Monday, February 26, 2024

Pulling an action-packed year into focus

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Farmers Weekly In Focus was on the ground recording the stories of farmers and other sector leaders. Host Bryan Gibson shares his podcast highlights for 2023.
Izzy Crawshaw, pictured at her Pātoka sheep and beef farm with daughter Millie, said her children helped her maintain perspective when faced with the enormity of the challenge Cyclone Gabrielle left the young farming family.
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In a year that featured many important farming stories, a few of the guests on Farmers Weekly In Focus stood out.

Cyclone Gabrielle swept through the country early in the year and in August I visited three farmers in Pātoka to hear how the recovery was going.

Sitting around the kitchen table with these farmers and hearing the harrowing accounts of the cyclone was eye-opening.

But what shone through was the community spirit and the way these isolated families made sure everyone was safe, then worked to get their businesses back up and running.

Izzy Crawshaw told me how they tackled the problem of ensuring everyone had food, water and medical help.

Community hubs were established to hold supplies. 

“It was incredible how the community came together, we’re really lucky with the community we have out here,” she said.

“Since the bridge opened up it’s just getting back into business now and trying to make a plan – looking ahead from both the community and on farm as to what recovery looks like.”

Neighbour Steve Horgan had help from family and friends to recover from what he called a tsunami of water.

“We still had about 100 cattle to send away, but through a bit of Kiwi ingenuity our neighbours, Patrick and Izzy Crawshaw, got a hold of a crate and a trailer so we could ford two rivers and get them into town like that. It was a bit of a roundabout way, but it worked.”

Further inland, Tim Nelson said the recovery would be a very long process.

“At the time it was daunting. I thought it was all over and we could never fix it but we just took little steps. Not much worries me anymore – I used to be a bit of a perfectionist, but I’ve learnt that little things can wait, you know? 

“It will never be exactly the same again, I don’t think. There will always be reminders of the cyclone, but we will get it pretty close.”

Listen to “Ep.3 | Healing from a high country tsunami” on Spreaker.

Another standout interview was the first, with FoodHQ chief executive Dr Victoria Hatton.

She’s working to quieten the noise surrounding alternative proteins and the threat they may pose to animal protein.

Hatton spoke of the attitude many in the food and fibre sector have to emerging proteins.

“We’re already seven to 10 years behind in some of these protein classes because we’ve had this defensive view of our more traditional protein products.

“It’s prevented us from having the open discussion around the possibilities for diversification. I think we can have it all. If you think about the future of food production in NZ, and you think about landscape resilience, we can’t expect to just be doing dairy and red meat on farm in 15 years’ time because the climate is changing and consumer preferences are changing.

“So we have to think about an ‘and’. Can we have dairy with hemp growing as a rotational crop? Could we have dairy and an indoor shed that’s a vertical growing system for leafy greens? 

“If we really invest in the development of these emerging proteins as products then we start to imagine what an alternative to a single system might look like.”

More recently, AgResearch parasitologist Dr Dave Leathwick sounded the alarm, again, on drench resistance, with new findings showing triple resistance in cattle.

He said farmers have been warned about resistance for years but have failed to adjust their management practices to help delay resistance development, or even test that their drenches are working.

The findings come hard on the heels of the “vast majority” of sheep farmers also failing to recognise resistance risk. They are also now having to deal with the consequences.

“The problem is farmers will not recognise resistance as a problem until they find dead stock in the paddock,” Leathwick said.

“One guy lost $100,000 of capital stock in three months. He was very motivated to change his practices.”

Listen to “Feature | Parasite a triple threat as drenches falter” on Spreaker.
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