While graziers in many parts of the country steel themselves for more difficult times following the Bureau of Meteorology’s latest bleak outlook, some in rural pockets of western Victoria are still hopeful.
The November to January climate outlook, issued on Thursday 25 October, indicates that large tracts of Australia are likely to be drier than average.
Following a dry winter and a crushingly dry spring in many areas, the Bureau says November particularly is likely to be drier than average in many areas.
In the Ballarat area, many graziers and growers are grateful that conditions are still relatively mild.
Landmark Operations livestock manager Xavier Shanahan said while the situation three weeks ago had been quite concerning, the region had received some rain during the past two weeks and people were more hopeful.
“While it is well short of what we are used to, the bit of rain has helped a bit and we are grateful for the conditions,” Mr Shanahan said.
Brewster grazier David Morcombe, who runs a 647-hectare (1600 acre) mixed crops and livestock property, said they had not fared too badly to date.
“It’s a drier season but we are not feeling the pinch just yet.”
Mr Morcombe said the clear skies indicated no imminent rain and paradoxically, the previous two mornings had been frosts. He said he was concerned about the crops but had not yet had a chance to assess whether it had affected the grain.
Having been on the land all his life, Mr Morcombe said he had become accustomed to taking steps to drought-proof through measures such as reducing stock numbers, putting in extra bores and ensuring he always keeps a “season or so fodder in reserve.”
While they usually start feeding stock about mid December, he says it will likely be earlier this year. Mr Morcombe also takes steps to ensure the lambs are used to grain and hand feeding.
“We make sure we feed from the grain feeders while the lambs still have their mothers to show them how,” he said. “If they don’t know, it can take them a while to figure it out.”
Mr Morcombe said most farmers were adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, and that since the Bureau (of Meteorology) “seemed to have its science pretty spot on,” it would be either “foolish or brave to go against their predictions.”
The forecast for November to January is for warmer than average temperatures through most of Australia, meaning a lower chance of recovery for drought-affected areas. The Bureau has also revised its outlook to an “El Nino alert’, indicating further drought and temperature increases.