Volume 6 Issue 1
Edition: Volume 6: Issue 1 - March 2015
Editor: Zita Ritchie
Dairy Extension Officer/Climate Risk, Dairy Services,
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) Warrnambool
Summer 2014-15 was a mixed bag for Victoria. Most of the state received average rainfall with the far east of the state receiving higher than average rainfall with drier conditions in patches to the north. Wide-spread temperatures for summer were close to normal and only slightly above average.
Dairy State Round Up - Summer (Dec 2014 – Feb 2015)
Mirboo North: 3
Northern – Irrigation
Summer in the northern irrigation district was generally wetter than normal with around 150mm rainfall occurring from Christmas onwards providing a challenge of weed infestations. Milk production levels were similar to the previous summer. In the last few weeks, conditions have been much drier, so the wetter summer hasn't translated particularly well into ideal soil conditions for sowing; an early autumn break is therefore high on the wish list.
Humid conditions and good rainfall in the first half of summer and relatively mild temperatures thereafter produced good growth across the north east region. Supplementary feeding was reduced and survival of perennial pastures has been good but growth of summer weeds has also been prolific. The dry finish now has most farmers eager for more rain to get autumn underway.
Coastal East Gippsland
In the Orbost and Bairnsdale regions the summer season was ideal for pasture growth and corresponding milk production, which was up on last year's production with fewer supplements fed over summer. In the last couple of weeks it has become much drier with spring fodder reserves, particularly silage coming in handy. Mainly around Orbost photosensitization has been noticed as an emerging issue, mostly among young stock. An early autumn break would welcomed for Coastal East Gippsland while there is still healthy and vigorous pastures.
South West Victoria
Pasture growth in the south west was minimal until general widespread rain across the region in January with up to 70mm received. Some areas had follow up rain in February. Growth rates lifted and any forage crops that had been sown responded accordingly. Many farmers are now in the process of planning for autumn sowing and some parts of the region remain green.
Macalister Irrigation District (MID)
The MID had mild summer temperatures and 100 per cent high reliability water allocation early from Lake Glenmaggie which took pressure off irrigators in terms of water security. However high demand over peak times for ordering water occasionally resulted in delays on water delivery. Some farmers had grass quality issues particularly in older pastures with the higher levels of summer rainfall. This was more noticeable in paddocks with poor irrigation infrastructure. Poorer pasture quality over summer has required some farmers to increase concentrate feeding to maintain higher levels of milk production. There have been a few cases of facial eczema reported in recent weeks during humid weather conditions.
East Sale: 10
South and West Gippsland
Summer has been very favourable throughout south and west Gippsland due to timely rainfall, minimal extreme hot days, regular cloud cover and early morning dews to make the rainfall go further. This has seen greater levels of pasture in the diet and less reliance on supplements than normal for this time of year. With good silage reserves on most farms, filling autumn and winter feed gaps should be more comfortable than usual. Pasture renovation is likely to start earlier than normal, which should result in faster establishment due to warmer weather and soils (rainfall permitting).
Seasonal climate outlook
This seasonal climate outlook has been compiled with assistance from Dale Grey, editor of DEDJTR's The Fast Break seasonal climate risk e-newsletter, which has included using material from the BOM's Enso Wrap -Up.
Current outlook (February 27)
Previous outlook (January 28)
1-3 month outlook
4-6 month outlook
1-3 month outlook
4-6 month outlook
Warm (El Niño
Warm (El Niño
The Southern Oscillation Index
(SOI) spent most of January and February 2015 in moderately negative territory but has recently made a significant climb to zero. The SOI is notorious for being erratic during summer being mucked around by tropical weather patterns as is the case at the moment. It takes until the end of the monsoon season in May to calm down.
More recently it has been hovering just above zero. The latest 30-day SOI value to 1 March is +0.8, having recovered from a dip into negative values which were primarily caused by transient weather systems in the vicinity of Tahiti. It is common for tropical weather systems to cause the SOI to fluctuate during the first quarter of the year, especially if a tropical low or cyclone was to pass near either Darwin or Tahiti. View latest SOI graph at: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/#tabs=SOI
Sea surface temperatures (SST) along the Equatorial Pacific have changed little in the last 30 days remaining below the El Niño threshold of +0.8oC. The western Pacific Ocean is normal to slightly warmer and is the major moisture source for Victoria. The Timor Sea is still slightly warmer. Moisture sources still capable of increased evaporation. View latest SST graph at;
The Pacific Ocean Equatorial sub surface temperatures have warmed rapidly as a result of a sustained westerly wind burst during January (a reversal of the trade winds) driving the heat under the surface. Extra downward pressure has come from erratic but strong reversals during February. The large cool anomaly in the east (which broke out at the surface this month) is getting smaller as a result.
Trade winds were weaker than average over the western half of the tropical Pacific for the five days ending 9th March. A reversal of wind direction was seen in the far western tropical Pacific; westerly winds have been observed in parts of this area for about three weeks now. However, it is worth noting that westerly wind anomalies in parts of the western tropical Pacific sometimes occur as a normal part of the breakdown of an El Niño. Trade winds over the eastern half of the tropical Pacific were near average strength. During La Niña there is a sustained strengthening of the trade winds across much of the tropical Pacific, while during El Niño there is a sustained weakening of the trade winds.
The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) spent the majority of summer moderately positive. A positive SAM over summer can increase eastern Victorian rainfall and given the rainfall in NE Victoria and East Gippsland, this looks to have been a contributing factor.
Autumn weather forecasts - Can they go the distance?
By Zita Ritchie, Dairy Extension Officer, DEDJTR, Warrnambool
Autumn is a crucial time when we look to the skies for a decent break to set up our pastures for the year. It would assist us greatly if forecasters could predict when this is likely to occur, but is this possible?
Long range forecasts at this time can be fickle and commonly encounter what we know as the "predictability barrier". This means that skill and accuracy of forecasts in autumn are lower compared with other times of the year. This is due to the weak signals in the Pacific and Indian oceans, typical of this time of the year, with the predictability only starting to improve from the end of May.
Despite low predictability with forecasting at this time of year all organisations still run their models and provide three to six months outlooks. These outlooks commonly show average scenarios for rainfall and temperature, due to the neutral conditions in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Later in the season model outlooks can be useful as their skill improves, and depending on your attitude to risk can be used to help make some seasonal decisions.
In March global models were sitting on average rainfall with a few slightly drier predictions for the next three months. Temperature predictions are for slightly warmer to average. A models' skill in predicting temperature at this time of the year is generally moderate where rainfall skill is usually poor.
Due to the strong trade wind reversals in January and February, and the warming at depth in the Pacific, the majority of models have responded rapidly with the prediction of an El Niño in winter or earlier. However, as mentioned at this time of the year model skill is at its weakest. Autumn forecasts should be viewed as 'be alert but not alarmed' with the skill of these outlooks improving into the cooler months, ensuring you are prepared to respond to the changes in seasonal conditions.
Tools to help with understanding forecasts as we head into winter include:
The monthly Fast Break newsletter, which provide a consensus forecast based on 11 models. To receive monthly updates you can subscribe to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Milking the Weather newsletter is a quarterly climate risk newsletter for the dairy industry which provides seasonal summaries and outlooks. To subscribe email email@example.com
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) website can help you make more informed short term decisions over the next few days, as well as set longer term forecasts. The ENSO wrap is often a good place to start for longer term outlooks www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso
For more information contact Zita Ritchie on (03) 5561 9906 or firstname.lastname@example.org
by Maria Rose, Dairy Extension Officer DEDJTR Maffra
In this "Spotlight On" article, we meet Beth Ripper, Executive Officer (EO) of the Gippsland Climate Change Network (GCCN). A retired Wellington Shire councillor, Beth is a very active community member in both her local residential township of Stratford, of the Segue Community Hub and Arts Café, for which she is current chairperson, and vice Chairperson of the Victorian Landcare Council. Beth cleverly integrates these three key roles to fuel her passion for the environment, climate change and positive collective community action.
Tell us a bit about how the Gippsland Climate Change Network (GCCN) came about?
The GCCN is currently one of a number of Greenhouse and Climate Change alliances covering over 70 council regions, which form a larger network across Victoria. This Victorian network (which sparked off in 2007) consists of partnerships of local governments and other organisations responding to climate change through implementing community projects. This state wide network is a key part of the Victorian Government's focus on building a climate resilient Victoria through the state's first comprehensive Victorian Climate Change Adaptation Plan released in 2013.
The Adaption Plan sets out how the government is managing climate risks to our natural assets, essential infrastructure and services such as waterways, transport systems, healthcare and emergency response systems. It shows that to be most effective, climate change adaptation requires government, businesses and the community to work together.
The GCCN was formed in 2007 as an incorporated not-for-profit network of approximately 50 diverse member organisations across government departments and agencies, private businesses, community groups and individuals. The GCCN member organisations raise their concerns with local government and suggestions for proactive and united community action in Gippsland.
How does the GCCN work in the context of its mission statement, aims and aspirations currently?
As current EO, I aim to be and operate in the mind frame of the GCCN's mission statement;
To provide Gippsland, at an individual and organisational level, information, consultation and facilitation to enable action on climate change, whilst also providing a voice for Gippsland on climate change issues.
The GCCN has quite a large interested member base that we reach mainly through an e-newsletter and regular forums. Additionally we run a range of projects in response to demand and inquiries that emanate from network members.
Key to my role is to encourage GCNN supporters to explore opportunities and partnerships under three key principles of operation, which include the delivery pillars of Informing; Connecting; Acting. The GCCN aims to provide the following services to Gippsland's business, government and community sectors:
Providing information on the impacts, opportunities and response to climate change in Gippsland
Identifying, supporting and coordinating actions that are responding to climate change
Taking on a leadership role and managing selected projects that enable Gippsland to mitigate and adapt to climate change
What are some of the projects that have been particularly rewarding for the GCCN network?
The Low Carbon Growth Plan for Gippsland identifies a range of emission reduction opportunities that can be achieved for the lowest cost in the Gippsland region. This was developed through participation from Gippsland's business, industry and government communities. It identifies actions with the potential to save businesses and households $100 million per year across the region by implementing measures to improve energy efficiency, increase efficiency, increase land productivity and generate cleaner, distributed energy. The measures also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping the region to proactively transition towards a low carbon future and increase community resilience to future energy costs while stimulating the local economy. The priority measures out of the 2013 report include: street lighting energy efficiency; pulp, paper and print energy efficiency; dairy farm energy efficiency; dairy food processing energy efficiency; reducing cropland soil emissions; commercial and residential energy efficiency and reforestation projects. The GCCN has taken a leadership role in the climate change space and this plan is an important blueprint for action across Gippsland.
A Sustainability Gippsland Website has been set up for Gippsland community members, businesses and industry to share those that have a sustainability focus and communities of interest who are taking climate change action.
Other projects include a Sustainably Gippsland Leadership program 2013, Resource Smart AussieVic schools project in collaboration with Gippsland Waste Resource Recovery Group and an ongoing collaboration with Deakin University Professor Rob Faggian on researching impacts of climate change on Gippsland agriculture.
How do people become part of the Gippsland Climate Change Network or the any of the other alliances in Victoria?
Greenhouse and Climate Change alliances located throughout Victoria are open to anyone with a keen interest in climate change action. If you provide sustainability services or run your business sustainably (e.g. energy efficiency appliances, recycling processes, sustainable cleaning practices) or are an individual community member and or farmer passionate about mitigating climate change then being part of the GCCN would be highly beneficial. They provide opportunities to network with people and communities of action across their relevant regions.
The Gippsland Climate Change Network's website address is http://gccn.org.au If readers wish to get directly in touch with Beth Ripper, she can be contacted on email@example.com or 0427 528 013.
The Victorian Climate Change Adaptation Plan released in 2013 which can be accessed here:
If anyone wishes to contact other alliances throughout Victoria, key contact phone numbers include;
- Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action: 9385 8585;
- Western Alliance for Greenhouse Action: 9741 0777;
- Eastern Alliance for Greenhouse Action: 9298 4250,
- South East Councils Climate Change Alliance: 9705 5129;
- Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance: 0401 370 485, and
- Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance: 5832 1122
It is also worthwhile checking out the promotional poster of Regional Alliances by visiting the website http://www.naga.org.au
Managing the season ahead – Autumn 2015
Greg O'Brien Dairy Extension Officer, Ellinbank
As mentioned above, autumn forecasts have lower skill and accuracy at this time of the year. Decisions for pasture renovation timing will depend on the conditions on your farm over summer, and your attitude to risk and use of forecasts given the poorer predictability of model forecasts at this time of the year.
Pasture renovation timing might be impacted should warmer and drier conditions occur, especially in rain fed situations. Surface soil moisture is required to germinate seeds and soil moisture close to the surface is required for plant survival. In many dairy districts there is good soil moisture coming out of summer. Some farmers are sowing a little earlier on the back of this. This is likely to be a good strategy in higher rainfall districts. Early sowing may or may not apply to your farm but consider the need to time any re-sowing to limit risk.
Supplement feeding remains a key driver of profit over the autumn months. A general principle is to provide a balanced diet, selecting feeds that can do the job at least cost. The cheapest feed is not necessarily the most profitable feed.
During the growing season protein is normally well supplied in pasture but protein could be lacking in an autumn diet that contains limited pasture or green crop. The timing of the break will influence the quantity and type of supplement fed. Extra protein can be supplied via a range of feeds such as legume hay, high quality silage and/or canola meal in the cows diet. If in need of extra protein, do the sums to work out which will do the job at least cost per kilogram of protein.
In early autumn dietary fibre is often higher than desired for high feed intakes. Concentrates such as pellets or grains are typically fed to reduce the overall fibre levels in the diet and increase the energy levels in the diet. Hopefully there is plenty of high quality silage on hand this year to keep milk production up and costs down.
In terms of how much to feed, the general economic principle is to feed until the income from the extra milk produced by adding an extra kilogram of feed covers the cost of supplying the feed. For example, if the cost of extra feed is 35 cents per kilogram and milk is worth 47 cents per litre, you would need to get 0.75 extra litres of milk to cover feed costs (35 divided by 47). A moderately fed cow in early or mid-lactation would be expected to provide this level of milk response or more. Well-fed cows in late lactation might produce an extra 0.5 litres from an extra kilogram of high quality but will also be putting a significant amount of the energy from the extra feed into condition.
If you are not able to feed to herd requirements at some point in the remainder of the season, it is worth considering reducing feed demand by drying off or culling some cows early. Cows in late lactation that will not be retained in the milking herd are the prime ones to cull. Low producing cows that will be retained are also ones to consider for early dry off. The feed they free up is eaten by the remainder of the herd, often without a drop in the vat.
Early autumn is a time heifers may receive a feed pinch. The long term benefits of achieving live weight targets are well known. Find some time in your busy schedule to look after the heifers - and invest in your future income. It may be necessary to feed a concentrate supplement if the quality of base diet is not the best.
The Autumn Back Page
New products due for release on climate change in Australia
The Climate Change in Australia Website contains information about observed and projected climate change and is the most comprehensive ever released for Australia, with an emphasis on informing impact assessment and planning in the natural resource management sector. Material has been drawn from observations and from simulations based on up to 40 global climate models and four scenarios of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions during the 21st century. This research was funded by the federal Department of the Environment with co-funding from CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.
Climate outlooks – monthly and seasonal http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/outlooks/#/overview/summary
Key relevant points for Victoria in the BOM's overview on this webpage include;
- March to May is likely to be wetter than normal over central parts of WA and central Australia. Elsewhere, the chances of a wetter or drier season are roughly equal
- From March to May, warner than normal days are likely over western and Southern WA, much of northern Australia, and southeast Australia.
Climate Change in Australia Website http://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/
To view brochures and reports go to http://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/publications-library/
To view regional projections go to http://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/climate-projections/future-climate/regional-climate-change-explorer/super-clusters/
The Very Fast Break
To view the March 2015 edition of the Very Fast Break seasonal climate summary outlook and commentary for Victoria, Australia go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClDCIII7gRZhUs03opGqH1g
Any feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org