A week out from calving, Taieri Plain farmers are having to contend with floodwaters that are continuing to rise and likely to remain for at least that long, a farmer and city councillor says.Dairy Farms face challenges as extreme Flooding hits Taieri, New Zealand
Dunedin city councillor Mike Lord has been farming on the plains for about 30 years in Berwick and owns a 160ha dairy farm.
He said although the rain had stopped, the water had not stopped rising.
“I’ve just checked now and it’s still pouring into our farm. It’s pouring into our neighbour’s farm – just coming back up a series of ditches – and we’re fighting to keep the place dry.”
Mr Lord said it stopped raining about 30 hours ago but the water was moving its way down the plain from the north to the south.
“On my farm, at least half of it is covered in water,” he said.
“The neighbour, he has more water than I’ve ever seen on his place so I’d imagine he’d be in a similar position to myself.
“The water comes on and causes problems but what it does mean is a week out from calving we’ve got waterlogged pastures.
“What happens is the grass that is underwater now will still be there [but] it will lose quality and we’ll have to use lots of other feed in the transition period until we can get back to that grass.”
He said the floodwater would probably sit on the farm for another week, and he did not know when it would stop flowing down the plain and onto the property.
He told Nine to Noon calving was just in the early stages and it would be particularly difficult for some who were new to the area.
“But especially for people that have moved farms or are new sharemilkers or new farmers to suddenly be in a situation now where you’re getting a flood like this it’s very very hard to deal with that.
“You don’t know if it’s going to get better or worse. It can be difficult.”
He said there were not a lot of things that could help the situation.
“Grazing will be one, especially with some guys that have got cows underwater.
“Somewhere that they can send their later calvers – you know, the calves that are not going to be born until September in some cases – if we could get some grazing that would make a difference if we could put them somewhere where they were dry and well looked after.
“In terms of actually doing things on farm there’s not a lot else you can do … sometimes people to clear fences and let the electricity flow through them again without shorting out on everything.
“But we’re still a long way away from that point yet.
Federated Farmers has opened its 0800 FARMING line for people to call in if they need stock feed, help or have feed to sell.
Anyone can call the 0800 FARMING number; it’s not exclusive to Federated Farmers members.Vice chairman Andrew Hoggard said farmers were dealing with many challenges, and hopefully it would not get worse.
“The concern going forward is if we keep getting more rain, more wet weather, then the grounds don’t dry out and it’s going to make utilisation of feed really difficult and it can be exceptionally challenging.
“Challenges at the moment really are around feeding the livestock, particularly going into calving.”
‘Farmers are going to struggle’
David Wilson farms in the centre of the Taieri Plain in an area known as the protected zone where a ring of banks usually keep floodwaters out.
He said as well as the deluge, water had flowed into the protected zone from a channel running along the foot of the Mangatua hills that had burst its banks.
He said the amount of water that needed to be pumped out would put a lot of pressure on grazing management with calving season approaching.
“Probably two to three weeks before all of that water can be pumped off.
“So with calving coming up and probably – well, from now on – cows will be starting to calve so that makes a lot of pressure for grazing management.”
Mr Lord said there was good information about the weather from the regional and city councils, but the amount of flooding still took the region by surprise.
“The expectation is that they’ll get it wrong a bit and it won’t be as bad as it comes … unfortunately in this case it’s been every bit as bad and worse.
“Farmers are going to struggle.
“It’s nothing like the 1980 flood yet, which was the entire farm covered in water up to eight feet deep, so we’re not in that space at all, but we’re still the biggest flood that we’ve seen since that time.”
He said one of the pumps from the regional council pumping station on his farm was being repaired in town, and that would make pumping the floodwater off a real challenge.
“We’re down to half our pumping capacity, which is a serious issue.”