28 Jun 2019

Regional Wrap

From On the Farm, 9:10 pm on 28 June 2019
Cold Dog

Cold Dog Photo: Sophie Barnes

Gisborne has had good weather for picking mandarins but the frosty starts have growers nervous. Wintering stock is going well in Canterbury with no mud and great utilisation of feed.

In Northland it's dry unbelievably for the time of year - parts are often sodden by now. Grass is growing slowly and ground conditions couldn't be better.  Prices for cattle have lifted.

Around Pukekohe a few heavy showers on Sunday gave way to fine, clear skies with light breezes. There've  been a few frosts  in sheltered places.  Outdoor vegetable growers have seldom had winter weather this good which is making working on the land so much easier.

South Waikato  had a boomer of a frost on Thursday morning and a few others during the week too. June's been very kind and pasture is growing at more then twice its usual rate for the time of year.  The farmer we spoke to saw his first calf for the season this week - born 26 days early. She's doing well. Cows are on swedes and fodder beet  - which is are helping them put on weight and heifers are on kale.  The farmers says he enjoys this time of year in the run up to calving - the days have a different rhythm.

King Country's also had ripper frosts and clear days. Pasture covers are holding and because it's dry under foot animals are getting the most out of winter crops - often they can be trampled into wet ground.  

In Bay of Plenty the country's earliest avocados are coming off Motiti Island and some are hitting the local market from the far north as well. The main Bay of Plenty harvest won't start until mid to late  August. Kiwifruit continues to be loaded onto ships - and growers have been pleased  to hear the estimated price for gold kiwifruit fruit has increased.  For the first  time this year New Zealand will sell more gold than green.  Kiwifruit growers have been praying for frosts and they've arrived - frosts really help with bud break on green vines...if you get a warm winter the number of flower buds can be 30 percent fewer than if it's been cold.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Taranaki too as been frosty and fine. Farmers are busy getting ready for calving - checking milking machines, making sure records are up-to-date and getting shavings and woodchips delivered for calf sheds.  Fonterra has offered incentives to farmers who have health plans in place for their animals so the farmer we speak to was having a consultation with his vet to make sure he was on the right track. He was also going along to a dinner hosted by Fonterra  for farmers who have managed to get through the season without any penalties for the quality of their milk.

Gisborne's had good weather for picking mandarins but the frosty starts have growers nervous - if the fruit freezes it rots. The harvest has about three weeks to run. The region held its bull sales this week - and one angus bull was an absolute star - it came from Tangihau Stud and sold for $86,000.

Hawkes Bay has also had stunning days and it's dry underfoot  Farms that are usually wet at this time of year are loving it but those that are typically dry are even drier.  The earliest lambs are appearing. Some farmer didn't mate hoggets this year - there was quite a bit of facial eczema around and they didn't want to put them under stress with lambing.

Ewe scanning continues in Manawatu and results are back on previous years by about 10 to 15 percent. It was very dry from January to April and feed wasn't as plentiful as it could have been so ewes were light going to the ram.  Farmers are ploughing  through work on the farm under beautifully clear skies.

In Wairarapa the olive harvest has been going flat stick for the past month and a half and is almost over. The weather's been fine - nice  to work in  but it has been frosty and olives don't like frosts   The picking contractor we spoke to says he's been picking 300 to 400 trees a day - using a tractor-mounted tree shaker. He puts nets underneath like an upside down umbrella to catch the fruit.  

Apple pruning in the Nelson/Motueka region's about a quarter of the way through. Conditions have been good for pruning too with light frosts and fine days. In some orchards new tree varieties are being planted and staff-wise, an orchard owner at Motueka says he's got a great mix of Tongan and Kiwi workers this winter so no extra hands are needed.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Marlborough's been fine and frosty all week. A hill country farmer near Blenheim says it got down to minus 4 and grass growth is slowing down as soil temperatures have dropped to 5 degrees. This week he's separated the twinning Ewes from the singles. ewes with twins are behind hot wires on 2.5 kilos of feed a day - while the singles are on 1.1. Cattle are being break fed. Vine pruning and trellis maintenance continues in the provinces vineyards and trucks, custom made to fit between the rows, are applying fertiliser.  

Our contact at Lake Brunner on the West Coast says it's been frosty with no rain all week. His cows are in barns on silage and hay and putting on good weight as they head towards August calving. Cowsheds across the region are being are being checked and upgraded.

Canterbury's had another settled week of weather with frosts and dry conditions. Wintering stock is going very well so far with no mud and great utilisation of feed. The annual FAR (Foundation for Arable Research) conference has been on this week and there's been a lot of discussion around climate change, environmental impacts and herbicide resistance.

Central Otago's chilly. A farmer up the Oturehua Valley says it's down to minus nine, and with a few more frosts like this they might be curling on the Idaburn dam next week. Last winter it didn't get cold enough - as the ice needs to be at least 9 or 10 centimetres thick. Farm-wise everyone's in winter feed mode with some early pre-lamb blade shearing getting underway.

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Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Coastal Southland's relatively mild. Our contact at Waimahaka says the grounds firming up nicely after last week's rain.  Dairy cows are wintering on chowmolia and fodder beet while sheep are rotating on grass. He says cows sales are subdued due to fears around Mycoplasma bovis, while land prices are tailing off as people become more nervous about investing in farming.