Quick thinking in a small Southland settlement helped save a herd of calves as flood waters swept through their paddock yesterday.
Heavy rain battered the lower South Island on Wednesday, causing widespread flooding and damaging roads.
It was looking dire when farmer Mike Bodle, of Braintra Farms at Browns, found his wagyu calves trying to swim to safety.
When they rounded on the paddock, they found it flooded with grassy islands sticking above the flood waters.
"We've never really seen anything like it, just how hard it came down," Mr Bodle said.
"So it was 100 millimetres of rain just came through, just over the road and into the paddock where the calves were. It kept rising so quick, it happened so fast."
Some calves were safe on an island, but many panicked and began to swim, bobbing towards higher ground, he said.
His neighbours and staff heard about the calves and offered their support and one offered an inflatable river raft they had in their shed.
So they started packing the calves into the raft, some of which were exhausted from their struggle against the surge.
But the calves they rescued from the island had a bit of fight still left in them, pushing one rescuer off the raft.
Fortunately both the rescuer and the calf were pulled back into safety, Mr Bodle said.
It took six loads to bring them all to safety.
There were 67 calves in the paddock.
"They saved about 35 and probably about 11 went down the river," he said.
Others did not need saving. The surviving calves were back grazing, just a day after their rescue.
"They're going pretty good. The wagyu are sort of a communal animal and there are some that are still bellowing out for their mates that we've lost. That's pretty tough," Mr Bodle said.
Some neighbouring farms lost many sheep, while others faced ruined crops, Mr Bodle said.
Mr Bodle offered his thanks to the community who helped save the calves.
"It's great to have a good community behind you."