6 Mar 2014

Farmers urged to plan for dry spell

7:36 am on 6 March 2014

Farm owners in Waikato are being advised to check that staff have contingency plans in place to deal with a continuing serious dry spell as the region goes into its third month without any significant rain.

The region had only 32 percent of normal rainfall in the last two months. The combined rainfall for January and February taken at Ruakura is the seventh lowest total since records began in 1907.

Waikato Regional Council says the potential impacts of drought-like conditions throughout parts of Waikato are being monitored closely.

The council, Federated Farmers and the Rural Support Trust have met to discuss the situation, and it's possible the Waikato Regional Drought Committee could be reconvened.

The Rural Support Trust says while it hasn't yet received calls for help it is aware of the potential for conditions to get worse and for farmers to suffer stress, and is encouraging them to reach out for assistance if required.

Trust chairman Neil Bateup is urging farmers to talk to their neighbours, their accountants and banks and to farm organisations, like DairyNZ and Beef and Lamb.

He says farm managers, contractors and staff must also have plans in place to cope.

Waikato Federated Farmers says farmers are finding it tough in many areas due to scorched pastures but plenty of available feed and good herd management is helping.

A hill country beef and sheep farmer near Te Hoe in North Waikato, Steven Stark, said conditions on his property are as bad as they were during the drought at the beginning of last year.

He said it can be farmed through, as it's fairly localised drought and there is plenty of feed in the North Island. "There are still plenty of options but they all cost money of course. "

Mr Stark said the drought of 2007/2008 taught farmers major lessons on how to cope with subsequent dry spells.