By RACHEL MACDONALD
The district is drowning under a sea of grass as a potentially record-breaking growing season continues apace.
Anyone driving the Waimakariri’s rural roads in recent weeks will have noticed the sheep going from little cruise liners to submarines, with just the odd white woolly back showing above the grass.
The feed just keeps on growing.
One sheep farmer in Cust says his family has been on their property since the 1970s and he cannot remember a season like it.
“We had such a mild winter, a lot of rain and very few nor’westers. I’ve never seen this kind of growth,” he says.
“The baleage and hay contractors are struggling to get to the big farms because of the run of wet weather we’ve had, let alone making it on to the lifestyle blocks. And as a result, there’s strong demand for store cattle to keep the grass down, so it’s a sellers market there at the moment, too.”
Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cam Henderson agrees.
He says Oxford, where he is based, is currently sitting at 50 percent above annual rainfall for the period between the end of last season and the beginning of this one.
“We had very little or no snow over winter, just a lot of rain right when we need it,” he says.
“The contractors are going around the clock, and praying for a bit of sun and no breakdowns, so they can get both the grass and the crops off the fields before they deteriorate.”
It is a battle against time now, he says.
“A lot of the grass is already losing quality and I think there will be farmers who end up with paddocks of straw that’s not good for anything much,” he says.
“There’s also the cost factor. When there’s so much feed, it’s hard to cut efficiently, so it’s going to end up more expensive to cut and bale than the feed is actually worth, and that will mean a struggle for those who rely on selling it for a bit of income.”
Then, he points out, there is the danger of fire.
“If we do see things drying out between now and February, the grass itself will become a fire risk at the point it is cut, which also makes it harder to get it off the land.
“Then again, it becomes ready tinder if it’s not cut.
“I would say the fire service will be hoping for the introduction of early restrictions at the start of next year.”