Drought-hit farmers seek best options
It is all about controlling the controllables.
That was the mantra at yesterday's DairyNZ Big Dry meeting in Matamata, one of five this week around the region.
More than 60 farmers, contractors, agri-bankers, vets, and agri-finance advisers turned out to discuss how to cope after the drought.
The controllables, said DairyNZ presenters, were cow culling, better feed management, drying off early, resowing pasture and cow condition.
Most farmers at the meeting had already dried off, or partly dried off, their herds. Their main concern now was getting access to feed and nitrate application to pasture following the predicted weekend rain.
DairyNZ staff, pasture experts and financial advisers gave farmers a clearer picture of what the next few weeks have in store and how to shift their focus and prepare for the next production season.
But, while farmers came away feeling a little more positive, the general consensus was that the meeting did not produce any new information.
"I have heard a lot of it before but it's just getting some fresh ideas," Walton dairy farmer Rob Jones said. "It's really just to find the best options going forward and what to do next."
Jones milks 120 cows and was looking for tips until rain came. He said his situation was similar to most farmers across the region - very dry pasture with only palm kernel and silage for feed.
Jones experienced the 2008 drought, but said it was the first drought meeting he had attended.
It was Matamata farmer Cameron Houghton's first drought meeting, too.
He came along just to get a bit of reassurance. "I came to see how bad everyone else is, so I know I'm not the only one."
Forty per cent of Houghton's pasture land is irrigated. He has 450 cows on his farm on two separate rotations, one milking once a day year-round and the other twice a day.
But, with 60 per cent of his land dry, Houghton said the meeting helped him rethink how he was farming and what he needed to do to once the rain came.
For Taihoa sharemilker and farm owner Rob Klaus, the meeting reinforced his plan to survive through the dry.
"I pretty much had a plan and this has just backed it up," he said.
He had dried off his herd on Wednesday and brought in a consultant yesterday to assess the farm and cow condition.
He had already reduced to 400 cows, sending some animals to the South Island to relieve some of the pressure.
He said the value in the meetings was not in the information but in having a chance to talk with like-minded people in a similar situation.
"It wasn't a lot of new stuff, it was good to hear options and probably the economical side of it all but it's pretty much what we already knew."
DairyNZ will hold two more meetings in the region: Today at 83 Dukesdon Rd, Putaruru, at 10.30am; and on Tuesday, 11am, Tauhei Memorial Hall in Tauhei.
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