Food deficit bites hard
MORE than 10,000 bales of nutritionally-light but stomach-filling rice, barley and wheat straw could soon be shipped to Waikato as the drought tightens its grip and livestock feed supplies shrivel.
Waikato Federated Farmers president James Houghton said his team is exploring how to get the straw, due to be burned off by Canterbury growers, on a ship to Napier or Tauranga to be in Waikato within the week.
The by-product straw is low in nutrient value but keeps animals ‘‘happy and content’’, he said.
Meanwhile Waikato farmers continue to run down their winter feed reserves and if there is no beneficial rain for another three weeks, the situation for many farmers could get ‘‘desperate’’.
Carrots, kiwifruit and squash are also on the menu on some farms.
But with vine disease Psa-V still devastating the kiwifruit industry, farmers need to ensure they are not spreading the disease by bringing kiwifruit into an area. Mr Houghton said he had approached the Ministry for Primary Industries for advice on this issue.
Meanwhile, market forces are hard at work with hay and baleage sellers inflating prices in response to fierce demand.
A round bale equivalent to 10 square bales, is selling on Trade Me for $100, Mr Houghton said. Normally it sells for $60-$65.
Houghton said farmers were now lucky to get palm kernel, six weeks ago selling for $247 a tonne, for under $399 a tonne.
Availability and volumes are
Drought-hit Waikato farmers are looking to bring in straw from the South Island for feed. Although it is low in nutrients, it keeps cows content, said Waikato Federated Farmers president James Houghton. limited, Mr Houghton said.
Stock feed suppliers, J Swap said it was ‘‘just keeping up’’ with demand.
Director Stephen Swap said the biggest seller now was palm kernel, sales of which had been decreasing in the past three years.
It is selling for more than $300 a tonne but spot prices are closer to the mid-$300s, he said.
Fonterra retail subsidiary RD1 said its palm kernel supplies were nearly exhausted.
‘‘Our supply coming into the country is now going towards guaranteeing supply to contracted customers. Supply at source remains tight, we will look to reoffer to the spot market when stocks become available,’’ the company said.
Good supplies of grass seed are being secured in anticipation of pasture damage from drought, the company said.
Mr Houghton said while Waikato dairy farmers were reporting successful mating because cows had been in good condition going into summer and farmers had destocked early, there was concern for lambing rates later this year.
Rams will be put out soon but with little feed available, ewes’ egg production would be reduced and rams could have difficulty performing in the heat.
PGG Wrightson Waikato livestock manager Dean Evans said the pressure on the region’s livestock yards is greater than during the 2008 drought because that event was isolated to this region with feed still available from elsewhere and outside buyers keeping prices stable.
But this year drought is widespread, feed is limited and prices have fallen $100 to $150 a head compared to last year.
Bumper numbers of animals coming through the Morrinsville yard sales have forced organisers to add a second sale day on Wednesdays, where they are yarding between 400 and 600 animals, mostly boner cows, Mr Evans said.
The regular Friday sales are yarding between 1500 and 1800 animals, he said and numbers peaked two weeks ago.
Since then they have fallen off slightly but if the dry weather keeps up, numbers are likely to return to peak within a fortnight, he said.
The Paeroa and Te Awamutu stock sales have not been at full capacity but livestock numbers are double those of the same time last year.
The Frankton stock sale numbers are slightly up though Mr Evans said lamb and beef numbers were holding reasonably steady.
The increased numbers have stretched the region’s meatworks and plant schedules are back, further forcing yard sales prices down.
In the North Island processing numbers covering all companies are up 74 per cent for cows and 21 per cent for lamb for the year todate.
Affco plants are working overtime to help farmers, said operations manager Rowan Ogg.
Affco’s Horotiu plant was doing significantly more processing than typically done at peak season, he said.
Greenlea Meats managing director Tony Egan said the rush at the company’s Hamilton and Morrinsville plants began at the beginning of February and had yet to slow down with high processing numbers holding steady over the last month, pushing waiting times to up to a week.
‘‘We’ve got a lot of farmers who are keen to get stock away earlier than previous years. I would say that will last through to Easter and then after that, I guess it depends on the rain’’.