No hugs, handshakes but a warm welcome

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

Don’t be offended if you don’t get a handshake or a hug when you call in at our Paengaroa depot. It’s not that you won’t be welcome – we’re just following Ministry of Health guidelines for “social distancing” in an effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

If you are unwell, please give us a call and limit personal contact. Our numbers are on the door, and we can sort out your order over the phone.

We completed our harvest from maize crops planted in the areas from Pahoia, the wider Bay of Plenty, Te Puke and Rotorua by March 17 and overall yields were good. Some areas were slightly down because of the dry but crops in lower ground did better than last year. Maize planted on higher ground also did well.

We planted our normal varieties which are tried and true with good results, but we did trial one new variety which didn’t do too well. We put this down to the January temperatures which got up to 34 degrees Celsius.

It was a very dry summer with only around 16ml of rain here during January and February. This was the second dry summer in a row, and I hope it is not the new norm. Most of our regular customers signed contracts as usual, but some farmers took a ‘wait and see’ approach.

Sold out

Due to the drop in pre-season orders we cut back on the total area sown and returned some paddocks to permanent pasture. Now demand has picked up we have sold out, as have other suppliers because the drought has been so widespread there is not much surplus around.

Because of the drought, freezing works reduced their intake of stock and farmers have had to retain animals. It takes just about as much to feed a dry animal as one which is milking.

Even though the weather is unpredictable, as I always say: good farming involves preparation and planning to avoid pitiful performance – and preparing for the worse while hoping for the best. Planning in advance is essential to avoid raised prices due to high demand or difficulty to source feed.

Coronavirus has caused, among other impacts, the postponement of many events including Mystery Creek Fieldays. The Government has introduced a support package, but even so, many businesses and individuals are going to be hurt.

Remaining open

We will remain open as usual during normal working hours and by phone after-hours, unless instructed otherwise. We are here to support the rural industry as the dry conditions continue and the need for feed exists – we are committed to helping where we can.

We do have plans in place to keep staff safe and for some to work from home if required, though someone will be available to load out orders.

One of the realities of the environment that Covid-19 has created is that the world still needs to eat and our farmers and orchardists are still in great position to fill that need.

Farming can’t grind to a halt and now is the time farmers need to be thinking about re-grassing paddocks. If rain looks unlikely, cultivating will cause the soil to dry out even more and compaction will be hard to achieve and can turn powdery which can cause topsoil to blow away (or wash away when it does rain and you don’t want that), so it might be wise to direct drill and re-sow in the spring.

Drilling annuals

While the soil remains warm, pasture should re-establish well but by April it takes longer to get established and may not be ready for grazing until spring. This is where drilling annuals now might be best as they establish quickly and grow better in the cold and give good winter and spring growth.

DairyNZ has an excellent guide on its website about pasture renewal, giving an insight from its trial work on hybrids and which species perform best in which areas. It also sets out the costs so farmers can make selections to fit their budget. Use coated seed and once pasture is sown, keep an eye out for army caterpillar and slugs that could be waiting for nice new pasture to emerge. Be sure to spray weeds and follow up with nitrogen after each grazing.

With the uncertainty of what lies ahead, please keep yourselves, your family and your staff safe and well. There are good guidelines on the DairyNZ and Ministry of Health websites about Coronavirus.

Although supplementary feed is in short supply, we keep our finger on the pulse and will do our utmost to help keep your animals full and healthy. Feel free to give us a call for an obligation-free quote. We still have hay, straw and silage available at this stage.


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