Drought

Droughts can occur almost anywhere. The whole country, apart from the West Coast, is likely to become a little drier over the next few decades if climate change progresses as predicted. Northern and eastern areas of both Islands are already more drought prone, and are likely to become more so.

In any region, not just the drought-prone ones, stocking up in the hope of a wet season with an abundance of feed is asking for trouble. Better to have fewer stock, and if you do end up with a surplus it will provide good insurance for the rest of the season, or can be sold.

Daily rainfall records and regular pasture cover assessments should be part of your routine. Lack of rainfall, low soil moisture, poor pasture growth rates and dwindling feed supplies are all obvious indicators of a longer-than-usual dry spell. Many farmers have their own rules-of-thumb or trigger points when they start to take action. These vary from region to region and farm to farm.

Check long range weather forecasts. Is a La Nina or El Nino expected? Have a look at NIWA's long range weather predictions. Some forecasting companies have seasonal outlooks. If you are getting uncomfortably close to a trigger point, also check the MetService's 16-day forecast. Some regional councils also provide weather information.

Farming through the drought

Read more about management options during the drought:

  • Have a plan in place
  • Take action early
  • Review the plan
  • Set up for next season
  • Ask for help if you need it.

Farming out of the drought

Read more about management options once the drought has broken:

  • Limit the damage to this and future seasons
  • Develop and implement a feed and financial recovery plan
  • Start by growing more grass - slow rotation, nitrogen, regrassing
  • Don't forget young stock
  • Use your farming colleagues, advisors, accountant and banker.

Dry summer management

Contacts:

  • DairyNZ Farmer Information Service: 0800 4 DAIRY NZ (0800 4 324 7969)
  • Rural Support Trust Northland: 0800 778 667
  • Federated Farmers: (for matching feed supply/demand) 0800 DROUGHT (0800 376 844)
  • Farmers of New Zealand: 09 439 5219