One million people might have dairy farming concerns in New Zealand, but at least two billion people worldwide love our farmers, says Federated Farmers Manawatu/Rangitikei president James Stewart.
“Around two billion people around the world love us, our food integrity, our food quality and believe we have good environmental practices,” he told 60 farmers, real estate agents and scientists at at provincial meeting near Hunterville.
However, farmers had to accept that society was changing in New Zealand and while many New Zealanders liked the culture of farming others were concerned about its impact, he said.
“People don’t like seeing cows in water, or cattle in mud. Society has changed.”
*Truth-twisting anti-farming tactics concern farmers
*Gap between town and country growing
He said people believed farmers were preventing them from swimming in rivers.
“Politicians have to listen to the ‘masses’ as that’s where their votes come from.”
Stewart said New Zealanders still supported farming and respected that it it earned export dollars, but no longer could 30,000 livestock farmers say they were the backbone of the economy and “we can do what we want”.
“So we are not that big. People say we are equivalent to the gay vote. But we punch above our weight, and Federated Farmers does about 200 submissions a year, on water regulations and district plans for instance.”‘
Stewart said it had been a hard road for farmers over recent years.
“It is a challenge and we are constantly feeling frustration. We are working our arses off and we’re being told we are the problem.”
Facing completely different challenges were the managers, also speaking at the meeting, of a huge Australian station in the west of Queensland where people had to be “special” to live and work in such a remote place.
Jon Cobb and Michelle Reay run 25,000 cattle on 800,000 hectares at Durham Downs station.
The station was owned largely by Australian billion heiress Gina Rinehart, who owned 11 other stations, along with Chinese ownership.
“It was small change for her, at A$380 million for the lot,” said Cobb.
He said cattle was moved to control the pasture at the breeding and finishing farm.
“There are no inputs, no fertiliser or seeding programme, we only have cattle movements to manage the pasture,” Cobb said.
He said the herd’s santa gertrudis bulls ran with the cows year round.
Cobb said the average rainfall was 300 millimetres and they were always trying to manage “some degree of drought”.
“We breed and break in our own horses. we have 30 broodmares and a stallion.’
The station has 15 to 20 staff and it has its own shop. Staff include a head stock-person, a pilot, a grader driver, cook, mechanic and 5-10 stock workers.
“It is a big wage bill and we have to keep them all busy and motivated.”
Reay said they had three sons at boarding school, after all their four boys were home educated.
She said it was hard keeping staff for more than a season.
“Social life, well you often have to make your own fun. There are some nearby properties, and we get together with them. People can see what their friends are doing in town, through social media now. It is remote.”
Cobb said the challenges of working on a big station were fuel, food, and getting parts for machinery. “It can be a logistical nightmare.”