On-farm decision making and risk in an increasingly variable climate
Farming can be a risky business, especially in an increasingly variable climate.
Of course farmers rely heavily on the weather outlook, but a forecast tailored specifically to pasture growth in their paddocks over the next week, month or three months could be a valuable tool for livestock producers to help support decisions and reduce risk.
Knowing how much their grass might grow could help farmers decide how much stock to purchase or breed and still have enough to feed them. Alternatively, it could show they should buy supplementary hay or sell off stock now if pasture availability will be reducing. Producers also need to balance these decisions with keeping adequate ground cover to maintain soil health.
Farming Forecaster web app: the first of its kind
With a consortium of farming groups in New South Wales - Monaro Farming Systems, Tablelands Farming Systems, Bookham Agriculture Bureau and Southeast Local Land Services - we developed a farmer-driven platform that is the first of its kind.
Launched in 2020, Farming Forecaster provides a collection of pasture forecasts across the Tablelands and Monaro grazing regions, that can be easily rolled out to other areas as well.
The system brings together relevant weather, soil moisture, pasture production and livestock performance information.
It uses publicly available data from local on-farm soil moisture probe and weather station networks. Along with CSIRO's farm simulation modelling tool Grass Gro, our data infrastructure Senaps, and our unique analytical smarts, we produce real-time updates of pasture conditions and forecasts into the next four months. It’s the first process-based pasture-livestock model developed into a real-time service for Australian producers.
Farming Forecaster is the most advanced pasture forecast tool available to farmers in Australia.
Drought module and new groups coming on board
In April 2022, we added new capability to the system to strengthen producers’ preparedness for dry times or drought. Resting paddocks during drought by removing some livestock can benefit long-term pasture recovery, protection of topsoil and ground cover, and stock management. But when to destock and by how much?
With Farming Forecaster, farmers can now compare pasture growth and feed requirements if they left stock in the paddock versus removing some stock into drought containment areas, called droughtlots. It helps producers make timely and informed decisions during increasingly volatile conditions.
Farming Forecaster is now being rolled out to other regions in NSW and elsewhere, and in Tasmania, starting with NRM South and partners coming on-board in March 2022.
Farming Forecaster has been partially funded by:
- Australian Government's National Landcare Program, Smart Farm Partnerships
- New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Climate Smart Pilots Project
- Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund, Drought Resilience Innovation Grants Program.
Interested farming groups and the public can view the tool at farmingforecaster.com.au.
To discuss signing up to Farming Forecaster, contact:
Dr Patrick Mitchell
Team Leader (AGRICULTURE & FOOD)