The Hawkes Bay countryside has been transformed by winter rain. In the McKenzie Basin, merino shearing is underway.
In Northland pasture growth rates have been very good for late winter but some farms still have less grass than farmers would like. Cow condition isn't quite as good as it usually would be at this time of year - it's important to keep an eye on it because mating's just around the corner and cows in good condition are much more likely to get in calf. Generally morale amongst dairy farmers is good. They're pleased with better growth rates and the milk price forecast is looking strong. During the nationwide lockdown farmers were worried the price would have a five in front of it and the break even price is around $5.50 per kilogram of milk solids, but now commentators are saying it'll start with a six.
Winter weather has prevailed in Pukekohe this week. Temperatures have been cooler as several fronts delivered rain or squally showers. Harvesting of green leaf crops continued but most other work has been delayed in anticipation of better weather next week.
In Waikato it was bleak mid week but it's mainly been mild with a bit of rain and some sun thrown in. Grass has been growing so quickly after the drought that it's caused some cows to go down with magnesium staggers and nitrate poisoning. A few have died. Silage is already being made on some farms - which is astonishing for the time of year. Sheep and cattle that went into winter under weight have mainly caught up. There's a bit of concern about what will happen to the price of lamb; it's mainly a restaurant meat and, with people around the world not eating out because of the way Covid 19 has changed their lives, prices may suffer.
Farmers are talking about the new fresh water regulations with many thinking they're utterly impractical. They'll have to apply for consents to graze cattle on hills and say councils are just not geared up to administer the rules or monitor compliance.
It was a beautiful sunny morning with not a cloud in the sky when we rang Bay of Plenty on Friday. On kiwifruit orchards, pruners have finished with the gold vines and are now tackling the green. Zespri told growers this week what to expect for fruit picked earlier this year; $11.70 a tray for gold and $6.70 for green . One grower says that's comparable to last year and pretty good given Covid, and the transport difficulties and market disruption it has caused. He's also a dairy farmer and so far 600 out of 750 cows have calved. There's plenty of grass in front of the milkers.
A farmer in Taranaki says they have been blessed with well above average grass growth throughout winter. Some silage has been cut. He is 3/4 of the way through calving. It's early days but a lot of people are ahead on milk production so far.
Hawkes Bay has been a bit cooler this week but winter has been mild here too. There's enough moisture for growth but some farmers are worried about sub-soil moisture and that they don't have a buffer going in to summer The countryside looks so much better than it did three months ago - there are even farms that have normal levels of pasture. Conditions for lambing have been very good.
The Gisborne region has such varied terrain that some farms are docking, some are just starting to lamb and others are still weeks away. All in all winter's been great, grass has been growing and stock should get to weaning at good weights - that's remarkable given how short feed levels were in the drought. A rural real estate agent tells us not many farms are coming on to the market. Farmers are weighing up how they would reinvest money from a sale given interest rates are so low. Also stock prices have taken a hit after the drought - so they are holding off listing. However he thinks the new fresh water regulations might spur a few older farmers to sell up. He says he expects some farmers in their 60s might choose to retire before they have to fence off all their waterways and grapple with the extra admin the new regulations will bring.
In Wairarapa it's hard to find a farmer who is unhappy with how things are going on farm. There's been some nice rain but the ground's not saturated and it's not been too cold. The moisture needs to keep on coming though - and if it could be interspersed with warm, sunny days - that'd be great.
In Manawatu, calving is almost finished. Most of the cows are on the milking platform now with just the tail enders to come. The farmer we spoke to says Saturday night was the second time he had left the farm to go to town for months. He says he enjoyed the time off and went back to work on Sunday. Preparation has begun for mating which will start in a few weeks.
Across Cook Strait and orchardists in the Nelson Motueka region are getting into spray programmes because early spring is here. Our contact has been talking to a number of orchardists who employ Pacific Islanders under the RSE scheme and unlike some areas where workers are desperate to get home because they've been in New Zealand since last November, he says it seems most are happy to stay on working. A lot didn't arrive until February or March this year, so extending their stay isn't so hard and in fact they want to stay right through to the next harvest because there is no work at home and with no tourists either, their orcharding money is all that the families have. Employers are endeavouring to get any that are keen to go home, onto planes.
Marlborough has had light frosts but most importantly it's also had some rain .. between 7 and 17 millimetres. It was gratefully received because the region was getting dry … more rain is needed too, farmers are already worrying about a lack of moisture heading towards spring. Thankfully the nice days in between are getting the grass growing. It's full on with lambing on many farms and it's going well with few deaths.
It has been a wet week on the West Coast although Thursday was lovely on our contact's farm in the south of the region. There isn't much mud around because mid August was dry.
In Canterbury a wet week was well received by all after a very dry July and August. Lambing and calving is in full swing and pasture covers are on the whole are better than average. Everything is set for a good season, as long as rain continues.
It's been relatively mild in Otago, with the odd colder day and showers. Overall the district is heading into spring and grass is just starting to grow. Our farmer contact only has 30 cows left to calve and says things have gone well this year.
Southland has had a mixed bag of weather but it's still very good for the time of year. There's been frost, rain and lovely sunny days. Often mud is a real issue but it's not too bad this year and apparently the province is looking really good. Dairy farmers are in the thick of calving and there are also a few lambs on the ground … things will really pick up in that department in the next week or two.