Thursday, July 7, 2022

Abrupt end to New Zealand production season

New Zealand’s milk production season is coming to an abrupt end

Production this April in the top half of the North Island will be down by at least 50%, compared with the very favourable April of 2012.  In these northern parts many dairy cows have been dried off much earlier than normal  simply due to massive feed deficits.  Further south we are seeing the majority of dairy herds still producing but farmers have adopted a range of management systems to combat the dry conditions.  These include: milking less frequently i.e. once a day or once every 16 hours, culling their poor performing cows, drying off a portion of their herd, and purchasing supplementary feed.  All of these options will negatively impact profits this season.  Many farmers have “written off” this season and are now concentrating on making the right decisions to set themselves up for next season when milk prices will do doubt be higher than this season.  


Some farms which continued to milk their herds through have now had rain and will be able to continue to milk their herds through May.  The southern half of the North Island and the South Island, have now had significant rains and pastures have responded accordingly.  These areas, which account for approximately 60 to 65% of New Zealand’s total milk production, should be reasonably well set up once the new dairying season commences.    However the impact of the drought is likely to still be felt at the beginning of the 2013/14 dairying season in the northern regions.  In these regions calving typically commences in July and pasture growth does not exceed demand until late in the spring.  Feed reserves and cow condition will not be at optimal levels on many of these farms at the beginning of the season therefore we are likely to see milk production constrained in these areas through to at least September.  


In April the majority of New Zealand, with the exception of the bottom half of the South Island, has received near normal levels of rain.  The problem is soils are so dry that near normal rain is not sufficient to bring soil moisture levels back up, and therefore the majority of New Zealand remains drier than usual.  The weather outlook for April and May is reasonably favourable for pasture growth due to the rain now falling and temperatures are also expected to remain a little warmer than normal for the next month or so.  The NZX Pasture Growth Index clearly demonstrates that pasture growth rates are returning to “normal” but it will take some time to amass the levels of feed dairy farmers would like to have on hand.  


Canterbury is expected to be the only part of New Zealand which will produce more milk this April than the previous one.  This is due to a general increase in the number of dairy farms in this region, plus irrigation has helped to mitigate the impact of the drought which was less severe in this region than many other regions.  New Zealand will not produce as much milk in the 2012/13 dairying season than in the previous season.   


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