By Greg O’Brien, DEDJTR Ellinbank
DAIRY farmers are looking anxiously for the autumn break to take the pressure off feed budgets and the workload associated with feeding supplements.
The three-month climate outlook issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on February 25 is promising for April in the Gippsland region.
Overall, there are slightly better than average odds for average rainfall for the next three months, with significant odds of warmer than average temperatures.
It is important to remember that this is just a forecast, not a prediction this will definitely happen.
It is helpful to understand the drivers behind the outlook. El Niño is steadily declining, with models forecasting a return to a neutral pattern in late autumn to early winter.
During the latter breakdown part of the El Niño cycle, warmer days tend to persist over northern and eastern Australia, with warmer nights across much of Australia.
In addition to El Niño, there are widespread warmer than average sea surface temperatures across much of the Indian Ocean, as well as waters surrounding Australia.
The warmer waters are likely to reinforce local above average air temperatures.
Soil moisture has been relatively low across northern and eastern parts of Australia, particularly in the drought-affected regions.
By April, air pressure is likely to be closer to normal.
Bureau climatologists monitor the climate for any significant developments, with information on El Niño/La Niña and IOD events available fortnightly via the ENSO Wrap-Up.
For a summary of Pacific and Indian Ocean outlooks, please see the Climate Model Summary.
So there is some cause for optimism in the climate outlook post-March, just no guarantees.
One way to deal with uncertainty is to plan with risk management in mind.
From a feed planning point of view, it might mean considering the need for extra supplements if the break is late.
Weigh up the potential for a price rise if you delay purchasing feed versus having purchased feed you don’t need.
Another risk factor is the availability of the type of hay you might need to purchase. If supply is tight, then the risk of not being able to source the feed is relatively high.
You might decide to purchase the hay if the risk of not being able to source it later appears high. The timing of any pasture renovation can also be influenced by the amount and timing of autumn rain.
We know pastures that establish early produce a lot more feed through autumn and winter, while late sown pastures may provide little feed until the weather warms coming into spring.
So early sowing is desirable if it can be done successfully.