Farmers losing millions in drought

Phill Hunt
Phill Hunt
Drought conditions across Otago and Southland are expected to cost farmers millions of dollars in lost income and stock, and it could be six months before conditions return to ``normal-ish'', Federated Farmers says.

Late last month, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Communities Damien O'Connor announced a ``medium-scale adverse event classification'' in Southland and Otago's Queenstown Lakes, Central Otago and Clutha districts.

Federated Farmers Otago president Phill Hunt said that despite significant rain across the region in recent weeks, farmers were certainly ``not out of the woods yet''.

He said a lot of pasture was lost in many areas, and cattle had been sold off.

The cost to farmers was likely to be in the millions of dollars, he said.

``I was visiting a Northern Southland farm with the minister [Mr O'Connor] last week and they had calculated, on their individual property, it was going to cost them over $500,000 in lost income and stock.

``Even though it's raining - and that's really positive - the damage has been done.''

Mount Linton Station general manager Ceri Lewis said he expected to lose more than $1million because of the drought.

The 13,200ha Southland station has about 107,000 stock units, and because it had had only a fraction of its usual rainfall, the lack of grass growth had forced him to send 1400 cows and calves off the property for grazing elsewhere.

The transportation costs of the stock removal alone had cost about $400,000.

He also had had to sell store lambs

and two-thirds of his steers at $500 a head, well below the usual price.

``The priority was to get rid of the cattle because they need a lot more feed than the sheep do.''

Mr Hunt said one of the most critical things for farmers was winter feed, and there were farmers throughout Otago and Southland whose winter feed supplies (crops) had been adversely affected by the dry conditions.

Otago principal rural fire officer Graeme Still said fire bans would remain in place in Central Otago for the foreseeable future, but a meeting would be held this Friday to discuss the possible removal of the fire ban in Coastal Otago.


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