IT’S not a stampede, yet, but dairy farmers in particular are doing the sums and sending their fringe cows to market in solid numbers at a time when they should be at their peak of production.
But with monthly rainfall in some areas locally topping out in single digits for October, it’s not a surprising trend.
There are hopes that we might still get good rainfall early in November but it pays to be cautious and in the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the saleyards at VLE Leongatha, on trade cattle days, turning quickly from black and brown to predominantly black and white.
Last Wednesday, there was a full yarding of chopper Friesian cows, following on from high numbers in the previous two weeks.
It’s an orderly release of cows at this stage and prices have remained solid but rain, or a lack of it over the next few weeks, will dictate where numbers and therefore prices go from here.
Veteran South Gippsland stock agent Mike Stevens has seen it all, well almost all, but he reckons he hasn’t seen rainfall figures so low in October.
In fact, you have to go back to 1914 to find the last single-digit rainfall result for October, when 4mm was recorded in Wonthaggi in October of 1914.
No other year comes close with the average supposed to be around the 90mm mark. We’d have loved to see that!
“Prices were a bit easier today, but just by a few cents,” Mr Stevens said.
“We saw them adjust down quite a bit two weeks ago and then last week they recovered most of that so it was just a bit easier today.
“There have been more cattle here in the past few weeks with people worried about it being dry and the feed situation but just as concerned about the water.
“And we are seeing quite a few more dairy cattle than normal at this time of the year.
“Three weeks ago there were 1000 cows in, mostly dairy except for a few scrappy beef cows.
“Last week we had 500 cows and this week 700 again, which is quite a few.
“It’s certainly more than we’d usually see at this time of the year and it’s because it has been so dry.
“I know at my own place at Waratah North, we wouldn’t usually be driving over the paddocks at this time of year, after September and October, when we are supposed to get most of our rain.
“In September I had 38mm but for October I only had 7mm, so it’s pretty dry.”
See Leongatha VLE Market report, for Wednesday, October 28, for details.