26 Jul 2011

Weather brings extra challenge at pre-lambing shear time

9:39 am on 26 July 2011

The heavy snow that blanketed much of the South Island and southern half of the North Island has come at the wrong time for some farmers who have been shearing their sheep to get them ready for lambing.

While lambing, along with calving, has started in warmer parts of the North Island, for most of the country it is still weeks away.

Federated Farmers meat and fibre chair and animal welfare spokesperson Jeanette Maxwell says it's normal practice for farmers in some areas to shear at this time of year.

She says it encourages ewes, once having lambed, to look for more shelter which means their lambs are better cared for.

During this cold snap snow has fallen outside usual areas, she says, but most farmers will be able to put flocks in sheltered yards or paddocks.

Other farmers are seeing the wintry weather as a welcome relief.

Pam Richardson, who farms on Banks Peninsula in Canterbury, says the snow is a sign winter is back on track.

''We've (still) got a long way to go,'' she said. ''We've been very dry previously and 400 hectares were burned in a recent lightning strike.''

Ms Richardson says farmers were given advanced warning and most would have been prepared.

Kevin Mitchell who farms in the hills north of Napier, and says he's happy to be getting the snow in the middle of winter, rather than in October, when the last heavy falls occurred. Mr Mitchell says he's still a month away from lambing.

Meanwhile on the Central Plateau, where snow is common at this time of year, this fall is being considered as quite big. John McCarthy has farmed in Ohakune for 21 years and is considering breaking out the skis given the amount of snow that's fallen.

Overall, Federated Farmers says, farmers around the country have coped well with snow - even in places like Gisborne where it wasn't expected.

Adverse events manager David Rose, who farms in Southland, says it would have been much worse if such cold weather had hit in spring when newborn stock are vulnerable.

He says in winter, most farmers are well prepared for storms.

And Mr Rose says this winter has been relatively mild until now so the stock is in good shape.