17 Jan 2018

Farmers cull stock as heat hits home

4:21 pm on 17 January 2018

Farmers are sending stock to slaughter early because the dry weather means they don't have enough feed.

Dry land and cows, parched land in central North Island.

High temperatures and wind have sucked the moisture out of the ground, Beef and Lamb New Zealand says Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

New figures from the Meat Board show that compared to this time last year, 16 percent more cattle have been slaughtered, 9.4 percent more lambs, and 16 percent more mutton.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand South Island farmer director Andrew Morrison said the island was parched.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand South Island farmer director Andrew Morrison

Andrew Morrison Photo: Supplied

"High temperatures and the wind we've been having is just sucking the moisture out of the ground."

Farmers were concerned about the long-term effects of the weather in Otago and Southland in particular, he said.

On Sunday Invercargill reached a record top temperature of 32.3 degrees Celsius, while Dunedin had its hottest day on record on Tuesday, hitting 35°C.

While the weather is good news for holidaymakers, farmers were having to make tough decisions, Mr Morrison said.

"They've de-stocked significantly, they've processed what they could, they've store-stocked or found homes for the stuff they haven't been able to finish ... even to the extent they're sending beef and calf pairs off for grazing, so that's a pretty significant call."

High meat schedule prices were helping farmers, though, he said.

"That's really good, but it's really hard when you've got to sell your stock as store and you can't finish them... because ... you do take a whack financially."

That was causing stress for some farmers, he said.

"It's kind of glib... but the reality is we've got to keep speaking to each other and make sure everyone is functioning all right."

Freezing works had been proactive and were keeping on top of the influx of stock, he said.

A long lasting problem

Rabobank's Dunedin agribusiness manager Bernard Lynch said the culling of stock was likely to have a long-lasting effect.

"Often in these situations in dry years the impact is more in the following year rather than the actual year of the drought," he said.

"Where stock numbers have diminished ... production impacts on lambing and calving the following season and impacts on productivity in the following year.

"That's when the real financial impact can hit."

Some farmers would lose significant income, he said.

Depending on the size of the operation it could number into the tens of thousands of dollars.

It was not just farmers affected by stock culling decisions, Mr Lynch said.

"There's less money being circulated through those rural communities, but also there is less work for contractors, less hay and silage being made.

"It has wider implications than just on the farmers themselves."