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Herds Dried Off as Drought Spreads to South Island

25 March 2013

NEW ZEALAND – Two districts on the west coast of the south island were included in the drought listing on Friday as the dry weather continues to impact farming.

The usually wet Buller and Grey districts of the west coasts are suffering from the driest spell in 41 years and with forecasters predicting for the high pressure systems to divert weather fronts, the problems could stay for weeks.

Across these areas milking herds have been forced to dry their herd up to two months early.
Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy said: “It is very unusual for the West Coast to experience drought conditions and is not something that local farmers are used to. It shows just how extreme this dry period has been.”

“Conditions have deteriorated quickly, and local farmers have asked the Government to recognise the tough situation they are facing.”

Dry matter per hectare should be around 2200 kg but best figures are at 1600 kg, which is falling daily with predictions of costs of 180,000 for some farmers, according to reports from ABC news.

However, Met office predictions say Invercargill and Queenstown are due for weekend rain, but further north where the drought is at its worst and baleage prices have reached NZ$150 a piece; temperatures are to stay above 20 degrees celcius.

Regardless of forecasters, Federated Farmers of New Zealand (FFNZ) has welcomed the drought declaration and the guidance and state support that come following notification.

Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Adverse Events spokesperson and West Coast provincial president said: “The fifth ‘managing your way through drought’ meeting finished this afternoon in Greymouth.

We didn’t wait for the declaration because there was a real need to get advice and guidance out there.”

“I also need to nip a nasty myth in the bud. Farmers cannot get cash from the Government unless they are effectively bankrupt. Any suggestion farmers are getting payouts or special treatment is wrong and is frankly insulting.”

And while farmers are happy to be receiving acknowledgement of their difficult year Mr Milne stress that drought declaration does not offer farmers an easy ride.

“I also need to nip a nasty myth in the bud. Farmers cannot get cash from the Government unless they are effectively bankrupt. Any suggestion farmers are getting payouts or special treatment is wrong and is frankly insulting,” said Mrs Milne.

“Given there are tens of thousands of farms in New Zealand, OneNews reported earlier this week that just two farmers were rural assistance payments.”

Worries are also building on the knock on effects through winter as forage has been used up on summer and autumn.

“Winter is the real concern because our pastures are basically nuked and in desperate need of renewal or undersowing,” said Mrs Milne. “Within weeks we will likely lose sunshine and get inundated with rain; typical conditions here on the Coast.”

“The good news is that in-calf cows are in reasonable nick. To ensure a good start to the new season farmers must continually monitor cow condition and dry off any that are losing weight.”

Overall damage from the drought is expected to reach NZ$1.6 billion.

TheCattleSite News Desk



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