Events planned as drought looms for coastal Taranaki

By Brad Markham

Mike Green (Taranaki Rural Support Trust), Simon Sankey (DairyNZ) and Donald McIntrye (Federated Farmers) in Inglewood. Photo / Supplied
Mike Green (Taranaki Rural Support Trust), Simon Sankey (DairyNZ) and Donald McIntrye (Federated Farmers) in Inglewood. Photo / Supplied

Concern is growing for young Taranaki sharemilkers and contract milkers as worsening dry conditions cut their incomes.

Parts of coastal Taranaki have not had rain since Labour weekend.

"It's extremely worrying. We don't usually see conditions like this until late February," said Mike Green, who is the chairman of the Taranaki Rural Support Trust.

The lack of rain has cut grass growth, forcing dairy farmers to reduce the number of times they milk their cows each day.

"I had about 30 farmers attend a recent discussion group in Okato. Only one was still milking twice a day," said DairyNZ consulting officer Michelle Taylor.

"It was a similar story in Pihama/Te Kiri. Every farmer in that group had either moved to 16-hour or once-a-day milking."

Some graziers have run out of feed, meaning farmers have the added pressure of finding a new home for their young stock.

About 30 people from Federated Farmers, Taranaki Rural Support Trust, DairyNZ, Fonterra, Taranaki Veterinary Centre, NZ Young Farmers, banks and the meat processing sector met in Inglewood on Tuesday to discuss support measures.

"In times like this, it's vital for people's welfare that they get off farm," said Mike Green.

A number of free social events, like BBQs and children's entertainment, are planned from Okato to Waverley during January.

Taranaki Veterinary Centre is also running a hunting and fishing competition between January 12th-19th.

DairyNZ will be using its first round of farmer discussion groups after the holiday break to ramp up its support and advice to farmers.

Farm owners are being urged to talk with their young lower order sharemilkers and contract milkers who will struggle financially if herds are dried off early.

"These discussions need to happen early to determine what options are available and to make a plan," said Westpac Taranaki Agribusiness Area Manager Rhys Fulton.

"Ignoring the facts doesn't change the facts."

Bankers are available to reassess budgets and people could be switched to interest-only loan repayments.

The Rural Support Taranaki Facebook page will list details of each event once they are confirmed.

- The Country

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