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Dry spell taking hold across Mudgee District

Landholders have been urged to assess current feed and water supplies and start planning ahead for a prolonged dry spell, as the season continues to deteriorate across the Mudgee district.

According to Central Tablelands Senior Land Services Officer, Brett Littler, it's been at least nine weeks since the last major rainfall event in the region, and the weather has become very warm, very quickly.

"It's particularly bad in the Capertee Valley around Glen Davis.  It's rapidly drying off around Bylong and Rylestone, and back towards Mudgee we've also had significantly lower than average spring rainfall," said Brett.

"We're already seeing some producers starting to move stock away on agistment due to both feed and water shortages."

Rainfall during September was below average across most of the State and the current El NiƱo event has continued to intensify.

The Bureau of Meteorology's forecasts for October to December indicate drier and warmer than normal conditions are likely across much of central NSW.

Locust activity has also been reported on the Central Tablelands adding another threat to the reliability of feed supplies in the district.

Dams running dry and water supplies deteriorating are the key concern for the grazing sector at this stage.

"Now is the time to assess how long your feed and water stocks will last, and to make plans accordingly," said Brett Littler.

"Calculating how long your water will last is particularly important, as carting water to stock is far more expensive and logistically difficult than supplying supplementary feed."

"Hanging on to stock in the hope of more rain is probably not a smart strategy given the current forecasts."

The NSW DPI has an excellent fact sheet on assessing on farm water supplies titled, 'Stock water – a limited resource' (Primefact 269) is available on line by logging on to:  http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture then click on the primefacts and other fact sheets tab.

Other options that stock producers might need to consider are comparing the costs of buying in supplementary feed, verses selling stock early while prices are still relatively high and restocking when the season breaks.

"We're advising people to plan ahead and do some sums for at least the next three months," said Brett.

"Now is a good time to cull stock and target late calvers for sale. If stock are sold and paddocks rested, pasture can bounce back quickly allowing for later opportunity restocking,  whereas pastures that have been overstocked for a prolonged period in dry conditions take far longer to recover, prolonging a return to profitability when it rains again."

"If the dry conditions continue early weaning is another useful strategy.  It's more economically efficient to feed cows and calves separately, than to feed lactating animals."

Central Tablelands Local Land Services (LLS) can provide free, expert advice to landholders on stock management during dry conditions for individual landholders.

In areas of particular concern LLS is also able to stage targeted information meetings to assist local landholders.  For more information contact the Mudgee LLS office on:  02 6378 1700

Media enquiries: Kylie Krause on 0439 608370