The drought – much has been learnt already – October 2019

The drought – much has been learnt already

Last month Leading Sheep circulated an e-mail asking for your feedback on what you had learnt from the drought. This was ‘kicked off’ by Noel O’Dempsey, the Leading Sheep South Region Coordinator, who gave what he considered were his three most valuable learnings:

  • Be flexible.
  • Know you will never get it all right, all the time.
  • Drought feeding chews up time and money, and the amount always increases.

We invited you to also send in your learnings and ideas to your local Leading Sheep Coordinator, and also invited response to what Noel had written. We have had great feedback and some of these responses are below:

Mick and Karen Rigby:

  • Plan in advance for a possible late or failed wet season by selling stock early. Class lambs early, shear and cull to lighten off. Also sell all dry stock – sheep, cattle and goats across your entire operation.
  • Be proactive and obtain a Damage Mitigation Permit to control and manage total grazing pressure. This reduces stock losses and assists in managing the feed budget.
  • In a mixed enterprise continuously rotate livestock around paddocks. This is particularly more important as it gets drier to make use of trees and to suit the production calendar.

Don Perkins:

  • Do your sums carefully if you decide to feed. Get help and advice from an expert in the field.
  • Don’t be afraid to sell. Cash flow is very important and selling will help the health of the country and the humans. Opportunities may present themselves to trade.
  • Base your decisions so you remain in control and not driven by the drought. By being in control you will operate with less stress which is very important. Watching your stock, your land and the bank balance fall in condition can be very stressful and to be avoided.

Bill McKillop:

  • Know your country/stocking rates and conserve natural pastures as much as possible by managing grazing pressure early. Plan for the worst case scenario from the outset.
  • Communicate with your banker, accountant etc. What your plans and objectives are and ensure everyone is on the same page as far as finances and budgeting goes. If you plan to reduce breeder numbers ensure your financier knows and that your budgets reflect your position, so there are no nasty surprises and they can understand and assist if things get tight.
  • Think about ways you can improve the productivity of your land in good seasons to help pull feed through to poor seasons. Strategies such as water ponding of scalded country encourage pasture growth on previously unproductive land. There are often grants and subsidies to assist with such strategies.

More thoughts and ideas will be circulated over the coming months. If you have a key learning from managing the current drought, we encourage you to email or call and have input into this process. There is still plenty of time for you to contribute your thoughts and ideas to your local Leading Sheep Coordinator:

If typing an e-mail is a challenge, please telephone. Your responses will be collated and also circulated, anonymously if you so choose.  Please keep your responses short – no more than five lines per idea.

While the next drought is never the same as the last, Leading Sheep felt we should collate these great learnings whilst they were still fresh in your minds.