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Rainfall just in time

Northern Victoria has received rain between 20 and 25mm over the weekend.

CATHY WALKER October 9, 2012 5:01am

Ross McBurney inspects his dry pastures before the weekend's rain.


Crop farmers’ prayers were answered to some extent with a solid drop of rain in most areas of the north-east at the weekend.

At Moglonemby, between Euroa and Shepparton, farmer Ross McBurney said he had now lost the feeling of being ‘‘on a knife-edge’’ with his clover hay crop. The 20mm it received on Saturday has to a large extent saved the day.

Last week, having missed out on earlier forecast rain, Mr McBurney was ready to concede the once-flourishing clover that had reached 15 to 22cm in length was barely worth baling.

‘‘We need rain, and we need it now,’’ Mr McBurney said on Friday. Such are the fluctuating fortunes of farming that, fast forward three days, and Mr McBurney was planning his hay-making.

‘‘The 20mm probably saved the day; it depends on what happens from now on. Hot and windy days would dry things out, but all being well we’ll be baling it in two to three weeks,’’ Mr McBurney said.

It was also good news for his canola, as well as the oats, wheat and triticale.

‘‘Now I think we can expect a higher yield out of the crops ... grain will weigh more and there will be fewer screenings.’’

Climate scientists say subtropical influences have shifted rural weather patterns southwards, and grain growers may need to rethink their timing. As far as free advice goes, the timing of the research, published last week in the journal Scientific Reports, could not be worse.

Wimmera and Mallee farmer are already resigned to lower-than-expected grain yields and less or poorer quality hay.

As farmers in Gippsland lamented the boggy conditions, Shepparton for example had less than a quarter of its average September rainfall: 10.2mm against the long-term figure of 43.9mm. In Yarrawonga the figure was 21mm — less than half.

Hay and silage contractor Peter Duff from Euroa said his yardstick for a good season was getting the tractor bogged in the first week in September. That didn’t happen.

‘‘I’m cutting silage at Kialla (south of Shepparton) today,’’ Mr Duff said last Thursday.

‘‘But in general, I’m concerned.

‘‘It was shaping as an above-average hay season with little carryover — but with a dry September the prospects of us cutting grass (hay) on dryland has evaporated, except for the occasional bloke on heavy country with a good fertiliser history.’’

Ben Daldy at nearby Karramomus confirmed every day without rain had damaged his canola, wheat, cereal hay and the ‘‘really struggling’’ lucerne.

‘‘It’s all there, it just needs to finish,’’ Mr Daldy said.

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