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Winter bites hard in Mid-Canterbury but response magnificent

25 June 2013

Winter bites hard in Mid-Canterbury but response magnificent

After a gentle start to winter in Mid-Canterbury, the last week saw Mid-Canterbury hit hard by three-days of heavy rain quickly followed by three-days of snow. Blizzard like conditions in Canterbury’s High Country has left farmers fighting hard to get livestock to feed and water.

“I am pleased to say the response of farmers and volunteers to the call for snow rakers, has been overwhelmingly successful,” says Chris Allen, Federated Farmers Mid-Canterbury provincial president.

“Allan and Sue from the Rural Support Trust have told us they are amazed and buoyed by the response. They feel they now have enough volunteers, receiving calls from farmers afar as the North Island!

“The Rural Support Trust has a list so long and is still contacting people. If you haven’t been called as of yet, please don’t worry as you’ll be on the list but this is an awesome display of community.

“Federated Farmers wants farmers to know that if they need help, they can call the Rural Support Trust’s Freephone number - 0800 787 254.

“Networks are being established, with helicopters dropping into properties that have not been heard from. I’ve been told some pilots, who do pest and weed control in warmer times, are also dropping in bread and milk.

“At least three helicopters are operating in the Mid-Canterbury Hill Country to Porters Pass for the past few days

“Snow in the High Country is up to 1.2 metres deep but snow drifts are up to an unbelievable three metres deep. It took a bulldozer to open a road to Lake Heron, giving some scale to the depth and duration of adverse weather Canterbury is facing.

“It is bloody hard work pushing your body through two metres of snow to make a track for a single file of sheep or cattle. Not all sheep stand in a big mob, the idea of snow raking is to concentrate the mobs together into one place for feeding.

“I can understand the public may be concerned about livestock, no one is more so than the farmers. We are still months away from lambing, but nature being nature sometimes you can get early arrivals. Livestock, especially merino sheep, are very hardy and they can handle the cold, but it has been a long time between meals.

“Odd as it may sound being winter, but water is fast becoming an issue. After eating Weetbix humans need water as do sheep after eating hay or silage.

“Given sub-zero temperatures, livestock are finding it hard to break through thick layers of ice, which farmers are right now working hard to break through, to give stock access to drinking water.

“The combination of accurate forecasting, severe weather warnings, quickly followed by the Rural Support Trust and Federated Farmers launching into action, means livestock losses will be minimised, however we remain realistic that this will hurt farmers in the coming seasons.

“The welfare of hard working farmers and their livestock has been paramount in these stressful conditions, to those involved in the response,” Mr Allen concluded.


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