|Weather has cut some Hawkes Bay farmers income by a third.|
|Tuesday, 05 February 2013 07:45|
Federated Farmers say dry weather on the east coast of both islands has cut some sheep and beef farmers' incomes by up to a third, .
Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills, of Hawke's Bay, said the region was still about a month away from possibly declaring a drought but some farms were getting exceedingly dry, especially those south of Hastings.
A few showers were forecast, but a long-term easterly change with a few days of steady rain would be needed to turn the dry conditions around, he said.
However, these were the usual prayers of an east coast farmer, returning after a few years of more hospitable weather, he said.
"The east coast has been spoilt for the last two years.
"Especially when you talk to the old-timers up here, they say it's the east coast, it always gets hot and dry in summer."
The meat works were running ahead of the past few years as farmers sold surplus lambs and stock, he said.
Higher commodity prices and a ballooning dollar combined with the hotter weather to cut many sheep and beef farmers' incomes by at least a third, he said.
The number of lambs killed in the North Island has jumped 21 per cent on last year, according to Agrifax.
Because of that, less money was likely to filter through the farming community this year, he said.
"So the economy's going to feel this, right through to the cities."
Canterbury foothills farmer and Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairwoman Jeanette Maxwell said pastures to the north of the region and northern Otago were very brown and dry.
It was an El Nino year - "a proper summer" - which had not been seen for a few years, she said.
Temperatures hitting the high 20s and early-30 degrees Celsius day after day and little rain meant less grass and the need to sell off surplus stock, she said. After two mild summers that enabled farmers to fatten all stock before selling them to the meat works, the dry weather meant a pay cut of about 35 per cent, she said. But it followed two years of high revenue for most sheep and cattle farmers.
The average price for lamb had fallen because of the dismal overseas market, the resulting much lower price offered by meat processors, and the rise in stock being sold.
Hawke's Bay is not as bad as the 2007 drought, but is not far off it, and yesterday's rain barely registered.
Stratton Giblin, a sheep and beef farmer 12 kilometres east of Waipukurau, said the situation was "pretty diabolical".
"We need a week of easterlies and gentle rain where you get four or five inches. Then you'd need a follow-up [of rain] too a couple of weeks later to get the grass pumping. We've had bugger-all rain since October."
He had sent 170 cows and 800 ewes away for grazing.
"I've sold 300 ewes in the ewe fair back in January. Now I'm contemplating whether to sell my 15 month steers."
The drought wasn't as bad as 2007, but not far off.
"The stock are still in good order, it's still early in the year, but with the 2007 drought it didn't rain until early June.
"You need luck farming, you need grass and you need rain."
David Hunt, a Central Hawke's Bay dairy and bull beef farmer, said yesterday's rain had not even wet the ground, and would not have registered in the rain gauges on his farms. His dairy farm had had about 60ml of rain since mid-August and he had been one of the lucky ones.
"The difference this year is that the dry started so early. The problem is we're having a normal Hawke's Bay summer after an excessively dry spring. It's becoming extremely concerning."
He had killed all the stock he could, and selling other stock that still needed fattening on the store market was becoming "almost impossible", as most of the North Island was suffering the same dry conditions.
"It really doesn't matter what you're willing to sell your stock for, there's really no buyers out there.
"If we get good rain this month, we'll probably wipe our brows and say, ‘OK we got there', but if it doesn't rain till April or May then it will be a complete disaster."