15 May 2015

Some relief for pressured Otago farmers

2:23 pm on 15 May 2015

Farmers in north Otago are welcoming the rain that is slowly bringing life to grass and winter feed crops, though they say there is a way to go before they are out of a green drought.

Parts of Otago are recovering from the effects of the drought that also gripped the Canterbury and Marlborough regions earlier this year.

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


Farmers in north Canterbury, particularly Cheviot, are still without relief, however, resulting in tens of thousands of sheep and cattle being culled or sent to other regions because of the extremely dry conditions.

Otago Rural Support Trust co-ordinator David Mellish said rates rises and the low dairy payout were triggering extra stresses off the back of the drought.

But on the positive side, mild weather has brought some relief, allowing grass and crops to grow.

"The worst area is still the Strath Taieri area and parts of north Otago - we would call this now a green drought," he said.

"We've had some moisture, which makes it green on top but there's still big concerns about winter feed definitely later in the season: August and September.

"We actually know that a lot of the contractors have done 30 to 50 percent less bailage and hay, compared to other seasons."

Mike Lord, a dairy farmer on the Taieri Plains who is also a Dunedin City Councillor, said the region had had 500 millilitres less rain than this time last year, though he agreed it was beginning to look greener.

He said the Otago Regional Council's rates increases would add stress to many dairy farmers, especially with the low payout.

"I think there's a lot of farmers that are feeling, down our way, particularly with flood scheme rates and drainage rates, that we've got some real pressures on.

"My rates in 2001, when I bought my farm - I paid $7000 to the Regional Council, and this year I'll be paying $28,000 so that's gone up four times, which is significant. It's just pressure that we can't do anything about."

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