Predicted El Nino patterns could mean dry conditions along the east coast of both Islands this summer, but early decision-making and simple management strategies can help ensure farmers protect the performance of their capital stock.
Will Halliday, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Senior Advisor Biosecurity and Animal Welfare encourages farmers to make a plan for the coming spring and summer which could include key trigger dates and levers that can be pulled.
For example, if it is looking very dry by early November, it might be worth thinking about early weaning or making the decision to draft lambs to slightly lighter weights.
“It is better to be proactive than be left struggling to finish lambs on falling pasture covers or sell store lambs when everyone else is trying to do the same thing.”
He recommends booking processor space early to avoid having to carry unproductive stock such as cull ewes over summer.
With flat lamb prices, high input costs and predicted drought in some areas, Will says this is likely to be a challenging season for sheep farmers in particular, but it is critical to protect the performance of capital stock.
“After weaning, the focus should be maintaining or lifting the Body Condition of breeding ewes. You want to be able to put any bad years behind you as quickly as possible and the impacts of compromising ewe performance this season could linger into next year’s lamb crop.”
He says B+LNZ has some great resources to help farmers prepare and manage through dry conditions and these include strategies North Canterbury farmers used during the region’s last prolonged drought.
For more information, see our drought resources on the Knowledge Hub.