After one of the top ten hottest years on record for Australia, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), farmers are preparing for more warm and dry days in 2019.
New South Wales received the eighth-lowest rainfall from January to November in 2018 since 1900, according to BOM. It was also the warmest period on record for the state.
This has put some regions’ rainfall out by around two years and it would take regular rainfall over a period of several months to break the drought, BOM said.
BOM predicts that we'll continue to experience drier and warmer than average days between January and March, adding pressure to farmers already doing it tough in eastern Australia.
Rainfall between 2016, 2017 and 2018 (millimetres):
Yass (Burrinjuck Dam) – 803.1mm (2016), 530.2mm (2017) and 457.5mm (2018)
Crookwell (Crookwell Post Office) – 1097.4mm (2016), 795.8mm (2017) and 746mm (2018)
Braidwood (Braidwood Racecourse) – 861.2mm (2016), 467.4mm (2017) and 530mm (2018)
Goulburn (Goulburn TAFE) – 721.4mm (2016), 497.2mm (2017) and 485.2mm (2018)
Queanbeyan (Queanbeyan Airport) – 788.2mm (2016), 486mm (2017) and 472mm (2018)
Farmers prepare for tough months ahead
John and Mary-Anne Bunn at St Omer recorded 146 millimetres of rain in December. When their dams dried out last year they took advantage of otherwise dire conditions and cleaned them out, so the rain fell into clean dams. This rain, according to Mary-Anne, “saved our skins.”
They also reduced stock numbers last year, as soon as it became clear there would be no proper spring, which meant they had a bit of ground cover when the rain came, so it soaked in before filling the dams.
Preparations for summer – “whatever degree of unpleasantness is prophesied,” begin well before Christmas.
“You don't want any out of season lambs, to begin with. If you lamb in autumn, make sure the rams are locked away securely until the end of November.
“Water is the most important farming asset, but everyone should be okay for that here at the moment. Shade is vital, particularly if your ewes are still in wool - lots of us can't get shearers before Christmas – the ideal time to shear in this district. Longer wool means trouble with flystrike, so crutching and back lining are essential before the heat really sets in, particularly if it is accompanied by high humidity. So that is usually about now.
“Open up all your creek paddocks - nothing better for livestock than shady willows along slow moving water courses. We even open the gates around the sheds and outbuildings so the sheep can find shade”.