Mon, Apr 24, 2023 5:00 AM

Milkers unsure what's coming next


Staff reporter


Jason Ludlow and his wife Fiona are fifty-fifty share milkers at Karamea calving 450-60 cows and milking around 435-445.

The couple arrived in the area five years ago from the Waikato with their son Isaac who is also milking cows in the area.

When I spoke with him recently, he shared his concern for the rural sector. “I’m very unsure about what’s coming next from central government”, he confesses.

Like most farmers Jason has a good understanding of economics; the internal economy where dairy provides employment, which filters down through rural communities - as well as the external economy where New Zealand sells dairy produce on the international stage trading with other nations.

The family enjoys Karamea, which is a one and half hour drive from Westport with its small community atmosphere, unlike the busy Waikato, where the city has spread out into the country bringing criminal influences.  

“There’s so much uncertainty in the immediate future,” says Jason.  

“Ranging from increased costs, dropping dairy pay-out, the carbon tax and the likelihood of ongoing high rainfall events or drought.”

“We read mixed messages about predicted population increase one minute and then the next day another article predicting population decreases.

"Then there’s the science of meat production in a laboratory which some think will supersede pasture fed natural beef and milk.”

All of this is causing indecision for Jason and Fiona about whether to continue toward the goal of farm ownership after a dry summer where the grass was green, but rainfall was insufficient for maintaining good grass cover.

Last week 45mm of rain fell, and with more predicted he’s reasonably confident they will get good autumn growth.

He plans to put on urea this week to help the growth along.

When questioned about how he’d cope with 500mm of rain, he says getting prepared while operating under current government and council rules is a real handicap for many farmers.  

"You can't just get in a creek and clear out gravel so water can get away.  

"We have locals who’ve lived here their entire lives.

"They have first-hand experience about what happens and where water runs but their knowledge is discounted.

"What’s dangerous are those bureaucrats who think they know but they don’t.”  

Jason believes in the future there needs to be designated sacrifice areas reserved as flood zones where people can’t build.  

"Essentially we all want the same thing; we want to be safe and not to lose property.

"What will be interesting is getting consensus from our politicians on how and when this might happen."

"The consent process and cost alone will likely stop any real action," he adds.

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