Better weather and time for a break for farmers

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

We had some welcome rain over the last couple of weeks. The land was starting to get quite dry, so the downpours certainly helped freshen things up and get the grass growing again.

Forecasters are reasonably confident that we’ll have a La Nina pattern in December and January, predicting normal to slightly above normal rainfall for that period.

A couple of cyclones may be coming out of the tropics later in summer, which usually gives farmers relief by bringing rainfall in the dryer months.

So it may be a reasonable growing season compared to last year’s very dry conditions. But while the summer forecast is positive, we don’t know what autumn is going to bring.

Maize and turnip crops

We’re side dressing nitrogen on maize and turnip crops at the moment, six weeks on from sowing and planting. We’re undertaking a follow up post-emergence weed spray on those crops at the same time.

With a bit of moisture, the nitrogen will give the maize a bit of a kick along and keep the crop growing nicely until it’s time to harvest.

Turnip crops probably need an additional one or two weed sprays with insecticide in it to keep the leaf miner, white butterflies and army caterpillars at bay.

Farmers are still making quite a bit of silage at the moment. That lot of rain was helpful to farms on high country, giving them the opportunity to cut some silage after many were short of feed.

Depending on what summer does, this will be followed up later on with a cut of hay. Or, they may need to just top the paddocks to keep the pasture quality up.

Carbon emissions

At the Ballance Farm Environmental Awards, they talked about planting around wetlands to improve water quality on-farm.

But I think it pays to keep in mind that the positive effects of doing this go further than water quality, planting counteracts carbon emissions, provides shade for cattle and helps beautify the farm, too. If some wetlands are a bit boggy and messy they can be fenced off and planted with some flaxes and native trees.

The market is demanding to know the amount of carbon emissions created from the products they import. So going forward, we’ve got to make sure they’re well aware of what our carbon footprint is.

We’re pretty good here in New Zealand, because we are mostly all-grass farmers and don’t rely a lot on supplementary feeds compared to other countries, that rely heavily on imported farm feed to feed their animals in hard times.

So while we have to be aware of keeping our green image, we’re off to a pretty good start.

Take a break

After months of calving and feeding out, this is the time for farmers and their families to take a well-deserved break off the farm.

Everyone needs time to recharge their batteries to maintain good mental health going into the year ahead.

It’s also a good time to reflect on the year of 2020. Covid-19 has thrown all sorts of curve balls, but we can count ourselves very lucky that we live in NZ.

So Merry Christmas and a happy New Year – and here’s to a prosperous 2021.


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