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  • Cambridge, North Island.

         Monday 8th February,

        We left Te Kauwhata beside Lake Waikare and continued our journey South from Auckland, down State Highway 1, through Huntly and Hamilton to Cambridge. Not far from Cambridge we passed a Fonterra Milk processing plant. We knew we were approaching a milk depot of some sort when the number of tankers on the road increased as they converged on their destination.


    Fonterra milk factory, Cambridge, North Island.

         Whilst taking pictures, I managed to have a word with two men leaving the plant. They were not part of the staff there but they told me this is one of the smaller Fonterra processing plants and that it produces cheese. There are about 30 of these factories throughout New Zealand and Fonterra own nearly all of them. Fonterra is a Co-operative Group owned by its shareholding producers, - the farmers. The Group produce; whole milk, skim milk powders, butter, cheese and casein. Along with other milk products, these are sold to more than 100 countries world wide.

          Although Central North Island is one of the warmest areas in New Zealand, this area has an annual rainfall of about 40 inches and so the dairy industry was able to establish here long before the arrival of the big centre pivot irrigators. In this climate however, water is at a premium and many tanks are filled from rivers or bore-holes. Most houses have a catchment tank fed from the gutters of their roofs.


    Typical water storage Northland, North Island.

    Although most of New Zealand's 5 million dairy cows are of the Holstein Friesian type, a fair number of cross types mingle in with them. This is partly because of the importance of milk solids in the liquid sales.  Jersey cattle are also very popular. This field of about 15 to 20 acres had about 400 Jerseys in it.

    Jersey cattle graze in Northland, North Island.

         We saw many "smaller" dairy farms whilst driving through the countryside. They consisted of a herringbone type parlour with it's associated collecting pens and a cooler bulk tank. This area was "fed" from the paddocks by roadways, or fenced off runs, to  the grazing paddocks. The obvious difference from our dairy farms here was the lack of fixed cost. The main enterprise investment seemed to be the parlour, a tractor with a loader and fencing. In most cases only the milking parlour was roofed.

    A typical smaller dairy in Northland, North Island.

         Cambridge is an attractive town with tree lined streets, colourful flower beds and very nice shops. Cambridge lies in the midst of some excellent Central North Island agricultural land which is renowned for the breeding of Thoroughbred horses. The town has a Farmers Market and it is here that David's cousin Mike sells his free range eggs and lemons from his garden.

    Cambridge; the colourful centre of the town.
  • Back to work

        Hello everyone; my apologies to Forum members and staff for not sending in some notes and photographs from my New Zealand trip. I hope to put this right now, or in the days ahead.

        I returned on Sunday 28th February and I have been pretty busy since, as it is my Financial Year End and my books are on a knackered computer!! I did not dare put the programme onto my new one in case I lost the details! However, I have managed to print out most of what I need.

        On the practical side, by the second day back I had a burst water pipe, a burst hydraulic pipe in the loader and a puncture in the John Deer. Yes, back to normal farm work! (I hear you agreeing there). I look forward to a trouble free Spring barley sowing season.

         We (my brother-in-law and I) had a wonderful but hectic tour. We saw New Zealand from John O'Groats to Landsend, or, of course, from Cape Reinga in the North to Invercargill in the South. We visited three farms and "gate-crashed" another two. These include: On North Island, - a small family farm where the farmer (my brother-in-law's cousin) has a few beef cattle, 200 very free range hens and is very busy with a contracting assignment; On South Island, - an 1100 acre upland sheep farm; an 1100 cow dairy farm; and we visited two arable farms; (All in East Canterbury). I will probably do these reports on "Word" and transpose them over to this blogg, as I will be pretty busy on the farm now, I am not sure yet how to deal with the photographs. If I can I will fit them in with the blogg. - ('Must have a practice at that).

         On the subject of photos, I have about 2000 of them so I should get a few that will be of interest to you.

          Two of my main reasons, outwith the farming, for going to New Zealand were, to visit friends in Christchurch and to visit Milford Sound with its glaciers and hanging valleys. I was gutted when our flight to Milford was cancelled due to poor weather. Well, I guess I will just have to go back again.




  • New Zealand

    Sunday 31st January,

    Flew from Glasgow to Dubai,

    Emirates Boeing 777-300 to Dubai, via; Denmark, North Germany/Poland, down over Black Sea to Dubai. A near miss was surely noted over the Germany/Poland leg. Davie drew my attention to an airliner approaching from our left. It’s position being highlighted by the four streams of black smoke from it’s engines. -’Must be a military jet? Or a Russian fuelled one, perhaps? It’s approach gained momentum fast so I grabbed the camera. As I was frantically getting the camera ready and lined up, the airliner seam to be accelerating so fast now as it rose up and banked to its left. It was gone, somewhere within 400 yards above and behind our tail! I never did get the picture.

    We stayed the night in Dubai then flew on to Sydney in the Airbus 380-800. Finally we made the relatively short flight to Auckland.

    I had been well informed by “them and those” of the strict Bio-security requirements on entering New Zealand. But nothing can compare with the real thing. I was impressed.

    New Zealand have two Customs checks: the normal passport and luggage one, and, in between, the Bio-Security check point! This is run by their Dept. of Agriculture. Before leaving Scotland, some of my non-farming heroes warned me “no mud on shoes; don’t tell them you’re a farmer!” I can assure you that the first thing I said to the officer at Bio-Security was “I’m a jolly farmer”. I handed over the Bio-Security form which I had filled in on the aircraft. (It was handed to us all within an hour of leaving Sydney). He was a young man and I think we both immediately respected each other’s positions. He was happy to know that I was not wearing any clothing that I would have worn on the farm. I told him that I had washed and disinfected my shoes before leaving home. I gave him and his Government my sincere congratulations on their actions for Bio-Security and told him that we have been trying to tell our own Government to waken up for years. He was noticeably taken-back with this traveller leading the conversation at his check point. I think he was equally impressed with me as we parted in friendly accord.

  • Harvest Results

             Harvest started on 5th August with Pearl winter barley and finished on 23rd September with Robigus wheat. The only disaster this year was the decking of half my winter barley acreage with a helluva rain storm one Saturday night in July when the crop was still green. I did, however, manage to salvage 6.5 t/ha of feed quality off it.

              As the cheques for grain started coming in this year, any pleasure was quickly dampened by the stream of fertiliser and fuel cheques going the other way for next year's crop.

              With all barley and oilseed now off the farm and weights finalised I can give you some Gross Margins. These are income net of levies and charges. I have managed to include drying costs this year, being diesel and gas used by a tractor powered Opico mobile.

    Winter barley: Pearl

    OUTPUT £:   6.77 t/ha     854                                       COSTS £:     Seed           59

                                                                                                          Fert           163 

                                                                                                          Sprays       104

                                                                                                          Contract         0

                                                                                                          Drying           27

                                          £854                                                          Costs       £353         Gross Margin  £501

    Oilseed Rape: NK Grace

    OUTPUT £:   4.17 t/ha      1434                                        COSTS £:    Seed           42

                                                                                                            Fert            184

                                                                                                            Sprays        112

                                                                                                            Contract        40

                                                                                                             Drying          34 

                                          £1434                                                           Costs         412       Gross Margin  £1022

    Spring barley: Optic

    OUTPUT £:   6.38 t/ha      1090                                         COSTS:       Seed             79

                                                                                                              Fert             118

                                                                                                             Sprays            89                                                                                                         

                                                                                                              Contract           0


                                            1090                                                             Costs          286  Gross Margin £804

             The Wheat crop is all in store with, unfortunately, no early sales. The first lot will leave in December at £92 per tonne and the rest is yet to sell. The variety is Robigus and the dried yield is hoped to work out at 9 t/ha. This will give me an estimated Gross Margin of £390/ha. I have always been happier with Riband on this farm but I am unable to get the seed now.

              As the wheat prices demonstrate there is no room for complacency in this job. It is looking like next year could be back down to earth again, then add back 150% to 200% of the fertiliser costs and your are pushing the costs up by £250 to £350 per hectare. That's back down to earth with a bloody great thump!! That Gross Margin estimate of £390 at 9t/ha will be almost virtually wiped out.

             Having had a splended evening watching all those thoroughly deserving winners at the Farmers Weekly Awards in the Grosvenor Hotel, I have nothing better than the wooden spoon for Yara. 



  • Winter barley results

              What a difference a week can make. Last weekend was full of the euforia of real herst weather and my winter barley coming in with great expectations, then Friday, the devastating news that Foot and Mouth disease had once again struck British stock. I, somehow, felt relieved on Saturday night to learn that the virus could be from the local research centre. There does, now, seem to be more hope of it's containment.

               The Pearl winter barley broke records for me. the weights are now in and the yield is 8.66 t/ha, (I may have a weight reduction of about 2% as the average moisture was about17.5%), but it made malting spec with N levels at 1.85 and a price of £130/t. I presume that will be beer malt as it is too high in Nitrogen for whisky malt.  This gives an amazing output of £1125/ha.  What a difference from the £420/ha - £500/ha of the past years. But did it come at a heavy cost?

                The inputs were: seed at £44/ha; fertiliser at £117/ha; sprays at £89/ha and contract at £8/ha, giving a variable cost total of £258/ha and a Gross Margin of £867/ha. What a difference from my usual figure of nearer £200/ha. My drying costs were minimal being confined to reducing two loads from 20% moisture to under 19%. 

                  The oilseed rape will come to the combine next. On Friday it was lying in the swath at over 20% moisture, but is now at about 12.7% moisture. The forecast is giving us a strong probability of rain with some heavy showers possible tonight, so I'd better go and get the drier ready. 

  • Winter barley harvest.

               What a contrast in the weather. Today we have had the drouthiest day since sometime in May. This allowed us to get the winter barley harvested. We started cutting yesterday at 1.00 o'clock, stopped for rain at 1.30, started at 2.00, stopped for rain at 2.30, started again at 7.00pm. We finally finished at 4.00pm today in glorious harvest weather.. The variety, Pearl, appears to have yielded well at about three tons per acre but I await the lorry weigh tickets for a yield figure. The moisture content started at 18% yesterday and finished at 16% today. The crop is well in as the heads were hanging ripe and the wind tonight would certainly have shed a few. I have had a very lucky break in the weather.
  • Pre-harvest Glyphosate.

                 It always gives me great satisfaction to go in to breakfast at 7.00 am having achieved a successful mission-accomplished. Not that I do that very often but more through neccessity to catch up with another job in desperate need. So, at last, I have managed to get the pr-harvest glyphosate on to my winter barley.

                 By 5.30 the sun was in the sky. The crop was dry enough and not a breeze. A hint of a Northern airflow provided the final incentive to get on with the job as there was a crop of seed potatoes to the North next to the barley. The job was getting desperate as the barley is ripening fast and with four to five tatties (potatoes) per square metre in many strips this was a much needed control. I will be lucky if this one spray does the job without another one to prepare the field for tatties again in six years time. I thought I had made an early start but the farmer who has my tattie ground had just finished spraying the tatties (for blight) !

                   The oilseed rape is now being swathed in this area and I expect to get mine done on Sunday or Monday. The spring barley is looking well despite the cold wet weather. My worry at the moment is of high Nirogen content due to the very dry April leading to late uptake of Nitogen fertiliser. 6 t/ha is just a "hope for" at this stage, anything could happen. Likewise the wheat is looking good with a 9 t/ha yield just a "hope for" at this stage.


  • Test

    Good luck to everyone with the new forum. It is fine to have some of the extra functions. I hope all goes well and that everyone can get the hang of it quickly. Just testing - Ally.


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