THE recent Tactics for Dry Times ‘Shed Day’ was moved into the cool of the farm-house because it was too hot in the shed.
It’s been that sort of season in South Gippsland.
Rod and Lyndell Cope hosted the ‘Shed Day’ at their Middle Tarwin dairy farm, where challenging conditions don’t look like changing in a hurry.
The Tarwin River, which provides irrigation water for the farm, has been so low that salt water has flowed upstream from Anderson Inlet earlier in the year than anyone can remember.
“It’s been a challenging year for feed and water,” Rod said.
“We had salt water at our pump in mid-January, which has never happened that early before.
“We had that big rain in January which flushed the river and pushed the salt back down, but today we have salt again where we pump from the river.”
Good planning a few years back saw the Copes build an extra dam, allowing them to keep water up when the river started to fail.
It’s a decision that was made during years when money wasn’t so tight – and it’s certainly paying dividends now.
“We wanted to increase cow numbers and we knew we would have conditions like this one day.
“So when the river went out of action, we were able to switch across to the dam.”
Rod said events like Tactics for Dry Times Shed Day were invaluable for farmers who were struggling with a tough season.
“Definitely, it’s good just to get out and talk,” he said.
“You can get bottled up on your own farm and on your own problems and issues.
“If you can get out, see other people and have a chat, you find other people tend to have the same problems as you do.”
Tactics for Dry Times facilitator Matt Harms said hopes for a quick end to the dry conditions had been dashed in recent weeks.
“We had that late January rain and things are not quite back to where they were, but probably about a week away from where it was before the rain,” he said.
Matt said the big downpour had given temporary relief, but the reality was that there was little if any rain on the horizon meaning farmers would have to hold tight until the autumn break.
“It’s probably hurting morale a bit, but it will rain, everyone knows it will rain, but we have another month or six weeks of feeding – at least,” he said.
The Tactics for Dry Times events have been part of GippsDairy and Dairy Australia’s strategy to assist farmers to cope with a harsh season across many parts of the region.
GippsDairy projects and events coordinator Karen Romano said the events had been particularly well received by farmers in areas like South Gippsland, where rainfall levels had been well below average.
“Dairy service levy funds have been allocated to these events which can make a real difference to outcomes in a tough season,” she said.
“We saw in Inverloch where one of these sessions resulted in farmers gaining access to water that has helped get them through the summer months.”
Four farmers were given access to a disused reservoir near Inverloch and using three pumps and kilometres of poly pipe, which they paid for, have been able supplement their dwindling water supplies.