Dry conditions across large parts of the rangelands (Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne, Murchison) are significantly impacting the pastoral sector.
The State Government and DPIRD is committed to supporting sustainable and profitable pastoral industries and positive animal welfare outcomes, through development and extension activities to support timely decisions in line with seasonal conditions.
Much of the northern rangelands has experienced a below average wet season, with conditions expected to remain until the start of the next wet season in late 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.
DPIRD response program
DPIRD has initiated a dry season response program and is working with industry to identify and implement appropriate management actions to assist producers across the northern rangelands. As part of this program, we will examine a range of areas in relation to herd management, transport, agistment and feral animal control.
- Review climate outlooks
- Prepare a forage budget
- Determine carrying capacity vs. stocking rate
- Prepare a plan to reduce your stocking rate (if required)
Review climate outlooks
Rainfall to date
Seasonal rain for the northern wet season has been very much below average across most of the region (Figure 1). Seasonal rainfall over much of Queensland was well above average in parts due to major tropical cyclone events.
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. Only a small region near the coast received heavy rain from TC Veronica in March 2019.
The Australian monsoon is not active during the southern winter, so current short-term rainfall outlooks are for fine conditions. See Figure 2.
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 August to October 2019 over much of northern Australia. While this is normally the dry season, and little rain is expected, the outlook suggests there is little chance of out of season rainfall for the next three months. Most international climate model outlooks have a similar view on rainfall prospects. The main climate influence over the later winter and spring period will be the positive Indian Ocean Dipole event that is expected to continue developing.
Commentary on recent weather conditions across the north and links to tropical monitoring pages from the Bureau of Meteorology
Details and charts of rainfall and temperature outlooks from the Bureau of Meteorology
Additional seasonal information relevant to northern Australia, provided by the University of Southern Queensland
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.
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:
- Forage budgeting and pasture utilisation - video
- Forage budgeting – video series
- Break of season rules for forage budgets
Determine carrying capacity vs. stocking rate
- Dry season pasture budget: a guide for stocking rates
- Stocking rate calculator
- Feed demand calculator
- Stocktake: balancing supply and demand
- Cow and weaner management options
Plan to reduce your stocking rate
- Break of season rules for forage budgets
- MLA Drought Preparedness checklist
- Tips for a tough season: destocking strategies – northern Australia
- Decisions for drought affected producers - video
- Drought and the breeder herd - video
- Dry season management of a beef business - A guide to planning,
- Managing and supplementary feeding (PDF, 1.11MB)
- Making Livestock Decisions in Dry Times (PDF, 1.1MB)
- Welfare decisions for beef cattle
- Is it fit to load? A national guide to selecting animals fit to transport: a PDF download (Meat and Livestock Australia)
- Animal welfare regulation newsletter: latest information on animal welfare policies and standards