Friday, December 8, 2023

Sale yards must reopen soon

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Bureaucrats must step up if agriculture is to help get New Zealand out of its looming economic bind, farmer and rural commentator Guy Trafford says. The Canterbury dairy sheep farmer said more urgency is needed for agriculture than the Ministry for Primary Industries realises.
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“For our region, and I imagine the rest of the country is the same, it’s been six weeks since stock last went through the real sale yards selling process.”

Under alert level three, stock sales and wool auctions are permitted if the yards are able to operate safely. This includes social distancing, maintaining good hygiene and keeping records to facilitate contact tracing.

MPI advises farmers check with their local sale yard or stock agent for specific details.  

The news of the lengthy alert level three came as a bit of a shock, Trafford said.

“I do have a bias around this situation as we have several hundred sheep on farm that we hadn’t planned to have by now.

“Ewes were booked into the works over seven weeks ago and show no sign of moving and with the lambs are about to make serious inroads into saved winter pasture.

“I know this is being repeated up and down the country and being compounded by severe drought in some regions.”

Given the rules do allow for livestock selling it is looking that there has been a lack of imagination or leadership somewhere to let things progress this far, Trafford said.

“I just wonder, given the lack of decent transportable feed around the country, how the powers that be think farmers are going to keep stock fed, especially as they seem to think agriculture is going to achieve greater importance in helping to get NZ out of this economic bind we are heading into to.

“What bugs me is that this should have been a very predictable situation and someone should have acted.”

Trafford says the industry should have stepped up.

“We have been shown plenty of times in the past that MPI does not have the expertise to act promptly in situations of urgency and doesn’t seem to be well connected to the grassroots.

“It would have been nice to think a positive spin-off from the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme would have been a better understanding of farming systems.

“This may be happening at the farm level but whether it is working it’s way up the chain seems doubtful.”

Beef + Lamb NZ and DairyNZ sent advice to sheep, beef and dairy farmers.

“Given that they recognise there is already a problem here I wonder why there has not been a greater emphasis before now on getting sale yards working.

“With the potential space and controls that could have been put in place a workable solution should have been put in place before now.”

With stock feed limited and expensive and processing companies way behind demand farmers have very limited options.

“If sale yards are not at least released from their lockdown next week I suspect there will be hounds baying at the Government’s door,” Trafford said.

MPI’s special fund to help more severely affected drought-stricken farmers by making $5000 a farmer available for technical support is useful but not enough.

“I stand by my comment that freeing up the ability to sell stock is what is realistically and urgently required,” he said.  

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