While the Waikato Rural Support Trust hasn’t been fielding extra calls yet due to the dry weather, chairperson Neil Bateup does want to remind fellow farmers that anyone is welcome to call any time.
“We’re not experiencing any increase in calls yet, but I think this indicates at this point in time farmers are coping well and still have feed to feed their cows,” says Neil.
“Farmers have done well this year in putting away a lot of extra feed when it was available in spring – so they’ve been able to rely on that. And they’ll probably be okay until the end of February – that’s when many will have to make some decisions and that’s when stress can come on.”
Neil, who dairy-farms just east of Huntly, says his farm had 2mm in early-January and that is it.
“My cows are basically living on silage, a little bit of PK and a little picking in the paddocks of dry stalk.
“We’re still milking once-a-day – as we do all season – and we’ve culled animals that won’t be part of the herd next year.
“I can see we’ll get through to the end of February without any effort, then we’ll have to start planning week-by-week as to whether we dry bunches of cows off.”
Neil says farmers have a toolbox of things they can do to cope with dry weather. “They can use these tools as they require – and the final tool is to dry the whole herd off and maintenance feed until the rain comes and the grass grows.”
But he does worry about young farmers who haven’t farmed through drought before. “Some may just need someone to talk to rationalise what’s happening and some of the decisions they have to make.
“Some of us oldies have seen it many times before so we have plans in the back of our mind.”
And so Neil says the Rural Support Trust Waikato is available to talk to anybody – and the situation doesn’t have to be dire. “Generally people have something that’s concerning them and they don’t know where to turn next. But anyone can call at any time.”
Contact the Rural Support Trust through their website, Facebook or phone 0800 787 254 to get in touch with a support person in your region.