30 Jan 2018

Farmers move stock in dead of night to avoid heat

7:39 am on 30 January 2018

Farmers are moving stock in the dead of night as they struggle in record heat and dry conditions in Otago and Southland.

Farmer Andrew Paterson on his bone dry  farm near Omakau, Central Otago.

Andrew Paterson on his bone dry farm near Omakau, Central Otago. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

A drought - or a "medium-scale adverse event" as it is officially known - may be declared within days, which allows the government to provide financial aid and other support.

Droughts have already been declared in the lower North Island and the South Island's West Coast.

Temperatures have been around the mid-30s for most of the South Island this week.

Central Otago Federated Farmers representative Andrew Paterson said some farmers were getting up at 3am to move their animals to avoid the heat.

And there were also other problems most people would not think about.

"The cattle are finding it so hot that they want to put their feet in the trough ... and therefore the others aren't drinking the water and are starting to get thirsty," he said.

He said Otago and Southland have been suffering in drought like conditions since mid-December, but there had been reluctance to make that drought official.

Bone dry Central Otago.

Otago and Southland have been in drought-like conditions for six weeks. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Sometimes a declaration caused corporations to panic, sell their stock, and cause the price to crash, Mr Paterson said.

But on the other hand, a declaration would allow the government to provide money and support to Rural Support Trust - which looked after the mental health of farmers.

"We've had a couple of meetings just with friends and fellow farmers around the valley, and it always involves a beer and a barbecue but it's also been a bit of stress relief. Guys can talk and find out they are not the only ones in the boat," Mr Paterson said.

Rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday, but the Southland Region Council said 80 to 90 percent of the water is likely to wash off and not soak into the dry ground, potentially causing localised flooding.

Central Otago District Mayor Tim Cadogan.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan says townies should remember that farmers are struggling. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said the heat was getting him in trouble.

"Tarmac's melting so you come in with your sticky shoes, you put them on the wife's carpet and all hell breaks loose," he said.

On a more serious note, he said it was the farmers who were really in strife.

"While the townies are enjoying themselves, the farmers are struggling and I'm asking my urban people to just remember there is quite a bit of pain going on along with this heat."

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