Farmers Advised to Prepare for El Nino Season

Written by on October 26, 2023

Farmers are being advised to plan ahead for the coming El Nino weather event, this after a recent meeting of the region’s Primary Industries Adverse Event Cluster.

On the cluster’s agenda was the climatic conditions and outlook for the coming summer season.

Neil Bateup, Waikato Rural Support Trust Chairman says: “It is important to plan ahead for what El Niño may mean for your animals, feed supply and farm and wrap your support team of rural professionals around you.

“Our farmers and growers may face compounding issues because of the lingering impacts of the difficult wet weather events since winter 2022, low commodity prices, high on farm inflation and high interest rates.”

In September, NIWA declared that El Niño conditions are present in New Zealand and predict it will remain throughout the summer, with a 75 per cent chance it will persist through Autumn 2024. For the Waikato the following outcomes are the most likely for this region:

  • Temperatures are equally likely to be near average or above average (40% chance each). Dramatic temperature swings from well above average to well below average are likely, particularly in October.
  • Rainfall totals are most likely to be below normal (50% chance). An increased frequency of high pressure systems near the region will likely lead to longer dry spells.
  • Seasonal wind speeds are expected to be stronger than normal.
  • Soil moisture levels are most likely to be below normal (45% chance) while river flows are about equally likely to be below normal (45% chance) or near normal (40% chance).

“Farmers and growers should plan ahead early as economic factors may mean that some will not be able to buy their way out of feed shortfalls,” says Keith Holmes, Waikato Federated Farmers. “Consider crops, silage or maize contracts now before the dry weather settles in.”

Alan Cole, Auckland Federated Farmers, added: “Over the coming season, livestock farmers need to keep in touch with their processors to ensure animals meet requirements and processing availability.”

This year the new Drought Forecasting Dashboard developed by NIWA and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) provides a better forewarning on what the next 35 days will look like. This gives an opportunity to develop a plan, including decision points, and allow farmers to remain in control of their farming operation whichever way the weather goes, says Neil.

“There are useful tools to help prepare early for a prolonged summer dry period, helping farmers align feed demand and feed supply, manage animal welfare and farm finances all located on our website or by contacting the Dairy NZ Waikato team,” says Brigitte Meier, Dairy NZ.

“Beef and Lamb NZ have a wealth of information on their Extreme Dry Management website,” says Laura Davis, B+LNZ.

“The Rural Support Trust has been actively planning with Cluster members that include the Ministry for Primary Industries, Federated Farmers, Dairy NZ, Beef and Lamb, Rural Women NZ, Waikato Civil Defence Group, Auckland Emergency Management, Ministry for Social Development, and others,” Neil added. “There is no need to feel alone as there is always someone who you can talk to and there are ways to work through it.”

The Waikato RST facilitators are rural people working with industry bodies and partners to navigate, support and help people access relevant, practical information, advice and support. They are rural people with local knowledge who have faced the challenges that rural life brings.

Services are confidential, and will only reach out to its network for support with permission. RST can be contacted on 0800 787 254 (0800 Rural Help) or The Waikato Cluster brings many agencies together to collaborate to support those across the rural sector.

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