Difficulties in shifting stock off the farm compounding farmers’ winter woes

A range of factors are contributing to farmers being unable to shift stock off their farms easily through 2022, compounding the challenges brought about by COVID and the cost-of-living crisis.

With farmers, truck driver and staff at salesyards and meatworks all impacted by COVID illness or requirement to isolate, the numbers of stock currently able to be transported for sale is significantly reduced.  Furthermore, droughts through the earlier part of 2022 have also impacted the ability for farmers to feed stock plus the border closure for the last two years has prevented immigrant workers with key skills (i.e. Halal butchery) from entering the country.

“The ongoing impact brought about by droughts, for example, is that as soon as the drought hits, farmers all want to get their animals off the land and so the price they receive at the works drops because of the sudden glut,” says Colin Hannah, President of Northland Federated Farmers. “To make the situation worse, the pay offered for young farm workers can be poor, so we have fewer people taking up positions.  This scenario further impacts farmers who require help with drafting stock but fewer young farmhands are available.”

The longer stock has to stay on the farm, the bigger the financial strain for the farmer in trying to keep the current stock fed without utilizing any of the feed that was held in reserve for the next round of stock.  “Some farmers are hitting the wall financially right now,” says Mr. Hannah.  “They can’t get the stock off the farm, so they are having to provide extra feed while facing rising costs for both feed and diesel.”

While potential solutions remain complex, Mr. Hannah offers three suggestions for the industry which could make a difference for farmers:

  1. Carrying out some innovative exploration of ideas with NZ’s top meat companies to consider alternate access to the works when there is a glut in the market.
  2. Lobbying for better pay and working conditions for farm workers to encourage more young people to join the industry, thereby easing the labour shortage on farms.
  3. Providing better education for farmers on how to prepare their farm for drought/floods.

Read “Feed Plan for Unforeseen Events” from Federated Farmers.