Last week's "blizzard-like" cold snap has killed more than 200 cows on farms on the West Coast of the South Island.

The Kowhitirangi community is rallying around farmers who lost large numbers of stock in sub-zero temperatures last week.

Westland Milk Products chief executive Rod Quin said the weather system, which saw temperatures in the Hokitika Valley plummet to -10C last Wednesday, had killed 200 head of cattle.

"In spite of heroic efforts to try to move stock to shelter by farm staff, neighbours and veterinarians in attendance, 180 cows died, a serious loss for Barry Paterson, who is a supplier to and director of Westland Milk Products," Mr Quin said.


Twenty cows died on fellow director Raelyn Lourie's farm nearby, as well as a few animals on other farms in the Kokatahi-Kowhitirangi areas.

WeatherWatch said the wind chill made it feel as cold as -15C in some places, in weather described as "unlike anything to have hit the region before".

"It was a howling easterly over here with horizontal ice pellets - it wasn't hail, it was different than hail - it wasn't sleet, it wasn't rain. There were trees blown on the road and you couldn't hardly stand up," said Federated Farmers' West Coast president Katie Milne.

"I lived in Canada for a few years and it got to minus 10C but I was running around in a sweatshirt because there was no wind but when you're wet and cold and it's windy it's pretty uncomfortable."

Mr Paterson said when cows were exposed to freezing conditions, they huddled together, turned their backs to the wind and would not move.

"Our staff and neighbours made huge efforts to try to get the cows to shelter. The few that were persuaded to move were the ones that were saved; the cows that obeyed their instincts and refused to budge were the ones that died."

Mr Quin said fellow neighbours and dairy farmers from other regions had offered support to those affected.

"Fellow farmers have offered cows and support ... It really has been inspirational and gone some way to mitigating what has been a very traumatic time, especially for Barry, his family and staff."


The Ministry of Primary Industries is investigating the loss of the large amount of stock.

Weatherwatch analyst Phillip Duncan said the "brutal" wind chill continued in some parts of the South Island yesterday.

A southeasterly low was driving sleet and snow to parts of Southland, Canterbury and Otago but there was less moisture in the air so it wouldn't fall as heavily as it did last week, he said.

The main factor was wind chill.

"The highs will be single digits in some areas - five degrees - which is not very warm. But the wind chill is a significant thing. In some exposed areas it's going to feel like it's minus 5C or colder."