Sharon Cousins, of Balclutha, is one of four temporary feed co-ordinators appointed by the Ministry for Primary Industries. Ms Cousins covers the Otago and Southland area while Tammy Johnson, who is based at DairyNZ, Lincoln, is the South Island feed co-ordinator. Two others are based in the North Island. The feed service is an initiative set up by the Feed Working Group, an MPI and industry collaboration to manage the impacts of drought and Covid-19. However, the continuation of the service is subject to a decision by MPI early next month, after it evaluates whether it is still needed.
Q. What is your role?
Feed co-ordinators have been appointed to help connect farmers with available feed sources.
They are co-ordinating offers and requests in each region, working with the primary sector groups and trusts.
Rural advisory groups and trusts are working in each area on distributing feed to where it is most needed as it differs region by region and to make sure people get help before they have any animal welfare issues.
It complements the free feed planning service.
Q. Did you do training?
I am a co-ordinated incident management systems (CIMS) level 4 facilitator (in emergency management) and a facilitator for a GoodYarn mental health and wellbeing programme for rural communities.
I have a background in project management (now recognised through SIT Telford national certificate in project management level 4), which has allowed me to bring a range of skills to the start-up of the feed co-ordination roles announced in early May.
But mostly it is about the ability to network and build relationships with farmers and growers.
I have Zoom meetings with the three other feed co-ordinators.
Having come out of a ‘‘flood recovery’’ role in February, I am well placed to continue the relationships in Southland and Otago.
We meet regularly with all kinds of groups to get the message out about the service and hear first-hand what the needs are and where we can meet demand.
Q. What sort of response have you had from local farmers so far?
Generally, they just need a bit of direction on where to source feed.
We can help put them in touch with local Rural Support Trust people for extra support.
Many farmers are responding by sending their extra feed to those in areas with little feed.
It’s remarkable how the rural community does not need to wait for instructions and just get on and help each other and we support that.
Q. Does the role cover just winter feed or are you looking at drought situations as well (for Otago-Southland)?
Feed is our priority no matter what.
Currently the greatest uptake of our service has been in Hawke’s Bay but we want farmers in Otago and Southland to know we are ready and willing to help them.
It does not matter if it is from drought or flood — we know there are feed shortages across the country and we are here to help.
So call the 0800 numbers, get your feed plan in place, and talk to us!
To use this service, farmers need to have a feed budget for the next few months. Both farmers and small block stock owners can use it.
Call the free winter feed planning service to talk through your options:
0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 23 33 52)
0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 43 24 79 69)