Farmers look to the heavens for much-needed rain

Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Picture: Richard Poulish
Camera IconPicture: Richard Poulish

A severe weather warning has been issued for the Great Southern with a strong cold front expected to hit Albany tomorrow evening.

Showers and squally thunderstorms are also anticipated with the passage of the cold front and for several hours after.

Damaging winds and gusts over 100km/h are likely and DFES has advised that people find safe shelter away from trees and powerlines.

Meanwhile, dusty paddocks, livestock and farmers who are constantly feeding their animals are holding hope on tomorrow’s anticipated rain.

A late start to the season means paddocks are hard and dry for seeding, and lacking feed for live-stock.

Gnowangerup crop and live-stock farmer Elliot Richardson has not seen a drop of rain on his property since April 22.

Mr Richardson is two-thirds through seeding his cropping program and will soon have to stop and wait for rain.

“The paddocks are pretty hard and we are still seeding but we can’t seed all of them until it rains, because of the weed burdens in some paddocks and the ground’s too hard,” he said.

“It’s been a dry summer and so there is no moisture in the ground at all.

“Hopefully, we will get rain tomorrow night and probably stop for a week and wait for the weeds to come up and start again.”

Mr Richardson said it was still early in the growing season for the crops, which could still turn out great with rain from now on, but farmers could expect to be feeding animals until spring.

“The biggest problem is that we just have nothing for the sheep to eat and we are feeding a lot and having trouble sourcing feed and I guess it is running out as a State,” he said.

One of the WA’s main feed suppliers, Milne Feeds, has been forced to deny customers with feed for their livestock.

Ruminant Feed sales manager Reg Crabb said the company had seen a 300 per cent increase in demand for sheep feed.

“We have a huge capacity but the bad season is across the entire State and we just can’t meet the demand that is out there for sheep feed,” he said.

“We have stopped taking orders from new customers. We have had to just look after existing cust-omers as best as we can but it is going to be a tough year. We desperately need this rain.

“A lot of people are down to only two or three weeks supply of food for livestock.”

Milne Feeds normally sees a long-term average price for lupins at a price of $360 a tonne, but with the high demand and low supply is this year seeing farmers being quoted over $500 a tonne.

Mr Crabb said there was a Statewide shortage for sheep feed both in grain, lupins, pellets and hay.

“This goes right back to last year, with the dry winter. And the ewes had a very tough time and they didn’t have a good recovery. It’s been a tough 12 months for breeding stock.

“To give a rule of thumb, a ewe that is heavily pregnant or just lambed, they are going to need one and a half to two kilos of food per head per day, and farmers have thousands of sheep.”

The average May rainfall for Albany is 89.8mm and two-thirds through the month, Albany has only received 15.2mm.

The March and April rainfalls have also both been below average.

Albany is forecast to receive 20 to 35mm of rain tomorrow, and 2-8mm on both Saturday and Sunday.

Narrogin and surrounding areas are forecast to receive 2-5mm of rain late today, and 20-35mm tomorrow. Scattered rain on the weekend may bring a few extra millimetres.

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