Winter 2014: Volume 5 Issue 2
Edition: Volume 5 Issue 2 June 2014
Editor: Zita Ritchie, Dairy Extension Officer-Climate Risk, DEPI Warrnambool
Compared to autumn last year, conditions have been much more favourable across the state with a timely autumn break. Rainfall over autumn has been mostly average to above average for dairy regions, which has given farms a good start.You have probably heard much talk in the media lately about El Niño, unless you've had your head stuck in the grass. An El Niño is still likely to develop by August-September due changes in undersea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and trade winds. Currently, the outlook suggests average rainfall and slightly warmer temperatures for winter and spring. However, the development of the El Niño in the coming months will be important to watch as it can be associated with drier conditions for spring.
Dairy State Round up – Autumn (March –May) 2014
Mirboo North: 3
|Region||Spring Rainfall Deciles (Sept-November)|
|Northern - Irrigation|
Major rainfall events across the district resulted in a much better autumn break compared to recent years. Follow up rainfall occurred up until the end of the autumn period, significantly reducing irrigation requirements. Temperatures have been average to above average over much of autumn, resulting in above average pasture and crop growth rates. These conditions have helped farmers achieve good pasture cover, resulting in a lesser reliance on supplementary feeding heading into winter. With a timely autumn break, both dryland paddocks and irrigated paddocks had good weed germination early which allowed for effective weed control pre-sowing.
Widespread rain during late March provided a good start to the season across the north east district. Heavy follow up events in early April rewarded early sowing and provided enough moisture to drive the season along well despite relatively modest rainfall since then. Mild temperatures contributed to continuing good growth rates during May and good pasture feed supply heading into winter.
|Coastal East Gippsland|
In the Orbost region, the hilly and river plain areas had plenty of good grass growth due to adequate moisture levels and warm temperatures. As one farmer said, "It doesn't get any better than this!" With these excellent conditions, dairy farmers now have a good pasture wedge ahead of them at the start of winter with milking cows in pretty good condition as seasonal herds are dried off.Likewise, the Bairnsdale region had an exceptional autumn. Autumn calving herds in particular enjoyed the good wedge of feed in front of them to produce well in the early part of their new milking season.
|South West Victoria|
Although rainfall for autumn wasn't as heavy as the northern part of the state, both the timing of the autumn break and close to average rainfall in the south west has seen good pasture growth. Follow up rain has enabled newly sown pastures to germinate and grow well. Most farms are starting to see good pasture cover heading into the winter period, with a much more positive outlook than this time last year.
|Macalister Irrigation District (MID)|
Above average temperatures and reasonable rainfall was experienced right across the MID. The irrigation season ended with water allocations at 100 per cent high reliability and five per cent low reliability water shares, with most farmers having water left over. Well-timed and decent rainfall events throughout the region, resulted in both exceptional growth and quality where grazing rotations were managed well, leading to a good pasture wedge heading into winter.
East Sale: 4
|South & West Gippsland|
Autumn has been a mixed bag across west and south Gippsland. Some areas had adequate rainfall for good early autumn growth while other districts had below average rainfall and pastures were slow to start (mainly southern areas). Mild weather in May has seen average growth across much of south Gippsland and above average for west Gippsland due to differences in soil moisture. Generally speaking, most farmers are comfortable regarding feed. Prices have been favourable for increased bail feeding and most farms had good stocks of silage (although silage quality may not be as good due to wet conditions during harvest last year).
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.
The SOI has spent the last month in neutral territory during May, currently at +6.5 (13 June). This is indicative of pressure patterns along the Equator behaving close to normal. Values of between +8 and −8 generally indicate neutral conditions, whereas values below -8 may indicate an El Niño event. The atmosphere and ocean are coupled together in a neutral pattern at the moment.
Sea surface temperatures (SST) along the equatorial Pacific Ocean have steadily warmed along the Equator in the east, stayed fairly constant in the centre(still in a neutral state -1 May NINO3.4 +0.54oC) and are warmer in the west. The threshold for an El Niño in the centre is +0.8 oC. Expect to see further warming along the Equator if the strong westerly wind bursts return. Moisture sources though, remain OK, with the Coral and Arafura Seas normal and the Timor Sea remaining slightly warmer. Future signs of an El Niño effect would be cooling of the Coral Sea NE of Australia.
The Southern Annular Mode is currently neutral. Models predict the SAM to remain neutral in the coming two weeks. The SAM has most effect on winter rain in Victoria.
The Sub Tropical Ridge of high Pressure was positioned slightly higher than the Great Australian Bight over May, which is in a more northerly position than normal, potentially allowing fronts through. The longitude of the central high however, spent most of the month in a rain blocking position over the state. The STR has its most predictable influence over winter rainfall.
To view a summary table of global climate models with their outlook for rainfall and temperature for the next three months go to: Modelled Climate and Ocean Predictions Table
An El Niño in air
By Zita Ritchie, Dairy Extension Officer, DEPI Warrnambool
There is still a high likelihood of an El Niño forming over the next few months. Most of the world's models predict an El Niño to form by August-September. For it to establish there needs to be a coupling between the atmosphere and Pacific Ocean, and a further weakening of trade winds. If this occurs it could be pertinent to plan for average to drier conditions this spring based on the historical influence of El Niño. However the majority of models are still predicting average rainfall for winter-spring at this stage.
The developing El Niño took an unexpected breather during May after steaming along predictability for the previous four months. Conditions in the central tropical Pacific Ocean are currently neutral (neither El Niño or La Niña conditions) but recently reached El Niño thresholds in the Eastern Pacific. It seems this year was the earliest an El Niño has been called with some degree of certainty for quite some time. This is due to observed changes in the undersea temperatures, as well as consistent weakening of the trade winds.
Closer to our shores moisture sources are still good with no signs of cooling in the Coral and Timor Sea's yet (as of early June). These will be areas to watch and if cooling occurs with a drop in the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), our major moisture could reduce, and bets for an average spring will be off. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently neutral and the majority of models predict it will remain that way.
For Victoria, El Niño conditions increase the chance of drier conditions for winter and spring rainfall.
Figure 1, shows the historical impact of 22 El Niño years in August-November for Warrnambool when the SOI has been negative. Of these years, rainfall distribution for spring has fallen in the drier category (lower than average rainfall) 64 per cent of the time. Average rainfall accounted for 27 per cent of the years and only nine per cent fell in the wetter outcome. Many locations in Victoria also display a similar pattern.
By Maria Rose, Dairy Industry Development Officer, DEPI Maffra
In this "Spotlight On" interview we put service provider Mark Jago under the microscope. Mark is an integral team member of Murray Goulburn Cooperative's FarmC@re Program with thirty years of experience in the agricultural industry including 13 years as a dairy farmer.
What is your role in the Murray Goulburn Cooperative's Farm Care team?
Having worked in the Murray Goulburn Cooperative (MG) for six years now, my main role has been within the FarmC@re team. We assist dairy farmers to improve their knowledge in risk management and equip them with relevant tools to maintain a viable and sustainable dairy industry. Helping dairy farmers manage climate change effectively as part of their normal farm business management is a key focus in this approach.
Tell us a bit more about the MG FarmC@re Program
The MG FarmC@re Program is both internet and extension based, hence the unusual spelling for easy recognition of its unique delivery approach. This on-farm whole farm risk management program consists of both voluntary and compulsory compliance reporting systems for food safety, environment, livestock and people management. As such, it assists dairy farm suppliers to attain long-term desirable outcomes for People, Profit and the Planet.
Through this program, MG is supporting suppliers in strengthening their dairy farm business by helping them implement practices to, enhance their environment, manage and retain farm employees and meet animal welfare expectations. Delivery is via a range of projects (both externally and internally funded).
This year, the MG FarmC@re Program team has focussed on;
- the "Environment" aspect , which encompasses advice on nutrient planning, effluent management, tree planting and Best Management Practices using the industry Dairy SAT and DGAS tools (www.dairyingfortomorrow.com), and
- the "People" aspect, which concentrates on one to one and group delivery of the industry's people management material (www.thepeopleindairy.org.au/) including farm health and safety.
Describe some of the other projects that specifically focus on climate change and dovetail into the FarmC@re Program
Key projects in progress involving MG that deal with climate change include;
- Unilever Sustainability Project.
This project involves working with MG suppliers key stakeholders from other dairy companies to provide evidence that the Australian Dairy industry continues to be fully compliant with mandatory requirements of the Sustainable Agriculture Code. The intent is to show continuous improvement of sustainable agricultural practices in the priority areas of soils, biodiversity and waste.
- MG "More from Less" Project
A Federal Government funded project, it aims to assist farmers in greenhouse gas management while at the same time increasing their profitability.
MG supplier shareholders are continually reviewing their operations and searching for efficiency gains such as improving productivity and reduced costs. By understanding the relevant carbon- related costs and the opportunities for sustainable improvement within their individual businesses, farmers will be well-equipped through this project for the challenges of the future.
Focus areas of the "More from Less" project include nutrients, energy, animals and trees. By gaining an understanding of the relationship of these elements to the emissions and profitability of the dairy business, farmers will be in a better position to make sustainable decisions well into the future.
- Farm Web 2.0
In this project, MG is working in partnership with DEPI and The Gardiner Foundation to deliver a Spatial Mapping tool for dairy farmers. This mapping tool will have additional farm management functions to help integrate nutrient balances in a whole-farm approach. This exciting project is currently being trialled and is expected to be ready for wider delivery in the second half of this year.
- Dairy N for Greater Profit
This is another partnership with DEPI, which aims to deliver a nitrogen response tool to aid understanding of the benefits (both environmental and economic) of managing nitrogen application. Key climate change activities of this project, centre around best practice use of nutrients to minimise greenhouse gases. This will be achieved by reinforcing the knowledge, concerning the part both carbon and greenhouse gases play, in the decision making process in context of the whole farm.
The integrated environmental and economic focus in this project is proving successful. This is because farmers are generally receptive to climate management strategies that can be linked to ongoing productivity gains and where money can be saved without compromising production.
Where can people find out more about Murray Goulburn's sustainable agriculture strategy that specifically focuses on managing aspects of climate?
Dairy farmers wishing to find out more about MG FarmC@re and related climate change programs can contact their regional FarmC@re Facilitator or local Field Services branch.
Managing the Season Ahead - Winter 2014
Greg O'Brien, DEPI Ellinbank and Brendan Ley, DEPI Tatura – Dairy Services
An El Niño is likely to develop by August-September due changes observed in the ocean temperatures. El Niño conditions can favour the odds of drier conditions for spring in Victoria, however a range of global climate models are still predicting average rainfall for spring, with only some tipping slightly drier. Temperatures are likely to be average to slightly warmer for winter and spring.
Given the outlook and current conditions, farm management should focus on completing an inventory of silage and hay on hand to determine what level of purchased fodder may be needed. Spring decisions to manage the risk of a slightly drier scenario could include purchasing of hay or irrigation water, fodder conservation strategies (generate more surplus early), agistment, stocking policy and planting fodder crops early while there is adequate soil moisture rather than later where the potential for crop failure or low yields is likely to be higher.
To make the most of direct grazed feed look at soil fertility levels to determine optimum rates of fertiliser application to help drive pasture production. Nitrogen is often the most common limiting nutrient during winter. Generally speaking, urea is the most cost-effective form of additional nitrogen and applying fertiliser at the optimum rate and time will maximise the return on your investment and avoid adverse effects on the environment.
Supplementary feeding is likely to be cost-effective this year unless pasture and/or supplements are being wasted. Pasture will be top shelf for energy and protein over winter. However the highly digestible fibre in winter pasture may mean that the diet is low in effective fibre, particularly if concentrates are fed at relatively high levels in response to the favourable economics of feeding supplements this winter.
Monitor the fat test to determine if you have too much concentrate and/or not enough fibre in the diet. If a low fat test is recorded it can be easily corrected by feeding some additional high quality fibre or by decreasing the level of concentrate. Alternatively, replacing some of the faster digesting starch sources such as cereal grains with a slower digesting energy source (eg maize grain) can help. Buffers or rumen modifiers can also assist if they are not already included in the diet. Low fat test also indicates a very acid rumen which increases the risk of serious animal health problems such as clinical acidosis and a displaced abomasum (twisted gut).
Although current climate models indicate average rainfall conditions for winter/spring in dairy regions, there are still some signs of slightly drier conditions given the likely development of an El Niño in the next couple of months. Therefore it is important to keep an eye on how it develops.
The Winter Back Page
The Bureau of Meteorology are now providing regular updates to those seeking the latest climatology information and changes with the developing El Nino. These updates include a two weekly email and a monthly video and are particularly handy given the current signals of a developing El Nino. Click on this link to subscribe.
National temperature and rainfall outlook for June to July 2014
Warmer winter days and nights more likely for Australia. Particularly in relation to the state of Victoria, a drier than normal winter is more likely for the southern mainland of Australia.
More at Australian rainfall outlook
More at Australian temperature outlook
Climate update and dairy industry outlook webinar
To view the most recent seasonal and climate outlook webinar recording (5 June 2014) by cropping agronomist Dale Gre. Follow this link to view a recent dairy industry outlook webinar (22nd May 2014) covering the following topics;
- Seasonal update and climate outlook for winter/spring - Zita Ritchie, Dairy Extension Officer - Climate Risk, DEPI
- Overview of global market drivers and price outlook - Charlie McElhone, Group Manager Trade and Industry Strategy, Dairy Australia
- Managing financial and business risk on farm - Gavin McClay, Development Specialist - Farm Business Management, DEPI
Watch out for more Climate Webinars in 2014. If you wish to receive information about these webinars send an email to email@example.com