Horowhenua farmers have answered a call to arms by donating truckloads of feed to help Hawke's Bay colleagues facing what has been described as the worst drought in a lifetime.
Federated Farmers Chairman Geoff Kane says while local farmers themselves were not faring well through a dry autumn, they recognised the seriousness of the Hawke's Bay situation.
It might be a drop in the ocean, but every bale of hay makes a difference, he says.
Kane says the seriousness of the situation wasn't fully appreciated. Some farmers had been reluctant, or had left it too late, to fill out a Ministry of Primary Industry assessment of their feed budget in order to qualify for a rural support package.
He knew of one farmer that had just two days worth of feed left. Others were being forced to cull valuable breeding stock, ending decades of work.
"Farmers are not the type of people to ask for help," he says.
Kane says it was the nature of the farming community to want to help each other. Some locals knew farmers in Hawke's Bay personally, and also realised that one day they might need help, too.
"We're pretty lucky in the Horowhenua, but it has been a dry Autumn and the rains in March and April haven't come. There isn't much surplus feed around.
"But the farmers we are asking for help are all willing to give their support, even if it is only a bale or two."
Large bales would be distributed to larger farms, while smaller bales would find their way to smaller blocks or lifestyle farmers.
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"Supply is the problem," Kane says.
As a result, hay prices were a premium. Where a normal bale was going for $75, it was
now fetching $150 due to the increased demand.
Kane says management and staff at Levin abattoir Alliance deserved kudos for continuing to operate during the Covid-19 lockdown, as it gave many farmers the option of culling herd numbers before they began to starve.
A Government relief fund of $1million was being used to pay for the transport of feed from the different parts of New Zealand to Hawke's Bay, and some feed was coming from the South Island.
Kane's neighbour Alice Bradley rolled up her sleeves too. Her family had farmed in the Hawke's Bay for more than a century, and her father, brother and cousin still farm there now.
"It's the driest anyone there has ever seen it. A creek that my great-grandfather said would never, ever, run dry, has gone dry," she says.
There were reports of massive deficits in groundwater and spring-fed creeks.
National's candidate for Ōtaki Tim Costley was keen to be involved in the relief effort, too. Donning gumboots and a pair of overalls, he spent the morning helping load the bales of hay.
"It's what the rural community does. Everyone can give a little bit to help each other out. It all adds up," he says.
"A lot of people talk about community support during Covid-19 but this sort of thing happens all the time in the rural community. Even with the challenges of Covid-19, this has been ticking away in the background."
"Farmers are generally pretty stoic and can be reluctant to ask for help. It's great that this is finally getting some attention."
Local firm Davis Contracting had offered their yard in Koputaroa as a base for the relief effort, where the hay was dropped off before being loaded by their tractors on to trucks for dispatch.
The Levin branch of Riding for the Disabled were donated bales of hay from Rotary prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, but had since donated those bales back on to the Hawke's Bay relief.
A website had been set up, firstname.lastname@example.org, if anyone had spare feed to donate.