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Pastures Past: Winter grazing in 1947

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The case for winter dairying was put forward in the Te Awamutu Courier in 1936.

The Country takes a look at the world of farming back in the day.

Winter grazing is part of rural life in New Zealand. It’s when farmers graze livestock on an annual forage crop between May 1 and September 30 each year.

The practice has come under governmental and environmental scrutiny, sometimes resulting in regional council flyovers to ensure farmers follow the rules.

However, farmers argue that the rules are too tough and that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work; as wet weather conditions in Southland can result in a very different wintering experience to the warmer climes up north.

While winter grazing has made headlines in recent years, it was also in the news back in 1947, as the following article from the Te Awamutu Courier illustrates.

Communal grazing

Hauraki Plains Scheme

Co-operative enterprise planned

Te Awamutu Courier, August 11, 1947

The formation of a co-operative enterprise to Iease 3000 acres of Crown land as a winter run-off is being considered by Hauraki Plains farmers.

A meeting of about 100 farmers favourably discussed the project recently.

Called by the Hauraki Plains Community Grazing Committee, the meeting was informed that local settlers had applied for winter grazing for 2000 head of stock.

Land had been available for only half that number.

Correspondence with the Lands Department was read showing that 3000 acres of tea-tree and fern country were available for the settlers to develop and allocate to members for grazing.

Some farmers saw difficulties in the scheme.

One said that a fair basis of allocation could not be worked out as those who needed runoff grazing the most might have the least money.

Another thought that the State should develop the block, and the question of preference for returned men was also considered.

An article on winter grazing in the Te Awamutu Courier in 1947. Image / Papers Past
An article on winter grazing in the Te Awamutu Courier in 1947. Image / Papers Past

Some hill country should be reserved for flat-country dairy farmers, the chairman commented.

Too much was going to sheep, and sheep men had been pressing for the block of land under discussion.

Giving its general approval to the proposal, the meeting set up a committee to consider financial arrangements and other details.

It will then present a fully-prepared community grazing scheme to a further general meeting.

What the local paper called, “possibly the most revolutionary proposal in the history of Hauraki Plains dairy farming” is thus likely to become a reality.

A Suitable Locality

The Hauraki Plains is, of course, the ideal place to launch a co-operative winter-grazing scheme because of the severe poaching to which the soil is subject in wet weather.

But farmers elsewhere—in Manawatu, for instance—could well do with winter run-off organised co-operatively on a district basis.

At present they depend on buying grazing from the odd farmer who has a surplus of winter roughage.

The cost is high, but the greatest deterrent to preparing farm and herd for a new season by grazing out is that the stock are not under supervision.

Sick cows, injured cows, and slips may not be reported to the owner for weeks on end.

With a community scheme there would be, presumably, a man placed in charge of the grazing animals.

Dairy farmers could thus take their annual holiday confident that all would be well when they returned.

Source: Papers Past

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