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Lockdown An Extra Challenge For Farmers In Drought

The Waikato Primary Industries Cluster met online on 30 March to take stock of the continuing drought and new challenges arising from the COVID-19 response.

Neil Bateup, Chairman of the Cluster and the Waikato Rural Support Trust, says members have all adjusted new ways of working due to the nationwide lockdown which limits on face to face contact.

“Because of the lockdown we’ve had to cancel our schedule of community events which we’d put in place to support farmers in drought. These events were a meet and greet for farmers and their neighbours, and a great morale boost for all who attend.”

Prior to the lockdown, a pop-up BBQ with South Waikato District Council and civil defence had 60 farmers drop by.

Farmers have been battling a very long hot summer drought which has been unusually long in duration.

“Ongoing drought conditions are still proving to be an enormous ongoing challenge for farmers,” says Neil. “Some areas of the Waikato and South Auckland regions have had some variable rainfall, but eastern areas have had little more than drizzle. It is proving tough for autumn-calving dairy farmers to meet rising feed requirements.”

A new ‘Getting Support for your Feed Planning’ service has been launched and is available through DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ or AgFirst. Farmers are encouraged to talk to their industry bodies about the help that’s available, and to make regular contact with bankers and advisors.

“As signs of autumn are appearing, and with temperatures at night cooling, it is important that farmers continued to plan for the winter and spring ahead,” says Neil. “And there is help for that process available.”

DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb NZ had also been in the process of coordinating events for farmers prior to the lockdown and those programmes have also been put on hold.

Neil says there has been a lot of communication on COVID-19 and advice needs to be heeded and taken seriously.

“I encourage our farmers to refer to the Government website, or any tailored advice from industry agencies who are providing information and updates to keep them well informed on what is a rapidly changing situation.

“Err on the side of caution,” says Neil. “It is a very serious intrusion into our way of life, and our own actions will have a major impact on ensuring the best chances of keeping ourselves, our families and our employees safe.”

The Rural Support Trust continues to provide support to farmers through the 0800 787 254 helpline (0800 RURAL HELP) and is running a fun one-month lockdown challenge on its Facebook page (facebook.com/ruralsupportwaikato).

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