Pastoral season 2020 – seasonal and management information for Western Australia

Page last updated: Tuesday, 11 August 2020 - 2:57pm

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) assists pastoralists in the rangelands of Western Australia by providing seasonally relevant information on conditions and management.

Contact your local DPIRD office for more information.

The Support services directory lists a range of Federal and State assistance measures, with contacts and links to financial support measures, water support, regional counselling services and crisis care.

Seasonal update

A guide for how the season is going on each lease, compared to other years, is the NDVI (greeness index) chart for 2020. The charts are updated each month.

Although much of the rangelands has experienced below average rainfall in 2019, industry are responding to the challenges with:

  • increased water infrastructure being installed across the region
  • a variety of agistment arrangements ensuring that available feed and water for livestock is optimised
  • implementation of herd management plans.

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Planning for 2020–21

Use climate forecasts, remote sensing information and your observations and experience to plan stocking rates for the year.

  1. Review climate outlooks
  2. Prepare a forage budget
  3. Determine carrying capacity vs. stocking rate
  4. Prepare a plan to reduce your stocking rate (if required)

Review climate outlooks

Late rainfall onset likely for much of northern Australia

The chance of an early northern rainfall onset for the 2019-20 season is low over large parts of northern Australia. Areas which have a less than 30% chance of an early rainfall onset include much of the Top End and central parts of the NT, Cape York Peninsula and eastern Queensland, and the far north Kimberley in WA. In other words, these areas have a greater than 70% chance of a late rainfall onset. Most of northern WA has roughly equal chances of an early or late rainfall onset.  

The northern rainfall onset outlook gives an indication of whether the first significant rains after 1 September are likely to be earlier or later than normal.

Map of rainfall outlook


The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently neutral, and forecasts indicate it is likely to remain neutral to at least the end of 2019. This means it is unlikely to be influencing the northern rainfall onset outlook towards either an earlier or later than average onset. 

However, waters in the western tropical Pacific Ocean remain warmer than normal, while water temperatures around northern Australia are average to cooler than average. This pattern would typically favour cloud formation away from northern Australia. 

The Indian Ocean sea surface temperature pattern remains consistent with a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). This is expected to persist for the coming months. A positive IOD typically leads to drier than average conditions across northern Australia during the second half of the year. IOD events typically break down in early December, so this driver is unlikely to have a significant influence on rains beyond early December. 

Map of rainfall outlook_November 2019_January 2020

Climate and weather information and contacts

Climate information


Weekly Tropical Climate Note

Commentary on recent weather conditions across the north and links to tropical monitoring pages from the Bureau of Meteorology

Seasonal Climate Outlooks

Details and charts of rainfall and temperature outlooks from the Bureau of Meteorology

Climate Outlook Review

Additional seasonal information relevant to northern Australia, provided by the University of Southern Queensland

Climate Mates


Two regional ‘Climate Mates’ are available to assist pastoralists with climate information and tools via email, phone, webinar and on-station visits:

Climate outlooks - The Long Paddock

A Queensland Government initiative that provides climate and pasture information to the grazing community, including access to rainfall and pasture outlooks and decision support tools to support land management decision making and planning. Some WA pastoralists may benefit from the tools on the site.

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Prepare a forage budget

Adjusting stocking rates to meet current feed supply; livestock feed intake and nutritional requirements; pasture utilisation; and ground cover targets is considered best management practice.

A forage budget will assist in decision-making:

  • if it is safe to carry more stock;
  • to carry the same number for longer; or
  • or if there is not enough pasture to safely carry the number you have for the length of time you want.

Tools and information to support forage budgeting:

Determine carrying capacity vs. stocking rate

Plan to reduce your stocking rate

Other resources

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Support services directory

A range of Federal and State assistance measures are in place to support farmers and pastoralists experiencing hardship, as a result of seasonal pressures.

The Support Services Directory harnesses a range of financial, water and welling support, as well as links to Regional Counselling Services and 24/7 crisis care.

Western Australia does not have a drought declaration system so no formal declaration needs to be made to access these services.

The Federal Government’s National Drought Policy and National Drought Agreement aims to build resilience to climate variability and dry season pressures, specifically through bolstering risk management practices and enhancing long-term preparedness. See the national On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme.

Note: the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation administers the WA component of the On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme.



Farm Hub

A website that harnesses information about Commonwealth and State/Territory assistance (includes Drought Loans, Farm Investment Loans, Farm Household Allowance)


Farm Household Allowance

Assists farming families experiencing financial hardship with income to maintain their household

13 23 16 or 1800 612 004

Drought Loans &

Farm Investment Loans

Low interest loans for businesses to improve the strength, resilience and profitability  of their businesses (provided by the Regional Investment Corporation)

1800 875 675

Rural Financial Counselling Service WA

Free financial counselling service to assist primary producers

1800 612 044

Farm Debt Mediation Scheme

Assists farm and pastoral businesses and financial institutions to resolve disputes about business financial arrangements, through a low cost and non-legal form of mediation

1800 198 231

Farmer Assistance Hotline

Income support programs for farmers and rural small businesses

13 23 16

CWA of WA Drought Assistance

Funds for household expenses

9321 6041


National On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme (WA)

Rebates of 25% up to a maximum of $25,000 for the purchase and installation of new water infrastructure and equipment to eligible commercial livestock farmers and pastoralists

1800 780 300

Farm Water Supply Planning Scheme (agricultural and pastoral regions)

Rebates of up to $1000 for commercial broadacre and pastoral farmers experiencing water shortages to fund an audit of farm water supply and potential improvements

1800 780 300



24 hour crisis support, suicide prevention and mental health support services

13 11 14

Regional Counselling Services

Counselling for individuals, couples and families experiencing challenges to help them cope, improve wellbeing and identify options

Click here for local counselling services

Regional Men’s Health Initiative

Provides support and education services to regional men, communities and health services

9690 2277 (office hours)

Women’s Information Service

Provides information and referrals regarding health, finances, legal matters, counselling and domestic crisis

1800 199 174


Western Australia’s rural health, financial & information services support directory

Contacts for a range of 24 hour support, financial and family counselling, health, emergency and ancillary services


Grant funding opportunity to manage pest animals and weeds


The Australian Government is inviting local councils via a restricted competitive process to apply to deliver projects under the Communities Combating Pests and Weed Impacts During Drought Program - Biosecurity Management of Pests and Weeds - Round 2 in selected Local Government Areas (LGAs) in 2019–2021.

1800 020 283

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More information

For queries or information relating to cattle management during the season, please contact the department’s offices at Broome on +61 (0)8 9194 1400 or Kununurra on +61 (0)8 9166 4000.

Alternatively, contact one of the officers below:

Department contacts



Trevor Price
Northern Beef Development

Broome office
27 Hunter Street, Broome WA  6725
t +61 (0)8 9194 1441
m +61 (0)437 826 003

Stephanie Coombes
Development Officer
Northern Beef Development - Pilbara

Broome office
27 Hunter Street, Broome WA  6725
t +61 (0)8 9194 1430 
m +61 (0)436 616 219

Matthew Fletcher
Development Officer
Land and Water Assessment

Kununurra office
Durack Drive, Kununurra WA  6743
t +61 (0)8 9166 4044
m +61 428 637 710

Kath Ryan
Development Officer
Land and Water Assessment
Kimberley and Pilbara

Kununurra office
Durack Drive, Kununurra WA  6743
t +61 (0)8 9166 4044  


Contact information

Trevor Price
+61 (0)8 9194 1441
Stephanie Coombes
+61 (0)8 9194 1430
Matthew Fletcher
+61 (0)8 9166 4019
Kath Ryan
+61 (0)8 9166 4015