20 May 2015

Govt gives Nth Canty drought aid

9:56 pm on 20 May 2015

The Government has announced $20,000 to support drought-hit farmers in North Canterbury.

The Primary Industries Minister, Nathan Guy, met today with affected farmers in the Cheviot area, which has had its lowest rainfall for the January to March period since 1972.

Mr Guy said the major concern among farmers and community leaders was feeding livestock through the coming winter, so it was important for farmers to revise their feed budgets now.

He said the $20,000 was being allocated to the North Canterbury Rural Support Trust.

"These are the people that have the local connections in the community. They sit down with farming families and help them make some tough decisions that they've got ahead of them.

"It'll also mean that they can coordinate some community-type events. They've got

John Kirwan coming in soon, they've got Doug Avery who's a well known farmer speaker who talks about drought resilience."

Mr Guy said farmers were often reluctant to ask for help, and he was urging them to make use of the good advice and support available.

Drought strains farmers

The head of North Canterbury Rural Support says the drought is raising concerns over the mental health of farmers and their families.

Doug Archbold said extremes such as the drought put a strain on mental health in rural communities.

He said it was still early days, but medical centres in North Canterbury were seeing an upsurge of farmers being prescribed anti-depressants.

"In our own organisation we are starting to get calls of people who are under stress."

Cheviot farmers desperate for rain

Farmers in the Cheviot region say there has been no decent rainfall there in almost a year.

A drystock farmer, Greg Chamberlain, said they had been feeding sheep with grain since early January and unloading unproductive stock.

"We normally get through and get into autumn and we're away. But it just hasn't happened this year."

He said they had cut capital stock ewes back to about 60 percent of the numbers that were normal at this time of year, and there was no relief in sight.

"It hasn't turned cold yet, we've been pretty fortunate - it's been mild through the autumn so the stock have held their condition pretty well even with not much feed."

But he said when the snows arrive in the nearby Southern Alps it would get cold, rain or no rain, which would "knock the stock about". He said that would force farmers to make some crucial decisions before lambing in spring.

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