Winter is coming

28/05/2023

As a online farmers market The Farmers Lot does well when you do well so this blog is about some winter tasks

Overview

Australia is a large and geographically diverse country, and its climate ranges from tropical in the north, to temperate in the south, with arid zones in the interior. This means that farming tasks can vary greatly from region to region. Here are some general tasks that farmers might need to do in different climate zones heading into winter:

  1. Tropical and Subtropical Climate (Northern Australia including Queensland and parts of Northern Territory): The tropical climate is characterized by a wet and a dry season, rather than a cold winter and hot summer. The dry season typically starts around May. In these regions, farmers may need to:
    • Harvest summer crops if not already done.
    • Prepare fields for planting of dry season crops.
    • Manage irrigation systems, as water supply may become more limited during the dry season.
    • Monitor and manage pest and disease conditions, which may change with the onset of the dry season.
  2. Temperate Climate (Southern Australia including parts of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and the southern part of Western Australia): The temperate climate has four distinct seasons with winter being cold, often with frost. Here, farmers might need to:
    • Prepare for the possibility of frost and take measures to protect vulnerable crops.
    • Plant winter crops such as wheat and other grains.
    • Manage livestock to ensure they have enough feed and are protected from cold weather.
    • Prune trees and vines after leaves have fallen to promote healthy growth in the spring.
  3. Arid and Semi-Arid Climate (The interior of the country, known as the Outback): This climate is characterized by low rainfall and extreme temperature variations. Here, farmers might need to:
    • Manage water resources carefully, as winter can also be a dry season in these areas.
    • Monitor and manage livestock health, as harsh conditions may affect their wellbeing.
    • Take steps to control soil erosion, which can be exacerbated by dry conditions.

General tasks

  1. Prepare for rain:

    Although many areas have received some rainfall, the potential for heavy rain should not be overlooked. Like our urban counterparts, we should make it a habit to regularly check and clean our gutters. This simple task can prevent water damage and ensure efficient water flow.

    In addition, those with extensive dirt driveways should consider adding a fresh layer of road base if it hasn't been done in recent years. Over time, the surface layer can erode, turning the driveway from sandy mud to slippery clay mud, which could potentially lead to accidents.

    For those residing on steep terrain or having areas with drainage issues, creating or clearing drainage channels can be beneficial. By diverting water away from crucial areas, we can prevent water-related damages and inconveniences.

    Given the prediction of a drier winter and a longer, hotter summer than we've experienced in a few years, now is the time to consider water storage solutions. If you've been contemplating getting an additional water tank, now might be the best time to act. Delaying could mean missing out on collecting precious rainfall during the winter months."

  2. Livestock Shelter and Bedding: Check that all livestock have adequate shelter from the cold and wet weather. This may involve cleaning and preparing barns, stalls, or other shelters and laying in a supply of fresh bedding.
  3. Feed and Water Supplies: Particularly in tropical areas extreme weather can result in being cut off for weeks, If you are isolated with limited access plan ahead and make sure you have stocks of feeds, suplements and treatments onhand (and of course should similarly look after yourself and the family. Not many of us are impacted by snow but if you farming in these areas you may need to consider heated water troughs or other strategies to ensure livestock have access to fresh water that doesn't freeze over. 
  4. Equipment Storage: Any equipment that won't be used during the winter should be cleaned, serviced, and properly stored. This can prevent rust and other damage that can be caused by exposure to winter weather.
  5. Pasture Management: Growth of pasture slows down in winter. It's important to manage pastures effectively during winter to prevent overgrazing and soil compaction, which can lead to erosion and damage to the pasture. This might involve rotating livestock to different pastures, or supplementing with hay or other feed to reduce grazing pressure.
  6. Prepare for Severe Weather: Winter weather can be unpredictable, and it's important to be prepared for severe weather events like storms or heavy snow. This could involve ensuring there are adequate emergency supplies on hand, having a plan for quick animal sheltering, and checking that fences and other structures are secure and able to withstand severe weather.

Livestock

Cattle: Cattle require adequate shelter from the wind and rain, particularly if they are young or thin. You may need to increase their feed intake, as they burn more energy to stay warm. Ensure that water sources do not freeze over and that there is plenty of dry bedding available.

  1. Sheep: Sheep are relatively hardy, but should still have access to shelter, particularly during lambing season. They may also require additional feed during colder months, and their water supply should be monitored to ensure it doesn't freeze over.
  2. Poultry: Chickens and other poultry are susceptible to cold and damp conditions. Their coops should be checked for drafts and leaks and should be kept well-insulated and ventilated to prevent moisture buildup and respiratory diseases. Waterers should be checked regularly to ensure they are not frozen.
  3. Horses: Horses also need shelter from wind and rain, but also need plenty of exercise during the winter months. Monitor their water supply to make sure it doesn't freeze over, and consider increasing their feed intake, especially if they are spending a lot of time outside and burning more energy to stay warm.
  4. Pigs: Pigs need a dry, draft-free shelter with plenty of straw for bedding. They will also require extra feed during the colder months as they burn more energy to stay warm. Their water supply should also be checked regularly to ensure it does not freeze.

Remember that all livestock should be checked regularly for signs of illness or distress, as they may be more susceptible to certain conditions during the winter months

Tropical and Subtropical regions

Heading into the winter of 2023, farmers in Australia's tropical and subtropical regions have several important tasks on their agenda:

  1. Seeding: Seeding is well underway, and future decisions will be affected by the expected below-average rainfall. Farmers are continuing to seed crops such as canola, lupins, oats, and pasture.
  2. Livestock management: Dry conditions have limited pasture growth, and high numbers of sheep are remaining on-farm. Farmers should have a strategy in place to manage livestock health risks given these challenging conditions.
  3. Disease prevention: Producers should stay up-to-date with information about the prevention and preparedness for significant livestock diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease and lumpy skin disease1.
  4. Mouse activity management: Mice activity is evident in some areas and farmers are encouraged to remain vigilant, report any activity, and bait where necessary. Good on-farm hygiene is also essential to manage mouse populations .
  5. Soil erosion prevention: To minimize the risk of soil erosion, growers are encouraged to retain groundcover and delay soil amelioration until the soil is moist1.
  6. Efficient nitrogen application: Nitrogen management can reduce costs, boost production, and reduce greenhouse gas production. Farmers should consider their requirements for nitrogen application rates, timing, source, and placement to match to crop needs.

Subtropical regions of Australia

  • Seeding is well underway in these regions, with the programs at different stages across the grainbelt due to the absence of widespread rainfall.
  • The seasonal outlook forecasts below average rainfall and warmer daytime temperatures for these regions in autumn and winter.
  • Livestock management may be a concern, with dry conditions restricting pasture growth and high numbers of sheep remaining on-farm.
  • Mouse activity is evident in some areas. To reduce the risk of mice infestations, landowners are encouraged to remain vigilant and continue to monitor, report mice activity, and bait where necessary.
  • Good on-farm hygiene is essential. Monitoring and detection of mice populations should be carried out. New baiting recommendations have been put in place from January 2023.
  • There are higher sheep numbers retained on farm due to current industry issues. Dry conditions have limited pasture growth with available food on offer expected to decline over the coming months. Farmers should refer to Management resources and Animal health and welfare resources to manage livestock health risks.
  • Producers should stay up-to-date with emergency animal disease prevention and preparedness information as two significant livestock diseases, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and lumpy skin disease (LSD) pose potential threats to Australian producers1.
  • To minimise the risk of soil erosion, growers are encouraged to retain ground cover and delay soil amelioration until the soil is moist.
  • Efficient nitrogen application and management can reduce costs, boost production, and reduce greenhouse gas production. Consider your requirements for nitrogen application rates, timing, source, and placement to match to crop needs.

Temperate Zone (TAS and some parts of NSW):

  • Seeding is well underway across the grainbelt, with canola, lupins, oats, and pasture germinating, although growth is patchy in areas of low soil moisture.
  • There are concerns about livestock management due to dry conditions restricting pasture growth and high numbers of sheep remaining on-farm.
  • The season's forecast predicts below-average rainfall and warmer daytime temperatures, which could impact further seeding decisions and input management.
  • To reduce the risk of soil erosion, growers are encouraged to retain groundcover and delay soil amelioration until the soil is moist.
  • Efficient nitrogen application and management can reduce costs, boost production, and reduce greenhouse gas production.
  • Mouse activity is evident in some areas, with baiting in progress where there is moderate to high activity. To reduce the risk of mice infestations, landowners are encouraged to remain vigilant and continue to monitor and bait where necessary. New baiting recommendations have been implemented from 1st January 2023.

This page has heavily relied on content from WA agriculture (ref/link for more)

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