13 Oct 2018

On the farm: What's happening around rural NZ

8:22 am on 13 October 2018

What's happening on farms and orchards around New Zealand? Each week Country Life reporters talk to people in rural areas across the country to find out.

New Zealand merino sheep in rural livestock farm.

New Zealand merino sheep in rural livestock farm. Photo: 123RF

Te Ika-a-Māui/North Island

In Northland, temperatures have been nice and warm during the day all week but nights have been cooler, which means pasture growth is good but yet to hit full stride. Some farmers have delayed putting in summer crops like maize and turnips for another week while waiting for warmer temperatures. There has been concern about this week's announcement on Fonterra's milk prices but our correspondent says overall people are positive - so long as that milk price has a 6 at the front, things should be relatively healthy.

The first of the early potatoes are now being harvested in Pukekohe under dry conditions and in hard soil. The rain arrived on Thursday and Friday. Although the amount may struggle to reach 25milimetres, it will be close and useful for a few days.

Waikato farmers welcomed the belt of rain that came through Friday morning. The province is getting a bit dry so the rain has helped. Farmers are busy getting fields ready for summer crops. Some are sowing right now. Many will start in the next ten days. Farmers weren't surprised by this week's milk price drop but still disappointed.

A fine week in the King Country was great for docking and some excellent paddock percentages are being reported in the multiples of 190 to over 200 percent. The rain on Thursday night and Friday was most welcome after a dry month, to boost pasture growth and rest docking gangs.

Bay of Plenty is a little dry too. But it was breezy and rainy when we rang around Friday morning. We spoke to an avocado grower and he thought the conditions were just right; enough moisture for growth but plants did not get drowned roots. They are in the middle of the main harvest and harvesting ramps up towards November. Asian markets seem to be going well and this week there was news that China will take avocados, especially the larger sizes. Beehives are being sent out into the orchards this week.

Things are looking lovely in Taranaki. Last spring was a shocker; it rained a lot and then there was no rain for months. So farmers are revelling this spring. The province had started to get a bit dry but the belt of rain that came through on Thursday was welcome. High altitude farms and those around Stratford got a good soaking but south Taranaki only got around 10mm. Grass growth is looking really good. Its high quality pasture growth.

Hawke's Bay is looking a picture. The blossoms are out right across the province. Our correspondent said the blossoms looked brilliant. There had been a bit of rain but orchardists were hoping there was no sudden cold snaps from now; a late frost could ruin fruit blossoms. Orchards are getting into blossom thinning. A fruit tree produces significant crop so blossoms are thinned to make sure the crop meets market conditions and is optimised. So chemical thinners are being applied right now. After that orchardists will go through and thin some trees by hand.

Wairarapa really needed rain that swept through late in the week. It's been dry there and there are water restrictions in place in some areas. Farmers have had their irrigation on so the rain was welcome. Summer crops are going in. While it's all go on farms still with the end of lambing, it is a quiet part of the year on vineyards.

Horowhenua is getting dry, too. Our correspondent reckoned they needed another good rain before summer, with soil moisture levels falling. Cows were milking well and silage was being cut in some places. Asparagus crops were going really well. The quality is excellent. Harvesting is well underway.

Te Waipounamu/South Island

Travelling across Cook Strait and south of Nelson it has been dry for three weeks so the 25mm of rain that fell on Thursday and early Friday was perfect. The dry matter in the pasture is high so cows are milking better than last year. There will be a good flush of grass this month.

Marlborough has had dry warm days until the welcome rain at the end of the week. It was nice and soft so will be extremely useful. Grapes are well into their leafy growth so helicopters are on standby for possible frosts this weekend.

On the West Coast, up north around Karamea our contact said he was having a terrific season. In his twenty years farming it was the best ever. There was 20mm of rain this week and it was perfectly timed, he drilled oats and ryegrass and spread fertiliser over three long days and it started to drizzle just as he hopped off the tractor. Cows were milking well, production was 26 percent ahead of this time last year and that was with fewer cows. It had not been sunny or windy enough to cut silage.

As elsewhere, after a long period of dry it is finally raining in Canterbury, which will do wonders to spring sown crops. Despite the lack of rain, grass growth has been good with baleage and silage being made. Tailing is in full swing with many reports of great results due to the good autumn and good weather over the lambing period.

Sheep explore the farm.

Sheep explore the farm. Photo: Supplied

From mid-week Otago has been very bleak and miserable. Lambs and grass are growing well out nearer the coast, but high country farmers and those around Lumsden and out to Te Anau have had a good dump of snow - about 5cm - very tough for lambs still being born.

Southland is having typical late spring weather, cool with intermittent rain and showers. There has been a cold southerly blowing, it was 6 degrees on Friday morning near Invercargill. Farmer Heather Smith was off to a rural women forestry committee meeting on Friday morning. The local group was gifted a forest near Dipton in 1945. They had just started milling the third crop of trees in that time. They would get $300,000 from them and all the profit was given back to the Southland community. Over the past twenty years they had given $500,000 to projects such as Life Education and other social and education projects.

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