Wanted: Reliable crystal ball

In the Ponotahi Valley, Mark Guscott is waiting to see which way the wind and or rain blows.

In Home Block6 Minutes

In the Ponotahi Valley, Mark Guscott is waiting to see which way the wind and or rain blows.

It’s early November and I’m trying to decide if we should be stocking up or de-stocking.  You see, I reckon in the Wairarapa we have about three weeks a year when everything is close to perfect.  

The grass is growing beautifully, there is clover everywhere and soil moisture is decent but not too wet to plant crops.  It’s almost like there’s nothing to complain about. But as we say in our workshop… ”just when things are looking good”. Murphy is alive and well apparently.

We do this dance every November and it’s called the Ponatahi Shuffle (that’s the name of the valley we live in).  Generally it means sell everything out the farm gate as quickly as possible because it’s getting dry.  

Occasionally it rains a lot in November and the gate swings the other way and we can’t get enough stock.  A neighbour told me once that you either need 500 beef cows or no beef cows.  At the moment, we’re sitting on the fence but weaning lambs will start soon and that will get things moving.  

I’ve always been a bit of an opportunist.  But sometimes things get a bit silly.  

A neighbour told me once that you either need 500 beef cows or no beef cows.  

We’ve been trying to buy some more land with a group of others for a while so there’s a fair bit of work trying to get all our ducks lined up for that.  Add to that the offer of another lease block just down the road that will work in nicely with our other blocks.  Add to that another tourism business that has appeared on our horizon and it looks pretty attractive with some top people.  

I reckon I’ve had a niggling headache for a couple of weeks trying to get the deck chairs sorted with all these options.  Thankfully Suz is taking care of the tourism one otherwise I might be driven to drink.

Don’t worry I haven’t actually got a week-long niggling headache, that’s just today as it was a bloody early start to get ahead on some spraying.  These opportunities never turn up when you’re in a quiet patch do they?

The lamb and cattle kill this summer will be interesting.  There’s a lot of pressure on the processors with lack of people, chiller/freezer space, shipping and potential Covid shutdowns.  We don’t need an extended dry spell forcing stock off farm before they’re ready.  

Seems like the customers overseas are really keen for all our New Zealand primary products so it would be frustrating to have holdups in the supply chain.  We’ve planted more forage crops to try and remove a bit of that risk.  If it does get dry then hopefully we can hold stock onfarm until there’s an opening at the processors.  It might be a bit of a chess game.

There’s another reason for more forage crops as well.  I just couldn’t make the growing barley stack up.  The cost of fert, sprays, trucking etc have all gone up quite a bit and the early contracts were only up $20/tonne on last year.  Compare that to a potential lamb schedule that might be north of $8/kg and beef hopefully over $6/kg it was kind of simple.  

No doubt there’s a bit of risk in the summer livestock margins but dryland barley has always been a bit hit and miss.  I try not to get shitty with myself when these decisions turn out to be wrong as they often do.  You can only make the call with the info you have at the time.  Unless someone has that crystal ball I was looking for.  I’d pay seriously  good money for it.

Good luck and hopefully we all get to enjoy some time with friends and family over the summer.