Season going from bad to worse

ACROSS much of NSW including the tablelands, there has been little effective rain for months now.

Even those areas lucky enough to get thunder storms previously face rapidly deteriorating conditions. Dams too are running dry. 

The Bureau of Meteorology web site has a section reviewing the monthly weather. It shows that most of NSW has had below average rainfall over the last six months and some, including much of the tablelands, is very much below average. 

I have talked to a range of livestock producers about strategies from here on. Even though we have been here before, stock owners find our position to be challenging and stressful. 

We all appreciate that we still have some time to fluke a summer storm but this is likely to be patchy and unreliable. Given that we have no soil moisture and pastures that may or may not respond to this rain, a couple of substantial falls are required.

Once autumn arrives our chances of rain decline although the falls we do get are likely to be more effective. 

However, cold weather will then limit pasture growth, especially in the higher country.

Most experienced livestock producers that I have spoken to have been selling stock and will continue to do so until they are left with their core breeding herds or flocks that they can feed through the winter if necessary. These producers have the experience and facilities (including grain handling facilities) to manage. 

Some producers are reluctant to sell because the market is poor. If you have the experience and resources to feed through a tough winter then this is an option.

However, I am concerned that some without adequate resources are withholding stock because they feel that they will lose money on a declining market.

 Remember the ‘sunk cost effect.’

  I think that you must ignore the previous value of stock and make a decision based on your current circumstances.

We have also had enquires about the new National Drought Policy. 

Under this policy, State and Federal governments have agreed that drought support based on Exceptional Circumstances is no longer the most appropriate means of delivering assistance. 

I understand that the new approach should include provision for farm household support payments, will promote Farm Management Deposits and taxation measures and will also provide a national, co-ordinated approach to farm business training and to social support services. 

 A couple of meetings are planned in the near future to give you the opportunity to discuss management strategies and the climate outlook.

 At the first, to be held at the Oberon RSL starting at 6 pm on Thursday, February 6, speakers will include Brett Littler (LLS Livestock Officer) who will discuss cattle management options and Phillip Graham (NSW DPI Grazing specialist) who will discuss the climate outlook and sheep management options. Please phone 02 6331 1377 for further information.

For those further west, Little River Landcare and others are holding a seminar at Yeoval on Thursday,  February 13, titled ‘Planning your business for the next s@#t season’.

 Speakers include rural financial counsellor Fran Rowe on ‘what drives a successful family business’, Richard Groom, director, Principle Focus on ‘the cash flow secret’ and Rod Knight, director KLR marketing on ‘responding to falling livestock markets.’ Please phone 02 6846 4569 for further information or to reply. 

l This is my first note under the new Local Land Services. Given that we have a broad scope ranging from natural resource management to horticulture to pest management to livestock health issues, LLS and DPI staff aim to collaborate in future to produce articles reflecting our diverse interest.

Bruce Watt BVSc, MS, MACVSc is 

 Manager Biosecurity & Emergency Services  for Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

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