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Beyond the Bale : March 2012
28 28 SELLING MORE WOOL September 2010 BEYOND THE BALE March 2012 BEYOND THE BALE 28 ON-FARM FAST FACTS l Managing climate variability is critical to the success of any farming enterprise environmental management. l South Australian woolgrowers Susan and Ben Carn have studied their region’s weather patterns in a bid to take a lot of the guess work out of their decision making. l The Carns have developed a set of very easy to use tools (that could be applied to any farm, anywhere) which helps them plan the coming year based around weather predictions. Managing climate variability “ The one thing you can’t put a price on is peace of mind.” That’s the call from Susan Carn, who along with her husband Ben runs a 10,000 hectare property just out of Quorn in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. Having endured years of drought, as well as a change in rainfall patterns, Mrs Carn developed some practical decision-making tools based on research into regional climate patterns in a bid to give the farm every chance of success. Now, the resourceful woolgrowers are reaping the benefits of the climate change research and often sow a good crop too. The Carn’s story is one of the new case study series recently launched by AWI’s Bestprac grower network. They are members of AWI’s Bestprac grower network and Susan contributes to a monthly Bestprac e-news article - Weather Watch. The 1980s provided some very prosperous and bumper years in South Australia, however the 1990s weren’t as kind and the Carns found themselves faced with some very difficult decisions about the future viability of their farm. “It felt like the drought was unrelenting,” Mrs Carn said. “ We needed to understand whether what we were going through was normal or extraordinary and how it compared to what had been seen on the property over the years.” After studying earlier weather diaries from their farm’s previous owners Mrs Carn realised she needed to better understand climate and weather patterns to gain a real insight into what had been recorded. She realised there was a great deal of information available online, particularly via the Bureau of Meteorology, and she also took part in a climate risk management course at the South Australian Research and Development Institute. During her studies Mrs Carn came across a transcript written by international climate change scientists who were predicting that 2007 would be a very similar year to 2006, which had proved to be terrible. “ If we’d known how 2006 was going to pan out we would have made different decisions at the beginning of the year, and we definitely wouldn’t have sown such a big crop. So I wanted to know if we really were facing a similar year in 2007 before we made the same costly mistake. “ 2006 was the last year where we didn’t incorporate climate data into our decision making. We didn’t get a crop due to very little winter rain and no spring rainfall to finish. That year we lost $50,000 in inputs. “ In 2007 we sowed a small crop and were able to harvest some of it. We knew what the year was likely to look like and we were able to manage the risk.” By the time 2010 came around Mrs Carn had developed a good understanding of what climate data she needed to look at and when. She had successfully built- up what she had learned and put this into practice in the decision-making process of the farm’s operation. By developing a decision-making matrix to plan the year, and having readily available resources online, the Carns are able to make more informed decisions without a lot of guess work. And for the Carns this has led to increased profitability and more importantly peace of mind. “ We now incorporate climate and weather data into our decision-making process across a range of grazing and