Thursday, July 9, 2020

Winter Shear




A fortuitous patch of warm weather for late June, too good a chance to miss for early winter shear.
Cover combs leave the sheep with a bit of wool left on so they can withstand any sort of adverse local weather after just a few days, plus we still have over 10 weeks till lambing starts. Due the drought we delayed putting the rams out by 2 weeks.
Got the wool weights back from the broker yesterday, the 2ths did 4.2kg for 11 months since last shear, the MA's did 2.8kg for 6 months.
Lot of dismay about current poor per kg returns for crossbred wool not being enough to cover cost of shearing. 
You can give up and say you're shearing sheep just for reason of their health, but we think we're keeping ahead of the costs by an extended time between shears, 8 monthly (3 times in 2 years, we got a bit out of phase this time due the lock-down), and keeping tabs on the genetics for fleece weight.
Waione sires continue to inhabit the national upper percentile for SIL's wool index. 
Airline and hospitality industry upholstery and carpeting have been the chief users of crossbred wool, but they've taken a hammering in these covid times, delaying any recovery in prices, for who knows how long.
Its a shame a natural, bio-friendly product should so languish.
NZ exports over 40,000 tons of this class of wool annually, we need an end product that captures the consumers imagination in a big enough way, and that is either competitive with synthetic materials, or inhabits an entirely separate market.



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book: Protecting Paradise

Real surprise here.
Fed Farmers promoted this book a while back on the weekly RamBull newsletter. Its a late 2016 print, so the Feds were right out of the blocks on it.
I got it because I thought, as a farmer, I had a responsibility to be as boned up on pest control as I could, seeing as we've had a career long involvement in keeping our cattle herds free of Tb, and introduced possum pest being cited as the chief disease vector. 
What I thought was going to be a rather dry dissertation on the pros and cons of 1080 use turned out to be more..., much, much more, in fact one of my most interesting reads of the last 12 months.
The author devotes the first chapters to a run-down on the state, or better described as, plight, of NZ's wildlife. We usually give cursory recognition to this state of affairs when mentioned in the Press, but here's page after page quietly ramming the point home. I couldn't say I'd do a definite number on my opinion and where it might have been swayed to, more it left me with a sadness about where we are right now.
So, what are we going to do about it.
Then there's a big section on 1080, the history of its use, about the extraordinary lengths DOC and researchers have had to go to satisfy a hostile public about its efficacy, and comparative toxicity, and the development of safest forms of deployment.
And here's where the book got really interesting, discussing the philosphy of disposition, argument, dissent, discontent... whatever, Hansford's done a great job of presenting how an argument looks from both sides, all sides actually, but really how difficult it is, with the best science behind your argument, how the opposition can use it against you without a shred of scientific research data of their own.
The proposition that we all argue an issue from the basis of our own perspective is well travelled in the book, and I have to say my own bias was tested when Hansford likened the 1080 debate to that of climate change. Like with disease and pest control, as a farmer I have to keep a weather eye on most things, climate change included. I'm probably classifiable in the "denier" side of fence-sitter on that, but I'd strongly disagree from my position of all-sectors polling rural realism, that climate deniers were as vociferous as the 1080 dissenters, in fact I'd give the climate bad-mouthing award to the climate activists.
However, Hansford should be pleased I'll henceforth side with DOC's use of aerial 1080 plans, and will join the plea for better funding for DOC by Govt.

For the last 5 years or so this farm has been part of a much larger district wide brodifacoum bait station program run by the regional council. Initially, I didnt like the signage at the gate that went with it, like the place was under quarantine, but I've relented big time.
Scenes like the plover family on the right are regular now. Year before last we had a family of 13 quail hatch, grow and disperse from under a hedge. Haven't seen a possum for 3 years, haven't had rats in my garage, stable, or around the dog kennels for a couple years either. Found a skink from under my front deck, haven't seen one since I was a kid. Tui's regularly gong away in the trees round the house.
I don't think the Predator Free NZ vision is at all nuts, even if only part achieved we'll see a big difference.

Dave Hansford's book is an extraordinarily well written exposition on what could have been a difficult subject. Heck, there's even a 30 page bibliography/citations.
I think its a triumph in the use of modern English.
Thankyou Dave, and thanks Fed Farmers for putting it on the reader list



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

1418 reporting for duty

Time for the bulls to go out, early Dec mating gives us an early Sep start to calving.
I've drifted off calving earlier, an extra month just gives that bit extra breathing space around the seasonal grass growth pattern. Having calves a month live-weight behind is a small price to pay for better herd well-being, and less stress on the Management.
The winter-saved calving paddocks, closed from Jun 1st till Sep 1st, give me time to finish a few more lambs beforehand, the block grows 5-6000 dm by Sep to put the cows on for calving. 
Meanwhile they've run out on the hills till end Jun, come off them before they do too much pug damage into the sidling wintering block, where they'll get balage if they need it, 2 months there, then into the calving block.


So here's 1418, home bred 2yo bull, introduced to his yearling consort. You'll see a flash of white on the heifers, that comes from a Hereford I used over 10 years ago, the odd white head and foot lingers. Apart from the Hereford, haven't used an outside blood bull in over 20 years.
The herd isn't on an official recording system, I keep my own records, and I think things are ticking along quite well.
Here's why.....
Nessa Carey's Junk DNA and The Epigenetics Revolution move one to the view that "what you see is what you get" performance, unadulterated by correction and heritability equations could in fact be the best thing for breeders to be chasing. That outlier corrected out of the hunt by BLUP, could in fact be the individual with the epigenetic modulation of RNA expression to take the flock or herd to the next level of production.
I've devised my own system of cow lifetime production measure, based on mean annual ratio of weight of calf weaned, with penalty of zero for barren, 0.5 for wet/dry, and 0.75 for calf died.
One thing sticks out like the proverbial....
If there's one selection criterion a commercial breeder can hang his hat on, I think its early calving. These cows inevitably have the heaviest calves, and will be the most likely to do it again next year.
I have a selection index for young stock that adds this dam performance to the mean weaning and yearling wt ratio.
Works great......
1418 was 124% for his wng/yrlg ratio, and his dam 114% lifetime calf prod, 238% index.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Crops Away, and the new Walco Allspread 6.75 spreader

Direct drilled last Monday, the pasja's struck really well, only been six days!



First run with the new Walco 6.75 spreader.
Pleased to report it spread as accurately as the handbook settings said...., I was doing 40kg/ac DAP, 12 metre swath at 15 kmph.
A walk around the paddocks after showed distribution was happily satisfactory.
Got the same good result putting some urea on the paddock closed for Jan hay.
The bin will hold 1/2 ton no problem, but I had to work out a suitable driving technique, its not really wise to be doing turns at 15 kph with a load on the back, specially when I get up on the hills later on. Using the foot throttle solved the problem, slow down for the turns.
The handbook said work round and round for best spread, but with the GPS set on A to B, I prefer working in lands with a single run 12 metre headland across each end of the paddock.


Wasn't all sweetness and light however.
Real mission to mount on the tractor. I had to use outside extension pins to match the TYM's CatII linkage arms, and even then the width dosent match all my other CatII gear, so I'm going to have to frig round adjusting the shackles swapping between machinery, all this made worse by bugger all space between spreader bin and tractor, a frustrating squeeze for a bloke my size.

Bit of a bounce on my OD to fit the capital purchase in, but I got this idea, instead of one humungous annual fert bill, I'd do smaller one to three monthly bites of the cherry, as finances allow.
The 1/2 ton capacity allows for getting fert in Ravensdown's 1/2 ton bags, or, I can get bigger amounts in bulk, and load it with the old Same and bucket.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Movie: Rams

Worth a look by all livestock breeders, cattle or sheep.
This movie, set in Iceland, tells the story of how a farm animal disease epidemic can affect us on a personal level.
There's a few bloopers in here that'll go right over the head of the average townie, but by and large its a close enough to the bone depiction of what we might have to face if border protection systems fail us, and....., how some of us might react.
She's a pretty tough environment to farm in up there, magnificent landscape nevertheless.
So were the sheep, must look up the breed, sort of like a long-woolled Texel with horns.
(Actually, they're Icelandic Sheep!)
Salute to the sheep-breeders of Iceland!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Ready for Calving


Well........ we made it
Due calving date just round the corner, and the cows onto saved pasture yesterday.
They've come off the wintering block in good order, actually put good amount of condition on, and have only fed balage last couple of weeks.
Major cost has been one old duck broke the tractor door as she brushed past when the mob thought it might have been a shift day rather than the start of silage feeding. The door literally exploded in a shower of glass, I know who the culprit is, #605, she's still got a layer of glass chips stuck to the poron patch. $1800 for a replacement door. After drumming into Rob, keep the effing door shut, this one happens under the Boss's watch.....
Had an early morning tractor drive into town this morning, 18km, had Central Glass fit the new door for me, all done in 20 odd mins, lot warmer drive on the way home.
Closed 1st June, the calving block's sitting at about 5-6000 kg dm/ha, with a prior dusting of causmag applied day before.
Nothing elaborate about the management, 2 mobs of 30 cows on 12 acres each, fed off in 3 acre breaks will get through to end Oct, urea applied as they move off the earlier breaks if needed.
Hard to believe things are normalising, after all the disruption since the flood.
Sleeping much better at nights.....

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

First Post-Flood Sheep Muster

Its now been 3 weeks since the flood, finally the silt has dried out enough to contemplate bringing some ewes in, bit of pressure involved, the Vet Club say they can fit in a half days scanning tomorrow.
I want to identify the empty ewe hgts, so they can go off the place as part of the de-stock program. The older 5 and 6 yr ewes came in with them, and the lower conditioned of that class can go as well.
We took a punt the mob wouldn't get bogged, particularly where Rob had bull-dozed the wet silt off the main track, into a windrow.
With all the gates opened for the mob to string its way in, they all very sensibly followed the well known path, we didn't push them and it couldn't have gone better.