Dry as a bone

Dry as a bone

The Bureau of Meteorology has just declared an El Nino on the Eastern seaboard of Australia this Spring  Read more on this….. Well it seems that this has already started with the added knock on of climate change. In Wherrol Flat the old timers are seeing definite changes that have increased in just the past few years – ie less rainfall, more fires.

To read more what causes El Nino see this information….

So our local growers in August 2018 have been showing us their crops and what the dry has done to them. Without water many are having to turn to town water. One grower tells us this means he will get a quarterly bill for $6,000 from using town water on his crops. Others lucky enough to be located on rivers are on restrictions for pumping water. Often barely enough to water their crops properly.

Cherry tomatoes Aug 2018

 

So we know the cherry tomato.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures are more powerful than words so take a look at what the growers of our food are facing. These were taken in Horsley Park, Sydney.

Cherry tomatoes dried stands Aug 2018Cherry tomatoes dried Aug 2018Cherry tomato rows

 

 

Myall Springs during Drought

Myall Springs: Cattle, Sheep, Waterholes and Native Grasses in the Time of the Long Dry.

……………….Thanks to Ronn, Hubster at Ashfield for writing this Blog.

Harvest Hub caught up with “Livestock Producer of the Year 2013” Matt Carter early Monday to talk about Myall Spring’s farming methods and surviving the big on-going drought. Matt is a fourth generation grazier.

Mel and Matt Carter Myall Springs 6 hrs north/west of Sydney

Mel and Matt Carter Myall Springs 6 hrs north/west of Sydney

On a normal day Matt leaves home at 5.30am, motor biking by feel rather than sight because with daylight savings it’s now too dark to see. Work is herding cattle; there are six mobs* to rotate. As the day heats up they, like us, become harder to shift. After breaky, it’s running organic supplements to the herds. Then there’s careful checking of water consumption.  With 2 tanks for 12½ thousand acres a leak would be a worry.

With lunch eaten, Matt reads or snoozes with the aircon on during the hottest part of a 40+ degree day.** Then from 3pm to 5-6pm it’s the worst time of day; with fencing and farm maintenance topping the ‘to do’ list. 5pm can also be a good time.  His and his wife, Mel’s, four kids come in from school, eat, and then sometimes everyone heads down the road to his brother’s for a swim.

The constant fencing protects Myall Springs’ herds and watercourses, stops soil erosion, and encourages birds and native wildlife into the area. You can bird watch on the property and there are shepherd huts for hire. At the moment there’s more roos than sheep.  The fencing gives the native grasses that feed his herds a chance to thrive.  While there’s some 200km+ of fencing altogether there’s some 20km+ fenced off around the waterways for strategic grazing.

When Matt speaks of grass, it’s a bit like listening to an Inuit describing ice.  He has a vast vocab for the Liverpool plains perennial varieties: wallaby grass, blue grass, red grass all feature in conversation. The reason for the constant rotation of livestock means that the native grasses and watercourses that Matt has encouraged rest up.

As Matt studied Farm Management he became interested in land care, but over the past five years he also is into land care and organic farming for his health – they mean he doesn’t need expensive, possibly harmful chemicals and costly soil top ups. Organic farming methods – and meeting the tough US Organic certification criteria – also mean that his grass, with the benefit of some November storm rainfall, is still providing food for his hardy South African Dorper sheep and British Short Horn, Hereford and Angus cattle. Certified organic oat top ups haven’t been necessary, in an area crying out for government fodder subsidies.

Myall Springs during Drought

Drought Hits Grass Fed Cattle

Drought Hits Grass Fed Cattle

However, the drought has meant that Matt has decided not to provide beef this season. Fortunately for Harvest Hubbers there’s lamb available. Good grass is essential to providing Matt’s best meat – and a little rain will go a long way. Severe drought is detrimental to any livestock producer, even ones as savvy about waterholes and soil health as Matt is. Myall Spring’s motto is: “from paddock to plate…the best tasting organic meat” and they’re well placed to survive what might be the hottest summer on record around Gunnedah.

*A mob is Australian and New Zealander for herd.

** The temp in Gunnedah has reached 47 degrees this January.  Matt refers to it as “the hottest day on white man record”.

Water precious water

Water precious water
The next major war could well be fought over water resources, according to the United Nations. We also think that this will include access to growing areas within your own country ie ownership of land and seeds. We will write about that one soon.

Hottest period http://econews.com.au

Hottest period http://econews.com.au

With droughts across the US West Coast and North-East Africa, and a growing likelihood of an El Nino event which will cause continued dry conditions across Australia’s east coast, we need to seriously consider our water use.  And whether we like it or not, agriculture accounts for about half of all water usage.

Among the various crops, cotton and rice are probably the most intensive users.  According to international figures, it takes about 2,500 litres of water to produce 1Kg of rice.  By comparison, 1Kg of apples takes 822 litres and 1Kg of tomatoes just 214 litres.  (Australian rice-growers are a little more efficient with water: they only take about 1,500 litres per kg of rice.

Still, that makes rice a big user of scarce irrigation water – and all the more reason to make sure rice is planted in areas with abundant rainfall, mainly in north Queensland, the NT and the north of WA.