Thursday, November 30, 2023

FROM THE RIDGE: Milk bubbling, beef off the boil

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Another year draws to a close.
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We have a New Prime Minister, Bill English, but I feel just the same. Maybe when Bill has a change in the Cabinet next week things may feel different.

These are tough times for those in North Canterbury and the Kaikoura Coast. Keep your chins up as best you can.

At last, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for the unfortunate dairy sector of the last couple of years and now the prospect of at least breaking even for many and a nice little profit for those savvy folks with low-cost production and little debt, which are mostly the mum and dad operations.

They are type of businesses the big corporates dismissed a few years ago as uneconomic, lacking scale and of a bygone era. But they are still here and not carrying the accrued losses of the big fellows.

However, the debt in the dairy sector has increased these last few years and that remains a concern.

We’ve had a great run on beef in recent years but it is slowly going off the boil.

That hasn’t flowed through to the store markets but there are some expensive cattle out there that might yield some thin margins next year.

But it’s been good while it lasted.

Sheep meat has been disappointing and I would say might get messy in the first couple of months of the new year as animals flow to the meat companies in greater numbers.

An optimist might hope the new kid on the block, a merger of Silver Fern Farms and Shanghai Maling might improve matters.

Certainly, those of us supplying the company will want to see it at the front of the pack in what it pays its loyal suppliers instead of its past history – or else.

Wool, talk about disappointing, Trev.

A couple of years of half-decent returns perked sheep farmers up but now we are back where we started.

My own wool buyer has been bestowed with accolades during the year and after each award the wool price has fallen – possibly just an unfortunate coincidence.

World events like Brexit, Trump’s election, Russian imperialism, the horrors for civilians in places like Aleppo and Mosul make one despair but on the other hand well pleased to live in this little corner of paradise.

On the home front, from a personal perspective, things have been just swell.

After 24 years of nurturing children, our youngest son fledged and Jane and I found ourselves at home on our own once again.

I took to it much easier as three sons progressing through their teenage years is a battle of who is top dog.

No longer able to wrestle myself into the position, a gentle reminder than in today’s world, the fellow with the cash reigns supreme.

Jane found it a tougher proposition but the strong maternal instincts saw a regular flow of Red Cross parcels and a great help to an ailing NZ Post.

Two of them have graduated this year and two are in full time employment.

Last year when I suggested the youngest go for plan B and become an electrician exclaimed “don’t crush my dreams” so of course we have backed him in his goal of becoming a cameraman. Have a look at the YouTube link further down of the drone clip he did of our farm.

A three week visit to Japan was excellent and has encouraged me to do something similar again in the future.

My old dog died, leaving one very average pooch to help me run 3500 stock units but providence has stepped in as the other day I found a tiny puppy abandoned by some low-life in the water table and have christened him Ditch.

I don’t think it is a whippet or St Bernard so you never know, it might turn out useful. He’s certainly grateful to be rehomed.

Thanks for reading the column during the year and for the many emails that come in.

Have a great festive season, catch up with family and friends and get a decent break.


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