Feed orders need to be put in now

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

It looks like we could have a La Nina event – but who knows when this is going to kick in and for how long. Meanwhile, it is very dry. In the first three weeks of September 2019, we had 96mm of rain. We had 5mm of rain for the same period this year – and winds drying out ground. That doesn’t cut the mustard for grass growth on the hill country.

One block we’ve had for 12 years has never been so dry. So we need rain. I’ve had some farmers with plans to cut silage before putting in maize but there’s no silage – it’s been eaten by the cows to extend the round out, not shorten it. That tells you there’s a feed shortage.

Another farmer said one month ago he wouldn’t buy maize this year; he didn’t need it. He’d do some of his own and had a stack of maize silage left. He rang yesterday to order the same amount he took in 2019.

People’s memories are short and things can change so quickly. Many farmers who bought maize last year haven’t re-ordered. They’re waiting to see what the weather brings but the frustrating part for us is last year, when people needed feed it wasn’t there because pre-orders hadn’t been done. And maize growers had committed their produce to grain; this year could be worse because the grain price is up. This makes it very hard to help out if and when things get dry.

So right now, all farmers need to do a really good assessment of the current situation of their whole farming system and what they have on-hand – and order supplementary feed now – so if things do go dry, they have an insurance policy.

The predicted La Nina is not a given. Ordering feed now is an insurance policy, just like paying insurance if your home burns down or lightning strikes, so you’re covered.

Hawke’s Bay is still dry. Now there’s an extra 25,000 animals there to feed that were meant to board ships for live export, but this activity was suspended after the Gulf Livestock 1 tragedy.

We always struggle to sell feed to farmers when they’ve got feed. But we’ve only had two-thirds of our usual rainfall so far for 2020.

We thought most farmers may have learnt from last year, and ordered feed early in case it turns dry. But they haven’t; this is what concerns me. Feed gets expensive when there’s a shortage. Prices go up to accommodate extra travel we have to do to source feed from far-flung areas when local feed runs out. And don’t forget about global warming! Don’t listen to Trump!

Swamp farmers are having a really good season because it’s the driest they’ve had for 20 years. Their pastures are growing in moist swamp areas. They’re humming along making silage. One farmer who is usually chasing every blade of grass has 40ha he could cut for silage. But hill country farmers need rain otherwise they could run short of feed later.

To start cropping, we’re waiting for warmer soil temperatures. Last year we started planting early-October. You need 14 degrees Celsius and rising before planting. Hopefully we get something in the ground by the end of September. Those growing maize need to spray out and get paddocks ready. Those growing turnips and chicory should get them in early if they can spare the ground. If not, order maize!

With NZ now in recession, the country will rely heavily on agriculture for some time yet. So banks need to reassess their funding strategies to help and support farmers. As my old man always said: ‘Flog the horse that works; not the dead one!’ The same applies to councils; they may need to ease off on water policies so farmers can help the country recover.

We have good quality silage for sale; and we’re still taking orders for maize so we know how much to plant. So get in touch today!


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