15 Apr 2015

Drought-hit farmers pick up tips

4:09 pm on 15 April 2015

North Canterbury farmers turned out for a seminar in Cheviot last night to pick up some tips on farming their way through the current drought.

Drought conditions in mid-Canterbury, January 2015

Drought conditions in mid-Canterbury, January 2015 Photo: Jeremy Talbot

The farming for profit meeting was organised by Beef and Lamb New Zealand, whose northern South Island extension manager, Ian Knowles, said other regions had had some rain relief but North Canterbury remained in the tight grip of drought.

"We've had a little bit of rain but not enough to get winter crops out of the ground and growing, so we're really steering down a long, cold winter if it carries on the way it is," Mr Knowles said.

"We've put together a farmer panel to talk about how the current conditions compare with what they've seen in the past and what sort of options have they got left to feed stock or move stock on to grazing and those sorts of things."

"While the North Canterbury area itself is really still in the tight grip of drought, not too far away in mid Canterbury, Banks Peninsula and other areas they've had significant rainfall and they're having quite a good autumn now so there is options to buy feed in or to send stock away."

Mid-Canterbury farmers would have the chance to talk over conditions in their region at a fielday on a Rakaia Gorge farm this afternoon but the focus there would be different to what it was at the North Canterbury gathering, Mr Knowles said.

"Both of these events were organised a couple of months ago to be exactly the same but a few inches of rain at the right time means that mid Canterbury's now out of the woods and they've got options at the other end of the spectrum in terms of grazing other people's stock or selling feed," he said.

Mr Knowles said the gatherings were a chance for drought-besieged farmers to catch up and socialise, and that was important.

"These sort of long droughts that just carry on day after day, you end up doing a lot of naval gazing and getting into a routine where you're feeding stock and just trying to keep things ticking over and often for farmers its hard for them to get off farm and hear what other options there are ... so putting on a meal and a few drinks is a chance to get them together in a social atmosphere but hopefully getting a few key messages across at the same time."

Mr Knowles said the drought shout following today's fielday would allow farmers to celebrate the breaking of the drought in mid Canterbury at least.

    The water supply for the North Bruce Rural Water Scheme is running critically low.

The water supply for the North Bruce Rural Water Scheme is running critically low. Photo: SUPPLIED

Meanwhile, recent rainfall figures show drought-stricken parts of the Otago region are on the road to recovery.

Hydrologist David Stewart said all of Otago had rain during March but some parts received intense bursts dropped by thunderstorms, which gave the impression they had had well above average rainfall.

Much of Central Otago remained dry and there had been little grass growth on non-irrigated pasture - but the rest of the Otago region was bouncing back.

"The Otago area has recovered generally, the rivers have come back, they're now at about normal flows for this time of the year," Mr Stewart said.

"Just one area is still struggling and that's the Upper Clutha Valley and maybe the Manuherikia Valley, where they haven't had a lot of rain yet, so they are still struggling there but the rest of the region I think has had some rain and the rivers are suggesting that things are definitely on the improve."

Another 100mm of rain over about six weeks was needed for drier ground to start showing signs of improvement, he said.

Otago irrigation restrictions were lifted because of rain in March.

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