I hate calves and roads!

One of those days the other day. Wake up get the kids ready for school. The kids get on the bus and all is well...not. Inaya comes screaming back into the house that two of our calves are on the road???? WHAT! How in heck did they little toads get out onto the road I roared stomping on my leaky gumboots watching helplessly as the bus drives away with Inaya back on it and me left on my won to somehow figure just how the heck I am going to get two little calves who were now headed for other places back onto the farm. Found out how they got out. The escape route has since been fixed. Meantime after helplessly trying to get people to slow down a nice guys in a ute kindly gave me a hand and helped me herd the little bovine monsters back into the paddock. They looked very pleased with themselves did these little sods - just like their father did after he got to have a few heifers along with four other bulls. Like father like sons...grrrr. They shall not escape my evil clutches again....and above is the cause of their escape. Stream had decided a fence wasn't going to get between her and the grass on the other side. She's since found out the hard way now an electric wire has replaced her favourite pushing spot. Grrrrrr again.



19 November 2009


Organisers of the 2010 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards have changed the way judges evaluate some criteria in the Sharemilker of the Year and Farm Manager of the Year competitions.

National Convenor Chris Keeping says that since entries had opened on November 1, organisers had received significant interest in the changes that have been made to the human resource management section in both contests and the financial management section of the farm manager contest.

The Dairy Awards runs three awards – the Sharemilker of the Year, Farm Manager of the Year and Dairy Trainee of the Year.

“We decided there needed to be changes in the human resource section as some of our sharemilker and farm manager entrants manage one or more staff while others have no staff responsibility at all.

“We also looked at the financial section in the farm manager competition as this is another area where there can be a wide variation in what farm managers are responsible for,” Mrs Keeping says.

“Our objective was to make the contests fairer for all entrants and for them not to feel disadvantaged if they did not employ staff or were not directly responsible for the finances of the farm they managed.”

She says those managing staff will be judged on the management and development of their staff, while those with no staff will be judged on other relationships such as those with their farm owner and rural professionals. In the farm manager contest, entrants with involvement in farm finances will be judged on planning and monitoring while those with no involvement will be judged on their understanding and awareness of effect on farm finances.

The changes do not affect the Dairy Trainee of the Year contest.

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors Westpac, DairyNZ, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda Motorcycles NZ, LIC, Meridian Energy, Ravensdown and RD1, along with industry partner Agriculture ITO.

Entry forms can be downloaded from www.dairyindustryawards.co.nz. Entries close on December 24.


Decisive Fonterra result hailed

18 November 2009

Decisive Fonterra result hailed

Federated Farmers is hailing Fonterra’s decisive capital structure result as a victory for the cooperative model.

“At just under 90 percent, it’s a decisive and overwhelming statement for the future of Fonterra,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy vice-chairperson.

“Having attended the annual general meeting, it was clear the Board of Fonterra felt humbled by just how high the approval was.

“The Board has committed Fonterra to the cooperative model. It’s a model that works and a model that will keep Fonterra in Kiwi hands.

“Federated Farmers is delighted to hear this news in what is an exciting evolutionary time for Fonterra.

“Fonterra has been built into the world’s largest dairy exporter as a cooperative and will grow much larger as a cooperative. Farmers are canny business people who see the cooperative model as the way to go.

“We also commend the gusto Fonterra applied in communicating to its shareholders and stakeholders.

“In backing the capital structure review so heavily, dairy farmers are prepared to put their chequebooks where their mouths are.

“We now look forward to stage three and Fonterra’s continued engagement.

“Federated Farmers believes the next stage will follow relatively quickly as redemption risk is elevated by the new structure. That said, the ability to hold shares may mitigate that to some extent.

“The lesson to draw is how important it is to listen to farmers aspirations.

“We can debate the finer points but shareholders will back the Board when they see the Board acting in the best interests of the cooperative. Today is such a day,” Mr Leferink concluded.

The future of perpetual compensation for power lines

18 November 2009

The future of perpetual compensation for power lines

Federated Farmers has successfully negotiated a ‘sunset clause’ with Transpower that opens the way for future annual compensation payments when productive land is lost to transmission line projects.

“Farmers are all amped up over the prospect of future ongoing compensation payments,” says Phil York, Federated Farmers electricity spokesperson.

“Federated Farmers has been working for sometime to secure a system of annual compensation payments to the landowner, based on the ongoing economic cost of having transmission lines on their property.

“Many landowners, including those along the Whakamaru to Auckland transmission line, are doing their country a great service by allowing transmission lines on their land. In the very least, they deserve an appropriate form of compensation for their loss of property value.

“The deal means landowners who have already signed up for a one-off payment will be eligible for ongoing payments if the Government moves towards a system of annual compensation in the future.

“All we need now is for the Government to play ball and change the system of only providing up-front, lump sum payments to one that provides the option of annual compensation payments.

“Considering transmission lines are hugely intrusive, limit landowners’ future options and are there forever, a one-off payment is simply not good enough.

“The Federation will continue to insist the Government consider a system of annual compensation payments. These should, in the very least, be based on the ongoing economic cost of losing the use of productive land to transmission lines.

“The sunset clause provides some much needed assurance to today’s landowner that they can benefit from future improvements to the compensation system. It also reaffirms Federated Farmers commitment to changing a system that we believe is fundamentally flawed,” Mr York concluded.

Getting things right for farmers and New Zealand

18 November 2009

Getting things right for farmers and New Zealand

President’s opening speech to the 2009 Federated Farmers National Council. Speech calls on the Government to repeal the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading) Amendment Act.

Good morning fellow farmers and members of Federated Farmers National Council.

I think we all need to take a moment to thank Westpac New Zealand for the use of this magnificent stadium. To Westpac, I say thank you.

And what scenes has this stadium seen. Last week’s tour de force by the All-Whites shows that we are world beaters if we put our heart and soul into it.

Farmers know anything is possible. Farmers prove it every minute of the day.

With our colleagues in fishing and in tourism, the land and the sea generate 70 percent of our country’s revenue and deliver 100 percent of the view.

But they say a week is a long time in politics.

New Zealand’s farmers, to some members of our society, seem to resemble latter-day versions of the Shakespearean character, Shylock.

The Merchant of Venice is a controversial play. Shylock, the money lender is embittered and angry - a victim of anti-Semitic taunts, sleights and betrayal.

Shylock is shaped is a product of his surroundings and his treatment by others, so I ask:

“I am a farmer. Hath not a farmer eyes?

Hath not a farmer hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as townies?

If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?”

The poison comes in many forms and we face a battle for the hearts and minds of urban New Zealand on water. We are up against lobby groups and councils who frankly lie.

To the media assembled here, I am glad to show you a classic example of this on page 53 of the latest Forest and Bird magazine. What looks like a creek, isn’t. What purports to be ‘dirty dairying’, isn’t.

The poison is also the New Zealand dollar spiked ever higher by Government spending which, in real terms, is some $30 billion higher today than it was in 1999.

It is testament to the grit of you, the elected office holders and to our staff that we punch massively above our weight. Without your work, farming in New Zealand would be extremely difficult.

Yet the Select Committee Report on amending the toxic Emissions Trading Scheme is, increasingly, a Shakespearean tragedy.

All Kiwi farmers want is to be treated the same on emissions as our cousins in Australia. The fact is we’re not.

The rehearsed counter argument is that food is to us what coal is to Australia. If that’s the case then, why are coal exports and the oil we export to Australia, totally exempt from emissions liabilities?

You can’t eat coal or oil but it highlights how woolly the thinking is.

Two weeks ago I predicted an ‘escape hatch’ for Australia’s farmers would be opened. Sure enough it has been.

While the Rudd Government controls the lower house, the Coalition with the Independent Senator, Nick Xenophon, has the numbers in the Senate.

Australia’s ETS forces the Government and Opposition to work with one another.

That spirit is non-existent in New Zealand.

Labour commits itself to the wilderness by backing ‘its’ ETS with messianic zeal. The Government, for unfathomable reasons, is attempting to squeeze new wine into old bottles by re-engineering Labour’s ETS.

The mess, no the shambles we are in, is totally unique. No other country on earth is as fixated with emissions trading as we are. It’s obsessional.

The result has National grasping desperately for solutions. Its offer of privilege is a solution to the political impasse. But it’s a solution for what?

I will speak frankly.

I’ve had a gut’s full, an absolute gut’s full, of having our efforts thrown back in our face.

We are ‘blamed’ for generating half of New Zealand’s emissions. Dr. Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and someone I respect, has got it crushingly wrong in saying farm emissions would be ‘subsidised’ under the ETS.

If there’s a notion of ‘subsidy’, then who exactly is subsidising whom?

Real New Zealand are the farmers, manufacturers and tourism operators who earn 100 percent of the currency that pays for teachers, doctors, medicines and services. 100 percent of New Zealanders depend on what we do.

That by the way is 100 percent pure, fact.

New Zealand’s taxpayers are yet to wake up to the fact the ETS is a three lettered word for tax. They are yet to wake up to the global and local jobs scheme it really is.

You have to seriously question any supposed ‘market’ which needs legislation to force participation. That’s what the ETS is. It’s an artificially created market totally dependent on international treaties and domestic legislation to operate.

The international treaties ascribe vast sums of value to the intangible products which comprise ‘climate changing gases’.

Why is it, after the sub-prime alchemy, that so many on the right and the left are buying into emissions trading? It resembles some latter day Tulip crisis – the mother of all financial bubbles.

I ask how, as one commentator put it, ‘could a mere tulip bulb be worth US$76,000?’

Could carbon be worth the paper it’s written on? The answer is yes, if people are either willing or forced to pay for it.

It may sound preposterous, but this did happen in Holland in the 1630s.

Tulip bulbs, introduced from the near-east, were initially bought by enthusiasts. Demand soon outstripped supply and rising prices attracted speculators. Soon ‘local market exchanges’ were established to trade tulip bulbs. Incredible.

The prospect of a quick-return infected first the Dutch middle then lower classes. This coincided with contract trading so that ‘virtual bulbs’ could be traded as paper. Everyone got into it.

And while prices soared, people made money but by 1637, the market ran out of steam and imploded.

The more I hear about carbon markets, the more I see tulips. Except this is not based on a perception of scarcity but a belief in over-supply.

It’s incredibly ironic that those who love and loathe market economics totally embrace carbon trading.

I’ve met the epitome of the ‘sandal wearing lentil eating hippy’ at debates hosted by Victoria and Otago universities.

They look down at you as a despised capitalist, but then wax lyrical about how great carbon trading is.

I just see tulips.

What we do as farmers is real. We trade carbon every day of the year in the food we produce.

In 1985, New Zealand did adopt an ETS except it was an efficiency trading scheme whereby farmers traded poor practice for good by kicking the subsidy habit.

The Emissions Trading Scheme on the statute books right now is an efficiency transfer scheme and that’s why we are angry.

New Zealand produces massively more food over the emissions generated. Yes, we are told there was a 12 percent growth in agriculture emissions between 1990 and 2007. But that was half that of the general economy’s 24 percent.

I repeat, agriculture emissions growth was half that of the general economy.

Yes we did grow emissions but we grew productivity and value to the economy too. Meanwhile emissions and population growth are intertwined as the economy’s growth shows.

Our growth was substantially less than the 74 percent for transport and the 120 percent for electricity.

94 percent of our food is exported so the prospect of us being forced to produce less, so inefficient producers can produce more, is frankly bonkers. As farmers we are being told that we got too good, too soon!

So what’s the alternative?

First, let’s scrap the ETS and start with a blank piece of paper.

Trying to amend it is a growing disaster. The MMP horse trading is absolute nonsense and the National Government is being bent out of shape over it.

The original ambition was to change people’s behaviour, to use resources efficiently.

That has now turned into a complex accounting exercise, actually an accounting nightmare, whereby even the accountants can’t agree on the figures.

Do we have a $500 million deficit under Labour, or is it the break-even position Minister Smith announced earlier in the year, or is it this $105 billion blow-out by 2050?

Will the real figure please stand up!

If we do secure the ETS’ scrapping then we, as a Federation, must be prepared to revisit past positions.

Federated Farmers must revisit things we previously opposed.

But my message to the Government is that we cannot do that with the current scheme or the bizarre lengths being taken to get amendments over the line.

So let’s repeal it and start anew.

Then again, the ETS is all about doom and you can make a quick-buck from doom.

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth cost him around $1.3 million to make but made the millionaire a cool $66 million at the box office. It also helped him win an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize, worth some $2 million more.

Did I say millionaire?

Al Gore not only created the popular uplift in a fear of tomorrow, but then launched a fund that would commercialise climate reducing technologies. Neat.

Mr Gore could well become the first climate variation billionaire.

On one hand, an astrophysicist is giving us a 50/50 chance of surviving the next century. On the other, vulcanologists are saying Yellowstone, the big daddy of super-volcanoes, is overdue to pop and if it did, some 80 percent of life would be wiped out.

There’s even a movie coming out called 2012. It’s about the Mayan prediction the world will end on 21 December 2012.

History is littered with messianic predictions of doom. In fact, there have been no less than 220 dates predicting the world’s end.

The Green movement tells us unless we do something dramatic about climate variation, then, in ten years time, there will be ‘catastrophic runaway climate change’. Make that date number 221.

I am truly concerned about our young. Impressionable and easily influenced, they hear these predictions of doom and ask why bother?

Why save for the future, why study hard, why do the right thing?

We have problems with Gen-Y but that may reflect the apocalyptic future being extolled by green lobbyists.

Psychologically, these dire predictions are sucking aspiration and realism from our young.

There is so much negativity in this world so let us look to solutions.

Farmers are reducing emissions per unit of output in spite of policy not because of it.

We are proud to feed the world and cannot understand why our Government and sections of society wish us not to.

We farm globally, locally.

We embrace technology and solutions. We get up, don those gumboots and get cracking in rain, hail, sleet and snow. Our stock and crops work 24/7 - they never go on strike and neither do their masters.

The genesis of our economy is food production from the land and sea. I have four words of realism - no emissions, no economy!

We believe tomorrow will be better than yesterday. But since I started with Shakespeare, I will end with Shakespeare.

Farmers, "be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em."


New animal health company underway

17 November 2009

New animal health company underway

ParaCo Technologies Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of AgResearch Limited, has announced it has signed agreements with a number of research groups giving it exclusive animal health screening rights for a number of potentially active biological molecules.

ParaCo has been established to screen novel molecule libraries for animal health activity, and has grown out of restructuring of the Wool Consortium, Ovita and the buyout of WEL and MWNZ’s ParaCo shareholding by AgResearch Limited.

Dr Ian Boddy, Managing Director of ParaCo and Commercial GM of AgResearch said, “Our initial aim was to access molecules with known biological activity, and then test whether they had any effect on key animal health targets such as gastrointestinal nematode parasites. By choosing molecules designed to be biologically active, we hoped to increase our chance of finding activity in our area of interest.”

ParaCo will use the world-class animal health capability within its parent company to undertake the screening of these molecules.” This is a really exciting opportunity for us; by working with ParaCo we have developed and validated a battery of assays against a range of nematode parasites, including some which have developed resistance to a number of existing products,” said Dr Ross Bland, Senior Scientist at AgResearch.

The creation of ParaCo was carefully planned, according to Dr Boddy; “When we looked around for libraries of compounds that fitted our bill we wanted to focus on some of the world class chemistry from within New Zealand before looking anywhere else. Initially we chose University of Auckland as they have both an active synthetic chemistry group under Professor Margaret Brimble, as well as an internationally recognised cancer research group - both of whom had libraries of molecules available for screening.”

The arrangement with the University gives ParaCo Technologies the exclusive right to screen the molecules for animal health applications and then obtain commercial rights to any molecules on terms already agreed between the parties.

“So far we have screened a large number of compounds and it would be fair to say that we are almost embarrassed by the number of active molecules we are unearthing from seemingly new chemical classes. We will have to make a few hard calls in the near future as to where we put our efforts as we have limited funding and as we are owned and funded by a CRI cannot access some public funding usually available to start up companies,” said Dr Boddy.


Farmers sign-on to Asia business education partnership

Farmers sign-on to Asia business education partnership

To help New Zealand make the most of opportunities in the Asian century, Federated Farmers has signed-on to the Business Education Partnership – designed to inform young New Zealanders about Asia.

“With the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the offing, young New Zealanders need to think west but above all east, in this, the Asian century,” says Don Nicolson, President of Federated Farmers.

“I’m proud to ‘sign-on’ to the Business Education Partnership. It’s intended to create a much needed shift in the outlook and horizon for all New Zealanders, but our young people especially.

“The World Bank has said food production will need to grow by 50 percent to meet the needs of a surging world population. That underscores the opportunity for a food exporting nation like New Zealand.

“As someone once said, for the first time in our nation’s history, we are living in the right part of the world at the right time. By 2050, half of the world’s population, five billion people, will be living in the Asian region.

“That’s a massive market we need to understand and communicate with. It’s really important to teach our educators and young people about the selling of goods and services people overseas need and want. It’s about respect for our exporters.

“That’s why the wide variety of languages, customs and cultures must be better understood. It’s about understanding what these consumers want and then delivering it.

“That’s a change in the Eurocentric mindset to an Asiancentric one but a change that must be made. The recent free trade agreements signed with China, ASEAN, Malaysia and the Gulf-States, reflect that only two of New Zealand’s top-ten trading partners, are not in our Asia Pacific region.

“That illustrates how far our economy has travelled but we still have a long way to go to get social connectedness.

“Federated Farmers is keen to be a part of the Business Education Partnership taking New Zealand into the Asian century,” Mr Nicolson concluded.


Death Threats and Abuse sent to staff at Zion Wildlife Gardens

Barack in the free trade business

14 November 2009

Barack in the free trade business

In the space of just 24 hours, New Zealand has got welcome confirmation the United States is to take part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This news coming hard on the heels of yesterday’s New Zealand – Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Agreement.

“The news coming out of the APEC CEO summit indicates that a free trade area, encompassing the United States, Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand, is back on the table,” says Don Nicolson, President of Federated Farmers.

“To say this is great news is an under-statement - it’s fantastic news. To me, President Obama is turning away from the isolationist trade policies Federated Farmers rallied against earlier in the year.

“Free trade is the only means to truly grow the United States and world economy. With unemployment there over ten percent, the United States needs an export-led recovery every bit as much as New Zealand.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is exactly the kind of free-trade deal that the United States Congress should endorse. We don’t expect their dairy lobby will go quietly, given they went before the United States Senate last month pleading for an extension of subsidies.

"The potential for New Zealand in this is immense. It’s ‘Barack’ to business for America.

“The United States is our second largest export market worth around $4.1 billion overall. When you factor in Brunei, Chile and Singapore, this grouping represents well over 12 percent of all our merchandise exports.

“The United States is our biggest beef market taking half of all beef exports generating 42 percent of export value. It’s also our fourth largest market for lamb too.

“Fonterra's United States operations, for instance, produce revenues for the cooperative of around $3.6 billion. Strategically, the United States is the third-largest market on the planet for fluid milk behind India and the European Union. It has to be remembered that New Zealand commenced free trade negotiations with India in February as well.

“Having seen Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative in action at the Cairns Group meeting earlier in the year, I’m optimistic the Obama administration believes it can now get a deal through the United States Congress. That’s a huge turnaround that must be welcomed.

“Having the world's largest economy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership builds on the other deals both signed and in the offing. These are all things to be savoured,” Mr Nicolson concluded.

Voice? What Voice? Town Gasbag gets silenced

In a small Northland New Zealand township all is silent. Word has it the Town Gasbag has been silenced for several days. Cause? Rumour has it Ms Gasbag is stuck in bed with Laryngitis. It's travelled through the gossip grapevine. Gossips and Gasbags though out the entire country have been sitting on the end of their computer chairs waiting for the latest made up stories eminating from that far distant Northland town where the Fonterra factory continues to make milk powder and the distant sound of dairy cows can be heard mooing into the distance....

If it was the truth I'd be rich by now. I could make billions! Dreams are free of course. Stuck inside for several days is yours truly. My voice is minimal (although I keep breaking every rule possible and talking on the phone *cough*) - cause? Laryngitis. Last time I had it it lasted ten days. So far this one is coming into day 5 and I feel lousy. It's been go outside briefly - move the cows then scuttle back inside again feeling the worst for the minimal effort made. Yes the editor of the local community rag has been silenced...sort of. They'll repair the rumour machine in about a week or so until then please be patient then we'll tell all. Well it won't be me - mainly because I'm not in town. Not me I'm stuck on a crazy farm well out of earshot of the neighbours - who are a great crew by the way. Since I'm not up to writing too much at the moment I thought I'd share a little story about three bulls, a possum and a bird apartment block...
Ever since I started this blog my family and friends have been try to get me to write a book. Well it's in the process - be it all very slow progress. Who ever hears of someone calling their farm Mad Bush Farm, though I do know of some people who call their something similar. The difference is, they're real farmers - not electric fence-shocked hairy styled, leaky gumboot wearing, stick-like human being living on 12 acres with two kids, animals that aren't exactly normal, and a life that is enough to send anyone to therapy for several sessions.

In 2004 the local Maungaturoto crew got wind that some 'religious people' had bought that week infested, bush covered bare block of land a few miles out of town. The rumour was changed a week later to 'wierd new age cult people' and the rumour spreaders were all too disappointed to find out it was a Mum and two kids starting a new life far away from any hassles. The house was started in June after the weather finally allowed the construction to begin. Winter was wet but slowly and surely the framing went up. At the top of the farm was an old barn/garage that had been used so it was rumoured as a party venue for 'new age cult people'. All we found were a few bottle caps with Tuis Yeah Right beer stamp on them, an old piano with rumpty keys, a picnic table and someones old kitchen units complete with sink and taps. There it remained. Turning up one day Derek one of the builders asked me if I had any bulls there on the farm. He was given a blank look as in ?????. Turned out that sure enough three rather big rather mean looking jersey bulls had decided to make their new home at Mad Bush Farm. We rigged an electric fence around the house to stop the bovine monsters from playing demolition crew with the house framing then carried on with life away from the farm for another few weeks. I would visit the farm every so often to see how progress was on the house, see a monstrous jersey head rise up now and then from out of the 6 ft long Kikukuyu grass and yet another tree start to vanish into a bovine mouth. The bulls belonged to Terry next door - in the end the boys took them out and nothing more was seen of the gang of three. I realised that perhaps with all the bad weather that perhaps those three bulls might have checked out the ramshackle barn and sought shelter during the worst of the winter storms. On a nice day I took a walk up to the barn and checked it out. Sure enough the bulls had made very good use of the free conference venue provided by the stupid idiot humans for their private and exclusive use - so had it seemed some other creatures. The picnic table had been made full use of - the bull executives had sat down on top of it and had discussed their next corporate take over of the rival bull down the road's herd. With the decision made they decided the boardroom table needed an overhaul and had crush it to match sticks. So much for balmy summer evenings at my now destroyed picnic table. Their calling card had been left on the old thunderbox in the corner and an old window frame looked ever-so fashionable with the decoration of dried green dung splattered across the cracked dusty glass. Within a kitchen unit draw left partially open - the tail and feet of a possum sticking out as the maruspial sod slept soundly. Above the sound of multitudes of cheeping starling chicks the nests all stacked up in the open wall units the parent birds flying in and out labouring to keep up with the demand. It's the funniest thing I have ever seen. I hate possums but seeing the one sleeping in an old kitchen draw was just too funny for words. I think I spent an entire day laughing over that one. We got the possum the next week in the trap - no loss there. So much for the new-agers. No - we're just ordinary people living a crazy life.