9 Aug 2019

Regional Wrap

From On the Farm, 9:07 pm on 9 August 2019

It's been wet and warm in northern parts of the North Island. Lambs are appearing and calving is in full swing on dairy farms.

The far north's been cloudy and there was fog in low spots on Friday morning. It's been mild with the temperature hovering around 16 and 17 degrees. Grass growth through late July was very slow but it's picking up again. Wet areas are a wee bit slushy for the first time this year, but generally below the surface soils are still firm. The spread of the rain's been good and a few millimetres a day are expected for the next few days.

Pukekohe and its veggie growing area have had brief fine periods and squally, heavy showers with scattered  hail. The outlook remains similar for the next few days which means the existing surface water may not dry up quickly. Volumes of some green vegetables have dropped.  

It's been hosing down on and off in Waikato where farmers are head down, tail up with calving. It's about half to two thirds through.

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Photo: Susan Murray

Rain in Bay of Plenty has been interrupting pruning on kiwifruit orchards. On our contact's 750-cow dairy farm 35 calves were born yesterday, 45 the day before and 35 the day before that so they are coming thick and fast. There's lots of grass in front of their mums.   

Grass is bolting in the southern King country which is unusual for this time of year and a bit unnerving. It's turning a bit muddy. Like elsewhere dairy farmers are working long hours with calving. Sheep  farmers are vaccinating and set stocking sheep. That's when they assess how much feed there is in a paddock and stock it accordingly for lambing.
The farmer we speak to says even though interest rates are at record lows and prices at a high, farmers are really down. She's been involved with farming politics for 20 years and says third generation farmers are telling her they don't want their grandkids to go into farming because of the changes they see coming with climate change. They fear the future will require them to significantly reduce stock numbers and they're also worried about the push against animal proteins.

It's been a bit wet underfoot in Taranaki where calving is in full swing. Most farmers have good pasture cover and calving is going pretty well with cows coming in quicker than normal. Despite everything on the farm being good, our contact says farmers are feeling under attack from all angles and that's adding to stress levels.

It's been a kind winter with reasonably mild weather so far on the East Coast. It's unseasonably dry but not dangerously so.  Lambing's underway in great conditions in the middle country. Lamb prices are getting up to the peak of last year. There's still concern about good pastoral farms being planted in pine trees, whereas before it was more marginal land that was planted up. A farmer we speak to says the harvest of trees planted thirty years ago to control erosion has caused  wear and tear on the roads and whole communities have shut up shop, and it's a worry that lessons haven't been learned from that.

Farmers in the Wairoa region have been basking in the sunshine and it feels like spring has arrived. Maize farmers are cultivating as fast as they can to take advantage of the weather.The dropping maize price is concerning though. It's fetching between $20 to $30 per tonne less than normal.

It's been a cruisy winter so far for sheep and beef farmers in Hawkes Bay but this week's cooler temperatures have had the farmers sitting up a bit, starting to notice feed is becoming a little short with crops coming to an end. Farmers are wanting a little rain. Lambing is underway in nice dry conditions. Everyone's happy with store lamb prices and there've been record breaking prices up towards $4.30 to $4.50 a kilo.

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Photo: supplied William Morrison

Wairarapa sheep and beef farmers are pretty happy and the farmer we spoke to says they have more grass than they normally have in August and the feed is as good as it's ever been. Ewes are just about to be set stocked and lambing begins in about ten days or so.

There's a skiff of snow on the tops of Western and Eastern hills in the Nelson/Motueka region. Some light frosts on the plains have firmed the ground up making it easier for planting and pruning. A grower near Rabbit island says now that he's packed this year's fruit for the local market, he can get back into the orchard to finish pear and apple pruning.  He's also got work to do on his commercial peony crop including weed spraying, planting new variety bulbs and dividing existing plants.

Hill country farmers in Marlborough are set stocking for lambing. Our contact near Blenheim has seven singles to a hectare and half that for the twin-bearing ewes. The land was closed off for eight weeks and groomed by cattle. Even though soil temperatures have dropped to 4.5 degrees this week, he says feed covers are the best he's ever seen. In vineyards the end of pruning and wrapping is in sight.

50 mm of snow blanketed a farm at Rotomanu on the West Coast last Sunday. It hadn't snowed there since 2012. The farmer says it didn't affect his dairy herd too much as the cows have barns to go into to keep warm and dry. Since then, calving's kicked off and the first of the colostrum was heading off on Friday. Colostrum has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and can be used in products that support immune and gastro-intestinal systems as well as in nutritional and sports formulations.

Dogs on Tour

Dogs on Tour Photo: Sophie Barnes

It's been a great week weather-wise in Canterbury, with some nor'westerlies to dry things out after being very wet. Lambs are appearing around the district and calving's in full swing on dairy farms. With improved ground conditions, cultivation and sowing of spring crops such as spring barley and wheat have begun.

Half-bred shearing's underway in Central Otago. Cross-breds have already been shorn while the merinos are keeping their coats for a wee while longer. Scanning-wise, pregnancy percentages are good for mixed-age ewes but results for two tooths are back a bit on last year. There's a good cover of snow on mountains and more's expected to fall this weekend.

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Photo: Tangaroa Walker

Last weekend's snow storm in Southland was tough on animals. A dairy farmer at Edendale says he lost 12 calves in the cold and there are reports of ewe losses on nearby sheep farms as well. The snow was followed by 75 mm of rain so conditions are muddy underfoot. The farmer's about 25 percent through calving and he's out every two hours night and day checking on cows and calves.