Farmers warned to brace for hot, dry summer

Farmers caught off guard by the early onset of summer could be paying dearly if wet weather doesn't arrive soon.

It's been four weeks without any significant rainfall in the lower South Island, and farmers are being warned to be prepared for feed shortages with moisture quickly evaporating.

It means grass will die off well before stock can ease their animals' insatiable appetite.

In parts of the lower South Island, soil moisture samples are up to 40mm lower than usual for this time of year.

Federated Farmers Southland president Allan Baird says his region is feeling the pinch.

"It is very dry, and grass covers have dropped off quite markedly in the last two to three weeks. Rainfall over the last three months has been well below average… Decent rain really is required."

Mr Baird is urging farmers to come up with contingency plans before it's too late.

He says six weeks of dry weather is usually when the situation turns dire.

"The irony is the last decent rain was when we had some snow."

Northland, Taranaki and the lower North Island are also bearing the brunt of the dry weather.

Mr Baird says dairy farmers should be already minimising milking and prioritising irrigation.