AUSTRALIA’S wildly fluctuating weather has been highlighted again in a week which has seen over 160mm dumped on parts of southern Western Australia at the same time as parts of NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia swelter through temperatures close to 50 degrees.
Collyn Garnett, who runs Willemenup Poll Merino Stud at Gnowangeurp in WA’s Great Southern region, said there were widespread falls of 160mm in his area.
“The area between Jerramungup and Ravensthorpe, around the Phillips River, has been hard hit, a bridge has been destroyed,” he said.
On a wider WA scale, the area around the Stirling Ranges across to the southern coast received the most rain, while tallies graded lower, but were still significant through the south-west and parts of the wheatbelt.
Mr Garnett said on his property fences had been washed out, while pregnant ewes have also suffered from a lack of feed.
“We had to keep one mob in the shed for five days and we haven’t been able to get out to some paddocks, so it is not ideal in the lead-up to lambing.”
However, he said the rain would not be all bad news.
“We now have a full soil moisture profile and that will help the cropping program this year.”
On the other side of the nation, Walgett agronomist Greg Rummery said a wearying spell of heat had peaked with a 47 degree day on Saturday.
“It has been hot up here for a long time and the last week we have seen some really hot conditions.”
Walgett has been virtually the epicentre of a heatwave that has seen close to 60 consecutive days of maximums above 35 degrees.
“Our average January temperature is 36, so we don’t mind those high 30s, but when it pushes up into the mid 40s it gets rough,” Mr Rummery said.
He said summer crops had been smashed by the heat but added the heatwave would have little impact on the coming winter crop.
“Cotton is an extremely tough plant, it is still alive where all the sorghum has died with the extreme heat, but it has dropped its fruit,” he said.
“If we get some rain in coming weeks, who knows, but at present it will be well below average yields.”
However, he said the hot and dry spell would not have an influence on winter cropping intentions.
“It was a wet winter and some crops, such as legumes may have not fully used all the moisture in the soil profile.
“Obviously the top layer will be well and truly dried out, but there may be a little moisture at depth in some paddocks which will be useful if we can get some rain to get the moisture bands to join up.”
Mr Garnett said from a livestock feed point of view the rain had mixed blessings.
“We have clover germinated and there is plenty of moisture for it to go through for a while, but we would be pretty lucky to see moisture last right through to a true autumn break.
“If we get a hot spell of weather we could see those early germinating autumn pastures die.”
He also said all dry feed had been ruined.
“We’d already had over 40mm on the stubbles around the end of harvest, so the nutrients will have leached there.”
He said croppers in the area would also have problems with paddock access to control summer weeds.
“We’ve got some hot weather coming up, but even so it will be over a week until we can get onto paddocks to spray, longer with a fully loaded boom.”
“You just have to be positive about it, there are plenty of good things about getting rain this time of year as well as the downsides.”