18 Feb 2022

On the Farm - a wrap of farming conditions around NZ

From On the Farm, 9:11 pm on 18 February 2022

The weather in Taranaki has calmed down and farms are drying out after storms two weekends in a row. The early variety Smitten, Breeze and Gala apples are being picked and packed for export in the Nelson/Motueka region.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Northland's felt a little autumnal this week. It's unbelievably green for the time of year - and farmers are pleased to have grass on hand as next month's weaner fairs approach.  A stock agent says schedules are higher than they have ever been at this time of the season - they're $1 a head per kilogramme more, at $5.90 for prime beef.  

Ex tropical cyclone Dovi passed over Pukekohe with gale force winds but with generally less then 20 millimetres of rainfall. Kiwifruit growers were thankful for little damage. There's excitement about the imminent harvest of the first local commercial crop of red kiwifruit .

The wild weekend weather took out power to many Waikato dairy farms. Those without generators had to rely on the goodwill of neighbours who had one to milk the cows.

The Taumarunui region in King Country had around 200 millimetres of beautiful rain at the weekend and the landscape has changed colour quickly.  The new growth will be good for putting weight on ewes as they head into tupping - the rams will go out in late March.  Other areas in King Country were damaged by heavy rain - around Piopio 150 millimetres fell in one night - there's debris everywhere. Marakopa was also hard hit.  A farmer told us the mandate that all children in year four and above must wear a mask at school is having social implications in very small communities. Some parents have chosen to home-school their children and that's really limiting social interaction for the few children still at school and those who are now at home.  

Dogs enjoy a farm water race

Dogs enjoy a farm water race Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

Bay of Plenty avocado growers have had a busy week dealing with toppled trees and broken branches, One grower says the weekend storm brought down 30 trees on her Katikati property - mainly shelterbelt trees but some mature avocados. Windfall fruit carpet the orchard and because avocados carry two crops at a time some of next year's fruit has also been whipped off.  And the 2022 kiwifruit harvest kicked off on an orchard near Te Puke this week.  The industry is forecasting about 190 million trays of red, gold and green kiwifruit will be harvested this season - 13 million more than last year's record crop.

The weather in Taranaki has calmed down and farms are drying out after storms two weekends in a row.  The first caused flooding whereas last weekend wind damage was the main concern with trees down and power cuts. There are many reports of flattened maize crops - and the Rural Support Trust is assessing the damage. In a similar event years ago the harvesting machinery was still able to go in as the crop was ready - but these crops aren't due to be harvested for another month so there's a question mark over what should be done with them.

Hawkes Bay has a very unusual scenario - green paddocks in February!!!  The region's had 120 to 200 millimetres of rain gently spread over a  couple of weeks. It does bring its challenges with bugs, parasites and fungal toxins the region doesn't usually see - but farmers are thrilled with the growth - especially as it's still very difficult to get stock into the works.  Prices are fantastic. They're often at their lowest at this time of the year. We're told they're reflecting the demand internationally for good, safe food.  

On Hawkes Bay apple orchards royal gala are coming off the trees - there was concern the apples wouldn't colour up because of the warm days and warm nights but the temperature dropped to five degrees one night this week and colour is starting to pop.

Dairy cows after morning milking in Wairarapa

Dairy cows after morning milking in Wairarapa Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

The Wairarapa farmers we called had a digger on site to deal with damage from the weekend storm. They estimate the bill will be about six or seven thousand dollars but say  the rain will more than pay for it.  They had about 300 millimetres of rain but many places had more. The region's cropping farmers have taken a pasting. Some crops have been totally submerged. Dairy farmers around Lake Wairarapa still had 50 percent of their paddocks underwater three days after the rain stopped.

ki Te Wai Pounamu  ... Across the Cook Strait

The early variety Smitten, Breeze and Gala apples are being picked and packed for export in the Nelson/Motueka region. Containers are filling quickly but there's uncertainty about some shipping routes out of Nelson. Staffing is a big concern too with many growers struggling to find seasonal workers - and to compound the issue, some Tongan RSE workers have been held up by last month's eruption and Covid visa issues.

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

A Marlborough grape grower says nets have gone on the vines and the winery near Blenheim is being prepped for harvesting, due to start mid next month. Her main concern is not being able to get all the grapes in if two or three of her five staff get covid. As a precaution, the cellar door's been closed and visitors are limited. She says it's like being in lockdown again.

A farmer up the Grey Valley on the West Coast says the recent rains have thankfully turbo boosted pasture growth. This week he's been on the tractor making silage and putting ground back into grass. In the dairy shed, milk production is ticking along okay and pregnancy testing is due to get underway next week.   

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

A slight improvement in the weather in Canterbury has allowed a couple of harvest windows this week. Reports are that this harvest is very similar to 1984's which was a disaster. There are large amounts of cereals still to harvest, with a lot of it sprouted in the head.  

Winter crops are looking a picture in South Otago, thanks to about 50 millimetres of rain so far this month and a good dose of sun. A Balclutha sheep farmer has been busy making baleage and drafting ewes for tupping. On Monday, the last of his lambs were shorn. The freezing works pays 20 cents a kilo extra for shorn lambs as it makes them easier to handle.   

Southland's been relatively dry this month,  especially in southern and western areas. A farm at Gore has had12 millimetres in the gauge for the week. It's been lovely and warm so stock are doing well. Most are fattening-up on rotation.  A lot of feed's being made and crop havesting's underway too. First up it's wheat, peas and ryegrass seed - they'll be followed by the oat and barley crops.  

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes