Friday, October 18, 2013

Flood Update

Well, some good soul did come and re-join the boundary fence where it was cut to allow up-valley traffic around a flood-blocked section of road, nice professional job too, so thanks whoever.
Another 50 acres increased 6" asl
Now the water's gone, I see there's about 50 acres out of action, covered in muddy silt. I figure it'll take till end November to dry out, half of it will crack and let the grass through, and depending if it gets dry enough, will probably drill a summer brassica into whatever the grass dosent get its way through.
Once again, the village 2 km down the road suffered. Main part of the problem there is the on ramp to the new highway bridge across the river built in the 60's, now dams the free passage of water in a way it never did. That's engineers again for you, every time something substantial gets built, there's always a consequence down the line.
SH3 traffic waiting to negotiate the one-way dam-bank
What the Whangaehu/SH3 intersection really needs is a 2 lane underpass under SH3, which will allow the water to keep going on its way.
Also, the intersection will be safer for cross and inter-valley traffic with appropriate on and off-ramps.
But what's the opinion of a humble resident farmer worth in the face of a qualified engineer?
In the words of our famous beer, Yeah right.......

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Wont be mustering to the yards from that direction for a while
Here we go again......
I'd put this flood at about a 1 in 10 year level in terms of effect, and its timing in that frame is consistent.
Checking Horizon's river level forecasting yesterday, after only 22mm rain overnight, the gauge about 10-15km upriver from here was showing a peak of 11.5 metres to occur at 8pm last night.
The really devastating 2004 flood was 13 metres, and the 2006 one, 10 metres, but we were still a bit unsure how much we could tempt fate so far as leaving stock out.
Even though the local rainfall wasn't great, you cant tell what the effect of the huge catchment upstream from here will have, and I have to say, Horizons monitoring system, rainfall, soil saturation, expected run-off etc, works pretty good.
At 6 metres and rising at the upstream gauge, we know we have 6-7 hours before the river breaks banks down here.
Scot doing a bit of aqua-mustering
The stud lambs are only a month old, but all the mobs got boxed and taken up onto the hill faces I spoke so glowingly of assisting the cow wintering.
The beef herd's right in the middle of calving, and one of those mobs we shifted, as it turned out, un-necessarily, and the dogs spent the night well above ground-level in the woolshed.
A visiting mare I was foaling for a friend, we arranged to go to Letham Stud up on the hill from here, and the yearling I was boxing turned out with a paddock mate.
After the 2004 flood, I dunno who it was, Min of Works I think, decided that there wasnt enough of a water-table along the road outside the farm, so they rebuilt the road 18" higher. I tried to talk them out of it, explaining if they they just cleaned up the road verge I'd be happy for the flood water to run free across the road into paddocks following its old natural course downstream.
But no...... it has to be one of the stupidest bits of engineering I've ever seen, the water stays dammed on the river side of the road, and runs through the family homestead that's been dry in every flood since it was built around 1920, and also through the horse stable.
The horses spent the night paddling ankle deep, but I'm confident they're safe around the stable paddocks, its just this infernal 4-6" that the road works is damming up that's really consigning the home I grew up in to be an elaborate hayshed.
Citizens of Wanganui ought to be careful about Horizons spending millions on city stop-bank works, in my opinion, engineers dont always get it right.
The best way to handle flood water is to watch what it wants to do, and let it do it un-impeded.
Keeping out of its way is the best strategy.
Now I wait for the flood water to recede so I can sort these mobs of sheep and cattle back out where they belong.
I'm grateful for the help of neighbours Malcolm and Cameron, shifting stock.
Not so for the young gawkers who farted up and down the road in their tractors this morning for no apparent reason other than the thrill of seeing if it could be done, and who helped themselves to a drive around my paddocks seeking an alternative to the impassible bits of valley road.
In the end I let them cut the boundary fence so they could get round, but I bet no bastard offers to rejoin the fence for me.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Motorcycle Helmet

Scorpion EXO100
When in PN yesterday I bought a bike helmet on special from ANZA Motors Harley Demo Day, a  Scorpion EXO100.
Open face model which will earn me criticism from the full-face brigade. Such critics argue there's no protection if you fall face first, but ignore that lack of a visor riding into the sun is pretty imperilling with full-face, this one has a visor. Its also got a flip down sun lens, and have to comment its one of the best shaded lens I've looked through, excellent definition and very little dimming of the vision, and lovely range of sight through to the peripheral. Easily removable, and a clear one comes with it. The visor clips off too.

Riding home from PN, I didn't have a face scarf, but wind wasn't unpleasant. The wind noise is a bit distracting however.
At the sale price, $149 incl, it would make an excellent round-town lid, but I had farm use in mind if I wasn't bowled away with on-road suitability.
Bugger the full-face critics, most cops round the world wear this model, and as far as looks go, its a stunner. OSH have a real problem getting farm people to wear helmets on bikes and quads, and I think the main drawback is the models available are so, so, plain DAWKY.
A model like this, boys will be boys couldn't help wanting to put this one on!
Its really comfortable on, maybe a little on the heavy side.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lambing Kicks Off

Another good Waione mother
1st September, right on the button.
This year I'm starting using RFID tags on the lambs, working on the principle that jumping in's the way to useful incorporation and new systems will evolve therefrom.
I did envisage entering lambing data directly into a dash mounted TruTest XR3000, but found it just too hard to leave my pocket notebook.
I've had experience in the past..., several seasons with a Psion Workabout, great in the paddock, but the major problem was during the interface with and upload to the desktop PC, you never knew what was matching the receiving file, or not, and there's also the ever present danger you could lose data before upload or backup, which was the final straw for me.
Not the same problem with the pocket book, provided you're careful in the rain, and keep it away from the missus and the washing machine, plus when you do a manual upload to the PC, you have the opportunity to spot anomalies, make corrections, or notes for check back in the paddock on tag numbers next tagging round.
The best electronic solution I can see is the latest model Psion Workabout Pro3, which can run Excel, take it to the paddock loaded with an SIL upload compatible animal data file, and input the lambing data direct, save to onboard backup, and file swap back and forth to PC when you get home.
Problem is, with an RFID reader, those babies run about $3000.
I've tried a 7" tablet, but just too big to be practical, and input too slow and cumbersome.
I thought maybe a Galaxy Note 2 might be able to do it, 5.3" screen, I think it probably could but for Samsung's proprietary interface software prohibiting simple USB hookup to PC. I've looked for solutions to this on Google, none of which work. Why on earth manufacturing companies think consumers are going to be happy using internet based Dropbox, SkyDrive or their own stifling proprietary sync systems is beyond me, whats wrong with Androids simple plugging in the USB and seeing the phone as Drive:E?
Absolutely nothing if you're in a poor reception area, where cloud based computing's dodgy, if available at all.
Actually, I have got the Note II communicating through MTP and can copy Excel files seamlessly back and forth to QuickOffice on the phone. Will experiment the season's calving with this, smaller numbers to parallel track manually
The Psion would work nice on the shearing board, read tags, and follow the fleece to the scales, maybe even get the weight returned via bluetooth, but with a read range under 3" you'd be losing the use of one hand feeding the sheep through a live-weight weigher. I see some UK liveweight systems with the Psion mounted beside a panel reader, but now you're talking another $2500 at least for one of them, and the complication of another bit of obsolescing electronics.
If all the RFID tags are going to achieve is making live-weight taking easier, I'm not so sure the investment is worth it. It might be better to keep the money in the bank, and make your weigh-day easier by getting a casual assistant in for a few hours work.
More on this as time goes.
Meanwhile, back in the lambing paddock, focus as usual on survival, already pretty good at under 8% of total lambs born, but I want to get it better than that.
I've found a high relationship between lamb deaths and lower FE index, the simple solution being to quit ewes that lose lambs.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

WHS 1st XV Score Premier Trophy

Having a couple of nephews do their secondary education through Wanganui High School, family involvement with college rugby has been a Saturday morning regular. Both have gone on to university but has continued a small sponsorship of the team.
Today the team pulled a thriller of a final match against Palmerston North Boys High to gain the Premier Trophy, a sort of 2nd division college comp, behind the Top 10, for the Manawatu area. Trailing at half time the supporters group were starting to get a bit anxious, but this is a well drilled and very fit group of young men and a couple of late tries equalised the scores 25-all at full time. Comp rules negate going to extra time and the boys won on number of tries count-back, 4 to 3!
A major contributor to Wanganui High's climb up the ranks of competition over the last few years has been Darryl's skilful and focussed coaching, the PGGW stock agent is also handles Waione farm's livestock trading.
Most of the teams sponsors are local oufits all doing business with each other in some way.
Well done Team!
Team and Coach embrace the Cup
The AB's securing the Bledisloe Cup after a second win over Australia topped off a great day.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Drought Aftermath - Back on Track

For many hill breeding farms the aftermath of last summer's extended dry has been a long climb out of, both physically and financially, and for many, the effects will linger for some time still.
Am personally pleased to see our ewes, now just a month off lambing, have regained a respectable liveweight, the 2ths, 48kg at mating April 1 are now 61kg, having gained 13kg in 4 months. Similarly, the MA ewes pictured are upward of 65kg.
Normally, they'd be shorn before lambing, but we had to can it halfway through after a couple went down in the yards with grass staggers, but a bit of quick thinking and a 50ml dose each of calmag avoided any losses.
The hills pastures, shaved bare of rough top and now rejuvenating with a fresh short young sward, are a prime candidate for mineral imbalance. The associated grass staggers, (hypomagnesaemia), is a problem you see more with cattle than sheep, so I'm a bit chuffed at having made the connection with the ewes off pasture for the short time in the yards and after a walk in from the hills.
As luck would have it, or rather by 6th sense, I felt back in Mar/Apr I'd need to make some extended provision for cattle feed should the drought extend right into and even maybe through winter, so I kept 30 acres of hill sidling in reserve. The cows are on this now, munching their way through 6000kg dm/ha nice mature feed, in their 6 week build-up to calving where they'll come down onto the flats to a controlled calving rotation.
Having sold off the hill block the beef herd used to run on 5km up the valley, its taking me some time to work out a suitable management system, but this latest find of summer reserved pasture on sidling country of limited use otherwise, is ace in the hole to get the cows through the critical winter pinch. Theyre not having to compete with the closer grazing ewes, they're not stressing my fences trying to push somewhere the grass might be greener, theyre not eating at the macrocarpa hedging round the place and risking aborting their foetii, and theyre not pugging great footmarks in wet winter ground, plus I dont have to feed out hay.
You never stop learning in this game.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Zuk - back on track

Nothing worse than a bit of machinery out of commission, its not so much the cost of repairs that's the bugbear, its the loss of use during the down-time.
For almost 12 months the Zuk has had a mystery miss in the engine. Some days it would run fine, others it would fart right down to a stall, most inconveniently under a bit of going up-hill effort.
I started by replacing the fuel filter, thinking that the intermittancy of the miss-fire suggested fuel blockage rather than electrics, but no go. Other experts, (always plenty of free advice available), suggested water in the fuel, and I thought, oh no, not that please, the tank is mounted behind a crash plate that would need half the rear frame removed to be got at.
My auto-electrician said a faulty coil can cause behaviour like that, so I put in a replacement igniter, still no solution, so while I was at it, I replaced the plugs, leads, and main lead. This created a real problem, one of the bakelite plug caps had stuck itself firmly on the plug, (they're quite long to get down through the overhead cam cover to the plug). I had to smash it to get it off, and mate Gareth tipped me to use the air compressor to blow the bits out before I attempted removing the plug. This was plug No2, and I went into a several month mental seizure before I got the gumption up to tackle the last two, which in Murphy Law tradition literally fell out, they were so easy.
But..... the miss was still there.
I'd checked the compressions while the plugs were out, and they were all OK, which sort of satisfied me that maybe the head gasket wasn't stuffed, but there was still an overheating problem underlying all this carry-on.
I consulted the chat sites, found a heap of threads voicing problems similar to mine. The most likely one was that there was a leak in the ignition advance vacuum line, check that, couldn't see any likely breach, but went over the whole air intake line and made joints as secure as possible.
Still no improvement.
Time to call in an expert, Dan Cowper, renowned off-road truck builder lives just over the hill from me. He jumps in, fats off up the road and back, and true to Murphy, Zuk behaves herself impeccably, and Dan dryly remarks, "No charge for the fix".
Jesus.... so off I go couple days later out the back of the farm, and Zuk does a complete stall on me. So I'm sitting in the sun cooling my heels, and my temper, doing the odd lap round the Zuk, searching the sky for inspiration, etc.
Gazing round under the bonnet. The distributor cap's bolted on rather than clipped as more usual with distributors, and a glance round the bottom side reveals the bottom fixing bolt's missing. I hadn't bothered to look under the cap before, thinking bolted on, cant be a problem there.
Well, bugger me, when I took the cap off, there's so much rust flake fluffing round inside like you wouldn't believe, the contacts are green with corrosion, and the carbon high tension button is missing completely. Gave it a scratch-up all round with the pocket knife, and scraped as much of the rust out as I could, and voila! Zuk roars into life.
So, back home, good blow out with the compressed air, new cap and rotor, and the engines running like I cant remember.
But, the troubles don't end there!
A clack, clack, clack, starts up somewhere under the front end. Oh no..., CV joint?, universal?, gearbox?, transfer case?...
I check the wheel nuts driver side, they're OK, don't bother about off-side.
Call Dan in again, he walks round the off-side, all the front wheel nuts are loose. "No charge for the fix", says Dan again. Strangely, the steering isn't wandering all over the place now either!
Anyway, happy ending, and to cement that in have tek-screwed on some mudguard flare extensions, so I can drive round with my elbow on the window sill, and not get mud up the side of my face as well.
At the Mystery Creek Field-days noticed at the Suzuki Stand, soft tops on the farm Jimneys, on enquiry have been able to get one from the Wanganui assembly plant. Built for the longer Jimney deck I've had to cut the back end off, but I've got it rolled and bungeyed to the windscreen front edge, for unfurling in the inclement weather.
Tek-screwed a rubber mat to the inside of the tailgate to complete the touch-ups.
And with the engine running as it should, miss-free, the over-heating problem has abated.
Can't help recalling the old rule, if an engine's not running right it'll be 90% ignition the problem.
Anyway. Joy........

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Winter Wear

The approach of winter sent me diving into the cupboard for my base layer outdoor rags.
Just by chance I was passing a rack at the PN New World checkout that had long sleeve singlets and long-johns priced at $21 a throw.
They had to be synthetic and against my wool-grower religion, but I'm 1/4 Scot and cant resist a bargain, so I came home with a set, and I'm impressed. Soft feel, warm, light, and nowhere near as clammy as polyprop, or wool for that matter, when you sweat.
I was intrigued, the only label on it is Sealcote and "made in China".
Interestingly, a Google search turns up that sealcote is a US invented process that coats the inside of the synthetic filament, synthetic threads are hollow as opposed to wool's having scales, and is why the latter has had dominance in the dye-fastness and heat control stakes.
Apparently this process permits the inside of the filament to be coated with, you name it..... dye, anti-bacterial, anti-perspirant, etc, without affecting the cosy-ness of the outer.
I'm wearing the stuff now, its great. Its got a polo type neck too, most of the competition only have a T-neck, I mean, what's the point of a warm torso, if your neck's exposed to the breeze.
Last year I wrote in praise of the merino underwear, but, even as a wool-producer, I'm admitting this stuff's got it beat. The merino T's have developed holes in less than 12 months and are unthreading themselves, to me that's a sign the staple length in the spin is too short. A lot of Chinese made woollens do this because they're re-cycling woollen clothing, hammering the old weave into a pulp and re-spinning, but with a greatly hammer-bashed shortened spin staple.
The merino T's were $90 a throw, but the competition is cheaper now.
This sealcote stuff is excellent value, and its lighter and cottony in feel, and I guess it will be wearable further into an approaching summer than merino. I was picking the light merino would be wearable all year, but no, it just gets too hot.
Dunno where all this puts me as a wool-producer, a bit of a blow to belief in my own product.
We just need to keep on the innovation and niche product trail. Petro-chemical based products do have a finite life compared with wool's sustainability, but that's a day well beyond my lifetime. Its said we need to diversify away from wool's use solely in carpet, but I wouldn't have anything other than a wool carpet in the house. And I still prefer wool as an outer shell, big knit jerseys, gloves, beanie, and Swannie.
Anyway, I went back to New World and bought up the last pair of Sealcotes in my size.
On the other hand.....
only a week or so to the shortest day!
21 June.

But wait....... there's more

In the last post I mentioned my quest to use my smart phone as a data logger, for all sorts of stuff....
On Excel 2010 I've written a chopped-down feed budget program, with separate screens for pasture growth, cover assessment, stock on hand, copying subtots to final budget with a fancy little 12 month graph with available DM and demand lines. I want eventually to do my sheep recording on it as well.
Quick Office came bundled with the Atrix2, and fantastically, the whole feed budget suite copied over from desktop to phone via the USB cable no prob, the phone appearing on My Computer as drive:E or something.
There was a small inconvenience, the row and column freezes didn't copy over, and of course when you pack down to the 4.5" odd of a phone screen, you start having to guess where you are. Not good.
Searching the apps in Google and Google Play, brought up that for $17.95 I could buy the next version up of Quick Office, QO Pro, so I did.
Yep, on opening everything bolder and faster, AND, it frame freezes, but OH NO!!.........
the Swype number pad cursor keys don't work in Pro, and the whole keyboard just disappears when you shift to the next cell, just as it does when you press enter!
I had a chat to Bryce at DSE, top man this guy, a real knowledge fund.
He pulled out his iPhone5. What I gleaned here is, who needs a keyboard, when the voice recognition on this bit of gear is so good. Its mind blowing, like having an intelligent mate.
But I think Apple only run with Docs to Go in the compatible spreadsheet stakes, a program I discarded some time ago, and its not in the same street as QuickOffice.
So I said, what about Samsung S4 Active, the ruggedised smartie due out soon, as an Android option. Hitch there is sealing from elements inevitably reduces sound volumes, the Atrix is bad enough at this for my hearing. Plus, you have to climb over Samsung's proprietary whizz-bangs to get at what you actually want to do, that is unless you "root" the phone.
for the moment, I'm stuck with QO standard version for data logging, and QO Pro for read outs.
And I'm working on the voice recognition input facility, taking a while to master Nuances nuances, but I think it might have possibilities.......
I'll keep you

Sunday, June 9, 2013

If you haven't got anything good to say.......

There's a good piece of etiquette advice circulating about what we put up on the www. along the lines of.... "if you haven't got anything good to say...., don't say it". After all, its common sense and good manners, we don't as a rule bad-mouth out loud in public, and the www. is public domain.
I thought a bit about this a couple of days back when I was about to launch into a tirade of invective about my cellphone manufacturer, and am now pleased I kept my trap shut.
I finally settled on a Motorola Atrix 2 as my mobile device of choice. Things have been going along swimmingly with it integrating farm, business, and personal IT demands, but the other night I switched the phone's wifi on, immediately getting a "ping", notification of updates to the several apps I've loaded, and including one of an update to the Motorola's operating system.
With an update notification you get the option of vetting each suggested update individually, and thinking all was OK, I pushed "go", and sat back to some TV.
On picking up, I was aghast to find the operating system update had taken my phone interface to the dark side, previously basically black text on a light/white background, it had gone the other way, white text on dark ground, so much harder to read for us sight challenged older gen, and the reason why I dumped Windows based phones in preference for Android.
So it was into the settings menu to look for fixes. The settings function had changed, there was no option to reverse the interface, but I did find a new option to greatly enlarge text size, so I set for the super-size.
That was quite a help, although it cuts down the text enter box size when texting.
Phew to that one, but jees....... hang on, what's going on with the Excel sync'ing I'd been working on for farm and livestock data between the phone's Quick Office and MS Office on my desktop.
Diving in to a Quicksheet, the China Bell numeric keypad option I've been using for data input has gone. I mean this was calamity district, the standard keyboard with phones and tablets, jumps from the number list back to querty every time you enter or shift to another cell, rendering the use of such gear in the field a stupid waste of time.
So it was here I was about to blaspheme, but I held my tongue, spent a heap of time on Google seeing how other keyboard apps worked, and finally found that the Swype that came with the update does have a number pad, and what's more with cursor keys!
So, you can enter numbers, and shift to the next entry cell with the cursor without the number pad disappearing, and it'll stay there as long as you don't use the enter key to change cells.
Well, hooray for that, its actually better than the China Bell I've been using.
The address book's a bit easier to enter and edit contact details, and the phone dialler pops up when its supposed to now.
I guess I can put up with a bit of the loss in interface theme convenience for all this.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Coopworth Genetics 2013 Annual Conference

Southland were host province this year.
Did a few days 'road trip' for this one, about a 1000km drive to Invercargill, starting with a 5am traffic-free run to Wellington to catch the Interislander Ferry, and including an overnight stop in Ashburton to get there.
Took a leisurely enough pace to be reminded what a down-home friendly mob Southerners are.
The loss of sheep country to dairy over recent years, Canterbury to Southland is startling, while the area gone over to vineyard Blenheim to Nth Canterbury is also very noticeable.
Day one started with a trip around to Riverton, mini-Riviera seaside community and fishing port on the south coast, and a visit to Templeton's Flax Mill. The flax industry had closed down around the 1970's, but this place has been kept operational as a tourism venture. Flax would have lost ground to synthetics as raw material for roping, furniture stuffing, and woolpacks, with just a bit going these days to craft people. These days too, there'd be environmental problems to overcome, waste discharge, and the machinery is noisy and possibly an OSH risk.
Raewyn and Graeme Black's 'Lawson Lea' stud offered the first Coopworths sighted.
Set piece discussion centred round succession of the recorded flock and the thought breeders needed to give to future-proofing ram breeding, all sorts of challenges, dairy, composites, non-rural careers pursuit for young country folk, or even whether they simply dont find interest in flock recording at the Coopworth level of intensity.
The Black family stand out as one that has grown and endured, from Bob's early days spent bulldozing and breaking country in, to the 490 ha breeding/finishing unit it is today, supported by a further 572 ha tussock hill country breeding block. Peter and Leon's renowned flock and block next door is further testimony to this family's grit.
Should have been obvious what's needed to meet the challenges of a changing world.
Grit. Focus, (as in not getting side-tracked by the "changing world").
Like a lot of us sheep people, theyre now surrounded by dairy. I suppose you could say a bit pariah in the circumstances, but, to bastardise a phrase, 'who's going to come, if you dont build it'.
Well done Blacks anyway.
And specially for the gourmet lunch organised at the local hall, oysters, whitebait, cray.........
plus an exhibition of local artist's work.

To be continued.......

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review: TYM T723 4WD Tractor

Bought this tractor back last November, so like with the topper, have had it long enough to settle on an opinion, having just completed the crop-regrass cycle. Again the opinion is thumbs up, and more so.
Have to hand it to the the South Korean manufacturers, TYM, nice work.
I was initially attracted to the heavier, (than you see elsewhere in similar sized tractors), build of the mechanicals, axles, diffs, g/box etc. Now all that remains to be seen is how reliable and durable a piece of machinery it is. I'm betting on the good side.
I've come from running a 40 odd year old cab-less Same Minitauro, which I've incidentally kept as a FEL drone (the PTO's stuffed enough I cant face exploring repair), with just a few years interspersed with hired JD 6310's, so my gee whizz comments might seem ho-hum to some readers.
Big thing to keep in mind, with manual gears rather than electronic, this is a budget package, an NZ$ mid 40's bargain when I got it, but justifiably increased since.
Its got the 3 cylinder Perkins swept to 3.3 litres, 73 hp. Interestingly, it sure does the same work easier than the old 56hp 3 cylinder Same, but using more diesel to do so, surprised me a bit, was expecting the other way round. Have settled on working at a 2000 rpm sweet spot, but seems to be racing at that compared to the Same.
Other comments, no particular order, just as they come to mind.
As in the pic, it came with the front-end weight set, it needs it, weight centre feels back a bit, so the bigger front tyres are a help, and the power steer is a dream, so is the lock/turn radius.
The bonnet catch is easy to locate, and the hood a nice simple strut assisted lift and hold. No header tank means you have to open the radiator cap to check the coolant, bit of a nark too high to look down the filler, instead put a finger in. The oil dipstick can be checked without lifting the hood.
Diesel filler cap bugs me a bit too, can only be opened unlocked with the key, and the filler spout too small to upend a 20 litre container direct into without spilling the first glug. Mod called for here, bigger throat and cap needed.
Cab doors, (lockable), open and shut OK, given the cab's pretty airtight. Nice big grip on the steering wheel, and as mentioned, the power steer imparts a real light feel.
Everything in the cabs got a decent man feel about it, no crappy plastic.
This model doesn't have any fancy power shift, which is a big part of the competitive price. The clutch, which you have to use for all changes, is pretty sweet. There's 3 ratio range shifts, and there's no ground speed overlap with the 4 main shifts between ratios, ie. 12 shifts linear. The range shifter graunches if you're not completely come to a halt, but the synchro on the main shifter is so good it works just as fast as a power shift, even working the clutch.
Not having to be concerned about possible expensive power shift/shuttle breakdowns is a plus in my book.
There is a forward/reverse shuttle lever, works with the foot clutch, works good with a single movement, not so good if you let it lag.
The throttle lever's a bit poky, might try and put a T-bar on it one day.
Brakes are good, separate pedals give enhanced turn, but the dash clipped parking brake is just as easy to forget about leaving on, stamp on pedal to disengage.
The clutch pedal's got a hold open clip, for long term park up clutch freeze avoidance, but I cant see I'll use that much. Depress clutch to get key start to work.
There's a lot of control offered over the PTO, but I only use the live all times option, with the quick on/off button on the dash.
I like the seat spring height adjustment, the dial's numbered looks like with driver weight, I turned it to setting '90' and it's just right for me. Small seat, but I've done long days in it no discomfort, no side arms but that's great for turning round to look at things. I would have liked a tractor with a training seat too, but you cant have everything.
I love the cab. A/C on hand, leave the fan on 1, adjust the temp according. Hardly use the side and rear windows, and the roof hatch only for putting the magnetic base GPS aerial out on the roof.
Radio reception's good, talk-back in the mornings, classic hits FM in the afternoon, engine's a bit loud but I'm not going deaf adjusting radio volume to suit. CD player included, or you can plug in an MP3.
Usual other stuff, cigarette lighter plug I use for the GPS. Lights and wiper switches are pressure pads in the side pillar, had me confused, took me a while to find them.
Lighting's great, and the wipers are too.
Rear fenders are a bit light, need to be careful not to break them I think.
Solid stable hydraulic arms, CatII self-hitch, I'm in dreamland swapping implements compared with before.
Overall, simply a joy, I could work in it all day.

Out of the Drought

Well here, we are..... but still not so fortunate in other parts of the country.
Not so far north of here, 50km as the crow flies, things look absolutely dire. From SH1, Taihape and Hunterville hills looked grey and grim under an overcast sky, in a late afternoon drive-through last Sunday. Quite rightly they're worried about the onset of frosts stopping autumn growth in its tracks, whatever of that they could expect from 9mm rain through April reported by one source.
Compare this kitchen-window shot with the March one
Down here, a stone's throw from the coast, we've had 141mm through April, and with heaps of latent heat in the soil, daily PGR's have been cranking along at 50 kg/ha since middle of the month. That's on the hills, the flats do 5kg better than that.
Actually, its hard to call it a bad summer and autumn for here. The extraordinary lower rainfall Sep through Dec, about half historical average, certainly set things up bad with no surplus feed carry-over, but rainfall Jan through Mar was actually above average each month.
The summer feed crops have been a boon, and I can now use the buffer hill-sidling feed reserve to build the cows up, while the back hills recover.
Its great to see the replacement ewe lambs putting some meat on. Although they've been on crop all through, I have pushed them to clean up the stubble, and lets face it, there hasn't been much feed off it.
Till now....
Hire cherry picker fixing woolshed spouting
To be honest, I've enjoyed the long summer days, it hasnt been too hot but working in loose clothing has been order of the day from sunup to sundown, not being rained off all those satisfying repair jobs, and stock work, no holdups getting the shearing done.
The last few summers have been pretty crappy short affairs, its almost like a cycle of return to the long summers we enjoyed years ago, when drought was an annual distant plaintive from somewhere over Hawkes Bay way.
The bees must have enjoyed it too going by reports from apiarists about this seasons honey crop being a bumper. Makes you wonder if the poor summer weather has been the cause of bee population decline rather than the anthropogenic wailing.
When seasons are wet, flowering's poor, and bees cant fly, its OUR FAULT.
And when we get a drought, its still OUR FAULT.
FFS, some people need to get real jobs.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Fieldmaster GMT230 Topper

Had this machine coming up 12 months so sufficient time to settle opinion.
Basically, its thumbs up.

  • solid construction, heavy duty gearboxes
  • easy to mount and dismount to/from tractor
  • thing I like most is the height adjustment, undo 4 lock nuts, turn the top screw to the required setting, there's a scale pointer marked in inches. I've bought a purpose wrench handle and appropriate size socket which I keep in the tractor
  • looks like the skids are reversible, handy for when they inevitably wear
  • joy..., have discovered it handles small to medium rushes, as in pic
  • mulch function great for cleaning up crop stubble, cali's etc, ahead of direct drill, I think the fine mulch is a benefit to the organic matter hamper. I've got the triple blade tip mulch option
  • don't think it covers ground quickly, I've settled on 8-10 kph ground speed, rather the efficiency is in its width. There again, I enjoy working slow, and its a great way to make gear last a distance
  • dosen't cut cleanly in some going. I think this is a result of blade rotation direction cutting over rather than against the "nap" left by the rear tractor tyre, requiring at times some overlap of swath and resultant loss of cut width efficiency. On the other hand, on cut targets that stand up, like rushes, it works really good, so am not complaining, plus you can jiggle with the cut height and sometimes get under the problem
  • cost, here in NZ $11k odd plus GST, that's about 25% of the purchase price of the new TYM tractor its attached to. I traded my 9' roller seed drill to get it, a fairly close swap

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book: Serious Fun, the life and times of Alan Gibbs

This book's a good read for farmers, a sort of swashbuckling, but serious champion of capitalism.
Its always interesting to see how the self-made mega-wealthy got to be so, and I found his life path through the recent history of NZ economic development, from the days of rigid import control, through the Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson years, detailed in the first half of the book, immensely so.
The second half of the book gets a bit languorous, as others who've read it have also commented, as it details Gibbs indulgences in mega art, and pursuit of the amphibious vehicle, the latter a credit to his tenacity, and an object lesson in product development.
Still, its a significant read, and good on him for letting/getting it be written.
Most of us ordinary mortals never get to experience what he has, his depth of reading, and travel and experience in over 130 countries visited. We need to rely on opinion of his ilk to test and formulate our own.
There's a closing piece in Serious Fun that's a little ominous, he's saying western democracies are now the most coerced societies, given our penchant for letting governments grow unrestrained. I guess he infers that because, although the intent of regulation is protection of the vulnerable, it mostly ends up as a another jobs arse to be protected, and consequent  impediment to the entrepreneur.
Us food producers world-wide are so much contributors to this, victims of our own success, we've fed our people so well they've become ever adept at riding on the backs of others, ie us, eating the hand that feeds them, rather than themselves create something that never existed before.
Like Mr Gibbs has, and continues to do.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Getting Dry......

The view out my kitchen window
With drought declarations springing up all round the country, we're keeping a close eye on feed supply, and on the weather maps too.
I dusted off my old feed budget program and arrived at a deficit of 8kg DM/day, which, all said and done, is what I expect this time of year.
The important thing, I think, if you're a seat of your pants stockman like me, is not to divert from the annual flight plan formulated from a lifetime experience on your farm, keep picking the plums as they ripen, sell them on whatever's the best market available, take the loss on the chin, and dont play for time in hope of things improving.
Recently I took a price on the place for some finished lambs, with an indeterminate delivery date. Theyre still here, chewing through my ever increasingly valuable crop, denying the rest of my lambs the luxury of a finishing feed, and free grazing for the works buyer as he tends to demands and pleas more vociferous than mine.
I'm reminded why I vowed never again to be a committed supplier to a processor, when my lambs at the time of my 4th week of delayed delivery triggered my walk-out. By then the lambs had got to 8 weeks from their last drench, contracted an internal parasite attack, leaving me powerless to drench them to stop the loss of health in case I did get a call, but jiggered by the drench withholding period.
Best of luck to all and sundry getting this closer association industry PGP whatever plan off the ground, I wont be a participant.
With the average age of sheep-farmers here still hovering around mid-50's, I think the ground-swell enthusiasm for it will be similarly conservative. What we'd all like is a set season base-price per kg, maybe with bonuses around seasonal demand, bit like the dairy farmers operate, but I doubt it'll ever happen.
Meanwhile, we watch the weather maps closely. After a copy-book summer, I reckon it always rains on 20th March, and right now a tropical cyclone is ripping down the higher Tasman, and the current anti-cyclone sitting over the country is weakening off to the east.
Ken Ring, the moon man, reckons its going to rain on the 20th too, according to some drinking buddies last Fri night, and with some vigour too.
I hope we dont get a crash of weather systems if the crap far to the south gets up here at the same time, like we got for the 2004 floods.
And further meanwhile, I've got the contractor's digger out deepening a couple of stock-water dams that have finally got low enough to get into. Apart from that, the water supply is actually in quite good shape over the rest of the place.
Pretty near all my "hill" paddocks are 30ac in size, and I want to get to a situation of 2 good dams in each.
Feed crops, pasja and Hunter, are standard component of my dry summer strategy. They can be oddly inconsistent performers, but have come into their own this season, sown late for here, mid Dec, but have kept growing right through, and holding in the face of quite a heavy stocking load.
I think its the sheltered aspect of this valley keeping them safe from the wind, and making the low-lying most of the dews we've been getting.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"I stood upon the hills"

Tennyson said that.
"I stood upon the hills as heaven's wide arch, was glorious with the sun's returning march."
I always get a buzz out of early morning muster, sheep snort somewhere in the mist and slope off around their hill trails as the dogs do their ancient caper, sending their booming bark and howl down the gulleys.
The NZ huntaway was bred from crossing labradors with hunting hounds, hence the howly bit, and the penchant to run down their next feed, if you dont keep an eye on their training.

Friday, February 1, 2013

2th Keeper Rams Selected

One of the best times of the year in the stud flock, selecting the 2th keeper rams.
Selection was initially done using SIL eBV's, but the candidate group were also DNA sampled for the Ovita 5K Beta test, and gBV's for that have since been returned.
gBV's are the result of blending the estimated and the molecular BV's.
The mBV merely confirms or endorses the eBV already known for physical traits of high heritability, eg. live wts and fleece wts, but its real value is making selection more robust in traits like NLB or SUR with low heritability that only come to full measure over some years:
Or feasible, in the case of traits where no observation is done at all in this flock, eg. carcase yield measurements for shoulder, loin, and rump; internal parasite resistence; and dag score.

61/11   1st DPG+A  4th DPP

89/11   1st DPW

125/11   1st DPG  2nd DPP  3rd DPG+A

150/11   1st DPX

152/11   2nd DPG

234/11   4th DPW

247/11   3rd DPR+S  3rd DPX

311/11   1st DPM

315/11   3rd DPG  5th DPM

 The dark stain in the fleece on the side of some sheep is from the parafin used during ultra-sound muscle scanning, nothing permanent.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Rational thought on the Quad Bike safety Issue

At last somebody is applying some rational thought to this issue, and how pleasing it is coming from Fed Farmers own spokeswoman on Health and Safety, Jeanette Maxwell.
In a recent Dompost article she asks the question why the intense media scrutiny on farm quad accidents, 7 fatalities and 84 serious harm notifications last year, on around 100,000 machines on NZ farms, while on the road, there were 42 people killed and over 1000 seriously injured, on significantly fewer machines.
She dosent say how many road bikes there are, but looking up the govt stats it looks around 65,000.
At least that was the figure in 2007, and it dosent appear to have changed much since, despite a rush of new bike registrations in 2008.
That's around 7 times more road deaths per 1000 machines than on farms. Good point.
Simple conclusion is coroners and OSH staff havent got enough to do.
Farmers are always a good captive audience to wring a few more bucks from.
She goes on to quote other sectors such as water safety that say education is crucial, and excessive regulation, such as road machines are subject to, dont necessarily improve the stats.
If us farmers are going to be subject to more regulation, we're entitled to know why and what for.
Of course the nation could fix the accident rate over the whole spectrum in one fell swoop by getting rid of ACC so accident injuries become user pays, and businesses and vehicle owners could save a packet in ACC levies.