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Topic-icon Drought!

  • Sue
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1 year 2 months ago #537263 by Sue

Bear with me! :(
I have started this topic a couple of times now and either been called away or I wasn't in the right head space to write about it!

As many of you already know, or are suffering like us-we are having a very unseasonal dry time of year, which has now been called officially a drought.


This was the 'official position as at 29 December. We are located in the darkest red part on the lower west coast of the North island, between Kapiti island and below where the Manawatu boundary line reaches the coast-the Manawatu river at Foxton.

NIWA have produced a nice little graph of the district over the past few years. We are now in the dark pink at the right hand edge!


I have heard a lot of comments like, Australia gets like this regularly, that's nothing-or so what or they are townies moaning because they can't water their garden or wash their cars!! You only have to read the comments on stuff or Facebook.

My problem with it is, yes if it is a regular occurrence you can plan ahead, get in extra feed, sell off stock early etc etc. This year this dry weather for this district arrived about 3 months earlier than expected-we have lived through dry Feb/March/April periods a number of times in our 40 years farming here. When that happens we have usually had a great growing season in October, November, December and hay and baleage has been cut and stored, calves have benefitted from spring grass and plenty of milk to lay down a nice layer of fat and are big enough to benefit from supplementary feed and be weaned.

After a horrifically wet winter when we had already had more than our average annual rainfall by the end of September, we had a dry October, then drier November and even worse December! So in the record books 2017 will look like a wet year! Well over 1400 mm to an average of around 1100 mm

This was September 22nd


and a similar view taken today 3rd January!


The whole 50 acres is much like this, so we have decided to leave the cows and bull calves in the biggest group- 23 animals here and feed them hay, like being on a feed lot. There are are 3 other small groups of cows with heifer calves in different areas which also get a daily hay ration and the yearling mob at the run off have a couple of small creeks keeping the surrounding land and reeds a bit greener and being closer to the hills get a few sprinkles of rain more than us 2 kms down the road.

The main problem in October was that after the wet weather, the grass roots were waterlogged-they didn't really recover enough to grow much grass as would be expected in September and October and the ground was either too wet to get machinery on, or too hard and dry to keep growing! So November hay and baleage crops were half of what was usually expected.

We got 40 mm of rain in October against an average of 101 mm (123 mm in 2016)
16 mm in November against an average of 86 mm (166 in 2016!)
10 mm in December against an average of 107 mm ( 91 in 2016)

So adding 3 months rainfall up, in what is usually quite a wet season here, we got a total of 66 mm, not even a one month average!
The last 6 weeks or so I have been consumed with working out how best to feed the cows and calves. There are no hangers on to cull! 24 cows with calves, 3 stud bulls and 8 yearling heifers-our future replacements. The calves were too young to wean especially as there was nothing to wean them on to. We were lucky enough to get some feed-but less than what we would need in total for the winter.

We have just secured 1/2 a tone of White bag Fibre Fresh which the calves will get and we will progressively wean small groups on to it and baleage, starting soon! www.fiber-fresh.com/calves/products/calf-finisher-whitebag/

So after phoning around various people to get more baleage/hay -who are all roughly in the same position, it looked like we would have to look to the south island or much further north-at a price double what is normal!

Between Christmas and New Year I resorted to TM! I'm not a fan but after due deliberation thought we had to do something desperate and soon-so I took the plunge and ordered a truck load of baleage from Feilding. Expensive but looked like a genuine contractor -hopefully when it arrives it lives up to expectations! He stated what type of grass and white clover mix, plus what sort of baler and wrapper was used and explained the differences between round and square baling. Between us we managed to get some cartage quotes on New Years Eve-and cartage at $10/bale from Feilding is probably better than cheaper stuff carted further!
The cows and I eagerly await delivery tomorrow or Friday, when it will most likely be pouring with rain!

A kind neighbour with a tractor is going to off load it and even put bales in our feeders if needed. We are not set up to cope with rounds, but that problem can be sorted.

Sorry to have prattled on-I just thank goodness that our cows are a hardy Australian breed who seem to be able to cope with this dry, better than the wet lush feed! Our Rural Womens group are all in the same position-if they are off farms, so we have a support network. I think being declared a drought area only means you can get deferred tax payment benefits. After spending over $6 grand on a truck load of baleage plus another $500 on cartage- all I can say is thank goodness we can claim back some GST!


Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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1 year 2 months ago #537265 by Ruth

Oh Sue. I have been thinking often about you, whenever I look at my still-green paddocks, about which the cows are complaining because it's crispy feed: at least they're still getting green grass and today there is drizzle, so it's not drying more.

I hope you get what's forecast tomorrow, in a useful quantity.

We never think, in the middle of a winter like that just past, that anything could be worse. But dead dry grass is worse.

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1 year 2 months ago #537266 by Stikkibeek

Oh Sue, I really feel for you. We were just as wet in the winter, but not quite so dry as you. We are in the tiny red zone at the bottom of Manukau and Waitemata harbours, but we are not quite as desperate feed wise.. We do have a few small patches of green. In the old creek bed, the paspalum is growing and also a whole lot of willow weed which the goats have taken a liking to, and some little patches of kikuyu . Some of the cattle were starting to lose condition, but now that we have the hay paddocks back in the grazing rotation, we have split up the mobs and the ones on the hay paddocks are doing ok, while the ones still this side of the creek (which has gone dry) are getting a little hay each day and are holding condition. We are being careful with the hay, as we are conscious we still need to get through winter with less hay than normal. Some stock may be ready for sale in April which will help.
We look forward to this weather low that is supposed to be coming, but not holding my breath as forecasters have got it so wrong for a while now. If we can top up our tanks, at least we will have water again and it might save the garden.


Did you know, that what you thought I said, was not what I meant :S

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1 year 2 months ago #537268 by kate

What a nightmare! I remember the drought in the Waikato (2008?) we had to sell all of our goats as we couldn't get feed. It was heartbreaking to look out over paddocks that were nothing but dust bowls. I hope you do get some of the forecast rain and hope the ground isn't so hard that it just runs off.

We've been lucky here, in fact, if anything we've had a wetter than usual Christmas. I wish I could send a few of my paddocks down to you...


Web Goddess

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1 year 2 months ago #537274 by charlotte1

I wish we could send you some of this rain we are having at the moment. We are still greenish and with a second day in a row with significant rain we will have grass growing. Shame I don't want or need green grass, I have 2 wee ponies with whom green grass is no good. Always the way isn't it. Feeling for you. We were dairying during the 2008 Waikato drought and it was tough.

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1 year 2 months ago #537277 by Tui Ridge

oh that looks heartbreaking!

Pity you are not closer - you could ship 1/2 your cattle here to graze for a couple of months, we have plenty and my lot are getting fat (and we've just put 300 bales of hay in the shed) all because we're on a new block in a high rainfall area (and about to get 100mm+ from this storm!)


Me and hubby and 2 boys, Alpacas, Arapawa sheep, Lowline cattle, lots and lots of chooks and ducks ;)

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1 year 2 months ago #537278 by Ruth

Cattle may yet have to be trucked so far!

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1 year 2 months ago #537279 by Tui Ridge

yes, I do wonder if it wouldnt work out cheaper in the end!

We are feeling quite lucky we are here (our last property just out of Pukekohe we would have been in the s$%^ and having to sell stock by now. But i'm not sure what winter is going to be like - i'm being very conservative with stocking levels for this 1st winter ahead.


Me and hubby and 2 boys, Alpacas, Arapawa sheep, Lowline cattle, lots and lots of chooks and ducks ;)

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1 year 2 months ago #537280 by Ruth

What are your new paddocks like in terms of last winter's damage? Pugging is horrendous up here, although my lime spreader reckons my horribly lumpy paddocks are not as bad as many others.

We just had a heavy shower, just after I got the calves in for their booster vaccinations. I'm now dodging some more rain on the radar and feeling extremely grateful for the inconvenience!

Sue, some of that 3-day rain forecasting looks very hopeful where you are; I hope you get it. But that still doesn't solve the problem of all that dead grass - has it died now or might it come back to green with moisture? It was so stressed with all that wet!

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1 year 2 months ago #537281 by Tui Ridge

We actually owned the property from august but we've only just moved (the sheep / cattle came in November) so hubby has been here renovating the house a few days a week over winter.

Flatish land, extremely free draining - with heavy rain we get little streamlets running across the property in a couple of places which drain within a few hours of the rain stopping. We got the soil tested and have had to heavy fertilise, and we will do a top up in autumn. Will also do a light spread every 6-8 weeks of our liquid seaweed type fert to keep things going.

We've just had a decent few hours of rain and also a few showers yesterday - haven't found my rain gauge yet but I reckon we've already had 30ml+ in the last 24 hrs - my ducks are happy in their puddles lol!


Me and hubby and 2 boys, Alpacas, Arapawa sheep, Lowline cattle, lots and lots of chooks and ducks ;)

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1 year 2 months ago #537284 by terralee

Far out Sue ...those figures are scary ...I really hope that you get some of this forecast heavy duty rain...we need a bit too but nothing like you do ...farming is challenging to say the least and we can never know what the weather will ring ...as always your stock look amazing and are a credit to you ...wishing you rain and lots of it :cheer:
Cheers


Leonie & Zoo!!! :silly: :woohoo:

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  • Sue
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1 year 2 months ago #537286 by Sue

WE've had a couple of short sharp showers today, which has put 1mm in the rain guage, but now its sunny and very humid!
The rain just plays with us here. Here is a good shower this morning-as viewed from our garden- just rumbling along the Tararuas, none of it fell on us!


The paddock belongs to a neighbour and hasn't had any stock on it for 3 months-he usually cuts it for hay-wish he would sell it to us, but being a dairy farmer out on the sand country nearer the coast he is probably glad he has it in reserve!

Mmm, had thought about grazing but they would have to go so far the cost of grazing, plus cartage, plus the risk to my beautiful girls means it won't happen! I have got two buyers who want young cows as soon as they are weaned and a couple of cows plus Steamroller will be off to the works- so that will ease the pressure over winter-we just have to wean the calves first and then dispose of some old girls!
Our calf feed arrived today, after much thought to prevent it being attacked by rodents-we have stacked it on the deck and will take each bag away to be opened so none is spilt around the stack-and we can also set bait or traps around it-taking care the dog doesn't get either rats or feed!
A very attractive addition to our view!

Tried some on our 'show calves' they seem to think it's edible!

Yes, the next 3 days look promising for this area although up to midnight Thursday they are only predicting @ 18 mm for around here, Friday looks better.
Lookout everyone up North in the firing line of the middle of the low, looks like quite substantial rainfall coming !!!


Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.
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1 year 2 months ago #537293 by Ronney

Sue, a very worrying time indeed as well as feeling the impotence of being unable to do anything about it. It seems that much of the country quite literally went from winter to summer and missed out on spring entirely. Few seemed to get any spring growth worth talking about, paddocks just went from saturated to concrete.

I stood at our ranch slider yesterday and thought of you as I watched 8.00mm fall out of the sky. Not much but with the other little bits and pieces it's been keeping things just ticking over. And this afternoon we had 22.00mm! which I'm pretty sure wasn't forecast. Lets hope that your part of the country gets something out of what is supposed to come tomorrow. To be that brown this early in the summer and spending that much on buying in feed, is a huge worry.

Chin up,
Ronnie

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1 year 2 months ago #537314 by muri

Sue we are very much in the same situation as you, but have had even less rain, 40 mls total for Oct, Nov and Dec and with high winds, the paddocks were already starting to crack by the beginning of Nov.
I think this drought could have been anticipated back then because of the high winter rainfall as we always seem to get our average each year..
I started de-stocking back in October when people had grass and were looking for stock.
I believe that we need to re-think stocking rates in the light of climatic changes that we are experiencing - the wetter winter and drier summer may be the new norm for many areas

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1 year 2 months ago #537316 by Sue

Muri I appreciate your comments but although they are probably not a direct criticism of me, it does touch a slightly sore spot!!

I also appreciate some places will have had less rain, and for some places this could actually be 'normal' for the time of year-but in this area it is actually probably the worst in living memory-and I do know quite a lot of senior farmers around here!

Another point about anticipating it would happen-even the best crystal ball gazer would probably not anticipate only a third of the total rain in the 3 months, a dry summer e.g Jan/Feb/March-but not as early as October! Even half the anticipated rainfall, but less than a third-in a normally wet region of the country?
I see even parts of the West coast of the South Island are dry-did they anticipate that too?

Yes we have had wind too, and the branches being blown off the willow trees have been relished by the cows.
Oh, and did I mention we had a fall of snow on the Tararuas a week ago, which brought our night time temperatures down as well?!

As for destocking-not that easy when you have capital stock, developed over 40 years of breeding with calves at foot aged between 2 weeks and 2 months when you are meant to be anticipating things will get worse, so what to cull?

As a matter of fact we are/were already at the lowest stocking levels for some time-only having 24 cows to calve instead of when we have had 27 to 30. Also we had already sold half the weaner heifers in April and carried only the best through winter. The R1 bulls also went early (July) to their breeding homes and there were only 2 left in September -waiting for dairy farmers to decide at the last minute-as they usually do, that they needed bull!

So, yes, we will be looking at even more reduced stock numbers in the future, not for possible climate change, but mainly because as we both get older now (past the 3 score years and ten mark!) the physical effort is not fun anymore.

Although there are 32 females running with bulls at the moment I plan to reduce that by half so only 16 to 20 remain to calve this year. A lifetimes selection will be concentrated into those few!
I think I mentioned before that we have buyers for some, some of the girls will go to the works and the bull calves will probably mainly go as weaners instead of R1's, as soon as everyone around here has grass!
The only outlet for stock around here at present is the works-waiting time one month and by then they will be full of cull dairy cows.

I'm sure your comments will be useful for some others anticipating these conditions in the future, but just not for us at this time!


Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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