A Hawke's Bay sheep and beef farmer is emphasising the importance of having a buffer of feed to get through tough seasons.
Bruce Goldstone farms 4,000 breeding ewes, 1,000 hoggets and 450 cattle on 1,045 hectares at Putorino, north of Napier.
He started running short of feed for his livestock as a drought gripping the entire North Island early last year continued to worsen.
Bruce turned to the national feed coordination service, funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), for help.
"If it had not been for friends and the baleage we sourced through the feed coordination service we would have been in serious trouble," says Bruce.
"I could not fault the organisation of the service. It was a lifesaver and I will be forever grateful."
The feed coordination service helps connect farmers who are short of feed with available sources of supplement, such as silage and hay.
Through the service, Bruce sourced 100 round bales of grass silage from the Waikato and the South Island. He was sent a further 100 bales of baleage by friends, bought 40 tonnes of palm kernel expeller (PKE), and already had 200 bales of silage.
"The situation was exacerbated because our farm is in a livestock movement control area for tuberculosis (TB)," says Bruce.
"In a normal season, when it got dry we would be able to sell store cattle at the saleyards, but we had to carry an extra 50 to 60 steers through."
The shortage of feed had major flow-on effects for his business.
"The ewes were not fat enough at mating. That resulted in a 40% drop in our lambing last spring – costing $150,000 in lost income. A further $50,000 was spent buying extra feed," he says.
The situation has made the Hawke's Bay farmer reassess the buffer of feed he needs to have on hand for significant adverse weather events such as drought.
"We are in a much better situation this summer."
Last year, 16 hectares of lucerne were planted. Sixty bales of silage were harvested in the first cut of the forage crop. Another 120 bales will be harvested this autumn. An additional 7 hectares of lucerne were planted in late 2020 and 40 bales have already been harvested.
Last winter, 21 hectares of ryecorn or annual grass and 7 hectares of oats were sown to provide extra feed.
The crops were grazed by cattle. Three hectares of the ryecorn or annual grass re-grew, producing 100 bales of baleage in the spring.
The Ministry for Primary Industries has extended funding for feed coordination and planning services until the end of June.
The feed planning service is delivered by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, and other specialist providers.
A feed plan helps farmers set trigger dates for key management decisions, such as culling surplus livestock.
"It is important to make decisions early. Do not watch as your livestock get lighter while you wait for rain. Do not leave it too late," says Bruce.
This summer, Bruce has a solid buffer of stored feed and is ready to help if drought hits.
"I have told the people who sent me feed that if they are ever short, I am ready to return the favour," he says.
The feed planning service can be accessed by phoning 0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 23 33 52) or 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 43 24 79 69).