Advice for farms and agriculture businesses in Level 3

Under Alert Level 3, farming and other primary sector businesses and support services can operate, as long as they can do so safely. 

Work MPI is doing for farmers and agriculture

MPI, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) are carefully monitoring how the COVID-19 is affecting our primary industries. MPI is also closely monitoring and responding to farmer and grower welfare and needs, including through the current drought conditions.

We’re in regular touch with the primary industries, including the export sector, to ensure they have the latest information, and to see where we can provide support.

MPI and other primary sector organisations are encouraging those working in the primary industries to ensure they have plans in place to ensure continuity for their business activities.

Farming and growing operations differ greatly across the country and may have specific needs. Backup planning is key. 

The Rural Support Trusts and sector groups are working together to help farmers and growers.

Help available for farmers

The Government has launched a wage subsidy and leave payment scheme to help employers.

Wage subsidy scheme

For information about continuity, animal welfare and labour needs farmers should talk to their key sector groups, including RSTs, Dairy NZ, Beef and Lamb NZ, their dairy company or co-op and Federated Farmers.  

MPI is closely monitoring farmer and animal welfare through its response to dry conditions around the country and the COVID-19 response. MPI is talking regularly to sector leaders about how best to meet farmer needs.

Getting support with your feed planning

Feed availability is currently a key concern for many farmers. Drought is having a significant impact on the amount of feed being grown across the country. COVID-19 and related measures are also having an impact with reduced capacity at processing plants. MPI and partner agencies DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ, AgFirst and Federated Farmers are providing remote feed planning support to farmers.

Getting support with your feed planning [PDF, 486 KB] [PDF, 486 KB]

Moving Day

The Ministry for Primary Industries, on advice from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, has determined that Moving Day can proceed under any alert level. This farm practice is essential to the running of the country’s dairy industry – an essential service in the COVID-19 crisis.

Moving Day activities will be restricted to those absolutely necessary to enable the movement of people, and, where relevant, livestock, chattels and farm equipment. This is to make sure dairy farmers and workers have safe and suitable housing and protect the welfare of their animals.

Moving Day is given the green light - Beehive

Rural supply stores  

Rural supply stores are not open but can sell product by phone/online orders using contactless delivery or having customers collect orders from outside the store.

Ring your local store to enquire about their arrangements.

Shearing sheep

Shearing, wool handling and scouring can all operate under Level 3. Businesses wanting to operate in Alert Level 3 will have to operate safely to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

More guidance on safety assurances can be found on the Primary sector businesses page.

Primary sector businesses in Alert Level 3

If you need to use a shearing contractor, they must operate in a way that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission, i.e.:

  • minimise, or eliminate if possible, physical interactions among staff and with and between customers
  • ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place.

Check advice from your levy body or membership association.

Transporting stock

Moving stock around your own property is fine, as long as you make sure to take necessary precautions to ensure your health and safety.

Transporting or droving stock between your main farm and run-off, or transporting your own stock

Farming is an essential service and the needs of your stock must be met. If you need to transport stock to your run-off to keep them fed and healthy then you may do this.

As droving a long distance may take many days, it may be better to arrange transport with your local stock carrier.

Transport arrangements with your local stock carrier must allow for no direct contact between people. Talk to your transporter about the protocols they have in place for staff, owner and animals.

The important thing is to remain a physical distance of at least 1 metre from other people and practice good hygiene practices, such as hand washing.

Transport of animals between properties, or between farm and slaughter plant

Transport of animals between properties, or between farm and slaughter plant, can be arranged with your local stock carrier. Talk to your transporter about the protocols they have in place for staff, owner and animals. We’re encouraging transport companies to register with MPI’s safe practices register.

Dairy farmers who are selling autumn-born calves directly to another farmer to rear must adhere to safe hygiene practices and physical distancing rules. If possible, prepare the calves for transport and leave them in a designated collection pen. Wipe down any surfaces the person collecting the calves may have touched.

Animal welfare rules when transporting bobby calves

Selling stock

We recognise that farmers may need to sell stock, particularly in drought stricken areas.

Stock sales and wool auctions are permitted (subject to suitable protocols), and run online where possible. Check with your local saleyard or stock agent.

Travelling to another region to check on stock

Essential workers can travel outside of their regions, where it is necessary to do so. Farming and caring for the welfare of stock is an essential service so can occur under Level 3 or 4, however if it can be deferred or carried out by someone who does not need to travel inter-regionally this should be considered.

If travelling to check on stock, you will need to ensure that safe practises are implemented.

Travelling to another region to purchase stock  

Essential workers can travel outside of their regions, where it is necessary to do so. Under Alert Level 3, stock sales and wool auctions are permitted (subject to suitable protocols), and run online where possible. Check with your local sale yard or stock agent.

Meat processing plants

Processing plants are a key part of New Zealand’s infrastructure. They provide food for New Zealanders and ensure we can supply food to our trading partners, who send vital materials to us.

Farmers, who work on a seasonal basis and face challenges such as drought, need meat works to ensure the continuity of their businesses and livelihoods.

Most workplaces in the food chain, including processing plants, already have very strict hygiene and work practices in place to ensure safe production. They have been changing the way they work to adopt practices that help protect staff, and others, while maintaining an essential service.

The measures required to protect staff and prevent the spread of COVID-19 are resulting in reduced capacity at meat plants. This varies across the country. Check with your processor about availability and where possible, book processing space well in advance.

Caring for farm animals

Currently there is no evidence that pets or livestock can spread COVID-19.  We will provide updates if anything changes. 

We can still help co-ordinate animal welfare services if needed for affected farm animals or their owners.

If you have questions about animal welfare, visit the COVID-19 Animal welfare page or email animal.welfare@mpi.govt.nz

COVID-19 and animal welfare

  • We are closely monitoring animal welfare with sector organisations and helping co-ordinate feed and water. 
  • We have been talking to meat companies to help ensure there is capacity at the works for farmers needing to destock.

Small-scale poultry breeders

Transporting poultry (hatchlings, rearers) as part of a sale

Travel in your local area

Travel is allowed for essential personal movement in your area (which can include crossing a regional boundary that is part of your local area), including for accessing local services and businesses.

When travelling to pick-up your bird(s), you will need to ensure that safe practices are implemented. For example, ensuring a safe distance between all people involved in transporting and receiving the birds, and practicing good hygiene practices, such as hand washing. You will also not be able to enter business premises, so will likely need to pick up your birds from outside.

Travel between regions

At Alert Level 3 travel between regions is allowed for essential personal movement only e.g. those travelling to do essential work or travelling for medical reasons. All other travel is not allowed.

However, there are no restrictions on freight. All freight can be distributed and received – including animals. If you wish to move animals as freight, you will need to contact a professional animal transport service. Professional animal transport services will operate safely, including pick-up and drop-off of animals without physical contact with customers.

Access to poultry bedding material and feed

Saw mills are able to operate in Alert Level 3, so wood shavings will be available for bedding. Rural supply stores are not open but can sell feed and other products by phone/online orders using contactless delivery or having customers collect orders from outside the store. Different stores may have different arrangements so ring ahead to find out.

Lifestyle blocks

This is a tough time. Reach out if you need help.

The Government has information for wellbeing and financial assistance. It’s important to talk to a health professional.

For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.  

If you’re not sure what assistance may be available, or you don’t know who to contact for help, call the Government Helpline on 0800 77 99 97, 8am to 10pm, 7 days a week.

Looking after your mental wellbeing

Wage subsidy

The Government has launched a wage subsidy and leave payment scheme to help employers.

Wage subsidy scheme

Getting support with your feed planning

Feed availability is a key concern for many. Drought is having a significant impact on the amount of feed being grown across the country. COVID-19 and related measures are also having an impact with reduced capacity at processing plants.

Advice on how to look after your animals in dry or drought conditions [PDF, 183 KB]

MPI and partner agencies DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ, AgFirst and Federated Farmers are providing remote feed planning support.

Small block owners can ring AgFirst on 0508 AGFIRST (243 477) for assistance with feed planning. It’s not a service that provides feed, but will help small block owners come up with a plan to care for their stock. They don’t have to be from a drought affected area of New Zealand - anyone can ring for advice. 

Getting support with your feed planning [PDF, 486 KB]

Options for reducing stock numbers

Meat processors

Meat processors have been operating at reduced capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions. This could ease when we enter Level 3, but there still may be long wait times, particularly if you have small numbers of stock, or don’t already have a relationship with the meat company.

Contact your local processing plant or agent as early as possible to check what their protocols and current wait times are. Some meat processors will allow you to bring your own stock by trailer, but others may only accept them via commercial transport operators.

Another option is to work with your neighbours to develop solutions such as combining stock numbers from a number of properties and utilising their relationships with meat companies.

Selling

Stock agents may have limited options at the moment, so another way to sell stock is through online sites.

MPI registered homekill operators

Your local homekill butcher may be able to kill and process your animals. This service is available to people who want to keep the meat for their own or their family’s consumption or use. You won’t be able to trade (sell) the meat you get back from the homekill operator.

Petfood operators

Petfood operators may also be able to kill and process your animals. Contact your local petfood operator to see what services they can offer.

On-farm euthanasia

As a last resort, you may need to have your animal euthanised. This can be a difficult decision, and can only be done by experienced operators. The best option is to speak your vet or a homekill service provider or other appropriate commercial operator.

If you think you want/need to undertake it yourself, contact the relevant industry for training courses and advice.  

Codes of welfare provide legal minimum standards for doing it right.

Animal welfare codes

Disposing of dead stock

Decomposing animals can be a source of disease and can lead to water contamination. Where dead animals are not removed, they may pose a health risk to live animals if access cannot be prevented.

The disposal of dead stock on farms in New Zealand is regulated at the local government level. You should contact your local council in the first instance to find out what rules apply. They may also have restrictions in place during Alert Level 3.

Most councils generally allow stock to be buried, incinerated, composted or placed in an offal pit on farm. The recommendation is to dispose of them quickly and not to leave them near the road side or bury them near water sources.

If you are unable to deal with the carcass yourself you may be able to call in a support service to help deal with the animal on farm. You will have to ensure you follow health and safety measures by distancing yourself (at least 1 metre) from anyone coming onto your property and wiping down any surfaces they may come in contact with. Communication with support service operators should only occur via non-physical means e.g. phone or email.

Dead stock disposal best practice guideline

Feeding animals grazing away from property

Travel to care for your animals is also allowed, if there is no alternative. This includes providing your animals with food, water and any other aspect that you need to provide to meet your responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act and relevant codes of welfare.

If you do leave your house to attend to your animals, take the necessary health measures, and comply with any region-specific travel measures. Travel in your private vehicle, with other members of your “bubble” only.

MPI cannot authorise your travel, however animal health and welfare is recognised as essential.

Cutting hay/silage

Animal health and welfare is recognised as essential, and includes providing your animals with food, water and any other aspect that you need to provide to meet your responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act and relevant codes of welfare.

The contractor would need to look at the grass first to see if it can wait a few weeks – if it can’t wait, then go ahead with the baleing. If the contractor has 5 or more people in the business, they should be registered with MPI’s safe practices register.

Rural supply store feed for lifestylers/small block holders

We consider the supply of feed to small block holders to maintain the welfare of their animals is essential.

Rural supply stores can operate as long as they deliver goods or provide contact-less pickup.

Ring your local store to enquire about their arrangements.

Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF)

Our SFF Futures team is working remotely, which includes processing funding applications. We’re here to help and can support initiatives that gear up our food and fibre industries for the future. 

If you’d like to connect with us, email us at sff.futures@mpi.govt.nz and a member of our team will contact you.

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