Young farming family hit hard by deluge

Offers of assistance from strangers have buoyed the spirits of Cody, Ella (3), Rosie and Beau (2)...
Offers of assistance from strangers have buoyed the spirits of Cody, Ella (3), Rosie and Beau (2) Cowley on their flood-affected Taieri farm. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The grass is not always greener on the Cowley family’s dairy farm on the Taieri Plain.

In fact, large tracts are a rather nasty shade of brown caused by water lying on the paddocks for a prolonged period following the late November  deluge of rain and subsequent flooding.

The timing could not have been worse, as it happened in the middle of peak milk production and Cody Cowley reckoned they could be facing a drop of about 40,000kg of milk solids.

When multiplied by a forecast farmgate milk price of $6-$6.30, that meant losing  a "little bit" of income, he said dryly.

Then there was the effect on the pastures and the subsequent regrassing and resowing of winter crops required.

There was about 70ha to regrass on their farm —  more than a third of the property — while their run-off block 4km down the road was completely underwater and the entire 85ha would have to be resown.

While estimating the cost would be upwards of $200,000, the couple remained upbeat about the situation and had been heartened by the response from the local community.

They had offers of baleage and standing grass from "a lot of nice people around the area", including strangers. A neighbour they had never met phoned to offer assistance. They were also grateful for the support of their bank and their equity partner, Alan Scurr.

"We’ll get through it. It’s a short-term thing," Mr Cowley said.

It has not been great timing for Mr and Mrs Cowley who moved from Wairuna, near Clinton, to the Taieri two seasons ago.

They were sharemilking in South Otago but moved north to buy 40% of a farm in an equity partnership, to be closer to Mrs Cowley’s parents, as they have two young children and a third due, and for more highly productive land.

It flooded shortly after they arrived, at the end of July last year, but the effects of this flood were much worse, as the pasture was not going to recover.

They already had their winter crops in the ground when the flood hit, while their 350 bales of baleage  had either floated away or were ruined. Their young stock would have to be grazed elsewhere.

The couple felt such flood events were probably going to become more common and they would have to look at how to set themselves up to deal with it in the future. That would likely require a different structure for wintering and the possibility of a wintering barn.

It had been suggested the Otago Regional Council needed an extra pumping station so the floodwater did not cause so much damage.

If the pastures had only been under water for up to five days, they probably would have recovered, Mr Cowley said.


Good luck with getting the ORC to do anything , you may get them to commission a independent report and then do a survey , then discuss the reports at several meeting and then agree to look into it further next year , in the meantime they could have done the work required to fix the problem with the money they spent on the reports !