Food deficit bites hard

South Waikato News - - OPINION - By KASHKA TUN­STALL AND AN­DREA FOX

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’’.

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