Rain potential to provide options for pastoralists

Rain potential to provide options for pastoralists

Weather
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PASTORALISTS are looking to the sky as forecasts suggest a strong rain band could bring more rain in three days than fell throughout 2019 in some areas.

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PASTORALISTS are looking to the sky as forecasts suggest a strong rain band could bring more rain in three days than fell throughout 2019 in some areas.

Last year, Marree recorded just 12.6 millimetres of rain, while Oodnadatta received 21.6mm, with this following an already exceptionally dry 2018.

Pastoral board member Colin Greenfield said there were a "lot of crossed fingers" on rain this week but cautioned "we don't want to have false hope".

"Everyone is trying not to read all the available long-range forecasts," he said.

Mr Greenfield said rain would not solve all the problems that had developed in the past few years but it would provide "breathing space".

"In our country, you don't need a huge rain to break a drought, so we're not looking for 100mm straight away," he said.

He said this was among the driest times his family had seen on their property at Billa Kalina since the 1960s.

"You can plan for dry years but this is right up there," he said. "(Rain) would be as important mentally as it would be for anything else.

"It gives a bit of hope and a bit of relief so instead of planning to sell, they can plan to keep (stock)."

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Rural Business Support chief executive officer Brett Smith said he had increasingly been dealing with more clients in the pastoral areas in the past four months as the drought placed growing pressure on stock numbers and finances.

With extra funding from the state government, RBS has been able to employ two more rural financial counsellors, with one of these to focus on the northern parts of the state, including the pastoral zone.

(Rain) would be as important mentally as it would be for anything else. - COLIN GREENFIELD

"We're aiming to ramp up our activity and to assist those who have already reached out to us and to reach those unaware of our service and the support we can provide," he said.

RBS rural financial counsellor Paul Erkelenz, who works with pastoral clients, said it was "very, very dry pretty much everywhere".

He said most stations had reduced their stocking rates to half or even one-third of their usual numbers, but this figure included those away on agistment.

He said dust storms had been a regular occurrence.

"It is certainly wearing on people - they're used to drought and dry times as a matter of course but this particular spell has been long and intense," he said.

We're looking at falls of 15-30mm with potential for higher falls of 30-50mm, particularly with the thunderstorm activity. - VINCE ROWLANDS

He said the community had held events to help keep spirits up, such as the Marree Rain Dance in November, which coincided with 2.5mm of rain falling - one-fifth of the year's total.

"Stations are busy enough as it is, but particularly so during a drought where you've got to constantly keep water up to stock," he said.

"But whatever gathering can get people together is a break from the grind."

Mr Erkelenz said this forecast rain would be as good psychologically as it would be for the country.

"If we get the kind of rain they're talking about, providing there is follow-up in a reasonable time, it could be the start of something," he said. "But if that's all we get, we might soon be back in the same position."

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Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Vince Rowlands said a good infeed of moisture had come down from the tropics in NT and Qld, coinciding with an upper trough moving throughout SA, which should bring rain to much of the pastoral area.

He said falls of up to 20mm were expected along the NT border on Thursday (today), with broader falls expected on Friday, moving down onto the West Coast.

It was definitely welcome and everyone had a smile on their face to know it can rain again, but unless we get follow-up, it won't amount to much. - ADAM WILLIS

"Generally speaking, we're looking at falls of 15-30mm with potential for higher falls of 30-50mm, particularly with the thunderstorm activity," he said.

"On Saturday, there is potentially 30-50mm, with some areas having the potential for 50-80mm, or even 100mm in isolated places.

"It's a very significant event."

Some parts of the Far North had already received some sporadic rain this year.

At Arcoona Station, near Woomera, Adam Willis and Candice Brown, along with children Ruby, Nelson and Hudson, were "lucky enough to jag an inch (25 millimetres) of rain three weeks ago".

Mr Willis said it was his first "decent" rain in more than two years, and led to some green shoots.

"It was definitely welcome and everyone had a smile on their face to know it can rain again, but unless we get follow-up, it won't amount to much," he said.

He has destocked, down about one-third of his normal stocking rate.

"We're right back to the core breeding ewes," he said.

"Hopefully we get something or we'll have to destock even further."

Lambina Station's Mark Fennell, near Marla, had also received some "patchy" rain in recent weeks, with some areas across his property receiving up to 25mm, but others having none.

"It does show it can still rain," he said.

He said they had been reliant on bores to keep stock alive, with the last good rainfall event in October 2017, "and we haven't had one year's average since then".

"The last calendar year we had about 29mm," he said.

"Most of the year we have waterholes but we haven't had any for more than 12 months."

Mr Fennell said they had been selling off their younger stock, to reduce the burden, and just holding onto the breeding stock.

He said even if they did not receive much rain in the coming weeks, good falls in the eastern states could help lift the price of cattle.

"The number we'd have to sell to keep the rest alive (is fewer)," he said.

  • Details: RBS 1800 836 211.

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