Tuesday, 12 March 2024 09:55

More rain needed in drought regions

Written by  Peter Burke
Recent rain has had little impact for drought-hit farmers. Recent rain has had little impact for drought-hit farmers.

Recent rains across much of the country have had little impact on some of the worst hit drought regions of the country - namely the top of the South Island.

Rural Support Trust chair for this region Richard Kempthorne says the drought in Marlborough remains severe and is among the worst farmers there have experienced. He says up until the middle of last week about 20mm of rain had fallen, which was nice but this would dry out pretty quickly.

Kempthorne says the weather forecasts to the end of April suggests the dry spell will continue.

"The farmers who are really dry need about 50mm of gentle rain that just soak in. Until that happens the farmers who have been in those drought stricken areas will still be badly impacted," he adds.

In anticipation of a drought, Kempthorne says many farmers did de-stock a bit because they knew from the forecast that we were in an El Nino weather pattern. He says it was generally a good summer for growing supplement feed, but that is grown for feeding out in winter.

"What they have been doing is feeding out the winter supplementary feed earlier."

Kempthorne says the problem is that farmers may end up having to buy in extra feed for winter. "What they are really looking at now is trying to manage their farm situation, so when autumn rains arrive and the grass starts to grow, they have got enough pasture to manage their way through winter with the help of what supplement they may have left over."

While a drought has not been declared in the region, the government recently made a grant of $20,000 to the Rural Support Trust to plan for events and ensure that early support is available for farmers, growers and rural communities.

Rural Communities Minister Mark Patterson says this additional support is needed as forecasters predict the dry weather will linger into autumn.

The other dry region is the Wairarapa, parts of which benefited from the recent rains. Wairarapa Federated Farmers president David Hayes says the latest rain will be really good and get flow level up in rivers.

He says a drought is normal in the region at this time of year but some areas in the east have been badly hit. He adds that in other parts, the situation is a case of wait and see what happens in the next few weeks.

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