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.

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.

Getting support with your feed planning

Feed availability is currently a key concern for many farmers. 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]

Rural supply stores  

Rural supply stores are not open under Alert Level 3, 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 Alert Level 3. Businesses operating in Alert Level 3 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.:

  • follow region-specific travel guidance
  • 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.

Travel advice

As per the guidance on the COVID-19 website, travel into, out of, and through Auckland is heavily restricted while the city is at Alert Level 3.

For information about travel in and out of Auckland during the Covid-19 Alert Level 3 period, visit the Ministry of Health website and the All of Government Covid-19 website.

Advice for travellers - Ministry of Health  

Regional travel - COVID-19

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. 

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

For information about travel in and out of Auckland during the Covid-19 Alert Level 3 period, visit the Ministry of Health website and the All of Government Covid-19 website.

Advice for travellers - Ministry of Health  

Regional travel - COVID-19

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 can run online where possible. Check with your local saleyard or stock agent.

Caring for stock

Farming and caring for the welfare of stock is an essential service so can occur under Alert Level 3.

If you do leave your house to attend to your animals, take the necessary health measures, and comply with any region-specific travel measures.

Purchasing stock  

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 adopted practices to 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. 

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.

Lifestyle blocks

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

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 are likely to operate at reduced capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions. 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. There are overviews of the council-by-council rules around on-farm dead animal disposal by burial or burning. 

You should contact your local council or check their website 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

Farming and caring for the welfare of stock is an essential service so can occur under Alert Level 3. 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.

For information about travel in and out of Auckland during the Covid-19 Alert Level 3 period, visit the Ministry of Health website and the All of Government Covid-19 website.

Advice for travellers - Ministry of Health  

Regional travel - COVID-19

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.

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 please email us at sff.futures@mpi.govt.nz and a member of our team will contact you.

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