Wet weather postpones haymaking

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 10:14 14/01/2014
Ryan Griffiths
PATRICK HAMILTON/NELSON MAIL
MAKING HAY: Ryan Griffiths operates a hay bale wrapping machine on a Clover Rd property.

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The fitful summer weather is proving challenging for the region's hay contractors.

Hay-making is usually in full swing now but the recent intermittent rain has thrown a spanner in the works for contractors who need about four fine days in order to cut, turn and bale hay effectively.

As a result, much of the region's current huge hay crop, which has been boosted to record levels by the warm rains, is being turned into plastic wrapped baleage or sileage when the weather allows.

Appleby contractor Steve Sangster said while the season started off normally, it quickly became "challenging" when continued bands of rain started to appear.

"We've had a poor run.We have managed to make a few small bales but we have a stack ahead of us."

Some landowners wanting hay made were starting to panic, he said.

But the bonus of the protracted growing season was the increased growth of clovers and plantains which boost the quality of the final product, he said.

"Some clients are upset with us, and I know how they feel. But everyone wants it cut on the one day it's fine.

"We had 40 customers to who we said we would make their hay before Christmas. And I apologise to them - but we cannot fight the weather."

Some landowners were topping their paddocks so the bottom growth could be cut later, others were mulching their uncut hay to compost or choosing to feed it as a standing winter crop, he said.

Moutere hay contractor Mark Carey said the season had been pretty good until now.

"We've got all the baleage done but probably have around 10,000 medium-square bales ahead of us when the weather clears. There's a lot of hay that wants to come off but I'm not too worried about it."

Mr Carey was not too concerned, saying the weather usually settled in mid-to late January.

"Landowners are pretty relaxed with that. When the weather comes right we can do 700 to 800 bales a day. But it takes four days between cutting and baling which means you have a lot of hay on the ground - that can be stressful."

Prices would be back on last year's because of the quantity of hay available - most of which was destined for the dairy industry, he said.

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