Although some parts of Waikato have had showers this week, an ongoing lack of rainfall is causing problems within rural communities as farmers face a shortage of feed for their animals ahead of winter.
The dry weather heavily impacted grass growth which means farmers have to feed more supplements and a lot of sharemilkers will struggle to meet contract requirements.
Industry experts recommend reaching out to rural support services or the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) as the National Feed Coordination Service is reactivated.
Waikato Rural Support Trust chair and Ohinewai dairy farmer Neil Bateup says while it has poured a couple of times and even flooded Waitomo, in general rainfall has been low.
"It's incredibly dry for this time of year... the grass may not be brown... most farms have some colour of green, but the issue is that the grass doesn't grow as fast as it should."
Bateup says that due to the low grass growth, farmers are feeding more supplements which means feed stock is getting low. This is especially a problem for sharemilkers as June 1 approaches.
"A lot of contracts say that there has to be a certain amount of feed in stock when [the sharemilkers] leave [on Moving Day], but due to the dry weather and feed shortage, it will be very difficult to meet the contract requirements," Bateup said.
He says that when it rains, the grass growth will "probably" catch up, but it was unlikely for this to happen in time for June 1.
Being a farmer himself, Bateup has also felt the impacts of the low grass growth. "We are feeding more supplements than we ever have before. We dried the cows off early to keep the [feed] intake [of the cows] low."
Waikato Federated Farmers' Waitomo branch chair and Waitomo sheep and beef farmer Chris Irons is experiencing similar difficulties.
"It has been a very stressful time... and a very tough autumn," Irons said. "I have been feeding out every day since February and will have to do so for the next 90 days which is very unusual... We are below winter stock already... [and] it's getting harder and harder to source stuff."
Waikato Federated Farmers arable chair Keith Holmes says the current situation was very serious.
"A lot of people are going into winter with no feed and there is not a lot around to buy. The feed that is available is extremely expensive."
He says although animals didn't have the body condition they usually have, they are not starving and it wasn't an animal welfare issue yet.
"A lot of farmers can't get their animals into the meatworks because they don't have enough staff due to Covid. But the animals take up space and feed on the farms and feed is precious at the moment," Holmes said.
To support farmers through the feed shortage, the MPI reactivated the National Feed Coordination Service and contracted Federated Farmers to deliver the service.
Bateup urges farmers to plan for disruptions, and communicate regularly and early with stock agents and other rural professionals.
"If you are unsure, ask the experts, like Waikato Federated Farmers, DairyNZ, Beef and Lamb NZ, the Rural Support Trust or the MPI. It's all about planning and re-assessing the situation rather than going forward blind."
Irons and Holmes also recommend reaching out to people. Holmes said: "The Rural Support Trust is an amazing organisation with specialist skills. Everyone in a situation should get hold of them because they can facilitate options, whether that is financial or something else.
"It's not without hope... We need to hold hands as a community now in these difficult times."
To reach out to the Rural Support Trust visit their website here.