It's time for sharemilkers to move to new farms

JAMES HOUGHTON
Last updated 15:28 28/05/2013

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OPINION: They say moving house is one of life's most stressful events, but for sharemilkers it can be an annual occurrence. Not only do they pack up their homes; they move hundreds of animals and farm equipment.

May 31 and/or June 1 are often called "Gypsy Day", but actually, it is a chaotic week as moving sharemilkers get everything ready to go to a new farm, which could be down the road or in a different part of the country.

Anyone on the move this weekend needs to keep in mind the need to keep stock off greenfeed before transporting to lessen the chance of spilling effluent on the roads, a potential hazard for other motorists and environmental pollutant.

It is also important to have a good plan for the day. Know what your local requirements are for moving stock on roads, if necessary.

Also keep in mind that this weekend is Queen's Birthday weekend - which will no doubt cause its own congestion and traffic-related hazards. Everyone, from farmers moving stock and machinery, to drivers who may meet them on the roads, needs to show a little extra patience.

Today, I am meeting Auckland Water Care Services, which is putting forward a case for allowing the city to take more water from the Waikato River.

This is a first meeting and I will be interested to see what they think their requirements are and what their attitude is toward the river's other consented users. We will question them about what efficiencies they require from the Auckland public.

The Federated Farmers Waikato annual meeting went superbly on Thursday, giving members an opportunity to discover more about our work in our region and to have their say.

It was also an opportunity for the Federated Farmers Waikato Charitable Society to gift $30,000 to the Westpac rescue helicopter, which provides a lifeline to the rural community. We look forward to seeing the new helicopter in service in a couple of months.

At the meeting I was retained as Waikato president for another year, Chris Lewis, our dairy chairman, and Stuart King will be the province's vice- presidents and Chris Irons is becoming regional meat and fibre chairman at a critical time for the industry.

The grain and seed position remains in John Hodge's very capable hands.

Sam Lewis, who has served Federated Farmers Waikato for many years, was made a life member at the meeting.

It is great to have such an enthusiastic team on the Waikato executive and so many others working at the branch level. If you came along to either a branch or the regional annual meeting, you will have seen how much so many passionate people, farmer members as well as Federation staff, who do so much for the whole agricultural sector.

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I thank everyone who contributes. I encourage those thinking of doing so to put their hand up. It is some extra work to fit into our already busy lives, but there is huge satisfaction and camaraderie to be gained as well.

When it comes to the genetic modification (GM) debate, Federated Farmers is neither for nor against it. We just want people to be informed. I have yet to see any science that eating GM food will kill you. Humans have always influenced food through selective breeding. This is how we can feed our world today. I encourage people to get information to make informed decisions, not be led down the emotive path.

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are another area where participation is well worthwhile and I congratulate everyone in the grand final in Wellington over the weekend.

Southland sharemilkers Don and Jess Moore, Canterbury farm manager Richard Pearse and Southland dairy trainee James Warren took home the supreme trophies, but I also want to congratulate Waikato's Sharemilker/ Equity Farmers of the Year Andrew and Michelle McPherson, Farm Manager of the Year Gary McFarlane, and Dairy Trainee of the Year Thomas Herbert.

Getting to the national final is a huge achievement against top-rate competition.

Entrants' farm management and business practices are put under the microscope, giving them a new insight into how their operations are really running. Have a think over the winter and make sure that when entries open for the 2014 competition you are ready to enter. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

James Houghton is Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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