Tips for New Farmers to Deal with Drought in Australia

Many office-bound employees today would love to work on a farm and do meaningful, hard work. But here in Australia, conditions can make it difficult for beginning farmers to succeed – especially during periods of drought. Here are four tips to prepare your new farm for drought.

Plan ahead

Experienced farmers can draw upon years of hands-on knowledge – not all of it teachable – when it comes to managing a farm through times of drought. But one thing all farmers benefit from is being prepared, and as a newcomer to the industry, preparedness is something you control.

Pay attention to the weather reports on long-term climate patterns and drivers. Local signs such as soil moisture levels or early seeding of annual crops are another indicator that it’s time to act. Even before such warnings start appearing, work on your strategy and take whatever steps are actionable, such as purchasing extra feed for reserves while prices are low.

Water supply

If you’ve already lived through a drought, even if that experience occurred before you came to manage your farm, you’ll know that successfully dealing with the conditions all comes down to your water management. Conserving water in favourable conditions will allow you to have reserves available later on. But planning for hard times in the future can be challenging when you’re still learning on the fly.

Make incremental progress towards your long term water management goals. If you know that increased irrigation is the best solution for your farm down the line, then find out what it would take to obtain increased water entitlement in your area, or meet the requirements for water boring and check online shops for suitably durable pumps like Grundfos. Working towards your vision will take time, but following best practices in the meantime will tide you over.

Feed resources

When conditions get dry for long periods, crops are significantly affected – and this, in turn, reduces the available pasture for your livestock. Feed management during drought is vital to the health and survival of your animals. However, any plan you devise will have to take into consideration the type of livestock you raise – are they cattle or sheep, or a mix? Age classes also matter; newly weaned calves have very different nutritional requirements compared to mature bulls or heifers.

There is no single solution which can apply to every situation. However, your state government may provide resources and calculators to help guide your decisions. With caution, introducing alternative components, such as bakery or brewery by-products, into your stock feed mixture can also maintain your rations. Selling to reduce your herd size may also be warranted; ultimately, you have to know and follow the carrying capacity of your farm.

Disease management

doctor holding tube

Limited pasture and water during a drought often mean you keep animals within a designated containment area for shade, feeding, and reliable water access. But these spaces are tighter than regular pens and can accumulate feces. Furthermore, droughts often necessitate purchasing supplies from other regions which can introduce contaminants. Measures must be taken to be even more stringent during these times to maintain cleanliness and avoid the spread of disease.

Across the country, changing climate patterns have made it more challenging for everyone who works in the farming industry. Learn the ropes quickly as a newcomer, even before the time of drought arrives, so that you’ll be ready to survive.

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