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Urgent decisions due for Sharemilkers

14 March 2013

Urgent decisions due for Sharemilkers and Sharemilker Employers

Federated Farmers is warning Sharemilkers and Sharemilker employers that with drought now widespread, they need to urgently sit down and jointly plan the close of the 2012/13 season.

“Forget about how you handled the last drought because this one is significantly different,” says Tony Wilding, Federated Farmers Sharemilker Employers’ Section Vice-Chairperson.

“These are not normal drought conditions as there is little feed in the whole of the North Island to fall back upon. There are very few places where farmers can send stock to which has enough grass even in the South Island.

“Federated Farmers urges all sharemilkers and those who engage sharemilkers to sit down and plan for the close of the season. Both sides of the business relationship need to figure out how they can best manage today’s situation to prevent further damage or compromise next season’s production.

“They must then act on this agreed plan.

“Where sharemilking agreements are terminating this year, there is potentially a looming problem which consumes the time of people like us who are called in to help resolve them.

“The issue with agreements terminating in drought years revolves around agreed pasture cover and supplement requirements.

“Even if it rains today and all the right decisions have been taken, it still means the position at the close of the dairy season on 31 May is going to be a tall order to meet.

“Where there is an on-going contract, there should not be a problem over management and drying off because the decisions made should be in the interests of both parties.

“All the cows on my farm will be dried off over the next five days while they are still in reasonable condition,” Mr Wilding concluded.

Ciarán Tully, chairperson of Federated Farmers’ Sharemilkers’ Section agrees that sorting out a close of season is now urgent.

“Certain management decisions are needed due to an extreme event such as this drought is,” Mr Tully said.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for sharemilkers and Sharemilker Employers to have written management plans in place.

“If both parties work together then a fair outcome will be reached that will satisfy the current businesses and also allow good communication with the incoming sharemilker.

“It is no good for key information to be in someone’s head that has now left the farm. It needs to be in writing.

“All management plans need to be reviewed weekly at the very least. It is clear plans must be made now to deal with how cows are going to be fed, when they will be dried off and then that carried out. Both the farm owner and the sharemilker must be really clear on this.

“Without joint agreement and understanding business relationships will come under a lot of pressure,” Mr Tully warned.

Tony Wilding has been on his farm for many years. His farm records, which are long and detailed, show that over the past 30 years, rainfall from 1 November to 31 March has averaged 429mm. From 1 November 2012 until now he has recorded only 144 mm. In this calendar year, he has recorded only 23 mm over the past 72-days, with the last rainfall recorded on 4 February.

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