This is a “Major Drought”…“We are now in unchartered territory”
Farmer’s in eastern parts of the North Island are facing a “major drought”. That’s from Steve Wyn-Harris, a well known farmer in the region, writing a piece for Farmers Weekly. “It has been a month since I flagged our distress in these parts as we grapple with a major drought and sadly there has been little change” he says. That’s because the region is under fire from dry, warm westerly winds that deliver little to no moisture and worse still, remove what little moisture is left. “It has become a serious economic disaster which now has balance sheet implications as well as serious farm profit effects” he writes.
“I’ve had a look back through my farm diaries of all the droughts that I’ve farmed through during the last 25 years and I am in more trouble here at the end of May than I’ve ever been in the past. In all of those other droughts, pastures were recovering by now and we were even starting to restock with cattle” says Mr Wyn-Harris.
He says of the last ten months, only November recorded average rainfall with the rest well below. “The 115mm for this calendar year to the end of May compares to 190mm in the drought of 1998”.
“Even the unpleasant drought of 1982/83 … had a drought breaking rain in May to yield 245mm for those first five months. However this May has had a meagre 3mm of drizzle. So you can see that we are now in unchartered territory”.
Mr Wyn-Harris says it is important in times like these that “farmers keep talking to their families, mates and neighbours as a problem shared is less of a burden”.
This week farmers are about to have a series of drought fieldays where consultants and farmers will share advice and give them the opportunity to share their stresses and concerns with each other.
“We need to get strategies into place quickly to get us through what is going to be a very difficult winter and to avoid this event becoming an issue of animal welfare”.
As farmers struggle to survive, forecasters struggle to find any sort of rainbow. Unfortunately things are looking bleak for the short term future. TRN’s Head Weather Analyst, Philip Duncan, has been looking at weather patterns closely and says although some shower activity may arrive this long weekend, it doesn’t look to be a drought breaker – nor is it likely to stick around. “The problem is we’re getting high after high parking out in the Tasman. Normally at this time of the year they are further north, allowing wet weather to spread up from the South”. But the Highs are not north enough, causing them to block the wet weather, and bring dry, warm westerlies to the east coast of the North Island. “For the next 10 days we’re expecting warm days with mainly west to north west winds and just a 20 to 40% chance of precipitation this Queen’s Birthday weekend”.
So what does June hold? “Overall the anticyclones are starting to shift further north. If this pattern continues into June moisture will have better access to move in to the area – the downside is that southerlies bring cooler weather, which isn’t so good for growing grass”.