While the hills in Central Hawkes Bay remain green, which is remarkable for this time of the year, Porangahau farmer Sam Clark and his wife Gudrun are on the lookout for drought.
“Everyone's got grass,” said local Beef + Lamb NZ farmer council member Michael Hindmarsh, who farms up on the Napier-Taihape road.
“It is unbelievable,” he says, and indeed it is.
The hills are green and the sheep and cattle are gorging themselves on the oversupply of grass and crops. Copious supplements are being made.
In fact, this sudden green wave has caught many farmers by surprise and too few stock are there to eat the feed.
“We have records back to 1958, and 2018 was the wettest calendar year,” Hindmarsh says. “We have had a lot of rain from the beginning of December until a few weeks ago. We would have tipped 450mm and we are now about 50% ahead of what we normally would get.”
He says in October, the weather experts were warning to expect a drought and many farmers were twitchy about this given the hammering some had taken in the September storm. But the drought never eventuated.
“For us spring lasted about an hour and a half,” he says.
Hindmarsh says farmers are now happy with the good grass growth, steady prices for lamb, interest rates relatively low and the NZ$ looking not too bad. But such things farmers cannot control and there is always a ‘drought in waiting’ or some other challenge on the horizon.