The Waikato and some other regions are unfortunately experiencing extremely low average pasture covers as late as the first week of May. Federated Farmers Sharemilker Farm Owners national Chair John Numan says good communication is the best way of heading off potential conflict between parties arising from feed and financial issues.
John estimates that there are numerous properties with average covers as low as 1600 kgs of dry matter per hectare, and some even as low as 1400.
“It’s the driest for autumn in the Waikato that I’ve experienced in my 40-odd years of farming.”
“I encourage existing contract milkers, low order and herd owning sharemilkers (LOSMs, HOSMs) to continue frequent discussions with farm owners and have an established plan to meet as best as possible the agreed covers for the incoming people,” John said.
There have been good payouts for the current season and a cost structure that will certainly be lower than the expected total operating costs for the 2022-2023 season. Therefore John expects it will cost the two parties less in the current season to correct the shortfall than it will be for the incoming party, with all costs rising.
“So I encourage the outgoing parties leaving their current positions to correct this late-in-the-season problem. For example, a typical system 1 farm could use an insurance type method and produce the funds to buy feed and keep daily pasture demand to an extreme minimum in order to maximise growth rates once or when we get the May rain.
“If the farm policy is set to normally not purchase feed then under these extreme conditions I would encourage a business approach, not to dissimilar to an force majeure event.”
By way of example, keeping pasture feed demand below 5kgs per cow and 15kgs per ha/day by supplementing could potentially achieve a 600 kgs lift in average farm pasture covers and provide a 1st June cover with close to 2200 kgs/ha once the May rain arrives. This can be economic whether milking or dry under the current circumstances, John said.
“This will have a cost and it should shared based on the agreed percentage share of the contract.
“Achieving the benefits of early season performance and accepting the consequences of a dry Autumn without a correction action plan from either party is not a fair solution for the incoming CMs, LOSMs or HOSMs
“Just saying it’s been tough is not really good enough. Please support people that require some help.”