Thursday, December 7, 2023

Effects of Western BoP soaking already seen in milk yield, silage

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Monsoonal rainfall throughout Western Bay of Plenty has left many growers giving up on their second or even third attempt at getting a crop established this year.
HortNZ chief executive Nadine Tunley signed the open letter to the government together with industry heads from all other horticulture sectors, warning that a lack of clear direction following the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle is threatening to set the horticulture industry back by years. Photo: Richard Rennie
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Monsoonal levels of rainfall throughout Western Bay of Plenty this month threaten both maize silage and grain supplies this autumn, while farmers warily eye yet another torrential rainfall event predicted for this week.

Bill Webb, director of Bill Webb Feed Supplies near Te Puke, said his property at Ohauiti Western BoP has had 3500mm of rainfall in the past 12 months, putting it at a level comparable to West Coast’s Hokitika. 

Even the drier Rangitāiki Plains area between Te Puke and Whakatāne has received 2500mm, about double its annual average. 

On average, over the monsoon season India receives about 250mm in both July and August, about 70% of its annual average.

This year throughout much of the Western Bay of Plenty, January’s rainfall alone will total between a third and half of the 1200mm it usually receives in a year. 

The latest event has left some crops washed out and useless for silage harvesting. 

“We have one block of 8ha near Te Puke where the water came up 24 hours ago to above fence-post height in the crop. It has deposited mud throughout the maize, and it’s going to affect its ability to pollinate, and will also mean we can’t even turn it into silage if all this silt’s through it,” Webb said. 

Feed supply contractor Bill Webb says shortages of maize for silage and grain are quite likely after such a tough, wet season for growers.

In other instances, farmers contracting to supply Webb with maize this season have had two and in some cases three attempts at getting a crop planted, only to lose it this time around.

“I have never seen this level of rainfall in my time. Some crops did not get planted until early Christmas-New Year. 

“Potentially the grain take for the area will be down from normal. And with farmers struggling to get maize, silage in will be down too. It has definitely hit growers hard.”

At a cost of $3000 a hectare to establish maize, turning around and replanting put growers on a fast track to barely breaking even, while a third time was a loss.

Ex-Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty president Darryl Jensen said he is about to feed his 9ha of maize to his cows as it is. Such was the damage it cannot be salvaged for silage. It also lacks any cobs because it went in late, after the pre-Christmas deluges.

Jensen said this has been the wettest season any farmers of his generation have witnessed.

One farm consultant tells of dairying clients whose cows should be producing 1.7kg MS per head per day scratching to achieve 1.0, and even then only achieving that with 60% of their diet an expensive supplement.

“The green grass is certainly there, but it really lacks feed value. The lack of maize silage heading into autumn is going to impact on herd body condition, and that will flow into next season now too,” Jensen said.

So far Fonterra has not reported any issues with milk collection, with impacted suppliers capable of restoring damaged farm road access themselves.

Bay of Plenty Federated Farmers president and drystock farmer Brent Mountfort said for the first time the region’s Rural Support Trust is receiving referrals on farmers who people have concerns over.

“There is a lot of cumulative stuff that is happening for them right now.

“I know this latest round of weather has hit town people hard, but we have been living with these conditions for months. What is of concern is the cost of production, and the loss of production this will bring,” Jensen said.

Horticultural operators have also been hit in the latest deluge, with at least 30 orchardists on Number 4 Road near Te Puke losing access to the town due to a critical bridge being blown out by intense flooding – only eight weeks before harvest starts.

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