7 Dec 2018

Regional Wrap

From Regional Wrap, 9:10 pm on 7 December 2018

Each week our Country Life reporters look at what is happening on farms and orchards around New Zealand.  

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Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

The constant rain in Northland has stalled kumara planting, so the season is running late and some growers may be sneaking into January with that task. Hopefully now it's fine again they'll get a bit more on track. Grass farmers are thrilled with all the rain.

The sun returned to King Country on Friday. After two-plus weeks of rain, soil moisture levels are great - probably the odd area is too wet. Pasture covers are good and the challenge is stopping hill country pastures going to seed. Lamb weaning is starting and will be in full swing for the next two weeks. New season lambs being killed at good weights and "acceptable" money. Summer crops are well and truly growing.

Taranaki farmers are hoping the weekend stays fine so silage can be made - contractors have work backing up. However the rain has been great for turnips and fodder beet. This time last year, the region was exceptionally dry, crops were failing and some cows were on once a day milking. Now they are looking at good growth well into 2019. People are pretty happy.

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Photo: car

The East Coast has had torrential rain, thunder and lightning and then warm days. Shearers are struggling to get through flocks with the on-off weather. The rain has interfered with vegetable cropping programmes; some are running a month behind getting brassicas in. There is plenty of tucker on farms but the quality is dropping and everyone is feeling a bit under the pump.

Hawkes Bay farmers are seeing unusual growth for December. Normally grass gets very "toppy", but there's actually some base in it so farmers are pleased and will be working hard to keep on top of quality. The moisture does bring more fly strike however - there's always a down side. Isolated pockets of hail whacked through Havelock North, Haumoana and Napier on Thursday. It is too early to know what damage was caused to pip and stone fruit but any fruit that was damaged will be susceptible to brown rot and fruit beetle damage. The fruit beetle tramps brown rot spores around on its feet.

Some farms east of Carterton and around Gladstone in Wairarapa were badly damaged with flooding earlier in the week. Rivers came up and flash floods took out fences and land slipped. But it was very patchy - some were hit with a deluge and just down the road it was dry. Farmers can't remember having this much water going into December. It is too wet to spray crops, causing a worry for some.

Manawatu received about 50mm of rain in thundery showers. It has given summer crops a wonderful drink and everything is jumping.  Lambs aren't getting quite enough sun to be really humming, but the rain has set up hill country in particular, to mid-January.

Most of the forecast rain blew around Horowhenua and the region only received a little moisture. It got what it needed and no more. Things have slowed in the cooler temperatures, but farmers say they can't complain. Calves are being weaned and taken off the dairy platform to run offs or other farms for grazing.  Some maize is looking a little yellow - it needs more heat.

South Island

A fruit grower near Rabbit Island in the Nelson-Motueka region says one moment the sun's out and it's 22 degrees and the next moment it's pouring with rain. There has been some hail near the hills as well. Tree thinning and oil and weed spraying has been disrupted in most orchards. Fruit is growing well though. Nashis are currently measuring between 25 and 30mm in diameter.

In Northern Marlborough, the sun has finally come out after lots of rain. A truck picking up cattle in Havelock this week had to be pulled out of a paddock.  In vineyards regular showers have been washing spray off grapes, while a local cherry grower has reportedly lost 60 percent of his crop due to fruit splitting. On hill farms, lambs are being drafted as farmers make the most of the schedule that's sitting at $7.80 a kilo.

On the West Coast, there's been plenty of sunshine and some good rain showers too. Contractors are flat stick making silage and oats are being harvested. Our contact at Hokitika says he got 12 tonnes a hectare - not bad considering the paddock was completely flooded a few weeks ago. AI's finished on most farms now and the bulls are out to clean up.

A farmer in Canterbury says the weather seems to be changing back to a more normal early summer pattern - although 20 to 30mm of rain fell mid-week,  topping up already wet paddocks. Some work has been done in between showers, but the farmer reckons he needs two weeks of fine weather to catch up. Pasture growth is back on the improve and dairy farmers are reporting some lameness in dairy cows from the constant wet conditions. Lamb growth has been poor over the period with everyone asking 'where is the sun?'.

In Southern Otago, everyone is way behind with silage and baleage making as it hasn't stopped raining for the past two or three weeks. Once the sun comes out, it is going to be a busy lead up to Christmas, as any remaining winter feed crops need to go into the ground . A farmer, who has paddocks beside the Clutha River, is surprised how well his fodder beet crop has recovered - considering it has been under two metres of water twice this month! Wet weather aside, lambs ready for the works are being weaned at good weights.
 
Western Southland is wet and muddy too. There has been significant rainfall so there's loads of grass. Feed quality is becoming a big issue for dairy farmers though and cow performance has dropped off in the milking shed. Some herds are being supplementary fed to keep volume up. Tonnes of silage has been made already, but at the moment, getting a tractor into a paddock runs the risk of not being able to get it out.

- RNZ