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23 December 2019

The wool farming year that was 2019

The Country's Jamie Mackay wraps up this year with PGG Wrightson's South Island wool procurement manager Rob Cochrane.

Cochrane brings in some good news with joint North and South Island sales of about 13,500 bales in a day. The market is going strong, lifting from 31 to 33 micron for crossbreed hogget wools.

Cochrane adds that they are "pleased to see the wool going off to Chinese buyers" in light of recent tariff releases.

The market has been helped by new season lamb's wool, particularly in the North Island, 27-28 micron crossbreed lambs have brought in good revenue.

Mackay brings up the issue of strong crossbreed ewe fleeces being a battle during 2019, and basically it has not moved. Cochrane agrees, the wool does sell but a lot of growers will see a negative in their wool check.

The wool auction season is set to kick off on the 9th of January in Napier, followed up by sales in both islands on the 16th. Cochrane notes that there is still a lot of wool coming through at this time.

Cochrane raises the concern that the weather in the South Island has put a halt on shearing.

Mackay finishes on the contamination of the wool via the stock raddle and the importance of removing it.

Cochrane confirms at the South Island sales yesterday four lines of wool worth zero dollars as they contained bright blue and orange raddles.

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Stop, think, reframe: ‘Is there another way?’

23 December 2019

Peter Moore has a powerful incentive to put health and safety front and centre.

He knows first-hand how it feels to knock on a family’s door to let them know a loved one won’t be coming home again – that they’ve been killed at work.

The PGG Wrightson livestock general manger says he’ll never forget that day when, in a previous role at another agriculture-based company, he was part of the group that had to make the visit to share the dreadful news.

The experience changed his outlook forever and acutely sharpened his focus on health and safety.

“It’s not just thinking about your own wellbeing it’s thinking about what affect it will have on others if you’re hurt or worse.”

How will your kids feel, your partner, your Mum and Dad?

Peter says it’s about taking a moment.

‘I encourage our people, when they see someone doing something that worries them, to try and have a conversation – to speak up and try and talk to the person about it.’

Stop and think about the possible consequences of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it rather than charging ahead thinking: it’ll be all right, nothing will go wrong.

The company has a health and safety programme across the business for its own people but Peter says he stands right behind those in his team who spread the culture further afield and believes rural professionals can have an important role to play in bringing a shift onfarm.

When people are tuned into health and safety and it becomes a natural part of their thinking and behaviours, they see it not only in the context of what they’re doing but also in what others are doing, he says.

Suddenly others’ risky behaviours stand out too.

Peter recalls one incident a staff member was involved in when they turned up on a client’s farm and saw the client’s child riding along on the mudguard of the tractor.

Straight away, he was struck by how unsafe it was.

He felt like he should say something but at the same time it was a valued customer and he didn’t know how a comment would be received.

“I encourage our people, when they see someone doing something that worries them, to try and have a conversation – to speak up and try and talk to the person about it.”

So, while he was very nervous about bringing it up, he did.

The farmer wasn’t happy and made his feelings known in no uncertain terms.

But the next day he contacted the staff member.

“He rang him and said that after he’d thought about it – he was right. It wasn’t safe.

“Holding someone accountable like that, pointing it out – they’re challenging conversations.

“What I say to our people is – talk about how can we do that differently?

“Start by asking – do you think there’s another way to do that?

“What do we need to do to get the job done more safely?”

By framing it that way people think proactively and put their minds to a positive action rather than focusing on what they can’t do.

Another question that can positively encourage people into prioritising safe practice is asking them what they look forward to going home to?

“What do they have outside of work that’s important to them that could be lost or put in jeopardy if they were injured, maimed or – stark as it might sound – killed?

“Number one is usually family – kids, wife, husband, parents but I also ask them to think about what things they do they’d miss.

“It could be fishing, playing rugby, watching the kids’ cricket.

“Our people spend a lot of time on the road and driving safely is a big factor.

“I tell them to think about the things they enjoy when they get in behind the wheel.”

Rather than repeatedly saying don’t drive too fast, that thought process can motivate them to drive to the conditions, to actively drive safely.

Near-miss reporting is an effective way to help positively improve behaviours and identify or get rid of hazards too, Peter says.

It’s something that can take a bit of practice and team members can need encouragement to feel they’re not going to get in trouble for reporting incidents.

They also need to know that their reports don’t fall on deaf ears and that if they report a near miss because of a hazard or a process that positive action will be taken to fix the problem.

“Near-miss reporting allows you identify there’s a problem before someone does get hurt.”


Safe animal handling –  expect the unexpected

No matter how experienced you are at handling animals the unexpected can happen in a blink of an eye.

Animals are unpredictable and a normally sedate animal can quickly become an oncoming freight train in seconds.

Peter Moore’s team includes more than 200 stock agents and handling animals can pose one of the biggest risks.

They learn safe handling on the job but Peter says across the whole agricultural sector it could be time to look at having formalised training, such as the training that exists for operating a chainsaw or driving motorbike.

There are right and wrong ways to handle cattle in yards, for instance.

“But there’s also that unpredictability factor – you have to be alert.

“A normally docile dairy cow, when in a sale ring on her own for instance, can suddenly get stressed.”

No matter what it is, 600kg of anything heading towards you at speed can do a lot of harm.

But even a much lighter animal can cause problems.

Injuries caused by sheep can be debilitating – elbow, finger and knee injuries are the most common and usually caused by sheep jumping up or rushing at a person.

Slips, trips and falls in a yard situation are also a common cause of injury.

“The key is to stop and look around you. Take that moment to observe – the animals to see how they’re behaving or identify any that are looking stressed.

“Also look at your surroundings – what the set-up is like, where can you get out of the way quickly.”

That few seconds of observation and assessment of the situation can ultimately save time but also save an injury or even a life.


Content provided by NZ Farm Life Media

Ewe sale reflects confidence in sheep

09 January 2020

Returns at record levels despite lack of rain.

The effects of drying feed became clear during November and December at Stortford Lodge. However, the first ewe fair of the season on December 13 was a strong indication of the present confidence in the sheep industry.

The big yarding of more than 8000 ewes were mostly in outstanding condition, a reflection of the kind winter and good spring in Hawke’s Bay.

Top price was $297 paid for twotooth romneys from Atua Station, Elsthorpe. Last year’s top price for the same sheep from the same vendor was $230.50. Some older ewes were harder to sell and shorn ewes attracted a premium because buyers did not want the cost of shearing them.

PGG Wrightson livestock manager Neil Common said the same price levels were expected in the two January ewe fairs. He said they needed to be high to be worth more than works price.

In the weekly sales the most noticeable result of the continuing dry was in the price of store lambs which came down with something of a bang from the early-season sales.

Good short-term male lambs made up to $130 but longer term lambs were harder to sell in yardings that grew in size as the year went on.

Outside buyers and Hawke’s Bay finishers with crops kept the market steady if down on the early sales of $160 and more.

Common said many lambs had been sold as stores which would normally have been finished. This could lead to a shortage of prime lambs later in the season despite good lambing percentages.

He was expecting January and February lamb sales to be quieter as farmers had sold all they needed to and were focused on finishing lambs.

Common said he feared not enough farmers were breeding lambs, preferring to finish them instead. The decline in ewe numbers would be hastened as more breeding farms were sold for pine trees.

Back at the saleyards prime lamb prices held up during November without the expected Christmas market lift because prices were already high enough. As the supply of hoggets ran out and new-season lambs arrived prices eased but still produced good returns. During November heavy male hoggets made up to $200 but that price dropped with the best new-season lambs making $175 at the last sale of the year.

Those prices are expected to improve in the new year as the lambs grow.

The biggest price movement was in prime ewes. They eased during November but dropped in December. Common said an annual bottleneck meant a severe lack of processing space as lambs were weaned and ewe flocks culled.

In the cattle rostrum good numbers came forward for every sale. Common described November’s prices as incredible. Heavy angus steers regularly cracked the $3/kg mark in the prime sales. The good feed levels of spring were reflected in the quality of the offerings, prime and store.

Buyers from outside Hawke’s Bay were active in the store sales as despite the lack of rain there is still plenty of rougher cattle feed on hand.

Prime prices eased toward the end of the year but, Common said, there were still good margins to be made on cattle bought as stores as long as finishers could get them up to around the 600kg mark.

Looking ahead Common said the market outlook was still strong across the board. Most ewe meat goes to China which is short of protein since the outbreak of African swine fever across Asia.

Drought in Australia was helping to keep beef prices up so despite the lack of rain farmers were still feeling good, he said.

“Export returns are at record levels and demand is still solid. People can buy stock with confidence despite the big outlay needed.

“Prices should hold as summer meat schedules look steady."


Article courtesy of NZ Herald

Shearers answer call to help

10 January 2020

The farming industry is uniting to help Shaun Bradley and his family through one of their biggest challenges.

Bradley, 28, is a Tapanui farm manager battling cancer. He has stage four B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

West Otago communities have rallied around Bradley, his wife Olivia and their daughter Charlotte, who is 8-and-a-half months old. The couple recently celebrated their second wedding anniversary.

His employers, Nelson and Fiona Hancox, and PGG Wrightson wool buyer Jared Manihera, are arranging a 24-hour sheara-thon as a fundraiser for the family. The shear-a-thon will be held on February 6 and 7 at a Moa Flat farm belonging to Bradley’s employers. Manihera said the public were welcome to attend the event at 670 Wilden Runs Rd. It starts at 10am on the first day.

The Hancoxes own the 5500 ewe lambs being used and the money they would have paid shearing contractors will be donated to the Bradleys. More than 20 shearers from throughout the South Island will be in action.

The wool shed has five stands but for the shear-a-thon, seven will operate.

Two blade-shearers are also taking part.

‘‘The West Otago community is really good in times of need,’’

Nelson Hancox said. ‘‘Shaun’s a genuine, hard-working young guy.’’

Michelle Harrex, who won two open national shearing titles during the 1990s, is coming out of retirement to be part of the sheara-thon. ‘‘We heard it was on and wanted to support Shaun,’’ Harrex said.

She and husband Barry are Gore dairy farmers and occasionally shear the odd sheep. They were shearing contractors in Central Otago before selling up in 2000.

Bradley said it was incredibly humbling to receive the support.

‘‘I’m blown away by it, people are coming out of the woodwork with generosity.

‘‘It helps you get through a hard time . . . it’s incredible.’’

His cousin, Scott Stiven, is in charge of a stock drive to raise funds. For the past three weeks he has been collecting donated stock, selling them at the Charlton saleyards and giving the proceeds to the Bradleys.

About $10,000 has been raised from the sale of about 50 stock.

A farming community in North Canterbury is also running a stock drive for the Bradleys. The couple lived in North Canterbury before moving to West Otago three years ago.

‘‘It’s been amazing how many people have been keen to help out,’’ Stiven said.

Other groups helping with fundraising activities for the Bradleys include the West Otago Young Farmers and Lions Clubs and Heriot Rugby Club.

Article courtesy of Southland Times

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