Meat suffers at hands of dairying and crops for Bill Davey

Bill Davey – a former Lincolnshire farmer – emigrated to New Zealand six years ago. He grows a range of crops including wheat, barley and vining peas and fattens store lambs on 487ha (1200 acres) of the Canterbury Plains on South Island.

“Meat Industry Turmoil” was the newspaper headline last week accompanied by a photograph of workers leaving one of several meat plants facing the chop – excuse the pun.

The main reasons are the failure of an industry mega-merger attempt and the huge swing towards more profitable dairying and cropping.

There is little sympathy from the beef and sheep sector – more anger, as producers feel let down by the meat companies’ reluctance to alter course when the writing was so clearly on the wall.

A huge new milk processing plant, just south of Christchurch opens this weekend, which can process 1.6m litres of milk a day. It is expected to manufacture £60m worth of high spec milk powder and cream products, destined for export markets, within the next 12 months.

Land surrounding this development had traditionally grazed sheep and cattle.

A 40% price increase on all grades of freezing peas has recently been announced by a big player here, and my own feelings are that this will be sufficient to secure their supplies for the coming season. But as for next year, who knows, given the way commodity prices are rising?

Even pea vine hay, surplus to our requirement, met with strong demand at yesterday’s annual Ashburton hay, baled silage and straw sale, and the only wish I had was that we’d baled much more of it.

Most of the wheat has been drilled since my last article, but unsettled weather put the brakes on progress. It’s not too serious in that we’ve only 16ha left to sow and the land still has to be ploughed.

More of a concern is that the rain has held up laying of the new 12in mainline pipe, a key component of our irrigation scheme, which we have to complete by mid-October.

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