Andrew McGiven has enough feed on his Te Aroha dairy farm to last a week.
By: CAITLIN MOORBY
But after that, he’ll be running into dry, low-protein grass.
The Waikato Federated Farmer’s president said the early warm weather is a concern for all farmers.
“It’s funny in the way we were all getting hammered by rain and then all of a sudden, the taps have gone off and we’ve gone dry really fast,” McGiven said.
If the taps don’t turn back on before April, it will be a bit of a worry, McGiven said.
In general, farmer morale wouldn’t be terribly high right now, he said.
“The guys will be thinking we’ve just come through the worst winter and spring we can think of, the last thing we want is to top it off with a drought.
“That would lead to a very disappointing season.”
McGiven said going from wet to dry so quickly has also meant not a lot of grass silage has been made on farms.
“Everything is about a month to six weeks behind. Because it was so wet, we couldn’t get the tractors on the ground.”
It’s been a year of maize failure, McGiven said.
“I had to replant two paddocks because the seed had rotted in the ground because a 90mm dumping of rain just killed it.”
McGiven said farmers need to plan feed-wise and stock rate-wise.
“Get rid of early culls early and plan for a dry summer because at this stage, it’s not looking flash.
“Weather is one thing we can’t control, so we just have to work with it.”
Niwa meteorologist Ben Noll said the Waikato has seen a drier than normal pattern over the past month, which looks likely to continue.
There are a few bouts of rain coming through over the next couple of weeks, but these will be a small drop in the bucket in terms of what is needed to get soil moisture back to normal, Noll said.
Showers are forecast to move through the region on Monday, followed by a couple of bursts of rain on Wednesday, he said.
It’s possible storms could start tracking into the region in late December, early January, he said.
“It is something we are keeping an eye on.
“It’s reason enough for farmers to be hopeful.”
Noll said the driest areas are along the west coast, stretching from the Waikato to the western Waitomo district.
“There’s no drought currently, but one spot we consider to be very dry is north of Raglan.”
Based on soil moisture maps, the majority of the Waikato is running at a deficit of 30mm, Noll said.
But the far northwest is at a soil moisture deficit of 50mm.
“The summer season can be quite dry across New Zealand, but it is unusually dry for those western areas along the west coast.”
Rural Support National Council chairman Neil Bateup said farmers who are feeling stressed or looking for additional support should get in touch with the Rural Support Trust by calling 0800 787 254.
“It’s a confidential line and we can put them in touch with the right people to help them,” Bateup said.
“Depending on the situation, this could be a farm adviser, financial adviser, counsellor, or it may just be someone to have a chat with over a cup of tea.”
It’s important farmers make early decisions in these dry times, he said.
“It is more stressful than normal because we had such a wet period, which started with flooding and erosion in March last year.
“We had a wet winter, which carried on forever, and we haven’t had a spring, so we haven’t had a lot of surplus grass made into silage or hay this year. Crops have gone in late, reserves are down and it may not end as well as we’d normally expect it to.”
But it could be worse – Taranaki, Manawatu and some of the areas in the South Island are doing it even tougher, Bateup said.
“We’ve just got to prepare for the worst and if it comes out better than that, then that’s good.”