A Hawke's Bay sheep and beef farmer is emphasising the importance of having a buffer of feed to get through tough seasons.
Bruce Goldstone farms 4000 breeding ewes, 1000 hoggets and 450 cattle on 1045 hectares at Putorino, north of Napier.
He started running short of feed for his livestock as a drought gripping the entire North Island early last year continued to worsen.
Goldstone turned to the national feed co-ordination service, funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), for help.
"If it had not been for friends and the baleage we sourced through the feed co-ordination service we would have been in serious trouble," Goldstone said.
"I could not fault the organisation of the service. It was a lifesaver and I will be forever grateful."
The service helped connect farmers who were short of feed with available sources of supplement, such as silage and hay.
Through the service, Goldstone sourced 100 round bales of grass silage from Waikato and the South Island.
He was sent a further 100 bales of baleage by friends, bought 40 tonnes of palm kernel expeller (PKE), and already had 200 bales of silage.
"The situation was exacerbated because our farm is in a livestock movement control area for tuberculosis (TB)," Goldstone said.
"In a normal season, when it got dry, we would be able to sell store cattle at the saleyards, but we had to carry an extra 50-60 steers through."
The shortage of feed had major flow-on effects for his business.
"The ewes were not fat enough at mating. That resulted in a 40 per cent drop in our lambing last spring – costing $150,000 in lost income. A further $50,000 was spent buying extra feed," he said.
The situation made Goldstone reassess the buffer of feed he needed to have on hand for significant adverse weather events such as drought.
"We are in a much better situation this summer."
Last year, 16 hectares of lucerne were planted. Sixty bales of silage were harvested in the first cut of the forage crop. Another 120 bales will be harvested this autumn. An additional seven hectares of lucerne were planted in late 2020 and 40 bales have already been harvested.
Last winter, 21ha of ryecorn/annual grass and 7ha of oats were sown to provide extra feed.
The crops were grazed by cattle, and 3ha of the ryecorn/annual grass regrew, producing 100 bales of baleage in the spring.
MPI has extended funding for feed co-ordination and planning services until the end of June.
The feed planning service is delivered by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, and other specialist providers.
A feed plan helped farmers set trigger dates for key management decisions, such as culling surplus livestock.
"It is important to make decisions early. Do not watch as your livestock get lighter while you wait for rain. Do not leave it too late," Goldstone said.
This summer, Goldstone had a solid buffer of stored feed and was ready to help if drought hits.
"I have told the people who sent me feed that if they are ever short, I am ready to return the favour."
The feed planning service can be accessed by phoning 0800 BEEFLAMB (233 352) or 0800 4 DairyNZ (4324 7969).