Support, advice provided at morale booster

Set to deliver a Drought Shout at Clinton Rugby Clubrooms last week are (clockwise from bottom...
Set to deliver a Drought Shout at Clinton Rugby Clubrooms last week are (clockwise from bottom right) Otago Rural Support Trust co-ordinators Lindsay Purvis and Pat Macaulay, trustee Grant Bradfield, Silver Fern Farms Lower South Island store stock co-ordinator Garth ‘‘Tussock’’ Mitchell, Shand Thomson co-director Gaye Cowie and farmer David Ruddenklau.PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
Tips to battle "insidious" droughts and avoid a financial hangover were shared in Ōwaka and Clinton last week.

At the end of March, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor classified the drought conditions in Southland and Clutha and Queenstown Lakes districts as a medium-scale adverse event, unlocking up to $100,000 in government funding to support farmers and growers until October 2022.

Otago Rural Support Trust co-ordinators Lindsay Purvis, of Ōmarama, said some of the funding was given to the trust to provide support and run events, such as Drought Shouts in Lawrence, Ōwaka and Clinton recently.

Speaking at Clinton Rugby Clubrooms last week, Mr Purvis said many farmers in South Otago might be facing drought conditions for the first time.

"Some of you have had to make decisions this year which you wouldn’t have had to make before."

The first speaker at the Clinton event was North Otago dryland sheep and beef farmer David Ruddenklau, who shared tips to prepare and battle for an "insidious" drought, including having a stock reduction plan, and starting it on a specific date, if it had not rained.

Selling of store stock early was not a sign of failure, he said.

"You are far better to sell store stock early on, than hang on and hope for the rain to fatten them through — all that does is knock your capital stock around."

Farmers should prioritise looking after young replacement stock, as it was an investment in the future.

A difficult autumn could often lead to a challenging spring, so farmers could consider not lambing all, or some of their hoggets, as it was much easier to source grazing for dry hoggets.

Another tip was to identify and lamb next year’s annual draft ewes separately, so if spring was challenging it would enable easier selling of multiples prelamb.

He also suggested farmers should start feeding small amounts of supplement early and keep feeding for at least 10 to 14 days after pastures start to recover.

Farmers should review or consider pasture species, new cultivars and summer forage crops.

"Even in a good year these are a good tool."

Shand Thomson co-director Gaye Cowie, a chartered accountant in Balclutha and sheep and beef farmer in Tuapeka West, spoke at the event.

She said it was great lamb prices were ranging between $140 and $150 — an improvement on last year — but farm input costs had increased.

Dry conditions presented challenges such as ewes being "in not such good nick" and reduced lambing percentages.

If a farmer had needed to sell capital livestock, more tax would need to be paid.

Farmers need to have a financial plan and talk to their accountant about tax planning and put the tax figures in a budget, to reduce stress.

"It’s the uncertainty that causes the worry. No-one enjoys it when clients bring in their books in March and I tell them they have a whole lot of tax to pay. They don’t like it, I don’t like it and the bank doesn’t like it either."

She encouraged sheep farmers to have their books in by lambing and dairy farmers before calving.

"Get in early and don’t have a head-in-the-sand mentality."

Silver Fern Farms Lower South Island store stock co-ordinator Garth "Tussock" Mitchell, of the Taieri, was the final speaker.

Killing space was a "problem", due to factors including a lack of staff.

Staff from the Pacific Islands were unable to enter New Zealand until late in the season.

Plants at Pareora and Finegand usually started the season with three chains but started this season with two chains.

The spread of Covid-19 in the South resulted in "high absenteeism", which reduced killing space during the peak and the drought.

Due to Covid-19, up to 350 of 1000 staff were off sick for several weeks, he said.

"I know how hard it has been for us and for you guys."

Otago Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Pat Macaulay, of Mosgiel, was at the event.

Mrs Macaulay said before Easter, she had never known South Otago to have been drier.

"I’ve never seen it so bad. There’s been a boost now with some rain, but we all know a drought doesn’t finish just because it rains, there’s ongoing consequences."

Consequences included a reduction in winter crop yields and more grass grubs.



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