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.
- A climatologist expects above average rainfall could last until April
- Wine grapes have been been damaged by summer rain
- Livestock are being impacted by the wet weather
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.”