Weather takes gloss off sheep and beef

This promised to be the season when sheep and beef farmers would get a decent return.

It started well but the weather is taking the gloss off the market.

High temperatures, wind and no rain are leaving farmers with too little feed, forcing stock on to the market at lower weights, and prices, than budgeted.

In the last few days I’ve driven from North Otago, through the Pig Route to Millers Flat, on to Wanaka, over the Crown Range to Queenstown, back to Wanaka then home through the Lindis Pass.

The only paddocks with decent feed were irrigated.

Last year farmers struggled to get crop in because it was too wet. This year those on dry land are facing poor harvests because it’s too dry.

It’s not officially a drought yet but it’s very, very dry and the whole of Otago is now under a total fire ban.

13 Responses to Weather takes gloss off sheep and beef

  1. Grass not growing in the dry?
    Too shallow rooted, perhaps?
    Unsuitable species for the conditions?
    Perhaps farmers in drought-prone areas could grow drought-tolerant plants that are palatable to livestock but are not grasses?
    Perhaps new ways of farming should be explored for those regions where drought is becoming more regular?
    Could it be that the humus content of the soil in these regions is insufficient? Humus is a very efficient water-retainer.
    Could trees provide the answer to re-greening desiccated regions?
    Who can say?

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  2. Mr E says:

    Grass not growing in the dry?
    That seems to be the theme of the post.

    Too shallow rooted, perhaps?
    That seems to be the theme of the post.

    Unsuitable species for the conditions?
    That is a complex question. Many farmers have tried alternatives but it seems so often that grasses are the most satisfactory forage. Lucerne would come a close second in drought prone regions. Probably the deepest rooting forage you will ever find.

    Perhaps farmers in drought-prone areas could grow drought-tolerant plants that are palatable to livestock but are not grasses?
    As above: Lucerne is a widely grown plant.
    Other alternatives exist such as chicory, plantain, lotus, sulla, etc
    Willows were widely researched and promoted as a forage in Balclutha. They have never taken off, as I think they are generally seen as impractical. Farmers do continue to use willow for land stability but not so much as forage.

    Perhaps new ways of farming should be explored for those regions where drought is becoming more regular?
    Farmers are constantly reviewing new techniques. That is what makes NZ farmers the best in the world.

    Could it be that the humus content of the soil in these regions is insufficient? Humus is a very efficient water-retainer.
    Generallly what is good for plant growth is good for organic matter build up. Droughts are bad for plant growth and so limits organic matter build up.

    Could trees provide the answer to re-greening desiccated regions?

    Where there is a agronomic or economic advantage, I would suggest they do. Again farmers are pretty good as assessing this opportunity.

    Who can say?

    Farmers can say.

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  3. Only farmers can say?

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  4. Willdwan says:

    I have just endured two droughts in the Waikato. So far this year seems ok. I’m altering my stocking rate back to favour sheep, which seem to handle it better. And I’m planting 20ha of lucerne in March. We have plenty of trees. Irrigation not an option with our contour.
    There are many things you can do, all are helpful, but in the end, if it doesn’t rain you’re pretty stuffed. That’s farming.

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  5. Paranormal says:

    Wildwan we’ve survived those two dry years in the South Waikato as well. Thankfully this year seems to have been exceptional for growth, despite the cool start in spring. Whilst it’s drying off now, this is later than normal for us.

    I did think of the dry areas in the South Island as I drove through heavy rain between Parawera and Mangakino on Thursday.

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  6. Mr E says:

    Only you would say that Robert.

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  7. That’s farming as practiced presently

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  8. Conditions are changing. farming must change. Mr E suggested some initiatives in response to expectations of drought, but they are not enough – if they were, no one would be worried about the dry, dry conditions around the country. Where are the innovative, outside-of-the-square ideas that will see growers through the various climatic challenges that AGW is bringing? Lucerne? That was a start, some time ago. Where’s the immediate, now thinking?? I hear plenty from the people I meet daily, but here, not so much. Come on E and co. Let’s hear the latest.

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  9. Practised, practiced, so difficult to know… I plump for the former.

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  10. Ele keeps my comments in moderation for up to 8 hours. That’s debate-engineering on a non-democratic scale of “lose’.

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  11. Paranormal says:

    You’re not the only one RG so suck it up. I rate Ele because she is open minded enough to keep putting up with some of the rubbish commented here. Ultimately this is Ele’s place and we play by her rules.

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  12. Ray says:

    Ultimately this is Ele’s place and we play by her rules.
    Grasping the principle of private ownership has always been a struggle for socialists and greens.
    The sense of entitlement/self-importance is great in this one.

    Like

  13. Mr E says:

    Seasonal fluctuations will be dealt with as they always have. When it comes to livestock farming by either reducing feed demand or increasing feed supply. There are dozens of techniques that farmers use and have used for millennia. So fear not Robert.

    If you are talking about climate change adaptation – That is a slow but subtle change. Farmers ability to manage this is phenomenal. People like Willdwan do things like slowly increasing Lucerne crops or reducing stocking rates. But there are dozens if not hundreds of things that can be done. Many of these opportunities have existed for generations and millennia. Farmers adopt them as they respond to climate adjustments.

    Even climate change affecting extreme weather events will happen over time. For many areas these extremes are predicted to occur with greater frequency. As they occur more frequently or with greater significance, systems will need to adapt to buffer
    Here are obvious some examples:
    Improved use of irrigation
    Raising flood banks

    Such technologies have exisited for over 5000 years, and farmers are pretty good at assessing the need for such opportunities. Of recent times farmers have said we need more water. The government has cleverly taken steps to support that call.

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