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The heat goes on to be prepared for the summer

Although Wairarapa farmers are no strangers to coping with hot, dry summers, they’re being advised to implement early decision-making and management strategies now in an effort to protect the performance of their capital stock in the face of forecast El Nino-driven weather patterns creeping closer to the country.

Federated Farmers president David Hayes told the Times-Age that although farmers have experienced a sudden change from extremely wet to very dry conditions in the past few weeks, he believes they are resilient and familiar with dealing with dry summers.

“Many farmers have already started forward planning by reducing stock numbers and applying fertiliser,” Hayes said.

“The dry summer has started, but of course we can’t know for sure what the next six months will bring.”

Beef and Lamb New Zealand senior biosecurity and animal welfare advisor Will Halliday encourages farmers to create a plan for the upcoming spring and summer that “could include key trigger dates and levers that can be pulled”.

Halliday said farmers should ensure that they are protecting the performance of their capital stock through early weaning or deciding to draft lambs to slightly lighter weights.

“After weaning, the focus should be maintaining or lifting the body condition of breeding ewes.

“You want to be able to put any bad years behind you as quickly as possible, and the impacts of compromising ewe performance this season could linger into next year’s lamb crop,” Halliday said.

The effects from this year’s extreme weather events – Cyclone Gabrielle in particular – combined with poor prices for meat, milk, and wool have already taken a big bite out of farmers’ wallets, and Hayes noted that adding a dry summer into the mix will further impact their financial wellbeing, mentioning less fertiliser use as an example.

“We need to see Greater Wellington Regional Council have Wairarapa water resilience strategy as a priority that’s progressed with some urgency,” Hayes said.

“Summers will be longer and dryer with more extremes. We have no time to wait as climate change is happening, and water is a tremendous but precious resource here in Wairarapa.”

To find out more info on how to manage farming during a drought, visit www.beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/adverse-events/drought-resources

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