I’m not one to give weather updates nor qualified to talk on climate variability, but I thought the past 12 months of weather extremities deserved a mention, and its impact on farmers and their livestock.
The South West Slopes region of NSW (my home), a traditional sheep grazing area experienced flooding in March 2012, snow in August 2012 and catastrophic fire danger in January 2013. I know a lot other areas across Australia experienced similar extremities in weather, and in many cases much worse off.
The recent catastrophic fire danger across NSW rightly had everyone on edge. There were many large fires within this region, notably the Geegullalong Road, Boorowa fire in December 2012, the Jugiong to Yass fire in mid January 2013 and the Watershed Boorowa fire in late January 2013. It is a credit to the RFS and volunteers that due to their quick actions and tireless efforts no lives or homes were lost.
When I received the call to say that the Watershed fire was heading in my sheep paddock’s direction, I was very quick to get the trailer on, and as I was driving the 40km I thinking about where I would move them to. The rams were moved to my backyard. I was also very fortunate to have access to a friend’s block where the ewes and lambs were re-located to. At the time it was physically and emotionally intense – for not knowing if the fire would change direction or if the fire would pick up speed. Fortunately for me the fire didn’t come as far as my sheep paddock. The day certainly was a learning experience and a bigger than ever incentive to complete my Bush FireFighter training.
In March 2012 Young recorded 184mm of rain within 7 days. This is equal to a third of their average annual rainfall – all within a week. The area was declared a natural disaster where affected farmers could seek financial support to repair the damage to infrastructure (fences and internal roads). The medium-term result of this high rainfall event was an increase in the biomass of vegetation, providing valuable feed for livestock before going into winter.
August 2012 was a very cold month, seeing a reduction in pasture growth (as normal). Yass NSW experienced temperatures as low as -4.8 degrees with an average maximum temperature of 14.4 degrees. Sheep grazier alerts became common, as detailed in my previous post, including the impacts on livestock. Click here.
For farmers, a key goal is to manage stocking rates to match the ever changing carrying capacities of the seasons, with the focus of producing a consistent and quality product to the consumer, and managing stock and pastures in a way that maximises ground cover.
As the storm clouds roll in, I hope for rain across south west NSW.
Fires Near Me NSW – app available for smart phones and tablets
NSW Rural Fire Service – http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/
BlazeAid Volunteers: working alongside farmers to rebuild fences after fires and floods – http://blazeaid.com.au/
NSW Rural Assistance Authority: Natural Disaster Relief Scheme – http://www.raa.nsw.gov.au/assistance/natural-disaster-relief