with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions
Things have certainly been wetter than they were earlier on this winter, but it’s still very mild. This means grass is still steadily growing. Someone told me they achieved 50kgDM per day growth in early-August – that’s a spring rate usually. Whether or not the good fortune continues will depend on getting any more cold breaks.
With these mild conditions there’s been an explosion of the rat population. There’s certainly been a lot of feed around for rats, stoats and weasels. We’ve been baiting areas every week to try to keep numbers down. Everyone needs to be vigilant around their houses, sheds, barns, maize stacks etc. Or you may pull the covers off and go; ‘Oh my god!’. So just when we thought we were going to be rodent-free by 2050, here comes a rat explosion.
I visited Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf on a recent holiday. It is virtually pest-free and the birdlife that’s come back there is just amazing because there are no rats or other mammalian predators. It just shows what these pests are doing to our native wildlife. It’s incredible how they’ve turned that island around over 40-odd years.
Back on the farm, staff seems to be the hot topic. It’s always one of the most stressful parts of being in business. One guy I’ve been talking with is getting Filipinos workers in from overseas. He has a trucking firm and he goes over there to interview them, sorts out a visa for them and they come to NZ to work for him. He reckons they are really good workers. So this is an option for those struggling to get workers for their farm. And this can be an issue for older farmers trying to retire, step back or reduce their workload.
It’s also the time for farmers to look at supplementary feed, whether they need to buy it in or grow their own crops. If choosing to buy, you have to be careful with what you’re get – once it has wrap on it, you don’t know what it’s like until you open it. It could be very good or very average.
There is some poorly-made silage out there. The best way to know you’re paying for and receiving quality feed is to request test results. We try to test samples of most of our products. The DairyNZ supplementary feed price calculator enables farmers to go online and put in values such as ME, stocking rates etc to estimate how much you can pay for supplementary feed. Farmers need to research this well. If it sounds like cheap feed – say $100 delivered instead of $120 or $130, the quality could be poor. It could be drystock feed, not milking-quality feed. There’s a big difference. Know what you are buying so you can buy with confidence.
Most farmers will be planning their summer crops now – chicory, maize or turnips. They should be soil testing, and also to work out what is required. A local fertiliser representative or merchant can do a soil test to see what the paddocks might be missing. Fertility, drainage and weed problems need to be sorted out before planting begins. Mercer grass, paspalum or kikuyu need to be sprayed out first. Farmers need to spray now and in autumn before going back into grass – not just spray in autumn and drill.
Hopefully prices of things don’t rise too much this season – although fuel prices seem to be up. Road-User charges went up this year and are set to rise again next year, so we may see an increase in freight charges. Labour prices may also rise slightly.
We are taking orders now for bulk grass and baled silage and maize silage. Feel free to contact us for prices. We also have hay, straw and silage available.