13 Dec 2019

Regional Wrap

From On the Farm, 9:09 pm on 13 December 2019
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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

A consultant in Northland says they're keen for rain in Kaipara. Pasture is OK at the moment but sandy coastal soils dry out quickly without a good dose of moisture. Farmers are still seeing record prices for lambs and have just come off a record export cattle schedule. Prices are expected to ease because of space problems at the works going into the new year.

Around Pukekohe the week had a showery start followed by fine weather. Crops still need more moisture though and irrigation continues. Insect pests are causing headaches for growers with the white butterfly increasing in numbers. Their caterpillars feast on brassica crops.

In Waikato, it's been dry and hot and pasture growth rates have slowed down a wee bit and, with grass going to seed, pasture quality has gone off .  A consultant suspects milk production has slowed down too. Lambs are reaching good weights for this time of the year and fetching great prices  -  eight dollars fifty to nine dollars a kilo. The consultant says his firm's been busy recruiting for fifty-fifty sharemilking positions and for sheep farm manager roles. While there aren't huge numbers of applicants, the quality of those applying - all New Zealanders - is very high which is a change from the last couple of years. People wanting to get involved in farming shows there's confidence in the sector.

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Photo: RNZ / Carol Stiles

In Bay of Plenty orchards, soils are getting really dry and heading towards the stress point for kiwifruit vines. Growers are regularly irrigating now and are looking forward to some rain. here's some excitement among orchardists about the new red kiwifruit variety, Zespri Red, which has moved from trial stage to limited release.

Thunder, lightning and very heavy rain in some parts of Taranaki last weekend caused a few power cuts and interfered a bit with milking. Generators were revved up and apart from a missed morning milking on Sunday, the rain was most welcome. More rain is forecast for next week. Milk production is holding steady, some silage and hay is still to be made and some artificial insemination is still going on. Mating finishes around Christmas and early January.

A contact on the East Coast says farmers were starting to panic a bit with hot, dry winds sucking paddocks dry but one Wairoa farmer told us it's back to paradise after two or three days of lovely rain. The paddocks have greened up and the feed situation is looking better. Most farmers are doing the main shear and are in calf-marking mode. The beef farmer says while there are rumours prices are easing he's confident global demand for protein will keep them buoyant.

Hawkes Bay is becoming dry and the hills are starting to turn brown - it's crusty on top but there is some moisture below. Some farmers are a bit concerned about what lies around the corner. A lot of stock's going to the works and there's not a dog's show of booking any space until the new year . We're told ' she's chockka'.  Lamb weights are back a bit. Store prices have eased. Hawkes Bay apricots and nectarines are on the market - conditions have been great for ripening so the flavour's good.  Generally summerfruit is running a little later than usual; it was cold when the trees blossomed and the season hasn't caught up.

Around Fielding in Manawatu, there were 30 to 60 millimetres of much needed rain on Sunday and farmers would love a similar amount this weekend because it's a bit dry for the time of year. On the flip side the weather's been great for weaning and shearing and a lot of silage has been made. The sheep guys are flat out and on dairy farms mating has wound up. There was some concern for feed crops earlier but they're now set up well with the recent rain.

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Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

It was the same in Wairarapa where perfectly timed rain was a real boost for the crops in the ground. Brassica and chicory crops are set to explode with all the lovely moisture and that means better ability to hold and finish stock. Rain's needed frequently at this time of year. There've been cooler nights and not too much wind this week. A sheep and beef farmer told us he's finished shearing and he's now busy with dagging, dipping and spraying for weeds.

In kiwifruit orchards in the Nelson/Motueka region flowering's finished for the green Hayward variety, while the golds are coming into the ''easy to mark "stage so blocks are being closed off for a month to avoid human damage to fruit. In apple orchards everyone's flat out hand thinning. Chemical thinners have done a good job but there's still plenty of work to do. There's been reports of light damage in orchards after a hail storm last Saturday but apart from that, the weather this summer's been kind to growers and some reasonable rainfall has been welcomed.

A bit of rain earlier this week in Marlborough was welcomed by all bar the cherry growers who are in the midst of picking. Rain splits cherries but our contact says they weren't too badly affected. The trees are carrying a good crop this year too. Higher rainfall in the Rye Valley is making it muddy underfoot on dairy farms. Vineyards are looking a picture as pruners move in to do the trimming. On sheep farms, lambs are going to the works at good weights and there's a bit of shearing going on.

A West Coast dairy farmer in the Grey Valley says they've had 4 days of fine weather on the trot, a huge relief after all the rain, and most importantly it's allowed farmers to get tractors into paddocks to make silage and put in winter crops. Once that's done, and weather permitting, the next job is getting winter's crop paddocks sown back into grass. In the milking shed cows are plugging along okay while AI continues. Westport has had 215 milimetres of rain in the past month.

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

There was flooding to all the main alpine fed rivers in Canterbury last weekend. The floods have damaged the intakes of several irrigation schemes meaning that irrigation water supply is either not yet available or in very limited supply. This is causing headaches for farmers as they were already struggling to keep the soil moisture up. The extreme wind that hit last week has also left its mark with many recently sown spring sown crops damaged to the point that they will have to be replanted. Feed is tight in the region now with the majority of dairy farmers already feeding out.

The sun's been out in South Otago so contractors are flat out doing tractor work. A farmer near Balclutha says stock are perking up. He's been drafting lambs and next week the ewes are due to be shorn.

Western Southland's very wet. The ground's been sodden for ages due to regular rain. A farmer up the Blackmont Valley says he's months behind getting his grass and crops sown. Drive a tractor into a paddock and it won't come out he says. 30 centimetres down it's firm, it's the top soil that's the problem .Because of low sunshine hours many dairy farms in the region are 5 to 10 percent down on milk production. On hill farms, lambs being drenched this week are scheduled to go to the works in early to mid-January.

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Photo: Susan Murray