Rain leaves much to be desired

By Annette Lambly

While much of the region has had good rain, farmers in the west from Ruawai to the Hokianga haven't been so lucky.

The patchy rain last week in Kaipara was low but has allowed the chance to reseed, and in some cases apply urea or lime.

Dargaville farmer Malcolm Welsh whose Baylys Coast Rd farm received around 30mm of rain in the past fortnight remains optimistic.

It was on his farm seven weeks ago, Nathan Guy, the Minister for Primary Industries declared an official Northland drought. The rest of the North Island was to follow soon after.

The Welsh's 330-cow herd has been dried off since Easter, about one month ahead of normal. While the recent rain has greened up the pasture and there is some growth, Mr Welsh says,"another 100mm is needed".

He recently started regrassing with perennial rye and clover. Normally they renew around 24 hectares each year, but as a result of the drought Malcolm has decided he will also oversow (broadcast) up to an additional 30ha to assist grass recovery.

He says other farmers in the district are doing similar, combining undersowing and over-sowing in an attempt to grow more grass before winter.

It's a fine line, judging the time to get the seed germinated and growing and controlling the weeds which may need spraying. Costs from the additional sowing also need to be taken into account when budgeting, especially as it is anticipated additional palm kernel may be needed to to see them through winter.

Urea will be applied to boast growth as soon as possible, but general fertiliser will be held off until the new financial year in June.

The Welsh's winter around 60 per cent of the herd off farm with the balance wintered on the dairy platform. Silage made on the farm along with extra palm kernel should be sufficient for the winter.

Malcolm says the earlier released of deferred payments has helped with cashflow, but he still expects a loss of $100,000 plus. Any uplift in the payout would be beneficial, but it will still be a matter of belt tightening - less repairs, maintenance and personal drawings.

While fire bans have been lifted in Kaipara, bans on hose and sprinklers remain in force.

The NZ Met Service predicts rainfall for the April-June period is likely to be in the normal range for the region, with soil moisture levels below normal as river flows take time to recover.

Temperatures for late autumn are likely to be above average across the North Island.

- Northern Advocate

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