Arable Farmer Focus: Bill Davey back to farming after quake

Seven weeks have passed since the 7.1 magnitude earthquake on 4 September, but aftershocks continue to rattle South Island with magnitudes between 2.5 and 5.0 recorded. A general sense of unease still lurks in the community.

Fortunately, we appear to have come through this relatively unscathed, with our boreholes, associated pumps and drives working normally. Interestingly, our standing water levels have risen by 8m, which is great news.

But one letter published in the newspapers claims farmers are to blame for the quake by depleting the aquifers of water for irrigation. Do our urban cousins really believe this or is it a case of the green-eyed monster strikes again?

Moving on, crops are growing away well as soil temperatures gradually increase. Our usual urea application plans are in place, but due to low soil nitrogen levels after such a wet winter, I cannot see any savings here.

We were recently offered one or two alternative crop options. Borage is back, although on a lesser scale, along with maize silage and hopefully an area of hybrid carrots for seed. Although the values of these crops are not that flash, I’m a firm believer in keeping doors open during difficult times.

The last of almost 14,000 finished lambs are about to leave the farm and, on reflection, we’ve had a reasonable season with margins – as good as we’ve seen in nine years. Should store lambs become difficult to source come the New Year for several reasons, the main one being the reduction in ewe numbers due to dairy conversions, then we are considering taking on dairy grazers this winter.

To do so, we have to grow feed and supply barley straw for about eight weeks, but apart from moving electric fences, it’s pretty straight forward. The other attraction is that unlike store lambs, there is no capital outlay.

• For more columns from other Arable Farmer Focus writers

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