COLD SNAP HITS HIGHLAND SHEEP
FARMERS in some of Tasmania’s driest areas have been dealt a major blow as last week’s freak weather caused significant stock losses.
Freezing cold winds and torrential rain caused thousands of livestock deaths in the Midlands and some elevated areas.
It is peak shearing time for many producers, which can make sheep more susceptible to wet and windy conditions.
However, some sheep that have been lost were shorn a number of weeks ago.
Don Fish, who farms near Oatlands, said while he had lost stock in bad weather conditions before last weekend’s event was extreme.
“The rain was absolutely freezing and it went on for two days,” he said.
“If you have a day of rain they cope with it OK, but it just didn’t stop and it was basically sleet here.
“I’ve seen this before, but not this bad. I’ve never lost this many before.”
Mr Fish said he lost about 1500 sheep in a major blow and there were other farmers in the area who had also lost significant numbers.
“A lot of the ones we lost are mature ewes, but luckily their lambs are old enough to be weaned so they’ll be OK.
“It’s very frustrating, but apart from that it was a good rain, it will definitely help.”
As well as widespread rain, which in some areas totalled over 100mm, the weather system also bought strong winds and snow to the highlands.
Brian Fish, who also farms in the Oatlands area, said while he had not suffered stock losses it had been a very unusual weather event.
“It was so hot here earlier in the week and then to see that rain come in like it did and it get so cold, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
“Normally, once sheep get a couple of days off shears they can cope with a lot, but some of these were shorn two or three weeks ago.”
Many farmers in the district had been in the process of selling off livestock because of the extremely dry conditions.
“Some people have said it is too late, but it’s not too late for water holes and the creeks,” Brian Fish said.
“It will help grow something, even if its weeds, at least the sheep will have something. If people have got fodder crops in it will definitely help them.
“It means we’ll be able to keep stock and get rid of them when we want to rather than having to.”
It was so hot earlier . . . to see rain like that and it get so cold, I’ve never seen anything like it
THE big wet last weekend came on the heels of a record hot month.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s monthly wrap shows the state recorded its warmest November in history.
Spring as a whole was also the warmest on record with the mean temperature 1.13C above average, beating the previous record set in 2005.
“Spring 2017 was very interesting and records were absolutely shattered in many parts of the state,” BOM climatologist Ian Barnes-Keoghan said.
“September was cool while November was unusually warm. We did not see particularly hot individual days but long runs of very warm days.”
The hottest day was recorded at Scotts Peak Dam on November 30 when the temperature nudged 35C. The coldest day was -4.4C at Liawenee on November 5.
Flinders Island Airport was the state’s driest spot, receiving just 1mm of rain for the month.
Taken across the state, rainfall was about 15 per cent below the spring average.
The state’s mean maximum temperature was a record 3.79C above average – up 1.7C from the previous record set back in 1914.
Many sites set records for extended warm spells in November.
These included Hobart with six consecutive days over 26C, Strahan with seven days in a row over 27C and Launceston with nine days above 25C.
However, as soon as summer arrived, Tasmanians were again reaching for the woollies with snow, sleet and unseasonal temperatures.
LAST weekend’s rain has done more good than harm for most of Tasmania’s crops.
In many areas the rain brought a much-needed break from irrigation in crops such as poppies, cereals and vegetables.
The rain will also boost pasture growth in critically dry areas such as the East Coast, the South-East and the Derwent Valley.
Sassafras farmer David Perry said the rain was well timed for the majority of crops, including pyrethrum, which was still well in flower in many paddocks.
“It should be all right at this stage, it’s still in flower but it depends what happens from here on,” Mr Perry said.
“We hadn’t long finished irrigating it before we got the rain.”
About 40mm of rain fell at Mr Perry’s property over the weekend following good falls the week before.
“It’s very beneficial at this stage because it’s a busy time for our crops,” he said.
“The rain is certainly not going to suit everyone, we’ve got hay we need to get done, but it was a beautiful rain.”
Pyrethrum is a regular crop in Mr Perry’s yearly rotations and this season he is growing about 10ha.
“It fits in well with our rotation and doesn't need a lot of water or spraying.”
While the Midlands also received excellent falls over the weekend, the rain has come too late for many dryland cereals.
However, David Skipper from TAP Agrico said the wet could boost yields for crops that are still green and growing.
“I think it’s been very beneficial, most people would have liked to see it,” he said.
“It has come a little bit late, but any wet weather at this time of the year is OK as long as it doesn’t hang around for too long.”
Mr Skipper said it was unlikely the rain would cause significant yield losses.
However, yields would have been hit by dry conditions and recent late frost in some crops.
The canola harvest is due to start in the next couple of weeks and Mr Skipper said the main cereal harvest would be in full swing in early January.