The rain that fell this week in the south-west was “exactly what we needed” to keep pastures going, a local dairy field services spokesman says.
Paul Smith of Bade Ness Rural agronomy field services in Warrnambool said pastures had needed rain after below average rainfall last month and further rain forecast for next week would enable many farmers to get a second cut of silage.
It would also bulk up hay paddocks. he said.
The rain was especially appreciated with the Bureau of Meteorology on Tuesday issuing an El Nino alert for the rest of the year, increasing the likelihood that drought conditions will continue in much of Australia’s east coast.
In Warrnambool, 13.8 millimetres fell this week while 6.2mm fell in Hamilton and 10mm in Camperdown.
Port Fairy received 7mm and Portland 6.4mm.
Mr Smith said the current focus for farmers was on building up their own fodder reserves because they could not afford to pay the high prices to buy it.
Dr John Webb Ware, from Melbourne University’s Mackinnon Project livestock consultancy, said while the spring rain was very welcome, there was still a lot of uncertainty about the forecast dry conditions for the south-west in the season ahead.
Dr Webb Ware, who spoke at a drought workshop this week at Shelford, south of Ballarat on Wednesday, said dry conditions elsewhere in eastern Australia may still extend to western Victoria.
“Warrnambool is better than 50 kilometres north. The further north you go, the tougher it gets,” Dr Webb Ware said.
If conditions remained dry, farmers would need to invest in additional supplementary feed this summer and face the challenges of high grain and fodder prices. he said.
But he said it was still not too late in the season for effective rainfall to turn this spring into a good season.
“Pasture availability is still good but crops could still go either way,” Dr Webb Ware said.
He said farmers dealing with dry conditions needed to create feeding plans for both most likely and worst case scenarios for the season ahead.
When considering feeding scenarios, farmers should not think that because this spring was dry, it might mean mean an earlier autumn break.
“There is no correlation between spring rains and what happens in autumn,” Dr Webb Ware said.
The scenarios should include the likelihood that feed grain might come from elsewhere than eastern Australia but that its price was not likely to go significantly higher.
If the weather was unfavourable, based on previous drought fodder, prices were likely to continue to slowly increase, Dr Webb Ware said.
Another influence on hay prices would be the arrival on the market of hay from many failed crops from northern Victoria, he said.
Livestock producers should not base their retained stock numbers on the chance of rain early next year and then selling them if it doesn’t rain early, Dr Webb Ware said.
“Do a stocktake on what stock you will carry through,” he said.