the views of other market commentators.’’ Fonterra recommended, however, that farmers budget with caution as there remained unknown elements in the global supply and demand picture. Earnings per share were forecasted at 25 to 35 cents a share for the full year. The co-op revealed that its first-quarter revenue of $3.8 billion was down 4 per cent and sales volumes were back 6 per cent. The first quarter gross margin of $656m was down $14m from the same period last year. Chief executive Miles Hurrell said the co-op generally made a smaller proportion of its total annual sales in the first quarter because of the seasonal nature of its milk supply. However, it provided an indication of challenges that needed to be addressed particularly for Australian ingredient, Greater China foodservice and Asia foodservice businesses, he said. Suppliers were informed that the co-op was making progress with reviewing assets to turn around the first loss in 17 years of $196 million for the 2017-18 year.
Monaghan said an agreement in principle had been reached with Beingmate that would result in Fonterra returning to full ownership of the Darnum plant by the end of the year and enter a multiyear agreement for Beingmate to buy its ingredients. “We are also looking at our ongoing ownership of Tip Top. … We want to see Tip Top remain a New Zealand-based business and this is being factored into our options.
Fonterra recommended, however, that farmers budget with caution as there remained unknown elements in the global supply and demand picture
He said Tip Top was its only ice cream business and, while performing well, had reached maturity as an investment. The co-op was months away
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Fonterra changes election rules Fonterra has changed the rules for a second election being held this month to fill a director vacancy on its board. In a surprise result the cooperative’s shareholders only gave enough voting support for Peter McBride and Leonie Guiney to go on the board. The failure of a third director to be elected during the November election was considered a shareholder protest against Fonterra’s poor financial result and the treatment of Guiney who was controversially prevented by the board from contesting her seat again in 2017. Sitting director Ashley Waugh and Jamie Tuuta, who were nominated by the Fonterra board’s independent selection panel, and John Nicholls, who was self-nominated, failed to get 50 per cent voter support. Waugh has stood down from standing again, leaving Tuuta and Nicholls to vie for the third directorship. The original rules stated that unsuccessful candidates were unable to stand again when Fonterra held a special
“ Tim Cronshaw
election after not enough candidates obtained more than 50 per cent of supporting votes. However, the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council changed the rules to allow Tuuta and Nichols to compete for the vacant director spot Voting opened on December 3 and will close on December 20 when the election results will be announced. Council chairman Duncan Coull said this was the first time a second director election had been required. “After careful consideration, the shareholders’ council has determined that the second election will be a vote between the unsuccessful candidates nominated in the first election who wish to re-stand.” As with the first election, to
Paravicini’s resignation marks the exit of the third senior leader in Fonterra this year.
be successful a candidate must obtain more than 50 per cent support from shareholders who vote. If both candidates get more than 50 per cent support then the candidate with the highest level of support will be elected. If no candidate gets more than 50 per cent support there will not be a third election and the board may make a temporary appointment until the 2019 annual meeting is completed. The board can not appoint an unsuccessful candidate. Coull said in an email to shareholders that the council had carefully considered the background circumstances for the range of options to find candidates for the second election and what was best for the co-operative before reaching its decision. “This approach provides shareholders with a choice between candidates who had
strong support in the first election, and the timing gives the board certainty to move forward with its performance priorities. New candidates will have the opportunity to put themselves forward in 2019 as part of the 2019 director election cycle.” Meanwhile, chief operating officer Lukas Paravicini will leave the co-op in January to return to Europe with his family. Paravicini’s resignation marks the exit of the third senior leader in Fonterra this year. Their departure coincides with the co-op posting its first financial loss of $196 million in 17 years after being stung by a large write-down for its Chinese investment Beingmate and having to pay Danone for losses during the contamination scare of 2013. Chief executive Theo Spierings left Fonterra in
March, followed by chairman John Wilson moving on for health reasons in May. Paravicini joined the Fonterra management team in 2013 as chief financial officer and then went on to be the chief operating officer for its global consumer and foodservice business. Chief executive officer Miles Hurrell said Fonterra was grateful for his contribution and wished him every success in his next venture. He said Paravicini had moved seamlessly from Fonterra’s numbers man to leading its global consumer and foodservice businesses. “During his time, Lukas was instrumental in maintaining the financial strength of the co-operative, including through some years of low milk prices and challenging global conditions. He spearheaded initiatives such as the Co-operative Support Loan and championed Fonterra’s business transformation.” Fonterra has yet to make an announcement on the appointment of his replacement.
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M. Bovis doesn’t stunt entries Canterbury and North Otago farmers have the most entries in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards despite the presence of the cattle disease mycoplasma Tim RURAL bovis. Cronshaw REPORTER M. bovis has been disruptive to dairy farming, but not enough to stop 59 farmers in the greater region from entering the awards. This includes 17 entries in the Share Farmer of the Year category, 30 for Dairy Manager of the Year and 12 for Dairy Trainee of the Year. Competition manager Chris Keeping said entry numbers were up by 29 contestants from last year for a total field of 393 entries. That would ensure strong fields for the three competitions, she said. She said changing the visa entry criteria had contributed to an increase in entry numbers in the Dairy Manager and Dairy Trainee categories. Nationally, 106 entries were received for the Share Farmer category, 166 entered the Dairy Manager category and 121 entered Dairy Trainee of the Year. Entry numbers were next at their highest from the Central Plateau region with 47 entries and SouthlandOtago with 46 entries. Judging begins next year for the 11 regional categories, with the 33 winners announced in March. They will then progress through to the national finals in Wellington in May.
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EDITORIAL COMMENT This is the last edition of Dairy Focus for the year and the temptation would be to focus on all the things that have gone wrong. We could regurgitate Fonterra filing its first loss in 17 years, the costly Tim Beingmate and Danone Cronshaw sagas and the co-op’s sudden change of upper management. It would be easy to dwell on payout forecasts that have slid from their $7/ kg start and reinforce the toll that the mycoplasma bovis cattle disease has taken on our dairy farmers. We could highlight the
labour shortage and the chokehold increasing compliance and regulations are having on them. Each of these issues deserve RURAL our attention, our REPORTER sympathy and our respect. That’s because they directly affect the lives of dairy farmers. They put pressure on them and their families and their bottom lines. So, we won’t push them under the carpet and ignore them. But as tempting as it is to brood over these misfortunes, we should equally shine the torch on the many
good things going on in the dairy industry. There are the farmers going about their daily lives – producing the milk that flows from the farms to be processed into food for our own people and populations around the globe. There is the quiet satisfaction of meeting new goals – improving herds, lifting milk production and setting up businesses so they carry on during the good and bad times. There is the promise of technology and innovations which will help make farms more profitable and more environmentally durable. There is the tranquility of early morning starts, watching the sun rise while others sleep.
There is the immensely good feeling of slowly showing children the ropes around the dairy farm. Perhaps one day they will take over the farm and carry on the family legacy. Ok, the early morning starts might be over-rated, but the other points still wash. The last word for the year needs to go to the farmers who through no fault of their own are neck-deep in the M. bovis response. If you are feeling down, talk to a mate, spouse or partner, contact the professionals and get help. Because a good sun rise is hard to beat. All the best for the Xmas and New Year period.
Prices lift at global auction
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After seven consecutive falls, global dairy commodity prices finally lifted 2.2 per cent at the Global Dairy Trade (GDT) auction. This is the first increase since prices started their decline in May. Prices rose for all commodities except cheddar at the December 4 auction, compared with the last event two weeks ago. Buttermilk powder jumped 16.9 per cent for an average price of $US2973 a tonne. The key ingredient of whole milk powder was up 2.5 per cent at $US2667/t. NZX analyst Amy Castleton said there was likely increased demand for whole milk powder because of lower volumes on offer compared with the previous auction. “WMP offer volumes are coming back off their peak at the previous GDT event which is in line with normal seasonal trends.’’ The rise was in line with market expectations, she said. Prices for anhydrous milkfat (AMF) rose 3.9 per cent at $US4755 and butter 2.7 per cent at $US3745. “Ahead of the event, the derivatives market had expected lifts for these grades and contracts of each of these products,’’ said Castleton. Compared with the last GDT auc-
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tion, slightly more AMF was sold, but less butter. Last week Fonterra made the call to remove 2000 tonnes each of butter and AMF from its GDT offer over the next few months. Lower volumes are likely to have
spurred some demand for milkfats. Skim milk powder rose slightly at $US1970. The auction ended with 178 bidders buying 36,450 tonnes of dairy product, compared with 42,966t at the last event.
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Pollutants not as obvious as they seem As you travel north into Ashburton you are greeted by a stark black billboard with large white lettering making a very bold claim: Ravensdown and Ballance Pollute Rivers. The billboard is in a 50km/h zone so your passenger may even get the chance to read the hashtag in the bottom left hand corner, #TooManyCows, and see Greenpeace’s distinct logo in the bottom right. Shortly after passing the billboard you’ll drive over the bridge that spans the Ashburton River and through a flock of wheeling and squawking gulls in a scene reminiscent of the rubbish dumps of my childhood. You could take this opportunity to explain to your travelling companion that the guano from the thousands of gulls nesting in the braided river below is as thick as the irony contained in the billboard’s simplistic message. You see, from State Highway 1 to the ocean it’s those native seagulls that are polluting our river, not a fertiliser company. There’s not as many nesting this year as have in the past, only an estimated 8000, but
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that’s still equivalent to 4000 cows pumping E.coli into the river every single day. That’s right, two seagulls excrete as much E.Coli per day as a single dairy cow, which is still far preferable to ducks, a single one of which poops out nearly 16 times as many of the nasty organisms daily as a cow does. Up river you can still happily and safely swim, but once you reach the colony of seagulls the danger of getting sick becomes very real. I guess ‘native seagulls are polluting rivers’ on a sign wouldn’t cause the type of outrage their disingenuous offering is hoping for. After you’ve explained this to your passenger they might turn to you and say “Don’t be
silly, the billboard is obviously referring to nitrogen and not pathogens”. Once you’re over the bridge you’ve got three sets of traffic lights to explain to them that nitrogenous fertiliser isn’t the main source of N leaching on dairy farms, it’s cow urine, and the cow doesn’t care whether the source of nitrogen is organic chicken poo, fixed from the atmosphere by legumes
or applied by a truck: it’s still going to get ingested and excreted. Further, your passenger might like to know that every farm in Canterbury has to submit an environmental plan and a nutrient budget to the regional council, and not only is the amount of nitrogen leached from their systems capped, it is expected to fall, and it’s audited annually to
ensure it does. Ballance and Ravensdown are doing everything they can to help farmers achieve this. “But too many cows!” your passenger sputters. “Did you know that market gardens can leach three times the nitrate of the average dairy farm”, you say as you pull over, giving them something to ponder on their long walk to Christchurch.
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Soil link to M. Bovis disputed It was with interest that I read the recent column on November 20, in which claims were made that adjusting soil pH levels may have an impact on rumen pH and, thereby, a cattle’s ability to fight disease and, specifically, mycoplasma bovis. As both a PhD-trained dairy cow nutritionist, specialising in acid-base biochemistry, and the chairman of the Mycoplasma bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group, I believe it appropriate to provide feedback to your readers, in case any of them might have believed the content of the column. Firstly, I am happy to concede that soil pH is very important to encourage the correct pasture species to grow (such as white clover) and to maximise the dry matter yield of desirable pasture species. New Zealand has a proud history of research in soil science. This has underpinned one of the most productive pastoral agricultural systems in the world and farmers are fortunate to have access to this expertise in their own cooperatives. But, does soil pH affect rumen pH and, through this, a cow’s health and ability to fight disease? Absolutely not. Rumen pH is determined by the amount of acids that the cow produces while digesting her feed and the amount of saliva produced to help with digestion. So, her rumen pH is controlled primarily by the digestibility of the diet. In this sense, soil pH has a very small influence on rumen pH by potentially changing the species and, therefore, the digestibility of the pasture consumed. However, to claim that this affects either the cow’s health or ability to fight disease is
Dr John Roche, MPI chief science adviser.
nonsense. Let me explain why. In high quality pasture, rumen pH will vary between a low of approximately 5.0 a few hours after grazing to a high of 6.5 during the night. In comparison, on poor quality summer pasture, for example, the low pH will be closer to 6.0 and the high pH closer to 7.5. The rumen of the grazing cow is perfectly adapted to accommodate a pH between 5.0 and 7.5. If a considerable portion of her diet were grain-based or from sugar, eg molasses, then the lower end of this range would be concerning from a rumen health perspective. However, in grazing cows this pH range is perfectly natural and does not affect the health of the cow. We have decades of research results to prove this. Furthermore, although the pH of the rumen can vary
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considerably, this has very little effect on the pH of blood, which is what optimises the animal’s ability to maintain normal function and ‘fight disease’. All mammals keep their blood pH within very tight limits. As well as the natural buffering components of blood, the lungs and the kidneys remove large quantities of acids from the animals system every day. So, although diet can influence the pH of the rumen, it does not influence the pH of blood. Therefore, altering the pasture through changing soil pH may have very small effects on the pH of the rumen; but, this will have no effect on the pH of the important fluids of the body and, therefore, will not affect animal health. Finally, mycoplasma bovis is a bacteria that is very resistant to pH changes. We know that
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to kill the bacteria, we need a pH of less than 4.3 or greater than 12.0. This is the reason our industry colleagues and MPI have recommended treating milk with citric acid before feeding it to calves as a precaution against spreading the disease. I’m sure your readers will realise that we cannot move the pH of the rumen to these extremes to kill the bacteria without killing the cow. As we have recently said, farmers are going through a challenging time right now with the M. bovis outbreak. Many people working in the dairy and beef sector are concerned that the publication of information such as what I read last month is causing undue stress on farmers when they are already under pressure. I have had the unfortunate experience of managing farms
through an M. bovis outbreak in the United States and, I can tell you, the effect this disease has on individual farmers can be devastating. This is a challenging time and we all need to work together to support the farmers who have been affected by the eradication effort. As I said from the outset, the correct soil pH is an important part of pastoral farming and farmers should work with their trusted industry professionals to ensure they are optimising their pasture production. But, I would hate to think farmers are doing this as a misguided attempt to prevent M. bovis affecting their cattle.
– Dr John Roche, MPI chief science adviser.
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Westland milk appoints new director Westland Milk Products shareholders have elected Canterbury farmer Pat McEvedy to their co-operative’s board. The new director has been with the West Coast’s dairy co-operative since 2010 as a shareholder of Shooting Creek Dairy, south of Hokitika, and has held business interests in the province since since 2008. He is an independent director of Sicon and been a Selwyn District Council councillor since 2010, including serving as chairman of the property and commercial committee. Westland chairman Pete Morrison said McEvedy would bring a broad knowledge of the agricultural sector developed through his farm ownership and governance roles to the board. “He has a depth of experience with environmentrelated issues, working with councils to represent farmer interests.”
McEvedy replaces former director Frank Dooley who decided not to seek re-election after nearly nine years on the board. The director result was announced at the cooperative’s annual meeting in Hokitika. The co-operative told shareholders that its capital structure review had drawn “indicative proposals’’ from more than 25 interested parties. Westland announced in July the review could include introducing a cornerstone shareholder or merger or divestment. Morrison said the board would go to the next step of the review process and select several proposals towards a due diligence and final proposal process. He said the next update to shareholders would be in March. Westland said the review process was strictly confidential and no further information would be provided until the next update.
Westland’s newest shareholder-elected director Pat McEvedy at the co-operative’s annual meeting in PHOTO SUPPLIED Hokitika.
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Fonterra committed to environment Tim Cronshaw
Mortland said there were large challenges ahead, but Fonterra was committed to making a difference. “Our farmers have led the way with excluding cows from waterways but other areas are going to take longer, like lowering greenhouse gas emissions both on farm and in manufacturing,” she said. To become more sustainable Fonterra appointed an independent Sustainability Advisory Panel, led by Sir Rob Fenwick. Fonterra’s report focussed on the pillars of nutrition, environment and community. The co-op launched a new dedicated medical nutrition division to come up with pioneering dairy nutrition solutions to help people recovering from disease and
help them age in good health. Among the highlights are that 92 per cent of Fonterra’s products are electronically traceable with a target to reach 100 per cent by 2020. Environment highlights include: • Farmer suppliers have among the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per litre of milk collected in the world. • They have fenced 99.6 per cent of permanent
waterways and installed bridges or culverts at 99.9 per cent of regular crossings. • Energy intensity has been reduced by 19.3 per cent in its New Zealand manufacturing since 2003. • At the Brightwater site the boiler has been converted to co-fire with wood biomass. • A water recycling innovation at its Pahiatua manufacturing site will save about half a million litres of
water a day this season. Fonterra is half way through its 10-year Living Water partnership with the Department of Conservation focusing on five freshwater catchments and is committed to helping restore another 50 catchments. Community highlights include: • Fonterra launched its family violence initiative in New Zealand and Australia. • Its gender pay gap in New Zealand was reduced from 4 per cent to 2 per cent, against a national average of 9.2 per cent. • The Fonterra Milk for Schools programme delivered its 100 millionth portion of milk and helps more than 140,000 Kiwi kids every school day. • The KickStart Start Breakfast programme with Sanitarium and the Government served more than 125,000 breakfasts every school week. • Nearly 700 community initiatives were supported through the Fonterra Grass Roots Fund.
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Fonterra has marked itself hard for environmental, social and economic sustainability in a report on some areas where it “hasn’t hit the mark’’ yet. In other areas, the cooperative says it is leading the world. Chief executive Miles Hurrell said the large coop had the responsibility to have a good influence on the industry by producing dairy that cared for people, animals and the land. “There are areas where we’re leading our industry thanks to the hard work of our farmers, people and partners. But there are also areas where we’ve tried and haven’t hit the mark yet, and the report doesn’t shy away from that.’’ Fonterra says its farmers lead the world in sustainable dairying with high productivity, year-round pasture grazing and lower use of supplementary feeds. However, dairy had a large environmental footprint because of its scale. Fonterra’s director of sustainability Carolyn
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M. bovis to cost dairy farmers more Dairy farmers will fund the lion’s share of the nearly one third of costs that they will meet along with beef farmers for the eradication programme of mycoplasma bovis via their industry groups. After much negotiation DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) have agreed on the split of their share of the 32 per cent cost of the 10-year programme. The Government is funding 68 per cent of overall costs. The dairy sector will pay most of the farmer share – meeting 94 per cent of the costs of the programme which would be about $272 million and beef 6 per cent - $17.4m An independent panel came up with the industry split based on economic size of the sectors, the risk of infection and the estimated impacts on the farm-gate revenue for milk and beef. DairyNZ chairman Jim van der Poel said the funding split was reached after a “robust’’ process. He said farmers would be disappointed that the costs of system changes were not
factored in, but understood the difficulties of doing this, and accepted the recommendations and need to move forward. “We are very grateful for the public support and the support of the Government to assist with this eradication effort. If we hadn’t moved to eradication, the alternative – to do nothing and let this disease spread throughout our stock – would have been a serious challenge and the costs higher, estimated at $1.3 billion. This was the better outcome.’’ The independent panel initially suggested a 95 per cent split for dairy and 5 per cent by beef. However, the boards of the industry groups adjusted this slightly to more accurately reflect the shared costs. Van der Poel said DairyNZ
would fund its costs by a separate biosecurity levy in consultation with farmers with information to be sent to them early next year. “We argued strongly that the cost split should also include the costs that would be associated with changes to farming systems in both sectors if M. bovis was not controlled and eradicated. However, the panel felt it was too difficult to determine these costs and settled on likely clinical impacts instead.’’ Dairy cull cows will not be subject to the M. bovis beef levy.
B+LNZ chairman Andrew Morrison said beef cattle farmers now had some certainty of their costs of the phased eradication response. “Our farmers are supportive of the phased eradication response, but one of their areas of concern is not knowing what the cost of their individual contributions to the response would be which will be $17.4m over the 10 years of the response.’’ He said the final cost had yet to be played out, but the industries had at least settled on a split and could work with farmers on calculating possible
levy rates. For beef cattle farmers, the contribution will be collected through a separate biosecurity levy at the point of slaughter. The Ministry for Primary Industries says the total number of infected properties so far is 75, with 33 of them still active and their herds yet to be culled. So far the spring bulk milk testing is three quarters through and only found three farms confirmed with M. bovis, which were already part of MPI’s tracing programme with known links to the disease.
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Wet November sets rain records Mid Canterbury farmers are wondering when it’s going to stop raining after getting through one of the wettest Novembers in some areas for about 150 years. At Winchmore there were rain days for half the month and records show it was the second wettest November since 1867. There have only been a couple more Novembers with larger rainfalls – in 1952 268mm of rain was recorded and in 1967 there was 163mm. Longer records show 154mm of rain was measured that month in 1882 and 139mm in 1896. Showing the fickleness of weather, Winchmore’s 184mm was recorded in November compared with 2.8mm for the whole of November 2017. HydroServices managing director Dr Anthony Davoren said he had not seen as much rainfall for November since beginning measurement of soil moisture levels in 1983. He said it might have seemed to people that it rained every day last month, but rainfall records showed this
was not the case. Ashburton had 194mm, Methven 173mm, Chertsey 142mm, Wakanui 155mm and Geraldine 280mm. Dorie was recorded to have received 60mm, but the accuracy of the rain gauge is being questioned. There was less rain north of the Rakaia River at 123140mm and into North Canterbury. Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury president Michael Salvesen said his family had rainfall records going back to when Wakare was first settled and it looked like the last time it was this wet for November was in 1952. “Apart from the really old fellas who were kids then this would be the wettest November in living memory.’’ He said farmers were
looking forward to higher sunshine hours. “Some people would say we have had more than our fair share of rain. We had just under 270mm for November and last year we got 40mm for the first week which was 38mm more than other people on the Plains when it was very
dry and very hot. You couldn’t get much more of a greater contrast.’’ Farmers on lighter soils were feeling the inconvenience of so much rain. On heavier and siltier land such as Methven, Eiffelton and along the foothills, crops were struggling with the high
water table. Salvesen said the wet conditions underfoot could remain for some time yet as rain passed through the aquifers to springs in the lower Plains. “The soil moisture levels could stay high for a long time (which might be good) unless it is too wet which it is at the moment.’’ Fodderbeet crops were looking “pretty sad’’ and farmers were starting to worry about in-calf rates over the mating period and delayed lamb growth. Farmers were getting behind with spraying, tailing, calf marking and other stock work as it was too wet to bring animals into the yards. “But on the plus side when it does clear up a bit there will be plenty of grass around for a while.’’ Even if it suddenly turned dry, farms would have enough soil moisture to keep them going for at least three weeks. Farms on heavier soils would need even less rain. Salvesen said the rain had followed mild conditions.
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Helping women Getting results reduce stress Often the focus of rural health and wellbeing is on farming men, but rural women are not exempt from feeling stress. Research by farmer wellbeing programme, Farmstrong, found the group reporting the highest levels of reduced wellbeing were women working fulltime as sharemilkers or contract milkers. About 780 women completed a survey which was followed up by 26 in-depth interviews. Ranking highest in issues with a large or negative impact on their wellbeing was the difficulty women found of fitting everything into their workload (40 per cent). The survey found 34 per cent of the surveyed women were fatigued/exhausted and 32 per cent did not have enough time for themselves. Another 32 per cent of them suffered from a lack of sleep or poor quality sleep and 29 per cent did not have enough time off the farm either by themselves or with family. The top three things women thought were most likely to contrib-
ute to increase their wellbeing were: more time off the farm, getting more or better quality sleep and getting more exercise. The wellbeing topics that women expressed high interest in the most were: nutrition (26 per cent), exercise (25 per cent), self-confidence, selfworth and self-compassion (24 per cent), thinking strategies to deal with ups and downs (22 per cent), happiness (22 per cent) and mindfulness and relaxation techniques (21 per cent). The interviews particularly highlighted the vulnerability of younger women trying to navigate their way through early careers in farming. Farmstrong is into its fourth year as a wellbeing programme to help farmers see themselves as the most important asset on the farm. The initiative focuses on wellness not illness, and with resources and advice on its website, provides farmers and growers with information they can use on a day-to-day basis that will help them in the long run to live well and farm well.
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Are you wondering when the hard graft will actually start to pay off ? Is the subject of ‘the future’ something you tend to avoid? The business of farming often leaves us with more questions than answers, where we can’t see the wood for the trees. This is where Sarah Barr, from Coach Approach Rural, comes in. As a specialist in the field of rural coaching and relationship management, she works to enable, empower and help you reach the results you want. With over 40+ years in the rural sector, the last five supporting individuals and businesses through adversity such as earthquakes and mycoplasma bovis, Sarah has seen it all. Over these years Sarah has determined that there are three key components to success: 1. Identify your ‘Why’ – Why am I in business? or What do I hope/need to achieve? 2. Commit to a plan – ‘How will I get there?’ 3. Recognise you can’t do it alone – ‘Who do I need on my team? What skills or expertise am I missing? Sarah is passionate about helping people. “Assisting and working with clients to define their goals, or helping a family through a personal and often difficult
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Raising resistance awareness Australasian “doom and gloom’’ about herbicide resistance among farmers appears to have lifted, says a South Australia expert. University of Adelaide’s Dr Peter Boutsalis gave a grim portrayal of weeds developing resistance to herbicides in Australia as the international speaker for the Foundation of Arable Research (FAR) field day, Crops, at Chertsey this month. Australia was ahead of New Zealand with herbicide resistance, he said. “We have had resistance for a long time. It’s been dominated by continuous cropping, single crops per year and over-use of herbicides, especially in the 1990s and early 2000s, which has now caused widespread resistance around the major cropping zones.’’ Australian resistance had accelerated because of its large properties and the need to cover the ground more quickly for weed control. Australian growers had fewer crop rotations which reduced their range of tactics and a
tighter reliance on herbicides for the main weed of annual ryegrass. But his talk was not without hope. Boutsalis said Australian weed surveys showed resistance had plateaued in some cases and was even going down sometimes. “When I was giving presentations to farmers 10 years ago it was actually a doom and gloom story with no new herbicides coming. Since then we have started conducting random weed surveys in Australia and identified the problems. (The industry) has put in hundreds of thousands of dollars in the surveys and that has raised awareness with the chemical companies and they
Arable growers came to the Chertsey research site in their hundreds to learn about the latest cropping research.
have responded by investing and producing new modes of herbicides that are helping growers tackle the multiple resistance weeds that exist today.’’ Over the past five years, new mode of action herbicides have come on the market with more to follow in the next few years. Growers have added tactics such as seed capture techniques to try to remove ryegrass and other weeds that
PHOTOS TIM CRONSHAW 051218-TC-0079
have survived herbicides. Glyphosate is the most common herbicide to kill weeds, but growers were over reliant on the effective herbicide and plants survived because they were resistant and caused problems when allowed to set seed. Boutsalis said FAR leaders were planning to introduce random weed surveys and that would give a more accurate picture of the resistance gap between the two countries.
He said growers could follow the lessons Australian farmers had learned and use multiple tactics including residual herbicides with different modes of action than in-crop herbicides. Resistance testing would help them find which herbicides were working and failing. Boutsalis said growers should not cut costs with herbicides and use top label products which had quality ingredients. Often resistance would start with plants which initially had weak resistance mechanisms and they would go unnoticed, slowly building survivors and catching growers by surprise. FAR chief executive Alison Stewart said about 400 growers and industry people attended the event with perhaps more coming and going during the day. Speaker topics reflected the complexity of crop growing and included the sector’s environmental footprint, aerial imagery, greenhouse gases and herbicide resistance as well as crop performance and profitability, she said.
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New leaders at RCNZ helm The new presidential team leading Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) says the organisation plays an invaluable role educating contractors, providing them with skills and promoting their interests. Southland contractor David Kean was elected the new president at the RCNZ’s annual conference in Masterton in June and Waikato contractor Helen Slattery its new vice-president. Kean has been on the RCNZ board since 2009 and served as vice-president for the past five years. Slattery has been on the board for six years, serving on sub-committees, including health and safety, training, and biosecurity. She is also on the Waikato Regional Council committee that is developing a long-term management plan to deal with velvet-leaf and other weeds, pests and viruses. Both are second generation contractors. In 2003, Kean took over the sheep dipping and weed spraying business that his father Leo started in 1966. In 2016 his two sons, Jarrod and Nicol, joined him in
the business. Slattery and her husband Roger now run the Matamata contracting business that Roger’s father and uncle started in the mid-1950s. They also operate a collection service and compacting unit for Plasback, which recycles waste silage film throughout New Zealand. “I first attended an RCNZ conference in 2000,” Kean said. “It was a fantastic opportunity to talk with like-minded contractors and benchmark my business against theirs. I decided it was good for my business and I have been to every annual conference since then. “The conference is a great place to learn about the latest technology and get updates on changes to employment and tax law, health and safety, and other regulations. The Rothbury Insurance scheme that we can get access to through RCNZ and discount fuel scheme from Allied Petroleum are other benefits that RCNZ provides its members.” Finding good employees is a priority for New Zealand’s
New RCNZ president David Kean (left) with deputy Helen PHOTO SUPPLIED Slattery and outgoing president Steve Levet.
rural contractors. The contractor leaders applaud Immigration NZ’s decision to renew the RCNZ’s Agreement in Principle (AIP),
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“There is a labour shortage throughout New Zealand. We try to hire New Zealanders first, but it is not always possible,” Kean said. “Under our AIP, RCNZ members are allowed to bring in a total of just 300 overseas agricultural machinery operators. “Often the young guys we bring in are more familiar than we are with the latest technology because it arrives in Europe before here, so they serve a training role for us as well as driving.” Slattery is an assessor with Connexis, the industry training organisation that serves rural contractors and she has helped write some of its qualification standards. She is also part of the GoodYarn campaign, which educates rural people about how to look out for signs of stress, depression and other mental health problems. “With growing concerns about M. bovis and other biosecurity threats, it has never been more important for farmers to hire contractors who hold registered or qualified contractor status.”
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Labour survey aims to pinpoint extent DairyNZ is carrying out a labour market survey in Southland and Canterbury in an effort to identify the extent of the labour shortage problem faced by farmers which is equally tough on heavy machinery contractors. The industry good organisation is also trying to identify any bottlenecks in hiring people which could be addressed. DairyNZ people team manager Jane Muir said that DairyNZ recognised there was a shortage of dairy employees, particularly in Canterbury and Southland. ‘’We want to understand how big the shortage is and why farmers are finding it challenging to find people,’’ she said. The survey consists of phone interviews with dairy farmers who are randomly selected. ‘’We’re also interviewing key stakeholders throughout the region to add more depth to the survey results.’’ Rural Contractors New
Zealand president David Kean said besides the issue of finding people to fill jobs, contractors had the additional
issue of finding people capable of safely operating large machinery. ‘’Machinery used in
contracting is getting bigger and more complex. ‘’While there is a group of people who are available
on the world circuit, where workers move from country to country with the seasons, we are struggling to get them
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of worker shortage to return to New Zealand under the present immigration regime.’’ He said contractors had held induction days and attempted to provide incentives for new workers but the long hours and sometimes difficult conditions had made it difficult to employ people from the existing labour pool. ‘’We’ve also tried to engage the schools to help promote employment in the agriculture sector, but with limited success.’’ Steve Canny, Venture Southland’s group manager business and strategic projects, said his organisation had been working with DairyNZ to help address the sector’s employment issues. ‘’The reality is that there continues to be a very tight labour market in Southland.’’ Venture Southland estimated that half of the businesses in Southland would be looking at employing extra staff in the next year and Mr Canny said that this could translate into 7000 jobs needing to be filled. He said finding longer-term solutions to labour shortages was important for both the province as well as the national economy given approximately 70 per cent of
Southland’s GDP related to exporting industries. About 15 per cent of New Zealand’s tradeable exports are produced or processed in Southland. “Southland has the highest labour force participation rates in the country and we also face, as do most regions, an ageing population of people moving out of the workforce,’’ Mr Canny said. The dairy sector has been helped by the key role migrant workers have played in helping meet labour demand as the dairy industry has expanded in Southland. ‘’We still face the ongoing problem of needing to attract and retain these people,’’ he said. At the end of the survey, DairyNZ plans to put together a labour market supply report which will be used by the Government and other stakeholders to put in place initiatives to help farmers get better access to the staff they need. DairyNZ aims to have the survey completed by Christmas, and plans to give feedback to farmers on the results of the survey.
Specialists in small machinery work KT’s Contracting is a family owned and operated business based in Methven. Originally established in 2002, the next generation took over in 2016. KT’s Contracting specialises in small machinery work with their: • Bobcat skid-steer loaders x 2 • Tip trucks x 2 • Small digger • Pivot-steer loader • Specialised 4WD spray ute for spot spraying of gorse, broom, willows, etc Doing jobs such as: • Clearing of calf sheds, covered yards, underpasses • Augering post holes, shed pole holes, tree planting holes • Soakholes and drainage trenches • Preparing and sewing new lawns with our landscape rake. • Driveway preparation and repairs • Irrigation system installation • Concrete removal and placing • Fencing • Small building jobs; such as pergolas, decks, paving, box gardens…
KT’s also run a landscape supplies yard from their premises at 10 Line Road, Methven. We stock everything but the plants: • Bulk organic compost • Forest floor bark mulch • Screened top soil • Top soil/compost mix • Lime chip • Crusher dust • Concrete shingle and AP20 shingle – to name a few.
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From all the team at Dairy Focus, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and New Year. See you all in 2019.
Arable feeds test as best options Arable feeds have the highest potential to reduce nitrate leaching among dairy cows but options are limited under a pasture-based system. Computer modelling has found that maize silage, whole crop cereal silage and grain supplements are the best options to reduce nitrate leaching and methane production in pastoral systems. The modelling results of environmental benefits of arable feeds was presented by Lincoln University Livestock Production Professor Pablo Gregorini at the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) field day, CROPS, at Chertsey. He said dairy cows were quite inefficient with absorbing nitrogen as they excreted 75-80 per cent of what they consumed and most of that went into urine. This inefficiency went down to 30 per cent of nitrogen with different feed systems, he said. Cows urinated two to three litres 12-14 times a day to produce the equivalent of a “lot of rain pee’’ and burped
Farmers contemplate the latest research revealed at the CROPS field day.
PHOTO TIM CRONSHAW 051218-TC-0094
100 times a day and farted 700 times a day for 250-350g of methane a day. “These animals are, per hectare, emitting 3-5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent to the atmosphere, so we face a dilemma. … We know when we try to feed animals to reduce nitrogen excreted we increase methane production so what are we going to do? That is a trade-off.’’ Only 15-20 diets from feeding models fulfilled the target of reducing nitrogen excreted, lowering methane produced and increasing milk production. The modelling study tested thousands of combinations of 51 feeds. Gregorini said New Zealand farmers were in a pastoral system, but there were fewer diets containing at least 50
per cent pasture fulfilling the three targets. Maize silage, whole crop cereal silage and grain supplements were found after modelling to have the best potential to reduce nitrogen leaching and methane production in pastoral systems. The performance of palm kernel extract (PKE) for
meeting the three targets was poor, said Gregorini, in response to a grower question. He said PKE did not help a lot because of its high protein content. Fodderbeet helped reduce nitrogen excreted, but there remained doubt about its performance, he said. The problem with diluting nitrogen intake with other higher starch and fibre
content supplement options was it increased methane production. This made it difficult for farmers to balance environmental, productivity and profitability targets. The modelling was done in response to political and public pressure on dairying to reduce the amount of nitrogen flowing through dairy cows. A two-year Environmental Benefit of Arable Feeds monitoring project led by FAR project leader Ivan Lawrie is heading into its final year. Lawrie said the study was investigating whether the livestock and cropping sectors could work together to reduce nitrate concentrations of urine. Data collected at two South Island farms and two North Island farms would go to Gregorini’s team for modelling, he said.
Check before you dig A fencing contractor who inadvertently caused damage to an underground cable leaving more than 2000 South Canterbury homes and businesses without power is not an isolated incident for Alpine Energy. Alpine Energy network general manager Willem Rawlins says there have been at least three incidents in the past month where damage to underground cables has occurred. A cable strike was the cause for the power outage affecting Washdyke, Grantlea and Pleasant Point areas on Saturday, October 22. A
contractor drilled into an 11,000-volt power cable in the Washdyke area. “When live 11,000-volt equipment is damaged as in this case the drilling into the live cable, the results are serious due to the latent energy within the power system.” The cable strike in Washdyke resulted in the failure of equipment on a power pole just across the drive into the Timaru substation on Old North Road which caused the power supply to Grantlea and Pleasant Point areas to be switched off.
“Our electrical network protection equipment which is designed to operate in such events to keep the public safe and to minimise damage to power infrastructure, performed correctly and in the manner it was intended to work.” Rawlins says the response to the outage was swift considering the extent of the outage and damage to the equipment. Alpine Energy immediately deployed several NETcon crews into the field and had staff in the company’s Washdyke control centre to ensure the network was safe
and affected parts of the network did not pose any safety concerns. In an unplanned outage, the first actions are to determine where and what damage the network infrastructure sustained. In this respect Alpine also relies on the general public for information. “Anything seen or heard is valuable information to us. Due to the nature of this cascading fault, identifying and locating all damaged equipment was complex.” Rawlins stressed the importance for all contractors that work in the Alpine
Energy footprint to use the BeforeUdig process. “This service is offered free of charge for the location of our infrastructure whenever they want to excavate. “Not making use of this process ignores the responsibility that all persons conducting a business or undertaking have under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to identify and manage the hazards associated with underground services.”
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Be smart with data, says CEO This will be one of my last columns as chief executive as we will soon have a new person taking over the reins of the organisation. Over the past decade there have been some really significant changes affecting the irrigation sector. When I first joined there was a heated debate under way on the value of water metering and whether this would be too expensive and difficult to introduce. Nowadays, metering is seen as necessary both for councils and also for farmers and irrigation schemes to monitor and improve their irrigation management. Looking to the future, data is going to be the most critical issue in the industry but the focus will increasingly be on how a range of data can be pulled together and compared to enable farmers to make good decisions. There is an increasing number of apps and tools to monitor activities on farm – from soil moisture and climate to trough water levels and stock movements. Managing
a number of isolated systems can be a big challenge – many farmers have over 50 apps on their phones but only actually use a handful of these. Recently, we have seen new systems emerge which allow for whole of farm management across one platform. This is a significant step forward which makes life easier as it allows you to see how your milking data relates to your soil moisture levels and your animal health data. Over time you can see how these different datasets interact and learn how to spot and resolve problems or change what you’re doing to achieve better production levels or environmental outcomes. The trouble is these platforms can be expensive as
More changes coming farmers’ way will help them get the best PHOTO SUPPLIED from their irrigators.
you have to buy the providers’ hardware. Overseas, new technology platforms can take data from existing providers and integrate this on one platform to show how the different systems relate to each other. The new data platforms can work with whatever systems you already have installed like soil moisture sensors and fuel monitoring and pull each data set into one location
to give you an overview of what’s happening across the farm. We are starting to see this technology arrive in New Zealand. With this in mind, when you’re looking at a new piece of technology, you should be considering whether this will work with an open platform or with systems provided by different companies. And when you’re signing up for a new service you should
be looking at the contract and asking them to include a clause saying that the data belongs to you so that the company will supply the data to you in any format you request. This means you can integrate this with other systems down the track. The future for agriculture is an exciting one - with the application of smart analytics it will finally start providing useful information. Finally, IrrigationNZ is once again carrying out irrigation efficiency checks on farms in South Canterbury. This is the third summer we have carried out the testing, with previous programmes undertaken in Ashburton and Selwyn. The results were used by farmers to adjust their irrigation management, and correct any system faults. Farms between the Rangitata and Waitaki Rivers can register with us to join this testing programme. Andrew Curtis is chief executive officer of IrrigationNZ
Wet spring delays beet planting A wet spring in the South Island has delayed planting of many fodderbeet crops, raising the question of how late is too late to get beet seed in the ground. Research by DLF Seeds has found that every week beet planting is delayed results in a reduced yield, but a late crop of fodderbeet will still be more profitable than switching to another crop. DLF Seeds spokesman Gavin Milne said late planting was going to be a reality for many southern farmers this spring and the question was what crop type could get the best result in the remaining time. The research has found that a delay of one week in planting reduces beet yields by an average of 1.2 tonnes of dry matter per hectare. If a farmer would normally achieve 28t/ha by planting on October 26, they could expect a yield of 23.2t/ha if they planted the first week of December. If they switched to an alternative crop, its yield would also be less than normal because of the late planting.
“Crops like turnips, rape and forage brassica are relatively quick to reach their full yield, but the final yield won’t be anywhere near a fodderbeet crop, even if it’s planted late,” Milne said. Slower growing brassicas such as swedes and kale could also be considered, but the same dilemma applies and there are higher growing costs. Milne said a kale crop planted on November 26 might reach 8t/ha, by winter but with average growing costs of $1000/ha the cost of that feed was 12.5 cents a kilogram of dry matter. “As fodderbeet is utilised at a higher rate when grazed and has higher feed quality, it’ll still be a more profitable crop than kale when planted late spring.’’ Switching to a loweryielding crop would also mean slim pickings for animals next winter. Milne said even if the wet weather continued for a couple of weeks, farmers would still have time to plant beet. “The loss in yield potential
Milne said even if the wet weather continued for a couple of weeks, farmers would still have time to plant beet
for each week of delay in December is less than that in November as the warmer weather accelerates beet growth.’’ A fodderbeet crop planted on December 20 could still achieve a typical yield of 20t/ha by winter, at a feed cost of 14 c/kg, making it still cheaper than most other ways of feeding animals over winter,’’ he said. Late planting fodder beet crops can still pay dividends.
PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN
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