Support each other through the dry weather

By John Sanford


Every time I look out my window my heart sinks; the barren land a sign of more hardship to come. Compared to last season, this is a disaster.

Last year was the best we have had in years, you couldn't get more polar opposite if you tried. Although it is not the worst drought we have ever had, we have declared drought three times in the past five years and each time it becomes more apparent that this might be the new norm.

We have proven to be adaptable though; the climate seems to go in cycles and 20 years ago this was probably a normal summer.

The soil moisture levels are at a big deficit, the streams are low, farmers have got fewer supplements than normal years due to a difficult October and November. The whole of the North Island is in a deficit situation for feed, so we have to go further afield to get it, which costs more.

Farmers have little feed left in reserves, so a lot of cows will be dried off. But they will still have to be fed, even though they are not producing milk. It is money down the drain in the immediate future but necessary for the distant future.

Sheep and beef farmers are struggling to get enough feed to fatten their stock for the works and even then the works are not particularly helpful in taking on excess stock, so a lot have been sent to the South Island.

There are some things farmers can do to alleviate some of the pressure - dry your heifers off early, as well as the skinny ones who are more at risk. If you are not milking, there is little money coming in so this will affect your farm further down the track.

Essentially it is a balancing act, deciding to either dry cows off now and lose money or continue in hopes that rain is not far away.

Hopefully, Fonterra will provide more of their final season's payments, or a bigger chunk of them, early. That would be a huge help to dairy farmers. Additionally, if meat works could come to the table, sheep and beef farmers would have a better shot at getting through this tough season relatively unscathed.

Water supply for dry stock farmers is a huge concern as stock are drinking twice as much as usual whilst water supplies are drying up. The candle is burning at both ends.

There is simply nothing anyone can do but wait for the rain to come. In the meantime, talk to your tax department, bank manager and accountant. They are not the evil sharks some like to paint them out to be - it is in their best interest to help you out.

The Rural Support Trust is also a good resource, use it and watch out for your neighbours, family and friends. Alternatively there is the depression helpline. This is a stressful situation for all farmers, so make sure you are looking after yourself and not taking your stress out on your family. Have a break, get off the farm and get away from it all.

Hopefully, we will get some rain soon, which will ease it all. Day by day, everyone is hoping for rain.

Whitianga had 17mm of rain back in the middle of March and a there was a little shower in Thames, so there is light at the end of tunnel.

Hopefully, the weather gods will answer our prayers and deliver us some liquid gold soon.

- Hamilton News

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