Big drop in lamb drop

08/10/2013

The headline says: farmers predict big lamb drop.

Anyone familiar with farming would interpret that as prediction that lots of lambs would be born.

But the story says the opposite:

Federated Farmers is predicting that lamb numbers could be down by more than three million this year, mainly due to the impact of the North Island and western South Island drought.

That’s a drop of a million on what Beef and Lamb New Zealand’s economic service forecast last month. . .

The big refers to the drop in the drop, not the drop itself.

While the numbers of lambs being born is down the numbers surviving is good thanks to relatively kind weather – so far.


Lamb drop 2m down because of drought

06/09/2013

The impact of last season’s drought in the North Island has taken a siginifcant toll on stock numbers.

Last season’s North Island drought has dented New Zealand’s sheep and cattle numbers and this spring’s lamb crop is expected to be 2 million lambs less – down 7.7 per cent to 24.43 million head.

The Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Economic Service annual stock number survey confirms what many predicted, following the recent prolonged and extensive drought. The survey provides the country’s sheep and beef sector with a prediction of the productive base of livestock for the 2013-14 season.

While both sheep and cattle numbers fell – 1 per cent and 1.3 per cent respectively – it is the lamb crop that reflects the drought’s impact most significantly.

The export lamb slaughter for 2013-14 is expected to be 18.6 million head, a decrease of 8.5 per cent and the export cattle slaughter is forecast to decrease 2.7 per cent to 2.2 million head in 2013-14.

This will have a big impact on the meat industry and also on other businesses which service and supply farms including shearers and stock firms.

B+LNZ Economic Service Chief Economist, Andrew Burtt says the drought conditions affected ewe condition at mating and, consequently, scanning results were variable across the North Island.

“We’re expecting lambing percentages to be down by up to 20 percentage points in the regions worst hit by drought in the north. The South Island fared better and scanning results were down only a few percentage points – and that’s against last season, which was favourable in the south.”

Overall, sheep numbers were down 1 per cent to 30.94 million head at 30 June 2013, compared to 31.26 million a year earlier.

Mr Burtt says breeding ewe numbers were also down 1 per cent overall, but the numbers in each island moved in opposite directions. “Ewe numbers in the North Island decreased by 2.7 per cent to 9.52 million, while South Island ewe numbers were almost static (+0.5%) at 10.69 million.

“Hogget numbers reflected a similar pattern – back 1.3 per cent overall, but down 3.5 per cent in the north and up 1 per cent in the south.”

Meanwhile, cattle numbers fell 1.3 per cent to 3.69 million head at 30 June 2013, from 3.73 million in 2012. “Again, the North Island figures tell the drought story, with numbers back 2.5 per cent – with particularly large decreases in East Coast and Taranaki-Manawatu – while the South Island’s cattle numbers rose 1.8 per cent.”

The full report is at Beef + Lamb’s website.


Rural round-up

11/08/2013

Formula firms see orders cancelled – Christopher Adams:

Kiwi baby formula companies are having orders cancelled in China and contract negotiations with Chinese customers terminated as a result of Fonterra’s botulism contamination crisis, says an industry group.

Chris Claridge, chief administration officer of the New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association, said $40 million worth of the group’s products were immediately at risk.

“That’s product at the ports, on the ship and being manufactured,” Claridge said. “We’re seeing serious commercial issues arising.”

The association represents around 15 local baby milk exporters, none of whom used the 38 tonnes of potentially contaminated Fonterra whey protein in the making of their products. . .

Fonterra farmers keep the faith:

A week on from the revelation of contaminated Fonterra product, farmers “hang on” with confidence in their dairy co-operative.

As the list of questions about the company’s risk management strategies and public relations nous mounts, suppliers remain in support, but expect answers.

The media hype and sensationalism had likely done greater damage and posed a greater threat to the industry than one contaminated pipe, South Canterbury dairy farmer Ryan O’Sullivan suggested. . .

MPI removes illegal kiwifruit plants:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is today starting to remove and safely dispose of a small backyard kiwifruit orchard in an Auckland suburb that appears to have been grown from seed imported illegally.

MPI Manager Response Katherine Clift says the Ministry has been informed that the seeds were brought into New Zealand with a container of household goods when the owner moved to New Zealand in 1997. They were not declared and subsequently not detected at the border.

Dr Clift says testing of plant material from the property carried out by MPI ruled out the presence of any serious disease-causing viruses, bacteria or fungi, including Psa and MPI assessed the plants presented a low risk to the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.

“In addition, the plants are at a location geographically removed from key kiwifruit growing areas and the owner has stated that no plant material has been moved from the property.” . . .

Otago paramedic wins RWNZ/Acces scholarship:

Annabel Taylor is no stranger to rural medical emergencies and farm accidents, and now she’ll be even better equipped to deal with them, thanks to winning this year’s $3,000 Rural Women NZ/Access Scholarship.

As a St John paramedic based in Taieri, Annabel works for both the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter and the Dunedin ambulance service, responding to calls for help from the rural community.

The scholarship will help cover Annabel’s expenses as she studies for a year-long Postgraduate Certificate in Speciality Care, Advanced Paramedic Practice at Whitireia Polytechnic in Porirua, near Wellington.  The course includes distance learning and she’ll also be flying to Wellington six times a year for block courses. . .

Family feud nets $1.8m for farmer – Michael Field:

A small-town law firm has been ordered to pay $1.8 million compensation to a Waikato farmer after a family feud over the sale of his property.

Farmer Ross Blackwell, of Arohena, south of Te Awamutu, decided to sell his farm to his neighbour since he didn’t want his brothers to inherit it because of the way they had treated his wife, the High Court heard.

But the deal he made with neighbours Leith and Rosemary Chick meant they could buy the farm at less than half market value.

Blackwell’s brothers took the sale to court, throwing doubts on his intellectual ability after he suffered a brain tumour and strokes, and saying they were stunned the farm was being sold out of the family. . .

The New York analyst, the farm station and the advisory board – David Williams:

Back in the day it was unfashionable.

Anders Crofoot moved his family to New Zealand from New York 15 years ago to farm Castlepoint Station, in the Wairarapa, and immediately created an advisory board.

It’s not that that sort of thing wasn’t being done, he says, more that they were doing it because they wanted to – not because the bank told them to.

As reported in Friday’s National Business Review print edition, the country’s large, complex farms are more frequently appointing boards to oversee their governance as the agricultural sector grapples with high debt and the need for external capital. . .

Famous Five quins one in a million – Alison Harley:

Marlborough’s Waihopai Valley is the location of New Zealand’s spy base, but this week it has gained recognition for a completely different reason.

It has now become home to the “famous five” after a ewe on one station delivered more lambs than anyone expected.

Farmer Kelly Burmaz says it is not the first multiple birth for the mother.

“In the last four years she’s had four lambs each year,” says Mr Burmaz.

“This time she’s poked out five.” . . .

 


Tailing tells tale of snow losses

18/09/2011

The rare falls of snow in Auckland and Wellington in August captured media attention and rural areas were overlooked.

However, now that tailing (or what they call docking in the North Island) is underway, large lamb losses are being noticed.

They’re not as bad as the devastating number of deaths in Southland last spring but with lamb prices expected to be high again this year the losses will make sizable dents in budgets.


More milk, less lamb

14/05/2010

Dairy cattle numbers continued to increase and  the lamb population fell in the year to June 2009 Statistics New Zealand’s Agriculture Production Survey.

The South Island dairy herd grew by 13 % to 2.1 million. Canterbury had the most cows with a 10% increase to reach a herd size of 918,000. In Southland, numbers grew 19 percent to reach 589,000.

National dairy herd numbers reached a record high of 5.9 million at 30 June 2009, up 282,000 since 2008. The size of the North Island herd remained stable at 3.8 million.

Factors contributing to the South Island growth include continued dairy conversions, a smaller number of dairy cows and heifers going to the beef herd, more older cows remaining in milking herds, and the sourcing of dairy heifers from the North Island.

“In 2009, South Island dairy cattle numbers were almost seven times larger than 20 years ago when there were 312,000 dairy cattle,” said agricultural statistics manager Gary Dunnet. “North Island numbers increased from 3.0 million to 3.8 million over the same period.”

While dairy herds increased in number and size, the sheep population fell to 32.4 million, deer numbers were down to 1.1 million, and beef numbers remained stable at 4.1 million.

An email to shareholders from Fonterra chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden today reported the European Union butter marked prices have jumped to more than EU3200 per tonne. Prices are now near the peak levels of 2007/08 and demand is remaining steady.

That news may tempt more people to convert to dairying. However, lamb prices are holding up too which will give some encouragement to farmers who by choice or necessity are sticking with sheep.

We’re doing out bit to reverse falling sheep numbers – we put 15,000 ewes to the ram this autumn and will be lambing again in spring for the first time in more than 12 years.


The d word

17/04/2010

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.


Does this make sense?

12/12/2009

The grapevine reckons that thousands of lambs are being transported from the North Island to Central Otago.

At the same time Central Otago farmers are sending thousands of lambs to Canterbury for grazing because drought has left them short of feed.

There may be a reasonable explanation for that but I haven’t come up with one.

Putting the issue of carbon footprints to one side, wouldn’t it be less stressful for the stock and less expensive for North Island lambs to be grazed closer to home and for Central farmers with excess feed to sell grazing to their neighbours?


Counting the cost of the snow

07/10/2009

The south has had reasonable weather for lambing and calving.

Even after last weekend’s cold snap there haven’t been reports of many stock losses.

It’s been much tougher in the Central North Island.

“This brutally cold southerly flow couldn’t have come at a worse time for Hawke’s Bay farmers. There’s a massive risk that the combination of snow and cold winds could put stress on newborn livestock,” says Kevin Mitchell, Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay president.

“Several Hawke’s Bay farmers are in the middle of late lambing and sadly, some newborns may perish in the freezing conditions. The snow has unfortunately hit at a critical time in the farming cycle. Farmers I have spoken to worked through the night in order to save as many lambs as possible.

This unseasonal snow comes after a very dry autumn and in the face of falling prices.

Lambs which would have sold for $90 last summer are expected to fetch only $70 this year. Demand is high and supplies are low, but the high dollar is being blamed for depressing returns to farmers.


Harbingers of spring

17/09/2008

Forget the lambs and calves, the bulbs in  bloom and the flowering cherry in blossom. The real sign that spring is upon us is finding the first bird inside.

We have scores of trees in our garden and hundreds, maybe thousands on the farm. But for some reason there’s always a few stupid but determined birds which prefer to try to nest between the chimney guard and the chimney – in spite of the wire netting attached firmly to the top to keep them out.

We’re not keen on this because the sort of things they like to make their nests from are the sort of things which might be combustible if the chimney got hot enough.

And there’s a second problem because of a gap between the chimney and the guard which enables the bird to get inside. The fire sits in the wall between the living room and the hall and the chimney goes through the ceiling in the hall. When the bird tries to build its nest, twigs and grass drop through the gap and the bird follows.

Once there it heads towards the light which takes it in to a bedroom where it hits the window and panics. When a bird panics it tends to make a mess which is bad enough if I find it soon after it arrives and a whole lot worse if I don’t find it until later.

Today’s bird hadn’t been inside long when I discovered it and I was able to get it out before it had left too many visiting cards. But as I cleaned up behind it I wished yet again that this harbinger of spring would be content to stay outside with the lambs, calves, bulbs and blossom where it belongs.


Saturday’s smiles

23/08/2008

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!

 


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