Ita's tail was a blessing for farmers

Last updated 05:00 21/04/2014
Wild weather, Waihi
Peter Drury/Fairfax MZ

A sea wall at Waihi is battered by the surf as Cyclone Ita's tail strikes New Zealand.

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Waikato was mopping up yesterday after Cyclone Ita's tail battered the region but the heavy rain came as welcome relief for farmers struggling with drought-like conditions.

Farmers hailed the deluge and New Zealand Federated Farmers provincial president James Houghton said it was just what the doctor ordered.

"We've had in the vicinity of 45mm in the last 36 hours to top up the 20mm we had a few days earlier so it is definitely the light at the end of the tunnel," said Houghton.

The continued warm weather would help grass production and paddocks had greened and started to grow again after a treatment of effluent.

"It is going to take a good two or three weeks to get sufficient build-up so we can reduce some of the supplements," he said.

Paddocks that were too dry ran the risk of water run-off but Houghton said the April rains had saturated the soil and, while he needed more, he said it was the "beginning of the end".

"Sometimes we can get a lot of rain and it can all run off but from what I've experienced in the rain that we've received it's been good productive rain."

Ohinewai dairy farmer Neil Bateup saw 38mm of rain land on his paddocks and while it was a good start, he hoped for another 20mm for best results .

"If we can get a follow-up of even some small lots over the next few days, that really does make a difference."

He said farmers had been in need of decent rain for "a long, long time" but coverage was patchy and some areas of the Waikato stood a better chance than others.

"Those that got a good rain last week, this rain will really kick them along. The areas that were still dry, this will get them going."

He said dairy farmers were buffered by solid milk prices but drystock farmers would have a harder time with the dryness.

"Some of those drystock farmers, it has been pretty hard on them."

Bateup is the chair of the Rural Support Trust and said farmers wouldn't see the benefit of the rains for weeks but it removed a level of uncertainty.

"We have seen feed supplies dropping off and we've not known where the end point is and where we will start growing again," he said.

"There is still a deficit to feed for a while but if we know how long that deficit is and know how much weight we have to put on cows for next season, we can actually start doing those budgets and work out a plan."

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- Waikato Times


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