Dealing with a dry year in the southern rangelands of Western Australia

Page last updated: Thursday, 21 December 2023 - 9:18am

This page provides pastoralists with information to support them in a very dry year, in the southern rangelands of Western Australia.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development recognises that options for livestock management are limited in very dry years, and that those conditions can put stress on managers, livestock and the environment.

What is a dry year in the pastoral southern rangelands?

A year or years in which feed and or water is much less than expected for the current carrying capacity (link to glossary, then scroll down to term), and is usually the result of prolonged periods of low rainfall.

Why 2023–24 is particularly dry and difficult for managers

Parts of the southern rangelands has experienced dry conditions for up to 5 successive years, which has reduced carryover feed and reduces the ability of pastures to recover when it rains.

Lower prices for pastoral cattle and sheep in late 2023, combined with high supplementary feed prices are significant additional challenges to pastoral managers.

What to do in this dry year

  • Make decisions early – planning and early action benefits the business and everyone working in it. Refer to To hold or sell breeding cattle  
  • Consider your mental health and Seek help.
  • Reduce stock numbers. Sell or agist livestock that are fit to load.
  • For livestock to be retained, budget for adequate feed and water.
  • For livestock that cannot leave the station and are not to be supplementary fed, consider humane destruction.

Looking after yourself, your livestock and the land

Pastoral manager, families and employees

DPIRD encourages any pastoral people in difficulties to contact and talk with support services and advisory services. Here are some links that might help:

Your livestock and total grazing pressure

Where you can, remove livestock from the station. This is the single most important way of reducing animal welfare concerns.

If you plan to retain a core flock or herd of breeders, we recommend finding a suitable paddock for confinement feeding, and budgeting for feed and water until after the expected next pasture growth season.

For livestock that cannot leave the station and will not to be supplementary fed, consider humane destruction. See humane destruction of sheep and cattle (a PDF).

Some other resources


Supplementary feeding and water requirements

Animal welfare/euthanising

Protecting your pastures for the future

Pastures on many stations will already be in poor condition as a result of several years of dry conditions, but it is worth protecting what you have. Once livestock are removed, feral and native grazing animals will still cause pasture degradation. We recommend controlling those other grazers, then switching off waters where livestock have been removed. Please consider the animal welfare of all animals affected by switching off waters.

When conditions improve, we recommend spelling paddocks for at least one full growing season to allow pastures to accumulate root growth and to reseed.

Degraded pastures are susceptible to wind and water erosion. Your local rangeland officer can provide some support for dealing with the increased risk of erosion.

Some other resources


Contact information

Animal Welfare General Enquiries