COVID-19: Feed management check-list for farmers

Many parts of the country are currently experiencing feed shortages, or potential shortages in the coming months. This challenge is likely to be exacerbated by a reduction in processing capacity as a result of new protocols that processing companies have to follow in order to operate during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Advice for farmers on managing their feed in light of reduced processing capacity and feed constraints across the country

B+LNZ is urging farmers to act now to ensure they have enough feed, given processing capacity constraints and the natonwide challenging growing conditions. 

Drystock farmers can also call 0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 233 352) or email drought& to speak to someone who can help them determine how much feed they have and identifying options for managing any issues. 

Dairy farmers can call 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 3247969) or AgFirst on 0508 AGFIRST (0508 243 477).

The following is a checklist for farmers to consider and background resources.


1. Get an accurate tally of how many stock you wish to have processed, and by when. 

2. Talk to your meat company representative to find out what's changed and identify the implications for you – how many animals delayed and for how long. Let them know your processing needs.

3. Complete a Feed Budget from now until Spring, based on likely processing dates (B+LNZ has spreadsheets, worksheets and feed budget software to help, or your trusted advisor can assist):

  • What's my feed situation? Do a stocktake of pasture cover plus available supplements and forage crops.
  • What's my pasture going to grow over the next few weeks?
  • What will be the pasture growth response to fertiliser N? (urea, DAP and the like)
  • What's my feed demand going to be and what's the additional demand with those extra mouths I'm going to have to carry? Slot all of these figures into a feed budget.
  • What does that mean for my ongoing feed cover, my seasonal pasture cover targets and animal production targets?

4. If there's a feed deficit, what are my options?

  • For ewes, cows, finishing stock, trading stock, young stock, options could include the following (check our Extreme Dry Management toolkit for options for dealing with feed deficits):
    • If a class of stock is unable to be processed, are there other stock classes you could and should consider processing instead or is the store market an option?
    • Should I defer planned hogget mating?
    • Use a ram harness to draft off mated ewes as early as possible onto maintenance feed.
  • Nitrogen – temperature, moisture, feed cover – what response will I get?
  • Other supplements such as barley, baleage, PKE. Consider price, availability, equipment, utilisation, labour.
  • Grazing out – what stock class, where, what performance arrangements?

5. Look at the cashflow consequences and talk to your financial advisors and your financiers as early as possible.

6. Keep an eye on yourself and your neighbours talk about the issues over the fence (with appropriate distancing) or on the phone and don't hesitate to reach out to your other trusted advisors.

7. Consider a 'virtual discussion group' or 'virtual woolshed meeting' – use tools like Skype or Zoom to have a discussion with other farmers. A problem shared is a problem halved.

8. If you want to talk to someone, confidentially, about your situation or the situation of someone you are concerned about, contact Rural Support Trust: 0800 RURAL HELP.

9. Ensure that you have good on-farm COVID-19 risk management processes that will ensure the safety of your own people and those essential services you work with. 
Take a look at our Ten Point Plan.

10. Finally, recognise that given the current COVID-19 restrictions across the industry, that things will take longer so acting early is critical.

Background resources

Keep family, friends, colleagues and communities safe during the pandemic

Extreme Dry Management

Case studies 

B+LNZ has also commissioned case studies from around the country that provide real life examples of the best handling the current drought situation from a feed and financial perspective that may be useful for farmers as they consider their tactical and strategic decisions. They will be updated every six weeks.

Dairy Feed Budget Case Studies

DairyNZ have provided some feed budgeting case studies from top performing dairy farms with a focus on lower ‘per unit’ cost of production to help you identify opportunities.

General Feed Planning

Financial Planning