Lay of the land: October 11

Forecasters are warning an El Nino weather pattern is likely to bring a hot summer to the South this year. Shawn McAvinue asks farmers at the Mt Benger Spring Cattle Sale in the Teviot Valley how they are preparing for the increased risk for abnormally dry conditions. 

Steve Blakely, of the Maniototo ...  "You have to react quickly if it dries out. You can’t hang around hoping. You need to know when it is time to act and sell store lambs or not buy as many cattle at the next sale — these are all trading cattle for us, so it gives you a bit of flexibility. We are in a dry area so our pastures are built for the conditions including lucerne and cocksfoot and we have a summer turnip crop, but if it doesn’t rain or if it isn’t under irrigation, then you don’t get much of a yield."

Jimmy Hill, of Teviot ... "I’m looking at storing lambs and I’ve put in some more irrigation." 

Roger McKenzie, of Millers Flat ... "I’m making sure the pub has plenty of beer. I’m growing chicory and red clover to get us through fattening lambs. We are in a fairly dry area normally anyway so we are a little bit cautious so knowing not to have a whole heap of stock on is probably a wise move."

Gray Pannett, of Millers Flat ... "I don’t think it will be that much different here. El Nino has been reasonably kind in the past but we do plant more crops. We need some insurance, no matter what year it is. In Central Otago, there’s no guarantees." 

Doug McCorkindale, of Ettrick ... "For the last couple of years we have been growing drought-resistant crops to build a bank of feed early so we can get more weight on our stores, which gives us some flexibility to hold on to them a bit longer. If it is drier than usual, we may have to sell store lambs, rather than finish them. Rain usually falls somewhere so you can sell store stock but if everyone is dry, then it is a disaster."

Stu Bain, of Millers Flat ...  "I’m fattening beef on grass and I’ll take a bit more notice of what stock we’ve got on and not stock up quite as much. You can always top up when the chips are down."

Matt Pringle, of Roxburgh ...  "I just wake up in the morning and whatever is coming over the hill, is coming over the hill. I’m not 100% sure if I believe it [the forecast] or not. I’ve lost a bit of faith in the weather forecasters and scientists predicting that sort of thing. El Nino doesn’t make any difference to me. I’ve got irrigation — around here, you’ve got to — so my real issues is the cold in autumn and spring. That’s when I adjust things a wee bit. "

David Allan, of Alexandra ... "We are lightly stocking on a little block east of Roxburgh for an absentee owner and — we are only putting a few on to clean up some corners."