New projects for SA Murray-Darling Basin

The SA Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board will receive more than $10 million dollars over five years from the Australian government to support delivery of local programs.

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The SAMDB projects are supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Land Partnerships (part of the National Landcare Program) and SAMDB NRM Board.

The SAMDB NRM Board Presiding member Sharon Starick said our Board is working with the community to deliver projects to; protect threatened species, support significant wetlands, restore iron-grass natural temperate grasslands and improve soil quality and vegetation on farms.

“The Board believes the people in our region understand what our local areas need and together we can address our regional issues, offering a strong voice in how the environment is managed for a strong economy and ensuring our region is a great place to live, work and relax,” Mrs Starick said.

The SAMDB projects include;

  • improving habitat viability and other recovery actions for threatened Mallee woodland birds including; Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata), red-lored whistler (Pachycephala rufogularis) and black-eared miner (Manorina melanotis)
  • restoring the ecological character of the Ramsar wetlands of the SA Murray-Darling Basin
  • restoring the iron-grass natural temperate grassland of South Australia
  • building skills and enhanced management of farm soils and vegetation for improved resource sustainability and productive capacity.

“By working with our community, we can focus our efforts on delivering and maintaining a healthy environment that supports a diverse and flexible economy and the wellbeing of our communities, ecosystems and natural resources,” Mrs Starick said.

The Regional Land Partnerships is a core component of the Australian government’s $1 billion investment under Phase 2 of its National Landcare Program over five years.

For further information, visit: www.nrm.gov.au/

The SAMDB NRM Board’s vision for the region is ‘a healthy living landscape meeting the social, environmental, economic and cultural needs of the community, and ensuring the rights and wellbeing of future generations.

 Source: ABC Rural 2018-12

At last! The WaterNSW Fixed Fee rebate

After ongoing representations from Murray Irrigation over the last few months, the Fixed Fee Rebate announced by WaterNSW in August has been made available to our customers.

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Why is this rebate available?

The rebate of up to $4,000 is part of the NSW Government’s drought relief package.

Am I eligible?

If you have a water allocation account and pay fixed fee government charges on water entitlements, you’re eligible!

How much will I get?

  • The rebates cover government fixed fee charges from 1 April 2018 through to 30 March 2019
  • The rebates will be capped at a maximum of $1,000 per landholding for every quarterly billing period and max out at $4,000

Show me the money

First rebate:

  1. WaterNSW will transfer funds to Murray Irrigation
  2. It will cover the periods 1 April – 30 June 2018 and 1 July – 30 September 2018
  3. Murray Irrigation will apply the rebate to your water allocation account as a credit on or close to 21 December 2018
  4. If the credit creates a positive balance in your account and you would like the cash, complete this form for a direct transfer

Second rebate:

  1. Murray Irrigation will apply the rebate as a credit to January accounts
  2. It will cover the period 1 October to 31 December 2018

Third rebate:

  1. Murray Irrigation will apply the rebate as a credit to April accounts
  2. It will cover the period from 1 January 2019 to 31 March 2019

Where can I find more information?

Call Customer Support on 1300 138 265.

 Source: Murray Irrigation 2018-12

Volatility may hit local cotton trade

Exceptional price strength, both at home and abroad, has been a mainstay of the global cotton market in recent seasons trading well above five-year average price levels.

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Speculation, drought and trade have all played their part in this market strength, but exceptional global consumption growth has undoubtedly been the largest contributor.

The world has been demanding more cotton —three per cent more in 2016/17 and a staggering six per cent more in 2017/18 — with South East Asian buyers leading the charge.

The 2018/19 season has been forecast to bring a more modest three per cent increase in world consumption growth.

However, there are significant headwinds to future demand growth with several developing risks which could sour consumption growth and, ultimately, global prices.

Uncertainty has crept into global markets through 2018, in the form of trade wars, geopolitical tensions and Brexit.

Emerging markets have felt this in the form of their domestic currencies versus the US dollar — the Turkish lira has slumped 29 per cent year-to-date, the Indonesian rupiah is down seven per cent year-to-date while the Chinese renminbi is six per cent lower year-to-date.

As major cotton consumers, these currency swings make imports far more expensive in US dollar terms— tightening manufacturing margins and likely stemming demand.

In addition to emerging market currency weakness, the broader macroeconomic outlook looks equally challenging.

This October, the International Monetary Fund revised its global economic growth prospects lower for 2018 and 2019.

For both years it’s now forecast at 3.7 per cent.

More worryingly, lower growth in developing economies — where textile demand grows most rapidly — was a major contributor to these global downgrades.

If this wasn’t enough, synthetic fibre prices have slumped in line with a 29 per cent fall in crude oil, since October.

Cotton prices fell 2.6 per cent during the same period, giving synthetics a price advantage.

Trade wars are another major threat for world consumption, as Chinese purchases of US cotton have dried up significantly — a factor keeping the Intercontinental Exchange number two futures in check.

From a global perspective, this trade tension threatens to lower overall Chinese usage this season, another threat to global consumption.

Of course, Australia and Brazil continue to be the real winners of this tension, as Chinese demand favours non-US suppliers. And while the G20 appeared to bring some reprise to this trade war, the market is yet to see anything concrete to shift current trading habits.

Rabobank forecasts world cotton consumption to growth just two per cent (year-on-year) in 2019/20 –  the lowest in four years—as the above factors “gather like clouds” above relatively strong price levels.

In many ways, Australia will be sheltered from these broader factors as the local short-term outlook remains focused on localised drought and water issues, plus benefits of the US-China trade war.

Still, these broader challenges will inevitably trickle down in the local domestic markets, which could limit major price upside and volatility.

Source: The Land 2018-12

Queensland irrigators hope for speedy start, after $54 million pledged for irrigation project

Farmers along the upper Burdekin River, near Charters Towers in north Queensland, are hoping for fast progress to build a $54 million weir.

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The three-decade-old plan to create Big Rocks Weir, a new storage upstream of the giant Burdekin Falls Dam, Queensland’s largest, received a boost when Kennedy MP Bob Katter extracted $230 million for irrigation projects in return for supporting the Morrison Government.

A month on from that announcement, irrigators say the more progress made before the federal election, likely to be held in May next year, the better for funding security.

The Big Rocks Agricultural Group’s Michael Penna, who irrigates potatoes and fodder crops, said he was hopeful work could start within months.

“I did some back of the envelope calculations on 10,000 cubic metres of concrete; they’d only be pouring concrete for a month.”

Big opportunities

Mr Penna said the extra water would double capacity to grow crops along the upper Burdekin, and increase viability for the region’s crops.

“With more permanent crops it’ll bring more employment … agriculture is a risky game at the moment, so it just makes it a more viable enterprise,” he said.

“I plant crops according to the flow in the river. If the flow is diminishing I don’t grow anything.

“You don’t generate the income, therefore you don’t use the local businesses as much, you don’t employ people, it’s just a flow-on thing.”

Cucurbit and brassica grower Anthony Caleo, based at Sellheim, said more permanent crops like avocados could be grown with greater water security.

“It’s a dry climate; as long as you can apply the water anything will grow.”

Queensland welcomes funding, asks for detail

The proposed weir has been welcomed by the Queensland Government, but Minister for Natural Resources Anthony Lynham said more details were required.

“We would love to have the federal money come up here; we would love to have the Federal Government build infrastructure in Queensland,” he said.

But Dr Lynham refused to promise any fast-tracking of the project, urging the Commonwealth to approach him first.

“If you want to build infrastructure for the benefit of Queensland, I’ll take your money,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Source: ABC Rural 2018-12

Producers urged to consider stock water as hotter months set in

Stock water will be a critical issue for many landholders as hotter times arrive in the new year.

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Storms bringing rain can also bring issues with water quality flowing into dams, Local Land Services has warned.

The South-East LLS says knowing where water is on farm and how much is available is vital in times of drought. “A water budget is just as important as a feed budget. History has shown that it is not a feasible practice to be carting water to livestock for extended periods.”

Fiona Leech, senior agriculture advisor with South East Local Land Services has advised producers to think about water needs now.

“Evaporation rates over the summer period can result in the loss of between 1 m and 1.5 m depth of water from dams, so an on-farm water budget is a useful tool to identify issues around possible water shortages for livestock over the months ahead.” Fiona said.

“Those with past experience on a given farm are likely to have a good knowledge of water storages present including their capacity and ability to hold water as we move into drier times.

“However, it is a recommendation to all regardless of your experience with current on-farm water storages, to assess your situation without delay as we move into the heat of summer.”

A water budget takes into account evaporation from storages, seepage, other animal usage and fouling to then allow assessment of amounts of water available for stock to drink. A calculation using numbers of animals and their predicted water intake will then allow you to determine a timeframe for which the water will last.

As on-farm water storages move to more critical levels there are things that can be done to help conserve the water.

“It is always advisable to first graze paddocks with diminishing water supply.

“Shifting and consolidating water is a useful way to help reduce evaporation losses and also provides an opportunity for shallower dams to be cleaned out.”

Troughing water out of dams is a means to achieving better extraction of the water and reducing the risk of stock getting stuck as the dams lower. Troughing water via the use of a header tank is also worth considering in order to reduce evaporation of the limited water supply.

In more recent years evaporation rates have exceeded past records due to warmer temperatures and increased wind events. Dams with more protection from vegetation will help reduce evaporation rates.

“In assessing your water situation on farm it is important to also remember that rainfall events over summer are erratic and there is always a chance that heavy thunderstorm activity may provide run-off water into dams ultimately providing some relief to water shortage issues.

“Unfortunately such run-off from heavy rain can bring debris, manure etc. with it often fouling the dam water collected in the short term.

“Once the debris settles or is partially removed from the dam, water usually is then suitable for stock to drink.” Fiona said.

Due to the increased nutrient load however, that may end up in dams following such events, it is worth closely monitoring these dams for algal growth (particularly blue-green algae) over the warmer months.

For further assistance or information:

  • The Rural Assistance Authority currently has interest free loans of up to $50,000 available to eligible primary producers to assist with on-farm water infrastructure improvements.
  • For further information regarding on-farm water issues please contact your South East Local Land Service Agricultural Advisor located in offices across the South East region.
  • NSW DPI Water testing kits are available from Local Land Services offices for testing the suitability for stock drinking purposes as well as for garden and irrigation use. However, before deciding to test your water we recommend that you contact your nearest Local Land Services Agricultural Advisor to discuss the water issues you are experiencing.
  • Two factsheets are available to help undertake an on-farm water budget: NSW DPI Primefact 269, sixth edition – Stocktaking water supply for livestock; and Factsheet South East LLS – Assessment of quantity of dam water, livestock demand and loss factors.

Source: The Land 2018-12

Darling River water quality declines with 10,000 native fish found dead from blue-green algae bloom

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is expecting more mass fish deaths with a blue-green algae bloom blamed for 10,000 dead fish in the Darling River.

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The dead fish, mainly native species such as bony bream, Murray cod, and golden and silver perch, were found along a 50-kilometre stretch of the river.

It was first thought ‘just’ 300 dead perch were found Menindee on Saturday, but a NSW District Fisheries officer put the count at 10,000 dead fish one day later.

Local property owner Wayne Marsden made the initial discovery.

The Department of Primary Industries Fisheries have put the fish kill down to a lack of oxygen in the water from the blue-green algae outbreak.

“The prolonged dry period has resulted in poor water quality along much of the Darling River,” a DPI spokesperson said.

“Algal alerts have been in place for several weeks in the Menindee region and linked to this, low dissolved oxygen levels are likely to occur within slow flowing or still sections of the river.”

CSIRO environmental scientist Tim Malthus said blue-green algae posed a serious threat to marine life.

“Blue-green algae really deteriorates the water quality, plus it has the ability, when in those high concentrations, to release toxins, which are capable of killing fish like we’ve seen,” Dr Malthus said.

He said algal blooms were driven by high temperatures, low rainfall and a build-up of nutrients from agricultural run-off.

No respite for lower Darling water users

WaterNSW spokesman Tony Webber said the lower Darling could expect more outbreaks of blue-green algae as summer continued.

“There’s certainly going to be ideal conditions for blue-green algae right across New South Wales, as we go into the hotter weather and the dry conditions continue,” he said.

With WaterNSW ceasing flows from below Weir 32 in Menindee to the lower Darling at the end of December, only water users with access to block banks will have access to water.

It’s a dire situation for irrigators and graziers reliant on the Darling River for water.

Some towns, like Menindee, have already been carting water as the river supply became unfit for human consumption.

Swimming in water affected by blue-green algae can also cause skin irritations and gastroenteritis.

WaterNSW advised property owners not to water their stock with water from the Darling River.

Mr Marsden said he was at a loss as to what to do about the water quality.

“The government’s got to supply more fresh water to households for animals, or I don’t know … I really, honestly don’t know what to do,” he said.

“I’ve got 12 race horses on my property, and I’m afraid to give them this water. I don’t know how it’s going to affect them.”

Ngiyampaa Elder Beryl Carmichael said the government had completely ignored the interests and opinions of First Nations Peoples.

Fixing the river’s health won’t be easy

The only real remedy for the deteriorating health of the Darling River is water flows.

Dr Malthus said one option for remediating the oxygen-sucking quality of blue-green algae was water aeration. The DPI has rejected this suggestion.

“The difficulty we have is scale,” senior fisheries manager Cameron Lay said.

“Aeration makes a very small impact in a localised area and, as was evidenced by the fish kill, we had poor water quality over a 40-kilometre stretch of the Darling River.

“It’s not logistically possible for us to have any meaningful impact on the oxygen levels through aeration.”

With both the DPI and WaterNSW predicting more fish kills, it raised serious concerns for the survivability of native species.

Mr Lay said native fish populations were very good at withstanding poor water quality and long periods of no flow.

“Localised fish kills like this, while very unfortunate, are not uncommon in prolonged periods of drought,” he said.

Water NSW’s Tony Webber said a solution could only come from a break in the weather.

“We’re optimistic the Queensland storm system might deliver that solution, but we’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

With no end in sight to the drought, it’s a stark reminder that the health of Australia’s biggest river systems are reliant on summer rains.

Source: ABC 2018-12

Green pick paddocks could be a deceptive feed solution

The Central West Local Land Services Ag Advisory team are recommending producers, lucky enough to receive some rain, hold off on grazing early growth or ‘green pick’ paddocks.

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Over the past few months, the region has seen some sporadic rainfall; however totals and the potential outcomes vary.

Some producers are supplementary feeding, some are still complete feeding in confinement or sacrifice paddocks, and others have put stock back into pasture paddocks.

While it’s tempting to put livestock into green paddocks to reduce feeding costs, producers should assess how much feed they actually have before deciding to re-introduce stock.

After a significant rainfall event, annual plants will germinate and surviving perennial plants will start producing leaves and tillers. This early growth or ‘green pick’ is high in water content and low in dry matter.

According to Central West Local Land Services mixed farming officer Callen Thompson, dry matter is the important component of the plant as it contains nutrients livestock need for maintenance and growth.

“Grazing paddocks too early will not only reduce the pastures ability to grow, but will also have a negative effect on livestock performance,” Mr Thompson said.

“It’s important to continue feeding or supplementing until there is enough dry matter in the pasture to adequately sustain livestock.”

Central West Local Land Services district vets have also been providing regular livestock nutrition information to drought affected landholders.

Coonabarabran-based district vet Sarah Maher advises producers that sheep require at least 400 kilograms of dry matter per hectare (kg DM/ha) to maintain body weight while cattle require approximately 900kg DM/ha.

“Where dry matter is lower, livestock will be unable to ingest the required nutrients,” Ms Maher said.

“Producers should also consider pasture height, as it determines the amount an animal can eat. If available feed is very short, livestock won’t have enough time in the day to fill their gut.”

Drought ‘smokos’ and workshops targeted at addressing pasture and livestock nutrition concerns will continue to be held across the Central West in the New Year.

To find out about scheduled events, or to contact your nearest Ag Advisory staff member or district vet, please call 1300 795 299.

Source: The Land 2018-12

Sources include: ABC Rural, The Land, The Weekly Times, Stock and Land, Stock Journal, Bloomberg, Farm Online, Queensland Country Life

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