To Do list as dry weather tightens its grip

// Health and Safety

On-going dry weather coupled with limited killing space is making for a challenging time for sheep and beef farmers in many parts of the country.

Drawing on resources developed during previous droughts, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s General Manager South Island John Ladley, urges farmers to make decisions early, to plan and to prioritise.

“Set yourself short and long-term goals starting with the areas of greatest need which is typically feed supply and demand.

“The sooner you start managing the situation, the sooner you’ll regain control. Previous droughts have always shown that early decisions are the best decisions”.

To Do

Write a plan and set critical decision dates.

Set the dates as unchangeable deadlines – for example “If we don’t get 50mm of rain by the end of February, we will sell 250 light condition ewes.”

Complete an autumn feed budget and be conservative, as feed is likely to be of poorer quality.

  • Make use of tools such as Feedsmart ( to allocate and budget feed.
  • If grain is to be used at flushing introduce it slowly (25-50grams/head/day) and increase gradually to give the rumen time to adjust.
  • Body Condition Score ewes. This is a powerful tool and allows for the most effective and efficient use of feed resources.
  • Consider delaying mating by three to four weeks to allow condition to be put on ewes.
  • Don’t mate hoggets. This will save feed and ensure they are well grown out when mated as two-tooths.
  • Use a ram harness at mating. As soon as ewes are mated they can be put back onto maintenance feed.
  • It is usually more economic to sell stock than buy-in feed.
  • Don’t hang on to animals that will not be in productive condition next spring.
  • Ensure stock have adequate water and shade.
  • Continually monitor feed resources and livestock condition.

John says it is better to focus on maximizing productivity and profitability in subsequent seasons than to try and minimise costs during climatic extremes. This means investing in protecting the body condition, health and reproductive performance of capital stock and applying maintenance fertilizer when appropriate.

Most importantly, farmers need to look after themselves, their families and their staff.

“Ensure you make time to get off-farm and don’t hesitate to enlist outside support to help get through this tough time.

“Talk to your accountant, bank manager, vet and make use of support services such the Rural Support Trust.

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