So far so good…

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

The weather’s been good, nice drops of rain but not too much at once. We’ve got about 30ml at a time, with five-seven days between falls. These intervals allow the ground to dry out, so we’ve been able to graze our swamp blocks into June without pugging, pulling the cattle off when wet weather is coming. This means less pasture damage on farms – a plus going into spring.

But mild, moist conditions mean something could be lurking in the way of fungal disease, like footrot. Farmers need to keep an eye out for lame cows, unusually we’ve had a few this year. There could be more bugs and insects around if cold weather doesn’t eventuate to knock them back. Our grass is still growing and the weeds are too – early pasture spraying might be needed so they don’t get too far advanced.

Recent talk of the Reserve Bank dropping interest rates slightly is slowing farm sales. Banks have less capital value in properties and are getting nervous because things are a bit out of kilter. If there’s less money about, there’s less farm buyers – kiwifruit blocks seem to be an exception.

It makes it harder for young fellas to come in, as it’s more difficult for them to get money from banks. Borrowing will be tighter. It’s easier for older established farmers, but new younger farmers or anyone who has gone in with high equity will face more of a challenge. All farmers need to drive debt down as quickly as they can.

The Government’s Farm Debt Mediation Bill is good news. The proposed legislation will require creditors to offer mediation to farmers who default on payments before they take enforcement action and will allow farmers to initiate mediation.

In March 2019 NZ exports rose to $5.7 billion with dairy products at $1.4 billion, so it’s looking promising despite the Global Dairy Trade being down the last auction. Most people are talking of a solid $7 kgMS payout this season. The economy can bobble up and down a bit, especially with uncertainties with China-US trade relationships, but it’s looking good generally. Be aware it could get tight if you want to borrow extra funds for feed and suchlike.

Fieldays was interesting – there seemed to be a good turnout and some very innovative things on show, alongside well-established goods and equipment and the bargains we all love. Men’s health was certainly pushed this year. Many entered the Health & Wellbeing Hub to get checked for diabetes and high blood pressure amongst other things. Many farmers are away on holiday in June, which is good because getting off-farm is crucial to mental wellbeing. Not having to deal with a farm’s daily runnings for a while will give them a fresh start for when they return and calving starts.

Last month I touched on plant-based protein replacements.  I’ve since read that Hollywood director James Cameron, who owns land in the Wairarapa, is promoting a meatless future and is teaming up with Kiwi director Sir Peter Jackson to create a ‘plant-based’ business. Their idea would see possible ‘plant-meat’, ‘plant-cheese’ or ‘plant dairy’ factories in provincial NZ towns. Cameron wants to phase out livestock farming due to its impact on the environment, saying we need to transition to a meatless or relatively meatless world in 20 to 30 years.

This is a huge threat to NZ’s primary industries, which traditionally haave created most of our export revenue – and still do.  Dairy, Beef and sheep farmers need to be wary of growing public interest in protein-based meat and dairy replacements, as it’s a real concern for our farming industry.

Moderating this threat though is the constantly growing world population, which requires feeding. NZ can continue to provide food, including meat and dairy products. To counter the protein-based substitutes, we need to continue to improve our environment practices to ensure our customers see our products as being as ‘clean and green’ as the alternatives.

Back on the farm demand for silage is up but hay is slow. Farmers had a good summer and were able to make their own, so the need to buy in has been slower than past years. We still have good quality silage and hay available.


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