Tuesday, 08 September 2020 09:16

NZ honey hitting a sweet spot

Written by  Peter Burke

The COVID-19 crisis appears to have sparked a renewed interest in the healing properties of honey.

A study by medical researchers at Oxford University in the UK has shown that the symptoms of viruses that cause the common cold can be eased if a person takes honey – be it in a drink or in some other form.

Colds can’t be fixed with antibiotics, but they are still often prescribed and can lead to resistance in a person’s body.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, says honey is more effective, less harmful and helps combat antimicrobial resistance.

In the year to the end of June 2020, NZ honey exports earned $425 million – a 20% increase on the previous year.

Apiculture NZ chief executive Karin Kos says this is positive with demand for natural food driving export growth. But she says it’s been a hard couple of years for those who are not producing mānuka honeys.

“Prices for their product has dropped and sometimes to the point when it is below the cost of production,” she says.

This is of concern to the industry as a whole, says Karin Kos.

Signs of an early spring

There are signs that the honey season may be earlier than normal.

Most years the season starts in October, but beekeepers in Northland say the weather is warmer than normal and they are already getting their hives ready for the honey to start flowing.

Apiculture NZ chief executive Karin Kos says while it’s too early to say if the season will be early around the country, the signs are promising. She says, right now, beekeepers are busy checking their hives to see how the bees have come through winter, that they have sufficient food and there is no disease in the hives.

“It’s about getting the bees ready for the honey season,” she told Rural News.

While the agricultural landscape is changing, Kos says landowners, including orchardists, and beekeepers work closely together to ensure there is a good supply of food for the bees and that the hives are in the right place.

For those beekeepers who chase the mānuka honey market, it is an especially busy time as they start planning to move their hives to remote locations for the mānuka flowers. Helicopters are often used to do this.

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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