Good start to spring
Lambing and calving are well underway in South Canterbury and the weather has been fantastic.
While August was apparently the region’s coldest month for 30 years, the weather in the latter part of the month was perfect.
Of course, great lambing weather means a lack of rainfall, with only 30mm of rain in the past month – 21mm of that falling in the first two days of August.
The region is getting dry. Going into spring, we need some decent rain to get pastures growing.
Marketing strategy sought
I have just completed my first round of director consultation meetings. Feedback was positive, but farmers were clear that they want Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) to remain active in the marketing area. Many farmers feel they are nearing the limits with on-farm production – that future gains are likely to be incremental – so the focus needs to be marketing.
Their views are reinforced by figures that came of out B+LNZ’s North Canterbury Sheep for Profit Partnership programme. The 10 participating farmers – all high-performing farmers – lifted productivity by an average of 20% over four years, but their profitability fell by 1%.
This is a frightening statistic and highlights that change is needed. In the past year, we have seen a real willingness among the sector to work together to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy, of which B+LNZ will be a part. We are a small nation, so it makes sense to combine resources and energy to extract value out of our international markets.
It has been interesting to see the UK pound continue to strengthen in the wake of the Brexit decision. This goes against all predictions and suggests this season’s lamb schedule might be a little stronger than some commentators have suggested.
Predicting market prices can be a bit like predicting weather. Both have a huge impact on our businesses, but we can’t directly influence either.
Benefits of irrigation
What we can do is try and build security into our farm systems. Processor contracts do this, as does irrigation.
Look at the Ophua Dam and the economic and environmental advantages it has brought to the region. Unfortunately, there is a perception that irrigation always means intensification and the benefits are often overlooked.
For sheep and beef farmers, irrigation often means the ability to finish lambs and grow forage crops. It also recharges groundwater resources and is a tool to manage river flows to the ensure the health and well-being of our native fish stocks.
All farmers want our land and water resources managed and protected for future generations. It is important that we engage with our regional councils and zone committees, as they formulate plans on how best to manage our natural resources. Irrespective of what and how we farm, these regulations will affect us all.
Bill Wright is Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Central South Island farmer director. If you want to get in touch, you're welcome to email him.