Fonterra, the world’s largest exporter of dairy products, based in New Zealand, has always had deep ties to the Chinese market. China buys most of the co-op’s powdered milk, and has for some time, except for a brief time last year when there was a false positive bacteria test on some Fonterra products and China instituted a temporary ban.
Fonterra knows where it’s market is, China. But it can also see the handwriting on the wall as Chinese consumers begin to regain confidence in domestic milk products after the 2008 Melamine disaster, when contaminated Chinese milk sickened an estimated 30,000 people, mostly children, and caused the death of several infants. That spiked a demand for milk products from outside the country, especially milk based baby formula. The demand is shrinking, however. China is ramping up domestic production, and consumers are regaining trust in the domestic product.
All of which means Fonterra is going to lose sales unless it does something. And it’s done it. It’s buying a 20% stake in the fourth largest infant formula maker in China. The deal will allow fonterra to expand it’s sales of it’s own infant formula into China, a market that could hit $25+ billion in the next few years.
Australia is also trying to pick up market share in China. Milk processors there are investing large amounts of money to expand production of infant formulas, cheese and dairy drinks for export to China and other parts of Asia.
When I heard about this incident, I couldn’t believe it. What rational person gives a 9 year old kid a bloody Uzi? We’re not talking about taking a kid out plinking at tin cans with a 22. We’re talking a full auto military firearm that shoots 600 rounds per second.
And they give it to a nine year old…
And yes, this is 100% legal.
We’re still trying to come up with a firm date and time for signing the final paperwork on the farm. It’s tentatively scheduled for 2 PM Friday, but there are still some things that haven’t been confirmed yet. The buyer still has to get written confirmation from their bank. They have a verbal confirmation that it’s good to go, but until their bank actually issues a written confirmation, we can’t sign the papers.
It’s been depressing, frustrating… My sister and I just want this over and done with so we can get on with our lives. She wants to use the money to buy her own place, even has her eye on one. But can’t move on that until we wrap up the farm.
Me… I’m considering doing a pension buy-in that would let me retire, or at least semi-retire, early.
Patience, Krippner… Patience…
Nice little article over at Modern Farmer about the difficulties and dangers of manure disposal. Dealing with manure is a major issue, and always has been. The article talks about the problem, but also about some solutions.
Some of the solutions, like sterilizing it, drying it, making pellets out of it for sale, sound really good, but are full of problems, the most pressing of which is how the heck a farmer is supposed to afford to buy the equipment to process it in the first place, how is she going to market it, transport it… you get the idea.
Was over at the old family farm over the weekend for what was almost certainly one of the last times. We’re getting ready to close on the sale of the place. A date for signing the papers hasn’t been set yet, but it will be by the end of the month or early September.
I was with my oldest son, Steve, and it was — hard. Hard for both of us to see the place. The house is stripped almost bare, the furniture gone, the piano I sweated over when I was a kid gone, the old kitchen table I sat at doing homework gone…
Barn is empty. Nothing but some worthless boards, an old hose, debris, the now ancient milking equipment that we used still in place because it isn’t worth the effort to get it out.
Garage empty, equipment all gone… We mowed the lawns one last time, then loaded up the mower and snowblower on the trailer and drove off.
We didn’t say much on the trip back home. There wasn’t anything to say, really.
Memories - Feelings…
They hurt sometimes
BMI, or body mass index, is, as the article points outs, often pretty much worthless when it comes to indicating your health. Epidemiological (egads, I actually spelled that one right the first time) studies actually tend to indicate that people with a BMI that classifies them as overweight live longer than people with ‘normal’ BMI numbers. The results for older people are even more striking.
According to the World Health Organization, BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered to be overweight, but according to the data, that’s actually the healthiest place to be fore most middle aged Americans.
So why is this happening? Could it be because the two major funding sources of the International Obesity Task Force are companies that make weight loss drugs, or that the chairman of the NIH at the time that came up with the ‘normal’ numbers was a consultant for diet drug makers and Weight Watchers? I’m sure that’s just a coincidence…
There is a far more accurate indicator for risk from obesity related diseases, and that’s fitness. People who exercised rarely, walked very little, had a very high risk of dying compared to those who did exercise and walk. According to my BMI, I’m overweight. But according to my fitness level and my waist to hip measurement, (a more accurate indication of obesity related health issues) I’m in good shape, and my doctor knows that and doesn’t obsess with my BMI.
So if you’re a few pounds overweight, you’re a hell of a lot better going for a walk, even a slow walk, than going on a fad diet or, even worse, resorting to the ineffective weight loss supplements being advertised on the media.
Go for a walk, people, especially if you have a sedentary job. Go take out the dog, take out the kids, get your friend or spouse, and take a walk.
I’ve commented before about the difficulty some farmers and co-ops are having moving grain because of massive backlogs at the railroads. It’s going to be getting worse once the harvest starts up.
Most people suspect that the culprit is oil - oil tankers are replacing grain cars on the rails because of the fracking and oil sands boom in the US and Canada. The RRs claim it isn’t, but it seems pretty obvious that when you go from shipping about 2,000 to 3,000 oil tankers per year, to more than a quarter of a million per year, without drastically upgrading your infrastructure, adding engines and crews, something isn’t going to get shipped. In Canada it was so bad that it drove the price of oats up almost $2 a bushel because of shipping delays, and it wasn’t until the government threatened massive fines that the railroads began moving grain again.
With a record harvest about to take place, the failure of the railroads to move grain is going to become even more serious.
It’s an interesting idea. Combines work by basically beating the crap out of your wheat, oats, rye, or whatever grain you’re combining, knocking it free from the plant. The grain then goes through screens and fans that screens out or blows off undesirable stuff like weed seeds, bits of stalk, etc. The clean grain goes in the bin, everything else blows out the back of the combine.
Including the weed seeds. Basically you’re reseeding your field with the weeds that went through the machine with your wheat.
The idea here is that instead of blowing it back out onto the field, it goes into this machine pulled behind the combine, which destroys most of the weed seeds, so you aren’t seeding your field with stuff you don’t want.
Nice idea. But it’s an extremely energy intensive way of doing something that was solved decades ago. Back in the 1960s our old Massey combine had a gadget attached to it that did exactly that: It separated out the weed seeds from the chaff, straw and the grain we wanted, dumping the weed seed into a big bag mounted at the back of the combine. It wasn’t perfect, but it did seem to work. At the end of the day we’d have bags full of ragweed seed and I don’t know what all else that could be safely dumped on the compost pile or otherwise disposed of, and which wouldn’t blow through the combine to re-seed the field with weeds.
I don’t know what happened with that system, but apparently it isn’t in use any more if this kind of thing is necessary. I suspect everything that isn’t the desired grain just blows straight through the combine because it was too expensive to ramp up to today’s enormous machines. Basically you were combining the oats twice, in a manner of speaking. But I suspect it was more energy efficient than pulling an enormous machine behind your combine that does nothing but pulverize the weed seeds.
Some people called it the Trash 80. Back then, you got a whopping 16,000 character memory for $999.
It doesn’t say it in the ad, but this is the TRS-80 Model III that replaced the Model I (Radio Shack’s first real successful attempt at entering the new personal computer market in 1979 or 1980.) The Mod-I was useable, but left a lot to be desired. The Mod II was a business machine that used 8 inch floppy drives.
The Mod III was the Mod I’s replacement. It had a black and white monitor (actually a modified B&W television), keyboard (actually it was a pretty decent keyboard) and space for 2, 5 1/4 inch floppy drives (extra cost). It came with 16 K of RAM, expandable to 48K, and used the Z-80 processor. The Z-80 was actually quite a good 8 bit CPU with some 16 bit registers and far more powerful than the competitions 6502 which was used by Commodore and Apple. The Z-80 was a popular choice for business systems because it could run CP/M, the primary business operating system of the time. But it never became really popular in home computers.
The III also had 16 K of ROM which contained the operating system and the BASIC language interpreter. Data and programs were stored on cassette tape. While Radio Shack sold cassette recorders and special data tapes, most people just used their own because the RS versions were overpriced and there was no need to buy them
RS wanted something like $300 (may be wrong, it was a long time ago) to upgrade the computer to 48K of RAM, and you had to take the thing into RS to have it shipped to a ‘service center’ to have the upgrade done. This was, frankly, an outright rip off, because you could buy the chips yourself right off the wall at the local RS in blister packs and install them yourself. The sockets were already there. You just had to plug them in. If you shopped around, you could do the RAM upgrade for under $100.
Floppy drives were extremely expensive. A 120K double density drive (the original drives were only 80K) would set you back about $700. And that was without the controller. That would cost you another $300 or so. It cost me slightly more than the computer itself to add the floppy drive to the thing.
It was actually a good computer for it’s day. It cost significantly less than a Apple II with the same equipment. And it had some serious software for it as well; word processors, spread sheets, etc. Also some games. Games were limited by the fact the video was text only, no real graphics, but they did an amazing job turning out some entertaining games using ASCII, believe it or not.
It could be modded to 64K of RAM, which switched out the bank with the ROM, replacing it with RAM and enough of a boot-loader to enable it to load CP/M or other operating systems.
It was replaced by the Mod-IV, basically the same computer but with 64K of RAM installed, and better and faster floppy drives. They even came out with a portable version of the Mod-IV similar to the Osborne ‘luggable’ computer.
(They also had a line of ‘home’ computers, the Color Computer system, which is a story in it’s own right.)
RS also had a line of business oriented computers, which were significantly larger in size, running 8 inch floppy drives and even offered hard drives. They were also Z-80 based originally. But they switched to the Motorola 68000 processor with the Model 6 business system, which still clung to the 8 inch floppy drives but used the Xenix operating system (a version of UNIX).
The Model 6 was a slick piece of equipment, but very expensive, especially when you added the hard drive (which sold for around $6K I believe), and bloody enormous.
Not long after that, Radio Shack saw the handwriting on the wall and started offering PC compatible computers. If I remember correctly, they came with PC-DOS, not true MS-DOS, and there were compatibility issues with software and hardware.
I’ve got a Mod-III and a IV down in the basement somewhere, and even a Mod 6 Xenix system laying around somewhere. They all power up, but we don’t have disks with the operating systems on them so I have no idea if they work or not.