Farmer comment - Julie Bradshaw
This seasons wet spring and early summer played havoc with grass production on the Bradshaw family farm. Farm owner Julie Bradshaw says that this has been one of their hardest years as a result.
“The wet was very hard to manage, production really suffered,” says Julie.
“Our heavier soils meant that water stayed in the soil when it should have been growing grass and as a result we had our worst December production ever. Our soil moisture monitors provided by the Irrigation Insight programme showed we were saturated during that time, which meant that grass growth stalled and what was there has little goodness in it. It was so wet that we didn’t start regular irrigation until mid-January!
“It is now mid-February and things have really changed. With no rain for the last month it is getting very dry very quickly. The Cust Drain is dropping like a stone; much more of this and we will have to start looking at reducing the water allocated to the Cust farms along with changing how we apply the water – not irrigating during the day and alternating which irrigators we use."
However, Julie says, there are silver linings to be found.
“We can also take advantage of the seasonal changes as we are now past the cusp of the really hot weather. Already mornings and evenings are a little cooler, we are benefiting from afternoon sea breeze and we will soon start to see heavier morning dews."
Julie says that March is a critical month for water use management on her farm.
“If we get the timing wrong for the arrival of autumn rains we could decrease our grass production as our heavier soils hold the water,” she says.
“I’m finding the monthly video provided by the programme really helpful. In it NIWA forecaster Chris Brandolino looks at what the long-range indications are for our location. That is really valuable for our planning and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next one has to say.”
Julie is also finding the discipline of the daily recording she is doing as part of the Irrigation Insight programme is paying off.
“The more information you have the better judgments you can make. It is really interesting to see where you have come from and what decisions or events made an impact.”