Grass greener on other side of drought


Cen­tral Otago farm­ers are re­joic­ing after sig­nif­i­cant rain­fall this spring has made ar­eas of the re­gion greener than it has been in years. But they’re not count­ing their chick­ens.

Ida Val­ley farmer Cam Ni­col­son, whose fam­ily has farmed in the area for 131 years, said it was the green­est he and fa­ther Stu had seen in about 30 years.

‘‘We’ve got that much feed, we don’t know what to do with it,’’ Ni­col­son said. ‘‘Who would have thought you could grow rye corn on top of Blacks Hill?’’

His neigh­bour be­lieved about 92mm of rain fell in the Ida Val­ley in Oc­to­ber. It was the most in that month since 1995 when he recorded 109mm.

Ni­col­son was


but warned it could all change. ‘‘You get 30degC days with that stink­ing nor­west wind and it will be back to brown. Ev­ery­thing can change within two to three weeks.’’

This time last year, some farm­ers were at break­ing point fol­low­ing al­most two years of drought con­di­tions. Wa­ter re­stric­tions were ac­tioned and some were forced to de­stock.

It was a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion this year. Niwa’s Roxburgh sta­tion recorded 104.2mm of rain in Septem­ber/Oc­to­ber, a 78.2mm dif­fer­ence com­pared to last year when just 26mm fell. Ran­furly had had 95.6mm in the first two months of spring com­pared with 45.6mm in the same pe­riod last year.

Spring­vale farmer Gary Kel­li­her said it was a good start to the sea­son.

‘‘When you com­pare it to pre­vi­ous sea­sons, which have been very tough sea­sons ... the rain that we have had through the spring has been great.’’

But he was cau­tious about pre­dict­ing a bumper 2017. ‘‘Re­ally it would only be a week or two of wind and no rain and we’d be pretty dry again. When you’ve had four or five re­ally, re­ally dry years, there’s a lot of catch-up. We’re go­ing to need a cou­ple of re­ally, re­ally good years.’’

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers Otago provin­cial pres­i­dent Phill Hunt said the rain was ‘‘in­cred­i­bly valu­able’’.

‘‘Last year we got our­selves into a bit of a hole,’’ Hunt said. ‘‘[The rain is] great for the en­vi­ron­ment in that it’s recharg­ing ground wa­ter after two years of drought. There’s heaps of feed here, stock are look­ing good. Ev­ery­one is smil­ing re­ally.’’

Ida Val­ley farmer Cam Ni­col­son, with dog Gavin, on top of Blacks Hill, has not seen the area this green in many years.

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