Extraordinary season for contractors

Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
This season has been ''extraordinary'' for the quality and quantity of hay, baleage and silage made and grain harvested in both Otago and Southland, Wanaka contractor Richard Woodhead says.

He said although it had slowed going into February, the pace had been more hectic for contractors in Central Otago, Southland and Maniototo than in previous seasons, especially from the end of November through to December and into January.

''It has been one of the busiest seasons we have ever had,'' Mr Woodhead said.

''We have made almost twice as much baleage as we normally do.

''It has also been a huge season in Southland.

''I have not seen crops as heavy as this on dryland since 2004.

''It is a 'once in a generation' season.''

Mr Woodhead is the owner operator for Wanaka Agricultural Contracting 2017 Ltd and is the Zone Four councillor for Rural Contractors New Zealand.

The sowing season in both regions had been delayed by a wet spring in September and through to November, but once things started to dry out, grass growth had galloped ahead, and contractors had been working hard to catch up.

''It has been [an] extraordinary November and December.

''The crops have done well because of the wet spring and summer.

''That compressed the season a bit, for making silage and baleage.

''Grass crops got heavier and heavier as we couldn't get on to them for a while.''

Contractors in the region were also harvesting ''exceptional'' grain.

''It is nice, big, well-grown barley and we are doing a lot of wheat as well.''

Contractors in Maniototo have told him they have had to bring in or hire additional equipment to keep up with the workload.

''One contractor I talked to said he had never seen anything like it.

''We also brought in a second baler to get through the work.''

Contractors also had to contend with the shortage of experienced staff, which meant some businesses were working long hours and struggling to keep up.

''Most contractors have struggled to have enough drivers at critical times - that is always a problem.''

Many, including Mr Woodhead, were bringing in staff from overseas.

He said it was important to ensure contractors and their staff had regular days off.

''We try not to work through the night, and we try to have one day a week off.

''We are just about managing it, as fatigue issues have got to be addressed.''

He said the quantity and quality of feed now available would mean a downward pressure on prices later in the year.

''The big concern now is the huge fire risk with the amount of dry grass around,'' he said.

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