26 Apr 2019

Regional Wrap

From On the Farm, 9:12 pm on 26 April 2019
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Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Confident sheep and beef farmers are paying top money and have out-bid foresters for land on the North Island's East Coast. In the South Island apple harvesting's almost finished in the Nelson Motueka region.

Kaitaia, in Northland's north, needs a good dose of rain - the five or six millimetres at the weekend didn't help much.  Where there are wet spots in paddocks new grass is germinating well.

Around Pukekohe it's been quiet in market gardens because of the school holidays and the working week being interrupted by statutory holidays. Many staff have taken time off. It's been warmer this week than last and Monday's 15mm of rainfall has been enough for most crops

Most of Waikato had rain on Sunday and Monday - it was patchy though and another 100 to 150mm is needed because the sub-soil is still very dry. The majority of herds have been dried off and dairy farmers are now focussed on building up feed going into winter. On sheep farms ewe condition isn't as good as it was this time last year when they went to the ram - farmers will find out at scanning time in June whether it's had an impact on conception rates. The schedule has lifted for both lamb and beef.

In Bay of Plenty the harvest of green kiwifruit is picking up and gold continues. Zespri's forecasting decent prices for both. Fruit is a bit smaller than last year because of the dry summer but the taste is superior. Dairy cows are sending less milk to the factory than last year - but this time last year milk production was stunning - this year it's just good.

The King Country Ruapehu district has been dry, cold over night and hot during the day - there's been the odd frost. Any moisture has burnt off. Farmers are busy weaning calves, pregnancy testing cows and bunching up ewes for mating. There's bit of controversy about whether the remaining 13km of gravel road on the Forgotten World Highway should be sealed. It has become a busy tourist route. Some people fear that if it's sealed without making any improvements, it'll just speed up traffic on a narrow road. There's no cellphone reception and some locals think they'll end up dealing with accidents. But, if the road is upgraded and widened others say it will destroy the ambiance.

Taranaki had a very wet day on Sunday - and didn't need it. Stratford received 100mm. The whole region has had well above its average April rainfall. There's been snow on the mountain.  However most days this week have been nice and fine. Grass growth is moderate to good. Nearly all herds are still milking.

The East Coast's been really wet this week - a bit of a niggle for people picking kiwifruit. It's 'as warm as' so pasture covers should lift. There've been a couple of good farm sales recently and sheep and beef farmers have outbid foresters. There's confidence in the dry-stock industry. One property went for $9 million  - which equates to $1285 per stock unit. Seven years ago people in the Gisborne region were paying $700 per stock unit for land.  

Hawke's Bay's apple harvest has about 10 days to run - Fuji is due to come off but some might not be picked - the fruit is small and there's not much of a market for it. Pink Lady is also being harvested. Some people are picking the last of their fruit for juice - they need 14 or 15 cents a kilogram to make it worthwhile. Rain and mild temperatures will have given grass growth a boost.

Manawatū and Rangitikei are still very, very dry - and just 10 to 25mm of rain has fallen in the past week. Lots of dairy farms have moved to once a day milking or have pulled the pin because of a lack of grass. If it rains now - it's almost too late to build up a decent feed wedge before winter. Sheep and beef farmers are very, very nervous. It is mild though - a jacket wasn't needed at Anzac commemorations.

Wairarapa's had a bit of a green drought but, after rain, grass is taking off. There are a lot of very tired farmers and very tired dairy cows - people are a bit fed up with the season and cows are being dried off. On dry stock farms cows are being scanned and empty rates don't look too bad. Quite a few sheep are showing signs of facial eczema - they have thick, inflamed, droopy ears, shake their heads and run in quick bursts. Exposure to sunlight makes them very uncomfortable.

Across Cook Strait and apple harvesting's nearly finished in the Nelson/Motueka region. The late season envy and pink lady varieties should all be picked within the next two weeks. The majority of the gold kiwifruit crop's done too. Green will start coming off next week. Between 25 to 75 millimetres of rain across the region last weekend halted fruit picking for a day.

Sheep are being transported into vineyards in Marlborough now that grape harvesting's done. There's been some scattered rain this week but some inland areas are dry and could do with a good dollop. Dairy farmers are looking at drying off their cows while on sheep farms, the ram's still out but will be coming in soon on lower lying properties.

A farmer up the Grey Valley on the West Coast says facial eczema in some of his cows has impacted on his late season milk production. He's looking at moving down to once a day milking next week. Pasture levels are good for this time of the year but cows are also getting some silage. Conditions have been mild and dry.

North Canterbury's dry. A farmer up the Pyramid Valley has only had 8mm of rain in the gauge so far this week. He needs more than that to give the winter feed crops a boost. With the ram still out, ewes are getting an extra meal of baleage and barley to keep them on their toes and, with the schedule holding up, lambs are still being sent to the works.

Frosty conditions have eased off a bit this week in Central Otago after a scattering of rain. Earlier this month temperatures got down to a chilly minus 7C in the region! Farmers are crutching ewes, the ram's going out and the autumn calf sales have finished. Winter feed crops are doing well. Our contact says he'll put stock onto his brassica crops in the first week of June.

The end of the dairy season is about four weeks off  and it can't come soon enough for some Southland farmers.  There are hold-ups at the works due to extra processing precautions being taken since the M Bovis outbreak. Some people are finding it's quicker to sell their cows at sales instead. A farmer at Gore says it's still dry but after 25mm of rain this week and some heavy dews, grass growth is still doing okay. He's spending extra money on supplements to ensure milk production stays up until the end of the season.