compost

Running the Farm

This section of the website holds articles on everything you need to know about running your lifestyle farm. Choose from the menu on the left to browse our articles.

May farming diaryMay is time for winter feed planning – and it’s always a concern at what may lie ahead in terms of rainfall.

April farming diaryAutumn and all its challenges is here, and the we have to face what winter brings. The rains from the tropical north were a mixed blessing - so welcome in some areas and cursed in others.

March farming diaryView March as the start of a new season with breeding activity starting for sheep and goats, and for cows timed for autumn calving. In ‘normal’ seasons, (whatever they used to be), an ‘autumn flush’ of ryegrass and clover would appear as the rains came, so there was a good chance of keeping stock in good body condition during the mating season. But don’t rely on this ‘flush’ this year.

February farming diaryPasture growth in February is all about soil moisture.

January farming diaryJanuary can be a crazy month and is supposed to be a time to holiday and get rid of the past year’s stress. 

december farming diaryThe end of the calendar year can be pandemonium with end of school, pre-Christmas preparations and family holidays.

November farming diaryGrass and clover should be bursting out of the ground in most parts, certainly where regular fertiliser applications have been applied, which is not the case in hill country these days. Already silage bales are appearing which is the ideal way to preserve the highly nutritious spring pasture.

 

October farming diaryGrowth should have taken off this month as soil temperatures rise.

 

September farming diaryIn many areas, especially in the North Island, autumn growth seemed to be put on hold in the last part of August, so it was not possible to build up a feed surplus before calving and lambing. So many folk were concerned about thin ewes.

August farming diaryPastures should be starting to grow in the North Island as the 10cm soil temperature gets at least 10-12°C but soils won’t warm up if they are waterlogged.

July farming diaryThe shortest day is history and we have the rest of winter to face so stock get through to spring in good order.

June farming diaryThe long warm autumn days have been good for urban folk, but rural folk have been hoping for a decent rain (not so-called showers) to fill tanks, ponds and restore ground water.

log splitterThey say that firewood warms you twice; once when you burn it and once when you chop it. Chopping firewood by hand is certainly warming, but it's also hard work. A recent poll showed that over 40% of lifestyle farmers use more than 9m² of firewood a year.

Ear tagsIn July 2012, the first stage of the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme was introduced for all farmers in New Zealand – even lifestyle block owners.The aim of the programme, as spelled out in an article by Iris Riddell for Lifestyle Block back in 2011, is to identify and trace individual animals via a unique identification number that can be electronically scanned in sale yards and abattoirs.

water troughsWhile the water trough in your paddock is just a very large drinking bowl, it comes with a lot of extra bits. Most of these are to control the flow of water into the trough and thus keep water always available for your animals while avoiding overflow and water loss. The trough itself can come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and materials. Your choice will be determined by the number and kind of stock you have, and the location of the trough in the paddock.

chemical elements in fertiliserThere are at least 19 chemical elements required for plant growth. Each chemical element has one or more specific functions within the plant, which cannot be taken over by another. As the plant grows, the daily demand for nutrients increases. Of the major nutrients, Mg is essential for both plant and animal growth and health, and K and Na are often involved in animal health issues.

septic tanksA septic tank is the main component in a small-scale sewage system that works with no connection to the main sewage pipes provided in most cities and small towns, and is common in New Zealand’s more remote areas. The term ‘septic’ refers to the anaerobic bacterial environment that develops in the tank as the waste discharged into it from the toilet and household sinks and basins decomposes.

utility vehiclesThe utility vehicle, also called a ‘side by side’ is growing in popularity on lifestyle blocks and farms around NZ and it’s easy to see why. Like an ATV it’s small and nimble, unlike an ATV, it’s very stable and designed to carry passengers. They’re rugged, can carry and tow heavy loads, can go places your standard ute can’t but are almost as comfortable to drive as your car.

riparian stripA riparian strip is the piece of land alongside a river or stream. The name comes from the Latin word ‘ripa’, meaning a river bank, and it’s an important piece of land for lots of reasons. Caring for it well can improve water quality, help with soil conservation, minimise fertiliser runoff from pasture, and provide habitats for wildlife.

soilIt’s an easy concept to think of the soil as a bank.  If you remove nutrients in products sold off the farm, then you need to replace them to keep a state of ‘nutrient balance’ in the bank.

agapanthusThis tough South African import is not the sort of immigrant that our environment needs. With its shiny, leathery, dark-green leaves and umbrella shaped clusters of purplish-blue or white flowers, it has won the hearts of many a gardener who wants a hardy plant for difficult areas with poor soil.

organic matterThere's nothing that fuels arguments between the proponents of 'chemical fertilisers' and supporters of 'biological farming, organic farming and biodynamics' farming, than the subject of Organic Matter.  Then when you include the word 'Humus' into the discussion, things can get really heated.


water saving tipsDespite NZ having a temperate climate with plenty of rainfall, water is still one of the most precious resources we have and we shouldn't take it for granted.
Many lifestyle farmers live with a restricted water supply including rural water schemes, trickle feed supply or roof water. For those of us who were brought up on seemingly unlimited town supply it can be a shock to even have to consider our water usage.

soilYou cannot consider fertilisers without knowledge of the soil.  The key points will only be touched on here.  In geological terms, New Zealand it's a very young country, with major ash storms from volcanos being deposited as recently as 1300AD. NZ Soils have all been surveyed, described, and mapped by what used to be the government's Soil Survey.

brushwattlewA very fast growing, though thankfully short lived tree - popping up on cliffs, banks, hillsides, slips and cuttings.  One of the few flowering trees around in winter, brush wattle is conspicuous now with greenish-yellow bottlebrush-like flowers. It is reasonably common in the North Island, though rarer in the south.

fertiliser basicsIn this first on an in-depth series on understanding fertilser, Dr Clive Dalton looks at why there is so much confusion about what fertiliser is and what is does. He also gives a brief history of fertiliser.

planning your water systemIf you buy a bare block one of the first things to think about is your water reticulation system. You need stock water as well as house water and making the right decisions at the start will save you money. How much water will you need? Where will it come from? Where to start when planning the design?

roof waterIt has been estimated that around 400,000 people in New Zealand rely on roof water and it's a fair assumption that many of them are lifestyle farmers. Living on roof water is natural and sustainable but there are issues to think about which don't affect people on town supply.

lantanaThis smelly South American scrambler is happy sneaking its way through, under and over whatever plants and trees get in its way. It has brittle stems and hairy oval leaves that are wrinkled with toothed edges.  All parts of the plant are poisonous to stock.

flooded fenceWe live on the Wairua River in Whangarei. Kate lives in Helena Bay.

jasmineThis Chinese climber is loved for its strong scent and delicate white flowers, and hated for its tough, vigorous, twining stems that rapidly swamp everything it grows over.

stileClimbing fences is a bad habit - it damages or weakens them a little bit every time and will eventually compromise the integrity of the fenceline.

rosemaryRosemary is such an important medicinal and culinary herb it seems that there is a great opportunity for good quality locally grown product.  Throughout history Rosemary has been used to treat a wide variety of ailments - from indigestion, depression, muscle spasms, headaches and nightmares. Rosemary essential oil also has antioxidant properties.
yellow gingerThis exotic, ginger-scented perennial with massive, taro-like rhizomes close to the surface has shiny leaves, and cream coloured flowers overlapping in cone-like clusters from May to June.  It is sometimes mistaken for a canna lily.

pig escape fenceRunning a few head of livestock is one of the reasons we choose to live on a lifestyle block.

fennelSome years ago I bought a punnet of fennel seedlings from my local garden centre. I was going through my "it's exotic - give it a go" phase in the veggie patch. The fennel prospered, leaving me wondering what to do with the plump white bulbs that appeared under the feathery foliage.

7 wire cattle fence"I'm about to build a 7 wire fence and don't know what the spacing between the wires should be".

nait ear tagWhen July 2012 rolls around, it heralds the arrival of something all lifestyle farmers should be aware of - National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT).

jerusalem artichokeJerusalem Artichokes are a strange plant, or you could say a wrongly named vegetable. They aren't from Jerusalem and they certainly aren't an artichoke. Instead they originate in North America and are part of the sunflower family, in Italy they're known as Girasola Artiocco (the sunflower artichoke) and in the States they're called a Sunchoke.

fence maintenanceFences don't last forever, at some point they'll need fixing or replacing.

sale yardsPublic Sale yards must not become a dumping ground for unhealthy livestock writes David Barbour, Animal Welfare Investigator with the Enforcement Group of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Farmers and persons in charge of animals have a legal obligation under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to ensure only fit an healthy animals are transported from their properties to sale yards or any where else for that matter.
artillery plant also known as aluminium plantDespite its silver coated leaves, this creeping groundcover is no little treasure.  Aluminium plant, also known as artillery plant, is often found in gardens growing in the cooler areas around trees and shrubs.  It has pleasant smelling, mint-like leaves, square, purplish stems, and hairy, soft lemon-yellow flowers in summer.
what to do if you hit an animal on the roadDo you know what your obligations are if you hit an animal on the road?  Most people drive on regardless, especially if it's a bird, rabbit, possum or hedgehog that's been hit.  But what if it's a dog or a cat, or a sheep or horse?  Some of us have had that experience and it's sickening, but if you know what to do for the best, it can help you deal with the situation.
soap nut treeThe Soap Nut or Soap Berry is an extraordinary tree that produces a nut with high saponin content. Saponin is a natural antimicrobial detergent, which lathers when it is wet and rubbed. It is a great environmentally friendly alternative to commercial chemical laundry detergents.

Ajoining wiret some point on your lifestyle block you'll need to join 2 wires together on a fence line.

buying a tractorBuying a tractor, whether it's new or used, is a big investment - in terms of what you'll pay to buy it or what you'll spend on maintaining it. Or both, in some cases. There are a huge range of options when you're contemplating a tractor for a lifestyle block, options that will be influenced by individual circumstances. If you have little experience with tractors, it's easy to get confused. The most important thing is to think the purchase through before rushing in and buying.

elephants earsThis large, luscious Tahitian interloper has leathery deep green arrow-shaped leaves and thick trunk-like stems, supported by a fleshy underground root system.  Fragrant creamy-yellow to orange flower spikes develop into scarlet or orange berries.  Leaves and stems ooze a sticky milky sap if crushed or cut.
walnutsEver wanted to make the ultimate statement of self sufficiency at Christmas time? What about sitting around the table cracking walnuts you've grown?  Whether you pickle them, cook with them, press them into oil or eat them raw, the versatile walnut is packed with energy and protein. They also have a high fat content but studies have shown that eating a few nuts every day can have great health benefits.
periwinkleThis macho Mediterranean creeper is a hard one to get control of once it is established.  It was originally planted for its glossy green or variegated green and yellow, or green and white, leaves and striking blue-violet flowers, and unfortunately it is still found in many gardens and along roadsides where it has been dumped or planted.
figsFigs are deciduous and grow to become very large trees - making them completely unsuitable for most suburban gardens - but an ideal niche crop on a lifestyle property looking to supply an urban market. Whilst there are some orchards in New Zealand it does seem they are few and far between, especially when there could be market potential in this versatile fruit.

gateIf you've got fences, you'll need gates.

pinned gudgeonThis set of plans is for a simple set of yards, suitable for the average small lifestyle block.

growing chilliesChristopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to discover Chillies; wrongly calling them peppers because of their hot spicy flavour - which he thought was not unlike the black or white pepper he was accustomed to. Initially they were grown in Europe as an ornamental garden curiosity, but Spanish monks experimented with the brightly coloured fruit and discovered they were a great substitute for black peppercorns, which at the time were extremely expensive.
alligatorweedOriginally from Brazil, the exotic sounding alligator weed is a dangerous invader sneaking into wetlands, rivers and even subdivisions around the North Island.  It's a hollow-stemmed "super weed" with small clover-like flowers and lush, oval leaves.  Luckily it doesn't spread by seed in New Zealand, but every small fragment can form a new plant.

stockyardsIf you are going to have livestock on your lifestyle block - you'll need pens or stockyards.

saffronSaffron - Crocus Sativus has been cultivated for its valuable stigma for over 3000 years. Growing saffron is a delicate balancing act. It requires cold winters, hot summers, low humidity, just the right amount of rainfall (or irrigation) and the right type of friable free-draining soil. The areas in New Zealand ticking all these boxes are probably only Central Otago, Marlborough and Nelson. However, with a harvest so valuable it could be worth planting out a few rows in areas that potentially have a suitable microclimate.

fence postsIf you're building a fence the old fashioned way, you'll need to dig holes.

fencing act legislation boundary fence The original Fencing Act of 1908 has had many amendments over the years.  There was a major main amendment in 1979, and then the Fencing of Swimming Pool Act 1987. This article picks out the key points you need to know, including the definition of a boundary fence.

rabbitCaptain James Cook first introduced rabbits to New Zealand as an emergency food source for shipwrecked sailors.  Fortunately these first rabbits died out.  In the 1850s more rabbits were introduced from both Australia and Europe to establish and export fur trade and meat for the local market.  The rabbit flourished with no natural predators and by 1876 landowners were looking another ecological disaster in the face.  Rabbit numbers then peaked in 1890, the 1920s and in 1946.

pine nutsPine Nuts not only taste fabulous and are rich in protein, oil and a great source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), but what would pesto be without pine nuts? These delicious nuts have been used in our diet for thousands of years - they were thought to have aphrodisiac powers back in Roman times. They were used in sausages, preserved in honey and even made into wine. Remnants of pine nuts were found in the ruins of Pompeii.

fencing measuresThis article contains all the standard fencing measures you're ever likely to need.

chainsaw maintenanceChainsaws are not cheap to run, but they get really expensive with neglect and lack of servicing.  A modern chainsaw is a precision high-tech instrument running at very high revs so it needs special care.  Here are some tips provided by manufacturers, retail agents and service technicians.
growing dayliliesNot only do Daylilies have an extraordinary variety of blooms to enjoy but they are also delicious to eat. They require little space, making them an ideal commercial crop for people with only a few acres.  The buds and flowers are great added to salads, stir fry, or as a garnish in casseroles and soups. The buds can be dropped into tempura batter and deep fried.

watertankThere are many good reasons to store water. Many lifestyle farms have no access to town supply water and rely on bore or rainwater. Even if you do have access to town supply water, having a water tank for rainwater is a good idea. In some areas, having a water tank may be required when building a new house. Whatever the reason, make sure you buy the right tank for your situation.

fencing basicsMost lifestyle properties will need fencing. If you're keeping livestock, you'll need fences to keep them in.

chainsaw safetyThe chainsaw is the most dangerous tool on the farm, and its potential for damage to life and limb is underestimated every day. Keep reminding yourself that the chain on a modern saw with it's murderous teeth travels at just over 100km/hr, so you don't have a hope of stopping it or lifting it out of the way before it has made a nice wide cut into you flesh and bone.  At this speed the chain can cut through a human limb in about a third of a second.

animal welfare regulationsAs an animal owner, you have certain legal responsibilities towards your animals, and these obligations are set out in the Animal Welfare Act 1999.  In summary, the Act requires you to provide all your animals’ needs, whether physical, health or behavioural.  It is an offence not to meet these needs “according to good practice and scientific knowledge”.  You must not ill-treat any animal so that it experiences unnecessary or unreasonable pain or suffering.

growing lavender for profitLavender seems to have it all. It looks fantastic when it's flowering - painting the countryside in a haze of purple. The oil is sought after in perfume and cosmetics. Craft people love its rubbings (dried flowers) for use in all kinds of products - potpourri, drawer sachets, added to wheat bags and so on… Growers propagate plants for others to enjoy and some even breed new cultivars.

fencingFencing to subdivide a farm is a basic requirement to keep control of pasture growth.  This in turn controls stock performance.  Fencing is a major capital cost on the farm so must be planned and done well.  A quality well-planned programme will have minimal on-going maintenance costs.

honey beeAs we learned in the first part of this series, in New Zealand as in the rest of the world, honeybee numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate, and this is of concern because honeybees are hugely important as pollinators of plants. It's not really known why numbers are dwindling, but it could be a combination of parasitic (varroa) mites, lack of flowers and pesticide poisoning.

buying a chainsawA chainsaw is an essential tool on many lifestyle farms. You can pay someone to trim trees, chop firewood and remove unwanted trees but if you have your own chainsaw you can save yourself money and help keep yourself fit too. Buying the right chainsaw is essential. This LSB Smart Buyer's Guide gives you what you need to make the right choice.

growing garlicFor those people with a relatively small amount of land growing garlic may be worth considering.  Where I live, there are two stall holders at the local Farmers Markets selling garlic - both raw bulbs and smoked bulbs. It is popular with market goers - every year they sell out long before the next seasons crop has been harvested.

homekill regulationsMeat sold in NZ and exported from NZ is subject to a number of standards under the Animal Products Act, which ensures that the meat is fit for human consumption. Farmers and other livestock owners often want to kill and eat their own livestock. As this homekilled meat is not subject to any standards, no guarantee can be given as to its fitness for human consumption. Therefore, homekill regulations are designed to prevent potentially unwholesome meat from being marketed.

possumThe Australian Brushtail Possum (Trichosorus vulpecula) was introduced into New Zealand in the late 1800s to establish an export fur trade.  Only 200-300 animals were released in about 20 locations and now the population is quoted as 70 million.  The exercise was an ecological disaster and there is no way New Zealand will ever eliminate the possum. Control is the only hope.  Possums kill native wildlife (young birds and eggs) and are vectors (carriers) of bovine tuberculosis which is an enormous threat to our meat and dairy exports.

bovine tbIf you have deer or cattle on your lifestyle block you need to make sure you meet Animal Health Board (AHB) regulations - even if you only have one or two animals. Bovine Tb is an infectious disease that infects mainly the throats and lungs of animals. It can be fatal and also poses a serious risk to New Zealand's meat and dairy trade. This article contains information on the Tb Programme and your responsibilities under it.

possumKilling possums and ferrets is a horrible job, and most of us hate it.  But it has to be done, especially if we have regenerating bush, or if our land falls within a TB control area.  We can use contractors to do the job, but we still have some choice about what method is used on our land.  Pest mammals are intelligent and sensitive creatures, so we should choose a humane method.

cluster fliesCluster flies are large, slow moving, hairy, flies around 10-15mm with a dark gray to black non-metallic abdomen. They lay eggs on grass lawns and pasture in spring. The larvae of the flies feed on earthworms in grass pasture or lawn areas. Then in autumn and early winter the adult flies will move into homes and other buildings to survive the winter.

animal healthAnimals that are not healthy are not productive, and they add cost to the business.  An animal health problem - whether it is acute or chronic is a good indicator that there is something wrong with overall farm management.  This needs investigation as it's not sustainable.  Check this by animal health costs per head of stock over the year, and when the peak costs arise.

norway ratThrough the summer months the natural population of rats and mice rises as increasing quantities of food such as fruits, nuts and grains are available to them. Once autumn arrives, food sources dwindle and temperatures drop. Consequently rats and mice then begin to look for shelter and alternative food supplies. All too often they find both in our homes, sheds, chicken houses, stables and stores.

honeybeeBees are among the hardest workers on the farm and in the garden, because they work constantly to pollinate clovers, garden flowers and many crops, and they produce marketable products such as honey. Nationwide, the benefits of the pollination they do flow on to livestock production and the meat and dairy industries.  They are extremely important to agricultural and horticultural businesses. However, their numbers are falling and this is a real cause for concern.

houseflyThere are many species of fly in New Zealand. Most pose a threat to hygiene and are a nuisance to humans and animals. Flies are vectors of a large number of diseases including gastroenteritis, dysentery, typhoid, polio, salmonella and tuberculosis. Some, such as sandflies, are a direct irritant, biting humans and sometimes causing painful reactions.

low productive pasturesPasture grows well in New Zealand, and that's the key to our low-cost farm export business.  But pasture does not grow free of charge.  The cost of growing it is over 80% of the total cost of production.  So pasture must not be wasted and good pasture utilisation is a major goal of all grassland farmers.  Pastures are very variable - they are made up of grasses, clovers, weeds, bare ground and dung patches.

protected bushOver 70% of New Zealand is privately owned, and significant but threatened habitats occur mainly on private land in lowland areas - so if you own any land that is worth protecting, consider protecting it permanently by applying a covenant. Covenanting land with the help of the QEII trust is becoming more and more common.

grass grubThere is a wide range of pests in New Zealand that damage pasture.  Insect pests seem to come in cycles.  This is because there is a build up of diseases that kill them or reduce their population, and this takes time.  Insect pests that have arrived from overseas (eg clover weevil, bee varroa mite, painted apple moth) are a major hazard as they have no natural predators in New Zealand.

farm effluentWherever you have farm animals there will be effluent (faeces and urine).  Farm effluent carries the risk of diseases and can be spread this way.  Grazing stock will spread their effluent on the paddock, but it will be in highly concentrated areas.  Effluent collected in ponds or septic tanks has to be spread on the land, and this must be done correctly.

cats and the countrysideNew Zealand "moggies" are due for a lifestyle change, and the outrage will come from their owners and not the cats, as felines are a very adaptable species.  The message is that cats should be confined at night.  New Zealanders accept that dogs must be under control at all times, but cannot accept that the same rule should apply to cats.

Gin trap banned at lastAt last, gin traps have been banned.  Not only that but the larger 'leg-hold' traps that can trap their victims by soft parts of their body have been banned too.  These new regulations under the Animal Welfare Act are long overdue.  I believe that gin traps and the size 1½ plus leg-hold traps are often very cruel and they have caused millions of animals intense pain and suffering.  Not just pest animals either.  Many non-target species such as hedgehogs and even cats, dogs and birds are caught in leg-hold traps every year.

waterThe answer to this question is usually a series of questions about the animal's liveweight, size, activity, physiological state (pregnant, lactating, etc) - all of which affect daily intake. Then of course there is the ambient temperature and humidity of the farm and the amount of shade on offer.  So all this makes you realise how dangerous an "average" figure is. But you need some kind of figure for planning water supply systems, so here are some that have been around for years.

Weeds are plants that grow in the wrong place, they have a big negative visual image for the property. People make assumptions that weeds mean poor management but getting rid of weeds can easily become an obsession and create a lot of stress to land owners.

Soil erosion is a natural process, where soils is stripped from the earth's surface and moved to another location. This can be caused by wind, water (rainfall, rivers or the sea) or ice. 

mudwGood drainage is the basis of a healthy productive soil. 

walnuts1wA report following a Tree Crops Association field day.

Tony & Chris Wilson In March our Branch held a field day near Cambridge at the property of Tony and Chris Wilson.

blackberryAlthough blackberry is found in most districts of New Zealand it is mainly a problem weed in Northland, Central and Eastern districts of the North Island, Nelson and the West Coast.

inkweedA soft-wooded, bushy and leafy perennial that grows up to 2 metres tall or more. The flowers are green and are followed by dense cylindrical clusters of dark purple berries.

chickweed3Chickweed (sometimes called field chickweed) is an annual that is low growing and sprawling and can grow up to 70cm across.

scotch thistleScotch and nodding thistles are common in New Zealand pastures.

hedge mustardHedge mustard is also sometimes referred to as wireweed or tumble weed.

giant buttercupGiant Buttercup is a hairy perennial, with erect solid stems up to 1.5 m tall. It grows from a stout rhizome.

cali thistleA perennial thistle with far-creeping root system, each plant sending up many aerial shoots in the spring, which seed and die in the autumn.

Most pastures in New Zealand consist of mixtures of both grasses and clovers.

Creeping yellow cressA weed that belongs to the brassica family, creeping yellow cress is found in cultivated ground, damp pasture and river beds.

oxeye daisyOxeye daisy is a perennial weed commonly found in poor and wetter pastures – especially where there is pugging and is common on dairy pasture sidelings in the Waikato.

stinking mayweedStinking mayweed is an annual that grows up to 40cm high and flowers from December to March.  Flowers are white and yellow and 15-30mm across.

The new interest in ornamental grasses is potentially bad news for Northland farmers.

Everyone needs to do their bit to control wild ginger. The name wild ginger is applied to two species. The most common and most invasive of the two is the seed bearing kahili ginger, with the non-seeding yellow ginger being less common and also less invasive.

cali thistleTopping two or three times a year, and a follow-up grazing, provides very good Californian thistle control.

 

stinging nettleStinging nettle is an erect annual that grows up to 60cm tall.

tutsan1Tutsan is a semi woody, semi evergreen, perennial shrub that grows upto 1.5m tall. 

bnightBlack nightshade is an annual to short-lived perennial plant that has white or mauve flowers followed by berries that are first green, but change to black as they ripen.

impatiensLike a giant version of the much loved busy Lizzies, shrub balsam can reach up to 2m in height.

japanesehoneysuckleThis vine from Asia first established in the wild in New Zealand as early as 1926.

fenceWhen fencing, various materials and methods can be combined to provide a suitable fence for any situation.

EzepullThere are some basic tools which are necessary to build strong, secure, reliable fences.

fencepostswStrainer posts are used at the beginning and end of the fence.

pigKeep domestic animals in. Separate different groups of animals.

A power fence is a psychological barrier that keeps farm animals in and wild animals and vermin out - even over long distances.fencingelecw

fencingThe question we are asked the most is "where do I start?"

fencenergiserwLightning will damage your energizer if it strikes your electric fence.

fence earthAn earth peg acts like an aerial and collects electrons from the ground.

fencingIt is low cost compared to conventional fencing. This is a major advantage where capital expenditure has to be controlled or reduced.

fencingwTo denote the legal boundary of your property. This has large legal implications and a proper permanent boundary fence as defined under Fencing Law is required.

fencing1wElectric fences are one of the most common causes of interference when transmitting data.

fence energiserwAmpere (A): Unit of current. Watts divided by voltage.

treesIts not the time to be complacent with your young trees especially in these warm conditions. Here’s a few tips:

You need to find out whether the pesticides you use require you to become an “approved handler”.

possumPossums seriously damage our native forest. They eat the berries and flowers that are food for native birds. Birds’ eggs and chicks are also predated.

stoatNew Zealand has three introduced mustelid species.

magpieMagpies behave aggressively towards people as they defend their territory and young throughout their breeding months of July to November.

rabbitRabbits were introduced into New Zealand from Europe in the 1830's to 1850's to provide fur, meat and game.

Nitrogen acts as a growth promoter in plants.  It’s the easiest and usually the cheapest way to grow more feed.

Clover is in the legume family along with plants like lucerne, Lotus species, lupins and gorse. They all have little nodules on their roots where bacteria called Rhizobia species live.

cattle in paddockWhen applying fertilisers such as superphosphate and basic slag this spring, remember to make sure animals don't ingest fertiliser with the pasture.

pasturegrass1You’ve probably heard about endophyte in pasture grasses.  Nature has created some interesting partnerships - two are now good news for New Zealand livestock farmers.

runoutpasturewWhen a pasture looks worn and weary, it may be time to renew it, but avoid doing it instantly – plan the job for best results.

sheepgrazingwMost farmers think they know how to manage pastures by moving stock around the paddocks, but there’s more to it than that. Pasture is the cheapest livestock feed - when it’s grazed.

The farm is constantly covered in tall grass, and weeds, especially docks and thistles, are always rampant. From a distance it looks like an over-mature hay paddock.

cattleyoungwThe main tool for pasture managemet is the grazing animal. The animal harvests its own pasture feed, and its grazing maintains pasture plants in the leafy stage.

pasturesheepWhat to do with a feed surplus: Make hay, silage or “baleage” with pasture during the spring flush. Making hay in autumn is almost impossible, because shorter days are not hot enough for good drying.

pasture1wThis is the first in a series of four articles on pasture renovation by Dr Deric Charlton.

seedbagswThis is the second in a series of four articles on pasture renovation by Dr Deric Charlton.

pasturesheepwThis is the third in a series of four articles on pasture renovation by Dr Deric Charlton.

pasturewThis is the fourth in a series of four articles on pasture renovation by Dr Deric Charlton.

chicoryflowerwIf you farm livestock then you now have a range of forage plants to grow for feed as well as good pastures.

willowwWillows are already well known for supplying timber that makes excellent cricket bats, and as a source of aspirin (along with poplars), but they are also very useful on the land.

oatswIn recent years there has been a marked increase in the use of cereals for supplementary grazing and silage for dairying.

balagewDon’t assume that you'll get through the year without any supplementary feed. 

poplarwWhen you plant poplar trees on a farm in New Zealand you add beauty, feed, shelter and possibly timber.

chicorywChicory as forage is moderately persistent and has a strong deep taproot and a rosette of broad succulent leaves.

Ranging from low weeds to large bushes the nightshades all have one thing in common – they are definitely not for eating.   Of interest is the fact that, while we are likely to refer to the small varieties as ‘deadly nightshade’, that is actually a whole different species (Atropa bella-donna) which is extremely rare in New Zealand.

There are two native nightshades (Solanum aviculare and Solanum laciniatum) both known by their Maori name of ‘poroporo’.  Tall and spreading bushes with  long and heavily veined and hairless dark green leaves, green or purplish stems, trumpet shaped mauve flowers with yellow centres, and drooping single oval green berries which turn orange as they ripen.

Famously known as the poison which killed Socrates, hemlock is alive and living in New Zealand, and is still capable of causing death or at least birth defects in pregnant animals which eat the foliage. 

Barley grass is one of nature’s survivors.  Not only does it grow where and when other grasses fail to thrive, but it has developed a flexible seeding technique which allows it to grow unnoticed until the day length, temperature and soil moisture level is suitable for seedhead development and dispersal.

Has a cheerful yellow tinge spread across the tops of your pasture in the last month?  If so, it’s just the various buttercups telling you “Here we are again!"

Hedge mustard is a sneaky weed.  Initially it grows as a flattish rosette, and may, to the uninitiated, look like a dandelion.  But the indentations (or teeth) in the leaves go right to the stem with a slight gap between each, and the stems themselves turn purple from the centre outwards.

Cleavers is that maddening hairy/clingy weed which appears everywhere in early summer and climbs through, round and over grasses and low shrubs, trying to smother everything. Sometimes mistakenly called bidibidi (which is a NZ native with much larger hooked spheres as seedpods), the seeds, stems and round seed pods catch and cling to clothing and animal hair.

Do you remember seeing photos of brides from the 1930s each clutching a huge and unwieldy spray of what are commonly called arum lilies?  They grew so well in New Zealand that they could be found in most gardens some years ago.

The paddock and roadside nasties are taking advantage of the advance of more spring like weather, and the base rosettes of several types of thistle are already appearing, particularly in bare spots.  So now is the time to attack before they shoot upwards.

When is a weed not a weed?  Well possibly when it’s a plantain. The Saxons recorded the broad leafed variety as one of the nine sacred herbs, and migrants through the ages have taken it with them to other countries, so that in countries like New Zealand and America it has often been called ‘Englishman’s foot’.

“Write about fireweed” said a friend, “I’ve got it growing all over the place”. But ’fireweed’ is one of those all-embracing terms which attaches itself to different plants in different places.  And all these plants have one thing in common – they are the first to colonise soils exposed by forest fires or forest clearing.

These days, with the heavy emphasis on achieving maximum production from our pastures, the ‘preferred’ species are perennial ryegrasses and white clover.  Yorkshire Fog (or velvet grass as it is known in the US) is generally regarded as a ‘nuisance’ grass, almost classified as a weed.

Despite their alarming names these are two rather inoffensive weeds, more often found in gardens and crops rather than pasture as they prefer loose, fertile soils.

Although they have different scientific names they are both members of the Lamiaceae, and to the unitiated eye they can appear identical.

With un-mown lawns and pasture sprinkled with the cheerful yellow flowers of dandelions and other ‘flatweeds’ at this time of year it seemed a good time to investigate the various different species to find their names and characteristics.

thistleThistles were already a problem in New Zealand by the 1850s. They were probably introduced accidentally by early farmers in seed mixtures, and are now a nation-wide problem. There are over a dozen species of thistles in New Zealand,

Are you wanting to identify an unknown weed, but not sure where to start? Here are some useful information sources:

Stinking mayweed is an annual that grows up to 40cm high and flowers from December to March.  Flowers are white and yellow and 15-30mm across.  Leaves are feathery and dark green, grow up to 8cm long and are divided three times into awl shaped segments. 

Barley grass is one of nature’s survivors.  Not only does it grow where and when other grasses fail to thrive, but it has developed a flexible seeding technique which allows it to grow unnoticed until the day length, temperature and soil moisture level is suitable for seedhead development and dispersal.

Despite their alarming names these are two rather inoffensive weeds, more often found in gardens and crops rather than pasture as they prefer loose, fertile soils.

Although they have different scientific names they are both members of the Lamiaceae, and to the unitiated eye they can appear identical.

“Write about fireweed” said a friend, “I’ve got it growing all over the place”. But ’fireweed’ is one of those all-embracing terms which attaches itself to different plants in different places.  And all these plants have one thing in common – they are the first to colonise soils exposed by forest fires or forest clearing.

Do you remember seeing photos of brides from the 1930s each clutching a huge and unwieldy spray of what are commonly called arum lilies?  They grew so well in New Zealand that they could be found in most gardens some years ago.

But like so many introduced plants from other parts of the world moderation was left behind in the host country, and they took off here like weeds in any damp places they could find, including pasture, particularly in the northern North Island.

 

Ranging from low weeds to large bushes the nightshades all have one thing in common – they are definitely not for eating.   Of interest is the fact that, while we are likely to refer to the small varieties as ‘deadly nightshade’, that is actually a whole different species (Atropa bella-donna) which is extremely rare in New Zealand.

There are two native nightshades (Solanum aviculare and Solanum laciniatum) both known by their Maori name of ‘poroporo’.  Tall and spreading bushes with  long and heavily veined and hairless dark green leaves, green or purplish stems, trumpet shaped mauve flowers with yellow centres, and drooping single oval green berries which turn orange as they ripen.

Famously known as the poison which killed Socrates, hemlock is alive and living in New Zealand, and is still capable of causing death or at least birth defects in pregnant animals which eat the foliage. .  Regarded as  a noxious weed in many parts of NZ, if it appears on or around your land, it would pay to check its status with your local regional council.

tree lucerneTagasaste or tree lucerne is a perennial forage shrub or small tree that grows well in mild, temperate climates. It can provide good feed for farm livestock maintenance and for wool growth, and provides shelter from chilling winds. It also supplies good firewood where that is needed.
hayHay is the oldest form of conserved feed.  But you need to be careful before you part with your money, especially if you are buying when there is a shortage.

hayA guest contribution and pearls of wisdom from Lois Mundell after a lifetime in the business.

Book in early and state clearly what you want the contractor to do. For example, do you want mowing and baling, or baling only, or the whole job done including putting it in your hayshed? Once in the system don't try to jump the queue. Contractors know that all their customers want their hay in "yesterday" so they can go to the beach for Christmas.

The horror of last year's drought is still very much in the memory of anyone who had to buy silage - when a $60 bale sold for $200, without any question about feed quality.

Feed budgets are needed to make sure there is enough feed on the farm to meet the needs of the stock.  Doing a budget gives you the confidence to know what's going on - and if you have a feed deficit coming up, you can see it in good time and are not caught out.  In a grazing situation, start a regular monthly feed budget in autumn from the date when the animal feed needs exceed pasture growth on your farm.  Stop when your feed supply exceeds the animal needs in spring.

dowsing water diviningProbably the most important aspect to learning to dowse for water, is practicing. No amount of reading about it will give you the skill. Once learned though, you will use this skill for the rest of your life to position water pipes and other under ground cables and pipes.

soilwFertiliser is the most expensive input on most farms – so you can’t afford to make mistakes or get ripped off through ignorance.  Go to the appropriate place to get the soil test kit.  Soil testing labs, fertiliser companies or stock and station produce stores have them and so do some vet clinics. In the kit will be a set of plastic bags and instructions.  They will also give you a returnable soil auger.

effluent systemsAs the lot sizes are smaller than in the past your neighbours are closer than ever, therefore what you do directly impacts on your neighbours, e.g. on traditionally larger farms generally your nearest neighbour would not even be within sight.
puggingSoils are a farmer’s most valuable resource so every effort should be made to keep them in good physical and biological health. Moist and wet soils are less able to support the weight of grazing stock than dry soils, so treading on moist soils can lead to compaction and, on wet soils, animal hooves cause pugging damage.

It is important you have a thorough knowledge of the way your bike operates before you start riding it. When you are familiar with it, you are more likely to know when something is wrong and how to go about fixing it.

The following information should help you as a lifestyle block owner, to make an informed decision when purchasing a new or used ATV.

Machinery and Equipment you will need or want on a lifestyle block is directly related to the jobs you are likely need it for. Here is a basic list of the jobs you are likely to carry out on your lifestyle block:

When planning a lifestyle change in 1992 Mark and Caroline Eastmond purchased a house and 20 acre paddock just outside Waiau township in North Canterbury.

There are a number of matters that an owner should consider and record when planning the development of his or her land. This is of particular importance if it is proposed to move into a commercial phase at some time in the future.

food scraps pigsFeeding food waste that might contain meat to your pigs?  You must boil it for an hour first

There is a real risk that infected meat will be smuggled into this country and some of it fed to pigs, very possibly on a lifestyle farm.  So if you have a pig on your farm, please read the following – it’s very important.

Ragwort is often a problem on cattle and horse properties as it is very poisonous. Sheep are less susceptible to ragwort poisoning but can suffer liver damage, which can eventually lead to death.

Spurrey is an erect or sprawling annual plant that can grow very densely and effect crop establishment. This weed is commonly found in cultivated land, gardens, roadways, bare ground and sand dunes. It is sometimes referred to as Yarr.

A perennial that is often found in damp pastures. The flowers are purple and will appear in late summer (Jan-Mar)

Also commonly referred to as “Amaranthus”, these weeds are widely spread throughout New Zealand, and get their name from the reddish colour towards the base of the plant and tap root. They are commonly found in arable crops and can grow up to 1 metre high.

Fathen is very common throughout New Zealand but is especially abundant in arable districts. Growing mainly in spring and summer, this erect weed can grow up to 2m tall.

Hemlock thrives in damp conditions and is commonly found throughout New Zealand in ditches and riverbeds as well as on banks and roadsides. This weed quickly establishes in waste areas where there is no other plant competition.

There are several species of dock that are commonly found in New Zealand pastures and crops.  Broad-leaved dock is the most common, however curled dock and fiddle docks are also very prevalent. 

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a spine bearing, nitrogen fixing bush.  Originally from southern Europe, gorse is now easily New Zealand’s most widespread and problematic brushweed. 

Redroot is the name given to a group of 3 closely related Amaranthus species and a fourth species that is similar to redroot is Amaranthus viridis – purple amaranth.

A perennial that is often found in damp pastures. The flowers are purple and will appear in late summer (Jan-Mar)

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a spine bearing, nitrogen fixing bush.  Originally from southern Europe, gorse is now easily New Zealand’s most widespread and problematic brushweed. 

Although blackberry (Rubus fruiticosus complex) is found in most districts of New Zealand it is mainly a problem weed in Northland, Central and Eastern districts of the North Island, Nelson and the West Coast.

chinese privetOriginally widely used as a hedging plant, Chinese privet was planted extensively throughout towns and rural areas as hedging. It has small, glossy, bright green leaves with smooth edges, and it produces tiny, smelly, creamy flowers from October to January, followed by bluish or purplish-black berry-like fruit with a powdery coating.

The first in a new series on Sustainable Farming - what it is and what you need to understand to know you're doing the right thing. This article looks at the question "What is sustainable farming?"

In a nutshell, the soil is the basis of all farm productivity. The soil is where you start planning your sustainability programme. New Zealand has a wide range of soil types (more than 1000), and it's important to know what kind of soil you have.

Soil health is not easy to define, but it is vital to the health of the plants that grow in it, and the animals that graze it. Many believe that it's also the basis of consumer health and welfare. The concept of a "living soil" is real and describes the large amount of micro organisms in the soil. For example there are 1600kg/ha of bacteria, 2000kg/ha of fungi and 800kg/ha of earthworms. Healthy soils are fertile and rich in organic matter and humus, have a good crumb structure and are porous.

Pugging happens when grazing animals tread wet soils and sink in to the pasture surface and leave large holes.  Continual pugging will lead to the paddock looking like brown soup. The delicate crumb structure of the soil is broken down.  The crumbs are smeared by the pounding action of the feet, and the soil air is squashed out.

waterIt is good advice when looking at a new property to inspect the water supply before  you look at anything else.  Water is needed for domestic use, for livestock to drink, for yard washing and cleaning farm dairy equipment, and for irrigating pasture or crops. The requirements for all these uses are different.

This question is of greatest concern to small lifestyle farmers.  There is such a wide choice of species - some of which do not have their feeding needs well established. The interaction between species is important, especially in relation to internal parasites that can affect more than the one species. Then there is the question of what classes of stock to keep within each species. Fencing and water supply must be considered. Soil type and drainage is also an important point to consider.  Livestock do not like mud, especially those prone to feet problems like sheep and goats.

Ride on mowers

Grass is a wonderful thing. On a lifestyle farm we usually either have too much or too little and the grass that does grow is often not where we need it - on the lawn, not the paddock! This article covers the things you need to consider when buying a ride on and lists the 9 really important things you should discuss with your salesperson.

cattle drinkingAll animals require ready access to drinking water, particularly in hot dry weather.  Sheep, cattle and other ruminants have fluid-filled fore stomachs, and horses have a fluid-filled large intestine, so they must have water to keep their digestive systems operating well. In hot weather, all mammals lose water in their breath, and the rate of water loss is increased by panting and/or sweating.

One good thing about a serious drought is that it makes people in both town and country realise that if it doesn't rain, how very vulnerable we humans are, especially farmers who rely on pastures to make a living. Suddenly people are realising that water is a lot more important than oil - and that it too has a cost.

wateOne good thing about a serious drought is that it makes people in both town and country realise that if it doesn't rain, how very vulnerable we humans are, especially farmers who rely on pastures to make a living. Suddenly people are realising that water is a lot more important than oil - and that it too has a cost.

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