It's 'raining' sheep, goats out on the rangelands

From winter crops to sheep and goats, rain brings hope

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No time to be stuck in the muds with this amount of rain about ! This photo from a Land reader is from 5 Ways near Bobadah, where the rain has been persistent. Charlie and Lillian Mackay enjoy some of the rain.

No time to be stuck in the muds with this amount of rain about ! This photo from a Land reader is from 5 Ways near Bobadah, where the rain has been persistent. Charlie and Lillian Mackay enjoy some of the rain.

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Croppers 'going in hard'

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The rain was not only a golden delivery from the sky for graingrowers but on the rangelands it has offered large new opportunities for restocking in sheep, agistment and trading in goats.

In the grain belt, croppers in many areas are contemplating normal winter sowings and many forage crops have already gone in, from Grenfell to Tamworth.

In the Western Division, with falls around the Cobar district of over 100mm, many landholders who had destocked were now looking at the reverse - mainly with Merino sheep procured from Western Australia, dropped at the front gate for $200- $220.

There were also new opportunities for agistment, with some areas of the Western Division not enjoying the rain benefit, especially north of Broken Hill, looking to agist stock.

The other new opportunity is in goats, with 20kg nannies currently attracting $160-$170. These are mainly heading to Queensland for breeding operations behind exclusion fences. The goat meat industry is booming and while processing at the Bourke small animal abattoir is still in suspension, Queensland abattoirs have taken up the slack.

Another burst of rain on Friday has also bolstered those top totals from the previous week and even provoked flood warnings on the Bogan, Castlereagh at Coonamble and lower Macquarie at Warren.

Stock and station agent and principal David Russell, Landmark Russell Cobar, said while his property sales had been put on hold in the short-term as the market confronted a wave of coronavirus restrictions, the livestock market was taking off on the back of the rain.

The good falls had petered out only 50-60km west of Cobar, but there was a large swathe of the district that had received good falls, giving the hope of feed growth, and shoring up water supplies on farm and to the town from the Macquarie.

Goats were particularly being sought after by Queensland buyers. "Goats are doing very good," he said. "Instead of buying Dorpers, they are buying goats. We are getting a lot of interest from Queensland especially those behind wire who want to breed up."

The big mover in livestock in the area was Merino sheep, with "a lot of people trying to buy back into sheep".

They were not buying large numbers, but looking to restock to about 30-40 per cent of where they were before the drought.

"Some will only lightly restock," Mr Russell said. "It's mainly Merino sheep, taken out of Western Australia. They cost about $200 to $220 by the time you get them."

It's all systems go in many cropping areas after last week's rain event boosted soil moisture profiles, with warm soils allowing forage crops to strike straight away.

What is essentially an early autumn break for some areas, many graingrowers are now looking at normal winter plantings of canola, wheat and barley through northern, central and southern parts of the state.

With the Bureau of Meteorology also predicting above average rainfall for the course of the winter, it has put many growers back into the paddock and in excitement mode after years of struggles in the drought.

Rain at Urana. Photo by Olivia Calver.

Rain at Urana. Photo by Olivia Calver.

The Grenfell area had generally top rainfall of between 50-70mm over most farms and now paddocks were seeing forage crops, including dual purpose canola, early grazing oats and grazing wheat get away.

Delta Ag agronomist/consultant Jenna Brewis said the rain in the Grenfell area had been "fantastic".

"They're all hitting it (the paddocks) pretty hard at the moment," she said. A number of herbicides were in tight supply, but generally farmers were procuring supplies.

"The soil moisture is great and allowing people to go forward with normal planting regimes - canola, wheat and barley."

Also pastures have really benefited with warm soil temperatures and everything was getting away.

Ms Brewis expected canola would go in during mid to late April, while wheat would be planted in early May. TT varieties were most popular for canola plantings in the area, and Clearfield for wheat.

Everywhere east of Cobar out to Trangie had also received top falls over the last month. Due to the carbon credits scheme in the Western Division, very few would be turning to cropping.

Agistment was the other growth area with stations that had not had good rain, mainly in the north of Broken Hill, Tibooburra and Menindee, looking to send sheep to the Cobar district. Cattle were also doing well, sold through Forbes.

At Bourke, people in the district also had a look of confidence despite the coronavirus restrictions, after the Darling River filled and grazing and cotton properties received good falls.

Bourke mayor Barry Holman said it looked like the cotton industry would be up and running again later this year after floodplain harvesting enabled Bourke cottongrowers to fill dams for the first time in years.

The future of the Bourke abattoir was assured, he said, but a time for reopening had not been decided, although the operator was still buying goats.

The abattoir's processing has been suspended for almost six months. "They are definitely going to reopen, it's just a matter of timing," he said.

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