Preparing for a dry summer

// Feed Planning and Strategies

Soil moisture levels are worryingly low in many parts of the country and Beef + Lamb New Zealand is urging farmers to put together a drought contingency plan now.


Dan Brier, B+LNZ’s General Manager Farming Excellence, is encouraging dryland farmers to consider management strategies such as early weaning, putting together a simple feed budget, Body Condition Scoring, setting trigger dates for specific actions and securing supplies of supplementary feed or off-farm grazing.

He says the focus should always be on protecting the performance of capital stock and this might mean selling lambs or calves as store, quitting trading stock before they reach ideal finishing weights or getting rid of older ewes as early as possible.

“Typically, an early decision is a good decision, so setting trigger dates and sticking to them is a good strategy in years where soil moisture levels are low.”

Early weaning can be a good option in springs where pasture growth is limited and lambs and ewes are competing for feed to the detriment of both.

“Research at Massey University has shown lambs need to be a minimum of 16kgLW before they can be weaned and they need to be weaned onto high quality, legume-rich forages of 1200-20,000kgDM/ha or 7cm in height.”

He says scientists found lambs over 20kg did best after early weaning, however it was the quality of the forage on offer that was the biggest determinant of post-weaning growth rates.

“Early weaning can be a flexible management tool that can be used strategically on certain mobs such as old ewes or hoggets, but it does allow more time to put condition back on ewes or sell cull ewes early.”  

Dan says Body Condition Scoring is one of the most powerful tools farmers can use to make the most efficient and effective use of limited feed resources.

“Taking the time to Body Condition Score at weaning allows limited feed resources to be partitioned into ewes that need it, while heavier conditioned ewes can be maintained on limited rations.”

B+LNZ has a range of tools, resources and case studies to help farmers put together management plans to prepare for and deal with extreme dry or drought conditions. Go to: