2 Dec 2015

South Island farmers face feed crisis

1:35 pm on 2 December 2015

The Canterbury region is on the edge of a crisis due to a lack of feed, and farmers are looking for the help of North Island counterparts to get through it, a farming leader says.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Federated Farmers South Canterbury meat and fibre chair Miles Anderson said they were hoping to organise farm share arrangements in the North Island, because of a lack of feed in southern regions.

On the West Coast and in Southland it was too cold and wet for a lot of feed to grow, and in Canterbury it was too dry, Mr Anderson said.

Surrounding regions like Marlborough and Otago could not take much stock either because they were dry too and tens of thousands of animals could need new homes, he said.

"What we're hoping to achieve is to get an idea of where in the North Island there is feed and where there is a willingness up there for farmers to take stock out of the south into the north. Once we can ascertain the numbers etc, we'll work on getting that stock north.

"I guess the idea is to come to share farming arrangements, grazing arrangements or even selling arrangements because we see a crisis looming with the continued dry conditions we've had down here."

Mr Anderson said he had not seen a situation this bad since the late 1980s

"Since June last year we've had 427 ml of rain and we've only had 311 m for the calendar year this year, so we've had very little if any grass growth. The green feed crops in the ground are average and some of them are struggling to even germinate. So it's very, very concerning for this area and I'd say North Canterbury as well."

Mr Anderson said anyone interested in sharefarming arrangements should call Federated Farmers.

Plan to deal with extreme weather needed

A visiting animal nutrition expert is urging farmers to plan ahead and organise supplementry feed, like cereal silage, before New Zealand's weather conditions get even worse.

Professor Mike Wilkinson is from Nottingham University and is in New Zealand talking to farmers about making and feeding quality silage and fodder crops.

Mr Wilkinson said pasture based systems would not be as reliable with increasing adverse weather events and he said stock farmers needed to be talking to their arable counterparts.

"We're in a situation of climate change, we're going to get more extreme weather events, more extreme droughts and I think we have to plan accordingly. The way to plan accordingly, in my mind, is to collaborate with others, particularly arable farmers who can grow cereal crops, maize at a reasonably competitive price to boost feed stocks."

An arable farmer in South Canterbury, Jeremy Talbot, said cereal silage was an affordable feed option and he was urging stock farmers to talk to grain growers about silage this month because it required a different process to make.

"Farmers need to talk early so that fungicide withholding periods, amounts of fungicide that are used, are all done. Unlike last year where bankers and farmers decided that suddenly in January they needed the feed but the cereals were passed making silage so it couldn't be done. Buying cereal silage standing at the moment at about 25 cents a kilogram of dry matter is a better value than buying the grain and the straw.

"There's grain out there that's not committed to sale, it could be a win win for everybody."