Stock returns begin as rain brings back feed to pastoralists

Stock returns begin as rain brings back feed to pastoralists

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Shane, Anna and Scarlett Hooper, at Orroroo where rain has returned green cover to the country.

Shane, Anna and Scarlett Hooper, at Orroroo where rain has returned green cover to the country.

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DROUGHT-affected areas in the Far North and pastoral areas of the state are starting to see the effects of good rain for the start of 2020, with many graziers starting to rebuild their herds.

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DROUGHT-affected areas in the Far North and pastoral areas of the state are starting to see the effects of good rain for the start of 2020, with many graziers starting to rebuild their herds.

Already this year, some areas have equalled or doubled their entire rainfall total for 2019, with much of that the result of a particularly widespread storm at the start of February.

Rural Business Support financial officer Paul Erkelenz, who works with clients in the pastoral zones said the rain had put water back into dried up dams and started to put feed back into paddocks.

"The rain has brought confidence," he said.

"It obviously varied where it went but at least we can believe it can still rain."

He said many people he spoke to were starting to move their stock back onto the place after agisting on other locations.

"It won't break the drought - she ain't over by a long shot - but the pressure has been relieved every so slightly," he said.

North Well station manager Lynly Kerin said the difference in the landscape was evident on a recent trip to Port Augusta.

"I was able to see green feed as we were driving through," she said.

Some cattle agisted at North Well has also been able to be returned, which was good news for them as well as the owners.

Ms Kerin said the rain had been patchy across the north of the state - they had only received 20 millimetres of rain from the early February while neighbours had 40mm or even 60mm.

"Then two weeks later we had 30mm overnight with nothing forecast and it went everywhere across the property," she said.

"It was a gift out of nowhere.

"It's not the end of the drought but it is a positive start to the year."

It was a similar case at Commonwealth Hill Station, via Glendambo.

Jessica Brown said they only received 5mm in the initial fall but another 20mm later that month.

"We had wet sheep and shearing, but we're happy with that," she said.

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Reviving rain eases drought

Ms Kerin said the rain also seemed to match what was needed. Those properties that had empty dams got a sudden dump, while those without dams got a slower, steady rain.

Candice Brown, Arcoona Station, said 77mm had fallen overnight, about a month after 25mm.

She said this filled their dams and made planning easier.

"We had destocked and they're coming back," she said.

Leisa Breeding, Braemar Station, said the 25mm of rain they received in February had been welcome but since it was still hot at the time, it did not result in much feed.

"It's just getting cool enough now and we need a follow-up," she said.

Further west at Yunta, Ros Breeding, Teetulpa Station, said their dams had caught rain in two or three, patchy and short rain bursts, but she was still concerned about feed availability.

"The natural bush is so far gone, even Mallee and Mulga trees are falling over," she said.

"It's going to take a long time for them to come back.

"Overall it's still dry but it was good to see some catches of water - a morale boost.

"We had given up looking at forecasts."

It's not the end of the drought but it is a positive start to the year. - LYNLY KERIN

At Orroroo, the rain came in two falls, with 32mm falling in early January, then a further 55mm in February.

Shane Hooper said the latest rain also brought flooding.

"The reservoir had just gone dry the week before, then a week later it was overflowing and washed out the creeks," he said.

They have begun rebuilding some of their sheep numbers, which had dropped to one-quarter of their usual flock, with some bought before the rain on the back of a failed crop.

"Last year we had no moisture when we started seeding so this year feels like a bit of head start," he said.

"It's nice to have cover, even if its just weeds but we're still a ways off full production."

As most areas call out for follow-up rain, there is some positive news from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Climatologist Jonathan Pollock said the modelling showed good indications for southern Australia, including SA.

"It looks like a wet end for March and start to April," he said.

"There are parts of SA likely to have a wet April overall, not just the start."

Mr Pollock said the two main drivers for the Australian weather patterns of 2019 - El Nino and a positive Indian Ocean dipole had shifted to neutral, but warmer waters in the western Indian Ocean were probably the cause for the wetter signals.

"There are very strong signals for WA, especially the southern parts of the state, and increase odds for western parts of SA," he said.

"There is a chance it will reduce as it heads further east, but nowhere in SA is looking at a drier outlook.

"There is an equal chance of wet or dry or likely to be wetter."

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