25 May 2015

Snow no respite for drought afflicted farmers

4:36 pm on 25 May 2015

Snow at this time of the year isn't unusual in southern regions, but brings extra challenges for South Island farmers still battling the effects of the summer drought.

The latest cold snap dumped snow through Otago and Southland as well as other parts of the country.

Andrew Paterson, from Matakanui Station, north of Alexandra in Central Otago, said they had had about five centimetres of snow there, and the onset of cold weather meant little chance to recover from the driest summer on record for his farm.

"We looked back on our rainfall records this year and for the last 12 month period to the end of May, we've had 12 inches (about 300 millimetres) of rain, which is the driest since we've recorded rainfall, since 1948. So, that's about an inch a month. We've only had five inches (about 130 millimetres) so far, this year."

Mr Paterson said it had given farmers there very little respite.

"We've gone from the end of a very dry season. We didn't even have any significant late rains in the Manuherikia and Ida Valley to push things along at the end of the growing season and now that this cold's come, we will wind up with some fairly severe frosts from now on and there will be little chance of any growth.

"So, what silage and hay and grain we've got will have to get us through."

In contrast, farmers in northern Southland were heading into winter comparatively well set up, after a benevolent summer.

Philip Tayler, at Lorne Peak, near Gaston, says the 10 to 12 centimetres of snow they had had there would not be causing them any big problems.

"We would never worry too much about May snow, because there's a saying that May snow never stays.

"Being in May all our breeding areas are down on the lower altitude country because the rams are out, another 10 days they will moving back out onto the higher altitutde stuff so that's when you're probably more vulnerable to snow."