3 Jan 2018

Storm 'too little, too late' for drought-ravaged farms

8:50 pm on 3 January 2018

Drought stricken farmers are worried the stormy weather forecast over the next few days has come too little, too late.

Dry land and cows, parched land in central North Island.

Dairy cows on parched land in the central North Island. (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Tomorrow, a subtropical storm is developing west of Queensland and will make its way to the top of the North Island tomorrow, travelling across the country over the next two days.

Heavy showers and thunderstorms were forecast today for Taumarunui, southern parts of Taupō, Taihape, the western ranges of Hawke's Bay, and inland parts of Taranaki, Whanganui and Manawatū.

The slight respite it would offer from ongoing dry, hot conditions would remain out of reach for some, however.

Taranaki contract milker James Lawn said nearby farms had been getting some rain, but their farm closer to the coast was yet to see any.

"My parents own two farms, I've seen 6mm in the past two weeks, [my sister] Alex on our farm down in Pungarehu hasn't seen anything," he said.

"Anyone closer to the mountains has sort of been getting a few dribbles, but anyone closer to the coast hasn't been getting anything at all."

Mr Lawn said the coming storm was little too late.

"This rain right now will certainly help morale, but it's going to be two or three weeks before we see a response and then it's additional rain that we need on top of that, to give us growth. So, we're looking at a three to five week recovery period."

He said the timeframe would get them to the middle of February, which is generally the driest period of the year.

He said they had already dried off 26 percent of their herd, which was almost down to core numbers meaning all the stock to be culled were almost gone as well.

He said it was the worst conditions the area had seen in decades.

"This is my first year where I've had to make the decisions, which has been a baptism by fire. My father has been on the farm 44 years, running it, born and bred on the farm, he's never seen anything like this."

He said the wet periods leading up to the drought destroyed pastures so there was not enough supplement to get stock through the drought.

He said farmers were telling him they hoped next year would be a good year, but he would settle for a normal one.

He urged people with farming family to go make sure they were OK, as it could be an isolating job.

"Someone in an office might see 10 or 12 people even before they start their work day, but unfortunately four hundred cows can't talk to you very well," he added with a laugh.

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