The NIWA drought index measures dry conditions across the country. Their hotspot watch helps identify areas that are getting dry each week.
Like all adverse events, a drought is classified as either localised, medium-scale or large-scale.
What farmers need to do now
Don’t hold out for rain as a reason to delay any decisions you need to make. Make plans and decisions in light of current conditions and warm temperatures driving high evapotranspiration. It will take significant rainfall to slow down or reverse the dry conditions.
That it is so dry so early in the season may further limit your options, or create uncertainty, such as decisions on which animals to sell or cull.
In many locations stock feed in the form of hay and silage is lower than normal due to the wet winter and spring. You need to understand your local situation and factor these delays in your planning.
Tips from farmers who have managed their way through past dry spells:
- Review the technical information from your industry bodies on managing in dry weather.
- Do a feed budget.
- Make a plan and set trigger points to make decisions or take action: Dates, stock condition, feed availability; Once a day milking, drying off, culling early. Ensure relevant contract partners agree with the plan. When those points or times hit, enact your plan.
- Keep an eye on climate predictions and soil moisture levels, especially on your own farm as it can vary from your neighbours’. (NIWA is useful).
- Use water efficiently and plan for water restrictions. Check irrigation consents for any triggers that will require you to make changes to usage.
- Ensure bores are well maintained and make contingency plans in case supply fails.
- Look after your animals and regularly check their condition.
- Make decisions for slaughter well in advance and book space in time (since killing space may be in high demand in your area)
- Be vigilant on very hot days. Animals cannot be left for much time with no shade or access to water.
- Be aware of increased risk of fire and take precautions
- Talk to your bank, accountants and other advisors, seek their advice, and ask for help if you need it.
- Your Rural Support Trust is here to help. If you need to get pointed in the right direction for advice or information, are concerned about a friend, a neighbour, a worker…. or just need a private chat, their services are free & confidential. Call 0800 RURAL HELP (0800 787 254) or visit www.rural-support.org.nz.
3. MPI, DairyNZ and B+L NZ also have good information for getting through droughts and dry weather.
This document will give you some tips and tricks for mitigating the dry hot summer conditions.