Farmers say the confirmation they provide an "essential service" and can continue operating under Covid-19 lockdown restrictions is a relief.

Farming and services associated with the primary sector, including food processors, diagnostics, farm suppliers, freight and trucking can continue to go about their business, while taking all practical steps to limit people to people contact.

The lockdown goes into effect at 11.59pm on Wednesday night. All schools and non-essential businesses will be closed and everyone will have to stay at home except for solitary exercise and visiting essential services.

According to the Government, the list of essential services includes primary industries, including food and beverage production and processing:

Advertisement

• Any entity involved in the packaging, production and processing of food and beverage products, whether for domestic consumption or export

• Any entity involved in relevant support services, such as food safety and verification, inspection or associated laboratory services, food safety and biosecurity functions

• Any entity providing veterinary services

• Any entity whose closure would jeopardise the maintenance of animal health or welfare standards (including the short-term survival of a species)

Federated Farmers said in a statement the confirmation today they were vital to helping the nation survive the virus crisis would be a relief and reason for pride for many farmers and workers in those associated industries. But for some, there remained a pressing concern - the drought, and how to feed stock.

Feds said there are solutions, but they come at a transport cost, and with potential challenges encouraging stock to transition to different feeds.

Manawatu-based Dion Fleming, Federated Farmers Arable Vice-Chairperson, Maize, said that while nationally grain stocks were depleting, there was still maize grain available from the Manawatu and Gisborne districts, as well as barley from the South Island.

"In what is normally a slower time of year for our silo complex/feed mill we have seen a large number of dry stock farmers turning to maize as a solution to help fill their feed gap," Fleming said.

Advertisement

"Whole maize for sheep and kibbled maize either straight or blended for dairy and beef animals are proving popular and every day there are utes, trailers and truck units rolling in the gate from all over the lower North Island for 1-tonne bags and bulk loads of feed for dry farmers."

"Care needs to be taken while transitioning animals on to different diets/feeds but it's not difficult and the results are well worth it," Fleming said.

"Grain is not the complete answer as hay or straw will still be required."

Brian Leadley, the Canterbury-based Federated Farmers Arable Vice-Chairperson, Grains, said the South Island grain harvest was largely complete now, with most growers happy with yields and quality.

"From spring 2019 surveys the expectation was for a slightly reduced total tonnage due to a reduced planting, particularly in feed wheat and barley. The feeling now is the reduction will have been replaced with a return to good yields following the last two poor production seasons," Leadley said.

"Currently wheat and barley would be available from the South Island suitable for many classes of livestock to help bridge feed shortages and support the North Island feed suppliers and livestock farmers."

Advertisement

Care was needed gradually transitioning stock to grain. They'd need adequate water while this happened, he said.

"For this reason it is best to start feeding early while there is some other feed available to feed with the grain. The grain will also ensure the other feeds last longer. Also, following the harvest there is still supplies of ryegrass straw, as well as limited supplies of baleage available that would be a great blend with grain."

Farmers interested in these feed options should talk to their trusted supplier. If districts worked together and co-ordinate, savings on transport costs could be realised.

"Also rural contractors have contacts with each other throughout the country so may be able to help arrange feed purchases, particularly hay, straw or baleage, and also help arrange transport," he said.