Drought situation reports (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)
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Drought Situation Report (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)
Situation as at 1 November 2013
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) refers to the monthly climate statement provided by the Science Delivery Division of the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts (DSITIA). DSITIA’s November monthly climate statement notes that, for this summer (November to March), there is a higher than normal probability of ‘near-average’ to ‘above-average’ rainfall for much of Queensland.
DAFF also refers to information provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. The Bureau continues to favour an ENSO-neutral state persisting through to June 2014. The BoM seasonal outlook is indicating that the wet season will arrive slightly later than average onset, and dry and hot conditions will persist across Queensland into 2014. According to BoM, there is a 60 per cent chance of seeing below average rainfall over most of southern and central west Queensland, and a 65-70 per cent chance of Queensland experiencing above average temperatures.
Drought and natural disaster declarations
As at 1 November 2013, there were 20 local government areas drought declared under State processes and 6 part shire declarations. There were 35 current Individually Droughted Property (IDP) declarations in 5 local government areas in addition to declared local government areas at the end of October 2013.
Commonwealth/State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) have been activated for primary producers for the following events during the previous 12 months:
- South West Queensland Wildfires, December 2012
- Far Northern Queensland Bushfires, late October to December 2012
Tropical Cyclone Oswald and Associated Rainfall and Flooding, 21-29th January 2013.
Most of the state experienced some isolated patchy storms and showers over October but nothing of significance was received. Overall, rainfall totals remained at below average levels across the state. Surface water remained low in most western areas of the State as well as parts of the north of the State and many producers were installing additional water infrastructure and drilling bores in order to access groundwater for stock.
Pasture conditions continued to deteriorate and were at their lowest nutritive value and producers in most areas were supplementary feeding.
Stock condition reflected the pasture quality and quantity available with poor conditions making it problematic to move cattle. Most properties have begun early weaning in order to prevent lactating cattle deteriorating any further.
Cattle movements from the north and west have eased as most saleable animals have now been marketed, whereas large numbers of stock continue to be sent to saleyards in the south as many producers continue to offload droughted stock.
Agistment is still highly sought after and is increasingly difficult to procure. Consequently there are many stock on the road and as a result pasture supply on stock routes are rapidly diminishing.
The warm, dry winter and early spring has meant that winter crops have had to rely on soil moisture. Yields in central Queensland are expected to be average to above average where moisture was sufficient. In southern Queensland, frost in late August has impacted yields, and some wheat crops have been grazed for stock feed. The sugar cane harvest on the coast is nearing completion with some variable yields.
Rainfall and temperatures
Some isolated but heavy storms fell across the region during October and rainfall totals across the region were near average in parts of the Peninsula, Gulf and Northern Goldfields. In the remaining areas totals were below average and well below average across the downs areas in the north-west of the region. Rainfall amounts failed to deliver much in the way of relief to the current drought conditions as historical averages are relatively low at this time of the year. Temperatures stayed above average with mean temperature anomaly up to 1 degree above average.
Very little rain fell throughout October with most areas recording significantly below average rainfall. Some storms occurred in the third week of October. Some isolated, patchy falls were reported by property owners with the highest being to the east of Barcaldine of 75mm and to the north of Aramac of up to 45mm; however these were very isolated events with a small footprint. Temperatures were generally well above average for the month. Humidity was low throughout the majority of October and wind speeds generally higher than is normally expected. Evaporation recorded at Longreach was about 100mm above average for the month.
Scattered, isolated, narrow storms and showers across the region provided no easing of the drought. Very dry conditions continued across the grain growing districts with well below average rainfall in all areas.
Roma, Dalby and Goondiwindi districts received the best rainfalls of 25 to 50mm over October. The rest have recorded 5 to 20mm. High temperatures have been experienced across the region.
Rainfall for October has consistently been below average across the region. In some centres storm rainfall was useful but there was little to no follow-up and the falls were patchy. High temperatures and dry winds have caused vegetation to dry off presenting a fire danger across the region.
Livestock, pastures and water
Pastures are at their lowest in nutritive values. Combined with increasing day temperatures, conditions are very difficult for livestock. The level of drought feeding has increased considerably with some requiring feeding to sustain life.
Surface water supplies are under extreme pressure across the region and the hot dry days have increased evaporation. Surface water supplies continue to dry back quickly and all producers across the region are equipping properties with water infrastructure to help with water supply. In areas where ground water is available, new bores are being drilled and the increase in demand for water drillers is creating delays in bore drilling. Delays in accessing poly pipe and water tanks are also being experienced.
The mass exodus of cattle out of the northern districts has eased as many of the saleable animals have now been marketed. The animals remaining have limited market options and are therefore being held back until the season breaks and they can recover. Saleyards are still operating but closures are looming and will depend on the numbers being presented for sale. Meatworks are still operating but as with saleyards, if the availability of slaughter cattle gets too low they will shut for the year. This will cause an issue if people wish to do any further destocking.
Pasture condition is generally poor across the majority of the region. Pasture quality is almost universally poor while pasture quantity is depleting rapidly. Most areas require supplementary feeding. Stock condition is generally poor across the majority of the region with poor conditions making it problematic for livestock to be moved. The best of the areas are in the central west from Aramac to Isisford. For some properties calving and lambing has commenced and very early weaning has commenced or will commence soon in some areas.
Surface water remains at low to very low levels across the majority of the area with relatively low flows in the majority of the river systems with only localised flows in most streams and rivers. Surface water quality is deteriorating with many storages showing signs of algal growth. There are reports of salinity levels increasing in some areas that are subject to saline water.
Bore water supplies are generally secure, however there are many reports of shallow bores with supply problems and unable to cope with the increased demand as surface water becomes less available. Increased pumping demands on existing bores as a result of the lack of surface water is exceeding capacity of some bores and existing infrastructure leading to a higher than rate of failure for bores, pumps and motors.
In the area from Bowen to Beylando Crossing water would appear to be the main issue although some properties are pasture bare. Non lactating stock are generally in store condition, whilst lactating stock are slipping.
Apart from those properties that are stocked beyond capacity, some areas have an abundance of standing fodder, albeit severely protein deficient. Grass paddocks have been grazed short or very short.
Surface water is a major issue in the western parts of the region making it difficult for producers to rotate stock on paddocks.
The pasture conditions have deteriorated. The worst affected areas are to the west. Accordingly stock condition has worsened. Hot, dry conditions in recent months further limit production. Maranoa, Balonne and the western portion of Goondiwindi received limited summer rain resulting in reduced pasture production and grass quality has been severely affected. There are large tracts of country with stock in weak condition.
There is extensive drought feeding in the western parts. Cotton seed and grain have been fed widely to maintain body condition. All supplementary feeds have risen in price with increased demand in recent months.
Large numbers of stock continue to be sent to saleyards as many producers offload droughted stock. Agistment is highly sought after as a management strategy to lighten stock numbers, although it is difficult to procure. There are many stock on the road and as a result pasture supply on stock routes are rapidly diminishing. Low stock prices over recent months have resulted in stock not being sold.
Dam water supplies are critical. Many producers are seeking means to extend water supplies to areas on their properties where dams have failed. Extreme summer heat and little runoff resulted in failed on-farm dams in the west. There is a high probability that there will be no significant in-flow until the spring/summer period.
South East Queensland
Pastures have been affected by the low rainfall, wind and low humidity during the month. Some properties still have good pasture bulk. Feeding is occurring on increasing numbers of properties as numbers of stock are high. The higher stock numbers have been due to the presence of good pasture feed early in the season and the reluctance of owners to sell stock due to the low cattle prices. Many producers are still hanging onto high stock numbers in the hope of rain and better prices.
Cropping and horticulture
Several sugar mills in the north are putting away a record tonnage while the Burdekin yielded one million tonnes less than forecast, and its season finished early. For most other mills, the end of the crushing season is expected in late November early December and for several it has been a record or close to record harvest. Mossman mill finished with its biggest crop in nine years, and excellent growing conditions on the Atherton Tableland has added an extra 80,000 tonnes and several weeks to the season. Tully Sugar has also experienced the biggest season since 2005; however concerns about the impact on yields due to yellow canopy syndrome persist.
At the end of October, current soil water conditions and seasonal rainfall outlook indicate that the sorghum crop for the 2013/14 season in southern Queensland is likely to be below long-term yields. However, it is early in the growing season and the likely sorghum yield is variable. Sub soil moisture levels are low throughout the cropping area.
Most of the winter crop has been harvested. The best crops were harvested around Dalby which benefitted from September rain. Yields of 2.5 tonne were the best recorded. However to the west many grain crops have been reduced to stock feed. This includes Goondiwindi, Balonne, and Maranoa areas. These areas have been dry for some months with wheat and chickpeas severely affected.
Barley yields are good in the Goondiwindi flood affected areas of Toobeah and Talwood. The Dalby area has produced some high yielding crops.
Some areas desperate for stock feed have placed animals onto wheat paddocks.
South East Queensland
The dry conditions during the month have not been favourable for cropping. There were large areas of fallow land at the end of October awaiting a planting opportunity. For most crops there is still a good planting window available. It is expected that large areas of corn and peanuts will be planted at the first opportunity. At least 50mm of rain is needed for this to occur.
The 2013 cane crush has finished and while down, the results are better than expected after the flooding earlier this year. The tonnage of cane harvested was down about 320,000 tonnes from last year but the CCS was marginally better. Both factories crushed a combined total of 1,502,825.47 tonnes. Millaquin crushed 851,976.36 tonnes and Bingera crushed 650,849.11 tonnes. CCS was 15 at Millaquin and 14.89 at Bingera for the year; the district average was around 73 tonnes of cane per hectare. Rain is desperately needed for ratoon growth of cane.
Queensland Water Storages
Queensland Water Supply Levels for major water storages managed by Sunwater can be accessed from the Sunwater web site (PDF)*.
* Requires Adobe Reader
Last updated 3 May 2012