Confident despite the weather

It was a season of extremes, but North Canterbury dairy farmers are feeling confident heading into winter.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury dairy spokesman Vaughan Beazer said the just completed season was one of ''highs and lows'', starting with the wind storm in September and damage to irrigators, the wet autumn and the anticipation of Fonterra's record payout.

''It's certainly been a challenging season, with the wind damage and trying to capture as much milk production as possible to maximise on the high milk price. But that's become more challenging with the wet autumn.

''Production has tapered back in the last two months or farms have have to finish early, so it's been quite extreme.''

Mr Beazer said rainfall up to the end of January was actually lower than last season ''and that's even with the heavy rain on Boxing Day''. January was also one of the ''coldest and driest I can remember''.

''When it did rain, we . . . got some very big downpours.''

Mr Beazer said most farmers would welcome Fonterra's forecast of a $7 payment for next season. ''It's about what most of us expected, but it's the advance rate which is most important and that won't be known until July. It gives us an idea for setting our budgets.''

Fonterra has also offered a fixed price option, which Mr Beazer said would give some farmers certainty for their budgets, ''but it's not the one-size-fits-all option''.

''It's a bit like a mortgage - sometimes you're better to fix your mortgage and other times you're better to have it floating. With a floating payout, there's always going to be an upside and a down side.''

Mr Beazer was born and bred in Christchurch and moved to a 20ha lifestyle block at Coes Ford, near Lincoln, with his family at age 13.

''I grew up in the city, but after moving to the country and showing stock and doing a bit of hay contracting, I couldn't imagine going back to city life.

''There are quite a few opportunities in the country for young people working on farms.''

He was in his second year as a 50/50 sharemilker milking 290 cows nearby in Greenpark and next year he hoped to move on to a larger operation.

Mr Beazer stepped up as dairy spokesman in September and planned to stay on until the next North Canterbury annual meeting, ahead of changeover day. '

'It's been good being able to have meaningful conversations with politicians and leaders. Someone has to represent us, but you've just got to get the balance right.

''We are an issue-driven organisation. When there's an issue everyone wants to stand up, but we need to keep the wheels rolling the rest of the time,'' he said,

''It's when you sit down across the table with politicians that things get done, when you say `this is how it will affect us'.''