Strategising in Times of Drought - Bruce Barnes Webb - June 2018

Regardless of where your opinions lie with regards to Climate Change and changing weather patterns, our farming strategies have to change radically to survive and thrive in an ever demanding climatic challenge. The current drought affecting large tracts of the Eastern States at the moment has the potential to devastate many farming families and rural communities.

Unfortunately it has coincided at a time of high commodity prices across all our products, the consequence is that many people have held onto to stock to exploit these high wool and meat prices. Now faced with a diminished supply of dry matter going into the dry summer months, animal production and reproduction are going to be severely impacted.

Sound strategies should include:

Destocking - Reduce the number of unproductive stock, older generations and possibly even the young replacement animals. Money in the bank is far more secure than feeding animal's inferior hay in the hope of sustaining production. Increased hoof action on bare paddocks also has the potential to delay recovery when rains finally arrive.

Alter breeding strategies and even BREEDS - The DOHNE is a very hardy animal and has proved its worth during times of drought. Even F1 animals display an improved resilience.

Building fodder reserves - a sheep requires 2.5 kg dry matter per day to maintain itself and a beast requires 10 kgs to maintain itself. Maintenance and production are two vastly different actions and require a combined approach. Grain is an essential ingredient in supplementary feeding strategy. The volume of hay being transported on a daily basis from Victoria indicates that hay supplies have dwindled to disastrously low levels up north as have grain supplies.


Having said all this, it leaves us with some really serious decisions to make, to survive and thrive. It would be sound to engage those farmers and graziers who have brought in hardy genetics like the DOHNE to see how their animals are faring, as possibly one of many strategies to get through this ever changing climatic constraint so that we do not fall in the same trap again going forward.