Contractors hoping for busy season

Spring is in the air and North Canterbury agricultural contractors are looking forward to a busy season.

Local contractors spoken to by Central Rural Life said they have their staff recruited and the machinery is ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at them.

"There’s a bit going on, but we are all shaping up for a dry one," Bethell Agriculture owner Sam Bethell said.

"The winter crops are being re-worked and resown and the fodder crops are in the ground, and it’s not long until the baleage starts."

A dry winter, a lack of consistent spring rain and the predicted La Nina weather pattern this summer has left farmers and contractors on a knife-edge.

"It’s very dry at the moment. We would be lucky to have had half of our annual rainfall so far, which doesn’t bode well with La Nina just around the corner," he said.

Fletcher Farms owner Nigel Fletcher said it had been a spring of extremes so far, with the recent, "horrific" northwesterly wind blowing away the little bit of rain which had fallen, and then followed up by about 2.5cm of snow.

"It’s starting to get a bit busier, but it’s very weather dependent," he said.

But he has had no trouble recruiting staff.

"We advertised and we had 20-odd people put their CVs in. A lot of people were scared they wouldn’t get skilled staff, but I find more often than not people from higher skilled jobs can transition pretty quickly."

BA Murray Ltd director Steve Murray said he was enjoying a busy start to the season.

"It’s busy enough, which is interesting in spite of the fact that everybody is predicting it to be a recession. Everybody I talk to is flat out.

"The silage started early and we’re on to cultivation and drilling. It’s been an interesting season.

"We started doing silage in August, which is unusual. We normally start in September and then November is manic, but for someone to say get into it in August, it’s a bit unusual."

But Mr Murray said the early-cut silage might be needed later in the season if conditions remained dry.

With two more staff set to join his ranks over the next few weeks, Mr Murray said his roster was full for the season.

Sanders Contracting owner Stuart Sanders said there had been some good grass growth through the winter, but it was too early to say whether the spring was going to be a good one.

"These showers are good and, if they keep up, it will make a difference, but what snow there’s been has been disappearing pretty quickly.

"It’s just a matter of staying positive and [seeing] what Mother Nature throws at us, because she will decide what work there is."

A sole operator, Mr Sanders had a couple of casual staff on call when needed, so he has been unaffected by border closures.

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