Happy farmers and holidaymakers alike

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

After a wet December we’ve all had a bit of surprise. In December we had 265mm here in the Bay of Plenty. For the first three weeks of January we’ve had 17mm.

A farmer client of mine in Omokoroa had 330mm for  December 2018 and only got 30mm the December before.  So production is up 16 per cent.

But there is talk the El Nino weather pattern may have a late bite to it, so don’t expect too much rain for the next three months. There’s a chance one or two cyclones may come, similar to last year, but will be heading west, so keep a close eye on that.

Predictions are a slightly-below average rainfall for us – these westerlies clawing in now seem to be drying things out – Northland is turning dry, but the rest of the country is okay. But for now there’s certainly not much current demand for feed. So it’s been a nice festive stretch for farmers and holidaymakers alike.

Crop work

With cropping, farmers need to be planning ahead for pasture renovation. Identify paddocks that are weedy or got pugged last winter/spring and deal to them in February while it’s dry. Get the drainage done and tidy them up.

Also get your contractors organised early – because this year there’s more demand for maize and they’ll be busy harvesting it. Keep a vigilant eye on that army caterpillar – it has a knack of attacking lucerne, brassicas, new pastures and suchlike. Winter crops will need a spray again shortly. Leaf miner and white butterfly will be coming into crops – so check and spray.

Make sure you have extra supplement feed on hand to get through if it does turn dry in February/March. Buy in some maize if you need to and have your silage stack sites ready to go, away from drains, power lines etc and in a free-draining area. There’s no point preparing them two days before it arrives. Get it done now while dry, fill in the holes and compact it. As I always say: Proper planning prevents pitiful performance! We’ve got some quality silage available and hay if needed. Global Dairy Trade prices have risen in the last three auctions.

Skim milk is up 22 per cent, and there’s been a lift overall in the GDT of 11 per cent; the auction before, it was 4.2 per cent. Some economists are predicting a lift in the payout, from $6.10kgMS to $6.30kgMS – some reckon $6.25kgMS. So things are looking stronger but there are whispers of the Chinese economy softening slightly, so keep an eye on that. This would affect us more than the other markets.

The Technical Advisory Group’s report on the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme provides encouraging progress. It looks like they are containing it; the spread isn’t getting worse. But we’ve still got a long way to go yet – so farmers need to ensure security remains tight on their borders. Seeing this disease being contained is a big relief for farmers right across the country. It was a good move to try to get rid of it rather than manage it.

Reduce debt

And while most milk production is done by December’s end, make use of the next few months before the cows dry off. Most farmers will be happy where their season is at now. But with the payout looking to become stronger, reduce some more debt if you can. It’s good opportunity to do so after a hard few years – it will keep the bank manager happy and gaining a better financial base for the future. It’s all about team effort.


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