Thursday, December 23, 2010

Down on the farm

A week ago I observed that here in the Waikato we needed rain, and lots of it. In the comments, Cactus Kate took issue with my reasoning:
Good farmers have stores of feed for such events, there’s a record payout and if it doesn’t rain in the Waikato estimate are a 5% drop in production.
Hmm. Cactus is a farmer’s daughter so maybe she knows more about this than me, a mere farmer’s grandson. But let’s hear from a real farmer, shall we? Lyn Webster writes the excellent “Pig Tits and Parsley Sauce” column in the Taranaki Daily News and explains here why this year good farmers don’t have stores of feed for such events, and why despite the recent rain they are still worried:
Normally in November we expect grass growth (which is governed by sunshine and moisture) to exceed cow demand. That means more grass grows on the farm than the cows can eat and that is when we shut paddocks up and grow a surplus. [. . .]
This season milk production took a kick in the guts with over a month of solid rain in September, which was tough on the cows. We made it through that and started looking for paddocks to lock up for silage. Fast rounds were necessary to fully feed the cows and when it didn’t rain for 10 days, then 20, alarm bells started to ring. [. . .]
As soon as it rains the dry matter in the grass drops and the base of the pasture (if there is any base left) starts to rot, so the feed immediately available to the cows is less palatable than the dry stuff. This ‘rot down’ is unavoidable but usually happens in the autumn. We manage it by feeding supplements which we usually make in November . . . oh, that’s right, we didn’t make any this season.
In other rain-related news, here is beautiful Randy Crawford lip-synching beautifully to Tony Joe White’s ballad “Rainy Night in Georgia”, from her 1981 album Secret Combination. I met her once and she really did look like that:

And just for good luck here is David Ruffin, who brought rain to the Waikato last week. I posted on Wednesday a clip of him with the Temptations singing “I Wish It Would Rain” and lo, it did rain the following Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Here’s hoping he can do it again:


Anonymous said...

Good farmers do generally have reserves but as the columnist says the supplements are usually made in late spring and early summer.

It's worse this year because there was a drought last summer too and any/most reserves were used then.

Cactus has a point though - there have been years when drought has coincided with a poor payout. At least this season while production is down the price is up.

Cactus Kate said...

Good farmers also keep reserves of cash and finance. All this boo hoo is irrelevant given not even the most powerful person in the world csn control the weather so farmers need to stop whinging about it.

Take for example a small business that relies on sunshine, such as a tourism operator. If ti rains they don't have tourists coming, nothing we can do about it. They don't get prov tax relief, concessions and sympathy.

Experienced farmers such as HP know this, the ones waliing presently are those over leveraged and underprepared.