21 Jun 2013

Farmers praise accurate snow warnings

5:06 pm on 21 June 2013

Farmers have praised weather forecasters for accurate warnings of the snow blanketing inland areas of the the South Island.

Some have had the heaviest falls in decades and getting feed to snow-bound livestock has been a priority. Up to a metre of snow has fallen in parts of inland Southland and Otago since Wednesday afternoon.

But the job has been made easier because farmers had time to bring stock to more accessible areas.

Rob Stokes farms in the Lees Valley northwest of Oxford in North Canterbury and regards the snow they've had as an average winter fall. But he says the warning they got from MetService was still valuable as it meant he brought down stock to lower paddocks which made it easier to get feed to them.

It was the same message from Jim Ward at Molesworth Station in southern Marlborough where the snow is sitting at up to 1 metre deep. "It's really timely to get a week's warning, you can't get it better really."

Joe Harrison at Lochaber Station, inland from Fairlie, where the the snow is waist deep, says they are using a bulldozer keep tracks open. He said because the snow was forecast, unlike in 2006, stock has been brought down and is able to be fed.

Robert Durling, a dairy farmer in the Southland town of Athol, said he and other farmers are doing long days shifting stock and knocking ice off electric fences.

Mr Durling said he spend most of Friday outside making make sure all his stock were correctly penned and well fed and it was exhausting work wading in snow up to his knees.

His cows are feeling the cold and are not very happy, but have plenty of feed for now, he said.

The snow and bitterly cold temperatures are making conditions unpleasant for farmers and stock in north and east Otago, who are still dealing with flooding from earlier in the week.

North Otago Federated Farmer representative Richard Strowger says while river levels have gone down, there are still a lot of flooded pastures and crops and farmers wintering dairy cows are having a difficult time of it.

Feed supply is also an issue for farmers on the Taieri Plain, near Dunedin, where large areas are still under water in designated ponding areas.

Local farmer Michael Lord says further heavy rain has extended the flooding onto other farmland as well and it's going to take some time to clear.