With another dry winter, below average soil moisture and the Bureau of Meteorology predicting a drier and warmer spring, Tablelands producers are on the cusp of making some tough decisions. As with this time last year, September rainfall will be critical to keep pastures going and provide any chance of achieving a spring.
To help producers get a better gauge on pasture conditions this spring, Local Land Services has just released their Seasonal Outlook – Spring 2019 report. The report shows that while soil moisture is well below normal for this time of year, considerable variation exists across the region.
“Unfortunately some areas are extremely dry at present and the odds are pointing towards a very tough spring” said Matt Lieschke South East Local Land Services Senior Agriculture Advisor.
In contrast, moisture probes around the Crookwell region are indicating reasonable moisture at present.
“These sites received more winter rainfall. The modelling is indicating a tough spring at these sites, but one that but can be managed without major changes to normal practice” Matt said.
Livestock health and welfare has become a key focus for producers and Local Land Services. “Maintaining condition is becoming more challenging, especially for lactating animals,” said Dr Henry Clutterbuck, District Veterinarian with Local Land Services.
Creep feeding, allowing calves unrestricted access to additional feed while they are still suckling the cow, and early weaning are key tools during times of drought.
“Creep feeding not only takes some pressure off mum, but it also helps with the weaning process as young stock are heavier and adapted to the supplement” said Dr Clutterbuck.
Both the sheep and cattle markets are still very strong, especially considering the conditions.
“If you need to reduce stock numbers, at least you are getting good money for them. This has been a major difference compared to previous droughts” Matt said.
However, it’s also important to plan ahead. “In any destocking strategy it’s important to consider the impact on the business over a 3 – 5 year period.
“These are really hard decisions to make. Tools such as StockPlan® can assist in looking at a range of destocking options before a decision is made”.
South East Local Land Services reminds producers that there is support during these tough times.
- The Rural Assistance Authority has multiple support options available. Most importantly, September 30 is the deadline for submitting applications to the Drought Transport Subsidy for the 2018/19 financial year. The subsidy is also available for the 2019/20 financial year.
- The NSW DPI Drought Feed Calculator App and the Managing and Preparing for Drought guide are invaluable drought management tools
- The DPI Rural Resilience Program (www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/about-us/rural-support/RRP) and the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (www.crrmh.com.au/programs-and-projects/ramhp/) will assist with managing stress and looking after yourself.
South East Local Land Services will be holding a webinar titled ‘Spring pasture outlook – Southern Tablelands and Slopes on Wednesday, Sep 18 starting at 8:00 PM. Presented by Matt Lieschke and Phil Graham, this webinar will look at current soil moisture levels and the likely range in pasture conditions this spring. The webinar will also discuss some of the implications, management options and risks going forward.