Posted on: November 22, 2023

Can You Predict and Prepare for Drought?

After two years of record highs, farm incomes are expected to dive, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) forecast for broadacre operations.

Lower commodity prices, smaller harvests, and drier conditions are expected to carve 41% off farms’ incomes this financial year.  As well, big decreases in beef cattle and sheep prices will hit livestock farms. And, sheep farm incomes will be well below average, says ABARES.

So, how can you cushion weather blows to your farming business? Here’s your update to help predict and prepare for a possible drought. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says below median rainfall for much of Australia is likely to very likely.

Government announces drought preparedness funding

In August, the Federal Government announced $38 million in grants for six innovative drought-resilience projects though the permanent Future Drought Fund. The focus is long-term trials of cropping, grazing, and mixed farming across Australia. You can find out more about the projects here.

Meanwhile, the Future Drought Fund is working on these areas this financial year:

  • Better climate information
  • Improved planning for drought
  • Boosted farming and land management practices and technologies for drought resilience
  • Build and support leaders, networks, and organisations for community resilience.

An ongoing project is a Drought Early Warning System for Australia (DEWS). Several federal government bodies are involved in creating a set of national indicators to measure and forecast the expanse and severity of how drought impacts the Australian agriculture sector.

ABARES has already used DEWS for its forecasting. To understand what’s happening in your region, check these official websites for drought early warning tools and resources:

Next year could be the hottest on record

The drier El Niño weather pattern is expected to last until the end of February at least, said the BoM last month. El Niños affecting Australia last for about nine-to-10 months on average and we’ve had 10 such events since 1982.

Experts are also predicting next year will be the globe’s hottest with temperatures averaging 1.5oC or higher than the pre-industrial average. The current global average is about 1.1oC warmer, but Australia’s long-term trend is higher at 1.47oC hotter, according to the CSIRO.

Managing the impact of drought on your farm

Farmers could consider these tips to prepare for drought conditions:

  • Select drought-tolerant crop varietals, or switch to a different crop that’s more robust in the dry
  • Where practicable, combine your plantings for crop diversity, which can increase yields
  • Improve ‘green water storage’ that’s held in your soil’s porous structure. Terracing, contour or keyline farming, or other irrigation strategies can help
  • Harness technology to broaden your options, such as with solar-powered pumps for isolated areas, electronic and remote monitoring (even prediction) systems or air-well pumps
  • Start a drought diary and photograph your farm over time for a solid record that you can share with your community
  • Address drought more fully in your risk management plan, starting with a drought diary with images to share with your community, for funding applications, and  social/mainstream media posts.

You’re not alone – people who can help

As ABARES says, there’s no right way to prepare for drought. Every Australian farm is a unique operation. A good start, whatever the weather throws at your farm, is to reach out now to get ready, just in case. Keep on your speed dial your:

  • Local council
  • Bank
  • Agronomist
  • Financial planner/accountant
  • Legal specialist
  • Agricultural industry organisation or representative
  • Local Research and Development Corporation office
  • Local community and charities.

This official website details your next possible moves. Did you know you can secure Australian Government help at any time to prepare your farm business for drought? And we, your insurance partner, are on hand to help with your risk management.

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