It began when Ashburton dairy farmers Ben and Mary-Anne Stock, checked their winter feed supply and decided they could help Hawke’s Bay farmers.
The couple initiated the Feed 4 Farmers Mid Canterbury Feed Drive, called a few neighbours and friends, started a Facebook page and it just took off.
Farmers, rural contractors and transport companies were quick to jump on board.
“It just went a bit crazy for a while. It’s really cool that so many willing people came on board to help,” Ben Stock said.
“We read about the Rapafeedrun and thought we could donate feed.
“We rang around a few people, did the Facebook post and thought it would be good if we could get a truck and trailer load. Next thing, we were up to 400 bales.”
At last the count the Mid Canterbury donations were more than 900 bales, a 50-50 mix of hay and silage.
The response has been amazing given winter feed budgets are relatively tight around Canterbury too because of the summer dry, floods, Mycoplasma bovis and covid-19, he said.
“But a few bales here and a few bales there, farmers giving what they can spare, has been quite overwhelming really and I’m confident now we will hit 1000.
“Hopefully, we can give it a good nudge this week and get it all on the way before winter really sets in.”
With the logistics confirmed that is happening, thanks to KiwiRail.
“We have so much support from farmers, local transport companies and contractors and Quigley Feeds NZ all doing their bit free but the biggest question of all was around the logistics of getting it to Hawke’s Bay,” Stock said.
A truck and trailer load to Hawke’s Bay would cost $3500, the Cook Strait crossing being the most expensive bit.
“It was looking a bit difficult until I got a call to say KiwiRail was offering to help. That was the game-changer,” Stock said.
Meanwhile, South Canterbury farmer Nicky Hyslop was coordinating a similar drive in her area.
Once teamed up the pair began sharing resources and information.
“The final prompt for me was my sister-in-law inviting me to the Hawke’s Bay Drought Facebook page – she said remember the 1992 snow, we helped you out,” Hyslop said.
“I do remember that on the family station and it was dire times for us just as the drought is for Hawke’s Bay farmers now.
“A lot of farmers are saying the same – Hawke’s Bay helped us in the ’92 snow, now it’s our turn to return that.
“I got on the phone and rang five farmers who rang five farmers and so it snowballed.”
South Canterbury is now also hitting the 1000 bales mark.
“Logistics-wise it was getting really hard work then KiwiRail came on track. That was bloody fantastic.
“Just as awesome are the famers and local transport companies and contractors down here too. People have been so willing to lend a hand.
“Cartage is a big cost and it’s hugely appreciated that KiwiRail is donating space on the freight trains. We wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise,” Hyslop said.
Both regions are facilitating the feed runs in conjunction with the Rural Support Trust both locally and in Hawke’s Bay.
“They are steering us in the right direction and will organise the distribution of the feed up there.
“As we have it at the moment all the feed leaving Canterbury will be at no cost to Hawke’s Bay farmers.”
KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller said KiwiRail is helping by shifting the donated feed for free from the South Island to Hawke’s Bay.
“We move dairy products, beef, lamb, horticulture and viticulture for the rural sector so it is one of our most important customers and we’re pleased to support it now at this time of need.
“We’ll carry the feed and we’ll carry the cost because everyone who’s seen the parched farmland can understand how hard this is on rural communities,” Miller said.
Anyone wishing to donate feed can sign up to the Mid Canterbury Feed Run Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org and those wanting to make a financial donation can email email@example.com.