Otago News & Events

Drought Support - Tips and Resources
Katrina Thomas

Drought Support - Tips and Resources

Managing through the Dry Spell

Information coordinated and supplied by Environment Southland - March 2023

The situation

While some areas of the lower South have received some rainfall during late summer and early Autumn, there are areas throughout the Southland region and South Otago where there has been very little rainfall at all.

Looking ahead, the MetService long-range forecast is predicting near normal monthly rainfall totals for Southland in March, with drier than normal rainfall over the April and May period.

For some, showers and thunderstorms have alleviated growing concerns in some places, but significantly dry areas in isolated pockets are faring much worse than others.

Sporadic downfalls, even heavy rain, has not reached the underground aquifers that supply many water supplies.

South Otago is going through some extremely dry conditions at the moment, which is compounding other business and operating challenges. With more rain forecast, conditions are expected to improve slowly.

In the dry areas, reduced pasture cover, stock water shortages, low body condition scores, and disease concerns are only some of the factors weighing on peoples’ minds.

Now is the time to check in with your support team - whoever it may be. Family, friends, neighbours, technical reps, bank manager or farm consultant. A plan is a great way to reduce stress and overcome challenges.

Dry Watch Rural Support Groups in Southland and Otago have been convened by regional councils, MPI, and the Rural Support Trusts. These meet regularly to monitor the situation and share information and advice for people in affected areas of the region.

Key tips

  • Make small decisions regularly - make a decision every week it doesn’t rain, seek advice, talk with others.
  • The forecast is for a continued mix of rain and dry spells, but the temperatures are expected to be normal or above normal. Soil and air temperatures mean the growing season is likely to last a bit longer than usual. Take advantage of this.
  • Try not to let this year’s issues reduce the potential production for next year - it’s a long game.
  • Keep on top of feed budgets through to the end of May and keep reviewing your plan
  • Drying off poor performing or at risk younger cows may be an efficient prioritisation of feed and should be a consideration as part of your plan
  • Focus on Body Condition Score management
  • Use variable milking options
  • Keep track of pests as part of your winter crop management
  • Focus on young stock management, work with your processor for a planned exit of culled stock
  • Contact anyone in the local Southland / South Otago DairyNZ team to talk through your plan or for help with feed budgeting - Regional Teams - DairyNZ

Top planning and actions to take now:

Sheep, beef and crops

  • Determine feed requirements through Body Condition Scores or weighing ewes and hoggets.
    • With mating 3-6 weeks away, lifting ewes or hoggets to mating weights will likely be the most economic use of feed. Lifting the lightest ewes is the priority.
    • For some farms that will mean dropping kill weights of lambs and maybe selling some stores.
  • Where there is reduced pasture cover, know your feed budget. There is plenty of the season left to fix shortages that come from recovering ewe weights.
  • Fly strike appears to be the worst seen in many years - so monitor mobs regularly and consider avoiding fly prone areas. Shade is important on hot days, but some shady gullies can be problematic because of flies.
  • Extra dagging of sheep and lambs may help in some situations.
    • Many fly problems have been green fly - which strikes more randomly.
  • Crops are still being hit by aphids. Weekly checks for aphids are important even through March and April. Some farmers may need to spray crops a second time.
  • Recent rains may have alleviated some stock water shortages for the time being but regularly check the situation.

Dairy

  • Keep on top of feed budgets through to the end of May and keep reviewing your plan
  • Drying off poor performing or at risk younger cows may be an efficient prioritisation of feed and should be a consideration as part of your plan
  • Focus on Body Condition Score management
  • Use variable milking options
  • Keep track of pests as part of your winter crop management
  • Focus on young stock management, work with your processor for a planned exit of culled stock
  • Contact anyone in the local Southland / South Otago DairyNZ team to talk through your plan or for help with feed budgeting - Regional Teams - DairyNZ

There’s lots of people to talk to and some great events/shouts coming up where you can have a chat over a bite to eat and cold drink - have a look through the list below:

Beef + Lamb NZ/ DairyNZ /Federated Farmers Drought Shouts
 
24th March 2023, 5-9pm
At Tokonui, Clinton, Clydevale, Lawrence, Owaka, Heriot and Milton
Keep an eye on the B+LNZ Facebook page for more details.
Southland Rural Support Trust with Emergency Management Southland Community BBQ


 
Sunday 26th March (12-2pm) - Mossburn – Community Centre

Wednesday 29th March (5-7pm) - Wyndham – Memorial Hall
Monday 3rd April (5-7pm) - Riversdale – Community Centre

DairyNZ MilkSmart

Meeting the Environmental Future

Doing business by the numbers
 
24th March 2023 - Gore

28th March 2023 – Balclutha
29th March 2023 - Gore

4th May 2023 - Gore

Beef + Lamb NZ

30th March 2022 – Riding the farming wave On farm field day Nigel and Linda Gilkison Castle Rock. Details and to register B+LNZ Riding the Farming Wave Field Day | Beef + Lamb New Zealand (beeflambnz.com)

Useful links and resources

NIWA

Environment Southland

Otago Regional Council

Rural Support Trust

Beef + Lamb NZ

DairyNZ

Farmstrong

Federated Farmers

MPI

 

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