A Difficult Start to the SeasonFriday, Aug 24, 2001
Early indicators that this will be a substantially different farming season from last year are showing
Lambing and calving is underway with stock feeling the effect of a colder and in some parts more recently
a wetter winter than experienced for the past season or two.
Early spring growth seems to have less energy as a result of the cold and wet dull days of the past
six weeks. A circuit through the Manawatu today showed a reasonable incidence of downer dairy cows
resting or being attended to in sheltered paddocks visible from the road.
With supplements expensive and expectations for a good season being high farmers will be using their
best risk management techniques to balance the purchase of further supplements against the hope that
the feed will grow in the next week or two.
A disturbing element of the media’s interest in farming at the moment is the focus on starved
stock and the neglect of individual farmers in allowing these things to happen.
At this time it seems that the management capabilities of a few poor farmers have provided an opportunity
for implied criticism of all farmers. But even worse is the contention that our markets will
judge all on the neglect of the few.
Livestock farmers are in a pincer movement between the fixed perceptions of animal welfare by a critical
urban community and the quite variable conditions provided by nature.
The farmers’ dilemma is much like that of the power generation industry, if the climate strays
too far from the norm nothing can change the low flow of rivers into the storage lakes. However,
it is unlikely that the generation companies will be taken before the court to answer for their neglect
in starving the electricity consumer.
Spring is a stressful time for farmers but the added burden of providing suitable stock feed in a season
like this, compounds the worry. It is a time for neighbourly support and a helpful approach where
problems become visible over the next week or two.