The impact of drought and flood conditions have resulted in pasture shortages in many regions heading into May, but particularly Northland, Waikato, Lower North Island, North Canterbury and Southland, where securing crucial winter feed is now a priority for many.
DairyNZ farm performance general manager Sharon Morrell said it’s been a challenging few months on many farms, in addition to COVID-19, but the priority is now getting to next spring in good shape.
“Many farms will have more stock than they’d planned and, down south, flood-damaged winter crops are adding uncertainty to winter feed supplies. MPI monitoring shows there is low availability of feed to purchase across the board,” said Sharon. “So, getting ahead of any future issues is crucial – now is the time for farmers to assess scenarios and act.
“Southland farmers whose winter feed plans involved stock being grazed off-farm, should contact their grazier to ensure winter feed is still available to fulfil the grazing agreement, and then update their feed budget through to spring.”
Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s general manager North Island Matt Ward says many sheep and beef farmers are going into winter carrying more stock than they budgeted for, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“This is putting added pressure on already stretched feed resources and I urge farmers to be proactive about putting together a feed budget, identifying shortfalls and adopting strategies such as body condition scoring, using ram harnesses, applying nitrogen and off-farm grazing that will protect the performance of breeding stock next spring.”
For farmers grazing stock on the farm, calculating the volume of additional feed required should also be the first step.
“Feed budgeting is as important as financial budgeting right now. A feed budget will confirm the balance between feed supply and demand, and help farmers evaluate different scenarios through until calving,” said Sharon.
“Prudent drying off decisions may be part of the solution. Now is time to confirm how many cull cows you have and get in touch with your cull cow buyer and your grazier. Ensure they are booked in so they can move off-farm.”
DairyNZ has been working with partner groups on selling and culling stock, to identify where the capacity issues lie. “We encourage farmers who are having particular challenges in this space to contact us,” said Sharon.
Body condition scoring the herd will help to separate cows and prioritise drying off by their condition, then different feeding approaches can be applied until calving.
Dry cows still need feed and time to put on condition, and the type of feed will have an impact. Farmers should order alternative feed sources required now. A feed budget template is online at www.dairynz.co.nz/feed.
DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, and other sector partners, supported by MPI, jointly launched a feed budgeting service for farmers. The service offers a free assessment and an advisor will discuss feed and farm systems options and practical support. Dairy farmers can access the service through ph 0800 4 DAIRYNZ (0800 4 324 7969) and sheep and beef farmers can phone 0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 233 352).