COLD SNAP HITS HIGH­LAND SHEEP

Tasmanian Country - - FRONT PAGE - KAROLIN MACGREGOR

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

BRIAN FISH

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.

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