Farmers revel in rain as feed grows
South Waikato farmers were singing in the rain this weekend as a storm lashed the upper North Island.
Rain fell persistently for several days, just in time for dairy farmers in their third drought in four years.
Conditions in mid-December were likened to those normally seen in November following a spate of fine weather.
Rain before Christmas sustained most farmers through early January but conditions had started drying up again last week said Rural Support Trust chairman Neil Bateup.
‘‘There’s still feed from the rain we had before Christmas,’’ he said last week ‘‘But it is running out quite fast. We were in a situation where rain this week was becoming almost vital again.
‘‘Production lifted significantly after the rain before Christmas but national levels were starting to drop off again.’’
Mr Bateup said before the weekend’s storm farmers could have a really good season if it kept raining or a really bad one if it didn’t.
‘‘A couple of rains by the end of February and normal rainfall after that could pay off.’’
Mr Bateup said the Rural Support Trust’s phoneline, which gave help and advice to farmers, had a few calls when the drought was declared but none since Christmas.
‘‘I am sure that most farmers have come up with a plan, over the last three or four years and put some measures in place.
‘‘Those people who contracted palm kernel still have access, silage is short, maize crops are variable.’’
Tirau farm manager Andrew Mellsopp is keeping his 240-cow herd fed from the paddock, while neighbouring farms are struggling.
‘‘I have heaps of grass compared with a lot of the neighbours,’’ Mr Mellsopp said.
‘‘I am on 2.3 cows per hectare, and a lot are on 3.5 cows per hectare or 5.’’
His farm remains on target to produce 85,000kg of milk solids.
Mr Mellsopp said the hilly contour of the farm was also to thank for the grass growth.
‘‘It’s not a flat farm and we are up quite high.’’
nutrition operations manager for RD1, based in Hamilton, warned farmers against buying feed on the spot market as retailers could only guarantee supplies for those who had pre-purchased feed through forward contracts.
‘‘It’s looking like it’s getting dry again but there is a forecast for some rain Tuesday and Wednesday,’’ he said.
Despite that the supplier had plenty in stock and a shipload of palm kernel extract had arrived at Tauranga at the weekend but things could change rapidly.
Tony Moffat, business development manager at Morrinsville stock feed company Seales, said many importers had tight supply since mid-December, although his company had good supplies.
‘‘The lift in payout, coupled with Christmas rain has encouraged farmers to feed more in an attempt to maximise revenue and make the most of what is proving to be a challenging season,’’ he said.
‘‘Forward raw material supply is good although the price will remain firm due to the situation in Australia and Europe.’’
Between 100-300mm of rain fell over the weekend across the North Island with minor flooding reported in several centres.
WeatherWatch.co.nz said Tropical Cyclone Wilma would reach New Zealand this weekend bringing wind and rain to northern and north eastern New Zealand. The system was expected to bring rain to the South Waikato, ensuring farmers had a wet weekend.
RAIN RADAR: A Metservice image shows rain blanketing the North Island at 9am on Sunday morning.