No rain, pandemic a ‘perfect storm’

Ginger Crunch caravan owner Claire Burgess and Dipton sheep farmer Lyndon Prebble in Dipton during the Brunch on Us Campaign in October last year.

SOUTHLAND farmers are reeling from the combined impacts of Covid-19 and a long, dry period.

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

Environment Southland was reporting some rivers were 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.

Southland Rural Support Trust chairwoman Cathie Cotter said it was “shaping up to be the
perfect storm”.

“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) but 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,” Mrs Cotter said.

The SRST is holding a series of free ‘Coffee on Us events’ in the worst affected dry areas
from Wyndham to Western Southland and Te Anau during 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, go to the Southland Rural Support Trust
Facebook page or

■ Farmers struggling to cope with these challenges are encouraged to contact the SRST
on 0800 787 254 (RURAL HELP) or email