Home' Central Canterbury News : May 8th 2013 Contents 10 May, 2013
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Drought's been tough but future
Looking back: The green pastures of last year are but a distant memory and
farmers are doing what they can to feed their stock.
The drought has hit farmers hard, particularly in the north. But they're a
resilient bunch, farmers. They have to be. Like eastern Taranaki sheep and
beef farmer Graham Fergus. No time to dwell on the effects of this year's
drought. Already he's looking to next year. Sue O'Dowd reports.
The combined effects of this year s
drought and the strong New
Zealand dollar are likely to cost
Taranaki hillcountry farmer
Graham Fergus more than
He illustrates the likely loss by
explaining that the sale of his
4200 lambs from his properties at
Douglas and Tahora, east of
Stratford, for an average of $40
less than last season means a fall
in income of more than $160,000.
Then there s his 35,000kg wool
clip which has halved in value to
$100,000 and a drop of about 50
cents a kilogram in beef prices
since last season.
For a lot of farmers, that sort of
money is the difference between
putting on fertiliser and not
putting it on, so the effects are
Nevertheless, he s optimistic
about the prospects for next
Farmers tend to look forward,
he said. If we dwell on what s
happening today, we won t be very
happy. You have to move on and
control what you can control.
Fergus says eastern Taranaki
becomes progressively drier the
further east you go.
That view is backed by
Taranaki Regional Council figures
showing rainfall of 258mm at the
Pohokura Saddle for the year to
date, slightly below half of last
year s total of 518mm.
Monthly figures are 68mm
(129.5mm) in January, 75mm
(148mm) in February, and
93.5mm in March, (184mm).
Next week s going to be wet,
Fergus said as he pointed out
rainfall had been low since
He described this season as
tricky because he was always
waiting for next week s rain
which never arrived.
So you re not confident about
chewing the paddocks out in case
you don t get the regrowth.
With a 0.8 degree Celsius frost
a few days ago he s now worried
frosts will suck from the soil what
little moisture remains and that
it ll become too cold for anything
With excessive wet weather or
frosts things are not going to be
too fancy, he says.
Then the trouble will really
start because people won t have
In autumn we usually have a
bank of grass but not this year,
especially on the hills. So every
blade of grass is precious.
Usually we can put a mob of
sheep in a paddock and they ll be
happy in there for a few days. But
if we do that now, we re likely to
have to move them the next day.
It looks green, but there s no bulk.
This time last year the grass cover
was great, he said.
He bought the farm nine years
ago and has since added a
neighbouring property. At an
altitude of 170m, it features
rolling hills, steep hills and flats
So when we have frosts,
growth on the flats slows up.
Forage crops can be planted on
about 120ha. Four hectares of new
grass will soon replace the pasja
brassica crop his lambs have been
eating since November.
He expected to be now grazing
10ha of plantain planted in mid-
Instead it lies idle.
Last month he cut hay on two
paddocks shut up to protect the
Now it s nice and green, but if
I d cut it earlier it would have
been burnt and brown."
He s planted 2.3ha of turnips
and will soon plant another 1.5ha
for grazing in July. One hectare of turnips can feed 30 cattle for a
He runs 200 cattle, including 18
rising 3-year-old bulls, and 49
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