Newborn lambs entering a white world will be at their most vulnerable when more heavy sleet showers and snow flurries arrive this afternoon.
Canterbury farmers are bracing for another burst of miserable weather after yesterday placing livestock in shelter to avoid heavy lamb losses as snow fell to low levels.
As the storm lengthens they are worried new lambs will be unable to handle bitterly cold winds and falling temperatures.
Most of the snow seems to have landed on inland areas, where many of the early lambing properties are found, and Banks Peninsula.
Darfield farmer Neil Stott said wind chill killed lambs and farmers had taken the precaution of putting stock in sheltered paddocks or yards.
He hoped the storm would not extend to the forecast three days as the snow needed to thaw quickly so stock could get to grass. Hay was insufficient to keep a ewe milking for its twins or triplets, he said.
"It's not very pleasant, but we have had plenty of warning to get stock into shelter and that has happened. We have good feed around."
More losses would be likely if the storm had coincided with later lambing on much of the cooler foothill and hill country.
Federated Farmers vice-president William Rolleston said a drawn-out storm could take a toll on stock, but they were in good condition from an easy autumn and farmers were well prepared for the snow.
"We still have three days to go so we are not over the worst of it and it's bitterly cold," said the Blue Cliffs Station farmer. "Another couple of days of this weather will be testing on stock."
Flea Bay farmer Frances Helps remains snowbound with power returned only yesterday morning.
It had been stressful getting feed to 400 ewes shorn last week when low-lying snow thawed and then getting them back into covered yards, he said.
"I can't get up the road and it would be impassable so I haven't bothered to have a look [at the tops]. There would be half a metre of snow I would imagine and drifting deep."
His ewes were six weeks away from lambing and he was trying to get as much "tucker" into them so they remained in good condition, Helps said.
"I would be out of my skull [if we were lambing] and I feel for those guys on the plains and north of Banks Peninsula who are lambing."
Snow has fallen to low levels on the peninsula.
Farmers in the backblocks of the hill country and in the high country who copped the big snows of 1992 and 2006 usually begin lambing in mid-September or later.
Waiau farmer Hamish Roxburgh said his shorn sheep were in shelter with the wethers off the hills and they were being well fed.
"We are not lambing or calving yet, but those guys who are will suffer from the wind chill. Normally with a big snow the wind drops, but at the moment there are some real squalls. For anyone lambing now it will be tough."
Rural Support Trust North Canterbury co-ordinator Barbara McLeod said farmer welfare was good at this stage with no reports of heavy lamb casualties. Dairy farmers were milking yesterday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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