2019 northern pastoral season

Page last updated: Friday, 8 February 2019 - 1:52pm

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is assisting northern beef business decision-making through the provision of seasonally relevant information, including forecasts, rangelands assessment and management options for those conditions in the northern pastoral areas of Western Australia.

Current situation

Large parts of the Kimberley and Pilbara have experienced above average temperatures, with some areas receiving below average rainfall for the 2018/19 wet season, to date. This has created challenging conditions for livestock management over the wet season and for the coming dry season.

Pastoralists are reminded to review their dry conditions action plan to ensure livestock have adequate feed and water available and to make decisions early, while livestock are strong and in good condition. This includes having appropriate measure in place to manage animal welfare if looking at mustering cattle early in 2019.

The DPIRD is assisting industry and pastoralists, including sourcing long-term seasonal information including forecasts, and conducting rangeland aerial surveys during the wet season. A Kimberley assessment was completed earlier in the month and Pilbara assessment has now been completed.

The department's Northern Beef and Rangelands staff are available to assist pastoralists with sourcing information and developing dry season management plans. See contact details below.

Recommended action

  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).

1. Review climate outlooks

Rainfall to date

Seasonal rain for the northern west season to date has been well below average across large parts of the region (Figure 1). Note this map does not capture the recent very heavy rain over north Queensland.

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Figure 1 Rainfall deciles for October 2018 to January 2019, from Bureau of Meteorology

Much of the Pilbara region has recorded rainfall totals in the lowest 30% of years, with some parts in the lowest 10%. These are the red regions in Figure 1.

Rainfall outlook

The monsoon trough that has been very active over the Gulf of Carpentaria and northern Queensland is expected to extend westward over the Northern Territory and Kimberley region. While this appears likely to bring rain over the Kimberlies, only small totals are forecast over the Pilbara in the coming week. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2 Predicted rain for the next week, to 11 Feb 2019. From Bureau of Meteorology

In the longer term, the rainfall outlook for the next three months is for below normal rainfall being more likely, as shown in Figure 3. This shows less than 30% chance of exceeding median rainfall for February to April 2019 over most of WA. Most international climate model outlooks have a similar view on rainfall prospects.

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Figure 3 Seasonal rainfall outlook for February to April 2019, from BoM. Model run 26 January 2019

See also:

  • Bureau of Meteorology:  Weekly Tropical Climate Note for commentary on recent weather conditions across the north and links to tropical monitoring pages.
  • Bureau of Meteorology: Seasonal Climate Outlooks for details and charts of rainfall and temperature outlooks.
  • University of Southern Queensland:  Climate Outlook Review for additional seasonal information relevant to northern Australia.

Climate Mates

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

East Kimberley and Victoria River District - Anne-Marie Huey 
e: annemarie.huey@usq.edu.au
p: +61 (0) 8 9191 7069

Pilbara and West Kimberley - Kira Andrews
e: kiraa@rangelandswa.com.au
m:+ 61 (0)409 841 087

Climate outlooks via Queensland’s ‘The Long Paddock’ platform

The Long Paddock is a Queensland Government initiative that has provided climate and pasture information to the grazing community since 1995. The site provides access to rainfall and pasture outlooks and decision support tools to support land management decision making and planning for land holders, education, consultants and extension officers. Some pastoralists in Western Australia may also be able to benefit from the tools on the site.

2. 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:

3. Determine carrying capacity vs. stocking rate

4. Plan to reduce your stocking rate (if required)

Contact information

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