The Canterbury Regional Council has had ‘a wake up call’, it says, after Forest and Bird accused it of failing to act against farmers who seriously breach their water rights. Forest and Bird got their facts from an  Official Information Act request  and it showed  there were 376 serious breaches of water consents in the 2013/14 year.    These included extracting too much water and not having water meters installed, making it impossible for Environment Canterbury  to monitor how much water farmers were taking.    ECAN chief executive Bill Bayfield says the council is taking the accusations seriously.    He says the local and broader communities  in New Zealand are expecting that we’re absolutely accurate in making sure that people use only what they are consented to use.  Mr Bayfield says the Canterbury region has nearly 6000 water-take consents that need to be measured and reported, three times more than any other region in New Zealand and  there are enough staff to keep an eye on water use.      We’re now in the situation of over 90 percent of farmers having those meters, and over 90 percent of the farmers supply us with data.   Mr Bayfield said some of the serious water consent breaches in the 2013/14 year were due to inaccurate meter readings.      An infringement notice can be up to about $700, but if a breach progresses to a prosecution it can be up to $200,000.

New Zealand is shoring up links with European countries to forge a free trade agreement, regardless of whether Britain decides to leave the European Union (EU), Trade Minister Todd McClay says. Britons go to the polls on Thursday to decide whether to stay in the union and  New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says  a British exit from the EU could be a boon for New Zealand exporters.    However, Mr McClay says  there could be significant costs if Britain leaves the EU, and the biggest cost is uncertainty.    He says the UK has a third of our exports to the EU now and it’s imperative we have an ongoing positive relationship with the European Union as well as the UK.    A study by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research says NZ will undoubtedly suffer economically if Britain votes to leave, byut  Mr McClay says the timing is good and any exit takes time.   He says  New Zealand’s trade with the UK  would continue unchanged for at least two years as the UK must have discussions over a two-year period about how to exit, so they don’t exit the day after the referendum.

And the prospect of Britain leaving the EU appears to be diminishing with the latest polls saying ‘Brexit’ is swinging back to ‘Bremain’.     The polls have shifted slightly, but the bookmakers’ odds have swung decisively since the tragic murder of pro-remain MP Jo Cox late last week.   Odds checker says  bookmakers have shifted from a nearly 40% exit probability mid-week last week to 25% currently, anticipating that those ‘undecided’ in the polls will vote to remain in the EU.  But they say the  outcome will go down to the wire and remain a source of day-to-day market volatility.

The shortest day has passed with a longstanding record broken.   Temperature wise it was the warmest  Winter Solstice  on record since 1880.  Perhaps not surprisingly there is news through that Lambs have been born early on the flat land of Manawatu and are thriving in the warm temperatures which has hit 17 degrees this week.    Lambs are usually born in July to take advantage of early spring pasture growth on the lowlands while farmers in the hill country don’t start lambing until August September.   This may be good news seeing the area was hit badly by Facial Excema this season  and the number of ewes carrying lambs is down 5-10 percent with FE being a major contributor.    Meanwhile Hawkes Bay farmers are still struggling with dry conditions.   Reports from the Fielding saleyards say the Hawkes Bay farmers who are usually buying up last season’s lambs to finish at this time of year  are not around at the moment and in fact there are more sales going to the South Island.
Despite the high dollar, cattle slaughter prices held relatively steady last week.   Some companies pulled money out of printed schedules in response to the currency, however with others not following suit, it has been more difficult to make the softer prices stick.    While the US imported market firmed last week, the strength of the NZ Dollar has cancelled out any benefit here and margins for cattle are feeling the pinch. It’s expected processors will be looking to minimise any upwards pressure going forward. Slaughter rates are tightening overall; however there are still some tail end cows coming out and Northland is busy offloading prior to winter. The competition for the last of the cows was fierce last week.   Capacity continues to be reduced in line with the kill, and this, combined with the currency, is likely to act to keep a lid on further price increases in the short term.

Cattle numbers continued to fall this week, with just 278 on the books, and prices generally returned to levels seen a fortnight ago.   Good demand for Friesian bulls, weighing  601-635kg, saw prices hold at $2.70-$2.73/kg,  though most other bulls were trading at $2.30- $2.55/kg.   The rest of the yarding sold on an easing market,  with a small offering of steers mainly trading at $2.74-$2.87/kg for beef lines.    Hereford and Here x heifers weighing  450-555kg, made  $2.70-$2.81/kg, with the 550kg indicator price easing to $2.78/kg.     Beef cows hovered around the $2/kg mark, while Friesians, 470-765kg, sold over a tight range at $1.70-$1.82/kg, with the 550kg indicator similar to last year at $1.81/kg.     Farmers took the opportunity to offload store lambs while prices are good, and numbers jumped to nearly 4,000.    There was no lack of buyers  with good bidders, and two lines of 26- 27kg males made   $82-$90 at $3.14-$3.32/kg.    Lighter mixed sex lines were also making $3.27/kg for 22-23kgs. Mixed sex, 32-34kg, sold for $85-$96, which eased the 33kg indicator price to $2.68/kg.  Prime lambs  sold for $100-$127, with the remainder making $80-$99. Prime ewes were mainly heavy types, with 60% of the offering making $80-$100, and  a much smaller number between $50- $79.    Breeding ewes mainly sold for $110-$120.