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Executive Director's Message

"Kia ora from New Zealand."

For those of you who attended the board meeting during the week of the 11th –15th, I hope you have taken home some good memories of the country, and feel recharged and enthused about sustainability of the beef industry.

For those of you who could not make it to New Zealand, I will give you a flavour of the week in this slightly different Connect, along with some photos that may act as encouragement to make a visit here at some other stage. One thing of which I am sure is that when you do come you will receive a warm welcome!

For further photographs of the New Zealand farm tours,
here where you can see and download any of the photos I took.

Tuesday the 12th saw the group depart from central Christchurch in a convoy of vehicles for the first stop, ANZCO's Canterbury beef and lamb facility at Ashburton. For several of our visitors used to large beef plants, this was interesting as it handles both species and we toured the lamb line, which was a first for some. We are very grateful to ANZCO for letting us into the plant and spending time with us throughout the week.

From there we drove on to Annandale, where we met owners Chris and Anne Marie Allen, winner of Silver Fern's "Plate to Pasture" award in 2016. Their 360 hectare (890 acre) farm is on the West of the Canterbury plains near Ashburton, close to the foothills. We were welcomed with an excellent barbecue lunch, and then toured the farm in convoy with GRSB radio, through which we could all listen to Chris and Anne Marie tell us about their property. Emphasis throughout New Zealand is on grazing management and Chris and Anne Marie certainly make the most of theirs.

A big thanks to Silver Fern and to Chris and Anne Marie, for showing us around Annandale. From there we headed closer in towards the hills, where we met Murray and Linda Harmer on their farm Shannondowns, a 210 hectare (520 acre) sheep and beef farm right at the base of the Southern Alps on which they run 2000 ewes, 520 hoggets, and 60 head of cattle.

They were the winners of the Waitrose Farmer of the Year Award in 2002 and have constantly invested in the farm since buying it 27 years ago, through tree planting, drainage, resowing, fencing and a host of other improvements. I am sure that Murray and Linda would not mind me saying how all their hard work is very clear to see and has paid them back.

We took a little exercise here, walking up a paddock that Murray had resown – very impressive given how steep it was! The steep climb was rewarded by an excellent view both of the Alps and the plains stretching away before us.

The main event for most of our New Zealand colleagues was the formal launch of the New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef on Wednesday, presided over by Minister of Agriculture, Damien O'Connor. Congratulations to all of those who made this possible and have been working hard for a couple of years now to get to this stage. The New Zealand Roundtable has a lot of great work in the country to build on, and I am sure will progress rapidly.

Our GRSB board meeting in the morning will be the subject of a separate Connect as several subjects were covered that merit more in depth coverage, including a communications presentation by Howard Parry Husbands and a soil health and regenerative management discussion with Peter Byck amongst others.

On Thursday we finished the board meeting and went from there to the New Zealand Agricultural Show in Christchurch – an opportunity to visit Silver Fern's tent and see the events and exhibits typical of an A&P (agricultural and produce) show in New Zealand including horse events, sheep dog trials etc.

From the showgrounds, we headed North to the Douglas–Cliffords' property, Stonyhurst, near Greta Valley on the Canterbury coast. Stonyhurst was established by the family 150 years ago and is now home to the 5th, 6th and 7th generations; it's an iconic property, which the family has improved over the years including the planting of millions of native trees. In all of its history no widespread bush clearance has been undertaken. The station produces sheep, deer and cattle, and we spent some time looking at bulls in a technograze system, where they are achieving impressive growth rates of 2kg (4.4lbs) per day on pastures which were sown up to 30 years ago. The evening was rounded off with an excellent barbecue prepared by chef Jonny Schwass who runs the Ilex café at the Christchurch botanical gardens.

For many attendees Stonyhurst was the last visit on the program, but nearly half stayed on for one more visit on Friday, to Lees Valley Station further inland, close to Oxford in North Canterbury. This sizable sheep, deer and cattle station is run by Grasslands LLC. We were shown around by manager Brandon Dalton who explained the principles of holistic management and in particular how that relates to grazing on a property of this scale – including the complementarity between different species in managing grasslands.

We also heard from Professor Pablo Gregorini from Lincoln University and from Chris Kerston of the Savory Institute. The whole experience gave attendees a good overview of regenerative management and its importance in restoring what had been a degraded environment, and its potential to do so at scale throughout the world. Taken in combination with the research presented by Peter Byck, there is a case for improved grassland and grazing management to restore soil health and improve farm income while delivering environmental benefits.

Thanks to all, especially Justin Courtney, Rennie Davidson, all the farmers and the members of the NZ roundtable, who made this meeting the success it was.

For further photographs of the New Zealand farm tours,
here where you can see and download any of the photos I took.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

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