Proactive management needed as dry weather continues

Some areas of the country are experiencing very dry conditions going into winter and this makes carrying out an autumn feed budget critical.
Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Managing in dry conditions: To do list

  • An autumn feed budget.
  • Use ram harnesses so mated ewes can be put straight back onto maintenance feed.
  • Get crop yields independently measured and monitor for pests and diseases.
  • Make dry-related management decisions early.
  • Look after yourself and your staff.

As ewe mating gets underway, farmers need to be thinking about how they are going to feed stock through winter and provide high-quality feed for ewes at lambing.

Farm systems scientist Tom Fraser says it is important to put an autumn feed budget together to ensure multiple-bearing ewes have high-quality feed from two to three weeks before lambing.

“That needs to be a real priority.”

Tom says farmers need to plan ahead, as while there is plenty of poorer quality feed around, it is the high-quality feed that will determine the performance of next year’s lamb crop.

“You need to set-up the farm for next spring by doing a feed budget and doing it now.”

This means taking a stock-take of feed on-hand and a calculation of feed required by different stock classes through winter.

B+ LNZ have a number of tools available to help with feed budgeting including the FeedSmart app (which is free to download). This app is able to be used in the paddock – even without an internet connection – to calculate feed breaks and allocation.

Crop yields should be independently measured and checked regularly for pests and diseases. Loss of crop yield now would be disastrous in a year when feed supplies are tight so seek advice from an agronomist or farm consultant.

Tom say even if it does rain now, it is too late to get significant pasture growth out of any moisture.

To try and conserve feed, farmers could consider holding back high Body Condition Score ewes onto maintenance feed or use ram harnesses to identify mated ewes and put them back onto maintenance pasture.

Tom says there is a lot of poor-quality feed around and this could be used to maintain heavy ewes (Body Condition Score 4 +) or older cattle.

“There is plenty of maintenance feed around, it’s just the high-quality feed that could be a problem in spring.”

In dry years, Body Condition Scoring becomes a very powerful tool. It allows for strategic feeding so that the most efficient and effective use if made of feed resources.  

Tom says it is too late to plant annual ryegrass green-feed crops and while feed cereal green-feed crops could be an option, they still need moisture to get established and grow.

“Really farmers have to deal with the feed resources they have on-hand and do a budget to ensure the farm is set-up to try and maximise production next spring.”

To help with your feed budget, B+LNZ has FeedSmart workshops available on request. Talk to your local Extension Manager.

Tools and resources

For more information about feed management, the FeedSmart app and managing in dry conditions go to: