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Helicopter checking on Kaikoura farmers

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 16/11/2016

Federated Farmers is sending a helicopter into the stations behind Kaikoura to check on how sheep and beef farmers are coping with the aftermath of Monday's severe earthquake.

With landlines down and patchy cellphone coverage, the flight on Wednesday would try and paint a picture of who needed what and how they were holding up, says north Canterbury meat and fibre chairman Dan Hodgen.

"Everyone [so far] is saying they are OK."

It was probable there had been some stock losses around the Clarence River but he hadn't yet heard of definite cases.

"They tend not to live in houses that fall down," he told NZ Newswire.

"Obviously animal welfare is important, but it takes second place behind human welfare at the moment."

Meanwhile, the 30 or so dairy farmers around Kaikoura are being forced to dump milk with tankers unable to get access from outside the region.

Federated Farmers' north Canterbury dairy spokesman Michael Woodward says about half of Kaikoura's sheds were running and all cows were being milked.

Dairy farmers were able to dump their milk - most would be watered down with effluent before being spread on pasture.

However, fuel shortages for generators could prove a problem.

Mr Woodward said it was lucky the quake struck when it did, just after midnight, when cows were not being milked.

Most farmers would also have business interruption insurance for their lost earnings, he said.

However, the isolation would affect production down the track as many cows were being mated and neither artificial insemination technicians and bulls could get onto the farms.

Mr Woodward said that from speaking to farmers around Culverden, close to the epicentre of the magnitude-7.5 quake, most were doing well.

"The guys are pretty upbeat considering what's going on. They are living off a little bit of adrenalin."

Mr Woodward said cows did not appear to suffer from post-quake stress like people, going on evidence after the Christchurch quake.

"They are creatures of habit, as long as you treat them calmly they calm right down as well."

However, their milk production could suffer the longer they went without milking.

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