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Australia: Farmers prepare for likely El Niño

Despite good conditions, Victorian dairy farmers are being urged to prepare now, for a potential El Nino event.

The Bureau of Meteorology says there is a 70 per cent chance of an El Nino forming, but it is now more likely to happen in spring, rather than winter.

El Nino can lead to drier conditions over south-eastern Australia.

Julie Iommi, Issues Manager at Dairy Australia, says farmers in Victoria should use the winter to start planning a feed strategy whatever happens. 

“Each individual pocket of the state can have very different conditions so really, the message that we’re putting out, particularly to those naysayers is, it’s just good business planning to have a think about these things and say ‘if this does eventuate, what does it mean for my farm, what does it mean for the business?’,” she said.

Ms Iommi says it is important for farmers to monitor hay and feed prices now, and develop relationships with suppliers, as they weigh up their options and develop potential contingency plans for dry weather if it hits. 

She says the area most at risk appears to be northern Victoria, but Gippsland and the state’s south-west will feel the knock-on effects of a drier, hotter spring. “Northern New South Wales and Queensland and the whole grainbelt has been very dry and may continue to be very dry.

“If you need for your feed budgeting, for your feed system, you need to bring in some supplementary grain, then you may find that the prices have gone through the roof so that’s again why it’s perhaps worth making a few contingencies now just in case,” Ms Iommi said.

Fodder producers also watching the forecasts closely

The current situation is a “wait and see” for fodder producers in Victoria.

Darren Keating from the Australian Fodder Industry Association, says lucerne supplies are already tight, and strong existing demand for feed from drought-affected areas of New South Wales and Queensland, will have an impact in the south.

“Depending on how hard it comes in there might be some areas where growers take the decision to harvest a crop as hay, rather than grain, looking at the moisture levels they’ve got, but we may also see again – and this is a may – that we may see less production of pasture hay,” he said.

“Some of those more southern regions that rely on ryegrass and other pasture crops to fill their haysheds, there might be less production there.”

Mr Keating says while dams are reasonably full, the price of water will determine how much fodder is grown on irrigation country this season.

– Weatherzone/ABC


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