Advice for farms and agriculture businesses in Level 4

Farming is classed as an essential service, and therefore certain steps should be made to protect workers on farms.

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 recent 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 welfare through its response to dry conditions around the country and the COVID-19 response. Animal welfare is also closely being monitored through the drought 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. 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]

Rural supply stores  

Rural supply stores are deemed an essential service and are taking online and phone orders. The stores are not open to the public. You will likely need to collect your order from outside the stores, or it may be delivered in some cases.

Some stores are filling orders for their account holders only while we are at Alert Level 4, while others are also processing orders for members of the public. Ring your local store to enquire.

Rural supplies stores - guidance on trading during level 4 [PDF, 104 KB]

Shearing sheep

If you are able to shear or crutch your own sheep, this is preferable. Shearing is considered an essential service only where it is necessary for animal welfare and it cannot be deferred, or if it's undertaken to enable hygienic processing of the sheep. This means you can only provide shearing or crutching services if it is likely the sheep would suffer pain or distress otherwise, and when they are due to go for slaughter.   

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.

Please 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 my main farm and my run-off, or transporting my 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 2 metres from other people and practice good hygiene practices, such as hand washing.

Selling stock

We recognise that farmers may need to sell stock during the Level 4 Alert period, to manage their feed budget and prepare for winter. This is particularly important in drought stricken areas.

Sale yards will be closed to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect New Zealanders. Farmers will need to look at alternative means of selling, such as online and paddock sales.

Paddock sales require the presence of stock agents to facilitate the sales. Stock agents should be registered if they work in groups of more than 5 people.

Animal welfare rules when transporting bobby calves

On-farm hygiene practices    

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 through the MPI website.

Dairy farmers who are selling autumn-born calves directly to another farmer to rear must adhere to safe hygiene practices and social 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.

Moving cattle to new pastures for Moving Day (Gypsy 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

Meat works

Meat works 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.

We have asked primary sector businesses to register their work processes so we can check they have processes to protect staff and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Most workplaces in the food chain, including meat works, 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.

Caring for farm animals

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

Other important information about caring for farm animals:

  • We help co-ordinate animal welfare services if needed for affected animals or their owners.
  • If you have questions about animal welfare, visit the Covid-19 Animal welfare page or email
  • 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 wanting to destock.

COVID-19 and animal welfare

Lifestyle blocks

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 put in place restrictions during Alert Level 4.

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 2 metres) 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 self-isolation group (or ‘social 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 as an essential primary sector service.

Registered as an essential business

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.

Provided you follow the safe practices outlined below to limit the spread of COVID-19, you may continue to sell feed to individuals:

  • Every store that cannot practicably implement social distancing measures OR that has more than five people present on any site needs to be registered
  • Customers must not be permitted into the store, even one-in, one-out. They should be asked to order online or by phone, and to collect their order when it’s ready. The collection should be contactless if possible, e.g. by having staff place the order into the boot or tray of the customer’s vehicle.
  • Contactless payment should be used where possible.
  • Deliveries may continue but should also be contactless.

Guidelines on keeping people safe in your essential business

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 please email us at and a member of our team will contact you.

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