Sheep meats are in a sweet spot

[This post was published online on 7 August at and also in most of the FairfaxNZ newspapers]

This year has been an exceptional year for many sheep farmers.  Lamb and mutton prices have been at record levels.

The key drivers have been increasing demand from China combined with lower exchange rates. Sales to Britain have slowed down, linked to a ‘buy British’ campaign over there. But that has not been enough to counter the overall good news story.

Sheep farmers are telling me that, for the first time in many years, sheep farming is fun again. The cash is coming through to upgrade tracks and other infrastructure. Venison prices have also been exceptional for those sheep farmers who also farm deer. Most sheep farmers also run beef cattle and they too have been paying well. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Meat Industry | Leave a comment

Mycoplasma bovis compensation is a mixed bag with big delays and lots of angst

The complexities of Mycoplasma bovis compensation are causing much angst both for MPI and farmers. Simple claims are being dealt with in a matter of weeks. More complex cases get stuck.  Unfortunately, most cases are complex. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 1 Comment

Mycoplasma bovis: spring testing of bulk milk can be both hit and miss

Bulk-milk testing of all New Zealand milk is about to begin, with three tests of every herd. However, this will only be from cows that are healthy, unless a farmer has failed to identify a sick cow. This is because sick cows are given antibiotics and their milk does not go into the vat.

Milk companies have routine tests for antibiotics in milk and farmer penalties for any mistakes are very high. So, farmers are always diligent in keeping this milk separate. This milk is either fed to calves, or increasingly tipped into the effluent system. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 7 Comments

Dairy herds may change from black and white to brown and brindle

In coming years, we are likely to see the colour of New Zealand dairy cows change from predominant black and white to a mix containing more brown and brindle.  It will be a response to changes in the relative price of protein and fat. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy | 3 Comments

Mycoplasma bovis: the supposed facts don’t line up

[With the re-organisation of the New Zealand rural media and the demise of NZ Farmer for which I previously wrote, this is the first of a new series of fortnightly articles I will be writing for Farmers Weekly and also published at Whereas my articles in Stuff  (online and in their hardcopy newspapers ) are about rural issues, but largely for an urban audience, the Farmers Weekly articles are primarily for farmers and those more directly involved in rural matters.]

A key message from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) has been “generally prolonged or repeated contact with infected animals is required for the disease to be transmitted” (MPI website). Another key message has been that the disease has only been here since the end of 2015.

Bringing those two supposed facts together, it seems surprising that the disease has progressed so quickly in just two years from the so-called index farm in Southland to at least 52 infected farms, with many additional farms still being traced.

Surely, one of the two supposed facts cannot be correct. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 2 Comments

NZ dairy challenged by need for strategic reset

[This article is the first of a fortnightly series I will be writing for Stuff (online) and associated regional papers ( formerly Fairfax, but now under the Stuff banner). As such, they are largely about bringing agricultural and rural issues to an urban audience. I am also writing fortnightly different articles) for Farmers Weekly, aimed more at farmers.]

There is great unease within the New Zealand dairy industry. Many farmers feel that the urban community plus a range of events have turned against them. Most are still proud to be dairy farmers but there is lots of stress and anxiety.

This stress and anxiety is despite farmers receiving good prices for their milk in the last two years. This has followed two preceding years when most farmers made losses and some share milkers were wiped out. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Land and water | 6 Comments

Mycoplasma bovis: battle fatigue is growing but Government claims to be resolute

Last week I was in Wellington speaking to Federated Farmers Dairy Council.    It gave me an opportunity to assess persistent rumours that Government and MPI were losing confidence in relation to the Mycoplasma eradication battle.

I heard both Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor say that they were resolute in their determination to eradicate the disease. Whether or not public positions and private concerns coincide could be another matter. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 14 Comments