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Holiday rain welcomed with open arms

14 January 2011

Holiday rain welcomed with open arms

Despite a dry spring leading into December, the Christmas-New Year Holiday period saw some good rainfall around the country, providing some relief to farmers.

“While not everyone got a share of the rain, and some places got more than they would’ve liked, it was good to have a dowsing of rain, and the Metservice is picking a bit more over January,” said David Rose, Federated Farmers adverse events spokesperson.

“Before Christmas we saw drought declarations in Northland, Waikato and Ruapehu, with another narrowly averted in Taranaki. However some areas such as Otago and Manawatu/Rangitikei are still looking at where they stand.

“It is important to remember New Zealand is a nation of microclimates, so one area’s boon can be another’s bust – even if they are just kilometres apart. It doesn’t help that the La Nina weather patterns are distorting our normal weather cycles.

“Metservice projections of scattered rain in January are good news, but the damage done in that dry spring means that a lot of farmers are struggling to grow supplementary feed.


“If the holiday burst is followed by more January rain some farmers’ seasons should get back on track, but for the majority the 2010/11 season will be average at best.

“The last serious drought in 2007/08 cost the national economy $2.8 billion according to a study done for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).

“It’s important to remember that what happens to the agricultural sector flows on to the local rural community as well as our entire economy.

“We are all hoping that the Metservice’s forecasts for the rest of January come true, so let’s hope we get a good steady fall across the country.

Some of our provincial leaders and members have given us a summation of the weekend’s rainfall. Please note that these are not official figures.

“Northland saw 15ml of rain across the Christmas break covering most of Northland. The pasture is green for the time of year but will need follow-up rain in the next couple of weeks.
Dairy production is still about ten percent behind last year which was badly affected by drought, but if the rain continues a reasonable production season is possible.

“Pukekoke, Auckland, received 75mls for the month of December; other regions saw a bit more. It has been enough to kick away both pasture and crops, and reduce the reliance for farmers on buying in feed.

“Waikato saw around 118mls, but this is short of replacing the moisture loss. Waikato’s moisture deficit remains around 125mm, meaning the region is not out of the woods yet. Farmers are having to buy in feed, adding to costs, and some are on once a day milking. The best bet for Waikato will be an average production season, but rains are needed to produce feed for winter. Rains are projected through Friday and Saturday.

“Hauraki-Coromandel got a good dousing over the Christmas period of around 300mls, so they are looking much better despite being in the Waikato declared drought zone. The Hauraki Plains region had 40-70mls of rain, which germinated and helped turnip crops. Maize crops are also looking very good. The problem is very little supplements have been made and some already being fed out. Many farmers have culled cows, some dried cows off and gone to 16 hour or once a day milking. There is hope for some more rain this week.

“The Bay of Plenty saw a good fall before Christmas, but only around 15mls in scattered showers since then. Areas on the coast may have only had half that. Eastern Bay of Plenty received up to 200mls across December, while the coast had around 100mls across December. Most dairy farmers are milking as normal, but with reduced volumes. Bay of Plenty is expecting northerlies with showers and rain for most of next week, a welcome relief.

“The Manawatu/Rangitikei region is very dry and looking at drought declaration options. The region saw around 50ml of rain around Christmas time, but this has now dried off.

“Gisborne/Wairoa has a soil moisture deficit of 142mms and rainfall for January is currently 3.8mls. The region normally gets 56mls in January, certainly by the end of the month there will be some concerns if the La Nina weather predictions for late rain have not arrived.

“Hawke's Bay had good rain in the week before Christmas and was in really good shape to start the summer, but has since baked in 30 plus degree days and a couple of days of strong wind. It saw just 6mls of rain on 1 January, the only rain seen since 21 December. The majority of the province is wilting fast and fire restrictions began in all districts last week. While that sounds doom and gloom, the region sees this regularly and farms accordingly. In La Nina year’s the region usually gets a sub-tropical depression.

“Taranaki had 245mls across December, but just 7mls so far in January and even that has been dried off by southerlies. That downpour was good for excellent grass growth in December, but only good enough for catch up. Hawera in particular is very dry and of concern, with rainfall way below average for December. Taranaki remains on knife’s edge for a drought declaration. Another dry spell will probably cause most farmers to dry off. NIWA is picking thunder and showers next week, so fingers crossed.

“Nelson saw good bursts of rain across Christmas and New Year, but nothing since and nothing on the horizon which is a concern. Fortunately the region got an overcast cover after the last bout of rain so it was able to soak in okay.

“Golden Bay was hit with a weather bomb of 400-500mls which devastated the area. It normally sees between 2000 and 3000mls of rain over a year and some farmers were reporting an eye-popping 605mm in December month alone. This caused the Aorere River to run some 11 metres above normal peak and that has caused major damage to farms, roads and bridges. Good to see the community spirit mucking in to help out.

“The West Coast had a tough spring like most, but 122mls in early December has been followed by regular enough rains. Hokitika saw some serious flooding, the river bursting its banks and costing some farmers’ stock. The forecast is for more sporadic bursts of rain in the next week. Most farmers have recovered well and those that had dropped to once a day milking are now back at normal levels. Overall the season is looking to be about average which, given the start it had, is a good thing.

“North Canterbury saw 40mls in December, but only a few showers of 2mls since, enough to green the top but no deeper. Supplementary feed will be key, with most farmers only able to grow around half of what they normally do. Metservice is projecting some light showers through the next week, but nothing major.

“Mid Canterbury has been mostly dry overall but the Rakaia region got a huge dump just before New Year’s Day which lead to flooding of the river. Overall, the northwest saw around 125mls over the holiday period. Mid Canterbury saw around 65mls on the coast and 130mls inland. Irrigation again proves its worth to the region while grain and seed farmers hope for it to stay dry now for harvest. Everyone else wants some short sharp rains to supplement irrigation and dry land farmers as long as there are no more northwest gales that dry everything off. Forecasts are for the weather to remain mostly the same. The season overall is looking good for grain farmers, with production and yield looking above average. Dairy farmers in the foothills will also be happy with their season and Fonterra’s payout. Irrigation remains key to the regions success.

“South Canterbury saw around 25mls across the holidays followed by sunshine and now drizzle. A pretty steady supply has kept most farmers happy, but cropping farmers now want it to get sunny for harvest.

“Otago had some really good rain over the New Year period, but still not a drought buster. On 27 December there was around 60-70mls on the coast and 140mls inland. The region probably needs around 200mls in a steady rain to get out of danger. Drought concerns have been averted for another month, but will be reviewed in early February. Farmers are seeing the season as average, which is better than was expected a few weeks ago. North Otago needs a lot of steady rain to make any difference to the high country.

“Northern Southland has had some pretty decent rain and is looking very good but this hasn’t filtered down to mid and coastal Southland, which as only seen 29mls in January so far compared to 117mls normally. It’s bizarre that the area affected by September’s storms is now driest area, and that Northern Southland and Central Otago are now wetter than Invercargill. Mid and coastal Southland’s winter feed crops are far behind where they normally are this time of year, which is very concerning,” Mr Rose concluded.

ENDS

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