Red alert over winter feed

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

 This coming year is going to be very interesting for farmers with high costs and supply issues impacting winter feed.

We have had enough problems with Covid-19 affecting the cost and reliability of shipping and now the Russia-Ukraine conflict is starting to rear its head when it comes to the availability of feed.

Costs are up almost across the board and by a lot in some cases.

Fertiliser is up 200 per cent, chemicals are up 50 per cent, sea freight is up 500 per cent, electricity is up 21 per cent, winter grazing is up 37 per cent and cultivation and harvest costs are up 19 per cent

Man alive, everything is going up so grazing costs will have to go up to meet the input costs.

I am trying to source all my product now but it is hard to get hold of. Glyphosate is up 75 per cent.

There could be a shortage of wheat and barley because the farmers in Ukraine are unable to plant so there is a big demand from other countries to fill their deficits as prices will rise.

Cheap imported feeds are not happening and if it is, it is expensive, and then you can add in the freight costs with PKE over $500 per tonne, plus freight.


Grow your own maize

Farmers need to look into growing their own maize on-farm or at their run-offs to keep overall costs down, otherwise feed costs will spiral out of control. Start planning now is all I can say.

There is also a shortage of straw because there was un-seasonally wet weather in the South Island where most of it is grown.

There is going to be big issues with feed this winter. It’s a big red flag, so be careful, it might not be there when you want it and it will be very expensive so plan well ahead.

On the positive side Fonterra is already predicting a record pay out. The latest 2021/22 average farm gate milk price forecast is $9.60/kgMS (Fonterra, February 24, 2022).

The forecast has been driven up by the high cost of feed in the US and Europe.



Tauranga hasn't had much rain in April. At the time of writing this column, we’ve had only 40.5mm compared to 171.5mm for April last year. Te Puke is much the same, with only a fraction (17.5mm) so far, of last April’s rain tally of 140.5mm.

Let’s hope that we get some more rain later in April and May. Soil temperatures are steadily decreasing across The Bay.

Looking around our new grass, anything that missed the early rain is struggling. It is really patchy and we are going around now and stitching up the paddocks as we go.

Also, something has had a real go at it with a 70 per cent loss in one paddock. There is some real damage there so check your new grass regularly.

There is a new army caterpillar with eggs or larvae found in Tauranga that attacks maize (See page 6 for story).

Talking about maize, it was very dry when harvested. The hot days and wind dried it out. Having said that we had pretty good yields and a lot of effort and monitoring went into it.

Check new grass for weeds and bugs – do a lot of monitoring, especially with the new army caterpillar coming in.

Follow up with a nitrogen spray after the first graze.


New rule

Regional councils are trying to bring in a rule that you can’t cultivate anything on a slope of more than 10 degrees for winter crops.

It is to do with run-off mainly. You have got to put in a management plan which is quite a job. It could drive the price up because there is less winter grazing available.

I’m not saying we should be able to cultivate all the hill paddocks but it’s about being sensible.

Farmers need to watch out for pugging because they are bringing in rules from other areas that are not necessarily a problem here.


Feed stocks

We still have a bit of hay left but not much straw and we are still tracking down baleage as we have run out of our own silage. So, get your orders in now and it’s a good idea to order your grass silage for next spring as it is the cheapest direct from our paddock into your stack or as bales.

There are limited amounts available of high energy spring silage. Bringing it in from other areas will push up transport costs considerably.


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