Im-perfect storm could hit farmers
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.