New Zealand farmers enjoy improved harvest results
09 Aug 2023
After a largely wet and disappointing harvest last season, New Zealand farmers are enjoying some better results this year as the last of the combine harvesters head back to the shed for another season.
Wet weather and lost days contributed to lower crop yields and quality, so brighter days and a drier growing season have certainly been welcomed.
James and Jo Doyle have 400ha at Mayfield, on the Canterbury Plain, about 45km inland from Ashburton, and are in the last stages of their harvest, both on their own place and on other farms they service with their contract harvesting business.
On their own place, Eden Terrace, they grow milling wheat, seed wheat and seed barley, perennial grass seed, Cocksfoot grass seed, pak choi seed for Asia, Marrowfat peas that go to Korea and they'll finish up with the harvest of radish seed at the start of April.
The Doyles started harvesting their grain crops towards the end of January – about two weeks behind when they usually expect to start – but James said as they approached the finish line, the overall result was "average to good, not outstanding".
"We're quite high altitude here, 350m above sea level so we missed out on quite a lot of sunshine. Lower down, on the lower Plains, around Ashburton, they had better yields because they beat us on sunshine down there," James said.
"It was a lot better harvest than last year though because that was wet on and off all the way through. Everything's up on last year even though it's been a little bit stop/start – still, it was of a good quality but the growing season's been a bit dull up here the last few years so that's sacrificed some yield for us."
The Doyles' business runs two Case IH Axial-Flow harvesters – an 8250 and a 7140 – and depending on the demands of the 15 to 20 customers they have – with anything from 10ha up to 60ha to harvest - they'll lease an additional Axial-Flow through their local dealers, Cochranes.
"It works better for us to have our own gear - we found using contractors was too hard on the nerves. Farming is all about timing these days and you have to have everything on time to get the best results, and the equipment – and having it on hand when we need it - helps us do this" - Aaron Henderson
They're now turning their attention to sowing autumn wheat and barley – the grass seed's already in – and prepare to welcome the 1900 dairy cows that winter on their property from four dairy farms in the region.
"The cows start arriving in June/July, and then all the ground with the winter feed for the cows goes back to crops in August and September; either spring wheat or barley or a radish or brassica crop," James said.
"Hopefully the autumn stays dryish, don't really need any moisture at the moment. But the winter, who knows. We're probably due for a dump of snow which we haven't had for a while."
For the Henderson family - Roger, Jude and Aaron – in the Canterbury region, not far from Mount Hutt, harvest has been a similar story. Limewood Farms is a 450ha operation, growing the likes of rapeseed, Cocksfoot, rye grass, heat, barley, peas, spinach, radishes, brown top and carrots, which this year will be the final crop they take off, the Hendersons expecting to be finished by mid-April.
"The yields have been okay, about average, but a lot better than last year when they were well below. The wheat this year was probably 3 tonnes better than the previous year," Roger said.
The family own a Case IH Axial-Flow 9230, which Roger said worked well for their operation, the versatility of the 9230 suited to the variety of crops they produce.
"It works better for us to have our own gear - we found using contractors was too hard on the nerves. Farming is all about timing these days and you have to have everything on time to get the best results, and the equipment – and having it on hand when we need it - helps us do this," said Aaron, who's a fourth-generation farmer.
The Hendersons, too, are preparing for dairy cows to arrive for the winter, about 1500 of them, and are currently busy putting in the next round of crops. Roger and Jude hope the prices remain good, although rising input costs are currently eating into any rises in commodity returns.
"What we grow is contracted before we put it in, we don't grow anything on the free market. Most of the small seeds are exported, half the wheat goes to dairy cows for feed and half for milling, the likes of the spinach, carrots and grasses are exported. The prices have been quite good, but it's always a wait-and-see process," Roger said.
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