Cyclone Gabrielle wreaks havoc on farm – Graham Smith

I should not have put off writing this blog, because Cyclone Gabrielle has overtaken the farm and it is not pretty. But more of that later.

Production is holding around 0.9 kgMS/cow/day. With all this pasture cover I thought it may have held a bit higher, but I guess summer grasses will always be low quality.

January saw pregnancy detection and a major departure from normal with 22% empty. I mated for 6 weeks only and that backfired in a difficult spring. Still, I have heard worse from a OAD herd that mated for far longer and had 25% empty. From what I hear this is fairly widespread, so I’ll swallow my lumps and move on. I have already purchased 12 head to ensure enough cows to milk next season.

On the plus side my silage pit is full, and my reserve pit is stacked with bales and still no need to feed out yet.

The cyclone wreaked devastation upon many in the North Island, and we did not escape. We have not suffered to the degree of those we read about in the news, but the repair work will be ongoing for some time. We lost power for a day and a half, but with memories of Cyclone Bola I built in the capability to run the dairy with the tractor. So, although we could milk, the milk could not be chilled and had to be dumped. It did mean that I could provide the shed for the neighbour to milk his cows. Although that meant more milk to dump, the pressure was off his cows and himself.

Having thousands of trees did not mix well with severe wind, and Paulownias are particularly wind intolerant. Consequently, they lost most of their branches, a number of young trees snapped, but the older trees are still standing without branches. My 30-year-old Lusitanicas ( Mexican cypress ) are next to a 30-metre cliff which intensified the wind and 6 of them were felled. Along the stream a number of poplars were felled, and I have a contractor booked to remove them. To do work along a stream it is necessary to use an accredited contractor who follows Waikato Regional Council protocols. The Radiata pine, now 8 years old, have lost their tops and a number have been felled. About 70% of the fences are electrified again, but further work is needed. I am sure to find more damage as I get around the farm.

I am building a house for my returning son ( Lance ), who will be running the farm from June. That has been a drawn-out procedure of getting consents. Being the third house on a small farm required a Resource Consent which was finally given in January. The builder has been busy since and the house is 60% completed.

I’m 68 now and have been milking cows for almost 50 years. So, Lance’s arrival is welcome, and I may enjoy the odd sleep-in. I also intend to annoy the fish in Aotea harbour and do a bit more touring around. The trees will still occupy a lot of my time and I will become Lance’s relief milker. No, I won’t be doing that for anyone else, but Lance intends to. So, I will milk our cows quite frequently, as I still enjoy it, but he can pull difficult calves and do more of the heavy work. I am sure the farm will become more efficient. This is not a sudden thing and been in the plans for 2 years. Lance and I have had many discussions on the systems we will use and what he wants to do. I will talk more about that side of things in a future blog.

Leave a reply