After the dry, the deluge

Fickle weather has been a challenge for Roger Barton setting up for the new season.

In Home Block6 Minutes

Fickle weather has been a challenge for Roger Barton setting up for the new season.

THE WEATHER IS BEING CONTRARY and so is this farmer. Having had a dry autumn, we then ended up having 470mm over an eight-week period through the thick of winter. We don’t make much mud on our rocks but the gateways were getting smelly and we certainly would have been contravening the new pugging guidelines if it hadn’t been for my greywacke friends just beneath the surface.

Fast forward a month or so and I’m looking for moisture – 14mm later it can stop. We are lambing and fine is good!

It’s been a tight start to spring. A shabby autumn followed by the highest incidence of grass grub and porina caterpillar that we have seen for years has cost us some carrying capacity that’s for sure.

A paddock that had wonderful feed for weaning young cattle into, back in March, now has 25 single two-tooths in it versus a long-term stocking rate of 45 twinning two-tooths. Nature wields the levelling blow. In a season where prices are looking very positive, productivity is definitely compromised. It’s hard to find the perfect three-legged stool. Good pricing, charmed climate and great pasture production.

While we have been working hard inside the farmgate to set up the season I’m becoming less enchanted about things outside the farmgate. Covid19 has just changed to level 2 as I write this, for that we can be thankful that we are classified as an essential service. Spare a thought for all other businesses with capital at stake and no income to keep the wolf from the door.

At a national level there is an increasing focus on issues such as climate change. I’m no climate change denier. I see it on this property with the rise of two weed species, Ink Weed and Cape Daisy that have really shown their power of establishment in the last few years.

But my intrigue with climate change goes further. One Rod Carr is the “Climate change commissioner.” He was recently in print lamenting his family’s monthly power bill of $800 per month. He has installed solar panels and moved to an electric vehicle (not a Hybrid Hilux I’m sure of that). I have no idea how someone who you might think would be thinking “energy efficiency” could burn $800 of electricity running a family home, apparently with kids having fled the nest.

Last month our power bill was $356, this month $317. In addition to the “family” aspect of the house this includes three electric fence units, two dog tucker freezers, water pumped into the house and septic pumped out to drainage lines plus of course intermittent use of the woolshed.

As my family will attest, I am prone to turning off light switches. We also recently perked a spa pool from a friend who was downsizing. This is the only frivolous piece of electrical equipment we run. Heat pump, installed for the needs of grandchildren (she insisted) runs irregularly and might clock up $16 a month from what I can figure. So how the hell does the one person who should be leading the pack on energy efficiency use $800 per month? Someone help me please.

The other off-farm activity I could have participated in recently was the Groundswell protest action focused on the plethora of government regulations bombarding us at the moment.

I’m not unsympathetic to the cause but back in 1986 TV One followed yours truly through the farmers’ march on parliament. A protest largely targeting the Lange/Douglas Government at the time that dealt quite a blow to farming with the very sudden withdrawal of subsidies.

I have a number of distinct memories of that day but there were two very deliberate acts by the media to hijack a particular comment I made and also a totally orchestrated piece of filming which in retrospect was blatant and misleading. My trust of the media has always been a snip tarnished because of this.

Some Groundswell participants were idiots and ruined a very salient message to central Government. Has it made a difference? Will it need to strike again? Time will tell but change isn’t going to go away and we either set the menu or end up on the menu. My paymasters live largely overseas and I’m listening to them.