Farmers Weekly October 14, 2016
Dire weather in the Waikato-Hauraki Plains area is taking its toll on farmers and stock, slicing the top off the milk peak and affecting dairy herd mating cycles.
Weather patterns in the region have bought incessant rain for the past five weeks with low sunshine hours degrading pasture quality and high water tables making full grass use impossible.
The physical impact of the conditions has started to manifest on farmers’ mental health with Waikato Rural Support Trust reporting a surge in calls to its helpline from farmers nearing the end of their tether at what would normally be a high grass-growth, high-production phase of the season.
Trust chairman and north Waikato farmer Neil Bateup was receiving a call a day.
“September can be reasonably high for calls but it is October 12 and the calls so far this month are already equal to all of September.
Only two of the last 26 days were dry.
The calls reflected the level of stress the conditions were generating, ranging from friends and family calling on behalf of farmers they recognised with mental health issues to conflicts between staff, contract milkers and owners.
“Then we are getting those calls from people who just do not know where to turn to, don’t have any feed for their cows and really are at their wits end.”
Bateup farms in a region subject to more than its share of extremes in the past decade, suffering particularly badly during the drought of 2008, but the recent wet weather was proving tougher to deal with than drought.
“This is simply more concentrated in terms of its effect. The drought is always slower coming and you can and do adjust your plans as you see that.”