Go home, Mother Nature, you’re drunk

WaterDryIn April and May, we were using the very last of our dam water in a desperate attempt to get grass out of the ground. Two weeks ago, we had floods and the cows missed two milkings, trapped on the flats despite valiant attempts to bring them home.

FloodJune22fjord

Then, just last week, we had snow.

SnowyHills

We even went up to the nearby hills so five-year-old Alex could see snow for the first time.

SnowAlex

It’s been a crazy year so far but I refuse to be cowed by mud.

mud

I’m celebrating the recharging of our dam for summer. It got very, very low but now is back.

DamSun

I’m also celebrating the snatch of spring we felt between the floods and the snow. With it came the magic of balloonists and their silks drifting across the river flats.

Most of all, it’s bringing the hope of a good season when we need it so desperately. We cannot afford to buy in hundreds of tonnes of hay again this year. A failed season like last year would spell disaster in the jaws of a crushingly low milk price. To survive, we need to grow more grass than ever.

Landgate’s Pastures from Space tool confirms it’s been a difficult start to the year, with pasture growth rates actually even worse than last year’s failure. The thick red line represents an average year, the blue one is last year and the black one is the year to date.

PasturesFromSpacePGR

The outcome is even more stark when you look at the cumulative amount of feed grown. Again, red is average, blue is last year and black is this year. Last year the farm grew half the amount of grass it grows in an average year and this year sits below even that low water mark – so far.

PasturesFromSpaceTDM

As you can see from the two charts, things need to get better, fast. I’m really optimistic that we are seeing a turnaround.

Up until now, the rain we’ve had has been simply replenishing the parched subsoil rather than growing much grass. It needs to happen because unless the subsoil is moist, the root zone dries out in the warmth of Spring as soon as there’s any halt in rainfall.

So, how is the soil moisture looking? Check out these Australian Landscape Water Balance charts. The first one shows just how recently the soil moisture in the root zone has returned to normal. This means that, finally, the grass can grow if there’s enough sun, nutrients and warmth.

AWAProotzone

The good news is that while the subsoil is not as wet as the root zone, it’s returned to about average. The one to watch still is the deep soil moisture, which as you can see from the chart below, still has a way to go.

AWAPdeep

Mother Nature may be behaving like a drunk but, while it’s raining, I’m not complaining.

8 thoughts on “Go home, Mother Nature, you’re drunk

    • Hi James,
      I’ve only had it for a couple of months, so would say I’m still trialing it. Very simple to use. There are some issues though:
      – seems spot on with pasture growth rates but not with feed on offer.
      – cannot see through clouds, so can have patchy reporting at this time of year.
      – one satellite, which makes weekly passes, is too coarse for our small dairy paddocks, while the other is ideal but only makes a pass every two weeks.
      – not suitable for irrigated paddocks unless you advise the watering rates.
      Many of these issues will soon be resolved, I’m told, and it’s still an amazing resource. Contact the Landgate people directly – I found them exceptionally helpful.

  1. Weather hasd always been highly variable even over significant areas. The Geelong area had an extremely dry period of around 10 years centred on 2008 – climate change? But there was almost an identical event centred on 1902. When I was farming in the Mallee in 1982 (pre climate change?) we had the lowest annual rainfall ever – 104 mm (had to shoot and bury 650 sheep; took my harvester out and harvested $12,000 of wheat off 1800 acres – many did not harvest at all on basis their near empty machines would shake themselves to bits. I researched 130 years of rainfall data. There had never been a good year following a drought year so leased farm and got a job in Geelong. 1983 then was the best year ever.

  2. The weather patterns are off-kilter here as well. We are having a cooler than normal July, but I’m not complaining. I know the heat will come yet, and subsequent forest fires.

  3. If this is her drunk, I hate to think what the hangover is going to bring. Gotta luv the photo of the kids, I do like the one in the snow.

  4. Pingback: Summer started this week | The Milk Maid Marian

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