January delivered us only 16mm of rain, which was less than what we had in the big drought.
Temperatures have been higher than normal – in the high 20s, with the odd 30 degrees, plus wind. I have never seen this area “burn off” so quickly, even where we had feed ahead. By the time the cows got there it had turned to dust. The deep pumice on the organic farm is particularly severely hit.
On a daily basis both farms’ production is crashing, with the conventional down more than 10% and the organic now 17% down. Fonterra itself on the North Island is also down. Silage and PKE is being fed out at home, with just silage on the organic. Both farms have shipped known culls, with empty cows to go as soon as identified.
Feed budgets and cash flows have been done based on the worst-case scenario that this dry period follows the pattern of the 2007/08 drought, with cows being dry at the end of March.
The slow spring has meant neither farm is holding enough supplement and will need to purchase more.
While this turn of climatic events is very frustrating, we feel we are in reasonable shape to cope and there is a chance the rains will come earlier.
It is important for staff and farmers to appreciate these events are beyond our control and that they can challenge one mentally. The best thing to do is keep socialising with friends and neighbours. Fishing is excellent for this.
George Moss and his wife Sharon farm a 74ha conventional dairy, milking 185 Friesian cows as well as a 70ha conversion organic dairy farm, near Tokoroa, New Zealand.