There has been great variability around the start of the growing season across the agricultural region, prompting producers to tailor their cropping and livestock strategies.
Good levels of stored summer soil moisture has been topped up by autumn rains on the south east coast and Lakes District, enabling grain growers to optimise yields with additional fertiliser.
However, some parts of the northern and north-eastern agricultural region have received less than 10 millimetres of rain since the start of April 2017 and areas in the lower Great Southern are also experiencing well below average rainfall for this period.
WA Department of Agriculture and Food veterinary officer Danny Roberts said with below average winter and spring rainfall predicted for most of the agricultural region of Western Australia, feed budgeting for livestock would be crucial.
“Most livestock producers are currently supplementary feeding, due to low levels of paddock feed and slow pasture growth,” Dr Roberts said.
“Past soil moisture levels have little bearing on current pasture growth rates and producers should consult tools like Pastures from Space to assess growth rates.
“Producers will need to work out what paddock feed they have now and the condition they want their stock to be in a month’s time to determine the amount of supplementary feeding required. This process may have to be repeated time and time again.”
Dr Roberts said livestock producers should consider stocking levels and marketing options to respond to seasonal conditions.
Department research officer David Ferris said grain growers in at risk areas would also need to consider risk management strategies to optimise yields and profitability.
“While the season is looking very good for many growers in the south central and south coastal regions, others in the northern and north eastern agricultural region have already started to modify programs to match inputs to seasonal conditions,” Dr Ferris said.
“Some have decided it’s too late to sow canola and moved to cereals, while others have started to drop marginal paddocks from their cropping program, leave them as fallow or as pasture.
“Growers should be mindful of soil moisture levels as the season progresses and tailor inputs to water availability. For some this will mean additional fertiliser, for others this may mean pulling back if there isn’t the subsoil moisture to support plant growth during spring.”
The Department’s Seasonal Statistical Forecast will be updated and available mid-June 2017 and is available for free on its website.