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No rain, but a perfect Storm

No rain, but a perfect Storm

Southland farmers are reeling from the combined impacts of COVID-19 and a long dry period

Photo: Coffee on Us in Fairfax, Southland - Wednesday 30 March 2022

Southland Rural Support Trust (SRST) and industry groups have been meeting weekly since February 2022 to monitor effects of both COVID-19 and the continued lack of rainfall.

Environment Southland reports some rivers are very low for this time of year, and many groundwater monitoring sites are at their lowest on record for this time of year. Decreasing river levels mean many water consents have or are close to reaching their cut off limits.

Grass and supplementary feed growth has been seriously impacted.

“It’s shaping up to be the perfect storm,” says Cathie Cotter, chair of the SRST. “The ability for farmers to manage the current dry conditions is being seriously hampered by staff shortages created by community COVID-19 in both the rural servicing industry and the processing companies. Pasture growth and pasture covers are well below average levels and many farmers are already digging into their winter feed supplies to keep stock fed while we wait for the rain,” she said.

The growing incidence of COVID-19 in the community means processing companies are impacted both by staffing shortages, and the real possibility of water consents reaching cutoff. Reduced throughput at meat works has meant farmers are forced to hold stock on farm with reducing options to feed them.

NIWA’s climate outlook for March-May is for rainfall to be near normal (40% chance) or above normal (35% chance). Temperatures are likely to be above average (65% chance). Soil moisture levels and river flows are most likely to be near normal (45% chance).  “However, we are running out of growing time before winter,” said Mrs Cotter.

The SRST is holding a series of free Coffee on Us events in a selection of the worst affected dry areas from Wyndham to Western Southland and Te Anau over the next two weeks to enable farmers to get off farm, socialise, and share their concerns with others. Southland Catchment groups are also planning social events in the worst affected areas.

For more details on the Coffee on Us events, refer to the events section on the front page or go to the Southland Rural Support Trust Facebook Page 

Farmers struggling to cope with these challenges are encouraged to contact the SRST on 0800 787 254 (RURAL HELP) or email southland.rst@gmail.com

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