THIS time of the year, in a normal season, most farmers would be finalising their silage harvest and locking up some paddocks for the start of the hay season.
But this is no ordinary year.
According to On Farm Consulting’s Matt Harms, landholders in South Gippsland, especially those along the coastal strip, have had only half to two-thirds of their expected rainfall and will have produced anywhere from 25% to 100% of their silage requirements.
“Typically, they’re looking at getting in 60% of what they need and they’ll be buying 40% in, fortunately there’s good quality fodder available at the moment with wheaten hay a good option.
“And we are seeing a lot coming in already as people look to plan ahead.
“Some people are on the brink of starting to feed out their silage which would be the earliest I’ve ever seen it.
“And some are already feeding hay to support what they have in the paddock.”
Without doubt, Matt is busier than usual at the moment and it’s all about water and feed planning.
“We’ll be having a few water and feed days coming up later in November which Gippsdairy will advise you about.
“But the pro-active farmers are already doing their feed budgeting. They’re hoping but they’re not banking on November rainfall getting them out of this,” Matt said this week.
“Milk prices aren’t too bad so you’ll certainly be making plans around keeping the cows milking. It’s a long time to have them dried off.
“You’ve still got to feed them when they’ve dried off and you’ve got no income coming in. You’ve also got to make sure this season doesn’t bite you next year by not culling too heavily and keeping the cows in good condition.”
It’s clear from the number of grain, stockfeed and hay trucks coming into the area in the past month that dairy producers in particular are working hard to keep the feed up to their cows in the hope that there might still be a break in the weather to make their job a little easier and less expensive.
There’s been precious little rain in the last lot, though, with the following figures recorded by South Gippsland Water for September through to October 16: Lance Creek/Kongwak 65mm (2mm in past week), Ruby Creek (near Leongatha) 45mm (0.9mm in the past week), Coalition Creek (near Korumburra) 64mm (in the past week 0.8mm).
It’s not what you’d expect from what is supposed to be our wettest month of the year.