Ah, the scent of summer rain

Technology’s great when it works as the sales people claim, Mark Guscott reckons.

In Home Block5 Minutes

Technology’s great when it works as the sales people claim, Mark Guscott reckons.

I’VE JUST OPENED THE OFFICE WINDOW to let the smell of summer rain in. Isn’t it the best? It’s Waitangi weekend and I’m celebrating 60mm (and counting) of rain on our parched Wairarapa soils. To be fair, parched in summer is pretty normal here. Start early and finish early when the mercury is getting near to 30C I reckon.

The team here has spent the week weighing, drenching and dipping lambs.

We grow a variety of forage crops that are now full up with these lambs and they should be pumping the weight on over the next few weeks.

I was marvelling at the advances in technology as I watched the lambs run through the fully automated weigh crate and then around again and through the fully automated spray dip. If things go well these bits of kit will save many hours of hard labour.

“‘If things go well,” he says.

When things don’t go well, we have to put on our technician hats and problem-solve to diagnose sensor faults or incorrect setup with the indicators. Just another thing we farmers need to be good at. It’s definitely a multi-skilled vocation.

We shouldn’t just believe everything these sales people tell us though. Some of the products are needed but there’s no such thing as a silver bullet in farming. After all, they have sales targets to meet and “those farmers will buy anything to increase production”.

Our job onfarm is to know enough about the technical stuff to hold them to account and question them and make sure we actually need their product. Beware the glossy brochures and the promises of higher production. It’s never as easy as that.

We’re all enjoying a time of high prices – lamb, beef and milk are at or near the top of historical pricing. It’s great for the cashflow, until the invoices start to arrive. It’s easy when the cash is flowing in to spend it but hard to keep some of it back to do boring but necessary stuff like pay off debt.

We’ve been lucky enough to do some expansion in land recently. With this comes another shepherd and the associated housing requirements. Hells teeth! What a drama. We ended up buying a tiny home that will buy us time until we renovate a cottage. But with all the supply chain drama going on at the moment, it wasn’t a simple exercise.

Thankfully, our new shepherd is working out really well. She has come through one of the more recently formed training schemes that have sprung up around the country. We need to support these programmes by employing the graduates when we get the chance.

The builders and electricians had this problem maybe 10-15 years ago when the old apprenticeship schemes were wound up. Those industries owned the problem and now they have heaps of young people getting into those trades. Our industry needs to invest in these young people or we’ll go the way of the dinosaur.

The next step for us all will be figuring out a way for these clever young ones to own farms. Maybe we could remove the pine tree subsidy that is taking decent land out of production. Nah that would mean we have to rely on the government. A snowball in hell has more chance.

On the plan for the next few weeks will be to get some peas and brassica seed harvested, probably buy a few more lambs and maybe some cattle, finish the vaccination programme for the young ewes and then the rams will be going out in a bit over a month.

The annual cycle will start again and I’ll wonder that it only seemed like a couple of months ago that we last did this. I must be getting old.