5 Mar 2021

On the Farm - a wrap of farming conditions around NZ

From On the Farm, 9:07 pm on 5 March 2021
Land on Pukekohe Hill used for early potatoes now being readied for development

Land on Pukekohe Hill used for early potatoes now being readied for development Photo: Supplied

Northland has received significant amounts of rain at last this week, while many areas in the South Island are still short of moisture. Find out more in our wrap of what's happening on the farms and orchards of New Zealand.

In Northland decent follow-up rain arrived this week and farmers say this should relieve the immediate pressure on water supplies and feed levels.  Last month parts of the Far North were in the grip of a severe meteorological drought but the rain appears to have also fallen even in areas that missed out in the last lot of rain. Milk flows have picked up which must mean the rain's getting pastures growing.

Variable but useful rainfall was recorded around Pukekohe this week with a useful 18mm at Pukekohe. Development is moving apace. Diggers have been busy on the northwestern slopes of Pukekohe Hill getting the land ready for housing and a private school and there are concerns a proposal to change the rating system may hasten conversion of the land to residential.
Waikato has had good heavy bouts of rain. In some areas there is quite bad facial eczema appearing in dairy herds, a sign that prevention measures weren't put in place early enough.  Outstanding crops of maize are being cut. Dairy cow pregnancy scanning results are mixed. Some have higher empty rates than normal.

No caption

A kiwano Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Early in the week, rainfall in Bay of Plenty was patchy. Some places received 15mm, others more like 30mm. This has been a consistent pattern in recent times - just little bits of rain and no prolonged substantial falls. Water tables are still very low following two years in a row when the annual rainfall total has been 350mm short. A local water company has been dealing with more than a dozen farmers who are having major water supply issues because water tables are low or wells have gone dry.  All that aside, the region's green again and grass is growing.  The first of the gold kiwifruit is about to be harvested.

Northern King Country has had a little rain but it is generally still dry. The hills look golden brown in the evening with the longer grass. But there's a green tinge underneath and that will increase.  Rams are starting to go out on some farms. On others ewes are getting vaccinated pre-mating.

No caption

Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Gisborne's gold kiwifruit harvest started on Thursday. It's the first place to pick in the country and the crop brings in $57 million to the region. Zespri is expecting a record crop this year, surpassing its nationwide total of 157 million trays last year.

Hawke's Bay has only had smatterings of rain this week.  The gold kiwifruit crop here is about to be harvested too.  Fruit quality is good but the size is down a bit this year.

Rain's been shy arriving in Wairarapa and it's starting to get dry. The farmer we caught up with is feeding out a sniff of barley just to keep a percentage of his ewes nicely trained. He gives it to the lighter girls and quickly they learn to follow the quad bike around which helps moving mobs later on. Lamb growth rates after weaning have been great, and there's been better wool news this week with the price of crossbred clean fleece wool increasing 20 cents a kilo.

Horowhenua has been blustery with very light showers ... grass growth has slowed with the lack of moisture. And our grower contact here is farewelling about 17 RSE workers who have been with him since well before lockdown last year - coming up 20 months.  They've contributed financially to families back in the islands but they're pretty homesick and tired so are looking forward to that flight out of New Zealand.

The Tasman region's been humid with signficant rain falling on Tuesday ... 40mm in some areas. River levels have come up a lot. All water restrictions have been removed and soil moisture is steadily rising. The rain's held the apple, pear and nashi harvest up a bit. With the warmth they're maturing quickly so orchardists don't want the wet to hang around. Damage from a frost back in October is appearing on some fruit. Grapes are producing hen and chicken bunches this year - big and little fruit in the same bunch. There are still lots of signs up asking for labour.

Te Whare Ra vineyard ready for harvest

Te Whare Ra vineyard ready for harvest Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

Northern Marlborough and the top of the Wairau Valley have received about 30mm of rain, but Blenheim didn't get any, nor did areas on the east coast, so conditions are starting to get serious there and farmers are beginning to feed out winter supplies. Recently sown winter feed paddocks need to get growing. Dairy areas have done well in the rain. On vineyards the grapes grown for sparkling wine are now all off and chardonnay for table wine is being harvested. Sauvignon will start next week. Yields are down about 30 percent this year, but no one's complaining because the last two seasons have been good.

Thirty seven millimetres of rain over three days on the West Coast was most welcome. Feed had been getting a little tight and this will get farms through a few more weeks. Milk production is holding reasonably well, cows are being fed silage and sometimes hay and a palm kernel blend with soy hull to keep energy levels up.  

Canterbury remains very dry with coastal parts on a knife edge at the moment. Autumn rain is needed to get winter feed crops growing while temperatures are still high enough. The benefits of irrigation show out in years like this!

No caption

Irrigators near Lake Benmore Photo: Sally Round

Otago hills are still quite dry so farmers would welcome more rain. Lambs are still slow to get up to good weights for the meat works - quite a different scene to last year.

Southland's had good night time rain with pleasant daytime temperatures in the mid 20s. The rain's been patchy here too though. Only 25mm fell in February. Cow pregnancy scanning results on our contact's farms have been good.  

Te Maiharoa pou at Lake Ohauiti

Te Maiharoa pou at Lake Ohauiti Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

On the Farm is a weekly wrap of farming conditions around New Zealand.