The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is encouraging lifestyle block owners to make use of a free feed planning service providing extra animal welfare support this summer.
 
Parts of the country are continuing to feel the effects of an extended drought and NIWA has confirmed La Niña could mean more dry weather.
 
MPI has been closely monitoring the situation and the Government has injected a further $350,000 to extend feed planning and coordination services until 30 June 2021. 
 
“The feed planning service is free and available to all livestock owners, from those on lifestyle blocks to large commercial stations,” says MPI's Director of Rural Communities and Farming Support Nick Story.
 
"Many lifestyle block owners have experienced long dry summers before and have been proactively preparing by planning alternative sources of feed or starting to destock.”
 
The service is funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries and delivered by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and other specialist providers, and assists livestock owners to complete a feed plan.
 
It is not the only support being rolled out for livestock owners.
 
MPI has hired seven new regional animal welfare emergency coordinators and two national animal welfare emergency coordinators, doubling the size of the team and giving national coverage for animal welfare planning, response, and recovery.
 
MPI also runs a feed coordination service connecting farmers who are short of feed with available sources of supplement such as silage and hay.
 
“You don’t have to be affected by drought to use the feed planning service. Get in early and avoid running out of feed for your livestock,” says Kumeū Small Landowners Association president Glyn Taylor.
 
Glyn and his partner Hazel own a 5.5 hectare farmlet in West Auckland and take preparing for dry summers seriously.
 
“We currently have four mature red devon cattle, which is the right number for this property. It is important small block owners do not head into summer with too many animals,” he says.
 
Each year, about half a hectare of surplus pasture on the property is harvested and turned into 120 to 180 square conventional bales of hay or baleage.
 
“We have supplements on hand to feed out when grass is in short supply. Knowing you have enough feed to get through a drought helps give you piece of mind,” says Glyn.
 
The survival of the couple’s cattle, horse, and fruit trees depends on careful planning, especially around water.
 
The property has four rainwater tanks with a combined storage capacity of 100,000 litres.
 
“The only time we have run out of water in our 22 years here was our first Christmas when we had 25 people come to stay,” says Glyn.
 
Since then, additional tanks have been installed to harvest and store rainwater from the roofs of the house and sheds.
 
The water level in the tanks is monitored regularly. At the end of last summer, Glyn still had two full tanks of water.
 
“A reliable water reticulation system is vital. We have a master stopcock that controls the flow of water to the entire property. It means if the cattle bust a water trough, we don’t lose an entire tank of water,” he says.
 
The Kumeū Small Landowners Association has about 120 members. It shares advice on animal husbandry and feed management.
 
The feed planning service can be accessed by phoning 0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 23 33 52). 
 
Lifestyle block owners seeking more information to help them prepare for summer are urged to visit the MPI website