Tuesday, 13 February 2024 13:55

Brighter news for dairy

Written by  Peter Burke
Sarah Speight Sarah Speight

The country's dairy farmers are a lot happier and a lot less concerned than they were before Christmas, according to DairyNZ's head of farm performance Sarah Speight.

She says overall conditions are looking better than forecast and the onus is now on farmers to make the most out of the few months while the cows are milking happily.

Speight agrees with other commentators who are saying that the dairy industry has pulled out of the slump that has affected sheep and beef and that the price correction for dairy farmers has been short and sharp. She says farmers had been anxious about the money they were likely to be paid for their milk but the improvement in the GDT has taken away some of their concerns, along with a drop in farm inflation.

But Speight told Rural News that people are still concerned about cost pressures.

She says on-farm conditions in some places around the country are starting to get a bit dry - such as patches of the Waikato and the pumice country in the Bay of Plenty. Taranaki, she says, is dry, but not drier than normal. Horowhenua is also dry and, not unexpectedly, the Wairarapa is also dry, but this is not a major dairying region and is not something to panic about.

"South Otago is probably a little bit drier than normal for this time of the year while Canterbury is quite dry, but irrigation seems to be helping, apart from the areas where there are water take restriction," Speight told Rural News. "But such restrictions on the some of the smaller schemes are normal for this time of the year."

She adds that here is some good news around milk production. Anecdotally, Speight says it looks like the Bay of Plenty and Waikato are about 5% above normal and across the country the figure seems to be about 2-3% above normal. She says people have been taking extra cuts of silage. This is partly due to farmers concerned about a potentially dry period.

Speight says, at the same time, summer crops are coming on and these have to be used now, which means that there is going to be a good build-up of supplements on farm should they be needed.

"The problem is that no one really knows what the weather is going to do in the coming months. What we are seeing now is quite different to what NIWA was predicting, which was it was going to be a mother of all summer droughts."

Speight adds that there is concern the drought may come later and go into autumn and winter. But she says some people are saying the drought has already peaked.

Book 'Em In!

Speight says given the weathr and economic conditions, dairy farmers should ensure they have their cull cows booked in with meat processors early.

She says with lots of grass around, many livestock farmers are holding onto stock - especially sheep farmers who are trying to get extra weight on their stock to help make up for poor prices. But Speight says there is a potential problem if everyone wants their stock killed at the same time.

"We are urging dairy farmers to be proactive in this regard and book space as soon as possible so as not to be caught with extra animals if feed supplies on farm suddenly start to disappear."

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