A season halved

Patchy rain brings reprieve for some farmers
The Southern Farmer
Photo by Lucy Chian

FARMERS in Central Victoria have been granted a month’s grace following patchy rainfall in October.

Producers within a 40-kilometre radius of Alexandra received between 20-40ml of rain – enough to keep feed on the ground for a further six to eight weeks.

Yea Elders agent, Ryan Sergeant, said it was a case of too little, too late for some – but that others would now have feed till December.

“We’ve had a large dump of rain, which is very welcome,” he said.

“It’s really much needed rain for all of our lower country – but our hill country is well and truly gone and dried off, so it’s too late for that.

“We really needed it, just to maintain our lambs and our cows over the next 6-8 weeks.”

It has been one of the driest starts to spring on record, and the latest Rabobank October commodity report shows September was the driest on Australian record.

The same report also predicts the dry conditions will be on-going – at least until Christmas this year.

Mr Sergeant said the October rain had fallen in a small band across the state, with the North and North East receiving the majority of the good falls while many in Queensland received their yearly averages overnight.

“New South Wales and Queensland have been so dry, it’s putting a bit of pressure on our southern markets down here – the rain up there will stem the bleeding of the cattle; it’ll also increase a bit of demand from those who have sold livestock and want to refill their properties with lighter cattle.

Elders agent from Geelong, Marty Gleeson, said that though the rain had largely missed southern Victoria, some had been lucky enough to receive up to 20ml.

“North of Ballarat got 20ml – but it was more patchy down toward Colac; for many it’s too late, the country is already dry,” Mr Gleeson said.

Mr Gleeson said the rain received in northern parts of the country should help stabilise prices moving forwards.

“Cattle haven’t been making a lot of money due to the dry season in the north, as they’ve all flooded onto the market which has knocked ours back a fair bit, and our season isn’t that great,” Mr Gleeson said.

“The last 10 days the northern cattle have started to run out a little bit, and the rain to the north has started, and those northern processors have started to head south.

“I think you’ll see – in fat cattle – a bit of a price increase in the next month or so.

“In another 6-8 weeks, there’ll be a shortage of good heavy cows and good trade cattle – there should be a price increase.”

William Anker runs Yarra Valley Hay, producing around 6000 round bales and 30,000 squares each year.

In his 16 years of hay contracting, Mr Anker said he had never seen a season as bad as the current one.

“These next few weeks are critical – everyone is looking for the undergrowth to come up and thicken things up,” he explained.

The Yarra Ranges recorded differing amounts of rain last month, with some parts receiving just 17ml in the October falls, while others recorded up to 46ml.

Either way, Mr Anker said it was good news for those wanting to cut hay.

“For us here in the valley, our seasons are a little bit later than everywhere else – we don’t start cutting generally till the end of November.

“Every bit at the moment counts – it’s pretty light on at the moment; the yields will certainly be down – it just depends if we get summer rain.”

More farming news and stories can be read in the November, 2018 print edition of The Southern Farmer or click here to access digital editions.