The Nor-west conditions have continued into December with only 4mm of rain for the month. Can it get much worse? Its now 18 months since our last significant rain.
The sheep have now been locked onto one paddock and are fed a daily ration of balage and barley grain with ad-lib access to barley straw. It takes a bit to get them used to staying in one paddock, the fences are challenged on several occasions until we are able to keep them stock proof.
The hinds have all fawned now but quality feed has gone so we are supplementing all mobs with grain. Did you know a mob of 80 hinds can empty an Advantage Grain Feeder in a couple of days? However we are only filling them once a week. Suffice to say we have to purchase another unit load of barley, the price is getting cheaper now as grain farmers want to empty their silos before the start of the next season. Dairy farmers are not seeking so much grain due to the low payout so it is easier to procure. We have also managed to secure 180 bales of balage off farm so that will keep our stock going until the autumn. If it hasn’t rained by the end of March we will have to further reduce stock numbers by selling all the fawns at weaning, something we have never done in the past.
We wean the hogget lambs in early and mid December again one month earlier than usual as we want to give the hoggets are chance to try and pick up condition after weaning. We are very pleased at the weight of their lambs – 50% of the ram lambs going at 16.72 kg, and 75% of the ewe lambs being retained to build up the numbers in our ewe replacement mob. This only leaves 100 smaller hogget lambs which we will try to grow on if feed permits.
All ewe lambs are on a lucerne paddock and have been growing well since being weaned a month ago. The hot dry weather seems to suit them, but is a fine line between stock doing well, and running out of feed. As Christmas approaches there are some very hot days.
I continue to look at the cereal silage crops struggling to come to achieve grain fill due to the lack of moisture. I feel certain I should have taken them as “green” chop at the start of December and at least got something.
Lyndon Matthews is the farm manager and one of the directors of Puketira Deer.