Autumn growth best for years

Wairarapa has had the best autumn for grass growth in memory, says one Wairarapa farmer.

And the warm temperatures and abundant rain are all the sweeter for the several months of drought that preceded them.

David Holmes, who farms sheep and beef cattle just east of Masterton, says that ffrom October 1 to February 28, he recorded only 163mm of rain.

Then suddenly over a two-day period, March 19 and 20, "we had the drought-breaker, which was 82mm".

Steady rain and mild temperatures have encouraged solid grass growth ever since.

"The countryside has responded; it's been quite dramatic the way it has responded ... this would probably be one of the most exceptional autumns I have experienced, and I've been here 38 years."

Because of the drought, farmer income for the year will be "down by up to 50 per cent", Holmes says.

"But that's on the previous year, which was inflated because of very good lamb prices ... so back to reality."

Holmes says making stock decisions early has been crucial to coming out the other side of the drought. "We sold lambs we would have fattened - sold them store."

New centre pivot irrigation has helped keep the flats growing, and the use of silage and baleage, which he still has spare.

Wairarapa Federated Farmers president Jamie Falloon says farmers are hoping the "amazing" autumn will be enough to see them through winter.

He says the ground is "still reasonably dry" and not waterlogged, which means soil temperatures have been staying high and grass has been continuing to grow.

Pasture use has also been good, meaning because of the drier state of the soil, stock is not trampling the grass.

Falloon says Wairarapa farmers, becoming wise to the ways of drought, have been making "early decisions" to destock before winter or to send cattle away for grazing.

"Those who have made those early decisions have been rewarded with good pasture recovery, which is the key."

- Hamilton News

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