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Drought breaking rain sparks race to prepare for winter

23 April 2013

Drought breaking rain sparks race to prepare for winter

Farmers are rejoicing that the drought breaking rain finally arrived, but hope winter can hold off for a few more weeks to maximise pasture growth and better insure their feed supplies until spring.

“We have heard from nearly all our provincial presidents that the rain has broken the drought in their areas and that grass is growing again,” Federated Farmers adverse events spokesperson Katie Milne says.

“Some areas had a bit too much rain, while others are still a bit dry, but overall the rain brought by last weekend’s subtropical trough was exactly what was needed, with grass growth returning to many areas.

“However, farmers will now be working to recover as much pasture as possible before winter and now hope that frosts do not arrive to stop growth.

“While the drought may be over, in many ways the hard part – the recovery – has just begun. Many will be fertilising their paddocks to ensure they can make the most of the autumn growth, while others will be re-seeding paddocks which have died off during the drought and hoping there is enough time for the new growth to sprout and establish before winter sets in.

“Feed is likely to remain in high demand until spring and farmers in many areas are concerned about the lack of local sources of grazing and the anticipated price of supplementary feed over winter. Many farmers are likely to struggle, particularly later in winter.

“Many farmers will face a number of drought related expenses over the next few months on a reduced income, so Federated Farmers is encouraging all its members to formulate sound budgets and management plans with farm advisors and their bank managers.

“It is important framers have these plans tailored to their individual farms and needs and seek help and advice when they need it,” Ms Milne concluded.

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Comments from the provinces:

Matt Long

Immediate past Northland provincial president

“We have plenty of soil moisture on our farm near Whangarei now. I understand Dargaville got a thunderstorm yesterday.”

Wendy Clark
Auckland provincial president

“Auckland's east coast has had heaps of rain. The west coast had not so much, some days only 1-2 mls, but good rain in the weekend added to previous episodes. This means that, as far as I am concerned, the drought has broken.

“Over the last 10 days we had growth at 30 kg dry matter (DM), per hectare (ha), per day. During the previous 10 days some people reckoned they had only 10 kg/ha/day growth without urea. So grass is starting to grow now. I have average cover of 2,000kgs DM/ha.”

Neil Heather

Rotorua Taupo provincial president

“Rotorua got well over 100mm in the last two weeks; south of Rotorua got about 70mm - 95mm in the same period, so south of Rotorua still needs a lot more. Grass is still growing at the moment, but that could soon change if it turns cold.”

Lyn Neeson

Ruapehu provincial president

“Ruapehu has had 110 mls since the rain began. It is still warm and there is a green tinge to the paddocks, but still nothing much for the stock to munch. Many paddocks are empty to save them from turning into a sea of mud. Lots of mushrooms... does that mean facial eczema is the next issue?

The Rural Support Trust is still going ahead with its 'Through the dry and out the other side' workshop. We had 50 farmers at the last meeting and they soaked up the take-home messages.”

Peter Jex-Blake

Gisborne provincial president

“Gisborne/East Coast by and large had good rain, with most areas having received 40-100mls since Easter. Further up the coast, north of Tolaga Bay, received larger quantities. Presently we have perfect growing conditions with most of the district now a shade of green.”

Bruce Wills

Hawkes Bay provincial president

“Hawkes Bay is greening after approximately 30-40mls of rain, but we have a long way to go. Many dams are still largely empty, feed covers short and capital stock still being killed to prepare for the onset of winter. At least the weather patterns have changed and my sympathies to the Nelson and Bay of Plenty areas for stealing more than their fair share.”

Andrew Hoggard

Manawatu/Rangitikei provincial president

“Taihape has finally had some rain, around 30 mls, and probably more coming. Down in the Manawatu, growth rates of around 50kgDM/day have been common, so things are on the improve for lowland guys.”

Jamie Falloon

Wairarapa provincial president

“Good rain over the weekend and previous week, have had 70mm in last 10 days and good warm weather, so pasture is rocketing. There will still be people struggling and winter is around the corner, but Wairarapa farmers are in a much better place than last month. The drought is over and recovery is starting.”

Gavin O’Donnell

Nelson provincial president

“In Nelson we are not feeling at all guilty about stealing more than our fair share of the rain; it is a shame we have nowhere to store it for later use!

“The rain in Nelson has again been very variable across the province. The heaviest falls were around the urban areas of Richmond and Stoke.

“Recent rains across the province have produced good pasture and crop growth with most areas looking good, but everyone is anxious about the very low winter feed reserves within the province, the lack of off-farm grazing, the cost of what might be available and the ability to grow enough feed before the frosts start to kick in. Late winter will be the critical time for us.”

Gary Barnett

Marlborough provincial president

“Good rain in Marlborough with slow build up on Tuesday to Friday, then 100 mm in three days.”

Katie Milne

West Coast provincial president

“Back to normal here; too bloody wet - not that I will ever complain again. At least the grass still grows and you can stand cows off to protect regrowth rates.

“There was snow on the tops on Saturday morning and we lit the fire for the first time this year. I expect the frosts when this rain passes, as the moon will also be fuller.”

Chris Allen

Mid Canterbury provincial president

“Mid Canterbury had about 60 mm over four days. We have had enough rain now, thanks. No more is required until 14 august and then after lambing. See what you can organise please.”

Ivon Hurst

South Canterbury provincial president

“In South Canterbury, 34mm on the coast, 61mm inland and more again on the foothills. Ground temperatures are still warm enough to get good grass response and winterfeed crops will benefit.”

Richard Strowger

North Otago provincial president

“Rainfall in North Otago has ranged from 15mm to 75mm so everyone is very happy. There is still some light rain falling in places.”

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