Meeting of Otago Drought Group

A sheep looks about for grazing on a parched paddock at Hawea Flat.PHOTO: SEAN NUGENT
Drought conditions. PHOTO: SEAN NUGENT
The work of the Otago Drought Group is a great example of farmers and their organisations collaborating to manage climate challenges locally, Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Damien O'Connor says.

The group met again this week to update its discussions on the dry conditions in the Clutha district, how farmers were faring and what actions might be needed.

The group, which included Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead, representatives from Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, the Otago Rural Support Trust and the Ministry for Primary Industries, convened early in any adverse weather event.

"The local industry organisations and Rural Support Trusts working together through the particularly dry conditions in Clutha over the last few months demonstrate how our rural communities work to minimise the impacts of the challenges that the New Zealand climate likes to throw at us," Mr O'Connor said.

The group would meet again at the end of May to assess the situation.

Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies said farmers who took early action were seeing some rewards, and it was important to monitor feed levels in case supplementary feed needed to be brought in.

Those who put down urea were now seeing decent pasture although it was still dry further down in the soil profile.

"Nitrogen will still help but ultimately the weather from here will make or break the winter and that is the one thing we can't control," Mr Davies said.

Federated Farmers remained poised to help connect farmers with grazing and supplementary feed for purchase, particularly if the region was struck by a long, cold winter which could cause issues with spring and lambing.

Meanwhile, MPI encouraged any farmers dealing with dry conditions to enact and stick to plans and feed budgets, book early for any animals identified for slaughter, tap into the knowledge of their industry bodies, and talk to each other and share knowledge.

Any concerns about anyone needing a helping hand should be directed to the local Rural Support Trust.

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