Drought Hits New Zealand, Months Too Soon

NEW ZEALAND - Dry conditions which are developing across the country are starting to concern producers.
calendar icon 1 December 2010
clock icon 2 minute read

“In the Waikato, we’re seeing low soil moisture levels that we don’t normally expect to see until the end of January and after the winter we’ve had that’s not good at all,” says Stew Wadey, Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president.

“The Waikato Regional Drought Committee will meet next week to discuss where to go from here, at the moment I’m just warning farmers who are struggling, to lower their stocking rates. I myself am running fewer cows than last year to ensure I don’t run out of feed.

“We’re also experiencing higher temperatures than normal, on Sunday Hamilton recorded the highest temperature for November in 100 years. This certainly doesn’t help and due to evapotranspiration, we’re losing in excess of five millilitres a day of soil moisture due to the heat.

“And while the grass might look greenish as a result of all the dew we’ve had, the ground itself is extremely dry,” Mr Wadey concluded.

Remarkably, further down South on the usually rain soaked West Coast, the situation isn’t much different.

“It’s getting to the stage now where it’s very touch and go, the dry conditions are constantly in the back of our minds. Farmers know it’s summer and summer means drought, but it’s just thrown us a bit because it’s about a month and a half early,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers West Coast provincial president.

“It’s rather ironic really, in September we recorded 28 days with rain, but then October rolled around and suddenly it all stopped. But I guess that’s the reality of farming, we’re now keeping our fingers crossed and hoping we get some good rainfall.

“As long as the grass isn’t dead, even an inch of rain will result in good growth,” Ms Milne concluded.

The top of the North Island is bracing itself for a dry summer too, with many areas drier in Northland than this time last year.

“We’re meeting with the Drought Committee today to strategise our drought response and encouraging farmers to run less stock if they are concerned about feed levels, I myself am running only 80 percent of the normal herd,” says Matt Long, Federated Farmers Northland provincial president.

“I understand it’s pretty bad down in Auckland too, with NIWA warning that the conditions are similar to the ones that brought on the 2008 drought.

“However at the end of the day, we’re farmers and part of our job is dealing with the ever changing weather. All I can say now for farmers who are concerned about the dry, is reduce your stock numbers and if possible, bring in supplementary feed if needed,” Mr Long concluded.

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