ETS proposals show progress on carbon farming issue

The Government’s announcement of consultation on proposed changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in response to concerns about carbon farming has been welcomed by Beef + Lamb New Zealand as an indication of genuine progress on the issue.

The Government is seeking feedback on proposals to achieve better outcomes from afforestation. This includes:

  • excluding exotic forests from the permanent post-1989 category in the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS)
  • whether to adjust how carbon accounting applies to forests on remote and marginal to harvest land
  • opportunities for improving incentives for indigenous afforestation.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the proposals are the result of sustained pressure from B+LNZ and other groups, including 50 Shades of Green.

District Councils and Local Government New Zealand have also been calling for urgent action. Continue reading

New report confirms trend of land-use change from pastoral farming to carbon farming

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) is tracking data on farm sales for conversion into forestry as concerns continue to grow over the unbridled ability of fossil fuel emitters to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees on productive sheep and beef farms.

These policy settings are estimated to have helped drive the loss of around 800,000 stock units. There are also worrying signs that carbon farming interests are spreading into new areas and onto more productive land.

The latest independent report by Orme & Associates shows that in the first six months of 2021, 14,219 hectares of sheep and beef farmland were purchased with the intent for planting into trees (11,585 hectares of exotic planting and 2,634 hectares of planting of natives for honey).

This data is provisional and is expected to be higher, given there is a long lag in farm sales being formalised and more sales are likely to have occurred in the first six months of the year but have not yet been formally reported. Continue reading

Independent report on M.bovis response welcomed

Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has welcomed an independent review into the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme, which has found it is on track to achieve eradication and made recommendations to boost biosecurity work.

The review finds the programme is running well and is on track to achieve the world first of eradicating M.bovis, Mr O’Connor said.

It also notes the impact on farmers involved and the work the programme has done over the past two years to make necessary improvements, following a difficult start.

“We are now in a situation where we are down to four infected farms, all of which are situated in Canterbury.” Continue reading

Research highlights the need for limits on forestry offsetting for fossil fuel emitters

New research confirms a significant amount of sheep and beef farmland has been converted to forestry, underlining the need for limits on carbon offsetting. It also undermines myths about trees going on ‘unproductive’ land and reinforces Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s view that the integration of forestry on farms is a better way of managing our landscapes and meeting climate change targets.

The study by BakerAg, commissioned by B+LNZ, reveals there has been a significant increase in the amount of farmland sold into forestry, driven in large part by an increase in the carbon price.

The report was unable to identify exactly how much of the sheep and beef farmland sold into forestry was intended for pure carbon farming but based on examination of the land titles, it is estimated that about 26,550 hectares of the 77,800 hectares of whole farms sold into forestry since 2017 were to carbon only entities (about 34 percent of the whole farm sales).

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said the report shows that in 2017, 3,965 hectares of whole sheep and beef farms were sold into forestry; this increased to 20,227 ha in 2018; 36,824 ha in 2019.

It declined to 16,764 hectares in 2020 (most likely as a result of COVID-19) but rural intelligence suggests it has regathered momentum this year and moved into new regions, threatening rural communities. Continue reading

Promising early results for Facial Eczema laboratory test

Initial results from a pilot study investigating the potential for a laboratory test to determine Facial Eczema tolerance are reported to be positive, paving the way for more detailed investigation.

Dan Brier, B+LNZ’s General Manager Farming Excellence, says the ultimate aim of the study, which is being funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and conducted by AgResearch, is to produce a fully validated high through-put commercial test, which is readily available for breeders and commercial farmers.

“Initial results look promising with the establishment of a cell culture method, using sheep and cattle blood, to demonstrate sporidesmin (the toxin that causes Facial Eczema [FE]) toxicity. This indicates that animals could be tested for tolerance without needing to be exposed to the toxin.”

Mr Brier says saliva tests also showed some promise and could be explored further to form the basis of a diagnostic test.

“Put simply, the overall results of this pilot study were positive and build a strong case for progressing to the next phase in the development of a commercially available test for farmers.”

Mr Brier says a simple laboratory test would revolutionise FE testing in this country.

Currently, the only method of testing for FE tolerance involves exposing a ram to the toxin and observing the toxic effects.

The challenges of using this test have led to low numbers of rams being assessed every year.

“FE is estimated to cost the New Zealand livestock industries up to $200 million per year and a simple lab test would give both breeders and commercial farmers the ability to select animals that are genetically more tolerant to the toxin and therefore carry on producing in the face of a seasonal challenge.”

FE causes damage to an animal’s liver and the secondary effect of the liver damage is photosensitisation leading to skin lesions. The effects of FE can include poor lifetime performance, reduced fertility and fecundity and increased culling.

In a bad season, FE can have a significant impact on farm productivity and profitability, potentially undermining farmer well-being, says Mr Brier.

Source:  Beef+Lamb New Zealand

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics appoints livestock scientist

Livestock scientist Dr Jason Archer has been appointed to the role of Genetics Specialist – Livestock with Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Genetics.

B+LNZ Genetics General Manager Dan Brier says he is thrilled that Jason is joining the team, bringing with him a wealth of knowledge and experience in animal genetics and breeding.

Jason, who has an Agricultural Science degree and a PhD in animal breeding and genetics, worked as a consultant with AbacusBio before  joining B+LNZ Genetics.  He had previously worked with AgResearch for 12 years.

While specialising in genetics, Jason has worked with broader farm systems and thinks strategically to solve problems and ensure solutions are applicable on-farm.

“Jason is very highly regarded in the sector and is well known to many farmers with a strong background in beef cattle (and deer) breeding and management. He has had over 25 years’ experience working in Australia and New Zealand, as well as with international beef breed associations in USA and Canada,” says Mr Brier.

Jason’s role at B+LNZ Genetics will involve providing direction to both sheep and beef programmes, providing a key link between the science, data strategy and practical application of genetics across the industry.

“Jason will work across NZ (including with the dairy industry) and internationally to ensure our farmers get the best bang for their buck. More importantly, Jason will ensure that the needs of our breeders and commercial farmers are met, and they have the tools they need to continue to produce some the world’s best naturally-raised red meat now and into the future.”

Dr Archer sees his role as thinking strategically to determine the industry’s future requirements and shaping what needs to be done to meet those.

“I’m very much looking forward to talking to industry and farmers, seeing the big picture and helping to shape and deliver our programmes to provide as much value to our industry as possible.”

Jason will be based out of B+LNZ Genetics’ Dunedin office.

Source: Beef + Lamb New Zealand

Review panel appointed to learn the lessons from NZ’s response to M. bovis

An independent review of the Mycoplasma bovis Programme is being carried out to identify lessons that can be learned from New Zealand’s largest biosecurity response.

Programme partners DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Ministry for Primary Industries have appointed Professor Nicola Shadbolt (Chair), Dr. Roger Paskin, Professor Caroline Saunders and Mr Tony Cleland to carry out the review.

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel said it was best practice to carry out a review of an eradication programme of this scale and was also a commitment made to farmers at the start of the programme.

“Eradicating M. bovis is hard work but with the whole sector working together, we have made really good progress. It’s important we capture what we’ve learned and utilise it for anything we might face in the future.”

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chair Andrew Morrison said it supported the review.

“There’s been a lot of good work by farmers and people involved in the Programme and we have worked hard to make improvements. We have a philosophy of continuous improvement and this review is the next step in our journey.”

Continue reading

NZ scientists lead the charge to explore benefits of pasture-raised beef and lamb

New Zealanders will be invited to take part in a major research programme to assess the health and well-being benefits of eating pasture-raised beef and lamb, compared to grain-finished beef and plantbased alternatives.

About 100 people will be monitored in two ground-breaking clinical studies, led by researchers from AgResearch, the Riddet Institute and the University of Auckland.

The projects will assess the physical effects on the body from eating the different foods for up to 10 weeks, as well as psychological elements, such as satisfaction, sleep and stress levels.

The research team includes meat scientists, agricultural academics, dietitians, behavioural experts and social scientists.

Sirma Karapeeva, Meat Industry Association Chief Executive, says he is excited by the programme of research being undertaken by Meat Industry Association’s Innovation arm.

She said much of the global research on the health, nutritional and environmental aspects of red meat was based on intensive grain-finished farming systems. Continue reading

New website launched for the Hill Country Futures Research Programme

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), along with its partnering organisations, has launched a new website for the ground-breaking Hill Country Futures research programme.

The new site features key information about the programme, its partnering organisations and researchers and – in time – will host resources for both farmers and researchers.

Jenni Vernon, the Hill Country Future’s Chair says the Hill Country Future Landscapes research is an opportunity for alternative practices and pathways to be tested and shared among the wider rural community.

“Farmers are facing increasing challenges around impacts on freshwater, biodiversity, climate change resilience, and extreme weather events while at the same time needing to remain profitable.”

“To be able to adapt and continue farming sustainably for the long term we need to empower farmers, behind the farm gate, with different tools to transition and transform our New Zealand rural landscape function.”

Dan Brier, B+LNZ’s General Manager Farming Excellence says the website will provide key research findings to help advance a resilient future for our hill country farmers and their communities.

View the Hill Country Futures website at https://www.hillcountryfutures.co.nz/

About the Hill Country Futures programme

Hill Country Futures is a long-term $8.1m programme focused on future-proofing the profitability, sustainability and wellbeing of New Zealand’s hill country farmers, their farm systems, the environment and rural communities.

The Hill Country Futures programme differs from most pastoral-based research in that it considers the whole-farm system and, critically, the wider communities these systems exist within. The programme incorporates traditional science research, farmer knowledge, social research and citizen science.

The programme is co-funded by B+LNZ, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Seed Force New Zealand and PGG Wrightson Seeds.

The science providers are AgResearch, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Cameron Ludemann Consulting, Ecosystem Consultants, Kunzea Ltd, Lincoln University, Massey University, Manaaki Whenua (Landcare Research), On-farm Research and Plant & Food Research.

Source:  Beef + Lamb New Zealand 

How soil science keeps going during the virus lockdown

While New Zealand’ has been in COVID-19 lockdown, scientists at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research have developed some ingenious home-based workarounds, to ensure  their research can keep going even if they aren’t allowed to go into the field to do their fieldwork.

Jagath Ekanayake, a scientist in the CRI’s Soils & Landscapes team, is working on an MBIE Endeavour-funded project called “Hill Country Futures” run by Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd.

One objective of this wide-ranging work is to show whether variations in soil moisture and soil temperature can be mapped at the farm scale, to model the expected performance of different types of legume pasture.

In collaboration with AgResearch and Lincoln University, the team at Landcare Research plans to install a sensor network on six farms in the North and South Islands to record soil moisture and temperature, and then to model the whole farm in detail from that data.

Jagath’s job is to build the six sensor networks on which this work will rely.

The sensors are clever pieces of kit – they don’t just record the data for someone to come and get it later, but each sensor also communicates with a gateway base site up to 15km away. The gateway, which has cell phone connectivity, sends the data to a cloud storage site where it can be viewed and used in near real-time.

Each network has 20 dual sensors that record both moisture and temperature.

But with the lockdown in place, the fieldwork can’t begin on farm – yet.

To make up for lost time, Jagath has been building all 120 sensors on his living room table. To test the first 20-sensor network ahead of the lockdown being lifted, he has installed the directional antennae and logger for each sensor on his garden fence, while the sensors are stuck into his lawn.

Jagath says particular thanks are due to his wife, Chitra, both for allowing the living room to be taken over for the project during lockdown, and for help in assembling the sensor nodes.

Source:  Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research