Adverse Events: Heavy Snow

While New Zealand's climate is usually temperate there have been regular cases of heavy snowfall where a thick blanket of snow can knock out power, landlines and cell phone towers and block roads. 

This page contains information and advice on dealing with heavy snow conditions.


In some areas electricity and phone services may take weeks to restore after heavy snow. With no pumps and frozen pipes, fresh water for stock and households can be at a premium. Stock losses and the loss of stock condition can be significant.

Bouts of heavy snow are hard physically and emotionally on farming families and staff as they worked in freezing conditions.

Previous experiences of heavy snow in New Zealand highlighted the immense insurance value of having:

  • Surplus feed on hand
  • Large standby generators
  • Alternative means of cooking and heating for households.

Daily diary notes will be a very useful record for insurance, applying for assistance, and future weatherproofing of your business.

Find out more about dealing with heavy snow conditions:

  1. Immediate actions
  2. Next priorities
  3. Develop a flexible feed plan
  4. Monitor stock health

See also:

Immediate actions:

  • Ensure the safety of family and staff
  • Move stock to safety, shelter and water - preferably lighter land or a stand-off area.  Break ice on troughs
  • Make sure stock can't wonder.  Don't rely on mains powered electric fences
  • Check power and phones.  Report outages if possible.  Check neighbours - is it just your power/phone?
  • Check dogs, poultry and pets
  • Are neighbours okay, or can they help you?
  • Use generators if available to keep pumps, electric fences and essential household appliances running.  Source generators if you don't have them.
  • Monitor the local radio for news and information.

Next priorities:

  • Move stock to a stand-off or sacrifice area if they are not already on one.  Ensure they have enough space to lie down - at least 3.5 sq.m per cow if on woodchip, sand or concrete for up to two days; at least 5 sq. m on woodchip or sand for more than two days; and 8 sq.m if on crops or sacrifice paddock.
  • Feed stock.  They will be hungry and will eat whatever is put in front of them, so take great care when introducing different feeds .
  • Ensure stock have access to ample clean water.
  • Separate out any small, weak, sick, lame animals and put them in a separate mob for special attention.
  • Check and clear driveways and access tracks.  Report road and tanker track access problems to council and/or dairy company if appropriate.
    Look after family and staff, check neighbours.  Accept help if you need it and give it where you can.  Communication is critical.
  • Milk any lactating cows if you can, but note that you may choose to delay milking or milk once-a-day to allow you time for other priorities.   Monitor SCCs, watch for mastitis and keep in touch with the dairy company as necessary.
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DairyNZ Farmer Information Service:

0800 4 DAIRYNZ or
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