MPI is urging New Zealand farmers to think ahead and have a plan in place to ensure their animals are well looked-after in the coming months, with another potentially hot summer on the way.
The entire North Island, parts of the South Island, and the Chatham Islands were hit by widespread drought earlier this year and forecasters are predicting more trying weather conditions.
NIWA has confirmed La Niña could mean below-average rainfall for the South Island and lower North Island, said MPI.
The most likely affected areas will be west and south of Christchurch, with a more humid than average summer, according to the Crown Research Institute's latest Seasonal Climate Outlook.
Dr Chris Rodwell, MPI veterinarian and Director Animal Health and Welfare, said there were many steps farmers could take to help keep their animals comfortable, and safe, over summer.
"While dry conditions are challenging, most farmers can capably manage weather extremes all year round and know how to take care of their animals in hot weather."
Rodwell said it was imperative farmers have plans in place.
"A good plan will reduce stress and ensure that the dry summer will not impact on the following season's production."
Dr Chris Rodwell's tips
Shelter and water
Livestock need to be safe from heat stress and cold stress – and dairy cows are more sensitive to heat than cold. Animals should also be protected from extreme weather changes, like storms.
• Graze cows close to the dairy shed to reduce walking distances for milking and let them move at their own pace;
• Milk cows later in the afternoon or early evening when the temperature has dropped
• Use paddocks with shade or provide cows with access to well-ventilated, shaded housing facilities
• Provide supplementary feed at night, so the extra heat generated by digestion occurs at the coolest time of day
• Make sure cows always have good clean drinking water. Milking cows can drink more than 100 litres per day in summer
• Provide shade or use a sprinkler system in the dairy yard, while cows wait to be milked
Have a proper plan in place to ensure your staff, whānau and livestock are safe if you are forced to evacuate due to fire.
• If it's not safe for you, it's not safe for your animals
• If you must evacuate, but cannot take them, make sure they're in a safe place, well away from any fire risk e.g. open gates, ensure access to water
• Make sure emergency services have quick and easy access to farm buildings or yards containing animals and a water source
• Ensure your animals have access to clean feed and water in their new contained space until they can be returned to their paddocks
Be well prepared as prolonged dry weather increases the risk of flash floods in the event of heavy rain.
• If you have a generator, do practice runs so staff know how to operate it safely;
• Find out from your council and neighbours if your property is at risk from flooding. Plan accordingly and move stock to higher ground if you can
• Ensure your feed silos are full in case there are road closures;
• Ensure livestock are in secure paddocks if fences are disabled by a cut to electricity
The Government had invested $19 million this year in rural communities affected by drought.
Some of the money had gone into feed planning and coordination services. MPI allocated an additional $350,000 to extend the service until the end of June next year.
Dr Rodwell encouraged farmers to use this MPI-funded service delivered by DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ, Federated Farmers, and other specialist providers, to help them get through.
"Good animal welfare requires good planning – it's not always easy but there is always help, advice and support available."