“IT’S dry as chips.”
So said Elders stock and station agent Ryan Sergeant late last month.
Mr Sergeant was repeating the phrase that farmers across the region are all too familiar with – because if there is one thing that’s needed right now, it’s rain.
Most producers have already trimmed excess stock – sold empty and old cows and neatened herds – but the majority are still left with enormous feed bills, regardless of their breeding plan.
“Spring calves are feeding their weaned calves, autumn calves are feeding their lactating cows with calves at foot,” Mr Sergeant said.
“Any surplus stock have been sold – basically, anything we do not need we are getting rid of.
“We are struggling to keep cattle in good positive forward condition.”
As cattle prices continue to slide – last month, the famous Mountain Calf Sales saw a disappointing drop of up to $200 per head – Mr Sergeant said it was likely this would continue unless rain brought some reprieve.
“We aren’t seeing people jumping in over each other to buy a pen – at those mountain sales or those blue-ribbon sales you’ll see five or six people bidding on a pen – at Omeo there might have been one or two,” he said.
“The competition is just not there.
“The feedlots are all full – lots have taken advantage of the cheaper cattle prices, and are now full up for the next 40 – 60 days.
There are a large volume of numbers flowing through the system – Victoria is a little fish in a big ocean; there is a large amount of cattle on the market in NSW and QLD which is driving a lot of our prices down in the southern part of the country.”
Although different regions had different cut off days, Mr Sergeant said Anzac Day was the rule of thumb rain date.
“The cold mornings are starting to creep in – If we start getting a few frosts, leading to April and May, with no coverage on the ground, it could be devastating for our primary producers,” he said.
“If we don’t get rain by Anzac Day we run into trouble – we need four or five ml for a week or two.”
At the time of going to print, a big rain band had been predicted for Southern and North East Victoria late March.
Without it, and decent follow up falls, the autumn break will not eventuate.