South Island farmers 'pretty well prepared' as temperatures set to drop

A mild start to winter means farmers in the area are in a good position to face the colder months.
A mild start to winter means farmers in the area are in a good position to face the colder months. Photo credit: Getty

Farmers in the South Island are bracing for the cold snap with temperatures set to plummet across much of the country this weekend

The mercury is forecast to dip to as low as -5C overnight on Saturday in some mountain areas and spots like Tekapo, and drop to -4C across the Canterbury plains.

Snowfall warnings have also been issued in some parts of the lower South Island, particularly in the mountain passes.

Despite the lower temperatures, Simon Davies, president of Federated Farmers in Otago, says farmers in the region are "generally pretty well prepared".

"Relatively speaking it's going to get a little bit chilly," Davies told Newshub.

"Those in the high country will have taken note of snow warnings and what levels, and they will know what that means for their own situation and if they have to move stock or not," he said.

A mild start to winter meant farmers in the area were in a good position to face the colder months, Davies said.

"The conditions currently are absolutely fantastic for us. It's been reasonably dry and so ground conditions are very, very good. 

"So if it gets cold [but] if it remains reasonably dry, it's not as much of a problem as if it gets cold and wet."

He said autumn had been "outstanding".

"For farmers that were kind of light on feed going into winter the last month has really helped with that situation, and so they're in a much better place now than they were perhaps four or five weeks ago in terms of feed reserves relative to where we are progressing through winter."

According to WeatherWatch, light frosts are expected for coastal parts of Otago and Canterbury. Davies said cold weather alone didn't necessarily mean farmers would face problems, with wet and cold conditions a worse combination.

"Just in terms of cold temperature that's not really a big deal - but if it's wet and cold then that's a bit different, and if it's windy and cold that's different again. 

"[If it's] windy and wet you tend to think more about shelter for stock, but if it's just straight cold it's not so much of a problem."

Cameron Henderson said temperatures on his North Canterbury farm weren't expected to drop too far, meaning relative business as usual.

"We're actually going to be doing okay, it's only going to get to -1C or -2C."

The favourable conditions experienced by farmers in the South Island recently differ vastly from those in parts of the North Island. In Hawke's Bay, farmers continue to battle one of the worst droughts in living memory, where dry conditions have led to bare paddocks and hungry stock.