So long as the pace of drought isn’t unrelenting, Blackall’s Martin and Kerry Lloyd believe they have the means to cope with a forecast increase in the number of El Nino events around the world.
New CSIRO research has projected the number of extreme El Niño events would grow from four every 100 years to 10 events every 100 years.
The Blackall couple is one of many in western Queensland coping with a fourth year of drought.
The news that they could look forward to an increased number of dry periods was received philosophically.
“There’s certainly a big-time change in the weather – we’ve never had a drought last as long as this,” Martin said.
They see it as a natural fluctuation in weather cycles, bringing out over 100 year of rainfall records to look at the patterns already endured by past landholders.
Their lowest year on record took place two years ago, in 2015, when they recorded 161.75mm (647 points).
Flip back a few years to 2010 and the property was swimming in 1239mm (49.57 inches).
A couple of decades earlier, in 1982, the Lloyd family had what was then their lowest on record, a measly total of just over 200mm or eight inches.
The property’s highest yearly rainfall total came in 1950, when 1321.75mm or 52.87 inches, fell across the 12 month period.
“You tend to get really big years and then less after that,” Martin said. “We always tend to stock on the lighter side, and that way you’re not in drought as quickly.”
After last winter’s unseasonal rain, which brought them 202.5mm (8.10 inches), they had only 75mm for the traditional summer wet season, coming in a dozen falls.
It grew a lot of saltbush and herbage, which gave them a break from feeding their 650 breeder cows.
What’s remained through summer is now dry and unpalatable, meaning they’re about to jump back on the feeding bandwagon.
Silos, augers and the tarp-covered remains of a load of grape marc in the house paddock are reminders of what they’ve endured already.
Corn, cottonseed, molasses, hay, lick blocks – they’ve all been fed to their stock over the last few years.
In March 2016, as the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners were preparing to travel to Queensland with a record-breaking load of 13,500 bales of hay worth $6m, the Queensland Country Life visited the Lloyds and shared their mind-numbing daily job of keeping stock alive.
Martin said Lorne was drought-proofed as far as water needs went, having completed the piping of bore water to all parts of the property.
The couple doesn’t give a lot of credence to short-term forecasts, saying they’re beyond getting excited about weather changes that bring them little.
For the longer term, they want to come out of the drought they’re in before they start planning for the next one.