Farming community unites to tackle drought
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.