DAIRY farmers across Gippsland are being urged to access industry support programs as dry conditions become more widespread across the region.
A lack of spring rain has combined with warm weather to dry-out soils, leaving doubts over the quality and quantity of this year’s silage and hay harvest.
While much of South Gippsland is well placed, north of the Princes Highway has seen much lower than average rainfall for winter and spring.
Koo Wee Rup swamp farms are also struggling with very dry conditions, while Yarram and East Gippsland have been dealing with severe water shortages for many months.
GippsDairy general manager Allan Cameron said the situation varied widely across the region, but even farms where early spring growth was strong are now facing a fodder shortfall.
“We already knew that East Gippsland and Yarram were struggling with a lack of rain, but there was optimism that other parts of Gippsland would receive enough rain at the right times to produce a good fodder surplus,” he said.
“Conditions over the past few weeks, however, have dramatically depleted soil moisture in many districts, which is a major worry for farmers in those areas.”
Mr Cameron said GippsDairy and Dairy Australia were offering practical programs to help dairy farmers through coming months.
Taking Stock is one such program that offers a free farm visit by a consultant of choice with a follow-up assessment.
“Taking Stock, in particular, can really make a difference to how farmers develop strategies for the spring and summer,” he said.
“The feedback we have had from farmers and consultants is that it can benefit farmers no matter how their business is performing.”
A tech-notes booklet has been posted to every dairy farm in Gippsland offering practical information on everything from summer crop alternatives to minimising feed wastage.
Ag Challenge principal consultant Jeff Urie, who is currently meeting with farmers for Taking Stock sessions, said the wide variety of soil moisture situations meant farmers across Gippsland were desperately hoping for rain.
“Even the farms that are wet at the moment could be worse off, in fact, because they haven’t had much growth yet,” he said.
“I’ve seen it before in 1996/97 when we went from wet as a shag to dry as a bone within a week. What can happen is, if it’s been really wet, the deeper roots have rotted off, so when it goes dry it goes from green and wet to brown and dead within a few weeks.
“On other farms they are hanging on from rainfall to rainfall event – they have no real moisture reserves.”
The experienced consultant said the Taking Stock sessions can be beneficial for any farmer.
“I asked a farmer what he is looking for from a Taking Stock and he said he just wants someone from outside his system to see if what he is doing is as good as it can be,” he said.
“Taking Stock will probably help anyone who has asked for one, because if they are asking the questions they are looking for answers.”
Taking Stock can be booked through GippsDairy by emailing info@gippsdairy.com.au or calling 5624 3900.
Go to www.gippsdairy.com.au for more information on dealing with fodder shortages.