Rain dampens farming outlook

BRIDGET RAILTON
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014

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Persistent rain is having a dampening impact on farming productivity in Southland causing delays for contractors, halting lamb growth and squeezing overdrafts.

MetService data showed that in the past 30 days, there had only been four rain-free days in Invercargill with 147mm falling from December 12 to January 12.

Rural Contractors New Zealand Otago Southland board member Brian Hughes said the persistent rain was having a negative impact on baleage contractors in the area.

A lot of the second cut grass was ready to go, but the wet conditions meant contractors had to wait to lower the risk of grass going mouldy, he said.

The grass was beginning to over mature, resulting in a lower-quality product, he said.

"It could still be used but it loses its quality.

"It's upset a few, not just farmers. We've just got to sit back and wait [for the weather to improve]," he said.

Federated Farmers' Southland provincial president Russell MacPherson said farmers would have to monitor the condition of their stock as the high rainfall impacted on grass quality.

The soft-growing grass had lower nutrient value which in turn affected stock health and lamb weight, he said.

Sheep farmers could be becoming frustrated with low lamb weights as they went to the meat works. "It's just part of normal farming practice. You might have to give animals supplement vitamins and minerals."

Shearers too were being affected by the weather at the peak of the shearing season, Mr MacPherson said.

Agribusiness consultant Deane Carson said farmers he had spoken with were becoming increasingly frustrated with the wet conditions, but the situation was still manageable for most.

Feedback was that lamb growth had "definitely" slowed down due to a lack of high quality feed available, and while it was still manageable, it was putting pressure on farmers' overdrafts, he said.

Meanwhile, the annual NIWA climate summary was released this week saying while 2013 was one of the warmest years on record for New Zealand, the sun did not shine much in Invercargill.

Data shows of the results available, Invercargill had the second lowest recording of sunshine hours with just 1730 recorded, 61 hours less than in 2012.

It was not all cloudy skies for the south, however. Gore was one of 17 locations which recorded its warmest year on record, while Western Southland experienced an anomaly with an annual mean temperature one degree Celsius above normal.

The highest air temperature in the country for 2013, 35.1C, was claimed by Clyde on January 5, 2013, and then repeated in Gisborne on January 9 and 10.

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Lauder, Alexandra and Cromwell were the driest areas, recording 453, 455, and 492mm of rain respectively.

However Alexandra still observed, along with Lumsden and Ranfurly, near record high annual rainfall.

The average temperature for Invercargill was 10.9C, shy of the 13.4C national average.

The annual NIWA Climate Survey is complied by NIWA's leading climate scientists and provides analysis of rainfall, temperature, sunshine hours and wind gusts around the country.

- The Southland Times

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