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Beyond the Bale : December 2012
27 selling more wool 27 on-Farm December 2012 Beyond the Bale “ C limatic conditions impact on soil health and pasture production, which directly affects the sustainability of our operations.” Kathleen runs 830 superfine Merino wool sheep over two properties totalling 205ha near Yass in central NSW. These properties receive 625–650mm of rainfall each year. She already uses climate predictions as part of her farm management, and has adapted her practices accordingly. “ We make decisions such as stocking rate and the timing of grazing based on pasture availability and recovery, which depends on rainfall and growing season. “ Over the past 12 years, we have moved from a set-stocking program to a more rotational grazing model. “ Under this system, the stocking density is higher but for shorter periods, and is matched to pasture availability. “ This has allowed us to better manage our native pastures. “ We have also incorporated a program of rye-based pastures into a number of paddocks and have undertaken extensive erosion control and tree planting works to ensure ground cover and shelter throughout the property. “ We carefully manage weeds to maximise pasture productivity and reduce competition, especially during drier periods.” More information: Sarah Cole, Manager, Climate Champion program, (07) 3846 7111, email@example.com in hand; once we realise this, developing agricultural systems and resource accountability will become synonymous.” using Forecasts James Hegarty is also from Longreach, where he runs 9000 wool and meat sheep and agistment cattle on his 13,500ha property. He is keen to learn all he can about the technologies available to predict seasonal conditions. “With the rising costs involved with farming, and the need to run a profitable business every year regardless of the season, we need to plan ahead using the latest technologies,” Mr Hegarty said. “If we can predict these things like periods of above or below-average rainfall, we can come up with a plan for the year and budget for dry times.” Mr Hegarty and his family currently use a satellite internet service to monitor a variety of weather-related websites and adapt their farming practices according to predictions. “If it looks like it’s going to be a dry year, we will buy grain when it's cheap and store it in silos so we are ready when the dry comes. “We also look carefully at short-term forecasts as we have a lot of creek systems on our property. Website forecasts usually give us enough time to move stock off the creeks to prevent them from drowning if a big wet is predicted.” For the past 50 years, Mr Hegarty and his family have kept rainfall records for their entire property, with each paddock having its own gauge that is recorded each time it rains. “This information is very useful in determining rainfall patterns, although I would like to learn about combining these records with other data to increase its usefulness and accuracy in predicting seasonal conditions in this area.” southern inFluence Even in higher rainfall areas of Australia, woolgrowers such as the third Young Climate Champion grower Kathleen Allen are aware understanding climate trends is crucial for their future production and enterprise survival. “Extension activities and communicating the latest scientific research in the area of climate variability is critical, so farmers can make informed decisions about their management practices and change them if appropriate,” she said. During October, the Climate Champion program descended on the Victorian towns of Birchip and Horsham, to hear from local researchers and farmers about how they are adapting to climate variability. The program participants toured the Birchip Cropping Group’s crop trials, the Free-Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (FACE) project and the Australian Temperate Field Crops seedbank collection, run by the Department of Primary Industries, Horsham. This gave program participants the opportunity to explore climate management issues in more depth. Local farmers David Smith (Birchip), David Drage (Warracknabeal), Susan Findlay Tickner (Horsham) and Ian McClelland (Birchip) also hosted farm visits and talked about the practice changes they have made over the years to their sheep and cropping operations. “The most valuable thing is talking to different growers in different areas, and learning from them how they have adapted to climate conditions,” said one Climate Champion producer. The Climate Champion program participants also met with Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) climate experts Andrew Watkins and Oscar Alves. These scientists discussed multi- week and seasonal forecasting, as well as climate tools, with the participants. In turn, many producers suggested a phone app that shows BOM climate and weather information would be an invaluable tool. James walker (second from left) and James hegarty (right) discuss local production issues with Victorian producers david drage and david smith at a recent climate champion workshop. Photo:simonechristie,buloketimes learning From the locals