10 Oct 2017

Farm 'looks like a duck pond'

3:09 pm on 10 October 2017

A Bay of Plenty farmer says this has been the toughest year of farming in his 35 years on the land.

Kevin Clark is a dairy farmer on the banks of the Waimana River near Whakatane, and lost large chunks of land, fences, and farm races when the river burst its banks earlier this year during Cyclones Debbie and Cook.

The family's farms on both sides of the river were left with thick layers of silt and debris, and dairy cows had to be culled or sent away for grazing.

Kevin Clark next to some of the flood damage on his property next to the Waimana River.

Kevin Clark next to some of the flood damage on his property next to the Waimana River. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

The wet weather had been relentless ever since, and his farm looked like a duck pond, Mr Clark said.

"It's extremely wet, probably the wettest we've ever known it. We thought last winter was pretty bad but this one tops the charts."

The farm has had about 100mm of rain in the past day, the river had almost burst its banks again, and the paddocks had surface water pooling on top, he said.

"Normally we're spraying out paddocks [by now] and starting to work them up to put maize in... It's crystal ball gazing as to when that will even start with the amount of moisture that's around and how saturated the paddocks are."

His business was taking a huge hit because of the flood, followed by persistent wet weather, he said.

"Our production is down 12 per cent on last season and last season was our lowest for eight or nine years."

Compared to better years, the farm will produce about 20 per cent less milk, but at least the forecast payout had improved, Mr Clark said.

"The good side is the milk price is looking up... These are the years we wanted to nail a few things and get some debt paid back down from a couple of tough years.

"[That's] probably not going to happen to any large degree the way things are tracking at the moment."

Because his land was so wet, the council could not get in to secure the river bank, which was falling away and cutting into his land.

The year had been very stressful for farmers and many were feeling fatigued.

"It's been a really tough six months, we're focusing on trying to keep staff morale as high as it can be [and] trying to avoid them catching colds."

The Ministry for Primary Industries had given the family some funding for the flood damage, he said.

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