Im-per­fect storm could hit farm­ers

South Waikato News - - Rural Delivery - GER­ALD PIDDOCK

Waikato dairy farm­ers could be fac­ing what one agron­o­mist has called ‘‘a per­fect storm’’ this sum­mer as they bat­tle low feed re­serves and the on­go­ing ef­fects of dam­aged pas­tures.

Vet­eran farm­ers are call­ing it the worst sea­son since 1933.

It was too late to mend pas­ture dam­aged by se­vere rain in Septem­ber, Agriseeds agron­o­mist Will Hen­son said at a Small Milk and Sup­ply Herds field day near Tat­u­anui. In­stead, farm­ers had to think ahead into sum­mer, he said.

‘‘We are fac­ing a per­fect storm of dam­aged pas­tures, no sup­ple­ment or silage left in our bunkers be­cause we fed them all out, sum­mer crops are go­ing to be av­er­age be­cause they went in too late and it could be a dry sum­mer. We are look­ing at a Jan­uaryfe­bru­ary with very lit­tle feed around.’’

If pre­dic­tions for a dry Jan­uary were cor­rect, farm­ers had to start plan­ning how they would feed their cows be­cause of the in­evitable rise in sup­ple­men­tary feed crops, he said.

‘‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst.’’

It had been a tough sea­son and farm­ers should not think they were the only peo­ple with dam­aged pas­tures. Ev­ery­one was in the same boat, he said.

‘‘Don’t beat your­self up. I heard one old man say that it’s the worst sea­son he’s seen since 1933.’’

Rye­grass was in its an­nual re­newal process where the tillers leaf stem - that grew through win­ter die and new tillers take their place.

Th­ese ‘‘baby’’ tillers are the re­place­ments for the tiller that died af­ter win­ter. Their sur­vival is crit­i­cal if farm­ers are to have good cov­ers af­ter Christ­mas.

‘‘The key is to get all three of th­ese to sur­vive. If it does what’s go­ing to hap­pen? It’s go­ing to thicken up.’’

Grass silage crops were the big­gest killer of the tillers be­cause the tall grass de­prived them of the sun­light they needed to grow. In­stead, silage crops needed to be cut ear­lier, he said.

His­tor­i­cally, it had rained just be­fore Christ­mas and if farm­ers put fer­tiliser on then, it would see th­ese tillers be­ing as big and as strong as pos­si­ble to han­dle the dry weather in Jan­uary, he said.

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