Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Fact and fantasy

628 Responses

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  • DeepRed, in reply to Sacha,

    As someone suggested pages ago, to increase the proportion from more sustainable low-impact industries. Not good news for farmers, but them’s the breaks.

    It'll be a mission for as long as there are people like past FedFarm president (and ACT candidate) Don Nicolson, who remarked, "every NZer is a farmer" and "why on earth are we wasting dollars trying to develop industries in which we can never be competitive?".

    Don’t we need a total redesign of the dairy industry if it is going to pull its weight , economically speaking.
    Is the failure to protect what remains merely a misallocation of resources or is it more fundamental i.e. the country is not making any money?

    I'd say misallocation of resources. While DOC is financially stretched, millions are being doled out to friends in high places.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4214 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to DeepRed,

    millions are being doled out to friends in high places.

    O.K crony capitalism is the name of the game . . . everywhere
    No way to change that.(barring violent revolution).
    So a bigger pie?

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Farmer Green,

    O.K crony capitalism is the name of the game . . . everywhere
    No way to change that.(barring violent revolution).

    Again with the presumptions, you dont know that. We're not in a dictatorship.... yet.

    Dr Mike Joy was good on media3, I thought.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1204 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to andin,

    Sorry , which; crony capitalism or no way to change it?

    What did Mike say?

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green,

    You’ll have to excuse my ignorance there: I haven’t had a TV in the house for over 35 years so I googled media3 (which I had never heard of) and found the interview.
    I’d now like to see Russell interview an appropriate person to discuss the possibility of doing on a much larger scale exactly as FG has done.
    The obvious problems in scaling it up are that there is no suitable brand and there is not enough milk available for three to five months of the year.
    The problem of getting the cockies to change is an economic one which is insurmountable while Fonterra maintains its present “co-operative principles”.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Farmer Green really hasn’t got much to offer to the good folk here ; he was hoping for some suggestions for his own farming operation.
    What is it that you want to see?

    Here's one.

    More cows per farm. More cow shit. More shit, more storage problems. More storage problems, more area wasted. Shit takes up energy.

    I think it is not beyond possibility that someone might like to build a container sized shit cooker. One that every dairy farmer could drop next to the cow shed shit storage area and pump, cook and stew shit and extract useful fuel. The fuel is fed straight into a generator also in the container. My back of the envelope calculations suggest 300 cows could easily supply a farms' energy needs and produce excess to the grid. The beauty of the container is maintenance. Need a new one? Bring it on, swap it and carry on. They could be built to accommodate (say) 200 cows shit supply in each container.

    Convince me it ain't a winner. Maybe I should enter it into the Great New Zealand Science Project.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1492 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Ross Mason,

    It has already been done; some farmers have them. It works better if you bring all the food to the cows in a barn so that you get a drier, more concentrated mixture; a watery slurry is not ideal.
    So you’ll need a lot more energy to cut and carry all the feed to the cows , maintain the atmosphere in the barn, and then cart the final product after methane removal back to the fields and spread it. The waste will have to be composted to stabilise the nitrogen before application to the fields ; that will involve further energy input for turning /aeration.
    Farmer Green is heading in exactly the opposite direction:; he plans to use a mobile milking robot to milk the cows in the paddock , thus eliminating the concentration of manure (and pathogens) at the cowshed, and saving the energy that the cows expend walking to and from the shed. It will also eliminate the animal welfare issue of having lame cows. The manure will stay in the paddock where you want it.

    Have a look at this :

    Anyway the problem is too many cows on too few hectares ; your plan is not really addressing that , unless you plan to export the digester feedstock after the methane has been removed [ the process also produces quite a bit of CO2 ; SHOCK HORROR :-)]

    I think that perhaps people are not understanding that it is cows urinating on pastures that is causing the most critical damage to waterways. The soil can only absorb so much ; the rest goes straight through into the ground water and ends up in the streams and rivers.
    The dairy industry knows this ; the Clean Streams Accord was a smoke- screen to deflect attention from the real problem. Farmer Green thinks the strategy has been quite successful.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green,

    Out of sheer boredom , FG has crunched some numbers.
    The industry currently sells 20 billion litres , produced by 6 million cows (3300 litres/cow), at a gross realisation of about $20billion.
    FG ’s model has 1.5 million cows producing 10.5 billion litres on a year-round basis(7500 litres /cow) for a gross realisation of $30 billion.
    The stocking rate has dropped from 2cows /Ha to 0.5 cows/Ha. The nitrogen loss to ground water has been substantially reduced.
    That would be a no-brainer wouldn’t it?
    Has FG got it wrong?

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Farmer Green,

    Has FG got it wrong?

    Hard to know unless you show the calculations. How you got 50% more money out of 50% less milk needs clarification. Presumably with all year round milk you're also calving all year round, so the beef supply is less seasonal too?

    It was always my understanding that the flush was aligned with spring, that you want to take advantage of the time of year when the grass grows the most rapidly, and the climate is less harsh on the calves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8416 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to BenWilson,

    The theoretical calving pattern for dead flat daily production throughout the year is all cows calving January-June.
    No cows calving in Spring ; the worst possible time to calve cows and the toughest on calves, and definitely the worst possible time to have high stock densities.
    The figures used are from a real example; the major difference is that all the water was left in the milk; milk is 86% water. Check out a litre of natural yoghurt (additive -free) in a supermarket ; retail will be over $6/litre.
    The example uses just under $3/litre for the gross realisation to the dairy company. In fact on a C&F basis $4 -$4.50/litre is possible but $3 is good enough for the purpose of this example.This is what added-value is all about. Milk powder doesn’t cut it.
    Why do you mention the beef? Bobby calves?
    I haven’t mentioned the on -farm situation; my approach has been solely to show that we can reduce the impact on waterways while raising the amount of money coming into the country , so that we can afford to save what’s left of the conservation estate
    But on -farm , it is basically producing half the milk for double the price. Again , taken from an actual example.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Yes, Matthew, he would, regardless of legal compunction; and his interest in bio-organic practices and 'alternate' solutions to problems is testament to his feeling for (love of) the land.

    Why do you feel the need to question the commitment and motives of someone you have never met but has been lauded by a friend as an environmentally 'right-on dude'?

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Stewart,

    Because he (Matthew) is a sceptic? :-) The place is full of them.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Farmer Green,

    So your greater profit per liter is based on a different usage for the milk? Why does that require flat production? I most certainly agree with adding more value to to the product is something we should do, but I don't see that it's necessarily coupled with flat production. I don't dispute it either, I just don't automatically see your point, not being in the dairy industry myself. Are you saying that the seasonal alignment of milk production (this still happens? It's been 20 years since I was scheduling trucks, don't know what's changed in the industry) is something dictated by the fact that we turn most of it into powder? How does that work?

    Flat production would have a number of transport cost reductions. The fleet would be stable in size, as would the pool of drivers, and the runs would probably be the same every day. Not sure about the effect on total mileage. Presumably if you halve the milk to be collected you roughly halve the cost of collecting it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8416 posts Report Reply

  • mccx, in reply to Farmer Green,

    If seems to me that if there is surefire way to get more value out of less milk that the dairy industry would be interested in doing this (or possibly already doing this.) What I don't see is how this means that NZ winds up with fewer cows. Why wouldn't this just lead to more intensification and more conversions to dairy? The point of the any industry, dairy or otherwise, is not to produce X amount of profit, but to produce more profit. Then the more money the industry makes, the less the government is willing to interfere in that industry with regulation, etc.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2012 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yes you've nailed it all there. ; the trifecta is "clean green and fresh".
    It is fresh product ; cultured food; stability achieved by acidification, not by water removal and drying.
    Shelf life from manufacture is 12-16 weeks . The destination is nearby Asia by seafreight.
    The limit to sales is the amount of supermarket shelf space that you can occupy every day, so the production in your lowest month is your limiting factor for total sales. You want it as flat as possible.
    And if you produce more than your allotted shelf space then you are forced to turn the fresh raw milk into a longer-life , lower-value product , like powder.
    We had such an industry in Godzone once ; it was the first thing to be abolished when the current shemozzle was first mooted.

    The reason we have to produce all the milk when it is cheapest to do so (seasonally)is because we are turning it into low value commodities.
    Remember where the dairy industry is coming from; we once aimed to be the cheapest producer in the world. The corollary is that our farmers were the lowest paid. All of that has changed (and Britain joined the ECC) but we didn't redesign the industry to suit the changed conditions.
    Your last sentence alludes to the factor of utilisation; all the plant is running all the time. At the moment factories costing $300 million or more lie idle for three months.

    Thanks for bothering to engage and think about it.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to mccx,

    If seems to me that if there is surefire way to get more value out of less milk that the dairy industry would be interested in doing this (or possibly already doing this.) What I don't see is how this means that NZ winds up with fewer cows.

    Also, we're yet to see evidence that Fonterra is adding value like Nestle, or better still, Nokia (which started out as a lumber company).

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4214 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason, in reply to Farmer Green,

    all the plant is running all the time. At the moment factories costing $300 million or more lie idle for three months.

    Yeah…nature's a real bastard when it comes to utilisation of the cow. Fancy not wanting to produce milk all year round…..what a waste……Why…we c/should make a GM YRC c/shouldn’t we.


    Golly, we damn near did it but it got squashed…oh…and didn’t have a tail. I wonder what other “natural” occurances happened in that YRC?

    YRC – Year Round Cow.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1492 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to mccx,

    Why wouldn’t this just lead to more intensification and more conversions to dairy?

    It is not necessary to intensify this industry because it is sufficiently profitable. You assume that farmers are driven by something other than mere survival. That is prejudice. Sure there are some pigs , but that is human nature. For most enough is enough.
    There is not enough suitable land in N.Z. to support the present cow population at the reduced stocking rate in the FG model. Indeed some of the land recently converted to dairy is completely unsuitable when appropriate environmental constraints are imposed , as they will be.
    So there is no way to get up to 6 million cows at 0.5 cows / hectare and still comply with environmental constraints.
    In any case you are missing the point that it is the number of cows /Ha that is the problem ; not the number of Ha or the total number of cows.
    Your comments about government are revealing. Don't be too cynical.
    Don't forget that farmers are a tiny minority of the voting population.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Ross Mason,

    You're joking right? . Or you don't know how it works ? I mentioned the improved animal welfare, but you don't get it ?
    The cows still only milk for 300 days per year, just as they do now, but they are much better fed.
    In reality , in this system they are dried off on production efficiency earlier in the lactation than in the present seasonal system.
    Your YRC is pure fantasy; the ones we used to have were just fine.
    Oh I see now , you were throwing in the GM canard. I get it; don't worry ; most dairy farmers today don't know how it worked either.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to DeepRed,

    Fonterra floated this idea , or something close to it quite recently. As I
    said earlier , their 'co-operative principles' prevent them from going very far down this track. I'll just leave that there for now. It's another whole can of worms involving the DIRA and the default milk price at which Fonterra sells to start-up companies.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    What me worry?
    The United Nations’ Agenda 21 is here to save us from ourselves, so they say…

    1.1. Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being. However, integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfilment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future. No nation can achieve this on its own; but together we can – in a global partnership for sustainable development.

    Here is NZ’s framework for implementing Agenda 21 – I think John Key thinks a cycle trail will keep us happy while they get on with the land grab, or whatever the real reasons behind it all are ….
    </cynicism>

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4783 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Farmer Green,

    Sorry , which; crony capitalism or no way to change it?

    No! the revolution bit, dummy... So your looking for a bit of exposure of the principles you practice. Let me get this straight. You are planning for a 10 generation, thats OH 200 years into the future? for your family. Do you want to go into the viability of your"vision" or is it talk. You run dairy herds? not dry stock(its easier). And you take care of --your-- purchased bit of land. Contact with neighbours? I could interrogate you further if you wish. And at to my timetable. Sorry.

    Mike spoke up for himself rather well on the recent media debacle.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1204 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green,

    The principles of sustainability are well known: I’m interested in why others have little interest in applying them. I’m also interested in the urban/rural divide as a barrier to progress .
    I’m interested in not screwing it up for those who follow ; call it a vision if you like . The viability is already proven. It’s what I do and have done for the last 35 years. If there is more I can do , I’ll have a go, because I can.
    Dairy , sheep and goats mainly ; less horticulture than previously, and more silviculture in the future I think. Not many neighbours ; the river bounds on three sides. The only one of the neighbours who actually farms his land speaks not a word of English but we swap produce.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green,

    398 posts ; more than the U.S election thread on here attracted. That’s slightly encouraging even if 92 of them were from Farmer Green who will shortly depart fom here, taking with him the realisation that the rural/urban divide is a formidable obstacle ; encouraged that the LWF has shown the way forwar; and reminded that persistence , forbearance and a thick skin are necessary attributes if the dialogue is to be expanded to include the many, rather than just the very , very few. . .
    Thanks to those who engaged , and those who re-engaged(after the heresy was revealed).
    Farmer Green hopes that those concerned with the ecology of Godzone now have a glimmer of hope that not only is a better environmental outcome possible, but that desirable economic and social benefits would also flow from the necessary changes.

    à bientôt mes confrères
    FG.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Farmer Green,

    à bientôt mes confrères

    Aurevoir Fermier Verte.
    Your sturdy posts, indicate you fence well,
    with more than just words...
    :- )
    Keep your seed dry - while you can still even keep it...
    ...I see that the US Dept of Justice investigation into anti-competitive practices by Monsanto has been quietly ended with no conclusions offered to the public. Who knows what hooks will be in the TPPA to give corporations like Monsanto a bigger share of our market
    (see: Jane Kelsey ) and and don't forget that the 15th round of TPPA talks are on at the Sky City Conference Centre Dec 3 - 12, 2012

    The combined harvesting of your nemesis big Pharma Greed continues...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4783 posts Report Reply

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