During the past year three ugly sisters, Debbie, Donna and Gita have not exactly endeared themselves to many New Zealand rural communities.
After being visited most recently by ex-cyclone Gita, some farmers in Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty dairy chairman Peter Overdevest’s patch are still grappling with the after-effects of Debbie and Donna which swathed the north a year ago.
The ex-cyclones and subsequent floods created a lot of havoc in the region, Peter says. “There’s quite a few people still struggling with that.”
Some pastures and farm infrastructure still have not recovered from Debbie, which struck in April last year, Peter says. “I would say it has been very difficult for some.
“Some farmers have lost a lot of production, and it’s cost them a lot of money to get their farms back up to some sort of working order as far as fencing and infrastructure and pastures is concerned.”
Peter believes 50 to 60 farmers and horticulturalists in Bay of Plenty were badly affected. “Not all farms were affected, but the ones that were definitely had some major losses last year.”
A considerable amount of river protection work is needed to be done to ensure flood damage did not happen again to the same extent, he says.
Fortunately the good summer has helped with the recovery for some, however others have been affected by drought following Gita. Peter took on his Federated Farmers role early last year in the hope of contributing to leadership in the dairy sector “from grass roots level”.
“People need to somehow communicate to the powers that be what’s going on in the real world.”
Peter and his wife Tania’s own grass roots comprise two 150 hectare blocks in Galatea, situated in a valley 40 minutes south of Whakatane. The couple have owned their home farm, which is run by a manager, since 2002.
It peak milks 400 cows through a 40 a-side herringbone shed. The second block, eight kilometres away, was added in 2012 and milks 380 cows through a 50 bail rotary shed.
It is run by Peter with the assistance of a herd manager and relief milkers. He is an advocate of staff undertaking tertiary training such as Primary ITO courses as well as attending discussion groups and field days.
Staff member Alex Sainty was recently placed third in the 2018 Bay of Plenty Dairy Industry Awards Dairy Trainee competition, picking up $1260 in prizes in the process.
It is the first time Alex has entered in a dairy industry competition. The focus on the new farm has been on improving pasture and the quality of its herd.
About 10% to 15% of pasture on both farms has been converted to lucerne because it is better suited to the dry summer conditions. An 18ha support block is also planted in lucerne. Calving starts on July 10.
In recent weeks, Peter has been keeping a close eye on facial eczema spore counts which have been starting to rise and, late March, were getting into the danger level of up to 125,000 spores per gram of grass. “For us here probably March/April are probably the worst months because it’s still quite warm and quite wet.”
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