Southern NZ Farmers Fear Drought

NEW ZEALAND - The moderate La Niña weather pattern drying out Southern farms, now carries the risk of hail this afternoon for inland Southland and central Otago. This development has Federated Farmers hoping for rain instead of severe drought last experienced in 1999 and 1957.
calendar icon 11 January 2012
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“We’re hoping for slow steady rain instead of a heavy dump but even compared to the 1999 drought, we’re currently behind the eight-ball in terms of rainfall,” says David Rose, Federated Farmers Adverse Events Spokesperson.

“This afternoon it seems we may go from drought to the risk of thunderstorms and hail for inland Southland and central Otago.

“Being a Southland farmer myself, I know it will take time for rain to condition the soil given how dry it has been. Certainly, a southern drought is usually measured in weeks than months but it has put stress on farms still recovering from the 2010 spring snow storm.

“That’s why farmers have taken the unusual step of destocking or sending stock north to Canterbury, usually, it’s the other way round. While we’re using supplementary feed right now, the bigger concern is for winter feed crops that are starting to die off.

“Rain would help save these vital winter crops and germinate others that have been dormant for the past few weeks.

“What farmers are hoping for is slow steady rain. Upwards of 100 millimetres over the next few weeks would help correct current severe soil moisture deficits.

“MetService models for the next three days tell us that we may get a start on conditioning soil. We can expect over 10 millimetres for much of Southland, Otago and North Otago but I guess the $64,000 dollar question is what happens next?

“As we are in a moderate La Niña, a weather pattern we last experienced in 2009 and before that, 1999, our farm weather records inform us that we can expect erratic weather.

“The weather is one of those curve balls for farmers but we keep records of it and have strategies to deal with the consequences. The big fear would be a repeat of the 1957 drought, when our winter crops failed completely.

“For farmers in the South Island, the MetService’s Bob McDavitt has advised us that heat waves are still possible from late January to early February. The scary thing is that February is usually our driest month.

“The forecast rain may help us in the short-term but we won’t be out of the woods until we get a patch of steady rain. The good news I guess is that by the autumn, the ‘Roaring 40s’ should once again have returned to the south,” Mr Rose concluded.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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