10 Jul 2014

Farmers hit hard by power cuts - trust

1:53 pm on 10 July 2014

The storm that battered Northland this week may have eased but many farmers in the region are still struggling with power cuts and flooding.

Power companies estimated that, despite their best efforts, at least 10,000 customers, including many in rural areas, had to spend a second night without power.

The lack of power is a particular challenge for northern dairy farmers who are still milking at this time of the year to supply winter milk.

Northland Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker said the group had been checking to see if any farms needed generators to help them through.

The disruption to milking was not the only issue for farmers, she said. The loss of power had also put electric fences out of action, and that would put winter feed supplies at risk.

"The big thing that we've got to watch is that people have built up feed cover ahead of themselves, because we've had a reasonably mild start to winter," she said.

"And with the power going off to these fences, the damage stock can do, they they have no idea that they shouldn't be eating these stored pastures, they'll just get in."

Hukerenui farmer Evan Sneath's biggest problem is that about 30ha of his farm is under water and he expects it will take about five days to clear.

"The biggest problem is we've got extra mobs, we've got calving mobs and dry cows, and it just doubles your workload because every night you've got to put on, put off feed, you've just got to be there with the cows that are calving and checking them the whole time so that we don't lose calves," he said.

"You'll lose them in the wet and cold conditions if they're born in this sort of weather."

Mr Sneath said calving had only just started, which meant it was not as bad as it could have been.

Dairy farmers urged to keep feeding herds

Fonterra has confirmed some of its dairy farmers in Northland are having to dump milk due to the severe weather which is delaying collections and left some without power.

The co-operative believes about 30 farmers have been forced to dump milk on their farms due to the wild weather which shows no signs of letting up.

The MetService is forecasting rain and strong winds to continue Thursday and Friday.

The dairy industry is advising farmers who remain without power in Northland to keep calm and continue feeding their cows.

Dairy NZ's Whangarei-based consulting officer Helen Moodie says it's crucial farmers keep cool heads in the poor weather.

Ms Moodie said farmers farmers need to have a clear plan in place - and delegate work within their team.

"Some research Dairy NZ did a few years ago showed that cows will bounce back from missing up to six milkings - so that's even three days without power.

"They did bounce back their production to previous levels as long as the cows were fully fed."

She said when farmers do get to milk cows again make sure they're fully milked out and to keep an eye out for mastitis.