Rain yet to bring farmers any joy

Some parched North Island pastures received good rainfall today, but many farmers are waiting to see if more falls forecast next week arrive before they start celebrating.

In much of the North Island soil moisture levels were at least 50 millimetres below normal at 9am today, with conditions worse than during last summer's severe drought in some places.

The east coast south of Gisborne is better off than elsewhere, with parts of Northland also not so dry.

The rain that fell today brought nearly 18mm of rain to Hamilton, after nearly 30mm in the previous two days. More than 30mm fell by 6pm today in Taupo, while more than 50mm fell in Tauranga on top of 24mm yesterday.

MetService did not record any rain in New Plymouth by 6pm today, but nearly 30mm fell in the Taranaki city yesterday.

Palmerston North received only 4mm in the past three days.

A period of rain is being forecast for central areas of the North Island from the middle of next week, but MetService said it was uncertain how much would fall.

Federated Farmers Waikato dairy chairman Chris Lewis said he received a "very, very useful" 20mm today after 10mm overnight at his farm near Te Awamutu.

If the rain continued he would have some decent grass in a month to six weeks.

He could probably look at feeding stock with it in five to six weeks. At the moment, probably 98 per cent of the food being eaten by his cows was supplement.

For now, his farm was worse than it had been last year.

"There's nothing there," he said.

"My farm has got a bit of rain, and now the brown stuff is rotting down and the green stuff is slowly coming through."

Most summers Waikato had a four to six-week dry period. This year it started earlier and had lasted three to four months, Lewis said.

"The problem with two dry summers is that any profit you thought were going to make is spent on supplements."

Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei president Andrew Hoggard said he received about 8mm of rain today on top of 1mm yesterday at his farm north of Feilding.

Ideally, he needed a fall of about 30mm, followed by another good dumping a few days later.

If some warm rain did not arrive soon, there was a danger farmers would go into winter without an opportunity to grow much new grass cover, Hoggard said.

"In some places it's as bad as last year in terms of soil moisture. In terms of farmer stress it's not as bad."

A good winter and spring had meant farmers had more supplementary feed available when the dry spell hit this summer, compared to the year before. Also it had been harder to buy supplements last year because dry conditions were so widespread.

Another problem last year was that because everyone across the North Island had been trying to get rid of stock at the same time, prices for animals had been low.

"There are still farmers out there who are struggling, but by and large the impression I get is everyone is coping better than last year," Hoggard said.

Conditions have been better in the Bay of Plenty, which was doing better than a year ago, Bay of Plenty Federated Farmers president Rick Powdrell said.

"Even though we haven't had a lot of rainfall, we kept getting rainfall when we needed it," he said.

His farm behind Te Puke had 18.5mm from 7.30am today to mid-afternoon, 24mm in the 24 hours before that, and 13mm the day before.

"In this area of the Bay of Plenty we're still green. We got 51mm out of [Cyclone] Lusi [in mid-March]."