Island goes on hay ride – Farmers feed stock as record dry bites

A RECORD dry spell on King Island is forcing some farmers to import hay to feed livestock.

The island has recorded its driest summer in 47 years of records and the conditions have seen farmers resort to sourcing food off the island.

Only a couple of years ago King Island was sending hay bales to other parts of Australia when drought-stricken farmers were in desperate need of hay to feed stock. Now the tables have turned.

It has been a difficult year for growing grass and some farmers are needing to import hay.

The island’s very wet spring, issues with fertiliser supply to farms and this summer’s dry conditions have all come into play.

Beef Producers Group president Nick Lyttle from Waverley Station said he had bought some hay in.

“We couldn’t get a supply big enough for our needs on-island this year,” Mr Lyttle said.

He said that their usual supplier was unable to cut enough and they imported some to fill the order.

“This was used to feed our calves in the weaning pens.
“The low supply is mainly due to a very wet spring with low growth then a dry start to summer – the grass never grew bulk so fewer tonnes were cut for hay.”

One long-time farmer and an agribusiness owner expanded on the weather factors affecting this year’s grass growing and cutting.

Both said that additional burdens this year had been fertilise-to-farm delays and the imposed cartage tonnage weight limits.

“There is a 23-tonne limit, previously we were getting 26 tonnes,” he said. “This makes a big difference to us all,” they said.
“I understand that sand can be carted at 27-tonne loads… “I don’t understand the discrimination against the farming community which are island economic drivers.”

TRT Pastoral senior manager Cody Whiteman said while they had not had to bring hay in, their volumes were down.

“We made our own on farm,” Mr Whiteman said.
“We didn’t make as much as we wanted due to the wet winter damaging pasture stands which led to less pasture growth than normal in the spring.
“This may be why other farmers are buying in outside hay as well, due to a poor hay season on island.”

The Bureau of Meteorology says the dry summer conditions were caused by persistent high-pressure systems to the south and west of Tasmania, keeping rain from cold fronts away from the state.

These high-pressure systems were associated with a climate driver called the Southern Annular Mode, or the SAM, which was in a positive phase during most of summer.

Days were warmer than average across the state, except for King Island where maximum temperatures were near or just above average for December.

King Island Airport has experienced the warmest January nights on record.

The BOM predicts that the autumn rainfall is likely to be close to average and both maximum and minimum temperatures are very likely to be above average across Tasmania, partly due to above average ocean temperatures around the state.

The La Nina event in the tropical Pacific has peaked and will most likely return to neutral conditions during the autumn.

As La Nina weakens it can continue to have its influence on weather and climate.

La Nina events typically bring above average rainfall to large parts of eastern Australia during autumn.

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