Storm losses show need for contingency planning

It was not just trees  uprooted throughout Canterbury last 
It was not just trees uprooted throughout Canterbury last week. This road sign at Kirwee also lost its anchor. Photo by David Hill

Last week's storm has given farmers another chance to assess contingency plans to cope with adverse events.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury meat and fibre spokeswoman Lynda Murchison said the storm caught many Canterbury farmers unprepared.

''Events like this give us a moment to stop and think about how vulnerable our businesses are and what we can do to reduce our vulnerability.

''Some dairy sheds are not wired for connecting generators, so when we get over this there might be some long-term planning so they can take a generator.''

She said Federated Farmers had been overwhelmed by offers of generators from throughout New Zealand.

''We've had a really big response and a lot of the offers are from Christchurch which I think is really amazing. The Farmy Army helped in Christchurch after the earthquakes and now the people of Christchurch are returning the favour.''

While there were reports of about 800 irrigators damaged in Canterbury and many dairy farmers left without electricity to power their milking sheds for up to a week, sheep and beef farmers generally fared better, Mrs Murchison said, ''but if they require power to pump water to their house or for stock water, then it will be an issue. And there are all the trees and phone lines down.''

Before last week's storm, the area's farmers were reporting a ''dream season''.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury sharemilkers spokesman James Bourke, of Culverden, said dairy farmers and sharemilkers could not have wished for a better start to the season.

''It was really the autumn and winter that everyone needed after the dry summer.

''We thought the feed was going to be short over the winter, but it wasn't a seriously wet winter. It has been very mild and we have got through.''

Fonterra's latest 2013-14 season forecast had the farm gate milk price at $7.80, or $8.12 with the dividend included, which was good news for sharemilkers and farmers.

However, Mr Bourke warned with a higher milk price and fewer cows, following the drought earlier this year, the price of cows was likely to go up, making it difficult for new sharemilkers wanting to build up their cow numbers.

Kirwee farmer Murray Rowlands said he finished lambing his mob of just under 1000 ewes in less than four weeks, while the drilling for his crops had gone well and the price for grain was looking positive.

''We have three times as many mouths to feed with all the lambs and calves in the area; we just need to keep the grass growing.

"The feed supply is still looking reasonably short. The grass growth has held it so far, but it is a matter of what are we going to get.''

- David Hill 

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