New Zealand dairy farms faced flies amongst extreme heat

New Zealand dairy farms now being faced with flies amongst extreme heat

Pesky flies thriving in the heat are making the lives of dairy farmers and cows even more difficult on Manawatū farms.

Dairy farmers were swatting flies during a Manawatū discussion group meeting in the Linton and Tokomaru area and they must have been on their minds as flies were among challenges listed on a whiteboard from the long hot summer.

Mid summer rain landing from Thursday and continuig Friday, would be welcomed by farmers, but it remains to be seen if the break in the weather will provide relief from the dry spell and the fly outbreak.

The dry stretch has already made its presence felt with eight of the 11 farmers attending the discussion group moving to once-a-day milking (OAD) because of reduced pasture growth.

A few of the farmers have milked once a day through the season, including the host farm, Massey University’s Number One dairy farm and two others.

Many of them stopped twice daily milking last month, earlier than usual as they tried to maintain cow condition and in order to buy less supplementary feed.

Farmer Brian Underwood said he started OAD in early December when the drought bit, as he wanted to conserve cow condition and allow crops to grow well.

“Sourcing winter feed and building pasture cover will be a problem ,” said DairyNZ consulting officer Scott Cameron.

He said farmers needed to monitor their wellbeing. He provided the farmers with a “five pillars” handout to help them cope with the trying conditions.

“Connect and give, keep learning, be safe and plan, rest and take notice and be active and eat well.”

The handout showed 12 per cent of dairy farmers were nationally suffering from burnout, a quarter reported exhaustion, a third had sleep problems, and  23 rural people had committed suicide each year – almost one a fortnight.

The handout also included a wellbeing calculator and farmers in the discussion group were asked to fill it out. The calculator included resources, such as feed on hand, family and community, and challenges, such as the weather, debt and perceptions of dairy farming.

“The resources and challenges need to be balanced to give us a sense of wellbeing,” said Cameron.

Farmer Pat Daly asked what they should do about their wellbeing “when it hasn’t rained for two months and the hayshed is empty.”

Glen Oroua farmer Christine Finnigan said farmers needed everything to be broken down and “see what you can influence”.

“Weather, feed, you can let things get you down.  But don’t let it get to you. You have to create choices and it not always easy.”

Cameron said going OAD rather than milking twice each day gave farmers a chance to think and relax rather than milk for hours each day.

“Make a decision early just make it, and move on'” said Underwood.

Finnigan said she runs ideas past a former employee and former DairyNZ consulting officer, Scott Ridsdale and talks to staff as well.

“This year we made no hay.  If that’s the case then talk to contractors, they often know who has spare and is selling some. They’re very helpful.  The industry is very supportive if you talk to them.”




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