Watch Out for Drought

21 January 2004

Unrelenting dry periods have turned into droughts in some regions with several others at risk. These are steps farmers can take to reduce the effects of a dry spell to look after their business and themselves.

There is a vast amount of experience and understanding within New Zealand's farming community gained through many years chequered with drought. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has put together a summary of proven strategies for how to prepare for drought. "Meeting the Challenge" is available from Federated Farmers offices and on the MAF website.

A key proven strategy is planning and making decisions to implement the plans at set dates if there is no change in the weather. It is pointless to waste money feeding large numbers of stock until both feed and funding resources have depleted. Know when you are going to cull stock rather than incur feed costs and then still have to cull. It may be better to cut your losses and sell a quantity of stock, then buy in feed or find grazing that maintains remaining stock numbers and available funds.

Feed stock as well as possible so that the recovery from the dry period can happen as quickly as possible. Successful buyers realise that it is important to invest in the best stock, because quality stock breeds quality. Therefore, ensuring animal health is good business practice. Liveweight production is what drives profitability, so weight loss should be minimised for a profitable business. It is easier to maintain stock liveweight than to replace it.

It is important to keep an eye on the welfare of stock not only on your own farm, but also on others as well. If there is a concern with another farm then have a chat to the owner and look for a solution. Should there be a problem it is most important to take action. Contact Federated Farmers who would be willing to go and see the person, or contact MAF. If someone isn't coping with the drought, then early action is best.

Farmers must preserve the focus and determination they have during good times. Business losses can be minimised by seeking the assistance and experience of others. Never is the old adage 'a problem shared is a problem halved' more relevant. Talking to people, friends, neighbours and community support networks is essential. Should drought bring more trouble than expected, there is always information and help available.

Through preparation, being determined, having a professional profit-driven outlook and keeping in contact with organisations such as MAF and Federated Farmers, then farmers give themselves the opportunity to work through the drought and recover quickly when it ends.

Further information and advice can be found on the MAF website  and Federated Farmers: 0800-327-646, website 

Media contact: Joseph Wallace, MAF Assistant Communications Adviser Phone: (04) 498 9637 or 021 159 7192  Web:



Last Updated: 28 September 2010

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