Planning Seasonal Strategies

Whilst the weather has thrown up mixed fortunes across the state this year, it is important that all producers have plans for the next 6 to 9 months. These plans will need to consider the implications of the season to date, forecasts going forward, seasonal strategies available, and action trigger points. 

Whilst conditions have been favourable in the south, the dry conditions in the northern & eastern areas of Eyre Peninsula, upper north agricultural areas, and the northern Mallee continue to challenge producers. In these drier areas conditions have had a significant negative impact on both crop and pasture production. The recent rains have helped many areas, however the cold conditions have resulted in low pasture growth rates. With minimal pasture currently in many paddocks it is expected that the challenges around feed availability may carry through into spring.  

Whilst each district will differ, how much pasture will there be over coming months? Pastures from Space is currently predicting pasture growth rates of 5 to 15 kg DM/ha/day in the drier areas. If we assume that this may double as temperatures rise (and ideally some follow-up rain) a pasture that is currently say, 300 kg DM/ha, may produce about 1100 kg DM/ha this spring (assuming the season cuts out mid October).  This does not provide much pasture feed especially when it is also important to reduce the risk of erosion over summer/autumn and allow for some cover on paddocks. Do a feed budget for your property. In some situations crops may provide a feed option if not suitable for harvest.

Weather forecasts for spring are suggesting a low probability of above median rainfall for August to October, and the probability of higher temperatures. This may also have implications for the season finish. The Very Fast Break provides a regular update on the season forecast for SA (search for The Very Fast Break – YouTube). 

With minimal available pasture what are your strategies for the next 6 to 9 months? These will depend on your current circumstances and options that suit individual businesses need to be considered.  Keeping and feeding stock, or selling stock needs a careful analysis of the financial impacts of each strategy. Keep in mind the value of stock now and expected prices in the short to medium term. Sheep in good condition will more than likely be worth more now than sheep that drop in condition too much in the months ahead. 

If keeping and feeding stock, have a feed budget that covers a range of scenarios over the next 6-12 months. Carefully assess the cost of feeding for an extended period, particularly with grain prices expected to be $300-$400/tonne.

If feeding of stock for a significant period of time, confinement feeding may need to be considered. Having suitable facilities, and adequate feed and water is important. There is further information available on confinement feeding.

If livestock are not managed well, a dry season will have impacts on future production. It is likely that lambing percentages may be lower next year, and lambs born this year may be less productive over their lifetime.

In summary – have a carefully thought out plan for the next 6-9 months. Identify suitable strategies for your business and the trigger points at which action needs to be taken.

There is further information on dealing with a dry seasons available at the AWI website (