29 Jun 2015

Drought-hit farmers consider share farming

3:06 pm on 29 June 2015

Farmers in drought-stricken North Canterbury are hoping to forge share-farming agreements with farms grazing their relocated stock.

There has been no heavy rain in the area since June of last year.

There has been no heavy rain in the area since June of last year. Photo: RNZ / Patrick Phelps

More than 60,000 breeding ewes have been sent out of the region, where recent rain has failed to encourage grass growth as it's too cold.

Stock agents, farmers and meat processors have come together to find solutions for the region, where dairy and sheep farmer Nick Ensor said he had had to make some hard decisions about his flock.

"Last November at weaning time I made the decision to drop them from 500 to 350 because we had come off quite a tight spring and the ewes were a bit light so I made the call to sell a few sheep," Mr Ensor said.

"Then I dropped our twin ewes out because they normally lamb on north-west hill country and the reality is 70 percent of that country is actually dead rather than just dry so there was no point in sending them away grazing to come back, because there would have been nothing come the beginning of August to lamb on."

A lot of North Canterbury stock had been sent to South Canterbury farms for grazing, and it was hoped share farming arrangements could be made.

"Maybe there are some farmers out there who might decide, 'yes I can take 150 of your ewes'," Mr Ensor said.

"How we set it up is maybe dealt with between the two farmers but there are a whole lot of different avenues you could take. A twin ewe in Cheviot will probably struggle. Maybe there's a guy in another area who can take our twin ewe and we take his single-bearing ewe and you keep the lambs accordingly on both properties and return the ewes at weaning time.

"If we can get people working collectively together who knows. It is a tall order and maybe nothing comes out of it, but what we are trying to do is make people fully aware of the situation we're in."

There was no end in sight for the drought given predictions of an El Nino weather pattern developing in the Pacific Ocean, Mr Ensor said.