Sheep graziers in Australia's southern states have been issued an alert by the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting cold temperatures, rain and high winds to hit over Wednesday and Thursday, with the risk of loss of lambs and sheep which are exposed to these conditions.
Victoria, South Australia, NSW and ACT have received the alert.
Freshly shorn ewes, young lambs, heavily pregnant ewes and sheep in light condition are at most risk.
The Bureau has recommended farmers move sheep into protected areas, such as a large shed or paddock with trees or tall grass, avoid shearing or animal husbandry that stresses the animals causing further risk of loss and avoid wet and boggy yards as the moisture and manure can increase infection risk.
For some farmers shearing is scheduled in the winter months in preparation for lambing to begin in the spring.
This however unfortunately comes with the risk of wet weather, followed by cold temperatures or icy winds, resulting in loss of livestock.
Trevor Mibus from Glenara Merinos in Dunkeld, Victoria, has just finished shearing his poll merino flock as well as spring lambing ewes, after a sheep grazier warning late Tuesday night.
"When you see a severe weather warning or a wet weather alert like we had yesterday it heightens your awareness I suppose, as when they put the alerts out they've got a pretty good indication that the weathers going to get rough," Mr Mibus said.
Mr Mibus said in the early hours of their final day in the shearing shed they received 38mm over three hours.
"They were on the money today because we got more rain than expected, but it wasn't one of those cold days where the sheep really suffer," he said.
"It was wet relatively quickly but our freshly shorn sheep were out in the paddock next to the woolshed, and I commented to the workers that the sheep weren't cold because they were walking around feeding.
"It's when you see them pushed up into corners or sheltering behind trees that you know they're really feeling the cold."
Mr Mibus has shedded his freshly shorn young stock overnight away from the weather conditions, given they are more susceptible.
"Normally after shearing if the weather becomes really rough, we've got the two house blocks with sheds and yards on both and quite a lot of trees, so we will run them up into those areas around the hay sheds," he said.
"There's lots of shelter for them there, and more importantly they need to go into the paddock to graze to give them energy, which then in turn keeps them warm."
Holbrook, Victoria, grazier Nick Locke agreed with Mr Mibus that the warnings are most detrimental during shearing.
"If we're shearing and we receive a sheep graziers alert, we will run all the sheep back up into the shed. We're very lucky that we have the capacity to run a day and a half's worth of sheep back up into the shed," Mr Locke said.
Mr Locke said his father Philip Locke had been preparing for wet weather events by installing 15 shelterbelts on their property over the past 20 years, with support from Landcare funding.
"Over the past 20 years Philip has been building shelterbelts that can handle the sheep for the time period of the sheep graziers warning," he said.
"For instance, we've got one right next to the shearing shed that we once jammed 1500 lambs into to keep them all together for body warmth.
"The sheep have also got wattles, tall rank phalaris and mature trees to shade in amongst to keep out of the wind."
Mr Locke said he's quite comfortable with the sheep graziers' warnings during lambing of his composites over the winter months as the "best lambing paddocks have a shelterbelt next to it".
"The fact that we've chosen that date means we are comfortable with a bad weather event coming," he said.
"If we were all merinos we would definitely shift lambing back, but the composites are born with fat so they should be able to handle a frost or two."
According to Sustainable Farms, shelterbelts have many benefits for farm productivity including reducing wind speeds and windchill, boost pasture production for livestock by up to 8 per cent, reduce mortality of lambs by 10pc, increase wool production by more than 30pc and weight gain in livestock by more than 20pc.
If planted along farm boundaries, shelterbelts can also reduce direct contact with neighbouring livestock, providing biosecurity benefits.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.