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North Canterbury Farming Keep An Eye On The Dry

The Hurunui Adverse Events Committee has been monitoring how farmers are going in the current dry weather, and to remind their communities of the wealth of experience and information available.

Famers in North Canterbury have plenty of drought experience and can take credit for being in reasonable shape as February brings weeks of hot, dry weather and high evapotranspiration.

“If we learned one thing in the 2014-2017 droughts, it was that you need to make decisions early on what you can control,” says Winton Dalley, Chair of the Hurunui Adverse Events Committee. “Its good practice to have plans and deadlines in place to destock, send stock out to graze, and buy in supplements while they are available at an affordable price.

“Seeking advice and support from your rural professionals is a wise move, whether it is financial, stock health, stock disposal or advising on supplementary feed and green feed crops. They have a wealth of knowledge to assist your decision making. Remember too, looking out for your neighbour is of paramount importance.

“On top of normal demand for works space, in other parts of the country there are reports of longer delays due to the Coronavirus slowing expert demand. So booking in early is a must.

“We had good spring growth and generally a good production season, then it came dry as normal December onward. While we usually expect the autumn rains to kick in from next month and set us up for winter, we will be in an uncomfortable position if the rains don’t come this year, and farmers need to prepare for that eventuality.”

Rural Support Trust Chair Andy Munro says “The Rural Support Trust has as yet not received any requests for help, but we have been made aware that morale was slipping in certain areas and are monitoring the situation regularly.

“We would encourage farmers to contact us if they want a free and confidential chat to one of our team.”

Cheviot, where Dan Maxwell, meat and wool chair for North Canterbury Federated Famers is based, has missed all the rains of late and some springs are drying up. He says “Farmers are being proactive and making decisions regularly. It's vital that farmers are decisive over the next month if no substantial rain arrives, always have a date set and if doesn't rain then implement their action plan. A 10K hit to the budget can soon turn into a 15K hit if conditions continue to deteriorate.”

Tony Finch from DairyNZ says “Kaikoura farmers are reporting similar impacts from the dry, with dryland farmers saying conditions are as bad as they can remember. Even those with the advantages of limited irrigation are experiencing challenges to keep up with livestock demands.

“Farmers have been forced to make system changes to manage, however If there is no rain by March they will be needing to consider drying off options. Despite that, overall farming spirits remain good, reflecting the promising milk price.”

The Committee will continue to monitor the situation and in the meantime reminds farmers that there are plenty of resources to help them make the right decisions.

Anyone concerned about how farmers or their families are coping are urged to call the North Canterbury Rural Support Trust on 0800 787 254.

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