Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The $345,000 Burger?

Anyone with an eye on the long, long term future for animal farming will be interested in the following link:

This article outlines one area of progress to date, probably current state of the art in the creation of artificial meat.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jon Morgan on Lambing Losses

The Dompost's farming editor, Jon Morgan, has to be one of the better ag journo's around, in his Thursday piece always coming up with something interesting, dealt out in easy style, and striking the right note of levity.
The Nov 3 article on lambing losses delivered a timely and inspirational message, simply that in this day and age lamb losses aren't a good look to our urban critics, and the way to meet this challenge is to demonstrate what we're doing, as sheep breeders, to improve on this situation.
To quote Lincoln's DNA specialist, Jon Hickford: "The way to counter that (criticism) is to have aspirational goals. Even if our farmers aren't meeting them yet, they can say, this is what we're aiming for, this is what we see as important, what motivates us".
Far better than saying losses are just an act of God and we can't do anything.
Well said..., and congratulations to those breeders outlined working on the problem, whose methods are further dealt with in the article.
These include recording birth weights, mothering ability, lambing ease, rearing success, and a couple of them testing for the cold tolerance gene.
Of course, I have to chip in here, that this is the sort of stuff that's driven Coopworth selection and culling for the 40 years since our Society fathers designed the first set of breed rules and regulations.
The very first flock book contained the sensible qualification for an SE ram, that his dam had to have reared 6 lambs in 3 years, and further, to retain her place in the flock, a ewe had to have reared a set of twins by her 4-tooth lambing, plus the long-standing requirement that ewes needing lambing assistance or showing poor mothering, had to be culled.
We had/still have, a dot system to denote lambs not surviving in the lambing string, viz 222:1. etc, and at the time of the introduction of Sheeplan recording we had quite a time convincing its designers of the worth of inclusion.
The sheep-breeding world's since moved on to breeding values for reproduction and survival, but I think there's still a place for checking that lambs born actually make it to weaning, the phenotypic ideal can get lost in the genetic qualification, and so far as the above repro and surv indices are concerned, I prefer to use them additively.
While the close to 160% live lambs in the Waione recorded flock this year isnt anything to skite about in the greater scheme of things, I take some pleasure it was achieved after only a minimal loss from total lambs born, and only a couple of points away from the survival leading flock in the Morgan article, a target we can all aspire to better.
All the more important for me as well, I like the commercial flock here to run as natural and unmolested as possible year round, lambing time included.
The Coopworth Genetics rule-book, with its unforgiving focus on superior performance, leads naturally to thriving and survival, not losses.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Price of Milk

Controversy over the price of milk continues to simmer.
True to form, the socialists in our nation continue their pretention to privilege, in this instance that because we're an agricultural nation, milk should be delivered to society at below market price, sweeping under the carpet of debate, the fact other more delectable food groups and consumer products have risen over time to a much greater extent, eg. bread, fuel, booze, smokes, and pretty much anything else.
Yesterday it was announced, as a result of the public enquiry into milk pricing, that the dairy farmers co-op, Fonterra, have made public their pricing mechanism, simply that its based on what could have been made if all the milk had been sold as milk powder on the international market.
Its supposed to be internet etiquette not to slag people and stick to the debate, so I'll refrain from saying what total dicks I think Green politician Sue Kedgely and that union bloke Ritchie are for stirring this scrum along and for still being on Russia's side.
From one side of their mouth they'll argue what really amounts to not being able to stand farmers co-op'ing themselves into a position where they can set prices, when in actual fact dairy producers, like all farmers, are still price takers not setters, of the international value of their produce, while expecting to be able to organise themselves to both screw the price of consumer products down, and still somewhere along the line, crank the cost of their own wages up.
Tom Scott joined the fray yesterday with a cartoon inferring Saudi commonfolk would be up in arms if they had to pay international price for fuel, and that the Saudi princes should find out how Fonterra do it to NZ with milk products.
But he's way off beam too, they probably are paying the international price, its just that governments round the world inflate the fuel price with add-on taxes so that Proles like him and Kedgeley get their grievances soothed, just like booze and ciggies are tax-added to death.
They need to go overseas a bit and see what the rest of the world's like, then come back, stay inside the Kiwi tent, and appreciate that the current NZ co-op generated dairy farmer good fortune cant eventually get anywhere else other than into the NZ economy where we all get to share in it.
Another irony is, those of Green ilk would slag dairy products as being bad for one's health, but now complain when the rise in cost of it might suppress consumption.
They also assume an entitlement in an industry they never had a hand in shaping, or were paid for if they did, and which the environmental lobby continues to condemn.

Time for a Tui ad...
Yeah right.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Farewell Old Friend

Khan with apprentice Woody
One of the things you look forward to starting out shepherding is building a team of dogs, little knowing the life cycle of a dog is no more than the family cat.
The time from when a dog "arrives" at a place he's working well, does everything you want, and knows it, is then something very precious, the appreciation is mutual and the relationship gets special.
The day they're no longer with you always arrives with a bit of sadness.
I got Khan as a fully broken 4yo from Duncan up the river a bit, and well trained he was too, never more than a cigarette paper from your heels, but always busting to get out and run.
His forte however, was backing..., through a gate, in the crush, up the woolshed ramp, and well into the shed.
He earned his place of rest in the lawn, the "Arlington" in view of the kitchen window, with his own rock headstone beside the other all-time bests, Blak, Judge, and Booze.
I'm reminded of an earlier passing, Joe, my first heading dog, had gotten so non-compus at 15 he had to be put down. I turned up at the house for morning smoko I suppose looking for some comfort, and my now ex missus asked what I was blubbing for, after all he was only a dog.
All I could respond was every morning for the last 15 years he was excited to see me, and that's more than I can say for the 5 you've been here.
Bit like that joke about who's man's best friend, your missus or your dog.
Shut them in the boot of the car for an hour, then see who's most pleased to see you.
Anyway Khan, farewell from all of us, and I hope there's a good spring, plenty of sheep to dream about chasing, cool vehicles to ride in, and a boss like me for you..., wherever dogs go.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Week's a Long Time in....... the News

After slagging the Dompost over that disgracefully contrived "expose`" of farmer's unfair dodging of tax-paying, (which incidentally failed to give account to the fact substantial GST was generated and hauled in from the annual agricultural turnover, and that's as it should be in any shift in emphasis from direct to indirect taxation, plus...,
as with any business, farms would have been fully paid forward, and over-paid at that, with PAYE based on the previous normal year's result, so that beneficiary depicted on the front page echoing the "unfair" put in her mouth by the reporter, would have cruised through her year on a loan from the business community)...
Anyway, where was I....
I now find myself, hardly a week later, acknowledging DomPost for the way it depicted the wool industry in this weekend's "Your Weekend" liftout, in a lead article why wool lost its cool, and the international fight to get it back, worth a read, and pleasing to see the reporter got the basics right.
Jeremy Moon's comments and story were interesting, Icebreaker's up for near $160m of sales, and good on him for that.
I can verify personally his Merino wool product is fantastic.
I've had the heavier long-sleeve skivvy for a few years now, zip-up neck, thumb-holes for the odd extreme cold day pull-down, dosen't pong, only ever washed it a couple of times, great on the bike or up Ruapehu.
Just recently, as result of spotting a product release newsbit (in the Dompost!!), I bought one of those Apollo Beast T-shirts, and I'm rapt..., more subtly warming than the heavier one described above, and so light you hardly know its there.
They're not cheap at $90 a throw, but I've gone and ordered 2 more, I'm going to work in them on the farm, and I'm sure it will be a year round affair, knowing as I do now you cant beat natural fibres in any weather and any season.
Annual 14,000km motorcycle tours around USA from cold West Coast to mid-west desert and plains, convinced me real quick, synthetic garments are dead meat, they pong in 24 hours flat, soil faster, and dont wick moisture.
Life's full of circles, I'll be like, I remember as a kid, the old man working year round in his old black sleeveless jackie-how, only I'll be in the latest rendition of the national, sustainable, product.
Can't say I'm totally enamoured with the Council of NZ Wool Interests, but they're just about the only show in town currently, and I have to say their promotion efforts are worthy.
I hope my enthusiastic belief and support in/of our own wool product is a help. Too often you'll see wool producers getting round in synthetic jackets and cloaks.
I've always had a Swan-Dri jacket all my farming career, actually only two ever, never had to wash them, wore them till they fell off.
Now I've got a Bushmate, made by that outfit up Auckland way,
Moon's comment that Merino can't handle the whole market gamut, and that maybe breeders should look at a dual purpose sheep growing a fine enough fleece to handle socks and jackets has a heap of merit.
I went into the local Farmlands one day a few years ago and the manager was in a state of amazement, a busload of Canadian tourists had just emptied the whole rack of Swannie jackets, probably wasnt the only town they'd done such a raid in.
And, as I've mentioned in previous posts here and on-the-road blog, I'll never wear synthetic socks again, currently all cotton, but maybe one day soon, high-tech shrink-proof wool.

Friday, June 10, 2011

NAIT Deferred

I'm in a sweat over the whole NAIT issue, however noble the vision is.
For the life of me, I cant see what the difference between a visual bar-coded tag and an EID one is, in the realm of traceability.
I guess it does give the X-box generation who will eventually take over running the show a button pushing continuation into their careers, but I dont think an electronically based system is wise.
Anybody who's been without power after natural disaster like a flood or earthquake for any length of time will be able to attest to what life in a power outage is like, electronic toys totally useless.
And we're contemplating basing a whole industry on it?

One of the major irks I suffer with the tagging requirements is tag loss.
At least 30% of my beef cows have lost one or both their tags by CFA time, probably more like half of them.
Right now I've got a 5 year old bull that needs moving on, lost one tag, which means, under ASD rules, I have to go through the inconvenience of sourcing a replacement tag, not to mention actually getting it into the ear of a 1500kg animal who's not going to be all that enamoured about the job.
Re-tagging after loss of one tag needs to be seriously looked at, I mean, what exactly is the point of a backup tag?

So OK, one might say EID's going to make life easier, if you've got a tag-reader.
Tag readers dont replace missing tags for you.
I've started using EID's and already, some of my 2010 born calves have lost their backup number tags, which ushers in a new problem.
To find out who the missing animal is, have you ever tried reading the number on an EID tag without glasses, or a reader?

Too many of our policy inventors havent walked the necessary mile in their victims shoes.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

More Industry Navel Gazing

Dont know whether the KPMG got commissioned by anybody important to us farmers, or whether its just another group of headbangers sounding important, but its report released yesterday has some interesting comments, compiled from interviews with "more than 80 agribusiness leaders".
They say a national agribusiness strategy is needed so industry wants and vision can determine long term decisions.....
Uh huh...
The key recommendations contained therein open up worthwhile issues for discussion:
> Introduce a bio-security levy on passenger and product arrivals, they say for researching incursion threat
   - but I'd say, better spent on expanded border policing
> Tax incentives to allow young farmers to invest in farming businesses
   - disagree, incentives are a distortion to rational money flow
> Skills incentive program to attract qualified people into the rural orbit
    - disagree, its that incentive word again, and I think they're including in this one targeted student loans
       I'd sooner student loans implement a system where they actually got paid back
> Charge farmers for water taken for irrigation
    - fair enough, but what about where farmers have paid to build their own scheme?
> Greater degree of integration on carbon strategy
    - dump the lot
> Industry task-force to establish needs of international markets on sustainability so that a production code can be set up
    - arent we already there?
> Greater meat company control over stock ownership to better manage plant throughput
    - that's easy, they can put their money where their mouth is and buy it, some companies already do,
      or the other way round, why didnt they suggest more farmer ownership of meat companies
> Greater collaboration along the value chain on meat, wool, wine and dairy
    - well, dairy's been there for some time, wool, we gave it a decent shot, meat, coming along, so's wine
> Explore organic market opportunities
    - great, except polls say few seem to want to pay the extra, in the face of cheaper conventional stuff

and I've left the doozey for last...
> Minimum stockmanship standards to be met before a farmer is (get this), licensed to own animals...

So how will this work?
Another layer of bureaucracy adding cost and decreasing profit, and with a further prospective role to play if/when NAIT gets properly rolling too. You can bet your balls some boffin will dream up a national births, deaths and marriages register for farm animals, if it isnt already in the pipeline, (and I bet it is), so that will have to have a qualified professional to oversee farmers returns, and comment on every death over and above "normal", (and who's going to say what's normal).

This whole suggestion of permitting me to do my business on an asset bought and paid for with my own family's blood, sweat, and tears, is just a bad joke.
Another example of the non-farm community extracting tribute by way of witch-doctor mongering.
Like with the possibility of farmers having to be licensed to own and run quads, the people charged with qualifying us, will probably know less about the subject than we do.
I havent been visited by the OSH Quad Squad yet, but how many of them coming to tell me how to suck eggs will have run a farm motorcycle (without serious accident) since 1966, how many of them will own and run 5 motorcycles, quads and ATV's (and pay the ridiculous registration fees on each), how many of them will have held a full motorcycle road license since 1970, how many of them will have ridden 20,000km in the states in USA where helmet-wearing isnt in the law and not seen any negative impact on statistics, let alone on a farm for 45 years.
How many of them will even have been born before then?
Of course, they'll come up with accident statistics, but they'll probably skim over the fact that over 40% of fatalities on quads are smart arses from towns who think their country cousin's machinery is mainly for demonstrating their thoughtless toy-thrashing prowess on.

The constant higher moral ground barrage on farming isnt helping it's future.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lamb in North America

Mate in US sent me this cutting headed, "Low supply, high demand fire up lamb prices".
According to Glen Fisher, immediate Past President of the American Sheep Industry Assn, its almost a perfect storm, US demand is up, imports are down, and prices have soared.
Last year's May delivery price was $1.39/lb, this year its around $2.20.
Last year 156 million lbs of lamb was slaughtered, about 30% of it purchased around Easter, and Christmas.
The price is so high there's a bit of market resistance, retailers to the ethnic market (Hispanic, Middle Easterners, Africans), are saying theyre refusing to retail at $7/pound.
Thats not a bad mark-up!
Others are saying the demand is still strong even at that price.

The article says US has about 5.5 million sheep, with Texas and California leading the nation. Roughly 35% of lamb traded is imported.
About 1/3 of sales are through non-traditional markets, smaller processing plants, farmers markets, direct sales off farms, and local butcher shops, and this market is growing surprisingly quickly.
The larger 2/3 goes through commercial plants and supermarkets, and they appear to be worrying the higher prices and low supply might cause loss of market share. The director of producer relations for one of the nations larger lamb processors is quoted as saying there needs to be more product in front of the consumer so if theyre thinking about it they can easily find it, and that there has to be a happy medium where everyone can make money and the consumer can still find it.
Read into that what you will.

The article goes on to mention huge drought assisted drops in the Australian sheep population, and the dairy challenged NZ numbers as contributing to the lowered supply, plus drought in Texas, but activity has picked up in Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.
There's also been increased interest in sourcing local product, and Super Wal-Mart has decided to sell only local lamb for the next 2 years.

The tighter supply of wool stocks is also noted, pushing wool prices to a 20 year high, amid near-record prices for cotton, and for oil-based synthetics.

Fisher says the sheep association plans to increase sheep numbers by adding 2 ewes per operation, or 2 ewes per 100, by 2014. They also plan to increase average birth rates to 2 lambs per ewe, and to raise the slaughter rate by 2%.
This program should result in 315,000 more lambs, and 2 million lbs more wool, worth an estimated $71m lamb and $3m wool receipts respectively.

Fisher runs 3100 sheep on his Sonora, near Houston, Texas, operation.

Consider all the above in the context of imports being dearer, and therefore put under pressure, by the US Treasury's keeping the USD devalued by printing more dollars, to maintain a currency parity with China.

Frankly, I wish the US sheep producer all the best.

Friday, May 20, 2011

More Dom Puke

The editor's lead article "Time to pluck the rural geese a little harder", had another go yesterday, further displaying his ignorance.
Now us farmers are multi-million dollar businesses sponging off their fellow citizens, he says.
Wage earners forever fail to appreciate they dont pay their tax, their employers do. Like every business, I've got an archive of cheque butts plainly showing monthly employee PAYE deductions drawn on my business account.
We pay for their Kiwi-Saver as well.
Further backs up my statement of yesterday, the self-serving urban animal is only too eager to turn and bite the hand that feeds it, in the name of this mercenarily adaptable term "fairness".
Then he goes on to say, if profitability is really that bad, why dont we get out and do something else.
That's an allegation I've had thrown at me before by someone with a plus $100,000 taxpayer funded salary to defend.
That other idiot from the Greens alleges farmers deliberately purchase farms then claim the interest as deductible expense so they can live a high life, then cash up, to carry on the bourgeois existence.
In all my time I've never seen any farmer do that.
I've seen plenty stepping stone their way into bigger and better properties though, ordinary battlers starting out with little on the road to better.
It would be a shame to see this ruined by the "fairness" brigade getting their way with property and capital taxing.
We persist in this game for the challenge to go out every day in the hope of doing our task better, and beneath it all, failure isnt an option.
Almost an irony to appear the same day, and one that I hope wont be missed by Dompost readers, was Jon Morgan's column on the East Coast Regions Ballance Farm Environment Award winners for this year, Steve and Jane Wyn-Harris.
The ethic and philosphy Steve's applied to his work, his farm, his austerity and judgement, are all we other runners in the race that is farming aspire to, but not achieve quite as well as he has.
Thankyou for that Steve, and Jon Morgan, for once again doing the rural community such good service in bringing this part of the awards process out so well.

The Dompost editor is a dick, capital letters.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Dominion Puke Wednesday May 18 2011

Newspaper, or fish and chip paper
"Is This Fair?", surely the year's nadir in reporting and publishing.
As described once by talk-back host, Leighton Smith, "fair" would have to be the most abused, misused, distasteful, plain losers/whingers suck of a word, in the whole English language.
And reporter Vernon Small would have to take second prize behind editorial staff for the Business Illiterate of the Year.
That IRD could verify the average dairy farmer's tax take so low, would only indicate how mediocre the reward for the 90% of us who arent in the top 10% of farm business managers, really is.
The inference that substantial personal expense is somehow hidden in the business budget spend is plain offensive.
IRD place so many road-blocks in any attempt to file one's own business tax return, a farmer is forced to enlist the services of an accountant to do it, whose reputation is then on the line if proper accounting isnt effected. And we all get audited by IRD sometime or other.
Neither is the effect of bad season on farm profitability allowed for in the year singled out for examination.
The truth of the matter is that the majority of farmers reward themselves with less than the dole at the end of year wash-up, and have done for years.
Many spouses work off farm to contribute to the family coffers, many farmers do themselves, and if it looks like this dosent totally account for the apparent affluence of farmers, then there's less obviously been a lot of borrowing, or living on capital going on.
As Mike Hosking pointed out this morning on ZB radio, ultimately to the fiscal benefit of all the community. Never have so few done so much for so many, for this sort of thanks, yeah right.
Our (Farmers) Federation have invested a lot of effort in trying to improve town/country relations. Personally, I'd sooner a watch my back policy.
Despite townies individually being quite nice chaps, any text on social development themes will infer directly or otherwise, that an urban conglomeration is nothing more than a rapacious out of control collective animal, hell bent on serving itself.
This paper's continued airing of the fiasco that is roading in and out of the capitol only illustrates the inherent nimby attitude driving all us outsiders to go elsewhere to spend our alleged "unfair" gains.
We arent that dumb to notice that ex-pat urbanites want us to slow down enough going through villages on the high road to Wellingtown, so we can be further pillaged by their highway stalls.
Anyone who's been to America, Europe, or China even, has seen that a 4-lane trafficlight-free highway punched all the way from Levin to Thorndon via Paekakariki, Pukerua and Mana on the existing SH1 route, would be chicken-feed to those guys, but oh no, not to a Wellingtonian, far better to over-run the livelihood of one farming family running a road up an impossible Gully.
Apart from sports columnists Tony Robson and Mark Reason, the business pages, Jane Bowron's award meriting heart-warmers, Jon Morgan's thoughtful contributions on the rural scene, the crossword page, and intelligent letters to the editor not signed by anyone prefacing their name with "Dr", the rest hardly qualifies as reading material. (That dosent leave much does it, just the editorial here-in referred).
Or is this a beat-up to lead into introducing capital gains tax?
Or just as likely, a Labour promoted one to argue against dismantling Working for Families, so a heap of their voters can continue a tax-free existence.
As FarmFeds dairy leader Lachlan McKenzie summed on yesterdays ZB talk-back, the front page article was rubbish.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Addition to 2011 Stud Sire Ranks

Ashgrove 1/07
Just back from Steve Wyn-Harris' today with some important cargo on the truck, he's graciously lent me a stud sire acquired at the NZOSR selection day, Ashgrove 1/07, bred by David Hartles, Maungaturoto.
At DPP 2762, this ram is currently 2nd (out of 1028), on the latest Coopworth national across-flock sire list, 1511 of those index points gained from a 28th ranking for growth, and 613 for 3rd rank for survival.
Although he'll only catch a 3rd cycle mating tail, progeny bred will be a useful contribution to essential flock linkage, and his Ramguard dose credential of 5.5 is good for this FE environment.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Planetary Cluster

Interesting show going on in the eastern sky in the mornings right now, just before daybreak, 5.30 - 6.30 am
Mars just above the horizon, and Venus, Jupiter and Mercury in a tight group a bit higher.
A look at the Sky-Map also shows Uranus and Neptune within 50 degs as well.
According to the end-of-timers, the wheels should be falling off the Universe with such a ducks in a row line up, but I guess its not close enough to 21/12/12.
Still, gee whizz, there's all these earthquakes, tornados, and other stuff going on, LOL.

My scepticism got another tweak recently.
I was looking up glyphosate's potential use for gorse control, and as happens with most searches, you get fringe results not necessarily along the intended line of enquiry.
One particular link, denigrated the use of the chemical claiming it damaged earthworms.
This piqued my interest, as I use glyphosate to knock back pasture enough to direct drill summer feed crops, or, at lighter rates, to induce clover dominance, again for summer lamb feed.

Most of that rough stuff in the drill wake is worm cast
However, my concern for my fellow worms was greatly assuaged at re-grassing recently, the worm activity is fantastic. I want it to be so too, as theyre important in reclaiming good soil out of the layer of silt inherited from the 2004 and 2006 floods.
The worms are huge too, 6-8" long, and fat.
Maybe the little ones got knocked off and only the strong survived, but more likely its another case of status protection by scaring the unwashed bullshit where, in the supporting "research", the subject worms were doused in straight glypho to prove the belief.

Going to submit myself to another dousing of "belief" come Monday at a seminar involving 'climate change' scientists Jim Salinger and Lincoln's Prof Saunders, and columnist Rod Oram, as in, like, all this concern is a legitimate proposition.
All the years I've been on this farm, since I was born actually, virtually nothing's changed by way of weather.
I think its a case of people living under rain clouds think its raining everywhere else, city dwellers only see increasing stress on resources.
So if all the glaciers are melting, why arent sea levels rising?
More heat, more evaporation, more precipition, more cooling, that's why.
I think...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Coopworth Across-Flock Sire Summary March 2011

The latest across-flock sire summary was published in March.
This summary is breed wide covering 90 odd flocks, (not the smaller NZOSR summary referred to in earlier posts which covers about half the national flock).

Each trait page lists 35 rams, which represent the top 3% of the 1028 registered ram total.
When you consider that registered rams must fall within the top 15% of their within flock peers, it could be considered that these 35 trait leaders fall within the top 0.5% of all rams born.

Waione rams figuring on these lists, with their respective trait ranking are as follows:

Adult Growth:       68/04   24
                           208/03   35
     Smaller sheep rank highest, and a bit of a surprise here to me.
     I thought my sheep were too big to rank.
     Bigger sheep are presumed to come at a feed cost.

Meat:                  400/00   11
                           311/07   12
                           166/02   21
                           198/05   24
                           275/05   34
     20 years selection using eye-muscle scan indexing shows.
     Never been a fan of selecting for body length.
     Prefer deeper bodied, big back-end, and hill-worthy.

Wool:                  297/07    9
                           300/07   23
                           329/02   26
     Continuing focus on fleece weight and quality.

Summaries for each trait can be viewed at:

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Naming horses is a bit of fun.
Since the days of breeding mares to War Hawk II I've taken to searching out good sounding North American Indian names.
Here's the latest, Fallenleaf, (Maltese Century - Ravenquiver), to join the racing team, a rising 5yo full sister of Four Swords.
She's only been doing pre-training work up at Dean Cunningham's so far, with a view to getting serious for winter 2012.

Understandably, the Indians dont like ancestor's names being taken in vain any more than Maori do, but I use the anglicised versions, with all due respect accorded. Big attraction for me is, in their language, they have a beautifully unique and descriptive way of putting words together.
Fallenleaf was a member of the Lakota Sioux nation who ranged west of the Missouri into Dakota.
Living around the late 1800's, she was described as "...... one of those individuals found in all lands, at all places, among all people...... misplaced", apparently not in harmony with her own people.
This may have been partly a result of her father, Spotted Tail, not being in synch with his fellow chief peers in seeing futility in warring with the encroaching whites, instead preferring to parley.
He was well rewarded by whites for this stance, even said this went to his head, and was eventually murdered by his own people.
Fallenleaf was thought to have had a long standing love affair with a long-knife officer, and on her death asked to be buried on a hill overlooking Fort Laramie.
Nice story, and in the naming, engenders a mindfulness in the way you look at and treat your horses.

The mare herself, by Maltese Century, a son of the excellent racehorse Century, (5 wins at 2 incl VRC Sires Produce S. and chart topping sire in Aus), and out of Love a Kiss, who was rated 2nd on the 2yo free handicap of her year. Century was also the sire of one of NZ's greats, Centaine.
Her dam Ravenquiver, a daughter of home-bred sire Siege Perilous, (Sir Tristram - Waione Girl), out of stakes placed Never Winter, (War Hawk - Prairie Flower), therefore double-bred with the studs own 22 family blood, with Sir Tristram and War Hawk chucked in.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cavalier & WSI

Havent got to feeling any easier over Cavalier's take-over of WSI attempt.
I think they're doing it to control the price they have to pay to acquire wool for their carpet manufacturing process, in short, not good news for us wool-producers having signalled our attempt to help ourselves with the now failed WPI.
They'll achieve it by being the sole conduit for wool leaving NZ.
They've already signalled their position by not paying any heed to Robert Pratt when he was a member of their board pushing for vertical integration, farm to mill.
Of course, we producers might consider trying the reverse take-over.
If we're prepared to put up $1 per kg wool produced to fund WPI type proposals, then why not the same to buy a substantial share of Cavalier, and get corresponding membership of the board?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mating 2011

Last 2 weeks has been rams out with the ewes time. Selecting rams for the nucleus flock matings is the best part of the year.
 Ewes ready for sorting

They've been DNA tested for WormStar, MyoMax, LoinMax, and i-scan.
I allocate a proportionate share of sire-progeny ewe groups to each sire, but avoiding same-sires.

Ewes have been weighed and condition scored, and 25 screened 2ths have been added from the run flock, (see previous post on screening).

Sires used listed below, with their within-flock trait ranking.

121/08 - 3rd repro, 2nd repro+surv, 3rd growth
75/08 - 1st growth, 2nd growth+adult

69/09- 3rd wool

179/09 - 2nd DPP, 4th repro+surv, 3rd meat

269/09 - 1st FE

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Got my latest pair of workboots from America, been getting my motorbike boots direct over the internet, so thought I'd give it a try with my workboots too.
I deal with, in Witchita, Kansas. They're both a stockist and a sort of broker, if its not in stock, they get it.
Their website lists literally hundreds of boots, you get
a set of close-up views of each style, and a full description of the product.
Click a box in the top corner, and the price is quoted in the currency of your choice, including NZD.
Pictured are my Durango Georgia Heritage boots, delivered to my rural mailbox in about 2 weeks, for all-up cost of US $147, around $200 NZ including exchange fees on my Visa card.
Theyre quoted as having a 6" shaft, thats the height up the back, in this case a little higher than the average kiwi boot. The shaft height's a critical dimension, for instance, motorbike or cowboy boots come ranging from 10" to 12" mainly, and even up to 19" for jackboot looking types, which at this height are heart-attack territory to get on and off.
12's are best for cowboy and motorbike boots, your trouser cuffs tend to ride over the top of a 10, and there's less protection for your shin, if a bike boot.
6" is pretty good for a workboot.
Other features I like about these boots are the Goodyear welt, thats where the sole is stitched to the upper, rather than that deficient system on most hiking legacy kiwi boots these days where the glue holding the sole wrapping up the side of the boot succumbs to moisture and lets go.
The tread is a decent chunky design much like on the old commando soles you dont see much of any more. Its flat and pretty stiff, so takes a bit of re-learning to walk on. The upside of that is a more stable platform on uneven ground, makes your ankles a lot safer from twisting, or from feeling the humps underfoot.
With padded insole and side-walls, I just wear a thin cotton sock in these....., great, cooler too.
American design is also superior in non-slip sole technology, even the flat soled bike boots I've got are stable on wet rocks or tar seal.
The Georgia has a high tongue, keeps the water out, and the speed lace clips extend low enough you dont have to unlace any lower to get the boot on and off, step in, step out.
The loop at the back is big enough to get a European finger right in for the assisted pull on, Asian designers must think theyre just there for looks.
And the coup de grace are the steel toe-caps, no more sharp hoof trauma in the stockyards.
The final thing I'm grateful about is the consistency of size description, totally predictable across all makes, and wide sizes, listed as either E or W, are available.
Being such a vast country USA has a heritage of reliability when it comes to mail-order business, for instance Montana has a population of 600,000 in an area twice the size of NZ, shopping malls arent exactly proliferate.
So there it is, I'm one of those people local retailers complain about taking business away from the local market, and not paying GST either.
The reality is theyre not competing on technology, quality, product range, availablity, or price.
I have tried to get cowboy and motorbike boots, the same brands through local agents, the wait is excruciating, and the price quoted double, ie, knocking $400 NZ.
No brainer really.
American boots are superior.

Boot care...
I've taken to using WD40 in a squirter, so can be applied in seconds. Its made from fish oil, penetrates readily, keeps leather pliant, and is cheap.
Traditional stuff like Neatsfoot oil are tough on stitching, and/or like dubbin, are a nark to apply.
Have also tried the aerosol silicone products, but like the above, over the life of a boot, you can spend just as much as the initial boot outlay.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Rusty Firth was one of my favorites, left this earth a few years ago now, but his writings are well worth catching up on if you can run down either of his two books.
In 5th Dimension he mentions the importance of buying yourself a toy, at least once a year (Rusty had a trailer-sailer).
The great thing about farming is you can incorporate your toying into your business, and so it is with my latest machinery acquisition.
For the last almost 3 years I've been running a Chinese made ATV. Its been a real lemon, seldom able to make it to the next service interval without a serious repair, I'm on the 3rd rear diff, 3rd rear driveshaft, 2nd front diff, a couple of electrical fixes, and now the fan motor has seized, and the gearbox has dropped its oil. So, the search was on for a replacement, and from TradeMe, this is what I came up with, and settled on. Its a 1986 Suzuki J413 body on a 1992 Samurai chassis, 1600cc Escudo motor, auto gbox, crawler transfer case, fat wheels, in short all the 4wd rally gear.
And its a heap of fun!
The auto's almost intelligent, changes down by itself as you slow down. The 1600's engine braking downhill is superb, slip it down to 1st and it'll hang down a hillside something incredible. Going to be interesting when things get wet come winter, but I'd give it odds the big feet will hang in there.
The fuel tank fills with about 25 litres gas, and I dont see it any worse than the old under-powered Chinese ATV or the Eiger quad for fuel consumption.
The big ups is the capital cost of the thing, less than half a quad, and quarter of a sidebyside. There's a heap of parts available on TradeMe, and experienced mech's tell me they're a joy to work on. 
Bing, Khan, Woody & Scott try out the new ride

The dogs have been a bit of a laugh working out how to mount up, in and out the windows, leaping on the bonnet, but they're getting the hang of it now.


The highlight day of the year, for several of us Coopworth breeders, is the annual ram selection and AGM day. (NZOSR stands for NZ Ovine Sire Reference). Chairman Steve's report follows:

NZOSR 25th Annual Chairman’s Report

Welcome to what is NZOSR’s 25th AGM.
A significant milestone for any grouping be it marriage, club or sheep breeding group. That first meeting was held at Awahuri AB Centre out of Palmerston North on the 10th October 1984. Present were my father Timothy, John McDougall, Pat Dillon, Tom Martin, Graeme Mathieson, Jim Coombs, Don Ellett, Alistair Buchanan, a youthful John Wilkie and one apology from myself. Pat Dillon was elected first chairman and John has had an unbroken run as secretary and mostly treasurer.
Sadly 3 of these gentlemen have died, four have retired from farming but three continue as members. John was the leading instigator and put together a handbook and spent considerable time working out the nuances of those early years of sheep AI’ing. To the best of my knowledge, we were the first group breeding scheme to use sheep AI’ing as a tool. I remember John showing us a school compass set, a small flashlight and a piece of PVC tubing he had adapted to allow members to do their own AI’ing with fresh semen.
It was the new found ability to freeze ram semen that enabled a group of geographically spread sheep farmers to link their flocks through a common sire which we were identifying at our annual selection day. We continue that process here today but for a variety of reasons namely cost, better links from BLUP and other SIL tools, only two or three South Island flocks are continuing with AI to remain closely linked and to access some of their new genetics.
Facial Eczema breeding for tolerance was the first item on the agenda at that first meeting and remains an important consideration for most North Island members.
Several 1985 born sires were the first to be used, Ashgrove 135/87 was our first ‘star’ ram, and 48 rams from contributing studs carried the prefix of NZOSR until 1997 when we reverted to using the owners flock prefix.
Over the quarter of a century members and flocks have come and gone, hundreds of rams have been used through either AI, lend, lease, swap or sale, tens or probably hundreds of thousands of ewes and progeny have been benchmarked and ranked through our sire referencing programme.
Genetic trend lines show referenced flocks making significantly faster progress and a rough indication of this is that of the 35 rams on the first page of the Coopworth DPP ranking, 30 of them are from NZOSR flocks.
For many of us being part of a wider and cooperative sheep breeding group even though we are competitors in the marketplace is the best part of NZOSR and the meeting today to select the reference rams, exchange ideas and socialise is the highlight of the sheep breeding year.
We have been innovative, consistent and successful but we mustn’t rest on our laurels but be prepared to continue to adapt to new technology and ideas, refresh the membership and remain cohesive as we move into our next 25 years of NZOSR.
Steve Wyn-Harris

Our 20 odd member flocks are genetically linked through the use of common sires, in earlier times by artificial insemination, and more recently by ram share, swap, hire, or purchase, or a system of ram circling.
The resultant genetic linkage allows flocks to be benchmarked, and each year we assemble the top rams so identified at the AGM, where we have a group vote on which rams will be the link sires for the next round.

The sire lists also provide an indication how we're each doing with our individual flock performance compared to the rest of the country, over-all, and within goal trait group, eg. Waione has 6 sires in the top 5% for meat yield, and 3 in the top 5% for wool production. Out of 687 sires compared:
     400/00, meat yield index 274, rank 9th
     311/07                           253          12
     166/02                           239          16
     198/05                           220          22
     275/05                           205          30
     297/07                           199          31
The sire top of the list on 584 index pts, Lincoln 544/07, has been resident here at Waione for the last year, and approximately 120 progeny have been bred by him, which will offer a substantive improvement in meat yield genetics for this flock.
544/07 will be having semen collected for use in the CPT trials this coming breeding season.

The 3 sires figuring in the top page of wool index are:
     297/07, wool index 466, rank 6th
     300/07                    402         16
     329/02                    395         20

You can check all the across-flock performance lists on a further breed-wide basis at:       

Monday, January 31, 2011


The last 9 days of 140mm rain has saved our bacon, and the Feilding store stock prices are on the move back up.
With only 22mm in Nov, flanked by 70mm odd the months either side, things were starting to look pretty grim. The hills had burnt right off with the wind, (still at it too), although the river flats were still pushing a bit of grass up.

The pasja summer feed crops, direct-drilled early Dec, germinated very patchy. What was obvious, was germination was better in the heavier soil areas, or where I'd inadvertently had the drill coulters digging deeper, eg on turns or headlands.
The T-shoes are mounted on spring tines, so sharp turns are out of the question, all sorts of funny cultivation happens if you do.
I therefore use electric fence pegs to mark straight travel lands to drill to, and I did notice they were hard to force into the ground the first 1-2", then went easily, damper soil deeper down.
I've only had the drill about 8 or so years, and this is the first dry spring sow I've had to contend with, so the lesson I've learnt to try next dry one, is to sow deeper to get the boot under the dry surface, and maybe not use the covering harrow to avoid getting the seed buried too deep.

Speaking of rain and weather, I recently installed one of those remote weather stations that transmit all the data to the console inside the house, range up to 100m, Thermor brand, made in China, got it from Farmlands. Saves getting your feet wet. Apart from rain, it does humidity, temp indoor and out, wind speed and direction, and a 24hr barometric trend graph. The old conventional rain gauge is nearer ground level about 20m away, and I've found the fancy one measures up to 1-2mm less each rain episode. Not really sure why this happens, possibly there is a site variation maybe due to proximity to ground level, or as someone commented, there may be more spiders in the bottom of the old gauge. Also had a problem when the electronics failed and a couple days drizzle never showed on the console, which necessitated a reboot.
Like all things electronic, you need an operator sixth sense.
One thing it does the conventional isnt very good at, is record heavy dew-fall

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book: Waterhouse and Smith - John Ellicott

"The rise to power of two racing dynasties."
Took a while to read, not exactly gripping, but a lot of interesting stuff about the Sydney bookmakers and the Smith training empire, moreso when you know of the characters involved.
There's little doubt these families are part of the aristocracy of racing, the book gives you some appreciation of how they got there, not without a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. As you see time and again in business, if family combinations work, stay, and play together, establishment, success, and growth can be phenomenal, if not steady.
From first mention of the Waterhouse name with the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove, (officer class, not cattle), through the Fine Cotton affair, to Tommy Smith's humble rural origins and Gai's eventual rise to Tulloch Lodge first lady, a fine sweep of aussie history.
Of particular interest to me, Midshipman Henry Waterhouse on first fleet ship Sirius took up taxidermy while in Sydney Cove, his growing collection being lost when the Sirius went down at Norfolk Island, another early penal establishment. Henry made rank of captain and in this capacity introduced a broodmare and some merino sheep sourced from Capetown. Grazier John Macarthur bought some of the sheep, to found a notable segment of the Australian wool industry, while Samuel Marsden bought some of the others, presumably they might have found their way to NZ.
My Old Man sent his good stayer Ruato over to Tommy Smith, where the horse got 2nd in the Queen Elizabeth Plate and a placing in the Tancred prior to running 7th in the Sydney Cup, but was sent home shortly after, ailing, it was subsequently diagnosed, from rickets. The horse had gone from having the daily run of a Wanganui grass yard to a 24/7 Sydney stable, the only green feed available was lucerne hay, and the ONE thing he wouldnt eat was....... lucerne hay.
Not all lost though, in those days you needed overseas funds to buy a new car, and the Old Man lent me enough to acquire my first car!
And the mighty horse, Kingston Town, who I saw win both the Derby and the Sydney Cup as a 3yo at the Easter meeting.
Final comment, one on Gai's pathway to assuming the Smith training crown. Well versed in the horse business of her father as a youngster, trackwork riding etc, she made the break to London to pursue an acting career, had parts in Dr Who, various plays, and on returning to Australia, Young Doctors, then her own show Track Time on Channel 7, the personal skills so acquired and honed standing her in good stead for her subsequent role at Tulloch Lodge.
Always good for dynastical aspirants to learn an outside trade, new skills introduced can take the family business places its never been.
Good read, 3 out of 5.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Quad-bike Safety

The wowsers are at it again.
In today's Dominion a Wellington Coroner blasts authorities for a lack of action mandating helmets, lap belts, and roll bars on all quad bikes.
The article then goes on to say the latest fatality of the 122 over the last 10 years, had never ridden a quad bike before.....,
So help me...
Some time ago I saw a statistic that went something like 46% of all such fatalities were attributable to inexperience, as in, mostly townies either visiting their country cousins, or sampling the work-style for the first time.
Such is the bain of my life, all these young smart-arses who think working on a farm comprises 100% blatting around at speed, eager to unleash their prowess on the machine, getting to and between jobs quick az, more important than actually knuckling down and doing something.
Furthermore, a bloke needs the BNZ behind him to keep the machinery up to it.

I agree with Benny Bennetts, and Bill Grice, CEO SuzukiNZ, correspondents in the latest Farmer Weekly, who say all that suggested extra gear won't make quads safer.
Where on earth that next letter comment came from about the father and son coming off their Suzuki quad within the same week, I dunno. Seems more like a congenital mental deficiency to me, wasn't there a lesson could've been learnt from the first accident?
I've had Suzuki quads for over 10 years, my current Eiger, (one of the initial run), has done nearly 30k of sterling and reliable work, in all conditions, on all surfaces and slopes and angles, no problem.

If this stuff ever gets enacted, any visiting OSH inspector will need to be sure of catching me on a good hair day.
And if they do make an example of me over it, I might just go back to a horse.
Try putting a lap-belt and roll-bar on that.
Or maybe for a change of vocation I might try being a Coroner.
Over in America, coroners are the subject of local elections, like the sherriff. Over there you can ride a motorcycle on the open road, in a T-shirt, without a helmet, just like we've done for years on farms here.
Just one important qualification to add.....
I rarely exceed 20kph on my quad, around the pace of a trotting dog.

ps. an interesting observation...
The maori part-timers I employ, to a man, (and woman), aren't smitten with the same machinery/boss abuse syndrome their pakeha counterparts display when given a quad to manage.
Its like they're chuffed at being given the responsibility, plus some intrigue at what the machine can do.
Or maybe they're just copying the Boss.

The Great Wool Debate

I paid up the first WPI share call, rather unhappily, as like most sheep-farmers, my operation's not flush with fiscal wriggle room at the moment. (I did so mostly because the local co-op woolstore was one of the first to sell out to WPI).
I don't particularly believe in the concept either. Even if we owned the whole national supply chain, we'd still only be a supplier, and up for the screwing that business model gurus as long past as Michael Porter said is the first port of call (the supplier) for belt tightening processors and further along the line consumers.
I'll come back to this later.
Further, why are we having to buy the assets of Wools of NZ?
I thought that got established with our money in the first place, and OK, if it is part of the deal, who's going to get the proceeds......, us?
Or is it going to stay with WPI/WNZ to fund further market development?
Or, just where is it going?

Also, we have to accept, the exporters have got their act together better with promotion.
More particularly, the Elders/Primary Wool combine have made a magnificent effort with Just Shorn since dis-establishment of the Wool Board, and WSI have worked hard to establish Purelana as well.

But back to business models.....
I thought the most significant comments of recent weeks have come from Robert Pratt, former MD of ElcoWool, and a director of Cavalier Corp. His vision of vertical integration, all strong wool going into the production of Cavalier carpets, was the right idea, we make the stuff here, export it round the world.
Unfortunately he says, Cavalier weren't up for/to it.
More profound than this, was a concept promoted over 40 years ago by Jim Rowe, then Director of the NZ Institute of Economics, who said we should buy Courtaulds, the largest European synthetic manufacturer/wholesaler/retailer, lock stock and barrel 60 million pounds, (at the time the NZ Wool Board was holding over 90 million pounds in the grower reserve account ex the WWII payout). Courtaulds annual fibre output was greater than the total NZ wool clip which at that time came off 70 odd million sheep.
Think about what we could have done with that.....

Anyway, back to Pratt......
Like WSI do, he claims suppliers were very happy with the prices they were getting, but I dunno....
I tried dealing with both ElcoDirect and WSI, but there was a constant pussy foot around paying me just below current auction value, so I think there are a lot of those suppliers deluding themselves about the values they achieve. The logistics of getting my wool to either of these outfits was the final straw, and I went back to the local co-op.

Seriously, the move by farmers to private buyer, away from the auction system, simply undermined the main determinant of value. You can blame exporters for shooting the market in the foot if you like, but I think farmers did it all themselves by deserting the auction and giving them that power.

Joke of the summer I'll award to John Thorley, Chairman of the Campaign for Wool who promises that ".....once within the fold, there will be fair and equal opportunities for all members to operate and use campaign resources."
WPI have copped some stick for not being on board, but didn't I read somewhere that WoolsNZ were, so indirectly we were.
If WPI dosent fly, it'll be the business as usual we've become accustomed to.

I think I'm coming round to being a more aggressive WPI supporter.
Its them or us.