Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SFF Landcorp and PGGWrightson, is this partnership benefitting the industry or just these three entities?

Like many people in the last few weeks I have been hearing and reading about this new three way partnership between Silver Fern Farms (SFF), Landcorp and PGG Wrightson, whereby as I understand the Government is contributing $59.5million from the Primary Growth Partnership.

The cynic in me is wondering is this a scheme designed to benefit the industry or principally to benefit each of these entities?  Why do I say this, well:
  1. From my reading of the article in the High Country Herald dated August 25 2010, SFF want farmers on board, they can sign up to contracts etc, in other words, you must supply lambs to SFF to be involved in it.  Sounds to me like a pretty self serving use of the 59.5 million put up by the government does it not? Further I have just recently attended an Alliance meeting and it would seem they have starting with what the consumer wants and working backwards for many years, surely  SFF has been doing the same, so why all of sudden is there some amazing plan now?; and
  2. Again from the same article it would seem Landcorp's role will be in genetics and developing the database.   In the sheep industry Landcorp breed Romneys, composites and Texels.  I am fairly confident that there are many better Romneys in the Country than Landcorps, composites probably also, and you must remember that composites are most certainly not the hot property they were five years ago, as farmers have discovered that there are some major issues with them, there has and is a major trend back to using purebreds or first crossing.  As to their Texels, I have not seen them, but  a Texel breeder mate of mine, assures me that there are better texels around than Landcorps.  So if this partnership is indeed for the industry good as claimed, wouldn't you try and source the best genetics available, get a cross section of breeds and not limit yourself to a small cross section as described above, which are arguably inferior to other genetics that are available in NZ.
  3. I also note Landcorps role is developing the database, what does this mean.  Why does Landcorp have its own database in the first place, why is it not already all incorporated into  Sheep Improvement Limited's database ("SIL"), a partially funded database by Meat and Wool (now Beef and Lamb), particularly given that it has been struggling for funding in the last few years  Wouldn't the time and money in this regard be better served in incorporating Landcorp and other breeds and breeders into SIL who are not already there and then developing SIL to better serve the whole industry, not just Landcorp? (As clearly SIL is of value in some areas, but rather meaningless or misleading in others).
  4. PGG Wrightson's role is apparently to "advise farmers how to become more productive, such as the use of grasses for higher stock weights."  This is a bit revolutionary is it not, I guess this is based on trials to see what grasses are better and in fact achieve higher growth rates, then you patent them, and sell these proprietary grasses, brassicas etc to farmers for these purposes at a good price, i.e AR1 grasses are not too shy of $5kg.  I am being rather sarcastic here, isn't that what they do now, or are we going to be able buy these grasses for $2kg, given that $59 million of tax payer money being poured into this partnership, I suspect not.  Are they using this money to carry out the research, which they now charge a high price per kg to recover such cost? What in fact are they going to do that is indeed different or new and as such a major benefit to the industry?  Or is this just a lock of those farmers who want to be part of the SFF's contracts in that they now must also get their advice from PGG and buy their grasses etc?
Apparently they want others to join, well who are these others, is that me, they will source my genetics and incorporate my database, or is it Alliance so they can sign up farmers to the same contracts or is it CRT so it can give me advice on what grass I use.  I would dearly love to believe that this programme will indeed benefit the whole industry given the injection of tax payer money, but I would have to say from what I have read to date, the big winners in this project will be the three entities above.

Mr Gardynes letter to straight Furrow re my Glammies article

I have just read Hugh Gardyne's letter to the editor in the Straight Furrow dated 31 August 2010 slagging what I wrote last week. I enjoy a good argument and I hope a few more people have considered my article and Hugh's response, however his response does require me to point out a few things:
  1. 'The CPT trial is simply a ram versus ram basis, and is unrealistic to use it as a breed comparison.  CPT state this themselves.  I only quote the following CPT figures as Hugh is using this to back up his argument, but realistically you should not use CPT as a breed comparison as it covers too few rams.  I would take a lamb finishers' word (who make a living out it) any day over a trial that to date has only evaluated a total of 193 rams.
  2. The meat indexes and growth indexes are about as reliable as the weather reports for South Canterbury at the moment.   They have subjective economic weightings which realistically should be different for different parts of the country, for example growth rates are much more important for summer dry areas, then perhaps where Hugh farms.  However if you want to use SIL data to back up your argument, then try breeding values, these have no hidden attributes or subjective weightings that indexes have which may distort the results.
  3. Even if you look CPT results for this last year:  There are only two texels in the top 25 for the weaning weight breeding value, which I had assumed was one of their strengths, but perhaps early growth is as much of an issue for Texels as later growth, I am sure a Southdown could fix this for you Hugh!!!.   Now look at the Eye Muscle Area bv and there are 14 Texel, texel cross or composite rams (which I assume includes part texel) in the top 25, in other words they yield well (assuming hybrid vigour is not totally responsible for the high yield).   These two values simply back up what I said and what lamb finishers have told me, good yielders, slow growers.
  4. Even if you use the growth index figures that Hugh quotes, two rams with good growth, sure, one other crossbred texel is 18th, but the rest of the remaining 25 are not texels. The rest incidentally are all those breeds of the past that Hugh refers to and includes a Southdown which I would consider a new breed of the 90's that Hugh refers to, as they are breed that has changed to meet the markets requirements more than perhaps any other breed in the last 30 years, many farmers can testify to this.
  5. Sure the lambs are subjected to a tenderness test and they have to be below a ph of 5.7, but the weighting is 50:50 on yield and tenderness.  I have seen the results for the lines of lambs in the last Glammies and the reality is, with a few exceptions, that almost all the top yeilders make the final.  It is all about the respective weighting you give to the tests or lack of it perhaps.
As I stated in the initial article this is not a dig at texels, but Hugh seems to have taken it as such, it is a dig at those supposedly leading our meat industry, growth rate is a significant issue for many farmers and I (along with many others) sincerely believe that there is a strong correlation between very high meat yield and low growth rates, but the present criteria for the Glammies makes no allowances for growth rates and moreover it puts a significant weighting on yield, which I would think has little bearing on the taste of the lamb.

If the Glammies is to be used as industry beacon then it needs to use criteria that ensures it sends out the right signals as to what type of lamb we should be growing.