On the farm - Warming up

By: Bev Trowbridge

The bare winter branches were decorated with diamanté webs this morning as a low fog clung to the valley – very quickly to be burnt off by unseasonably warm early morning sunshine. As I write, the mercury is wavering above 19 degrees. We are still in appreciable soil moisture deficit, despite the good soaking we had   since school holidays drew to a close.

Most of the region’s paddocks are looking in better heart, with grass growth having recovered somewhat during passable rain for June and July, and most carrying fewer livestock than normal. But many of us are still in feed shortage, chasing each blade of grass with hungry mouths as the warmer temperatures transpire more moisture.

We’re in full swing lambing already, the lambs and the temperatures coming early, despite feed shortages over mating. They’re certainly enjoying the spring-like weather, with chasing and king-of-the-castle games. Meanwhile, mums are concentrating hard on trying to get enough fuel into their tummies to feed their eager sucklers.

Birds seem active early in their nesting endeavours, also fooled by spring-like days. My garden continues to be a riot of colour this year, having not had our usual few frosts to snuff out their light. I even had a monarch butterfly drifting through just this morning, equally as confused as me. And the hibernating ladybugs in my bedrooms are up and about today, demanding to be let outside to continue their aphid munching. I duly oblige; plenty of aphids about too.

Dan on TV One weather tells us that temperatures are running two degrees or more above average for this time of year, and some days much more. The oceans are overly warm too, as anyone who likes their winter dips can attest. I’m enjoying it as much as anyone, but I’m sure I’m not alone in that nagging worry that we’re gonna pay, and soon!
One of the ways to keep our soil moisture in the ground is to not leave bare ground or short grass cover. This is also where our deeper rooting herbaceous plants pay dividends in the paddocks, and not just in the herbaceous borders. Linnburn Station, in Central Otago, has been trialling cover crops and getting diversity into their grazing, both in terms of the plants they’re growing plus the length of rotation and grazing height. Who said you couldn’t have paddocks as attractive as your garden? During July, they toured round New Zealand sharing their experiences with other farmers. Anyone who missed it can catch up with their pioneering work at TV One OnDemand on Country Calendar, Episode 7, and also on their own website. Personally, I’d love to get my paddocks that full of feed, just have a problem of what to do with my animals in the meantime. Chasing that rain again ...

Bev Trowbridge


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