with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions
As I write this column in early-December things are starting to dry out. We only had about 30ml of rain in Tauranga for the month of November and 60ml at Paengaroa. It seems to be on the drier side here, especially when compared to the South Island, which just had a massive deluge and flooding on both sides of the coast, and the North Island’s West Coast.
December’s forecast for us is set to be below-normal December rainfall. In terms of temperatures, the forecast says monthly temperatures are going to end up above-average.
By the time you’re reading this column, it will be early-January. At the moment, we don’t know what the summer is going to look like but it does sound like things are trending towards the being on the drier side on the east of the north and south islands, and wetter on the west.
At this point everyone needs to ensure they’ve had follow-up sprays done on their turnips and winter crops, fodder beet and suchlike. Make sure this work is continued into the New Year to get the results wanted. Weeds compete with plants for moisture and nutrients and can soon take over the crop, not allowing the full potential and desired outcome.
I also recommend farmers take a good break away from the farm at some point during summer. If you had to stay on-farm through the Christmas period, book in some time off this month or in February. It’s important to get away and recharge the old batteries, because when you’re in the thick of operating a business it can be stressful. Stepping away from the farm and having some time out will refresh you and ease the stress factors.
There have been articles recently about the environmental work on farms, going into detail about things like planting wetlands, fencing off waterways, retiring steeper areas of land and planting trees. The Government and councils are encouraging this and I think it is vital to point out that many farmers are already doing this sort of work of their own accord – some have been doing so for more than 20 years now. The Kaituna Wetlands Scheme, here in the Bay of Plenty, is undertaking planting projects and so is the Waitoa Rd Care Group, just to name a couple. Many communities are also participating in these sort of things. So much of this work is already happening without the Government and councils having to come in with a heavy-handed approach.
Generally, people are looking at Nitrogen usage and doing their own trials. We are looking at how much we can drop it back by while still getting a good amount of grass growth. There is a lot of this work going on, and I don’t think farmers get much credit for the fact that they are doing this. Often, they are just viewed as high-Nitrogen users and polluters, suggesting that they are not looking after the land. The truth is that most farmers are out there doing something off their own bat without being told they have to do it.
The sheep and beef guys are doing well, and for dairy, Fonterra’s milk payout has gone up to $7.30kgMS. That’s very good news. Hopefully this is sustainable and then farms can spend some more money on this environmental work. Planting more trees, fencing off waterways and those sort of things all cost, and the money has to come from somewhere, as well as covering some debt repayment.
Farmers also need to be organised with their feed requirements and harvesting schedules. Maize harvest starts around mid-February. At the time of writing, we still have a little bit of maize silage left. If you need any, please feel free to get in touch.
With a good payout, it makes a lot of sense to spend a little bit of money on good quality feed to increase production and to extend a herd’s lactation. Feeding cows well on maize silage will also put herds in good order for the winter time – it is often said ‘the condition cows dry off in is the condition they calve in’. So if the cows are good condition at dry-off they will be set up for a good calving. It is also likely that there has been extra production, the round has slowed down and the herd is in good condition for next season. It’s all about setting yourself up for the future. Don’t sit and let this opportunity go by – take advantage of it!