A harsh and wet winter has left the Southland region with a shortage of stock feed, and farming leaders say the weather outlook for summer was grim.
Beef and Lamb New Zealand southern South Island extension manager Olivia Ross said it had been one of the wettest and coldest winters in recent years, and with predictions of an El Nino, the region could be in for a lot of summer rain.
She said a recent dumping of snow in some areas in Southland and south Otago left farmers facing large lamb losses, and many were in tight feed situations.
"We've heard reports in the last week that because of the weather - and we're obviously in the middle of lambing now - that ewes are walking off and leaving their lambs following giving birth, just because they're in search for feed.
She says in spring, the weather could change quickly.
"Southland is a very unique place. We can go from one extreme to the other, very quickly. Looking at the predictions of El Nino, it looks like while the rest of the country may be quite dry, we're very likely to get some real big summer rains this year.
"We do need some more warm, dry days. At the moment we're not getting more than one dry day in a row."
Ms Ross has urged farmers to talk to each other and look out for their neighbours.