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TheDairySite Newsletter - 08 March 2013

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Friday 8th March 2013.
Michael Priestley - Editor

Michael Priestley

Drought Spreads, Reaching Waikato Region

Weeks of hot, dry weather have led to official drought conditions being declared across the Northland region of New Zealand, extended on Wednesday to include Waikato, New Zealand’s main dairy region.

Feed crops and pastures have been scorched, with soil moisture deficits being so great in parts that consultants are predicting a four week lag between heavy rain and grass growth response.

The situation has prompted calls for investment into water storage facilities to be put in place to capture winter rain for summer use. 

Feed supplementing has been an on-going practice as well as destocking. The main concern for some farmers is cattle getting daily drinking water, leading to some farms drying herds off early.

February’s records show a 15-20 per cent milk yield decrease across many farms on the north island and farmers are becoming anxious in areas still yet to receive official drought recognition.

Federated Farmers of New Zealand (FFNZ) officials have been communicating the drought message for the Manawatu and Rangitikei regions- two areas still to be officially declared as in drought.

Andrew Hoggard, FFNZ Provincial President has said industry organisations and council ministers agree that a drought has hit these areas.

“Bar the formal declaration, The Rural Support Trust, Beef+Lamb NZ, DairyNZ and the regional council pretty much agreed with us that this is drought,” said Mr Hoggard.

“We believe we will be grouped together with other regions for a formal announcement next week. We’ll just have to wait a few days longer for the bureaucracy to do its thing.”

Mr Hoggard stressed that farmers are under extreme pressures and has urged the general public to empathise with their situation.

Farmers are not whingers seeking hand-outs, Mr Hoggard said on the issue of drought payments.

“A Rural Assistance Payment (RAP) is only for farmers who have no income, no savings and literally no means to buy a loaf of bread. Anyone qualifying for one will be on the absolute brink.

“A RAP is the same as the dole so Work and Income tests farm and off-farm income as well as trusts. In January 2011, during the 2010/11 drought, way fewer than 100 farmers in New Zealand got a RAP,” said Mr Hoggard,

The deleterious impact on holdings is causing industry spokesmen to question economic policy in the light of the strength of the NZ$.

Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President has urged investors to be aware of the risk in buying an ‘overvalued’ kiwi dollar.

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