29 Mar 2019

Regional Wrap

From On the Farm, 9:12 pm on 29 March 2019
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Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Looking now at conditions around the motu and by the end of the week the Far North had received a few millimetres of rain, Dargaville was better off with 20. It's freshened the kikuyu up so pastoral farmers have small smiles. They certainly want next week's forecast rain to actually arrive and not disappear, as has been happening.

The Franklin region went from fine at the start of the week to changeable conditions. 10 millimetres has been recorded in some places .. that will help already growing veges and newly planted brassicas but they need a lot more moisture and irrigators are still running. Kiwifruit's being harvested.

Waikato's rainfall was variable, but 10 millimetres was common. Basically farms have green pastures and no feed, or brown pastures and no feed.. colour's the only difference. Unless there's good rain next week most dairy herds will be dried off by mid April... the season's pretty well over and farmers are planning for next spring .. although saying that, some south Waikato places that had more rain, may grind their way out of the feed pinch. Cash flows are tight. On sheep and  beef farms ewes and cows are surviving on weetbix but it's a struggle to finish lambs and young cattle .. there's no quality feed. Good dairy farms for sale are holding their value but in less desireable areas there's "downward pressure" on prices.  

This week Bay of Plenty has farewelled two ship loads of kiwifruit to Japan and China. About 15% of the gold crop's picked which is very very early. The first of the green fruit's being harvested this week too.

Most of Taranaki received rain mid week. Southern parts had up to 20 millimetres but needs a lot more .. central and northern areas are better off. The rain was timely and dairy farmers who have cow numbers down to winter levels are looking nice through to May.

Manawatu and Rangitikei's ticking along. Many farmers sold surplus stock early so are well set up and will sneek into winter okay. Red Meat Profit Partnership groups are very popular here. The aim is to increase productivity and profitability on sheep and beef farms. Half a dozen or so have been running for twelve months and now other farmers want to set up groups. Each lot set their own goals and outside speakers are brought in to help them achieve them.  RMPP groups are settling in well through out New Zealand.

Gisborne was feeling almost wintery when we called on Friday morning, farms down towards Hawkes Bay are dry but the rest are still great. Facial ezcema spore counts are up a bit but most stock have good levels of natural resistance these days so there's been no out-breaks. Kiwifruit and apple harvesters are going hard out. Winter grasses are establishing well. More farmers are becoming interested in wool shedding sheep .. they're totally depressed when they look at the shearing bill and wool income.

An agricultural demonstration the the South Island Agricultural Field Days in Kirwee.

An agricultural demonstration the the South Island Agricultural Field Days in Kirwee. Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Hawkes Bay is looking for rain to freshen things up and get autumn growth moving. There;s plenty of feed on farms but it's not good quality.  500 people attended Thursday night's Hawkes Bay Primary Sector awards dinner. A wonderful celebration of hard work and talent in the region.

Wairarapa is still dry even with this week's small rain offering. Cows are being dried off. Autumn calving herds are into business and that's going well. Pregnancy test results for spring calving herds seem generally better than last year.

Depending where you were in Horowhenua between 3 and 20 millimetres fell this week The region needs 30 to 50 millimetres to kick into gear. Temperatures are great, animals are good,  moisture's the only missing link. Lots of grass seed's going in.

Across Cook Strait 15 millimeters of rain earlier in the week has freshened things up on farm and in orchards. The kiwifruit harvest's underway and so far the quality is excellent but size is back on last year. Apple picking gangs have moved into the Envy and other mid season varieties. The main issues for apple growers at the moment is a lack of staff.

Marlborough vineyards are in the thick of grape harvesting. Some grape growers are finding yields are down due to dry conditions, issues with disease and a poor flowering. The ram is busy with ewes on hill country sheep farms and most Rye Valley dairy farmers have moved down to once a day milking after what has been a challenging season.

Torrential rain on the West Coast has left a trail of destruction. One of our contacts farm near Hokitika water was spilling over the top of rain gauge. 100 hectares of paddocks on his farm cannot be grazed due to water damage and he's lost a lot of crops.  Contractors are working hard to fix waterways, fences and troughs. Power was out until 4pm on Wednesday so milking had to be postponed until that evening. Cows are being fed supplements and have moved onto drier paddocks that were locked up for baleage.

Pasture growth in Canterbury has been fantastic over the last week, particularly where there has been moisture from either rainfall or irrigation. However some parts of the region remain very dry and are desperate for rainfall. The South Island Field Days in Kirwee have been well attended this week with a huge display of equipment and new technologies for farmers to view.

South Otago's had 22 millimetres of the wet stuff over the past week. It was needed too after what has been a very dry summer. Winter crops are looking okay. Rams are going out with the Ewes, who are on supplementary feed to ensure they are cycling well. Our contact says he's only got 20 percent of his lambs left to go to the works, but kill weights are back half a kilo due mainly to a lack of quality feed. Calf sales have got underway in the Balclutha district and so far prices are back a bit on last year.

Farmers in Southland have also welcomed some rain showers this week but they'd like more as the ground's still  dry below 10 cms.  Most of the pregnancy cow scanning's done. Results on the whole are not that great - averaging out at 13-15 percent empties for the region. Silage is still being made and people are catching up with fertiliser applications.
Everyone is starting to think about drying off their milking herds. A farmer at Mataura says he's still on twice a day but is about to move down 16 hour a day milking for the rest of the season to conserve feed.

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Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes