The d word

April 17, 2010

The Oamaru Mail has headlined the d word: Drought declaration looms for Otago region.

We had a short, sharp downpour on Thursday which has taken the pressure off us but we’ve got irrigation, scale and diversity.

It was a very localised rain and even those who got as much as we did will still be facing some tought decisions if they’re dryland farming.

North Otago has been dogged by droughts since farming started here – and no doubt before.

This dry is unusual because it’s taken so long for public acknowledgement.

When there wasn’t much irrigation, all farmers stopped spending when the weather got dry and it didn’t take long for the town to fell the impact.

I think now there’s now enough irrigation to keep the money flowing into Oamaru so the town hasn’t been affected the way it was in the past.

We look across green pasture to dry paddocks in the distant and are grateful we’ve got irrigation. It must be hard for those on the dryland looking back the other way as they run short of feed and have to face up to quitting stock.

There was a dusting of snow on the Kakanui mountains yesterday morning. It was gone by lunchtime but it’s a sign that temperatures are dropping so even if the region gets more rain soon, it will be too late for pre-winter growth.

One good thing about the decrease in the sheep population is that there is plenty of space at the freezing works so farmers needing to reduce stock will have somewhere to send them.

Lambs are selling for about $75 dollars and ewes for around $55. Two year old beef cattle are fetching about $950.

It may not be a fortune but it has been much worse.

When the ag-sag of the 80s coincided with a drought some farmers got bills when they sent stock to the works because transport and killing charges exceeded the value of the animals.

PS Contact details for the Rural Support Trust which helps rural families facing an adverse event – climatic, financial or personal – are on this website.


Fewer ewes but more lambs expected

August 6, 2009

It’s less than 20 years since New Zealanders had more than 20 sheep each – there more around 70 million sheep and only 3 million people.

The human population has risen to more than 4 million and the ovine population is now around half what it was at its peak so we now have fewer than 8 sheep each.

Meat and Wool New Zealand’s latest survey  records a total sheep population of just 33.14 million.

The ewe population has dropped 3.4% in the past year to 22.7 million, the lowest since 1951-52. The number of hoggets dropped 2% to 9.4 million.

The decline in numbers was casued by drought and dairy conversions. But in spite of fewer ewes and hoggets this season’s lamb crop is expected to increase 2.1% to 27.81 million.

Beef cattle numbers also dropped. There were 40.7 million of them at the end of June, 1.7% fewer than last year.

The fall in numbers while demand for lamb remains firm should give farmers reasonable prices this season.

But price rises based on falling supply aren’t nearly as good for the long term health of the meat industry as those based on increased demand.

Falling numbers will also focus attention on the problem of excess capacity at freezing works.


Saturday’s smiles

August 23, 2008

This came in an email from a friend who got it from a friend, who got it from a friend… I have no idea who the author was.

 

 

The sun was hot already – it was only 8 o’clock


The cocky took off in his Ute, to go and check his stock.
He drove around the paddocks checking wethers, ewes and lambs,
The float valves in the water troughs, the windmills on the dams.He stopped and turned a windmill on to fill a water tank
And saw a ewe down in the dam, a few yards from the bank.
“Typical bloody sheep,” he thought, “they’ve got no common sense,
“They won’t go through a gateway but they’ll jump a bloody fence.”

The ewe was stuck down in the mud, he knew without a doubt
She’d stay there ’til she carked it if he didn’t get her out. 
But when he reached the water’s edge, the startled ewe broke free
And in her haste to get away, began a swimming spree.

 

 

He reckoned once her fleece was wet, the weight would drag her down


If he didn’t rescue her, the stupid sod would drown.
Her style was unimpressive, her survival chances slim
He saw no other option, he would have to take a swim.He peeled his shirt and singlet off, his trousers, boots and socks
And as he couldn’t stand wet clothes, he also shed his jocks.
He jumped into the water and away that cocky swam
He caught up with her, somewhere near the middle of the dam

The ewe was quite evasive, she kept giving him the slip
He tried to grab her sodden fleece but couldn’t get a grip.
At last he got her to the bank and stopped to catch his breath
She showed him little gratitude for saving her from death.

She took off like a Bondi tram around the other side
He swore next time he caught that ewe he’d hang her bloody hide.
Then round and round the dam they ran, although he felt quite puffed
He still thought he could run her down, she must be nearly stuffed.

The local stock rep came along, to pay a call that day.
He knew this bloke was on his own, his wife had gone away
He didn’t really think he’d get fresh scones for morning tea
But nor was he prepared for what he was about to see.

He rubbed his eyes in disbelief at what came into view
For running down the catchment came this frantic-looking ewe.
And on her heels in hot pursuit and wearing not a stitch
The farmer yelling wildly “Come back here, you lousy bitch!”

The stock rep didn’t hang around, he took off in his car
The cocky’s reputation has been damaged near and far
So bear in mind the Work Safe rule when next you check your flocks
Spot the hazard, assess the risk, and always wear your jocks!

 


Fewer lambs but still enough chops for bbq

August 10, 2008

The t-shirt which proclaimed New Zealand’s ewenique – 60 million sheep can’t be wrong is well out of date with the national flock now down by more than a third from that number according to Meat and Wool New Zealand’s report on the year to June 2008. 

 

Breeding ewes dropped by 9.5% from 26.063m to 23.59m; and total sheep numbers declined 11.2% from 38.461m to 34.150m. This is the lowest number of breeding ewes since 1952 and the lowest total of sheep we’ve had since 1050.

 

The estimated lamb crop was 31.836m in June last year and declined by 13.4% to 27.599m.  Hogget numbers are estimated to have decreased 16.2% with a drop in the North Island of 7% and 26.6% in the South,

 

The sharp drop in numbers is attributed to concerns about the profitability of the sheep industry, last season’s drought and more attractive alternative land uses, especially dairy and dairy support.

 

Ewe condition at mating was poor because dry weather led to inadequate flushing feed and consequently lower rates of conception.

 

Scanning shows a lot of variability but the decline in ewe and hogget numbers mated and a lower expected lambing percentage is expected to lead to a decline in the total lamb crop of 4.2 million or 13.4%. 

 

Beef cattle are estimated to have decreased by between 0.3and 19.6 per cent although this was partially offset by herd rebuilding in Gisborne and of Hawke’s Bay.

 

These figures will be sobering reading for the meat industry. Kill numbers are expected to be down by 9 million in total throughout New Zealand. To put that into perspective a plant like Alliance’s Pukeuri works would kill about 2 million sheep a season.

 

That would indicate that closing of freezing works has not finished. However, Frogblog draws a long bow in concluding summer’s bbq chops are at risk because of dairy conversions. The 34 million sheep left will still provide enough chops and sausages.

 

The Frog is also wrong in asserting:

 

It’s funny how short term economic decisions, like the mad rush to industrial dairy, have long term economic, environmental and social consequences like climate change, water pollution and, it seems, diet.

 

There is nothing short term or purely economic about the decision to convert from sheep farming to dairy. It is a huge investment which is not undertaken lightly and has to be for the long term.

 

There are many positive social consequences from dairying which requires more staff and so leads to an increase in population, a boost in school rolls and the creation of jobs in servicing and support which flows on to rural towns.

 

Dairying doesn’t automatically lead to water pollution either. Regional Councils are taking a very strict approach to breaches of consent and the pollution of waterways and there are a lot of proactive approaches to safeguarding the environment from farmers, irrigation companies and dairy companies.

 


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