17 Jul 2020

Fears misery not over for drought-hit farmers

From Country Life, 9:20 pm on 17 July 2020
Feeding time during the 2020 drought at the Jowsey's farm in Kereru, Hawkes Bay

Photo: Selby Jowsey

The head of Hawkes Bay's Rural Advisory Group (RAG) believes a number of farmers will leave farming because of this year's drought.

Ag consultant Lochie MacGillivray says some farmers will be at the age and stage where they have had enough of farming.

"I think there will be a number that will say the drought's just one too many."

RAG is the agency that coordinates support when an adverse event hits rural Hawkes Bay.

Lochie says even though it has rained, he's expecting the pinch will hit in December.

He says there are three stages to a drought.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

The first is when pastures turn brown, everyone recognises it needs to rain and there is widespread sympathy and support for farmers.

He says Hawkes Bay is now in stage two where it has rained, farmers are having to deal with the consequences of the drought on their own and everyone outside the rural community thinks the drought is over.

Stage three, he says, is when farmers try to get back to business as usual and for many that will mean trying to get their stock numbers back up again after ridding mouths from the farm.

"So the problem with that will be whether they can get the finance and whether the stock around is the right type."

Lochie says he's worried about farmers in the next eight weeks. They'll be spending hours each day feeding out supplementary feed because grass supplies haven't been replenished.

"And that's a lonely phase ... it's just hard work. They are working in the dark often and it's wet and it's miserable and it's just mind numbing.

"But I am really worried about phase three when the reality of this drought starts to come home and it might mean that some farms aren't viable any more and that's going to be horrendous for them, for those families.

"That's when people around them need to step up and help."

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