14 Aug 2012

Many North Otago paddocks under water

8:15 am on 14 August 2012

Waitaki District Council staff will be out and about on Tuesday checking the state of rivers and streams in North Otago.

Emergency services manager Chris Raine says more than 20 rural roads inland from Oamaru and Palmerston had water flowing across them on Monday night after heavy rain over the past two days, and many farm paddocks are under water.

And there's little immediate relief in sight.

Rain over the past three weeks has left the ground sodden and at the same time heavy snow is expected fall in parts of Otago and Canterbury.

On Monday, MetService forecast another 150mm of rain in the hills of East Otago by the end of Tuesday.

At that point the Otago Regional Council had warned more about 60 farmers - including those near the Shag and Kakanui rivers - to expect flooding and said that they might have to shift stock.

Newborn calves could be more at risk

East Otago veterinarian Matt O'Sullivan says some sheep farmers initally welcomed the rain because it has been a very dry winter and lambing doesn't start for another fortnight for many.

But Mr O'Sullivan says dairy farmers in that region need to be careful that recently born calves don't die from scouring, because heavy rain and cold weather have put them more at risk of contracting a virus and becoming dehydrated.

Robert Borst, who runs three dairy farms milking more than 3500 cows in North Otago, says the herds are about a third of the way through calving.

He says the latest spell of heavy rain has made life difficult for some of those animals, with a lift in the incidence of milk fever - a metabolic disorder caused by lowered blood calcium at the time of calving - udder infections such as mastitis, and scours in calves.

"When they (the calves) drop in the mud the death rate's going to be slightly higher than if the conditions are dry," Mr Borst says.

On his farms, he says, calves are being picked up two or three times a day to minimise losses and given colostrum in their first 12 hours of life.

In the North Island, Bay of Plenty dairy farmers are also battling to keep livestock fit and healthy in extremely wet conditions

Bay of Plenty Federated Farmers president John Scrimgeour says with calving still going on, the conditions have added significantly to their workloads.