Drought plan­ning

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery - By GER­ALD PID­DOCK

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.’’

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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.’’

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