Going against the milk stream

In a landscape dotted with black and white dairy cows, Mangamaire farmers Ken and Steph Norman are proof that a successful drystock operation can compete with its dairy neighbours when it comes to return on investment.

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  • Say cheese

    Every new business venture has its challenges. Funding, compliance, brand recognition and sourcing the right genetics have been some of the biggies for Miles and Janet King. When the couple started milking sheep 17 years ago the dairy sheep industry was almost non-existent in New Zealand. With few examples to follow, they learnt many lessons the hard way.

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  • Otago to get deeper, bigger port

    A $30 million development at Port Otago announced today includes deepening the shipping channel to accommodate larger container vessels and will target growing primary sector exports from the south of the South Island.

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  • Homework needs to be done

    The inaugural FoodHQ Ewe Milk Products and Sheep Dairying Conference was held at Massey University earlier this year. Kellogg rural leadership programme participant Damian Buckley attended and reports back.

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  • Farming women band together

    A gap in the market for a women’s progress group focusing on sheep and beef has been addressed by the new Wairarapa Rural Women’s Initiative. 

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The artificial birds and bees

Dianne Allan has a job that most people will not bee-lieve – she’s a queen bee artificial insemination technician. She works on contract for Betta Bees Research, helping inseminate about 300 bees during the November and February breeding seasons. About 120 of the queens are sold to beekeepers and the rest kept for Betta Bees’ livestock breeding programme aimed at genetic improvement.

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  • Mud, glorious mud

    Autumn is definitely here bringing with it seasonal colours, leaves all over the driveway and this year, mud. After moaning last time I wrote about how dry it was now it’s wet, cold and muddy. We were away in the North Island over the weekend of April 11 and 12 and came home to 60mm in the rain gauge and snow on the ground. It has been wet underfoot ever since.

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  • Stepping up to the marquee

    It’s Anzac Day afternoon, we’ve just had 25mm of rain and it’s still falling. It is the most rain we have had in one day since last June. 

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  • Walking the talk

    A group of Ruapehu walkers have highlighted the value of physical fitness and having social time off the farm. A 16km walk through the Tangarakau Gorge on the Forgotten World Highway, west of Taumarunui, helped raise awareness for the Rural Support Trust while reminding farmers of the importance of looking after themselves.

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  • Lest we forget

    It was an emotional sight – 100 men and women, most in World War I replica uniforms riding down the main street of the small North Canterbury town of Waikari on Anzac Day. They rode in memory of the men and horses that died in both world wars. It was also the first time the contribution made by horses to New Zealand’s involvement in the Great War had been officially recognised.

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Getting one’s goat

I will enter my seventh decade on the planet before May is out.

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  • The beautiful game

    Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport and is worshipped as a religion. The All Blacks are celebrities and local test matches become pretty much public holidays. But if we flip the coin to women’s rugby, why are we met with ridiculous stereotypes?

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  • A solid foundation

    We have had a feeling of deja vu lately because Suzanne and I – along with our son-in-law Aaron the builder, our son Travis and his girl Julie – have been working long hours to complete a new house on the farm.

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  • Staring down the barrel

    It seems waiting for rain is just like waiting for industry change. What is promised and what is delivered are very different and when it does finally arrive it is often too late to bring the required results to turn things around. 

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  • Let the games begin

    For many of you hard-working farmers it might seem as though we students are constantly enjoying summer holidays, mid-semester breaks, long weekends and mid-year vacations. Unfortunately at some stage we do have to head back to uni for a spot of study. 

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One-man band fine-tunes farm

Being essentially the sole labour unit, Simon Davies is a busy man on his and wife Joanna’s Toko Mouth farm near Milton in South Otago. Terry Brosnahan paid this enterprising couple a visit.

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  • On the safe side

    On a flight and shuttle journey into Auckland City recently I was surrounded by a group of people going to a health and safety seminar. It was rather scary to think these people were getting together, at best, to critique what they were doing and question the justification for some of their actions, but at worst to reassure each other they were on the right track. 

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  • Beef industry collaboration vital

    Breed societies have been around for as long as the beef industry has existed but are they really necessary? 

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  • Merit in greater productivity

    Most of us would admit we could make better use of our ewes. After all, they’re an investment in our flock’s future productivity and profitability. About 20% of the genetic merit in a flock is because of ewes. The only time we have the chance to contribute to the average flock’s genetic merit is when we select young ewes as replacements. These ewes represent the most recent level of genetic potential. 

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Getting feed priorities right

With drought having affected many parts of New Zealand farmers need to be considering what they can do now to make up for lost opportunities in animal production over summer.

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  • Seeing green

    Seeing a bulk of greenfeed in a scorched landscape was enough to make any farmer salivate this summer and growing bulk is what forage maize does best.

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  • Ahead of the curve

    North Canterbury sheep farmers Tim and Jen Le Pine have used their local Sheep for Profit Partnership programme to turn raw data into improved results. 

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  • Topping up the tank

    Livestock have been the number one priority this summer in areas suffering from dry or drought conditions throughout New Zealand. 

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  • Getting the green light

    Autumn can be a time of good growth rates and high quality feed, assuming frosts do not hit too early.

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Saving the soil

Soil damage and increased nitrate losses are part of the collateral damage when grazing dairy cattle. This damage can affect yields in subsequent crops.

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  • Biopesticide has plantain moth in its sights

    AgResearch scientists are a step closer to combating the plantain moth – Scopula rubraria – with a natural insecticide.

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  • Ploughing’s pulling power

    It is a hard road to turning over the perfect furrow especially if you have to travel 2000km to do it.

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  • Autumn-sown cereal an option

    Autumn-sown whole crop cereal silage offers growers a high yielding, low-cost crop option along with the ability to maximise returns on a per-hectare basis.

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  • Keeping score

    The need for farmers to keep detailed farm records was reiterated at the recent FAR annual results round-up. FAR chief executive Nick Pyke outlined a draft of Good Management Practices for the arable industry as required by Environment Canterbury’s Matrix of Good Management project. While these are yet to be made public what was apparent was the need for farmers to maintain accurate and auditable farm records.

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An uplifting experience

A recently-perfected handpiece lifter that leaves more wool on a sheep is making post-shearing check and any significant increase in feed demand a thing of the past. *Sandra Taylor* shares the good news.

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  • Engine modifications risky

    Tractor owners are being warned against the potential risks of having engine control unit (ECU) remapping performed on tractors, trucks or other self-propelled machinery.

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  • Tick it to ride

    Thinking of buying a new tractor? Deals abound at this time of year so keeping a few pointers in mind can help with the decision-making process. Field day season means farmers are offered machinery deals that can at times seem too good to be true. Pencils are sharpened and sales reps busy trying to lock in sales.

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  • An unbeatable track record

    Gary Frazer is a name many people in farming and machinery circles know well. He was the first-ever New Zealand Young Farmer of the Year in 1969 and has gone on to be a successful businessman and integral member of the NZ Vintage Machinery Club. He lives in Marshlands, Christchurch with wife Janet.

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  • Set in motion

    A traditional reciprocating internal combustion engine uses valves to control air and fuel flow into and out of the cylinders, enabling combustion. Quintin Boyd and James Hoban explain the mechanics.

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Methane gas scientists upbeat

The focus on greenhouse gas emissions is not just on reduction but keeping NZ farmers competitive the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Mitigation conference was told recently. Terry Brosnahan attended.

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  • Wet winter soils limit cattle

    Central Hawke’s Bay farmer Alastair Ormond wishes he could run more cattle on his award-winning farm. A big zone of heavy Atua soils through the centre of Te Umuopua limits winter cattle grazing on the Hatuma farm.

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  • The good dirt

    I wonder how many readers are aware 2015 has been declared The Year of Soils by the United Nations. You are excused if you missed this one. The Government and New Zealand research institutes have shown little interest although I gather the NZ Society of Soil Science has plans. 

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  • Plenty of scope in the Bay

    In my last column Otago Regional Council’s water quality rules came under the spotlight. This time the focus is on what Bay of Plenty Regional Council is doing to manage water quality.

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  • Testing farmers’ limits

    North Canterbury Federated Farmers president Lynda Murchison recently told an environment conference for farmers they needed to be more involved.

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Closing the gate

Increasingly our email inboxes are full of clutter. You buy something in a shop or online, donate to charity or enter a running race and get signed up to an email list. 

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  • Avoiding a pup

    I contribute to a weekly technology-problem solving clinic. A recent visitor brought along a laptop that was practically unusable. It had what I call “crapware” that had taken over his machine – more on cleaning your computer of crapware plus how to prevent it getting on to your machine at the end of this article.

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  • With villainous intent

    Malware – short for malicious software – is a programme created to disrupt a computer’s operation, or to gather sensitive information such as passwords or credit card details. This software has a malicious intent because it functions only to create havoc for the computer or device’s owner. 

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  • Watching your health

    About 10 years ago I was very excited to buy a device that used global positioning systems (GPS) to measure how far I ran. The Navman R300, which cost about $800, was like wearing a large ashtray on my arm. It was more than 2.5cm deep and weighed well over half a kilogram. It would lose the GPS signal under large trees or around tall buildings.

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  • Watch this space

    It’s almost two years since I first wrote about alternatives to watching “regular” television as New Zealand converted to digital broadcasting. It’s fascinating to see how much the landscape has now changed.

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All hail the chief

Farming isn’t quite enough to keep John Foote busy. He’s also a firefighter, school bus driver and swimming pool technician in the small Otago town of Middlemarch. Words and photos by John Cosgrove.

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  • Toast of the coast

    A rare opportunity to tour iconic North Island east coast hill-country sheep and beef station Tautane drew a large crowd to the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Pongaroa Big Day Out recently.

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  • Striking gold

    After a fortnight in March in Abel Tasman National Park I’m already planning my next visit to this unique area – unique because of the combination of environment, access and options for holidaymakers.

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  • A well-spun yarn

    *The Farm at Black Hills* – Farming alone in the hills of North Canterbury, by Beverley Forrester with John McCrystal, Random House NZ, $39.95

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  • Searching for Love

    Having a Plan B, C or even D waiting in the wings makes it all happen for 27-year-old Braidy Love, a dairy farmer at Waihola, south of Dunedin.

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Growing deer on trees

Peter and Dianne Allan are advocates for using both deer and trees in a mutually beneficial relationship on their Southland farm. 

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  • Crash course pays off

    When Mangamaire farmers Ken and Steph Norman purchased a block of land from their neighbour in 2008 they knew absolutely nothing about deer, but that was about to change. Embarking on a crash course in deer farming, the 2015 Tararua Sheep and Beef Farmer of the Year winners discovered a zeal for deer – and a profitable addition to their existing farming operation.

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  • Deer processor comes of age

    People, timing and the ability to adapt have all been instrumental in the success of Canterbury’s Mountain River Processors. Celebrating 21 years of operation, the processing plant near Rakaia has ridden out the many fluctuations in the industry’s fortunes and today employs 63 full-time staff and processes close to 40,000 animals annually.

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  • Stand-down trial period a no-go

    Hopes of a reduced withholding period for the industry-recommended deer drench internal parasite treatment have been dashed.

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  • Male order

    Deer Improvement has successfully proved that mass males to order are possible using gender selection technology. LIC, Deer Improvement’s parent company, uses the technology to select for female-sexed semen. But Deer Improvement general manager Bruce McGregor wanted to see if the technology could be used to produce male sexed semen from high EBV (estimated breeding value) stags.

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Nervous wait on backlogs

The United States’ emergence from its economic slumber looks certain to rev up beef prices again this year. First though, large inventories built up during last year’s ports strike will need to be worked through. 

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  • Vet LSD shows promise for cattle

    Farmers who have enjoyed improved flock performance using Vet LSD (Livestock Survival Drench) mineral supplement will welcome early trial results on its use in cattle.

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  • Walk the BullWalk

    Selecting the right bull for your beef breeding operation is essential for achieving greater genetic gain whether it is to improve your female herd or to target premium beef programmes. There are many new technologies in farming and researching information on the internet is now commonplace. 

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  • Party at my place

    Picture this. Party time: 500kg-plus cattle flicking up their tails, running through foot-high kikuyu grass, kicking up their heels like calves having an evening canter around the paddock. 

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Hunger grows for sheep meat

Without a doubt it is the ramp-up in China’s hunger for New Zealand sheep meat that dominates the dynamics of the industry today. 

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  • Time to share the NZ story

    As one of five 2014 Nuffield New Zealand scholars I’m on an international study tour to broaden my understanding of global agriculture and trade. The knowledge I’m gathering will ultimately be shared with my fellow Kiwi farmers.

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  • Unbeetable potential

    Last season’s dry forced a Manawatu farmer to rethink the planned use of his fodder beet crop. The result was an unexpected lamb finishing strategy.

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  • Puberty under the microscope

    The effect of puberty on reproductive performance and improving embryo survival are just two of the sheep-related projects being undertaken by the AgResearch Animal Reproduction team at Invermay.

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  • Scope for beet in sheep systems

    The uptake of fodder beet in the South Island has been fierce.

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Top two inches the key

It is often said that New Zealand’s fortune lies in its top two inches of soil.

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Rising to the top

One of the country’s leading equestrian bloodstock farms is on the market. Milan Park is a 20 hectare property on the banks of Waikato River, just five minutes west of New Zealand’s equine capital, Cambridge, and 22km from Hamilton.

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  • Hard work already done

    Mason Hills, a large North Canterbury sheep and cattle breeding property is for sale by auction. The 2542 hectare farm has been subject to a substantial recent improvement programme.

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  • Dry sees farms withdrawn

    At least five South Canterbury farms that were on the market in 2014 were temporarily withdrawn pre-Christmas. The main reason cited was the poor appearance of the farms with low pasture covers and struggling crops.

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  • Fewer Southland farm sales

    A large-scale property in Southland has been sold to a Canterbury farmer with cropping interests. About 1000 hectares of the 2583ha area was sold with the intention of using it for grain production as well as dairy grazing and lamb finishing. The balance is oversown and native tussock land.

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  • Grazing and finishing farm with options

    Mt Mason, an attractive hill-country farm in the Tararua district – an area renowned for its high quality meat and wool products – is now for sale.

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Beef feed blend ups magnesium

A new magnesium-rich feed blend has been created to help beef farmers in the fight against hypomagnesaemia and milk fever.

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  • Irricon template gets ECan tick

    Environment Canterbury (ECan) has approved another farm environment plan template under the proposed Land & Water Regional Plan. The template was developed by environmental consultants Irricon Resource Solutions.

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  • Get a fuel tax refund

     Everyone pays tax in some form. Sometimes it’s obvious like income tax. Sometimes it’s hidden – like tax on petrol. 

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  • Creep feeding trial whets appetite

    Startling results from a recent creep feeding trial that showed lambs grew up to 25% faster than the study’s control group are now available from Advantage Feeders.

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  • Data-proofing ram performance

    Having a good eye when buying rams may well be a thing of the past if a new study shows it’s the data behind the ram’s breeding that delivers profit.

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