2 Apr 2013

Farmers 'desperate' for supplementary feed

1:58 pm on 2 April 2013

Rain may be forecast for much of New Zealand this week, but the demand for supplementary feed is showing no signs of slowing as dairy farmers try to get enough food to stop their cows starving in the drought.

The chief executive of stock-feed supplier SealesWinslow, Graeme Smith, says when the drought began the company initially saw a huge increase in demand in Waikato.

But he says as the drought has dragged on the increased need for feed has spread throughout the North Island and has begun emerging on the West Coast of the South Island and now supplies are stretched.

"We're struggling to get raw materials. The first cab off the ranks was palm kernel; it's hand-to-mouth with all of the suppliers and even now suppliers aren't taking orders for that for some time.

"As that runs out we see an increase in the demand for the higher-level protein and higher-value products, and we're starting to be pushed on the raw material for supplies for those as well.

Mr Smith says most farmers his company is talking to are desperate for stock feed.

"They've probably used their winter feed supplies to a certain extent and the flow-on effects of the drought will be seen a lot longer than just when the grass starts turning green from the rain, because those winter supplies have been diminished and people will be looking for supplementary feed right through the winter."

The drought is also reducing the yields of some grains which Mr Smith said will create animal health problems down the track.

He said the maize normally used for feed is in short supply in some areas and this will have an impact on animal fertility and condition.

Mr Smith says dairy farmers are making up their minds whether to dry their cows off early but says they need to keep in mind the longer-term benefits of giving their animals high quality nutritional feed.