Thursday, 26 January 2017

Drought looms for Northland farmers

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"We  are moving quite quickly -  conditions have been deteriorating since Christmas. The little bit of rain we have had has not been much of a respite," Jonker says.

Article source: Stuff.co.nz
Writer: ANNETTE LAMBLY

Northland farmers welcomed the weekend's rain on their parched farmland, but without further follow up rain the 20mm average fall was a case of too little too late to lift the region from a pending drought.

Many have already begun remedial action against the likelihood of another "big dry" in the region.

Beef farmers are quitting stock three months ahead of normal, while they still have weight on, and dairy farmers are also culling early.

Increased supplement food is being used to keep up dairy herd production, while others are moving to once a day milking.

Topping off the problems from lack of rain is the high winds which are sucking out any moisture left in the soil.

"They (the farmers) are a resilient and capable lot and they know what to do, they have been through droughts before,"  Northland Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker says.

The Trust is meeting with agriculture and horticulture sector representatives next week to discuss the situation and the Minister of Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, is being kept updated.

"We  are moving quite quickly -  conditions have been deteriorating since Christmas. The little bit of rain we have had has not been much of a respite," Jonker says.

She says the east coast appears worse off than the western side, but even it has areas that are serious.

 "We need at least 90 mm in the next month, preferably 30mm dousings ten days apart, to be able to turn the situation around."
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Federated Farmers Northland president John Blackwell says a good spring had been followed by a dry November and December.

"In summer we rely on cyclones coming down from the tropics for rain but there's no sign of them. The eastern parts of Northland are especially becoming serious."

Blackwell said once a drought was declared, even though government support was minimal, it meant banks and other support services would be more sympathetic towards farmers in trouble.

When rain does finally fall in Northland, it will bring its own set of problems, Blackwell says. One of these is a rise in the occurrence of facial eczema in livestock; the other is a potential plague of crickets.

Weatherwatch forecaster Philip Duncan says he would not be surprised if some eastern regions of the country were declared in drought in the next few weeks.

The La Nina weather pattern, which had been predicted in September to usher in more north-easterlies, had sputtered out, Duncan says

"We are in a more neutral pattern where it's hard to predict what will happen."

NZ First leader Winston Peters says drought was the last thing Northland needed.

"While there's not much we can do to make it rain, the government can fund advisory services through the Northland Rural Support Trust while IRD can show flexibility around filing and income equalisation."

 

 - Stuff