The dry summer has had a significant impact on pasture and crops across the region, with growth rates reportedly down 40 percent.
Coastal Taranaki has been hit the hardest, and many farmers have had to dry off their herds (stop milking) early and reduce stock numbers as they don’t have enough feed.
To make matters worse, Cyclone Gita struck the region in February, destroying much-needed crops and causing damage to hay barns and milking sheds.
After witnessing the situation coastal farmers were facing, Stratford farmer and agronomist Kelsey Espin felt compelled to help.
“I went for a drive and was horrified by the conditions and thought we had to do something. I felt like crying after seeing the bare paddocks. It was heartbreaking.”
She and her father John Espin sought support from other farmers at their local Midhurst Discussion Group.
Some were naturally hesitant at first as they too are short on feed, but were soon convinced, Kelsey said.
“The whole of the North Island has been hit by the drought and in general feed is low. But it’s hard to say ‘no’ to those who have absolutely nothing.”
To take the pressure off, they asked farmers to donate just one bale.
“We’re not going to miss one or two bales out of the shed, but for those on the coast it’ll mean a lot. I’d want someone to do the same for me if I was in their position.”
So far the group has managed to collect a trailer load (about 30 bales) to donate, and they’re aiming for more.
They also hope this is the start of something bigger.
They want to inspire other farmers in the region to do their own collection drive and spare any bales they can.
If you would like to donate a bale, or find out more about how you can help, contact the Rural Support Trust on 0800 787 254.
DairyNZ Taranaki regional leader Simon Sankey praised the group for recognising a need in their community and doing what they can to help.
“The fact they’re doing it off their own bat shows the real ‘community spirit’ in the sector.”
Taranaki Rural Support Trust chairman Mike Green said it had been a tough season for farmers in the area and he commended the group for their compassion and initiative to support their own.
He encouraged anyone feeling under pressure to contact the Rural Support Trust.
027 749 7857