Storms, fronts cause havoc for farmers

27 Jan, 2016 04:00 AM
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HEAVY rains across parts of the South West and Great Southern in recent weeks have disrupted summer shearing, blocked roadways and destroyed farm infrastructure.

However, the silver lining for many, is full dams and the start of summer spraying in a bid to conserve moisture for the 2016 cropping season.

Shearing ceased on Monday morning last week because of thunderstorms and the risk of lightning strike and was unable to resume until this week.

While on Elliot Richardson's Gnowangerup property, a mob of ram lambs had to be rescued and moved to higher ground as a paddock went underwater.

The 80mm of rain on his property fell hard and fast and took with it fences and some pasture, but filled dams and has prompted Mr Richardson to begin spraying.

Mr Richardson also came to the rescue of a truck driver in the bad weather after his vehicle tipped and slid from a flooded road onto its side.

Arthur River grower Brad Wooldridge recorded 90mm last week adding to 30mm the previous week.

"We destocked heavily in May and November because of the season and I thought we had plenty of cover on the pastures to be okay in the rain, but that first rain just ripped all the cover off and the 90mm did even more damage," he said.

The Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) advised farmers to monitor stock condition and feed supplies.

DAFWA sheep development officer Steve Tunbridge said the widespread rains had damaged dry feed.

"An early finish to the 2015 season and out of season rainfall in December and earlier this month has led to low quality and quantity of pasture," Mr Tunbridge said.

"Sheep producers are reminded to monitor the condition of their sheep to prevent or reduce loss of condition and assess supplementary feed requirements."

DAFWA veterinary officer Anna

Erickson said sheep within two to three weeks off-shears were vulnerable to hypothermia.

"Farmers with sheep recently off-shears should give shelter to the most vulnerable such as young sheep in poorer condition and those newly shorn," Dr Erickson said.

"Where possible, relocate animals to a shed or an area with solid shelter and ensure adequate nutrition.

"If not moved to shelter, sheep will camp in whatever shelter their paddock does provide during rain events, but they will often stop eating during that period.

"Feeding good quality oats and hay to these sheep for at least a week after the bad weather will increase heat production, and the hay stimulates the rumen to start working."

DAFWA integrated farming systems manager David Ferris said rain throughout the State through thunderstorm events and frontal movements would spur on weed growth and spraying.

"But meaningful additions to soil moisture will only be felt in southern areas in heavily-hit areas," he said.

"It's very early in the year, so it's really a watch-and-see what this rain means in terms of next season's crops.

"Most people will be out controlling summer weeds if they're croppers to try and conserve that moisture.

"Disease potential and pest carryover will really only be an issue if we get further rain in February and March.

"Although we do get some weeds germinating now, if we don't get a follow up to continue that green bridge through there won't be the issue that there could be.

"But if we do get more rain then there's potential for a green bridge with issues like rust and aphid build-up."

As growers look to 2016 and their cropping plans, CBH has released a final harvest figure of 13.5 million tonnes for WA.

CBH general manager operations David Capper said the season of highs and lows knocked WA back from a possible record crop.

He said terrible losses to fire and wind in Esperance contributed to downgrading in crop estimates and the co-operative was working with growers to help them with practical ways to recover and get the most from the upcoming season.

"Despite these challenges of nature, parts of the northern Kwinana Zone had an exceptional year," he said.

"The fact that we saw an above average crop in a year where there was next to no rain in July and September is also a credit to growers and their skill when it comes to farming practices and productivity."

He listed 2015 season highlights as the MV Anangel Zennith leaving Kwinana with 90,000 tonnes of canola being marked as largest ever canola shipment leaving Australia and Esperance's Chadwick site being the first ever CBH site to receive over 1mt in one harvest.

Mr Capper also made mention of CBH and WATCO moving record tonnes to port via rail in December, shifting 695,959t from up-country to port terminals.

Kwinana reached 5,877,798t in total, 2,355,011t were delivered in Geraldton, Esperance recorded 2,660,457t and Albany recorded 2,660,937t.

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