Farmers were advised by DairyNZ staff and other industry leaders at a seminar at the Southern Dairy Hub last week to assess their situation and minimise the effects of dry weather on milk production, cows, crops, wintering and people.
DairyNZ consulting officer central/ north west Southland Nicole Hammond said the most important thing for farmers to do during extreme weather events was focus on what they could control.
All of their cows need to be at their body condition score targets.
“Protect next season’s production and reproduction by ensuring all cows reach body condition score targets,” Hammond said.
As a guide, mixed aged cows should have a body condition score of 5 at the planned start of calving, while rising two and three-year-olds should be at 5.5.
Farmers also needed to make sure they were balancing feed demand and supply, she said. Cull cows should be removed from the farm as soon as possible, with early scanning identifying empty cows.
Farmers could also reduce their milking frequency to take pressure off both the cows and staff on farms, she said.
Mature animals could be dried off based on their body condition scores and somatic cell counts.
Hammond said farmers should be wise about using supplements and avoid using supplements earmarked for winter. Supplements could also increase stock water intakes, and systems would need to be in place to cope.
Animals need access to fresh water at all times.
“A milking cow can drink up to 100 litres of water a day in summer,” she said.
When it rains, farmers would need supplements to cover three weeks after its start, as pasture quality would deteriorate after the rain, she said.
Looking after farm staff is also an important part of getting through the dry weather.
Hammond said farmers needed to eat well and make sure their staff were being looked after. It was important to make sure there was a plan in place to deal with the weather and make sure the farm remained productive through the next season, she said.
Westpac Southland agribusiness area manager Mark Horgan said weather was not controllable and the banks were not there to hold farmers accountable for stuff they could not control, so farmers should not beat themselves up.
However, what did bother banks was a lack of communication from farmers in worsening situations.
“Let us know what’s going on and we’re happy to support you through whatever.”
Farmers also needed to remain vigilant of their pastures and winter crops through the summer.
PGG Wrightson technical field representative Allister Gibson said farmers needed to assess any damage of crops and manage it as soon as possible.
“If you start to see damage, act quickly.”
Farmers needed to look out for damage from pests such as nysius, white butterflies, cut worm, diamond back moths and caterpillars and aphids, and seek help to deal with the problem before it became too late, Gibson said.
One of the most important things to be mindful of when feed budgeting for winter crops was to go through several scenarios to be prepared for different outcomes than those expected, he said.
“Don’t overestimate the potential of what the yield could be.”