Tips to help farmers get through

David Mellish
David Mellish
Otago Rural Support Trust co ordinator David Mellish offers some advice to farmers facing the dual challenges of a low dairy payout and a very dry season.

The Otago economy relies heavily on a strong and thriving agribusiness sector.

The agricultural sector faces two potentially significant challenges at present _ the low dairy payout and the very dry season.

Both of these factors combined may place stress on rural people, businesses and potentially the Otago economy in general.

The Otago Rural Support Trust is aware that regardless of how these factors play out some people and businesses may be feeling a little overwhelmed.

We would like to remind the rural community that the trust is well placed to provide support by facilitating appropriate assistance in difficult times.

Some of us have lived through these types of challenges in the past; others are facing it for the first time.

Those who have been ''here'' before learnt from the experience and have valuable knowledge that will be useful to those new to the situation. We encourage you to connect _ to seek out experience or to offer it, in order to minimise the difficulties faced.

Some ideas about areas to focus on:

A Plan

Have a well prepared plan for your stock, feed and water as dry conditions continue. Abide rigidly by the plan. Seek advice for your plan. Use your professionals (try to be in charge of the challenging conditions).

Stock and Feed

• Implement and monitor a feed budget _ be aware of your situation and act on potential deficits sooner rather than later.

• Irrigation rations: Identify areas to focus on to maximise ''bang for buck''. Bank on water restrictions continuing and even increasing.

• Identify stock that can be culled from the system to reduce feed demand.

• Evaluate feed options for cost effectiveness and monitor availability.

• Set a date - e.g. ''if it does not rain over 50mm by 15 February, I will sell all store lambs'' - and stick to it. An early decision is a good decision in a drought.

• Check in with your grazier continually.


• Ensure you have a robust and realistic budget. Monitor your budget regularly.

• Be proactive in discussions with your banker, accountant etc. They want you to succeed!Identify areas that can be trimmed early but be mindful of the impact on future production.

• Plan for your tax obligations.

Wellbeing and Communication

• Get out of the farm gate! Attend discussion groups, field days etc. It is difficult to see the wood for the trees if you don't broaden your outlook.

• Seek out relevant expertise to assist with your decision making.

• Look out for each other _ don't be afraid to have conversations if you are concerned.

• Remember, staff also feel the stress. Include your staff in your planning, they often have great ideas also, and being aware of your challenges allows them the opportunity to help.

• Think of neighbours/farming mates you normally talk to that you might not have heard from and get in touch with them to make sure everything's OK.

• Most importantly make time for yourself and your families.

In short, be proactive! Know exactly where you are currently, be ready with a plan to mitigate ongoing challenges and constantly monitor your situation.

If you are unsure where to go for advice or assistance, please phone the Rural Support Trust (0800 787 254) - we have great networks of rural expertise, both farmersand rural professionals, and we will be able to offer some options.

Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and Beef and Lamb New Zealand also have great resources to help in challenging times.


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