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Beyond the Bale : Jun 07 - Jul 07 Supplement
LAND,WATER & WOOL SUPPLEMENT BEYOND THE BALE 11 Australian woolgrowers are among the world leaders in the use of seasonal risk assessments (SRAs) to reduce the effect of climate variability on their businesses. Assessing climate risk involves three key factors: ú the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), which may indicate a drought-associated El Niño effect; ú the 'key date' -- the date from which there is a greater than 80 per cent chance of getting the amount of rainfall required for a season break; and ú the 'critical date' -- the end of the growing season. Land, Water & Wool research has found SRAs can help growers match livestock numbers to probable feed availability with greater confidence, especially in some regions and at particular times of the year. As one climate forecaster puts it: "Using climate risk assessment makes you the bookie, rather than the punter." For many regions, except those in Western Australia, SRAs can be made with confidence at certain times of the year if the SOI is behaving in certain ways. These relationships vary, but woolgrowers now have the ability to know when to -- and when not to -- look to SRAs for their region. Producer James Milson, of 'Somerset', Longreach, ueensland, monitors seasonal risk- assessment systems such as the SOI index and 40-Day Wave. He believes that medium-term, region-specific rainfall forecasts that factor in the effect on pastures will be a big step forward for the industry. "If we are told in May or June that it's probable the summer will be dry, we can make management decisions in areas like weaning, stocking rate and stock sales accordingly," Mr Milson says. "If we can get our predictions right 70 per cent of the time, it will make a big difference to profitability." In parts of ueensland, a comparison of grazing systems indicated that the use of seasonal forecasting could be worth 60 cents a hectare -- or $17,000 to a typical pastoral property -- and as much as $1.40/ha. This included reducing the losses caused by degradation of resources and better prospects of high incomes in good years. In large parts of the South Australian rangelands, the three-month SOI risk assessments for rainfall and pasture growth have considerable reliability between June and November, when climate indicators can result in a 70 per cent or higher probability of increased or decreased rainfall or pasture growth. ú More information: See back page for Land,Water & Wool Managing Climate Variability sub-program publications, and see www.landwaterwool.gov.au for more resources. LESS RISK, MORE CONFIDENCE IN MANAGING CLIMATE "Using climate risk assessment makes you the bookie, rather than the punter," says one climate forecaster MANAGING CLIMATE VARIABILITY Power to predict pasture is positive NSW woolgrower Tony Thompson believes he can reach the target stocking rate of 7000 DSE on his 14,100-hectare properties at Bourke and Brewarrina by maximising the pasture growth flushes that occur in the region. Tony helped Land,Water & Wool scientists refine the 'AussieGRASS' model for north-western NSW, by providing calibrated maps of different land types, monitoring weather stations and taking soil moisture probes. At the same time, he learnt more about the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), which climatologists say provides, from the period June to August, a strong indication of the coming season in western NSW. "If the SOI is able to give a good pointer to the season and the grass model is predicting good growth, we'd be encouraged to stock more aggressively," Tony says. "But if all the indications were negative, we might be persuaded to de-stock more aggressively." Drafting gate sorts out climate risk Climate variability in Australia is enough to give any woolgrower a headache, but those using Land,Water & Wool's 'Climate Drafting Gate' are heading in the right direction to manage seasonal risk. The Drafting Gate, on the www.landwaterwool.gov.au website, helps woolgrowers to understand and find the most appropriate climate risk-management tools to apply on-farm. Specifically, the Drafting Gate looks at: ú how climate outlooks and weather forecasting differ and how they affect on-farm decision-making; ú how to understand local climate variability, through a series of case studies in particular regions; ú the concept of forecast 'skill', which reflects the confidence in climate outlooks in your local area; ú how probability, which is used to deliver seasonal outlooks, is derived and how to put it into practice through a probability tutorial; ú five tools to measure climate variability and how to use them; and ú climate variability resources and website links to more information. Tony Thompson, NSW, worked with Land, Water & Wool researchers during extreme climate events (such as in 2004-05) to refine the AussieGRASS pasture modelling tool. PHOTO: LAND,WATER & WOOL The 'Drafting Gate' online information and decision-support tool homepage.
Aug 07 - Sep 07
Jun 07 - Jul 07