Mycoplasma bovis eradication is far from done and dusted

There is a widespread belief in both the rural and urban communities that Mycoplasma bovis is well on the way to being eradicated from New Zealand. My response here is that there is a still a long way to travel before any declarations of success are appropriate.

In December, Prime Minister Ardern, no doubt choosing her words carefully and based on official advice, talked of ‘substantial progress’.  However, the broader tone of both MPI and DairyNZ messaging has led to parts of the media and then the general public taking a further step and concluding that the battle is almost over.

On 18 December 2018, MPI sent a three-page letter addressed and mailed individually to New Zealand’s pastoral farmers, which oozed confidence. It started with the lead-in that “I’m pleased to update you on progress…” and then went on to say that “We’re confident about how the program is tracking’’. Continue reading

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Fonterra’s strategic reset interacts with new Board dynamics.

Fonterra’s December update shows that the strategic reset is under way, albeit at an early stage.

Key indicators include that the Beingmate JV is being unwound and that Fonterra’s China Farms are under heightened scrutiny. The big shock is that Tip Top is on the market. The ownership of Soprole in Chile must also be under scrutiny, although little has been said publicly.

I will return to those issues within this article, but first it is necessary to understand something of the dynamics within the new Fonterra Board. Continue reading

Posted in A1 and A2 milk, China, Fonterra | 5 Comments

Does Russia belong in the West or the East?

The issue of whether Russia belongs in the West or the East might seem a strange topic for a New Zealand agri-food systems person like me to be discussing. However, political and food systems, and the associated international trade, are joined at the hip. Politics and agricultural trade are always fellow travellers.

These last two weeks, while working in Russia, I have pondered as to where Russia belongs. From a cultural perspective, I have no doubt it is in the West. Yet from a geopolitical perspective it would seem that Russia’s future is more with China in the East. Here, I explore the dichotomy and the contradiction. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness | 3 Comments

It’s different in Russia

This last week I have been working in Russia on issues of A1 and A2 beta-casein.  I am still there, but today is Sunday and together with my wife Annette, I am on a fast train from Moscow to St Petersburg.

It’s late autumn over here, but to a Kiwi lad it seems like the middle of winter. Until today, the weather has been fine and clear but with temperatures below freezing. Today the snow has arrived, and it will now be on the ground for at least the next four months.  There is not much sign of global warming over here! Continue reading

Posted in A1 and A2 milk, Dairy | 4 Comments

Mycoplasma communication team needs to play with a straight bat

MPI is currently reporting a positive story about Mycoplasma bovis eradication. There is indeed good news to report. But in cricket terminology, the communication team needs to play with a straight bat.

I found myself to be a topic in MPI’s latest announcements. According to an anonymous MPI spokeswoman, I have made claims questioning the time of arrival that I have declined to back up, despite multiple requests. That is a falsehood. The MPI bat is not straight. I will return to that topic further down, but first the big picture. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Mycoplasma bovis | 4 Comments

The sun must never set on New Zealand’s agriculture

These are increasingly troubled times for New Zealand agriculture.  A significant proportion of the population has turned against farmers for environmental reasons relating to nutrient leaching and water quality. There is also a loud political narrative about methane from ruminant animals and the need to reduce livestock numbers.

There is also a group of agricultural doomsayers who state that new plant-based foods and even totally artificial foods can mimic meat, and that they will do so at much cheaper cost than the real thing. And finally, there is an increasing group of consumers who are committed to vegan diets for perceived health reasons or relating to personal ethical perspectives. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Land and water | 11 Comments

A2 becomes a global dairy disruptor

A2 dairy products are now mainstreaming on a global platform.  In marketing parlance, A2 is becoming an industry disruptor.

A2 dairy products are characterised by being free of A1 beta-casein.  Instead, all of the beta-casein is of the A2 type.  In contrast, most milk contains a mix of A1 and A2 beta-casein, and this milk is loosely referred to as A1 milk.

It is only among cattle with European antecedents that A1 beta-casein is found. It is very common mutation in these cattle. No other mammal species, including humans, goats or sheep, produce A1 beta-casein. All can be considered A2.

The big driver of A2 industry growth is increasing acceptance of health benefits relative to A1. Continue reading

Posted in A1 and A2 milk, Agribusiness, China, Dairy, Fonterra, Synlait | 2 Comments