New drought-predicting technology for Hovell's Creek farmers

Farmers in the Hovells Creek valley are using new technology to predict approaching drought and make better informed management decisions as it approaches.

With funding from the Australian Government's Future Drought Fund, Hovells Creek Landcare Group (HCLG) installed two soil moisture probes in the north and south of the district last week to complement their existing probe.

The data from these moisture probes feeds into the publicly available Farming Forecaster website and provides graziers with real-time information on soil moisture, local weather, predicted pasture availability and livestock performance.

Members are also being trained to use the CSIRO GrassGro farm system model which integrates the probe data with soil type and soil fertility information and allows farmers to develop more realistic risk scenarios about pasture growth.

"This information will allow our members to make better informed management decisions about stocking rates, livestock sales and purchasing, or changing pasture genotypes, that are appropriate to their farm enterprises, soil types and rainfall," HCLG Chair Gordon Refshauge said.

"As our dry spells drift into drought, the producers in our district will be able to use the publicly available pasture growth scenarios to contextualise the seasonal risks in advance - forewarned will allow farmers to be forearmed."

As part of the Future Drought Fund grant, HCLG will also be ground-truthing the scenarios and doing 3D property mapping to relate the performance of the paddock around the soil probe to the whole farm through layers of soil moisture maps and forage production.

"These combined measures will provide a range of alternative management options that will help graziers with financial decisions, such as whether to feed stock, use containment systems, send stock away on agistment, sell livestock off the farm or follow alternate grazing practices such as short, intense grazing followed by 90 days of paddock rest; all well-known drought management strategies," Dr Refshauge said.

"Such decision making will ultimately lead to better environmental outcomes including improved ground cover, minimizing soil erosion and improving the persistence of high-value perennial pastures."


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