The Bureau of Meteorology has released its updated weather summary for January 2019, and it does not make for great reading.
Last month was Australia's hottest January on record. For Victoria, new records were also set for January heat. This is no surprise to anyone in the Mallee, Wimmera and north-east who experienced many days above 40 degrees Celsius.
Victoria’s January rainfall was well below average, with most of the state receiving less than 20 per cent of the month's average.
On the last day of the month there were some meaningful falls in the Goulburn Valley and patchy rains through the Wimmera/Mallee and Gippsland. Elmore received 15mm, Murchison 15mm. Latrobe Valley 15mm and Bairnsdale 14mm.
In Victoria, dairy production was down 9.6 per cent for the 11 months to November 2018 with north-eastern Victoria showing the biggest declines (13.1 per cent). Gippsland and western Victoria also lost ground but only by 2-3 per cent for the 11 months until November 2018.
Of greater concern is the rapid decline in November milk production with the north-east of Victoria showing a 20 per cent decline.
High grain, water and fodder costs are all having a very real impact on Victoria’s dairy sector.
Bega last week announced a rise in milk prices of 14c/kg for milk solids, effective for deliveries from February 1-June 30, 2019.
We have spoken about this possibility in recent weeks given the improvement in global dairy markets. Bega also cited the increased competition for milk supply, given the continued contraction in milk production over the past 12 months.
Despite this announcement from Bega there is no doubt the short-term outlook will be extremely challenging for Victoria’s dairy farmers.
The extended and extremely dry and hot January has largely consumed the pastures of many dairy farms. Summer crops that started out well have suffered, as 30-40 degree days and a lack of rainfall have resulted in crops failing to finish.
The BOM updated its three month rainfall outlook and it is projected to remain dry for much of the February-April 2019 period. While it is often the case for this time of year in Victoria, summer storms often result in at least some rainfall. Not so far.
Hay prices feel a little firmer as demand starts to pick up. Some lucerne is moving from south-east SA into western Victoria.
Gippsland has dried off very quickly and dairy farmers are starting to look for fodder before prices get away from them.