Cash­flow dry­ing up

With milk pro­duc­tion down in the Waikato re­gion, farm­ers are look­ing to off­set their losses, Ali Tocker re­ports.

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

The dry weather so far is set to lop at least $40 mil­lion off Waikato dairy farm­ers’ in­come this sea­son, and an­i­mal num­bers are start­ing to build up at the works as farm­ers take more stock to be killed.

Key groups, in­clud­ing Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil, Fed­er­ated Farm­ers, the Ru­ral Sup­port Trust and the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries, will meet to dis­cuss ac­tions if the dry weather per­sists.

DairyNZ se­nior econ­o­mist Matthew New­man said milk pro­duc­tion in the Waikato re­gion for the month to date was 15 per cent down on the same time last sea­son, equiv­a­lent to $40m less rev­enue for dairy farm­ers in the wider Waikato re­gion than last year.

‘‘The dry con­di­tions are now hav­ing a ma­jor im­pact and, with­out rain, pro­duc­tion will con­tinue drop­ping fur­ther.’’

DairyNZ is giv­ing weekly ad­vice to North Is­land farm­ers through an elec­tronic news­let­ter and dis­cus­sion groups on how to cope with the dry con­di­tions.

Mean­while, meat­works in the Waikato report re­ceiv­ing higher lev­els of stock be­cause of the dry weather. All say they have the ca­pac­ity to man­age the num­bers, and are used to be­ing busy this time of year.

Af­fco op­er­a­tions man­ager Rowan Ogg said that though more stock was coming in be­cause of the dry weather, in­clud­ing bulls, sheep and lambs, not all farm­ers were af­fected to the same ex­tent.

Green­lea Pre­mier Meats man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Tony Egan said the com­pany was ‘‘very busy’’ with more cows be­cause of the dry weather. It was work­ing with Wil­son Hellaby in Auck­land to process any over­flow. Sil­ver Fern Farms Waikato hub man­ager Ja­son Gra­ham said the com­pany was busy, mostly with dairy cows.

‘‘But at this stage we would de­fine it as man­age­able – with a lit­tle bit of flex­i­bil­ity with some of our farmer sup­pli­ers. We’re ob­vi­ously work­ing very hard to make sure we process the an­i­mals as soon as we can.’’

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers Waikato pres­i­dent James Houghton is en­cour­ag­ing farm­ers to take cull cows and ex­cess stock straight to the works, sav­ing the an­i­mals a sec­ond stress­ful jour­ney to the works af­ter a hot day in the sa­le­yard pens.

But PGG Wright­son live­stock rep­re­sen­ta­tive Neil Lyons said he ex­pected the works would be ‘‘chocka’’ soon, and tak­ing the an­i­mals straight to the works could put its own stress on the an­i­mals.

‘‘It’s bet­ter to sell stock at the sa­le­yards so peo­ple can take them away and feed them till they get in at the works . . . chan­nelling ev­ery­thing through the works would cre­ate a huge back­log at the works, so the sa­le­yards is a very good op­tion.’’

Lyons said it was ‘‘very, very’’ dry in the Waikato, but ‘‘patchy’’.

‘‘Some places are not too bad but in other places it’s really, really dry. The drier ar­eas are around Te Aroha, Mor­rinsville, Thames Val­ley and up to Te Kauwhata – right through the base of the Waikato.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously sup­ple­men­tary feed is be­ing fed out, and peo­ple are sur­viv­ing in an­tic­i­pa­tion it’s go­ing to rain at some stage. But when is any­body’s guess.’’

The main is­sues chal­leng­ing farm­ers now re­lated to stock hus­bandry and wel­fare.

Lyons said any farm­ers who were really strug­gling were en­cour­aged to seek help from fel­low farm­ers, ad­vis­ers or the Ru­ral Sup­port Trust.

‘‘There are peo­ple who will help. We’re all out there try­ing to help where we can.’’

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers Waikato grain and seed chair­man John Hodge said some herds in the Waikato had cut back to once-aday milk­ing be­cause of the dry weather.

He urged dairy farm­ers to con­sider buy­ing maize silage, be­cause it was an ex­cel­lent feed for keep­ing con­di­tion on cows that were short of pas­ture.

Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil chair­man Peter Buck­ley said he in­tended meet­ing over the next week or so with key stake­hold­ers to dis­cuss how they will work to­gether if the weather per­sists.

‘‘Con­serv­ing water does re­main im­por­tant and we’d urge farm­ers to check for water leaks to min­imise wastage. Those farm­ers with ir­ri­ga­tion should also check their con­sent con­di­tions to en­sure they are op­er­at­ing as al­lowed,’’ Buck­ley said.

Coun­cil re­source in­for­ma­tion team spokesman Dr Ed Brown said Waikato soils were 30 mil­lime­tres to 50mm drier than nor­mal for this time of year, based on Niwa data.

MetSer­vice fore­cast­ing for the next seven to 10 days sug­gested it would con­tinue to be dry in the Waikato, with lit­tle re­lief.

Niwa had ex­pected that in Fe­bru­ary till April rain­fall would be near nor­mal, but that has so far not been the case this month, with lit­tle to no rain for most parts of the Waikato.

Rain needed: Dry con­di­tions con­tinue across the Waikato re­gion.

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