16 Nov 2018

On the farm: our guide to what's happening around NZ

From On the Farm, 9:07 pm on 16 November 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.

Te Ika-a-Māui-North Island

In Northland farmers are concerned about the dry - the soil surface is cracking. For the past two years there has been rain between Christmas and New Year and they're hoping that will be the case again. Sorry campers. Bulls are out with the tail end dairy cows and sorghum, chicory, maize and turnip crops are in the ground. 

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Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Around Pukekohe there was some weekend rain and irrigators remained off until the end of what has been a sunny week. Growing conditions for outdoor crops have been ideal. More new onions and potatoes are being harvested.

The sun has been shining in Waikato and farmers are smiling - and probably the cows are too. Pasture growth rates are at spring levels and milk production has buttoned off a little bit as cows get in calf. Crops are doing well: They've had a great start and regular watering.  

In King Country there were evening showers to lay the dust in the yards, with warm fine days, so there were long hours spent in them getting work done. Lambs receive their first drench then the whole mob is dipped for fly strike as they exit the yards. Mothering up takes a bit longer as they all smell of dip.      

It was difficult to hear our contact in Bay of Plenty over the baa-ing - he was drafting off nice heavy lambs. There's been a nice bit of rain there this week - 30 to 50 mm and grass growth has exploded. Silage is being made. Stock are loving the sun and are thriving. 

You wouldn't want to be in a hurry on rural Taranaki roads at the moment because there are silage-making tractors and wagons everywhere. Southern Taranaki farmers are hoping forecast rain will turn up - their properties are dry and milk production will start to slow down if it doesn't arrive. Having said that production is good  - nine percent ahead of last year season to date. 

Some bulls are being put with dairy cows although farmers are being very cautious about where they have come from - they are worried about the spread of Mycoplasma bovis. Recent dairy beef weaner sales have been hard work with prices down considerably. Friesian bulls have been fetching $440, white face bulls $580, heifers $450 and angus bulls $480 . 

Gisborne has been warm, with some showers and then a cloudless day on Thursday. Grape vines are bolting away - some are growing 15 to 20 centimetres a day. Growers are trying to stay on top of wire lifting - to keep the vines manageable and to prevent new growth being damaged by wind. Flowering has just started. Leaderbrand - the big vegetable grower - is full on planting sweetcorn, squash and all of its seasonal crops. On farms lambs are getting weaned and are going straight to the works - they are averaging $140 a lamb. In years gone by farmers would have been chuffed to get $95. Because prices are so good people are sending a few more away than they normally would. 

Hawke's Bay has had a gorgeous week with temperatures in the mid to high 20s and no wind. The ground is getting hard and dry, hills are turning brown but there is still plenty of grass around. Waipukurau had useful rain at the beginning of the week but the Heretaunga plains missed out. Grass is going to seed and haymaking has started in earnest. Early grape varieties are at five percent flowering which is a week ahead of normal.  

Before the storm. On the road between Gore Bay and Cheviot in North Canterbury.

Before the storm. On the road between Gore Bay and Cheviot in North Canterbury. Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

We are told Manawatu is like the Riviera of New Zealand - the sun has been shining and there have been very warm days. It has been a fantastic week for making silage and baleage and getting every crop in the ground but the heat is drying things out very quickly. Down country - south of Feilding is dry. Taihape in Rangitikei was not too bad.  

Wairarapa has had some great weather - manuka is flowering well ahead of usual.  Grape vines, too, are two weeks ahead of where they would normally be and growers are flat out trying to manage the canopies. Vineyard owners are racing around tidying up for Toast Martinborough this Sunday. Ten wineries are involved, 13 caterers are providing  the food and 20 music acts will entertain the crowds. 

Te Waipounamu-South Island

Across Cook Strait and around Nelson and Tasman the weather has been beautifully fine with temperatures in the 20s. There was rain last Friday and Saturday but since then it has been perfect growing weather - for grass and weeds. Orchardists are mowing and are spraying to control fungus and coddling moth. If you hit coddling moth when it first emerges you often don't need to spray for it for the rest of the season. Nashi and pears are being hand thinned. The peony season is coming to an end after a wet and cool season. Returns have been okay in overseas markets - a third goes to Australia, a third to the US and a third to Hong Kong, Singapore and other markets.  

Dairy farmers are cutting silage  so it'll be on hand for a dry summer or wet winter. 

Marlborough has been having a very, very good spring. There have been three days of wind run and that's turning northerly faces brown - which is quite normal. Hill country soil moisture levels are at 24 percent. It would be nice if they were 50. You can tell there is a lack of moisture because if you graze a block it is very slow to recover. Earlier lambs are being weaned and killed out at really good weights - we are told it's the money making end of the year. The lambs are fetching $140 to $150 and a good store lamb is making $100 plus - so farmers are thrilled.  The grapes are loving the warmth. Chardonnay and pinot vines are coming in to flower - they require nor'west winds for that, so conditions have been perfect.

The West Coast is still enjoying a fantastic spring. There was a lot of mooing in the background when we rang a farmer there. His two year old heifers were being assessed in order to see if their fathers were up to scratch. Semen from the  bulls hasn't been commercially available but it will be if their daughters make the grade. The heifers were being scored on their legs, udder size and capacity. West Coast farmers are otherwise busy making silage under fine skies. Pasture quality is declining so they're looking to get some fertiliser on.

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Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Arthur's Pass has now re-opened and in Canterbury with the A&P show, teacher only days and teacher strikes this week it has been a short school week with the bonus of some additional help on the farm from the kids. Soil moisture levels in Canterbury are very good after 60mm last friday and more rain expected this weekend. The irrigators are lying idle at the moment which is great.

On the Taieri Plain dairy farmers have had a mix of fine weather - enough to make baleage - and some welcome rain. Silage is also being made. There is a reasonable amount of grass about. Milk production is still up near its peak and is holding well - it is significantly better than last year because then there was flooding in spring and that knocked production back for the rest of the season. Mating continues and the first round of returns coming back for another attempt.- they're the ones that failed to get pregnant the first time. 

Southland had good weather up until Friday - it was raining and they didn't need it. There was a huge amount of rain last week, and just enough time for it the ground to dry out enough to contemplate planting of the last cereal crops and winter forage crops - only for it to rain again - even more is forecast. The up-side is pastoral farms have plenty of feed and you don't really want to turn down rain in November because it's money in the bank. Silage and baleage contractors will be under pressure.










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