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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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!)
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.
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!
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!
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
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!
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.
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
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!