North Canterbury farmer's sheep billboards lift spirits
The mood is low in drought-ravaged North Canterbury, so one farmer has recruited his sheep to motivate a struggling community.
Parnassus sheep farmer Mike Bowler has been hit hard by the drought, which has crippled farming operations throughout North Canterbury.
The harsh conditions have scorched his fields, requiring Bowler to drop thousands of dollars of feed each day for his stock.
To vent his frustration, each day he scatters the feed into a different pattern, manipulating his sheep into a giant roadside billboard.
One day it was the shape of a kiwi; other days it has been the names of his grandchildren.
Bowler's most popular design expressed in simple terms what many of his fellow farmers are thinking – "bugger".
His sheep art had been a useful way for dealing with his frustration, he said.
"I feel that if I'm pouring that much money into the ground I might as well get some benefit from it, even if it is just a smile from somebody going along the road."
He does not hang around to see the reaction to his art but has spotted a few drivers slamming the brakes to jump out and take photos.
When Bowler's photo was shared with Agri HQ, a Facebook page for farmers, he received nearly 2000 "likes" and many positive comments.
The drought had been tough, he said. In a usual year, he would go through 10 tonnes of grain; this year, he has already gone through 120 tonnes.
About 10 millimetres of rain fell on Sunday night – the first double digit rainfall since December – but frosts meant it was too late for any recovery.
Bowler planned keep his chin up and let his sheep do the talking.
"If you've got stock, you've gotta feed 'em, simple as that.
"It's definitely hard . . . It's the same old thing every day but we'll get there."