Morale high among North Canterbury farmers after rain at last

Hawarden farmers are hoping for a lush spring.

Hawarden farmers are hoping for a lush spring.

There was an atmosphere of jubilation and relief at a Federated Farmers North Canterbury meeting after rain fell on dry farms.

North Canterbury farmers who have struggled through three years of drought received 80 millimetres to 120mm of rain over the previous week.

Beef+Lamb New Zealand farmer director for Northern South Island Phil Smith, who farms at Culverden, said the rain had made a huge difference to farmer morale.

Lynda Murchison, president of North Canterbury Federated Farmers says everyone got a "good dollop" of rain.

Lynda Murchison, president of North Canterbury Federated Farmers says everyone got a "good dollop" of rain.

"Winter feed has taken off and it's still mild so the grass is growing. It's been a good follow up to the rain we had 10 days ago.

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"Creeks are flowing that haven't seen water in three or four years.

A fodder beet crop on Mendip Hills station, North Canterbury. Farmers are looking forward to their winter crops maturing ...
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A fodder beet crop on Mendip Hills station, North Canterbury. Farmers are looking forward to their winter crops maturing well.

"We deserve three or four wet years now after what we have been through."

North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Doug Archbold said the latest rain was a huge relief to ground moisture deficits on drought-hit farms over at least the short term. 

"We have to qualify that because the financial implications will carry over for some years."

Most farms caught 60-70 millimetres of rain north of Amberley in March and there had been plenty of follow-up rain, allowing farmers to drill thousands of hectares of winter feed, he said.

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Farmers were in positive spirits at a Federated Farmers annual general meeting last Friday.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury chairman Lynda Murchison, who farms in the Weka Pass, said the rain wasn't "a drought-breaker."

 "We aren't completely out of the woods yet," she said.

 "We are back to pasture growth but have a way to go before we get aquifer levels up where they should be and stream flow restored.

 "It's still early enough and warm enough that we will get some good growth out of it. 

"It's the usual story -  as long as it keeps coming with some regularity it will be good for pasture growth. It's regular more than anything else that we need. In terms of recharging the aquifers and really starting to get those streams flowing, we do need more of those big events that bring two or three inches at a time.

Farmers on the coast received more rain because it came from the south-east, but everyone got a "good dollop," Murchison said.

"I haven't heard of anyone missing out."

There was no change of leadership at the annual meeting and Murchison retained her position as president.

The provincial vice-president spot was vacant, she said.

"Looks like I will spend the last five months of my term trying to recruit one."

About seventy-five people turned up for the annual meeting and about 100 went along to enjoy the political debate between New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, Greens MP Eugenie Sage, Labour MP Damian O'Connor and National MP Stuart Smith.

The debate topic was farming in the 2020's and  the role of the family farm.

"I think [after the debate] that every farmer should be reasonably concerned about the lack of farming knowledge amongst our MPs," said Murchison.

"The exception being Damian O'Connor, who showed he had a farming background and had been thinking about the topic.

"A lot of people came up to me after the debate and said he was the only one with his head around the issues of compliance, trade etc. In terms of substance and policy, he was a clear winner.

"However one would have to give the best speaker prize to Winnie of course."

 - Stuff

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