National seasonal update
AFTER LAST year’s wet winter, Australia’s dairy farmers seem to be appreciating a more lenient start to the season in 2017.
But while the drier conditions are helping with some winter pastures and reducing soil damage, some farmers are struggling with their crops and there are concerns brewing about the longterm impact if good spring rains don’t follow.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s monthly and seasonal climate outlooks for July to September predict below average rainfall in parts of the southeast and southwest of the country, and warmer-than-average days and nights for much of Australia.
Gippsland farmer Brad Missen has endured the driest start to the year in memory.
“We’ve had no run-off or significant rainfall event since December,” he said.
His milking farm at Denison is on irrigation and is growing good grass. “It’s just about ideal growing conditions on the irrigation land for the time of year,” Mr Missen said.
“We’re fortunate in that respect but the flipside is our weir is only 25% full. We’ve had very little in-flows since September. It’s usually at least half full or even close to full this time of year.”
June’s inflows were only about 5-10% of average. “It’s a concern but we’ve still got our biggest rainfall months to come,” Mr Missen said.
The farm also has dry land paddocks for fodder reserves.
“We were late getting crops in on the dry land because of the late and insignificant rain,” he said. “We need rain reasonably soon to get the crops growing so we can start harvesting in September.”
Accelerating Change manager at Murray Dairy, Amy Fay, said a dry June combined with some severe frosts had put some pressure on pasture and crop growth, particularly in areas that did not receive the large rainfall events in April.
“Timely rainfall events have occurred this week which have assisted, as has cost effective feed carried over from last season,” Ms Fay said.
“If dry conditions continue, preparations for a dry spring will likely be helped by lower water prices and high allocation.”
Curdievale farmer and WestVic Dairy chair Simone Renyard said most farmers in Western Victoria seemed pleased with the season.
“From what I‘m hearing most people are finding the season quite good and people in my region are feeling optimistic about that side of things,” Mrs Renyard said.
“There seems to be a fair bit of grass in the ground, but there is a bit of concern about the upcoming spring and where that might head.”
DairyTAS Executive Officer Mark Smith also said the season was getting a tick from most farmers.
“The seasonal conditions have been pretty good,” he said. “We’re probably a bit on the lighter side for rain but farmers would want to be cautious because there will be more rain coming as winter unfolds.”
“Most areas are pretty satisfied with the amount of rainfall; bearing in mind last year was too wet.”
Mr Smith said it was drier in the east of the state, away from the dairy areas.
Dairy SA chair and Fleurieu Peninsula farmer Michael Conner said May and June had been drier than usual in the area.
“It’s been a really dry June and cropping areas surrounding dairy have been dry, so the price of grain has gone up.”
Some good rain in early July has helped.
“We’ve had slow growth and we’re behind where we’d normally be, but not any serious concerns, it’s more the impact on the cropping areas.”
“A lot of areas have just had some good rain so I think we’ll be going okay from now on,” he said.