is just of no interest to mainstream NZ media
bills soar as drought drags on in north
dairy farmers are paying more than two-thousand dollars a day to feed
their animals, as the Indian summer shines on and their pastures burn
to a crisp. There's been no significant rain since before Christmas -
a pattern that's become the new normal for the west coast.
hoping for rain, not deluge
Farmers on Northland's west coast are waiting to find out whether a tropical storm expected this weekend ends their weather woes or makes things worse.
has been no rain there since Christmas and Northland Rural Support
Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker said at least 100mm is needed over a
period of days to make a difference.
is warning of strong winds and heavy rain as a cyclone blows in from
Jonker said it would be a blessing if the rain falls but a heavy
downpour on parched land could be disastrous, running straight off
and causing flooding. Even if the west gets the rain it needs, it
would take a month before any new grass was ready.
New Zealand advisor Kylie Harnett, who farms in Bayly's Beach Road,
said five of the last six summers on Northland's west coast has been
affected by drought. She said farmers prepare for dry summers by
growing extra feed but many have had crops fail from a lack of rain
or been forced to harvest early to feed hungry stock.
is spending $2000 a day buying in feed for her cows and drying them
off at the rate of 20 every few days. The worst-affected are farmers
whose cows are due to calve in just a few weeks time and need fresh
green grass, she said.
Harding, who farms on Pouto Road, said the grass stopped growing not
long after Christmas and, apart from a small area he irrigates with
cow-shed effluent and a paddock of herbs he is trialling, there is no
green to be seen on his land.
his herd is costing him $2,700 a day and he has been sending some
stock away to graze off-farm. With about half his herd due to calve
in a couple of weeks, he said he cannot afford not to rack up the
Harding said he would never sell up, but knows of two local farmers
who have had enough and are off to the South Island this week,
looking for greener pastures.
said there was not a lot the Government can do, unless the Prime
Minister's up to leading a rain-dance of Cabinet ministers Kaipara.
But it may be time the district started to consider irrigation
projects, and accepted Government help available to investigate that
Harnett said the impact of drought is felt well beyond the farm-gate.
The whole community loses out, when farmers put off servicing their
bikes and machinery, don't go to the hairdresser or doctor and don't
buy as many groceries as usual, she said.
Rural Support Trust's Julie Jonker said five dry summers have
depleted not just supplementary feed stores, but also the spirits of
farmers who were hoping for just one good season to make the most of
high farmgate milk prices.
was keen to hear from anyone with grazing to offer or baleage to sell
and is advising any farmers worried about their finances to talk to
their banks and accountants and ring the Trust for information and
hits some North Island farmers
from Northland to Waikato are in near-drought conditions after some
areas got just 10-15 per cent of normal rainfall in February.
farmers are hoping another dry summer isn't a sign droughts are
becoming the new norm.
Christchurch recovers from floods, farmers in Waikato are hoping for
significant rain after parts of the region got just 10mm of rain in
February - about 10 to 15 per cent of normal.
much the same in rural Northland and Auckland, and the dry conditions
come a year after drought ravaged much of the area.
a drought has not been declared, Federated Farmers Waikato provincial
president James Houghton said the region was effectively in a drought
had a look back at the records and over the last six years, we've had
four droughts, including this year," he told NZ Newswire.
older, experienced farmers have told me that after three or four dry
years in the past, things have come right again, so let's hope their
wisdom proves right."
Houghton, a dairy farmer, said most farmers were now using
supplemental feed for their stock.
have a diet check programme which has done an analysis of our
supplemental feed to work out the best mix to use, and it's worked
fairly well," he said.
the supplemental feed costs me $4 a day per cow, so it's costing me
$1600 a day to feed my 400 cows."
farms didn't recover from last year's drought until June, though a
positive economy and the prospect of a high Fonterra dairy payout is
helping alleviate some problems.
forecaster John Law said the outlook for the rest of March was for
more dry weather.
Farmers Northland provincial president Roger Ludbrook says even if a
drought hasn't been declared, farmers can approach Inland Revenue
about income equalisation relief, which will be considered on a
said at a regional and national policy level, regions needed to have
water strategies to
deal with potential droughts.
Zealand doesn't suffer from a water shortage issue, just a water