Snow bad news for sheep farmers

CHILLY TIME: The snow storm in Invercargill has blanketed farms in the area making life hard for newborn lambs.
ROBYN EDIE/Southland Times
CHILLY TIME: The snow storm in Invercargill has blanketed farms in the area making life hard for newborn lambs.

Southland sheep farmers expect many lambs to die in heavy snow that "couldn't have come at a worse time".

Heavy snow has blanketed coastal Southland since Friday - at the peak of lambing season.

Federated Farmers president and Southland sheep farmer Don Nicolson said in all his life in the area he had only seen one other snow event like this, and that was in the middle of the 1996 winter.

"This couldn't have come at a worse time for farmers. I have never had conditions in the middle of lambing quite like this. Snow isn't normal for Southland as most people think - we don't have penguins running up our main streets."

The best option was to leave the animals to their own devices as interfering could separate lambs from ewes, Mr Nicolson said.

"The biggest problem we have got is still having snow on the paddocks. Lambs are awkward to shift and the best outcome will be a rapid thaw."

Mr Nicolson guessed that about 300 sheep farmers and 300 dairy farmers would be affected.

The weather was having a "fairly big impact on lambing", with losses expected if it continued, as forecast, throughout the week, Southland Federated Farmers president Ron Pemberton said.

"The feed's pretty short because the snow has frozen. She's not a good situation, actually."

Farmers were helpless in the face of the freezing weather, Mr Pemberton said.

"How do you prepare for something like this? All you can do is watch it come. You start moving sheep when they're lambing and you get into smothering and lambs dying."

Sheep farmer Hugh Collie has more than 4000 ewes on Clinton-Mataura road, near Gore.

"Some of the locals are saying this is the worst we have had at this time of year and we expect lamb deaths," Mr Collie said.

Mr Collie could not say how many lambs had died so far and he would not know until he checked on them in the next few days.

NZPA