Plaudits among the volatility

Prices are soaring for grain, and with it comes a negative knock-on effect on other sectors, such as dairy, Blair Drysdale writes from Northern Southland.

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Hopefield Hemp was entered in the Arable Awards, but no gongs this year.

Prices are soaring for grain, and with it comes a negative knock-on effect on other sectors, such as dairy, Blair Drysdale writes from Northern Southland.

AS WE HEAD TOWARDS A RAPIDLY approaching spring, we’re seeing grain prices rise just as quickly and the question ahead is how soon before grain prices reach $700 per tonne? If this question had been broached a year ago, you’d all have thought I’d gone completely mad, but due to many influencing factors both here and offshore, that is where we now find ourselves heading.

As a large part of our business is arable, we’re directly attached to, and our prices influenced by, the dairy sector, so it is of notable worry that 10 of the last 12 GDT auctions have seen a negative result.

While the forecast midpoint payout is still $9.50 per kg milksolids (MS) for this season, it looks like there’ll be some serious downward pressure on the 2023/24 season dairy payout and we’ll see the impact of that with grain prices looking ahead.

Volatility is the new normal that from all indications will continue for a while yet. Our worry is where the appetite will be for grain if the price point gets too high on a falling payout, we’ve been there before and it’s not much fun.

On a much brighter note our Hopefield Hemp business was nominated in two categories for the Arable Awards in Christchurch which was held at the new Te Pae Convention Centre. While we didn’t come away with a gong in either the Food Champions or Innovation categories, it was a brilliant night and our congratulations to all the category winners, but especially to Toni and Rob at Auld Farm Distillery and Angela Clifford from Eat New Zealand who won the two categories respectively, bloody good people doing great things for our industry.

Well done to Federated Farmers for taking the lead on elevating the arable awards to a completely new level where the success of those going the extra lengths in the industry are now very deservingly awarded and celebrated as they deserve to be. The arable industry has run under the radar for too long and this promotion around its importance to food production is so good to see.

The best thing about the awards evening and other similar events, though, is always chewing the fat with other like-minded people over a few amber-coloured refreshments, building a network through meeting new people and catching up with others you’ve not seen for a while.

It’s been a very busy winter off farm and thankfully winter on the farm is quiet with only two mobs of stock behind the wire that allows me to get away. As part of a Foundation for Arable Research Growers Leading Change group we’re in, hemp-related events and the odd speaking gig here and there, I’ve not had a full week at home since late May and I’m more than happy that a busy spring is approaching to keep me busy on the farm again.

By the time this goes to print I’m hoping ground conditions are dry enough so that we’ve kicked off the spray and fertiliser programme on the crops, with oil seed rape being first up for some SOA and a herbicide, with the autumn-sown barley right behind that before we get started on the wheat. Our part of Southland has once again fared very well over the winter and it was only very late July before things started to get wet, with both the ground and stock holding up very well all the way through.

In saying that, winter has been a bit dreary with frosts followed by overcast days, and even worse of late has been frost followed up with a dirty easterly that cuts right through a bloke. But it’s only a matter of days now until the grass starts growing, the cereals start to move along, lambs hit the ground, and in our case 25ha of tulips flowering right out in front of the house.

There are certainly worse places in the world that one could be right now, happy spring everyone.