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Carrying On Farming, And Consider Grain Options For Stock Feed

Farmers can carry on doing what they do best - putting high quality food on people’s tables and earning export revenue - with confirmation direct from the Prime Minister that they are an ‘Essential Service’ that can continue operating under the Covid-19 lockdown from midnight Wednesday.

Services associated with the primary sector, including food processors, diagnostics, farm suppliers, freight and trucking can also go about their business, while taking all practical steps to limit people to people contact.

This confirmation they are vital to helping the nation survive the virus crisis will be a relief and reason for pride for many farmers and workers in those associated industries. But for some, there remains a pressing concern - the drought, and how to feed stock.

Though they come at a transport cost, and with potential challenges encouraging stock to transition to different feeds, there are solutions on that front.

Manawatu-based Dion Fleming, Federated Farmers Arable Vice-Chairperson, Maize, reports that while national grain stocks are depleting there is still maize grain available from the Manawatu and Gisborne districts, as well as barley from the South Island.

"In what is normally a slower time of year for our silo complex/feed mill we have seen a large number of dry stock farmers turning to maize as a solution to help fill their feed gap," Dion says.

"Whole maize for sheep and kibbled maize either straight or blended for dairy and beef animals are proving popular and every day there are utes, trailers and truck units rolling in the gate from all over the lower North Island for 1-tonne bags and bulk loads of feed for dry farmers."

Obviously care needs to be taken while transitioning animals onto different diets/feeds but it’s not difficult and the results are well worth it, Dion says.

"Grain is not the complete answer as hay or straw will still be required."

Brian Leadley, the Canterbury-based Federated Farmers Arable Vice-Chairperson, Grains, says the South Island grain harvest is largely complete now, with most growers happy with yields and quality.

"From spring 2019 surveys the expectation was for a slightly reduced total tonnage due to a reduced planting, particularly in feed wheat and barley. The feeling now is the reduction will have been replaced with a return to good yields following the last two poor production seasons," Brian reports.

"Currently wheat and barley would be available from the South Island suitable for many classes of livestock to help bridge feed shortages and support the North Island feed suppliers and livestock farmers."

Care is needed gradually transitioning stock to grain. They’ll need adequate water while this happens.

"For this reason it is best to start feeding early while there is some other feed available to feed with the grain. The grain will also ensure the other feeds last longer. Also, following the harvest there is still supplies of ryegrass straw, as well as limited supplies of baleage available that would be a great blend with grain."

Farmers interested in these feed options should talk to their trusted supplier. If districts work together and co-ordinate, savings on transport costs could be realised.

"Also rural contractors have contacts with each other throughout the country so may be able to help arrange feed purchases, particularly hay, straw or baleage, and also help arrange transport," Brian said.

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