Dry summer good news for arable farmers

North Canterbury farmers Murray and Roscoe Taggart are enjoying one of their best seasons, with a...
North Canterbury farmers Murray and Roscoe Taggart are enjoying one of their best seasons, with a high wheat yield of 14.9 tonnes per hectare. PHOTO: ROSCOE TAGGART
Arable farmers are enjoying the dry North Canterbury summer, as they attempt to get through the harvest.

While the dry conditions are creating some uncertainty for pastoral farmers, Federated Farmers North Canterbury arable chairman Roscoe Taggart was quite happy for it to stay dry — for now.

"Yes, it’s dry, but at the moment I’m trying to harvest. Dry stock properties will want the rain, but you never get rain when you need it.

"Two weeks should be enough and we will be good, and then it can rain all it likes.

"But south of the Waimakariri the harvest seems to be coming a lot later. In Mid-Canterbury they may need another month."

For Mr Taggart and his father, Murray, it has been a particularly good season on their farm at Cust, near Oxford.

They had their best ever wheat yield of 14.9 tonnes per hectare of Graham wheat.

The only blemish had been a lack of rain in December, combined with flooding in the Waimakariri River, which led to restrictions for farmers on the Waimakariri Irrigation Ltd scheme.

"We still want the rain, but a dry December isn’t the end of the world."

It had been a good season for peas and cereal crops, while the deep-rooted wheat crops are able to find water in dry conditions, he said.

Conditions had remained dry for most of January, but there had been a couple of small rains in February.

But the later season, following a cool spring, meant ryegrass and summer feed crops were late in ripening on arable farms, leading to a reduced demand for store lambs, Mr Taggart said.

"If it’s dry and you don’t have irrigation water you become reluctant to buy store lambs, but the price has dropped back so I would have thought there would be some demand.

"If you’ve got the feed you would be buying, so maybe the environmental conditions are creating some uncertainty, but I guarantee come March demand will go through the roof."

Mr Taggart and his partner had a baby just before Christmas and with the farming business "ramping up", he might need to do "a bit of shoulder tapping" soon to find a successor as arable chairman.

"I really enjoy the role and you meet a lot of cool people and you learn a lot. I was 27 when I was first elected and there’s a group of really young guys on the executive which is nice."

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