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Holding out in a Drought

Prolonged drought results in a shortage of traditional stock feed, but this could possibly be overcome by the use of alternative forms of feed, such as trees and shrubs.

There is growing interest in trees and silvipastoral systems as stock fodder. In the last drought, three properties in the Wellington region used their considerable resources of poplars and willows as stock feed. The farmers did not de-stock and the farms quickly returned to status quo after the drought.

HortResearch's poplar and willow breeder Dr Lindsay Fung says there has been keen support for fodder research from farmers and regional councils, leading to the establishment of a Fodder Research and Technology Transfer Group.

The group consists of farmers who have used fodder from trees or shrubs in drought situations, land management officers from regional councils in summer dry areas, farm and forest consultants and researchers from Massey University, Forest Research, AgResearch and HortResearch.

"An important point is to get information out to the users. One of the priorities of the group will be to gather information from both scientific literature and real life situations, and present this in a form that is easily accessible to landowners wishing to find out more about fodder production," Fung says.

"There needs to be a distinction between annual and drought fodder production and there also needs to be a distinction between systems intended for fodder only and those involving integrated benefits of which fodder is only one use."

Examples of fodder use include shelterbelts, conservation plantings (riverbank protection, wasteland afforestation, erosion control) and purpose planted fodderbanks.