Despite rain at the weekend and today, Waikato and South Auckland farmers are being encouraged to put their hands up promptly if they need advice due to the ongoing very dry conditions in the region.
Soil moisture levels are currently even lower than during last year’s extended big dry. This follows a 2014-15 summer that has seen very high temperatures and significant wind. The low soil moisture means the ability of pasture to grow is reduced, although there is plenty of supplementary feed about for stock at present following a good spring and farmers generally are reported to be coping.
But the dry soil conditions are exacerbated by the fact that rivers around the region are flowing lower than usual due to lower than average rainfall over winter, meaning some consented irrigation take restrictions have started to take effect, particularly in the Waihou-Piako catchments, and could become more widespread if adequate rainfall does not occur.
A lower dairy payout is also aggravating the financial impact on farmers as the dry conditions begin to impact pasture quality and milk production.
Officials from Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ, Ministry for Primary Industries, Waikato Rural Support Trust and Federated Farmers convened on Friday to collectively review conditions and how farmers were coping.
Federated Farmers officials reported farmers were managing the situation, although there were greater signs of stress amongst those with less experience of dealing with droughts.
Trust chair Neil Bateup said: “It’s early days yet and hopefully it won’t turn out as bad as last year. Farmers have built resilience dealing with droughts over a number of years and overall most dairy and drystock farmers are managing well. But we are concerned about the situation many new sharemilkers will be facing.”
If dry conditions worsened for an extended period he felt “there’s going to be stress out there with the dairy payout where it is”.
Mr Bateup encouraged any farmers needing help or advice – particularly newer farmers not used to coping with dry conditions – to contact the trust or industry organisations such as DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ.
“You are not alone, we’re here to help, so farmers shouldn’t hesitate to reach out for advice or information if they need it. These are very dry times and it’s important to get support when needed,” said Mr Bateup.
The Rural Support Trust is offering places on “back to the future” courses targeted at individuals uncertain about their future and will cover areas such as goal setting, financial planning and business strategies.
“Both DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ also have some excellent resources available that provide advice on how to manage through dry conditions.”
The officials are to meet again within a fortnight to review the situation and look at whether any other collective response to ongoing dry weather is required in Waikato and South Auckland.
Contact numbers and resources for farmers:
Waikato Rural Support Trust 0800 787 254