16 Aug 2011

Snow a headache for farmers

6:10 am on 16 August 2011

The heavy snowfalls are affecting dairy as well as sheep and cattle farms at a critical time in the farming calendar.

Farmers in southern Taranaki are reporting the worst snow falls they can remember.

Shelley Dew-Hopkins, who has a coastal dairy farm near Waverley and a hill country finishing property 20 kms inland, describes conditions as grim.

She says some of her neighbours have been farming in the area for up to 50 years and have never seen snow so heavy and so low down on the outskirts of Waverly.

She says calving is currently in progress on dairy farms and hypothermia is an issue for the young calves.

Alan Stuart, who farms at Mauriceville in northern Wairarapa, says around 30 cms snow have fallen there, which will threaten the health of sheep and cattle that are close to lambing and calving if it lasts more than a couple of days.

He says if the weather continues for many more days, there could be losses because ewes are susceptible to sleepy sickness and cattle are also vulnerable.

Mr Stuart says the conditions make it treacherous for farm vehicles and one of his neighbours rolled his four-wheeler on Monday morning. The soft snow cover allowed him to escape, unharmed, from underneath the vehicle.

And in the central North Island, Fraser Gordon - who farms about 20 kms east of Taihape - has started lambing and got through Monday with no lamb losses.

However, with more snow forecast he was keeping his fingers crossed.

He said he had moved his sheep to sheltered bush country but, again, he is worried that ewes yet to lamb could succumb to sleepy sickness.