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Managing your farm through the “Christmas Shutdown”

By Callen Thompson, Senior Local Land Services Officer – Mixed Farming

Christmas is approaching quickly, and while we might be thinking of getting off the farm, planning meals, buying presents and working out ways to sneak off when the in-laws arrive, we also need to think about what impact Christmas will have on our business. The key things to think about are feed, water, selling, support and the weather forecasts. If you do some budgets and plan ahead you will have a much more enjoyable Christmas period.

Feed

In some areas of Central West NSW, conditions have improved somewhat, but we are by no means out of the drought. Some areas have had enough rain for some green pick, others have had enough rain to actually produce feed, but unless you have heavily destocked, you feed is probably still a limiting factor.

If you have stopped feeding and returned stock to paddocks, I strongly recommend you do some feed budgeting, if you need assistance doing feed budgets, refer to the previous article grazing management following rain or call one of our Ag Team staff to help you through it.

It is also a good time to look at your current fodder/grain supplies. It may be difficult to source feed during the Christmas period. Even if you have loads organised, simple truck and machinery breakdowns can be hard to get fixed in the shut-down period. Try and have enough feed on hand to get you through.

Water

In many areas of our region, surface water is very low. Wendy Gill put together some great resources on measuring surface water and doing a water budget by working out how much water stock require. Many producers in the north of the state have been without surface water for a while now and are relying on ground water.

As temperatures increase, stock water requirements will also increase, putting greater stress on water infrastructure. It may be worth assessing your water system and making a plan of attack in case there is a failure. If a pump breaks down through the Christmas period, it may be difficult to get it fixed or replaced.

Selling

Saleyards will shut down over the Christmas period, usually from mid-December to early January.

If you run out of feed or water and decide you need to sell quickly you may have limited opportunity. It is really important that you do your feed and water budgets so that you are not caught out.

Support

If you need support from external people, it may be difficult in the Christmas holidays.

Mechanics, agents, vets, agronomists and even Local Land Services staff need a holiday, and this is the time most will take one.

Businesses that support agriculture will be working limited days through this period and will often have limited staff. Get in contact with you rural retailer and your vet to see what days they will be closed. Try to get the farm inputs you think you might need early, remembering that even if a rural store is open, trucks and suppliers may not be.

Your Local Land Services office will be closed from the 24th of December and re-open on the 7th of January.

If you have an emergency you can ring 1300 795 299.

Weather Forecast

The Bureau of Meteorology have forecasted a wetter than average December for Central and Eastern NSW, so what does this mean for our feed and water budgets? Very little.

The Bureau is getting much better at forecasting both short term and long term conditions, but as we have seen over the past few months, weather forecasting is not an exact science.

It is critical that you budget on the feed and water you have now rather than gamble on what may come. Remember, even though there is a forecast for an above average December, we are still on an El Niño alert with a forecast for a below average rain fall for summer.

As this will be my last article for 2018, I wish you all the best for Christmas and the New Year. I hope everyone gets under some widespread rain and that 2019 is full of green grass and fat stock.