Farmers nationwide are urged to ensure they secure winter feed to avoid facing feed shortages and the southern region is no different, says DairyNZ's Southland/South Otago regional leader Ollie Knowles.

He said while winter feed production levels varied throughout the South, Southland's crop yields and pasture growth was "quite a bit lower than they should be at this time of year".

"Pasture growth across the region is quite significantly back on average" Knowles said.

"There are variations of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent behind where they should be".

Advertisement

The unseasonal cold and wet weather in spring and summer around the region, along with February's floods in some parts of Southland affected pasture growth.

In some cases floodwaters were on paddocks for up to 10 days, which caused significant damage to the pasture.

"My gut feeling is farmers are still going to be significantly affected by the flooding.

"However, we had a little bit of a respite with weather and that created a little bit more feed and pasture growth.

"While warm conditions could boost it [growth levels] along, if we get a cold snap come through we will see grass growth rates drop off significantly".

Knowles urged farmers to have feed budgets in place not just for the next month but for the next season, so they could identify gaps, and make decisions about how many mouths they could feed.

"At end of the day we are driven by animal welfare to try to make sure there is plenty of feed for animals.

"Keep in close contact with cull cow buyers, i.e. meat processors and cull agents. Also keep in contact with your grazier. If your cows have to come home early, is your consent up-to-date and are you allowed to do that? Are you going to be in a position to handle the cows through the season?"

Advertisement

He said there was a relatively tight supply of supplementary feeding.

"Off the back of that if you have not secured feed, make sure you get it sorted. You won't know what you need if you have not done a feed budget. An easy feed is Palm Kernel Extract (PKE) which is still used in the industry".

He said the PKE supply was relatively tight as the processors of palm oil of which PKE is a by- product, had reduced production but he thought there was sufficient for contractors to meet contracts.

DairyNZ Southland/South Otago regional leader Ollie Knowles. Photo / Supplied
DairyNZ Southland/South Otago regional leader Ollie Knowles. Photo / Supplied

DairyNZ farm performance general manager Sharon Morrell said it had been a challenging few months on many farms, in addition to Covid-19, but the priority was now getting to next spring in good shape.

"Ministry for Primary Industries monitoring showed there was low availability of feed to purchase across the board. So, getting ahead of any future issues is crucial — now is the time for farmers to assess scenarios and act. Feed budgeting is as important as financial budgeting right now".

"A feed budget will confirm the balance between feed supply and demand, and help farmers evaluate different scenarios through until calving. Prudent drying off decisions may be part of the solution".

DairyNZ has been working with partner groups on selling and culling stock, to identify where the capacity issues lie.

"We encourage farmers who are having particular challenges in this space to contact us" she said.

Body condition scoring the herd will help to separate cows and prioritise drying off by their condition, then different feeding approaches can be applied until calving.

Dry cows still need feed and time to put on condition, and the type of feed will have an impact.