Rising milk output to help offset drought

Rising milk flows are set to offset farmer concerns as parts of dairying New Zealand enter drought-like conditions.

The bumper milk production has landed during a record payment of $8.65 a kilogram of milksolids forecasted by dairy giant Fonterra.

The co-operative's latest forecast rose by 35c last week for the 2013/14 season and has placed farmers in a healthy position although drying paddocks could curb further gains.

Latest figures show that across New Zealand milk production in the year to last month has risen 6 per cent from the same period over the 2012-2013 season. Bay of Plenty leads the regions with a 9 per cent rise while Canterbury and the West Coast are both up 7 per cent.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said rural communities across the country would be celebrating the record milk production and forecasted record farmgate milk price.

"Milk production across the country is looking great for most areas, with Bay of Plenty in particular up nine percent on the drought reduced production in 2012-13. Production in Canterbury is also seven per cent up on last year, but some of this extra milk is from more cows being milked.''

He said the increased milk price announced last week would give a well-needed boost to community confidence particularly for areas around the country experiencing drought-like conditions.

"Farmers will be feeling confident and able to invest in infrastructure on their farms, may also retire debt but others may be forced to use the extra cash to manage their way through the dry conditions.

The extremely dry conditions are patchy with the Waikato, west coast of Northland, Gisborne, Wanganui-Rangitikei, Wairarapa, Marlborough, Hurunui, South Canterbury and Central Otago worst affected.

Mackle said the dry conditions were particularly severe in parts of the Waikato. Pastures had browned off and pasture covers were low. Farmers were having to buy additional supplementary feed to continue milking, he said.

"But generally the story is still one of a bumper season with production for the entire country across all milk companies up six percent on last year.

"For Bay of Plenty dairy farmers it's a match made in heaven – bumper production with great growing conditions and a record payout. All we need now is some rain in those dry areas to make it a truly record season for most of our dairy regions,” he says.

Milk production increase on last year to the end of February:

Northland 3 per cent

Waikato 4 per cent

Bay of Plenty 9 per cent

Taranaki 5 per cent

Lower North Island 4 per cent

West Coast 7 per cent

Canterbury 7 per cent

Otago-Southland 4 per cent

New Zealand 6 per cent