Mountains shadow the rain

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 09:50 27/04/2013

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It is still extremely dry in the Taihape region, says farmer Andrew Peters, with the region in the shadow of the mountains as northerly rain has covered most of New Zealand.

Federated Farmers northern region representative Peters said there have been a few showers, but they have brought only 2mm and 4mm of rain.

He said he had been getting hay from Levin, and it was often raining hard from Hunterville south, but the road remained dry at Taihape.

Peters said many farmers had been forced to sell breeding (capital) stock as the dry conditions kept biting.

"Some have sold all their breeding cows, and half their ewes. It takes a long time to build up numbers again, and it's expensive."

Peters said Taihape was an area of sheep, beef cattle and deer.

He was an optimist, and expected it to be mild through to the shortest day in June.

"A lot of people don't know we are still dry. There aren't the dairy farmers here squealing."

Peters said the showers had brought a green tinge to the region, but there was little growth, and bare patches remained.

He said Taihape and east of the region remained very dry.

When regions such as Marton and Tararua had 125mm of rain, Taihape had 12mm.

He said it was not an area that was usually dry, but they had had six months of weather systems which came from the north, so rain was blocked.

"October, November and December buggered us."

A morale-boosting wet front has broken the back of the drought in much of dry New Zealand, but farmers are still dealing with a feed shortage.

Federated Farmers adverse events spokeswoman Katie Milne said farmers hoped winter could hold off for a few more weeks to maximise pasture growth and ensure there was enough feed until spring.

"In some areas it would appear we have made a seasonal change and we are getting that consistent rain. For some guys this would be the first substantial rain they would have had since pre-Christmas."

She said the drought may be over from the recent downpour but in many ways the hard part - the recovery - had just begun.

"Some areas had a bit too much rain, while others are still a bit dry, but overall, the rain brought by last weekend's subtropical trough was exactly what was needed, with grass growth returning to many areas.

"However, farmers will now be working to recover as much pasture as possible before winter and now hope that frosts do not arrive to stop growth," Milne said.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy is unlikely to lift the official drought status in the North Island and the West Coast before it is due to expire at the end of September.

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He said supplementary feed would be in short supply later this year and it would take time to build up enough grass for winter feeding.

Updated drought information is available at mpi.govt.nz.

- Manawatu Standard

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