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Farmers fear long, dry summer

Published: 7:29AM Tuesday November 16, 2010 Source: ONE News

Farmers are starting to worry that they are heading into a long, dry summer after more than six weeks without rain.

Northland, the Central Plateau, Nelson and South Canterbury are the driest places in the country, with many farmers putting back-up plans in place.  

Six weeks without rain is taking its toll on John Sexton's Paparimu dairy farm.

"The soil is dry for this time of year and it will dry out quickly as the summer comes on," he said.

Rain is needed now on his and many other farms around the country.

"We need an inch a week for several weeks to get things back to normal," Sexton said.

Many farmers are now planning to reduce stock despite decent rain forecasts between now and Christmas. 

Lachlan McKenzie of Federated Farmers said production will start to be hit shortly by the lack of rain.

"There's always a lag between grass growth and as we ration the pasture out."

If enough rain does not arrive before the middle of December, Sexton will start feeding his cows maize silage, three months earlier than he had planned to.

Farmers are far more nervous in Northland after three recent droughts. But forecasters said the current La Nina cycle should help the north, along with the Bay of Plenty and Nelson.

Senior NIWA forecaster Georgina Griffiths said the climate situation is the exact reverse of what it was last year and that will be very important for the people of Northland.

Farmers in the deep south, though, can expect little relief. 

Griffiths said typically La Nina is dry for the southern half of the South Island, so rainfall is likely to remain below average for Central Otago and South Canterbury.