2 Nov 2022

Chatham Islands farmers forced to cull stock due to shipping struggles and dry conditions

8:30 am on 2 November 2022
Baby sheep walking over dry glass, New Zealand farm animal

Photo: 123RF

Impending dry conditions coupled with shipping issues means farmers on the Chatham Islands are having to cull stock on farm.

Farming leader Tony Anderson has culled 300 cattle on his farm and says others have done the same.

He says despite bouts of rain, things are beginning to get dry on the island and it's only expected to get worse.

"Things are okay at the moment, pasture cover is good it's more about looking ahead and knowing what we can and can't feed.

"We're hoping for some more rain because it looks like we're going to have a dry summer."

Being isolated, farmers on the island can only get rid of stock when the shipping schedule allows.

Chatham Islands Shipping Limited runs the only ship, MV Southern Tiare, which carries stock off the island to sales on mainland New Zealand.

Anderson said there was only six sailings between now and the end of the year so farmers were prioritising sheep over cattle.

They were also looking ahead for when the ship would be away for four months from February while repairs and maintenance are carried out.

"We have 400 sheep on the next sailing but we just can't get cattle on, they keep getting pushed back and pushed back so it's got to a point where we know we can't get the animals off so when do we react?

"We know that we're going to end up with a massive animal welfare issue next winter so we don't want to wait till then when its a crisis we want to start being proactive."

The culled stock were not processed so the decision had a big impact on the farm business, he said.

"We've been told things will change and that changes will be made to how the ship is operated and the volume it can carry will increase but it's just been talk and at the end of the day our job is to ensure the animals are fed.

"Farmers here are resilient we've realised no one can help so we just need to get on with things."

Anderson said MPI has visited farms on the island to check the situation ahead of the ship being away on survey.

"They've been really helpful, they've tried everything they can even looking for a shipping replacement there's just nothing else out there."

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