17 Mar 2014

No respite from dry in Waikato

2:54 pm on 17 March 2014

A Waikato farming leader expects more dairy farmers in the region will be drying off their cows early after missing out on any significant rain from the weekend storm.

The remnants of Cyclone Lusi brought reasonable rain to parts of the North Island and northern South Island but the areas most in need of it - in particular Waikato and western Northland had little relief from the parched conditions.

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Federated Farmers Waikato president James Houghton says his area south of Hamilton got less than 10 millimetres of rain.

Mr Houghton says it's very disappointing because earlier in the week there was a prediction of 50 to 100 millimetres for Waikato, then it was dropped to 10 to 20 millimetres but the region did not even receive that.

He says in the last six years in Waikato there have been four droughts. He says more dairy farmers will be looking to dry off their herds early going into autumn although for some it is economical to continue to buy in feed to keep their cows milking.

Wendy Clark, a dairy farmer in the Franklin district south of Auckland, says they got 8 millimetres in two days but need more than 160 millimetres.

She says the drought obviously hasn't broken and it's a matter of making decisions from week to week depending on rainfall.

"Climatically the conditions are as bad as they were last year in this area and over most of the Franklin area south of the Waikato River and the Hunua Ranges and over towards Clevedon, that's all extremely dry."

Ms Clark says she's already dried off her cows for the season, to keep feed consumption down.

Dairy farmers in other dry areas such as western Northland have also stopped milking early and sheep and beef farmers have been reducing stock numbers as they run out of grazing.