Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Farmers weigh weather impact across islands

Neal Wallace
A wet spring is proving a major challenge for southern South Island farmers, causing sleepy sickness, forcing dairy farmers to milk once-a-day, feed out supplements or stand cows off paddocks. While annual rainfall is about average, the pattern in which has fallen, with up to 85mm already falling this month, is causing sodden ground conditions, especially on the Southland coast
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A wet spring is proving a major challenge for southern South Island farmers, causing sleepy sickness, forcing dairy farmers to milk once-a-day, feed out supplements or stand cows off paddocks.

While annual rainfall is about average, the pattern in which has fallen, with up to 85mm already falling this month, is causing sodden ground conditions, especially on the Southland coast.

Otago Federated Farmers meat and wool section chair and Clinton farmer Logan Wallace says a dry autumn meant he went into winter with low pasture cover, which required his hoggets to be sent to grazing. He says much of South Otago is similarly short of feed.

He applied urea, which provided a brief respite before a recent cold snap reduced its effectiveness, and recorded more than 75mm of rain in the week to the middle of September, equivalent to that month’s average rainfall.

While grass growth in August is traditionally not high, AgResearch figures from the Woodlands station near Invercargill reveal dry matter growth in August was 5.3kg DM/day compared to the average of 9.8kg.

Southland Federated Farmers dairy chair and Central Southland dairy farmer Bart Luyten says calving started well, but in the past two weeks conditions have turned cold and wet, tightening feed reserves, delayed fertiliser application and filling effluent ponds.

While conditions aren’t extreme, Luyten describes it as very difficult.

Blair Drysdale who farms in Northern Southland says a -3degC frost this week has added to the challenges.

Wyndham farmer Dean Rabbidge says he recorded 85mm for a week recently, but 10 mild days prior to that gave him a badly needed pasture boost.

He says winter was relatively warm but being wet, crop utilisation was not high.

It’s been a different story in Hawke’s Bay, with farmers there welcoming the rain that fell across much of the region last week, with 40-70mm a steady range, although some hill country farmers received up to double that.

Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay president Jim Galloway says because the rain was spread over a few days the moisture was able to soak in, while streams were running well and on-farm dam levels also received a boost.

“It’s been brilliant,” Galloway said.

“But everyone’s really tight for grass, so people are selling stock earlier than they might have.”

He says farmers had been planning for a dry spring, the third dry year in a row.

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