KEEPING ahead of the situation is first priority for everything that will happen on the James family's 3080 hectare property, Springvale, and it's all about looking positively to the future - three months ahead at least.
"We try to think at least eight to 12 months ahead of what we feel about weather and season and do a lot of forward planning, not wait for the inevitable," Anthony James said.
As Anthony James, wife Libby, and Anthony's parents, Lyndon and Wendy, foresee deterioration, they set a plan to face the challenge head-on.
Libby James said Lyndon budgets a lot and together with Anthony they work out what the plan will be.
"Most things are planned months in advance," Mrs James said. "If it's feed, then it's purchased on forward contract."
What did help this year was 100 millimetres of rain on March 29, which set up a forage sorghum crop planted in December last year. November rain of 28mm, then another 62mm fall in December looked promising.
"However, the March rain was enough to set the crop up and lighten the load to stop hand-feeding for a time," Mr James said.
The 30ha paddock was split into four and water systems were installed in three to graze with one left for silage.
Mr James did the sums and purchased a wrapper locally and the cut, rake, bale and wrap cost him $28 a bale for the 400 round bales totalling around 250 a tonne.
Better still, the feed tests came in at 57.6 per cent dry matter with 13pc protein and 10.1 megajoules per kilogram of dry matter of energy, and the bales haven't been used as yet.
Springvale was a parcel of the original large spread of the Dean family, one of the first settlers in the district. Anthony James' grandparents, Jack and Girl (Dean), took over the property in the late 1940s after Girl inherited it from her grandmother.
The Merino and first-cross ewe flocks now only run ewes up to four-and-a-half years of age. The Merino flock originally began on Egelabra blood, with rams purchased by Jack James at Sydney Ram Sales up to the end of the 1960s.
After several decades of a mix of bloodlines, and a time of corrective breeding, Anthony James turned to Allendale rams, about seven years ago. The flock averages 19 micron fibre diametre, although at this year's March/April shearing measured 18.2 micron.
Mr James is now looking towards a 10 month shearing to produce a shorter staple length.
"We are looking at it, but we need to manage shearing around lambing."
Lambing starts in the second week of July after a December/January joining. This year 1750 Merino ewes will join to Merino rams and 400 classed-out ewes to Border Leicester rams to breed replacement first-cross ewes for their prime lamb enterprise.
"I don't believe our surplus maiden Merino ewes will fetch a real premium from restockers in this area because of the seasons, so I'm joining them with Border Leicesters and will pull the older ewes out and fatten them before selling on the mutton market," he said.
Another 1000 first-cross ewes will go to Poll Dorset rams, while another 500 Merino ewes to White Suffolks for a terminal cross.
"I can diversify our risk of the Merino market and still have the Merino ewe, but I've got a prime lamb running alongside her.
The Springvale commercial Angus herd, first developed on Kahlua blood in 1949 with Booyamurra females continues, but in lesser numbers than before this drought.
The core breeding herd has been reduced to 210 breeders from 400 in the past decade.