News & Advice

Grazing contracts

Mar 5, 2019 | Dry stock, Grazing youngstock

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? From the grazier’s point of view a contract is essential.

Have you discussed:

  • Minimum weight on arrival?
  • Supplement feeding for the lighter calves/heifers?
  • If the animals be getting zinc bullets?
  • Is the farmer required to come out and assess the animals, or are you weighing them?

As a grazier, you want to make sure that you receive healthy, fat animals and that you have the ability to keep them healthy and fat. You don’t want to be 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?
  • What happens to the inevitable 5-10% of calves who struggle in the first few months- can they be run separately?
  • 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’!

Heifer grazing contracts will also be discussed at the Sheep and Beef Farmer Meeting, 27th March – Te Uku Hall, 28th March Glen Murray Hall for more information talk to your Vet or visit

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