As hot weather starts to impact many parts of the country, farmers are eyeing available feed supplies, as well as options for sourcing more, should things run tight heading into autumn.

Summer can be a tricky time for lifestyle block owners considering feed options.

Should they follow large commercial farmers and buy feed in, or should they quit stock; which presents the challenge of how to best manage supplies when the rain comes and the grass returns.

However, owning a block of reasonable size and contour can open up opportunities for additional income capitalising off feed shortages and supplement demand.


Options open to lifestyle block owners can include using the property as a source of supplementary feed, (such as silage or hay supply), or even putting the entire land area into a maize crop.

Bayleys Waikato agent Mike Fraser Jones said many farms in his area have graduated from dairy to alternative lifestyle-grazing blocks.

He said the opportunity for small block holders to boost income from supplement sales can be useful, but was not always a huge money earner for most.

"But at certain times of the year, like now, you need to get that grass off, and this is an option to achieve that."

Fraser said the definition of "lifestyle block" had shifted in Waikato, and with that came an increase in alternative land-use opportunities for these properties.

As dairy farms become larger, farms under 100ha became more akin to lifestyle-grazing blocks said Fraser.

"And for those blocks, owners have options like using them for grass silage or even for growing maize on."

For smaller block owners, supplement options could entail a few sacrifices, including the ability to continue to run livestock - but being prepared to work with agricultural contractors and their needs was a big plus.


Bill Webb, director of Bill Webb Feed Solutions in the Bay of Plenty cautioned that while locking up the property for making hay can be appealing, there can be some obstacles.

"Generally contractors will try to steer clear of smaller lifestyle blocks- the gateways are too narrow, the size of the job is simply too small to be able to do it economically, for the owners and for the contractor.

"Most baling operations work on about $5 a bale for cost, but on the smaller blocks, that price often needs to be $10 and that can put people off- they will say they can buy it cheaper elsewhere, which is often true."

Good hay can also only come from good grass, and it is not uncommon for lifestyle blocks to lack the pasture density and quality typically found on closely grazed commercial farms.

Webb said larger lifestyle blocks over 5ha offered owners more opportunities for practical and economic feed solutions.

For small block owners, having livestock often proved more profitable, and provided some meat for the household if they elected to have a home kill service.

"But if you do have livestock, and still have a bit of a surplus, it may be worth making it into hay, just to have on hand over the winter period."

Maize could be good option for larger lifestyle block owners considering using their land as a supplement crop supply said Webb.

"With lifestyle blocks over 5ha or so, planting them entirely into maize is likely to make them a better sort of return."

Working with a maize contractor can mean the land is fertilised, cultivated, planted into maize, harvested and returned to pasture, all within a matter of months.

Typically a lease payment of $1000-$1200 a hectare was made, with the entire job being managed by the contractor.

Tirau small block owner Steve Clothier had only recently added 20ha to his adjoining 3ha block.

He believed there was a big market in regions like Waikato and Bay of Plenty for a small scale contractor set up with a square baling machine to make hay for small block owners.

"Small blocks are always a challenge- too small to farm, but too big to mow every week, so there is probably a good business opportunity out there."

Clothier's own block was in maize when he bought it over a decade ago, but today a neighbour leased it and managed to get three cuts of silage off it this season.

"Sometimes it could be better to offer your grass as standing feed to be harvested, which is better and simpler than trying to arrange to have it all done yourself."

Clothier advised small block owners to make themselves known to their larger commercial farming neighbours, some of whom may be able to include that block into their own farm's rotation if it is conveniently located.