A declaration of a state of drought could be just a week or two away if significant rain doesn't fall in Canterbury and Otago, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.
Mr Guy said he was being updated on the dry conditions across much of the country on a day-to-day basis, and North Otago and Canterbury were his biggest concern.
He said he was worried about animal welfare and access to water for stock in those areas, and believed he could soon be asked to formally declare a state of drought.
"If we don't get reasonable rain in Canterbury and North Otago in my view, in the next couple of weeks, then I am sure a request will be coming forward," he said.
January weather 'one for the history books'
MetService forecaster Georgina Griffiths said most areas in the country recorded temperatures about 1.5degC higher than normal.
She said most areas also had their third or fourth driest January, since records began.
"Stand out for holidaying, challenging for farming. And I think this year we are going to have one of those things where January may very well end up warmer than February this year. So that's kind of one for the record books.
"I think January 2015 will be the one that the farmers remember."
Chair of Kyeburn Catchment Limited in Otago David McAtamney said although the situation is bad, he was still hoping the weather would pull through.
"I've seen it as bad several times in my long career in farming. It's as bad as the worst probably. If it breaks in the next week or two it won't be anything new to our district."
Mr McAtamney told Nine to Noon said about 70 to 100 more millimetres of rain was needed.
Federated Farmers said its farmers in Waikato and Northland were coping at the moment, but could be heading the same way as their southern counterparts if the clouds did not open soon.
The South Canterbury Rural Support Trust is urging its farmers to stock up on feed now, in case the dry period gets worse.
Chair David Hewson said farmers need to plan for a dry winter.
"There isn't a great deal of surplus feed around so farmers need to do careful feed budgets, just to be sure that they can plan for the winter.
"Farmers need to plan for the worst ... because everyone will be in the same boat going through winter, and everything will be just scarce," he said.