Rain 'tease' does little to ease Northland farmers' worries

Recent rain in Northland has done little to ease the pressure on farmers who are becoming increasingly worried about how they will feed stock through the winter.

The region has been struggling with drought conditions for months, and farmers are running short of feed.

Northland Federated Farmers president John Blackwell, who farms near Dargaville, said rain which fell in the weekend has done little to help.

"We got five-and-a-half-mils, so it's not the relief we needed.

"It was just a little tease as far as Northland is concerned," said Blackwell.

Farmers were now 'majorly concerned' by the lack of rain, he said.

"Our production has been right down since the beginning of this year with the lack of rain and we have stock that would have gone to the works by now which aren't.

"So we are heading into winter without much grass and feed in front of us and supplementary feed. Our silage has been fed out that we would use in the winter."

The COVID-19 outbreak had also added to the stress.

"This makes another whole new line of uncertainty, whether the processors will be able to carry on and what constraints we will be facing.

"It's a really difficult proposition for farmers in Northland, probably more than most places."

He said most farmers were hunkered down and doing their best to keep their animals watered and fed.

However he said many were ground-down by the stress.

"We have been doing this for a very long time, and it's tiring." 

The lack of rain was taking its toll on farmers' mental health.

"It's deteriorating all the time, we really need that rain to come, otherwise we are facing a bleak winter coming shortly."

An advice and support initiative for farmers facing shortages of stock feed as they head into winter has been launched recently.

The service includes a feed budgeting service and farm systems advice.

Federated Farmers said drought, the cancellation of traditional stock sale forums and reduced processing capacity at meat works meant many farmers were carrying more stock than they anticipated going into winter.

It said it was putting a huge strain on already stretched feed resources and farmer morale.

The service will be available until 30 June 2020 and then be reviewed.

Toll-free numbers to access the services are:

Dry stock sector - Beef + Lamb New Zealand: 0800BEEFLAMB (0800 233 352).

Dairy sector - DairyNZ: 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 3247969).

AgFirst: 0508 AGFIRST (0508 243 477).