Management tips to outwit the dry | Beef + Lamb New Zealand
Adverse weather

Management tips to outwit the dry

While there has been significant rain in some parts of the country affected by the dry, many farmers are far from being out of the woods. Here are some management strategies to consider. For more details, see the B+LNZ Extreme Dry Management Toolkit
Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Information is power. Monitor what you can, including feed on hand, pasture quality, livestock weights and condition.

Stick to your plan and the timeframes you have set yourself for decision making. Remember: an early decision is a good decision.

There is no one formula that applies across all properties, but here are a handful of management tips that may trigger some timely ideas:

1) Delay mating
Good drought management ensures that the maximum numbers of ewes retained actually conceive and produce at least one lamb next spring. If you need time to bring weights up, consider delaying mating by 3-4 weeks.

2) Reduce feed demand by selling or grazing stock off
It’s generally more profitable and effective to reduce stock numbers – by selling or grazing – than to buy in feed. If grazing off, the earlier, the better. This gives you the greatest benefit.

3) Prioritise stock
In a drought, priority stock are those that are essential for your medium- to long-term recovery. In most instances, this will be capital stock.

4) Wean lambs early
With the right quantity of legume-based forages, early-weaned lambs can grow as fast – if not faster – than their unweaned equivalents on traditional ryegrass and clover pastures.

5) Body condition score your stock
Body condition scoring is simple, free and can significantly improve the productivity and profitability of your ewe flock. Good condition score ewes can be put on maintenance after weaning, while low BCS ewes are the best investment of expensive or scarce high quality feed. It’s never too late to pick up this valuable skill. Visit to talk to your local B+LNZ Extension Manager.

6) Take weight off cows
Cows with body condition score 7 at weaning can safely lose up to 2 BCS points in autumn and early-mid winter. Running beef cows at too high a BCS wastes valuable feed resources.

7) Prioritise fertiliser
If finances are limited, you may have little option but to withhold general fertiliser applications for a year. Don’t panic: Think of it as skipping a meal – it is only when you make a habit of it that you are likely to suffer. Target fertiliser to areas where benefit will be greatest, such as winter crops or irrigated feed. Your fertiliser company rep can help you work through the options.

Download the booklet