8 Nov 2019

Regional Wrap

From On the Farm, 9:13 pm on 8 November 2019
Reefton to Westport - Business class

Reefton to Westport - Business class Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Like a lot of the North Island, Northland's had a couple of very hot days this week. The West Coast and the far north are badly in need of rain so farmers are hoping the 40 millimetres forecast for this weekend arrives. If it does, pasture growth rates should take off.

Around Pukekohe, gold kiwifruit growers are preparing for pollination. Both orchardists and vegetable growers are faced with dry soil and thirsty crops. It's a familiar sight to see mobile irrigation equipment being transported on local roads - the sudden very warm temperatures have caught people by surprise.

The weather's changed very quickly from cool to hot in Waikato and pasture quality has changed almost over night. It's now stalky and needs to be managed. Maize is in as are other crops and rain's needed to kick them along.

We're told it's been beer and barbecue weather in Bay of Plenty. Dairy farmers are reporting one of the best mating periods in a very long time - there's been good feed levels and lots of sun so hopes are high for  some good conception rates . Lambs and calves are also thriving in the sunny conditions and are growing well. The farmer we spoke to had just sold some beef calves - they'd hit the magic 100 kilogram mark two weeks earlier than usual.

Spring's finally arrived in King Country. Later lambing farms are still docking but for most it's out of the way.  There have been three days without rain and green feed crops going in. The region's looking lush.

As the temperature has risen in Taranaki, so have pasture growth rates. There's now more than enough grass to keep milk production going so silage is being made.  A little more milk's going into the vat than at the same time last year.  There's still quite a bit of snow on the mountain but it's melting quickly.

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Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

Gisborne hasn't had any rain for about three weeks and 30 to 40 millimeters wouldn't go amiss.  Farms need moisture to keep things ticking through to December.  There's been a bit of a heat wave with temperatures in the 30s.  On Tuesday this week 2500 predominantly Angus cattle were up for sale at Matawhero.  And they sold like hot cakes. The ag consultant we called says vendors went home absolutely chuffed.  Forward store steers - ones that just need to put on another 100 kgs or so before they're ready to go to the works - sold for $1680. It'll take them another 60 to 80 days to reach those weights.   Cull ewes are fetching great prices - $6 a kilogram so about $180 dollars each. Three years ago they were getting  80 or 90. Lambs are worth $9 dollars a kilo  - so $150 dollars or thereabouts.     

Manawatu, Rangitikei and Wairarapa have had a lovely week for growing grass. In terms of workload in Rangitikei, it feels like the Christmas rush has started and farmers are attending to the list of jobs that  have to be completed before December the 25th. There's docking to finish on some farms, ewes to shear, cattle to send off to the works, drainage to be sorted and crops to plant.  

All of a sudden shorts have come out of drawers and there are a lot of white legs on show in Wairarapa. Tractors are going full noise to get crops in the ground. There's been a very good turnout each week to Wednesday's touch rugby tournament for farmers and their families in Masterton. 160 people have been forming teams and have been having a good run around and a barbecue afterwards. It's all in an effort to get farmers off the farm - the social touch evening has backing from Federated Farmers, Beef and Lamb, the Rural Support Trust, Dairy NZ, Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms.

It's very dry in the Nelson/Motueka region. Rainfall is 20 to 30 percent behind what it would normally be so people are irrigating in orchards earlier and at greater rates than the past couple of years. If there's no rain in the next three weeks water rationing is likely.  Hand thinning on apple and pears is about to start and fungicide progammes are being maintained.

After temperatures reached 32 degrees last weekend, Marlborough's also getting dry but there was a sprinkle of moisture around Blenheim on Thursday night. The manager of a local organic vineyard says they are shoot thinning and bud rubbing at the moment. The mid row crop's gone in too. She says they've sown buckwheat because it brings a lot of beneficial insects to the vineyard. Wire lifting's due to start soon.

Farmers on the West Coast made the most of two sunny days this week. Everyone's been flat out trying to re-grass paddocks and make silage.  Artificial insemination is underway and one farmer at Rununga says AI takes an extra hour and a half a day sorting out cows and assisting the technicians.  Milk production is still constrained due to the wet spring and a lack of quality feed.

Our contact at Hororata says 'what a difference a week can make'.  Temperatures were over 30 throughout Canterbury last weekend and coupled with a string of drying nor'west days, ground conditions have dried out very fast. Irrigation's now in full swing. Farmers have been planting kale for grazing next winter and hopefully by the end of next week all the tractor work will be done for the season!

In Central Otago orchard tree thinning's underway. A fruit grower at Roxburgh says his team, which includes locals and German backpackers, are thinning 70 to 80 percent off apricot trees. That's because larger fruit are needed for the export market. The cherry crop is moving fast. It's a heavy crop this year and picking should start later this month.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Southland's had a stunning week for farming - there's been a wee bit of rain to keep things ticking but otherwise it's been fine with temperatures in the mid 20s . That's enabled the grass to grow and farmers to catch up on tailing. Tractors are now rolling on paddocks they hadn't been able to access.  Wet weather earlier has meant they're almost a month behind with sowing new grass

And we've had a report in from the Farmers' Market Association. It says asparagus is in full swing all around the country now and white asparagus is very popular. In Southland and Otago baby carrots and Jersey Bennes are making an appearance  Strawberries are coming on stream across the country and in Hawkes Bay early blueberries have just arrived,  Raspberries are also back in northern markets. Beautiful spring flowers are at their best at markets all around the country now - peonies, snapdragons and irises.

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