Farmers have to accept money in a drought.
That was the take-home message Sully Alsop had for King Country sheep farmers when he spoke to them at a Beef+Lamb seminar day in Taumarunui.
The Baker and Associates consultant said once this was processed, all other decisions were easier to make and farmers were more likely to make hard decisions earlier.
He estimated that monetary loss ranged from $5-$10 a stock unit.
The stress associated with a drought delayed farmers’ decision-making he said.
‘‘If you can put a ring around it and accept it, it makes those decisions that you should be making, easier to make.’’
Alsop, along with his wife, farms two properties in Wairarapa as well as working as a farm consultant.
One of his farms is generally summersafe, while the other is in the drier part of the region, in what he calls ‘‘sizzle valley’’.
When he began his farming career in 2007, he experienced three droughts in a row.
‘‘When it comes to droughts, pretty much my farming career and my consultancy career there’s been more droughts in the Wairarapa than not,’’ he said.
However, he firmly believed it was easier to farm in a summer dry environment than it was in a wet environment.
For Waikato farmers coming through two droughts in a row, he predicted the effects of last season’s drought will show up in this year’s scanning results. Monitoring the farm was key, Alsop said. ‘‘You can’t wait until whoever announces it’s a drought, tells you it’s a drought. You have got to be in there monitoring it all summer to make this really work for you.’’
That meant recording rainfall, soil moisture and pasture covers in such a way that farmers could not lie to themselves about the results.
Monitoring gave the farmer information they could go back and refer to when conditions started to turn.
‘‘It gives your brain a lot more ammunition to make a decision.
‘‘ It’s the best thing you can do drought,’’ he said.
It also allowed a farmer drought coming early.
‘‘That’s the stuff that is going to get you out of jail.
‘‘It’s not seeing it coming but seeing it coming before the poor sucker next door to you,’’ he said.
When it did get dry, he recommended farmers examine their calendar and plot the decisions that had to be made to help them get through it a month before it actually happened.
Conversely, that calendar could be used to help make decisions to take full advantage during good years.
Farmers could also make money coming out of a drought by continuing to give out supplementary feed.
‘‘You want to build covers because it’s the winter after a drought that kills your production next year.’’
He also recommended putting nitrogen on, despite their ‘‘screaming’’ bank balance. That would pay for itself twice over.
He also suggested planting oats as soon as it rained as it provided a great feed crop for cattle over July-August, which would be at low prices at the saleyards.
Any action was probably worth doing in a drought if it had a break-even payback because of its mental health benefits, he said.
‘‘It does wonders for your mindset.’’