Tuesday, 15 May 2012

I know it sounds a bit like the old one about the actress and the bishop

I know it sounds a bit like the old one about the actress and the bishop, but have you heard the one about the professor, the lawyer, the two farmers, the stock agent, the driller and the Farming Show host?
And it’s no joke! Rather it’s the eclectic collection of blokes I go duck shooting with on opening morning. With the exception of the stock agent, who was a recent addition because he did all the work and had a good gun dog, the rest of us are a ragtag collection of school mates who all attended Riversdale primary school in the 1960s.
Like many like-minded souls around the country, we gather annually for our ritualistic session of male-bonding, camaraderie and bravado, interspersed with yarn telling, meat eating and beer drinking, interspersed with a very occasional pursuit of the feathered foe.
The normal conversational fare doesn’t vary too much from year to year. Farming, rugby, politics, money, wives, beer bellies, man boobs and the latest local scandal of the day.

This year, however, a new element was added to the maimai musings. Heated debate over the sale of the Crafar farms to the Chinese and whether or not Trading Among Farmers was a good idea. Voices were raised and fingers were pointed, especially in my direction from my sheep farming mates as I’m the only one in the maimai with a financial interest in a dairy farming operation.

I was accused of selling my soul to the Chinese, even though the land-rich accuser had far more to gain from the Asian invasion than the accused. Some timely intellectual intervention from the professor coupled with some judicious adjudication from the lawyer, both sitting firmly in the cross-benches in the maimai, resulted in all parties agreeing to disagree as we adjourned for lunch.

As always, there’s a lull in proceedings after the protein-laden red meat lunch, when the ducks are few and the after-effects of the night before in the Riversdale pub kick in. This year’s gap in the traffic was amply filled by a visit from two neighbouring shooters, both of whom had conceded defeat on the day to the ducks.

To protect his identity and privacy, I’ll simply refer to one of the said visitors as ‘Taranaki’, only because he hails from that region. A larger-than-life and seemingly bullet-proof character, Taranaki had been involved in a debate about the water quality of a creek running through his dairy farm. Challenged the night before in the pub to drink some of the said water to prove its dubious purity, he duly turned up with a jug of the stuff and a bottle of whisky. Both of which he made a fine fist of downing. In the end, the jury remained out on the water quality but either the e-coli or the malt was making him rather unsteady on his feet!

On a lighter note, when all political and environmental differences were finally put to bed, the day concluded with the awarding of the inaugural Mackay-Shallard Trophy for Kaweku’s Next Top Pond (Kaweku being the small district the two respective fourth-generation sheep farming families hail from). While we had doubled our tally from the previous year, we still found ourselves 30 shy of the Shallard pond’s record haul.

Surprisingly, few ducks escaped unscathed from the Mackay pond this year, albeit I’m sure some met their maker through cardiac arrest rather than good marksmanship. So we had to eat humble pie and accept we were beaten by a better pond on the day. A case of a Fitzy full credit, take it on the chin, move forward together and whatever other rugby cliché readily springs to mind.

To that end, plans are already afoot to extend the pond and purchase more electronic gadgetry to lure ducks in 2013. Only 355 sleeps to go!

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

Monday, 7 May 2012

A payout beginning with a five? Ouch!

# Big Farming Story of the Week: A payout beginning with a five? Ouch!
It only seems like yesterday, dairy farmers were bathing in the milk (and honey) of an eight dollar payout. A payout beginning with seven was still pretty good, a six meant a bit of belt tightening but, heaven help us, few will make meaningful money if it begins with a five! We are not being helped by a dollar that begins with an eight, as the cross rate against the Greenback stays firmly rooted in the low US80 cent range. Sheep, beef, grain and horticultural farmers, too, are feeling the chill winds of the exchange rate coupled with an increase in supply, and a lack of demand for, agricultural commodities.
The world has enjoyed a bumper past 12 months of agricultural production. While one should never willfully benefit from another man’s misfortune, where’s a good Russian drought or an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in a competing exporting nation when you really need one?
# Big Political Story of the Week: The Teflon Kid.
By rights John Key should be the most unpopular man in the land, yet half the voting population still love him as he continues to defy gravity in the political polls. His party is overseeing some of the toughest austerity measures this country has seen since Rogernomics lowered the boom on the rural community in the 1980s.
Government bureaucrats, the unions, police, teachers, students, the jobless, beneficiaries, you name it, are all feeling the brunt of reduced government spending with the promise of more to come. For many, things have never been tougher out there. Black Bill English has promised Zero Budgets until we reach surplus or he stops drawing breath, whichever comes first. Let’s be realistic, the Auckland Blues have a better chance of coming right before the New Zealand economy does.
# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Wayne Smith stays put!
Smith debuted as a talented running first five-eighth for the All Blacks in 1980 and held a virtual mortgage on the position for the ensuing five years. He took over coaching the Crusaders in 1997, marshalling the red and blacks to titles in 1998 and 1999. After John Hart’s World Cup demise later that same year against the French, Smith took over the All Blacks’ top job, only to lose it to John Mitchell in 2001 after publicly questioning his own credentials to carry on in the hot seat. Smith was called back to the coaching fold when Graham Henry took the reins in 2004, where he remained until the World Cup glory of 2011.
So effectively he has given the last 32 years of his life to rugby, most of it to the All Blacks. His intellectual property is second to none and he could’ve caused all sorts of grief had to chosen to lend his talents to the sleeping giant of world rugby, England. The NZRU has done well to retain his services. It is criminal NZ Cricket wasn’t able to do likewise with John Wright.
# Brickbat: John Banks:
Banks has always been a polarizing political figure but, to his credit, he’s always appeared to be a pretty straight-up, look-you-in-the-eye sort of bloke. Last week on television, we witnessed a new side to Banks, one we didn’t like, as he squirmed uncomfortably and wriggled out of questions about this relationship with the German tank, Kim Dotcom. What started out as a right wing party that stood for something under the stewardship of Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble, has now crumbled to a laughing stock as Rodney Hide, Don Brash and now Banks have progressively eroded what little credibility was left (for the right).

# Bouquet: Russel Norman:
As the likable but accident-prone David Shearer battles to gain traction as Labour leader, let alone leader of the Opposition, the latter job is very much up for titular grabs in the House. While Wily Winston Peters might lay historical claim to the title, redhead under-the-bed Russ is making all the running. There’s an old saying that a farmer with a dollar in his pocket and some grass in his paddock is a dangerous beast. What does that make a moderate Green with some palatable policy?
Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB. jamie@farmingshow.com