FORGING AHEAD Taihape vet Anthony Oswald is also a farmer, dad and adventure racer p73
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Ag scientists rubbish Landcare study
A burn and oversow programme is beating wilding pines 1
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RA report lacks credibility
f there are no red faces in Landcare Research after the Crown research institute’s white paper on regenerative agriculture (RA), there should be. It is a woeful piece of work which has raised the hackles of top agricultural scientists who have come out swinging (p26). Reputable scientists say it is nonsense, based on poor research. The paper admits to five hours of searching Google. It is full of anecdotes, opinions and incorrect facts. The lead researcher was Landcare’s Dr Gwen Grelet listed as a soil ecologist. What the paper doesn’t highlight or even appear to mention was Grelet is on the board of Quorum Sense, a trust pushing RA. She acts as a science advisor. Quorum was granted nearly $2 million recently by MPI to undertake RA extension work even though it appears its people have little or no teaching experience and qualifications. It’s bad enough Quorum got money from MPI to spread the gospel of RA, but now there is talk of MPI setting up a fund to compare real farming and RA. Scientists say it is a stupid waste of money and resources when there is no science behind most of RA. Sources say MPI decisions are political, not scientific ones. Why is Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor so enamoured with RA? There is enough science available to show RA won’t work. RA is on the spectrum between organics and
Terry Brosnahan Got any feedback? Contact the editor: email@example.com or call 03 471 5272 @CountryWideEd
• Country-Wide’s annual beef special: Breeding opportunities.
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conventional farming. Many RA farmers who don’t use synthesized fertiliser are regarded as close to organics. Long time superphosphate research which started in the 1980s showed the first three years of stopping the fertiliser made little difference. Then the gap appeared. By 1999, production was down about 25%. Global studies have shown organics greenhouse gas emissions are higher per kilo of food when compared with real farming. Organic food production was about 40% less. Landcare’s white paper encourages the use of fish extracts, seaweed, compost and other inputs with little nutritional value. This was all discredited by the Maxicrop liquid fertiliser court case in 1987. Owner, the BellBooth Group, sued MAF for defamation after Maxicrop was discredited on the television programme, Fair Go. MAF won both the case and the appeal. The judge said based on its contents, Maxicrop could not work. He also said based on MAF’s empirical field evidence, it did not work.
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It’s all bull
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Contents BOUNDARIES 8
Farmers can’t win with Government emissions policy
The hypocrisy of Bill Gates
HOME BLOCK 11 Paul Burt laments the cost of human evolution 12 Rachael Hoogenboom celebrates starting a new job 13 Nick Loughnan takes on the litter bugs and wins 14 Gaye Coates reminds us to celebrate success 15 Drought, flood tests Blair Smith’s breeding programme 16 Robert Hodgkins gets lyrical about the UK’s ELM scheme 17 Blair Drysdale received a health wakeup call Don’t sell a ram that won’t walk
BUSINESS 18 22 25 26 29 30 32 34 A honey of an operation
Making maximum margins on weaner cattle Carbon credits replace lost income Honey business soured by Covid Scientists slam regenerative agriculture white paper Two NZ brands have cracked the Chinese market Long wait for venison price recovery Diversification pays off for Balmoral Station Opinion: Innovation from open minds
LIVESTOCK 36 43 44 46 49 50 56 58 59
More than just bulls at Hopelands End of an era for Romney breeder Don’t sell a ram that won’t walk The magic of ewe’s milk Shearing training gets funding boost A honey of an operation at Rainbow and Raglan stations Helping lambs to be stronger, fitter New MPI boss focused on M bovis Stock Check: There is no perfect farmer
DEER FARMER 60 Project to increase AI conception rates underway 61 Venison prices set to beef up Wilding pines meet their match
CROP & FORAGE 62 Wilding pines meet their match
ENVIRONMENT 70 Getting answers on Global Warming
COMMUNITY 72 Vet, farmer and athlete: Anthony Oswald 76 Cancer causing carcinogens cause consternation
YOUNG COUNTRY Getting answers on Global Warming
78 Returning a rundown beef and sheep farm to glory
SOLUTIONS OUR COVER: Taihape vet and farmer Anthony Oswald is kept busy tending to farm animals as well as his own. He is a keen adventure racer, which takes his mind off things. More p72.
80 Woollen, canvas coats keep dogs cosy
FARMING IN FOCUS 83 More photos from this month’s Country-Wide
Photo by Mark Brimblecombe. Cancer and the smoking rat
MORE p76 7
BOUNDARIES CONFERENCE COLLABORATION GOOD NEWS News that two of New Zealand’s leading research conferences are, for the first time, to coincide later this year is welcome. The New Zealand Grassland Association conference is always a worthwhile opportunity to hear the latest pastoral science firsthand and the New Zealand Society of Animal Production’s annual gathering, while a little more technical, is also a great place to meet the people at the cutting edge of livestock research. This year they’re running concurrently in Invercargill, November 9-11, as is the New Zealand Agronomy Society conference which, as usual, will be run in conjunction with the NZGA event.
Why the Government treats farmers unfairly BY: STEVEN CRANSTON In March 2020, agricultural organisations from around the world including Federated Farmers and Beef + Lamb New Zealand, signed a statement to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asking for it to consider the use of a new metric called GWP*/GWP-we to account for agricultural emissions. This metric is widely regarded as superior to the existing GWP100 metric for measuring the effects of short lived greenhouse gases (GHG’s) such as methane. The GWP100 metric calculates the warming value a single pulse of methane would have on the climate over the next 100 years and is accurate for that purpose. The problem is farms do not emit just a single pulse, they emit a constant flow of emissions. A constant flow of methane behaves very differently over time. Methane lasts about 12 years in the atmosphere, so if the rate of emissions is kept stable, old emissions will decay at the same rate new emissions are released. This process stabilises atmospheric methane concentrations and therefore will not alter temperature. The GWP-we metric by comparison is designed to measure a constant flow of emissions and calculates how these emissions will alter temperature from a chosen base year. If emissions go above the base year it will signal a warming effect. If they drop below the base year, GWP-we
will instead signal a cooling effect. This unfortunately is why GWP-we will not be used in this country for emissions policy. Given GWP-we clearly separates out the portion of a farms emissions that add to new warming each year logic would suggest only this portion should be taxed. For most farms, which have relatively stable stock numbers, this would mean no tax on methane at all. More problematic still, it would open the door to compensation for farmers that have lowered emissions. Relating farm emissions back to climate change would undermine this Government’s entire policy. It requires significant cuts to agricultural emissions if there is any chance to achieve the 2050 target. Instead, they will continue with GWP100 and put a cost on total emissions, before generously offering the farming community a 95% rebate to get them on board. Farmers will be paying tax on 5% of their total emissions, regardless of whether their farm is adding to warming, and at the same time tout that the industry is 95% subsidised. This is quite brilliant. I can only see farmers getting a fair deal if they have public support. They will never get that if they don’t pitch their case though. • Steven Cranston is a Waikato-based environmental consultant. More see p70
CASHING IN ON CARBON FOOTPRINT To date there’s been little reward or incentive to cut your farm’s carbon footprint, other than the fact it usually happens anyway as we strive to increase efficiency. However, in a post-Covid world that could all change. Covid has cut mankind’s sense of invincibility and that’s likely increased willingness of both governments and consumers to act on climate change. For New Zealand lamb, mutton and beef this could be good news if more people will pay a premium for meat with the lowest carbon footprint. Now we just need the research done to prove we can make that claim. Apparently Beef + Lamb NZ is already on the case.
An elderly man is stopped by the police around 2am and is asked where he is going at this time of night. The man replies, “I am on my way to attend a lecture about gambling, hookers, alcohol abuse and the effects it has on the human body, as well as smoking, and staying out late.” The officer then asks, “Really? Who is giving that lecture at this time of night?” The man replies, “That would be my wife.”
EM EAT “ L E T T HS E D M E A T ! ” -B A PLANT
INDUSTRY LEADING SHEEP BREEDER DIES One of the leading lights of New Zealand’s sheep breeding industry has died. Holmes Warren from Wairarapa’s Turanganui Stud died on March 7 aged 92. A founding member of the Wairarapa Romney Improvement Group, a group of breeders who banded together in the 1970s to improve the breed, he was considered to be one of the founders of the North Island Romney, a genetic package that has had such a big impact on the productivity of this country’s ewe flock. An obituary for Holmes will run in Country-Wide’s Sheep special later this year.
HYPOCRISY OF BILL GATES
HARD TO SWALLOW After a WormWise workshop a small flock owner decided he’d better finally bite the bullet and start doing the right thing by using one of the two novel actives for his end of season and quarantine drenches. However, he quickly found that’s easier said than done, or at least, it is without breaking the bank. Only Zolvix-plus is available in a one litre pack and neither Farmlands nor PGGW had any, so he tried his vet, only to get another “sorry”.
After phoning two competitor vet clinics he finally found one which could get a one litre pack for him, but it had a July 2021 expiry. With a new ram bailed up in the yards awaiting a quarantine shot he bought it anyway. Now he’s hoping there’s a good bit of lee-way in that expiry date because with most of his lambs gone, the remaining 396 lamb-size (25kg) doses are going to take a year or two to get through, even with incoming cattle to quarantine.
Nostalgia, it ain’t what it used to be. – Peter De Vries
DID YOU KNOW
When a hen’s body temperature rises it becomes broody (clucky). Most hens taken off the nest are kept in a wire cage or box for three days or even longer. Owners have been known to put frozen veggies under them.
A conspiracy theorist could accuse Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates of singlehandedly trying to reshape global society. This unbelievably wealthy but unelected individual is positioning himself at the centre of climate change issues and the Covid-19 pandemic response, freely spouting forth his views, which are being lapped up by a star-struck media. You do not have to dig too far below the surface to discover he is a blatant hypocrite. Gates stirred up a firestorm recently when he told a journalist that to save the planet from climate change, consumers in wealthy countries should replace meat in their diets with plantbased protein. This was hypocrisy on multiple fronts. His view that by stopping the consumption of animal protein we will save the planet has been scientifically discredited by scientists such as Frederic Leroy and Frank Mitloehner. Gates also ignores the wider implications of the impact of broad-acre cropping on the environment, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions, and the nutrient issues from eating highly processed, chemically-reliant plantbased products. Significantly he omitted that he is an investor in plant-based protein manufacturers Hampton Creek, Impossible Foods, and Beyond Meat. But there is another, much more offensive issue. While preaching what the rest of the world should eat and how we should live their lives, Gates leads a large carbon-emitting lifestyle. Under the headline: Bill Gates, Climate Warrior. And Super Emitter, the website The Nation reports that during the pandemic lockdown his personal fortune increased by $US20 billion. Gates owns 98,000ha of farmland (greater than the area of Bahrain or Singapore), his Seattle mansion covers an area of 6100m2 and his Bombardier BD700 Global Express personal jet consumes 1839 litres of fuel an hour. It is right that people question Gate’s credibility and his hypocrisy – a job the mainstream media should be but are not doing. 9
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HOME BLOCK | COLUMN
“Terrible things happen to politicians when people hear what they don’t want to hear. Remember poor former National Party politician Steven Joyce. It just doesn’t bear thinking about that flying missile penetrating his body.” movement”. As a species we’ve never been able to ensure that all of our kind receive at least the basics in life. There is enough knowledge, wealth and resources but we’ve never been able to manage a fair distribution. The will to solve humanities immediate problems has never eventuated so why are authorities hopeful for behavioural change that will solve future ones? Governmental systems very rarely make the hard decisions because the politicians Paul Burt laments that humans have been running them know if the people aren’t too successful at the top of the food chain. happy their careers will be short lived. Imagine if the Prime Minister decreed a tax on food waste (30% of food purchased in New Zealand is trashed), excess body s do most mammals, our species starts to impact on mass index (BMI) and large families. early human ancestors once human ideals directly, we take The comfort of her reassuring MATATA had long sensory whiskers steps to mitigate the problem. smile and motherly ways would either side of the pointy part In fact, we often don’t wait for a immediately sour. Terrible things of their faces. The fact that reason but persecute many of happen to politicians when people these coarse hairs have since retreated our fellow creatures (including hear what they don’t want to hear. back up our noses (for all but a few of us) other humans) at a whim. History Remember poor former National Party is probably a good thing. Despite what shows no measure or method is politician Steven Joyce. It just doesn’t the creationists believe, rational thought off limits to protect our beliefs bear thinking about that flying missile tells me our species is not much different or needs and we can be ruthlessly penetrating his body. to any other on this earth. Except, by the efficient often for a greater good that’s The world is addicted to constant glorious logic of natural selection, we have only imagined. And there is surprisingly economic growth fed by a greedy developed the biggest brain and risen to little guilt considering ill-advised populace and self-serving political the top of the food chain. We dominate human activity is often the cause of the systems. Governments and markets the planet with a capital D. imbalance in the first place. panic when activity slows but as any We are so successful we are rewriting For all the angst nationally and farmer knows, when a biological system the rules of evolution as we use our internationally over the real greater good is pushed too far the consequences inventions to modify habitats and of saving the planet, no-one is excitedly are predictable. The farming life ensure food security and freedom from pointing out that our population is offers a realism lacking in many other disease (at least for those that can afford increasing at a rate that is not sustainable. occupations. Our farms are a microcosm it). Consequently, we are breeding and And we are not just subsisting, we are of the bigger picture and our physical, consuming at a rate faster than our greedy and wasteful. Unless you live mental and financial wellbeing is fixed resources can cope with. When in a third world economy where clean a reflection on how we nurture the other species below us in the pecking water, adequate food and access to health resources that make them up. order enter a similar phase one of two care are far more critical issues. Third The trouble is, humans are no longer things happens. Overpopulation causes World citizens hardly have enough fuel managing the worlds’ resources purely a natural decline as food runs out and to cook their meagre calories let alone for wellbeing. Our wants and desires are starvation or disease takes over. If the put in a vehicle and their skinny cows increasingly insatiable and the last time I species is of no consequence to us we don’t fart much on a diet of dry sticks. looked there was nothing further up the do nothing. However, if the subordinate That’s the rub with the “save the planet food chain to keep us in check.
It’s tough being an apex predator
HOME BLOCK | COLUMN
Change of view just the job Rachael Hoogenboom has finished her degree and moved from university life in Canterbury to a job in the Bay of Plenty.
y view out the window while writing my articles has changed quite dramatically recently, to a busy street full of weekend beachgoers, packed cars with surfboards strapped to the roof, and kids enjoying ice cream. This view is rather different from the quiet neighbourly atmosphere in Lincoln that I called home for four years. But where is this new view you may well ask, and how did I end up here? When we last spoke New Zealand was in the middle of a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and I was spending most of my time at the kitchen table completing university assignments. Since then, I have completed my Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree at Lincoln University. I had decided to mix up my last semester papers and do something other than science, so I focused on consultancy, agribusiness, and marketing. Once the student life ended, I spent my second summer in Mid Canterbury working as a crop inspector for AsureQuality. It was great to be back out on the road working
with farmers again, with my previous experience allowing me to pick up more responsibility. My summer wasn’t all work though, as I managed to escape away for plenty of holidays. The first being to Milford Sound, which is an absolute must-do for anyone that hasn’t been. I’d recommend going out on a boat cruise to immerse yourself in the breathtaking environment and feel the tranquillity that the surroundings provide. I ended my summer holidaying in Wanaka. The majority of my time was spent suitably lying by the lake relaxing, the reason being that I struggled to walk after hiking up Mount Roy. The holiday ended but a road trip to my new view began. Driving from Invercargill to Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty. While I was completing my degree, I spent a lot of my time networking and applying for jobs, but in mid-September I got a positive phone call letting me know that I had been successful in gaining a full-time position with Ballance AgriNutrients. Skip forward six months and I am now living in Mount Maunganui and
working at the Ballance head office as a sales intern with three other graduates. Our programme will run for at least six months before we become nutrient specialists and are able to move around the country. At the moment though we are still fresh faces around the office and are doing our best to soak in all the new information. My first few weeks have involved many different types of training, including vehicle training, which will be especially helpful when driving around farms, foundation training, which incorporates the science of nutrients as well as understanding farm systems, and first aid training, which is always a very important life skill to have. The large majority of our first eight weeks at head office is spent working in the contact centre. The purpose of this time is to gain experience dealing with different issues or enquiries that may arise from customers, merchants, or from other staff members. From there we can learn how to operate the computer MOUNT programmes that Ballance MAUNGANUI uses, such as MyBallance, a tool used to place orders and hold customer details and their fertiliser recommendations. When I become a nutrient specialist, MyBallance is a programme I will constantly be using, therefore being able to learn how to use it before I need it will make my transition from sales intern to nutrient specialist much smoother during an already very busy time of the year. Following my eight weeks initial training I will be tagging along with some experienced nutrient specialists to learn their tips and tricks of the trade, about how to interact with farmers, what questions to ask to get all the information required to produce an accurate fertiliser recommendation, as well as completing soil tests. The introduction into full-time working life has been extremely refreshing and enjoyable thanks to the Ballance community and I can’t wait to see what I have to write about next. The sun has been out all day so I think it’s time to hit the beach for an after-work swim, but I hope to see some of you out on the road with my new venture.
HOME BLOCK | COLUMN
Along the country road Nick Loughnan notches up a victory over the lazy litter bugs in his part of Central Otago.
here are hundreds of thousands of kilometres of them all over New Zealand. And as something of an indicator as to the remoteness of those who live on them, many are unsealed gravel roads which have the occasional touch-up by a powerful grader to remove the potholes and corrugations that regularly appear on the same old spots every year. There’s nothing of the more fancy treatment that our state highways receive by way of surface attention, or mowed vegetation strips alongside the roadside edges. The gravel road maintenance is minimal but adequate, reflecting the low levels of traffic that might throw up clouds of dust in their wake during the drier seasons. And that’s how it is for many of us who live rurally. The rank and seeded grasses that are often at fence top height provide a good source of feed for many smaller birds, particularly finches, who don’t find the same offerings inside the paddocks where grazing livestock keep the pasture swards to a more manicured state. And there can be good foraging material for bees on our roadside strips as well. Yes, they can look overgrown and untidy but we’re used to having it this way. However, there is one addition to my roadside vista that never fails to ALEXANDRA catch my eye for the wrong reasons. We live on the way to a couple of popular back country fishing spots, and over the summer there is often the trademark signature of some lazy sod who pushes the button for downing the electric window and chucks out a bit of rubbish. Stubbies (beer bottles) and cans are common, along with KFC cardboard
boxes and plastic drink bottles. And the drop zone from our nearest town is often along our 2km road frontage. I usually take a few hours to pick up the stuff every year, and always need my quad bike as the weight of it all soon builds up. Last winter, my mood wasn’t so kindly towards the offenders, so I decided to take a stand and make a point, wrapped the garbage up in some grape netting and hung it off a road marker post along with a simple message, “TOSSER”. For a few months it did the trick until the road maintenance crew removed it when they were on their culvert cleaning rounds. I did have a victory of sorts a few years ago when three large plastic rubbish bags were tucked neatly under our roadside shelterbelt. Curiosity got the better of me, and I went through the bags. The clues were all there. An NZ family had been camping with a youngster in the mix who was still in nappies, as one bag contained plenty of soiled disposables, along with food scraps, stubbies and other campsite rubbish. However, I found gold. A New World supermarket receipt was in their trash, and a visit to the friendly store management pointed me in the right direction. Yes, they could identify the tosser from the security cameras and checkout time on the receipt but no, they would only pass that information on to the local police. That saved me the job, and the boys in blue later showed me the store camera pictures of the offender with her toddler in the supermarket trolley at the
Angry over frequent litterbugs, Nick wrapped the rubbish in netting and hung it off a road marker post along with a simple message.
checkout, as well as the carpark shot of her loading up her SUV with the groceries and packaging that were soon to find their way to my place. However, the rego plate was obscured so the trail went cold, but not before the local newspaper got hold of the story and printed some pixellated versions of her for the world to see. Trash traceability is here. We host dozens of young international tourists each year, many of them travelling in vans as they move throughout the country and often staying in ‘freedom camping’ sites as they go. And they have such a commendable respect for our country, being meticulous with their attention to litter and tidiness, even to the point of asking where they should put any used batteries. Just what is it about some Kiwis who routinely toss their stuff from car windows outside someone else’s place, and all over our country roads? Plastic water bottles, energy drink and beer cans, stubbies, and fast food packaging – it’s time people behaved a bit better.
HOME BLOCK | COLUMN
“It would be fair to say that this summer we have developed an appreciation for the structure of an employment contract.”
Rainbows after rain After weathering stormy periods both with weather and employment issues, Gaye Coates reminds us to enjoy the sunshine.
here is something deeply soothing about listening to the rhythmic drumming of wanted rain on the roof. It is profoundly therapeutic being able to translate those sounds into a near instant change on the comments line in our weekly farm report from “scary” to “now have grass”. A rain-free period on the West Coast over summer was initially welcomed while we regrassed, repaired fences and made use of “willing” children home on holiday to attack the weather dependent maintenance list. Then, when the ground hue changed and the weekly farm walk showed grass growth stalling, the novelty of extended sunshine hours wore off and the thinking cap came on to work our way out of the gaping feed hole and to keep cow condition and milk production on track. When it did eventually arrive, that pitter-patter resonating through the ceiling was welcome to say the least. Ironic, given that the same rain sounds eight weeks ago, were heard as an
intimidating cacophony while we battled against the elements to put in winter crops and ryegrass paddocks. That period of rain resulted in three attempts to establish the winter swedes, HAUPIRI making each Aparima Gold bulb every bit as expensive as the similarly named precious metal. Testament again, that much of farming is lived in moments and what is wished for one day, can be loathed on another. Either way, the moment will pass. That same reminder that moments do pass can be applied to filling the fifth slot in our permanent farm team, an exercise which is proving to be as challenging and as elusive as finding the Fiordland moose. We are a small, family-like team. There is a tremendous amount of trust and respect that goes with working and living alongside each other that cannot be underestimated, so team fit and sharing a passion for playing the game well is as important onfarm as skill. I’m sure former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen
would attest to the significance of that. Over the years we have accumulated our stories and if I’m ever tempted to move aside from farming, I think I could easily slot into script writing for Shortland Street, Coronation Street and a number of other onscreen dramas. However, despite some memorable let-downs, the core of our team is very much a stable group who share the same farming ethics who back us and each other. Over the summer we have certainly learnt that this team culture is crucial to getting up each day and feeling good about being at work. It is hard to get the balance between getting just someone to fill the gap and waiting to get that “right” person who may never turn up. We’ve learnt from experience that there is no perfect answer to the quality versus quantity dilemma, both scenarios place stress on the team especially in the context of a shortage of agricultural workers nationwide. This summer, we have all learnt that the far greater stress comes from the mental fatigue of having someone in the team who doesn’t share like everyone else in our farm’s established practices and values. It would be fair to say that this summer we have developed an appreciation for the structure of an employment contract and gained confidence to follow by ourselves the resolution processes the employment laws within that give. While it would probably be a stretch to say that those processes were an exclusively positive experience for all parties, we were grateful that we were supported by the wording of a good employment contract to have difficult conversations that were correct, invited objective and healthy discussions and that provided a clear pathway to a positive outcome. Thankfully too, this moment will pass - rainbows after rain is the focus.
HOME BLOCK | COLUMN
There’s nothing more satisfying than producing quality genetics, regardless of what the season throws at you.
What doesn’t kill you... Lurching from drought to flood in North Otago has tested Blair Smith’s sheep and beef stud breeding programme.
he kids were enlightening me yesterday that 2020 was the Chinese Year of the Rat, probably an appropriate zodiac name for a year like that. There were certainly plenty of rats circulating both pre and post election - sniffing around for some ministerial power while breeding and feeding incompetence far and wide. It also happened to be the year that failed to give us any rain for seven months, and then rewarded our patience with more than half our annual rainfall in the last three days of December. The line ‘there is nothing more useless than an average’ is bang on, as in theory we ended up with our long term average rainfall, but it was the driest stint in over 40 years. Anyway, the optimist somewhere in me says that seasonal extremes are the perfect opportunity for a stud breeder to see how resilient their breeding programme really is, especially under our nil-drench sheep regime. We are always promoting the fact that Newhaven Perendales and
Fossil Creek Angus are run under ‘genuine commercial conditions’. With five tough years in a row, I should be jumping for joy and it is a good test for both man and beast. I’m always amused when I hear farm consultants singing the praises of mass terminal siring - while conveniently forgetting that someone has to keep breeding quality replacements with a high selection pressure. I’m equally amused by the premium prices those previously ‘advised’ farmers are then prepared to pay for decent breeding stock a few years later. One of the best buzzes you can get is seeing hoggets or heifers on farms that have stuck to their knitting - producing breeding stock with constitution, conformation and consistency. We field a number of calls from farmers looking for replacement stock with our bloodlines, simply because they know our ram clients have remained focused on good old fashioned stockmanship. At the same time, they are using a massive amount of genetic data to make
sure that their stock doesn't just look good, but is superior. DNA testing and genomics have pushed genetic gains even further and I honestly think those that have been stubborn enough to persist with crossbred wool quality will be rewarded in the next three to five years. Hang in there. Thanks goes to farmers that are training up a number of young cadets on their farms through one of the many farmerled initiatives, we need to see more of this. We have two lads onfarm that are a product of the Waitaki Boys High School Fraser Farm programme along with a student under the ‘gateway’ programme. We see North Otago, with our three boarding schools and supportive employers, as a future Ag Training hub region. The past month has seen a strong ram selling season completed and good scanning results in our cows and heifers (100% pregnancy rate in our 80 second-calving R3 heifers from a 52-day bull window). This is despite these girls only being offered the equivalent FIVE of cardboard (dry feed) for FORKS the entire lead-up and bulling period. So if we could order some autumn rain, things would shape up well for 2021. Most males will be familiar with the saying that you can either be happy or you can be right – not both. The tricky thing about working with your spouse is that you’re under constant threat of a coup, a strike or worse still, the high chance of her walking home from the yards and taking the only decent dog you have with her. A friend said to me the other day; “Don’t worry, whenever you think that males are losing our place in society, just remember that whoever is in charge of the drafting gate, is the one in charge”. All was boding well for me to remain at the helm of the Newhaven ship, until I looked up one day during a screaming norwester in the dusty sheep yards and realised that it was Jane that had a firm grip on the drafting gate, not me. However, all is not lost - Jane, Jacinda and Judith are now top of my list for naming the next wayward huntaway pup.
HOME BLOCK | COLUMN
without any preparation. Fortunately, they’re an owned farm as their farming system wouldn’t cover a commercial rent. The fear is people will be pushed down the wrong road so the government can claim they’re reducing farming emissions and sequestering soil carbon but without a real understanding of what they’re doing. Which could lead to worse weed pressures, increased run-off, increased compaction and much lower yields if people dive into the scheme without The Hodgkins started SheepLife Live onfarm venture for paying members of the education. the public. Check out SheepLife Live on Facebook. We have been growing cover crops, grazing sheep and chopping all our straw and resurrecting our field drainage systems in preparation for a change in establishment system. Five years in, we are moving to strip tilling. We don’t know where this will sit with Farm subsidies are being replaced with Government support or not but we an Environmental Land Management know where we’re headed and I don’t (ELM) scheme in England. Robert believe farming for subsidy is ever a good strategy. Hodgkins outlines who will benefit. Finally, the fashionable gentleman landowner is ditching farming e’re going through released yet, and a public good altogether in favour of planting trees. some strange times is still being defined. Leaving These are either in rows between over here in the farmers and landowners the arable – agroforestry or planted UK at the moment. hanging. Again, there’s randomly for carbon offsetting. A few Farming is in flux. plenty of speculation HERTFORDSHIRE, are simply doing nothing at all. Brexit has divided the country into the and much hope that the They are rewilding the land, and ENGLAND ‘remoaners’ and the ‘brexiteers’. A lot was new scheme will go a long way to getting paid handsomely for it. speculated about what would happen replace the previous levels of funding. If I sound bitter, I probably am. As a under either scenario, but little was Our feeling is that this new pot of cash is tenant farmer, it’s all about short term known. Now we’re two months in and being asked to go a lot further – funding leases in the UK so none of these options we know that it has created a paperwork research and development up to national are available to us. We’ll just get our nightmare for the live export industries. scale. We think some, like upland farmers heads down, keep grafting and see what There has been short term pain for will have profitable opportunities if shakes out. However, uncertain times and the commodity markets – moving grain they’re happy to give up or significantly day to day big changes are threatening off-farm in December 2020 and January scale back their farming. We think mixed what we ‘knew’ yesterday and we’re was pretty much impossible as everything farming will be a winner and largely seeing the first few farms go to the wall. ground to a halt while we watched and productive lowland farming the looser. It’s a very unsettling time to be a tenant waited. Otherwise, Brexit alone would’ve Unless they wish to open their farms farmer so fingers crossed we’ll make it out created little short term change, however, up to wider public access. Covid-19 has the other side. supply issues were exacerbated by Covid, reignited a generation’s desire to go In February, we launched a new onfarm as products previously destined for walking in the countryside – which is venture called SheepLife Live. It will give catering markets have been piling up, bringing a new generation of dog owners paying members of the public a chance waiting to be repackaged for domestic to the footpaths across the countryside to come and feed an orphan lamb, have use. and a new flood of dog attacks on sheep a tour of the farm at the end of lambing, Amidst the chaos, the announcement grazing the fields near the footpaths. do a treasure trail and play some giant for the structure of the end of direct farm It feels like direct drilling might be a garden games. This is a long way outside payments (subsidy) was announced. big winner under the new ELMs scheme. of our comfort zone, but we’re only All farm ‘support’ will be phased out It’s been common practice for arable 30 miles outside of central London and replaced by a scheme called ELMs farms here to bale most of their straw for and there’s plenty of townies to sell to. (Environmental Land Management) the last 30 years and put nothing back. Fingers crossed we can make it work. If with a tagline, ‘public money for public Our neighbours went boots and all we can, we hope to clear about £30,000 goods.’ No detail for this scheme has been into direct drilling about 10 years ago (NZ$58,070) across 19 days.
Hanging on for support
HOME BLOCK | COLUMN
Sometimes we all just need to slow down a bit, drink plenty of water, eat well, get a good night’s sleep and remember that tomorrow is another day.
A six-bay shed with fertiliser bays and workshop is under construction.
We’re not bulletproof Southland farmer Blair Drysdale received a health wakeup call recently not to work so hard.
s autumn sets in, the days draw shorter and the shadows get longer, the workload just increases and doesn’t seem to stop. It’s that time of year when everything is happening at once on an arable farm. Harvest is still ongoing, stubble burns to do, working ground, fertiliser to get on, the start of seeding, some stock work, throw in a substantial shed building project for good measure, several fire calls to attend as a volunteer and there’s barely enough time for sleep. This can catch up on a bloke sometimes. More on that later. This season has been one out of the box for yields not only on our place, but all around the district with nearly all crops well above average at this point in time. The autumn sown barley, oil seed rape, wheat and hemp is all done with only the spring sown barley left to harvest which also looks particularly good as well. While the hemp harvest wasn’t great, this is the first year I haven’t had one paddock that’s been a complete disaster for quite some time. The first crop to go back in the ground as soon as the weather allows is the oil seed rape which will be followed by oats,
barley and then onto the wheat with some grass seed to finish off, all by the end BALFOUR of April if all goes to plan. The iron disease that inherently comes with arable farming saw us buy a John Deere 750A disc drill, which will speed up the seeding process dramatically with not having to work all the ground first. It is a tool in the toolbox that will, with a bit of learning, get us to a complete no till practice in the near future. We’ve been lacking a decent shed with fertiliser bays and workshop for a long time now. In late January an old shed was torn down, the site completely cleared, and the build of a six-bay shed began which is on course to be finished by the end of March. I’ve spent a bit more time than I originally thought would be required helping the builders out, but it’s satisfying when you start seeing the progress. Not being able to store bulk fertiliser onfarm has been a major hamstring and cost a lot of time and tractor hours running into the local transport to get product 2.5 ton at a time. Having a decent sized workshop in the main yard will be very handy for this former mechanic.
Sometimes us males think we are bulletproof, forget that we’re not 20 anymore and fail to look after ourselves like we should. Like I said earlier, it can catch up on you. On a hot and windy Sunday morning in late February I jumped in the combine harvester to get cracking on what was going to be a long day harvesting wheat. Only a few minutes into opening up the paddock a weird sensation swept up my chest which tightened a little and I thought I was going to collapse over the steering column. I thought I was having a heart attack. To cut a long story short, after an ambulance trip to hospital and a lot of electrocardiograms (ECG’s) later it was just extreme dehydration, fatigue and a little bit of stress along with a blood pressure spike all in one hit. On the plus side, I now know my heart is in perfect working condition and Jody won’t reap the benefits of my life insurance policy just yet. However, in all seriousness, it gave me a hell of a fright after losing a lifelong friend to a heart attack a year ago, not to mention the fright Jody and the kids got. Sometimes we all just need to slow down a bit, drink plenty of water, eat well, get a good night’s sleep and remember that tomorrow is another day and the work isn’t going to run away. In closing, I really feel for those in the horticulture industry right now that can’t get enough fruit pickers into the country with the fruit rotting on trees, and yet the cast of The Lion King is deemed essential. These are absolutely deplorable antics from our government. It’s a double whammy for those in the Motueka area that lost everything in the tornado and hailstorm recently. Chin up folks and battle on. Everyone, look after yourselves. We only get one go at this.
BUSINESS | TRADING
How you grow the cattle is by far the most important factor in beef finishing profitability.
Making maximum margins on weaner cattle There are many variables when trading and finishing livestock. Kerry Dwyer crunches the numbers to see how you can get more bang for your buck.
ooking at various enterprise options it is easy to look at an average return from any business. However, as the song goes “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it, and that’s what gets results.” This approach is better than looking at averages for most situations. We can look at a couple of beef finishing
options. The simple options are buying either weaner beef steers or Friesian bull calves in early April, and selling the following March. That allows a month for some pasture growth before the next batch arrives, and a total change over comparing apples with apples. The previous batch is sold regardless of weight but as slaughter or store propositions. I have used prices for
2020 and 2021 to make it a real summary of the last 12 months. Also, to compare apples with apples, let’s keep the purchase and sale weights the same for steers and bulls. The biggest variables in trading and finishing livestock are: • Purchase price • Growth rates achieved • Sale price.
Table 1 Parameters for Weaner Beef Steers, bought early April 2020 at 200kg liveweight, sell early March 2021 High end purchase price
Lower end purchase price
Grow at high rate
Grow at 1.13kg/day liveweight gain for 335 days
End liveweight 580kg Equals 320kg carcaseweight
Grow at lower rate
Grow at 0.75kg/day liveweight gain for 335 days
End liveweight 450kg. Below export carcaseweight so sell store
High end sale price at slaughter weight
$4.85/kg carcaseweight for 320kg carcase
Low end sale price at slaughter weight
$4.45/kg carcaseweight for 320kg carcase
High end sale price for store weight
$2.70/kg liveweight for 450kg live
Low end sale price for store weight
$2.50/kg liveweight for 450kg live
Table 2 Parameters for Weaner Friesian Bulls, bought early April 2020 at 200kg liveweight, sell early March 2021
The purchase price will vary with private versus auction sale, between regions and times. I have taken a spread of 30c/kg liveweight for the beef steers and 40c/kg for the bulls. In some cases you will see a bigger variation. Growth rate achieved has a huge impact on this scenario, because a fast growing steer or bull will make a good slaughter weight at 18 months of age while a slower growing animal will be a store market proposition at the same age. I have calculated a fast liveweight growth rate of 1.13kg/day average is needed to take a 200kg calf in April to 580kg liveweight the following March. A lower growth rate of 0.75kg/day results in a 450kg animal that fits the store market rather than slaughter. Sale price varies by 40-50c/kg carcaseweight for slaughter animals and by at least 20c/kg liveweight for store sales. There is a large gap between published
High end purchase price
Lower end purchase price
Grow at high rate
Grow at 1.13kg/day liveweight gain for 335 days
End liveweight 580kg Equals 320kg carcaseweight
Grow at lower rate
Grow at 0.75kg/day liveweight gain for 335 days
End liveweight 450kg. Below export carcaseweight so sell store
High end sale price at slaughter weight
$4.75/kg carcaseweight for 320kg carcase
Low end sale price at slaughter weight
$4.25/kg carcaseweight for 320kg carcase
High end sale price for store weight
$2.40/kg liveweight for 450kg live
Low end sale price for store weight
$2.20/kg liveweight for 450kg live
“Buying right is important. Most important is to grow them well, and finish the job with a good sale price.” schedule prices and the top margin paid for slaughter beef, depending on business relationships and regions. Here in the South Island, we are constantly irritated to see our co-operatives pay more in the North Island for similar animals. Tables 1 and 2 show the options all being put together: buying at two different levels, and then growing the animals at two different levels to give four different sale results. The range of results for the steers is $1125-$1552/head gross sale value. You
might deduct some costs from these values because I have not allowed for cartage, animal health, interest and other factors. However, the point is clear that you will get a range of profit margins as a result of the differences in gross sale value. The bulls show a range of $990-$1520/ hd gross. Growing a steer on a slower rate is more profitable than a slow growing bull because bulls typically have a lower store value than steers, which tends to be extended at autumn sales. Continues
Tables 3 and 4 show the differing margins achieved, given the variations in purchase price, growth rate and sale prices. The steers show a margin range of $505-992/hd while the bulls range $4901020/hd. In terms of the per head margin there is no clear cut difference between steers and bulls, it is the other variables that dictate which is the most profitable option. To calculate the per kg drymatter return, I have estimated that a steer requires 3100kg DM to grow from 200kg to 580kg liveweight in 335 days at the high growth rate average of 1.13kg/day. The slower growing steer eats 2600kg DM by comparison. The research shows bulls will eat about 5% less to achieve the same growth rates, so 2950kg DM for the faster growing bull and 2470kg DM for the slower growth rate. The steers show a range of return per kg DM eaten of 19.4-32c while the bulls range 16.6-34.6c.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT Let’s split the results down a bit more, we can look at the average returns according to the three variables of purchase price, growth rate and sale price. The more expensive steers give a 4% lower return than the cheaper steers, while the bulls show an 11% advantage to the lower purchase price. The difference in return per c/kg DM between high and lower growth rates is 23% in steers and 35% in bulls. How you grow them is by far the most important factor in beef finishing profitability. In this analysis, the difference between selling slaughter weight cattle versus stores is a difference of $300-$400/hd, a margin of over 60c/ kg DM for the additional feed input to get them from store to slaughter weight in the allowed time. The difference in return per c/kg DM between high and lower sale prices is 14% in steers and 17% in bulls. Buying right is important. Most important is to grow them well, and finish the job with a good sale price.
Table 3 Outcomes for Weaner Beef Steers High end purchase price
High growth rate
Lower growth rate
Low end purchase price
High growth rate
Lower growth rate
Margin c/kg DM
High sale price
Low sale price
High sale price
Low sale price
High sale price
Low sale price
High sale price
Low sale price
Margin c/kg DM
High sale price
Low sale price
High sale price
Low sale price
High sale price
Low sale price
High sale price
Low sale price
Table 4 Outcomes for Weaner Friesian Bulls High end buying price
High growth rate
Lower growth rate
Low end buying price
High growth rate
Lower growth rate
• Kerry Dwyer is a North Otago farm consultant and farmer.
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BUSINESS | ETS
Carbon credits replace lost income Although they registered for the Emissions Trading Scheme 11 years ago with no intention of cashing in the carbon credits, the income from selling the credits was a welcome boost after the income from Richard and Sarah Burdon’s hunting business dried up during the pandemic. Lynda Gray reports.
Some of Glen Dene Station’s shelterbelt and woodlot plantings.
oining the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has stacked up on a number of levels for Richard and Sarah Burdon. As well as netting them $240,000 from the sale of carbon credits in 2020, registering with the scheme has had complementary spin-offs for the agritourism side of their Glen Dene Station farming business. The $240,000 cash injection was a welcome boost for the Burdons, whose hunting business income dried up with the Covid-19 lockdown. “We were hit hard but selling the carbon credits offset the losses,” Richard says. The units sold were from some of the regenerating native area registered in the scheme and amounted to 7000 tonnes of carbon equivalent units at $35 a tonne, less a 4% commission. However, he says that cashing in credits to top up farm income during tough times was not the prime motivation for joining the ETS back in 2010.
“At the time carbon was about $6 to $8/ tonne so the potential returns were low, but we joined up for other reasons. We’re farmers, conservationists and agritourism operators and we could see that joining the ETS aligned with the goals and values of us and each enterprise.” Getting to grips with the ETS and carbon credits took a while. Richard initially discussed the potential of the scheme and how it might work for Glen Dene with Dr Carly Green, a globally recognised GHG assessor and specialist living locally, then got practical advice and plans on exactly what to do from Forest Management Limited. “I’d recommend getting a forestry specialist involved because it is a complex system to get your head around.” FML did a financial analysis of the costs and returns and modelled different tree planting options that will qualify under the scheme. The Burdons registered under the ETS
78ha of regenerating native bush and 40ha of exotic woodlots comprising Douglas fir, Pinus radiata and macrocarpa. The registration process requiring the area, type and age of the forest area was relatively straightforward thanks to old Catchment Board documents and detailed permit information around the fencing and burn-offs at Glen Dene. “We’re lucky that we had those records and it’s highlighted to us the importance of recording for the future any planting and forestry related production and management activities.” Their next step is to register in the ETS 55ha of production forestry at Longridge, their South Otago farm. Richard’s advice to farmers with native or production forests that fit the ETS criteria is to act now and get carbon credits in the bank. “It makes sense given that farmers will be required to keep track of and calculate their annual greenhouse gas emissions by
Left: Regenerating manuka registered under the ETS has led to a manuka honey production joint venture with a local apiarist. Right: Richard’s advice is to get specialist forestry advice and help in registering and managing the planting and harvesting trees in the ETS.
2025. There’s nothing to lose by banking them, even if they sit there.” Being labelled a ‘carbon farmer’ doesn’t sit well with Richard and it seems wrong to him that hill country farmers in some parts of the country can make more per hectare from sequestering carbon than producing lamb or beef. “I personally think it’s wrong that people are prepared to pay a high price to offset their carbon footprint but not for prime lamb and beef products.” Glen Dene is probably more or less in a carbon neutral situation because of the extensive area that has large tracts of regenerating native bush as well as production woodlots planted by his parents. But there’s still a lot to understand and learn. “There’s still a lot more discussion to be had about carbon and the role it plays in the environment and I think it’s up to all farmers to be involved.”
ETS AND FARM FORESTRY An ETS eligible forest: • is at least 1ha in size. • is mainly made up of tree species that can reach 5m in height in that location at maturity (does not include trees grown primarily for fruit or nuts, gorse, broom, or native shrubs) • has the potential to reach 30% tree canopy cover in each hectare at maturity. • has the potential to reach an average tree canopy cover width of 30m at maturity.
This definition means that some areas of land that don’t look like a forest, like farmland with regenerating native tree seedlings, may be captured under the forest land definition.* There are two classes of forests in the ETS. • Pre-1990 Forests. These existed before 1 January 1990 and are considered baseline forests – they don’t count towards New Zealand’s obligations related to climate change and there are penalties for removing these trees. • Post-1989 Forests. These were established after 1 January 1990 and are considered new forests. They can be counted towards climate change obligations and forest owners can earn carbon credits from their growth.
CASHING IN ON CARBON The fixed price for carbon in 2020, was about $35 a tonne. This fixed price system was replaced in March by an auction system for the trading of carbon units. The spot prices announced in January, for a NZ Unit or carbon credit (which is one tonne of C02 equivalent) are $38.55, April 2021; $39.65, April 2022; $40.75, April 2023; $41.90, April 2024; and $43.05, April 2025. Source: Forest Management Group.
A forest does not include a shelter belt of forest species less than 30m in width, or trees grown primarily for the production of fruit and nut crops. Most woodlot owners are familiar with the classes of forest eligible for the ETS; what they overlook are their obligations when it comes to the harvesting of pre1990 woodlot areas of more than 2ha. “Even if the area is not part of the ETS you’re obliged to replant that area or pay back the carbon liability,” Iain Macdonald Forestry Management Group procurement manager says. “You can plant the area elsewhere on your farm or transfer it to another property, but you have to replant it because it’s regarded as part of New Zealand’s capital carbon stock.” Macdonald says it’s details such as these as well as the different carbon sequestration rates according to tree age and species, and carbon prices (which moved to an auction system in March), that make keeping track of a woodlot owner’s carbon situation and assessing the optimal time for harvest complex and confusing for the uninitiated. “We’re interested in working with farmers establishing forest lots for the first time after 1989. It’s all about strategic planting on marginal areas; we look at how a farmer can plant out these areas, carry the same number of stock and get the carbon credits.” Continues
Top: One of six geodesic dome tents at the Lake Hawea camping ground owned by the Burdons. Above: ‘The Beehive’ is a large domestyle tent for special groups and gatherings, and Lake Hawea camping ground users.
Changes to the ETS came into force in January 2021 to align with new targets under the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading Reform) Amendment Act 2020. The three key changes are: • A new penalty system for forest owners who fail to or incorrectly file a mandatory return; or, for those with a liability of more than 25,000 units, do not surrender or pay units by the due date. • Introduction of a formal process for the transfer of a forestry lease or right on registered post-1989 forest land in the ETS. • Abolishment of the fixed price option (FPO) for the payment of emissions from 1 January 2021, instead forestry owners will have to surrender units. The changes mean that a landowner could register under the ETS a new planted out area not previously in forest under new averaging rules, Allan Laurie, Laurie Forestry says. “This essentially means up to half the projected carbon in the forest could be claimed with no liability other than the need to maintain the area in a forest.” But he stresses that the ETS rules are complex and complicated to understand, and reiterates the importance of being well informed. There have been tricky situations, he says, such as landowners claiming carbon credits (NZ Units) during the forest rotation. “The landowner, or the new landowner if the land is sold, then harvests at maturity not realising the carbon credits claimed have to be paid back, or at least most of them.” This could become a significant financial liability because of the rapid rise in the carbon price, he says. “If, for example, the landowner sold the NZUs at the top of the market in 2013 for $20 each, they’ll be worth more than $38 today, so the implications are potentially serious.” Kirsten Stuart, also a Laurie forestry consultant, says whether there is much to be gained from carbon credits is very much dependent on the specific situation of the landowner, tree species, year of planting, area registered and in what year, and whether the intention is to return the land to pasture or keep it
planted in perpetuity. “For anyone with newly planted forests, the ETS potentially has a lot to offer in terms of financial gain. But for those with older plantings, the gain can vary considerably, and in some cases, there is no benefit whatsoever. Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to the ETS.”
SWEET SPIN-OFF Manuka honey production is an onfarm diversification that has come about from the regenerating native cover included in the ETS area. The Burdons are in the fourth year of leasing some of the manuka country to Alpine Honey, a local apiarist business. Alpine pays a production-based lease that considers the UMF of the honey produced. “We’ve had good years and bad. Last year was a fantastic production season but this year it’s been a poor flowering season,” Richard says.
GLAMPING AND FARM TOURS Six geodesic dome tents are the latest addition at The Camp, the Hawea camping ground owned by the Burdons. The classy tents are a new accommodation option for guests. The camping ground, alongside Lake Hawea, also has a Rec Dome (or Beehive), a community space for campers or for private functions and gatherings. Meanwhile on a Glen Dene hilltop a tent, comfortably decked out with table, chairs and a fire, is a refreshment stop-off for Glen Dene farm tour visitors and hunters. The farm tours, a new diversification started in the new year, include a visit to the beehives to learn about the importance of bees in farming. The story of the breakfast honey on toast coming direct from the manuka country of Glen Dene is a compelling one for farm tour and hunting visitors. “The carbon credits, ETS and manuka honey all add to the agritourism side of the business along with the sheep, cattle and deer.” *Source: www.mpi.govt.nz/forestry/ getting-started-forestry/forestry-rulesregulations/introduction-emissionstrading-scheme-ets-forestry/
BUSINESS | MARKETS
Honey business soured by Covid BY: ANNE HARDIE
big correction is coming in the manuka honey market, with buyers slowing down, Nelson Honey and Marketing owner Philip Cropp says. It has been a tough year trying to sell honey produce during a global pandemic Cropp said Covid put the kibosh on it and there were markets such as India where they haven’t been able to get their products into the country. Some countries, including Hong Kong and England, have continued to do well with sales, whereas others like Singapore have slowed to a halt. The company employs about 50 people from beekeeping and raising queen bees through to processing and marketing honey and products it has developed. Among them are products the company
has developed from manuka honey and bee venom. It is aimed at supporting cortisone production in the body. Cropp continues to work on the science that will prove bee venom’s worth as a health benefit. The Cropps also farm Rainbow and Raglan stations, 8400ha plus they own 800ha for finishing stock. The Cropp family has been producing honey for three generations. The company’s hives are distributed throughout the top of the South Island, from the West Coast through to the Marlborough Sounds, where some are only accessible by boat. About 200t from the company’s own hives is processed each year, and used for a range of nutrition, health and skincare products. They are marketed throughout New Zealand and exported to markets around the world. Nowadays he tests all the honey for
traces of glyphosate due to increasing market concerns, which is not a problem from hives in places such as Cropp’s Rainbow Station but can be in sites with closer neighbours. As many of the hives are in native bush country, he also tests honey for tutu, which is a toxic plant in the bush. Cropps said one of the attractions of Rainbow Station is the natural environment that makes honey popular and hence there is a growth in sales. No spraying and minimal use of fertiliser has led to clover growing in areas it has never grown before, which is also good for the honey business. He said this flowering season the kanuka had been more prolific than manuka. It also had beneficial health properties, it didn’t have the recognition that manuka has gained. More on the livestock operation p50
BUSINESS | PSEUDO-SCIENCE
RA proponents convinced people there was a problem with NZ farming when there is not.
Scientists lash out at RA white paper Some agricultural scientists have criticised a new white paper on regenerative farming which they say is lacking in research and reeks of cheque book politics. Joanna Cuttance reports in this special three part series.
new white paper on regenerative agriculture (RA) in New Zealand has provoked the ire of top agricultural scientists. They point to a lack of research, questionable science and emotive language. Within that paper is the admission “We undertook a time-constrained scan of the peer-reviewed literature and websites for a high-level stock-take of the available information. We gathered all the information we could find in under five hours using Google Scholar, Web of Science and Google searches.
NZ Institute of Agriculture and Horticultural Science (NZIAHS) president Jon Hickford said he would have hoped that greater care was taken to ensure the credibility of what was released under Landcare Research’s name. “Even if an undergraduate told me that this was how much research they had done, then they would be soundly criticised. From staff at one of our larger Crown research institutes (CRIs), it is astounding,” Hickford said. The white paper is Regenerative agriculture in Aotearoa New Zealand – research pathways to build science-
based evidence and national narratives. It sets out 17 priority research topics and introduces 11 principles for regenerative farming in New Zealand. The lead author was Dr Gwen Grelet, a senior researcher at Landcare Research. Hickford confirmed authors were contracted in, and in some cases offered $8000 to “contribute”. According to Hickford, “chequebook politics” took place with the white paper, with the architects of the paper thinking they could buy support, and thus gain more support and acceptance for their RA views. Professor Leo Condron from Lincoln
University, who was invited to be part of the “collaboration,” but not paid, said he was invited to a Zoom meeting with numerous participants. Condron agreed with virtually nothing which was said and did not get to speak. Lincoln University adjunct professor Jacqueline Rowarth, also questioned how some of the science was represented in the paper and was now going through the 17 urgent research priorities putting references against them to show what research had already been done. Some of the claims in the paper had been researched, peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals, yet RA practitioners were dismissive of the science, said Condron.
MISCONCEPTIONS IDENTIFIED AgKnowledge’s Dr Doug Edmeades identified several misconceptions, including the claim synthetic fertiliser disturbed diversity and function of the soil microbiome, whereas many studies showed correcting nutrient deficiencies using
cost of an area of damaged soil,” he said. Using the Albrecht-Kinsey soil audit methodology to diagnose balancing requirements (of nutrients) has been shown in both science and economic research to result in higher fertiliser costs for no additional benefit. The paper noted “some practitioners take into account lunar and other astral cycles to determine the timing of particular interventions on their system, such as planting or harvesting.” “Such practices would take agricultural science firmly back to the middle ages when witches were burnt at the stake, Edmeades said. Professor Derrick Moot said the white paper used very emotive language. He felt the ideas had little value to NZ, but suggested the proponents seemed to be hoping to source some money by writing a political document which suited the narrative of the Government. It lacked scientific integrity, had no definition and included a list of principles which was just someone’s wish list.
RA proponents 'factually incorrect’
egenerative agriculture practitioners speak very well, use the words and jargon of science, but are factually incorrect, Lincoln University professor Leo Condron says. He was commenting on Landcare’s white paper on regenerative agriculture (RA) in New Zealand. It reported anecdotal evidence for the benefits of RA is growing and farmers are recording their observations and sharing them via social media. NZIAHS president Jon Hickford said with regeneration there was the suggestion of degeneration and that NZ was bad, but there was not a lot of evidence to support this, The white paper identified 17 priority research topics to be looked into. Hickford’s colleague adjunct professor Jacqueline Rowarth was now going through the 17 “priority research topics,” identified in the white paper putting references against them to show that the
mineral fertiliser enhanced soil biological activity. There was also no credible science to support the suggestion carbonbased products such as humate-derived substances could chelate fertiliser. Chelated fertiliser improves the bioavailability of micronutrients. The beneficial claims of using fish hydrolysate, seaweed derivatives, diluted seawater, compost, aqueous composts extracts, biochar and isolated fungi/ bacterial strains to improve soil, have been suggested before, but the Maxicrop Court Case during the 1980s found these to be exaggerated. The writers suggested that “intentional bale wastage” created a fertiliser effect which improved soil health. Edmeades said every farmer knew if they self-feed a bale of hay in winter, animals munch around, pug and leave a giant excreta patch. There was little nutrient value in hay itself and the nutrients left behind by the animals had been collected from elsewhere in the paddock. “No net gain in fertiliser nutrients at the
research has been done. Agricultural scientist Dr Ants Roberts said research in soil biology was still in its very early stages. This meant some of the claims made by RA could not be verified, as the science was yet to be developed, or it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to do the research. Roberts said what was known was soil biology cannot create mineral nutrients, but it could change the form of the nutrients, which affected plant availability. It was clear, no matter how numerous, active and diverse the soil biology was, nor how many diverse species of plants are growing in harmony with root systems exuding all manner of elicitors and bioactive substances at different depths in the soil profile, this would not create new minerals. The fact was, if plants are harvested by machine or animal and removed, eventually soil nutrients will be depleted. Then at some point externally sourced nutrients would need to be applied to
sustain the soil’s life supporting capacity. Condron said science conducted small steps. Scientists need to be a specialist in their field, which takes a lot of training, and each scientist researches an intricate area. He said it was like building a house block by block, each scientist works on their block, understanding it, learning how it works, and then the scientists work together to build the house. According to Condron, nothing of what the RA proponents said is new. For example, 25 years ago a market gardener who was concerned about his soil asked Condron, in his capacity as an agronomist, for advice. He suggested resting the land to give it time to recover, and planting a green manure. The farmer who needed to get two to three crops a year from the land, to keep up with demand and meet costs, did not think it would be possible. However, he followed the advice of adding a green manure into the rotation, and was very proud to show Continues
BUSINESS | FADS
“...it [science] was like building a house block by block, each scientist works on their block, understanding it, learning how it works, and then the scientists work together to build the house.” Condron the results of his advice. Solving one problem can create another, solving one problem can also accidentally solve another, he said. Decades ago Canterbury Plains, with its light soils and low rainfall was used a lot for growing grains, but with high winds soil was blown away, to mitigate this pasture was introduced to the system and crop farms changed to half cropping and half sheep, with the grass stabilising the soil. This mostly solved the problem and diversified farmer’s income, he said. Now that much of the Canterbury Plains was used for dairying, with the pasture required for cows, there was no wind erosion and a permanent increase in the soil’s organic matter. The use of anecdotes to create an emotional response, to support a persuasive argument that the writer is putting forward was a concern for Massey University associate professor Kerry Harrigan. He said if the white paper authors were hoping that the meagre research dollars available for agricultural research in NZ might get sucked into this type of study, it would leave no money for more constructive research into improving the sustainable farming systems already operating.
Be an innovator, not a follower
nstead of importing an American idea like regenerative agriculture (RA), New Zealand should develop their own brand of agriculture, says Lincoln University professor Jon Hickford. “New Zealand should be charting their own course,” he said. NZ is big enough and smart enough to do our own thing and we do not need to follow the regenerative agriculture fad, or the next fad which comes along, to chart our own direction in the world, he said. “We certainly don’t need to tolerate snake oil merchants and poor-quality science.” A simple concept of healthy water, healthy land, healthy food and healthy people is really good, he said. It could be transformed into an NZ brand that we could all be proud of. Science professor Leo Condron said a lot of farmers were looking to step off the treadmill. No farmer wakes up each morning and says “how can I ruin some more land?” Farmers, as individuals, always do their own thing on their own farms, now this desire to do the right thing was being exploited, he said. Condron said this RA “nonsense” was exploitive. He fully supported change but not in this way. RA proponents convinced people there was a problem, and portrayed themselves as a salvation for rural systems. These people had a vested interest in defining what to do, Condron said. Condron disagreed NZ had the problems claimed. Along with Hickford, he acknowledged NZ production systems were not perfect and there were pressing problems with biodiversity loss, water quality and carbon, which must be addressed. “We must also keep our farmers profitable, and any move that reduces their productivity especially when competing for markets against highly subsidised overseas producers, need to be viewed cautiously,” Hickford said. “We still have got to make a living for
the country,” he said. Professor Derrick Moot said RA was essentially a faith based ideal. People needed to decide the principles they wanted to farm to. There was a strong dichotomy of farming as a way of life, or, farming to make money, he said.
“We certainly don’t need to tolerate snake oil merchants and poor-quality science.” “You either believe in the science or you don’t,” Moot said. With the European RA farming model, they do not farm but rather they manage the landscape. It was a different driver, he said. Big corporations bought the land as an investment, and with substantial government subsidies they were guaranteed an income from it despite low production. These ideas were not fit for a New Zealand context, which relied on the agriculture sector being economically sustainable. Farmers needed to make money. As they receive money, they can develop more riparian areas and native bush. Without good productivity farmers can not afford to do these activities, unless the taxpayer pays, Moot said. Hickford agreed, fencing delicate areas needed money, and he felt there should be formal recognition for what farmers did. A collaborative discussion about how do we best manage land, to make the most effective use of it was needed, Hickford said. For example, he asked if we wanted to improve the carbon in the soil in the McKenzie Country. This could change the barren landscape into greenery, and may possibly, though unintentionally, lead to more intensive farming in that area. What land was suitable for housing also needed to be included in any discussion.
›› Next issue: Landcare’s response Country-Wide
BUSINESS | OVERSEAS
Havelock North-based Rockit apples are sold at a premium in China.
A2 infant formula 900g cans are sold at a premium within the Chinese infant formula category. Pictured is a display in a Shanghai supermarket.
Add value but lift margins BY: HUNTER MCGREGOR
e have all heard that in New Zealand we need to ‘add value.’ It sounds great in speeches and as a sound bite. The great thing about using the term ‘added value’ is that it can mean many things so it really becomes meaningless. Does it mean that the consumer should pay more for the product? Everyone wants more value, but does it mean you, as the producer will get any of this? As someone on the front line in China selling NZ products, I don’t know what it means by ‘adding value’. Let’s take a deeper look at a couple of real NZ product success stories in China, A2 Infant Formula and Rockit Apples. Both of these brands are sold at the premium end of the market. In Rockit Apples case they have managed to create their own niche by redefining how apples are sold. Rockit apples are a smaller apple sold in a plastic tube (five apples in each) and they have redefined the apple market for their product. Smaller size fruit, smart packaging and branding, it’s a great apple for a snack. The way of selling apples has created their own category. This is a really hard thing to do but they have done a wonderful job. They also sit on the supermarket shelf right
beside Zespri Kiwi fruit, it is great to see. When Rockit Apples launched in the Shanghai market a few years ago I was very surprised by the price. I did not think at that price it was good value, but luckily I am not their target consumer. The pricing has come back a little bit over the past couple of years as the product becomes available in more supermarkets. It is still at the top end of the market. One tube is selling for $12.80 NZD (59.90 RMB) to $16.80 NZD depending on the supermarket in Shanghai. Each tube is 205g of 5 small apples, which means per kg range at retail $60 to $80 NZD. The Chinese consumer must see value in this product. Interestingly, this brand has apples from other countries, not just NZ. This means the apples can be on the shelf all year round. These American apples will be replaced soon with NZ apples once the new season apples arrive. Meanwhile, A2 infant formula 900g cans are sold at a premium within the Chinese infant formula category. If you remove their daigou (surrogate shopping) tactic where products are sold in Australia and posted to China, their China business is quite impressive. They have managed to dominate supermarket shelf space in all high-end supermarkets in Shanghai. I don’t know what they are doing outside of Shanghai, as China is a big complex market. Infant formula in China is usually
selling in Shanghai supermarkets for about NZD $64 (300 RMB) to $75 a 900g tin, A2 is at about $92 for a 900g. In the cow’s milk infant formula category, they are at a good premium to all other brands. This is very impressive. Both Rockit Apples and A2 are sold at a premium and they have very different but unique places within their market segments. They are both pushing the upper limits to what consumers are prepared to pay, but they are still seen as value. With these two successful brands, do the producers/growers receive anything extra of the “value” they are creating in China? I cannot answer this. Unfortunately, a lot of NZ products that are sold in China do not have the same brand value as either A2 or Rockit apples. It would be great to see more NZ brands here but we have a long way to go. One thing we should be doing now is moving the discussion from “adding value” to focusing on “adding value to the consumer while returning more margins to the producer”. With the pressure coming on via Government regulations in NZ and China and with customer requirements, there needs to be a focus on margin. It gives a measure of the value you are creating. The exciting thing about the Chinese market is that there are plenty of opportunities for New Zealand products if we look beyond the status quo. • Hunter McGregor is a Chinese-speaking Kiwi based in Shanghai selling NZ meat into China.
BUSINESS | VENISON
Long wait for venison price recovery BY: JOANNA GRIGG
ide-spread vaccination protection against Covid-19 should revive restaurant dining. But don’t expect to see it translate into price lifts for prime cuts of meat, until late 2021. Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) is expecting improved market conditions for venison in the coming year, with better prices for supply in the European game season. Restaurants are starting to reopen in North America. “Prices for all meats in major world markets have begun what economists expect will be a steady long-run climb,” DINZ chair Ian Walker says. “In the next few weeks some venison companies will be offering minimum price supply contracts for the game season, for shipment of chilled venison during September and October.” Westpac Bank senior agri-economist Nathan Penny, expects Covid-19 vaccine rollouts will boost demand for New Zealand meat, first in the United States – where the rollout is going very well – and then later in the year in the European Union and the United Kingdom. This boost will add to the demand strength already present in China. “That means venison prices, which have been hardest hit, are also likely to turn the corner as European meat demand returns,” he says. “We expect the farmgate venison price pickup to materialise from around midyear.” US bull beef and EU lamb leg prices have both jumped by about 10% above 2020 prices. The note of caution is the strength of the NZ dollar, which has firmed about 10% against the Euro and US dollar since October. This is taking any shine off. Exports of high value frozen lamb were impacted in 2020, especially in the US and EU. In January 2021, ANZ Research reported that French racks were trading
“We expect the farmgate venison price pickup to materialise from around mid-year.” at a significant discount (approximately 35% down) on the five-year average. NZ lamb prices through February held around $6.50/kg/CW however – up on predictions. Silver Fern Farms supply chain general manager Dan Bolton, takes a more tempered view of the likelihood of a quick bounce back in foodservice sector prices, following vaccination rollouts. “While there is some positivity, we need to ensure it’s not speculative, and actually reflects market returns.” “It is too early to reflect this in our farm gate price outlook.” Silver Fern Farms will offer special pricing options for winter lamb despite the
market being focused very short term. “Due to current market and supply chain risks our customers continue to play a short game with commitments, which means our pricing signals to farmers are also shorter than normal.” “Having both an active foodservice and retail-ecommerce channel builds the market tension we are missing at present.” While restaurants may start to open, getting meat there is the hurdle. Any vessel calling at the West Coast of the US needs to wait two weeks off the coast before getting a berth. This ties up critical vessel and container capacity. As a result, shipping lines are moving less volume at the same cost. The demand on shipping lines to move product from China and the rest of Asia to the Americas and EU is at unprecedented levels and is forecasted to continue until the end of 2021, keeping shipping lines at capacity, Bolton says.
Eleven years ago, Silver Fern Farms made a decision to enter a joint venture partnership with Fonterra, known as Kotahi Logistics. It exports one third of NZ exports. This has mitigated shipping costs, Bolton says. “These partnerships mean we have the best chance at minimising impacts back onfarm.” “Our shipping rates are set for the 2021 period, but the business is facing significant costs for additional storage, detention and demurrage, congestions fees, cost to re-route product, and costs associated with higher inventory levels.” “We are hearing that some spot rates are six times higher than normal at present,” he says. “Silver Fern Farms and our suppliers have the benefits of our strong logistics partnerships but also our long-standing cold store and transport partners, which help us achieve priority access to shipping, transport and cold store capacity and access to empty containers.” “If we are not continually shipping product, we will come to a standstill within 10 days.” Bolton says their business continuity planning sessions are a key focus for them.
Summing up the 2021 trade outlook for grassfed and sustainable red meat, Bolton says though demand is good, market pricing is lower than where he would like. “Our customers remain conservative and are continually impacted by on-going market and supply chain disruptions that can change on a dime.”
“And for farmers, we are well aware we have dry areas and are entering the peak cull cow season.” He is grateful to farmer suppliers who sent messages of support to processing workers in 2020 and sees company and supplier relationships as strong. More on venison p60
CONTAINER FREIGHT RATE INDEX – CHINA TO AUSTRALIA/NZ SERVICE 1400 1300 1200 1100 Index
Meat processing companies with long term joint ventures into shipping, or contracts, have largely been able to mitigate the spot price increase. Any extra costs have come from logistic ‘squeezes and freezes’ in the supply chain.
A Covid-19 check-in list for guests at a German restaurant. Vaccination roll-outs should build restaurant trade by late 2021 but price recovery for these meat cuts is likely to lag.
1000 900 800 700 600 500 16
Source: RWI, Macrobond, ANZ Research
BUSINESS | DIVERSIFICATION
Entrepreneurial approach pays off
The Simpson family run sheep and beef at Balmoral Station. Pictured is a sheep muster on Old Man Range at the station.
BY: TOM WARD
ndrew and Karen Simpson are known as entrepreneurial business people and farmers who are open and generous with their time. Initially, when Andrew and his late brother Rex separated their farming interests, they each had two dry land Merino blocks in a district known for extremes of heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Andrew had no breeding cows because he decided they were too expensive to winter. Subsequently, Andrew and Karen have developed a residential subdivision at Tekapo, including golf links, and tourist accommodation; a horse trekking business run by daughter-in-law Sarah; forestry; irrigation, and bought additional land. Their three children are involved in the business, either actively or passively, and the family has plans for future developments. Their son Sam now runs Balmoral Station.
THREE-PRONGED STRATEGY The farm holdings comprise three properties: Mt John 3700ha, Balmoral 6000ha and Mt Hay 10,600ha. Mt John is freehold, the other two properties are pastoral lease. Mt John and Balmoral, just to the west of Tekapo township, have been farmed jointly for many years as Balmoral Station. The Mt Hay property, located about 10km away, was bought in 2020 having been farmed by Rex’s family for many years, and is run separately.
Balmoral station’s 9700ha consists 2000ha over-sown tussock, 200ha cultivated dry land, 300ha under irrigation (and another 120ha consented for irrigation, which is still to be developed), and the balance (7200ha) in native tussock. Under irrigation, peas/oats and peas/barley are grown for silage, and rape/ryegrass for summer feed. Stock are wintered on turnips/grass, balage and swedes. Mt Hay has 7100ha high country and 3500ha rolling dry land downs of which 1000ha has been over sown, and 100ha cultivated.
Andrew and Karen Simpson of Balmoral Station.
Balmoral Station runs 3400 Merino ewes (including a small stud) and Mt Hay runs 1700 Merino ewes. All Balmoral lambs (3700) and 800 of the Mt Hay wether hoggets are wintered on Balmoral Station. Lambing percent is 120% overall on Balmoral Station with the mixed age ewes doing 135% and the 2-tooths 98%. On Mt Hay the lambing percent is 98%. There are
Yield (T per ha)
Profit (per T)
Profit (per ha)
Profit (per ha/yr*1)
Douglas Fir Radiata hybrid
*1. No carbon trading
Radiata hybrid (30 year)
With carbon trading
Without carbon trading
Left: Three-year-old trees in a Scion trial. Radiata hybrids have proven to be the best performers in the snow prone area and are outperforming Douglas Firs.
plans to double the Mt Hay breeding ewes in time. Wool weights on Balmoral Station are 5.6kg/ewe and 3.4kg/ewe hogget. On Mt Hay the weights are 5.0kg and 3.4kg respectively. Cattle on Balmoral Station consist 170 breeding cows and replacements with steers fattened to 570kg liveweight at 18 months and supplied to Silver Fern Farms EQ programme.
SUBSTANTIAL FORESTRY BLOCKS There are two substantial blocks of plantation forestry on Balmoral Station, 100ha east of the main road, and 350ha to the west. The station holds 1000ha of forestry consents and it is planned to plant another 200ha in trees. Planting began on Balmoral Station on the 100ha block in 1994, with advice from Scion. Experiments were carried out with different forms of pinus: radiata, niagra, ponderosa and attenuata. On the 350ha, 90% of plantings were initially Douglas Fir (Oregon) covering 200ha, and these trees are now aged between four and 22 years. For the last four years, radiata hybrids, being guadalupe X radiata and radiata X attenuata, have been planted. These have proven the best performers in a snow prone locality, in fact
out performing the Douglas Firs. Harvesting will start in 15 years and the harvesting plan is for 15ha to be cut each year yielding, it is hoped, 470 tonne/ha (Hybrids) to 700 tonne/ha (Douglas Fir). At $40/tonne, net of harvesting costs, and a 7000 to 10,000 tonne total production per year, net annual returns from the 15ha are expected to be between $280,000 and $420,000. The Douglas Firs are on a 60-year rotation and the radiata hybrids on a 25-30 year rotation. Carbon is the only income for the first 40 years from the Douglas Firs and first 20 years from the hybrids. The plantations are accumulating 10,000 tonnes of carbon per year. Andrew is looking to stay cashflow positive from the carbon trading. In 15 years he will have about 600ha of plantation forest, most of it in radiata hybrid. Assuming he cuts 15ha per year and plants the same amount: Carbon to relinquish Sawtooth Method in emissions trading scheme (ETS). Cutting 15ha at 800t carbon/ha
Carbon to accumulate Forest of 600ha sequestering 42 tonne carbon/ha/year
Surplus Carbon per year
The 42 tonne carbon sequestered per year is about two times the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) look-up tables for radiata hybrids, however the 42 tonne is based on the latest measured figure of 28 tonne/hectare, which is about twice the look up tables figure for forests of that age. Based on MPI look-up tables, for yield and carbon accumulation, I have looked at the profitability of radiata hybrid and Douglas Fir on a typical very low fertility high country site. These are not Balmoral’s yields and the assumptions are summarised in Table 1. Log prices are budgeted at $130/tonne (PF Olsen 3-year rolling average) for pinus hybrid and $150/tonne ($20 premium over pinus hybrid) for Douglas Fir. I have also included, for radiata hybrid, a discounted cash flow, using a discount rate of 7%, illustrating the internal rate of return (IRR) and net present value (NPV) per hectare of forest. The carbon price used is $35/tonne (currently $38/ tonne). Carbon credits are based on the Government’s proposed Averaging Method in which only the first 17 years are claimable, but none of the credits are redeemable on harvest. With a small negative NPV, the NoCarbon option is showing a return less than the cost of capital at 7% (Table 2). This compares to quintile (five levels) gross margins for South Island high country farms from the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Economic Service Survey for 2018-19: • Top quintile $225/ha/year • Bottom quintile $65/ha/year • Balmoral Station $95/ha/year • Tom Ward is a South Canterbury-based farm consultant 027 855 7799, email@example.com
BUSINESS | OPINION
Innovation from open minds
BY: ANNA CAMPBELL
bout 10 years ago changing paradigms became an overused phrase to the point where I couldn’t hear it without rolling my eyes. Interestingly, my husband and I experienced a situation where we couldn’t think outside of our existing paradigm and it’s made me wonder about what we miss when we limit ourselves unknowingly. One of our sons has started a Bachelor of Product Design at Otago Polytechnic this year. The world of any sort of design is outside of our rather narrow science sphere. After going to a student art exhibition in an attempt to understand this brave new world, my husband came home and said, “why would you study art – what’s it useful for?” The very next day, I had a lightbulb moment after reading about a United States company called Mycoworks who are making leather products out of fungal mycelium. That’s cool I thought, I studied mycology as part of my botany degree, so I stretched to the far reaches of my brain to remember my fungal biology. Of course, when I studied mycology, I thought in terms of different fungal species, vegetative growth and reproduction. I didn’t think to myself, what could I use the mycelium for? My paradigm was one of knowledge and discovery, not creativity or exploration for the sake of it. It took an artist to go down that path. The co-founder of Mycoworks, Phil Ross, is an artist and a pioneer in
cultivating living materials for art and design. He began using mycelium in the 1990s as a medium for sculpture. With 20 years of mycelium understanding under his belt he teamed up with Sophia Wang – another artist (who spans the living systems of nature and the aesthetics of visual arts, dance and literature), to form Mycoworks – with a clear understanding of the role that art and storytelling would play in communicating mycelium’s potential to the world.
might say that the only reason I appreciate this art was because it became scientific then commercial and they would be partly right, but I do like to think I would have admired a mycelium sculpture. An artist might view the commercialisation as a sell-out and perhaps in a certain paradigm, that is true too. What stories like this show me, is that innovation often comes when we work across disciplines and learn about what others are doing.
“To be genuinely innovative we need to open our minds to different ways of learning and thinking. Instead of asking ‘what’s the point?’ maybe we can ask ‘what made you think this way?’ and ‘how did you start this thinking process?’” Next came science and business, how to grow, ferment and process the mycelium on mass. Science and business experts were brought into the team and they developed an advanced materials manufacturing platform Fine Mycelium. Mycoworks launched their leather product Reishi at New York fashion week and have announced that they have raised US$45M to grow the business into luxury products, footwear and into the wider fashion industry. That’s starting to talk in a language I understand. What a wonderful story of innovation, brought about by a combination of art, product design, science, engineering, entrepreneurship and business. Some
To be genuinely innovative we need to open our minds to different ways of learning and thinking. Instead of asking “what’s the point?” maybe we can ask “what made you think this way?” and “how did you start this thinking process?” By asking open questions, we can find ways in which we can connect with people who are trained and think differently to ourselves. It is at these intersections of thinking and disciplines that the magic begins.
• Anna Campbell is a consultant for AbacusBio, a Dunedin based agri-technology company.
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Kevin and Shelley Bradley.
LIVESTOCK | ONFARM
A southern Hawke’s Bay couple’s farm is renown for its outstanding annual draft of Simmental cross weaner calves, but that’s just one area the couple excel in. Russell Priest reports. Photos by Brad Hanson.
ounded on one side by State Highway 2 between Woodville and Dannevirke is 398ha Hopelands Farm, owned by Kevin (58) and Shelley (54) Bradley. Renowned for its outstanding annual draft of Simmental cross weaner calves, Hopelands has the distinction of producing one of the first large lines of beef bull calves to sell at the Feilding weaner fairs. “We used to sell weaner steers but when a private client asked me to leave 20 of the male calves as bulls as an experiment I obliged.” He returned the following year and bought them all entire after convincing Kevin not to steer them. The experiment had significantly favoured the bulls. They had grown so much faster than the steers that he was able to kill them at 15 months before Christmas at an average weight of 300kg CW. This meant that all his finishing country was then free for lamb finishing. When this client changed his farming practices and no longer required the calves, the Bradleys sent them to the March Feilding weaner fair and they have been going there ever since. Even more notable is that the Hopelands calves are generated in a challenging summer-dry environment without supplements. Comprising predominantly medium-to-steep (highest point 279m above sea level) contoured sandstonebased soils and in the rain shadow of the Ruahine Ranges and subjected to strong westerly winds, Hopelands can be a difficult place to farm. Dry in the summer and wet in the winter, as demonstrated by the large population of rushes, with little easy contoured country and littered with under-runners and a large resident population of porina, it requires skilful management to
Above: Hereford Friesian cross R3 heifers. Top right: Kevin and Shelley Bradley with cows and calves. Above right: Hereford Friesian cross cows produce impressive Simmental cross weaners.
perform at an acceptable level. Nevertheless the Bradleys aim at weaning is to consistently produce bulls averaging 270kg (with the top 30% averaging 300kg) and heifers 250kg. This year being an exceptionally growthy spring and early summer, Kevin hopes to significantly exceed these targets. Behind these impressive production figures is a herd of 135 MA and 25 two-year Hereford Friesian cross cows and heifers mated to Tony and Glenis Thompson’s Glen Anthony Simmental bulls. The Bradleys have been buying their bulls off the Thompsons for 35 years and have nothing but praise for Tony’s breeding skills. “I select my bulls on soundness, type, size and early growth, for which I use EBVs, however I don’t worry about calving ease because Tony has always bred bulls with good shoulders.”
Polled bulls are not on Kevin’s list of selection criteria because he dehorns all calves in late October when the buds are readily identifiable. He maintains dehorned calves are more saleable, as are red calves as opposed to other coloured ones. For this reason he prefers to buy dark red Simmental bulls. Up until 2002/2003 the Bradleys used to run an Angus Hereford cross cow herd generated by crisscrossing with Hereford and Angus bulls. Some of the cows were mated to Simmental bulls. One year some Hereford Friesian cross cows were brought in to make up numbers. After producing significantly heavier calves at weaning the decision was made to convert the whole herd to Hereford Friesians. The Hereford Friesian cross replacement heifers are bought in the autumn as R2s. “One of the advantages of buying them at this time is that the likelihood of them
being accidentally in-calf is very low.” Kevin has no hesitation in mating these to similar bulls he uses to mate his MA cows. He maintains being able to use the same bull team is a much simpler system than having to buy specialist easy-calving bulls that would be required to mate heifers at 15 months. He seldom has any calving problems and if he does they are caused by calf malpresentation, not calf size.
EYE CANCER Heifer availability is the only downside to his system, and because he likes to select heifers with good eye pigmentation to minimise the incidence of eye cancer, he prefers to buy them privately and not via the saleyards. Last year he bought his replacements as two-year-olds because the severe drought meant he was short of winter feed. They cost him $1000 each.
Simmental herd sire.
Bull-out date for the 25 heifers is November 5 and the 135 MA cows November 19, meaning calving starts for the former in mid-August and the latter late August. Five bulls are available for mating, with one kept as a spare in case of an emergency. The mating period is for three cycles, however all females are scanned when the scanner can identify twins and foetuses that have been conceived in the first two cycles. For heifers this date is January 26 and for MA cows February 9. Any female that is scanned as empty is scanned again at the appropriate time to identify those conceiving in the third cycle and any empties. “For management purposes we try to avoid keeping third-cycle cows and if we don’t, we either works them or sell them incalf. Any empties are killed.” Any twin-bearing cows receive special treatment through to calving.
One of the most significant reasons for wastage in a breeding cow herd is infertility, however Kevin has few dries, with the oldest cow in his herd being 12. “They’re not as robust as an Angus cow because they don’t have the same amount of fat to draw on, however they’re not too bad.” After mating MA cows and calves are setstocked among the lambs over the summer and R3 heifers among the two-tooth ewes. Once ewe mating has finished all the cows and R3 heifers go into an 80-day winter rotation with the ewes and the R2 heifers, joining the hoggets in a second rotation. About two weeks before lambing starts the cows are set-stocked among the ewes and fed hay twice a week delivered in small bales on the back of a quad bike. They are brought down closer to home as they start to ‘spring up’ and break-fed on saved pasture. The first 55ha of pasture in the winter
FARM FACTS • Hopelands Farm owned by Kevin and Shelley Bradley. • Situated on SH2 between Woodville and Dannevirke. • 398ha (384ha effective) mostly medium-to-steep contour. • Limited easy country for cropping and hay making. • Summer-dry and winter-wet. • Sheep and cattle breeding and some lamb finishing. • Produces outstanding annual lines of Simmental cross weaners. • Sheep-to-cattle ratio 80:20.
A drone shot shows the medium to steep contour of the hills at Hopelands Farm.
rotation is shut up in late May/early June for the cows pre- and post-calving. After calving the cows, with their tagged calves, are shed out onto saved pasture and fed ad lib. “There’s nothing like giving cows a good start in the spring so they can milk well, get in calf easily and put condition on, so if it turns dry they can milk it off their backs.” Because the calving cows and heifers are so quiet Kevin has no hesitation in housing them in the covered yards if the weather is inclement, allowing him to sleep soundly knowing no newborn calf will die due to the weather. “They lounge around under cover, chewing their cud and look very relaxed,’’ Shelley said. While there are advantages in running a herd of Hereford Friesian cross cows, Kevin admits mastitis and milk fever can be problematic with the breed. If left untreated even for a short time both can
be fatal. The herd is also supplemented with magnesium via water troughs using a slow-release dispenser. Cows receive annual vaccinations against BVD, Lepto, and rotavirus, and get two jabs of copper, one in the autumn and one pre-calving. Because Hopelands’ soils are particularly wet in the winter (when a good percentage of the annual 1000mm-1100mm of rain falls), Kevin is reluctant to run too many heavy cattle over this period, which explains why the sheep to cattle ratio is 80:20. Sheep wintered include 2450 Coopworth ewes, 800 Coopworth ewe hoggets, 35 trading lambs, and 25 Coopworth and Southdown rams.
BREED CHANGE A change of breed from Romneys to Coopworths in the late 1990s resulted in a dramatic improvement in lambing percentage. “We struggled to get 95% lambing
with our Romneys, however nowadays the Coopworths are delivering between 140-145%. Fertility-wise they are hard to beat and their mothering ability is unbelievable.” The move to Coopworths was one of the changes suggested by farm consultant Tony Rhodes of AgFirst when called in by Kevin and his father to remedy their underperforming farming business. Coopworths rams are sourced from the Teutenbergs’ Hinenui Coopworth stud, the largest such stud in NZ. “They are bred on summer-dry hill country like ours and have a good level of facial eczema tolerance so it makes sense to get our rams there.” Kevin made the point that while facial eczema is not an issue on the farm at the moment, with the climate getting warmer it could be a problem in the future. The $1300 rams are selected from the Teutenbergs’ top bracket on soundness and type, while the maternal index is used as
a guide to the rams’ income-generating potential. Kevin drills further into the index, focusing particularly on fertility, weaning weight and survivability, while still paying some attention to wool. In Hopelands’ summer-dry environment set-stocking is the strategy used to get its relatively large component of breeding stock through this period. Lambs are stocked among the cows and calves, twotooths among the R3 heifers, and ewes run by themselves. The four-year ewes are mated early on March 20 to Southdown rams to lamb on August 15. Ewes bearing multiples are lambed on plantain/clover (P/C) and weaned at the end of November and immediately killed when the ewe price is still good. The best of the lambs are also killed or stored on the same day the ewes are killed, depending upon the money being offered. The remaining lambs go onto the P/C to be either finished or sold store.
The rest of the flock is mated to Coopworth rams for two and a half cycles starting on April 17 to lamb on September 12. Southdown rams are used to tail-up for half a cycle. Any lighter ewes at tupping go in with the four-year ewes on April 17 to be mated by Southdown rams. Ewes with bearings are culled, as are the few wet-dries that reoffend. “We’ve dabbled in hogget lambing, however in our summer-dry environment we have difficulty getting them back up to weight for mating as two-tooths. In lamb they become another priority mob and we’ve got enough of those.” At lambing ewe hoggets are run on the toughest country, single-bearing ewes at 11-12/ha on the next toughest, and ewes bearing multiples on the easier/warmer country at 8/ha. Triplet-bearing ewes are identified at scanning and preferentially fed until being mixed with the twinbearers for lambing.
Kevin still believes it is worthwhile to do a lambing beat and mother-up lambs, which wouldn’t be the case if the ewes were not so obliging in accepting foreign lambs. “Some days we can still make good wages by saving the odd cast sheep and mothering-up.” Ewes are shorn with lambs at foot in early November, ewe hoggets in early August and again as two-tooths in midMarch. Coopworth lambs are shorn after being weaned in early/mid December. “We can’t get enough weight into our Coopworth lambs at weaning so we don’t do a weaning draft.”
PARASITE PROGRAMME The Bradleys were involved in a national internal parasite monitoring programme run by AgResearch that resulted in them gaining a lot of information about the subject. As a result faecal egg counting (FEC) has become an important part of
Top: Mixed-age Coopworth ewes. Above left: Cows and calves. Above right: Coopworth and Southdown rams.
their drenching programme. Lambs are FECed at least three times a year and ewes at critical times like pre-tupping, pre-setstocking for lambing, mid-winter, and at docking time. Their drenching programme is based on the results of these counts, which are cultured, revealing the type and percentage of worms present. Bought by Kevin’s father for a family trust in 1978, Hopelands Farm has only in the last six months passed into Kevin and Shelley’s ownership. The only building included in the original purchase was a woolshed and the land was infested with old-man’s gorse. Born on the neighbouring farm, Kevin did his secondary schooling at Tararua College while his father farmed at Alfredton, and after leaving school the family moved back to the Hopelands area after buying Hopelands Farm. Kevin spent
the next 20 years working for wages for his father before forming a partnership with him in 1999. Getting rid of the gorse was a major undertaking made financially easier by the government’s 50/50 subsidy under their land development loan scheme. Initially helicopter spraying was used followed by the use of hand-guns and finally cutting, burning and spraying seedling regrowth. Nowadays only spot-spraying with a knapsack is required. 1997 was a landmark year for Hopelands when Kevin’s father called on the services of AgNZ Ltd farm consultant Tony Rhodes. “Dad could see that we needed to make changes so he said to me to get alongside Tony and work out what changes were required and we would make them.” Besides changing the breed of sheep, a
large subdivision programme resulting in an increase in the number of paddocks from 25 to 75 was initiated, a stock water reticulation system was established, rotational grazing was introduced, and soil fertility was improved. Kevin believes subdivision and rotational grazing have improved pasture composition and production significantly. “We owe a huge debt to Tony for his major contribution to our farming business by getting us out of a hole we were gradually digging for ourselves.” Soil acidity and low phosphate and sulphur levels had always been an issue on Hopelands, with the pH sitting around 5.3-5.4 (now 6), the Olsen Ps 10-12 (now 17-20), and the sulphate sulphurs 5-7 (now 12-17). Under the supervision of Tony Rhodes, a basic liming trial was laid out on three
LIVESTOCK | RETIREMENT sites using 1.25T, 2.5T and 5T/ha as treatments. The limed plots stood out like beacons during a subsequent drought, while worm activity was significantly better in the treatment plots. “We had difficulty even getting a spade in the ground in the control plots compared with the treatments and the sheep had grazed the limed areas flat to the boards with no seed heads showing, suggesting improved palatability.” Based on the results 500T lime was applied to Hopelands at 1.25T/ha, resulting in little movement in the pH, however at the heavier rate of 2.5T/ha a significant response was recorded. Nowadays 2.5T lime/ha is sown when cultivating the 30ha area designated for P/C, with Kevin claiming the clover growth is phenomenal. As finance becomes available 2T/ha of lime is sown on selected hill paddocks elevating the pH to 6. “Now that I’ve seen the liming results I can’t get the whole farm covered quickly enough.”
“We’ve dabbled in hogget lambing, however in our summer-dry environment we have difficulty getting them back up to weight for mating as two-tooths.” Traditionally phosphate and elemental sulphur had been applied in the autumn and Sustain in the early spring. However, a $2000 saving by applying one annual dressing of DAP and sulphur at the rate of 180kg/ha (35kg N, 18kg P and 28kg S a hectare) four weeks before the start of lambing and calving has achieved excellent results. Hopelands’ steep contour means that only 3.5ha is suitable for making hay and 30ha for cropping. The latter area is in three blocks. A three-year rotation using P/C has enabled the Bradleys to finish 33% of their lambs at an average of 18kg, however controlling weeds has been an ongoing problem in these stands. This is being dealt with by returning the P/C areas temporarily to a ryegrassbased sward and selling all their lambs store. Soil stability issues are being addressed by annual plantings of 100 Veronese poplar poles through Horizons SLUI programme. These not only provide stock shelter but also reduce the incidence of under-runners. Included in Hopelands’ 14ha of ineffective area are 10.2ha of 26-year pines due for harvest and 3.8ha of gully that the Bradleys have covenanted with the QEII Trust. Porina is endemic to the area, meaning the Bradleys are forced to spray the whole farm annually with dimilin insecticide costing $25/ha. “The first year we were hit we were devastated. Our expected docking percentage was 125% but actual was 101% and the only vegetation left was scotch thistles and dandelions. The effects of this lasted well into the following year.”
Gordon Levet at his Romney stud’s dispersal sale at the Wellsford Saleyards.
End of an era for sheep breeder BY: GLENYS CHRISTIAN Perfection is boring for 88-year-old Romney breeder Gordon Levet. His wife, Trish, agrees after she cuts his hair, sometimes leaving one side a little longer than the other. But the same couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to his 34 years of breeding for worm resistance in the Kikitangeo Romney Stud flock he took over from his father and uncle in 1951. A crowd of up to 100 gathered at the Wellsford saleyards on February 24 for its dispersal sale and to wish the Levets well. There were tributes from former and present Romney NZ Council presidents who said Gordon, first a councillor then president, had challenged its old, conservative guard. He championed the formation of its promotion committee and built invaluable communication links with researchers. On behalf of the stock and station industry, Carrfields genetics specialist Bruce Orr said Gordon had shown foresight and impeccable integrity as well as being exceptionally humble. A message from the Minister for Primary Industries (MPI) Damien O’Connor was read by Clare Callow, general manager of the NZ Animal Breeding Trust, who has worked with Gordon and his flock since 1967. He congratulated Gordon, saying worm resistance as a genetic option in the sheep industry ticked all the boxes, and the sale would accelerate progress in other flocks. “It’s better for the sheep, it is better for the farmer with less labour and cost input and it can be better for New Zealand’s trade image using fewer chemicals in the food chain.” Always looking to the future Gordon said although he was disappointed the stud would not carry on he’d already written back to the minister asking that more research be carried out comparing resistant and non-resistant sheep. Then it was on to the sale of the 856 sheep penned with the top priced of four stud rams going for $5200, with the pick of the ewes reaching up to $2000 each.
LIVESTOCK | OPINION
Don’t sell a ram that won’t walk BY: SARA SUTHERLAND
“A ram on three legs isn’t a profitable investment even if he’s not a maternal breed.”
aptain James Cook introduced the first sheep onto New Zealand pastures in 1773 at Ship’s Cove, Queen Charlotte Sound. Since then, they have adapted and been selected to achieve a level of production that no other pasturebased country can match. Part of that genetic improvement has been accelerated by the introduction of new breeds – the East Friesian’s milkiness, the Finn sheep’s fertility, the Texel’s carcase quality, and the Dorper’s lack of dags. Each time, rams and ewes that most obviously express that trait fetch high prices until a new flavour becomes popular. I usually try to shy away from controversy but this time I’m going to dive right in. When these popular breeds are at the top of their bubble, there must be a temptation for breeders to sell anything they can to capitalise on this popularity. In many cases this is to the detriment of that breed and to the farmer’s base stock. In other words, have you ever seen a Dorper with good feet? Recent bubbles have seen high prices for the Beltex with their extra muscling, the Wiltshires with their low shearing costs, and the Black Nose Valais for looking cute on Instagram. With some exceptions, many of the animals I’ve seen on commercial farms are poor examples of their breed. Some make you wonder how they got sold at all. One of the worst examples I experienced was when I was palpating rams for brucellosis on a farm and yelled out, “hey, you’ve put a cryptorchid in here by mistake!” The farmer said, “he can't be a crypto, I paid $5000 for him!” I know not everyone cares as much about lame rams as I do (hey, everyone is allowed their pet
peeves), but lameness is a significant health and welfare issue. A ram on three legs isn’t a profitable investment even if he’s not a maternal breed – they need to walk in order to mate. Of course, plenty of traditional breeds have feet issues too. There’s a simple and easy solution to this problem: don’t breed from them. I’m not saying we should stick to traditional breeds. Over time, these new breeds will change and adapt to our environment and may make your flock even more sustainable and productive. In 10 or 20 years we can look forward to fast-growing, highyielding lambs from ewes that have twins every year and never need shearing (North Island), or have a profitable fine micron wool clip (South Island). My plea to breeders is don’t sell a ram that isn’t a good example of his breed, and don’t sell a ram who can’t walk. If you are a ram buyer, please, before you buy a ram, feel his balls (there should be two of them and they should be nice and big), and look at his feet (there should be four of them, and he should be able to walk). If you're really keen, have a quick squiz at his teeth, and make sure he’s got whatever quality you’re looking to introduce to your flock. It’s worth thinking about this seriously. A bad buy in a terminal ram will cost you money in the short term; a bad buy in a maternal ram will influence your ewe flock for years. Spending good money on a ram that isn’t physically capable of passing on his genetics is a waste of money and time. Honestly, nobody likes seeing limping rams – not you, not your vet, and not your ewes! • Sara Sutherland is a vet for Veterinary Services Wairarapa.
LIVESTOCK | SHEEP DAIRY
Milking sheep has a lower environmental footprint.
The magic of ewe's milk
we’s milk not only makes lambs grow like crazy, but is also ideal for a range of high-end dairy products like cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, infant formula, and human nutritional supplements. The milk has high nutritional value. With more than twice the fat and protein of cow’s milk, and stacked full of healthy minerals and vitamins, it’s no wonder lambs commonly double their birth weights in the first three weeks of life. Ewe’s milk has total solids of 18% compared with 12% for cow’s milk, and contains healthy mid-chain fatty acids for humans. The milk lacks the carotene pigment in cows’ milk, and the smaller fat globules give a homogenised likeness, meaning products are invitingly smooth and light coloured, giving unique consumer attributes. Once, when I was expounding the virtues of ewe's milk to well-known Southland farmer and friend Robin Campbell, he kindly retorted, “I know Ken, that's why I feed it to my lambs!” Internationally there has been much research into sheep milking both for lamb production and development and
marketing of dairy products. Outlined here is some of my early research with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries at Templeton Research Station near Christchurch and at Lincoln University in the 1970s. The focus of the research as part of my masterate, supervised by the innovative late Dr Karl Jagusch, was milk production for optimum lamb growth. Lamb milk consumption was measured from lamb water turnover using a radioisotope called tritium as tritiated water, and ewe milk
production estimated by hand milking after injecting the letdown hormone oxytocin. It was discovered high milkproducing ewes, particularly those rearing twins, had much more milk than lambs could cope with during early lactation. Generalised feed intake trends for single and twin-lambs suckled are in Figure 1. Twin lambs consumed more pasture than singles by week six of lactation because of less milk being available to each lamb. Of the breeds studied, and rearing twins for maximum milk production, Dorsets
Figure 1: Milk and pasture intakes of (a) single and (b) twin lambs. Ewe milk (a)
Milk or pasture (kg)
BY: KEN GEENTY
Lamb intake (b)
3 2 1
Pasture 0.9kg or 2.2 MJ ME Milk 1.7kg or 7.8 MJ ME
Pasture 2.8kg or 7 MJ ME
3 2 1
Milk 2.8kg or 13 MJ ME
0 1 3 6 9 12
Weeks from birth
1 3 6 9 12
Weeks from birth
Dorset Corriedale Romney
feedback. However, due to lack of a strong marketing plan, and in the absence of capital injection to develop scale, sheep dairy production fizzled out in Canterbury after three years. Later waves followed, starting with an Agresearch sheep milking project at Flock House the following decade providing milk to Kapiti Cheeses, with products developed and marketed successfully.
Average daily yield (kg)
Figure 2: Milk yields of Romney, Corriedale and Dorset ewes rearing twins.
3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5
INDUSTRY TOOK OFF 1.0 2
“Once, when I was expounding the virtues of ewe’s milk to well-known Southland farmer and friend Robin Campbell, he kindly retorted, ‘I know Ken, that’s why I feed it to my lambs!’” produced more milk than Romneys and Corriedales as shown in Figure 2. There were large variations in milk yield within each of the breeds. By the mid-1970s, when machine milking of ewes had developed at Templeton, it was decided as a brave progression to investigate sheep dairy production with Dorsets for the first time in New Zealand. Back in those days seemingly outrageously different projects sometimes slipped through the system. I was delighted when my boss, the late Dave Joblin, said, ‘yep, let’s give it a go Ken’. The research was part of my PhD on efficiency of energy use in lactating ewes, under the expert research tutelage of Professor Andrew Sykes. Some 90 Dorset ewes were machine milked over two years after the removal of lambs at birth and serially slaughtered to measure changes in body composition to determine energy transactions. Findings were that ewes utilised dietary energy at 64% much better than mobilising body fat reserves at a lower efficiency of 42%. Losing ewe body weight to maintain milk production is therefore very inefficient, particularly because regaining lost body weight has high feed costs. Sheep dairy production over a five- to six-month period with Dorsets unselected for milk yield was about 140 litres. A survey of the world literature at the time surprisingly revealed this dairy yield was
similar to that of the famous Lacaune breed historically used for dairy production in France. Spectacularly, yields for the Lacaune have since increased to more than 500 litres per ewe lactation following intensive genetic selection over 30 years. In the Templeton programme applied research showed udder squeezing as milk flow declined increased yield by 20%, oncedaily milking only reduced yield by 15%, and dairy yields were highest with lambs removed soon after birth. Measurement of udder size showed little impact on yield, but udder shape was more important. Teats pointing straight down with a cleavage between gave the best results. Lactation curves for dairy milk were flatter than those for suckled ewes subjected to regular lamb suckling stimuli. Over the initial 12 weeks of lactation dairy ewes produced about 74% of milk from suckled ewes. However, without the lamb suckling influence milk volumes with dairy ewes declined less rapidly and persisted longer. With about 90 ewes being machine milked, a small tanker took milk surplus to research requirements daily to the Banks Peninsular Barry's Bay cheese factory for negotiated trial manufacture of feta cheese. About five local farmers were enlisted to boost milk quantities. An open day on sheep dairying at Templeton in August 1979 attracted 260 farmers with much interest and positive
The fledgling industry really took off in the first two decades of this century. Spearheaded by progressive corporates, prepared to invest and with significant infrastructure and smart product development and marketing, the industry has thrived and continues to expand. The biggest players have been Landcorp’s Spring Sheep, Maui Milk near Taupo, and Southland’s Green River. Modern milking platforms have been developed including a French designed rotary system at Maui Milk. Throughputs of more than 200 ewes an hour are common with these modern setups. With a world-leading sheep industry NZ has a great platform for the ongoing development of sheep dairying. Some very successful genetics have been developed from specialist milking breeds in combinations with local breeds. Composite dairy breeds or crosses based on imported Lacaune, East Friesian and Awassi are used. Some are crossed with NZ Coopworths as a lower cost option. Daily milk yields with the specialist dairy breeds are 2 to 4 litres per ewe, whereas those crossed with Coopworths or other local breeds yield 1.5 to 2 litres per ewe. Potential income from ewe’s milk is very attractive. Gross income per dairy ewe at a price of $12 per kg of milk solids or $2 per litre can reach $1000 at high end yields or about $700 for lower levels about two litres per day. Sheep dairying has many similarities to dairy cow production. Liberal feeding on top-quality pastures during the milking period is king, with rotational grazing a good option. Expensive animal houses seen overseas are not necessary for sheep dairying as our intensive outdoor sheep systems have efficiently evolved and are well proven with world-leading production levels. • Dr Geenty is a primary industries consultant.
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AVAILABLE ONLY UNDER VETERINARY AUTHORISATION 48
LIVESTOCK | WOOL
The plan is to train 270 shearers and shed hands over a two-year period at a cost of $6890 per trainee.
Shearing training gets funding boost BY: ROBERT PATTISON
he Kaiaka Wool Industry Training Trust established by the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association (NZSCA) has received $1.86 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to fund an innovative 21st century wool harvesting training programme. The NZSCA formed the trust to assist the new multi-format vocational training programme developed specifically for the wool harvesting sector. Their plan is to train 270 shearers and shed hands (wool handlers and pressers) over a two-year period. That’s funding of about $6890 per trainee. The training programme has been developed by Agricademy, a company specialising in developing agricultural training programmes. Agricademy director and shareholder Alister Shennan says they started developing the wool harvesting training programme in 2019. They established WOMOLife (of which Shennan is managing director) to facilitate and deliver their training programme.
He says to qualify for a share of the PGF funding from the Kaiaka Wool Industry Training Trust, they had to compete with other training providers to show the quality of their proposed programmes. He says WOMOLife stands for ‘Work Wise, Move Wise’, and its core is the philosophy ‘work wise, move wise for a longer, more sustainable career’. They have created an extensive library of training videos for online training. He says the online training will be supported by practical training days delivered in woolsheds by WOMOLife accredited trainers. The shearer trainees’ movement patterns will be evaluated to identify and minimise the potential risk of personal injury. Trainees will also learn about the importance of fitness, health and safety, as well as nutrition and wellbeing. As well as training and upskilling shearers and shed hands already working in woolsheds, WOMOLife also plans to target school leavers, the unemployed, and underemployed people. Shennan says it’s an earn-as-you-learn programme. The training modules are designed to upskill the whole workforce
employed in the wool harvesting sector who want to improve their shearing style or wool handling technique and learn new skills. “Our training model is innovative and is a mix of traditional hands-on learning experiences attached to an online platform. We know there’s no substitute for hands-on learning in the woolshed with experienced and accredited trainers.” NZSCA president Mark Barrowcliffe says top-quality training programmes are essential for shearers and shed hands to build on their existing knowledge and skills as well as to offer people entering the wool harvesting workforce a safer career path. He says shearing contractors employ more than 3000 workers and provide shearers and shed hands to about 8000 sheep farms every year, shearing at least 70% of NZ’s sheep annually. Keeping injury-free in a physically demanding job is a major issue for not only shearers, shed hands and contractors, but also sheep farmers. The wool harvesting sector has an ACC work account of more than $25 million in claims liability. Barrowcliffe says the funding from PGF will help solve the industry’s predicted shortage of shearers and wool handlers. “We managed to get through the pre-lamb shear with adequate numbers of shearers and shed hands, but getting through the main shear from November to March could see shortages of shed hands.” Online learning platform Tahi Ngatahi uses videos to pass on health and safety skills and information to shearing contractors, farmers and their employees. Tahi Ngatahi is a joint venture initiative between the NZSCA, Federated Farmers, WorkSafe New Zealand and ACC. Until the 1990s the New Zealand Wool Board wool harvesting training programmes (funded from wool levies) were recognised as the best in the world, and provided training for farmers, shearers, shed hands, pressers and classers. Those with Wool Board shearing and wool handling certificates were highly sought after throughout the world. Shearers and wool handlers became an international workforce, with many opportunities to travel and work in Australia, England, Europe and America.
Rainbow Station manager Gene Thomas in a tributary of the Wairau Valley, Coldwater Creek. Photo supplied.
LIVESTOCK | HIGH COUNTRY STATIONS
A HONEY OF AN Two adjacent farms in a rugged area provide the perfect locations for growing good stock as well as supplying honey and products made from it. Anne Hardie reports.
our years ago, the government lease for Rainbow Station was available, and the adjoining Raglan Station was for sale, giving a combined area of 8500ha. After discussion with his family and bank, it was deemed too good an opportunity to pass by so Philip Cropp got the green light to go ahead. The Nelson Honey and Marketing owner already knew the land well from the beehives distributed around it. Two years ago they expanded the farming operation by buying a 350ha farm in nearby Howard Valley. Last year they bought a 450ha predominantly flat farm just down the Wairau Valley called Argyle. The combined farms now run about 700 breeding cows and 7000 breeding ewes. Rainbow is the main breeding unit for the farm business and it’s not the easiest to manage. It wanders along a skinny corridor stretching nearly 50km between the mountains, sharing the path with the pylons that carry power north. At the front of the corridor lies about 800ha of flat land about 560m above sea level that is ideal for cropping and supplements, with another 200ha of flat tussock on higher plateaus. From the flats, the station winds up the valley to 1000m at the Molesworth
boundary where cows graze through late summer for about six weeks, allowing the lower country to build up grass for winter. Spring comes late on Rainbow, partly due to its altitude and also the cold southerlies that sweep down the corridor. Next door, spring growth on Raglan kicks in three to four weeks earlier, and down the road at Argyle spring can be up to six weeks ahead of Rainbow. Most of Argyle’s 450ha is made up of flats that can grow a lot of grass in a good year, while the Howard Valley is also ideal finishing country. The combined farms give the farming operation options, such as finishing Rainbow’s cattle in the Howard Valley. Most of the breeding stock is based on Raglan and Rainbow – which was a monitor farm for the region in the past – with much of the progeny finished on Argyle or the Howard. Today, Rainbow alone runs 450 breeding cows and 3500 breeding ewes, plus replacements. The cattle were a mix of Hereford and Angus when Philip took over the farm and he’s now breeding the herd toward Angus. “I think that’s what the market wants and they look after themselves very well. Even when it snows in, they seem to find a small spot where the grass is still growing.” Continues
Top left: Rainbow Honey administrator, Johnathan Milner, takes time out on a busy beehive. Above right: Rainbow Honey hives on Rainbow Station. Above left: Two-tooth Perendale ewes.
ABOUT 100 HEIFERS MATED Bulls from Meadowslea in the south and Resurgam in the north, chosen for their New Zealand bloodlines to handle the country and climate, go out for mating about Christmas each year at Rainbow. Bulls from the Martin Farming Angus stud are used on Raglan. Christmas coincides calving with the farm’s grass growth that is largely between November and January. About 100 R1 heifers are also put to the bulls each year and they are kept separate from the older cows until they reach their second calving.
Rainbow manager Gene Thomas says the in-calf R2s graze on crop on the lower flats with supplementary feed made on the farm fed out through winter, and it’s not until the calves are weaned in mid-April that the young cows move further up the station. In spring as in-calf R3 cattle, they are separated again to lessen competition with older cows, then finally join the older herd permanently when they are due to wean their second calf. Just two sets of cattle yards are placed through Rainbow with 28km between them, with the added challenge of
paddocks flowing up into the bush on both sides of the main valley and side valleys that lead off it. “The fences go into the bush and the beech forest is continually falling over the fences. The cows can crisscross the Wairau River and it can be challenging to get clear musters.” Despite that, he says working with the cattle in the upper reaches of the station is one of the highlights of working on the property and the team will often stay the night in the 1893 cobb homestead that sits on the valley floor.
CLOSE EYE ON THE FARMS When Philip took up the lease for Rainbow and bought Raglan, he set up a separate company, Rainbow Honey, to manage the 2000 hives and honey business, while the Rainbow Station company manages the farm business. Managers are
at the helm of each property, with seven full-time staff between the four farms. Though his expertise is honey, Philip takes a close interest in how the farms operate, meeting regularly with the managers and
often the consultant as well for updates, to bounce ideas around and to plan ahead. Each farm has its own budget and stock is sold between properties with the goal of maximising returns for the overall business.
The Angus-Hereford herd is being bred toward Angus.
“I think if you had to run a farm that is difficult, it would be this one,” Gene says. “We do all the top country on horses because the rivers are quite a barrier and you really need a horse to get over them and into the bush. They look forward to those musters and the big weaning in April. Cow numbers have dropped back since the Cropp family took over management of the station and Gene says the country lends itself to being lightly stocked to cope with the unpredictable seasons. Winter dictates everything on Rainbow, from what they can do through the year to the stock numbers they carry. Summer can produce good results, he says, when it is not a drought. But the rest of the year is the challenge. The weaned cattle have headed to the Howard in the past to finish, but a Tb reactor means that is on hold for a while. All replacements – and this year some of the cattle usually finished in the Howard – will be wintered at home on 140ha of
winter feed that includes kale, a kale-swede mix, turnips planted with grass, plus some ryecorn. Supplements made on the farm are also fed out and this year after massive growth there is ample. The farm employs a fulltime contractor because of the difficulty getting contractors when they need them. Surplus grass this summer has meant the contractor has been making supplements continuously on Rainbow. The result is two pits of silage ready for winter with about 330t in each, 460 round bales of balage and 200 round bales of hay. To date, steers have been finished about 300kg CW as two-year-olds and heifers between 240 and 250kg CW.
LUCERNE GIVES GOOD LAMB WEIGHTS After a late September start for ewes put to terminal sires and beginning of October for ewes put to Perendale rams, the flock on Rainbow achieves 145-147% lambing. Lambs are usually finished on the lower country of the various farms through
FARM FACTS • Owner Philip Cropp from Nelson Honey and Marketing • Rainbow and Raglan Stations, 8500ha largely breeding units Rainbow, 450 breeding cows and 3500 breeding ewes, plus replacements • Two finishing units, total of 800ha • Combined farms run 700 breeding cows and 7000 breeding ewes.
autumn and winter, though the drought of the past two years has forced them to sell many early as stores. Ideally they finish lambs at Rainbow about 18.5kg to 19kg CW, beginning with a draft off the ewes – which was December 20 this season – and then every week or two until the bulk are finished. “In a perfect world, the goal is to be able Continues
FACTOR Faster liveweight gain. Increased fertility. Superior meat quality. These are just some of the traits that define the HerefordX advantage. To find out more about buying a registered Hereford bull, view our breeders online sale catalogues at herefords.co.nz. MAY 11
National Hereford Seed stock sale, Palmerston North Waimaire & Otengi Hereford Studs, Kaeo Matapouri Hereford Stud, Marua Okahu Hereford Stud, Raetihi Matatoki Hereford Stud, Online Te Taumata Hereford Stud, Masterton Stoneburn Hereford Stud, Palmerston Flagstaff Hereford Stud, South Westland Glacier Hereford Stud, South Westland
14 17 20 26 26 28 29 29 JUNE 1 1 1 2
Limehills Polled Hereford Stud, Roxburgh Duncraigen Herefords, Online Rockend Hereford Stud, Mahoenui Waiau Hereford Stud, Tuatapere
2 3 3 3 3 4 8 8 8 9 9 9 9 10 10 10
Pourakino Downs Hereford Stud, Otautau Glenbrae Hereford Stud, Porangahau Ngakouka Hereford Stud, Dannevirke Monymusk Polled Hereford Stud, Te Anau Waikaka Hereford Stud, Gore Locharburn Horned Hereford Stud, Cromwell Hain Hereford Stud, Gisborne Otapawa Hereford Stud, Eketahuna Foulden Hill Polled Hereford Stud, Middlemarch Kairuru Hereford Stud, Reporoa Okawa Hereford Stud, Ashburton Orari Gorge Hereford Stud, Geraldine Riverlee Hereford Stud, Kimbolton Grassmere Hereford Stud, Cheviot Capethorne Hereford Stud, Cheviot Maungahina Hereford Stud, Masterton
10 11 11 14 14 16 17 22
Richon Hereford Stud, Beechwood Hereford Stud & Woodburn Hereford Stud, Amberley Merrylea Hereford Stud, Cave Earnscleugh Hereford Stud, Alexandra Martin Farming Hereford Stud, Wakefield Lake Station Herefords, St Arnaud Silverstream Hereford Stud, Akaroa Koanui Hereford Stud, Havelock North Matariki Hereford Stud, Kaikoura
JULY 1 1 5 6 27
Mokairau Hereford Stud Gisborne Wilencote Hereford Stud, Gisborne Te Puna Hereford Stud, Okaihau Moana Hereford Stud, Dargaville Arahou Hereford Stud, Tangiteroria
to send everything off finished and put a bit of weight on light ewes and sell them. We’re trying to get as many kilos out the gate as we can.” They keep chipping away at the lambs and ideally 80% are gone by the end of March. Then they will be left with just replacement ewe lambs and late finishers. They are down to winter stock numbers by the middle of April. “We can start getting frosts in March and we have to be careful not to sacrifice feed for ewes at tupping by trying to finish the last lambs.” The ewes on Rainbow are a Perendale mob from Mt Guardian genetics that are hardy enough to handle the tough seasons. The terminal lambs are finished on lucerne, with the Texel-Suffolk-cross growing at about 300g per day.
“I think if you had to run a farm that is difficult, it would be this one.” This summer straight lucerne covered 100ha of the farm with included 20ha of 10-year-old lucerne, 50ha drilled in the spring of 2018 and 30ha drilled in spring of 2020, with a further 25ha planted in a lucerne-fescue mix. Paddocks of new plantings follow two years of winter crops. More lucerne is being planted every year and Gene says the plan is to keep planting it every spring to finish lambs earlier. He would like to try other seed mixes with the lucerne such as red and white clover or cocksfoot, while still keeping about 75% lucerne as the main species. He says five to six paddocks of lucerne are needed to have a reasonable rotation that enables regrowth. It responds better than the grass to increasing air temperature as spring creeps in, which is another reason they want to increase the area of lucerne rather than grazing pasture. “One thing that I think is going to really benefit the place is going to be the lucerne. It really helps the ewes’ weights too.” He tries to keep stock off all the lucerne paddocks as well as the grass paddocks through winter so they can make the best use of them through the growing season. “We try to avoid at all costs grazing grass paddocks because we need every day we can to grow grass over winter. We have virtually nil grass, but if you stay off the
Beekeeping led Philip Cropp into farming.
USER PAYS FOR ROAD One of the contractor’s other jobs is maintaining the road that runs through Rainbow Station to meet Molesworth Station. Rainbow finishes just short of the highest road pass in the country, and the four-wheel drive road that crosses about a dozen fords takes a hammering. At one point this summer, a thunderstorm brought
paddocks, by September and October the paddocks respond quicker.” Low returns for wool has driven the business to add Merino genetics over 1000 ewes on Raglan. The finer wool on the lambs fetches $12-$15/kg before they are sold to the works. Gene is keen to improve the wool side of the income at Rainbow as well, but he says wintering on crops and brassicas poses foot problems with Merino and at this stage the station is using Suffolk-Texel-cross rams over the terminal mob. In the past the station has sent lambs to the Howard to
large shingly slips down over the road and dammed the Wairau River in three places until the force of the water cut through it. Though road users pay a toll of $40 per vehicle to travel the road and up to 100 cars a day tackle it through summer when it is open to the public, but it still doesn’t cover the cost of maintenance.
finish, but the surplus feed this year means they will keep most of the lambs on the farm to utilise it. Another bonus of the mix of farms is that Rainbow can run a relatively young flock of ewes, with four- and five-year-olds moved to Raglan to run with terminal sires. Likewise, they keep an A line of hoggets at Rainbow and send the rest to Raglan. “We’re really in a place at the moment where we see where all the farms mesh together and how we can synchronise them,” Gene says. “How it works for the whole business.
LIVESTOCK | ANIMAL HEALTH
Total lamb wastage between scanning and weaning equates to a loss of 9kg of lamb weaned for each crossbred ewe mated.
Helping lambs to be stronger, fitter BY: BEN ALLOTT
focus to much of my recent work with sheep and beef farmers has been to review last season's productive performance, identify key opportunities for improved productivity and then to develop strategies and put in place plans to deliver on these objectives over the upcoming season. In the sheep production system two frequently identified opportunities are: 1) improve lamb survival from scanning to weaning, and 2) improve lamb preweaning growth rates. In my experience, high lamb wastage is the most underestimated source of lost production potential in the New Zealand sheep production system. It is
often accepted as a reality of pastoral farming and too little attention is focused on changing this variable. Based on current NZ statistics, total lamb wastage between scanning and weaning equates to a missing 9kg of lamb weaned for each cross-bred ewe mated. First, make sure you are calculating lamb wastage correctly. An example farm has 2000 ewes scanning at 160%. The farm weans 2600 lambs. What is the scanning to weaning wastage rate? • The potential number of lambs is 2000 ewes x 160% = 3200 potential lambs • The difference between actual and potential is 3200 – 2600 = 600 lambs • The lamb wastage rate (%) = 600 lost lambs ÷ 3200 potential = 0.1875 = 18.75%
WHERE SHOULD I START LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE? Paddock/block tailing tallies – Across each block for the last couple of years calculate the lamb wastage rate to identify wastage hot-spots. Factors that may drive high wastage at a paddock/block level may include: • Aspect – south facing blocks will be more exposed to severe cold-weather events. • Slope – wastage rates in multiple lambs increase as slope increases. • Lack of shelter – flat, cultivated paddocks with poor shelter can experience high wastage despite good quality feed. Blocks with consistently high wastage rates may be better suited for lambing singles, late ewes, or be set aside to rotate ewes and lambs into once lambs are up and away.
“Based on current NZ statistics, total lamb wastage between scanning and weaning equates to a missing 9kg of lamb weaned for each cross-bred ewe mated.” Shearing is hugely stressful – Shearing in the second half of pregnancy is, in my opinion, inviting lamb losses. Avoid winter or pre-lamb shearing. Pre-lamb treatments – modern practices are hugely stressful. I regularly visit farms who muster nearly the whole farm to funnel every ewe through a conveyor two weeks out from lambing. We know that feed restriction of just a couple of hours can trigger metabolic diseases (sleepy sickness/milk fever/grass staggers) in ewes at this stage of pregnancy. Despite this, we will happily muster thousands of ewes into holding paddocks, spend a day or two working them through wet, muddy yards, inject and drench them across a conveyor, and then drive them back across the farm to suddenly change their diet for lambing. We need to do better. Where do I see the answer? • Complete pre-lamb treatments early and take it slow. Vaccinate ewes at least a month before lambing in smaller groups. Utilise satellite yards, spread out your workload. Your staff and your stock will thank you for it. • I discuss the label claims of vaccines with clients and discuss the risk/benefit of vaccination earlier than the label. There is a trade off in protection periods for the lambs, particularly against pulpy kidney, but on most farms this can be offset by vaccinating lambs at tailing if the risk of pulpy kidney in pre-weaned lambs is high. I encourage you to dive into this topic with your veterinarian. • Ewes re-enter their winter feeding program and then are set-stocked closer to lambing without the additional stress of large musters, a day in the yards, mob pressure, dogs, and a needle. Udder disease – ewes with bad udders lose their lambs. Recent NZ work has highlighted that on average, ewes with an udder lump, a hard udder, or a teat defect will lose 30-40% of their lambs, compared with 12% wastage in ewes with normal udders. ID and cull these ewes
before you tup them, they are doing you no favours at all. For further information, there is research into reducing ewe wastage published by Massey University’s Professor Paul Kenyon and Lecturer in Pastoral Livestock Health Kate Griffiths. Late pregnancy body condition loss – you need to do a winter feed budget now while you still have options to influence feed supply. You still have time to sow Italian ryegrass, apply nitrogen, or buy supplements. You also have time to sell some older ewes, exit those trade cattle, or graze some hoggets out if you can’t get the winter budget to balance. A twin bearing ewe in late pregnancy needs 2 x maintenance to keep her body condition stable. Ewes dropping condition in late pregnancy is extremely common and it results in the birth of smaller lambs with reduced fat reserves. These lambs take longer to suckle, have less energy available to stay warm, and they die in larger numbers. The feed budget you do now is worth every minute you put into it. Identify mobs with high ewe wastage – a dead ewe takes all her lambs with her and this can account for significant lamb wastage in some groups of ewes. Triplet bearing ewes and old ewes can experience very high ewe wastage. The management of these problems starts in the autumn by feeding to maintain these ewes at BCS 3-3.5 from the point of tupping through to lambing. Avoid gaining excessive body condition in autumn and avoid body condition loss in winter. I avoid very lush, super-high quality feed and prefer these ewes lamb on well sheltered, permanent pasture. Iodine – if pregnant ewes are fed brassica, always supplement this with iodine. In some cases, ewe on pasture will still be iodine deficient. Lamb autopsies in the spring will help confirm the diagnosis. Discuss the need for supplementation with your vet.
Ewes with bad udders will lose 30-40% of their lambs, compared with 12% wastage in ewes with normal udders.
Lamb autopsies – I do promote the value of lamb autopsies. For abortion related investigations, an un-scavenged, freshly aborted foetus and placental membranes will give your veterinarian the best chance of reaching a diagnosis. For lamb losses around the point of lambing, I encourage farms that I work with to freeze groups of dead lambs. These can be defrosted prior to my visit and I can work through 15-20 lambs at once. This exercise can help narrow down likely contributing causes and focus attention for the next season. While spring is half a year away, many of the strategies to minimise lamb wastage have steps to implement now. I would encourage you to go through the exercise of working out how much lost production there is in your lamb wastage figures. Challenge yourself to do better. • Ben Allott is a North Canterbury veterinarian.
LIVESTOCK | BIOSECURITY
He said rather than focusing on individual animals, it was thinking about the epidemiology of how a disease worked and spread across a population, I was understanding the risks to a whole group and working out how to address them.
BOVINE TB OUTBREAK LED TO ROLE
New MPI boss focused on M bovis BY: ELAINE FISHER
role is to look across the whole system to provide assurance that it is working well.” ew Zealand is close to Hutchings joined KVH three years ago eliminating the disease from the role of group manager for OSPRI Mycoplasma bovis from its New Zealand and has had previous roles dairy and drystock herds. as acting chief executive there as well as at If it can, it will be the Animal Health Board. A veterinarian the first country in the world to do so. by profession, he has also held roles Among those confident of that success is within private vet practice and risk Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) new management product development for the chief biosecurity officer Stu NZ Veterinary Association. Hutchings. Formed to take over the “We are towards the end industry’s response to Psa-V phase limit of the disease and in 2010, KVH has been at can now start the phase to the forefront of government prove freedom from it.” industry biosecurity Hutchings was chief collaboration, becoming the executive of Kiwifruit Vine first to sign the government Health (KVH). He was also an industry agreement in May independent director on the 2014. Stu Hutchings. Mycoplasma bovis board. Hutchings grew up in As chief biosecurity officer, his tasks will Palmerston North and Wellington, include taking an overview of the work returning to Palmerston North to study of the Biosecurity NZ directorates, which veterinary medicine at Massey University focus on import health standards prebefore working as a partner in a veterinary border, at the border at ports and airports, practice in Taupo. and post-border. It was there he became interested in “One of the mandates for the new population-based disease control.
At the time bovine tuberculous was a major issue among deer herds in the Taupo region, which helped spark his interest in the bigger picture and led to his role with OSPRI. The organisation is a partnership between primary industries and the government and manages two national programmes – NAIT and TBfree. NAIT provides the national animal identification and traceability system and TBfree aims to eradicate bovine TB from New Zealand. That aim is drawing closer to reality but it’s been a hard-fought battle hampered by the fact that wildlife such as possums can transmit the disease. “In the early days of the TB response whole herds were killed and we were constantly finding the disease.” He said the emotional and financial strain on farmers was huge. “Now numbers are so low, finding it in herds is rare.” Biosecurity incursions carry a significant personal and financial cost for all those affected. “Pastoral care, making sure there is support for those directly affected is a crucial part of the whole process.” Biosecurity NZ has turned its attention offshore to reduce the risk of incursions. Its work to keep out the brown marmorated stink bug has to date proved successful. Hutchings said interceptions of the BMSB on shore last year were 50% down on the previous year because of the controls introduced in 30-plus overseas countries sending goods to NZ. With the borders closed because of Covid-19 and fewer people entering, some of the risks from unwanted pests and diseases have reduced. However, goods and products are still arriving through mail, shipping and airfreight so Biosecurity NZ staff cannot relax their vigilance. “But when it comes to biosecurity there is no such thing as zero risk and there will be incursions in future.” • First published in Dairy Exporter March 2021.
LIVESTOCK | STOCK CHECK
necessary. Agonising over what policies are best very often overshadows how any of these are applied. This will be the biggest determinant of how successful the policies are.
COMPROMISE FOR SUCCESS
You don’t have to be superfarmer all the time. Focus on what you are good at.
There is no perfect farmer BY: TREVOR COOK
often think that I am lucky to get the opportunity to experience most of the variety that exists in our farming world. A tiny bit of clinical work still worms its way in, such as taking some blood samples while I am visiting a farm. Taking liver biopsy samples is the most clinical that it gets nowadays. At the other extreme is chairing the board of my veterinary business which is no longer a small enterprise. As a service provider to farmers, the state of play is always to the fore in the board strategy item in the board agenda. The skills, expectations, preparation and outcomes in those two extremes of my work life are worlds apart, yet each brings its own enjoyment and satisfaction. In between these, my time is dominated by being with farmers, either one to one or groups. A few Zoom online presentations to farmers and consultants in the United Kingdom have used up some evenings and are probably the least enjoyable and satisfying. It is in the online farmer group forums that I find most challenging. There can be so much variation in opinions on grazing, stock policies, animal health inputs, stock breeds and forage crops, to name just a few, that coming to give good advice can take some time. The reality with farming is that for so many of the
activities, there is no singularly correct way to carry these out. There are usually some bad practices to avoid, but multiple approaches can achieve much the same desired outcome. I often say that there is no perfect farmer out there, but there are a bunch who perform better than others.
BETTER PERFORMERS There have been endless analyses defining what these better performers do. They generally all come to the same list of areas that they do well in. The last such analysis done as part of the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) programme came up with two interesting observations: “Most high-performing farmers are continuing to do what they have already been successfully focusing on for many years, and are particularly good at translating their values into a style of farming that is profitable and sustainable for the environment they occupy.” At first I thought that these two statements were a bit wishy washy and hardly a trigger for other farmers to change. On second thoughts, two key aspects of these are necessary components of being good. Firstly, it takes time and secondly there is no correct approach. Accumulate any success from change and apply what fits. Of course changing and improving to get success is necessary, but applying that to what fits is also
One of the distinguishing features of the very successful farmers is knowing where and how to compromise. Every farmer has to make compromises to “best practice” to allow their farms to work. That is why there is no perfect farmer. Compromises to timing and inputs are being made almost daily to get things done, to allow other activities to happen. Or be nearer being “correct”, to allow some personal time to be available, to make the best use of limited labour resources etc. There are always many areas of compromise that have to be made. Knowing how to minimise the consequences of compromise takes skill. This is an outcome of what compromises are taken and how they are applied. That does mean though that best practice is important to know. Successful farming is getting as close to best practice as possible. My role is to convey what best practice looks like and often to suggest where any compromise best be taken. However, clearly identifying the objective is the prime message. How that objective is met is often the outcome of very innovative ideas. An area proving very useful is knowing best practice for feeding breeding stock. For example, over the annual breeding cycle of a ewe, the required feed intake varies three fold. When that occurs is critical to still delivering high performance. Defining the time spells when variations occur is a calendar entry and sets a target for management to aim for. The most common failing is winter feed used in excess at the cost of no feed coming into lambing. Knowing clearly what is needed by the ewe can help adjust the allocation of the feed. Apply the same logic for breeding cows. They can be really put to work over the winter but much can be retrieved if breeding cows are fed in the month before they calve. The compromise is how well they are fed in the winter. However, there can be no compromise with what they are fed coming into calving.
DEER | REPRODUCTION
Reducing the waste BY: LYNDA GRAY
ncreasing AI conception rates and reducing reproductive wastage in elk and wapiti hinds is the goal of a project by Grant Hasse. Hasse, a Canterbury deer farmer, NZ Elk & Wapiti Society president, and long-time LIC AI technician, started what he describes as a ‘pet project’ to see if reproductive wastage could be reduced by applying dairy AI technology to deer. He farms 130 elk on two blocks comprising 200ha between Sheffield and Charing Cross near Darfield, Canterbury, and is an LIC AI technician with 20 years’ experience. Anecdotally, the AI conception rates of elk/wapiti hinds range from 30 to 80% . “It’s probably fair to say that most farmers are happy with 55 to 65%.” There’s a significant wastage with those that don’t conceive; the AI breeding cost of about $50 per animal plus semen, which ranges from $40 to $500 depending on the genetics used. On top of that is the reduced earning potential from late born progeny from the non-conceiving AI hind that are mated later naturally. The progeny is less likely to make the cut for the higher paying early spring chilled venison markets, and the hind will more than likely be late to cycle for mating. “It adds to the collateral damage, so what we’re trying to do is see if and how we can use dairy AI technology to improve the reproductive efficiency.”
New velvet tracing system coming soon 60
The first stage is to work out exactly when hinds are cycling, which Hasse had hoped to answer by using stick-on and scratch-off heat mount detectors. These devices, stuck to the back of dairy cows, have a silver surface that is gradually rubbed off with each mount from a herd mate or bull. Hasse tried the stick-ons in 2016 and 2017 on a handful of his own hinds. However, the different pre-cycling and riding habits of deer meant the stickers didn’t work as well as expected, and the results were inconclusive. Hasse then parked the project for a couple of years but picked it up again on discovery of FlashMate, a touch sensitive electronic device containing a microchip that picks up primary signs of the lead up to, and onset of, cycling. He trialled them last year on 20 elk cows programmed for insemination, then backed up naturally; this year they’ve been applied to 16 proven animals, mated to a young elk bull with a known 80 to 90% conception track record. Hasse says that having an accurate picture of when cycling is happening will improve the success rate of AI. They know that post-partum, cattle are more likely to conceive to AI during their second cycle rather than the first. He is hoping they can reliably identify when this is happening in deer. “We can then reverse engineer our AI programming to induce cycling for AI to coincide with her natural heat cycle. “It would be a lot more efficient than
VelTrak, a new web-based electronic trackand-trace system for deer velvet, will be rolled out in time for the 2021/22 velvet season. The system uses luggage-style tags for sticks of deer velvet, each carrying a barcode and embedded UHF chip that carries a unique code. The new system will allow continuous traceability between farm and market, giving health food companies
An elk cow with applied FlashMate.
blindly using CIDRs and hoping that AI will work.” It could identify those whose heat cycle is hard to detect and therefore unsuitable for AI. That means they can identify with more certainty those animals suitable for AI breeding and achieve higher conception with fewer animals. It could also increase the early fawning percentage in those not chosen for AI. There’s still a lot more trial work to be done, and once complete the next stage is to work out how the information can be taken up and used by vets and AI technicians. Further down the track Hasse wants to investigate an alternative and less invasive method than CIDRs for synchronising deer for AI.
in Asian markets the proof of integrity and traceability they need to protect the reputation of their brands. Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) developed the system in response to demand from South Korean health food companies, which have enthusiastically embraced the concept. DINZ chief executive, Innes Moffat says VelTrak is also likely to be a strong selling
DEER | VENISON PRICES
Venison prices set to beef up BY: LYNDA GRAY
enison farmers have had a lot to beef about lately. Following the price peak of $7-$7.20/kg during the early spring chilled market, farmers had to live with a $5.50-$6.50kg schedule. Venison marketers were talking up price prospects in early March based on the reopening of restaurants in North America. However, the significant stock of frozen venison in Europe will have a ‘bearish effect’ on prices for the next few months, Ian Walker, Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) chair said in a deer industry media release. “There are significant stocks of frozen venison, from New Zealand and other countries, in Europe from last game season.” On a positive note, he said that prospects in North America are improving and demand from China – a developing market for venison – keeps growing. Venison processors will be offering minimum price supply contracts for the chilled venison during September and October, and Walker encouraged farmers
to target that market. “Talk to your venison marketing company about their plans and consider locking in supply over this period.” Further talking up prospects for venison is Westpac Bank senior agri-economist Nathan Penny. In an interest.co.nz column, he said US bull beef and EU lamb leg prices have both jumped by about 10 percent above 2020 prices. Penny expected Covid-19 vaccine rollouts will boost demand for NZ meat, first in the US – where the rollout is going very well – and then later in the year in the EU and the UK. This boost would add to demand in China. “That means venison prices, which have been hardest hit by Covid-19, are also
likely to turn the corner as European meat demand returns. We expect the farmgate venison price pickup to materialise from around mid-year.” Meanwhile, Ian Walker says DINZ is working closely with the five major venison marketing companies to build year round demand for venison, particularly at retail and on-line for home delivery. “We fully recognise that deer farmers need a schedule premium over lamb to make venison production a competitive land use. The industry was achieving that until the impact of Covid-19,” he says. “Venison prices will improve. And hopefully none of us will have to deal with another pandemic in our lifetimes. Once is more than enough.”
point for New Zealand deer velvet in other Asian markets including China and Taiwan. “None of our competitors has the technology we’ve developed for VelTrak.” The system has been designed to be both highly secure and simple to operate. The special tags, printed on synthetic paper, will be supplied to farmers through their vets. “It’s web-based, so for farmers and vets
there is no need for special software or equipment. Scanning the tags will be done by velvet buyers or packhouses.” Moffat says VelTrak dovetails with the regulated control scheme (RCS) for deer velvet harvest, introduced by MPI in 2017. “The RCS implemented strict standards for facilities used in harvest and storage of velvet. VelTrak extends that assurance right through to the end user. Any producer
who has failed an RCS audit won’t be able to access VelTrak tags or sell velvet.” Farmers will pay for the tags, which are part-funded through industry levies. Deer vets will be invited to register for VelTrak from April 1. Farmers follow from May 1, and buyers and packhouses from August 1.
• More: www.deernz.org/VelTrak
Hamish and Angus pose with burnt trees. Any trees that do survive, typically taller trees, can be chopped down by hand.
CROP & FORAGE | WEED CONTROL
WILDING PINES MEET THEIR MATCH After 30 years of battling wilding pines, a North Canterbury family has found a cost-effective solution. Sandra Taylor investigates. Photos by Lucy Hunter-Weston.
he Galletly family’s system destroys wilding trees and significantly increases production on what would otherwise be unproductive hill country. A regime of spraying, burning and over-sowing with a pasture mix based on subterranean clover has so far exceeded all expectations. It will not only benefit livestock, but it will have long-term environmental and economic benefits. Hamish and Deb Galletly and his parents Angus and Sue farm Hossack Downs, a 2400ha hill country farm near Waiau. The farm stretches up to the Amuri Range, where farmers have been battling wilding pines spread from the Hanmer Forest for well over 40 years. It was a losing battle. While various attempts to clear the trees were temporarily successful, within a couple of years they would be worse than before, often linked to trigger events such as wind or drought. “You used to think you were winning, then five years later they were like hairs on a cat’s back,” Angus says. It was government funding and support made available to farmers after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake that was the catalyst for the family to address the issue. With the help of Lincoln
University’s clover expert Dick Lucas and Luisetti Seeds agronomist Michael Stanley, they put together a plan to clear the wilding pines and establish high quality, legume-based pastures. This increase in the quality and quantity of drymatter grown would allow sufficient stocking densities to control pine seedlings through grazing. “It’s all very well to get rid of the trees, but if the stocking rate is still very low, the seedlings just come away again”, says Hamish. The block earmarked for development is sprayed with a low rate of metsulfuron (met) in January or February which kills the woody vegetation. The area is then grazed in autumn before being shut up in winter to retain the tag. In late winter, the area is sprayed with glyphosate and then burnt in late August or early September. This burning, which is all carried out by helicopter, is incredibly well-managed and strategic. The area to be burnt is GPS mapped and then helicopters drop an ignition agent across the block. Because of the time of year, the fire doesn’t burn beyond the GPS area, so stands of native bush remain untouched, although the helicopters have hoppers of water on hand in case of any breaches. Hamish and Angus say the fire is spectacular; it is fast, extremely hot and intense, incinerating all the wilding pines in its wake. Any larger trees that have
Top: Ewes with a body condition score of 3 or more spend summer on the higher hill country. Above left: Farming in partnership, Hamish and Angus Galletly are focused on increasing the legume content in their pasture. Above right: Sub clover burrs. These will produce a bulk of feed next spring.
survived the fire can be chopped down by hand. The area is left fallow and if necessary, will get another glyphosate spray before seed is flown on in autumn. The mix they are using is 2kg cocksfoot, 5kg Denmark sub clover, 5kg Antas sub clover, 3kg red clover, 3kg white clover and 1kg plantain. They flew on their first lot of seed with fertiliser last autumn and while Hamish admits it was a nervous time due to the very dry conditions, it did strike. The block was nursed through its first winter before being lightly set-stock in
spring with two single-bearing ewes per hectare. Hamish says by the time they went out to tail these ewes, the clover was impressive and by weaning, the ewes had gained a half a condition score while rearing a big lamb. From late spring, the block was shut up to allow re-seeding before it was grazed by ewes in late summer. It will be part of the normal rotation next year. Hamish says in hindsight, he would have run yearling cattle over the block to control the tag in what was a very growthy spring and early summer in North
Canterbury, but this will be cleared by breeding cows over winter. Fertiliser, fencing and soil tests are also an important part of this development process. Tests are taken before the start of the development programme so soil fertility can be corrected using a DAP sulphur super 30 mix. Pre-development, Olsen P was 8, sulphur 3 and pH 5, so typical hill country. Another lot of capital fertiliser will go on this year and thereafter it should only require maintenance dressings. Blocks have been subdivided to allow better grazing management.
COST OF SPRAY LOWER Crunching the number of costs of this development, the total costs including sprays, contractors, fencing, labour, burning, seed and fertiliser (Table 1) was $846.42/ha or $94,800 for the 112ha block. Angus says a reduction in the cost of metsulfuron has been a big contributor to the feasibility of the development. The biggest costs are fencing, seed and fertiliser. The cost on a stock carrying capacity basis is $423 for 2 ewes/ha, $282 for 3 ewes/ha and $211 for 4 ewes/ha. Hamish believes about 4 ewes/ha will be optimum for that block, which prior to the development was carrying 1 ewe/ha. This block will be grazed more intensely at various times of the year to ensure the pine seedlings don’t get a chance to establish and salt will be used if necessary, to encourage even grazing.
FURTHER DEVELOPMENT Hamish says they have 400ha of hill country suitable for this type of development and with 112ha done, they are in the throes of developing a similar size area this year.
Table 1: Development cost breakdown
Table 2: Development 2 cost
Contracting (dozed fencelines)
Roundup (before burning)
Aerial seed and fert (fixed wing) Fert
The metsulfuron spray has been carried out and the block will be sprayed with glyphosate and burnt in late winter. It will also be subdivided to allow more intensive grazing. While generating significant quantities of high-quality feed, this development process is, in Angus’s eyes, the best and most effective way to control the pines he
No of stock units/ha
has spent so many years battling. Working with neighbours, Angus has tried to halt the spread of trees beyond the Amuri Range because, left unchecked, he believes they would eventually spread to the coast. A much cheaper and potentially more lucrative short-term option would be for the family to allow the wilding trees to
Above left: Sub clover burrs. Top right: Abundant clover has significantly increased the carrying capacity of the developed hill country blocks. Above right: Burnt trees quickly rot.
“We’ve taken country that was producing nothing to producing a lot.” grow and claim carbon credits, but it is not an option they are prepared to take. Angus explains that the pines create a monoculture that does not support the native biodiversity such as Kereru (native falcon) and native bush they want to encourage and it takes potentially productive land out of production. Being wilding trees, they are not managed, therefore have limited or no value as a forestry tree and access would make harvesting prohibitive. Replacing the trees with high quality pasture is far more environmentally sound and in the long-term is a better economic proposition because of the increased livestock production.
“We’ve taken country that was producing nothing to producing a lot.” Hamish says they are still getting their heads around what the country could potentially do.
RUNNING MORE CATTLE Hamish says he was blown away by the condition of the ewes that had lambed on the newly-developed sub clover last spring. Not only had they reared a big lamb, they had gained a half a condition score between lambing and tailing. These were single-bearing ewes run at 2/ ha and Hamish believes no more than 4/ ha is the right stocking rate for that class of country.
“I prefer to be conservative when it comes to the stocking rate and then come in with cows and calves to clean up any surpluses.” Ultimately, when the development has finished, he plans to mob up all the singleewes and lambs at tailing and rotate them around the developed area. Having seen the quality of the feed they are now able to grow on that hill country, they believe they could be selling 80% of their single lambs prime at the weaning draft. In line with this hill country development has been an increase in the number of breeding cows they run. Wintering 330 in-calf Hereford Angus
Left unchecked, the wilding pines create an unproductive monoculture that does not support native biodiversity.
cross cows, this is almost double what the family was running a few years ago. Hamish believes the cows are critical for maintaining pasture quality, especially in legume-dominant pastures. “We can grow a lot of grass in the shoulders of the seasons so we can create a lot of tag.” This tag is what the cows will be taking care of, giving the clover the sunlight it needs. Historically the Galletlys have been running an 80:20 sheep to cattle ratio, they are now moving to a 60:40 split which Hamish feels will be optimal for improving the quality and quantity of legumes in their pasture.
THE POWER OF LEGUMES In recent years, Hamish’s focus has been on legumes and capturing the power of these protein-packed plants to drive production. Angus had always grown lucerne,
predominantly as a cut and carry crop, but now they have 70ha on their developed flats which is used for growing stock. “We’re matching the paddock with the legume so it’s mainly lucerne on the developed flats and sub clover anywhere else,” Hamish says. He has also cut the grass component of any pasture mixes he uses right back to 5kg/ha just to allow the legumes to flourish. They will also establish clovers first in any pasture renovation programme and stitch in grass later. As well as having retired Lincoln University lecturer Dick Lucas to guide him (two of the newly developed blocks are named after him), Hamish has used Marlborough farmer Fraser Avery as a mentor on the use and management of legumes. He has also been part of a local Red Meat Profit Partnership Action Group looking at utilising legumes to drive productivity and profitability.
Like many South Island hill country farms, sub clover is endemic in Hossack Down’s pastures but they have not managed to make the most of this earlyseason plant. Now Hamish and Angus have changed their grazing system. They are strategically shutting up blocks to allow reseeding when required and managing to allow the plant to thrive and produce a bulk of high-quality feed in spring. “We’ve now learnt more about it so we make sure the blocks are grazed well before autumn and have been shutting up blocks to allow re-seeding. He says they are managing it better so most years they will have good sub-clover.
GROWING THE BUSINESS Hossack Downs, which now incorporates a neighbouring farm bought seven years ago, benefits from a good balance of land from irrigated flats to steep hill country. The farm is 16km from front to back and while rainfall varies between the two, the average
Wilding pines have been a problem for farmers on the Amuri Range for over 40 years.
annual rainfall is 900mm. Red and white clover and chicory pastures grow under the farm’s three centre-pivots and these pastures are used for lamb finishing. They bought in store lambs this year to augment their own lamb crop, all of which are finished to an average of 19kg on a mix of Raphanobrassica, pasture and lucerne. The farm’s 5300 Romney Texel cross ewes lamb over two dates a month apart. The older terminal sire ewes lamb on 20 August, the balance on 20 September. Fifty percent of the terminal sire twin
lambs are sold prime at the weaning draft. This reflects the legume content in the pastures they are now lambed on, while in the main mob, the weaning draft is about 20%. “When we start getting more legumes on the developed country, we will see that increase,” Hamish says. In an average year, the ewes are consistently scanning about 180% and lambing about 140%. Hoggets are mated if the season allows (last year it was too dry) and the minimum mating weight is 40kg. Hamish has clear
weight gain targets for his ewe lambs and will run them in weight lines. In March, the heavy ewe lambs (39kg) were on pasture, the next cut were on Raphno and the smaller ewe lambs were on lucerne gaining about 200gm/day. Hamish uses body condition scoring (BCS) as a tool to help make the most effective use of feed resources while driving productivity in the ewe flock. Ewes are scored at weaning and again going into mating and managed accordingly, with the aim of keeping ewes at a BCS of three all year round.
In March, the BCS 3 ewes were running around the higher hill country, while the lower condition score ewes were on the easier blocks. “It could be in future that we put the lighter ewes on the developed country on the hill because of the quality of the feed we can now grow up there.”
ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT As part of the Amuri Irrigation Company, the family has a farm environmental plan and has done a land use capability map which helps inform management decisions,
particularly matching stock classes with soil types at different times of the year. While they have summer-safe, clay country, they also have free-draining soils which gives them options, particularly over winter. Along with native bush which is under a QE11 covenant, they have stands of native bush within blocks which is a highly valued part of the farm landscape. This bush is another reason to put a halt to wilding pines as these trees can encroach on the native vegetation making control difficult. The one significant challenge the family
is facing with the development they are undertaking is the Hurunui Waiau Zone’s 10% rule which prohibits them from increasing their nutrient losses by more than 10% above their baseline. Because their baseline is so low, the increased productivity on the hill country could push them over this 10% threshold, despite the numerous other environmental benefits generated. They will work with experts to work around the regulation, which itself is being re-evaluated by Environment Canterbury.
ENVIRONMENT | COMMISSION’S REPORT
Getting answers on Global Warming BY: STEVEN CRANSTON
he Climate Change Commission draft recommendations released on January 31 have more questions than answers. These are questions that our industry will need to start getting answered soon as these recommendations will change farming in this country more than many would like to admit. The purpose of the report was to provide a feasible pathway to meeting our National 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction targets. This draft has been presented for public submissions with final advice due by May 31 this year. One of the more notable recommendations which has already received a fair bit of media attention was the call for a 15% reduction in livestock numbers by 2030. This does not mean on an individual farm basis but rather on average across the sector. It is thought this will be achieved from a combination of lower stocking rates and land use change. The Commission’s pathway sees 2000ha per year of dairy land being converted to horticulture from 2025, and the trend of converting hill country land to native and exotic forestry to continue with 300,000ha and 380,000ha added by 2030 respectively. To counter the significant negative effects this recommendation would appear to have on the rural economy, it has been suggested this reduction can be achieved with no change to current production levels or reduction in farm profitability. I suspect many farmers caught a strong whiff of manure emanating off that statement and rightly so, it does not pass the sniff test. This dubious assertion seems to have originated from modelling carried out by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre for the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) and contains many flaws and impracticalities. As an example, the most effective management change option for dairy appeared to be planting 25% of the farm in maize each year. Maize has a low nitrogen content which is thought to alter rumen digestion and
reduce CH4 emissions. This type of major system change runs directly counter to regional council water quality guidelines which seek to minimise cultivation area and soil erosion. Not to mention the significant soil carbon losses this option would promote. The BERG report offered such mixed findings on the feasibility of reducing stocking numbers whilst maintaining production and profitability that it never should have been referenced for this purpose at all. Seeking to improve farm efficiency is certainly a noble objective, there is always room to improve. Reducing stock numbers and shifting that feed directly into increased productivity per animal is easy to do in a computer model, but not always easy in practice.
DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE Pasture production and quality may suffer, more silage may need to be cut and more supplements fed. Most farmers have already optimised their systems over many years of trial and error so these large improvements in efficiency at no additional cost may be more difficult to achieve than the Commission has forecast. The idea that production levels and profitability will withstand a 15% drop in stock numbers seems more a throw away comment to pacify critics rather than a genuine, researched position. It is also worth noting that the 15% drop in stock numbers will only reduce total emissions by around 7% once the alleged increases in per animal productivity are factored in. A more detailed cost/benefit analysis of this process would be helpful. The dairy sector at least has some management options which can help reduce emissions such as low nitrogen feeds and reduced fertiliser inputs. Management options for the sheep and beef sector are more limited due to their generally less intensive farming practices. The Commission has recommended a move towards low emission sheep genetics which is estimated to reduce flock emissions by 1.5% by
The response from ag industry representatives has been rather underwhelming. None appear to have yet picked up on the underlying sentiment of this emissions reduction pathway and used that to negotiate a better outcome for our farmers.
2030. There are some developing technologies such as vaccines and methane inhibitors for stock which could in time prove to be game changers in our ability to manage emissions. But these are still untested and may not yet live up to their potential. This leaves farming with few good short-term options to start on our journey towards the Government’s 24-47% 2050 methane reduction target.
METHANE NOT THE PROBLEM To understand the Climate Change Commission’s draft emission reduction pathway, we must first take a step back and look at what sits behind the reduction targets. Essentially, the Government has worked out that although methane is not the problem, it will be less costly for the country to cut agricultural emissions than it would be to make the required medium-term cuts to CO2. The Productivity Commission has already acknowledged that biological methane can simply be stabilised at current levels and no further atmospheric warming will be produced. Crucially however, they went on to say that our national emission targets will not be achieved without also cutting methane. The fact that stabilised methane does not impact climate was danced around throughout the report, notably in the dismissal of global warming potential (GWP) as an accounting method. Many farmers by now would have heard of this new metric, it has been specifically designed to represent the warming effect of a steady flow of methane emitted over time, such as from a farm. If GWP was used by the Government to account for agricultural methane it would show that our stabilised emissions have no net warming effect on the atmosphere. This is due to the rate of methane decay offsetting new emissions. The Commission acknowledged GWP was a better tool for the purpose of limiting temperature increase yet went on to dismiss its use on the grounds it would result in the
effective ‘grandparenting’ of emissions. As GWP measures the change in emissions from any given base year, a farm that is already a high emitter would by default have a higher base year to start from. So called ‘grandparenting’ in this instance however makes perfect sense. A farm with 10,000 head of sheep should not be expected to have the same starting point as a farm with only 2000 sheep. Describing this as ‘unfair’ seems little more than a desperate attempt to sweep GWP under the rug before too many people work out its significance for policy. It would be much more difficult to put a blanket tax on methane if the data shows no warming effect.
AGRICULTURE A SCAPEGOAT More transparency is required if we are ever to have the open and honest discussion that is needed to find a longterm solution to climate change. Scapegoating agriculture in this country might work in the short term but other countries are already starting to take a more nuanced approach. How will New Zealand dairy farmers respond when in a few years’ time California is exporting their produce as ‘climate neutral’? Will we then have to overhaul our entire emission accounting process to compete? The science around methane’s effect on climate is well established, just because our country might choose to ignore it does not mean others will. The response from ag industry representatives has been rather underwhelming. None appear to have yet picked up on the underlying sentiment of this emissions reduction pathway and used that to negotiate a better outcome for our farmers. There are other more positive approaches our industry could be taking, but that won't happen until we start asking the right questions. • Steven Cranston is a Waikato-based environmental consultant and farmer.
PHOTO: MARK BRIMBLECOMBE. 72
COMMUNITY | RURAL VET
Vet, farmer and athlete Taihape vet, farmer and family man Anthony Oswald finds adventure racing takes his mind off the everyday as well as being good fun. Annabelle Latz tracked him down to find out more.
ulti day adventure racing means entirely removing yourself from society. Your entire focus is about getting to the next checkpoint. All you think about is eating, navigation, and when you are going to lock in your next three hour sleep. It means no phones, and none of the day to day pressures of being a busy vet, farmer, father and husband. Taihape-based veterinarian Anthony Oswald was gearing up for GODZone Adventure Race. This took place in Rotorua on March 6. He says that the longer the race, the better. “I usually finish these races physically drained. But mentally I feel like I’ve hit the reset button – I think this is a result of the mind operating with a simple focus and a good dose of sleep deprivation.” Self-described as a jack of all trades within his veterinary profession, Anthony works mainly with sheep, beef and deer, but also has quite an interest in orthopedic surgery on working dogs. “I just try and avoid cats and small white dogs.” Creating good relationships with farmers is a priority, as well as a favourite part of his job. Anthony says this is imperative to forming a sound partnership between advice delivery for key topics like internal parasites, flystrike and trace elements. It
quickly became apparent early in his career that the business model of rural veterinary practices is heavily reliant on the sales of animal health products for a sustainable business. He said a good vet must also have great knowledge about animal health products that are at least part of the solution for animal health issues. “It’s about creating good relationships with farmers so they would first trust, then value my advice.” He finds the vet profession rewarding when he is able to work with clients to change management practices that lead to increased farm performance, and finding solutions to problems both stock performance and animal health related. In addition, he still gets a kick out of the likes of calving a cow and getting a live calf, or doing surgery on an injured dog and getting it back to work. “Not a week would go by I’m not learning something new – a new surgical technique, a new synchrony programme for artificial insemination (AI) in cattle or a different treatment for a disease.” Born and raised on the family farm Duntroon up the Awatere Valley in Marlborough, Anthony has sheep and beef farming running through his blood. Becoming a sheep and beef vet “seemed a good idea,” with local vet Pete Anderson being an inspiration. Anthony and his wife Charlotte with their two young children Pippa, 8 and
Jonty, 6, farm 50ha close to Taihape where they finish 280 weaner stags and a small Texel stud.
ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSE Anthony gets a lot of satisfaction being part of an industry that has a great track record in increasing performance but is also in a good space environmentally. He makes a point of noting the performance of sheep farming during the last 30 years in New Zealand. Total sheep numbers have decreased by 30.6 million (53%) yet lamb production is only down by 9%. This increase in performance, a result of a 31% increase in lambing percentage and an increase in average lamb carcase weight of 5.2kg (37%), is “nothing short of amazing.” Over this period greenhouse gas emissions from sheep have also reduced by 41%. While the heat has been on the rural sector from an environmental perspective, he believes sheep and beef farmers are generally doing a good job and responding well. Around the Taihape region, farmers have been very proactive in fencing waterways off. More recently local catchments groups have been set up, one outcome being the testing of waterways. Most of the early results are highlighting how good the water quality is around sheep and beef farming. “Greenhouse gas emissions for the
Charlotte and Anthony Oswald with Pippa, 8, and Jonty, 6. Anthony is not only a vet but also farms 280 weaner stags and a small Texel stud.
sheep and beef sector are 31% lower than 1990 levels. People in the sheep and beef sector preaching these type of facts have little impact in changing the public perceptions about farmers’ impact on the environment. The key going forward is to get others to be telling our story.”
PROVIDING A VITAL SERVICE Anthony cut his teeth in the vet profession as a locum in Balclutha. His second job was in Alexandra, Central Otago. He quickly realised that while researchers and vets before him had provided a great deal of knowledge he could draw on, there were still many unanswered questions out there. From early in his career, he has presented papers to the veterinary profession on sudden death in ewes due to listeria, veterinary involvement in an animal welfare investigations, copper deficiency and toxicity, plantain –
“You can’t dwell on any negatives, I always just say “it is what it is” and just get on with it.” associations with milk fever in sheep and bloat in cattle, bull breeding soundness, fodder beet use on sheep and beef farms, drench resistance, and ectoparasites in sheep. “I knew early in my career that it was important to help answer some of these questions as a way to contribute to the vet profession and to New Zealand agriculture.” Like any profession, with the joys and highlights come the challenges. Anthony says being on call is a real tie of the job that most people don’t appreciate. He adds that the veterinary profession provides a far better after hours emergency service than the human health
system in rural areas. Drench resistance is an area of his work where he openly admits he does not always have the answers, and the veterinary profession has changed its message several times over the last 40 years on the best way to manage it. “Now we are dealing with farms on a daily basis that have Trichostrongylus worms that are resistant to triple combination drenches – there is no scientific research to draw on to tell us the best way to manage these situations, so we are having to work with farmers using the best of the knowledge and tools available to navigate through this time.” Anthony’s career has included teaching final year vet students at Massey University, postings in Piopio in Waitomo and Gisborne, and further abroad he practised in the United Kingdom for a year and worked one month as a voluntary vet in Morocco.
A MAN OF ADVENTURE Outdoor adventures certainly featured during his travels, one stand out was a month of trekking through the Himalayas. His initial two year stint in Taihape “on the way back to the South Island” has turned into a 16 year permanent stay. It’s no surprise that Anthony has a full plate. Where most would see his commitment to adventure racing as an inconvenience, Anthony sees it as a method of keeping everything level. A ruptured knee ligament in 2006 put a halt to competing in the Coast to Coast and other multisport events. Eight years later a bet with a mate resulted in Anthony taking on IRONMAN Taupo on virtually no training. Apparently it wasn’t pretty but he did finish. This was the start of the competing again and in 2015 the GODZone bug hit. His team, consisting of two other men and one woman, took top podium spot in their first attempt at the ‘Pursuit’ race in the Tasman region, and backed this up with a successful title defence in 2016 in Queenstown. A racing highlight was their win in Queenstown. Their good lead was diminished on the penultimate stage due to some bad navigation calls. Coming into the final transition they thought they’d blown it, only to find they still had the lead but by only 30 minutes. “The last stage was a 50km kayak up Lake Wakatipu – the race had taken about three and a half days, and we won by 15 minutes.” In 2017 they accepted the challenge of the GODZone ‘Pure’ race in Fiordland, which is a slightly longer course that does not allow for support crews. They learned intimately the brutality of that pocket of New Zealand wilderness. “The longest stage took us 84 hours. The last trekking stage was only 21 kilometres but took us about 24. It was tough going but we had some amazing scenery.” Anthony loves the long length of GODZone, being in the wilderness for up to a week. “The longer the race, the less it is about pure speed and athleticism, and more it is about strategy, navigation, sleep deprivation and suffering – which suits me just fine.” He says GODZone can throw up a lot of situations. You can be tired, buggered, hungry, cold, lost, have broken equipment,
Top: Anthony (seated) fuels up with the help of a teammate at GODZone Fiordland 2017. Above: A teammate and Anthony (back seat) ride the rapids during GODZone 2017 in Fiordland. Anthony is a keen adventure racer and took part in Godzone Rotorua in March.
and that’s just for starters. It is really easy to fall apart individually and even easier to fall apart as a team, especially if your navigator has had you trekking up the wrong valley for three hours and you have to turn back. “You and the team need to keep it together. In these situations you just control the controllables – eat more food, put on some more clothes, and get moving the right direction as quickly as possible. You can’t dwell on any negatives, I always just say ‘it is what it is’ and just get on with it.” Anthony says like most, he’s time poor. He knows people must ask why a time poor person takes up adventure racing.
His approach is straight forward. He makes as much of his time as possible through quality time. The training he squeezes in is done flat out, as hard as he can go. His theory is to train at a pace much harder than race pace, so his body will find the racing relatively easy and will therefore be able to just keep going – “although you won’t find this training regime in any books.” “I try to take this concept of quality time into the other aspects of my life – whether it be family, work or farming, it’s about not sweating the small stuff, having simple systems and trying to make sure that the time is getting the best output possible.”
COMMUNITY | OPINION
Cancer and the smoking rat BY: NICOLA DENNIS
’m not sure that there is anything more bamboozling to the general public than journalists drumming up academic papers for nutrition segments. “Scientists say that caffeine causes cancer, or maybe it prevents it?” “Or was it the nitrites in your bacon or the nitrates in your water?” “No, wait, it was more than two glasses of wine per week and you are toast”. “Find out after the break if your charred toast will give you cancer”. It is an absolute minefield out there. So it might surprise you to discover that the list of scientifically-agreed carcinogens (things we know cause cancer) is remarkably concise. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), run by the World Health Organisation, lists 121 known human carcinogens. Chinese-style salted fish is the only food that makes the list. Recreational choices such as alcohol, tobacco, the areca nut and combined estrogen–progestogen oral contraceptives are also listed as known carcinogens, but it is probably a little unhinged to describe these as food. Most of the list is made up of pharmaceuticals, viruses and radiation types that you are likely already doing your best to avoid without any scare-mongering from the television. The list also includes occupational carcinogens such as arsenic, asbestos, chromium, nickel compounds, leather/wood dust, soot, and diesel engine exhaust fumes. So how does the scientific community decide if something causes cancer and why is there so much extra chatter going on? First, let's briefly look at what cancer is.
WHAT IS CANCER? When things are going swimmingly, the cells in your body are under tight regulation. Each cell is a highly specialised worker happily living in its place of employment. When the cell becomes too old or sustains too much damage, it is sent a signal from its own broken machinery or, possibly, from one of the neighbouring cells who has noticed that all is not right on the other side of the fence. The signal means that it is time to call it quits. The cell then dies a very orderly death via a mechanism endearingly referred to as apoptosis. Cancer happens when one of your cells goes rogue and stops listening to the regulation signals. This is essentially a genetics problem, the DNA in the cell has mutated to a form that is immune to the usual signals for growth regulation and apoptosis. These mutated cells become immortal - which is a hell of a lot less useful than it sounds. Often these dysfunctional cells are dealt to by the higher authorities such as the immune system, or they occur in isolated or slow growing cells that can’t get up to too much mischief. But, in the worst case scenarios, these cells are fast growing and are in a very critical area of your body. The unluckiest place would probably be the brain stem, with the heart, lung and pancreas not too far behind. However, these rogue cells usually start off somewhere where they are reasonably well tolerated and then eventually migrate to new areas of the body via the bloodstream. When the rogue cells get in the way of the well-behaved cells that are doing the real work, that is when we have the disease that we all refer to as ‘cancer’.
WHAT CAUSES CANCER? A mutant cell can happen purely by chance. Each time a new cell is made, the cellular machinery has to copy every scrap of DNA in the genome. Here, there is an opportunity for the cellular machinery to make a mistake and introduce a fresh mutation. Some DNA sequences are more difficult to get correct every time and therefore prone to mutations. Think of this like a phone number that is full of ‘6’s and ‘9’s or one of those tongue twister sentences. Some families, unfortunately, have genes that read like “she sells seashells by the seashore” and that can lead to an inherited cancer risk. Others have inherent weaknesses in the cellular machinery that is supposed to keep an eye on genetic damage such as breast cancer gene (BRCA) mutations. And sometimes something gets into the cell and damages the DNA or the machinery that deals with the DNA, causing the mutations that kick-start the cancer process. Certain chemicals, viruses and radiation are known to have genotoxic (i.e. toxic to genetics) effects that cause cancer and these are known as carcinogens. But how do we know something is carcinogenic?
HOW DO WE TELL IF SOMETHING CAUSES CANCER? Let’s start off by acknowledging that cancer research is in no way complete. In many ways it is still in infancy. The IARC only started its working groups back in 1970, that’s long enough for bell-bottomed jeans to come back in style three times, but just a blink of an eye for biological research. That being said, it is usually straightforward to test if something is very genotoxic. Take some cells, expose them to the possible carcinogen and see if the DNA in the cells changes. This can be backed up with some animal research where hapless lab animals are exposed to the possible carcinogen and monitored to see if they develop cancer. Spare a thought for all the lab rats that have been forced to smoke cigarettes or endure reenactments of the Chernobyl disaster. If something is overtly carcinogenic then it will be obvious with some basic, but brutal, labwork. Things get murky when we try to tease out potential carcinogens that have a smaller or indirect effect on DNA. Particularly if these are lifestyle factors such as nutrition. It is difficult to douse cell cultures or lab animals in, say, cheese burgers. Scientists only nabbed Chinese-style salted fish because it was so carcinogenic that small extracts of it were enough to mutate bacteria. The urine from rats fed Chinese-style salted fish was able to do the same and there is some evidence the Chinese-style salted fish compounds can reactivate the Epstein–Barr virus which is a known carcinogen itself. Plus, the small problem of people who were partial to Chinese-style salted fish contracting nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
NITRATES AND NITRITES, AND A GREAT DEAL OF CHATTER Let’s take a look at a topical example for the farming community. Nitrates and nitrites have been getting a bit of a public flogging lately. I can tell you, unequivocally, that they should not be at high concentrations in your drinking water, but are they carcinogenic? Well, I would say that the jury is still out, but there is not even enough evidence to lay charges. Nitrates and nitrites are naturally occurring compounds in your food. They may also be added to processed foods to prevent harmful bacterial infections in items such as processed meats. Nitrates are compounds that have a nitrogen joined to three oxygen atoms (NO3) and are relatively inert. Nitrites have one fewer oxygen atom (N02) leaving more hands left to party and are therefore a bit more reactive than nitrates. Nitrites such as sodium nitrite and potassium nitrite tend to be the more commonly used preservatives for cured meats like bacon. Nitrates and nitrites are not, in themselves, carcinogenic. The bulk of the debate is centred around whether your body converts nitrates and nitrites into meaningful quantities of a chemical group called N-nitrosamines which are known carcinogens. Your body definitely makes some N-nitrosamines because these are essential for cell signalling, but could eating too many nitrates/nitrites lead your body to make an excessive amount that might be carcinogenic? Well, that is the question. The debate is mainly centred around epidemiological studies. That is, does this population of people who for whatever reason eat more nitrites/nitrates have a higher incidence of cancer than the people that don’t? On one hand, this is an efficient and ethical way to do science because all you have to do is observe people living their life and see what happens. On the other hand there are loads of confounding variables that make interpreting this data difficult: • Are the people who eat more nitrates/nitrites more likely to work in industries where they are exposed to occupational carcinogens? • Are they more likely to have unbalanced diets? • Are they receiving poorer healthcare? • Are they more exposed to carcinogenic infections such as Helicobacter pylori? • Are they more likely to indulge in tobacco or excessive alcohol use? Given the long list of confounding variables, it will not surprise you to learn that the results of the nitrite/nitrate epidemiological studies are all over the place. The experiments performed with lab animals are equally confusing. There is a long list of experiments where rats are dosed with nitrites in their food or drinking water. Focusing on just one study, there was no evidence of carcinogenic activity in male rats, there was a trend for female rats to develop carcinomas in their forestomach (put the body atlas down, you don’t have a forestomach) and there was evidence that the sodium nitrite used might prevent leukemia in both male and female rats. And that, my friends, is how you bamboozle people with cancer research.
• Nicola Dennis is an agricultural analyst and scientist.
One step at a time Andrew and Penny Zuppicich took on a run down sheep and beef farm called Kilmarnock in Hurunui, North Canterbury last year. Annabelle Latz spoke with the couple to find out how they bought Kilmarnock and their plans to bring the farm back to its former glory.
ilmarnock is a farm rich in history, and the letters KILM still grace some of the gates, even if not many swing anymore. Up the Blythe Valley, a stone’s throw from Motunau Beach in the Hurunui District of North Canterbury, the 870 hectare sheep and beef farm was to end its reign with the Deans family at the beginning of 2020. When young farming couple Andrew and Penny Zuppicich, both aged 37, saw it at the start of 2020, it needed more than a lick of paint. Only two gates swung, most of the fences had been bulldozed away with the posts left standing, grass was growing above the homestead’s deck which was flanked by a number of old tractors, and cattle were grazing on the lawn. In 2019, Penny and Andrew were given six months notice that their lease was ending at Kaikoura Inland Road. With enough for a modest deposit, they hit the road, travelling the length of the South Island to seek their first and ‘forever’ farm. By March 31, 2020 they’d moved into a neighbour’s cottage on the Inland Rd, finally moving into their new home on May 5 last year. Their stock went to their lease block while the formalising took place. Because of the Covid-19 lockdown, stock agents could not be on the property, and were
Horses are a mode of transport at Kilmarnock. Penny and Andrew like to breed a few too. L-R Hugo, 5, Andrew, Evie, 4, and Penny holding their youngest Beau, 2.
reluctant to sell stock. “So I put a message out to some duck shooting mates. Within six hours we had 3000 lambs sold. That was a huge mental relief.” If moving onto your first farm with three young children was not challenging enough, add in a lockdown, and you’ve got a real task on your hands with significantly less help at your disposal. With help from grandparents, Penny and Andrew spent a week moving, and were allowed two extra days to get off their lease block. “We had to leave our house and lease during lockdown which was extremely stressful and (it) was hard to get help. I was having to turn the pillow over several times during the night as it was soaking wet from stress,” says Andrew. This farm was on the market for quite a while, and would have not been affordable if it wasn’t run down. No paddocks were fully stock proof, 90% of fences will need replacing over time, and to date 700 hours have been spent grubbing or spraying tussock. “The bones on this place are unreal. The setting is good, the yard locations are great. And I’ve never run over so many worms in all my life. I hope we can give the property what it deserves, bringing it back to its former glory,” says Andrew. Year one is getting the stock water sorted
which means six kilometres of piping, year two is getting the fencing back in while year three will be applying capital fertiliser. They own a drill and spray unit so all tractor work is done in house. CHIPPING AWAY They started making a list of jobs to do, but realised there were too many. It was important to break down the work and chip away at a manageable rate. “It reminded me of a conversation in a pub I had in the back of Kenya. The guy had just walked the length of Canada – he bought a map when he started but after two weeks he realised he wasn’t making a dent in the map, so he threw it away and bought another one when he was getting closer to the end,” said Andrew. Penny was born and raised in Christchurch, and with a professional background in banking she knows her way around asking for a loan. “Persistence beats everything, you have got to follow your gut instinct if you like a place,” she says. Andrew agreed, and says if they didn’t have three young kids they may not have pushed so hard, but there was no other option. Although they are very busy, Penny and Andrew also celebrate the good bits. “The last six months has delivered an amazing growing season, we sold all our lambs Country-Wide
Close to the east coast and a stone’s throw from Motunau, Penny and Andrew are able to wean and sell their lambs pre-Christmas, which is a luxury compared to the Inland Road where they held onto them until mid January.
pre-Christmas, they were weaned by the end of November,” said Andrew. He compared this to farming on Inland Road, where they weaned on January 20. “It sometimes feels like we’re working less,” he says. For the last four years they’ve had an additional 1535ha lease block in North Canterbury, and it works well for the stock numbers they’re running. In 2020 they wintered 1350 half bred ewes, 1000 one year old Romney ewes, 400 half bred hoggets, 270 MA cow, 50 in calf heifers, 65 R1 heifer replacements, 210 R1 trading cattle, 90 R2 trading cattle, and they also winter grazed 775 dairy cows. Andrew has mainly been a one man band, with the help of a casual worker once every two weeks for the yard work.
Beau, 2 and his big brother Hugo, 5, like to spend time down in the sheep yards.
LEASE TO OWN Andrew lived the last 25 years up Kaikoura Inland Road, and for six years he and Penny managed it, and a block next door, when they returned from overseas. “It was a wicked opportunity.” Six years ago the farm was sold, and Andrew along with his siblings were given a 20% share, in which they could borrow against for whatever business they ventured towards. Holding off on a farm purchase for a while, they had already been leasing the neighbour’s farm for a year, so continued on with that. Penny said they’d heard the farm owner was looking for a new farm manager. Andrew rang the farm owner from a Trade Me advertisement and asked if he’d be interested in taking them on. “He (the farm owner) agreed to the lease on the condition that he kept the best 100ha to grow and harvest barley,” said Penny. That lease ran out in 2020. Andrew said although leasing is extremely stressful, it is one of the only ways to move into farm ownership. “Sadly, banks don’t look at your CVs and what you have managed – they look at accounts, and what assets you have.” He said leasing is 95% communication with the owner, and 5% stock work. “All good leases are never advertised. Go and ask a neighbour or a guy down the road. And never look at the whole picture, look at how it will best suit the owner as it is their property they take pride in. Offer to leave some land for him or a stock equity, more consider all odd options. Because at the end of the day it is their property, so make a business plan you think will best suit them as well as you.” That is exactly what happened with the lease block they have now. Andrew got talking to the new farm owner, who is a travelling
businessman and has the farm for hunting, forestry and honey, and asked if they could lease it. “It’s about building up,” said Andrew. “Build up your asset value. Start by leasing, then buy a motorbike.” He says a $2 million farm can become a $3.4 million farm. Turning to diversification, Penny says it will be interesting to see what impact Covid-19 has on wool prices. At Kilmarnock they can sell stores or take them through, and run a high ratio of cattle compared to sheep. It’s a good work life balance too. Casuals ring up looking for work which “would never have happened at their old place,” and Andrew has joined the local Surfing For Farmers group, who meet each Thursday at the local Gore Bay. “I’ve never been a surfer in my life.” They were in the thick of the activity for the November 2016 earthquake that rocked the Inland Kaikoura Ranges. A few of the farming families around the Kaikoura Inland Road hunkered down in one farm cottage for the emergency’s initial duration, to save the use of multiple generators and ensure everyone was safe. During this time Penny was heavily pregnant with their second child Evie; subsequently she and their eldest child Hugo were heli-evacuated to Christchurch. “We all felt it was too hard to look after the farm and make sure the family was safe,” says Andrew. He added that the family unit has always, and will always be, top of the priority list, with Hugo, 5, Evie, 4 and Beau, 2. “No matter how busy the day has been, we’re always both at home to help each other with feeds and bath times, although sometimes easier said than done.”
SOLUTIONS | DOG COATS
Keeping the working dogs naturally cosy BY: ANNABELLE LATZ
t was mid June 2020, sleet was falling, and Billy Dowle looked out the window from his cottage in Scargill, North Canterbury to see his mainstay Huntaway, Earl, sleeping in his dugout next to his kennel, rather than on the hard wooden floor. Earl obviously needed a new bed. Billy and his partner Annabelle Chilwell headed out to buy him a new bed, but were disappointed to only find expensive synthetic ones, and nothing offering them a natural product. “So I decided to make one myself,” Annabelle says, who grew up around wool and sewing machines as her mother had a woollen clothing business in Boyup Brook, Western Australia. Before long, they’d headed down the path of researching canvas and wool-fills. It was a bit of a case of trials and tribulations to find the right canvas, to ensure it was one that did not create condensation inside the kennel. In a matter of weeks, the team of working dogs Pip, Nui, Earl, Floss, Gin and Squirt all had their own canvas wool-filled beds, and loved them. Both Billy and Annabelle were casual farm workers in North Canterbury, and were moving to Benmore Station in the MacKenzie Basin where Billy was taking the position as stock manager. They’re now the proud owners of dog bed and dog coat company, Natural Hound. Launched in December 2020, the first couple of months of production have been scary, busy, full of lessons, and most of all, exciting. “We’ve had a lot of support from farmers which has been really cool,” Annabelle said. Billy said gaining confidence in what they do has been a major factor. Early days saw them questioning whether to buy three metres of canvas to
Working pups enjoy Natural Hound’s canvas wool-polyester filled beds.
test a few out, now they’re looking at bulk orders. After buying the first canvas he had 10 cents left in his bank account. He said to Annabelle, “We are really going to have to make this work!” The first few orders were from friends, and they still remember the buzz they got from the first website order received in mid-December. The word about Natural Hound has mainly been spread through social media, and they’ve been rolling out 10-20 beds a week ever since. This keeps Annabelle busy as she’s a part-time casual farmhand and part-time dog bed manufacturer. She cuts the canvas in Scargill and sends the items to Christchurch to be sewn. These are returned to her and she fills them with
a wool-polyester blend. “The little bit of polyester in the inner enables the bed to maintain its loft and stops the wool from compacting. It also makes the beds a bit lighter to move. We’re looking at natural alternatives for this, like bamboo and hemp.” The market is mainly around the South Island at the moment, although they would like to look into the North Island, and eventually Australia and the US. The other part of their business is the woollen felted and canvas dog coats, which they launched at the local A&P Shows in March and April around Canterbury. Annabelle sewed these herself. Beds range in price depending if they come filled or not; $90-$120 or $110-$160. The coats will range from $75-$85. They
Annabelle Chilwell and Billy Dowle launched Natural Hound in December 2020.
Working dogs model Natural Hound’s woollen felted and canvas dog coats.
offer a 15% discount when buying three or more. They didn’t share their cost of production but did say if they put them into retail stores they would have to up their price by 100%. Billy said it was a great feeling to be supporting the strong wool industry, because it’s a quality resource that has so many uses. He remembers about a month ago when a farmer placed an order for one bed for his bitch who’d just had a litter of pups. He contacted them soon again afterwards to ask for a bulk order.
“That to me is saying a lot. If you get your dog a bed and they really love them, you know you’re onto something.” Animal welfare is becoming a big thing on farms and nearly gone are the days where work dogs live in cold drafty kennels. Farmers are also starting to realise the long term benefits of dog health by looking after them. “Products don’t need to be a designer label made from wool adding to the price tag. Our products are locally made and filled/lined with New Zealand strong wool and we still manage to be price competitive against synthetic products and
“After the first purchase of canvas I had 10 cents left in my bank account. I said to Annabelle ‘We are really going to have to make this work!’” maintain a high NZ quality standard.” With autumn around the corner and the air temperatures soon to drop, they’re both looking forward to launching the coats. “It all goes back to that moment when we said to each other ‘Are we going to do this?’ And we’re so pleased we did,” said Billy. • More at www.naturalhound.co.nz
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FARMING IN FOCUS
Top left: A Merino ewe and lamb in out of season snow at Balmoral Station. Top right: Homeblock columnist Rachael Hoogenboom at Mt Roy, Wanaka. Centre left: Vehicles not suitable for the road can run into problems on Rainbow Station. Above left: Andrew Zuppicich with Hugo, 5 and Evie, 4 at Kilmarnock farm in Hurunui. Above right: Shelley and Kevin Bradley overlooking Hopelands Farm in southern Hawke’s Bay.
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