In Northland there's a "Meteorological drought" from the area north of the Bay of Islands through Kaitaia and up to Cape Reinga. Other parts are just 'extremely dry'. If you want water to be delivered it could take 10 days to arrive. River flows are generally very low compared to long term averages but should improve next week - as rain is on the radar. Pastures are dry but there's food in the bank - with grass silage and hay stashed away and palm kernel available. Farmers with cull stock are having to wait a bit for space at the works.
Around Pukekohe a bit of rain mid week washed the dust off leaves but did little to raise soil moisture. Packing sheds are busy bagging onions for Europe and Singapore - prices are said to be ok. However, with congestion at the Port of Auckland, getting the containers on the wharf and onto an available ship is frustrating. Out in the field, overcast skies and cooler air temperatures have been ideal for planting winter greens. These are becoming much more expensive to grow due to higher labour costs and plant protection products which are not always available.
Waikato is trucking steadily into a drought - for the year it's 300 millimetres of rain short. There was rain this week but it was very patchy - from 3 millimeters in Hamilton to 16 in Reporoa. To make a difference 100 is needed. Feed is getting quite tight on most farms but there's supplementary feed on hand. Milk production's dropping rapidly in the dry hot conditions and maize crops are starting to suffer too - especially those on sandy soils. However lots of farms planted maize early and those crops are coming off now - a good two to four weeks ahead of schedule.
Talk of rain is on every farmer's lips in the Bay of Plenty. Whether you've had some or not has been the luck of the draw. Some areas have had 8 millimetres this week and others 50. Follow-up rain forecast for next week will be key. Our contact says, for the past two years, the region's been 250 millimetres short of moisture both years. The regional council is concerned about river levels and farmers are having trouble with wells and springs. Facial eczema spore levels are expected to shoot up now there's been moisture and heat, and farmers are rushing around putting zinc in waterlines and boluses in animals.
King Country has a bit of an autumnal feel with cool evening and mornings. Twenty millimetres of rain has fallen around Te Kuiti in the past couple of days. On the whole there's plenty of grass - but some of it is rough and stalky. Lamb prices have held up better than everybody thought but cattle have been killed at below five dollars a kilogramme for the first time in a long while. Next week Te Kuiti's hosting a sale of between 2,000 and 3,000 Wiltshire ewes - the biggest yarding they've had of the breed. With more and more reports of mainline fleece wool selling for less than one dollar a kilogramme there's expected to be huge interest in the sheep that don't need to be shorn.
Taranaki's having a cracker summer. The farmer we rang had been waiting for our call and was itching to tell us it's been 'primo' - and as for feed - just "fill your boots'. Milk production's holding really well and cows are in top order. The one thing letting the region down is that empty rates in cows are a little higher than farmers would like. November was a tricky month for getting cows in calf.
Manawatū and Rangitikei are looking good - it's green thanks to a bit of rain. Farmers are relieved stock prices are holding.
Hawke's Bay's drying out, bores are getting low or going dry and there are water bans for irrigating from most rivers. The region's had eight fires in rural area in last 10 days - five are definitely suspicious - that's a concern given the amount of dry stalky grass around. The fire at Takapau this week may have been started by a spark from a machine.
There's been a little rain on farms tucked into the Tararua range but eastern Wairarapa is starting to get dry. Farmers are resigned to a hot dry month ahead but that's summer in Wairarapa for you. Lambs are coming up to weight very quickly so there's a stream of them flowing to the works.
The Tasman district received some rain this week, although it's still quite dry around Nelson. Our dairy farmer contact said farmers around him were gearing up to cope with new water policies, getting fencing and other infrastructure sorted. He says they want to get ahead of rules rather than waiting for legislation, and it's good to see the engagement. A few dairy farms have come up for sale and some have already changed hands so the confidence is there to continue with cows. Apparently all in all it's been a good season, but our farmer says he isn't skiting, he's just not complaining.
Marlborough's been warm and windy. There has been rain but it's variable, some got 50 millimetres some 15, and everything in between. The farmer we chatted to has his teaser ram out, the main rams will be out early next week. He likes lambing in mid July to tie in with help from the grandkids in school holidays, that's the plan anyway. No one is saying they're short of feed yet. One of the earliest ever harvests of pinot noir grapes for bubbles happened on Thursday in the district, the fruit had reached a brix level of 19 so they were good to go.
At Karamea on the West Coast farms are dry even though there's been rain, so the grass isn't growing as well as hoped. Apparently it's been a flat season in terms of growth, enough sometimes and not enough at others. Showers haven't been enough and water table levels are going backwards. Dairy farmers are starting to go onto alternative milking times, such as 16 hourly. Supplements are being used to keep milk production up. Farmers are keener to use them when the payout is good.
It is patchy on farms in North Canterbury. Some haven't had much rain since Christmas and they're showing the effects, especially on coastal hill country right down to Rangiora ... but back into the foothills there's been fantastic rain ... the difference between the two areas, not that many kilometres apart, is amazing. Crops and cereals are coming in fast now, after people thought they'd be delayed because of rain. Suddenly it's warmed up again and things are humming. It's good getting crops off early so green feed can be drilled in again. Farmers are still holding onto store lambs but as they start to sort ewes out for mating,more are likely to be on offer at the sales. Looking towards winter farms are on track.
In Mid Canterbury a good spell of weather has allowed wheat barley and grass seed crops to be being harvest. Balers are following up tidying up the straw. Scanning is underway on dairy farms to results so far seem good.
Central Otago orchardists are picking nectarines and they're fabulous apparently. The rain last month that wrecked the cherries and apricots, was loved by the plums and nectarines. So there's a plus to that rain too ... and the hills are looking very green.
Southland had a bit of rain, it was getting dry so this moisture will get farms through for a while, although some would've liked more. Temperatures have dropped ... fires were even lit this week, bizarre when last weekend farmers were enjoying the beach. Grass is growing again now.