Freezing works around Northland are struggling to keep pace with an increasing number of animals farmers are sending due to the prolonged dry spell.
Dairy, beef and sheep farmers are sending their herds to the AFFCO plant in Moerewa and to the Silver Fern Farms one in Dargaville earlier than usual as water and feed supplies are starting to run low.
Brett Innes, stock manager in Northland for AFFCO, said workers at the Moerewa plant were working overtime and on Saturdays to clear waiting stock.
"Waiting times are between a week to 10 days which is pretty good, considering the dry conditions we have at the moment. The increase in stock numbers is happening a little bit earlier.
"There's been two short weeks so you're losing processing times but we've been working overtime and on Saturdays to keep up with the demand."
Silver Fern Farms spokesman Justin Courtney said the Dargaville plant has been running at peak capacity for the past three months.
"We have also been diverting livestock to Southern North Island plants to help alleviate the wait times for stock processing in the Northland region."
The company pays the transportation cost.
He said the Dargaville beef plant has also had to manage water restrictions put in place by the Kaipara District Council.
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Courtney said the company's livestock team has been managing stock flows with suppliers to ensure things ran smoothly through the prolonged dry period.
Both companies were not prepared to reveal how many animals are killed daily, citing commercial sensitivity but it's understood each plant processes several thousand cows and bulls each day.
Rural Support Trust Northland co-ordinator Julie Jonker said this was always a busy time for abattoirs and getting stock off farm was a tool used by farmers when the conditions got too dry.
She said apart from more livestock being made available for freezing works, a drop in meat being taken by China has put huge pressure on the space at cool stores storing meat products.
Jonker said the trust was doing a survey to see how much supplement was available outside Northland and whether the plant kennel extract could be used more on beef cattle.
Some growers, she said, such as those planting kiwifruit and avocado were doing well from the dry weather but others like dairy farmers and kumara growers were finding it difficult.
An adverse weather events team she's a part of met last week to discuss the prolonged dry spell and Jonker said there would not be a recommendation to the government to declare a medium scale drought at this stage as parts of Northland were still green.
"We have to make sure that if a drought is declared, it doesn't affect the reputation of Northland," she said.