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.
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.