Sunday, December 2, 2012

Facial Eczema Dose Test Results

9179, passed best of the bunch
 21 day GGT test results are in for the 5 stud sires I had dose tested under the Ramguard program.
Facial eczema, (commonly referred FE), is an insidious disease of all pasture based animals here, caused by a toxin produced by a saprophitic fungus, pithomyces chartarum, that thrives after summer dry has browned off pasture.
Fortunately, sheep have a genetic resistance to the effects of sporidesmin toxin, with quite a high heritability component. The Ramguard program involves administering a very carefully calculated dose of sporidesmin and measuring the response indicated by blood test before, and 21 days after.
By this means, the resistance factor can be identified in pivotal individual animals, and spread through a flock relatively quickly, capturing and ensuring a safe and non-chemical avoidance of what can be a highly debilitative challenge to both flock, and bank account.
9069 and 9269, good passes also
Having your flock resident long term in a district where FE is more prevalent is a distinct advantage, as the sub-clinical effects of the disease whittle away at fertility, and indirectly assist building a resistant population of those sheep unscathed.
In my recorded nucleus ram breeding flock, I also GGT blood screen from free-range pasture, all in-coming replacement females, eliminating those showing early intolerance, and therefore contributing to the robustness of the FE/DPX selection index.
Waione 75-08 posting a "slight" reaction, was a bit of a disappointment, as I have big raps on this ram for his growth factor. He was actually 35kg heavier bodyweight than the mean of the other 4 rams tested, on which the dose rate is based, so he got a proportionately far bigger "drink".
One could argue, being a growth spec sire, that he neednt eat as much grass au naturale per kg liveweight, and therefore ingest as much toxin, to maintain and grow, as the others.
It is a known that animals laying down protein, dont succumb to toxin challenge as readily, as conversely do those losing it.
I would expect gene-lines that have a high muscling factor would be less susceptible, and this is born out in my experience with rams I've used, from Norman Early's Ashburton flock, and the highly muscled 544/07 from Lincoln University, both Canterbury flocks where FE is virtually unknown.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book: The Great Divide, by Ian Wishart

I've put this slant on the Treaty of Waitangi in the farm blog under 5th Dimension stuff, rather than where I normally do book reviews on my jreb blog, given that security of tenure, the foundation of our Kiwi brand of capitalism, has an elephant in its room in the form of indigenous peoples (aka Maori) aspiration, originally over land issues, but now bounding over coastline, water, and air.
Us farmers with our land-holdings and proximity to the latter two, can be forgiven for taking the occasional glance over our shoulders.
You have to hand it to Ian Wishart as being one of the most prodigious researchers in the country, even if he's regarded as too much of a conspiracist in some quarters. His work on climate issues in "Air Con" is monumental, and he's sure made a good dig into the archives with this book.
One of the misfortunes of history is its propensity to be re-invented depending on the world-view of its interpreters, and I think a lot of that goes on with the Waitangi Tribunal. "The Great Divide" wont make any in-roads on that score, rather its benefit is as a good back-grounder for those watchful of us having to make a living under the elephant.
As a whakapapa'd (identifiably lineaged) blended Kiwi myself, (can get to Hawaiki, the original homeland of Maori, in 21 generations), I agree with Wishart's conclusion that the Treaty was embraced at the time, 1840, as the best opportunity for security of tenure for the locals in what was an increasingly "wild west" scenario, with the gun trade taking tribal conflict to an horrific level, and the French and Americans sitting in line for de facto authority, bleak alternatives if ever, particularly when you look at their respective poor record of colonisation and dealing with indigenous peoples.
Indeed you have to ask what Maori left Hawaiki for in the first place. Go to any established Pacific society and you'll find our rangatira level were subordinate to at least two higher levels of society, and often a royal family. Maybe it was they left because more than the heat of the tropics got too great, and not just sailing off for the sake of adventure, but actually to secure turangawaewae, "a place for their feet", somewhere else.
While a number of chiefs and tribes maintained a never say die 'its all ours, bugger off whites' stance over what they considered constituted Aotearoa, and the call still taken up today, Wishart points out the little credited and remembered hui at Kohimarama where the majority of chiefs ratified their defence of the 1840 Treaty and allegiance to the concept of Crown, 20 years later. He argues this as evidence of a desire by the chiefs to advance individual land title, and once enshrined, to enable whatever disposition desired, including sale.
Dunno.... the plot around land sale by chiefs gets pretty thick outside of this investigation.
You can argue back and forth on the legitimacy or otherwise of both sides of the from then till now issue ad infinitum. What I think it comes down to is where NZ society wants to take it to today.
Simply, put it to the vote.
Wishart's concluding plank has much merit too. Do we want a written constitution holding Maori aspiration and the Crown, as jointly superior to the wishes of the people?
That's no constitution at all. If it was to be one, the people would be at the top.
Otherwise, why bother with a Parliament.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Annual 'Copter Ride

Dean and the Squirrel doing GPS runs
Finally got a still morning, and AeroWork's Dean Lithgow was on the ball, turning up to do the annual gorse run in the Squirrel, a nice smooth machine.
Its a long shot from early days of Alexander Helicopter's Bell, (aka the ones you see in Mash *** re-runs), piloted by Rex Sherlock. It was quite a novelty in those days, I got the show-around-the-place rides as a school kid, one time hooking the skid under a cast ewe to flip her on her feet, and another being heroically delivered to school.
The old man used to do it but he got put off the time they were puttering up a gully when the power board high tension lines suddenly appeared in front of the perspex bubble, this was in the days when the industry didnt think about those things. Rex dropped the chopper 12' in a fraction of a second, and went through underneath, but the impression was significant enough, the old man delegated me to do the spotting from then on.
Rex further expounded about the time he was doing a job in a remote part of the Waitotara Valley, when he got a skid entangled in the telephone wires beside the road, and try as he might backing up and dropping and lifting, the wires wouldnt let go of him.
As extreme good fortune had it, the P&T, on a rare occasion, happened to be doing line maintenance less than a mile away, and on hearing the chopper working so close the men decided to go and spectate. Lucky they still had their ladders on the truck.
Back to the gorse, last years spray-up was done in Jan, a bit late in my book to catch the best of the growing fronds, at 7 litres Eliminate (Ravensdown's Grazon equivalent) per ha. While the kill wasnt 100% I was happy enough with the foot or so knock-back in bush height. I was also amenable to Dean's suggestion to do 8 litres on some of the heaviest this time, but I think being on the button with the November timing will see it brown off pretty good.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ram Hoggets Eye-muscle Scan

Steve came in recently to do the annual eye-muscle scan on the ram hoggets, which I start into selling to the commercial flock market late Jan/Feb 2013. Measuring muscularity is an indicator of meat yield and heritability of the trait is quite high.
I use Ian Walsh's Falkirk scanning and indexing system, Steve, his local area agent, comes over from Taranaki to do mine.
The results are always something you look forward to, but this year marks the first progeny crop of a sire ram I like a lot, (we breeders all have our from-time-to-time favourites). This year its Waione 75/08, a bigger type of sheep with a good thick carcase. He and his twin brother have dominated DPG growth index from their hgt days.
Falkirk put out an index summary based on the usual combination of live-weight, eye muscle width and depth, and rib fat depth. It dosent have the sophistication of heritability included as do SIL index values, but at least you know the h2 of around .30 applies equally to all the hgts.
They also do a sire summary, assessing % of progeny falling into 5 progressive grades of excellence.
75/08 heads the bunch with nearly 68% of his progeny falling in the top 2 grades.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Arrival

Just one foal this season, born 11th Oct, by Helmsman, from Danske mare, Local Knowledge.
Back in the 2011 breeding season I'd invited Peter Hall to come along to Dalacine Farm taking a look at Indy King, who I was considering putting my own mare to.
I was taken with Helmsman's disposition as we passed his paddock, and with his conformation cover off, and then with his resemblance to Buckpasser, his paternal grandam's sire.
He was a fair performed Group winning horse himself too, over a million in stakes from 6f to a mile and a quarter, started his stud career in USA in 1998, and his US progeny have won over $18m.
Seriously, thats a lot better credential than many of the high priced stallions standing round the country these days. Its a rich pedigree to boot, not a bum line in the 5th remove, Northern Dancer on the top-line, with a 5x5 of War Admiral, and a 4x5 of Princequillo, giving Round Table in the dam's sire-line.
The dam had 9 foals to race for 8 winners, one other group winner beside Helmsman.
Knowing Peter and partners were in a hiatus with Local Knowledge I made an offer on the spot to go 50/50.
So, all year I've nursed this expectation of a mahogany bay Buckpasser look-alike, and was a bit dumbfounded when a little bay filly popped out instead, star, white hind fetlock, which set a memory bank scan in motion....... Danedream....
Back inside after the foal had got its first drink, she did that in short order too, I did a Google on last year's Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, and bingo, little bay filly, star, white hind fetlock, only we got ours on the side opposite to Danedream's.
Main similarity is the Northern Dancer on top and bottom line, Danedream gets hers by Nijinsky over Danehill mare, our foal gets hers by El Gran Senor over Danehill mare, quite close on the Northern Dancer double.
Frankly, I think ours is a better pedigree with Sound Reason and Sir Tristram chucked in, yielding a double of Round Table 5x7, plus a 4x6 of Buckpasser, and the Northern Dancer 3x5x6.
Here we go...... dream number... whatever, lol

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New Toy: Raven Cruizer

Fitting out a 4 metre 4-wheeler mounted pasture spraying rig with a $4000 GPS guidance might seem like an over-luxury.
And hoo boy, yep, it is.
Previously I've used a foam-marker for those circumstances where poor light or insufficient grass length have made row-tracking difficult or impossible, but not without some angst, namely the foam would most times run out before the tank load did, and worse, the foam track would all have dissipated before you got back to the paddock with the next load.
Add to that, the inconvenience of trying to refill the foam tank with its residue froth trying to climb out while you're trying to add the next charge of foam concentrate, plus the time for loading the extra 20 litres of water... a couple of seasons riding with Sandford's fert-spreader trucks and watching their GPS guidance system operating had me day-dreaming big-time.
So it all came to pass when I stumped up for a Raven Cruizer II unit from Croplands stand at this year's National Field-days.
The white thing on the left is the Helix antenna, accurate to 23cm, its got a strongly magnetised base, plonks stable anywhere metal.
I decided the console should centre mount, reasonably high, fixed out front rather than on the handle-bars, so you can keep a better bead on direction of travel. A lot of tractors have the GPS consoles mounted well off to one side in the cab, which I think would take your eyes off where you're going, unless of course you're doubling the cost of installation opting for auto-steering control as well, but hey, this is a 4-wheeler I'm using here.
The console gets its power from the cigarette-lighter style plug most 4-wheelers have, a simple plug-in.
The unit took ages to establish satellite link, so long I thought something was wrong, went inside to have a sob and a cuppa, and a think about phoning the agents, wandered back out and voila, it was all go!
On initialisation, which was well programmed to be intuitive and I completed with minimal referral to the manual, which itself is appropriately minimal, you set up the swath width and fore and aft and sideways distance from the boom centre, then you're good to go.
You get 4 tracking options, following where you went last time, (which is what I use for round and round), straight lines as in "lands", bent lines, and circles.
There are 3 indicators telling you whether you're on the right track, a line of LED's across the top, green when you're on track, red to the side if you stray; directional arrows in the blue horizontal band showing where you should steer; and the one I settled on for preference, when you line up to your previous track a red path-line appears, and you keep the point of the arrow on the line, a lot more intuitive than the other 2 systems.
Of course, you cant beat visual on your last row, but then you dont always see it, and that's the purpose of this exercise.
The stats in the blue band are pretty good, ground speed in particular for spraying, but the ha meter includes all your turn-outs.
You'll see from the pic I'm leaving a few ta ta's, but that dosen't worry me much, there's enough drift at the boom's extremes to cover it I think, and also given the 23cm accuracy give or take.
By and large, my eye's a lot faster than the GPS, but I might try setting the fore/aft initialise at zero to see what happens.
Very convenient too, when the current load runs out, the system tells you where to resume when you've refilled. Re-booting also happens quickly when you switch on after the refill.
I'll be using the system on the tractor in a month or so's time too, mine's an old one, sans cab, when I do my summer crop direct drilling which I have to do in lands because the drill cant do turns. It'll save me having to get on and off to step out and peg the strike-outs, then pick up the pegs after.
The mounting systems supplied in the box make transfer between vehicles very practicable.
Very happy with this purchase.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

FE - Changing Angle on Breeding for Resistance

This year I've GGT bloodtested all 2th ewes coming into the recorded flock.
I used to do this on a regular basis 10 or so years ago as a better way of screening for FE resistance. I figured that proving a ram by dosing, then mating him to females of unknown resistance status didnt make as much sense as GGT screening both sexes, utilising the best and getting rid of the worst.
I ceased the practice when I started Ramguard testing stud sires. The cost of doing both was a bit of a burden, and there was always the thought that selection on conception rate/reproduction, part of the Coopworth Genetics breeding platform, was also selecting indirectly for resistance anyway, (see table left, ewes carrying higher sub-clinical FE have lower conception rates, data from the Waione flock), so I discontinued.
Its important to note that the GGT values shown in the table were obtained from no particular effort to induce or reflect a challenge. I'm often questioned on the validity of GGT screening like this, but believe me, variation is there, even if you dont see it visually, or register a challenge season. The response might vary from season to season, but the more important observation to my mind is that the "good" animals show no, or very little response by way of their GGT's elevating.
Recent and ongoing DNA research work by Phua and Dodds, AgResearch, Invermay, detailed in the 2011 AAABG Conference Proceedings, adds significantly to understanding the resistance problem, what to do about it in the breeding program, and is why I've resumed the GGT screening.
Sheep cope with sporidesmin in their system three ways:
1- non-absorption from the gut
2- de-toxification by the liver
3- or by the anti-oxidation process.
The researchers have so far found eight "chromosomalities" affecting these processes. They're gene groupings that dont overlap, and may be present, or not present, and in differing states of effectiveness, depending on mutation.
Which suggests the modes of resistance offered by respective flocks might differ.
There's also a suggestion some of them may be X-linked, ie. travel with the female X chromosome.
This latter point interested me, so I had a look at how SIL's FE index, DPX, related to ewe performance in the lambing paddock. In the Waione flock DPX is based not just on Ramguard dosing result, but moreso on the ongoing supply of annual GGT blood-test of all MA and incoming 2th sires, commercial included.

Lambing Group                              Mean Ewe DPX

Barren                                                 -14
Single, survived                                     10
Single, lost                                           -27
Twin, both survived                               -6
Twin, lost one                                         6
Twin, lost both                                     -31
Triplet, all survived                                  1
Triplet, lost one                                    -51

lambed as a hgt                                     20
not lambing as hgt                                  -6

From just one season's data there appears to be a fair relationship between foetal/lamb survival and FE resistance as indicated by DPX. I hope the relationship will repeat this coming lambing.
I suspect the healthier ewes may better safeguard their on-board litter through the last few weeks of gestation.
Phua's research shows an ongoing ability for resistant genes to evolve from continued use of tested sires over ewes of even unknown status, over the last 27 or so years a steady heritability of .38 has shown no sign of abating.
By including incoming 2th ewes GGT I hope to make the flock DPX even more robust.
I'll be able to select the very best DPX sires to use in the breeding program, and drop off the worst females.
Its more than likely I'll discontinue Ramguard dosing, the rams I'm using are invariably passing .6 dosing anyway.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

First Aid

Our industry workplace, the farm, is an environment where accidents, if they happen, can be severe.
Taking a basic first aid course is something I've always wanted to do, and I finally got to last weekend joining with one organised by my local branch of Ulysses Motorcycle Club in conjunction with St John's.
I thought we were in for a fair bit about doing stuff to wounds and bone breaks, but things have moved on over the years, and now its focussed more on securing the accidentee and immediate environment, and preparing for arrival and/or evacuation with the first aid response professionals.
St John have devised an acronym based response guide, DRS,ABC+D

D - danger - scene assess for self, others, patient
R - response - check patient status, call name, squeeze shoulder
S - send for help
A - airway - check for clear, recovery position
B - breathing - check look, listen, feel, if none go to...
C - CPR - compressions/breaths '30:2 no matter who' till pro's arrive
D - defrib - increasingly at hand these days, auto-commands inbuilt

We also covered dealing with choking, bleeding, and bone breaks in the immediate response context.

The St John website has a good summary of the above.
The St John course instructor was excellent, as was the St John training rooms, in fact, edifying to get to appreciate the whole local St John facility.

This week I've increased my regular donations to St John, and to the local Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter.
Compliments to Safety Officer Lance and Ulysses for taking this initiative, its comforting to know that on organised rides, most of the others will have a good idea what to do.
Might save a life.

Monday, July 23, 2012

And Along Came Gus...

Gus left, and Woody, grown up now
Maintaining a good dog team has to be worked at all the time.
When I lost Khan last September I bought a $400 huntaway novice.
He was coming along pretty nicely, had an exceptional balance in the yard, was a tiger on cattle, and was starting putting up runs on hillsides of over 200m.
But as the past tense reference indicates, yes, he's history, bowled on the road by a passing car, bane of my life in this world where increasing numbers of city workers live out here for the "rural experience", but bring their city manners, attitudes and sense of "rights" (to do any speed up to the 100 kph speed limit) with them.
It seems my place in the firmament is to never impede their progress by having any of my livestock activity in their path, even though I might use the road for stock movement an average couple of times a week, while they use the road twice a day to and from work in the city, while they pay no rates on their rented houses, and I pay over $12k per year and increasing.
The law is all dogs have to be under control, which a dog loping over the road to take a leak isnt, and I had to cough up the $2000 worth of ridiculous panel beating fee for damage to the car.

Anyway, along comes Gus, who I paid a grand for, bit of a hot-head straight out of the kennel, but a faithful and thoughtful worker, and enjoys 'backing' mobs in the yard for a pat on the head. Arrived here a bit on the lean side, so feeding him up.

Looks like there's little option other than keeping myself and my stock-work out of the way of passing traffic as much as possible, and continually work at keeping the dogs off the road.
The arrogance and self-righteousness the motoring psyche has garnered itself, and worship status of the motor vehicle when behind the wheel, is a sad reality of modern life.

"They" win, I lose.


Sometimes I wonder whether the paranoia we have over farm security gets too much attention, certainly it has its pitfalls.
I recently installed a Chamberlain Wireless Motion Alert System, $459 incl, from the CD Field-days Target site. The price I paid included required batteries, and 2 sensors that have a range of 800m.
I set up one sensor about 200m away, and it works. Even grazing farm animals walking within the 10m scope can set it off.
Main problem is, the home base receiver beeper isnt very loud, cant be heard 2 rooms away, and only just wakes me from sleep.
The receiver plugs into the power which, when all's considered, is an achilles heel for all toys electronic, although it does have a battery backup. Sometimes I suspect it can disconnect, and have "re-learned" the connection just to be sure. Bit of a nark having to bring the sensor back home to do it.

Its hard to beat a couple of Dobers or Rotties running round the house, or a snarky Jack Russell.
Even an alert challenging farm dog.

One piece of gear I have found useful is a Dorcy wireless LED floodlight, $46 from the local industrial safety shop.
Its got a good and reliable sensor range, and behaves itself turning off.
Running off 3 'D' batteries, its not exactly floodlight intensity, but it hurts to look directly at it and provides plenty of illumination to find keyholes in the dark, or light up dark corners.
Unlike a conventional security light, you dont need to be a registered electrician to put it up, and frankly, I havent found those lights all that reliable anyway.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Farm Resilience in the Face of Volatility

Problem with being an old hand is you dont learn much at field days, if you come away with one new thing its been a good day.
The weather was a real prick yesterday and B&LNZ's latest seminar offering was just over the hill in Turakina, so I toddled along.
And came away with plenty, main of which was a pretty substantial worksheet for devising risk management strategy in the farming system, identifying the factors, their relevance, likely effects, and space to notate what to do about it.
Great plan, thanks B&LNZ, going to be fun working through it, and possible material for future posts here.
There was a major slant to climate change, discussion led by Andrew Tait from NIWA, who presented data showing there has been a 1degC increase in temp mean over the last 100 years here in NZ, reflecting the world-wide situation.
I've been a skeptic/denier if you want to call it that, still am, not so much about the data, but at being bullied by others on issues significant to them, not necessarily to me. I accept the temp rise is real, but frankly I'd sooner go to work during a drought than in the winter weather I'm hiding from here at my computer desk today, made even worse by my having spent the last three winters in the northern hemisphere motorcycle cruising shirt-sleeved across the 30degC Mid-West USA.
Proof of farmer acceptance of "climate change" was proffered by the results of a survey in which farmers ranked it as 3rd on their list of threats behind, of one thing, Winston Peters, but this is a misconstruction, its actually the ETS and similar townie conspired assault on our way of life we consider the threat, not so much whether the ice on Antarctic is going to melt or not.
Just last night on the way home from the movies, I heard one whacker on Kerre Woodham's Talkback expounding "we (townies) were subsidising farmers on the ETS". This is the sort of crank along with the Greens that exercise votes impacting on farmings future. There is no properly functional ETS at the moment, and farmers pay the same levy on fuel and power he does, on an individual basis, a freaking sight more.
And further, I walk to work each day, I bet he dosent.
In my world here on this farm I've lived on since a couple of days after I was born, things have changed little. As kids maybe we used to break ice on the puddles while waiting for the school bus, nowadays you dont see the puddled ice so much because the road is sealed.
Going to Wellington or Auckland is a different story, traffic jams to social mayhem, and all that concommitant urban shit. People who live under rain-clouds think its raining everywhere else.
What I really really like about the climate change debate, who's presenting the truth or not, is that scientists can no longer go to work without the feeling the world's looking over their shoulder.
Join the club mate, that's what farming's turning into these days. LOL
Trevor Cook delivered his usual dose of common sense on matters of livestock care in a changing environment, and Gary Massicks outlined and added to formulating the risk management plan.
Due to the smallish attendance we didnt break into workshop sessions to "drill down" into the topics, thank goodness, do I hate workshop sessions.
The open forum opted for served admirably.


This would just about have to be my final word I think, following a chat with another dairy-farmer neighbour.
The vote's gone through at 66%, which, while not over the hoped for 75% option also on the vote sheet, could be regarded as "near enough".
He says there's always a dissident voice, it was even worse during the debate whether to form Fonterra in the first place with the combination of Kiwi Co-op, NZ Dairy Group, and the Dairy Board itself.
Some of the opposition in the current debate arises from quite credible source, but the bottom-line principle still is one of single desk being able to better serve a number of producers in a small nation, right from getting away from competing milk collection tankers driving up and down the same rural road to competing for product sales on the bigger world stage.
Contrary to my previous comment about the future danger if PROC get to dominate the TAF fund, that possibility is actually mitigated. If not for TAF, it would be open slather for foreign capital to offer individual farmers sweetheart deals for their shares, as well as buy in share-holding through farm acquisition.
This way, TAF is the only entry/exit point for capital, and its size-limited to 20% of the total shares.
While its been some time in the making, safeguards have been introduced at each raising of concern, no doubt such will continue.
The involvement of Govt remains an issue. Why cant farmers just be allowed to get on with it?
A big part of the motivation behind the DIRA seems to me a knee jerk response to NZ public complaint about the rising price of milk and cheese, and while changes to the Act might be necessary to effect this latest change in capital structure, I hope its not going to include "safeguards" to the NZ dairy product consumer, ie read price control. Already there's this ridiculous requirement of Fonterra to supply their opposition with a percentage of milk at a controlled price.
Competing companies dont appear to be doing all that well as it is.
Fonterra's done well, in a shaky world economy, returning a good reward to suppliers by and large, and giving a robustness to the value of protein on supermarket shelves.
This latter point shouldnt go un-acknowledged by us meat, and wool, producers, poor relation as we are bereft of a decent processing and marketing chain.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

More on TAF

So, here I am, armed with all the to and fro gen on the Fonterra TAF (Trading Among Farmers) debate, and I spot a dairy farmer neighbour in a local hardware store, me, eager to engage in conversation on the issue, somewhat naively it turns out.
To recap, Fonterra is creating a tandem investment vehicle to run alongside farmer shareholder capital. All Fonterra suppliers must buy a shareholding matching their supply volume, being the shareholder capital side of the business. Its the nations biggest business, $10.4B of exports, 26% of NZ's total exports, 1 share per kg milk solids, 600m kg total production, share value $4.50 odd, total shareholder value, $2.7B?
When it was mooted, maybe 5 years ago, the main argument was that outside investment, ie. greater capital resource, was needed for greater expansion of the co-op's commercial activity and to enhance its competitiveness on the world stage.
The vote by shareholders to proceed was passed 3 years ago, but concern was raised about such a non-supplier fund eventually becoming a tail that would wag the dog, appeasement of investor expectation to the detriment of supplier income.
This second approaching vote, 25th June, is taking place after safeguards have been built into the proposal, limiting the size, and clarifying the non-voting status, of the tandem fund, and somehow the initial argument seems to have shifted from one of the necessity for extra capital for company expansion, to one of needing a buffer fund to absorb the need for capital to satisfy any cashing up farmers might make on exit from the industry. There's also a presumed danger that in times of financial stress, farmers, (or their bankers) might deem it wise to cash up some of the shareholding.
Therefore, this so-called redemption risk, is taken off the company balance sheet, providing stability for future commercial strategy.
So, here, I start getting a little lost. If I was an outside investor, I'm not sure I'd want such a tame punt, with no-voting rights, but I guess there'd be plenty of investment institutions, regardless of lack of involvement in the up front action, would appreciate an investment vehicle probably safer than a bank, if theyre prepared to ride out normal agri-economy ups and downs cycles, and easily return more than current banks penny pinching 3-5% deposit fund returns.
However, from my view, any move away from a simple co-op capital base, is thin edge of the wedge stuff.
Back to my neighbour....
When I asked how he voted, he looked at me like, are you nuts or something. What am I talking about if there are options to voting "yes"?
Oh well, I explained brightly, I've been following the debate on Country99, (which incidentally he knew nothing about).
So who was on it? he enquired, and I got sage nods of approval at mention of Theo Spierings, the Fonterra board member, and the Shareholders Council Chair Brown, but when I mentioned Guiney, (my heroine), Barkla, and that "other woman from Waikato, the accountant/dairy farmer" he responded somewhat forcefully, "those nutters, if they dont want to belong to this co-op, they should bugger off".
So.... seems to be that the supposed 93% support are "rugby supporter" definite about where they want to go on this issue. And whats more, up till now I thought this debate was remarkably free of vitriole.

The next 10 years will be pretty interesting where this all gets to.
What I wonder about farmer/suppliers is whether they really appreciate the longer horizon vision of the corporate. Nestle can wait 50 years to take over Fonterra, which I bet they'd love to do, the Fonterra Board vision is only as long as the peer blokes farmers vote onto it, and they in turn employ graduates of the corporate world to run their company for them.
And it almost seems that suppliers want to pick up, embrace, and run with a corporate ball. Get the best of a both-world each way bet, milk price or dividend, cant lose.
Just as long as they never let the share register go public..., ever.
Buried in my psyche is one of Michael Porters main business model flowcharts, when the going gets tough, the first thing you screw are your suppliers. Actually, its the only thing you've got to screw.
We do it all the time when we "put our cheque books away".
Yesterday I was somewhat envious of my fellow farmers business model.
Today, I think I'm happy to be floating free in my non-aligned sheepfarming sea.....
except for that ominous NAIT cloud on the horizon, but thats another story.
Another parting thought, what say the Peoples Republic of China want to buy the TAF fund.....
20% of $2.7B shareholders total, ie. half a $B approx, would only be chicken feed to them, as would a 50 year vision horizon.
Actually, its not hard to draw parallels with the current issue of Govt selling parts of the SOE's.
You'd wonder why both organisations couldnt have just gone straight to the NZ Super Fund, or Kiwi Saver fund operators, and offered them an off-market package deal of non-convertibles.
Or is that too easy....

Friday, June 22, 2012

Country 99 TV and the TAF Debate

Phew, now I've gone and changed my mind, having just watched the final TAF debate of the three, and picking up a replay of the first night's off the Country 99 website.

The first two sessions are posted for replay, roughly 30 mins a time if you've got the data capacity, and I'd pick it wont be long before tonight's is posted.

Debate dosent actually feel like the right word to describe it, remarkably free of personal vitriole, more an in-depth discussion, and folks intelligently presenting their views.
Glenys Christian looks a most unlikely discussion facilitator, so far removed, but refreshingly so, from the usual TV smart-arse provocateur, but gee she asked the good questions.

The 3 debate programs are fantastic TV.
As a sheep and beef farmer I'm gob-smacked envious these people have something so huge and important to discuss, so competently. After the rise and collapse of co-operative attempts in the wool industry, and the impossibility of anything similar ever happening in the meat industry, we really are the poor relation.
As with last night getting spellbound by Louise Guiney, Damian O'Connor (Labour Spokesman on Agriculture) emerged as my favorite tonight, not a hint of party politics, and obviously on the Parliamentary Committee doing the DIRA, expressing his apprehension at framing legislation governing farmer shareholders from the top down, rather than from grass-roots up.
Theo Spierings impressed from the first night's show.

All this stuff a country mile ahead of the nightly sectional hand-wringing drivel on TV's 1 and 3 News, Campbell Live and Close-up.........
restores my faith there is actually a sane NZ out there.

The weather program on Country99 is the best I've ever seen too, week nights only, 8pm, ran 15-20 mins easy, fronted by Phillip Duncan, gave a 10 day by day through till Sunday week using a map extending well west of WA and almost as far south as Antarctic
first week in July is going to be warmer than first week in June was
I can try and get the ewes shorn then!

Problem is, its a subscription service, in truth the program schedule looks a bit sparse, and its $17 a month on top of an already bloated Sky sub, but I could claim it as a deductible item.
Need to think a bit more on it, maybe for the weather alone it might be worth it.

Whatever the outcome of the TAF vote, all the best you guys.
Seems to me the balance sheet stability to be gained from better controlled redemption risk, should the vote pass, will help the co-op remain competitive internationally.
The downside is, its not the outside investors that will bring jeopardy to the company, its the farmer shareholders themselves selling out capital somewhere down the future line.
Co-operatives are by and large a generational animal, corporate animals by contrast can play a waiting game forever.

Best Current TV

A mate complained the other day TV programming was so bad he was chucking in his Sky subscription.
Have to agree, although I'm hanging in there for the rugby.
Unlike him, I didnt get sucked into Soho, I thought it was pretty charlatan of Sky to put all the interesting stuff into a subscription extra, but even that, my mate says, has run its initial novelty out.

What I have found rivetting viewing is Country99's coverage of the Fonterra TAF debate.
As a sheep and beef farmer I've been to-ing and fro-ing, trying to understand the significance of the various arguments for and against in the written media, Country99's three part debate currently screening puts a heap of perspective to the issue.

Have to say I'm now a huge fan of Louise Guiney, she has an articulacy one rarely comes across, showing particularly well in the glare of a TV studio last night.
The Feds Dairy No2, Robin Barkla I think it was, was rock solid sound delivery too.
If I was a tit-puller I'd be voting "NO".
Put aside the emotive high ground argument of keeping the co-op for future generations, it simply comes down to, is it in the individual farmers best interest to demutalise, and I dont think so.
There are plenty of people running round who see it in the national interest, control the price of milk, get in on a share of the industry action, but, what have they ever cared about the individual farmer?
If they want a share of the action they can always buy a dairy farm, the Chinese are happy to.
And for years I've wondered why city investors dont invest in direct farm mortgage rather than shonky finance companies, we're a more secure asset run by basically honest operators.
All this business about the price of milk getting beyond the average Kiwi is drivel, and I see the DIRA as just another step in getting control of somebody elses asset without having to put up some blood sweat and tears.

The other reason I'm going to hang in on Sky TV, is mySky with its post view flexibility, and I think iSky's going to have a future, particularly now you can buy data in such big packages.
Jamie McKay's gone on line with his "Farming Show", which is great given you cant always make a date with a timed radio slot, and maybe one day our newest Ag Communicator of the Year, Steve Wyn-Harris might too!

GPS Tracker - Spy Bike

Bit of potential in this device for farm bike and quad security, and maybe road bikes.
Its a GPS unit hooked up to a SIM card that phones co-ordinates to a website at set intervals, if the bike is moved after the unit is activated.
If its not you thats moving the bike, you can see where it is on Google Maps on your PC or smartphone.

The unit I bought couple of years ago had some limitations
- bit too big to conceal, and if you did tuck it away out of sight, the GPS reception was compromised
- it was only good for less than 2 days on one battery charge

This one looks better to handle both above problems, plus remote control over when and how to activate, and tracking on Google Maps/Smartphone
price is competitive too, about half what mine listed at, at the time.
I think I paid about $400, and only got it at that because Repco made a mistake in the advertising, was supposed to be $800
they'd pulled the ad, but I had the original on me when I went and enquired and they were good enough to honour the ad and let me have it at cost.

This was back in the time I was fresh from having my shed burgled, padlock chain diamond-sawed, and 4 wheeler, chainsaw, tools etc, nicked
hardly used it in the end, the short charge life rendered the thing near useless,
the inconvenience of having to charge it every day, plus the SIM card expiring, and having to remember yet another phone number
had you almost hoping some bugger would come and pinch the bike and put you out of misery.

So infuriating at the time, how easier if we could just carry a sidearm like in the westerns, shoot the freekin' intruders.
Anyway, my 4 wheeler now is so decrepit it isnt worth pinching
maybe thats the answer.
But its an indictment on society when approaching obsolescence secures you from property theft...
its said security of property is one of the cornerstones of progressive society
those nitwits in the Greens and Labour havent realised that theft of property off "rich pricks" through higher taxes, capital taxes etc, dosent make the poor rich
it just makes everybody poor
even Lithuania and Albania have figured this one out.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cellphone Comparison Part 2

More Yeah Right.....
On the trip to Taumarunui the Ideos X5 shat its battery in 6 hours, after only 2 incoming calls.
I can only conclude its one of those phones that drives itself stupid trying to stay connected in marginal reception areas, such as what I drove through between Wanganui and Taumarunui, via the Parapara.
So, its back to the old Nokia 5800, which I'd taken with me, just in case...
Fortunately, with the old girl, the bluetooth has decided to work again, so I'm back on hands-free on the road too.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Cellphone Comparison

Am inclined to start this out with.... yeah right.
My Nokia 5800 Express phone has given great service last 3-4 years, 1000's of pics on 2 trips round America and another to Europe, small size, robust enough to survive everyday work and a couple of drops, good reception out here in the sticks, relative. Ahead of its time somewhat given new smart-phones now on the scene, but lately the screen has lost some of its touch response, and now and again erratic behaviour.
Last year I picked up a Huawei Ideos X5, Android o/s, and more recently, a Nokia Lumia 800 touted at the business market.
Have to say I'm disappointed in both.
The X5, despite being 5 mp camera'd takes lousy pics, theyre blurry. The on-screen shutter only contributes to camera shake, and the on-screen zoom is rat-shit when youre in a hurry to capture a scene. As well as the pics, it also stores thumbnails of the same, but FFS, what for? When you copy to your desktop pic file you get 2 of each, and then the confusion starts which ones to delete.
The button on the side controlling ring volume annoyingly lends itself nicely to accidental adjustment.
A fault common to both phones is the frustratingly small size of text font. In Android you can get an app to get round this, but FFS, for the price, why cant the phones just do it.
The X5 dosent have carriage return either, well it does in calendar, just not in texting, but like the 5800, the Lumia does. I got round the font size thing with the old 5800 permitting setting text to bold. The Lumia has a slightly better keyboard for my fat blokes fingers, both it and the X5 utilise heat recognition, the old 5800, bless it, had a very positive stylus, or you could tap the keyboard with the edge of your thumbnail.
I think the Android calendar is better than the Windows one.
Neither of these phones connect automatic with my desktop wifi, and vice versa. Neither can they do a simple world clock like the 5800 can. Theyre both unco-operative when trying to access the internet, the 5800 never had this problem.
However, the Who-are-we Idiot X5 is the lesser of my problems, its my main phone for the time being.
Now for the Lumia.
It runs on Windows, which should have been enough to put anyone off, but I thought it would be neat if I could copy my Excel files across and skip off to work with a useful interchange of data in prospect.
No such luck, its not as simple as plugging in your USB cable and seeing drive:F or whatever, you have to email files as an attachment, in which case your carrier gets to clip the ticket, so theyre not going to help, and in my case, my cell reception here is marginal.
There is a wifi work-around available, but as I said, wifi connection's another problem to overcome.
You can also swap stuff via an i-drive like Skydrive, and I can see some potential in being able to access stuff from anywhere, but jees, again with my marginal reception I have to go down the end of my driveway to be sure of making the down/upload, that is, if I can ever get connected to the internet.
However, the real dark person in the woodpile on this one is, what happens if there's a complete power/comms failure like we had in the 2004 flood, or some hostile power decides to blow the satellites out of the ether, or why would you even put private information into the cloud where every tom, dick, and hacker can have a go at it.
There is an accompanying file transfer capability in the form of Zune, but it only does pics, music, and vids. Why not data files FFS? Nowhere near the facility of Docs to Go with Android.
And of top of that, when I set the Zune system up on my desktop, it started to do some uninvited read-in (or out) of my existing several thousand pics, so I quickly emasculated that, plus I swear there's some definition loss between phone and desktop.
I followed Nokia because I thought I could simply copy my custom ringtones across, but no such luck again, the 5800 used .arm files for ringtones, so I have to convert the files to mp3, then go through a bit of techno-acrobatics to genre them into the Lumia.
I also thought I'd get the superior Nokia reception of my 5800, but another fail. Retailers look at you bald-face and say there's no difference between any of them, which again is laugh-100 territory. Right now I've got 3 bars on the X5, and ranging from half to nothing on the Lumia. Vodafone offer a signal amplifier adding a $340 insult to injury, but its wifi dependent, so help me.
The Lumia is a nicely crafted machine, comes with a rubber sort of protective surround, +/- buttons on the top, plus a shutter button that takes you direct from phone to camera, and ziess lens which is another plus. Unfortunately, the lens is near mid.mounted on the back, and it gets condensation off your hand pretty easily.
The simm card is a micro simm which means you cant swap it out to the old phone, or others youre using or trialling.
These two phones cost the guts of $1400, I've got a couple of fancy bits of machinery, but I'm no better off function-wise. With Microsoft and Vodafone I expect I'll have to spend even more for solutions.
As for Nokia, c'mon guys, surely you can do better than this ...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Aiyana finally gets a maiden win

With a nice run at the 26 April Blenheim meeting, she got a stylish length and a bit win in a maiden 1950m.
I can appreciate trainer Myers placing her in this race, one she could win, even if a short back-up from last Mondays start at Wanganui, where she was 9.5 lengths off the winner.
Looks like Aiyana's not a fast horse, she runs about 4 sec off the pace of higher rating fields over the 2000m odd distance. So far anyway, on G3 tracks.
How she'll go on easier ground comparative to the opposition, yet to find out. The team at Sandhaven Stables have done a great job getting her past the mind problems we thought she was carrying from her 3yo injuries, and it was pretty big of Peter McKenzie to suggest the change of stable as a possible solution.
At least now I have more data to add to her future breeding decisions, which are, stronger front lower limbs, and some speed blood, without sacrifice of marginal stamina and professional dosage.
I installed Tesio Power recently, interested to see it has a dosage analysis. Have to comment I disagree with the dosage analysis only going as far back as 5 generations. Knowing what I do about breeding both sheep and cattle, and more latterly how DNA is involved in the process, I'd agree with the original dosage architect, Franco Varola, that the compounding effect of Chefs de Race as far back as year dot gives the truer picture.
I've also enrolled for TAB's Race Tracker and am settling back to the task of nutting out what Kevin's up to with my horse, after the fact. It beats me how the newspapers can be picking her to win, when I dont even know she's going to the races.
On gripes yet to be settled, is the banning of owners from following their horses into the saddling/stall/stable enclosure. I guess plenty of trainers would like owners kept out of their hair, irrespective of any stated desire of NZ Racing to comply with OSH safety concerns.
But.... like many owner/breeders, handling horses of all levels of tractability is part of my daily work. Further, I'm not a "social" owner, I dont go to the races to ponce around, and have little use for the social one drink on the stewards after a race. Observation on all facets of my horses' performance however, is important to me, both on track and off, and to and from, so I can make the sort of breeding decisions that involve character and type as much as running performance.
I've spent something like $50k outside of breeding costs, getting this horse prepped to this 5yo stage, her earnings at the races so far will hardly cover 3 months training fees.
You'd think the industry would be a little less inclined to getting people like me pissed off.
Still, should comment what a picturesque course Blenheim's Waterlea is, and the camera work there for Aiyana's race rates among the best I've seen.
The gift pack presented by the club to winning owners is definitely a nice touch too.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Another goodbye old friend

The roller drill's sat around hardly used several years now. An Aitchison 9 footer, beautiful piece of machinery, couldnt be bettered sowing new grass into a cultivated seed-bed, but with the Grassfarmer direct drill also on the place, its sat languishing in the face of the latter's stitch-in ability.
Bit of a sad goodbye, and with a bit of trepidation that now its gone, I'll want it for some job or other.
However, devil take the hindmost, dont look back, I've traded it on a new Fieldmaster 2.3 mulcher topper.
Loaded ready to go
The wider cut will be a blessing for faster times topping, and the mulch function I look forward to assisting the direct drill get over the patches of weeds that sometimes present in the pasja stubble prior to re-grassing.
Transport was a bit of a problem, too wide or long for a permissable deck width, but we got the tilt drawbar up enough, Grange Transport obliged.
One thing I wont miss is the close manouvre to get its 10' overall through my mainly 11' gateways.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Something New

I've just had the Rangitikei Hunt Club use part of the farm for a hunt, the 450ac odd rolling to hill in the middle of the place, at the urging of neighbours Michael and Lynette, who host the hunt from their place.
Not without a bit of stress, worrying about what people would think, old carcases I'd been remiss in cleaning up over the years, fences needing attention, usual story, lining up a tourist route before letting a bunch of sightseers loose.
Further, I have to declare myself a bit of a hare lover, they're a real institution on a farm, always been there in an in-offensive life way.
But I needn't have worried too much, got the litter cleaned up in time, pushed the beef herd into the back paddocks, and ran the whole flock home the night before, for their tupping sort-up and drench, so that I could open all the gates to give the riders best of access.
You learn something every day, hares flee in about a 1km arc around their territory, rather than outright straight-line, ending up back "home", so my 450 ac circuit offering of a bit of flat and hill, gullies, and some sprayed gorse cover, turned out a happy ideal for them.
Even I was grateful to hear the Hunt Master spared the odd tired hare, to go seek fresher, more exciting quarry for the punters, they actually put up five in the couple hours, which in itself was a bit of a revelation, I havent seen hide nor hare of a hare for months.
In my ignorance I carried on drenching the ewes when they finished, and missed being on hand for the ritual thanking of property owners, hope I didnt appear too rude.
I'd sort of imagined there'd be a bit of a carry-on well into the evening, but apparently not so these days. A good hunter's worth a small fortune, so theyre not left tied up to the horse-truck while owners get on the turps, and like with all rural social occasions, drink-driving laws have brought about a sea-change in social behaviour.
Yes, I'd do it again.
Bit of stress cleaning up the place, but then that's probably to the good, and the early April date works in pretty well with my tupping muster.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Storm Casualty

Broke-back weather station
 Remember my enthusiasm for the weather station installed some time back?
Well, its a nonnie now.
The storm early Feb broke the stem holding the wind sensor clean off its mount, the wind was so furious, (although on second look, I think I can run a kiwi repair job on it).
On top of that, the batteries on the rain gauge ran out a couple of months prior, and of course you lose all the cumulative rain data, so I've reverted to the old plastic gauge.
On top of on top of that, if the power goes off inside the house you can lose data on the console as well.

As the world rushes to technology dependence, I just shake my head.
I got into handheld data-loggers years ago, the solid-state memory on them collapses when they're full, and if back-up and main batteries fail together, you get into trouble as well.
The unit I've got is supposed to be drop proof from 1 metre onto a hard surface, and sure, it does that just fine, but now a few years down the track, the plastic casing is cracking of its own accord, as all plastic eventually does on its road to inevitable decomposition.
So I've gone back to a pocket notebook.
Even the Palm handheld I tried wore me down, I need to look at a whole farm context, not be limited to a 3"-4" screen.
Smart phones are being held up as the new Nirvana, but having gone through the total isolation, power and comms, post 2004 Flood, plus having to keep the thing fully charged, and rely on power supply for that...

Good luck everyone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Out in front first lap
This mare's earning her right to a post mention, running a nice maidener's 3rd in a 2100m at Tauherenikau yesterday.
Now 5yo, she had a couple of starts at 3yo for 4th's both times, but since then and the current campaign, had chips removed from her fetlocks.
Touch wood, there's been no recurrence this time, but thought in the camp was she might have been harbouring associated trauma memories, and to his credit, then trainer, Peter McKenzie, suggested a change in work regime might be the next consideration to work a mental change, dropping her off at Kevin Myer's Sandhaven facility for me.
Fingers crossed, it might be working.
Peter's magnanimity on this issue keeps him at No1 in my book.
Pursuant to my Nth American Indian naming theme, Aiyana means endless blossom, or always in flower.
She's a daughter of His Royal Highness, which is why I sought training with Peter in the first instance, out of Pompeii Rose, which makes her a half-sister of the Rayner trained stakes horse Valhalla, also bred here at Waione.
Pompeii Rose descends through Prairie Rose and Waione Girl, the family of our good gallopers Chief Joseph, Always Summer, Never Winter, stallion Siege Perilous, back to 22 family matron, Eulogy.
NewPlymouth 11/11

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ram Circling

MNCC 495/09 getting down to business
Its a bit early for my flock mating but last couple of days have availed of the opportunity to run an outside ram with the recorded ewes, MNCC 495/09, on a four farm circuit down this end of the North Island, on his way back to owner/breeder Edward in Cambridge.
495/09 was adjudged top choice by the NZOSR sire reference group at our 26th AGM last month. Out of a bit over 1000 rams referenced he came in 9th for over-all production index. His Ramguard FE resistance credential from a flock with an established reputation for this trait was an added attraction.
He's covered ewes at Steve's, Waipukurau, Simon's, Halcombe, here, then today on to Murray and Wayne's at Mangakino.  Flock owners share the transport with halfway rendezvous, and the ram's taking the tour in his stride.
I copped the stormy spell of weather with my time allotment and only got a handful of ewes covered, Simon thought it through much better with teaser synchronisation for a 40 odd ewe cover.
Ram circling's an attractive alternative to access to the genes by AI, all part of gene-sharing by a co-operative group, improving genetic links between flocks for the reference purpose, and conferring kudos on the breeder of the ram, and his flock.
OK Boss, where to next?