Support for farmers beefed up ahead of La Niña

Further funding for feed support services and new animal welfare coordinators will help farmers who continue to feel the effects of an extended drought, says Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor.

“In March this year, I classified the drought in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams as a large-scale adverse event.

“That declaration unlocked Government funding to support farmers and growers. Forecasters are now predicting more trying weather conditions this summer,” Damien O’Connor said.

NIWA has confirmed La Niña could mean below average rainfall for the South Island and lower North Island and possible flooding in northern parts of the country.

“I have been closely monitoring the situation with officials and we have decided to allocate more than $350,000 to extend feed planning and coordination services until 30 June 2021,” Damien O'Connor said.

The Government has invested $19 million so far this year in rural communities affected by drought.

“Many farmers and growers have experienced the effects of severe weather events before and have been proactively preparing by planning alternative sources of feed or starting to destock.

“I encourage farmers to utilise the free feed planning service and the feed coordination service as extra tools to help give them peace of mind heading into summer,” Damien O’Connor said.

The services are funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries and delivered by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, and other specialist providers. They help farmers complete a feed plan and connect farmers who are short of feed with available sources of supplement, such as silage and hay.

B+LNZ's South Island General Manager John Ladley is encouraging farmers to consider putting plans in place to ensure livestock are well cared for.

“These include carrying out a simple feed budget, early weaning of lambs, body condition scoring ewes, setting trigger dates for identified management actions and securing supplies of supplementary feed or off-farm grazing,” John Ladley said.

It’s not the only support being rolled out for farmers. The teams tasked with supporting primary producers to prepare and respond to weather events, such as drought and flooding, are being expanded.

“Seven new regional animal welfare emergency coordinators and two national animal welfare emergency coordinators have been employed at MPI, doubling the size of the team and giving national coverage for animal welfare planning, response and recovery,” says Damien O'Connor.

“In addition, six new Rural Communities and Farming Support advisers are being recruited in Northland, Taupo, Wairarapa, Manawatū, the West Coast and Southland to provide invaluable on the ground support.”

Damien O'Connor said the country’s 14 Rural Support Trusts, which received extra funding earlier this year to help regions recover from drought and Covid-19, continue to support farmer wellbeing and help build resilience in rural communities.

“Farming through a drought or dealing with the effects of flooding caused by an ex-tropical cyclone can take a toll on people.

“The Rural Support Trusts are there to provide free confidential support. If you’re worried about a family member, friend or neighbour, contact the trust,” Damien O’Connor said.

Farmers who need wellbeing support should call their Rural Support Trust on 0800 RURAL HELP or 0800 787 254. The feed planning service can be accessed by phoning 0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 23 33 52) or 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 324 7969).

Helpful links and numbers:

Feed planning service

This service helps farmers set a feed budget.

0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 23 33 52)
0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 324 7969)

Feed coordination service

Farmers short of feed are encouraged to register here:

Rural Support Trust

0800 RURAL HELP or 0800 787 254

Beef + Lamb New Zealand

A comprehensive dry management toolkit for sheep and beef farmers.


Resources to help dairy farmers manage through a dry period.

Federated Farmers