Soggy months leave summer cropping contractors itching to start

Waikato's wet weather is affecting both farmers and livestock.
KELLY HODEL / STUFF

Waikato's wet weather is affecting both farmers and livestock.

OPINION: Where is the sun? Everyone I have spoken to is asking the same question.

In my 60 years of farming I don't think I have ever seen a winter and spring that has been so wet, overcast and lacking in sunshine day after day.

This is affecting all people - both farmers and those in the towns, -including the lack of vitamin D the sun's rays give us. Animals, especially young ones, appreciate warm, clear weather too.

We have kept rainfall records for many years here at Te Kowhai and the total for the first nine months of this year is a record.

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I've seen first-hand what happens when too much rain comes at once. In April I was asked to be part of a group to assist farmers around Tahuna, who were flooded when the Piako and Waihou Rivers burst their banks.

This group was led by Dairy NZ, Fonterra, Rural Support Trust, Waikato Federated Farmers and a couple of others.

Back in April we met on a trust dairy farm of 240 hectares just east of Tahuna that was inundated with water an average of one and a half metres deep.

The sharemilker there had to stop milking and had farmed out most of his milking herd and young stock around the local area. He was very fortunate in finding a farm near Tokoroa where he could shift most of his herd to.

About 20 farmers from the immediate area attended that meeting and all of them were affected by the flood - but not as bad as this one.

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Late last month, a flood recovery 'follow up field day' was held on the same property. As the paddocks dried out they were sown with different varieties of ryegrass so it was really interesting for us to see the recovery, which was amazing, to say the least.

Because most of the cows are at Tokoroa, the sharemilker has had to buy milking cows to try and keep up with grass growth. We had a good discussion about where to go from here and ended up suggesting that he should make any surplus grass into silage as the price of milking cows is now about $2000, so they are out of the question.

The stress level of a lot of farmers is still high so it is important we all keep an eye on our neighbours. The Rural Support Trust and Federated Farmers are there to help – don't hesitate to reach out.

Not a lot of ground work has happened yet for this years summer crops because of the weather. Contractors are itching to get going and paddocks that have been planted in grass after maize silage are in a lot of cases wet and soft, which is holding up harvesting.

The lighter soil type on our place is not too bad but the heavy soil is in places still covered with pools of water.

I am not panicking yet as the maize variety I plant is a fairly quick maturing one so as long as it goes in early November that will be okay.

There is little surplus grain left from last season so there is quite an amount coming into New Plymouth now from Australia.

The grower contract price for maize grain is about $400 per dry tonne and the price for maize silage is about 25-27 cents per kilogram of dry matter.

The federation's arable council is holding its next meeting in Wellington on November 21. By then hopefully, the political situation will have been sorted out and we will have a stable government keen to get on with it.

The federation is apolitical, which means we must work with whoever is in power. During my time at the organisation I have spoken to a lot of MPs from all parties and have found the ones interested in agriculture are willing to listen. So here's hoping that continues.

Finally, look after your neighbours and contact the Rural Support Trust or the federation if you need to.

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

 - Stuff

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