Feed issues are the big focus for dairy farmers in Northland as the region tries to recover from the double whammy of a severe drought and, latterly, major flooding.
Coordinators have been appointed to help connect farmers with available feed and a free phone-in feed planning support service is available to all farmers, including lifestylers.
One who’s found the planning support service particularly useful is Kate Luff who runs 10 hectares in Central Hawke’s Bay. She has used the free feed planning service to decide how to get her stock and business through the winter.
“Despite keeping all our baleage this year, I looked at stock numbers – including lambs due to start arriving in June – and available feed and had a sinking feeling that it did not look good. But that I was guessing,” Luff says.
“So, I looked into the feed budgeting service and called the 0800 number.”
She adds that within an hour of speaking with Mark Harris, I knew exactly how many days feed I had on hand.
“The spreadsheet he sent enabled me to play with the stock numbers and work out what we could carry through winter. In our case the right decision was to sell 80% of our cattle, based on good factual information.”
Mark Harris, from Beef + Lamb New Zealand, is the man most likely to pick up the phone when sheep and beef farmers or lifestylers call the free feed planning service
He has had decades of farming experience. He’s also been on his own mental health journey and understands the situation and the stress callers may be under.
“We’ve answered about 130 calls since we started the planning line in the first week of April,” Harris says.
“The biggest farm we have advised is about 4000ha and the smallest 2.5ha. Everyone’s situation is different, and we can work through it. The later people have left planning, the more stressed they are and it’s a vicious cycle.”
He says there is a real challenge for lifestyle blocks or hobby farms where they haven’t experienced running out of food before.
“Some of them are carrying up to 20 stock units a hectare on bare dry land and just don’t know which way to turn.”
Harris says Kate Luff is a good example of a small block owner who got informed and made her decisions.
“She actually had about 6000kg of feed on hand; enough for 40 days. She looked at the numbers and knew what she had to do. That’s what we are here for,” he explains.
“Don’t be shy, pick up the phone and we can help sort it out.”
North Canterbury prepares
Farmers in dry parts of North Canterbury are likely to get a phone call to check in on how they are doing as the region moves from drought to winter.
The North Canterbury Rural Support Trust are driving a phone tree campaign, says coordinator Claire Ford.
“Our calls just remind people of the support that is available and give us a chance to get a feel for farmer wellbeing after a long lockdown period in drought,” she explains.
Winton Dalley, chair of the Hurunui Adverse Events Committee, says that while some useful dollops of rain landed over the last two months, it wasn’t sufficient and timely enough for a full recovery before heading into winter.