News & Advice

Grazing contracts essential

Apr 5, 2019 | Dairy, Young Stock

Ashley O’Driscoll, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets, Ngaruawahia

“There are no friends in business”- wise words once spoken to me by a good friend. A surprising number of Kiwi farmers work on the handshake or verbal agreement when it comes to grazing calves/heifers. Intentions may be good, but have you discussed all of the details? THE FIRST OF MAY IS ALMOST HERE for your heifer grazing! 
From the grazier’s point of view a contract is essential. Don’t set your heifer grazier up for failure- are your calves up to standard? Do you know how much they weigh after their first summer as calves? A grazier wants to make sure that they receive healthy, fat animals and that they have the ability to keep them healthy and fat. Your grazier doesn’t want to be incorrectly blamed for light animals at the end of the grazing period. 
From the dairy farmer’s point of view a contract is also essential. Who is responsible for supplement feeding if the grazier runs out of grass? What target weights or weight gain is expected? Does the grazier have permission to call the vets for a sick animal and charge it to your account? The dairy season can be quite busy, but you don’t want to forget about your young stock. If you ignore your heifers, they will struggle with reproduction and milk production for the rest of their lives. 
Should you make a contract? There are various checklists available free of charge on the DairyNZ website (search “contract grazing DairyNZ”). You can be as formal (hire a lawyer!) or informal as you like. The main concern is that you actually discuss all of the “WHAT IFS” with the other party. Your veterinarian can help you design this agreement if you like – we see all of the disagreements and misunderstandings between graziers and dairy farmers. Don’t be shy – discuss the ‘what-ifs’! 

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