Travel tales – Graham Smith

February has brought plenty of heat to our operation, and any areas with a stone or sand base are now dead. Even my lucerne block is wilting and with growth rates at 4 kg/day silage has become the order of the day. With a 36 day round, I still have a little deferred grass, but it is all crispy. Production is around 0.95 kg MS/cow, and is down 23% for the month. Admittedly, last season was one out of the box here with record production, and I fed PKE right through until April last year. So, stopping PKE in September depressed production by 3% and the dry has done the rest. In the season to date I am down 8%, but so are my expenses.

Fortunately, a very good spring has seen four cuts off my leases for silage, with the first three into the pit and the last cut into bales. Cow condition is good at 4.7, but the empty rate at 14% is not. Still, empties are less than last year, and this gives me some leeway to set up for next season. The plan is to go whole season OAD, and with no cows with a cell count over 170,000, and nothing due to calve in September, all things point to a good start. How the cows respond is another story.

Lately, travel has been on the itinerary. Tess and I went to Canada in early January for a wedding, and decided to make a trip of it. We flew direct to Chicago and then hopped to Toronto. A visit to Niagara Falls was a highlight, and then it was on to Québec City for the wedding. It was cold, -16°C, but picturesque. On the third day a storm hit, and it went down to minus -33°C, now that was cold! We ventured out and found it survivable with the right clothing. The locals were even complaining, but it was noticeable that business continued.

We then flew to Vancouver to stay with family and enjoyed ice-skating (a first for Tess), and snow-shoeing, a first for both of us. Mountain views were outstanding and even up on the mountains it was noticeably warmer than the east coast. Also there were things still growing due to the better climate.

Then on to San Francisco: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Muir Park redwoods. These trees were 500 years old, tall, and well looked after. We also visited Fisherman’s Wharf, enjoyed the market, and witnessed a large pro-life march down the main street. This was interesting to us for its size and the number of police on duty.Onwards to Las Vegas, which bedazzled us with its wealth and exorbitance. We enjoyed one of the shows, had a good look around, and toured to see the Grand Canyon (and grand it is), and the Hoover Dam. It was also the only time on the trip we saw any livestock. These were horned sheep, which in truth looked like goats to us. Las Vegas is in the desert, so the motorways, instead of having shrubs and plantings on their edges, used concrete walls or various colours and grades of metal. The desert itself had plenty of hardy shrubs growing and there was a sprinkling of homes throughout, with the odd village clustered around a spring.

Lastly, Hawaii on the way home, where we visited Pearl Harbour, the Lyon Arboretum, and Waikiki Beach. We felt that we could have spent more time in each of those places and seen more, still, that gives us the excuse to do it again!!

Finally, I was asked by SMASH to go to the South Island and visit Takaka and Karamea to talk about diversification; its potential and how that is affecting my operation. Succession also was on the agenda, and I found a lot of people in the same situation of “what next?”. I really enjoyed their hospitality and sharing experiences. Talking of experiences, the flight from Wellington to Takaka and on to Karamea was in a small 7-seater plane. We wore earphones that enabled us to follow the pilot talking to the control tower and hear how many other planes were also in the air. The weather was stable and it made for an enjoyable flight over the Sounds and upper South Island.