Rural News 2 July 2024

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Live exports battle

petition contained about 50,000 signatures.

AS THE coalition Government mulls new regulations to reinstate the export of live animals, debate is heating up between supporters and opponents.

A petition calling for the ban to remain in place was presented at Parliament last week. Organised by Dr John Hellstrom, a respected veterinarian and former advisor to previous governments on animal welfare issues, the

Hellstrom presented the petition to former Labour agriculture minister Damien O’Connor, who was responsible for getting the present ban on live animal exports put in place in 2021.

Farmers and exporters claim that exports of live animals for breeding purposes would be worth somewhere up to $400 million a year. But those opposed to live exports counter this, saying many countries that buy NZ

primary exports are opposed to live animal exports and such a trade may damage these exports.

Hellstrom says he’s happy with getting around 50,000 signatures for the petition and describes it as a pretty serious effort. He says it appears those who signed the petition cover a wide range of people including farmers and veterinarians.

“This isn’t just a bunch of townie activists pushing for the ban to continue,” he told Rural News

Hellstrom claims that he’s had several farmers come up to him and say they are unhappy about what the present Government is planning to do. He says these are people who won’t go out and publicly demonstrate and rock the boat, but still have strong views about retaining the status quo. He says they believe the present ban is good for NZ and says the rest of world is also moving in this direction.

“The live export industry is developing their so called ‘gold standard’


plan, which I call a ‘fool’s gold standard’, and then associate agriculture minister Andrew Hoggard has to develop a proposed amendment to the Animal Welfare Act. He’s committed to putting that to a select committee and he’s on record as saying that this thing won’t be resolved until sometime next year,” Hellstrom says.

Meanwhile, Glen Neal, the new chair of Live Export NZ – a farmer-led group that represents all the businesses involved in the live export business –says they are planning a campaign to gain support for the proposed change. He says this will involve setting up a website and getting their message out in the media.

Neal says they will also be asking for financial support from those with a vested interest in live exports to help fund their campaign. He says his organisation is not surprised that a lot of Kiwis are interested in animal welfare, because most care about the animals that are farmed and want any new regulations to reflect that position.

“So, we will be working closely with MPI, who will be developing the new regulations that will form a package that will gives Kiwis confidence that their concerns will be met,” he told Rural News.

Neal says they will be looking to benchmark any new regulations against the standards set by the World Animal Health Organisation. He says there needs to be transparency around the development of any new regulations and says the public will have opportunities to comment when MPI reveals


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Lower payout, high costs ‘a new norm’

INFLATED ON-FARM costs and low milk payout seems to have become the new norm for farmers, says Waikato Federated Farmers dairy chair Matthew Zonderop.

He says since the middle of 2023, interest rates and farm input costs have soared and there’s little sign of any respite anytime soon.




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Zonderop made the comments after DairyNZ released its Economic Survey for the season 2022-23 – the most expensive season in a decade.

The combination of reduced milk price and increased on-farm costs compared to the previous season saw the 2022-23 operating profit drop to $2.57/kgMS, down from $3.46/kgMS in 2021-22.

Zonderop says he’s not surprised with the survey results and adds that nothing changed in the 2023-24 season that ended May 31 this year.

“It doesn’t surprise me that 202223 season was the most expensive in 10 years,” he told Rural News.

“I think a lower-than-average payout and higher farm input costs have become the norm for the dairy industry.”

Zonderop doesn’t expect the situation to change anytime soon, pointing to shipping disruptions on the Red Sea.

in the region have been escalating since November, when Yemen-based Houthis started launching drone and missile attacks against ships transiting the Red Sea. The attacks, meant to pressure Israel to stop its bombardment of Gaza, are leading to sustained delays and disruption in trade, along with surging shipping costs.

An increasing number of companies that transport vital raw materials and fuels have suspended operations in the area. They are rerouting their ships an additional 3500 nautical miles around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

Zonderop says this is leading to a price war in shipping containers and keeping prices of imported farm inputs high.

DairyNZ head of economics Mark Storey says operating expenses of both farm owner-operators and sharemilkers increased. For owner-operators, operating expenses jumped 5% in the 2022/23 season, up to $6.67/kgMS, which is the highest it has been in the last 10 seasons.

“A deeper dive into the operating expenses shows that feed contin-

ues to be the largest operating cost, making up around 30% of total farm expenses,” he says.

This was followed by labour (19%) and maintenance costs (18.7%) as the second and third highest expenses. Feed costs have been the largest operating cost on dairy farms since the 2007-08 season.

Sharemilkers also experienced an increase in operating expenses, to $3.76/kgMS. Compared to the 2021-22 season, there was also a reduced average milksolids payout, down to $4.14/ kgMS. Despite this tightened economic performance, on average, sharemilkers were able to maintain profitability and positive returns.

“Farmers have focused on making changes to manage these increased costs, and fluctuations in the milk price payout, to remain profitable,” says Storey.

“We also noted the ongoing shift in the make-up of costs farmers are facing, with a large increase in interest costs in 2022/23. In this context, it is encouraging to see that debt-toasset ratios marginally declined (down 3%), which is a positive indication that farmers did not take on more debt in that season.

Storey acknowledges that farms are still operating in a tight economic environment, and should remain focused on being considerate of their spending.

Battle over live animal exports

the proposed changes and at the select committee stage.

Damien O’Connor told Rural News that lifting the ban is putting the long-term interests of NZ farmers at risk.

He says many other countries have

now introduced such bans and if NZ goes the other way, it could pose risk to our exports to major markets such as the European Union and the UK. He says free trade agreements offer opportunities for NZ to diversify into these markets, but he says consumers there are increasingly aware of animal

welfare issues when buying food.

O’Connor says Labour took the bold step to put a ban on live exports and gave the industry a twoyear period of grace to phase out the trade. He has accused the new Government of creating a lot of uncertainty for farmers.

“I understand the view that live exports can play a role in cash flow for farmers at certain times of the year, but they have to weigh that up against the risks to NZ’s image. As I see this move by the Government as absolutely in the wrong direction of travel,” he says.

— the route the Suez Canal was built to circumvent in 1869.
Waikato Federated Farmers dairy chair Matthew Zonderop

Contractors seeking more passing bays on motorways


TORS deserve to be listened to on safety issues created by new roading developments which don’t allow motorists to pass slow-moving vehicles, says Associate Agriculture Minister Andrew Hoggard.

Opening the Rural Contractors NZ conference in Masterton recently, Hoggard says he sees the issues when he drives to Parliament from his Manawatū home.

There were median barriers preventing overtaking between Levin and Otaki as well as no shoulder space to allow vehicles such as tractors to pull over.

“There’s a lot of tractors trying to get in and out of paddocks,” he told the conference. Motorists were getting angry as a result.

“There’s lots of screaming, fingers out the windows and potentially stupid decisions being made.”

Roading developments needed to allow traffic

to get past slow-moving machinery.

He promised to take up the issue of providing for slow-moving machinery with Transport Minister Simeon Brown.

Rural Contractors NZ chief executive Andrew Olsen says the issue is not limited to Horowhenua.

“Rural contractors in Waikato and other parts of the country are facing similar anger from motorists because of median barriers and no pull over space.”

Near where he lives south of Masterton, there are several kilometres of median barriers on SH2, accompanied by poor capacity for agricultural machinery to pull over safely.

“We support reducing the road toll but giving rural contractors no capacity to pull over for kilometres at a time is actually adding to the risk of fatalities. We want Minister Brown to act,’’ says Olsen.

Triple messages on the

risks posed by to rural contactors by fatigue and accidents were also given at the annual RCNZ conference.

Safer Farms chair Lindy Nelson said these are part of a problem rural New Zealand can no longer ignore.

“The agriculture sector is one of the most important primary industries contributing to New Zealand’s economy, yet it is one of the most dangerous places to work.”

There had been a

dozen farm bike fatalities alone reported to WorkSafe since last November.

“Unfortunately, I think this is going to be our worst year yet for farm bike fatalities.”

Nelson says farmers could not work without rural contractors but sometimes put them under a lot of pressure

and the risk of accidents caused by fatigue.

“Be brave and talk to one another about what that looks like.”

Her comments were echoed the following day of the conference by Wairarapa psychologist and regional Rural Support Trust area coordinator Sarah Donaldson.

She’d had a call the previous morning from someone in the industry who was under stress. The call was one of many she received from farmers and rural contractors.

“The vast majority of people I see are staunch blokes,” says Donaldson.

Fatigue was the biggest issue. “Crash and burn – that’s about 75% of what I see in the rural sector,” she adds.

Donaldson reminded rural contractors that their body and brain needed recovery time from work – and work included being on phones and laptops as well as machinery.

Good sleep was a key to recovery but people under stress often had difficulty finding their ‘off’ button.

Pre-season conversations with farmers were important to try and set

up things well.

WorkSafe’s Paula MacKenzie says farmers were often just as stressed as rural contractors and they needed to know the risks for them and others increased if too much pressure to do a job was applied.

She outlined 15 factors contributing to fatigue including long hours, uncertain work times and operating machinery. Rural contractors at the conference confirmed they faced most of the 15 factors in their work.

Waikato’s Helen Slattery, who has been RCNZ president for three years, stood down to be replaced by Wairarapa’s Clinton Carroll. South Waikato’s Gordy Brown, Taranaki contractor Alistair Kalin and Canterbury spray contractor David Molloy join the RCNZ board.


A JOINT venture between the Government and private sector companies, aiming to get emissions reduction tools into Kiwi farmers’ hands sooner, continues to attract support.

AgriZeroNZ is a world-first public-private partnership with the stated ambition to ensure all farmers in New Zealand have equitable access to affordable, effective solutions to reduce biogenic methane and nitrous oxide emissions, supporting a 30% reduction by 2030 and drive towards ‘near zero’ by 2040.

Last week, Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) became the latest business to join the growing line-up of private sector companies backing AgriZeroNZ. Announcing the new shareholder, Todd McClay, Minister for Agriculture & Trade, confirmed the Government would match BNZ’s $4 million investment, boosting AgriZeroNZ’s funds by $8 million to total $191 million.

BNZ joins The a2 Milk Company, ANZ Bank New Zealand, ANZCO Foods, ASB Bank, Fonterra, Rabobank, Ravensdown, Silver Fern Farms and Synlait with a combined 50% shareholding of the JV. With the Government’s increased investment, it owns the remaining half through the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

AgriZeroNZ board chair Sir Brian Roche says this provides a welcome boost in funds to achieve the JV’s ambition and maintain the multibillion-dollar agricultural export trade.

“I’m pleased more of the private sector is joining us to help get practical tools into farmers’ hands.

emissions so they could take our place in supplying these customers.

“There is a very real and very disruptive risk to our agricultural sector from the need to reduce emissions but there is also an opportunity to stay among the most efficient producers in the world if we can get the right tools to our farmers.

“We’re confident that with our ambition, expertise, and increasing reach through the private sector, we’ll have 2-3 tools in widespread use by 2030.”

BNZ chief executive Dan Huggins says BNZ is backing its farming customers by investing in tools to help reduce emissions and maintain New Zealand’s competitive advantage in agriculture.

Since being established in February 2023, the joint venture (JV) has committed more than $29 million across 10 “high impact opportunities to bring emissions reduction solutions to market for Kiwi farmers”. This includes a methaneinhibiting bolus, novel probiotics, methane vaccine development, and low emissions pasture.

“New Zealand farmers are highly efficient producers of milk and meat for the world, but global companies that pay a premium for these products – such as McDonald’s, Nestlé, Danone, Tesco and Sainsbury’s – are all pushing deep into their supply chain for emissions reduction, with ambitious scope 3 targets.

“These customers want to see more progress and we need to act now, or we risk losing these highend customers and potentially breaching trade agreements. Further to this, competitor markets with more intensive farms are getting access to new tools to reduce

“BNZ has a long history of supporting New Zealand farmers, and over that time we have worked alongside our farming customers as they have continually adapted and innovated to meet changing market dynamics.

“This public-private partnership approach to addressing on farm emissions continues that tradition, helping to ensure New Zealand maintains a resilient and productive agricultural sector into the future,” he says.

From left, new Rural Contractors NZ president Clinton Carroll, outgoing president Helen Slattery and Associate Agriculture Minister Andrew Hoggard at the RCNZ conference in Masterton.

Recent rain fails to lift grass growth in North Canterbury

DESPITE RECENT rain, drought is forcing Hurunui farmers into some difficult decisions, says Federated Farmers North Canterbury provincial meat and wool chair, Sara Black.

Black, who farms sheep and beef on Marble Point Station, between Culverden and Hanmer Springs, said near continuous rain over the past couple of weeks had brought up to 50mm across the Hurunui district, which was “fantastic”.

She said it had been a long, dry summer and the recent rain was probably the most people have had since mid-December.

“But unfortunately, because the summer heat has left us, we won’t be getting the benefit of any growth from that anytime soon.”

Sheep farmers were now scanning but, with feed very short, were having to make hard decisions as to which stock to keep. Some farmers were culling multiples because they might not be able to look after them.

“Usually they’ll be the best looked-after stock on your farm because they’re the most productive,” she said.

“But this year, I think some people will be getting rid of those.

“They’ll be getting rid of those ewes with multiple lambs inside, or anything that’s late or in poor condition. They will be looking to cull it on, so that they can look after the ewes that they are keeping as best they can.”

It was a hard decision because this was the point that farmers work the whole year for.

“You’ve got to think ahead about lambing time and the next six months after that.”

The Feds’ provincial president Karl Dean said the situation was still “pretty dire” for the sheep farmers of the Hurunui.

“It’s too late to help with the feed situation now but any moisture in the ground will help with a spring flush.”

Destocking was “not the ideal situation” but hopefully people could destock and get some more normal weather through July.

A lot of snow up in the hills or some good constant rain was still needed, said Dean.

“For the dairy side of it, every bit of water will help to fill up the aquifers as they need to recharge before irrigation season can start again.”

Dean, himself a dairy farmer near Te Waihora/


SOUTH CATERBURY dairy farmers were in a tight spot heading into winter because of water shortages through summer and autumn, said the South Canterbury provincial dairy chair James Emmett.

He says farmers had been banking on summer nor’west rains that never really came.

“When we did get meaningful rain it all came a bit too late. It was a bit cold.”

Emmett said there wasn’t enough rain to keep the rivers up, to feed the various irrigation schemes. Most irrigation schemes shut down early for winter. Those farmers on the Opuha scheme and Kakahu River especially struggled, he said.

“The pressure that put on was that farmers had to make a choice, especially coming into autumn, whether they got into their winter feed or their silage stocks early, or had to destock.

“That made farmers have to make a lot of hard decisions, really.”

Emmett says pasture growth all but stopped in April or May, which was “unseasonal”.

“If you look at the last few autumns we’ve had, we were growing consistently around that 40 to 50 kg DM a day. Whereas this year, it’s only been around the low 20s.

“Winter crops are behind somewhere in the region of five to eight tonne per hectare.”

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Lake Ellesmere, also runs some sheep on a dryland block. He says feed is short there, but the dairy
side of his operation is fine because of irrigation.
Marble Point Station in North Canterbury, where recent rain hasn’t been enough to trigger grass growth.

Award dedicated to ‘good work done by all farmers’

eight-way partnership that runs for different businesses.

THE WINNERS of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy say farmers are doing better on sustainability than they give themselves credit for.

Simon and Hamish Guild were announced as the 2024 National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing and recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy at the National Sustainability Showcase held at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton last month.

The pair run High Peak Station, a 3670ha (3450ha effective) property managed by an

The pair say it is an “incredible honour” to have won the trophy and be named national ambassadors.

“We accept it on behalf of the generations that have gone before us, and in particular our parents James and Anna who have put over 50 years into developing High Peak Station,” they told Rural News

“We also accept it in recognition of every other farmer doing their best for sustainability, especially the other nine NZFEA finalists who represent a very diverse group in many ways, all

of whom represent their regions and sectors with excellence.”

The Guilds were praised by judges for their approaches to health and safety and climate resilience.

“They recognise that science will deliver some of the tools to help build resilience, such as adopting more weather tolerant pasture species; they have explored the

vulnerabilities to their business in detail; and they have adjusted or enhanced infrastructure to ensure they’re adaptable to climate change and severe weather impacts,” says chair of the national judging panel, Karen Williams.

Simon and Hamish say High Peak Station’s approach to climate resilience starts with recognising they are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and actively working to mitigate them.

“It could be after the fact in the case of an event (for example, a flood) where we have actively tried to improve our infrastructure for greater resilience, rethought vulnerable assets and campaigned for the mandate… to manage the riverbed as a preventative measure.

“In a broader business sense, it involves trying to predict what the effect a changing climate could have on our farming systems, and moving to mitigate these effects.”

One example of this might be the

DAIRY INDUSTRY good organisation

DairyNZ gets its first woman board chair in October.

Waikato farmer Tracy Brown will take over as chair from Ohaupo farmer Jim van der Poel who will step down at DairyNZ’s annual meeting after seven years in the role.

Also stepping down is deputy chair Jacqueline Rowarth.

Brown, a member of DairyNZ board since 2019, milks 700 cows with her husband Wynn near Matamata. Their farm ‘Tiroroa’ won the Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Supreme Award in 2010. An AWDT ‘Escalator’ Alumni, she was a finalist in 2017 Westpac Women of Influence Awards and won a Sustainable Business Network’s ‘Sustainability Superstar’ award in 2018. Brown is also a trustee of the NZ Dairy Industry Awards.

DairyNZ has a governing board of eight members, five directors elected by farmers and three independents,

occurrence of more droughts as a result of climate change. That might lead to looking at a change in pasture species or reducing stock numbers to the benefit of tourism or value-add opportunities.

“This is where having diversity across businesses can work to our advantage.”

They say that sustainability itself is a term that covers many aspects of farming and land management.

“We’d advise looking at what you do well first – are you profitable? Do you have a good work life balance? Are your land inputs in balance with your outputs over time? How does biodiversity and water quality stack up?

“Any one of these can be chalked up as a win, which then means you can focus on the areas that need attention, rather than thinking you need to do it all,” the Guilds say.

“We feel many farmers are actually doing a lot better on these measures than they give themselves credit for.”

appointed by the board.

Van der Poel has been chair of DairyNZ since 2017, following his election to the board in 2013. He served as a farmer-elected director on the inaugural board in 2007-2009, then again from 2013. Prior to this, he was appointed to the foundation board of DairyNZ’s predecessor Dexcel in 2000, becoming chair in 2003.

During his third reappointment as chair in October last year, van der Poel said he would remain to support the transition of new chief executive Campbell Parker, the development of DairyNZ’s new strategy, and see through the change of government.

“DairyNZ is in good health and it’s time to pass the baton to the next generation,” van der Poel says.

“I have confidence in the depth of the board, the direction of the new chief executive and strategy, and am happy to be handing over duties to Tracy in an orderly way over the next few months.”

Hamish Guild (left) and Simon Guild of High Peak Station.

Red meats’ rollercoaster ride

GLOBAL DEMAND is still strong for NZ protein and the outlook for meat is good despite the present turmoil in some key markets – especially China.

That’s the view of Meat Industry Association (MIA) chief executive, Sirma Karapeeva, who says while she may be overly positive, she believes the present downturn will sort itself out in due course. But she says there remains a question as to how long this will take.

“How long in these doldrums? I can’t speculate. I hope this will happen sooner rather than later, but the big challenge is what happens in China,” she told Rural News Karapeeva notes that

historically China has been a huge driver for primary products globally and the Chinese domestic economy seems to be at the heart of their problems which has led to a slowdown in demand and a drop in prices.

She says the sheepmeat situation in China is little bit different to beef for several reasons.

“Firstly, there are

large number of countries exporting to China, so it is really a very competitive space and we are competing with volume exporters like Brazil, Australia and a number of other South American countries. So that market is very competitive,” she says.

Karapeeva says China itself is a big player domestically. The statis-

tics in 2022 show that China had 194 million sheep.

She says because of all these factors, it’s hard to get an accurate handle on where the sheepmeat situation will land in China and whether the same high prices of previous years will return.

There has been talk that the higher priced lamb cuts have been


SIRMA KARAPEEVA says the outlook for beef in the US is expected to hold up for several years as that country continues to liquidate its herd due to drought.

She says beef exports out of the US are higher than they have been in the past.

“Likewise for lamb, with work that has been done to develop that market starting to pay off as a number of consumers there are looking for grass-fed NZ lamb, which is really good news for us because they are also one of the higher paying markets for that product,” she says.

The signing of the UK/NZ FTA has opened the door for NZ with the removal of tariffs and what appears to be a slight improvement in the UK economy. Karapeeva says the UK also appears to have problems with farmers there unable to meet consumer demand for lamb, paving the way for NZ to backfill some of that shortfall outside the traditional times of Christmas and Easter.

However, a cloud hangs over what

doing well in China at the expense of the ‘commodity’ lamb.

may or may not happen in the EU. This, Karapeeva says is because of proposed regulations around restrictions being placed on agricultural products that have been produced on land that has been deforested.

“The objective is really solid. No one wants to see global deforestation continued and we all agree that some protection needs to be put around land so that it is not deforested for production of agricultural goods.

“That’s not the issue. The issue is the way current rules seem to be drafted,” she says.

Karapeeva says, depending on what rules come into force and when, it may be difficult to prove whether land had or had not been deforested. With that comes the complex and costly issue of traceability. She says the confusion and conflicting messages is very frustrating for NZ companies to plan how they will deal with supplying their products to the EU.

But Karapeeva points out that the so called ‘commodity lamb’ still plays a big part in Chinese cuisine in the form of their ‘hot pots’.

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MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva hopes the present downturn will soon sort itself out.

Zespri CEO’s final good news story

chief executive Dan Mathieson had some good news for the country’s kiwifruit growers just days before he left the company to take up a new role with the giant berry fruit grower Driscolls in the US.

Mathieson says in the coming 2024-25 season the NZ kiwifruit industry is on track to produce its largest ever crop – 197 million trays worth $4.5 billion in global sales. He says the return per hectare for all types of kiwifruit is up on last season. He says there’s been a nice early start to the season and many growers who have produced fruit early have been rewarded for this.

He told Rural News that the season has

started well in all the major markets across Asia and the Pacific with very strong demand coming out of Japan and Korea as well as China and Europe. He says that sales for Green SunGold and Organic have been really strong.

“In Europe, the situation has been helped by

the NZ/EU FTA coming into effect which has seen $46 million dollars in tariffs wiped off our exports there. This is a very positive outcome for our growers,” he says.

In terms of China, Mathieson says Zespri has worked very hard to build loyalty with consumers and this is

working, despite the challenging economic times that country is going through.

The present situation is more difficult than in previous years but he adds that consumers there want Zespri-branded kiwifruit in their fruit bowls. Mathieson says the Chinese are very health conscious and want foods that meet this need.

“So with this ongoing demand, we are able to tell our story about the high nutritional value of our kiwifruit and its taste attributes to more and more consumers. That is allowing us to get some good shelf space at supermarkets and ensuring our customers are seeing value in what we are offering. So we are in a good position, despite a pretty challenging situation,” he says.

In Europe and in other jurisdictions, Zespri has been working to ensure that its fruit meets the requirements of new legislation around environmental issues – for example, making sure that its crops are not grown on land that has been deforested.

Dan Mathieson says they are working on a green shipping route and looking at new technologies with shipping partners to remove carbon emissions from the supply chain.

He says in respect of shipping costs, these have stayed at levels that prevailed during the height of the Covid pandemic. But he says the good news is that there appears to be extra shipping capacity and that they are not suffering from the delays they did four years ago.


IN THE next few weeks, Dan Mathieson and his family will set sail for California where he will take up the role as President for the Americas with the giant US producer of berry fruits – Driscoll’s.

This is a huge fourth generation Californian-based company that grows about 30,000ha of berries planted world-wide in 22 different countries and exports to around 40 nations.

In his new role, Mathieson says he’ll have responsibility for Driscoll’s operations in the USA, Canada and Mexico, including production of the crops and sales and marketing.

“So as the president of the Americas, that will be everything from the type of berries our growers produce through to how we sell, market and deliver sustainable value back to our company and grower partners,” he says.

Mathieson has been with Zespri for 21 years in various roles and says the company will be well served by the new CEO Jason Te Brake, who he describes as an outstanding person and leader with a great record in driving change across the supply chain. He says Jason has also played a huge role in improving fruit quality. Mathieson says he and his family are excited about going to California and the role he’s been appointed to. He says his move to Driscoll’s came about because of his contacts worldwide in the fruit industry, and Driscoll’s reached out to him to see if would be interested.

Departing Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson.

Pastoral farming ticks all the boxes, remains far from extinction


ERS staring at the media reports might be forgiven for wondering if they are heading the way of the dinosaurs. The articles, blogs and videos seem to indicate that extinction could be imminent in the wave of plant-based and precision fermentation creations appearing across the world.

Extinction would be a problem for New Zealand society.

The latest Ministry for Primary Industries update (Situation and Outlook June 2024) reported that the primary sector is responsible for 80.9% of merchandise exports and brought $54.6 billion dollars into the New Zealand economy (forecast for the year to June 30th 2024). Of that, $35.6 billion was from dairy and drystock –65.2% of the export economy.

In 2019 (pre-Covid) the total value of exports from the primary sector was $45.7 billion, of which 60.8% was brought in by the pastoral sector. Far from being in danger of becoming extinct, the pastoral sector is a bigger proportion of a bigger pie.

And the prospects ahead are for increased demand. Latest news from the northern hemisphere indicates that what we produce from pasture is desired.

Over 70% of Americans now ‘trying to consume protein’ and 53% of them are ‘limiting/

avoiding’ processed food. These figures come from the International Food and Information Council (IFIC) 2024 Survey report of over 1000 Americans. Further, 37% of people now regard protein as healthy, compared with 29% in 2022.

More good news comes from Europe. An online survey involving over 3000 people in five European countries (Czechia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK) found that when buying meat and dairy products, consumers valued freshness, quality/taste and animal welfare. Healthy eating and nutrition ranked fourth and fifth, with free range/outdoor sixth and price seventh. Environmental attributes such as food miles, carbon footprint, and organic production were the least important of the 18 attributes tested.

These results match with those from America (the IFIC survey).

Taste ranks number one for purchase decision (approximately 85% of respondents) followed by price (approximately

75%), healthfulness (just over 60%) and convenience (just under 60%).

Environmental sustainability has dropped from just under 40% in 2022 to just over 30% in 2024. For the sector ‘over $150,000 US household income’ (NZ$245,159), however, the importance of environmental sustainability increases to almost 40%. In this bracket, price is less important, and although taste is over 90% and is the first driver of any purchasing decision, healthfulness is next.

It is this premium sector that New Zealand has been targeting.

We should also be focusing on the ‘healthy ageing’ bracket. Forty percent of respondents indicated that the second most important ‘Health Benefit Sought from food, Beverages and Nutrients’ is healthy ageing, after energy and less fatigue.

Fatigue is often associated with iron deficiency (The Lancet reports that 825 million women and 444 million men are affected globally). The haem iron that humans need is found in red meat, poultry and fish and is well-absorbed. Further, a major requirement for maintaining muscle mass into retirement is high quality protein. In Ireland the ‘older adult’ diet guidelines state that a minimum of two meals a day with meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs should be con-

sumed, and, to a lesser extent, beans, peas, lentils and nuts.

Dairy products are also important for calcium. The USDA estimates that approximately 30 percent of men and 60 percent of women 19 years and up are calcium deficient.

Eat more red meat; eat more dairy…

Meat and dairy are what New Zealand does best.

And as pastoral farmers know, we do it for fewer greenhouse gases per kilogram of product than other countries can yet manage, with high animal welfare for freerange animals outside on pasture, while maintaining two-to-three times as much organic matter in our soils as other countries.

We tick the boxes and the outlook is good.

The real challenge, then, is to ensure that we do receive the premium prices for the products.

‘Fairtrade or producer/ farmer fairly paid’ ranked ninth on the importance list for food choice decisions in Europe. In America, 46% of respondents indicated ‘fair’ was important (with 51% ticking animal welfare).

Reducing impact on environment (44%) and minimising carbon footprint (42%) were less important than the convenience of constant supply locally (56%).

To achieve the premium, New Zealand mar-

keters can focus on ‘good for you’ messages, based on the facts. Meat and milk provide the highquality nutrition recommended by dieticians and do so for fewer calories than non-animal proteins. Iron and calcium are part of the package. Flavour is well-known from pasture – hence the ‘Taste Pure Nature Campaign’.

The EU researchers stated that “food choice decisions are unlikely to be made based on the environmental sustainability of a food product’s production alone”; New Zealand meat and milk products meet the requirements for taste and healthfulness as well.

Pastoral agriculture remains New Zealand’s

competitive advantage; rumours of extinction can be countered with the facts, evidence and data.

• Dr Jacqueline Rowarth is Adjunct Professor Lincoln University, has a PhD in Soil Science (nutrient cycling) and is a director on the board of governance of DairyNZ, Ravensdown and Deer Industry New Zealand.

Jacqueline Rowarth
What we produce from pasture is desired by global customers.

Envoy’s positive Fieldays debut

IT’S IMPORTANT that the benefits and opportunities of the New Zealand/ European Union free trade deal (FTA) as outlined in the actual agreement become real deals.

That’s the view of the EU Ambassador to NZ, Lawrence Merideth, who says the National Fieldays is a great place for this to happen and adds that he had many positive conversations with people about making this a reality.

Merideth took up his post in NZ late last year and was at Fieldays for the first time.

He says he was most impressed at the size of the event and the nature and quality of the exhibits and products and innovation on show. The

“Our message is that firstly we have got this new FTA which is beneficial to both countries.”

EU once again had its own stand which featured a wide range of food from member state of the bloc including the Netherlands, Greece, Italy and France.

“Our message is that firstly we have got this new FTA which is beneficial to both countries.

“That while NZ is such a high performing and massive agricultural producer, it also uses a lot of European agritech, so it’s important to say it’s a partnership. That was very much the message from Prime Minister

Chris Luxon who stated that NZ needs more partnerships,” he says.

Merideth says he had a good opportunity to look

around the Fieldays but one of the great aspects of the event was having conversations with exhibitors, farmers and poli-

World’s most

ticians. He says he met with representatives of all the NZ political parties, many of whom came to the EU stand to chat and

talk about the best ways to get the maximum benefit from the FTA.

He says it was also pleasing to see so many EU countries represented at Fieldays with products including Ireland, Poland, Germany, the Netherland and Spain.

“I believe that Fieldays will be one of the key factors in providing momentum to develop the FTA,” he says.

Merideth says in future he’d like to see more EU countries represented at the event. He says he had interesting discussions with representatives from Scion and Lincoln Agritech who were keen to explore opportunities with some of the countries not present at Fieldays. He says the FTA offers great benefits for the NZ horticulture sector and says it was good getting his

THE FONTERRA Co-operative Council is looking for a farmer representative to sit on the Fonterra Milk Price Panel.

Two members of the seven-member panel are nominees of the council: Currently, Fonterra farmer Bill Donaldson and Fred Ohlsson, who is independent of Fonterra, are members.

finger on the pulse to see how they were taking up these opportunities.

Before his appointment as Ambassador to NZ, Lawrence Merideth spent 27 years working in Belgium and Fieldays turned up quite a big surprise.

“Over the years I have stumbled over a lot of fences in that country, but I never realised that many were made in NZ by Gallaghers.

“They have 85% of the Belgium fencing market which is something I didn’t realise till I came here to Mystery Creek,” he says.

Finally, Merideth says Fieldays is a great place to have conversations and shows to how much the EU and NZ have in common and where we could do business and innovate and work in partnerships together.

to be more than one farmer perspective and mindset on the panel, recognising that legislation requires the panel to comprise a majority of members who are independent of Fonterra.” Applications from Fonterra farmers close on 8 July 2024.

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Council chair John Stevenson says the panel’s role and responsibilities are key to overseeing the integrity of Fonterra Farmgate Milk Price.

The successful candidate will succeed Donaldson who has sat on the panel since late 2014. He will remain on the panel until September 2025, providing a transition period for the new council nominee.

“Bill has provided exceptional service to our co-op as a long-term member of the panel,” says Stevenson.

The new council nominee will be an observer for the first 12 months and sit alongside Donaldson during that period.

“There’s a steep learning curve joining the panel. Starting as an observer will enable our new nominee to contribute more effectively when they become a full member of the panel in September 2025,” says Stevenson.

“Council is ideally seeking a dairy farmer supplying Fonterra who has deep on farm dairy experience and a strong understanding of what drives Fonterra’s milk price.

“For this appointment it is important to council to target a Fonterra supplying farmer to ensure there continues

The panel consists of an independent chair, David Pilkington, two nominees of the Minister of Agriculture, Professor Hamish Gow and Ming Lim-Pollard, two members who are appointees of the Co-operative Council, Bill Donaldson and Fred Ohlsson, a farmer elected Fonterra director, Leonie Guiney, and an appointed Fonterra director, Bruce Hassall.

The panel oversees the governance of the Farmgate Milk Price and the Milk Price Manual, including changes to the manual and verification by independent external experts of key parameters (such as resource usage rates, product yields and fixed manufacturing costs).

The panel is responsible for:

● Overseeing the calculation of the Farmgate Milk Price and making a recommendation on it to the Fonterra board.

● Providing recommendations to the Fonterra board on changes to the manual.

● Providing assurance to the Fonterra board that the Farmgate Milk Price has been calculated in accordance with the manual.

The Fonterra board is responsible for the forecast of the annual Farmgate Milk Price.

EU Ambassador to NZ, Lawrence Merideth was impressed by his first visit to the National Fieldays at Mystery Creek.

Ag’s large fall in small business productivity


PRIMARY sector has faced many challenges over recent years, with environmental and regulatory factors pushing businesses to adapt to survive.

Despite all this talk of change, one subject rarely discussed is how the sector performs when it comes to productivity.

There’s no denying New Zealand has a productivity issue. We rank behind both Australia and the UK in the latest OECD national level productivity, showing we’re leagues behind our overseas counterparts.

Our recent Xero Small Business Insights (XSBI)

report, Small business productivity: Industry and regional trends, also paints a concerning picture, revealing national small business productivity fell last year, with average productivity 6.1% lower than in 2022.

Although this decline was experienced by all industries across the country, it was agriculture (including agriculture, forestry and fishing) that experienced the largest fall (-12.1%). This drop was likely due to the combination of falling sales in the sector, paired with the strong jobs growth it experienced over 2023.

Even though agriculture had the largest fall

in productivity last year, it still sits above the national average (106.10 compared to 102.40), and ranked ahead of four other industries last year.

But this doesn’t mean its recent drop in productivity is something

which can be overlooked and swept under the rug.

Agriculture is New Zealand’s biggest industry, with its gross domestic product (GDP) amounting to over $13.9 billion last year. This means if productivity for small agri

businesses continues to decline, it could have a harrowing impact on our broader economy.

After all, improved productivity holds the potential for our small businesses to unlock incredible benefits. It not only enables them to lift profits, but it empowers them to pay higher wages to their staff and lower their prices. This makes it a win-win situation for both small businesses and consumers.

While improving productivity is no mean feat, if recent weather events and changing regulations have taught us anything, it’s that our agri small businesses are resilient.

We know one action

small businesses can take to improve productivity is to digitalise.

In fact, insights developed by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research show us a 20% increase in the number of businesses adopting cloud-based business tools in the future could add up to $7.8 billion to Aotearoa’s annual GDP through improved productivity.

Agri small businesses can start now by talking to their accountant about what digital tools could help their business.

Beyond this, our government should play a crucial role to make it easier for small businesses by backing initiatives which

support and incentivise digitalisation across every sector.

Other tactics to lift productivity also include buying better work tools and equipment to amplify the efforts of workers, developing smarter processes or methods of working, upskilling and training workers, as well as using entrepreneurship skills to ensure your business is operating at its full potential. It’s time for small businesses to work smarter, not harder.

This will not only ladder up to a stronger industry, but a stronger economy as well.

• Bridget Snelling is Xero country manager

Live animal exports fight

A PUBLIC battle is playing out between supporters and opponents of live animal exports.

Last week, opponents of the ban presented a petition containing 50,000 signatures in Parliament. The petition, organised by Dr John Hellstrom, a respected veterinarian and advisor to previous governments on animal welfare issues, was handed over to former Labour Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, who was responsible for getting the present ban on live animal exports put in place in 2021.

They claim that many countries that buy NZ primary exports are opposed to live animal exports and such a trade may damage these exports.

However, farmers and exporters involved in the $500 million trade aren’t staying quiet either. Live Export NZ is setting up a website and planning a media campaign to get their side of the story to the public.

One thing is clear: there’s political appetite in Wellington to bring back live exports of animals. All three coalition partners – National, ACT and NZ First – committed during election campaigning to reverse the ban on live exports and put more stringent animal welfare standards in place.

It’s now up to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to consult and draft up regulations that will allay the concerns of New Zealanders about the welfare of cows being transported by sea.

Farmers point out that live exports are a significant earner for them when domestic market and environment conditions such as droughts are unfavourable.

They accept that New Zealand has an international reputation for strong animal welfare and they are open to recommendations for further protections, including regulation aimed at minimising sea voyage risk from seasonal weather events.

Farmers also claim that the global live cattle trade will continue, but from countries and by exporters with lower animal standards filling the gap enforced on NZ farmers by the ban.

The Government has signalled that new ‘gold standard’ regulations on live animal exports should be in place by next year. Here’s hoping that the new standards will quell the concerns of animal welfare lobbyists.


Reality check

SOME PURISTS just seem to want to block any progress in NZ, oblivious to the social costs of preventing the country from turning a buck. So, your old mate was pleased to hear Parliamentary Commissioner for Environment Simon Upton give such luddites a reality check at the EDS conference. He said if they’re happy to point out problems, they also need to think about the type of economy this country wants.

“There is a danger that we all get into a bubble of clear-sighted, righteous agreement and if only other people had sufficient political will and shared our views, we’d be well on our way to the promised land.” Hear, hear! If we kneecap local industry, in most cases we will simply import the goods from countries with lower standards.


PO Box 331100, Takapuna, Auckland 0740

Phone 09-307 0399

PUBLISHER: Brian Hight Ph 09 307 0399

GENERAL MANAGER: Adam Fricker Ph 021-842 226

EDITOR: Sudesh Kissun Ph 021-963 177

“Did you notice the vicar’s shocking dandruff?”

Back off!

THE INQUIRY into rural lending practice was welcomed at Fieldays, but Groundswell NZ added a proviso that this must include banks’ treatment of agricultural emissions. “Banks are becoming de facto enforcers of the same kinds of emissions policies that have been rejected by the voting public… banks are wanting farmers to comply with emissions policies based on outdated models”. It’s a good point: problems with credit access may be caused by banks wanting to reduce the emissions disclosures in their lending portfolio reports, when the models they use don’t reflect the developing science on agricultural emissions, and the Primary Production Committee’s inquiry should include this in its remit. Groundswell suggests you go to and tell MPs to include emissions in their inquiry.

PRODUCTION: David Ferguson Ph 027 272 5372

Becky Williams Ph 021 100 4381

REPORTERS: Peter Burke Ph 021 224 2184

Nigel Malthus Ph 021-164 4258

MACHINERY EDITOR: Mark Daniel Ph 021 906 723

‘Woke madness’

REAL ESTATE agent Janet Dickson’s court case, following her refusal to complete a compulsory Māori culture course, is being watched with interest by HR folk across all industries and sectors. She labelled the course ‘woke madness’ in February, refused to do it, and as a consequence, was faced with a 5-year ban from her vocation and, of course, labelled a ‘racist’ by some. Dickson has argued in the High Court the course was of little relevance to her job and should not have been made compulsory. A further 92 agents also refused. The outcome could set a precedent in any industries that have put virtue signalling ahead of relevant skillsbased training. This mutt reckons such courses should be optional, not mandatory.

AUCKLAND SALES CONTACT: Stephen Pollard Ph 021 963 166


CONTACT: Lisa Wise Ph 027 369 9218

Want to share your opinion or gossip with the Hound? Send your emails to:

Fieldays focused

YOUR OLD mate had a wee crack at Fieldays recently for the perception it was more focused on quantity through the turnstiles than quality – a bugbear of some exhibitors over recent years. This drew a sharp response from Fieldays who say they understand the need to get both town and country to the event. In their wrapup press releases, they have again addressed the issue, making the following point: “While the metric of quantity through the gates is important, the true measure lies in attracting the right individuals who represent the entire food and fibre value chain. Something we continue to work towards year on year.” For the record, 106,000 visitors showed up and the mood was reported as generally positive.

SOUTH ISLAND SALES CONTACT: Kaye Sutherland Ph 021 221 1994

DIGITAL STRATEGIST: Jessica Marshall Ph 021 0232 6446

Macca customers in no rush to buy a sustainable Big Mac

success of the McDonald’s business model.

RECENTLY I spent a couple of days on the Macca’s site at Fieldays.

A few years ago, our first appearance at the southern hemisphere’s biggest agri-business event was novel, and a bit misunderstood. Was Macca’s there to sell some burgers? Why would one of the world’s biggest food services companies want a site alongside a stock gate seller, and just down the road from the possum trap stand?

Aside from the free soft serve and apple pies, this year we hosted the New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (NZRSB) at the Fieldays Pavilion, with a group representing the full value chain of the beef sector. We’re a founding member, and our job is to provide insight into the consumer end of that value chain. With global brands like McDonald’s making commitments around climate change, we’re wanting the beef sector to accelerate its positive change. So, on a panel of subject matter experts, I was there to provide a mix of Macca’s global perspective, and what our local customers are telling us.

When you’ve got a target to be able to get a drive-thru customer from the point of order through to collecting their order in a matter of minutes, it can be hard to get them to think about where the ingredients that went into their food came from. Generally, they care more about the price, quality, convenience, and experience. That’s a key part of the

The good news for us is that around 90% of the produce we use across our menu is sourced in New Zealand. Aotearoa is a great producer of quality produce. In fact, we’re so good that the McDonald’s world wants our produce. Last year 37,000 tonnes of beef was exported to other McDonald’s markets. That’s around 10% of New Zealand’s total beef exports.

So, while we’re a minnow in the McDonald’s world in terms of restaurants, we’re a strategically important country in a supply chain that feeds around 70 million people around the world each day.

With that strategic importance comes responsibility. 99% of McDonald’s global emissions come from scope 3 sources. Beef farming is the single biggest contributor to McDonald’s greenhouse gas emissions. As a top 10 beef export market to McDonald’s, that explains why we’ve been working with the beef sector for over a decade to look at ways to further reduce methane emissions.

Another part of my day job is meeting with people across our supply chain. Recently I’ve attended the Zanda McDonald Summit and the NZRSB conference. As much as we talk about the macro issues of climate change and what more the New Zealand beef sector can do to play its part in reducing emissions, some of the best insight I can provide the room is what our customers are after.

With that in mind, we did some customer research. The super summary is that in the current economic climate, Kiwis priorities are very pragmatic. What they care most when they visit Macca’s is that they get a quality, tasty product. One that fills them up and represents good value. Across the board, considerations like sustainability and climate change rank much lower. But, when prompted, New Zealanders prioritise factors such as local sourcing and animal welfare much higher than the more technical topics like climate change.

The reality for McDonald’s, and those who will gather for the NZRSB panel discussion, is that Macca’s customers won’t be rushing to buy a more sustainable Big Mac right now. But - and it’s an important but – they really hope the sector is getting on with making New Zealand beef as sustainably sourced as possible.

The Fieldays panel discussed the future productivity, profitability and resiliency of the beef sector, and how it relies on a cross-sector approach to continuously improve. Relative to other parts of the world, we have a big advantage due to our farming systems. We know we need good data, used well, to inform good decisions. It’s always positive to get a range of people together and providing insight from their parts of the value-chain. I always learn a lot listening to people who want to keep

Aside from serving free soft serves and apple pies, McDonald’s hosted a panel at the Fieldays to discuss the future productivity, profitability and resiliency of the beef sector.

Forgiving and moving on

THE ANNUAL National Fieldays have come and gone for yet another year.

Like many others did, we made the trip to Mystery Creek. Yep,

I very much enjoyed the day. I always enjoy watching fencing competitions – rather impressive stuff I thought! What appears

to me to be a small error, or miscalculation, can mean losing a place in the top 3, or even the championship itself. To me, that’s a tough price

to pay!

Another rather random thought I had was: ‘crikey, for a “sunset industry” we are doing more than just okay’.

I do remember the old days when the Clydesdales were part of the show. I still think something like these magnificent horses would go down well today too. Yep, bring back the Clydesdales, I reckon!

By the time this edition of Rural News gets to your mailbox, the Super Rugby season will be all done and dusted for another year as well. One of our regions will be celebrating, the other probably doing something more closely resembling crying in their coffees!

My hope is that it’s the players that decide the outcome and not a bad call from the ref or the TMO.

When the officials make mistakes, have you noticed it never seems to be the winning team that calls them out? Hmmm.

Again, I think folks need to be reminded the refs are humans too. And all humans will make mistakes. Good refs just make fewer mistakes than the others.

It’s just the same with the players too.

I did learn many years ago that most of the ‘experts’ are on the sidelines or laying back in their Lazyboy chairs. I’ll leave that one there!

Now, when it comes to making brain-fade decisions, my favourite quote would have to be this one from 94-yearold Thomas Sowell: “It’s is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”

Wow, what a cracker!

When I hear that quote I do not immediately think

of our sports men and women, the coaches, or the refs. Nor do I think of our hard-working farming communities. None of them ever come to my mind.

My first thoughts of where this is so evident is with the political class. And not just locally either, but internationally. They and their ever-fawning army of bureaucrats, enthusiastically supported by their lapdogs in the media, of course, surely take out the prize for this one, in my opinion.

There are many examples, from both history and more current, where such “decisions” should have resulted in prison time. But that has not happened, and it won’t, because they “pay no price for being wrong”. Again, and yet again, the price is ultimately paid by “we the people”. Unjust, indeed!

Families that manage to stay together in today’s world don’t enjoy that ‘miracle’ because, somehow, by pure luck, they’ve managed to live mistake free! Not at all. Luck just won’t cut it when it comes to family and the complexity of family relationships. Obviously, there is much deeper stuff involved. Somewhere in their story you will discover some archaic value called unselfishness. And forgiveness will be right in the mix as well. Forgiveness is a powerful thing – it allows you to successfully move on, free from the shackles. And yes, I surely am grateful I know the one who is the ultimate forgiver! I’ve been able to move on!

Take care and God bless.

• If you want to contact Colin Miller email: farmerschaplain@

A small error, or miscalculation at the Fieldays fencing competition can mean losing a place in the top three, or even the championship itself – a tough price to pay.

Plan to keep fall armyworm away

THE MINISTRY for Primary Industries (MPI) is investing in the development of an integrated pest management approach to safeguard New Zealand’s maize and sweetcorn industries against fall armyworm.

MPI will contribute up to $300,000 over three years to the $630,000 project through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund

“We’re collaborating with the Foundation for Arable Research, Process Vegetables NZ, Vegetables NZ Inc, and growers on management and mitigation strategies to help reduce production losses and enhance resilience to this invasive pest,” says Biosecurity New Zealand deputy director-general Stuart Anderson.

“Together we’ll develop some really good tools for growers, includ-

ing establishing surveillance networks on a national scale.”

Fall armyworm is believed to have blown over to New Zealand from Australia after a cyclone in early 2022.

After a year of battling the pest, MPI and industry partners agreed to close the response and

shift the focus to longterm management of the pest by industry. Fall armyworm has the potential to impact 72,490 hectares of maize, with an estimated value of more than $480 million and 3320 hectares of sweetcorn production, with an export value of $36.9 million.

“We don’t know what the full impact of the fall armyworm incursion will be in the future as it depends largely on our winter temperatures and suitable host plants in the absence of maize and sweetcorn,” says Ashley Mills, biosecurity officer, Foundation for Arable Research (FAR).


“For instance, in areas with warmer winter temperatures such as Northland, the insect has the capacity to overwinter and survive all year round. With warming temperatures, we might expect the problem to grow year on year.

“Part of our research will be to identify gaps

of knowledge around the winter growing season and dispersal of fall armyworm.

“We’ll produce models and come up with early warning tools for agronomists and growers, so they understand when they need to employ their most intensive management strategies.

“There’s no one-sizefits-all solution, and approaches may vary according to factors such as region, climate or soil type. In most cases, encouraging beneficial insects will work, but in more problematic regions or localities, insecticides might be needed, and the timing of application will be important.

“Over the next 3 years we’ll focus on understanding fall armyworm phenology and distribution, developing New Zealand specific eco-

nomic thresholds and finding long-term solutions that reduce reliance on agrichemicals, and preserve soil health, water quality and biodiversity.”

FAR and Vegetables

NZ Inc will host information and tools for fall armyworm management on their websites. This will include modelling, distribution maps, guidelines, and training videos. FAR will also host workshops over winter, tailored to each region.

Anderson says engagement with growers will be an essential part of the programme.

“Ultimately, it’s the growers that will need to implement the strategies and use the tools. This project aims to make these easily available for everyone to use.”


Fall armyworm is believed to have blown over to New Zealand from Australia after a cyclone in early 2022.

‘Let’s not chase rainbows’

FARMERS WITH experience and breeding knowledge are deeply concerned about the pressure to breed for low methane sheep traits and its effect on other important traits they have been pursuing over the last 100 years.

South Otago sheep and beef farmer Hamish Bielski says farmers choose their flock replacements based on a range of well-researched traits that include health, reproduction, survivability, lamb growth, meat, wool, and body condition.

This has led to farmers producing food for the world more efficiently, with less antibiotics, and with the world’s lowest greenhouse gases per kilogram, he adds.

Now the search is on for sheep that are even lower methane emitting.

This sounds great until one realises that choosing one trait over others negatively impacts those other traits, notes Bielski.

AgResearch predicts that choosing this trait could cost 10 to 15% per year sacrifice in growth, reproduction, survival and adult weights. Physical changes to sheep could also mean we end up with an inferior ewe flock struggling to convert poorer quality pasture to high quality food, earning less critically needed overseas income for the country, and a reduction in farming profitability.

Bielski investigated the new low methane trait on the nProve ram selection database and applied their current selection criteria for purchasing commercial rams.

“Our criteria is simple;

the production and health traits are to be in the top 50% across flock and breed for the industry except for adult weight, wool and facial eczema (not an issue in our area),” he tells Rural News.

“From a 1000 potential rams in a flock recording for methane, these criteria narrowed

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selection to 13 rams who proved to be balanced animals that I would be happy to breed from. Of these 13 rams, only 3 were considered low methane emitting. If this is statistically applied to a real farm situation, the theorised reduction in emissions would be nowhere near the stated target, without even looking at structural traits.

“We are just not prepared to select for a low methane trait.”

Bielski also notes that with genetic selection for methane at present, there is danger in any selection based on theory, numbers, and assumptions rather than true accuracy at farm level.

uation is the plantain panacea. Millions of dollars were invested in order that nitrate losses could be minimised and so the marketing begins until its actual application on farm. Cows simply don’t eat it.

“The Lincoln University Dairy Farm is back to re-thinking the expected benefits from plantain. As the LUDF quoted ‘we didn’t want to reduce efficiency and profitability if planting plantain actually meant that less food was produced and harvested’.”

ing why no one bothered to consult them before going down a rabbit hole.

“We don’t want the same situation where methane forces significant productive and economic trade-off’s in already complex selection criteria.

“Breeding for low methane sheep genetics differs from the plantain debacle though because of risk. Once you have infused low emitting genetics through your flock, the recovery of the productive gene pool driving our flocks will take a lot more than a month or two and one pass with a drill to claw back.

farmers is critical thinking, not group think.

“Who in their right mind wants to compromise progress on productive traits in our sheep flock chasing an invisible and harmless gas? As a lead AgResearch scientist says, ‘the industry is currently only achieving around 50% of potential for production traits. Chuck shedding sheep into the equation, and that could be lower’.”

He says there is far more to be gained from taking that opportunity to up the productive efficiency and productivity in our sheep flocks than breeding for low methane animals.

“Our sheep data system nProve is a world class programme and full credit to Beef & Lamb NZ for developing it, let’s use it wisely.

“A recent and excellent example of this sit-

Bielski says this is a classic case of politician’s, academics, and commercial companies so eager for an outcome that farmers are left in the “dust of desperation” either footing the bill or wonder-

“Most concerning, though, is the opportunity cost to our sheep and beef farms from this ‘gravy train’ of money, time and effort spent reducing methane emissions through genetics. Imagine if the equivalent money and time was spent on research/education and adding emphasis to breeding for animal health and performance under worm challenge or facial eczema.

“What we need from our representatives across science, industry bodies, government and

“We could also change the narrative from emissions to ecosystems and energy. NZ sheep and beef farmers’ excel in this area, because methane from livestock is derived from solar energy, not oil. Let’s not chase rainbows but focus on proven genetic gains and efficiency, delivering to our customer, a taste of pure nature.”

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THE POULTRY Industry Association of New Zealand (PIANZ) has won the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Award.

It is the first time the award has been won by an industry body.

Presented earlier this month at the annual NZVA Awards, PIANZ was honoured for reducing the use of the antibiotic zinc bacitracin (ZB).

Previously, New Zealand chickens raised for meat were fed ZB along with their daily feed, as a preventative measure against disease. By introducing gut health support, and improving stock management techniques, the industry has successfully phased out ZB as a preventative measure, which had been a major contributor to New Zealand’s overall antimicrobial use.

PIANZ says the New Zealand poultry industry is now one of the few in the world that uses no antibiotics prophylactically at all.

NZVA chief executive Kevin Bryant congratulated PIANZ for its commitment to addressing the challenges of AMR.

“This award is greatly deserved,” he says.

“PIANZ has demonstrated leadership and become a great advocate for reducing our reliance on antibiotic use. It is a wonderful example of an industry coming together to find solutions for a problem that not only threatens animal health, but human health as well.”

AMR happens when viruses, bacteria, or parasites change and no longer respond to medicine, making them difficult or impossible to treat. Vaccinations are a critical tool in preventing the development and spread of drug-resistant viruses and bacteria. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said antimicrobial resistance is one of the top global public health and development threats.

PIANZ executive director

Michael Brooks says he was proud the industry had achieved its collective goal of prophylactically eliminating the use of ZB, which had been used to prevent a commonly occurring disease in the chicken’s gut.

“The New Zealand poultry industry has worked together to achieve the significant milestone of using no antibiotics at all prophylactically,” he said. “Our commitment has been to help reduce AMR overall, and we are proud of the impact we have been able to make in this space.”

The industry’s work directly supports the NZVA’s goal that by 2030 New Zealand will not need antibiotics for the maintenance of animal health and wellness. To achieve this, it advocates that animal owners and farmers work alongside their veterinarians to ensure best practice care and nutrition is provided, and that animal vaccinations are kept up-to-date.

South Otago sheep and beef farmer Hamish Bielski

Woollen covers that keep newborn lamb safe, warm

manufacturer of woollen covers for newborn lambs says his covers pay dividends in survival rates and liveweight gains, especially at a time when farmers are feeling the economic pinch.

David Brown has been marketing his Woolover brand covers for 30 years, producing a range of covers sized for lambs, dairy calves or beef calves.

The former South Canterbury farmer contracts out the weaving, cutting out and assembling of the products to various Christchurch firms. He says his lamb covers, made of 100%

New Zealand wool, have the maximum number of fibres per square metre to deliver the maximum warmth and available stretch to accommodate the first three weeks expected growth of a newborn lamb.

Brown says farmers can expect two-thirds of a kg extra weight gain in the first three weeks for a lamb wearing a Woolover cover, compared to a lamb that isn’t, particularly in cold wet windy weather.

At $6 each cover and the schedule at $5/kg liveweight, Brown says the extra weight alone goes a long way to paying for the covers, “plus the satisfaction of reducing the risk of lambs dying from


He bases the weight gain expectation on a trial he carried out with his son several years ago,

Claas completes 500,000th machine

CLAAS IS celebrating half a million combine harvesters built since 1936, marking the occasion by building anniversary machines from the Lexion, Trion, Evion and Dominator families at three locations on three continents.

Claas has been a key pacesetter in combine harvester development from 1936 onwards, the Harsewinkel-based family company rationalising grain harvesting in Europe with the mowing-threshing-binder with the M.D.B, in 1946 with the arrival of the SUPER series, which from 1953 could also be delivered with add-on engines.

In 1953, the company successfully entered the self-propelled combine harvester segment with names like Hercules, Matador, Senator and Mercator. In 1972, the Dominator consolidated its status as the European market leader with the Dominator 6 and Dominator 8 series, alongside innovations such as 3D cleaning, auto contour header guidance and the Mega threshing unit.

In 1995, the Lexion 480 launched with APS hybrid technology and proved to be a game changer in terms of performance, comfort and electronic applications for the emerging precision farming era. Since 1997, the ground-protecting Terra Trac chassis technology on the Lexion and for the Trion since 2021, has established the use of rubber tracks.

With around 100,000 and over 75,000 units respectively, Domina-

tor and Lexion account for the largest share of the 500,000 combine harvesters built to date. Meanwhile Super and Super Automatic (approx. 65,000 units) as well as Europa and Columbus (together approx. 60,000 units) and the Tucano (approx. 35,000 units) also contributed significant numbers to the global success.

Over the decades, Claas has also supplied other manufacturers with combine harvesters. Since 1992, the first Claas Crop Tiger rolled off the assembly line in India, of which more than 10,000 units have been produced. Since 2001, Claas has also been producing Lexion hybrid combine harvesters for the North American market in its own factory in Omaha, Nebraska.

Since 2013, Claas has also produced combine harvesters and components in China, with a Dominator 370 hybrid introduced in 2019, followed by the Dominator 260, with six walkers, in 2022. At Törökszentmiklós in Hungary, a dedicated facility has been producing cutters and corn pickers for Claas combine harvesters since 1997, with the 100,000th cutting unit leaving the factory in 2021.

With 500,000 units produced over 88 years, the anniversary will be marked with a limited number of Evion, Trion and Lexion models built with a special paint finish and extensive decals. The design is a homage to the combine product history, with the silver metallic colour representing harvester production from 1936 up to 1961.

when they took lamb covers to a number of farms between Oxford and Rakaia, and put covers on 1800 sets of

twins – covering one twin and leaving the other, and weighing the lambs before and after to see what difference the

covers made.

“We got two thirds of a kilogramme in 16 days. And the weather was abnormally fine. It wasn’t particularly cold.”

Brown does not say all lambs should be covered but suggests a minimum of 10% of the flock.

“Three thousand ewes will need 300 Woolover lamb covers. This is because storms always arrive at peak lambing time, and twins and triplets are the most at risk.

“Three hundred Woolovers at $6.00 will cost $1,800 so you need to save just 18 lambs to cover your investment.”

Brown admits that fitting the covers requires some work, and with the rise of some easy-care

breeds, “not ever farmer wants to shepherd”.

Those who do, reap the rewards, he says.

Brown says that where people “are really making some money” is with weather forecasting getting much more accurate. At lunchtime a farmer might hear a forecast of a Southerly coming through at four o’clock, when he knows he has, say, 10 sets of newborn twins in the paddock.

“Go out and cover those 10 sets of twins because those are the ones you’ll be thinking about at 10 o’clock tonight. Be proactive not reactive. At least you will know at 10 o’clock tonight that they’re not going to go down.”

Made of 100% New Zealand wool, the covers deliver maximum warmth and available stretch to accommodate expected growth.

Fieldays’ top young innovator

bridge, was the winner of a Fieldays Innovation Award, which she admits was originally her elder sister’s idea, but oversaw the development and refinement into a saleable product.

Like many great ideas, simplicity is the key, with a 3-D printed nozzle attachment, which houses a pre-loaded coloured sponge which leaves a mark on the side of the animal’s face as it’s drenched.

Said to offer a 100% indication when drenching, the attachments help reduce increasingly expensive drenching costs by eliminating double-drenching, while also giving confidence that the whole mob has been treated.

The earliest prototype was built in metal, but proved to be heavy and clumsy, so was refined with the use of a PLA plastic, with the attachment now only weighing thirty-three grams. During the development, Penny overcame initial issues with sourcing and cutting the applicator sponges, then dyeing them with ink. The current version now uses a paint-like marking solution that, with a thicker consistency, doesn’t clog or drip. Penny was selling starter packs at Fieldays, including the attachment and three dyed sponges for a bargain $35 and is currently setting up a website for online purchasing.


IN A move that will be welcomed by many, Austrian manufacturer Pottinger appears to be following a trend of bringing its machines down from the technological high-spec offerings seen over the last few years and offering them to customers in a more userfriendly format.

The company says that by doing so, it hopes such machines will appeal to farmers themselves, rather than just contractors, who tend to be more focused on operating sophisticated machinery. Of course, any corresponding reduction in price is also likely to be appreciated. At a recent release event for new grassland products, the company offered the first showing of the Jumbo 5000 forage wagons that follow the adopted trend.

Using the same body and chassis components as the 7000 and 8000 machines, the 5000 Series is relieved of features that might only bring marginal benefits to the operation of the established range, such as a move to mechanical drive of the pick-up reel, rather than the current hydraulic format. The driveline of the new series has been retained from its larger siblings, enabling tractors of up to 360hp to be used, although 160hp is being suggested as the minimum requirement.

The latest design was to keep the wagons compact, offering maximum volume via a minimum footprint. This has been achieved by keeping the drawbar short and bringing over the moving front panel/bulkhead arrangement, allowing crop to be packed into the space above the pick-up reel, said to offer an additional 4.3m³ capacity.

– Mark Daniel
The Mark-It drench gun attachment, developed by student Penny Ranger.


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