Farm­ing com­mu­nity unites to tackle drought

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By ADEN MILES

While the rain has pro­vided re­spite for farm­ers across the district, the im­pacts of this sea­son’s drought were heard last Fri­day at The Big Dry.

Up to 45 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Fed­er­ated Farm­ers, Beef+Lamb New Zealand, Ru­ral Sup­port Trust, banks, lo­cal vets and farm­ers at­tended the meet­ing which was used to dis­cuss farmer well­be­ing.

Among the con­cerns heard were those around the health of farm­ers and farm an­i­mals, se­cu­rity of farm­ing jobs and man­age­ment plans for the next sea­son. At the meet­ing South Waikato Fed­er­ated Farm­ers chair Mary-Anne Mathis said some farm­ers had man­aged to get through the drought.

‘‘By bud­get­ing out, by sort­ing out what­ever feed they have got and bud­get­ing it out. Get­ting rid of sur­plus stock, so those that aren’t go­ing to carry over into next year. It is just about spe­cific man­ag­ing. I think per­haps be­cause we had 2008 (drought), peo­ple have al­ready got a tool­kit of the steps to go through,’’ she said.

She said those farm­ers also kept in con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion with banks and con­sul­tants.

The last dry sea­sons were in 2010 and 2008. ‘‘But it was not as dry as this. ‘‘By this point in 2008 it ac­tu­ally started to rain.’’

Whaka­maru farmer Steve Hines, who over­sees a 300 hectare

farm, said the drought has been ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.

‘‘Yeah it has, I mean the con­di­tions are dif­fi­cult.

‘‘At the end of the day the pres­sures are pretty sim­i­lar. Just be­cause you will run the same num­ber of cows per hectare, so there­fore your feed de­mand is con­sis­tent whether you are a big farm or a small farm,’’ he told News.

In com­par­i­son with pre­vi­ous sea­sons ev­ery­one is still fac­ing grim con­di­tions, he said.

‘‘Some are start­ing to dry off now whereas other farms are able to go for a lit­tle bit longer be­cause they have bet­ter feed sup­ply.’’

Mr Hines said farm­ers were still re­cov­er­ing from the last drought when the cur­rent dry be­gan.

‘‘You’ll al­ways have a dry spot in the sea­son gen­er­ally. Last year was the to­tal op­po­site. But the last one like this was 2007 and 2008. So again peo­ple were only be­gin­ning to re­cover from 2007 and 2008, so that has made it all the more dif­fi­cult.’’

Ru­ral as­sis­tance pay­ments will also be avail­able from Work

South Waikato and In­come through the Min­istry of So­cial Devel­op­ment.

Mrs Mathis said th­ese pay­ments are made in ‘‘ ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances.’’

‘‘Very few peo­ple will ac­tu­ally re­ceive th­ese.’’

Mrs Mathis said the en­tire com­mu­nity is feel­ing the ef­fect of the drought. ‘‘It is re­as­sur­ing that the pos­i­tive side of this is that lots of di­verse groups of peo­ple are coming to­gether to help ev­ery­one else.’’

The ef­fects of the drought have been felt by South Waikato SPCA which has dealt with seven cases over the dry sea­son with horses and lambs be­ing half their nor­mal weight. Five were from life­style block own­ers and two were from farms.

Mrs Mathis urges life­style block own­ers to ap­proach any of those con­tacts if they are fac­ing is­sues with feed­ing and man­ag­ing their live­stock.

IDEAS VOICED: Farm­ers, busi­nesses and sup­port pro­fes­sion­als met at Lich­field School to talk about the im­pact of the drought.

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