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Drought creates feed shortage for winter

The drought hitting Northland farmers could not get much more serious, says Federated Farmers Far North, Whangarei and Kaipara Districts president Denis Anderson.

“The drought’s gone on far too long and right now we’re looking at the situation where there’s no real feed on farms and winter’s only two months away,” Anderson said.

“At the best we’re going to start growing grass as soon as we get rain and we’re still going to be reasonably short going into winter.”

Farmers needed to revise budgets to ensure they had sufficient feed.

“But just how much they need will depend very much on whether we get substantial rain in the next week,” he said. “If we don’t every week is a week closer to winter and things become more difficult.”

Anderson’s dairy farm near Whangarei had had a couple of good rain falls “which made quite a bit of a difference to our situation but other farmers have missed out on that”.

Niwa agricultural climatologist Alan Porteous said the really dry areas were centred around northern and southern Northland, but it was also very dry through Auckland and into northern Waikato. says that yesterday very heavy downpours brought significant relief to some King Country and South Waikato farms as thunderstorms moved through the area.

The next 10 days look mostly dry over the north however weather analyst Philip Duncan says the weather patterns are showing signs of shifting to wetter weather.



Ken Ring on 7/04/2010 2:08pm

What weather patterns are showing signs of shifting to wetter weather, Philip?

WW Forecast Team on 7/04/2010 8:17pm

We are starting to see more low pressure systems forming around the country – not over NZ yetr unfortunately but hopefully in the near future these lows will drift over land more often.

– Phil

Ken Ring on 8/04/2010 7:11am

Serious question and no disrespect intended, I am interested in how you can see lows forming 10 days ahead, because that is the current wish of Northland farmers. Even MetVUW only go 8-days ahead. There are no current weather models that I know of that show lows affecting northern NZ 10 days ahead. To my way of thinking that would almost constitute longrange forecasting, which Metservice deny they can do. Satellites can only see rain that is already on the radar, and the radar does not extend 10 days in projection.
My reason for asking is not to pull you down, because I like the work you do, but because of my surprise when I read what you said, as my prediction is for little or no rain for the far north before the 20th, which is two weeks away, and what arrives from perigeal first quarter northerlies is still unlikely to be the main drought-breaker. I am concerned that Northland farmers could get the wrong message from your comments, and hold on fruitlessly for rain they think is coming, which would cost them more in dry feed than drying cows off earlier. Giving false hope can be just as much a disservice as failing to warn.

WW Forecast Team on 8/04/2010 7:36am

Hi Ken, fair question.

You’re right, the long range weather charts don’t go more than 8 days out but our forecasts aren’t based on them.  It’s based on data provided to us by the Weather Channel which we have found over and over again as one of the most accuracte sources for predicting rain or showers.  We fully believe that the data they provide WeatherWatch with makes a big difference to our forecasts as it gives us a fairly accurate understanding as to how much rain will fall.  Other forecasters in NZ are quick to blanket a day with "Rain" but we tend to say "Cloudy with a few showers" if our data doesn’t believe, for example, that the approaching cold front will have much steam. 

When we look at our long range 10 day forecast – which is how far they provide data to us for – it shows very little rain for Northland.  My comments are directed at the increasing number of low pressure systems that have been developing around the country over the past couple of weeks – most have missed land – but they are forming.  The highs are backing off a bit from the Tasman (just a bit) so we see a glimmer of hope. 

Also agree with you, that we mustn’t predict rain when we can’t see it.   We think there could be some rain or showers next Wednesday… and possibly Thursday… but yes, mostly dry for the next 10 days.  We hope that these developing lows will slowly take over from the highs… but it may take a little longer yet. 

As far as our forecasts go they are completely independent of MetService and of MetVUW.  Also worth noting that while we forecast 10 days out in Canada they predict 14 days out!  Unsure how accurate that second week would be though!



Ken Ring on 9/04/2010 8:33am

Thanks for your reply.
As you know, I predict 19 years out, so 14-days out is a mere picnic. It just depends on whether or not a system is employed, and obviously satellites cannot photograph something that hasn’t started forming yet. The moon and tides have the answers to cyclones and drought years, just as eclipses have always had the answers to earthquake timings, but climate scientists seem more preoccupied with the politics of attracting funding than making scientific advances.

Sarah B on 7/04/2010 1:13am

The vey dry conditions have affected my horse badly… fungus grows in the ryegrass that he eats in his field… over the last few months the mycotoxin has built up and up in his body and affected him neurologically now. He had an uncontrollable head twitch and had ataxia whilst I was riding him which is very scary and dangerous for both of us. Things got to a desperate level with us thinking he might have to be destroyed, so we took desperate measures and have had him penned up in our garden for the last week now to detox him. Im pleased to say hes come right and I hope to try riding him again next week. I now have a detoxed horse but a dry field that is still full of toxin so of course he will be affected only days after going back out onto it. This whole episode has been very stressfull and of course having a horse in my back garden isnt ideal as Im a full time mum with 2 small kids!… the free bags of horse manure disappear as soon as I put them out though! My horse will now be affected each summer with this grass staggers, I am currently trying to find alternative grazing for him which is proving hard in this area. The conditions this year have been ideal for the mycotoxin to be produced, the grass is very stressed… its not the only one!

Guest on 7/04/2010 11:58pm

Sarah B, your horse is not the only one been affected by these very dry conditions, Here in Manukau, Auckland, at the Local pony club / Adult ride, their is stuff all grass about & we have to feed hay to the horses.

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