Edition: Volume 5 Issue 1 March 2014
Editor: Zita Ritchie, Dairy Extension Officer/Climate Risk, DEPI Warrnambool
Heat waves and fires over summer have left parts of Victoria dry and in need of autumn rains. For dairy regions, cooler and wetter weather continued into December providing a continuation of good spring growth but dried off quickly upon the heatwaves experienced in January and February. Rainfall was average in the North and North East, and below average across Gippsland and the South West over December to February.
The outlook is suggesting average rainfall and slightly warmer temperatures for autumn and winter but this is the time of the year when models are less accurate, due to the predictability barrier. Changes in undersea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and trade winds show signs, but no certainty of becoming an El Niño. Sea temperatures and winds will be watched closely over the next few months, so stay tuned.
Dairy State Round Up - Summer (Dec - Feb)
Mirboo North: 3
|Region||Spring Rainfall Deciles (Sept-November)|
|Northern - Irrigation|
Hot temperatures from January onwards lead to higher irrigation requirements through most of summer. Cooler temperatures in late spring and early summer were conducive to good ryegrass growth rates but there was poorer summer crop production. Paspalum dominant perennial ryegrass and tall fescue pastures had good production over the hotter periods compared to straight perennial ryegrass pastures.
Temporary water prices continued to trade around $90 per ML until late February when they began to fall. Collectively, just over one third of water allocated and traded across the irrigation area this season remained unused at the end of summer. This autumn, lower prices for temporary water and unused allocation will make it more affordable for dairy farmers to establish new perennial and annual pastures.
Pasture growth continued remarkably well up until December (particularly in the river flat country) despite a drier spring, due to moisture remaining in the soil profile. The increasing hot conditions over January and February brought pasture growth to a swift halt. A lot of home grown silage is currently being fed from decent reserves from the two previous springs, even though the last one was drier than average.
Very few crops were grown as soil moisture was limiting to make it worthwhile. Concentrates are being fed at higher rates for many, and those with surface irrigation (rivers and creeks) and underground water are running their systems pretty hard. Consequently, most dairy farmers in this region are eagerly waiting for a decent rainfall event by mid to late March.
|Coastal East Gippsland|
The summer heat waves and subsequent fires burnt close to milking areas near Bairnsdale and a few turn-out blocks were singed near Orbost.
Despite the very dry conditions, pasture growth over summer was good around the Orbost region due to adequate moisture from spring. Many farmers harvested their first maize crops and some with excellent yields. Farms situated on the hilly country have been relying on kikuyu pastures to carry them through the summer, as well home grown fodder which is still in good supply from last spring.Around Bairnsdale, pastures have dried out (particularly in the hilly areas) and some farmers are feeding only fodder and concentrates and are likely to dry off earlier if no timely substantial rain events occur. It has been fortunate that silage and hay quality made last spring was high.
|South West Victoria|
Due to an extended spring season perennial ryegrass pastures hung on until early January. Following the week of high temperatures (high 30's - low 40's) mid-January and early February and no decent rainfall events, remaining pasture has progressively dried off. Any forage crops that had not been irrigated with effluent have also dried off. However any forage crops that have been able to be irrigated with effluent have responded well. For many, planning is underway for autumn pasture renovation.
|Macalister Irrigation District (MID)|
With well below average rainfall over summer in the MID, farmers have had to assess their irrigation situation and consider watering better paddocks and drying off poorer ones, culling high cell count and poorer producing cows. More concentrates have been fed (particularly to assist in stretching out grazing rotation length) and increased feeding of home grown fodder.
Although MID irrigators had a healthy spill period from Lake Glenmaggie up until December 15, many dairy farmers were getting dangerously close to their Annual Use Limit (AUL*) by heat waves in January and February. The remaining number of waterings left available for irrigators until the end of the irrigation season (15 May) was very low; varying between less than one to a maximum of three. As a result of this situation,
Southern Rural Water successfully increased the AUL for MID irrigators by 11 per cent until 30 June 2014. The temporary increase can allow for one or more additional waterings, if the additional amount of water is already available in their water accounts (calculated for their farm) and/or if they can buy enough temporary or permanent water shares for the additional amount. *AUL - maximum volume of irrigation system water that can be applied to a specific parcel of land
|South & West Gippsland|
Average rainfall and mild conditions for the first half of summer in both West and South Gippsland resulted in decent pasture and crop growth. Fodder conservation continued well into the summer with good yields, however quality was variable due to rainfall delaying harvest on many farms. As with East Gippsland, favourable seasonal conditions came to halt in mid-January with the heat wave and lack of rain. Pasture and crop growth was minimal for the second half of summer. Some late February rain and milder temperatures resulted in some green shoots emerging again but this has not yet translated into the start of the growing season.
Seasonal Climate Outlook
This seasonal climate outlook has been put together with assistance from Dale Grey, editor of DEPI's seasonal climate risk e-newsletter, The Fast Break.
Seasonal model forecasts for Victoria over the next three months
|Current outlook (February 27)||Past outlook (January 27)|
|PACIFIC OCEAN:||Neutral||PACIFIC OCEAN:||Neutral|
|INDIAN OCEAN:||Neutral||INDIAN OCEAN:||Neutral|
The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI)
The SOI has continued to drop over the past two weeks as was expected and now sits well within the neutral range. The latest approximate 30-day SOI value to 23 February is +2.6. Sustained positive values of the SOI above +8 may indicate a La Niña event, while sustained negative values below −8 may indicate an El Niño event. Values between +8 and −8 generally indicate neutral conditions.
Sea surface temperatures (SST)
Recent observations indicate warming of the tropical Pacific is occurring but temperatures still remain in a neutral state (neither La Niña or El Niño conditions). The tropical Pacific Ocean subsurface has warmed substantially over the past few weeks, which is likely to result in a warming of the sea surface in coming months. A recent burst of westerly winds over the far western Pacific is the strongest seen since at least 2009—the last time an El Niño developed (from ENSO wrap, BoM).
The Coral and Timor Seas are normal to slightly warmer, but the Arafura Sea is slightly cooler. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is typically too weak to have a significant influence on the Australian climate from December to April. Current model outlooks indicate a neutral IOD through late autumn and early winter. However, the chance of a positive IOD event is elevated during El Niño.
Southern Annular Mode (SAM)
The Southern Annular Mode has been behaving itself within neutral boundaries over summer but has recently gone moderately positive. This can be conducive to greater summer rainfall over Eastern Victoria.
Sub Tropical Ridge (STR)
The Sub Tropical Ridge of high pressure is at normal latitude over Melbourne for this time of the year. The positioning of the high in terms of longitude shows a persistent stronger than normal high in the Tasman Sea. This has resulted in more warm northerly winds for Victoria and NSW during much of January and February. This pattern recently broke down providing welcome relief. Persistent dry easterly winds for QLD and NSW were also not conducive for rain.
To view a summary table of Global Climate Models with their outlook for rainfall and temperature for the next three months go to: View the modelled climate and ocean predictions table »
Did someone mention El Niño?
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) remains neutral at this point in time being neither El Niño nor La Niña. However, international climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate that warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean is likely in the coming months, with most models showing temperatures approaching or exceeding El Niño thresholds during winter.
The Pacific Ocean is delicately setup at the moment showing the possibility, but no certainty of becoming an El Niño. The undersea is very warm in the western equatorial Pacific Ocean and frequent bursts of westerly winds are assisting to warm the ocean and move this water closer to the South American coast.
A key factor for kicking off a possible El Niño are strong westerly wind bursts which push against the traditional trade winds. The recent burst of westerly winds over the far western Pacific is the strongest seen since at least 2009, the last time an El Niño developed (from ENSO wrap, BoM). Given the current situation, it would appear odds have turned a little more toward a possible El Niño. However, further westerly wind bursts would be required to keep this trend happening and watching the trade winds and undersea temperatures is warranted over the next few months.
This time of the year ocean patterns are still setting up, which is often referred to as the 'autumn predictability barrier'. Models favour average rainfall and slightly warmer temperatures for autumn and winter, but this is the time of the year when they have poorer skill due to the predictability barrier. That doesn't stop them trying though! Most models are predicting a warmer trend to the Pacific Ocean, but few are predicting an El Nino in winter.
Remember to keep in mind that ENSO has its greatest influence on Victoria's rainfall in winter- spring. It is fair to say that the odds increase for a drier spring in an El Niño year but it also depends what other climate drivers are up to at the same time. During the 2006 drought we had a El Niño in the Pacific coupled with a drier phase in the Indian Ocean which lead to much drier conditions for Victoria. The local sea surface temperatures in Australia's north, north-east and north-west can also influence rainfall, which is why each El Niño can impact us a little differently.
Stay tuned over the next month or two for further developments of subsurface ocean warming and westerly wind bursts.
By Maria Rose, Dairy Industry Development Officer, DEPI Maffra
In this "Spotlight On" interview, we feature Gillian Hayman from Dairy Australia's Natural Resource Management Program team. With 20 years of natural resource management extension and facilitation experience, Gillian is also a dairy farmer; having farmed in partnership for 12 years with her husband at Fish Creek in South Gippsland. Here Gillian shares with us a little about her role in the climate work area within Dairy Australia.
What is your current role in Dairy Australia?
As part of Dairy Australia's (DA's) Natural Resource Management team, I am the leader of the national Dairy Businesses for Future Climates (DBfFC) Project and the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Technical Specialist for the Gippsland region.
My work across these areas is to ensure farmers and service providers have access to regionally relevant natural resources management tools, information and extension. Secondly, to coordinate a project that aims to identify climate risk strategies that build business resilience and flexibility for a range of dairy farming systems.
The current key projects in DA's NRM program are;
- On farm emissions mitigation strategies (http://www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Levy-investment-2/Profitable-and-competitive-farms/Farm-margin-improvement/Resource-management/On-farm-emissions-mitigation-strategies.aspx)
- On farm nutrient management (http://fertsmart.dairyingfortomorrow.com.au/),
- Climate change adaption strategies (http://www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Animals-feed-and-environment/Environment/Climate-redirect-page/MicroSite1/Home/Latest-News/Mitigation-and-adaptation-in-the-dairy-industry.aspx), and
- Improving water use efficiency (http://www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Levy-investment-2/Profitable-and-competitive-farms/Farm-margin-improvement/Resource-management/Improving-water-use-efficiency.aspx).
As NRM technical specialist in the Gippsland region for DA I focus on natural resource areas of farm management. This includes promoting a DairySAT approach which encourages best management practices in soils, fertiliser, effluent, energy, water use, farm waste, irrigation, nutrient management and biodiversity.
Describe the Dairy Businesses for Future Climates Project
Dairy Australia (DA) has been working in Climate Adaption for a while now and the DBfFC project has evolved from the Future Ready Dairy Systems Project . This project continues to show case the actions of dairy farmers around Australia to adapt to climate variability. Many are doing great things in response to variable seasons and extreme climatic events, such as heat waves, longer wet periods, drier autumns and shorter springs.
The DBfFC project aims to address key climate challenges facing the dairy industry into the future. With an increasingly variable climate, including extreme events such as heat waves and intense rain events, farm businesses will need to be better positioned to withstand and effectively manage these challenges. The DBfFC project will explore different farm systems and how they are positioned to withstand future climate scenarios.
The project involves a multi-disciplinary team including biophysical modellers, economists and social researchers to help understand a range of potential climate settings and interactions when planning for the case study farms. Additionally, regional working groups have been established with farmers and consultants in each of the three regions of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Each region has a case study farm providing real farm data to model various climate situations on. Overlaying these various climate settings, different development options can be considered for adaptation. For example, if there is a farm that wants to intensify by increasing stocking rate, irrigation and bought in feed, climate overlays can be applied for all three elements to test how that system would stack up from an economic, biophysical and social view point under extreme heat, dry or other climatic events,. The project's key aim is to help us predict with some confidence what the outlook for those modelled farm situations would look like in the future and what skills and resources farmers might need to be resilient enough.
Where is the Dairy Businesses for Future Climates Project up to at this point in time?
The project has been running for nine months and is due to finish in June 2016. Case study farms have been selected in each of the three project regions. More specifically, the farmers in each working group have identified current climatic challenges for which development options are being thought through. From here, different farm development options will be selected. Modelling will take place for each of the farms. This will help us to understand what farm development options are most likely to stand up to variable climates as well as extreme events. Social research is underway and will assist in understanding how farmers are currently managing variable and extreme events as well as assist in understanding what needs the industry must meet into the future if farming systems need to continually adapt.
Where can people get more information?
As manager of the DBfFC Project, I am very active in wide spread sharing of results with industry stakeholders as the project progresses. Project updates can be found in the Dairying Tomorrow newsletter available from the Dairying Tomorrow website.
Anyone interested in more detail of the project is most welcome to contact Gillian by mobile on 0428345493.
Managing the Season Ahead - Summer 2014
Greg O'Brien, Dairy Extension Officer, DEPI Ellinbank
The three month forecast for autumn indicates the temperature is likely to be warmer than average. This means that early sowing might be riskier, unless substantial rains fall or irrigation is available. With no strong rainfall indicator, it might be prudent to plan for average to 'less than average' early autumn growth.
Time spent now on planning for autumn will help you to set up your dairy farm for the growing season. Check the density of your pastures now; have your hay and silage tested to make sure your ration during winter is ideal; buy in feed early to get the best quality for your milkers and plan to maximise profit and consolidate your financial position while the milk price is good.
The strength and timing of an autumn break varies greatly, and having a management plan that will succeed under a range of autumn weather patterns is very important. Autumn rainfall is harder to predict at this time of the year, while reliability increases into winter and spring. Post-break, warmer weather should promote growth in late autumn, if enough moisture is available.
While growing conditions vary greatly between dairy districts across the state, condition of paddocks, time of sowing, fodder quality and diet balance are all key aspects in autumn planning.
Drive over your paddocks now and work out which paddocks would benefit from some renovation:
- thinner perennial pastures may not fully thicken until late winter/early spring, so they could be direct drilled with more perennial ryegrass,
- paddocks with severe pugging damage last spring are likely to require levelling and re-sowing.
If your pastures are thin in early autumn watch out for emerging weed seedlings. Around four to six weeks after germination is the best time to use herbicides as weeds can be controlled at a lower rate of spray, before they shade out valuable pasture species.
In northern irrigation districts, changes in water availability and security will impact on the most profitable strategy for renovating pastures – annual crops, annual grasses, or perennial grasses are all options to consider when trying to fill feed gaps in autumn and winter.
With good levels of silage and hay on hand plus relatively affordable prices for grain and purchased fodder, there is less of a case for considering cropping as part of a strategy for managing seasonal risk on many farms this season. On the other hand, good fodder reserves and cash flow makes it a good time to catch up on a bit of pasture renovation where needed.
Conditions for sowing
A plan to sow early could have a number of advantages and get the season off to a good start, but sowing early also presents its own risks. New sowings are most susceptible during the germination phase when the seed has absorbed enough moisture for growth but has not put a root down to actively collect soil moisture. If warm temperatures persist and the soil around the seed dries out, the seedling dies.
To reduce this risk, place seed below the soil surface and roll cultivated paddocks after sowing to enhance germination and survival, by bringing existing soil moisture into contact with the seed.
High temperatures can also limit germination of many crops and pastures, even when soil moisture is available. Germination is reduced when soil surface temperature (which is measured at the depth the seed is sown) is too high. If the soil surface temperature goes above 25C, the likelihood of a successful establishment is reduced. This is the case for ryegrass, annual clovers (such as Subterranean and Balansa) and most cereal varieties.
In high rainfall districts with more reliable autumn breaks, many will consider sowing in mid-March, particularly following a good rainfall event. Some farmers will spread their seasonal risk by sowing some paddocks earlier and other paddocks later. A lower risk option is to wait for the break before sowing, while this lowers the risk of crop or pasture failure, it will result in less feed grown over the autumn-winter period.
In marginal rainfall areas, some farmers will manage risk through species selection, including the use of annual ryegrass, cereals or brassicas. Forage cereals can be reliably sown early into a dry seedbed, handle a false break and provide grazing earlier than other annuals. Annual ryegrass is better for grazing and if conserved as silage, is generally of higher feed quality than cereals. Brassicas can also offer high quality feed, and can provide good early growth and in some cases be mixed in with annual rye. Brassicas and cereals may provide a good option but are not as flexible as ryegrass for grazing and can be more difficult to conserve (more difficult to wilt).
Diet balance this season
Wet conditions over the silage and hay season in many districts resulted in much lower quality fodder made last spring. A feed test on your silage or hay will assist greatly with feed planning and enable you to manage the quality of the diet more effectively. It is recommended that lower quality fodder be fed as a smaller proportion of a diet than normal (less fodder per day over more days) and balance with higher energy and protein feeds as required.
With increased cash flow on most dairy farms this year, take the chance to consolidate the financial position of your business by focussing on maximising profit, by increasing the proportion of home grown feed in your cows' diet, avoiding overfeeding and minimise wastage. Indicators of overfeeding include under-grazed pasture (leaving more than four to six cm of pasture after grazing between clumps) or greater than 15 per cent wastage of silage or hay.
It's important to purchase feed on both price and quality. For milkers, the higher the quality the better, with concentrates likely to be the most cost-effective feed supplement given current good milk price and moderate grain price. If protein is limiting, an option may include adding a protein to your grain mix such as canola meal, or purchasing a high protein pellet. Do your own sums to see how they compare with high protein fodder.
Ration balancing is important if milk production and profit are to be optimised. Remember, pasture and fodder crops are the cheapest source of energy and protein. However, if ration balancing isn't your strong suit, talk to someone who is good at it.
The Summer Back Page
The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) is holding its 2014 Climate Adaption Conference at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, Gold Coast, Queensland, from 30 September to 2 October
The conference aims to bring together end users and researchers from across Australia to share experience in adaptation and showcase activities, strategies and research.
This gathering will connect the research community and the users of climate change adaptation information in Australia; building on the success of the NCCARF conferences in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
The call for abstracts and registrations opened in February 2014.
You are invited to attend this event which focuses solely on climate adaptation for 2014.
For further information visit http://www.nccarf.edu.au/events/conference2014
The Bureau of Meteorology pilot Heatwave Forecast
After launching this product during our last very hot summer, the BoM is now in the process of evaluating this service for accuracy. A workshop with health and emergency sector stakeholders will consider the relevance of these forecast maps and how a comprehensive heatwave warning system should be developed. For more information or to provide your feedback go to: http://www.bom.gov.au/weather-services/about/heatwave-forecast.shtml
Heatwaves: Hotter, longer, more often
This Climate Council report shows how the nature of heatwaves is changing, and affecting health and well-being, infrastructure, agriculture, biodiversity, and natural ecosystems.
BoM 2013 climate report
BoM has released its 2013 climate report providing details of Australia's hottest year since 1910.
National temperature and rainfall outlook for March to May 2014
More at Australian rainfall outlook
More at Australian temperature outlook
Watch out for Climate Webinars in 2014. Actual dates have not been set yet. If you wish to receive information about these webinars send an email to email@example.com