2020 has been a year of ups and downs for the whole country. Carla Staples looks at some of the highs and lows of the second half of the year.

Well, there has been a bit going on since our last column. Covid is still affecting the country, Labour won the election by a landslide, and here on the farm we finished calving early October and have just finished mating.

After a strong start to the season in August and September the weather took a turn for the worse during the end of September into October.

Although it was very wet it was also warm, so as long as we could keep the cows on top of the ground and some fertiliser going on (when the conditions allowed), we just managed to keep the growth rates high enough to meet demand. The new grass we managed to get sown in mid-September was a bit of a failure and has had to be re-sown. We tried our best to meet the new freshwater legislation target date for pasture sowing post-winter cropping, but this season it was not possible. In our area we are not aware of many, if any, farmers who managed to get their grass successfully sown before 1 October.

This is something the bureaucrats in Wellington really must reassess; we all want to get our paddocks sown as soon as possible, but on the coast, we really are at the mercy of the weather and over the past two seasons we have struggled to get a window of good weather to get a tractor on the paddock before the middle of December.

Now the PM has declared a climate emergency in New Zealand we’re sure next spring the weather will be amazing, and we’ll all have our paddocks back in grass well before the first of October! Sounds like the next Tui billboard.

Mating went really well for us this season, it was one of the best matings we’ve had since we’ve been farming. We ended up with a submission rate of 88%, which was a couple of percent shy of our target, but it was the first season we hadn’t used CIDRs. There are still areas we are constantly trying to improve, but overall we are very happy with how mating went. The bulls will stay in until New Year’s Eve and then we will have to wait until scanning in February to see how well it really went, but the signs are very good at this stage.

As far as milk production goes, the girls are going slightly better than this time last year and we are around 6% ahead of last season. The payout is also looking very good at the moment. Hopefully it keeps tracking the way it has been throughout the rest of the season, although the strong New Zealand dollar is a bit of a concern. We are still waiting for the predicted La Nina weather event to arrive to dry the ground out and get the grass really pumping.

Fingers crossed we have another fantastic summer and autumn to get our winter crops growing well and get some silage in the pit. We will also be subsoiling as much of the farm as possible; this was something we wanted to get done last autumn but ran out of time. We have managed to get seven paddocks done recently and it has made a massive difference to those paddocks already, with them drying out almost immediately after rain with no water sitting on the surface. These paddocks will also be topped up with some extra grass seed post-subsoiling just to fill in the gaps left from the wet weather. This was something we trialled last summer and has worked very well so far.

We hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year and managed to get time away from the farm to spend with family and friends.