THERE are high hopes for this week's forecasted rain, especially at Brinkley Station, Wellington East, where feed supplies are all but spent.
Station overseer Neil Ziersch, who helps manage the property on behalf of the McFarlane family, said they had about a fortnight of feed left for their 5500 ewes, which had been lambing since early April, and 2500 replacements.
Last year, the operation cut about 2000 round hay bales (usually up to 3000 bales in a good season) and warehoused barley "just in case".
"We are going through about 30 tonnes of barley and nearly 100 bales a week," Mr Ziersch said.
"We have been trying to average 15 megajoules of metabolisable energy per head per day for our ewes, which are going into peak lactation.
"Lambing has been expensive, but we have kept mortality rates low so far."
But the lack of feed was beginning to take its toll.
"We are lucky being close to the coast and the property has underground streams feeding to the River Murray," Mr Ziersch said.
"So it's not as bad as it could be since we have had almost no rain since December.
"Along with some sturdy lucerne paddocks, we also have river flood country, where our 2500 replacements have been running the past two months on hay stubbles and irrigated feed."
Lambing has been expensive, but we have kept mortality rates low so far.
But rain would be most welcome, as they began dry sowing sheep feed last month.
About 3300 hectares is cropped at Brinkley Station, with up to 1200ha sown to sheep feed, including lucerne, medic, barley, triticale and lupins.
The flock is mainly self-replacing Merinos, with some culls mated to White Suffolks.
But prime lamb production will cease this year because of the big dry.
"Feeding our Merinos is more important," Mr Ziersch said.
Culling, which normally starts after weaning in July, may also be brought forward because of the lack of feed.
From the 2500 replacements, about 1500 are kept.
Young female culls are mainly sold to a Kangaroo Island buyer, while the wether lambs are sold offshears mainly on AuctionsPlus at the end of September.
"We sell as offshears because of our large cropping program - we try to keep our numbers tight," he said.
Lucerne holds on in dry, windy weather
DESPITE it being one of the driest starts to the season on record and winds continuing to plague Brinkley Station, Wellington East, lucerne stands have held on well on the property's lighter country.
But while the paddocks are normally set up for weaning, livestock overseer Rob Macklin said this year they may be used sooner because of the lack of on-farm feed.
Lucerne is grown on about a third of the property, up to 1500 hectares, which has only had about 18.5 millimetres of rain since December (as of Monday).
Mr Macklin said some stands had come back strongly, mainly on the springs country.
"These underground streams feed into the nearby River Murray," he said.
They even had older Hunterfield stands, up to nine years old, still producing, but these would need renovating soon.
The property grows Hunterfield, Aurora and GTL60 lucerne varieties, while a further 200ha has been allocated to new SARDI winter active variety Grazer this year.
Elders Murray Bridge agronomist Kaye Zadow said trials showed Grazer "stacked up well under heavy grazing".