Feed runs out after driest winter on record

Feed runs out after driest winter on record


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HE MAY have just endured his driest ever winter on record, and consequently running out of feed, but a Swifts Creek farmer said things aren’t all “doom and gloom”.

HE MAY have just endured his driest ever winter on record, and consequently running out of feed, but a Swifts Creek farmer said things aren’t all “doom and gloom”.

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Swifts Creek farmer Bill Armit said he's managed to work his way through the dry conditions.

Swifts Creek farmer Bill Armit said he's managed to work his way through the dry conditions.

Bill Armit said while the dry conditions have been tough, he’s found ways to make it work, including supplementary feeding and sending some cattle on agistment.

“It’s the first time we’ve done it, but we sent 180 heifers to a property in Penshurst about a month ago, which is about eight hours away,” Mr Armit said.

“We have no feed, and we wanted to get more weight in our heifers, so we can bring them back by Christmas, and calve them next year.”

He said agistment is a good tactic if you find a compatible property.

“We were lucky to find a good property, it’s huge compared to ours, I think the cattle will be shocked when they come back,” he said.

Mr Armit, who runs 800 breeding cows, and 8000 sheep including lambs, said he is currently, and has been for some time, feeding his cattle and sheep.

“We started pouring feed into the ewes once they finished lambing, and we’ve been feeding the cattle since May,” he said.

He said to avoid incurring more feeding costs, he has, and will continue to sell lambs and calves earlier than normal.

“We normally sell our steers in February, but we sold them about a month ago to make room for the cows and calves,” he said.

“We got good prices, about 310c/kg, but they just didn’t have the weight in them.

“They were in good order, but we normally sell them at 400-450 kilograms, and these were about 300-330kg.”

His lambs, which are normally sold in February too, will be sold this week.

“We’ve just run out of feed, but we’re lucky, because the prices are still good,” he said.

Mr Armit said had he got more follow up rain after winter, he might not have struggled with feed so much.

“Normally when you come out of winter, there’s still some moisture in the ground, but we just came out with absolutely nothing,” Mr Armit said.

“We started getting some rain in October, but it all just petered out, so we were back to square one, and we’ve been on the back foot ever since.”

He received three inches of rain over the weekend, and said while he welcomes any rain, it would have been good to get this amount six weeks ago.

He said the effects of this dry year will be long-lasting.

“A lot of cows might not get in-calf, the sheep probably won’t cut as much wool, and we’ll probably have less weight in our lambs,” he said.

“We put the bulls out this week, and we’re not sure how the joining rate will go, some of our cows probably don’t have enough conditioning in them.”

But he said the local farming community will find a way to get through it all.

“We’re lucky that the prices are good, wool prices are fantastic, lamb prices are at record highs, and there’s nothing wrong with the cattle market either,” he said.

“In previous droughts, I remember shooting sheep because we couldn’t give our sheep away, but at least we can still sell our stock and make money.”

He said to future proof his operation, he plans to buy another property in a different rainfall area.

“We already have four properties in this district, but we’re looking to buy another property, maybe in south Gippsland, or western Victoria,” he said.

“That’s the plan, but it’s a long process, we’re just trying to find the right place.”

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