Wednesday, 25 October 2023 08:55

Workshops to help farmers plan for the big dry

Written by  Peter Burke
Alison Forbes says farmers need to take heed of NIWA’s warning of a drought. Alison Forbes says farmers need to take heed of NIWA’s warning of a drought.

In the light of a possible drought due to El Nino - particularly along the East Coast of the North Island - Beef + Lamb NZ is busy running workshops to help farmers in the region to cope with any eventuality.

Alison Forbes, B+LNZ extension manager for the East Coast of the North Island, says while things are okay in the Wairarapa, farmers need to take heed of NIWA's warning of a drought. She says the whole of the East Coast was smashed by Cyclone Gabrielle and there were also pockets in the Wairarapa, around the township of Tinui, that were badly hit.

Forbes says B+LNZ has managed to secure some funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries to provide technical advice to farmers, which will come through the running of various workshops.

One of these will be run at Tinui and there will be workshops in other towns as well.

"Basically, we are just trying to make farmers aware of what might be ahead. It's around the preparedness space and talking to farmers and asking them what they want," Forbes told Rural News.

"We can't go buying them fencing gear, etc, but we can offer good advice and hopefully get to some of the farmers who aren't so prepared."

Forbes says the top 10% of farmers are already running scenarios, but it's that next echelon down that need to be looked after. She adds that after talking with meat processing companies, it's clear that prices for stock in a few months' time will likely be low and there is no silver bullet solution.

Forbes says farmers need to carefully manage their operations in the coming months and be looking at their position on a daily basis, so that they know what levers to pull and when. She adds this will include when to destock and not get caught with too many animals and insufficient feed on the farm.

"The other point to note is that if the stock on a farm is fine, it's likely the mental health of the farmer is fine. But right now, mental health is a massive issue."

Forbes says reports from the Rural Support Trust suggest that the number of people engaging with it is gradually going up, which is not a good sign.

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