Rain brings temporary relief to irrigators

Rain brings temporary relief to irrigators


Irrigation
TEMPORARY RELIEF: Undera dairy farmer Gemma Monk said the rain saved pastures on her property, but more falls were needed to set up a decent irrigation season.

TEMPORARY RELIEF: Undera dairy farmer Gemma Monk said the rain saved pastures on her property, but more falls were needed to set up a decent irrigation season.

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Welcome rain has saved some northern Victorian farmers up to $40,000 in irrigation costs.

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Welcome rain saved some northern Victorian farmers up to $40,000 in irrigation costs, after some producers received falls of nearly 50 millimetres in last week's storms.

Farmers said they had been able to forgo the last watering, before the season closed-in the next week, resulting in the cost savings.

But brokers and farmers warned the effects of the rain, which saw about $50 a megalitre shaved from temporary water prices, would be temporary.

Undera dairy farmer Gemma Monk said her property received 45mm of rain.

"We had stopped irrigating about a month ago as it was too expensive to buy water," Ms Monk said.

"When water goes to $600/ML, there is no way dairy can afford it."

She said annual pastures, lucerne and fescue were "hanging tough", but would have been at risk if it hadn't rained.

"The annual pastures would have had their first drink two or three weeks ago, but without the rain, they would have curled up their toes," she said.

But she said substantial rain would be needed in the catchments to ensure a reasonable irrigation season.

Echuca dairy farmer Steve Hawken said he received 19mm, with some producers in the area receiving more and others less.

"There's still a huge amount of unirrigated annual pasture in the region," Mr Hawken said.

"I know of farmers who have no intention of irrigating annual pastures, and that's a statement saying 'we're not going to be here next year'."

Some farmers were doing only a quarter of 200-hectare blocks.

"That's enough to keep stock alive, but it's certainly not enough to make them fat and not conducive to milk production," he said.

Mr Hawken questioned the value of the Australian Dairy Plan, announced last week.

"The five-year dairy plan is great, but what about the next five weeks?" he said.

"The next five weeks will determine whether there's going to be a season, next year."

He said the rain meant he could forgo one irrigation of around 50-60ML, reducing costs by between $30,000-$40,000.

Nathalia mixed farmer Nick James said the property received 47mm.

"It certainly saved us irrigation, the last watering of the autumn, so it was about $30,000," Mr James said.

"There's a little bit of canola I won't irrigate now - I'll save the water for spring, in case it's a tight season."

The rainfall was as much about boosting morale, as reducing costs.

H2OX Bendigo broker Craig Feuerherdt said the rain helped in the paddock, subduing demand for the remainder of the season.

"The allocation market is all over the place at the moment," Mr Feuerherdt said.

"There are lots of parcels less than 50ML, listed at prices around $550-570/ML."

Larger parcels were still selling for a premium of about $600/ML.

It appeared the smaller parcels were coming from irrigators with excess water, seeking to recoup costs.

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