Farm feed short in dry July

JANINE RANKIN, JILL GALLOWAY AND KELSEY WILKIE
Last updated 08:02 31/07/2014
dairy cow
DRY TIME: The dry conditions have farmers hoping for a week of rain.

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It has been a dry July for Palmerston North, with MetService recording what could be the lowest rainfall for the month since 1993.

Only 19 millimetres of rainfall had been recorded this month, MetService meteorologist John Law said yesterday.

"It's obviously a very dry one [but] it's not the driest."

The driest July was in 1993, with 11mm of rainfall recorded, whereas the average for this time of year in Palmerston North was 80mm, Law said. In July last year, Palmerston North had 54mm of rain.

Aokautere farmer Russell Lyon said the dry conditions had farmers hoping for a week of rain.

And Tom Martin said the lack of rain was limiting grass growth, so "if you have some hay, I'd like to know".

Waituna West sheep and beef farmer Craig Hogan said the dry July had not been a bad thing.

"A lot of people are just starting lambing. It can be quite cold and nasty this time of year [but] it's quite pleasant this time."

He said that in the past few years the seasons had been delayed and he expected the weather to turn next month.

"Unfortunately, it means we'll probably get snapped in the middle of lambing.

"If we get snow during lambing, you can lose quite a lot of lambs," Hogan said.

Law said a lack of westerlies was the cause of the dry spell.

"We've had an awful lot of southerlies and northerlies as well.

"We've been dominated by those, rather than westerlies."

Things were set to change this weekend, with a northwesterly moving in and bringing cloud and rain, Law said, but this would still not be enough to take the rainfall up to average levels.

Palmerston North's water stores have fallen over the past three weeks, since the Turitea dam stopped spilling on July 8.

City council water asset engineer Dora Luo said it was rare for the dam level to start dropping in the middle of winter but, with rain forecast, water restrictions were not being considered.

"The demand is not very high, even though it has been dry, as the outdoor demand is very low due to the low temperatures and low evaporation."

Restrictions to manage non-essential water consumption had never been needed in winter.

The hydro plant at the dam has been operating on an intelligent programme that responds to water treatment plant demand.

Only one or two of the four turbines are in use most of the time once the dam stops spilling, and there had been no need to switch its operation to water-saving mode yet.

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- Manawatu Standard

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