As much of the country sizzles under hot summer temperatures, farmers could start considering their options if the dry weather were to continue through until autumn.
According to Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Guidance on extreme dry management fact sheet, the four focus areas during a period of extreme dry are the overall business, feed supply, stock and land management.
The overriding message in the fact sheet is the importance of early decision making.
Write a plan. This plan, which could include dates by which key decisions need to be made, can be shared with the whole farm team. Everyone can then contribute to the plan and support each other through what can be a challenging time.
If the dry persists, consider including the financial impacts on cashflow in the plan and keep your accountant and bank manager informed.
Carry out a stock take of all available feed, taking into account forecast grass growth, and put together a simple feed budget. This should be reviewed regularly.
Correlating this with cashflow will help with decisions around buying in feed or sourcing off-farm grazing. The earlier these decisions are made the better.
It can be useful to consider what classes of stock can afford to lose weight, how long feed in each paddock will last and what is the order of priority for paddocks according to quality and lasting ability.
Consider water availability. Water stress can significantly impact on animal performance and welfare.
Selling stock will obviously reduce feed demand with early decisions often proving less costly.
The advantages of improving cashflow and reducing feed demand need to be weighed up against the disadvantages of reducing capital stock.
Setting priorities for de-stocking and trigger dates can be valuable.
Assess the adequacy of water supply and shaded areas for stock. If necessary, plan to improve both in the longer term.
Try and reduce the impact of the dry on next season’s performance. This might mean sacrificing some poorer performing paddocks to avoid over-grazing other parts of the farm.