A wetter and colder than normal spring has put the brakes on production for the Reynolds family on their farm near Punakaiki on the West Coast. And then there is the risk of DIY. Richard Reynolds tells the story.

The last two months have really brought home the ‘risk is real’ mantra. This has started onfarm with what was looking like an excellent start to the season turning into a real turd.

We are used to, but not lovers of, wet weather but the cold and wet together have caused some major problems with production in the district being dramatically down, in the order of 10%.

Following the floods of Canterbury and Buller there has been no silage available so everyone not set up for grain feeding has had to use palm kernel. This has resulted in some transport problems around trucking companies’ ability to deliver fertiliser and feed on time.

The trucks have been prioritising feed over fertiliser which is fair but with limited fine days to put on fertiliser this has resulted in fertiliser going out late and an increased use of helicopters for spreading.

Weather risk in farming has always been real but with the increased push for production when weather risk meets another form of risk like supply chain, transport or financial, big problems can accrue.

Cost inflation is hitting home with letters arriving from mechanics, trucking companies and fertiliser suppliers informing us prices are going up. For most of us, there would have been little surprise the inflation rate came out as high as it did. We have also been re-fixing some borrowings and looking at old interest rates starting with a three and new ones starting with a five – that is another cost to absorb.

This is the first time interest rates have risen in seven years. For some people, rising interest will be a new phenomenon.

As a mum, dad and one-worker farm we have always been aware of the potential we have around labour risk and this year this has shown up, not through the more common problem of not being able to get labour but through my desire to build a cheap glasshouse.

During one weekend over calving I had designed a devious glasshouse using an old gate and some reinforcing mesh. Working with the kids and Chris to install the creation of beauty I managed to cut three bones and tendons in the back of my hand. I instantly knew that this was quite major and had wrapped my hand in my shirt.

Luckily the family was there and Chris’s nursing skills and both kids’ St John skills came into play. Chris wanted to look at my hand, I didn’t want to show her, Iris rang an ambulance and Tavis, on my instructions, made me some warm sugar water as I may have been a bit shocked.

The sugar water was amazing at fixing me up. After seeing my hand Chris was a bit shocked too, not from a fear of blood which there was very little of but because of the fact that I was off to Christchurch and definitely would not be milking for a long time, now it looks like three months.

Luckily this happened during lockdown and I had no wait at Greymouth hospital and after driving to Christchurch waited about 15 minutes to be seen. I had surgery the next morning.

The surgeon commented on the quality of my tendons and that I had made a nice straight cut, good to see that I didn’t stuff everything up. I spent three days in a ward by myself and after six weeks am working on making a fist.

Healthwise, I have got away with a moment’s inattention very lightly and look like I will be 90% back to normal.

Onfarm we were lucky that Chris could step in and that Kerry stepped up to cover more hours. We also managed to find a part-timer with good experience to help out. That side could not have gone better. I am struggling with feeling a little useless about the farm but I am very grateful for the outcomes.

This year’s payout will reward me for the risks I am taking in my business and I hope that that carries on because risk is real.