The off-farm challenge

Farming companies, co-operatives and non-farming organisations are increasingly complex and require a range of skills from directors to run them. Country-Wide writers find out what is needed for a good board and asks farmer directors how they gained their governance skills. 

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  • Farm visitors by the book

    Farm tourism is taking off, giving farmers a chance to diversify and visitors an alternate way to see New Zealand. Whether you are keen to open a farmstay or conduct tours – by foot, horseback, quad bike or bicycle – getting your head around the red tape required to operate a tourism venture on your farm takes time and patience.

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  • Come hell or high water

    Irrigation can revolutionise a sheep and beef farm but it is a major investment. Farm consultant *Bruce McCorkindale* looks at how big an investment can be made before it doesn’t make economic sense.

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  • Climate science isn’t science

    So called “climate science” is not science. Science is a process typically involving controlled experiments to isolate a single variable in an effort to get the best answer to a specific question. 

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  • Working from homestead

    Time is one of the most valuable investments for promoting farm tourism ventures. David and Sarah Hartles opened Ashgrove Farmstay three years ago. Since then Sarah has devoted a huge amount of time to promoting the business via the internet.

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Shear hard work fights cancer

Some of New Zealand’s top shearers and wool handlers banded together in early January to voluntarily shear 4116 ewes at Waitara Station in Hawke’s Bay, with all money raised donated to the Cancer Society. 

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  • Recycling the past

    A stop-off at the historic Quailburn woolshed is well-worth the slight detour from the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. The Quailburn historic site is part of Ahuriri Conservation Park, located at the end of Quailburn Rd near Omarama in Otago.

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  • Fender benders on the agenda

    A crunching noise and sudden stop when driving is a sure sign you have just had a minor car accident. With no one hurt and vehicles still able to be driven it is important to get the right information before everyone leaves the scene, especially if you’re planning an insurance claim. Insurance Council New Zealand insurance manager John Lucas advises that in an accident between vehicles being driven, it is important to get the other driver’s name as well as the vehicle owner’s name since they sometimes differ – it might be a company car, for example. Recording the make, colour and registration number of the other vehicle is also vital. 

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  • Seeds of destruction

    A brush with ergot poisoning has been a devastating blow for Southland deer focus farmers Brian and Kristine Russell.

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  • Eating their veggies

    North Canterbury’s Mendip Hills has been hit hard by drought and has had to drop stock numbers and buy in feed.

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Ringing the changes

I’ve been asking farmers recently, “What’s the one thing that you are going to do differently this year to make more money?” What seemed like a simple question turned out to be more difficult for many farmers to answer than I had expected. 

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  • Jumping and bumping

    When I say I live in Pongaroa most peoples’ first response is, “Isn’t that the place so windy the trees grow along the ground?” It’s known for its wind and this spring has been no different.

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  • The road to ruin?

    It is hard to find words to describe my total disbelief around the Silver Fern Farms deal with the Chinese. Almost all media commentators – with the notable exception of Rod Oram – were upbeat, concentrating on the renaissance of SFF and job preservation. No one (except Oram) was prepared to look into the future and contemplate its ramifications for the New Zealand sheep meat industry. In my opinion it will be a disaster for sheep farmers.

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  • Rocky mountain high

    Over in the woolshed I was dagging and Louise was sweeping and penning up, pausing now and then to remark how grumpy I was. The next generation was at home, practicing yoga. I didn’t mind – after the events of the past few days I was sure that learning how to levitate had at least as much potential as the sheep industry.

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  • Spreading the message

    And so it is that we find ourselves again battling away with summer. Admittedly, there’s not a lot to battle with regarding warm sun, cold beers and cooling swims. The fishing, socialising, boating and barbecuing aren’t too tough either. 

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Marginal trading reduces risk

On their Tangimoana finishing farm the McKelvies buy and sell on the same market to evade a cattle trading pitfall. 

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  • Weaning weights key

    The importance of feeding hoggets well during pregnancy and lactation is highlighted in recent research by Massey University professor of sheep husbandry, Paul Kenyon.

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  • Dawning of a new era

    In a recent column I mentioned I’d spoken at an international conference that centred on three days of presentations on sheep production.

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  • The finishing touch

    Mike McCreary and Liz Casey bought Kumenga Farm in a 50-50 partnership with Mike’s parents in 2008. Since taking on the 540ha effective property in southern Wairarapa they’ve transformed it into a high-performance, specialist finishing operation. *Andrew Swallow* reports.

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  • Long-standing legacy

    Historic 2200ha Pukemarama Station on the southern side of the Rangitikei River, 15km south of Bulls and 3km from the coast at Tangimoana, is the largest farm in southern Manawatu. 

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A Tonic solution

Tonic plantain and clover have been a ‘game changer’ on Otairi Station in southern Rangitikei by dramatically increasing the percentage of finished home-bred lambs. Russell Priest reports. Photos by Graeme Brown.

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  • Cultivars put to the sward

    Concerns that yield rankings based on a cultivar’s first three years’ data might not reflect rankings later in a sward’s life appear misplaced, analysis of one of the few long-term cultivar trials in the country show.

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  • Passing the taste test

    Rohan has passed the taste test with Matakanui Station heifers. On the 16ha block of one-year-old pasture the eaten-back pasture blades are clearly visible amid the clover. 

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  • Call for clover in the mix

    Grass cultivar trials that feed into the DairyNZ Forage Value Index should include clovers, a leading plant breeder says.

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  • Leaving no stone unturned

    The much-anticipated arrival of a Kirpy BPB 250 rock crusher has put an end to the dreaded job of rock-picking at Matakanui Station. The never-ending and soul-destroying task was a necessary part of paddock prep for cultivation, especially on the lower-lying paddocks running along the foothills of the Dunstan Mountains in central Otago. Up to $20,000 a year was paid out for rock picking, mostly to local fundraising groups.

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A maize of crop options

Choosing the right crop after grazing a paddock with cattle could help reduce risk of nitrogen and other nutrient losses to the environment, Foundation of Arable Research delegates at the Arable Research In Action (ARIA) field day in December were told.

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  • Science and advice is essential

    Fertiliser price and quality are only two ways to deliver value, Ravensdown general manager of customer relationships Bryan Inch says.

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  • Plants to stem nutrient loss

    Chicory appears to have a slight edge over barley or pasture as a tool to make use of residual soil nitrogen following mob-grazing of winter crops.

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  • Combines get a rev up

    Alongside a revised engine line-up, 700-series Claas Lexions are to get a raft of upgrades for the 2016 season. In a move to comply with Tier 4 Final emissions regulations, the German firm has dropped Mercedes’ 16-litre V8 powerplants in its biggest models in favour of 15.6-litre straight sixes.

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  • Dose rates key for fungicide

    Name the odd one out – herbicide, drench or fungicide?

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The leading edge

Keeping shearing gear properly maintained will make any shearer’s life easier and more productive. *James Hoban* talked with top shearer Graeme Twose about staying sharp.

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  • Knowing the drill

    Over the past 15 years the Bradshaw family’s business in the United Kingdom county of Essex has experienced some big changes. Nick Fone checks out what they are.

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  • NZ part of multi-national drill

    While true no-till direct-drills do a great job in perfect conditions, in northern Europe farmers need something capable of working when things are less than ideal. With the latest 8m trailed incarnation of its T-SEM drill, SimTech hopes to have a machine for all seasons. It claims the new 800APT is equally at home working on stubbles, in min-till conditions or into ploughing. In the first of a two-part series, UK writer Nick Fone reports.

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  • A ground-breaking collection

    Michael Higgins has turned a life in earthmoving into a machinery collection unmatched in New Zealand. *James Hoban* reports

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  • New machinery all wrapped up

    In part two of a series Country-Wide’s British-based writer Nick Fone looks at what John Deere has in store for the market in 2016.

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Reducing the cost of nutrient loss

Minimising nutrient losses from winter greenfeed crops not only helps the environment but also a farm’s bottom line. James Hoban provides some food for thought.

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  • New Year’s glimmer of hope

    This column has been written at a time of seasonal sloth and New Year’s resolutions, although my last and only successful resolution was never to make any New Year’s resolutions. Instead, the early days of each new year prompts me to briefly dream about arboreal nirvana. So here are some of my hopes, but not expectations, for 2016.

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  • Time to review and hypothesise

    Most of us at this time of year will go through some sort of evaluation of the year that was and ponder what the year ahead will bring – a “review and hypothesise” exercise. Everyone’s process for doing this will be different but the outcome will be much the same.

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  • The good earth

    Jeff Morton’s career has spanned what could be considered the halcyon days of agricultural research and extension in New Zealand. Before the economic reforms of the 1980s, agricultural scientists were just that, scientists, spending their time doing research and taking the results of that research out to farmers. 

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  • Best-laid plans

    It’s always good to get feedback even if it is not always positive. Last issue the focus was on the Gisborne District Council’s Freshwater Plan, which (hopefully) brought to attention some of the areas that could use a little tweaking. 

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Getting the message

If you have a smartphone and use it to send a lot of texts, you should be thinking about alternatives to smart messaging services (SMS).

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  • The tip of the iceberg

    This column is a guide to, from my viewpoint at least, some of the world’s best – though not the best-known – websites. Indeed, if you do a search with the keywords “best websites” there are so many differences of opinion that confusion is unavoidable.

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  • The computer tutor

    One of the things I missed when living on the farm was accessing further education, whether it was related to computers or wider fields of learning. Even when rural dwellers are reasonably close to hands-on learning centres, the breadth and depth of available subjects is often limited.

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  • A torrent of sweet sounds

    When I was a teenager I’d go to my local record store to find the latest release from a favourite singer then buy the LP even though I only knew one, or sometimes none of the songs on it.

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  • A clean bill of health

    When you first buy a new computer, it typically starts up quickly. As time goes on, the booting-up process takes longer and you may notice your computer runs slowly for a while after starting.

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Woolly flock funds church

On the edge of Hawarden township in north Canterbury, a small sheep farm owned by the Hurunui Catholic Parish is providing significant funds to the parish coffers by wintering more than 14.5 stock units a hectare.

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Sheep bring on the velvet

Although he loves to hate them, sheep have been Elliot Brock’s ticket to deer farming. Buying 1000 ewes in  2009 and running them on a 100-hectare lease block owned by his uncle and aunty, plus five years of digger driving for Castlerock Contracting, in Lumsden, have helped Elliot and partner Anna Hodges grow equity. Along the way they’ve bought in weaner stags for velvet and in 2012 bought a deer-fenced block at Kelso.

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  • The weighting game

    Hope for an average weaner weight of 70kg has become a tangible target for North Otago station manager Lindsay Paton thanks to his involvement with the Mackenzie Basin Advance Party. Andrew Swallow reports.

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  • Building for the future

    Fraser Laird and his father and brother at Fordell, near Wanganui, are upbeat about the velvet industry they supply, so much so that last year they invested in new genetics and herd expansion.

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  • Opening the way to velvet production

    A project to feed stags for increased velvet production has not yielded the results Mangamaire deer farmers Ken and Steph Norman were hoping for, so they plan to tweak their system this year and invest more in genetics.

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  • Venison on the back-burner

    As a wrap-up of ‘the year that was’ Country-Wide writers revisit three deer farmers from around New Zealand to find out how they fared in 2015.

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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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  • Positive farmer reaction to message

    Silver Fern Farms linking up with a Chinese investor could be the real deal, one farmer-shareholder told Farmers Weekly after a roadshow meeting at Little River in Canterbury.

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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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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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  • Handypiece Pro the go

    The Handypiece has often been described as the best tool on the farm. Now it’s even better with the launch of the new Handypiece Pro.

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  • Customer-driven by design

    In a relatively short few years the 4AG range of cultivation and drilling equipment has firmly established itself as the premier offering in the New Zealand marketplace. A massive array of these machines can be found working hard for some of the largest contracting and farming operations throughout this country, in every corner and every condition. From the boulders of Te Anau to Canterbury riverbeds, Waikato pumice to East Coast clays, you will be able to talk to an operator near you for some first-hand insight.

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  • Bearing down on prolapses

    Finding humane and effective methods for dealing with prolapses in ewes has been difficult for farmers but now Rurtec is offering a solution with its newly-developed Bearin harness.

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  • Safety a pressing matter

    Given the growing emphasis around workplace health and safety onfarm, Heiniger has greatly reinforced its position as a leader in the global fibre-harvesting market by supplying quality, safer solutions to farmers in New Zealand and internationally. 

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  • Tracking right with TracMap

    A large Taranaki agricultural contracting business is finding GPS and cloud-based technology has virtually eliminated error from its day-to-day activities. Riverlea Contractors operate more than 16 tractors and trucks and two self-propelled harvesters. The company, owned by Mike and Charlie Silson, employs up to 21 staff in the peak season. 

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  • Amazone one in a million

    European farm machinery manufacturer Amazone has sold 750,000 of its ZA series twin-disc centrifugal fertiliser spreaders. Amazone product manager Tim Stocker says the feat is probably unmatched by any other manufacturer.

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  • Metal lovers spoilt for choice

    British machinery writer *Nick Fone* was at this year’s Cereals UK and took a close look at the machinery on offer.

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  • New player cropping up

    Remember Baytan? It was a seed treatment that divided wheat growers. A minority would swear by the early-season foliar disease protection the triadimenol treatment provided while others wouldn’t touch it for fear of delayed emergence and-or its premium price.

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Strike gold in Central Otago

A pair of large Central Otago properties near the historic gold mining town of St Bathans in the Maniototo district are being offered for sale by tender.

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  • Trophy farms on the block

    Deer farms offer flexibility, diversity and infrastructure that can be attractive to potential buyers. Colliers Rural Hawke’s Bay director Hadley Brown says that while some smaller scale stand-alone deer units sold in the region during the past year, the majority of larger deer farms are running a mix of sheep, beef and deer.

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  • High-country history up for sale

    One of the longest continually-owned farms in New Zealand – maintained by descendants of the same family for 151 years – is on the market.

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  • In a northerly direction

    For farm buyers seeking to reduce debt and stress, Northland may be the place to look. Selma Peters of Dargaville Realty says Northland is a popular area for potential buyers from outside the region. Many farm sales in Northland are because of retirement by third- or fourth-generation farmers with no one to take over the family farm.

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  • A gem of a farm

    Emerald Hills, a breeding and finishing property at Matamau near Dannevirke, has been farmed by the vendor’s family for three generations.

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New Jaguars on the prowl

Claas has introduced a number of improvements to its industry-leading range of Jaguar self-propelled forage harvesters.

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  • New recruits

    The latest group of deer farmers to join the Advance Party initiative are excited at the opportunity to benchmark their farming operations.

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  • A flood of new information

    Practical sessions of interest for irrigating farmers have reinvigorated the programme for Irrigation New Zealand’s 2016 conference and expo in Oamaru.

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  • Safety and quality from Heiniger

    Growing emphasis on workplace health and safety is catered for in Heiniger’s range of quality fibre-harvesting equipment.

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  • The reel deal

    Barry Hales’ idea for his Kaweka Reel Stands business came from a light-bulb moment while shifting break fences in the foothills of the Kaweka Ranges in Hawke’s Bay.

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  • Country-Wide February 2016

    The challenges and opportunities that farming in New Zealand can offer are featured in this month’s issue of Country-Wide. 

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  • Country-Wide January 2016

    Excellence through continuous improvement is the theme running through the latest issue of Country-Wide. It is an ethos Alliance chief executive David Surveyor is trying to instil in the meat co-operative. And it's what many top farmers like Bevan and Wendy Hopcroft, Neil Aicken and William Beetham – all featured in this month’s issue – are achieving in their farming operations.

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  • Country-Wide December 2015

    The December issue of Country-Wide finishes the year as we started – packed with top farm management stories and advice.

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  • Country-Wide November 2015

    With cool temperatures slowing pasture, farmers have had one eye on the weather and the other on the Silver Fern Farms shareholder vote. Grass growth may still a problem in many areas but the overwhelming yes vote has put a spring in the step of SFF farmer-shareholders.

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