Victoria, especially the northern parts of the state, have experienced a very hot fortnight over the Christmas-New Year period.
Records were broken across parts of the Wimmera and Mallee, where temperatures exceeded 40 degrees over four to five days.
Prior to Christmas these same areas recorded 100-200 millimetres of rain.
For 2018, Melbourne recorded 512 millimetres of rain compared to the long term average of 648.6 millimetres.
Melbourne’s 80 per cent of the long term average was much better than many parts of the Wimmera, Mallee and east Gippsland, where 60-70 per cent of the long term average rainfall fell.
The dairy areas of west Gippsland and western Victoria were where the best seasonal conditions prevailed. These parts ended up remaining green into 2019.
Abundant hay and silage was cut across these areas and summer crops planted, with beneficial summer rains allowing these crops to be in great shape.
The availability of hay has been a bonus for dairy farmers this season across Victoria given stocks were all but exhausted by the end of winter. Demand for hay remains muted across much of Victoria for the moment. Plentiful supplies is allowing farmers to defer their buying of hay.
Once the cooler autumn weather arrives, and summer crops and pastures dry off, demand for hay should improve.
A key driver for hay prices during 2019 will be when and how good the autumn break is? The last thing farmers want this year is a repeat of the drought and ongoing dry conditions, causing hay supplies to be exhausted.
There are signs feed supplies are again starting to tighten across parts of Central NSW, time will tell whether Victoria’s hay stocks start to move north again this year.
At least Victoria has rebuilt its buffer of hay stocks this past harvest.
On a positive note, the Australian dollar will commence 2019 at 70 cents to the USD, its lowest in 10 years and 8 cents lower than the beginning of 2018.
Prior to Christmas, Rabobank released its latest dairy update. While it stressed uncertainty abounds in global markets, it also highlighted given steady world demand, the market could move rapidly upwards and catch buyers unaware.
Another positive for dairy prices has been the rising momentum in global dairy auction prices as world supplies tighten. It will be interesting to monitor how dairy processors respond to these improving economics in milk prices, to see if they lift local prices for Victoria’s dairy farmers.