26 Feb 2024

Conditions on upper South Island farms close to 'record dry'

1:31 pm on 26 February 2024

(File photo.) Photo: Supplied/Taimate Angus

A Marlborough farmer says dry conditions are starting to bite - with dams used for stock-water beginning to run dry.

Last week the government gave $20,000 for the Top of the South Rural Support Trust for events and to support farmers and growers where needed.

"Conditions on the ground across the Marlborough, Tasman, and Nelson districts are now extremely dry and likely to get worse in the coming months," Agriculture Minister Todd McClay said.

Paul Hickman - who runs Angus and lambs near Ward - said they've had a dry winter, dry spring and now a dry summer so things are compounding.

"We've only had about 120 mills [millimetres] of rain over the last eight months, it's bloody dry!

"Everyone's starting to compare it to a drought we had in 2003-04 which was pretty bad, so this summer is certainly up there as far as a record dry goes."

Hickman said he has plenty of feed for his cattle but is spending hours feeding out each and every day.

"When it comes to the lambs we got less in this year due to the dry and we're going to have to offload some as stores.

"It's the stock water ... a lot of farmers around here are worried about.

"Most people around here get their stock water from dams, so when we have a dry winter it can be really devastating - if they're not filled up in winter you can get into some trouble which is what's happening now."

"It's amazing how quickly some of the water has disappeared this year. It's been hot and windy, so evaporation levels have been higher."

Marlborough Federated Farmers president Evan White said the region was in a serious drought.

He said vineyards in the region looked green because they had good water storage but it was a different story when it came to pastural farms.

"People have offloaded stock - and in fact, the PGG Wrightson calf sale has been brought forward three weeks to Wednesday so people can get rid of more.

"Dairy farmers have reduced milkings and are getting rid of any empties earlier than anticipated so it's getting pretty serious."

White said Blenheim had recorded its lowest average rainfall for the eight months to 24 January.

"That's from June 23 to January 24, the total rainfall for that eight months was 194 mills, which was 45 percent of the long term average of 436 mills, and this is the lowest rainfall for that eight-month period for over the 94 years.

"I had a truck driver tell me he would be too frightened to drive a truck through Redwood Pass. He said if two stones rubbed together, you'd have a fire."

White said it was vital people got off-farm and checked in on their mates.

"It's concerning for the younger guys who may have just taken over the family farm and now we're dealing with the driest conditions in years."

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