Plenty of reasons to smile after a tough farming season

Plenty of farms in Waikato and Bay of Plenty are still recovering from flooding in April.

Plenty of farms in Waikato and Bay of Plenty are still recovering from flooding in April.

OPINION: At the end of a very difficult season for all farmers, we finally have reason to smile.

The dairy price rises from Fonterra and Open Country are great news for the whole country. After sorting out loan repayment farmers will no doubt look at spending on maintenance, and equipment purchases that have been deferred.

Plenty of farmers in Waikato and Bay of Plenty are still in recovery mode from the April weather bombs. In my area, Te Kowhai, the Waipa River came up to the highest level I have seen for years and took a long time to go down because the Waikato rivers were also in flood.

Maize grown on the rich river flats was under water and some of the corn cobs are now rotting. I lost an area on one of my blocks but I've been told in Whakatane there are farmers who stand to lose many hectares.

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The mood at the Waikato Federated Farmers annual meeting in May was certainly better than it has been in recent years. When dairy farming lifts it also boosts other sectors, including service industries in the towns.

As re-elected chairman of the province's arable section, I can foresee a rise in demand for supplementary feed for dairy herds. DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle has said farmers should put pasture first, and if supplementary feed is needed they should use feed crops such as hay, silage, beet or maize.

As a maize grower, I have noticed that the contract price paid to crop growers directly follows the dairy payout so we are expecting a lift next season.

We'll also benefit from the restrictions being put on palm kernel extract (PKE). Landcorp has stopped using it and Fonterra has put a limit of three kilograms per animal per day.

Farmers are heartened that, after agricultural sector pressure, the Ministry of Primary Industries last September sent the MV Molat and its cargo of unaccredited source PKE out of New Zealand waters. At long last, I feel MPI and others are listening to agricultural leaders on biosecurity problems.

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I am part of a management group that meets to keep on top of velvetleaf and the threat is not done with yet. There are more than 30 properties in Waikato with velvet leaf now.

More of the weeds were recently found in eastern Waikato, and an investigation is underway to track where the seed came from.

At up to 250 millimetres in height, velvetleaf can be controlled with a pasture spray, but after that it gets quite woody and is resistant to these sprays. It can be controlled with harder acting sprays but they also kill pasture.

When it gets in among maize, it's a real problem once it gets tall. The only way to control it is to pull it out before it seeds.

And now myrtle rust has come into New Zealand and appears to be spreading. One thought is that it blew in from Australia but this suggestion has been challenged.

The importation of mushroom compost from Europe has been the subject of discussion recently with MPI because of the hay and horse manure it contains.

Apparently it comes from countries where foot and mouth disease has been a problem. Surely there is enough hay and horse manure in New Zealand without importing it?

Waikato Federated Farmers is in great heart. We have Andrew McGiven as the new president with a fantastic team behind him.

The federation's Waikato membership is increasing, so I urge anyone who is not a member to come and talk to us at Fieldays and we will tell you about the benefits of being in our fold.

  • John Hodge is Waikato Federated Farmers vice-president and arable chairman

 - Stuff

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