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.