Wet summer a challenge, but farmers won’t begrudge a drop of rain after years of drought | Ralph-Lauren

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Farmers who have battled through years of drought will lap up rain any day; however, the unusually wet summer has brought with it a raft of challenges.

Some areas of NSW have already recorded upwards of 100 millimetres of rain this year and that is impacting some crops and livestock.

Barmedman wool grower John Minogue said it had been a real challenge to keep flystrike at bay, as his merino sheep approach shearing time.

“It’s been a nightmare. They have all been treated and sadly still some are still being attacked by flies, so it’s been a real tough time for them,” Mr Minogue said.

Mr Minogue said green wool and rot was something growers had not experienced for years.

“While chemicals have been effective in the past, this year with such a huge volume of rain this summer (upwards of 150mm) they just don’t seem to be able to handle that pressure.”

Sheep in a shearing shed, a photo by Chantel Renae taken near Thallon in south-western Queensland.
Farmers are trying to keep their sheep dry ahead of shearing.(Supplied: Chantel Renae)

Southern NSW wool broker Marty Moses said colour stain had appeared in some wool clips impacted by summer rainfall.

“Where we had dusty backs in the drought, now we have sheep with green water-stained wool,” Mr Moses said.

“It’s green with lucerne two-foot high in some places.”

Summer weeds rampant

Riverina grain grower Roger Bolte is battling summer weeds on his cropping country at West Wyalong.

“We are just about to start our second round of crop spraying for summer fallow management.”

The weeds that are currently plaguing him and other growers in the Riverina are volunteer cereals from last year’s crops, barnyard grass, black grass, wire weed and Feathertop Rhodes grass.


“They are certainly growing very well at the moment, but that makes them easy to manage,” he said.

The weeds are thriving on the 200 millimetres of rain Mr Bolte has scored this year.

Rain dampens hay demand

Hay industry consultant Colin Peace said the wet summer was not supportive of prices and demand for the hay market.

He said downgraded cereal hay was as cheap as $130 to $140 a tonne (ex-farm plus GST) and high-quality lucerne was about $300 a tonne (ex-farm plus GST).

“The demand is very subdued, and prices have been flat since baling last year,” Mr Peace said.

He said some farmers were taking the opportunity to fill their sheds with cheap hay.

A foggy sky with hay bales in a row that have been ruined by rain.
There is reduced demand for hay, especially if its quality has been impacted by rainfall.(ABC Rural: Hugh Hogan)

Rain smashes grape harvest

Cool temperatures and substantial rainfall are not what winemaker Alex Cassegrain was hoping for to the start the grape harvesting season, but it has been the reality for many growers across the state.

Mr Cassegrain has his own vineyard in Port Macquarie but sources most of his wine grapes from a range of farms across New South Wales.

“One of the vineyards that we were looking to pick from in Orange had 38mm of rain on Saturday which was not ideal,” he said.

A man smiling and standing in frontage of green grape vines.
NSW winemaker Alex Cassegrain says mould can develop in the fruit because of excess rain.(ABC Rural: Keely Johnson)

Rain can cause grapes to split, which exposes the fruit, leading to disease or premature fermentation.

Cool temps and wet weather a perfect storm for worms

Barbers pole worms causing problems in sheep
Farmers in north of New South Wales are starting to see an increase in losses due to barber’s pole worm, after good summer rainfall and cooler temperatures.(ABC Rural)

Throughout the New England North West, cooler temperatures plus moisture from recent rain have led to perfect conditions for barber’s pole worm.

Narrabri based Local Land Services vet Shaun Slattery said sheep producers needed to be vigilant, drench animals when needed and worm monitor their stock to avoid losses.

“Now that we’re starting to get slightly cooler temperatures and the moisture is hanging around for a lot longer … that’s often when we start to see deaths emerge, as the larvae on those pastures fine their way into the sheep.”

A man stands in a blue shirt.
North West LLS district vet Shaun Slattery is seeing an increase in barber’ pole worm cases after recent weather changes.(Supplied: North West LLS)

Wet weather here to stay

While the Bureau of Meteorology says La Nina is losing its potency, climatologist Zhi-Weng Chua said the trend of above-average rainfall could last until April.

“Looking at March we can generally expect average rainfall across NSW as well.”

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