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TAS Country : August 26th 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010 Tasmanian Country 25 Dairy giant's shock review KAROLIN MacGREGOR AN announcement by dairy giant National Foods that it plans to review its cheese manufacturing business in Tasmania has raised concerns the company's future in the state. This week National Foods an- nounced it would be conducting a national review of its cheese busi- ness, including Tasmanianman- ufacturing operations at King Is- land, Burnie, Heidi Farm at Exton and Kings Meadows. National Foods general man- ager of corporate affairs Geoff Lynch said the review was in response to the acquisition of several business, manufacturing sites and brands in recent years. He said the review would focus on any possible duplication in the company cheese business, as well as with long-term sustainability, innovation and current and future environmental requirements. The review should be completed by February next year. It is believed the announcement of the review came as a shock to National Foods workers, who found out about it on Tuesday, the same day the company issued a press release. Derwent Valley farmer Phil Beattie played a key role in negotiating a pay increase for Tasmanian National Food sup- pliers, after a four-month battle with the company last year. Mr Beattie said until the review was completed, it was difficult to tell which direction the company would go. ''It may mean they could actu- ally increase their cheese pro- duction here, which would be great,'' he said. ''They have purchased a quite a few iconic brands down here like Mersey Valley and King Island so it would be hard to understand if they cut them out.'' National Food purchased the King Island Dairy business in 2002 and then in 2006 also bought the Lactos Cheese business. National Foods is owned by the Japanese Kirin Holdings Com- pany Limited, and consequently the Mitsubishi Group. Tasmanian farmers supply about 140 million litres of milk to National Foods each year. About 100 million litres is used for cheese production, while the rest is used to supply the fresh milk market. About 370 people are employed by National Foods across the state. Minister for Economic Develop- ment Lara Giddings announced on Wednesday that the State Government hoped to meet the company to discuss what this review could mean for its Tasman- ian operations. She said the Government was taking the company's plans for the review very seriously. News East Coast in big tussock tussle CONCERN: Checking out serrated tussock are, from left, Glamorgan Spring Bay NRM committee chairman David Tucker, NRM South's Jill Pearson, GSB NRM officer Mel Kelly, GSB Mayor Bertrand Cadart and NRM South's Alistair Kay. JENNIFER CRAWLEY SERRATED tussock has reared its ugly head on three major agricul- tural properties on the East Coast. The problem weed has also been been discovered on four smaller properties. Five of the properties are at Little Swanport and two are in the Swan Aspley catchment near Swansea. The region has become a priority area for serrated tussock in Aust- ralia, and a two-year clean-up program has been funded by the Federal Government. The Glamorgan Spring Bay Coun- cil and NRM South have joined forces to combat the infestation. A serrated tussock workshop will be held at Little Swanport on Monday. The free workshop will show prop- erty owners how to identify the weed and compare it to the native Poa or silver tussock. Landowners will also learn how to get serrated tussock under control. NRM South and GSB Council Catchment to Coast co-ordinator Mary Whitaker said local land- holders were enthusiastic about eradication efforts. ''The most important thing in weed control is to tidy up the little edges, because if they get to be big infestations we have to start all over again,'' she said. ''It is believed to have started on a 40ha property where the farmer has managed it by destocking, by taking all the sheep off. ''I was thinking it needed to be managed with sheep, but it seems to be working a treat because the natives are coming back and they're out-competing the tussock and that seems to be its major weakness, competition with our native species.'' Ms Whitaker said other landholders were using similar methods by giving their country a rest, but also grazing at different times so that natives can come back with a vigour so that germination is allowed to go ahead. Monday's workshop is at Ravensdale Hall, Little Swanport, from 9am-12.30pm. Experts unearth facts on forefront fertilisers SOIL OIL: Lee Peterson and Sam Rees from Agricultural Resource Management. Picture: KAROLIN MacGREGOR KAROLIN MacGREGOR ABOUT 80 farmers turned out to hear the latest information about alternative fertilisers and soil conditioners at a field day at Bishopsbourne this week. Organised by Seona Findlay from Tas Agronomy Plus, the field day was funded by NRM North and Caring For Our Country. A strong line-up of guest speakers who covered topics from soil basics through to some of the latest product innovations. Agronomists Lee Peterson and Sam Rees from Agricultural Resource Man- agement began with an informative presentation on soil and its role in productive farming systems. Mr Rees said a basic understanding about soil structure, biology and chem- istry was important when looking at methods and products to improve soil health. While there had been much research and work on soil structure and chemis- try over the years, soil biology was a relatively new area of study and its importance in overall soil health was now being recognised. Mr Rees said a stronger focus on increasing soil organic carbon had prompted farmers to look at products that could be applied to soils to increase their carbon levels, however it was not always that straightforward. Large amounts of organic matter was needed to increase soil carbon levels by small amounts, so correct management of soils to retain their carbon stores was important. Mr Peterson said the greatest ben- efits from adding organic matter to soil was when it broke down due to microbial activity. This breakdown can lift the potential for plant growth, improve soil struc- ture and moisture-holding capacity, nutrient balance and increase the population of microfauna in the soil. To effectively manage soils to in- crease organic matter, Mr Peterson said the first step for farmers was to understand the types of soils on their properties and their limitations. ''In Tasmania because we have a mix of so many of different soil types, sometimes there will be more then one type across a paddock, but you have to manage that paddock as a whole to maximise the bang for you buck,'' Mr Peterson said. Nutrient budgeting was one area that most farmers did not focus on, but it could play a vital role in effectively managing inputs. ''You really need to know what is going on, and off, you farm as far as nutrients go,'' he said. Soil tests over time could be a valuable tool for tracking changes in soil, but Mr Peterson said ideally the tests should be performed by the same laboratories to avoid discrepancies in results. He said farmers must also have a basic understanding of soil test results. When looking at any alternative fertiliser products, it was important to get some basic information about the products before using them. Farmers should find out about the carbon content of the product and what cations are included, they should also inquire about the moisture content of the products and what nutrients in the product are actually available to the plants. Other critical information needed was what impact the product would have on microbial activity, how well it had been composted, how stable it was, it, how does it transport and what are the application methods. Mr Peterson warned that because many of the alternative fertilisers were are made using waste products farmers must make sure any products they used did not have food-safety or occu- pational health and safety consider- ations and that would not affect quality- assurance schemes. ''You also need to make sure that anything you use will fit in with your existing farming systems,'' he said. ''Whatever you're utilising, you need to get the full benefit of it -- you've got to be able to use them when conditions are right, not only for the soil, but for the product itself.'' Mr Peterson said unlike chemical fertiliser, which could be applied in a relatively short time, often at sowing, alternative fertilisers might require more planning ahead to get the full benefits.
August 19th 2010
September 2nd 2010