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Drought Resilience Hub

This page provides lots of information to help our farmers in drought.

Hawke’s Bay Rural Advisory Group Response

Web graphic DROUGHT April 2020We know that this year’s persistent and severe drought, particularly in Central Hawke’s Bay, combined with Covid-19 pressures, had a major impact on farmers.

That’s why the Hawke’s Bay Rural Advisory Group in partnership with Hawke’s Bay Emergency Management and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council created this drought support hub.

The Rural Advisory Group have now moved from a drought response to recovery stage.

You can find more information on specific subjects here:

Monday, 27 September 2021

Rainfall over the past week has ranged from less than 5 mm over Central Hawke’s Bay to almost 70 mm in the northwestern ranges. The region has nudged above September’s average rainfall and all areas are within the normal range (apart from Northern Hawke’s Bay which is above normal).

Soil moisture levels are typically above field capacity and near or above median levels for the time of year.  Taharua is the one exception, where levels are below field capacity and below median levels for the time of year.  Soil temperatures have risen over the past week and sit between 10-14°C.

Showers are expected today, tomorrow and Thursday.  Southern coastal areas may see reasonable falls, though models vary in predicted amounts – ranging from 15 mm  to 60 mm.  Temperatures will get colder tomorrow (Metservice has issued a snow warning for the Napier-Taupo Road) but then warm through the week from Wednesday.

The seasonal forecasts for October to December suggest that higher than normal pressures will lie to the southeast of the country and extend over our region.  Pressures will be lower than usual to the north of NZ and in the Tasman Sea.  Precipitation forecasts are mostly for below normal or normal rainfall, the latter possibly helped by a mainly east or northeast flow resulting from the pressure pattern.


It’s not too late to develop a plan for this drought. A good plan will reduce stress and mitigate the effects of the drought for next year’s production.

It may not be easy to predict when it will rain, but a plan provides the framework for what decisions need to be made and when. The plan needs to be reviewed as conditions change.

Advice for farms and agriculture businesses

Looking for stock feed?

Feed co-ordinators have been appointed in the North and South Island.  Their role is to collect information about feed needs, and where possible connect farmers with any feed that may be available.

MPI has appointed feed co-ordinators.  Their role is to collect information about feed needs, and where possible connect farmers with any feed that may be available.

To use this service you can call your feed budget support number who will take your information:

  • 0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 23 33 52)
  • 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 43 24 79 69)

As the feed you usually want may not be available, it's critical that you have  built a feed budget to identify how you are going to balance limited grass, silage and baleage supplies with grain and other feeds.

Email your existing feed plan to : drought&

Use the “I Need Feed” link online. :

This service does not give free feed, nor subsidise costs. 

Are you a farmer or lifestyle block owner with livestock? Do you need help planning your animals feed?

Use the new feed budgeting service. The first two levels of help are FREE.

The third tier of support is using a consultant, either from those recommended or one of your choosing and it’s at your own cost.

Call 0800 4DAIRYNZ or 0800 BEEFLAMB

Find more detail here

Hawke’s Bay is experiencing feed shortages, exacerbated by a reduction in processing capacity as a result of the new protocols that processing companies have to follow in order to operate during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Beef and Lamb NZ are urging farmers to act now and to figure out how much feed they have and what steps they need to take, in case they are not able to get their stock processed when they want.

Transitioning Ewes off Hard Feed and Animal Health Considerations in Pre-lambing Ewes Post Drought

Supplied by Greg Tattersfield, Vet Services Hawkes Bay.


It takes time for the rumen to adjust to a change in diet, the more contrasting the diet the longer it takes. There is a significant risk of milk fever in spreading ewes on lush, nitrogen boosted feed after a period of supplementary feeding, especially after yarding or significant time off feed.

For ewes on high grain/pellet rations the allocation should be gradually reduced over a 7-10 day period to nil concentrate feed 2-3 days before set stocking. The resulting decrease in energy intake should be accounted for by increasing or at least maintaining the fibre source being feed and increasing the pasture allocation.

  • Practically this means offering more pasture by decreasing the time ewes spend in each paddock and keeping the hay/baleage up to them

Milk Fever

Ewes need to mobilise calcium from their bones to grow the lamb and produce colostrum. This is a fine balance especially in older, multiple bearing ewes. It takes 2-3 days for a ewe to adjust the calcium balance after a change in feed type or quantity. Grazing ewes on plantain pre-lamb then set stocking on perennial pastures will almost certainly induce milk fever.

Yarding heavily pregnant ewes even for a few hours can induce milk fever. The risk is increased after a prolonged period of under feeding and in older multiple bearing ewes. If ewes go down shortly after yarding/off feed its more likely to be milk fever than sleepy sickness.

This means the time off feed should be minimised, this is more important the closer lambing gets

  • Do your crutching and animal health treatments as early as possible and ensure ewes are kept off feed for the shortest time as possible.
  • Do your pre-lamb treatments before starting the transition process
  • A Vitamin D injection with the pre-lamb treatments will stimulate a ewe to mobilise calcium and may help prevent milk fever, though it’s not easy to administer
  • Make sure you have injectable calcium and Ketol on hand, you’re likely to need it
    • 50ml Calsafe under the skin
    • 100ml Glucalmag or Glucaphos (50ml each side under the skin)
    • Treat them with 120ml Ketol orally as well as their energy levels will be low

Parasite Control

Low body condition score ewes (BCS 2.5 and below) are much more prone to worms, combined with underfeeding, these ewes would benefit from a long acting drench. A cost effective increase in lamb survival, lamb weaning weight, ewe survival and ewe body condition score is expected. This is especially evident in 2 tooth ewes and light twinning ewes.

  • Monitor the body condition score and faecal egg counts of your twinning MA ewes and 2-tooth mobs and speak to your vet about a tailored worm control plan for your farm
  • Can be a massive release of infective larvae from faecal pellets after the drought breaks, observe the ewes closely and be prepared to act quickly. A long acting drench may be required pre-lamb

Lice infestations also affect productivity, a ewe burning energy rubbing on a fence and not eating is losing body condition. If ewes are lousy now use a product that will “knockdown” adult lice. Insect growth regulators don’t kill the adult lice so affect won’t be visible for 3-4 weeks after treatment. It’s much harder to achieve control of lice in long wool sheep. Talk to your vet about control options.

Trace Element Status

Vitamin B12 and Selenium status in ewes is likely to be lower than normal for your farm due to prolonged decrease in pasture intakes. There are various B12 and Selenium treatment options available, some combined with a clostridial vaccination.

  • Consider doing blood tests or use a vaccine with B12 and/or Selenium added

Clostridial Vaccinations

Low body condition score ewes may not produce high enough quality colostrum to protect lambs until weaning

  • Consider sensitising lambs at docking and boosting 4-6 weeks later (take care with some selenised vaccines in lambs as high doses can be toxic – check with your vet about safe options to use)


  • Use a vaccine with Selenium and use a long acting B12 injection for ewes pre-lambing

Useful links:

Alternate Stock Feed Sources

  • Ensure that any chemical residues that transfer to the animal from fruit and vegetables will comply with the applicable maximum residue levels in meat and milk. The easiest way to do this is to avoid feeding any fruits or vegetables that are within their agricultural chemical withholding periods.
  • Only feed fruits and vegetables in proportions that are appropriate for the species. You can use 10-15% of the total daily diet and for no more than a few consecutive days at a time as a rule of thumb for most types, but there are some exceptions.
  • Consult your veterinarian on what fruits or vegetables are appropriate or should be avoided (such as avocados), and how much of the diet can be supplemented with a particular type of fruit or vegetable.

Supplementary Feed from Poplars & Willows

Poplars and willows can be pollarded for supplementary feed by removal of leaders and branches from the tree trunk above cattle grazing height. Trees will easily regrow new branches, and trees can be pollarded on a 2 – 3 year cycle. Poplar and willows leaves have 65–70% dry matter digestibility, with a crude protein level of 15%. Cattle eat trimmings up to 10mm diameter and sheep up to 5mm diameter.

Operator safety is paramount when pruning or pollarding poplars and willows; remember it is dangerous and illegal to use a chainsaw above shoulder height. However with the right precautions and equipment, trees can be harvested efficiently and safely. More information on pruning, pollarding and safety advice can be found via these links:

Pollarding poplars and willows for fodder
Video: pollarding fodder willows
Video: pollarding older willows
Video: High pruning poplars
Willow management for drought fodder

Nitrogen fertiliser use

Beef + Lamb say that nitrogen fertiliser is worth considering as a short-term tactical response, when in recovery mode. After a period of dry, there is some release of nitrogen in the soil, but a small amount of nitrogen fertiliser (25-30kgN/ha) applied to growing grass with adequate soil moisture and temperature– ideally immediately before rain – will boost growth.

The Regional Council recognises that this drought is unprecedented and farmers are facing major feed shortages and stock issues.

Some dairy farmers may be concerned about how adding extra nitrogen fertiliser will impact their resource consents in the Tukituki catchment.

Nitrogen-leaching in Overseer tends to occur from excess nitrogen excreted in urine. The excess nitrogen comes from cows eating pasture, so given there is less pasture, it would follow that there will be lower amounts of nitrogen leached compared to previous years.

However, farmers may need to keep stock on for longer due to lack of grazing elsewhere, and other reasons, which could increase N-leaching further.
Given every farm system is different, the Regional Council is encouraging farmers to seek advice from their farm consultant/adviser, milk supply company or accredited farm plan provider as to how any changes proposed to their system for drought recovery may affect their nitrogen leaching. Any changes to the farm system must be recorded in your farm’s year end nutrient budget.

See Dairy NZ’s paper about nitrogen use after a dry summer

Dairy NZ: Feed shortage budget case studies

 Grain is a good option for feeding sheep - find out more in this info sheet  Feeding Grain to Sheep

Please see this directory of Hawke’s Bay water providers.
For those who have consented irrigation water takes, the water can be used for stock and domestic use, however please talk to the regional council before doing this so we can understand where the water is being used. Contact the water irrigation team here.

Talk to your bank and accountant, and talk to them regularly.

If you need help with planning and budgeting for your farm, the Rural Support Trust can point you in the right direction.

Work and Income can tell you about Emergency Benefits, Special Needs Grants, or Rural Assistance Payments.

Contact Cheryl Nicholls on 029 660 0060 or to find out more.

Here is some more information about available tax relief for drought

Nitrate poisoning:

Livestock are susceptible to nitrate poisoning in certain conditions. Rapidly growing plants after a drought, growing in a rich, nitrogenous soil, are the most dangerous. The main risk plants include second-growth rape, choumollier and turnips, immature green oats and annual rotation grasses. A frost or low sunlight days can increase the risk.

Poisoning is related to the rate of ingestion rather than the quantity and also depends on the type of feed, the amount of carbohydrate in the feed and the time the animal has had to adapt to the nitrate in the feed. Nitrate is converted to nitrite in the rumen which is then absorbed and binds to blood, reducing oxygen carrying capacity.

Animals may be found dead or may show unsteadiness, collapse, difficulty breathing, brown gums and around eyes, and brown blood. Can also lead to abortion in pregnant animals.

If signs of poisoning are seen, move animals slowly and carefully off the toxic feed, feed them hay and seek advice from your vet. Animals that won't move must be treated where they are as pushing them to move can be fatal.

There are ways to manage different levels of toxicity in your crops and it is advisable to talk this through with your vet. Some possible options include:

1. Test any suspect forage before it is grazed.

2. Feed hay before introducing animals to the paddock so they are not as hungry.

3. Only graze the paddock for short times each day eg. half an hour.

4. Wait until the frost has lifted before putting animals on the crop.

5. Get advice around using nitrogen fertilisers (urea) late in the season.

MPI is helping to co-ordinate animal welfare services if needed for affected animals or their owners.

If you have any questions about animal welfare, email

MPI is talking to meat companies to help ensure there is capacity at the works for farmers wanting to destock.

Advice for farms and agriculture businesses

Animal welfare contact list (vets, butchers, pet processing)

Wild Game Salami

Hawke’s Bay   027 855 9773  

Mobile Farmkill          

Hawke’s Bay     027 226 6671  

CHB Meat Processors 

Waipukurau        06 858 8224  

RTN Homekill            

Clive          06 870 0364  
HB Farmkill Napier 06 842 2698  

Medallion Pet Food


0800 364 882

Carlyle Vet Clinic


06 835 1096

CareVets Napier


06 842 2033 

CHB Vets Ltd


06 858 6555 

Vet Services HB
Vet Services HB
Vet Services HB


06 843 5308
06 843 5308
06 858 9060

Vets One                     Hastings 06 878 8666


0800 00 83 33 

Call 0800 422 923 for urgent access to essential household goods and services (7am-7pm). If you are unable to call between these hours, fill out a welfare needs referral form here.

It’s understandable to be stressed given the pressures from the drought, combined with the lock down restrictions.

It’s ok, to not be ok.

Here are some simple actions to consider:
• Stay connected with your community and networks, and don’t be afraid to ask for help
• Be kind to yourself and others.
• Keep active, eat well, get sufficient sleep.
• Enjoy the little things in life and take time out.

If you need further support, don’t hesitate to call or text 1737, at any time 24/7 to speak with a trained counsellor.

Useful videos

In this video series, Lance Burdett, of Wellness, Awareness, Resilience and Negotiation (WARN) International, talks directly to farmers about the different aspects of mental well being.

Dealing with Uncertainty



Staying Alert

Planning ahead


The drought is proving challenging for lifestyle blocks owners who haven’t experienced these kind of conditions.

The Rural Advisory Group is available for support and advice to those who need it. If you want to speak with someone to get some advice, fill in the contact form on this page.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has specific resources and support for small block owners operating through the drought

If you’re not sure what assistance may be available, or you don’t know who to contact for help, call the Government Helpline on 0800 779 997, 8am to 10pm, 7 days a week.

Small block owners can ring AgFirst on 0508 AGFIRST (243 477) for assistance with feed planning. It’s not a service that provides feed, but will help small block owners come up with a plan to care for their stock.

Find out what feed planning assistance is available to you

Here are some useful links:

Check out this video of Karen Phillips of CHB Vets discussing pasture and animal welfare -

What are my options if I cannot get feed for my horse?

  • There is plenty of feed available commercially at your local feed supplier eg. Dunstan products
  • Contact a friend with horses
  • Is there a local equine Facebook you could ask about feed or grazing
  • Contact your local pony club – they may know where feed or grazing is available
  • Consider looking for grazing outside your local area
  • Contact the local SPCA – they may be able to assist
  • Contact your veterinarian – they may know where feed or grazing is available
  • Your local showgrounds or racing club might have grazing available
  • If you are on a lifestyle block you could contact a Feed Coordinator through either Beef and Lamb (0800 233 352) or Dairy NZ (0800 4 324 7969) – they may be able to assist with information on feed availability or grazing in your area

 The following recycling providers deal with farm plastic wastes.


  • Recycles bale wrap, silage pit covers, small low density polyethylene, feed bags, shrink wrap and pallet covers
  • pick-up by arrangement;, freephone 0508 338 240 or visit

Agrecovery (containers only)

  • pick-up by arrangement; collections held up to three times a year, generally during November, March and June .For more information, freephone 0800 AGRECOVERY (0800 247 326) or visit

How do I prepare my plastic waste for recycling?

  • Chemical containers can be prepared for recycling by emptying the last of their contents into the mixing tank for use, and triple-rinsing the empty container with water. You can then put the rinse-water into your mixing tank prior to filling it – it's a hassle-free way to get rid of your rinse-water, as it simply ends up a part of the properly diluted spray.
  • Silage wrap needs to be relatively clean for recycling – keep it clean by removing it from the paddock to a dry area for storage. Dispose of the wrap as soon as you have enough for a pickup or drop-off. 

Alternative disposal methods

  • The only alternative to recycling your empty chemical containers is taking them to an approved landfill.
  • Burning silage wrap is a non-complying activity in Hawke’s Bay and could result in a fine or prosecution under the Resource Management Act. Burning silage wrap or other plastics can affect your health and the environment.
  • If your silage wrap is too dirty to be recycled, it can be landfilled as general refuse, through your local waste service provider.


If you need support, call 0800 787 254, and you can speak with a representative from the East Coast Rural Support Trust, who are experienced in managing severe drought conditions on farms.

Farmers Hub

Our Farmers Hub is a one stop shop for all the information farmers may need from us.

Contact us

If you would like support and advice from the RAG and satellite teams, contact

Drought Risk Indicator web app

This tool is intended to help farmers prepare and plan for dry conditions and drought.

Access the easy-to-use drought web app here

Droughtindicator Appicon red

Check out the Hawke’s Bay Drought Resilience Strategy 2021-2026. Learning the lessons from the 2020 drought


Keep in touch with the latest news and information through the Rural Advisory Group's regular e-newsletter.

7 August Newsletter

20 July Newsletter

3 July Newsletter

19 June Newsletter

4 June Newsletter

22 May Newsletter

6 May 2020 Newsletter

22 April 2020 Newsletter

6 April 2020 newsletter

Sign up to the mailing list to receive the e-newsletter into your inbox.


Follow this link if the form fails to load. online form.

Facebook group

The 'Hawke's Bay Drought' Facebook page was started by a Maraekakaho farmer. It’s proving to be a great way for people to connect and share experiences. Join the group by using the link below.

Hawke's Bay Drought Facebook


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