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Waikato drought woes continue

Published: 6:30PM Tuesday April 08, 2008 Source: ONE News

The Waikato Drought Committee met in Hamilton as the regions conditions continue to worsen.

The impact of the dry conditions on animal welfare, stress levels and farming practices were high on the agenda. Everyone is pedicting the conditions are set to continue.

There is no relief in sight for the dairy heartland as temperatures remain in the 20s and the liquid gold refuses to fall and save these dusty pastures.

Ben Knoetza, a sharemilker, says that there is 40,000 kilograms of grass missing from his farm.

Without grass, farmers are forced to buy in feed, but even that is difficult to source. To add to farmer's woes, silage prices have increased. Silage that used to cost $60 is now almost four times the price.

The Waikato region has had an average of one to three centimenters of rain over the past month, but the soil deficit is almost four times that. This means that when the rain hits the ground it has little effect.

"It's a very stressful and tough situation for farmers, many of them haven't been in this situation before," says Tim Mackle from Dairy NZ.

The Waikato Drought Committee met Tuesday morning, worried about the long-term effect of low rainfall and near record high temperatures.

"We would have thought the drought might have lifted by now but all predictions out there are that it will continue for an indefinate period of time," says Peter Buckley from Environment Waikato.

Mackle says that some farmers are as much as 20% behind on milk production and the impact of the drought will continue on into next season.