Page 1


MARCH 2011

Rural life: the Helensville sheep dog trials pg3 Lifestyle farming: getting started pg6 Health feature: when it rains it sucks pg12 Agriculture: bees are under threat…again pg14



It’s mind blowing that this is Issue 42 and we’ve been running nearly 4 years. The feedback you send is greatly valued. Thank you – and please keep it coming.

(online)… and enter the draw for a case of sparkling Feijoa Wines crafted here in Rodney by Lethorian Wines. And if you subscribe to the online version of Rural lifestyle, each month I’ll send you a link to view the entire content before anyone else sees the printed edition.

In the January issue we asked for comment on Colloidal Silver. It seems that others also report good results and I have recently found it 100% effective for tackling sore throats. In this issue, Duncan McNab shares his knowledge about setting up your block to run sheep and Helen reports on the Helensville Sheep Dog Trials. I write about a very smart invention that improves tank water quality and Logan interviews a visiting beekeeping dignitary from France about the threats facing the world’s bees.

Visit us online at: and be in to win! The website has been drastically overhauled thanks to Steve Hart of Mosaic Media and is now packed with more features and more content. Please tell us what you think

work from her collection that was in Christchurch has been destroyed. We would very much encourage you to get along and support her exhibition.

Thanks for supporting the magazine and please keep letting advertisers know where you read about their advertised products – this helps us to deliver more of the content you like.

Neville Walker – Editor & Publisher

Our thoughts and hearts go out to the people of Christchurch and everyone affected. No doubt the relief funds’ coffers from the first earthquake will have to be filled again (we have the links posted on our website). It is worth mention that Renata PrzynogaCousins, who is exhibiting her work at Coatesville’s Flametree Art Garden & Gallery until April 1, and whose painting appears on our cover, has been personally affected also, as the historic building where she had paintings and materials has now been leveled. At this stage it appears all the

Letters or enquiries to Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle, RD Marketing Ltd, RD1, Kaukapakapa. Phone 09 947 3580. Email: Advertising enquiries: Marlene Brown 021-854-946 Logan Tudehope 021 483401 Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle ©2011. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form without permission of the publisher is prohibited. No responsibility accepted for any direct or indirect consequences arising from reliance on any content within Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle. Editor: Neville Walker. Sub Editor: Helen Martin. Writers this issue: Helen Martin, Logan Tudehope, Neville Walker. Cover: Image courtesy Renata Przynoga-Cousins. Title: The other view. E. coli image p12 and bee image p14 ©United States Department of Agriculture. Designer: Dan Stenhouse, Bgraphix. Printing: International Print.

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Helensville sheep dog


By Helen Martin

While sheep dog trial competitors are generally professional farmers, there’s a lot people from lifestyle blocks can gain from being a sheep dog trial spectator. As Duncan McNab, President of the Helensville Sheep Dog Trial Club for the past 15 years explains, you can make some really useful contacts with people who know about breeding and training good working dogs. And for a newbie like me, watching a trial in action is a great lesson in New Zealand’s historical rural culture.

It’s the weekend of the Helensville sheep dog trials and everywhere you look there are dogs – Huntaways (which are only bred in New Zealand) and Heading Dogs mostly, along with Morris the fox terrier, who’s here for his 9th trial. Morris doesn’t compete, but he likes to keep an eye on things, snaffle the occasional sausage and

provide moral support for his mates, Tip and Fly. I watch a succession of beautiful Huntaways, commanded by their owner’s voice and whistle, bark sheep in groups of 3 up a hill. Big Bruce doesn’t have much of a bark, but the sheep seem to know what he wants. It’s not hard to work out the aim is to get the sheep through markers, but sometimes they disappear into the bushes and the run is called off. A couple of times the judge retrieves wayward sheep with his Heading Dog Gay, quietly showing us how it’s done. Waiting their turn, competitors shoot the breeze about the course (“It’s a bugger of a hill, this”), about their performance so far (“I haven’t had a complete yet – they zigged when they should’ve zagged”), about dog training (“When I broke him in I’d just got me false teeth and I couldn’t whistle” and “My dog was shaking so hard he had no fleas left on him”) and, of course, about the dogs’ abilities (“A top trial dog doesn’t necessarily make a great working dog”) and the judging process (“These judges are mean as!”). RURAL LIFESTYLE ISSUE 42


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Some workers take a well-earned rest.

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there are 90 sheep dog trial clubs in the North Island and 71 in the South Island, grouped for administration into 13 Centres. Of these, the Helensville Sheep Dog Trial Club, which has been going for 85 years, is one of the oldest in the country. Running originally from McGowans’ farm on Te Pua School Road, the club eventually shifted operations to Andrew McKenzie’s Inland Rd farm. Duncan McNab, whose wife Jinny helps with the organisation and catering and whose adult children Robyn and James take part in the behind-thescenes work when they can, tells me it used to take a week to set up for a trial: building liberating pens and courses; repairing and painting yards, hurdles and pegs; committing and collecting from sponsors; organising food and drink; organising accommodation for the judges, many of whom travel some distance for the trials. But now, with the three yards

permanently in place, setting up and packing out is quick and easy. The trials couldn’t happen without sponsorship from the likes of local businesses RD1, Wrightsons, Neville Brothers Transport, Oikoumene Forest and P.G. Smith Fertilisers. And of course without the competitors there would be no trials. So why do they do it? There are trophies and cash prizes to be won, but like any sport it’s about much more than that, and, listening to the competitors compare notes, it’s obvious there’s a lot of pride and honour in turning in a good performance. It’s hugely challenging,” says Lorna Sanson, “it’s all about the relationship between the master and the dog.” Duncan agrees. “A good stockman reads the sheep. They know when to step forward and when to pull back. They have an empathy with the animals. That’s what makes a winner.”

Ryan Stewart and Huntaway Pip wait their turn.

Rodney Sheep Dog Trial Club are holding their trials on March 11, 12 at Tauhoa Rd, Kaipara Flat. Visit for more details. Ed.

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We’ll make quick work of the tallest gorse on steep, hard-to-reach sites. Steep gullies and hillsides are often left for gorse to overtake because it’s too difficult to control. Spraying requires a lengthy die-off period and still leaves the problem of removal. Burning can promote rapid re-growth and can damage non-target vegetation. With our new 22.5tonne machine and its fixed tooth

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Sheep holding in the crush pen.

to avoid giving yourself a life sentence, don’t try and farm everything. So if you decide on sheep, for example, given that the whole economic basis of sheep farming is to produce lambs, small block holders choosing to run sheep need to think about why they want them and how they’re going to manage them so their lives are as comfortable as possible. To limit your problems, if you want to farm sheep, just farm sheep. Once you’ve decided what you’re going to focus on, do your research and get help and advice from people who’ve been there before you. Say you’ve decided to focus on farming sheep. How do you get started? Whether you buy a block of land that’s already set up, or whether you’re setting it up yourself, you need the right

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facilities: available water; good fencing and gateways; a good set of yards with a loading ramp; a shearing shed with a nice shearing board and a good drenching race; the right tools.

WATER Because sheep have relatively small bodies they don’t need a lot of water and they’re very good converters of grass, which is 80% water. But they still need access to a good water supply, especially in the heat of summer. Like most rural landowners you’ll be collecting water off your roof. Two 5,000 gallon tanks (or two 25,000 litre tanks) will save a lot of time and expense during dry spells. You can have a simple system using low pressure alkathene and plastic troughs in your paddocks attached to your house water supply, or you may connect to a stream or other water supply e.g. bore water. It’s beneficial for the sheep if you put the troughs in a

sheltered area where the water can stay cool. Small plastic troughs will suffice for ewes. If you use larger, higher sided troughs, dig them in so the ewes can get their mouths in to drink. It pays to put concrete blocks in the trough in a step formation so that any springing lambs about 2 months old that end up in the trough can get themselves out. Otherwise they can drown.

FENCING AND GATEWAYS Sheep like to move uphill and your property has to be fenced so the sheep will flow. Stock will get behind gates that swing out into the open, especially when you’re moving sheep. When the ewes head off to good tucker, especially with the rotational grazing system, they’re racing off not worrying about their lambs and the lambs can freak out and do crazy things like run into fence posts and knock themselves out. So gateways should be at the end of the slope, or if it’s flat land you put your gateways in the corner, not in the middle of your fence lines. If your fences and gateways are well designed you don’t need sheepdogs to do the work for you.

YARDS AND LOADING RAMP Whether you have 100 or 20 sheep you have to have stockyards. Your yards need to be in a dry spot. If they’re exposed, build walls and roof them (you’ll need this shelter for lambing problems and shearing). It’s really important to design your yards for ease of stock management. If you can, build your yards on a slight slope, so stock walk uphill to get into them. One of the worst things you see on small blocks is yards out in the middle of nowhere, with no way of getting stock into the gateway. I’ve seen so many cases where people should be filing for divorce when, instead of taking 15 minutes,

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it’s taken them half of Saturday to get their sheep into their stockyards and everyone’s red in the face from screaming at each other and even the pet dog’s dived for cover. There should be easy access for trucks loading stock. You need a loading ramp. It’s best to have a platform built onto a bank with a race going up to it. If you don’t have a bank you can make a ramp that has a simple-to-operate height adjustment. You need a height of 45cm to 60cm for a trailer and 120cm for a stock truck.

DRENCHING RACE A drenching race isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s handy to have one. It needs to be a maximum of 600mm because you want to be able to hold sheep with your legs on your own while you drench them. You want a gateway that leads into the drenching race so you can hold sheep in a crush pen. This is triangular and can hold 10 sheep. You’ve got the race in front that’ll hold them, so you push the 10 sheep into the race, out of that crush pen. If you don’t have a drenching race you can do your drenching in a confined area where, as you catch and drench each sheep, you mark it with a stock marker.

SHEARING SHED AND SHEARING BOARD I shudder when I see people on small blocks shearing in a paddock. They’re shearing live animals weighing 50 to 60 kilograms with a very sharp piece of machinery doing huge revolutions. It’s too hard on your back and if you make a mistake you can cut the sheep or yourself. You need a shed that’s comfortable for the shearer. You need a nice flat balance board to work on – two sheets of ply board 2.4 by 1.2 will give you a 4.8 by 2.4 floor area. If you can afford it, this should be covered in – a lean-to covering is good enough.

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…a couple of pigs thrown in.

THE TOOLS Sheep don’t like being in a shed, so whether you’re drenching, docking, drafting, culling or shearing you need to have everything set up and in place so you can do the job quickly and efficiently. You can buy a second hand shearing plant off Trademe but shearers bring their own plant. You do need power, with an extension cord if necessary.

The basic tools you need are: drench; a drench gun; a drench pack; a spray can stock marker or raddle; a pair of foot-rotters (for trimming overgrown hooves); fly strike dressing or powder; dip; dip applicator (the modern versions are hand-applied spray on and very effective). These items can be purchased from your rural farm supplier. In the May 2011 issue of RRL Duncan will talk to Helen about stocking your lifestyle block.

A handy quick reference source for NZ Sheep is Pocket Guide to Sheep Breeds of New Zealand by Graham Meadows, New Holland Publishers NZ Ltd, 2008. We have also added some good reference sites on our website for further help with stockyards. And if you need a contractor to build yards, plan fencing or shear sheep our Service Directory at the back has the people to contact. Ed.

Letters Home – Reflections on an adopted country

An exhibition of oil paintings by Renata Przynoga-Cousins February 27 – April 1. Viewing hours: 11am – 4pm, Thursday to Sunday. Flametree Art Garden & Gallery, 16a O’Brien Rd, Coatesville (off the Coatesville/Riverhead Highway). Phone 414 7433 or see for details and directions.



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Electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria.


When it rains it


By Neville Walker

Water quality is important to us, especially with having young children, so I tend to keep an eye out for suitable solutions.

it harbours multiply significantly during summer, and ultimately the sediment, while it robs the oxygen from the water also clogs filtration and UV systems, leading to more maintenance needed and a shorter life for the filters.

Recent rainfall levels have been very beneficial - they have made many dairy, sheep and beef farmers happy, not to mention the wider economic benefits. But of course a silver lining usually comes with a cloud, in this instance in the form of tank trouble as the rain washes the dust and other contaminants (e.g. bird poo) that have accumulated during dry periods into our tanks, where it mixes with the sediment-soup resting on the bottom. Without the accumulation of this ‘soup’ much of our drinking water problems would be eliminated. The E. coli

I reported around this time last year (March, Issue 30) how this sediment layer in our tanks had accumulated to a depth of around 200-300mm before I cleaned them out. One year on, out of curiosity I took a peek inside one of the tanks, only to see a significant amount of sediment has yet again built up. The recommended period between cleans is two years but I think that's too long to wait. It only takes a relatively small number of coliforms to be a health problem. If you can remove the sediment, the food source for these pathogens disappears and with it the E. coli. The solution

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has to be a self-cleaning tank. In the January issue of Rural Lifestyle I touched on some issues surrounding rain water contamination and filtration options and I also mentioned in-tank Wanting to cover in-tank flushing systems in more detail, I spoke recently with Warren Agnew who, along with his wife Lois, invented a self-cleaning tank solution they have called Tank Vac. Warren revealed it was Lois who came up with the idea out of blue. “Why can’t we draw the over-flow water from the bottom of the tank?” asked Lois one morning while they were having breakfast on the deck. Warren thought about it and from there rigged up a simple drum with a small pipe system to replicate the function of the household water tank. How does the Tank Vac system work? A single perforated pipe that runs along the bottom of the water tank is connected to the outflow. When the water collected from your roof fills the tank, the over-flow creates a vacuum-like effect which draws the poor quality water from the base. This means fresh, oxygenated water entering the tank is available for use and the old stale water from the base is expelled (instead of the fresh water). Since those early days of the first prototypes, the system has been further developed in association with University of Waikato engineers and Auckland University of Technology microbiologists. Their refinements mean the system creates a discharge from the over-flow of up to 9 litres per second due to a patented magnetic valve within the over-flow pipe. The over-flow creates a sufficient level of suction to remove all decomposing material resting on the base of the tank

(usually the place from which the household supply is drawn). This cleaning cycle comes to an end when the water level drops 25mm. As we’ve mentioned previously household filters, with the exception of ultra-membrane filters, do not block pathogens such as E. coli. UV systems neutralise 97-98% of the pathogens, but when you have sediment being drawn from the base of the tank, these systems can become less efficient over time. With the decomposing material removed, UV systems, normal filters and ultra-membrane filters require less maintenance and less frequent replacement. To test the effect that Tank Vac can have on water quality, AUT microbiologists set up test storage tanks and found an average E. coli count of 450/100ml at the base and 130/100ml at the top. After a weekend of heavy rain the E. coli counts tested zero at both base and at the top! Would such a system completely eliminate the need for UV or ultra-filtration systems? In my opinion, no. Tank Vac flushes bacteria and other contaminants during downpours where the tank over flows. However. during dryer periods with the tank less than full, bacteria and other, possibly harmful, contaminants will be present in the water and as summer’s heat raises the water temperature inside the tank, pathogen numbers do increase. The best solution I believe, is to cover your bases by having both a UV system (or ultra-membrane) and a Tank Vac for year-round protection. The Tank Vac can be installed DIY for under $300 (and the tank does not need to be empty). The Tank Vac system will complement existing UV or ultra-membrane filtration systems by preventing much of the sediment ever reaching these treatment systems.

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Using the fork for change

By Logan Tudehope

I was lucky enough to sit down for an exclusive chat with beekeeping royalty this week. Gilles Ratia is President of Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations, and creator of the world renowned He's on a serious crusade and was being hosted by Maureen Maxwell, Executive Member of the National Beekeepers' Association and their Northern Ward Representative, as well as creator of Waimauku's well known cafe on State Highway 16, BeesOnline. The message Gilles Ratia brings on his crusade is a grim one: bees the world over are in crisis and if action isn't taken, the medium to long term effects are expected to be catastrophic. He believes the common fork could represent the catalyst for change.

time and work for farmers. Unfortunately they are also 'systemic' which means they affect every part of the plant and remain there (and in the soil) for sustained periods. Thus they are introduced to bees and the beekeeping industry as the bees go about their pollinating. According to Gilles Ratia, the effect they have on the bees is to severely downgrade their immune systems, resulting in a significant

The issue for bees behind Gilles Ratia's crusade is the new generation of pesticides, the most offensive of which are those known as neonicotinoids. Said to be neurotoxins seven thousand times more powerful than DDT, they save

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jump in the mortality rate within the hive from a range of diseases. Its like HIV for bees. However, the real dangers posed by the neonicotinoids are not commercial in nature. Nor are they a matter of public health, even though the toxins are said to finish up in the consumer product. The scary part has to do with pollination. If we severely deplete the number of bees, or worse, wipe them out altogether, pollination will suffer by the same margin. Thirty-five percent of human food depends upon the pollinating activities of different varieties of bees. That's one in every three mouthfuls. Many hives never have honey drawn from them – their sole purpose is to provide a pollination service to the farmer. Human requirements aside, the absence of bees would have a devastating impact on plant life and ecosystems in general. The human race is famous for disrupting nature but never before have we threatened a derailment of this magnitude.

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Maureen Maxwell and Gilles Ratia.

In the normal course of events, an average beehive has a natural mortality rate of between five and ten percent. That rate jumps to between thirty and forty percent, and much higher in some cases, when the bees are doing their work in an area where these insecticides have been used. Some of the worst examples are in the United States where the insecticides have been intensively used and numerous instances of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) have occurred. The North American beekeeping industry is in disarray and our local beekeeping industry could be affected the same way. Gilles met with a beekeeper near Gisborne recently who reported normal mortality rates in his hives when they were kept up in the hills, but when he came to winter them down on the flats within a bee's range of vast squash plantations

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which had been treated with neonicotinoids, the mortality rate went through the roof. Grass and other seeds have long been sold with coatings on them of a range of pesticides and fertilisers. Of significant concern now is the increasing use of clover seed precoated with neonicotinoid insecticides, which threatens to exponentialise the occurrence of these toxins in the environment. Organisations such as Apimondia are now producing alarming reports on the effects of these products, and slowly awareness is spreading. The results of many studies can be viewed on their website. Has the horse already bolted? Germany, France, Italy and Slovenia have now banned application of a range of pesticides containing neonicotinoids. New Zealand beekeepers are urging the government to seriously consider the effects this new generation of pesticides might be having on the broader environment. So I asked Gilles Ratia what the solution is. He leapt up and hurried off to the kitchen without a word. Presently he was back with a common table fork. “It's quite simple,” he said, “we demand, as one, that everything we put on our fork is one hundred percent residue-free. We say to our supermarket that if they cannot provide this we will take our business to someone who can. Eventually the message will filter back and attitudes will change.” My understanding is that 'residue-free' in Europe is tantamount to what we know as 'spray-free', and at the extreme of that scale we have 'organic'. Obviously the wholesale change Gilles Ratia would like to see won't happen overnight, but it is stories such as his which are likely to cause consumers to more closely investigate the origins of the food we all eat. Gilles Ratia's journey to save the “Sentinel of the Environment” is well documented on a dedicated website which is both informative and fascinating – well worth a look at


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ONLY $74.95

Call us to arrange delivery (09) 425 7754 email:


2-4 Morrison Drive, PO Box 378, Warkworth. Ph 09 425 7754 Fax 09 425 7560 2-4 Morrison Drive, Warkworth.




Purchase a Hayes permanent wire strainer 25-pack and receive a FREE cooler bag valued at $40!

• 13 horizontal wires and 110cm tall. • 4 corner tie pegs with rope. • 13 ground pegs for holding bottom wire down. • 25m netting 8 fiberglass post already in place in net. • 50m netting 14 fiberglass posts already in place in net.

25M ROLL ONLY $264.95 50M ROLL ONLY $374.95


ALSO AVAILABLE 20ltr $299 WITH A FREE G360 1ltr

100ltr ONLY $599

50ltr ONLY $559


PHONE ORDERS WELCOME! (09) 425 7754 A. Prices valid until Saturday 30 April 2011 or while stocks last. All prices include GST unless otherwise stated.

March Issue 42  

Rural Lifestyle March Issue 42

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