16 Dec 2015

South Island farmers forced to sell stock to northern counterparts

6:53 am on 16 December 2015

Farmers struggling with drought in parts of the South Island are selling tens of thousands of sheep and cattle to the North Island.

There has been no heavy rain in the area since June of last year.

More South Island farmers are selling stock to their North Island counterparts. Photo: RNZ / Patrick Phelps

And a new farmer shareholder stock exchange set up in September says it aims to reduce the cost to farmers when they are forced to sell animals.

Over the last two months, 470 farmers have signed up to the online exchange, and there have been over 50 sales made.

Stock X managing director Jason Roebuck said the website, which is owned by farmer shareholders, was set up to make it easier for farmers to trade directly with each other.

"It eliminates the selling farmer having to incur the cost of yarding fees and the high cost of agent fees through the sale yard model, without knowing what they are selling their animals for."

Farmer Nick Hamilton runs 1300 sheep and 40 cattle near Glenmark. He recently sold 300 lambs into the North Island for the first time in his farming career.

"We haven't got enough feed. I work with my dad who is in his late 60s and he said it is the driest he has ever seen it in his lifetime.

"We went through a drought last year, through a little bit of spring growth, but now we are straight back into drought, it really hits the pockets hard and it takes a toll on your mentality," Mr Hamilton said.

Mr Hamilton arranged his sale through the Hurunui Drought Committee, but said he would explore using Stock X for future sales. He said the way things were going he would have to send more stock north.

"We are only running about half the amount of stock we would normally be, but we can't manage that many with conditions the way they are at the moment.

"We've just weaned the remainder of our lambs, and we're going to have start feeding our ewes, they are a lot lighter than they should be, we don't have enough feed so will have to start using supplementary feed now, and it's a long way through to next spring."

Federated Farmers North Canterbury meat and fibre chair Dan Hodgen said the region was extremely dry.

Mr Hodgen himself runs 5,000 head of sheep in North Canterbury and said farmers expected hard times, but the drought was wearing people down.

"Its been a long time now, we've been 12 months in drought, we got a little bit of rain in the winter but it was never enough to keep things going."

Mr Hodgen said Stock X would open up different markets, and promote the sale of more sheep, which were not commonly sold to the North Island.

"They have been proactive and got out some competitive transport rates which makes transporting sheep more feasible, so we will probably see more sheep and cattle being sent north as the summer gets hotter."

Mr Roebuck said there was no joining fee to sell and buy on Stock X, but farmers pay 2.5 percent of the total sale.

"Stock X has already talked to a number of farmers in the North Island who are ready and willing to buy stock from the south, so we've already made a market - it's just a matter of teaming up the sellers with the buyers," he said.

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