Contractors Corner Feb 2017

A slow start, but season cranking up
Steve Levet
The new year has started with both contractors and farmers throughout the country more upbeat with the recent increases in dairy payouts and – generally – a more positive outlook for the agri-sector.
Many South Island rural contractors have had what they are describing as "a season out of the box" with outstanding silage, hay and baleage crops made so far, this summer. I understand grass growth in the South Island has been "amazing" and keeping contractors busy making silage.
It is a different story in the North Island where, generally, harvests have been later and patchier. Weather conditions during spring and early summer in the north have generally been colder, wetter and windier than usual.


In the North Island, huge tonnages of grass have been harvested in the recent fine weather. Much of this is destined for sale in the dairy farming areas of the Waikato and Taranaki, although with the big drop in cow numbers there is less demand than before the dairy payout dropped.
The wet spring and regular rain during the summer may have frustrated contractors sowing crops and harvesting silage. But, generally, grass set aside for hay has grown well despite the lack of sunshine which may have affected its nutrient value.
We have also had blustery winds making things frustrating as it blows the hay out of its rows.
The inclement weather around the country has seen many contractors behind due to the wetter season. Let's hope some good weather over the next few weeks will help speed up hay and silage making – as well as crop harvesting.
Up where I am based in Northland it has been very dry, which is ideal for harvesting but no so good for grass growth! Unless we get some decent rains soon drought is a very likely possibility in this part of the country.
Meanwhile, the recent death of farmer in the Hakataramea Valley in a hay baling accident is a stark reminder to all contractors and farmers about the importance of safety – especially at this busy time of year. I was saddened by news of the accident and would like to offer – on behalf of Rural Contractors NZ – my sympathies to the young man's family. This tragedy followed another recent incident where a farm worker from Fairlie was injured while working with a hay bale wrapper. Fortunately, in this latter incident, the worker was not seriously injured.
However, these incidents are a reminder of the caution we as contractors and our staff should be taking during busy times of the year. Health and safety must be at the fore – particularly when tight timeframes and impending bad weather are thrown into the mix.
Many of us have been in situations where an envelope of good weather maybe closing and we are keen to get a job finished, but this must never be at the expense safety. We work in an industry where there is always risk of injury and harm, but we need to ensure these are minimised to ensure our own or our workers' safety.
RCNZ, as an organisation, promotes health and safety vigilance through the year as a key part of our role. If you want any further information on this go to our website: www.ruralcontractors.org.nz .
In the meantime, I hope the weather treats you well as you hit the busy part of the year, but please always keep the safety of you and your workers top of mind.