Government must step back from Mycoplasma bovis

As I write this on 20 May 2018, New Zealand is at a crucial point in deciding how to manage Mycoplasma bovis. There are no good options. The worst option is for the Government to try and be the boss.

So, who should try to manage Mycoplasma bovis?

At the national level, the answer is ‘no-one’.  Farmers must make their own business decisions and take responsibility for those decisions.

Elsewhere in the world, governments do not try to manage Mycoplasma bovis. It is up to farmers to do this. Continue reading

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Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 5 Comments

Mycoplasma bovis: the ground has shifted with a megathrust

Events of recent days demonstrate that eradication of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand is no longer a realistic option. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is scrambling to get its messaging together. New strategies are now needed.

As I write this on 13 May, the MPI website still refers in its text material to 38 infected properties. But the latest version of the infection map from MPI tells a very different story (see below). Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 8 Comments

Short and long-lived greenhouse gases need separate regulatory baskets

A key issue for New Zealand is how to meet the Paris commitments for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Fundamental to any analysis is the different attributes of long-lived and short-lived gases.  In particular, how should methane be accounted for, and how should it be brought into any emission trading scheme?

Back in 2016, current Commissioner of the Environment Simon Upton raised the importance of placing short-lived gases in a different regulatory ‘basket’ from long-lived gases. Remarkably, our rural leaders appear to have failed to pick up on the importance of this issue.   Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Land and water, Science ethics and communication, Water | 7 Comments

In search of a rational debate about water

[This article was originally published by Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-operative in the Autumn 2018 issue of Ground Effect. ] 

In recent years, the debates about water rights and water pollution in New Zealand have become increasingly torrid. Most New Zealanders have fixed views on the topic and are confident their views are correct. Human nature then leads to so-called facts being organised to buttress those fixed views.

There is a term for this phenomenon called ‘noble cause corruption’.    The problem is that ‘we’ have the ‘noble cause’ and ‘they’ have the ‘corruption’. And so, within this framework, the water debate has been characterised by huge superficiality, rhetoric and shouting. The opportunities for shared learning and accommodation have been minimal.

How did we get to this state and is there a way forward? Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Education, Science ethics and communication, Water | 3 Comments

Peak milk, peak cows and Fonterra’s dilemma

New Zealand reached peak dairy cows at 5.02 million in 2014/15 and numbers are now in slow decline.  Peak milk was reached the same year at close to 1.9 billion kg milk solids and has since bounced around a few percent lower.

The dilemma for Fonterra is that its business plans are based on a belief that it needs to grow its milk supply by more than 30 percent over the next seven years.  This was a key message Fonterra presented to its non-farmer investors in December 2017, with CEO Theo Spierings referring repeatedly to “çost leadership through scale efficiency” and concluding with the message “Fonterra presents a strong investment opportunity”. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Fonterra | 2 Comments

A2 shifts from a brand to a category, with Nestle and Mengniu now on board

It is only six weeks since mega-sized Fonterra in New Zealand and medium-sized Freedom Foods in Australia announced their intention to produce A2 dairy products, these being products free of A1 beta-casein.  Since then, both Nestle and Mengniu have stepped up to announce that they too are developing brands for A2 infant nutrition products.

To place this in perspective, and as reported by Rabobank, Nestle is easily the largest global dairy company by turnover, followed by Lactalis, Danone, Dairy Farmers of America and then Fonterra. Further down comes Mengniu at number 11 globally, but number 2 in China. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Mycoplasma saga has long way to run

There are both fast-moving and slow-moving Mycoplasma events currently occurring. But in all likelihood, to borrow from Sir Winston Churchill’s famous statement after the Second Battle of El Alamein, this not the beginning of the end; rather it is just the end of the beginning.

The fast-moving events include the official decision of the New Zealand Government to slaughter some 22,000 animals on known-infected properties. Although this will supposedly be completed by the end of May, these farms will not be able to restock for at least another 60 days. In effect, it will be the following season before most of the milking farms can be stocked with lactating cows. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 3 Comments