10 Mar 2013

Stock feed being moved to drought regions

1:22 pm on 10 March 2013

Trucks have begun moving feed from the South Island to drought-affected farmers in the North Island in need of straw to feed livestock.

Northland, South Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Coromandel and Hawke's Bay are officially declared in drought, while Manawatu and Rangitikei have asked the Government to declare drought zone in their regions.

Earlier this month, Federated Farmers said the hot dry summer had provided perfect harvesting conditions in Canterbury, but despite the drought there seemed to be little interest from the north in the straw. Farmers were considering shredding or burning the excess.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said on Sunday that since then there has been a lot of interest from farmers needing feed and others offering straw.

Trucks had begun the journey to transport feed north and other forms of transport may be used. "We're making enquiries as to whether we can use trains or indeed ships to bring this feed up, if the demand is there."

Federated Farmers said farmers have been sending livestock to the South Island to be killed and processed to reduce their numbers, and that is likely to continue.

Drought 'worst in 70 years'

Auckland climate scientist Jim Salinger says records show the North Island is in the grip of the worst drought in almost 70 years of climate records.

The severity of drought for agriculture is indicated by the potential soil moisture deficit, measured in millimetres of rain required to keep pasture growth going. The higher the deficit, the more severe the soil moisture deficiency.

Dr Salinger said the potential soil moisture deficit was at 362mm at the end of February, breaking the previous record of 361mm in the 1945/46 season.

Other very dry seasons for the North Island were 1997/98 (360mm) and 1972/73 with 347mm.

Chance of rain from cyclone remnants

Meanwhile, the remains of Tropical Cyclone Sandra could bring relief to farmers in some areas in the coming days.

MetService severe weather forecaster Erick Brenstrum said 30 to 40mm of rain could fall in the North Island, but warned there remains a possibility it could bypass the areas worst hit by drought.

Mr Brenstrum said MetService will get a clearer picture of the cyclone's path about the middle of the week. Rain from the cyclone is the only significant fall on the horizon at the moment.