Lay of the land

New AgResearch modelling on the impacts of climate change on lamb survival and lambing date in the South shows a potential for farmers to be able to schedule lambing up to 20 days earlier than their current practice by 2040 and a possible increase of a lamb’s liveweight up to 5.5 kg by December 15. Reporter Shawn McAvinue asks southern sheep farmers if they would give rising temperatures and its earlier lambing, earlier grass growth in spring and heavier lambs before summer a warm welcome or a cold shoulder and why?

Hamish Brown, of Waitahuna ... "It’s not going to change, we’ve seen it before. We are in the same cycle we were in the 1980s. Pounawea is suppose to be underwater from what they were telling us in the 1970s ... I’m not a climate change denier but we’ve seen the cycles — they may come around quicker. In the 1980s, everyone went all-grass farming because we had nice winters and it feels like we are heading that way. We won’t be shifting our lambing dates. We base it on our feed curve and you’d need four or five years of the feed wedge moving forward before you changed."

Jason Lyders, of Waitahuna ... "If there is such a thing as global warming it’s going to be good for us down South but I can’t see there being too much difference — the weather’s not changing that much. If it does happen, everyone will bring their lambing dates forward and will be sending away lambs at the same time, so ... there’s not going to be any benefit."

Ian Clark, of Athol ... "It all depends where you farm — I have farms in Riversdale and Athol and lambing is on August 20 and September 25, because the farms have different climates. The grass doesn’t grow in Athol until October. Even if it does warm up, I don’t think it would work. I’ve been there 13 years and we’ve had snow in spring every year. In the first year there was eight lots of snow in spring."

Jeff Young, of Tuapeka West, with his grandson Freddie (1) ... "I hope I’m still around by 2040. I. Getting heavier lambs before Christmas sounds good in theory, as long as it doesn’t come with other problems, like facial eczema and stuff like that — time will tell."

Kay Kemp, of Green Valley ... "As long as it all goes to plan it would be all right and as long as the schedule stays up before Christmas because once everyone starts getting lambs away before Christmas, that’s when the price will drop and we will still get smitten."