Summer / Autumn 2023
After several years of back to back droughts we are currently experiencing a predominance of North Easterly weather systems bringing frequent rain and warm temperatures. So this summer we are enjoying a green landscape with abundant silage made and hay baled before the New Year! No doubt this will create some animal health concerns including fly strike. A common summer green bottle Australian fly that lays eggs on the sheep's wool (backs & crutch) and requires constant vigilance and prompt application of a remedy. Fortunately, we are not prone to flooding as neighbouring farming regions in the North and east of the North Island have taken the full brunt of cyclones and extreme wet weather. Ordinarily our native Kikuyu grass has been a saviour thriving throughout dry summers.
General farm maintenance over summer & autumn is a priority and the 2022 / 23 summer has seen the removal of many large Macrocarpa trees around the homestead and farm machinery sheds (a risk in high winds) and the construction of a new hay shed which can also house the large tractors.
Water reticulation and general animal health routines are daily jobs along with weed & pest control. R&M of fences and machinery ensure that we are well prepared for the busy winter & spring seasons each year. In Autumn, maintenance of drains and removing dangerous trees and branches around buildings and fences is required and firewood cut and stacked for the winter ahead of us.
Feral deer are a serious problem now largely uncontrolled in the Woodhill Forest. Deer grazing in significant numbers is something we could do with out and we now have professionals who help keep the numbers down. They are genuinely pests having destroyed many well-established native trees plantings. The stags also destroy trees by rubbing their antlers on the young saplings which is a heartbreak. Fencing of native trees now requires deer fencing which is a significant additional cost to future proof the growth of our natives.
An active pasture renewal programme is in place and summer crops are sprayed out and direct drilled in to either annual rye grasses or permanent pastures which require the rains to arrive before the soil temperatures begin to fall. An excellent harvest of maize silage is maturing and will supplement the grass silage and hay for cows in winter.
We continue to bait 48 possum stations across the property. Magpies are back again and need trapping as they are aggressive intruders that threaten native birds. Ring neck doves are another unwelcome intruder thriving in our region.
Pests V Natives - a never ending battle
Paper wasps remain vicious and invasive. Richard carries a special can of spray regularly on his bike to eradicate nests when he sees them. They are quite distinctive from the german wasps and when disturbed will attack. They seem to like to build on wood and nests are often on the sunny side of gates and fence posts. Best to spray the nests earlier in the morning or early evening when the wasps are all in the nest. Now we know where to generally look for them we are finding them out over the farm. An underground German wasp nest was destroyed in an old post hole.
We endeavour to protect and ensure that we can foster our much loved native feathered friends over such intruders! This year we have sadly upset some of the nesting roosts of our native owl - Ruru with the necessary removal of the large old trees around the homestead. we look forward to seeing them resettle in time. a couple of years ago we rescued a young Ruru (Morepork) that Richard found on the drive to the woolshed during the daytime. Aware that this is quite rare we consulted Bird Rescue who advised us to take it to the local Vets. Kaipara Vets were outstanding and ensured the sick bird was taken to Auckland Zoo for assessment and was later transferred to Massey University Wildbase Hospital in Palmerston North. A great story as the young Morepork was treated, tagged and brought back to us for release at Whenuanui Farm. We hope the calls we hear at night now include his call. We regularly enjoy seeing a wide variety of beautiful native birds including Kereru, Ruru, Kotare and from time to time some noisy Kaka!