30 Nov 2018

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

From On the Farm, 9:07 pm on 30 November 2018

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

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Photo: RNZ / Susan Murray

Northland has had rain, sunshine and heat - superb according to our ag consultant. Everyone is smiling because until this week it had been getting very dry. Now grass will be growing well, including unfortunately a weed called parsley dropwort. It is sometimes, incorrectly, called carrot weed. To stop it growing, paddocks need to have been tightly grazed and now that farmers are using more annual clovers, which can't be chewed out, the parsley dropwort is getting away.

South Auckland has been graced by mainly light winds with some sunshine and showers. The conditions have been ideal for strong growth of outdoor crops and the transplanting of new ones. It hasn't been so good though for the oversupply of broccoli and lettuce thanks to the great growing weather. Broccoli is going for 80 cents a head and an iceberg lettuce for a dollar. One grower commented that they're Christmas presents for consumers at the moment.

Waikato had wonderful rain too. We've been told that some farmers who planted three early varieties of Pioneer maize have had up to 30% of their seeds fail, and those that have struck are looking sick. Farmers on the East Coast and Hawkes Bay have had similar issues and claims are being lodged with Pioneer seeds.

And it's ditto for Bay of Plenty in terms of welcome moisture. Pollination is coming to an end in the green kiwifruit. Grass is growing well on farms.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

King Country had 50 millimetres of rain and, with good pasture covers, it all soaked in rather than running off which it can do when the grass is short. Our farmer contact sent his first lot of lambs to the works last weekend; another lot will go next week. Rams that are facial eczema tolerant and parasite resistant are in demand. There was a lot of interest at the Wiltshire ram fair in Te Kuiti on Thursday  - they are sheep that don't need shearing.   

There was about 30 millimetres of rain this week in Taranaki. Grass is growing back quickly after being cut for silage. Milk production is well up on last year.

In Hawke's Bay many farmers tipped up to 150 millimetres out of rain gauges on Monday - that was just wonderful because the region was worryingly dry. Farmers now have the confidence to buy stock again.

Rainfall totals have ranged from 100 to 200 millimetres across Wairarapa in the past ten days. There has been a lot of surface water but it is warm so grass is slowly growing . Rivers have been filled up which is great for summer.

The area from Ohakune down to Whanganui received 50 to 80 millimetres earlier this week. Pastures have responded, silage is being cut. The store market for lambs has strengthened here too. Yearling bull sales had been depressed but there is now strong interest with them as well. Those who held off making silage because of the forecast rain last week, which then didn't come, are now scrambling to get it made.

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Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Manawatu - Rangitikei had 40 to 70 millimetres of rain depending where you were. Farmers are calling it a godsend, a game changer, and they are visibly more relaxed. Milk production had started dropping so hopefully it will hold for a while now. Sheep and beef guys will be happy farming lambs on a bit longer.  Store cattle were being sold because it was so dry for November, but now they'll also be held for longer.

Surprise, surprise, Horowhenua was also well topped up with about 50 millimetres. Moisture levels are amazing for this time of year. As in recent weeks every mower and baler's being hammered dealing with the surplus grass. Beef and dairy young stock are being weaned at good weights because they have had marvellous tucker. Friesian bulls which weren't finding a ready market in Hawke's Bay, may start moving now there has been rain over the mountain range. Asparagus picking will end in the next couple of weeks, well before Christmas this year. Vege growers are under financial pressure because a lot of produce is coming on stream forcing prices down.

South Island

Some 40 millimetres of rain earlier in the week Nelson / Motueka has heightened the risk of disease in kiwifruit orchards. Bees are set to go into green orchards this weekend. With a big crop of apples, everyone is flat out thinning but there is a significant labour shortage and lots of road signs around saying "workers wanted".  Tapawera hops growers are a bit concerned plants are not as high up the strings as they could be - they're blaming the wet.

South-East Marlborough received 80 millimetres of the wet stuff last weekend and it couldn't have come at a better time. The lucerne crop, that needed a drink, is up away, lambs are being drafted and two and a half year old bulls are going on the truck at 650 to 700 kilos. With the current schedule farmers are likely to get about $1700 per animal. Up the Awatere Valley wire lifting is going full bore in vineyards. Hand bud rubbing is done and flowering is due to start next week on the pinot grapes.

In the Lake Brunner area on the West Coast, easterly winds have dried the ground out and it became quite hot towards the end of the week, so a shower of rain wouldn't go a miss. Our contact, who does once-a-day milking, says milk production is up 18 percent on last year. He says it makes a big difference when the cows are not having to swim around the paddock to find a blade of grass!

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Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Thursday was the first day farmers in mid-Canterbury didn't see rain in what seems like a very long time; the sun even appeared for a few hours in the afternoon. With the poor weather over the last few weeks all ag work is well behind. Farms with heavier soils will be waiting a long time before farmers can get onto paddocks again, while lighter soils will drain and dry out quite quickly. Lamb growth has slowed and pasture growth on dairy farms has slowed to the point where quite a few farmers are feeding out.

A farmer in Central Otago said he has never seen the clover so good. He recorded 175 millimetres of rain for the month and to date there's been 763 for the year - this is already up 250 mils on the long-term average. On the downside contractors are struggling to make baleage and silage. Some paddocks freshly sown with fodderbeet have been washed out after heavy rain and flooding. Elsewhere tailing and lamb marking is well through and shearing done for the year.  

Coastal Southland had strong easterlies and at Waimahaka to the east of Invercargill there has been no rain this week and pasture covers have dropped. Oats are being harvested for baleage and crops will follow. The first round of AI is done and a farmer says the technician's due back next week for cows that haven't taken. He says good log prices have seen some farmers decide to harvest trees planted 25 to 30 years ago.

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