by Federated Farmers of NZ
Over the last 2 years, there has been widespread drought with farmers particularly affected and exposed to these anomalies in 2021. Areas of the North Island in 2021/22 expect to see a third year of drought. While stocking rates have remained low and feed stocks have been managed conservatively, cash flow has been poor for 3 seasons.
As a strategy for coping with extreme weather events, farmers have put in place solutions for extreme wet and extreme dry, so as not to be unprepared. First, they rationalise feed by ensuring that more is stored than what is needed for a typical season. They try to incorporate alternative feed options into the farm system, including different types of crops and pastures, grain feeding infrastructure, and reduce reliance on a single type of feed (which is typically laurel bales/silage here). In the 2020 drought, shortages of these bales that would normally cost $70-80 per bale for medium and good quality resulted in a price increase to $150 per bale for poor quality.
Farmers are encouraged to go through (and maintain) a Major Rural Adverse Event plan which would also help them to be better prepared for other adverse events like earthquake or volcanic eruption.
There is greater awareness of stock availability, caution against stocking too high, looking at options to increase on-farm feed supply and relying less on the summer season.
From an environmental point of view, moving towards a more diverse range of pastures and crops and reducing on-farm stocks has a multitude of benefits including reduced methane production and reliance on buying feed from elsewhere (and transporting it).
Farmers are able to be more financially resilient to major climatic events. Although overall their cash flow and some earnings in high productivity years may be reduced, their drought resilience in particular will go a long way in their financial resilience allowing them to continue to be good employers of farm staff, have their children attend local schools, and contribute to the wider employment that comes from serving the farm and farm products.
This case depicts relevant socio-economic and environmental impacts of climate change, but also to boost actions to increase adaptation and resilience capacity of agricultural systems. The actions addressed, not only underline the value of diversification practices for animal feed, but also the importance of integrating improved farm planning to design strategies —both in space and time— that consider local geography and climate hazards, for a more efficient and sustainable management of water, soil, energy, crops/livestock, on-farm infrastructure etc. Therefore, maximizing the use of resources and profitability, and strengthening farmers´ capacity to manage, avoid and withstand climate risks. Increasing the farm or regional area dedicated to agro-silvopastoral systems may represent additional advantages for food security, adaptation and mitigation. Integrating trees in farm planning can provide products for human or animal consumption. Likewise, they have the potential to generate microclimate conditions that buffer negative impacts of extreme weather events, while progressively enhance soil fertility. Considering the use of recommended species and adequately spaced, under different arrangements (shelterbelts/windbreaks, fodder banks, scattered trees in pastures etc.) among other factors, in line with the objectives and plan of each farmer, help to prevent possible trade-offs. A timely technical advice and constant monitoring is key. The improvement of animal feeding/diets can achieve co-benefits in emissions by reducing methane emission from enteric fermentation of ruminant livestock. Trees integrated in the farm system also represent GHG sinks by increasing carbon sequestration in above- and below-ground biomass.