Monday, 31 October 2011

Dumping milk and dropping milk prices

# Big Farming Story of the Week: Dumping milk and dropping milk prices.

Last week started well enough for Fonterra with a very a generous 10th birthday shout around the country. The following day, however, the milk turned to custard when dairy farmers were hit with the double-whammy of a reduced forecast payout and having to dump milk back on to their pastures. The 45 cent reduction in the forecast payout, while disappointing, was not a real surprise. What surprised me was learning only one gas pipeline effectively supplies the northern half of the North Island. What surprised even more was the lack of a Plan B from many leading industries, Fonterra included, when it comes to powering their plants.

# Big Political Story of the Week: Labour’s Agriculture Policy.

Other than an admirable desire to lower the exchange rate and to see New Zealand farm land retained in New Zealand ownership, I can see little in Labour’s agriculture policy that would solicit the farming vote. A capital gains tax, bringing agriculture into the ETS, a tough water policy and draconian labour laws to give trade unions more power, will not win any votes from farmers. Let’s be realistic here, farmers are not Labour’s natural constituents. You’ve got to go back to the Norman Kirk years (1972-75) to find a Labour government, with Colin Moyle as Minister of Agriculture, which went in to bat for farmers. Phil Goff has a small lifestyle farm in Clevedon and a natural empathy for rural life, but the reality is Labour doesn’t court the farming vote. Maybe Phil should just openly admit it and cash in on the anti-farming sentiment and resentment that genuinely does exist in some quarters.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Make that month, year, nay decade!

This wasn’t a monkey. Or a gorilla! Or Godzilla even! This was the rugby equivalent of lifting King Kong off our collective backs. Richie, I love you. Graham, all is forgiven. William (Webb Ellis), welcome home!

# Brickbat: The eye-opening French.

Yes the Frogs were quite magnifique at Eden Park. Warriors in white! But just when you’re ready to forgive them for that other warrior, the Rainbow one, they sour a marvellous occasion and sporting spectacle with senseless eye-gouging. Their performance quite literally brought a tear to the eye - Richie McCaw’s in this case.

There’s something smugly superior about the French. Anyone who has been to Paris and battled the French language will know how dismissive the French are of the English language and its practitioners. I once spent five painstaking minutes at a Louvre café trying to explain to a French waiter that I wanted a pasta for lunch, going as far as pointing directly at it. He was plainly having me on, so it was only when I spoke to him in a universal language as I was walking out the door that he bothered to respond in kind in English!

# Bouquet: Nostradamus Mackay!

Although I finished next to last in the office RWC sweepstake, I am proudly trumpeting the fact I was the first man in the country to predict the redemption, resurrection and renaissance of Stephen Donald! This is what I wrote (word for word) in my sports column in the Southland Times on December 10, 2010:

With no Carter, McCaw effectively all but invalided out of the tournament and Sonny Bill Williams defecting to the Dallas Cowboys, it was left to some of the lesser lights to lead the way at Eden Park. Without doubt though, the All Blacks owed their epic 13-12 World Cup victory to the most maligned man of 2010, Waikato’s Stephen Donald. Initially unwanted by Hansen, Donald was only thrown a lifeline with the injuries to Carter and Auckland’s Gareth Anscombe.

With fulltime showing following Matt Todd’s injury-time try, Donald, who’d only been on the park for three minutes as a result of Slade’s chronic cramping, was asked to kick the winning sideline conversion. A nation held its anguished, collective breath, remembering the horrors of 2010. Atonement awaited. Donald duly obliged. Rugby immortality and a Jockey contract were now surely his.

# Movember: Go to your doctor and to

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.

Monday, 24 October 2011

A good week for Fonterra

# Big Farming Story of the Week: A good week for Fonterra.

Putting aside the continued rumblings over Trading Among Farmers, it’s been a good week for the country’s biggest company. Last Wednesday’s Global Dairy Trade Event saw the arrest of a four month slide in dairy commodity prices with the TWI up 1.7%. Last week Fonterra also collected a record daily total of 81.2 million litres with the promise of more to come. And fittingly, on Labour Day, the mega cooperative shouted the nation for its 10th birthday with celebrations in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Hawera, Palmerston North, Ashburton and Invercargill. Hard-working cow cockies put on a 60,000-strong sausage sizzle, ice-cream treats and some of the biggest names in New Zealand music, including Dave Dobbyn, Hello Sailor, Tiki Taane and Stan Walker. All free of charge. Smart move Fonterra!

# Big Political Story of the Week: Let the election campaign proper begin!

Hands up if you’d like us to host a Rugby World Cup in New Zealand every three years if it meant the election campaign could be mercifully compressed to just five weeks? And to paraphrase an Aussie advertising campaign, “Winston, where the bloody hell are ya?”

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: 24 Long Years Ago!

In 1987 the world’s population reached five billion, double the 1950 figure. Global share markets collapsed. David Lange’s Labour government was re-elected for a second term in office and New Zealand went nuclear free. GST went from 10% to 12.5%. Lotto was introduced. Posting a letter cost 40 cents (up from 30c). Crowded House went to number two on the American Top 40 with Don’t Dream It’s Over and the All Blacks won the inaugural Rugby World Cup, defeating France 29-9 at Eden Park.

Twenty four years is a long time between drinks and many drinks have been downed in the interim to drown our four-yearly cycle of sorrow. While I write without knowledge of the final score, I know our time has come. Cheers Richie!

# Brickbat: Red Cards at the RWC.

What should have been a wonderful night for Wales, with a resultant dream final between the world’s two most passionate rugby nations, was ruined by a red card. That card might have been better served on Ali Williams. I admire him as a rugby player but sometimes he can be a bit of a dick. Case in point, his behavior at the press conference when he childishly answered his namesake, Sonny Bill’s, questions. The All Blacks, led admirably by the incredibly humble Richie McCaw, have been a public relations dream even though one or two of their coaches have, on occasion, fallen prey to smug, smart-arse-answers. Sure, Cory and Izzy might have had a lapse in judgement but to err is human for young men. Besides, whatever rocket fuel they were drinking, it worked a treat!

# Bouquet: RWC Humour.

In 1991 three young kids were playing on the streets of Sydney when they were run over by a bus and killed. They all go to heaven and St Peter, waiting at the Pearly Gates, says to them, "You weren't supposed to die. You were all supposed to live out your lives. This was not your time. To make it up to you, I'll let you choose what you want to do with your life. Take a running jump off of that cloud over there and, as you're flying back down to Earth, shout out what you want to do. And so it shall be."

The first kid takes a running leap and shouts "lawyer" and so, 20 years later, he is a very successful lawyer, making lots of money, with an upcoming appointment to the Bench.
The second kid takes his turn and shouts "brain surgeon" and so, 20 years later, he is the most admired man in his field of medicine and making a ton of money saving lives.
The third kid goes to take his turn, and as he runs he trips over his own feet and stumbles of the cloud muttering to himself "stupid, clumsy, uncoordinated idiot". Twenty years later, he's playing first-five for the Wallabies.


Remember to go to your doctor and to

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.

Monday, 10 October 2011


# Big Farming Story of the Week: RWC and FAF.

Most farmers I know are engrossed in the RWC (Rugby World Cup). It’s a wonderful diversion at the end of a long day calving, lambing, planting, pruning or whatever. However, more than just a few are embattled in FAF (Fighting Among Farmers). You may also recognize the latter by its other moniker TAF (Trading Among Farmers). Fonterra has just concluded a record-breaking payout season but there’s still trouble at mill when it comes to capital structure. In principle, TAF seems a damn fine idea but some farmers see fish hooks. I must admit I haven’t examined the proposal with a microscope but I hope it’s sorted soon as it presents a real opportunity for farmers to further invest in the country’s leading company. It’s all been a bit of distraction from the real job at hand (or foot in Richie’s case) of how to win the RWC.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The response to the Bay of Plenty marine disaster.

As if the Psa disease outbreak was not causing enough grief in the beautiful BOP, along comes the greatest environmental disaster in our maritime history. The Bay certainly has plenty on its plate. The kiwifruit crisis is proving a real downer for the local economy. Throw in the nation’s blue-rinse retirement haven being badly hit by the collapse of the finance companies, and you don’t have to be Warren Buffet to figure out the Bay can’t afford to see the collapse of its summer tourist industry. The region is famous for its sun and beaches. Right now there are very few rays of hope for the hitherto pristine coastline.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: First-five number five?

My last year of senior club rugby was in 1991. By that stage I was 31 and getting a bit slow so my coach, former All Black Ash McGregor, moved me from fullback to first five-eighths to mitigate some of my shortcomings. Twenty years on, I wished I’d kept on playing because, who knows, I could’ve been on the receiving end of a phone call from Graham Henry - such is the state of the country’s stocks at first-five. Nick Evans, Luke McAllister and Mike Delaney are out of the country and out of the question. Another untimely groin injury to either Aaron Cruden or Stephen Donald could give renewed hope to all us old-timers with the recall of Tony Brown - making him first-five number five.

# Brickbat: The Plastic Waka:

I was in Auckland for the RWC quarter-finals weekend and did the obligatory touristy things. Visited the Cloud, had a compulsory cappuccino at the Viaduct Basin and gazed nostalgically at the mounted America’s Cup yacht. The only damp squib, other than the English backline, was wandering past the plastic waka. The government, local body authorities and ethic funding authorities have been guilty over the years of some woeful and wicked wasting of money but this national embarrassment takes the cake. The RWC is a seven week tournament - the white (elephant) waka will be open for the last 10 days of it.

# Bouquet: Movember.

Last week on the Farming Show, along with the crew at Allflex, we launched our Movember campaign to support men’s health. We’re encouraging farmers, young and old, to join the fold and grow a moustache to raise funds and awareness for serious issues such as depression and prostate cancer. Since then we’ve been inundated with positive feedback, interestingly, mainly from women wanting to encourage their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons.

Men, especially hardened rural types, are notoriously negligent when it comes to going to the doctor. The stoic “she’ll be right” attitude might be admirable if you suffer an injury on the rugby paddock but when your health is threatened, it’s a head-in-the-sand approach. No one likes intrusive probing, whether it’s of a body cavity or your state of mind. But no one ever died of embarrassment. Plenty of rural blokes have, however, succumbed to the likes of prostate cancer and depression, a lot of which would’ve been preventable with early detection and intervention. So harden up. Be a real man. Go to your doctor and go to

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.

Dave Courtenay, the senior communications advisor for Zespri

# Big Farming Story of the Week:

Dave Courtenay, the senior communications advisor for Zespri, was kind enough to write suggesting some of the stats I quoted in my September 26 column on Psa in the kiwifruit industry were out-of-date. So here are the latest numbers and, like mine, they don’t make good reading:

The total tray production for the industry this year is around 115 million trays, around 30 million trays of which is Gold kiwifruit – the crop that is most impacted from Psa.

The kiwifruit industry is worth around 20 percent of the Bay of Plenty’s GDP. At the peak of the season the industry employs over 20,000 people. Last financial year the industry returned just over $1 billion in export earnings for the country.

Latest statistics have 395 orchards with Psa. The vast majority are in the Te Puke region, with outlying orchards affected in Tauranga, Katikati and Waihi. Across New Zealand, the industry totals 3,100 orchards with around 2,700 growers farming 12,800 hectares -16.7% of which have some level of Psa infection.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The election sidelined by the Rugby World Cup .

Politics has been pushed aside by more urgent matters of state such as the state of Dan Carter and the state of play in the RWC. As stated last week Dopey Don’s Act aspirations have gone up in smoke. The Maori Party, NZ First, United Future and the Mana(less) Party are all languishing. The Greens are looking like a 10% party and Labour is marooned on 30%. John Key will remain Prime Minister but where’s Winston?

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Dan groin!

If you think Mike Tindall’s groin got him into trouble, it’s nothing compared to the grief caused by the nether regions of the world’s most accomplished rugby player. The All Blacks’ camp is making all the right noises about “moving forward” with Colin Slade but let’s not sugar-coat the situation. You can’t replace Carter. He is even more irreplaceable than Captain Fantastic, Richie McCaw, because he runs the cutter tactically and he kicks the goals. History has shown us Rugby World Cup finals are not won by tries. They’re won by penalties and dropped goals.

No one denies his obvious talent but Slade is heading into the business end of the RWC underdone, his cause not aided by his dropping from last year’s end-of-season tour for Stephen Donald. Ditto for Carter’s RWC replacement Aaron Cruden! Graham Henry’s had four long years since Cardiff to ponder a Plan B should injury befall either of his marquee players, Carter and McCaw. I’ve yet to see much evidence of one.

# Brickbat: Men who don’t partake in Movember!

Very few men suit moustaches (and even fewer women – just ask Paul Henry!) However, personal vanity and itchy upper lips should be cast aside for the greater good of men’s health. In a past life I used to grow a three-week beard during the lambing season. When I shaved it off, but kept the moustache, my dearly beloved said I looked like a rat peeping out a drain pipe. I will face more cruel barbs next month when I grow a mo for men’s health. But I figure the embarrassment is worth if it helps fight depression and prostate cancer in men.

# Bouquet: A loquacious lefty!.

It’s hard to believe, I know, but sometimes I’m accused of having a right-leaning bias politically! I am of course apolitical but a good portion of the good folk who listen to my radio show or read this column are probably of the aforementioned persuasion. But credit where credit’s due, so I’m tipping my hat to a loquacious lefty. He first entered local body politics in 1965, was elected Labour Party president in 1979, entered parliament in 1984 and he’s been there ever since. However, unlike most life-long politicians, he achieved personal success in business before succumbing to the political public trough. And, unlike most politicians, he leaves the Beehive with a legacy; in his case Kiwibank. He might have been a strange choice for Minister of Agriculture but well done Jim Anderton for close to half a century of public service.

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Payout and the Crafar Farms

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Payout and the Crafar Farms.

Fonterra’s confirmation of a record payout for the 2010-11 season has only served to heighten interest in the sale of the Crafar Farms. Farmer Fay’s cheeky offer has been red-carded by the receivers and now we find if the Chinese bid is successful, Landcorp could end up running the farms for the aspiring purchaser, Shanghai Pengxin. It seems a logical move from the state-owned farmer but does it present a conflict of interest for a government about to embark on an election campaign? Watch this space for how overseas ownership of farms plays out ahead of the November 26 poll.

And watch this space for how Fonterra plays the domestic milk price game. In his first television interview new CEO Theo Spierings has fired the first shot across the bow by basically saying milk is too expensive. Interesting!

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Act Party’s election hopes go up in smoke!

What has Dopey Don Brash been smoking? So dear old Don wants to decriminalize cannabis - why? Whether he has a point or not, it’s surely political suicide in the affluent and conservative Epsom electorate, Act’s only lifeline to parliament. Perhaps a more popular election platform for the ageing right-winger would be to appeal to his natural constituents and make it criminal for TVNZ to play around with scheduling of that 7-30pm staple of our television diet, Coronation Street.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The Rugby World Cup Quarter-Finals.

The foreplay has finished and four games this weekend will decide the semi-finalists. For what it’s worth I think the final four will be Ireland, England, the Springboks and the All Blacks. And whichever team wins the semi-final between the latter two will take home the Webb Ellis Cup.

# Brickbat: RWC Price Gouging.

And as wonderful as the RWC has been, it’s a big thumbs-down to the tour companies, hotels and airlines that have blatantly price-gouged and profiteered. Despite all the hype about getting in early to secure limited tickets, those who waited until the eleventh hour have been rewarded as discounting by desperate wholesalers is now rife. Some travel retailers have been left red-faced as packages they bought and sold in good faith are now on the market at half the price. The unfortunate situation could have been avoided if initial pricing was set at a more realistic and fair price.

# Bouquet: My Dad.

My father died prematurely of lung cancer when he was 52 years old. Like all young farm boys who grew up in the Great Depression era, he had limited opportunities when it came to education, lifestyle, career choice and seeing the world beyond Southland. And like all young men of his generation he smoked tobacco which ultimately proved to be his undoing. The greatest disappointment of his life was missing out on getting to serve his country in World War II because it ended when he was 17. Foolhardy, or otherwise, that was his chance to see the world.

Next week I turn 52 years of age and it’s an untimely reminder of my mortality. As a product of the much more-mobile Baby Boomer generation, I’ve been lucky enough to see quite a bit of the world already. Not enough of it though. The Great Wall of China. The Great Pyramids of Egypt. Gallipoli and Anzac Cove. Loch Ness and beyond, to trace my Scottish ancestry. To stand where the Berlin Wall once stood. To travel Europe by train. These are all on my Bucket List.

To me at the time, my father seemed old when he died. He wasn’t, of course. He hadn’t lived, yet he was extremely content with his lot in life. My Dad was short-changed. I’ve got a lot to do before I kick the bucket.

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.