It was an extremely dry first three months of 2019 across much of western and northern Victoria, with little if any rainfall.
For March, only pockets of the north-east and Gippsland received close to average rainfall. Western Victoria, the Wimmera and Mallee recorded significant moisture deficits for March as well as above average temperatures.
Contrasting weather for Victoria last week; firstly fires around Ballarat followed by cold and wintry conditions over the weekend.
Some good rain fell across the north-east and Gippsland with 10-50mm in some gauges. Parts of western Victoria had 5-10mm, while the Wimmera and Mallee districts again missed out.
Farmers across east Gippsland will welcome this early start to the season. For much of last year rain bypassed this part of Victoria. For the moment, this season has commenced in better shape for this part of Victoria than 12 months ago.
Many Victorian farmers are now readying themselves for their autumn seeding and planting operations and hoping an opening rain event is just around the corner.
Pastures bed are being prepared for drilling and cropping farmers are now burning stubble in readiness for the next winter cropping and pasture cycle. In Gippsland and western Victoria farmers are sowing pastures and fodder crops, such as oats on the back of recent rain.
Soil temperatures remain warm so pastures have every chance of becoming established prior to the colder temperatures.
In the interim, Victorian farmers are doing their best to manage their stock through the ongoing dry and declining pasture. As a result demand for hay and fodder is on the increase. Hand feeding of hay is clearly evident as you drive around Victoria.
Across the north-east hay stocks are hard to find, resulting in hay being trucked in from western Victoria and the Wimmera. Cereal hay, both wheat and barley hay are arriving as is canola hay.
Fibre is an important source of nutrition at this time of year for dairy and cattle farmers and whether it is fodder in the form of hay, or other sources such as imported palm kernel meal, buyers are chasing it.
On a positive note there has been excellent rainfall across western Queensland and NSW, which has the potential to slow interstate movements of Victorian hay through the winter months.
It is evident Victoria's hay stocks are showing signs of tightening. It appears some farmers have already jumped in to cover the balance of their 2019 hay requirements.