It appears we have finally seen the back of the dry El Nino weather pattern. It has been a cool, wet spring and while we still have snow on the hills, the grass is growing, which is hopefully translating into some good growth rates in what was, for us, a record number of lambs.
Like many farmers in the region, we had high lamb survival and are fortunate that we now have enough grass to feed those extra mouths. Although a bit of warmth and sunshine would be very welcome.
I have used contractors this year to get a few jobs done and they are getting frustrated with weather-related hold-ups – but at least our soil moisture is at 24% of field capacity, compared to just 11% at the same time last year.
Silage and baleage-making is well under way and farmers will be looking to replenish supplementary feed reserves –but we do all need to be mindful of keeping costs under control.
The effects of Brexit
Unfortunately, Brexit will have an impact on lamb values this season due to a weakening in the value of the sterling.
The New Zealand dollar, at 71c against the USD, is 8c up on where it was at this time last year and while this is good news for importers – it’s not good news for exporters.
I feel confident that meat companies are doing their best to extract the most value out of existing markets while looking for alternatives, but it is still going to be a challenging year for the sheep meat industry.
Any price increases are likely to come from a weakening in our currency - but no-one can predict when this might happen.
Bringing farmers and scientists together
Shirley and I played host to the New Zealand Grassland Association (NZGA) annual conference last week. Obviously having such a large number of farmers, scientists, consultants and agribusiness professionals visiting your farm is a nerve-wracking experience, but it really was an honour to show them our operation.
We were one of several farms and businesses the conference visited, which gave attendees a real taste of what a diverse farming region South Canterbury is.Held at a different location every year, the NZGA conferences are unique in that they bring together farmers and scientists – a combination that represents the strength of NZ agriculture.
Once again I urge all sheep and beef farmers to be aware of impending environmental legislation within their region.
It is really important to engage with local catchment groups and all farmers need to work towards getting a Farm Environment Plan or Land Environment Plan in place. Being proactive around environmental management is good for business; it also demonstrates to regulatory bodies that we, as an industry, take our environmental responsibilities seriously.
Similarly, animal welfare and health and safety issues will continue to capture headlines so it is up to all of us to ensure we don’t provide any ammunition for those with our industry in their sights.
Bill Wright is Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Central South Island farmer director. If you want to get in touch, you can email him.