Survey of farmers shows most coping

A survey of North Canterbury’s drought-stricken farmers has found most are coping well.

The North Canterbury Rural Support Trust conducted a telephone survey of more than 500 farmers to gauge how communities were coping as well as raising awareness of industry and government support.

Blistering heat and windy summer weather created dry conditions and when significant rainfall finally came in May and June, pasture just turned green without recharging groundwater.

This has left many respondents nervous about the prospect of a heavy dumping of snow and scarce feed supplies.

Significant July rains meant some ponds were filling, but more rain was needed to ensure a full recharge of the soil profile to enable spring growth.

Lessons had been learnt from past droughts, with farming systems now more aligned to the area’s climate, decisions to destock were made early and many had good feed supplies stored away which were now being fed out.

But the survey found that even well-organised feed planners would be tight for feed come the spring.

Most respondents were aware of DairyNZ’s and Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s free feed budgeting service, but few used it, with most backing their own systems. A national feed platform was suggested for future droughts.

Those with irrigation reported much healthier feed levels, leaving some to wonder whether water storage had been a lost opportunity.

Farmers rated stock condition from below average to above average, but early ewe-scanning results appeared to be lower than normal.

Farmers overall had been exposed to droughts and earthquakes in recent years and there was a strong awareness to keep an eye out for family, friends and neighbours.

"The rural community coped well during the lockdown, with many enjoying the extra family time and others found the relationships with staff improved during this period," the North Canterbury Rural Support Trust said.

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