Farmers welcome dry July

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 08:54 05/08/2014
Snow Barnett,
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ
DRY JULY: Tuamarina mixed crop farmer Snow Barnett, 84, has been keeping rainfall records from his rain gauge for 50 years.

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Some Marlborough farmers are dipping into their feed stockpiles earlier than usual after the region's driest July in 85 years.

Only 9.9 millimetres of rain fell last month, slowing pasture growth.

However, the unusually dry July brought a welcome respite from June's wild weather. In that month 98.3mm of rain pounded Blenheim, flooding paddocks and taking out stock and fencing.

Dairy and beef farmers said the dry spell hadn't been a bad thing with paddocks starting to recover from the June storms.

Official weather statistics from the Blenheim Meteorological Station located at the Marlborough Research Centre showed the dry weather came with a dip in the mercury.

The average temperature of 7.5 degrees Celsius was 0.4C below the long-term average temperature for the past 28 years.

The cooler temperatures resulted in 17 ground frosts and 10 air frosts during July.

The coldest ground frost was -6.4C on July 3 and the coldest air frost was -2.3C on July 22.

Despite the cooler temperatures, sunshine hours were well above average at 173.6 hours during July.

Ward cattle breeder Dennis Burkhart said the dry weather meant growth was slow and he had been using stockpiled feed.

"In paddocks the growth hasn't been that much. It has been quite disappointing. Walking around the paddocks I would usually get stuck in the mud at this time of year but it has been easy going.

"The last thing we want is feast or famine. If we have the bungee effect of a dry July and then a wet August potentially it could be damaging to a lot of paddocks."

Drier weather was a catch 22 for feeding herds.

"There are different schools of thought. Cows are starting to calve now and we usually try not to have the cows too fat and be in a better condition in the early stages of pregnancy. However, we need good quality feed to get them fat after calving and to keep up milk production."

Tuamarina dairy and sheep farmer Christina Jordan said paddocks were flooded and fences brought down during the wet June. July was a welcome respite, she said.

"The drier weather means there is good feed utilisation because we haven't had any mud to contend with. The ground frosts have been great as they break down the soil and get rid of any bugs."

Tuamarina mixed crop farmer and grape grower Snow Barnett, 84, had kept rainfall records for 50 years.

His son Gary Barnett, said he was happy with a dry July.

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"It is very good because the cattle eat all the hay and the toes of sheep don't get sore from boggy ground. It has given us time to recover from a wet June, it's all about balance."

- The Marlborough Express

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