DROUGHT: This past hot, dry year will be the new normal
IF THE past year is anything to go by, Southern Downs graziers have some big challenges ahead when adapting to the changing climate.
It has been, on average, hotter and drier than any time in the last three decades.
Every month, bar October, was about 2C above the long-term average. The region has also been short by about 300mm on long-term rain totals.
Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said the poor conditions were linked to warming sea water.
"We've had warmer than normal waters off the Queensland coast and that means the air over the nearby land was warmer than normal,” he said.
"The skies were not as cloudy as normal, that is usually down to winds being fairly dry, in the winter all the cold fronts did was bring in drier and drier air.”
Mr Dutschke said this could be the new normal.
"The climate is always changing,” he said. "But it is highly unlikely this is a one-off event.”
Without sufficient rain, the winter grasses failed to take hold. Across the district many graziers de-stocked, while hay and feed prices hit record highs.
With that in mind, soil health expert Helen Lewis said farmers must change how they managed their paddocks to make the most of rain when it did come.
She said there was growing interest in natural grazing, where farmers loaded a paddock up with stock for one year, allowing animals to gnaw down foliage and drop manure, before leaving it to rest for a full season.
"If we have alive, biologically rich soil, it will act like a sponge soaking up more water,” she said
"Farmers will be able manage dry times much, much better.
"It's about improving soil biology, adding things like organic compost to feed the microbes in the soil, building up carbon and organic matter to really bring the soil alive.
"If we focus on that then we are going to be able to absorb more water, keep more water in the soil and then we can hang on for longer.
"We'll go into drought later and come out early.”