Global Agriculture

Livestock feed support available for flood-affected farmers in the South Island

04 August 2021, NZ: Flood-affected farmers in the South Island are being encouraged to make use of livestock feed support services funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Widespread flooding across the Canterbury, West Coast, Tasman, and Marlborough areas this winter has damaged pasture and caused losses to supplementary feed.

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Since June, MPI has boosted feed support services and allocated more than $4.7 million for recovery grants, technical advice, and wellbeing support.

“Several of these regions had been battling long-term drought prior to the floods which have put further pressure on feed supplies heading into calving and lambing,” said MPI’s director of rural communities and farming support Nick Story.

“We have ramped up support for farmers, including funding recovery coordinators and establishing a dedicated fund to help clear flood debris from paddocks in Canterbury.”

MPI funds Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers, and other specialist providers to offer free, one-on-one feed planning support to livestock owners.

“Having a clear feed plan will be vital for many farmers to get through the next few months, identifying feed requirements to minimise animal welfare issues through a critical part of the seasonal calendar,” said DairyNZ’s South Island manager Tony Finch.

“The service supports farmers to calculate their feed demand and supply, investigate options to fill feed gaps and proactively make decisions. In some cases, dairy farmers may have to lease out cows in order to reduce feed demand and get through the season.

“The important thing is that decisions are made early. Getting your plan down on paper can help give you peace of mind and provide clear direction.”

The Feed Planning Service can help farmers do a snapshot feed plan for the rest of winter and spring in as little as 20 minutes.

“Paddocks covered in silt won’t be growing any feed. Careful planning is needed to get that land back into production and growing pasture, or a crop to fill feed gaps,” said Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s South Island general manager John Ladley.

“A recovery plan for regrassing should use a mix of short-term and permanent pastures. Using all annual pastures could result in another feed pinch next year when pastures have to be renewed again.”

Farmers are encouraged to get flood-deposited silt covering paddocks tested, so the correct fertiliser can be applied.

MPI’s director of animal health and welfare and veterinarian Chris Rodwell said grazing pasture coated with silt can cause animal health issues and careful management is needed.

“We know that animals can develop a range of poor health conditions from silt. Farmers are facing challenging conditions and we really encourage everyone who has concerns about the health of their animals to seek advice from their veterinarian.”

To get help from the Feed Planning Service, or to list or source feed or grazing through the Feed Coordination Service, farmers are encouraged to call 0800 FARMING (0800 32 76 46).

Farmers who need wellbeing support should contact their Rural Support Trust on 0800 RURAL HELP (0800 78 72 54).

Applications for the expanded Canterbury Flood Recovery Fund closed last Friday.

Post-flood tips

  • Do a regrassing plan for flood-damaged paddocks.
  • Use the free Feed Planning Service 0800 FARMING (0800 32 76 46) to complete a feed plan. A feed plan will help you calculate your feed demand and supply and investigate options to fill feed gaps.
  • Buy in feed if you need to. Source feed or grazing through the Feed Coordination Service 0800 FARMING (0800 32 76 46). Introduce feed slowly and reduce the risk of acidosis.
  • Be realistic – how many stock units can you feed? Consider leasing out livestock or culling poor-performing animals.
  • Get silt deposited over paddocks tested and get advice on the correct fertiliser according to the soil test.
  • Grazing pasture coated in silt can cause animal health issues. If in doubt, seek advice from your veterinarian.
  • It is highly likely more cows will calve early. Keep up regular observation of cows and spot abnormal behaviour that can be a sign of metabolic disorders. 
  • Most importantly, seek advice from your farm advisory service, or the sources listed below.