Rain brings happiness with a big side of sympathy

Banks Peninsula farmer Hamish Craw was pleased to finally receive some rain, but feels for Mid...
Banks Peninsula farmer Hamish Craw was pleased to finally receive some rain, but feels for Mid Canterbury farmers who copped the worst of the recent rain event. Support from Mid Canterbury barley growers has helped to keep him afloat during the drought.PHOTO: ANNABEL CRAW
Banks Peninsula farmer Hamish Craw could hardly contain his excitement after the recent rain.

After nearly 18 months of drought conditions, the Craw family’s 426ha Little Akaloa farm received 130ml of rain over three days last week, providing a good first step in the farm’s recovery.

"I don’t like being happy when other farmers are distraught. You do feel a bit guilty, but the rain certainly has helped us. We were basically really dry and not getting any growth at all, so we were standing still in terms of past covers.

"If we get a half-normal season, we should get a bit of winter growth and [it will] set us up for spring if we get some follow-up rain. It’s going to be a long road to recovery, but at least we are now on the road."

The prime concern was winter feed as Mr Craw and wife Annabel have been feeding out supplementary feed since February.

Last year’s dry autumn and winter led to them unloading stock in October, selling stock and sending some away grazing, he said.

"We are doing our feed budgeting and updating every 10 days and making sure we are on track, but it’s still going to be a challenging two to three months."

The flooding event was going to have some big implications going forward as, like many drought-stricken farmers, the Craws were looking to Mid Canterbury for supplementary feed and grazing options.

"We were looking to get feed off the Canterbury plains, but they will obviously have big demands now and challenges of their own, so that will make it difficult to get supplements and it could get costly."

The soils were still "quite warm" and the coastal sea breezes meant the farm received few frosts, making some winter growth possible.

Scanning was due to happen next week, ahead of lambing in mid-August.

"Hopefully we are on track. The ewes are still in reasonable condition, but you never know what winter is going to throw at us," Mr Craw said.

All going well, Mr Craw hoped the farm could get back on track with consistent rain to return to feed surpluses in October which would allow for restocking.

The Craws normally farmed nine stock units of composite (Romney and Texel) sheep and Angus cattle per hectare on their rolling hill country farm, but the drought conditions meant they were now running 55% of their usual annual stock numbers.

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