Riverina farmers prepare for tough, dry winter

Although welcome, last week’s rain was a far cry from the downpour parched Riverina farmers needed. 

It follows a devastating reveal the Riverina could be on the cusp of a drought, according to a recently unveiled Enhanced Drought Indicator System.

While the region has yet to be declared drought affected, Collingullie farmers said they were feeling the sting of a dry season and bracing for bitter times, as winter bore down. 

It comes as close to 10mm rainfall was recorded across the region last week – the biggest downpour since February, according to crop and stock farmer Stephen Bruckner.

The Riverina man said the rain would thankfully be enough to get dry-sown crops germinated. 

“We’ll be flat out these next few days, working to really get it going,” Mr Bruckner said. “You don’t have long before the moisture disappears.”

As for pastures, he said the water would give the fodder a green tinge, but the cold would stunt growth now. 

Mr Bruckner said with hay becoming scarce and more expensive, there were tough months to come. 

“It’s luck of the draw,” he said. “We’ve had a run of good years … we’ve had time to prepare for a dry spell.”

With the soil akin to cement, fellow Collingullie farmer Dave Goldman described the downpour as pretty ordinary.

“You would prefer to have about one-and-a-half to two inches of rain,” Mr Goldman said. “But you take what you can get.” 

He said water would always be welcome, but the benefits would be lost without significant follow-up showers.

“You hope autumn break comes with sufficient rain to put your crop in,” Mr Goldman said. “This would be beneficial to that.”

The low temperatures and rain of Thursday, Friday and Saturday were boosted by westerly winds, with grazers urged to look out for their animals. 

For those in the lower alpine region, water turned to ice, with snow recorded down to 700m above sea level across the South West Slopes.

Mr Goldman said pregnant sheep and cattle were vulnerable in the cold and could die if they got too cold.

To compensate, he said farmers made sure their animals had plenty to eat.

“That’s quite expensive at the moment,” Mr Goldman said. “We’ve been buying feed for quite some time.”