A number of smaller milking herds are being sold in Northland and people are exiting dairying, Southland's having a stunner with lambing fattening and cows milking well. Find out more in our wrap of what's happening on the farms and orchards of New Zealand.
In Northland the weather's been beautiful - but not nearly damp enough it you're a farmer. Weaner cattle fairs are underway - and because there's a bit more grass around the market's picked up. Quite a few dairy herds are being sold - smaller farms with between 150 and 250 cows. The agent we spoke to says people are saying they've had a gutsful of dealing with all the regulations. Land prices are good so they're getting out. Some are retiring but others are looking at going into horticulture, back into beef farming or subdividing. The problem is there are so many herds for sale they might not get what they were hoping for their cows. Last year they would have fetched 15 to 16 hundred dollars and were easy to sell - this year prices are around 14 to 15 hundred and they're hard to move. Vaughan
Around Pukekohe it's been dry and warm all week so irrigation is keeping crops growing. Outdoor vegetable growers are stirring up the dust cultivating bare ground.
A farmer based at Paeroa in Waikato says his pasture is green and growing but things aren't as rosy a few kilometers down the road on the Hauraki plains. He's pregnancy scanned his cows and has an empty rate of 9 percent. As for milk production he's down 8 percent for the month and one percent for the season which isn't much of a worry at all because he's spending so much less on feed than at the same time last year - so is still ahead financially. His maize came this week.
Bay of Plenty's been threatening rain. The first kiwifruit will come of in a couple of weeks as part of Zespri's Early Start programme and there's still concern about a labour shortage. Our contact says pay rates have gone up 16 percent in the past 12 months in order to attract more workers. He says the new norm would be the Living Wage as a starting point but a lot of people will be paid a lot more than that. He says some of his team were getting 30 dollars an hour last season - but then some days they were rained off and didn't get paid. There'll be almost 200 million trays of kiwifruit to pick this year.
King Country needs more rain, It's tricky to get space at the work so if some's offered farmers are grabbing it - even if they'd prefer to wait a week. There wasn't a lot of shearing happening on farms around Taumarunui at the end of the week - the Taumarunui Shears event was on in town.
Taranaki dairy farmers have been cancelling space at the works for their cull cows. The milk price is good and they have plenty of supplementary feed so they're keeping them in the milking herd. That could lead to a bit of a rush at the end of the season. Early pregnancy scans have shown an average 15 percent empty rate across the region a bit higher than farmers would like.
Gisborne's been pretty warm. Good rain eight days ago has seen animals and pasture respond. Cattle and sheep are still recovering from last year's drought. The weather's been great for vegetable growers getting crops in and off. Sweetcorn's been delicious this year, tomatoes are coming off flat stick. Squash boats have been coming in steadily to be loaded and then sail for Japan. In fact the other day - in Gisborne's little port both a logging ship and a squash boat were docked. It's not big enough for two logging ships and sometimes there are four sitting out in the harbour waiting for a spot. A comprehensive development plan has been drawn up for the port and a story in the local paper this week says it could bring thousands of jobs to the region.
The farmer we called in Hawkes Bay has been flat out weaning calves and scanning their mums. Out of 800 cows he found 17 sets of twins so they'll be given special treatment.
Manawatu has warmed up - with temperatures in the mid 20s. We're told it's a game of two halves, Southern Manawatu had between 30 and 80 millimetres of rain a week or more ago and looks a picture but northern Manawatu had three or even nothing - so feed is disappearing and there's not much tucker around. Silage stacks have been opened Generally though farmers are feeling chipper - it's been an easier summer than last.
Across Cook Strait and in the Tasman region hop picking has started, despite the hail wiping some crops out on Boxing Day, what's able to be picked is looking good quality. Golden Bay had good rain Wednesday and Thursday, up until then it was getting quite dry... this moisture will set farms up well for autumn .. and hopefully next week's predicted rain arrives too. Milk production is generally a little behind last year because of a difficult November, but it may catch up from now on as farmers will be able to milk a few more cows for longer. Our contact was very pleased that from June Fonterra will pay up to 10 cents of each milk payment according to the farm's sustainability credentials and milk quality. He says it's important to recognise the change is needed, reward farmers who are changing and it highlights how important sustainability is for all New Zealand.
Some parts of Marlborough received some moisture but it's still fairly dry ..South Marlborough's really dry. A number of sheep farmers who have rams out are feeding ewes to keep them in good condition so they get in lamb. Most of them will have got rid of surplus lambs now and are waiting for the March weaner sales to off load surplus beef calves.
On the Coast
There was as heavy rain warning for the West Coast during the week, but only 8 or so millimetres fell. There's no water lying around in back country so young stock being grazed there need water carted to them. Grey Valley dairy farmers are feeding out and cows are hanging in well on once a day milking. Our farmer says his pregnancy results for the herd are nothing flash, but better than expected given what spring was like when cows were being mated.
Canterbury had a good week of warm dry weather so a large chunk of the harvest was completed. However for dryland stock farmers particularly near the coast pastures are rapidly drying out and feed levels are dropping.
Otago could do with rain, it's relatively dry. The farmer we caught up with on the Tairei Plains is onto making his third cut of baleage and still has more to do. Things are looking well set up for autumn. He's already worrying about how he'll feed out this winter under the government's fresh water rule changes.
Stunner in the South