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Topic-icon So it continues-the drought!

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1 year 1 month ago #538126 by Sue

This is the latest picture of the drought in the North Island, you can see it has considerably shrunk, but yes, we are still in that very dark red area near the west coast.
drought areas as at 3rd February according to NIWA




I have just taken the plunge on TM and ordered another truck load of baleage at great expense, but the animals have to eat something. There is nothing available around here but have been lucky enough to get some from the Feilding area, although $10 per bale for transport on top of the cost soon adds up!

January brought a bit of rain, actually over 63 mm when it is added up, but that is still only about half of what we would expect, and after 3 very dry months at the end of 2017 it hardly made a difference. Yes it has greened up but no appreciable grass for the cows to eat.

Looking forward I can't see us getting much growth unless it gets much wetter-I'm pleased to feel a lot cooler than the last 3 weeks of January though!
Despite all those dire forecasts about tropical cyclones, and I know some out there have had more than enough rain-we were forecast over 60 mm last week, and got 22 mm. Just enough to perk up the weeds.

This was a patch of paddock that had lots of plantain. I photographed it on 31st January when even the weeds were curling up with the heat-after they recovered and grew with a fall of rain earlier in the month.


This same patch as at today, 6 days later, after the 22 mm shower we got from that 'cyclone'!


I see we have rain forecast from possibly Saturday for at least 7 days, bring it on!

Our contingency plan is in full swing. We are in the process of weaning half of the calves, about 3 months early, and putting them on to bagged lucerne type calf mix and baleage. The oldest and youngest cows are first to take leave of their babies.

Last week all 31 cows and heifers were pregnancy tested and one empty went off to the works this morning. She had about 5 chances with two different bulls so her number was up!
Last weeks the older stud sire and a cow went off to the works too. Steamroller had a 567 kg carcase weight-so his appetite will not be missed! So these will all help pay for the feed to keep the others alive!

Of the animals left I think I have buyers for 15 cows so by the end of March we should reduce numbers down enough to cope with the winter, especially as over half will be 9/10 month olds! 16 cows, 2 bulls and 24 calves on 70 acres-sounds like Australia.
It is sad to see our breeding herd of 40years cut back but at least the majority are going on to spread their genes a bit longer.

I find it very hard feeding out every day just to keep them going, and knowing that what they get has to keep them going for another 23 hours once it is gone. Everyone comments that they are still in good condition, but I still feel awful restricting them. They have had it tough going from wet and mud to hot and dry, without the luxury of wandering in lush green pastures!

I posted this earlier, but it is a native bush reserve across the road from the farm-a lot of dead natives showing up.


This is a photo of a plane spraying the neighbours pasture for facial eczema on Sunday morning-note the cloudless sky- and our herd waiting patiently for their morning baleage! We put zinc in the water every day for our lot.


One of the nice young cows we are keeping, Kowhai, her August born first calf was weaned on 9th January, she is still looking pretty good after a tough few months


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 1 month ago #538127 by Anakei

Sue, this is a question posed from complete ignorance - except from watching Country Calendar!

Will you look to planting deeper rooted pasture (lucerne?) in the future? What are the challenges with that? With the apparent climate shift this drought/flood/drought could be the new normal. How do you see yourself managing this in the future?

I see a lot about farmers managing the drought as you are doing, but I don't see anything out there for future proofing (though I am sure its a topic for discussion!) I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Sorry, this sounds like an exam paper from the 80's :S


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1 year 1 month ago #538128 by Ruth

Kowhai is lovely.
I've been thinking of you often. Crazy that that tiny red spot keeps missing any significant moisture (and Westport!).

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1 year 1 month ago #538130 by Sue

Anakei wrote: Sue, this is a question posed from complete ignorance - except from watching Country Calendar!

Will you look to planting deeper rooted pasture (lucerne?) in the future? What are the challenges with that? With the apparent climate shift this drought/flood/drought could be the new normal. How do you see yourself managing this in the future?


Not a silly question at all, and it is something I know that a lot of people will have to think a lot more about!

From our point of view I don't see us farming here much longer, due to old age creeping up! But in the short term we will be reducing our stocking rate and making a concerted effort to procure more feed earlier, to have stored just in case, both hay and baleage.

Around this area folks were holding off doing baleage in October because the ground was too wet to get machinery on, and when they decided it would have to be made regardless, due to lack of rain and growth, in what would normally be a wet November /December-they were only getting half the usual amounts. So you could say we were all caught unawares!

We managed to get 30 big squares of hay and 30 big squares of baleage in November. We would normally have had 50 of each for a winter feed out from June to mid September. After we had used quite a bit of the hay in December I managed to get hold of 42 big round (12 equivalents) of new seasons baleage, at double the cost of what I had bought the local stuff!. It arrived Jan 4th and already under half is left and I can see it lasting till mid March and that's all. Hence the need to get more! Hopefully by then most of the big cows will have weaned theri calves and gone-so we can then just feed the remaining ones right on through autumn and winter!
I find the big rounds rather laborious to feed, having to load it by hand from ground level on to the Ute, and then dish it out by hand again. Not impossible, just not as easy as removing slices from a square bale! WE are presently using half a big round per day.

Our pasture is very old dairy pasture and has a lot of plantain and yarrow, which are deep rooted. Back in our last really dry summer maybe 15 years ago, we also direct drilled a quantity of chicory, cocksfoot, white clover and a couple of perennial rye grass species.
I don't think our area is suitable for lucerne, maybe too wet normally(?!) -not yet anyway! I'm not aware of anyone growing it on this coast, there may be some on the Wairarapa side of the ranges.

The chicory has made a brave attempt to flower and set seed after the moisture it got in January, but no leaf to speak of!


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 1 month ago #538136 by kate

I've been thinking of you too - I know how difficult it is, financially, practically and emotionally to cope with a serious drought. I'd send the rain down to you if I could!


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1 year 1 month ago #538141 by Hawkspur

That's rotten luck having your spot an inverse oasis like that. Trying to see the positive, does it mean feed won't be scarce to buy in?

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1 year 1 month ago #538142 by Sue

Hawkspur I suppose you could put that sort of a positive spin on the situation, :) but in fact all the nearest places that look as though they are now OK, looked like this in January



So there was very little hay and baleage actually harvested in this region, right up to Taranaki, when it should have been in full swing.
Since then they have had rain, but Horowhenua missed out!

Here is another NIWA picture of previous years and degree of drought
Horowhenua District-yes coming down, but not far enough yet!


Hawkes Bay, the South Island and further north seem to have plenty of feed for sale at a better price, but freight is rather prohibitive the further you go of course!

The closest area that seems to have it for sale is Feilding/Palmerston North- which were lucky enough to have more rain than us, mainly due to thunderstorms! However the freight from there I have been quoted between $10 and $14 per bale. It is at least a 3 hour round trip for a truck including loading and unloading.

The price per bale of course has also gone up accordingly. I paid $67 for local grown, baled, wrapped and stacked in November for 10 bale equivalents.
$140 plus $10 cartage for 12 bale equivalents in January and now have just managed to secure 8 bale equivalent squares for $82.50 plus $10 cartage. The neighbour unloads for us with his tractor and is so helpful coming when we need him to shift a bale somewhere, so I have given him a 'donation' as well. Neighbours are like gold!

Some of the cows with bull calves waiting for their breakfast today!



The daily grind- 3 Ute loads!


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 1 month ago #538144 by Hawkspur

Bugger - I suspected that would be the case.

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1 year 1 month ago #538163 by Mudlerk

The most heart-wrenching thing up our way...a few dozen k north of Sue...is all the paddocks that were resown after being totally pugged out in our wet, wet winter. As soon as they were sown down...many in a plantain/chicory mix...the drought hit. They sat for two months, with nothing but fathen and purple nightshade generating. Then the rain came, and the fathen...which at least, cattle will graze off...and nightshade burgeoned. Anyone who can afford to will probably beat it up with their cows and resow. Terrible!

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1 year 1 month ago #538174 by Sue

Yes mudlerk, failed crops would be most disheartening. Isn't it interesting how quickly black nightshade grows after a bit of rain? I know in our garden it seems to be 300 cm high in no time at all and the grass would be lucky to have grown 2 cm!

I think seeing hungry stock each day may be slightly more disheartening that just seeing a paddock of weeds-if you have any feelings for livestock, rather than just the $$ signs!


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 1 month ago #538182 by Hawkspur

Sue wrote: Yes mudlerk, failed crops would be most disheartening. Isn't it interesting how quickly black nightshade grows after a bit of rain? I know in our garden it seems to be 300 cm high in no time at all and the grass would be lucky to have grown 2 cm!

I think seeing hungry stock each day may be slightly more disheartening that just seeing a paddock of weeds-if you have any feelings for livestock, rather than just the $$ signs!

That's really tall! :cheer: ;) :P

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1 year 1 month ago #538187 by Sue

Hawkspur wrote:

Sue wrote: I know in our garden it seems to be 300 cm high in no time at all and the grass would be lucky to have grown 2 cm!

That's really tall! :cheer: ;) :P


You know what I really meant though!!!! That is Jack and the Beanstalk stuff! I actually wrote a foot high first, then decided I should be a bit more metric!


Sue
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1 year 1 month ago #538194 by Mudlerk

Lots of PKE getting consumed up this way!

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1 year 1 month ago #538196 by kate

While here we got 233.5mm in January, it's raining now and there's a heavy rain warning for today for up to 120mm. We too may have to buy in feed as while the paddock set aside for hay is ready to cut, we don't have any fine days forecast in which to cut and dry it.

Sue, do you want to exchange places for a few days? You can sit out in the rain here and I'll enjoy a bit of sunshine!


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1 year 1 month ago #538197 by Hawkspur

Sue wrote:

Hawkspur wrote:

Sue wrote: I know in our garden it seems to be 300 cm high in no time at all and the grass would be lucky to have grown 2 cm!

That's really tall! :cheer: ;) :P


You know what I really meant though!!!! That is Jack and the Beanstalk stuff! I actually wrote a foot high first, then decided I should be a bit more metric!


:D Yeah I knew... but couldn't resist...
I make the same mistake because I typically use mm, and then go to use cm for those less familiar with mm, but end up saying the number in mm and the unit as cm...:side: :silly:

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