8 Aug 2014

Misery - snow hits farming families

4:53 pm on 8 August 2014

Widespread snow to low levels in the south, on top of copious rain, is making conditions miserable for farmers and stock, especially dairy farmers who have started calving.

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Snow and southerly winds buffeted Otago and Southland through Thursday night and Friday, causing schools to close as driving conditions on some roads became horrendous.

Electricity cuts

After the worst of the southern snow storm had passed, about 75 households were still without electricity, though PowerNet said 1000 households and businesses in Southland and much of eastern Otago had experienced power cuts during the two days of the storm.

It said they were caused by lightning, gale force winds and air-borne debris, as well as snow bringing down lines.

Another power company Delta, which runs lines in Dunedin and Central Otago, said 100 customers lost power in Roxburgh on Thursday night, but the fault was fixed by 10 o'clock fon Friday morning.

Federated Farmers's Southland branch president, Russell MacPherson, said dairy farmers were moving calves indoors to keep them warm and dry.

Mr MacPherson said most sheep farmers were escaping the worst impact, as lambing season had not started.

And Federated Farmers Otago president, Stephen Korteweg, who's in South Otago, said that with lambing still to get underway, the sleety snow which fell there on Friday was a nuisance for farmers at this time of year.

"Getting around on the roads would be one of the bigger problems if they've got properties spread out a bit, or maybe getting vets in," said Mr Korteweg.

"It's very wet under foot at the moment and finding dry places to put stock without too much damage to paddocks ... it's that time of the year again."

He said the snow and cold conditions put more stress on cows when they had just calved and had started milking.

"You tend to get more metabolic problems when animals are under stress, so it will be a busier time than it needed to be now with the impact of the weather."

Mr Korteweg said lambing for most farmers in lowland Otago was still a fortnight away.

Mr McPherson, said the problems were similar in Southland - he woke up to several centimetres of snow in the Winton area on Friday morning and it snowed through the day.

"The sheep farmers are not lambing, so ewes are still on their winter rotation," he said. "There might be the odd lamb born, some farmers might be lambing early".

Cows were calving and there had been some miserable days and nights for calves and cows.

"There will probably be the odd cow that's gone down because of milk fever and metabolic issues this morning, because of the cold, but farmers have that in hand and they can deal with that quite easily," Mr McPherson said.

It had been quite a wet month, with 70 millilitres falling in just seven days, so farmers were probably getting sick of the wetness and would love to see some sunshine, he said.

Snow and ice is hindering livestock transport.

Snow and ice is hindering livestock transport. Photo: PHOTO NZ