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Beyond the Bale : September 2013
43 ON-FARM September 2013 BEYOND THE BALE “Because it was neutral, the potential downside was quite significant: if it swings to a downside, there’s a fairly steep slope where you can run out of feed and grass and water very quickly. “So I decided that I would sell down most of the cattle in our enterprise. We actually did end up getting the rain, but most of this region and most of north- western Queensland didn’t. “Now we’re, fortunately, in a position where we’ve got an abundance of feed but nobody else does. A lot of their cattle had to be sold or agisted because of the lack of grass, the market has been flooded, but we avoided loss in capital within our livestock enterprise. “We haven’t made a big move like that before, based on the forecasting, but I had a lot of confidence in the system because it’s dynamical forecasting, not historical modelling. It wasn’t the only thing that I used to form a view, but they’re the sort of indicators I use to make a decision.” James also uses an app, Australian CliMate, produced by the Federal Government’s Managing Climate Variability R&D program, which provides recent weather data and likely climate probabilities. It is the first app to ‘interrogate’ long-term weather statistics using a set of decision-makers’ questions. A web version is also available. “The CliMate app helps me access and understand past climate statistics and upcoming seasonal predictions,” James adds. HAY BALING James has diversified his business in several ways including haymaking with native grasses, capturing the opportunity of the abundance of grass while it’s there. He has been doing it for four or five years, and it’s now a big part of his business. “Five years ago we had abundance of feed so we started baling a bit of hay,” he said. “By the end of the first year we had 10,000 baled and sold. Now we’re into our fifth year, we’ve sold about 60,000 bales.” He advises that it’s important to have the right land type, contractor to do the work and shed storage to do hay. “We make sure the contractors leave enough grass in the system to keep the plants healthy. We do it in the middle of the wet season, then those plants can regenerate if there’s rain during our wet season. And now [March], since we harvested the hay, it’s almost ready to bale and harvest again due to six inches of rain. This year, though, we’ll just preserve that grass for livestock. “It’s about managing that abundant feed, to harvest it in good seasons, and to secure a bit of cash and capital for the poorer times and to manage through a drought.” LEADING ADAPTATION James says for producers in semi- arid regions to run their enterprises successfully, they really have to be on top of managing climate. Round dam on Wakefield Station fed by poly pipe. Woolgrower James Walker checking water supply pressure in poly pipe. Managing climate variability Baling native Mitchell grass when there is an abundance of feed. “The one factor that varies in our business is rainfall and it’s a very important aspect of our business to be able to manage that. Semi-arid regions are already at the forefront of managing climate shifts because we get a huge variance in rainfall from year to year already: from 40 inches of rain one year to five inches the next. “Climate change will be an evolution. It’ll not catch people by surprise and, least of all, farmers. Farmers are very resilient and I believe that they’re already adapting to it. “We’re sticking with Merino sheep. After all, when it’s dry, you’re guaranteed to get wool off your sheep. It’s a reliable source of income.” More information: Contact James Walker directly on phone (07) 4658 2141, mobile 0428 583 336, email james.jumbuck@ bigpond.com, or post: “Camden Park” Longreach Qld 4730. For the full case study, visit www.climatekelpie.com.au POAMA: http://poama.bom.gov.au CliMate: www.australianclimate.net www.wool.com/climate