2019 northern pastoral season

Page last updated: Wednesday, 31 July 2019 - 8:50am

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is assisting producers across the northern rangelands through the provision of seasonally relevant information and management options for those conditions in the pastoral areas of Western Australia.

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.

Seasonal update

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.

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)

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.

Figure 1 Rainfall deciles for October 2018 to April 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. Only a small region near the coast received heavy rain from TC Veronica in March 2019.

Rainfall outlook

The Australian monsoon is not active during the southern winter, so current short-term rainfall outlooks are for fine conditions. See Figure 2.

Figure 2 Predicted rain for the next week, to 2 August 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 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.

Figure 3 Seasonal rainfall outlook for August to October 2019, from BoM. Model run 25 July 2019
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.

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

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