Weather News

Wet summer a challenge, but farmers won't begrudge a drop of rain after years of drought

By Cara Jeffery, Lara Webster and Keely Johnson, Thursday February 18, 2021 - 19:31 EDT

Farmers who have battled through years of drought will lap up rain any day; however, the unusually wet summer has brought with it a raft of challenges.

Some areas of NSW have already recorded upwards of 100 millimetres of rain this year and that is impacting some crops and livestock.

Barmedman wool grower John Minogue said it had been a real challenge to keep flystrike at bay, as his merino sheep approach shearing time.

"It's been a nightmare. They have all been treated and sadly still some are still being attacked by flies, so it's been a real tough time for them," Mr Minogue said.

Mr Minogue said green wool and rot was something growers had not experienced for years.

"While chemicals have been effective in the past, this year with such a huge volume of rain this summer (upwards of 150mm) they just don't seem to be able to handle that pressure."

Southern NSW wool broker Marty Moses said colour stain had appeared in some wool clips impacted by summer rainfall.

"Where we had dusty backs in the drought, now we have sheep with green water-stained wool," Mr Moses said.

"It's a great problem to have though, and just driving around the countryside it doesn't look like February that's for sure."

"It's green with lucerne two-foot high in some places."

Summer weeds rampant

Riverina grain grower Roger Bolte is battling summer weeds on his cropping country at West Wyalong.

"We are just about to start our second round of crop spraying for summer fallow management."

The weeds that are currently plaguing him and other growers in the Riverina are volunteer cereals from last year's crops, barnyard grass, black grass, wire weed and Feathertop Rhodes grass.

"You name it, we have got them all," Mr Bolte said.

"They are certainly growing very well at the moment, but that makes them easy to manage," he said.

The weeds are thriving on the 200 millimetres of rain Mr Bolte has scored this year.

Rain dampens hay demand

Hay industry consultant Colin Peace said the wet summer was not supportive of prices and demand for the hay market.

"The rain has enabled a lot of coastal producers to get extended grazing out of their pastures and irrigators are also having a fantastic season with their lucerne," Mr Peace said.

He said downgraded cereal hay was as cheap as $130 to $140 a tonne (ex-farm plus GST) and high-quality lucerne was about $300 a tonne (ex-farm plus GST).

"The demand is very subdued, and prices have been flat since baling last year," Mr Peace said.

He said some farmers were taking the opportunity to fill their sheds with cheap hay.

Rain smashes grape harvest

Cool temperatures and substantial rainfall are not what winemaker Alex Cassegrain was hoping for to the start the grape harvesting season, but it has been the reality for many growers across the state.

Mr Cassegrain has his own vineyard in Port Macquarie but sources most of his wine grapes from a range of farms across New South Wales.

"One of the vineyards that we were looking to pick from in Orange had 38mm of rain on Saturday which was not ideal," he said.

Rain can cause grapes to split, which exposes the fruit, leading to disease or premature fermentation.

"For the vines, the biggest issue at the moment is mould. So downy mildew, powdery mildew, botrytis they're the main culprits at this time of year."

Cool temps and wet weather a perfect storm for worms

Throughout the New England North West, cooler temperatures plus moisture from recent rain have led to perfect conditions for barber's pole worm.

Narrabri based Local Land Services vet Shaun Slattery said sheep producers needed to be vigilant, drench animals when needed and worm monitor their stock to avoid losses.

"Now that we're starting to get slightly cooler temperatures and the moisture is hanging around for a lot longer ? that's often when we start to see deaths emerge, as the larvae on those pastures fine their way into the sheep."

"Those losses can vary from a handful of sheep out of a mob of a few hundred to 30 or 40 sheep out of a similar size mob.

Wet weather here to stay

While the Bureau of Meteorology says La Nina is losing its potency, climatologist Zhi-Weng Chua said the trend of above-average rainfall could last until April.

"Very commonly we see the impacts continue, so even though the temperatures are warming up we can still expect impacts into early autumn," he said.

"Looking at March we can generally expect average rainfall across NSW as well."


© ABC 2021

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