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Flood

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3 min read

Before the storm Immediate actions When the flood has receded Calf and cow welfare Transporting stock Standing cows off Feed For more information

Flooding on a dairy farm can be devastating, but the page you're reading provides essential guidelines to mitigate its effects. It divides the process into actions to take before the storm, immediate actions during the flood, and steps to follow when the flood has receded. The page also discusses specific considerations for calf and cow welfare during calving, transporting stock, standing cows off, and managing feed to ensure the well-being of your animals. These strategies can help you secure your farm, protect your livestock, and recover more quickly after a flood. Make sure to follow these guidelines and consult with appropriate local resources.

The effects of flooding can be devastating on a farm business.

Knowing what to do will reduce the immediate impact of the flood and planning strategies to deal with the aftermath will allow for a quicker recovery.

Before the storm

  • Designate family or staff to secure homes, then farm buildings
  • Shift stock to a sheltered, secure area away from trees or buildings
  • Store or tie down anything that might blow away
  • Turn off gas appliances and tanks
  • Turn off electric power to avoid surges
  • Park machinery well away from buildings and trees that may blow over
  • Have tarpaulins, plastic covers and ropes ready
  • Tune in to the local radio station

Immediate actions

  • Ensure the safety of family and staff
  • Move stock to safety, shelter and water and make sure they can't wander. Are the electric fences working?
  • Check power and phones. Report outages
  • Check dogs, poultry and pets
  • Check on neighbours - do they need help or can they help you?
  • Check buildings at risk, feed stacks. Move equipment and feed to higher ground.
  • Use generators if necessary to keep pumps, refrigeration, electric fences and household appliances running. Flood pumps may need attention.

When the flood has receded

  • Assess damage to water supply and reticulation system. Which troughs are contaminated with silt and will need cleaning?
  • Assess damage to access lanes, tracks, gateways, culverts and fences. What clearing away of flood debris is needed?
  • Assess damage to pastures, the depth and type of silt
  • Assess available non-flooded pastures and other undamaged feed reserves
  • Contact local council, flood relief co-ordinator, DairyNZ staff, Federated Farmers, MAF, the NZ Landcare Trust, Taskforce Green or other resource providers
  • Talk to bank manager, insurance company
  • Accept help when offered, and ask for it if you need it.

Calf and cow welfare during calving

It is highly likely more cows will calve early. Ensure regular calf pick-up can be achieved where practically possible. Keep up regular observation of cows and spot abnormal behaviour that can be a sign of metabolic disorders.

Try to supplement post calving (colostrum cows) with calcium. Ground limeflour can be mixed in with feed and fed in-shed, or made into a slurry with molasses and poured onto bales.

Transporting stock

Cows being fit for transport and correct supplementation will be critical. Refer to the transport guidelines.

Standing cows off

  • If standing cows off on concrete for 12 hours + a day for 3 days in succession, cows should be given at least one full day on an alternate surface to rest.
  • To prevent mastitis in a standoff situation - regular application of teat spray, dry cows included. This might mean running the cows through the shed.

Feed

  • Provide clean water and feed to your animals as soon as possible. If the water is not safe for you to drink, it is not safe for your animals. If possible, do not let animals drink floodwater.
  • Pasture and feed can be contaminated with sewage, bacteria, chemicals, and other toxins. Moulds can develop easily on water damaged crops, hay, and silage. Minimise access to contaminated feed and avoid using feeds that are showing signs of mould growth as these can be toxic to animals and people.
  • Prioritise feeding to high-priority animals e.g. cows close to calving and young stock. If you are using feed you haven’t fed before (e.g. fodder beet, kiwifruit, etc.), be sure to understand the risks and follow good management practices.
  • Ring the Feed Coordination and Feed Planning Service on 0800 327 646 for requests and offers of feed and grazing, and feed budgeting advice.
  • Cows producing 1.6kgMS require a diet with 18% protein (higher if producing more)
  • If no grass is available, you cannot feed cows 100% PKE in early lactation - but can feed up to 7kg PKE as long as they have effective fibre from silage.

For more information

Refer to Additional resources

Call the DairyNZ Farmer Information Service on 0800 4 DAIRYNZ (0800 4 324 7969).

You can also call the Rural Support Trust in your area or contact your local DairyNZ regional team member.

Last updated: Aug 2023
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