The current drought conditions were classified as a medium adverse event earlier this month by the Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy – other regions are also facing drier than average conditions.
DairyNZ’s Northland regional leader Chris Neill, says a wet spring followed by a dry summer has slowed crop growth and although rain is forecast over the next few days, farmers will still be finding conditions challenging.
“Dry conditions have come on faster and harder than usual because temperatures have been higher and it has been a lot windier.
“Adding to the problem is the fact we had a wet spring causing crops, that many farmers rely on, to struggle to establish and grow. This means farmers are faced with some tough decisions as they find a way to feed their cows now and look ahead to calving when they rely on maize.”
“Individual decisions will need to be made about how to balance feed supply and feed demand. Factors to weigh up include costs and how many cows to keep milking and how often.”
Chris says dairy farmers are good at sticking together and sharing information.
“Farmers have learnt a lot through past droughts and have plenty of techniques for managing the supply of feed to their cows to meet the demands of keeping them in good condition,” says Chris. “Sharing these techniques and experiences is important, especially for those new to the industry, or to Northland.”
DairyNZ is using its local discussion groups and, with other organisations, is hosting community BBQs to allow farmers to get off farm and share information with others.
“We are working with the Rural Support Trust and a wide range of other organisations to ensure farmers know there are people they can turn to. It’s important for farmers to know they are not alone,” says Chris.
“The best support can be talking to your neighbours and just hearing what others are doing. That’s what we’re trying to facilitate through our farmer networks. Farmers should contact their local DairyNZ consulting officers for updates on when and where these events will be held.”
DairyNZ senior economist, Matthew Newman, says Northland has had a challenging season.
“With three quarters of the season’s milk collected, Northland milk production is currently around 6% lower than last season.”
“The improved milk prices this season are much needed as seasonal conditions have reduced production and increased costs for many Northland farmers. This has delayed the financial recovery for those in the north,” says Matt.
DairyNZ says its main advice to Northland and other dairy farmers experiencing dry conditions is to:
- Look after yourself and talk with other farmers in your area.
- Monitor and record your cow body condition. Make sure you know how to do this or get an expert to help.
- Focus on milking on with a core group of cows until it rains.
- Assess how you can destock.
- Be prepared for facial eczema. Monitor spore counts and have zinc on hand.
- Have a plan around feed, financials, stock and communicate the plan to your team (family, staff, consultant, banker). Set a Trigger Date for your next decision and don’t be afraid to change to Plan B if things change.
- Manage young stock on and off the farm.
- Talk to your grazier.
- Attend a community BBQ.
- Make the best use of your rural professionals.
Strategies for managing a dry summer are available at dairynz.co.nz/drysummer.