North Canterbury farmers face 'daddy of all droughts'

North Canterbury farmers face 'daddy of all droughts'

While all eyes are on the dairy farming sector slump, there are still sheep and beef farmers doing it tough.

North Canterbury farmers are still in the midst in one of the worst droughts the region has faced, and they are not completely shielded from the dairy fallout either.

A hot, dry Norwest day is the perfect condition for an A&P show. But you won't find many farmers in the region rejoicing in it.

The weather conditions have caused a lot of grief for north Canterbury farmers.

"People didn't make a lot of hay last spring so it's just trying to find the confidence back, because ultimately if we don't grow grass we don't make money and that's the bottom line," says Hawarden farmer Andy Sidey.

The area is known for droughts, but the past 18 months have been called the daddy of all north Canterbury droughts. Despite good rainfalls in January, it dried right back up again in February, taking them back to square one.

"The rain helps and the rain has come at the right time, but we certainly need a lot more to get things going and to keep things going; we need follow-up rains," says Hawarden farmer Iain Wright.

The farmers are spending money they don't have on supplementary feeds like barley grain and they say they need at least another 50 millilitres of rain over the next few weeks, but the NIWA outlook is for another dry patch.

Although the area is predominantly sheep and beef farmers, they do feel the pinch of the dairy farming slump.

"A lot of sheep farmers do a lot of stuff for the dairy farmers, whether it's sell grass to them, bailage to them, grain or whatever," says Mr Wright.

"If dairy farmers are hurting I think that spreads on a little bit to people who graze cows. They can probably only afford to pay so much with a limited pay-out," says Mr Sidey.

The Rural Support Trust says a difficult winter is looming for farmers in the region, but the farmers are resilient and are finding ways to deal with it.

"They've learnt coping strategies over the last 12 months. They're making decisions better and earlier, which is really good," says Rural Support Trust chairperson Doug Archbold.

And days out are very important for the mental health and optimism for all farmers and their families during these harder times.