13 Mar 2013

North Island drought widens its grip

6:49 am on 13 March 2013

Every one of the major North Island farming regions is now either officially in drought or is seeking a Government declaration that it is suffering drought conditions.

Wairarapa representatives on Tuesday agreed to join the queue of regions applying for adverse event support measures ranging from tax relief to emergency hardship payments.

So far, the Government has declared medium-scale droughts in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay, with other regions waiting for a decision.

A response is expected from the Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy this week.

But farmers spared facial eczema

However, the drought conditions have brought some relief for North Island farmers: they are not having to deal with the normal summer threat of facial eczema in their livestock.

The fungal disease is usually an issue in late summer and early autumn, as spores multiply at the base of dried-out pasture where they are ingested by livestock.

Infected animals suffer liver and skin damage, whichcan cost farmers dearly in lost production and treatment of stock.

Field technican with AsureQuality Leo Cooney, who monitors facial eczema levels, warns that while the risk is low now, it is a time bomb waiting to strike as soon as rain arrives.

He says the moment that happens, the spore counts are likely to jump in number in about a week, encouraged by the warm soil temperatures and the moisture.

He says the situation will be made worse by the fact that stock will be grazing close to the ground to get the sweet new grass coming away and so are more likely to pick up the spores.