Winter in winter


There’s been plenty of warning about wintery weather and winter weather is to be expected in winter:

Farms in the South Island, which will likely feel the first blast of an imminent winter storm, are largely prepped for what winter will throw at them and their stock.

 “Winter in winter isn’t a problem for commercial farmers or our animals,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Adverse Events spokesperson.

“It is when you get winter in mid-Spring or a flood in high summer that causes us problems. That said, if this storm runs for weeks then that becomes something you cannot fully prepare for.

“In North Island Hill and South Island High Country, farmers will have largely moved stock down into lower paddocks. Other farmers will likely be moving stock into more sheltered paddocks or ones more easily accessible for feeding out.

“While commercial farmers have heeded the MetService’s excellent severe weather warnings, we need lifestyle block owners to pay close attention to their livestock too.

“All livestock need good quantity feed when it gets cold regardless of shelter.

“Back on-farm, we are a month out from the start of calving and a couple of months away from the start of lambing. Nature being nature and animals being animals, there is always the odd early birth and we might get more due to this storm.

“Farmers will be aware of the early animals but they are likely to get the farmer equivalent of a private maternity ward. One thing we are all prioritising is ensuring we’ve got adequate magnesium in our livestock.

“If it does bucket down and it looks like it will in some parts, then farmers will use dozers, 4-wheel drives and tractors to clear access tracks and feed areas.

“Odd as it may sound, water can become an issue as troughs can freeze. An ice pick or a spade is a good tool to help give animal’s access to water.

Extra care of stock doesn’t stop when the weather improves.

Fine days when the snow is still lying can cause sun burned udders for cows.

“I guess it is also a good reminder to make sure farm equipment is in good nick as well as checking your own preparedness, just in case power is lost.

“On the coast we joke that we may have 90-days of fuel but only 90-minutes worth of bread and milk.

“Farmers need to check they’ve got adequate fuel, emergency food, gas cookers, candles and batteries. Not to mention generators.

“Another vital tool to remember is a conventional plug-in telephone. That fancy Bluetooth cordless becomes just a paperweight without electricity to power it.

“Our message is this; don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. Work with other farmers and where appropriate, or get on the blower to your local Federated Farmers President if you need help,” Katie Milne concluded.

Snow on top of rain isn’t ideal but it is winter when we expect winter weather and ought to be prepared for it.


If winter’s here . . .


. . . where has spring gone?

We spent the weekend in Wanaka.

It rained most of Saturday. The cloud lifted during the afternoon to give us a view of the fresh snow about half way down the mountains which frame the lake.

The drive home through the Lindis always provides glorious views, but there’s not usually this much snow in October:

Permission to ask yet again why the clocks go forward for daylight saving in late September?

Word of the day


Snow – frozen precipitation in the form of white or translucent hexagonal ice crystals that fall in soft, white flakes; a falling of snow; a snow storm.


Snow’s no good for lambs


Spring had been merciful to lambs until now.

But Southland and Otago farmers are expecting big losses in the wake of the weekend’s snowfalls.

Federated Farms board member David Rose said:

“Winter in winter is OK but winter in spring is a bit of a disaster.”

They were in the middle of lambing and had quite a few losses because of the weather, Mr Rose said.

“You feel a bit helpless, really … it’s hard to do anything.”

There were only so many sheep they could put inside, which was difficult at the rate they had been lambing, Mr Rose said. “You do what you can … It’s inevitable you’re going to have losses.”

Feds Otago president Mike Lord said those worst affected could lose 200-300 lambs.

Newborn lambs had virtually no chance against the elements on Saturday because of the wind chill, he said.

Luckily, many late-lambing farmers were due to start today and the losses would have been much worse had the blast hit in a few days’ time, he said.

News reports like this often lead to questions of why farmers lamb at this time of year. It’s all to do with feed supply – having enough grass at the right time to flush ewes before tupping in autumn and to feed them and their lambs in spring and early summer.

Besides, storms strike at any time of the year.

Snow isn’t good for the potential fruit harvest either.

Alexandra’s Blossom Festival is scheduled for next weekend and orchardists have been fighting frosts.

A newsletter to shareholders from Fonterra chair Henry van der Hayden said up to eight inches of snow at Edendale prevented tankers getting out to farms. Several farmers had to dump milk into effluent ponds.

There shouldn’t be any environmental damage as a result of that providing it’s sprayed on to paddocks in the right way at the right time and the co-operative will pay out on estimates of milk lost.

Two cities two codes?


Two weeks ago a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Canterbury and no-one was killed.

One of the reasons given for that was building codes which made homes, hotels and other buildings safer.

Two days ago the roof of Stadium Southland collapsed under the weight of the snow and again no-one was killed.

Is this a tale of two building codes?

If not, how can regulations which make buildings strong enough to withstand an earthquake in Canterbury not make a roof strong enough to withstand a snowfall in Southland?

Counting the cost of the snow


The south has had reasonable weather for lambing and calving.

Even after last weekend’s cold snap there haven’t been reports of many stock losses.

It’s been much tougher in the Central North Island.

“This brutally cold southerly flow couldn’t have come at a worse time for Hawke’s Bay farmers. There’s a massive risk that the combination of snow and cold winds could put stress on newborn livestock,” says Kevin Mitchell, Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay president.

“Several Hawke’s Bay farmers are in the middle of late lambing and sadly, some newborns may perish in the freezing conditions. The snow has unfortunately hit at a critical time in the farming cycle. Farmers I have spoken to worked through the night in order to save as many lambs as possible.

This unseasonal snow comes after a very dry autumn and in the face of falling prices.

Lambs which would have sold for $90 last summer are expected to fetch only $70 this year. Demand is high and supplies are low, but the high dollar is being blamed for depressing returns to farmers.

More snowish than snowy


“What’s the weather doing?” my farmer asked as I pulled the curtains and peered out at the pre-dawn gloom.

“A few stars, some high cloud, lawn’s white, must be a hard frost,” I replied.

When he got up a few minutes later he told me to take a closer look, the white wasn’t frost, it was snow.

snowish hp 2

When it got a bit lighter we found it was more snowish than snowy.

As often happens, Dunedin got a dumping and the storm came up the coast to about Wainakarua then the worst of the weather went out to sea, leaving northern North Otago with a dusting of snow which stayed on the lawn and short-grazed paddocks but has already gone from the longer grass.

snowish hp

Can spring be far behind?


The first blossom tree to bloom in our garden (I think it’s a prunus)  is covered in flowers and the daffodils though not yet in bud are well through the ground.

I’d hopes these were harbingers of spring, but winter has returned with a vengance.

There was fresh snow on the Kakanui mountains at the weekend and Sunday’s frost was still lying in the shade by late afternoon.

We woke to one of the hardest frosts of the year yesterday morning and ice on some puddles I tested on my morning walk was too thick for me to break (yes, I’m not yet old enough to resist the temptation of jumping on it).

Normally when we get a hard frost we also get a sunny day but by lunchtime clouds appeared so it wasn’t just cold it was dull and this morning we’ve got up to rain.

If I’m not enjoying it those who had to get up for milking at 5am and will be out working in the paddocks for msot of the day will be even less enthusiastic.