In southern New South Wales, beef producers are waiting. Waiting for the ‘break’, when the autumn rains start, and the growing season begins.
The rains have historically started in late April and into May. Producers are now getting used to mid to late May being the likely time.
This year producers are keener than ever to see something happen.
The drought they have endured has put a heavy toll on their resources.
Dry conditions for the last couple of years, and then a failed spring last year have put enormous pressure on them.
Livestock numbers are well down. Many have been sold, and the ones being fed now are generally the best of the breeding herds.
The distribution of autumn storms this month has seen quite different pasture conditions in a geographically short distance.
Farms in some areas have received over fifty millimetres already, and the pastures have germinated.
Others ‘just down the road’ have received very little rain, and the owners look with envy as the neighbours paddocks start to get that green tinge.
Feed prices have remained high, and cattle prices have slowly dropped.
Fortunately the better cattle grades have still returned reasonable money. Many producers recall previous droughts when cattle values absolutely crumbled.
Spring calving herds are feeding mid-pregnant cows. Their calves were weaned ages ago, and their energy requirement is now manageable.
Autumn calving herds are feeling the stress.
Lactating cows with very young calves have considerable energy demands. If they don’t receive enough feed, they lose body condition very quickly. These herds are seeing very high weekly feed bills.
Early sown grazing crops are going in.
With just enough rain to tempt many producers, sowing oats at the moment is a gamble many are taking this year.
Soil temperature is still warm, and another shower will probably bring up some much appreciated green feed.
Rain will fix things. It always does.
Already the early autumn rains have lifted prices. Watching parts of Queensland get a soaking this week, means everyone’s livestock values increase.
Droughts like this are hard on everyone.
When it rains and cools down over winter, there will be some serious thinking about adapting herds to some likely longer term changes.
Plans for more secure on-farm feed and water reserves, more sustainable stocking rates, adapting management plans, will see the light of day.
These have been mulling through producers heads for many months now. When the feeding ends for a while, they will no doubt see the light of day.