A new blade of grass: Change of thinking, Change of season, Change of climate

Christmas Day, Easter Holidays and Waitangi Day all have one thing in common, time off work. Not the case for farmers though. Just another #431am. Producing that milk early for your morning latte. Talking of important dates, another one is close by #May30. A celebration of being a quarter of a century young #25. Although we could discuss my 25 years and my life story, the focus must be on the real reason why we are here. 1st of June. The new farming year. Change.

The 1st of June is where new contracts begin, farmers shift farms and others decide whether to pursue other careers. The 2017/2018 season will be no different. It is one that brings a new sense of hope and presents a fresh beginning for the year ahead. A blank canvas would be perfect, but a blank canvas does not exist in farming. The ongoing effects and implications from the previous season will flow onto the current season. This currently has been the rain that has delayed the planting of the maize block. The drop in temperatures results in delays for the establishment and growth of new grass.

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Maize block: Uncut maize, dumped maize, water logged and more importantly not in grass

Many of the same challenges faced in 2016/2017 season will still be present in the new season. It will start with calving and end with drying off. The mating, planting and harvesting are all in between. Having a plan in place can prepare you for many aspects of the farming business. It is the same for any business. The old adage of failing to prepare is preparing to fail is very true and is highlighted even more so in farming. Not only do you need your initial ‘go to plan’, but a plan after a plan after another plan. Contingency planning is essential, as the environment around you can change overnight.

Financial management, pasture management, animal health and meeting production targets will be key factors once again. Mitigating the risk these factors pose can be achieved by effective planning and organisation. Despite this, elimination of these risks will not be achieved.  Too many variables exist that are out of the farmers hands. Factors that can not be controlled. The Farmgate milk price being one. The simple economic principle of supply and demand apply. An oversupply of milk worldwide will drive prices down at the Dairy Global Trade and vice versa.

One factor reigns supreme. The greatest of them all !! Even greater and bigger than the Richie factor, which is saying something. It all relates to John Snow, Prince (Purple rain) , Calvin Harris (Summer), Leonardo DiCaprio, El Gore and the make ‘America Great Again’ man Donald ‘don’t believe in it‘ Trump. It is all about the weather. The bigger picture being climate change. I believe it is real and is happening !! However, when the leader of ‘the land of the free’ does not even acknowledge it then where does it leave us ? When there is scientific evidence and visual evidence you would think it is some reason for concern !! We are currently in cruise control…how long this lasts for is anyones guess. It is like a tyre. Tyre goes flat. Pump it back up. Goes flat again, do it again. You can continue on doing this for the short term, however long term you will end up fixing it. Not taking action now is and will be detrimental to all…especially farmers. Rising sea levels, severe weather and temperatures rising is what the current future holds.

The amount of rain and sunshine farmers receive cannot be controlled. Without rain no grass and with too much rain no grass. Irrigation can help, but you still need a water  source. It would be easy if we could set the equilibrium. Combination of rain and sunshine for the entire season. Each year it seems to be getting more drastic. Droughts being more common and harsher and rainfall causing flooding and slips becoming more frequent. It could however be a once off, or a once every 30 years type of scenario. Although now most farmers have plans for droughts during the summer. Planning ahead does not mean start in December. It should start well before 1st of June. Staying ahead of the ball game. Uncertainty will always be present, but planning early will allow for some flexibility down the track.

What farming will look like in 100 years will be interesting to see. How will it evolve and adapt to climate change remains to be seen. As long as you want ice cream, cheese, and milk with your coffee, tea and biscuits than dairy will remain, or at least for the foreseeable future. Imagine trying to eat 1 Weetbix, let alone anymore with no milk … not a pleasant experience we want us Kiwi’s to have. Change is what is happening and change is what we must adapt to. The sooner we acknowledge change the sooner we can move forward and progress into the future.

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