Climatic events provide huge challenges to farmers across their entire farming operation, particularly when it comes to feed.

Extreme weather over the past few months has been challenging for farmers across the country, leading to an unprecedented demand for feed.

A very wet winter and spring last year evolved into an extremely warm, dry November and December, with drought conditions declared in several regions of New Zealand.

Just before Christmas the Government declared a drought in parts of the North Island including Taranaki, Wellington and Manawatu-Whanganui, then later drought was declared in the Grey and Buller districts on the west coast of the South Island.

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At the end of January the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Communities announced the medium-scale adverse classification for the drought would be extended to the whole of Southland, Otago's Queenstown Lakes, Central Otago and Clutha districts.

In January and through February, wet warm weather hit — with subtropical storms and a cyclone causing havoc in some parts of the country.

Although the rain has been welcomed, it hasn't mitigated the impacts of the early hot, dry summer in many areas.

"Farmers have not been able to grow sufficient feed for winter, and have been using stored feed and buying supplements for stock, as well as selling off animals," Minster for Agriculture and Rural Communities Damien O'Conner said in early February.

New Zealand-based national feeds company GrainCorp Feeds has been busy helping farmers fill feed deficits by providing a range of supplementary feed options.

"Due to significant climatic and seasonal challenges on farms across New Zealand we have seen demand for all feeds increase over recent months, from low cost feeds such as PKE [palm kernel extract] to higher value grain-based feeds," said GrainCorp Feeds general manager Daniel Calcinai. "Climatic events provide huge challenges to farmers across their entire farming operation, but particularly when it comes to feed."

Calcinai said high temperatures have been hard on cows in some regions.

"The cows struggled with heat stress, which impacted feed intake and production levels," said Calcinai.

"After Taranaki was declared a drought region prior to Christmas, we found that feed demand increased significantly there to keep cows milking."

Calcinai said sessions run by the Taranaki Rural Support Trust on how farmers can efficiently utilise bought-in supplements to get through until pasture growth improves were beneficial.

"What we all want is to minimise the chances of the worst-affected farms having to dry off early."

GrainCorp Feeds are well-positioned to distribute supplementary food across the country, to support farmers in need. "We have locations in key dairying regions including our ISO-accredited liquid storage facilities at Tauranga, New Plymouth, Napier, Bluff and Timaru.

That means we are in a good position to deliver liquid products such as molasses to New Zealand's dairy herd."

Last month GrainCorp Feeds announced it was offering molasses through its national supply chain, and the feedback has been positive.

"We have seen an increase in demand for molasses due to the many nutritional benefits if offers during summer conditions," said Calcinai.

Calcinai says the recent rains in some areas will be making a positive difference to grass for farmers. "There is spring-like pasture growth in some areas, although the sugar content and energy levels of the pasture have fallen away somewhat," said Calcinai.

He notes that maize crops are "looking good" but wet weather continuing into March and April may affect harvesting. Calcinai says despite the rain, the drought has taken its toll on farms and recovery will take time for farmers in some regions.

"For our farming clients, we hope that weather conditions are good and that it will be a good end to summer on the farm and autumn calvers get off to a good start."¦